Carmarthen Fan via Llyn y Fan Fach Walking

The main summits of the Black Mountain (not to be confused with the Black Mountains further east) are among the most dramatic hills in the Brecon Beacons National Park, with an impressive northern escarpment of crumbly old red sandstone to rival anything around Pen y Fan in the central Beacons, and the added bonus of a wilder and far less-trodden feel. Arguably one of the most distinctive shorter hill walks in Wales, if not the UK, this classic circuit visits Llyn y Fan Fach, a favourite venue of the wild swimming set, before climbing to the edge of the cliffs, which are followed in grand style to a high point on Fan Brycheiniog.

Above the Bwlch Blaen-Twrch  © Dan Bailey -
Above the Bwlch Blaen-Twrch
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Detailed description

SN7997223825 Follow the reservoir track over a bridge, then upstream to a building by some filter beds - currently being used as a small fish farm. The track now continues uphill for a further 1km to reach the dam at the north end of Llyn y Fan Fach. Sitting in a hollow beneath the green cliffs of Bannau Sir Gaer, this scenic llyn often finds its way into newspaper travel supplements and best-of listicles... and for good reason. It's a fitting spot for legends, and there's a convenient one to hand, all about a mysterious amphibious fairy maiden and a hapless abusive husband.

SN8028722000 From the west end of the dam head west on a grassy path, which climbs steadily onto the broad northern shoulder of Waun Lefrith. Follow the escarpment edge to the cairn marking this minor top.
Llyn y Fan Fach and the Carmarthern Fan escarpment from Waun Lefrith   © Dan Bailey -
Llyn y Fan Fach and the Carmarthern Fan escarpment from Waun Lefrith
© Dan Bailey -, May 2019

SN7982921426 Continue on a gentle downhill along the cliff edge before climbing over the minor top of Cwar-du-mawr, then on northeast along the edge up to the dramatic promontory summit of Picws Du. This whole stretch needs very little description - other than to say that it's one of the most scenic and enjoyable bits of easy ridge walking in Wales.

SN8116021832 Continuing east-southeast, then east, a slightly steeper cliff-side descent leads to the low point of the Bwlch Blaen-Twrch. Note the northwards descent route for later. The path now makes a steady ascent east-northeast in a slightly airy position above the escarpment edge, with some well-made steps to ease the climb. The angle soon eases off, and the path leads up to the cairn on the minor summit of Fan Foel.

SN8213222324 At this point the main direction of the escarpment swings round to the southeast, and the path leads around the head of two steep gullies to reach the cairn on the northern top of Fan Brycheiniog. It's worth carrying on along the edge to the trig point and circular wind break on the more southerly summit. The view from here is huge, with the ever-popular Pen y Fan prominent to the east; I know where I'd rather be!
Looking east towards Pen y Fan from Fan Brycheiniog  © Dan Bailey -
Looking east towards Pen y Fan from Fan Brycheiniog
© Dan Bailey -, May 2019

SN8252121784 Return briefly along the edge of the escarpment, then bear left to cut off the Fan Foel corner (a shortcut that needs some attention in poor visibility). Having re-joined the Bwlch Blaen-Twrch path, follow the steps back down to the col. Here go north to descend the escarpment at its weak point. Don't use the obvious scree-filled gully - a much better path is found on the open hillside just to its west. This winds down a broken craggy slope, where some care is needed. Below the zigzags, the path makes a brief exposed traverse across the base of the crags to reach easy ground below the prow of Picws Du.

SN8108922153 The grassy path makes a long gentle descent beside the Afon Sychlwch, eventually meeting the reservoir track at a small pool. Now just retrace your steps to the car park.

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