Tor Y Foel – A Small Gem In The Brecon Beacons

Regular blog readers and Twitter followers will already know that I am doing ‘Country Walking’ magazine’s ‘#walk1000miles’ challenge. I am fortunate enough to live in a beautiful area surrounded by the Black Mountains just outside the Brecon Beacons National Park so I have always enjoyed walking but this challenge has given me the motivation to venture away from the more eminent mountains of the Sugar Loaf, the Blorenge, the Skirrid and Pen y Fan and begin exploring some of the lesser known local peaks.

Cue Tor Y Foel.

Tor Y Foel from a distance

This peak is located between the villages of Llangynidr and Talybont-on-Usk on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park. At 551 metres, you could be forgiven for thinking it would be an easy climb but don’t be fooled.  The steep ascent is a challenge.

Taken from ‘Walking in the Brecon Beacons National Park’ by Alastair Ross*, this walk provides variety from start to finish.  Beginning in the car park in Llangynidr, we had to tackle several broken stiles to reach the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal.  With its echoes of the industrial past, it is now a pleasant area for outdoor activities of all kinds.  This stretch is one of the most scenic and includes the locks at Llangynidr where it is possible to stand and marvel at the ingenuity of the two-hundred-year-old technology.  Even in the 21st Century, it has never been surpassed by any updated design.

The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal

Venturing away from the canal, we joined the Beacons Way entering a small area of woodland. This opened out into a field of Shetland ponies and the slopes of Tor Y Foel.  From this vantage point, it looked intimidating above us.  Once you start the ascent, it is a case of up and up and up again, battling against the treachery of false summits.  After a strenuous climb, we eventually conquered the summit where the horizon becomes visible.

And then it takes your breath away!  The panoramic scenery extends for miles in every direction and includes Talybont Reservoir, Llangorse Lake, Crickhowell, Llangynidr and Abergavenny.  From the glacial erosion to the far beacons, it is definitely worth the effort!

The summit of Tor Y Foel

Following a sharp descent, we reached a remote road and joined the Usk Valley Walk.  It is often the case with walking that milestones and markers described in route instructions seem to disappear just to make it tricky to find the correct path.  However, with the aid of a GPS device; a good, reliable traditional map; and gut instinct, we found our way past the non-existent route marker and back on track.

After a brief lunch break with its soundtrack of bleating lambs, we made our way through the fields, over several more broken stiles to descend towards the canal towpath.

It is at this point that you think the walk is over but it continues alongside the canal until it returns to the village of Llangynidr.

The walk route using memory-map GPS Navigation Software

By the time we reached the car, we could look back at Tor Y Foel and appreciate that sometimes, the smaller peaks can result in the most enjoyment!  It was time for a well-earned hot chocolate in a local café on the way home.

* ROSS, A (2008) Walking In The Brecon Beacons National Park: Machynlleth: Kittiwake.

  • Please note that this is the route I followed. I am an experienced walker. You should take care and use your own judgement for your safety when planning where to walk.