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!


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


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!


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.  


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