Suggested maps for the Fan Dance – OS Explorer Map OL12(1:25,000) & OS Landranger Map 160 (1:50,000)

I have heard people talk about ‘doing the Fan Dance’ when generally referring to hiking on Pen y Fan, maybe on a traditional route like the one described here. There is no issue with this but the term, ‘Fan Dance’ originates from a specific route, and one with a fantastic Military pedigree. The Fan Dance route was devised as one of the routes that candidates for the British Special Forces soldiers, predominantly the SAS, had to complete during their physical phase of their selection. Today, the Fan Dance has become a popular challenge for civilians, with several organized events held throughout the year.

The Fan dance Route

Nestled in the heart of Parc Cenedlaethol Bannau Brycheiniog (formally the Brecon Beacons National Park) in Wales, the Pen y Fan mountain is a popular destination for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. At 886 meters tall, it is the highest peak in South Wales and offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

View of Corn Du on the Fan Dance Route.
After climbing from the Storey Arms you lose a bit of ground heading down to Blaen Taf Fawr (pictured). Here you can see the path to Corn Du. The Fan Dance traditionally cuts across to the right short of Corn Du.

The Fan Dance Walking Route begins at the Storey Arms outdoor education centre on the A470 around grid SN 982203 (the phone box is a good marker) and covers a distance of approximately 15 kms. It has a similar ascent to the traditional route we explore here. The route follows a clearly marked path that takes you up towards Corn Du, a sub-peak of Pen y Fan.

From the phone box, head up the path keeping the wood plantation to your right. After around 220ms the wood ends but the path is clearly defined running NE. Climb until you meet a wall then drop down to cross the stream (see picture). The path heads to the left of Corn Du and follow it from the stream for approx 1100ms to a track junction (SN002214). Take the right hand path to cut across Corn Du to meet up with the main Pen y Fan path that comes up from the big car park. While this is the correct route of the Fan Dance some people who are less worried about the accuracy of doing the route may wish to slightly deviate and carry on straight at the track junction (SN002214) to hit the Craig Cwm Llwch and summit Corn Du.

From the summit of Pen y Fan drop off the south eastern side to Windy Gap and the Roman Road (SN031205). Follow the Roman Road south towards Taf Fechan Forest. The last time I was here the road has collapsed a little just north of the Forest but was easily manageable on foot. Follow the route through the Forest until just short of a metalled road (around SN049168). This is the turnaround point. Some decades ago this was also the finish point of the Stretcher Race, the final selection event of Pre Parachute Selection (P Company) for aspiring Airborne Soldiers. The Stretcher Race started on the dam of the Talybont Reservoir following the route of what is now known as the Taff Trail.

The return route is the reverse of the above. You will be please to learn that the second ascent to Pen y Fan is equally as challenging, with sections of loose rocks and steep inclines. It is known to some as ‘Jacob’s Ladder’. As always once you reach the summit, you will be rewarded with panoramic views of the stunning Brecon Beacons National Park, now known as Parc Cenedlaethol Bannau Brycheiniog.

Things to Keep in Mind

Hiking the Fan Dance Walking requires a good level of fitness and proper preparation. The terrain can be steep, rocky, and unstable at times, so it’s essential to wear appropriate footwear and bring plenty of water. The weather can change at little notice in the Bannau. Make sure you have the correct gear and have informed people of your route and expected timings. Take a map and compass and know how to use them.

It is also important to respect the Bannau and follow’ ‘Leave No Trace’ principles while hiking. The area is rich in wildlife, including wild ponies and sheep, so be mindful of their presence and do not disturb them.


The Fan Dance Walking Route on Pen y Fan is a challenging and rewarding hike that showcases the natural beauty of the Brecon Beacons. Whether you are looking for an intense physical challenge or simply want to immerse yourself in nature, this route offers an unforgettable experience. So put on your hiking boots, pack your bag, and get ready to conquer the Fan!

Overall, the Pen y Fan mountain and its surrounding area offer a diverse range of activities for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. From hiking and camping to rock climbing and paragliding, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this stunning part of Wales.

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