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The highest peak in southern Britain is the apex of a dramatic ridge with irresistible appeal for outdoor challenge lovers


Why

Any summit that can strike fear into the hearts and minds of Britain’s Special Forces demands serious respect. Pen y Fan gives its name to the notorious Fan Dance, one of the toughest marches faced by soldiers bidding for SAS selection. It’s a fitness and navigation test that involves hiking 23km in under four hours while carrying a 55lb bergen, as well as food, drink and a 5lb rifle.

Thankfully, you don’t have to carry such a burden or race against the clock to have a cracking weekend on Pen y Fan, at 866m the highest peak in the Brecon Beacons. It’s part of a twin-peaked ridge with Corn Du, while neighbouring Cribyn provides spellbinding views back to Pen y Fan.

Walk here

Clear paths make navigation easier, even in such a wild environment, although low cloud can render visibility poor. For an awesome hike, follow the horseshoe route from Taf Fechan car park (grid ref: SO038169) north to Corn Du and Pen y Fan before looping back via Cribyn and Fan y Big. It’s a magnificent nine-mile circuit.

Mountain bike here

One of the finest routes in the Brecon Beacons takes in the pass between Cribyn and Fan Y Big called The Gap (Bwlch ar y Fan). It’s the centre piece of a fabulous loop that starts and finishes in Talybont-on-Usk and heads clockwise via Talybont Reservoir and National Cycle Route 8, to The Gap, and back via Llanfrynach.

Run here

The Fell Running Association rates the Pen y Fan race as AS (short but brutal). It’s just 5.8km but climbs 588m, and the £800 prize for breaking the 30-minute course record reveals just how tough it is.

Maps

You’ll need Ordnance Survey Explorer 12 or Landranger 160 to navigate your way through these mountains.

Stay here

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There are cheap sleeps available at the YHA Danywenallt National Park Study Centre near Talybont-on-Usk, with beds from £13 per night, yha.org.uk. Stepping up, the Tai’r Bull Country Inn in Libanus offers a double room B&B for £75 per night, plus pub grub to fuel your missions, tairbull.com