Waterfalls and Ridges

14 kilometres (9 miles) involving 400 metres of ascent (1312 feet)

Compiled by: Jim Wilson

Weather can change very rapidly in this area of the National Park. Protective clothing should be taken and walking boots are a necessity. The map above is intended for information only and you can zoom and move around the map. It is highly recommended that you take a compass and OS map OL12 with you on the walk. Click here to print  the route instructions.


Start the walk from the Blaen-y-glyn car park [Grid Reference SO 0564-1760] which is off the north side of the Merthyr Tydfil to Talybont-on-Usk road.

Walk back out of the car park for a few metres and turn right onto the path just before a pretty waterfall. The route now follows a fence line on your right and a series of beautiful waterfalls on your left.
As this is a very popular route onto the summits of the Central Beacons (and is part of the Beacons Way) the National Park Authority has carried out considerable work in maintaining the track which has helped to reduce erosion by our footsteps.

The path now steepens as it ascends Craig y Fan Ddu to gain the brow of this spur [0542-1834] of the main Beacons escarpment.

You will be happy to learn that by this point you have already completed most of the ascent in the route! So pause to enjoy the spectacular view with Sugar Loaf and the Skirrid to the East and the summits of Corn Du and Pen y Fan coming into view to the North West.

Follow the eastern edge of the escarpment with the valley of the Caerfanell on your right. In about 0.8km (0.5 miles) you will reach the cleft in the escarpment [0503-1920] caused by the Caerfanell as it cascades down the cliffs in a dramatic waterfall.

On the few occasions in winter when it freezes it is a truly magnificent sight.

Take care on the edges if you are trying for that perfect photograph, as they are rather crumbly.

Walk round the top of the waterfall and, after negotiating some boggy ground, continue along the cliff edge now called Graig Fan Las

On the other side of the valley, below the northern end of the cliffs of Cwar y Gigfran there is a war memorial where a Wellington bomber crashed during World War II. Sadly all of the Canadian crew were killed. They are remembered by a plaque and by red poppies which are brought to the crash site every Armistice Day by a group organised by local historian Peter Jones.

After about 1.6km (1 mile) you will join the main Beacons escarpment at Bwlch y Ddwyallt. Turn left at the Bwlch [0575-2063], heading south-west, and follow the main escarpment with the cliffs above Cwm Cwareli on your right. Continue round above Cwm Cwareli then along Craig Cwareli.

The old quarry workings on your right [0394-1975], just as you start to descend Craig Oergwm, make a fine sheltered viewpoint for a break.

Descend from Craig Oergwm and bear right at the shallow bwlch at the end of Craig Cwmoergwm [0370-2008] where there is further evidence of old quarry workings, and continue to follow the escarpment edge to Fan y Big [0364-2064].

Take care on the way round the main escarpment as there are considerable drops on your right.

At 719 metres (2360 feet) Fan y Big is an excellent viewpoint (somewhat surprisingly it is actually lower than Bwlch y Ddwyallt) with a terrific outlook to the major peaks of Cribyn, Pen y Fan and Corn Du and a great panorama of the park in general, with its multiple ridges, cwms and summits. Here you will also find the plinth of rock known as the “diving board”. It projects out over Cwm Cynwyn and features in many a dramatic photograph.

If you go out onto the “diving board” be aware that although the ground below is not as precipitous as some photographs imply you would never the less bounce a long way down!

The ‘Diving Board’ on Fan y Big

The route now descends from Fan y Big on the stone pitched path above the head of Cwm Cynwyn to Bwlch ar y Fan known as “the Gap Road” [0316-2053].

At this point you encounter the farm track which is believed to have been a Roman Road possibly connecting the forts of Dol y Gaer and Y Gaer.

Cross the Roman Road and take the faint path running south, down towards the Upper Neuadd reservoir keeping the Nant Yr-hen-heol on your left (do not take the much more pronounced path which skirts round below Cribyn).

Bear left at a small cairn just before you reach the reservoir to avoid some boggy ground, cross the nant, and enjoy a gentle stroll through the stand of scots pines on the eastern bank of the reservoir.

From the eastern end of the dam continue on a land rover track, which becomes a metalled road, through woods to the filter house [0318-1800].

From the filter house walk along the metalled road for about 0.75km (0.5 miles) and just past where “the Gap Road” track joins from the left, go left onto the Taff Trail [0355-1733].

Follow the Trail for 1.6km (1 mile) through the forest to reach the Merthyr Tydfil to Talybont-on-Usk road. The remains of the Torpantau station are on the east side of the road [0500-1679] the unsafe station building having been demolished many years ago.

Turn left (north-east) and walk up the road over the last bit of uphill and back to the car park.