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The Black Mountains of Wales on Foot, Bicycle or Horse

Updated on December 14, 2012

Grwyne Fawr Reservoir Black Mountains

Wales is sparsely populated and largely untouched making it a wonderful country to explore.
Wales is sparsely populated and largely untouched making it a wonderful country to explore. | Source

Astonishing Beauty Within The Welsh Black Mountains

Visitors to Wales will encounter the Black Mountains adjoining England to Wales from the English County of Herefordshire. The Black Mountain range across the eastern side of the Brecon Beacon Mountain range houses astonishing beauty alongside the kind of isolation that allows you and your party to explore to your heart's content.

The best time of year to adventure the outdoors in Wales is between March to September. If you are planning a trip to the antarctic or artic circle, it is a good place to practise in the winter months, with temperatures below freezing at these times of year.

Warmer months are for walking, mountain biking or horseback riding.

Geological evidence shows that this area of Wales formed part of a glacial ice sheet during the last great ice age. You can see the formation of glacial shapes in the Vale of Ewyas which suggests the present of a glacier during an ice age. The Grywne Fawr Reservoir (pictured above right) was not covered in ice, being too low altitude, yet you can view the landslip shapes that typify glacial formation from the lakeside view.

Vale of Ewyas

Author notes: "View from Hatterrall Hill over the Vale of Ewyas to Lower and Upper Henllan with open upland expanse of the Black Mountains above. On the horizon Pen-y-Gadair can be seen at 800m the second highest point in the Black Mountains."
Author notes: "View from Hatterrall Hill over the Vale of Ewyas to Lower and Upper Henllan with open upland expanse of the Black Mountains above. On the horizon Pen-y-Gadair can be seen at 800m the second highest point in the Black Mountains." | Source

Black Mountain Trails

The majority of Black Mountain trails through Wales are available to walkers or ramblers, horseriders and mountain bikers. It is adviseable to ensure you have good equipment including repair kits with you if you choose to mountain bike, and to go in a group as the trails can be very challenging, especially if you hit a sheep going downhill!

The Vale of Ewyas (pictured right) is a great place to start. The combination of gorgeous villages, forest, clear trail paths and the opportunity to scale the 8oom peak of Pen-y-Gadair is an irresistable attraction for many visitors. If walking, you may want to try your hand at foraging for fresh herbs, wild mushrooms and edible flowers. On horseback take in the views at a leisurely pace, stopping to water your horse and rest at mountain streams.

Mountain bikers will find the trails great exercise, with a sloping pace that ranges from mild to challenging. There are not many steep bits so a steady pace can make for a great day out, with the goal of a picnic lunch at the summit easily attainable. The video below shows a group of five mountain biking the Vale region and gives you an idea of the beauty near the summit and the different terrain and speeds possible to encounter.

Mountain Biking The Black Mountains

Llhanthony Priory

Llhanthony Priory lies within the Vale of Ewyas, a former Augustinian Priory offering good views atop a glacial formed valley.
Llhanthony Priory lies within the Vale of Ewyas, a former Augustinian Priory offering good views atop a glacial formed valley. | Source

Black Mountains Llanthony Priory

The Llanthony Priory dates back to 1100 when Norman nobleman William De Lacey discovered a church of St David in ruins upon the site. He was inspired to devote himself to Christianity and built a church there, dedicated to St John the Baptist. He attracted many followers and the site marks the beginning of what is known as the Gospel Passage. 12th century crusaders would depart Wales through the Gospel Passage,

The landscape around the priory ruins is home to the famous nightingale birds and glowworms, which makes an overnight stay very appealing.

Black Mountains Walks Map

The Vale of Ewyas is to the left of the map, with day walks marked for ramblers.
The Vale of Ewyas is to the left of the map, with day walks marked for ramblers. | Source

Black Mountains Walks

One of the most delightful ways to explore Wales is on foot. Most visitors choose to base this around the opening and closing times for the local pub. Using the map, pictured right, all you need to do to have a great day out is start any village centre of your choice with a good ordinance map. These will assist you to navigate around the area using contours and accurate measurements of distance. Even if you have a walking guide, it is always recommended to purchase a UK ordinance map for accurate information in case you get lost. Plan a pub lunch or a stop in a cafe after a morning's walk, then head off again for the afternoon.

My top tip for visitors would be to scale great heights in the morning, as the winds are usually stronger in the UK in the afternoons, so that is a better time to ramble through valleys and ancient churches.

I've not covered everything to do with the Black Mountains area here, so I've included some great links below to help you enjoy your trip to Wales.

Black Mountains Wales

A markerBlack Mountains Wales -
Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons National Park, Abergavenny, Powys NP7, UK
get directions

To the East of the Brecon Beacons National Park lies the Black Mountains with the Grwyne Fawr Reservior at point A.

Comments

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  • JKenny profile image

    James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

    Great hub Eliza. I've been to Wales many times, only last Christmas I was in Snowdonia, and actually managed to glimpse the summit of Snowdon through the clouds. I last went to the Black Mountains a few years ago and that was just as awesome. Voted up and shared.

  • UnnamedHarald profile image

    David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

    I've visited Wales several times, but never the Black Mountains. I've obviously missed a beautiful area. Great hub-- voted up and beautiful.

  • ElizaDoole profile image
    Author

    Lisa McKnight 4 years ago from London

    Thanks for confirming JKenny that Wales is very beautiful.

  • ElizaDoole profile image
    Author

    Lisa McKnight 4 years ago from London

    Thanks for the comments UH it is sad but true, Wales is often missed. There is so much there and it is very sparsely populated compared to the rest of the UK.

  • vespawoolf profile image

    vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

    I'm ready to pack my bags and get to Wales! The isolation and beauty are very appealing...thank you for sharing with us.

  • tirelesstraveler profile image

    Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

    Added the Black Mountains to my bucket list. Can't wait to visit.

  • ElizaDoole profile image
    Author

    Lisa McKnight 4 years ago from London

    Love that expression "bucket list"! I think the UK has a non sporty image funnily enough. Considering the Olympics is here this year, I thought it would be a good idea to show the world - yeah, we do sport!

  • vespawoolf profile image

    vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

    Yes, you're right. After reading your article I realize that imagine needs to change. And how clever to write this hub with the upcoming Olympics. I'm sure it will get lots of views! Great job.

  • Nettlemere profile image

    Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

    Reminds me of horse riding holidays in Wales - an enticing hub.

  • aviannovice profile image

    Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

    Voted up, awaesome and interesting. I'll bet that this would be a good place in which to get some great bird pictures. Lead on, MacDuff! Your photos are breathtaking that you used.

  • ElizaDoole profile image
    Author

    Lisa McKnight 4 years ago from London

    THanks Avian novice. There's a lot of birdwatching in Wales that's for sure. A lot of undisturbed habitat and wild places as it is sparsely populated compared to the rest of the UK.

  • collegedad profile image

    collegedad 4 years ago from The Upper Peninsula

    Well written, very informative hub. The image of running into a sheep while racing downhill is etched in my mind.

  • ElizaDoole profile image
    Author

    Lisa McKnight 4 years ago from London

    @collegedad - in the mountain biking video you can see it for real as they have to slow down something awful and wave all these sheep off the path!

  • collegedad profile image

    collegedad 4 years ago from The Upper Peninsula

    You get a really neat perspective from that helmet cam! I can imagine being in such a beautiful location. This may have to go on my bucket list.

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