A Guide To Hay Bluff Walks

Hay Bluff, or Penybegwn in Welsh, is a mountain in the Black Mountains of South Wales. The mountain reaches 677m high and marks the northeastern edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The flat-topped peak of Hay Bluff sits at the most northerly point of Hatterall Ridge, which provides a natural border between England and Wales.

The steep escarpments on the northern flank of Hay Bluff provide dramatic views over the Wye Valley below and the edge of the Brecon Beacons range to the west. These breathtaking views make a walk of Hay Bluff well worth adding to your Beacons bucket list.

In this guide, I provide trail descriptions for 3 circular walks that take in the summit of Hay Bluff.

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1. Hay Bluff Circular Walk

  • Distance: 10km (6 miles)
  • Time: 4 – 5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 421m (1390ft)
  • Starting Point: Hay Bluff Car Park (Grid Reference SO239373)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Summits: Hay Bluff, Twmpa

This is a fairly short walk of Hay Bluff that also includes the summit of Twmpa. There is a steep initial climb, followed by an easier ascent of Twmpa and a straightforward return walk.

There is a dedicated parking area at the foot of Hay Bluff which can be reached by simply typing Hay Bluff car park into Google. From the car park, you will see Hay Bluff directly ahead of you to the south and the footpath that rises directly up its steep face. Head towards the escarpment and begin climbing the hill. Before too long the path turns to the right to begin following the contours of the mountain.

Once on top of the ridge, turn left to follow the path that leads to the summit trig point of Hay Bluff. Take time to soak up the up the dramatic views on offer from this Black Mountains peak. To continue the walk,  turn back in the direction you’ve just come from, to walk along the edge of Hay Bluff.

Views from atop Hay Bluff
Views from Hay Bluff

This well maintained path heads in a southwesterly direction to descend into the col between Hay Bluff and Twmpa. These two peaks are divided a country road known as Gospel Pass.

Cross over the road and begin climbing the next hill along the obvious grassy path. Where the path forks, take the path to the right which leads directly to the summit cairn (684m). Twmpa, also known as Lord Hereford’s Knob, is a fairly flat and wide summit, but still offers great views along the rest of the Brecon Beacons to the west.

With good visibility you will have views of Pen y Fan in the Central Brecon Beacons.

Leave the summit in a southeasterly direction to continue along the path towards the next peak of Rhos Dirion. The path descends into the saddle between the peaks and just as the path flattens out, branch off onto the grassy path to the right. The trail makes a sharp turn to begin descending the mountain in a northerly direction.

Continue along the path through the grassy fields and through the ferns as it heads back towards the parking area. After around 1.3km, you will join a country road. Turn right onto the road and follow it back to the starting point to complete the loop.

2. Hay Bluff, Twmpa and The Vale of Ewyas Loop

  • Distance: 17 km (10.6 miles)
  • Time: 5-7 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 636m (2087ft)
  • Starting Point: Gospel Pass Car Park
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Summits: Twmpa, Hay Bluff

This is a fabulous walk that provides a traverse along the ridges of Twmpa and Hatterrall, and takes in the peaks of Hay Bluff, Twmpa and Black Mountain. The walk offers views over the Vale of Ewyas, Olchon Valley and the northern flanks of the Brecon Beacons range. For the variety of views on offer and without doing the full horseshoe, this is my favourite Hay Bluff walk.

From the car park at Gospel Pass, cross over the road to join the path leading in a southwesterly direction to immediately start climbing Twmpa (Lord Hereford’s Knob). There is no time to warm up as you begin the first climb of the day, though this isn’t as steep or strenuous as the second climb to come (130m vs 330m).

The path is well established and easy to follow. Where the path forks, take the path to the right which leads directly to the summit cairn (684m). Twmpa summit is fairly flat and wide but still offers great views along the rest of the Brecon Beacons to the west. 

From the summit, ignore the path that leads westerly and instead take the less established path leading along the ridge in southeasterly direction. The journey along Twmpa is a long ridge walk which takes a very slight descent as you go. Enjoy the beautiful views of the Vale of Ewgas as they open up in front of you.

Follow this tree-lined footpath as it contours the bottom of the ridge. After 1km, turn left to begin climbing the hill. Note there is a marked diversion around the Vision Farm, which replaces the old footpath.

This is where the second climb of the day begins. The steep path heads directly up the hill before easing out slightly into switchbacks amongst the ferns. At the 570m contour, the paths forks. Take the path to the left and continue along until you reach the ridge plateau.

Fabulous view from the north edge of Hay Bluff

Hay Bluff walking trail
The trail along the northern edge of Hay Bluff with Twmpa beyond

3. The Vale of Ewyas Horseshoe

  • Distance: 28 km (17.4 miles)
  • Time: 8-9 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 960m (3150ft)
  • Starting Point: Llanthony Priory
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Summits: Black Mountain, Hay Bluff, Twmpa, Rhos Dirion, Chwarel y Fan, Bal Mawr

This monster of a hike is the option to choose if you want to see it all. Along Hatterall Ridge you will enjoy views over the Herefordshire countryside and the Vale of Ewyas, and from Chwarel y Fan ridge you will enjoy views of popular Black Mountains peaks including Waun Fach, Sugar Loaf and Y Skirrid.

This walk begins at the beautiful Augustinian Priory of Llanthony. I provide a detailed description of this walk in my Llanthony Priory walks guide, however here is a brief overview.

From the priory, this walk joins the Loxidge Trail which links Llanthony to the Offa’s Dyke National Trail. This trail climb steeply up the hillside to join Hatterall Ridge. Once upon the ridge, the Offa’s Dyke path undulates to take in the featureless summit of the Black Mountain, before culminating at Hay Bluff which marks the abrupt end of the ridge.

From Hay Bluff the route heads southwest to descend to Gospel Pass before climbing once more to reach the summit of Twmpa and then Rhos Dirion. Here, the path turns southeast and begins the return journey. Along this ridge there are more summits to bag, including Chwarel y Fan and Bal Mawr.

Upon reaching the crossroads with the Beacons Way, the path then turns eastwards to descend back into Llanthony Valley. The steep descent is marked and signposted, leading back to the Priory where the long walk began.

Hay Bluff Walks – What do you need?

For a complete mountain day packing list, take a look at this article.

Final Thoughts On Walking Hay Bluff

Hay Bluff is a peak in the Black Mountains of the Brecon Beacons. It is the northernmost point of Hatterall Ridge which provides a natural border between Wales and England. The steep sided escarpments of Hay Bluff allow for dramatic views over the lowlands below, providing hikers with a great opportunity for exploration. There are several walks that take in the summit of Hay Bluff, several of which I have outlined in this guide.

Louise

Louise is a tour leader from South Wales who runs adventure tours in Africa, Asia and the Americas. She lives in her converted campervan & is currently based in the UK. Louise is trained in mountain leadership and is a published photographer.

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