Wild camping in the Brecon Beacons
For the August bankholiday I decided to take a friend on his first multiday wild camping trip. He was on holiday in Cornwall the week before so we agreed to meet halfway in Abergavenny and do three days of walking in the Brecon Beacons.
During the previous week I planned out everything needed for a successful backpacking trip: parking locations, food, and the route. I came up with two options for the route, 1. Follow the Beacon Way from Abergavenny to Talybont or 2. Plan a loop from a carpark.
I decided on the second one as this is his first trip and it seemed sensible not to stray too far from our exit point. I originally planned to park in a free carpark but then discovered that the National Trust had recently opened Pont Ar Daf carpark and manned it 9am to 4pm. I’m a member so emailed them to check if it was OK to leave my car there for a few nights. They were absolutely fine with it and I just needed to confirm my car registration number with them. This solved one issue where I was not keen to leave my car in a random carpark as I have heard of cars being broken into in Wales, though normally close to the cities (particularly Swansea).
Plot-a-route: Pen y Fan Three Day Walk
I planned the route so we were flexible on what day to tackle Pen y Fan and Horseshoe ridge, either by walking clockwise or anti-clockwise. The weather was low cloud and rain on Saturday so we decided to save the ridge walk for Monday and walk anti-clockwise.
Day 1 (2m)
We parked up with no problems at 7pm, the lateness of the hour meant that the carpark was mostly empty and we could get ready without any odd glances from other people. We wanted to camp quite quickly and so immediatly started looking for a nice stream on the walk towards Craig Cerrig-gleisiad. There were plenty of streams coming down and eventually decided to stop and camp with a lovely view of the valley and a small section of road.
The good weather remained for the evening though I knew that Saturday was forcasted to be rather wet. We awoke to low level cloud on the opposite mountain (Pen Y Fan) and I knew I had made the right decision to postpone the famous Horseshoe Ridge until later in the weekend.
Day 2 (11m)
The route for Day 2 was a big loop in the Fan Fawr part of the Brecon Beacons and camping below Cefn Cul. The mist came and went, but overall was ok for walking as it rarely was thick enough to get really wet.
After lunch we discovered our favourite part of the walk so far, a river tumbling through a small ravine. The river twisted and turned through the ravine and we followed it for a couple of minutes until rounding a corner to find a fairy-like waterfall coming down from a small cliff. The pool was quite shallow so not much good for a swim but I have marked it on the map as a future camping spot.
It would have been a lovely place to camp but it was only early afternoon and I was keen to cross back over the road and camp away from it again. We walked until 5pm and camped on one of sources of Nant Ddu. A small waterfall provided a refreshing shower before we cooked and hid in the tent away from the wind.
Day 3 (5m)
The following morning we were once again greeted by slightly better weather and decided to have a shorter day. Instead of doing a longer route and climbing more peaks, we decided to explore the Caerfanell waterfalls in Talybont forest. On the map there are four waterfalls tumbling down from the peaks into the valley bottom.
My favourite was Blaen y Glyn waterfall. There are ledges either side of the river that lead to the main fall, which is crashing off a large semi-circle ridge of cliffs, creating an atmosphere of hidden wonder and magic. All that is ruined by a constant trickle of people holding selfie sticks and posing like they are the Queen of Sheba. There is some small entertainment in watching them slip and slide on the slippery rocks.
We finished the day by walking up the Caefanell valley and found a beautiful spot to camp between two rivers. I followed the left one higher up the valley and found a perfect pool for bathing in and almost managed to swim on the spot.
Day 4 (7m)
The weather still wasn’t promising on Monday but we had run out of time and so started the long walk up the river Blaen Glyn to join the footpath along the ridge. The one disadvantage to walking up Pen Y Fan, Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike or any of the other ‘big’ peaks in summer and on a bankholiday is that it is guaranteed to be busy with people strolling up from the closest carpark in flipflops.
This time was as busy as expected, and despite the whole ridge being swamped by cloud there were still people queuing up to take photos. We decided not to hang about looking at a grey wall and carried on.
The trip was a great success overall and I am already thinking about other walks I can do in that part of the Brecon Beacons. It is only 2.5 hours drive so a good starting point for a Friday to Sunday weekend wild camping trip.