The Black Mountains (Welsh: Y Mynydd Du) are group of moor covered hills formed during the Devonian period and comprise of old red sandstone, mudstone, and siltstone. In rare places these rocks come to the surface, either naturally or from quarrying. Here and there remnants of an ancient forest remain in the valleys, but most of the woodland is managed pine plantation. A climb through this woodland, or over the farmland, rewards the walker with beautiful views and what can be hours of pleasant walking along one of five, finger like ridges. These ridges run north south, and are linked at their northern end by yet another ridge that runs southwest to northeast. This ridge drops steeply on its northern side down to the Wye Valley of which it offer good views.
Those with imagination may see a grotesque hand within the shape and layout of these ridges. Some may say the right, but I shall go with the left hand in which Hay Buff is the knuckle of a stretched Little Finger. The Little Finger itself being the Black Mountain and the Hatterrall Ridge along which the Offa's Dyke Path and English / Welsh border runs.
Moving past Twmpa (aka Lord Hereford's Knob) and the next knuckle is Rhos Dirion at the top of the Ring Finger. Follow this finger south and we reach Chwarel y Fan (Peak of the Quarry), and Bâl Mawr.
The knuckle of Middle Finger is Waun Fach, at 811 m, the highest peak in the Black Mountains. The Middle Finger runs southwards taking in Pen y Gadair Fawr, Pen Twyn Mawr, and Grug Mawr.
The Index Finger runs souths collecting Mynydd Llysiau, Pen Twyn Glas, Pen Allt-mawr, Pen Cerrig-calch, and the Iron Age hillfort of Crug Hywel on Table Mountain.
The Thumb of the hand is a little disconnected, and takes in the lower hills of Mynydd Troed and Mynydd Llangorse.
Three of long distance footpaths pass over these mountains. We have already mention the Offa's Dyke Path , following the crest of the Hatterrall Ridge as it traverses the 177 miles from Sedbury Cliffs near Chepstow to Prestatyn on the shores of the Irish sea.
The 99 mile Beacons Way begins in Abergavenny and after passing over Ysgyryd Fawr also climbs the Hatterrall Ridge but descending early to visit the priory ruins at Llanthony. Climbing again towards Bâl Mawr, the Beaconsy then follows the ridge southwards before descending and ascending Grug Mawr. More ups and downs follow as it passes over Crug Hywell, and almost summits Mynydd Llangorse before heading into the Breacon Beacons.
The third and most challenging long distance path is the Cambrian Way which in its 298 mile journey from Cardiff to Conway takes a route up the Ring Finger, crosses the knuckles, and returns south along the Ring Finger.
When complete, you’ll be able to explore all these routes and ridges on the Black Mountains from the comfort of your computer, tablet, or smart phone, and in 3D for a number of the locations. At present the tours are limited to the Index Finger and Middle Finger ridges.
These tour are supported by most modern browsers including those on tablets and mobile phones. When viewed on mobile phones equipped with the appropriate gyros, these tours are also compatible with Google Cardboard VR, and other headsets.
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Middle Finger / Gadair Fawr Ridge
Start from Waun Fach
Start from Pen Y Gadair Fawr
Start from Pen Twyn Mawr
Start from Tir Y Nant
Index Finger / Cerrig-calch Ridge
Start from Mynydd Llysiau
Start from Pen Twyn Glas
Start from Pen Allt-mawr
Start from Pen Cerrig-calch
Start near Llanbedr
Start from Neuadd-fawr
List of Mountain Peaks:
Pen Twyn Glas
Pen Twyn Mawr
Pen y Gadair Fawr
It was winter 2018, one of those days between Christmas and New Year during which I was desperate to get out on to the hills, stretch my legs, breave in some fresh are, and try taking some panoramas for my first 3D 360 degree tour.
Whist it did not rain on my son and I, the weather could have been kinder. The forecast had been for a higher cloud base, and it's true that we were never in a complete white out, though it nearly happened on top of Pen Allt-mawr. Seeing that cloud ahead of us, we sheltered a while in the hollowed out Bronze Age cairn on Pen Cerrig-calch to eat an early lunch. It was too cold to stay sat for long, so wrapped up against the breeze we headed on. As often happens the cloud cleared from Pen Allt-mawr shortly after we descended, but neither of us were going to head back. With two summits in the bag we continued on to our third, the rather lowly Pen Twyn Glas. We debated a short while the virtues of various onward directions. We could head north along the ridge further, but with daylight in short supply we headed south along the quarried Tal Trwynau spur before descending in the last of the light to the farm at Neuadd-fawr.
Lunch in the bronze age cairn on Pen Cerrig-calch. looking toward clould covered Pen Allt-mawr and Waun Fach.
The photos for the tour were taken on a Ricoh Theta S 360 degree panoramic camera. The low light did not particulary suit it.