Bagging the Welsh dragon in the Black Mountains
Crossing the Black Mountains, starting at Pandy and moving on to Hay-on-Wye, the route has incredible views and a line of trig points ending in one decorated with a Welsh dragon.
12 km / 7 miles
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Car park LD3 0EP, Pengenffordd. Small Parking charge paid to honesty box on arrival.
The Dragons Back walk starts in the small village of Pengenffordd within the Brecon Beacons National Park. It boasts fantastic views of the surrounding country side and the beautiful Black Mountains.
The first ascent of the walk takes you over the ups and downs of the ‘Dragons Back’, aptly named due to its shapely mounds that resemble a sleeping dragon. This route includes the highest point of the Black Mountains, Waun Fach, which translates from Welsh as small moor.
Standing at 811 metres it is the second highest mountain in southern Britain. This area has grazing livestock and wild ponies roam the hills. Please keep dogs on leads throughout this walk to ensure safety.
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The start of the walk is to the north east of the car park, an information sign indicates the gap in the tree line, that will take you onto a path as a safe passage away from the road.
Continue north along the narrow path until you reach a country lane. Turn right onto the lane and head in a north easterly direction towards the farm house. Be vigilant of cars along this section, although a quiet country road, it is a right of way for through traffic.
Once you have reached the farm house a stone track will lead you to a gate and into an open field to the first ascent of the ‘Dragons Back’.
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Perched on the hill to the south west sits Castell Dinas hill fort, at 450 metres it is the highest castle in England and Wales. It is positioned as such to defend Rhiangoll pass, between the small market towns of Talgarth and Crickhowell. All that remain from the original Iron Age defence are ruin stone walls, outlines of ditches and ramparts, but certainly worth a visit to soak in some Welsh history.
Meandering over the ups and downs of the ‘Dragons Back’, the 360 views are simply breathtaking. It helps take your mind off the amount of incline you will need to climb to conquer the back of this sleeping dragon. There are paths that sweep around the sides of the hills, but keeping to the crown of the peaks is very rewarding.
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It’s worth pausing near the large Cairn at the end of this narrow ridged walkway, to survey your journey over the ‘Dragons back’. The path flattens to a marshy area of grassland, at the fork take the right path as it gently rises to the plateau of the vast open moorland of the Black Mountains.
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On reaching the plateau head south east along the well defined summit path. This section can be extremely muddy in places, however due to recent ground works by the national park the condition of the paths have improved significantly.
Take your time along this section to absorb the fantastic views, it’s also not unusual to see gliders silently soaring in the up draughts along this section. Navigate your way through the peat bogs, as you draw closer to the last incline of this walk to the summit of Waun Fach.
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There is not much to see at the vast open upland of Waun Fach, there is little in the way of a view and feels quite disappointing after that steep climb, especially as there is no longer a OS Triangulation Pillar to take that all important summit photo. However the journey to and from this bleak mountain top is well worth it, those breath taking views are not over yet!
Take the path leading you west from the summit, the stone steps are a welcome break from the peat bogs and marshy ground. Upon reaching the level plane of Pen Trumau, the spectacular views return once more.
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The trail drops sharply to a crossroad of paths, and a beautiful valley view of Grwyne Fechan. The pathway junction is marked with a large cairn.
Take a sharp right to a gradual descent into the Rhiangoll valley, which leads to a country lane, passed Cwmforest farm and a muddy track back to the carpark.
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Tracy is an avid mountain walker, photographer and trig pillar obsessive.