Admiring the view from Pen-y-Fan

A family walk up Pen-y-Fan, Powys

I’ve climbed Pen-y-Fan, the highest hill in southern Britain, a couple of times without the kids. As the kids are older now I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to stretch our legs on the way back from our holiday in Pembrokeshire.

Having only visited outside of the summer season previously I had no idea how popular the walk was. Our first hint was the long line of cars parked along the edge of the main road. There are a couple of off road car parks but as these were both full we parked on the grass verge like everyone else.

Start of the route up Pen-y-Fan
Start of the route up Pen-y-Fan

There are several routes up Pen-y-Fan. If we’d had the time and energy it would have been good to tackle one of the circular routes which takes in several of the peaks. However with a 2 hour journey behind us and another 2 hour drive home we settled on the standard route up from Pont ar Daf car park, also known as ‘The motorway’.

The Pen-y-Fan motorway

The main track is broad and well made, obviously used to thousands of walking boots. The route was straightforward and relatively easy; it was just a pity that some people had decided to leave dog poo bags alongside the track.

Pen-y-Fan walk
Pen-y-Fan walk

As we walked my son recounted part of the Bear Grylls book he’d just read. Bear’s SAS selection process took place in these hills and although we had an easier time than Bear this mountain shouldn’t be under-estimated. The ease of access means that people can and do get into difficulty, particularly in poor weather.

The first summit (with the flat top shown in the picture above) is actually Corn Du. We skirted around the edge, saving it for our return journey, and walked on to Pen-y-Fan. The views open up at this point and it’s a pretty spectacular view down the Neuadd valley.

A rather busy Pen-y-Fan summit!
A rather busy Pen-y-Fan summit!

A short final climb took us up onto the summit of Pen-y-Fan. I would guess there were a couple of hundred people up there enjoying the views, many more than I’ve seen on any other hill. Families with children of all ages, runners, walking groups and plenty of dogs.

Summit photo, Pen-y-Fan
Summit photo, Pen-y-Fan

We queued for a few minutes to take the obligatory summit photo. Just behind us is the view you see in the feature photo at the top of this post, incredible!

We’d been organised enough to bring a picnic and managed to find a relatively empty spot to eat it in. On bad weather days the wind would be howling across the summit but we were lucky and enjoyed our sandwiches in glorious sunshine.

Picnic on the Pen-y-Fan summit
Picnic on the Pen-y-Fan summit

On to Corn Du

Heading off of Pen-y-Fan we tackled the summit of Corn Du, the second highest peak in South Wales. It’s similar to the summit of Pen-y-Fan; in fact I had to let one family know that they weren’t quite on Pen-y-Fan, much to their kids disappointment.

Route down from Pen-y-Fan
Route down from Pen-y-Fan

It’s pretty steep coming down from Corn Du and I was pleased we’d chosen to walk up the route from Pont ar Daf rather than Storey Arms. The path drops down to a stream before climbing back up a little. We saw a couple of runners filling their water bottles in the stream but rather them than me. I’ve seen too many dead sheep in streams higher up the mountains to even consider this!

We were soon back at the car, ready to hit the M4 again. I’m glad to report that we all enjoyed Pen-y-Fan more than the usual motorway stopover.

If you’re looking for other walks in the Brecon Beacons check out my family walks near Abergavenny post. On a wet day you might like to explore Caerleon’s Roman history or Blaenavon’s industrial heritage.

More info:

  • This route starts from the Pont ar Daf car park on the A470 between Brecon and Merthyr Tydfil. We followed the 4 mile walk outlined on the National Trust website.
  • There are a couple of burger vans and some pretty foul toilets at the start of the walk.
  • We visited on a sunny clear day and there were loads of families walking the hill. However remember that the weather and visibility on top may be very different from your starting point. Always take appropriate equipment and clothing, check the weather forecast and walk within your abilities.
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28 thoughts on “A family walk up Pen-y-Fan, Powys”

  1. Can’t believe there were so many people at the top of Pen-Y-Fan! As for queuing for a summit photo – how funny! There must have been a group going that day or something? Lovely to know lots of people are out enjoying the hills though including families. Lovely photos!

    1. There were a few people taking part in a charity walk plus some long distance runners but there seemed to be lots of big family groups too. It was actually quieter in the motorway service station that we’d stopped at previously!

    1. I was surprised how young some of the children were who were walking up – quite a few pre-schoolers and young primary age.

  2. It seems like a very popular hike ! And the path seems quite easy, i think I would like it ! I’ve just came back from a road trip in Scotland, and we’ve done a few hikes over there.. it was gorgeous, but quite steep !! My legs were hurting so much 🙁

  3. I love the summit photo – there’s always a great sense of achievement when you get to the top of a big hike! Pen-y-Fan looks stunning, and very popular! Although you’ve managed to capture shots without any people in them! I can’t believe some walkers drank from the stream… eurgh!

    1. I would never have drank from the stream unless desparate (and we were only a mile or so from the road and refreshment vans!).

  4. What a fab family hike to get rid of the cobwebs from journey and to refresh you for the rest of it. I can’t believe how many people were at the top of Pen-Y-Fan, I bet you were all a little surprised when you saw them all. The kids look so pleased in their summit photo, it’s great to see. Thanks for linking up with Country Kids.

    1. Thanks Fiona. I think a summit photo is obligatory – even if so many of mine are shrouded in mist and I have no clue what mountain they were taken on.

  5. wow wow wow! Just loved your little pic on #CountryKids so I had to pop over 🙂
    This looks fantastic! I can’t wait to take my 3 out for a good hike! I just can’t bare the thought of needing to carry Mr 2 at the moment!! 😉

  6. Well done for getting to the top. Pen-Y-Fan is a great walk and we’ve been many times. I think Brecon has so much to offer with family walks and good for all abilities. I find the rubbish an annoyance when I go, why would anyone spoil such a beautiful place.

    1. I agree, you’d really think that the people who walk in the hills would like to see it without rubbish (and dog poo bags) in.

    1. Hi Ellie, there’s no narrow ridges (like Striding Edge) to walk along but there are some steepish drops. I do not like exposure but didn’t have a problem at all.

  7. I have read your reviews which have encouraged me to visit Brecon at some point this year. I have tackled Snowdon to no avail, yesterday being the fourth time but I can never get further than a few hundred yards passed the halfway cafe, this taken two hours and still not at the top. Do you think I would get to the top of Pen Y Fan having managed so far up Snowdon. ( I do have a dodgy hip) Comments appreciated. Thanks . Regards Glenys.

    1. Hi Glenys, it would be foolish of me to recommend Pen y Fan to you without knowing more about your experience and fitness. It certainly shouldn’t be under-estimated, particularly in bad weather, but the walk I’ve linked to is a pretty straightforward route and I’d suggest that most fit and experienced Hill walkers would be able to manage it. I think the terrain is easier than Snowdonia but there are still steep bits to contend with! You know your own limitations best – perhaps choose a good weather day and set off slowly and early to see how you do?

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