Pen y Fan Horseshoe Walk

Living in the Cotswolds, we’re within pretty easy reaching distance of the Brecon Beacons, and it’s probably the closest place for us to do some proper hill walking.

We’d been keen to do Pen y Fan for quite a while, but had heard how busy it could get on the main path up so wanted to find an alternative route to avoid the crowds. A friend suggested a horseshoe route which is a bit longer than the ‘straight up, straight down’ way, but so worth it!

Distance: 9.5 miles
Time: Allow 4 hours
Difficulty: Moderate – a couple of steep climbs but mostly ridge walking 
Sheep Watch: We saw very few but be aware, they can be hiding just below the ridges 
Free parking at Forestry Commission car park (CF48 2UT)
None, but stop by The Fellin Fach Griffin on the way back for AMAZING pub food

Download file for GPS

The Route

We started at the Forestry Commission car park (CF48 2UT) and it’s a gentle climb up to the banks of the reservoir. This is when the hard work comes, its a steep climb from the reservoir up to the Craig Fan Ddu ridge and Poppy put us to shame racing up the hill while we were trying to catch our breaths!

Once you’re up though, the views are spectacular and completely took our breath away. From here it’s an easy ridge walk along to Corn Du, the first of the 4 peaks in the walk. At this point you can pretty much see where the rest of your walk will be taking you!

Once you’ve reached Corn Du, the path forks right to take you to Pen y Fan. It’s at this point that the crowds from the ‘quick’ Pen y Fan route join you, and there were plenty of them! Pen y Fan is the highest point in the Southern UK, and tourists have clearly caught wind of this! We reached the top of Pen y Fan and there was an enormous queue of people waiting to pose for a picture with the trig point at the top. They must have just been going straight to the top and then home again, because as soon as we left the peak it was pretty deserted again, with the exception of a few wild ponies. 

At this stage you have steep downhill off the summit of Pen y Fan, then a lung buster of a climb up to Cribyn and along the ridge to Fan y Big, the final 2 ridges in the horseshoe walk. If you’ve had enough uphill by this point, it’s quite easy to bypass these last two ridges as theres a path that follows around the base of the mountains and brings you to exactly the same point. 

The path eventually brings you back to Neuadd reservoir, the perfect spot for a picnic, or in Poppy’s case a freezing cold swim moments after this picture was taken! It’s an easy walk downhill back to the car from here.

This walk really was the perfect way to experience a little piece of the Brecon Beacons. For the most part you’ll avoid all of the crowds, and the views are truly amazing.

If you have a chance on the way home, stop off at the Fellin Fach Griffin just outside Brecon. You won’t regret it, honestly the food is incredible! 

Thanks for reading,

Cara, Andy and Poppy x


A horseshoe walk to Pen y Fan. An interesting alternative to the straight up-straight down route up Pen y Fan.