The Carmarthen Fans
Continuing a theme established a few weeks ago with a visit to Church Stretton the school summer holidays allow us to explore our beautiful country a little further afield. This walk in the Brecon Beacons National Park is a classic. It crosses the magnificent escarpment of the Carmarthen Fan steep sided but unusually grass covered cliffs overlooking the waters of Llyn y Fan Fach.

Start/finish: Car park at the end of an unclassified road south east of Llanddeusant SN798238

Nearest postcode SA19 9UN

Distance: 7.5 miles 12k

Time: 4 ½ - 6 hours

Grade: Strenuous

Map: OS OL 12 Brecon Beacons National Park Western and Central areas.


 Map by kind permission of Johnston Press



1. From the car park cross the track by which you approached it onto the slopes of the hill directly north and then locate a faint path heading right (east) that begins to climb towards a col as it follows a stream - Sychnant. On gaining height the way forward becomes clear even if the path has a habit of disappearing in the tussocky grass.


Ahead appear two rounded hills leading towards the obvious summit of Fan Foel. As you reach a broad ridge bear left to pick up a more definite path heading south that takes you to the summit. Once on the plateau keep to the left in order to pick up a cairned top (Twyr Fan Foel) and then the trig point. From here there are fine views all around. To the south the Welsh coastline and the Gower peninsular can easily picked out.


2. The next stage of the walk takes you down to the col below Picws Du and then onto the magnificent escarpment of Bannau Sir Gaer. By striking west from the trig point - that is turning right from your approach the way descends down a steep grassy slope to the col. (A more definite path can be located by retracing your steps northwards to a point close to where you came up.) From the col the way is clear taking a grassy path alongside a series of 24 wooden hurdles placed as an anti-erosion measure. Counting these as you pass them on your ascent will help to take your mind off the steepness of the slope. Keep on the obvious path to attain the summit cairn. All that has been described before has been the hors d'oeuvres - now comes the main course - an easy walk with spectacular mountain scenery.


At your feet some distance below Llyn y Fan Fach an upland reservoir which stays on your right for the next hour or two miles of the walk. Throughout it will be difficult not to keep your eyes away from the cliffs with their emerald near vertical slopes as you progress. After turning northwards keep right at all path junctions - there are not that many - to descend on a path taking you to the dam end of the reservoir.


3. From here in effect turning left from your approach take a broad track leading alongside the stream that leads downhill to the car park. There are no complications apart from the fish farm where a narrow path passes to its right before re-joining the main track.
Brecon Beacons National Park is one of three national parks in Wales - the other two being Snowdonia and Pembrokeshire Coast. Established in 1957 it covers an area of 519 square miles taking in Black Mountain to the west, Fforest Fawr and the Brecon Beacons in the centre and the Black Mountains to the east. Owing to the remoteness of the Beacons and the harsh weather UK special forces use the area as a training ground.
Legend of Llyn y Fan Fach: As befits anything Welsh there is a legend attached to the lake. The story goes a young man from nearby Llanddeussant married a beautiful girl who arose from the lake on condition he did not hit her three times. (Clearly the thresholds for what is acceptable as abuse were a great deal lower in those days.) Well of course over the years situations arose where he broke his promise - too much milk on his cornflakes, not cleaning the grease off his collar, the sort of thing that abusers feel justifies their violence. The upshot was the beautiful girl returned to the lake but would come back to help her sons. Her instruction rooted in magic helped her sons became famous doctors in the court of Rhys Gryg a Welsh Prince.