No visit to the Black Mountains in the eastern Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales is complete without a walk to Waun Fach and the Dragon’s Back. The 12km Waun Fach circular walk begins from the small village of Pengenffordd. It’s a wonderful moderate-length hike featuring castle ruins, wild ponies, rugged landscape across to the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir and exceptional mountain views.
In this guide, we’ll look at what and where the Waun Fach and Dragon’s Back walk is in the Brecon Beacons. We’ll provide a GPS map and give a brief trail description, before looking at how to get to Waun Fach and where to park. Lastly, we’ll cover accommodation options, a suggested packing list and provide some bonus tips.
To see footage of the Waun Fach and Dragon’s Back walk in the Brecon Beacons, please watch our 6 Best Brecon Beacons Hikes Squeezed Into 3 Days YouTube production.
For another incredible hike in Wales, check out our guide on the Pen y Fan Horseshoe. Otherwise, read our Brecon Beacons Hiking post, where we reveal how to squeeze six excellent walks into one epic weekend of hiking.
Table of Contents
What Is Waun Fach and the Dragons Back in Wales?
Waun Fach and the Dragon’s Back is a spectacular circular walk in the Brecon Beacons National Park. Waun Fach is actually the highest peak in the Black Mountains range, standing at 811m high. Additionally, Waun Fach is the second-highest mountain in the Brecon Beacons. So, this is really a hike not to be overlooked.
The Dragon’s Back element of the Waun Fach circular walk involves a descent (or ascent) over the ridgeback mounds. They resemble those of a sleeping dragon. The views down the spiny peaks from Waun Fach Mountain are truly incredible.
Where Is Waun Fach and the Dragon’s Back Mountain?
Waun Fach Mountain and the Dragon’s Back are found in the Black Mountains in the east of the Brecon Beacons National Park. This spectacular national park is located in southern Wales and within easy reach of both Cardiff and Swansea. Access to Waun Fach and the Dragon’s Back walk in the Brecon Beacons is from the small village of Pengenffordd. It’s close to Crickhowell and not far from the town of Brecon.
Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons
The Black Mountains in Wales form the easternmost part of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The Black Mountains range crosses the border between Wales and England, and so encompasses the counties of Powys and Monmouthshire in Wales, and Herefordshire in England. Hiking in the Black Mountains is very popular, with many beautiful trails including the Sugar Loaf (guide coming soon) near Abergavenny.
The Black Mountains range is often confused with the Black Mountain massif in the western Brecon Beacons. There’s also a single Black Mountain too. I know, I know, they don’t make it easy. But essentially, the Black Mountains is to the east, and the Black Mountain massif is to the west. It’s in this western range that you can find the Llyn y Fan Fach circular walk, which is easily one of our favourite hikes in the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Waun Fach Circular Walk Preview & Map
- Trail Type: Loop
- Distance: 12km
- Time: 2.5–4 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 540m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Pengenffordd
- Map: Wikiloc
Waun Fach Walk
The Waun Fach walk we’ll describe in this guide traverses the trail in an anti-clockwise direction. Although, feel free to hike in whichever direction you please. The Waun Fach circular walk covers 12km and about 540m of elevation gain.
Pengenffordd Pub (AKA Dinas Castle Inn)
After parking at the Dinas Castle Inn pub in Pengenffordd (more on that below), you’ll head on a trail that leads behind the pub, following a country lane in a southerly direction. The initial sections of the Waun Fach walk are flat until you reach the Cwnfforest Farm.
At the Cwnfforest Farm, the trail begins to ascend. It follows a rocky trail that dips in and out of tree cover. You’ll pass through farmland and so if you have a dog, be sure to keep it on a lead. After ascending through Cwnfforest, you’ll reach a sharp left turn in the trail at around the 3.6km mark. From here, you’ll ascend to Pen Trumau.
Reaching Pen Trumau signals a welcome break in the uphill climb. From Pen Trumau, the trail and terrain level off slightly. The views across the rugged landscape and of Waun Fach are quite beautiful. At 707m high, Pen Trumau is classified as a Top on the way to Waun Fach. Dan and I passed a group of wild ponies on this section of the trail. It really made the hike even more special.
Waun Fach Mountain Summit
The open path to Waun Fach mountain continues along the edge of the Gwynne Fechan valley. The last summit push to reach Waun Fach is a steep ascent, but it’s not long.
Views from the Waun Fach summit are truly superb. Admittedly, the storm clouds were beginning to roll in for Dan and I. But, we still got a sense of how splendid the Waun Fach mountain vista is. The 360 views encompass a large swathe of the Brecon Beacons and over southern Wales. The little village of Pengenffordd has now all but disappeared into the wilderness of the Black Mountains. And, if you follow the trail ahead with your eyes, you can begin to see the outline shape of the Brecon Beacon’s Dragon’s Back.
Waun Fach marks the highest point of the Waun Fach and Dragon’s Back circular walk. But, if you’re expecting a dramatic peak, and one that stands out in the surrounding landscape, you’ll be somewhat disappointed. Waun Fach is actually a fairly undramatic point on what is essentially a huge plateau. But, it wouldn’t do for all mountain peaks to be the same now. And I can assure you, the views from this small peak offer some of the best views in the Brecon Beacons National Park.
To the east, the huge hulk of Waun Fach shadows the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir below. Beyond the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir, you’ll be able to look straight across the Wales/England border and into Herefordshire.
Pen y Manllwyn
From the summit of Waun Fach, the trail continues northwards towards another small peak. Pen y Manllwyn, at 775m high, has very little suggesting it is its own peak. The path from Waun Fach to Pen y Manllwyn is flat, skirting the plateau above Grwyne Fawr Reservoir. You’ll rely on the stone seating areas to indicate you’ve reached the spot of Pen y Manllwyn.
This is where the weather really took a turn for Dan and I and our speed hiking turned into an actual sprint off the mountainside. Hail blew sideways and pelted us like bullets. Visibility basically disappeared and with an uncomfortable giggle (you know the type) at our unfortunate circumstances, we made a quick retreat off Waun Fach, enjoying what we could of the Dragon’s Back.
What’s speed hiking? It’s pushing the pace, covering that trail quicker without losing any of the joy of soaking in your surroundings. Find out more here.
The Dragons Back
From Pen y Manllwyn, the Waun Fach walk continues on the flat plateau until Y Grib (640m). The trail takes a left turn, leaving the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir behind and heads back in the direction of Pengenffordd. This is the start of the Dragon’s Back. Dan and I frantically tried to capture views of the majestic ridgeback with icy cold hands, drenched clothing and wet camera gear. Hopefully, you have much more luck, because the view really is fantastic.
Down the ridge of the Dragon’s Back, views of the Brecon Beacons spread all around. On a beautifully clear day, you should be able to see Pen y Fan ahead as you descend the Dragon’s Back, enjoying its undulating trail as you begin to descend into the Rhiangoll valley.
The Waun Fach trail leading up and over, up and over the Dragon’s Back is very straightforward. The path is clear and easy to follow. Eventually, the trail leads to Bwlch Bach a’r Grib, midway down the Brecon Beacons Dragon’s Back. Here, the trail forks. In our haste and let’s face it, complete discomfort at the conditions, Dan and I decided to take the right-hand trail and more direct route back off the mountain and back to Pengenffordd.
But, if you’re much luckier than us, you should stick to the left side trail and continue the final sections of the Dragon’s Back and this fantastic Waun Fach walk in the Brecon Beacons. This path brings you to Castell Dinas.
Castell Dinas / Dinas Castle
Castell Dinas, or sometimes called Dinas Castle, is the highest castle in England and Wales. Now it’s just stone ruins, and not much of that to be honest, but, it’s still worth adding this onto the hike for sure. It’s definitely an attraction of the Waun Fach circular walk.
Castell Dinas dates from the iron age before it was expanded upon and became a fortified Norman castle. It’s a great bit of history, even with there not being much to see. But, you can at least appreciate its fantastic position perched on top of the hill. Indeed, the views across the Black Mountains, Waun Fach, the Dragon’s Back and the Brecon Beacons are excellent from Castell Dinas.
Return to Pengenffordd
From Castell Dinas, the trail continues, easterly, in an almost straight line directly back to the car park at the Pengenffordd Pub. Hopefully, you arrive back in a drier and warmer state than we did. But either way, it must be time for a drink.
Waun Fach Recap
The walk to Waun Fach may not have been our favourite of the Brecon Beacons (that award goes to Llyn y Fan Fach and the Pen y Fan Horseshoe [guide coming soon]), but this is still a fantastic hike through beautiful Welsh countryside. Admittedly, I think the poor weather skewed our outtake on the whole walk, but seeing wild ponies out on the mountainside was wonderful. As too was enjoying a hike in the Brecon Beacons with a fraction of the usual numbers out and about. Would we recommend the Waun Fach and Dragon’s Back walk when visiting the Brecon Beacons? Whole-heartedly.
How to Get to Waun Fach and the Dragon’s Back
It’s easiest to get to Waun Fach and the Dragon’s Back with your own vehicle. As the Brecon Beacons is so close to a number of popular south Wales towns and cities, the drive to Pengenffordd and the trailhead is very straightforward. Below are a few options.
- Brecon: 25 minutes // 12 miles (19km)
- Abergavenny: 30 minutes // 15 miles (24km)
- Newport: 1 hour // 34 miles (55km)
- Cardiff: 1 hour 20 minutes // 50 miles (80km)
- Swansea: 1 hour 30 minutes // 58 miles (93km)
- Carmarthen: 1 hour 30 minutes // 60 miles (97km)
As far as I can tell, there are no public transport options to Pengenffordd for the Waun Fach and Dragon’s Back walk in the Brecon Beacons. But, please let us know in the comments below if you have found otherwise, to help fellow hikers out.
To that end, driving yourself is by far the most straightforward way to do this hike. If you don’t have access to your own vehicle, then we recommend hiring something. When hiring a car, we always get the ball rolling with a search on RentalCars.com. Booking a car with Rentalcars.com is easy and stress-free, plus they offer an unbeatable free cancellation policy too.
Waun Fach & Dragon’s Back Car Park
Parking for the Waun Fach and Dragon’s Back walk is found just outside of Pengenffordd on the A479 next to the Dinas Castle Inn AKA the Pengenffordd Pub. The car park is privately owned and so a small fee of £2 is required to park there. There is no time limit. There is an honesty box system in which to pay. Also, a drink at the pub is a fine way to finish the Waun Fach circular walk too.
Weather in the Black Mountains in Wales
You should always check the weather before hiking in Wales. Although, as we discovered, even if you do you can still get caught out. Thunderstorms were forecast for much later in the afternoon on the day we hiked, but they certainly arrived early. Thank you weather. You can check the forecast here.
Accommodation in the Black Mountains
There are many beautiful places to stay in the Brecon Beacons National Park. However, for close proximity to the Waun Fach and Dragon’s Back walk, you might be looking for something a little closer to the Black Mountains of Wales. Below, we’ll take a look at the best budget, mid-range and luxury options in the area, before having a look at camping options.
- Budget – Brecon Bunkhouse: this budget accommodation option is right at the foot of Waun Fach in the Black Mountains. The Brecon Bunkhouse accommodates up to 28 people and you can even book the whole place for private use. Be warned though, this place can and does book out quickly and months in advance. If you’re heading to the Black Mountains on a whim, you’d have to be lucky to bag a bed here.
- Mid-range – Dinas Castle Inn (The Dragons Back): since you’re parking here, you could just stay at the Dinas Castle Inn too. You can enjoy a hearty cooked breakfast at this picturesque B&B and opt to eat dinner at the restaurant or fend for yourself in the shared kitchen.
- Luxury – Gwrlodde: you can really kick back and enjoy the panoramic vistas of the Black Mountains from your very own Welsh holiday cottage. Gwrlodde is delightfully renovated to bring a simple modern stay to a beautifully rural cottage. Unwinding in the garden would be lovely after the Waun Fach walk, no doubt.
Camping in the Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons
There are a number of campsites in the Black Mountains, although none are quite as close as some of the accommodation options listed above. But still, let’s take a look.
- Gilfach Camping: located in nearby Llangorse and overlooking Llangorse Lake, the picturesque Gilfach Camping site also features a fully refurbished amenities block and the freedom to pitch wherever suits you best.
- Brecon Beacons Wild Camping: the location of Brecon Beacons Wild Camping is perfect for exploring the whole of the national park. It’s easy to see why this campsite is so popular.
- Cwumdu Campsite: the award-winning Cwumdu Campsite offers camping, glamping and holiday cottages, so there’s easily something to suit everyone.
Five Hiking Essentials
These are our five hiking gear essentials for the Waun Fach and Dragon’s Back walk in the Brecon Beacons! For a more extensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Alternatively, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a hiking trip to Wales, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
You should also pack water and snacks. If the weather is good, consider a picnic.
- Pack layers: the weather in Wales, especially the Black Mountains can change quickly. Make sure you pack layers and waterproofs for every eventuality.
- Grwyne Fawr Reservoir: if you’ve time, take a visit to Grwyne Fawr river and the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir, on the eastern flanks of Waun Fach. Grwyne Fawr Reservoir is the only waterbody within these parts of the Black Mountains and it has a very remote, wilderness feel as you walk around. Grwyne Fawr Reservoir was completed in 1928 to deal with a water shortage in this part of the Black Mountains. Because the Grwyne Fawr river sits so high above sea level, it meant the water from the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir could be gravity fed to the towns that needed it. Access to the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir is from Nant y Bedd and you can park at the Black Mountain Car Park and take a scenic walk through the valley to reach it.
- Brecon Beacons Tours: if you want the hassle taken care of when it comes to trip planning. Get Your Guide offer some pretty great tour options.
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