Back we go to the Brecon Beacons! This time we were on the hunt for winter essentials: sun and snow. January just doesn’t feel right if I don’t get my annual dose and this walk, to the east of the National Park near Talgarth, was perfect. The ‘shapely’ ridge, known as the Dragon’s Back, makes for both a great ascent or descent off Waun Fach and then there’s the ruins of possibly the oldest castle in Wales at its base as your reward.
Introducing The Most Popular Hike on this Blog…
Over the last year, this route has been by far and away the most searched for and read post on the entire blog. The Brecon Beacons has beaten off the Lofoton Islands, Iceland, California, Moab, and the Alps to become my most popular hike so far! You’ve all got great taste as this route is a real little gem. Whilst it doesn’t have a prominent summit like Pen y Fan or the Sugar Loaf, it has a ‘big mountain’ feel and a ridge that really does live up to its namesake, undulating down towards Pengenffordd.
The way up also happens to make a fast, rocky descent on the mountain bike…
We headed up here with the family on a particularly chilly Mothers’ Day; I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been up and down the Dragon’s Back but it always makes for a fun day out. There were gorgeous views all to ourselves, other than some runners bravely tackling the icy trail at speed. It’s steeper than it looks.
A rocky outcrop halfway up to Waun Fach made for a perfect picnic stop out of the wind with a view all the way to the Sugar Loaf. Icicles longer than rulers dropped from the peat banks and tufts of grass crunched underfoot.
The icicles and number of puffy layers I was wearing show just how cold it was. The mountain forecast predicted that it would feel like -5 C with wind chill. I wasn’t just going for my favourite chubby hamster look…
If you look closely you can just make out a opportunistic hiker devouring his lunch in the comfort of an abandoned digger. Sensible man.
On the way down to the start of the ridge we came across a large, frozen puddle sprawling across our path. You can’t complain when some free ice-skating lessons are available.
The most dramatic section of the ridge is marked by a large stone cairn at the top. Apparently, an up-and-down to this point is a popular dog walk with more energetic locals. We made our way down the Dragon’s Back with the winter sun in our eyes, just threatening to dip behind Mynydd Troed at the end of a great day out. This is one for the bucket list.
– Hiking Map –
Length: 7.1 miles ( 11.4 km) Height gain: 647 m Time: 4 hours +
Note: The exact path off Pen y Manllwyn down to the distinct Dragon’s Back is a little hard to find under snow. However, usually there will be tracks in the snow to follow and the ridge isn’t narrow or steep enough to pose significant danger unless there is ice.
The bottom section of the ridge to the river is now a permissive right of way and takes you through the castle ruins. This means that the land owner has given permission for you to cross their land on the route shown below on the orange dotted line. It can be VERY muddy.
– Good To Know –
Food/drink: The pub serves a nice looking range of food. Check out the menu here.
Alternatives: This hike is just as good done in reverse as the Dragon’s Back is enjoyable as an ascent and descent.
Parking: There is a walkers’ car park next to The Dragons Back pub. Grid Ref SO 17330 29746. They ask for a small donation payable in the pub.