The Fforest Fawr massif

Fforest Fawr is a series of isolated hills known as ‘Fans’ whose grass and heather-clad slopes are broken by occasional crags of Old Red Sandstone. It lies between the Black Mountain in the west and the A470 Brecon to Merthyr Tydfil road in the east. The hills drop away into Waterfall Country to the south.

The name Fforest Fawr translates as ‘great forest’, a reminder of the fact that this region, though now largely bare of trees, was once a royal hunting ground known as the Great Forest of Brecknock. It is now used primarily for sheep grazing, conifer plantations, reservoirs and recreation.

This swathe of upland country includes the peaks of Fan Fawr (734m), Fan Frynych (629m), Craig Cerrig-Gleisiad (629m), Fan Llia (632m), Fan Nedd (663m), Fan Gyhirych (725m), Fan Bwlch Chwyth (603m) and Cefn Cul (562m).

Fforest Fawr Geopark derives its name from the Fforest Fawr massif but covers a much wider area of the national park.

While it is the sandstone which dominates the geology of  Fforest Fawr,  to the south of the peaks are two north-facing scarps, one of Carboniferous Limestone and the other of Twrch Sandstone, traditionally known as the millstone grit. Further south each of these layers of rock dips beneath the South Wales Coalfield. Water rushing southwards from this area has formed steep river valleys with spectacular waterfalls.

The area was glaciated during the ice ages. The most dramatic of the remaining glacial cirques, Craig Cerrig-Gleisiad, forms part of a National Nature Reserve, notable for its rare arctic-alpine flora.

Top five things to do in the Fforest Fawr massif

  1. Walking 
    Most of Fforest Fawr is open to walkers. The Beacons Way runs across it from west to east.

  2. Mountain biking 
    Recommended route - the Penderyn Quarry Line from Penderyn to Hirwaun.

  3. Horse-riding
    There are a number of equestrian routes with spectacular scenery and a wealth of wildlife in Fforest Fawr.

  4. Caving
    Caves such as Ogof Ffynnon Ddu and Porth yr Ogof are famed for their impressive mouths and lengthy, complex tunnel systems.

  5. Wildlife Watching
    Since the massif includes two NNRs – at Ogof Ffynnon Ddu and at Craig Cerrig-gleisiad where both red kites and ring ouzels can often be seen.