Into Fforest Fawr

A unique glacial cirque and Fforest Fawr’s highest peak


Fan Fawr


7.25 miles (11.8kms)

1750ft (530m)
3hrs 30min

About the walk

The untracked moorland of Fforest Fawr sees far fewer visitors than the mountains on the other side of the main thoroughfare. Admittedly, the rounded peaks of Fforest Fawr lack the majesty and distinction of the undisputed kings of the national park, Pen y Fan and Corn Du. They will nevertheless appeal to those who enjoy the solitude of wild, open moorland, and for this reason, it is always refreshing to escape the crowds and climb the highest and most accessible mountain in the range, Fan Fawr.

The most direct approach to the summit starts from opposite the Storey Arms. The present walk begins further north, however, from Craig Cerrig-gleisiad, and begins with a dramatic ascent of this impressive glacial cirque. From the top, the bulky summit of Fan Fawr can be clearly seen to the south, and the wild moorland crossing to its lower slopes provides a good introduction to the type of walking found in this area.

Return to the madding crowd

After the peace and solitude of Fan Fawr, the crowds and busyness surrounding the Storey Arms can come as a shock. Now an outdoor activities centre, the Storey Arms was originally built as a coaching inn on the high point of the mountain road between Merthyr Tydfil and Brecon. Tired horses at the top of the climb would be replaced with fresh teams from the inn’s stables, while travellers and drivers would be offered refreshments.

Old Roads and the Upper Tarell Valley

North of the Storey Arms Centre, the old coaching road runs along the opposite side of the Tarell Valley to the present-day A470. It remains a pleasant metalled track and provides a good example of how roads were once built. A layer of small, broken stones was laid down, each less than an inch in diameter. The wooden coach wheels passing over these would grind dust into the gaps between them, thereby creating a solid track. (The opposite is the case with rubber tires, which suck up dust, allowing water to penetrate the gaps between stones and loosen them.)

Running below the level of the road is the Afon Tarell, a beautiful stream which descends through a glaciated valley to the River Usk near Brecon. Much of the land either side of the river is owned by the National Trust, and there are a number of permissive paths for visitors to explore the valley. The upper reaches of the river are home to otters and dippers, while salmon and sewin (sea trout) are occasional migratory visitors.

Walk directions

From the lay-by, go through a kissing gate on to a gravel path (this is on the other side of the stream from the picnic area). Pass an information board and climb through trees to a wooden gate in a dry-stone wall. Directly ahead are the towering crags of Craig Cerrig-gleisiad.

Go through a gap in the wall and take the path climbing straight ahead. As the ground levels, bear left to follow a signed diversion. Following regular waymark posts, climb steeply to the right until you reach a junction of paths at a cone-shaped cairn. Turn sharply left and continue more easily to a kissing gate in a fence.

Go through the gate and turn left on to a stony track, which follows a fence along the top of Craig Cerrig-gleisiad’s high cliffs. Drop to a stile and gate by a pond and continue straight up the hill ahead, still following a boundary fence and wall. A pile of stones marks the summit of Craig Cerrig-gleisiad.

Where the wall on your left drops away down the slope, keep ahead towards Fan Fawr, following a faint path across the wide, open moor. After negotiating a boggy plateau, the path climbs for a short distance before cutting left, across the steep slope, to pick up a narrow ledge path around the mountain’s north-eastern flank.

Maintaining height, continue around the mountain until an obvious grassy path is met (this is the main track ascending from the Storey Arms). Turn right and climb steeply to a cairn marking the summit of Fan Fawr. Continue to a trig point about 720yds (660m) southwest of the summit.

Return down the steep slope climbed earlier and continue downhill in the direction of the Storey Arms. Keep straight ahead across a flatter marshy area, using the clearly visible path to Pen y Fan as a distant landmark. Once over a small rise, drop to a car park on the A470 opposite the Storey Arms.

Cross the busy main road and bear left on to a track signed ‘Taff Trail’. Descend steadily, separated from the A470 by the deepening valley of the Tarell river. At a sign for Llwyn-y-celyn Youth Hostel, turn left over a stile and drop down to a footbridge across the Afon Tarell.

Ignore the signed path right to the youth hostel and keep straight ahead up a steep field towards two trees on the brow of the hill. Continue past the trees to a stile at the top of the field and turn right along the A470. Cross the road carefully to return to your starting point.

Additional information

Some clear paths/tracks, but also sketchy moorland paths across boggy terrain (6 stiles)

Imposing crags and rolling moorland, great views

Take care near livestock, on lead in nature reserve

AA Walker’s Map 18 West & Central Brecon Beacons

Pull-in by small picnic area on A470, 2 miles (3.2km) north of Storey Arms

Forest car park south of Storey Arms Centre

<p>Best avoided in poor visibility, when navigation can be difficult</p>

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About the area

Discover Powys

The largest unitary authority in Wales, Powys covers an area of approximately 2,000 square miles. Much of that is mountainous because it actually has the lowest population density of all the Welsh counties.

This much wild, empty space is perhaps best typified by the International Dark Sky Reserve in the Brecon Beacons National Park, one of only eleven in the world. The absence of light pollution creates an exceptional spot for star gazing. You won’t find any cities in Powys, just villages and smaller-sized towns, but that’s the way its inhabitants like it. 

Newtown, the largest settlement, is perhaps most famous for being the birthplace of Robert Owen, the founder of the Co-operative movement. Brecon is a market town set on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, while the pretty Victorian spa town of Llandrindod Wells boasts the National Cycle Collection. Elsewhere, Hay-on-Wye hosts a major literary festival every year.

Powys is liberally scattered with castles, burial mounds, hill forts, and other historic markers; Powis Castle, near Welshpool is probably one of the most impressive. And for walking enthusiasts, it’s not just the Brecon Beacons on offer – the Elan Valley describes itself as the ‘Welsh Lake District’.

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