Located on the western flank of Fan Hir ridge in the western Brecon Beacons, is the wreckage of a Vampire jet which crashed into the mountainside in 1953. Much of the wreckage still remains and can be visited during a walk in the Black Mountain range.
This is a complete walking guide to visiting the Vampire jet VZ106 crash site in South Wales, including distances, times, starting location and video of the walk.
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About The Vampire Jet VZ106 Crash Site
The Brecon Beacons has a long history as a military training ground and is home to 40 aircraft crash sites. The Black Mountain range in particular has proven a fateful region for pilots, with several crash sites in the immediate vicinity, the most famous of which is the Wellington Bomber MF509 on Carreg Goch.
Read more about visiting the Carreg Goch Wellington Bomber crash site in this guide.
On the 9th October 1953, Officer J.R.B Baldock was on a training flight in Vampire Jet VZ106, above the Black Mountain range. Deceived by low-lying clouds, the pilot flew out from the cloud and crashed into the mountainside. Officer Baldock was killed on impact. Search parties hunted for a week before finding the pilot and aircraft remains.
Today much the wreckage is still in place and can be visited on a hike of the Black Mountain, also known as the Carmarthen Fans. It is possible to walk to the Vampire Jet crash site in combination with the Carreg Goch Wellington Bomber crash site, but in this guide we will focus on walking to the site via the beautiful mountain lake of Llyn y Fan Fawr.
Vampire Jet Crash Site Walking Route
- Distance: 8km (5 miles)
- Time: 3 – 4 hours
- Elevation gain: 425m (1500ft)
- Difficulty: Moderate – challenging
- Starting Point: Layby on Heol Lan
- Map: OS Explorer OL12 Brecon Beacons National Park
Here is a short video of the Vampire Jet crash site walk.
The Vampire jet walk from Heol Lan is an out and back walk that involves walking across a boggy valley to Llyn y Fan Fawr, before climbing the steep embankment to a saddle between Fan Hir and Fan Brycheiniog. The route then drops off the western slopes of Fan Hir ridge to the crash site wreckage below.
There are two possible starting locations for this walk on Heol Lan, which are both marked on Maps.me. The more southerly starting point follows the River Tawe on a fairly well trodden path, however there is very limited parking here with space for just one or two cars.
The other starting point which I have pinned above on Google maps, has off-road parking for half a dozen cars. From this location follow the tracks heading west towards the mountain range. There are several small tracks to follow which all head in the same direction, crossing small streams as you go.
After 1.5km the route crosses a larger gulley with a stream which goes on to become the River Tawe. There are no bridges to cross these streams but there are plenty of well laid-out stepping stones. Continue along the tracks, gradually climbing across the valley towards the peaks of Fan Hir and Fan Brycheiniog. Behind and across the valley, you can appreciate the peak of Fan Gyhirych and in the distance you can see the recognisable flat-topped peaks of Pen y Fan and Corn Du.
From the gulley it’s another 1.2km to reach the southern end of Llyn y Fan Fawr. This is a great place for a break, taking time to admire the beauty of Llyn y Fan Fawr (Lake of the big peak) which sits at 602m above sea level. On hot days this is a great lake for taking a dip to cool off, before attempting the steep climb ahead.
From the lake, continue along the path in a southwesterly direction and begin to climb the rocky path leading up the side of the ridge from left to right. This section is quite narrow with some big stone steps and is affectionately known as the staircase.
At the top of the staircase is Bwlch Giedd – the saddle between Fan Hir and Fan Brycheiniog. The path to the right leads up to Fan Brycheiniog and the path to the left leads up to Fan Hir. Take the faint path that continues in a southerly direction, roughly contouring the Fan Hir ridge and seemingly heading into the wilderness.
After roughly 700m you need to break away from this path and begin heading downhill (this section is not marked on Maps.me). You will see a ridge heading down the valley, roughly following the Afon Haffes (river). The path here is not well trodden so be mindful of navigation, especially in poor weather.
Continue down the valley in a southwesterly direction and before too long you will see the wreckage appear below. At around the 620m contour, cross a steep gulley and the crash site is located just above the 600m contour, alongside the Afon Haffes.
There is quite a lot of wreckage at this crash site, which has been roughly laid out to resemble the shape of the jet. The tail and wings are quite obvious to make out.
To complete this walk simply retrace your steps back to the car. To extend this walk you could add on the summit of Fan Brycheiniog, which is the fifth highest mountain in the Brecon Beacons National Park. To reach the summit, head back to Bwlch Giedd and take the path to the left which leads steeply uphill. Fan Brycheiniog peak is defined by a summit cairn and a rocky shelter.
For views of Llyn y Fan Fach and Picws Du, continue along the ridge to the summit of Fan Foel before turning southwest to follow the westerly edge of the ridge. The best views are just 200m from Fan Foel summit cairn. To complete the walk simply retrace your steps back to the car.
Did you know? Llyn y Fan Fach was voted one of the top 1000 places in the world to visit by the Lonely Planet and is a must-see on any road trip of Wales. For more walks that visit the lakes of Llyn y Fan Fach and Llyn y Fan Fawr, see this guide.
- Waterfalls in the Brecon Beacons
- Top things to do in the Brecon Beacons
- The Wellington Bomber crash site walk from Blaen-y-Glyn
What to Pack When Hiking the Black Mountain
For a complete mountain day packing list take a look at this post, but here are some of the essentials.
- Waterproofs – of course, it’s Wales! But seriously, weather can change quickly in the mountains so it’s always best to be prepared.
- 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!
- A hat and warm layers for the top where it’s quite exposed
- Good hiking shoes/boots – The approach to the lake is often boggy and the “ladder” can be slippery
- The relevant Brecon Beacons map and compass
- This path is marked on maps.me so download the map before you go
Accommodation Near This Crash Site Walk
Cwtch Bach is a gorgeous stone bricked holiday home situated in pretty Ammanford and Pentre Riding Stables is a B&B in Abercraf which is perfectly located for this walk.
If you’re looking for something altogether more grand, how about staying in a castle? Craig y Nos Castle is just a short drive from the start of this click and a fun place to rest those weary legs after a day on the hills.
Final Thoughts On Visiting The Vampire Jet Crash Site
The VZ106 Vampire jet crash site walk is a beautiful but little known hike in the Brecon Beacons. At only 8km in length, this out and back walk is made more challenging by the amount of elevation required, particularly to attain the Carmarthen fans ridge above Llyn y fan fawr. If you’re looking for a scenic but moderately challenging walk in the Black Mountain range, the vampire jet crash site is certainly a top contender.
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