I recently spent a long weekend in Aberdare, South Wales. I’m training for a half-ironman in the mountains, so I’m aiming to get more experience of climbing and descending hilly routes. There’s an abundance of routes to explore on foot and by bike in the nearby Brecon Beacons, so I was really spoiled for choice. Here are 3 of my favourite running routes in the Brecon Beacons which we covered over the weekend:
1. Dare Valley Country Park and Penrhiwllech Trail
Dare Valley Country Park is a scenic site on reclaimed land from an old colliery just outside Aberdare. The park is made up of 500 acres of woodlands, pasture and moorland with two beautiful lakes. We started our run on flat tarmac paths leading into the park, then continued onto the Penrhiwllech Trail. This is a horseshoe-shaped route from the visitor centre around the Dare Valley, starting with a relatively high climb onto the upland plateau around Tarren y Bwllfa.
This was the first run we did after arriving in the Brecon Beacons- it certainly woke up the legs after a long car journey! I must admit the Penrhiwllech Trail was a little difficult to locate and I ended up doing my planned route in reverse. However, I still made it up to the top of the plateau and got to enjoy the views over the country park below.
2. Pen y Fan and Corn Du
Pen y Fan is the highest peak in South Wales at a height of 886 metres. The name roughly translates as “the top peak” or “the top of this place”. Corn Du is a neighbouring peak at 873 metres, with the name meaning “Black Horn”.
There are several routes up Pen y Fan, but we chose the most straightforward route, which also happens to be the busiest and is known as “The Motorway”! The trail starts at Pont ar Daf car park- this was already jam-packed at 8am when we arrived, so we parked on the roadside.
Compared to Snowdon, the climb to Pen y Fan is quite steady, it’s challenging but not super strenuous. As you get closer to the top you see a peak that appears to be the summit of Pen y Fan, but this is actually Corn Du. Take the footpath that leads slightly to the right to get to the National Trust’s Pen y Fan sign. The clouds had closed in, so visibility was reduced, but on a clear day you can see for miles around.
Having left the summit of Pen y Fan behind, we continued on to Corn Du which is up a steep stone path with a wooden handrail. The views from this peak were slightly clearer, so we stopped for a moment to look out across the valleys below. Then for the fun part, running back down to the start!
3. Four Waterfalls Trail
This is a circular trail near Ystradfellte in the Brecon Beacons National Park, which visits four different waterfalls set in scenic woodland. The waterfalls are Sgwd Clun-Gwyn (Fall of the White Meadow), Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn (Lower Fall of the White Meadow), Sgwd y Pannwr (Fall of the Fuller) and Sgwd-yr-Eira (Fall of the Snow).
We parked at the Gwaun Hepste Car Park which costs £5 for the day. From the car park, the trail is waymarked from start to finish with red arrows. The main trails are wide and undulating with a gravel surface, however, the trails leading down to the waterfalls are narrow, unsurfaced and steep in places. Be sure to wear footwear with good grip, as the rocks around the falls can be very slippery.
As you run through the woodland, you can hear the waterfalls bubbling and crashing in the distance. Stopping to admire the falls breaks the running route up nicely, particuarly as the water spray is so cool and refreshing. You can actually walk behind the curtain of cascading water at Sgwd-yr-Eira which is an amazing experience- you can really hear and feel the power of the waterfall when you are standing directly beneath it. It’s worth packing a waterproof jacket for going underneath the waterfall, as you do get wet!
I’d recommend arriving early as the car park is fairly small and the route gets very busy, particularly on a sunny Easter Weekend when we visited.
Do you have any ideas for running routes in the Brecon Beacons? I’m hoping to return and explore further later this year!
Trail shoes, Apple watch and waterproof jacket were gifted by Very. All opinions are my own.