Visited 28.4.2011. Leaving Pen-y-Beacon cist, the path (an alternative route for Offa's Dyke Path) drops away northwards, with the stone circle straight ahead.
The car park sits right next to the circle, undermining some of its atmosphere. As a site, it is also pretty much a ruin. But at an altitude of about 460m, with the ground falling away to the west and north, the views are breathtaking on a clear day. Just to add to the wonder of the circle's location, the Black Mountains escarpment forms the backdrop to the south.
There is probably more left of the circle than a casual glance might imply though. Next to the upright (the obvious remnant), there are a number of stones. A few yards to the immediate north, a low stump protrudes from the turf which is on a similar plane to the upright, placed with the long-side at a right angle to the arc of the circle. A further low stone stands a few yards further north along the arc, with only its top breaking the surface. Apparently inside the arc of the circle, a further two flat stones are visible, presumably moved from their original positions in the arc. A square block associated with the car park has intruded itself into the circle, just to confuse matters further.
Following the projected arc round, it is quite a large circle. As I get round to the western arc, more low stones protrude from the turf, mostly placed long-side on to the circle. A few picnicers mooch about with folding chairs, looking at me askance. But I'm not the one wandering blindly through the middle of a stone circle!
On the plus side, the car park boasts an ice cream van (I have a toffee waffle cone, since you ask).
Overall, this is a lovely setting somewhat spoilt by the proximity to the parking area. But if you can ignore that (or find it empty!), the views and sense of space hold more than enough reward.
Just to clarify the directions given by Elderford:-
After taking the turning to Capel Y Ffin follow the road straight along, there is NOT a fork in the road at this point - the road to the right is a turning. Also, after crossing the cattle grid, you need to take the left fork in the road NOT the right one. This takes you straight to the car park next to the stones. I counted four fallen stones next to the standing one, although I have read of only three. Perhaps I counted two stones when it is only one stone partly covered by grass? Lovely views down the valley.
Pen-y-Beacon is on common land with open access (an OS map is helpful).
Located at the foot of Hay Bluff, about 5km south of Hay on Wye.
In Hay on Wye head west on the B4350, look out for a turning on the left signposted: Capel y Ffin. Take this turning.
Shortly afterwards when the road forks: take the left fork.
After about 4km when the road forks again: take the right fork.
If all is well you will cross a cattle grid in 100m.
When you reach the next fork in the road: take the right one.
When you reach the plateau on top of the hill, the stone circle is on your right beyond the car park area.
The car park area is bounded by a series of low stone blocks (to protect what remains of the stone circle from encroachment by parked cars). What appears to be a reasonable sized standing stone is clearly visible just beyond this area.
This is one of those sites where guides promote the view more than the quality of the remains of the site.
If you enjoy exercising the powers of imagination, this is the stone circle is for you.
Proved to be a circle in 1970. Guides state that 18 stones are visible in a circle of 30m diameter.
My notes read: one large stone, 1m high, broad yet thin edge on, leaning. Stone circle: go figure?
This is the stone on approach which gives the site the impression of a standing stone. Apparently it is the remaining half of a pair of stones set radially, which may indicate a ceremonial entrance/exit of about 1.5m.
The stump of the other radial set stone is visible. To its right in an arc I could find only three other low stumps.
To the left of the remaining standing stone I could find only two remaining stumps at ground level.
Infront of the radial pair (just inside the circle) are two fallen stones now almost submerged into the ground,neither is large.
Walking across the uneven, quarried and still heavily metal detected area for about 30m, away from the car park. There is a shallow arc of three stone stumps at ground level. I would imagine that it is this, which gave archaeologists the diameter of 30m for the circle.
It really does take a leap of imagination to visualise the circle from the evidence which is left on the ground.
Great location. It`s exhilarating just to be here, high up over the Wye valley with Hay Bluff breathing down your neck.
The only lay-by for miles around on the single-track road has been placed right next to the circle. There are always cars parked here. Most people who park here seem to be totally unaware that there is a stone circle right infront of their eyes. I was angered by the totally unnecessary degradation of the location. To top it all, one of the bollard-stones from the lay-by has become incorporated into the circle.
This site is a steep climb up hills, but the views command respect. They are of a wild landscape with Hay Bluff and the Black Mountains clearly visible. There are also rugged landscapes past the hobbit-hole grasslands near the stones. A journey out there is well worth it, the views are enough to keep you going for a few days, and the exhilarating wind makes it challenging, and great to see these stones in such an untamed environment.