BRECON UP IS HARD TO DO…
Hiking up the Brecon Beacon mountains today was awesome! The whole area is criss-crossed with hiking trails and, spoilt for choice, we ended up going for one of the longer walks across the central part of the Beacons. The views were spectacular, the sunshine glorious, and the day a success all round.
We woke, once again, to blue skies and perfect weather and so set out nice and early to go hiking. Shane was struggling a little to get going, so we stopped in for a coffee first.
He perked up nicely after his morning caffeine hit though, and we were soon on the bus bound for The Storey Arms.
Contrary to what the name might suggest, The Storey Arms is not a pub. It’s an outdoors centre where you hire mountain bikes, hiking gear, and other outdoorsy paraphernalia. It’s also the starting point for a whole lot of hikes and easy place to access by public transport.
The most popular hike in the central Brecon Beacons is the circuit that takes you up Pen-y-Fan (the national park’s highest peak) and back down again. We have often found we prefer hikes that give us views of the mountains, rather than hikes that go up the actual mountain, so we chose to head in the opposite direction to the 4 other hikers we saw, and walked towards the slopes of Craig Cerrig-gleisiad instead.
The path we took on our hike today is outlined below. Essentially we followed the ridge of Craig Cerrig-gleisiad all the way up to about 630m, enjoying views across the valley towards Pen-y-Fan the whole way.
The wind whipped up a bit as we were traversing the ridge and we were soon wiping snotsicles* away and pulling out our wind-proof jackets.
*Snotsicle = snot + icicle.
At the peak the trail turned west and we wound our way across the saddle and back up towards the next peak (Coed-y-Fan). The whole way up and across we were dodging sheep, Welsh ponies, cows, and their rather fragrant droppings. Being late spring the lambs have all been born and were so cute, with their snowy white wool.
We stopped on the leeward side of Coed-y-Fan for a snack and to admire the views (out of the wind). With sweeping views down into the farmland below, it was a pretty good spot for a break. The countryside around here is gorgeous!
As we descended down off the mountains, the trail took us through fields full of curious sheep and meadows awash with buttercups, daisies and clover flowers. Apart from the very rural odour, it was beautiful.
After about 3.5 hours of walking we ended up at The Brecon Beacons Mountain Centre, a visitor’s centre that sells hiking maps and souvenirs. It also has a restaurant that serves hot food* and drinks. We stopped for a quick coffee and then continued on.
*Wish we’d known THAT before we set off – the shepherd’s pie smelt soooo good and made our bananas and sandwiches seem like peasant fodder by comparison!
The rest of the walk back onto Brecon township was less spectacular, but still picturesque. We walked down country lanes hemmed by 3m high hedges, across woodlands and meadows, and through a couple of villages the size of a postage stamp.
Finally, after 18.5km of trekking, we made it back to our guesthouse where we’re enjoying a well earned break before we head out for dinner. The place we’re staying in is a renovated 18th century barn, built from the grey slate that the Brecon Beacons are full of. It’s simple but very comfortable and the couple that run it are lovely. Plus we have the national park right on our doorstep!
Tonight’s dinner is going to be down at the local pub, where it’s £5 curry night*. We discovered the place last night and enjoyed their slow-cooked beef and mushroom stew so much we’re heading back tonight. We may even see the same “crowd” that was in there last night#!
*The UK is expensive, especially given the exchange rate at the moment gives us £1GBP for $2AUD. So we’re becoming connoisseurs of “The Daily Special” and simple, cheap (but tasty) pub meals.
#As soon as we walked in to the pub last night the 3 old guys who were there gave us a bit of a grilling (i.e. Where you from? How long you here for? What you doing ‘round here?). We must have passed their tests of good character, however, because they were pretty friendly after that. It made for an entertaining evening, chatting to the locals about life in Brecon and the state of things in Wales. Love country pubs!