Uncommonly good common land.
This moderately strenuous circular walk from the National Park Visitor Centre (also known as the Mountain Centre) to an out-of-the-way common features unspoilt landscapes alongside vivid reminders of the area’s human history.
Need to know
Length: 7½ miles (12km)
Time: Around 4 hours
Start and Finish: National Park Visitor Centre, near Libanus
OS map ref: SO 977263
OS map: Explorer OL12 (1:25 000 series)
Facilities: Toilets, parking and refreshments at National Park Visitor Centre
Along the way
Traeth Mawr and Traeth Bach
The neighbouring marshlands of Traeth Mawr (‘Great Mire’) and Traeth Bach (‘Little Mire’) are bursting with nature, forming part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest. They provide a habitat for fascinating bog and fen plants like sundews and butterworts, which feed off insects trapped by their specially adapted leaves. You may also see birds like snipes, curlews and lapwings, as well as colourful dragonflies and rare damselflies.
A network of drovers’ roads, used to move cattle to market before the advent of cheap rail travel, once crisscrossed the countryside. This one brought livestock such as cows, sheep, pigs and even turkeys to feed the workforce in industrial South Wales. Teams of men would use corgis to help herd the animals, travelling at an average speed of just two miles per hour – not exactly fast food.
Believed to have been built by Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the native Prince of Wales in the 11th century, the remains of Blaencamlais Castle stand on private land close to the drovers’ road. Now no more than a grassy mound with a few crumbling walls, little is known about the fortified tower’s original purpose, though some believe it was a hunting lodge. The mystery surrounding the structure’s past extends to its name – over the years it has been known as Cwm Camlais, Maescar and Defynoch Castle.
The ancient enclosure of Llanilltud is home to fascinating remnants from the National Park’s religious past. St Illtud’s Church fell out of regular use in the 1920s and was demolished in 1995, but weathered gravestones still stand in the former churchyard – their inscriptions offer a vivid glimpse into the often short lives of previous generations. The church was built on top of a much older site of worship dating back to the Iron Age. Visit on the winter solstice and you’ll be treated to the sight of the sun rising directly between the twin summits of Pen-y-Fan and Corn Du.