The Skirrid (also known as Ysgyryd Fawr) is a popular peak located in the Black Mountains on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park. It is ideal for a short walk or as part of a longer route.
At 486 metres (1,594 ft), it is one of the smaller summits in the area. However, the ascending path should not be underestimated. The start is very steep but it has the advantage of being clearly signposted with no significant or scary edges.
The most obvious route is the climb from the car park situated on the road between Abergavenny to Skenfrith. It is owned by the National Trust so there is a charge but it is a well-maintained location with plenty of space.
The Skirrid is known locally as the ‘Holy Mountain’. Just like some of the other mountains in the vicinity, legends tell the tale of a lightning strike occurring at the time of Christ’s crucifixion resulting in a terrible landslide. It created a prominent feature that is clearly visible as you view the peak from the town of Abergavenny.
‘Ysgyryd’ means ‘shake’ which supports the belief that an earthquake caused the landslip. There are also stories of angels and the Devil associated with the area which has a strong religious history.
All of this combines to create a mythical atmosphere which adds an extra element to the walk. Although the ascent is steep, the view from the top makes it worthwhile. It is possible to see for miles in every direction into Wales and England.
The simplest descent is just to return along the same path as the climb but there are various other routes that will extend the walk.
The path I used to descend was difficult to find as it was hidden amongst overgrown ferns, requiring a GPS device to locate it. It was also extremely tricky underfoot. It often involved the need to sit down in places where it was particularly steep to help with clambering down over some of the larger rocks and stones.
I would not recommend this track without the aid of a trekking pole to act as extra support to avoid slipping. On this particular day, the ground was parched following the heatwave so the dusty conditions made it challenging for my boots to find any grip. This descent is easier in early autumn when the ground is damp, but not too wet, and the ferns have receded.
The walk continues to the village of Llanvihangel Crucorney where there is a tavern called ‘The Skirrid Inn’. This is infamous for being the oldest pub in Wales and one of the most haunted locations in the country. It has a dark past associated with witchcraft, hangings and the notorious Judge Jeffreys. The inn offers ghost hunting for anyone who is brave enough!
If you like your walks to be accompanied by tales of myths and legends as well as close encounters with the supernatural, Ysgyryd Fawr is the peak for you!
A version of this article first appeared in ‘Bwrdd’ – The Newsletter for Mensa Cymru, October 2018.