Fan y Big Race Route Description

Clockwise route (new in 2024)

The clockwise route gets the road section done at the start - just over a mile of it. From the start line, head immediately out onto the road towards Llanfrynach Village. Turn right at the T-junction, past the Village Hall on your right, then take the first right into a lane named Victoria Square. Turn right at the end of this lane, then right again after another 200m, onto Tregaer Road. At this point the lane starts to climb noticeably; proceed for about 700m then take the first turning on the left onto a smaller (but still tarmac'd) lane for another 500m, crossing a ford then climbing steeply until you run out of tarmac with a farm gate and stile on your right. Take this stile, then another stile after about 20m, then turn immediately left to climb steeply through some woodland until you reach another small gate and stile to access the common grazing land. A grassy path now climbs steeply through patches of bracken, for about 200m until suddenly the gradients decreases and you follow a walkers' path heading SSW. There is some minor route choice here, but it doesn't make much difference so long as you climb to the West of Bryn.

At around this time you become aware of the full horseshoe route, as the Cefn Ciff descent ridge is visible to the East.

Pay attention in the area around SO 057 206 (51.876508, -3.370313) as various (wrong) paths lead off to the E, SE and S - you need to stay on the edge of the escarpment, with a steep drop immediately on your right. The highest point of the race is reached here, at around 750m elevation (2460 feet), with the Summit Checkpoint at SO 0546 2036 (51.873906, -3.374309).

Next comes the big decision... follow the easy path round the edge, or take the short-cut across 'no-man's land'? The short-cut is easier in this direction, as it's slightly descending, and it can save a few seconds if executed perfectly; but it's rough underfoot, with some risk of drifting too far South, and overall we'd strongly recommend sticking to the walkers' path unless you have recce'd and are confident with map and compass. 

Whether or not you took the short-cut, you should now be rounding the southern end of the horseshoe route, eventually heading North towards Fan y Big itself. When the route is done in this direction, the 'summit' of Fan y Big at SO 0365 2066 (51.875747, -3.401109) is not a noticeable summit as such, in reality little more than the last point on the escarpment before you start the long descent. There are likely to be walkers at the summit, taking photos on 'the diving board' etc., so we'd recommend taking the descent route on the right, a few metres before the cairn. There's no checkpoint here, on the clockwise route.

Nex comes about 2.5 miles of grassy descent, following the walkers' path, until you come to a gate and rubble track at SO 0563 2393 (51.905826, -3.373472). At the end of this track turn left onto the tarmac lane for about 300 metres, then enter the field via a farm gate and head due North East on the Public Right of Way to another gate. Continue in the same direction, now with a hedge on your right, to a gate and stile, across a minor lane, into the opposite field heading ENE.

Run through two fields after the lane crossing, with Tynllwyn Farm on the left, then turn slightly left in the next field aiming for a gap in the NNE corner with a track that descends to a gate on the left, just before the Nant Menasgin stream. There's less than a mile to the Finish now. Go through this gate to head North and then North East, through patches of woodland and pasture fields, to the Finish. The Finish is in the same position as the Start.

Anti-clockwise (traditional) route

From the start field, you follow an easy path through trees and small fields beside the stream - all very idyllic. After about 500m you turn right and climb a hump into pasture farm fields, and climb a couple of stiles as you pass Tynllwyn Farm. When you reach the first lane crossing, go diagonally right and climb the stile at the right-hand side of the right-hand gate (yes, there are two gates).

After another couple of fields, you arrive at another lane, and this time you turn left out of the gate and run on the lane itself. If you've gone off too quick, you'll certainly know it now, as the lane climbs steadily past a couple of cottages and farms. At a crossroads turn right onto a rubbley bridleway, leading out to the open hill. When you reach the grass, take any line upwards, but don't go too far left into the trees.

You cannot go far wrong now, just keep heading upwards on a convex slope - it gets gradually more gentle until you reach quite fast running towards Cefn Cyff.  In mist it is tempting to think Cefn Cyff might be the summit approach - dream on, it's just a steeper climb to the next section.

It can be quite boggy underfoot on the flatter sections, but soon you start the climb to Fan Y Big. You can either take the tiny path up the crest of the ridge, or the larger path on the left. However you'll need to break right onto the crest at some point to meet and greet the marshall at the summit cairn (the left-hand path bypasses the checkpoint, and missing the checkpoint means 'DNF' - no result for you).

Now there's fast flat running across to the saddle at Craig Cwmoergwn then another stiff climb as you start to round the horseshoe. From here, for the next couple of KM, you are well advised to stick the left hand path beside the precipitous drop. It is rubbley and not quite the shortest route, but safe and quite fast running. Those who know the route may take the "short cut" across the top, but it's quite rough ground and tricky in the mist (you could end up in Talybont).

After the true high point of the race (754m) you start the long descent in a NNE direction towards Bryn. There's not much to say about this bit, except - don't take any right turns. The run down is slightly technical in places, at a gradient where you still need to work at it, and very very long - don't go flat out in the first couple of miles or we'll be scraping you off the grass at the finish and having to call your Mum.

When Bryn starts to rise in front of you, there's a left turn in the track, onto a short section of technical narrow path with the ground sloping steeply down on your left. After a mile or so of this, which invites headlong dives into red clay mud, you come down onto a nice grassy track heading towards bands of trees. There may be some flags on this section, but the crucial point is not to go too far right and end up in Pencelli. When you come into an area of blown out thorn trees, you are looking for a steep path down to the left through bracken to a stile. Then down through some woodland to a stile and farm access track, which you follow right for about 50m to the road.

Down the road, cross the ford, up the slight rise (without puking please) to a road T-junction where you turn right - the gate may be open, or if not there's a stile at the left side - this slightly larger road takes you down into the village of Llanfrynach. At the next T-junction turn left, over a bridge, then fork left, left again, and left again after the village hall, up an imperceptible but agonising rise, and into the finish field.

Modified 27/12/2023 by Crispin