The Black Mountain

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Map of the Black Mountain circa 1890

Note: Spelling of place names is inconsistent, especially in the Aman valley. Brynamman is an anglicised form of Brynaman, but is used by Ordnance Survey, whereas they use Glanaman, though as seen from the map above it was originally Glanamman. The River Amman in Welsh is Afon Aman and there has been a mixing of the languages in the place names. The 19th century name for Llandeilo omitted the "e". There has been a move over the years to have place names spelt correctly in their Welsh form and the Welsh spelling has been used in this web. The exception is Ammanford where the name was deliberately spelt with a double "m" as a result of a committee decision to differentiate it from the Aman near Aberdare.

It should always be remembered that many place names were invented with the coming of the railways.

The Black Mountain from the North

The Black Mountain (Y Mynydd Du) forms the Western area of the Brecon Beacons National Park. (Confusingly, the Eastern area of the National Park is known as the Black Mountains). To the North West is the valley of the River Towy, to the East the Swansea or Tawe Valley, while to the North the Black mountain is the source of the River Usk and to the South the Rivers Amman and Loughor.

A View of the Brecon Beacons to the East

The Mountain is formed of red sandstone rock to the North and carboniferous limestone to the South and West, providing the show caves of Dan yr Ogof and the unusual source of the River Loughor, Llygad Llwchwr near the spring that produces Brecon Carreg Water. The highest point is Fan Brycheiniog, towering over the mystical lake known as Llyn y Fan Fach.

The Mountain has a numerous Neolithic cairns, stone circles, hill forts and the impressive ruins of Carreg Cennen Castle. The limestone area is strewn with "shake holes", where the roofs of underground caverns have fallen in.

Talgarth Welsh Mountain Ponies

The Black Mountain boasts an increasing number of the once rare Red Kite. There is a feeding station at Llanddeusant, but these magnificent birds may be seen soaring on air currents across the region.

The road from Brynaman to Llangadog over the mountain offers superb views. On a clear day the North Devon coast is quite clearly visible to the South, while to the North there are views over the Towy valley.

It is an area rich in myth and legend, From King Arthur hunting wild boar to the Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach and the Physicians of Myddfai. Until the 19th century the roads skirted the mountain but that changed in 1820when the road from Brynaman to Llangadog was built.

George Borrow in "Wild Wales" describes his journey across the mountain:

This place was at a considerable altitude, and commanded an extensive view to the south, west, and north.


 Heights upon heights rose behind it to the east. From here the road ran to the south for a little way nearly level, then turned abruptly to the east, and was more steep than ever. After the turn, I had a huge chalk cliff towering over me on the right, and a chalk precipice on my left. Night was now coming on fast, and, rather to my uneasiness, masses of mist began to pour down the sides of the mountain. I hurried on, the road making frequent turnings. Presently the mist swept down upon me, and was so thick that I could only see a few yards before me. I was now obliged to slacken my pace, and to advance with some degree of caution. I moved on in this way for some time, when suddenly I heard a noise, as if a number of carts were coming rapidly down the hill. I stopped, and stood with my back close against the high bank. The noise drew nearer, and in a minute I saw distinctly through the mist, horses, carts, and forms of men passing. In one or two cases the wheels appeared to be within a few inches of my feet. At length I gained the top, where the road turned and led down a steep descent towards the south-west. It was now quite night, and the mist was of the thickest kind. 

I could just see that there was a frightful precipice on my left, so I kept to the right, hugging the side of the hill.

Usk Reservoir

Set on the Northern slopes of the Black Mountain at a height of 1050 Feet, the Usk reservoir was built in 1955 and is used as a water storage system, regulating the flow of the River Usk and ensuring there is sufficient flow for water abstraction further downstream. It is capable of storing up to 11990 million litres. The reservoir is used for boating and fishing.

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Site and Photographs Geoffrey Davies 2008-17  Contact