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A guide to the Black Mountains of Wales holiday cottages

A guide to the Black Mountains of Wales

Julie Smith 20 April 2021

One of four mountain ranges in the Brecon Beacons, the Black Mountains lie between the towns of Abergavenny, Crickhowell, Talgarth and Hay-on-Wye. This dramatic series of peaks reaches across England and Wales, spreading along the Welsh counties of Powys and Monmouthshire and through to Herefordshire and the English border.

Waun Fach is the highest point of the Black Mountains but other notable peaks include Hay Bluff, Sugar Loaf and Twmpa, which is also known as Lord Hereford’s Knob.

The Black Mountains are an ideal destination for lovers of the outdoors, and along with challenging climbs and stunning summit views, you’ll also find gentler walks and pretty towns and villages nestled amongst this beautiful part of the Brecon Beacons National Park.

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⛰️ Climbing in the Black Mountains

⛰️ Things to see and do

⛰️ Walking in the Black Mountains

⛰️ Black Mountains pubs

⛰️ Where to stay in the Black Mountains

Climbing in the Black Mountains

The Black Mountains - Brecon Beacons

There’s a variety of hills and mountains in the Black Mountains, making climbing one of its peaks accessible to anyone with a reasonable level of fitness and the right clothing and equipment. Remember to always check the weather conditions before you set off and make sure you stay fully hydrated during your climb. Here are some of our favourite peaks to tackle:

Waun Fach

If you’re looking for a challenge, it makes sense to start off with the highest peak in the Black Mountains! At 811 metres, Waun Fach is one of three Marilyns in the range, and you can climb up to the trig point at the summit from the Dragon’s Back pub below.

The Sugar Loaf

Possibly the most recognisable peak in the Black Mountains, The Sugar Loaf stands at 596 metres high and provides a spectacular backdrop to the market town of Abergavenny. The conical-shaped mountain is surrounded by heather moorland and wildflower meadows which are a haven for wildlife, and the walk to the summit is fairly steady until a more challenging final climb at the top. The views from here are stunning so it’s well worth the extra effort to get to the summit.

Hay Bluff

The Black Mountains - Brecon Beacons

Typically accessed from the Offa’s Dyke National Trail, the flat summit of Hay Bluff is marked by a trig point which looks out over Hay-on-Wye. The ascent up Offa’s Dyke is fairly challenging but the scenery here is spectacular with views over to Twmpa, just across the valley. A gentler route to the top of Hay Bluff is from Gospel Pass and you can even tackle the ascent to Twmpa at the same time if you fancy making a day of it.  

Twmpa

Twmpa, also known as Lord Hereford’s Knob, is located close to the England / Wales border, around 4 miles to the south of popular book town Hay-on-Wye. The best way to access the 690-metre summit is from the Gospel Pass Car Park which lies around a mile to the east of Twmpa and is part of the highest road pass in Wales. This is a popular spot for birdwatching and you can look out over the beautiful Wye Valley from the top of the mountain.

Skirrid

Also known as ‘The Holy Mountain’, Skirrid, or Ysgyryd Fawr, is a remote National Trust-owned outlying peak that lies at the eastern edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The hill is 454 metres high and is surrounded by nature-rich woodland, with the ruins of St Michael’s Chapel and an Iron Age hillfort at the base and views across to Sugar Loaf and Blorenge from the summit. 



Things to see and do in the Black Mountains

The Black Mountains - Brecon Beacons

Along with the collection of hills and mountains to climb, there is a range of other things to see and do in and around the Black Mountains of the Brecon Beacons National Park.  

Llyn y Fan Fach

The tranquil waters of this 10-acre glacial lake make it a great choice for wild swimming, especially as it’s surrounded by the peaks of the Black Mountains. The lake is pretty remote so make sure you take everything you need for your visit. You’ll have to walk along the path of the Afon Sawdde River for around 4 miles to get to this secluded beauty spot which is said to be home to the mythical Lady of the Lake. 

Historical remains

The Black Mountains are in an area rich with history and you’ll find Bronze Age monoliths, Roman remains and mysterious stone circles dotted around the landscape. Particular ones worth seeking out include a Roman fort and stone circle at Mynydd Bach Trecastell, the Cerrig Duon black stones which lie at the base of Fan Hir on the River Tawe, and the Crug Hywel Hillfort which looks out over the town of Crickhowell from its spot on Table Mountain.

Birdwatching

The Black Mountains are a haven for local Welsh wildlife and you can see majestic birds of prey such as red kites, buzzards and kestrels soaring in the sky as you walk up and around the various hills and mountains. Other beautiful birds to keep your eyes peeled for include merlin, wheatear, whinchat, whitebeams and red grouse.     

Llanthony Priory

The Black Mountains - Brecon Beacons

The beautiful 900-year-old ruins of Llanthony Priory have one of the most dramatic and remote locations around, perching on the side of a steep valley in the remote Vale of Ewyas. The priory was one of the finest medieval buildings in Wales and the remaining archways and stonework give a glimpse into how impressive this site would once have been. Today, after wandering around the remains and admiring the stunning view, you can call for refreshments at a country inn which forms part of the original priory - the characterful vaulted bar would once have been the prior’s cellar.    

Stargazing

The lack of light pollution in the Black Mountains means that this area is just right for stargazing in the Brecon Beacons - so good, in fact, that it is internationally recognised as a Dark Sky Reserve. On a clear night, you can see the Milky Way, star constellations and meteor showers from locations such as Hay Bluff, Llanthony Priory and Carreg Cennen.  

Grange Pony Trekking

If you fancy cantering through the Black Mountains on horseback, Grange Pony Trekking offers a range of riding experiences on native Welsh ponies, with routes available for various levels of ability and experience. You’ll enjoy fantastic views of the mountains as you ride along peaceful country lanes, go off-road into the area’s magical moorland or climb high up into the hills. All riders are matched with a suitable horse and instruction is given before you set off with your guide. 

Walks in the Black Mountains

The Black Mountains - Brecon Beacons

Whether you prefer walking up hills, down valleys, or along undulating rivers, there is an abundance of scenic routes to try in the Black Mountains area of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Here are some of our favourite walks to try: 

Pwll-y-Wrach

The tranquil Pwll-y-Wrach Nature Reserve is located in a peaceful steep-sided valley close to the pretty Black Mountains village of Talgarth. Park in Talgarth and follow a 1-mile path to the Pwll-y-Wrach where you can walk along riverside paths to seek out a spectacular waterfall that plunges into the dark Witches Pool. The 17.5 acres of ancient woodland here are covered with a carpet of bluebells during springtime, and you may well spot frogs, shrews and dormice as you wander amongst the sycamore, wood-sorrel, elm and maple trees.

Abergavenny to Little Skirrid

This 3-mile circular walk will take you from the town of Abergavenny and up the wooded slopes of Little Skirrid. At 486 metres high, it’s one of the smaller Black Mountains peaks so is a good intermediate climbing choice, best tackled when the weather is dry so that the route isn’t too muddy. There are places where you can stop en route for a picnic, plus a wide choice of pubs to call in for refreshments on your return to Abergavenny. 

Llanthony and Hatterall Ridge Walk

You’ll follow the famous Offa’s Dyke Path on this 4.5-mile circular walk that starts at the free-to-use Llanthony Priory Car Park and takes in Wirral Woods and the Hatterall Ridge, which lies on the border between England and Wales. Highlights of the walk are stunning views of the Vale of Ewyas and the priory itself, with Sugar Loaf Mountain in the distance. 

Cwmdu circular

Picturesque Cwmdu is located in the heart of the Black Mountains and you can enjoy a scenic circular 4-mile walk from the village car park, taking in rich wildflower meadows and the preserved Iron Age hillfort of Maescastell. The walk also includes rural farmland and open parkland before returning back for refreshments at the community-run village pub. Shorter 1-mile and 2-mile options for the circular Cwmdu walk are also available.



Black Mountain pubs

The Black Mountains - Brecon Beacons

While exploring the beautiful Black Mountains, here are just some of the characterful pubs that you can call in for refreshments:  

The Half Moon Inn is located in a secluded Black Mountains spot close to Llanthony Abbey. The dog-friendly pub dates back to the 17th century and features flagstone floors, a log fire and a beautiful beer garden.

The Farmers Arms is a community-owned village pub in Cwmdu near Crickhowell with oak beams, an inglenook fireplace and a food menu that’s full of hearty fare. A perfect choice to call in for refreshments after walking in the area.  

The New Inn is a dog-friendly CAMRA pub in Bwlch which serves locally produced Brecon Beacons cider alongside a selection of real ales. The inn is a popular choice with walkers and has a selection of classic pub grub on the menu.   

The Dragon’s Head is a cosy, family-run Brecon Beacons pub located close to The Sugar Loaf in the Black Mountains. The pub is always popular thanks to its fresh home-cooked food, and it’s a great choice for a classic Sunday roast, though booking is required.

Where to stay in the Black Mountains

The Painter's HouseThe Painter's House | Sleeps 2

 

You’ll find a variety of market towns, pretty villages and rural hamlets dotted around the Black Mountains with lovely cottages that make ideal bases for your getaway. Popular places to stay include Hay-on-Wye, Crickhowell, Abergavenny, Llangattock and Talgarth, and properties range from romantic retreats to family-friendly holiday homes with room for everyone.


Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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