Fan y Big is a peak in the central region of Bynnau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) which is 719m high. It is a long, narrow mountain that is one of the four peaks included on the classic Beacons Horseshoe hike. Fan y Big is famed for a flat rock that juts out from the summit, which is affectionately known as the Diving Board.
There are many hiking routes that take in the summit of Fan y Big. In this guide I describe four of the best Fan y Big loops including distances, times and starting locations.
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Fan y Big Walking Routes
Let me start by explaining how to pronounce it! If you’re not from Wales you’d be mistaken into thinking that it’s pronounced fanny big, which is difficult to say without having a big grin on your face and getting a tut from the locals. Actually, you won’t go far wrong if you say Fan-er-Big, much like Pen y Fan is pronounced Pen-er-van. In English, Fan-y-Big translates to point of the peak.
There are multiple routes that take in the summit of Fan y Big and below I outline four of the best. These are walks that I have enjoyed in all seasons and are a great addition to your Brecon Beacons bucket list.
In the description I provide starting locations with a link that opens to Google Maps. There are no facilities at the starting locations for these hikes, with the exception of route number 3 which has a toilet block.
1. Fan-y-Big Circular Walk from Blaen-y-Glyn
- Distance: 12km (7.5 miles) km round trip
- Elevation gain: 420m (1380 feet)
- Pros: Waterfalls and glorious ridge views
- Cons: Very steep climb at the start
- Time: 4 hours
- Starting location: Blaen-y-Glyn Uchaf (Upper)
- Map: Brecon Beacons Explorer 12
This is the classic loop of Fan y Big which starts at Blaen-y-Gyn car park. This walk is impressive from the off, with a selection of waterfalls to admire before topping out for some fine ridge views en-route to the summit.
From the car park head back towards the entrance and take the path on the right, just besides the waterfall. Blaen-y-Glyn has lots more waterfalls to explore which are best seen from the lower car park (Blaen-y-Glyn Isaf). For more information on this walk and other waterfall walks in the Brecon Beacons see, this guide.
The path is well maintained with stone steps for most of the climb. This uphill section is just under 1km long and will take 40-60 minutes depending on fitness.
At the top of the hill you can relax knowing that most of the hard climbing is done for the day. Keep following the path around to the right as it now begins to traverse around the eastern side of the mountain (Craig y Fan Ddu).
There are fine views on offer as you walk along this ridge. To the right you can appreciate the glacially carved valley and, in good weather, you will be able to see Fan y Big ahead and to the left. You can often see Welsh ponies in this area too.
Around 2km into the walk, the path hits a T-junction. Turn left here to leave the ridge behind and begin walking slightly uphill. The next T-junction is at Craig Cwareli peak, which sits at the head of Cwm Dergwm (valley).
Turn left here, then branch off to the right to stay on the ridge path that leads to Fan y Big. The summit of Fan y Big is fairly long and narrow, with steep drops off to the east and west. From the top you can enjoy far reaching views of the valleys to the north as well as great views of the other major peaks in the Central Beacons range. Don’t forget to pose for a photo on the Diving Board rock!
From the summit, the more well-trodden route descends Fan-y-Big in the direction of Cribyn to the west and upon reaching the saddle turns south to walk down the Taf Fechan valley, along the old Roman road. Instead I like to stay up on the ridge for as long as possible.
For this, leave Fan y Big along the path you walked in on. Just before reaching Craig Cwareli, branch off to the right along a sheep track that takes you parallel to the drained reservoir in the valley. Walk for around 1.2km then turn right to descend the ridge and join the main footpath (Roman Road). Continue along the footpath until it meets the country road then bear left onto a footpath that climbs up to the forestry.
Continue along this forestry path as it swings around the base of the hills until it means the road. Turn left onto the road and walk 1.2km back to the car park and the end of the walk.
2. Brecon Beacons Horseshoe (Pen-y-Fan Horseshoe)
- Distance: 16km (10 miles) round trip
- Elevation gain: 1620m (5314 feet)
- Pros: Includes the 4 table-top peaks that form the core of the Central Brecon Beacons
- Cons: Hard to navigate in poor weather
- Time: 5-6 hours
- Starting location: Neuadd Reservoir access road car park
- Map: Brecon Beacons Explorer 12
The hike starts from Neuadd Reservoir access road car park in Talybont. From the car park, follow the road north and take the left fork which leads to the now empty reservoir.
Cross over the newly built bridge to the left and begin to ascend the ridge in front of you. This marks the first big ascent of the day. Once on top of the ridge, again head north (turn right) and walk along the well maintained path.
At the northern end of the ridge you will bag Craig Gwaun Taf which is a featureless peak, before a short down and back up to reach Corn Du. Admire fabulous views here over Cwm Llwch (valley) before a short descent and then re-ascent to Pen y Fan. Enjoy 360 degree views from the highest peak in southern Britain (weather permitting!)
From Pen y Fan descend steeply down the track to the southeast (known as Jacobs Ladder) then re-ascend to Cribyn. This is the second biggest climb of the day and where your legs will start to feel it. From Cribyn you make the final bid for Fan y Big, which is the last down and up of the day.
After bagging the final peak, head south along the summit ridge on a well made path, then branch off onto a sheep track that takes you parallel to the drained reservoir. After 1.2km turn right to descend the ridge and join the main footpath (Roman Road). Continue along the footpath, then along the road and back to the car park.
3. Llanfrynach and Fan-y-Big Loop
- Distance: 16.6km (10.3 miles)
- Elevation gain: 790m (2592 feet)
- Pros: The quietest Fan y Big route
- Cons: The longest route to Fan y Big
- Time: 6 hours
- Starting location: Church os St Brynach, Llanfrynach
- Map: Brecon Beacons Explorer 12
Walking to Fan y Big from Llanfrynach is a glorious horseshoe loop with stunning ridge walking from start to finish. Choose this walk if you want a big day out in the Brecon Beacons.
From the toilet block walk next to the church, walk southeast towards the corner of the graveyard and turn right, then right again. Continue along this road before again turning right onto Tregaer Road. Follow this road for 700m before turning left onto another lane. At the end of the lane, turn right to access the footpath and now the mountain walking can begin!
This footpath leads all the way up the valley to Bwlch y Ddwyallt. Ignore any side trails which lead to the small peak of Bryn. Upon reaching the ridge plateau, stay on the path to the right that follows the edge of the ridge around the head of the valley. This leads to the summits of Bwlch y Ddwyallt and Craig Cwareli, before a slight descent to Fan y Big itself.
From the summit of Fan y Big, leave in a northerly direction to make the long descent along Cefn Cyff ridge. At the end of the ridge turn left onto the lane and at the fork branch right, back onto a footpath. Follow this footpath straight ahead as it follows the Nant Menasgin (river) back to the village. Turn right onto the road for the final section back to the church.
This route is marked on Alltrails which you can find here.
4. Fan-y-Big and the Wellington Bomber Wreckage
- Distance: 12.9km (8 miles)
- Elevation gain: 550m (1804 feet)
- Pros: Includes the wreckage of a Wellington Bomber
- Cons: Car park can get busy on weekends
- Time: 4 – 6 hours
- Starting location: Blaen-y-Glyn Uchaf car park
- Map: Brecon Beacons Explorer 12
This is my favourite walk of Fan y Big since it includes stunning ridge walking, beautiful waterfalls and a little piece of Beacons history.
This walk again starts in the Blaen-y-Glyn upper car park and follows the exact same route as number one. Walk up the steep hill, admiring the waterfalls as you go, before walking around the eastern side of Craig y Fan Ddu. Turn left at the junction to climb to Craig Cwareli, before joining the ridge overlooking Cwm Dergwm to walk on to Fan y Big summit.
After enjoying views over the Central Beacons to the west and the valleys to the north, retrace your footsteps to Craig Cwareli, but this time stay on the ridge path as it loops around the head of the valley. Continue along this path to flat summit of Bwlch y Ddwyallt.
Descend into the saddle between Bwlch y Ddwyallt and Waun Rydd and then take the lower path towards to the Wellington Canadian Bomber Memorial, which you will reach in around 700m. At the crash site you will see a dedicated memorial cairn which is often adorned in poppies. You will also see two distinct piles of wreckage which staggeringly still remain, even after 80 years.
After taking some time to explore the wreckage, take the path to the left of the memorial cairn and climb up onto the ridge. Once on the ridge, turn right and walk for around 1 km until the path forks into two. Take the fork to the right which descends down the southern shoulder of Waun Rydd.
Continue straight ahead on the path down into the valley until it reaches a T-junction at the Blaen Caerfanell river. Turn left follow the river downstream until you see a wooden bridge on the right hand side. Cross over the bridge to get a closer view of the Caerfanell waterfall. Then, leave the river through the metal gate on the right, turn right and follow the well-maintained path back up to the car park.
For a more detailed description of hiking to the Wellington Bomber crash site see this guide.
Hiking Fan y Big – What do you need?
- Waterproofs – of course, it’s Wales!
- Food & Water – bottles with filters are very handy for safely refilling in streams and rivers. Discover which filtered water bottle is right for you in this handy guide!
- Hat, gloves and warm layers for the summits (yes even in Summer!)
- Good hiking boots or walking trainers are a must
- A First Aid Kit for trekking
- These paths are also marked on maps.me which is a free topographical map, so consider downloading this map before you go. Alternatively, you can get an annual subscription with OS which provides digital access to all OS maps across the UK, including planned routes. Check it out here.
- A physical map of the Brecon Beacons (Explorer 12) and compass.
Where to Stay After a Fan y Big Walk
If you hike option 1, 2 or 4 from car parks on the southern side of the hill, then the closest place to stay is in my hometown of Merthyr Tydfil. If you want to be located in the town centre near bars and restaurants try James’ Place. For a more boutique option just north of the town try the Nant Ddu Lodge and Spa. They also serve delicious food here which will be well deserved after after your hike.
For walk number 3 I suggest staying in the market town of Brecon. The beautiful Camden Lodge B&B offers exceptional service, with large, clean rooms that have delightful views over the hills.
Final Thoughts on Fan y Big Hikes
Fan y Big is a mountain in the Brecon Beacons of South Wales. It’s a narrow, flat-topped peak which is one of the four mountains involved the classic Beacons Horseshoe hike. Protruding from the summit is a long, flat rock known as the Diving Board, upon which is a popular photo spot.
There are multiple hiking routes to the summit of Fan y Big with various starting locations. In this guide I four of the best walking loops and provide all the information you need to enjoy a walk of Fan y Big. Diolch!
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