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A Circular Walk Around Cwm Mawr (the Big Valley)

A beautiful 5-mile walk around Cwm Mawr (the Big Valley) in the Black Mountains.

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Cwm Mawr Circular Walk (the Big Valley)

My wife suffers from what she calls ‘ridge envy’ – a condition brought on by gazing up to the top of any stunning ridge (there’s plenty of them in the Black Mountains around Gliffaes), spotting a tiny speck of a walker or two and immediately turning green and wanting to swap places with them. The treatment is swift and pretty tiring – you have to climb the ridge.

A recent beautiful Saturday morning provided the perfect conditions for a case of ridge envy. The ridge in question was a magnificent hill that runs between Pen Cerrig-calch to Pen Alt-mawr, and at 650 meters high that was our target. With two old friends of Gliffaes staying at the hotel we set off at around 10 am for this 5-mile circuit of Cwm Mawr (the Big Valley). A 5-minute drive from Gliffaes finds you at a parking spot somewhere in the region of 203 213 (OS map 13), which has the advantage of a height gain of some 250 meters – every little helps!

The route is a simple one. Straight uphill for about 1 mile following the ridge towards Pen Cerrig-calch (217 225). There’s no need to climb right to the top – when you see the flat saddle on your left, between the two high spots, head left along the ridge towards Pen Gloch-y-pibwr (203 233) before descending the opposite ridge you went up. These two ridges frame a perfect, steep-sided bowl-shaped valley. This area was once used for grouse shooting and the old grouse bouts are very much in evidence. We saw no grouse but did see plenty of skylarks and welsh mountain ponies.

It was a perfect day and we had stunning views all the way across to Pen y Fan.  At the bottom of the ridge you meet the mountain wall and the Beacons Way path, turn left for the short stroll back to your car. One case of ridge envy dealt with.

Notes: It’s best to do this walk before the bracken gets too high, so avoid late summer and autumn. It can be very windy on top and I have been snowed on here in June! If you’re staying at Gliffaes I will be happy to mark up your map and give detailed instructions.

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Gliffaes Country House Hotel is nestled in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park. We’ve created a useful guide of local attractions and activities here, containing information on walks, things to do, local shopping and places to visit, which you can use to help map out your visit to the Brecon Beacons.

If you’re looking for a place to enjoy a fresh, locally-sourced lunch, dinner or afternoon tea, or somewhere comfortable to stay the night, our friendly country house hotel is the perfect base for your Brecon Beacons break.

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