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Carmarthen Fans - the long mountain route

This must be a strong contender as one of the UK’s most dramatic walks, overlooking the glacial cirque of Llyn y Fan Fach on the western flank of the Brecon Beacons.

Often described as one of the most magical and breathtaking sights in all of Wales, Llyn y Fan Fach (Lake of the small Beacon hill), is a dammed lake in the western border of the Black Mountain – part of the Brecon Beacons National Park. To reach the lake, you need to prepare yourself for a bit of a hike uphill alongside a river, where the water continuously ducks and dips, forming sweet mini cascading waterfalls along the way. The rolling hills and nonchalant sheep are your landmarks, until you climb over the final ridge and become face to face with the lake. It's a truly awe-inspiring sight, with unspoilt panoramic views of the surrounding Brecon Beacons. It's yours to do what you want – have lunch, take a dip or just soak up the peace and quiet. As with most enchanting lakes, there's a certain legend connected to it.

Lady of the Lake...

A folklore legend connected with Llyn y Fan Fach is the myth of ‘The lady of the lake’.

In the folktale, a young farmer of the 13th century spotted the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen emerge from the lake, she was a princess from the kingdom of fairies. He courted the fairy princess by baking her bread and after 3 attempts he succeeded in winning her hand in marriage on the condition that if he hit her three times she would leave him.

He complied easily because she was so beautiful and they were happy for years bringing up a family at his farm near Myddfai, with her magic dowry of farm animals. In time the inevitable happened he hit his wife and she disappeared back into the lake taking her prized animals with her , leaving the farmer with her sons.

The sons once grown became known as the “Physicians of Myddfai” who became physicians to the English royal court.

On the route to and from Llyn y Fan Fach stop and watch the jumping trout in the Weir/ Hatchery

Map of walk with points of interest

Download the walk leaflet     

Why walk?

This walk covers some of the most spectacular and remote mountain terrain in the Brecon Bacons National Park. Llyn y Fan Fach sits beneath the precipitous ridgeline of Bannau Sir Gaer. It’s an epic scene, the remnants of the landscape’s glacial past clearly visible in all directions. The lake is a real wildlife haven. Look out for fish as they flip on the water’s surface, while up in the sky, riding the thermals, you’re likely to see red kites, buzzards, carrion crows and kestrels. On the route to and from Llyn y Fan Fach stop and watch the jumping trout in the Weir/ Hatchery. The folklore legend connected with Llyn y Fan Fach is the myth of ‘The lady of the lake’.

How Long/Time?

The short route up to Llyn Y Fan Fach and back is 4.2km (2.6 miles) with 225m of ascent (738ft). Allow 2 hours.
The long mountain route is 15km long (9.3 miles) with 712m of ascent (2,335ft). Allow 5 to 6 hours.

How hard?
The short route gains height gradually to Llyn Y Fan on a gravel track and in summer conditions should require no special footwear or clothing.
The long mountain route is steep and strenuous with some sections of rocky terrain and should not be underestimated. Once on the mountain you are a long way from shelter and assistance. Appropriate footwear and clothing for walking in mountainous terrain is essential, even in summer. Children will need to be closely supervised.

Refreshments - Llangadog and Llandeilo are the nearest towns where shops, pubs and cafes can be found. It is advisable to take both food and drink with you on the walk.

Parking -

NB: It is important that drivers should only use the car park provided by the Brecon Beacons National Park shown on the map - Please do not park in the narrow country lanes or passing places.

Points of interest

1. The area has a fascinating history. Nearby can be found the remains of ancient standing stones, Iron Age hill forts, Roman marching camps and mediaeval castles.

2. The picturesque tumbling stream attracts Dippers, Pied Wagtails and Yellow Wagtails. Next to the track is a trout farm, from here onwards the impressive glacial cirque of Bannau Sir Gaer looms into view, followed shortly by the picturesque Llyn Y Fan Fach.

3. In good weather the lakeside is a great spot to enjoy a picnic and admire the view and is the setting off point for what is arguably one of the finest mountain walks in Wales.

4. The extensive areas of upland grassland swathed in Heathers and Purple Moor-Grass attract great numbers of birds. Many are year-round residents, like Meadow Pipits and Sky Larks, whilst others are summer visitors like Wheatears. Red Kites and Buzzards are also a common site.

5. The north facing escarpments, inaccessible to the flocks of hill sheep, are home to rare plants left over from the last ice age.

6. The steep rugged path can be used to cut the walk in half but care is needed on this descent and is only recommended as an option for experienced hikers.

7. A stone shelter near to the triangulation point on Fan Brycheiniog (which is the highest point on the walk at 802m/2631ft) provides welcome shelter from cold winds.

8. The steep rocky descent to Llyn Y Fan Fawr.

9. A narrow but distinct path leads beneath the escarpment all the way back to Llyn Y Fan Fach and the track back to the car park.

RSPB Gwenffrwd Dinas, Rhandirmwyn

Twm Sion Cati's cave