Bwlch to Tor y Foel
It’s Bwlch with magnitude.
Fresh air, lush valleys and big views – this energetic, exhilarating walk comes with lots of ups and downs, with forest, lake, canal and historic tramroad along the way.
Need to know
Length: 10½ miles (17km)
Time: Around 4½–5½ hours
Start and finish: The New Inn, Bwlch
OS map ref: SO 150220
OS map: Explorer OL13 (1:25 000 series)
Facilities: Refreshments at the New Inn and Coach and Horses, Llangynidr. X43 Brecon to Abergavenny bus stops at New Inn.
Along the way
Take the traffic-calming bollards away and you could be back in the 18th century. This exceedingly narrow and picturesque six-arched bridge spans rushing rapids – popular with canoeists – on a rocky pinch-point in the river Usk. Look out for grey herons, dippers and other watery wildlife (if your luck’s in you may even spot a kingfisher). This fine Grade I-listed structure was erected in c.1700.
Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal
Stop off at the Coach and Horses for refreshments and a closer look at the ‘Mon and Brec’, a much-revered local asset – and one of the National Park's most popular attractions – running for 32 miles (51km) between Brecon and Pontymoile south of Pontypool (constructed between 1797 and 1812, it originally ran all the way to Newport). It’s a lovely, leafy and unusually level ‘contour’ canal. That means that there aren’t many locks, though you can see a few not far from the pub. Once used to carry wool, coal, limestone and other produce, it’s now the preserve of leisure craft.
Tor y Foel
You feel you’re on top of the world at this prominent 551m summit, which commands far-reaching views over at least half of the National Park, from the central Beacons in the west to the lumpy Black Mountains on the Wales/England border. Hold on to your hat – it’s windy up there.
One of a string of reservoirs spread out in a broad semi-circle beneath the central Beacons to serve South Wales’s highly populated conurbations. Talybont is possibly the most scenic. This man-made stretch of water soon became a haven for wildlife. It’s now a local nature reserve noted for its populations of pochard, tufted duck, mallard and teal.
Like the ‘Mon and Brec’, this tramroad played a big role in the area’s transport and industrial revolution. Operational between 1815 and 1865, it provided a link between the canal and Tredegar’s ironworks and the Trefil limestone quarries. It’s now a popular waymarked walking path, mountain biking and horse riding route from Talybont-on-Usk to Trefil. Look out for some of the original stone sleepers still in situ.