On Wednesday and Thursday I walked the first two days of the Beacons Way with Sonia and Sara. Thankfully we had two days of good weather – and on Thursday we could see the downpours deluging everywhere else!
Great walking and well signposted once we got onto the footpaths and into the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Photos are in my Flickr Album: The Beacons Way 2023.
About The Beacons Way
Here’s the full route outline from the BBNP:
Day 1: Abergavenny to Llanthony Priory
Distance: 22km / 13.5 miles
Ascent: 850m / 2790ft
Time: 6 hours
Day 2: Llanthony to Crickhowell
Distance: 19km / 12 miles
Ascent: 890m / 2920ft
Time: 6 hours
Day 3: Crickhowell to Llangynidr
Distance: 19 km / 12 miles
Ascent: 750m / 2460ft
Time: 5 hours 30 minutes
Day 4: Llangynidr to Storey Arms
Distance: 23.5km / 14.5 miles
Ascent: 1110m / 3640ft
Time: 7 hours
Includes Fan y Big, Pen y Fan & Corn Du
Day 5: Storey Arms to Craig-y-Nos
Distance: 23.5 km / 14.5 miles
Ascent: 610m / 2000ft
Time: 6 hours
Day 6: Craig-y-Nos to Llanddeusant
Distance: 16km / 10 miles
Ascent: 760m / 2500ft
Time: 5 hours
Day 7: Llanddeusant to Carreg Cennen Castle
Distance: 20.5km / 12.5 miles
Ascent: 660m / 2170ft
Time: 6 hours
Day 8: Carreg Cennen Castle to Bethlehem / Llangadog
Distance: 16km / 10 miles
Ascent: 280m / 920ft
Time: 4 hours
Wednesday 19 July 2023: Beacons Way Day 1 – Abergavenny to Llanthony (Photos)
Sara, Sonia and I rendezvoused in Abergavenny at the Bus Station and started walking from there, setting off around 9.30am.
Gorgeous sunny day. No hint of any rain, which was a relief after so many wet weeks.
The day’s two peaks were Skirrid / Ysgyryd Fawr (486m) and Hatterrall Hill (531m) so I was on familiar territory. I’d walked almost all of the route, albeit not in one go, and Sonia and Sara had walked the section from Llanvihangel Crucorney / Llanfihangel Crucornau to Hatterrall Hill (531m) doing the Offa’s Dyke Path, and that filled in the gap.
The roads out of Abergavenny provided a good opportunity to see more of the town beyond the centre, and from the golf course onwards we were onto footpaths and following the Beacons Way waymarks.
We got amazing views from Skirrid – all the way to the Bristol Channel and the Severn to the south – and had a stop at the Trig Point….
… before setting off down Skirrid’s slopes, which were covered in lush green bracken.
After a section on a very narrow lane, the route to Llanvihangel Crucorney was through fields. And crossing the busy A465 was easier than expected. Sadly The Skirrid Inn wasn’t open for a lunchtime pint, so we carried on and had a late lunch on the upper slopes of Peak No 2, Hatterrall Hill.
It was on one of the quiet lanes heading up Hatterrall Hill that we met Anton, who was doing the Offa’s Dyke Path and was staying the night in Llanthony too.
More bracken, and sheep, brought us to the top of Hatterrall Hill.
From Hatterrall Hill we were walking north along Hatterrall Ridge, and so the going was easy.
We had great views east over Herefordshire (any beyond) and west into the beautiful Vale of Ewyas, home to Llanthony Priory.
The footpaths down into the valley bring you alongside Llanthony Priory. Grey stone, green fields, blue skies, white clouds. Beautiful.
We were staying at Treats, where Sue provided a warm welcome and showed us to our room. It was basic, but everything you need – bunk beds, towels, tea/coffee/biscuits, comfy chairs, plenty of things to hang stuff up on, power sockets, and a bathroom/shower just for us albeit not en suite. Not dissimilar to a tea house on a Nepalese trek.
Anton arrived just as we were having a mug of tea…
It was a gorgeous evening, and after showers we all headed back to Llanthony Priory and down into the Cellar Bar for a pint (or two) of Blorenge Golden Ale and dinner – a surprisingly tasty Spicey Bean Goulash which came with an array of veg.
I used the Strava app on my iPhone to map my route and track my stats. The first stile, into the golf course, was when I realised I’d not started Strava, so I’ve added an extra 3km / 1.86 miles / 30 mins for that section of Beacons Way Day 1: Abergavenny to Llanthony, via Skirrid / Ysgyryd Fawr (486m) and Hatterrall Hill (531m).
Distance: 12.46 miles (14 ½ miles from Abergavenny)
Elevation Gain: 2,636 ft
Moving Time: 5 hours (5 ½ from Abergavenny)
Elapsed Time: 6 hours (6 ½ from Abergavenny)
Thursday 20 July 2023: Beacons Way Day 2 – Llanthony to Crickhowell (Photos)
Beacons Way Day 2: Llanthony to Crickhowell, featured three “peaks”: Bâl Bach (520m), Crug Mawr (550m) and Crug Hywel / Table Mountain (451m).
Distance: 13.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,109 ft
Moving Time: 5½ hours
Elapsed Time: 6 hours 40 mins
The day started with a big breakfast courtesy of Treats: an array of cereals etc followed by a fried breakfast, plus a cafetière of coffee.
Having said farewell to Anton, we headed off for the first ascent of the day, up the lovely Cwm Bwchel valley to Bâl Bach, then south along the Ffwyddog ridge to Garn Wen – the beehive cairn.
A little further on, past the woods, we reached the Revenge Stone, Dialgarreg.
The stone marks the spot where a Norman knight, Richard de Clare, was ambushed and murdered by a band of Welshmen in 1135. Jeremy Bolwell provides more detail on Geograph:
Gerald of Wales (1146 – 1223) writing a short time after the event records the incident in 1136 that gave this location its name thus: ‘It happened a short time after the death of King Henry I, that Richard de Clare, a nobleman of high birth and lord of Cardiganshire, passed this way on his journey from England into Wales, accompanied by Brian de Wallingford, lord of this province, and many men-at-arms. At the passage of Coed Grono and at the entrance into the wood, he dismissed him and his attendants, though much against their will, and proceeded on his journey unarmed; from too great a presumption of security, preceded only by a minstrel and a singer, one accompanying the other on the fiddle. The Welsh awaiting his arrival, with Iorwerth, brother of Morgan of Caerleon, at their head, and others of his family, rushed upon him unawares from the thickets, and killed him and many of his followers. Thus it appears how incautious and neglectful of itself is too great presumption; for fear teaches foresight and caution in prosperity, but audacity is precipitate, and inconsiderate rashness will not await the advice of the leader’.
Typical Gerald. This was an upland route in medieval times, followed by de Clare, despite current unrest, against advice and was a crossing of paths at this point, so a likely place for a commemorative stone. The landscape was presumably more thickly wooded than today. The Welsh knew which route he was taking, either through watching his progress or through informers and lay in wait, ruthlessly dealing with a Norman in a way that Normans often dealt with them.
At the Revenge Stone, we dropped down off the ridge and into the valley of the Grwyne Fawr. Across the river, across the road, and up a green lane towards Patrishow – where we managed to miss the church so intent were we on going up!
Fields and a bridleway brought us out onto the lower slopes of Crug Mawr, more up brought us to the only trig – and the highest – point of the day: peak 2, Crug Mawr (550m).
At Crug Mawr we met a couple out celebrating a birthday and a family of wild ponies.
We also got great views, and looking east we could see heavy rain over towards Garway. Amazingly we dodged the rain all day, despite seeing downpours in all directions at various points in the day.
From Crug Mawr we dropped down into the valley of the Grwyne Fechan, following the route I’d taken at the end of the Llanbedr Horseshoe, over hillside and then through woods down to the road. There we turned north for a spell on the lane before taking field footpaths down to the brand new bridge across the river. On the other side, a steep up through some woods brought us out onto another lane where we headed back south turning off into a green lane to start the main section of ascent to Crug Hywel / Table Mountain.
We’d felt a few plops of rain so we lunched by a tumbledown barn and outbuildings near the top of the green lane before emerging onto the flanks of Pen Cerrig-calch where the footpath made its way through emerald green bracken to the Iron Age Celtic hillfort, and third and final peak of the day, Crug Hywel.
It took a good hour to descend through moorland, fields, woods and residential roads to get into Crickhowell where we headed for Latte-Da and celebratory tea and cake – and had time to start planning days 3 & 4 before catching the X43 bus back to Abergavenny.
Sonia and Sara set of back to their respective homes, and I hopped on the X3 to Wormbridge!