- County: Gwent
- Nearest Town(s): Abergavenny
- Difficulty: Medium
- Time: 2 hours
- Height: 596m
- Map: OS Explorer OL13 Brecon Beacons National Park – Eastern area (OS Explorer Map)
Sugar Loaf is a distinctive hill overlooking Abergavenny in the heart of the Brecon Beacons. Managed by the National Trust, it’s a popular choice for walkers, families, runners – you name it!
On the day we visited it was rather soggy, so we pretty much had the hill to ourselves, but I imagine it gets busy on a sunny weekend.
Where to Park
There are two car parks at about 300m of elevation, one of which is a well-maintained National Trust car park. We parked in the other car park, which is a bit rough round the edges, but suitable nonetheless.
Be warned that to reach the car park you need to follow a single-track road up the hill with some tight bends and suicidal sheep – take it slowly and you’ll be fine. There are longer alternatives walks that come in from Abergavenny if you prefer not to drive this road or just want more of a challenge.
The Walk In
The paths to the summit should be obvious in good weather – just follow the winding route to the top of hill. For us the weather was not so good – this was a full waterproof job (but a great excuse to test out my new Berghaus Deluge trousers.)
We headed straight up the hill on a path leading out of the main car park, turning left to join the main path to the summit. At this point, we couldn’t see the top of the hill since it was shrouded in mist and we were, quite frankly, a little bit unsure as to whether we should have continued the walk (Sugar Loaf may be a small hill, but it’s no less dangerous for it after all).
Nevertheless we pushed on and the rain turned to drizzle and eventually stopped altogether – hooray!
There are two routes up the hill that you can take – we choose the gentler ascent round the left hand side of Sugar Loaf, but the alternative route straight up the middle still llooks very manageable.
A final bit of steepness kicked in towards the end of the walk, and I can honestly say I was struggling. A combination of a new gym routine that had left my legs knackered, the boys setting a pace that was just a tad faster than I was used to, and a poor decision to wear my Arc’teryx Fairah (a GoreTex ski jacket insulated with Polartech) which made me too warm all contributed to me struggling up the last part of the hill.
Boy was I glad to see the trig pillar on the summit!
The View From The Summit
By the time we reached the summit we had walked into the low-lying cloud that had shrouded the top since the start of the walk. This meant that, unfortunately for us, there was no view to speak of.
Sugar Loaf therefore joins a growing list of trig pillars which we’re told have great views but that we caught on a bad day!
The Walk Out
After a bit of Kendal Mint Cake to help my aching legs recover from the ascent, and managing to find a bit of shelter from the winds which had whipped up on the summit, it was time for our descent.
Rather than descending the way we came, we choose to take the steeper route out directly down the face of the hill.
As anyone who has completed a summit with me will know, the descent is my favourite bit, where my inner mountain goat/fell runner comes out and I run down the hill (despite the obvious risk of rolling my ankle – we had an osteopath with us, so it was a measured risk).
Luckily for us the descent was bright and sunny, making it a pleasant, if warm, end to the walk.
When we rejoined our original path at the bottom of the hill we took an early right turn and ended up walking down to the road – however, it was fairly quiet so not a problem for us.
All in all, the challenge of walking Sugar Loaf, and the eventual satisfaction of reaching the top was worth the pain of the ascent, and one I’d highly recommend, even if we didn’t get the view from the top!
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