Until recently I had never heard of the Lonely Shepherd so had to ask what it was when my running club chose it for a recent Long Sunday Run. At 13 miles and a mixture of road and trail I was keen to try it out particularly as previous Long Sunday Runs with the club had been on the road and tracks.
We assembled in a car park in Beaufort and headed out towards the Beaufort Hill Pond and Woodlands, a local nature reserve that features open space to walk and run, woodlands and two former reservoirs. The path climbs out onto the open land and heads east first alongside the A4281 and then the A465 Heads of the Valley Road before descending to cross the main road.
Passing Brynmawr School I was informed that we were on the the ‘Hafod’ road which goes on for a few miles and apparently isn’t the most interesting. We turned off part of the way along it and attacked the first real climb of the run. There’s a clear and defined path winding up the mountain flanked by gorse and ferns and being not too steep you can run slowly and steadily (that is if you can stop slowing down to take photos of the stunning views!).
We followed an old tramway that used to ferry stone from the quarry we are heading towards. We reached a point where I think you could carry on straight up towards the Lonely Shepherd but the aim of the run was to bank some miles so we instead headed down and around a farm and back onto the Hafod road. The descent down features a stunning view across to the Sugar Loaf, Skirrid and beyond.
In addition to the extra miles, another reason for the detour along the road soon became apparent when we reached the main hill which would take us nearly all the way to the Lonely Shepherd. I have to confess that I love a good hill. I love the challenge, the exhaustion and the sense of accomplishment.
The path starts as a rocky track before turning into a grassy path leading up to the summit. This time of year the ferns had died back but apparently in the summer they encroach on the path making it a little more difficult to run through. The climb is steep in parts which most would find tough to run up its entirety.
With the Lonely Shepherd in your sights you have an option of running straight towards it but we opted for the path that takes you around the western side of it and into the old quarry that most probably provided the stone for the sculpture.
An obligatory selfie in front of the Lonely Shepherd and a few minutes to soak in the awe-inspiring views and it was then back to the trails and a welcome descent. With a few rocky sections the descent is a little technical which I love. Rejoining the Hafod road we followed it around in the direction of the big climb. Apparently we were going to climb it again. No problem! We ascended the same track but rather than bearing towards the Lonely Shepherd we continued towards the original tramway that we ran along earlier. Apparently the tramway leads all the way to Trefil Quarry which would be great for a future run.
We retraced our steps along the tramway and back down to the Hafod road them back into Beaufort Hill Pond and Woodlands. Climbing up this section towards the Highest Point proved to be challenging, and cold, due to a bitter wind blowing against us. A slight detour leaving the pond and woodlands to clock up an extra mile or so we reached the car park. I recorded around 12.5 miles whilst others in the group were closer to 13 miles.
The route is a great mix of terrains with perhaps more off-road than road and some challenging sections. It reminded just how much I love running trails rather than roads. We were lucky with the weather on this run but it would still be enjoyable in colder or wetter conditions.
Route Map and Profile
As well as the map below, I’ve created a GPX file of the route that you can download.