Black Mountains

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Key information: Black Mountains

    • The beautiful, long-drawn ridges and verdant hidden valleys of Wales' Black Mountains make for perfect walking country.
      • There are walks for all tastes, from gentle Sugar Loaf and sacred (and slightly weird) Skirrid Fawr, to explorations of side valleys, to long, fine moorland ridge walks with big views.
        • Discover the beautiful Vale of Ewyas on a circuit (which manages to combine the charming and the dramatic) from tiny Capel-y-ffin or the atmospheric ruins of Llanthony Priory, climbing onto the 11-mile Hatterrall Ridge to join possibly the finest stretch of Offa's Dyke Path. Walkopedia's favourite walk in the area.
          • Expect unpredictable weather: this is one of the wetter bits of the UK!
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            ANYONE GOT ANY GOOD PHOTOS? WE WOULD BE DELIGHTED TO POST THEM!

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating82
  • Beauty30
  • Natural interest14
  • Human interest10
  • Charisma30
  • Negative points2
  • Total rating82
  • Note: Negs: popularity

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Day or less
  • Maximum Altitude: 810m
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
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WALK SUMMARY

The beautiful long-running ridges and lush hidden valleys of Wales' Black Mountains make perfect walking country. Although within the Brecon Beacons NP, they are separated from their bigger, sometimes bleaker, cousins by the cleft of the Usk Valley, and have their own identity. They are a lovely introduction to Wild Wales, a prelude to their more demanding western neighbours - but with bucket-loads of charm in their own right.

The mountains' defining feature is their long, mainly north-south ridges leading up to the dramatic northern escarpment overlooking Hay-on-Wye: rough moorland of heather, bilberries and grass on top, with sheep-cropped grass, bracken and woodland on their often very steep flanks; between the lie delicious little valleys of farmland, hamlet and the odd special place like Llanthony Priory. You will see birds of prey, a lot of sheep and groups of nearly-wild Welsh mountain ponies.

You will be missing out not to grunt up to one of these ridges and walking a circuit of your devising - there are endless paths to choose from, and you can create anything from a short scramble to a valley or ridge ramble to a long ridgetop circuit.  The highest peak in the Black Mountains at Waun Fach is some people's choice, with particularly good approaches from the West and North.

 

Walkopedia's favourite walking here has to take in the fantastic Hatterrall Ridge, the 11 or so mile ridge from the ancient hill fort above Pandy to Hay Bluff above Hay on Wye. This is the easternmost ridge of the Black Mountains and accordingly has huge views across the green beauties of western England, as well as westward over the beautiful Vale of Ewyas to the central ridges. This is both the England-Wales border and possibly the finest stretch of Offa's Dyke Path. You could walk the entire ridge in a longish but not difficult day, or create a circuit (which manages to combine the charming and the dramatic) from tiny Capel-y-ffin or the atmospheric ruins of Llanthony Priory, climbing onto Hatterrall Ridge to join Offa's Dyke Path for a way before circuiting back. This is so good it has deserved its own page.

Another beauty, and representative of the varied delights to be found, is Castell Dinas and the Rhiangoll valley , which Walkopedia created for itself for the map.

The bustling market town of Abergavenny, nestled in a valley on the eastern edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, provides an excellent base for exploring its three surrounding hills - Sugarloaf (see below), sacred (and slightly weird), stand-alone  Skirrid Fawr and Blorenge.  Other fine walks include a circuit taking in the tiny, romantic church at Patrishow;, and the climb to the iron age fort of Crug Hywel, Crickhowell's namesake, on Table Mountain.

The slightly curious Hay-on-Wye, which is known both for hosting the famous annual literary festival and for its tongue-in-cheek declaration as an independent kingdom in 1977, accesses the grand northern stretches of the Black Mountains, with their superb views out over Wye valley to the North. Two favourites here, a circuit to take in the extraordinarily positioned (and very ruined) hilltop Castell Dinas south of Talgarth: and dramatic (but popular) Hay Bluff, the north-eastern bastion of the range.

A good sign that the Black Mountains are off the beaten track: Tripadvisor didn't have any answers to a "Black Mountains" destination search!

Sugarloaf

Of Abergavenny's hills, the most popular and easily accessible is Sugarloaf. Its distinctive shape, long gentle slopes meeting at a sharp central point, can be seen from miles around and on fair days there is a constant trickle of day walkers meandering along its generous grassy paths. In spite of its popularity, this is a beautiful walk. It may lack the majesty of Snowdonia to the north, and even the challenge of nearby Pen Y Fan but, with stunning views of purpled mountains and deep valleys stretching out from its slopes, it has more than enough appeal of its own.

The easiest route is from the National Trust car park near the peak, reached on a steep and winding drive up the mountain - although you can also walk up right from the bottom in Abergavenny. The highlights of the walk are very much at the top and so, given the plethora of walks in the area, it might be worth taking the easy route and saving your energy for other ambulatory delights.  

 

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist. Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.

Books and Maps

Suggest books and maps

Find these and other books on Amazon, using our handy search box:

Books on this walk     

Walking in the Brecon Beacons – Cicerone: contain a number of circular Black Mountains walks, with excellent ideas and information, as usual.

The Offa’s Dyke Path – Cicerone. Informative, definitive, lovely pictures – for anyone wanting to walk lovely Hatterrall Ridge.


Other books

On the Black Mountain – Bruce Chatwin’s first novel, and a beauty (it won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize).

 

Maps

Good Ordinance Survey maps can be bought locally.

 

Stanfords: A good online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks). Also try Maps Worldwide and www.trektools.com.

Best times to walk/weather

Best times to walk: Spring/ Summer/ early Autumn – the changing seasons in Wales each have their own distinct charm. Winter can be gorgeous, with sparkling snow covering.

Weather: Welsh. One of the wettest climates in Great Britain, so come prepared for all eventualities.

 

For detailed weather information, have a look at: www.worldweather.org or www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/country-guides.

 

 

Getting there/transport/permits/fees


Skyscanner is an excellent (relatively new) site for finding any flights you need; otherwise try Lastminute.com, or look at what’s available on Tripadvisor.

 

Train to Abergavenny. Taxis can get you to/from roadheads.

 

Most people get to the roadheads by car. Bus can be an option for more accessible villages, although the Brecon Beacon bus service is sadly stopping in mid 2014.

 

No permits are needed to do these walks.

 

 

 

 

Route(s)

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See Walk Summary above.


Possible problems, health, other warnings

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·          Mountain weather: rain, cold and wind are possible at any time of year and the weather can change rapidly. Come prepared.

 

See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.

 

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and problems can arise on any walk. Many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks and possible problems. This website cannot, and does not purport to, identify all actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to a walk or a country. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

 

Make sure you have appropriate insurance.

 

 

Guided or independent?

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Independent

Almost everybody tackles these walks independently.

 

Guided/supported

 

PLEASE HELP Walkopedia by recommending any reputable guides or tour organizers that you know of – local or otherwise.

 

Have a look at Infohub to see if they have any ideas.

 

 

Accommodation

Brecon, Crickhowell, Abergavenny and Hay-on-Wye are some of the more obvious bases for walking – although the latter two arguably have more to offer in their own right. As well as the towns, you can stay in hotels, BnBs and campsites nestled in the area’s hillsides. A particular Walkopedia favourite is the charming (and pleasingly unmodernized) LLanthony Priory Hotel, with rooms up a spiral-staircased tower of the eponymous priory.

 

Youth hostels, including at Capel-y-ffin in the Vale of Ewyas.

 

There are various relevant accommodation websites, such as www.breconcottages.com and www.blackmountainsholidaycottages.co.uk.

 

See what the commentary on Tripadvisor is on possible places to stay – although do take their reviews with a pinch of salt, as they can be “interested”.

 

A good range of hotels and other accommodation can be found on the unimaginatively but effectively named Hotels.com.

 

If you’re on a budget, Hostelbookers usually has a good selection of cheaper-end accommodation; or perhaps try for some bargain luxury on Lastminute.com.

 

 

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Other information and tips

 

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Useful websites and information

There are various websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.

 

·         www.wikipedia.org.As so often, a good place for some background info.

·         Offa’s Dyke Association – www.offasdyke.demon.co.uk

·         http://www.breconbeacons.org/

·         Have a look at Tripadvisor – there are tens of millions of reviews, so you may get good, current views on this area, although a good sign that the Black mountains are off the beaten track: it didn’t have any answers to a “Black mountains” destination when we had a look.

 

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Other things to do in the area

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Other walks

Wales has a huge variety of great walks. Nearby are of course the Brecon Beacons.

Other activities

Lots, including castle-hopping, and an old coal mine.

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

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OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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