Brecon Beacons National Park

Carreg Cennen Castle, Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales
Carreg Cennen Castle, Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales – by Anthony Gostling © Wikipedia Commons

The Brecon Beacons National Park is located in the south Wales, designated a national park back in 1957, the Brecon Beacons is a long established national park attracting many visitors each year. The park is known for its famous mountains, scenery, rich cultural heritage, moorlands, waterfalls and archaeology. The national park is managed by the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority and includes a number of charming small country villages and hamlets within its borders, providing a place of peace and tranquillity in southern Wales.

The park is located mainly in the principle areas of Powys, Carmarthenshire and Monmouthshire that account for approx 95% of the park area and population. Much smaller parts of the park are also located in Rhondda Cynon Taf, Merthyr Tydfil, Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen, Neath Port Talbot and Caerphilly, in southern Wales. The park is approx 42 miles wide and stretches from Pontypool in the south to Hay-on-Wye in the north to Llandeilo in the west to Abergavenny in the east.

The area has a long history and includes over 350 scheduled ancient monuments, 4 conservation areas and includes Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) noted for both their biological and geological importance and National Nature Reserves including Coed-y-Cerrig and Craig-y-Cilau.

The area is popular for day trippers and a firm favourite for outdoor enthusiasts. Popular activities include mountain biking, caving, potholing, fishing, golf, horse riding and pony trekking, bird watching, rock climbing, abseiling, wind surfing and walking and cycling with a number of routes to explore. Visitors can enjoy the landscape, inspiring natural scenery and wide open spaces, varied wildlife and take part in a range of activities whilst enjoying the tranquilly and peace of the area.


Quick Facts


Brecon Beacons National Park:

Year of Designation: 1957

Population: 32,000

Scheduled Ancient Monuments: 357

Conservation Areas: 4

Size in square kilometres: 1,344

Main Settlements: Brecon, Crickhowell, Gilwern and Hay.
Located in: Norfolk and Suffolk.
Highest Point: Pen y Fan at 886 metres.

Attractions


The Brecon Beacons National Park is located in the south of Wales, it became the third national park in Wales after Snowdonia and Pembrokeshire National Parks. The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is located approx 80 miles to the west of the Brecon Beacons, whilst Snowdonia National Park is located approx 100 miles north; time permitting visitors to the Brecon Beacons could combine a visit here to one or both of the other national parks in Wales. The Brecon Beacons provide a place where visitors can enjoy some of the finest scenery in Wales away from the traffic and congestion of large towns and cities, making it an ideal place to enjoy a break and get closer to nature. Historically the Brecon Beacons have been inhabited for many centuries, there have been archaeological finds dating back to the Neolithic era and Bronze Age up to more recent times.

Over the years settlements have been built in the are; there are in excess of 20 hill forts that were built during the Iron Age, the area has been used by both the Romans and the Normans. The area was used during the Industrial Revolution to provide raw materials including ironstone and limestone.

The Blaenavon World Heritage Site is located just outside of the national park boundary and is well worth visiting. The park has been designated a European and Global Geopark. The Fforest Fawr (Great Forest) Geopark covers an area of 300 square miles and includes moorland, woods, meadows, mountains, lake and local towns and villages. The geopark has been designated in recognition of the geological heritage of the area, the aim is for local economic development based on geo tourism in local communities.

The location in the south of Wales means the Brecon Beacons are a popular attractions especially in the summer months with many visitors and holiday makers from both Wales and across the UK visiting the region on holiday and short breaks. The Brecon Beacons are located around 1 hour from the Welsh cities of Cardiff and Swansea, between 2 to 2.5 hours drive from Bristol and Birmingham and 3 to 3.5 hours from London, making it assessable from much of Wales, southern England and the Midlands. The park is located around 1 hours drive from Cardiff and Swansea making it a convenient place from which to explore the wider south Wales area.

The area is famous for its valleys, rugged landscapes, mountains, moorland, waterfalls and a number of local towns and villages known for their hospitality. Like a number of national parks in the UK, the Brecon Beacons does not include any major cities or large towns within its borders, the main settlements include Brecon, Crickhowell and Gilwern with a number of smaller villages and hamlets.

There are a number of towns that are located close by just outside the official border of the park, these include Pontypool, Merthyr Tydfil, Ebbw Vale and Abergavenny. The towns provide visitors convenient places from which to base themselves from when exploring the national park and the surrounding areas of south Wales with local facilities, amenities and accommodation. The cities of Cardiff and Swansea are located approx one hours drive from the park, offering a choice of accommodation, local amenities and local transport links to travel to and from the national park.

The Special qualities relating to the areas rugged and challenging landscapes, natural beauty including the waterfalls and gorges, archaeology and diversity of wildlife ensure Brecon Beacons is a special place. The qualities include the park being a haven for peace and tranquillity, rural setting with open landscapes and clean air offering visitors a chance to relax and enjoy one of Wales finest settings. The area benefits from its sense of cultural identity and ‘Welshness’ with historic customs, culture and language maintained. The rich history of the area, way of life, traditions and strong local communities in the local towns, villages and hamlets mark the area out as special.

Local accommodation includes a choice of hotels ranging from budget, mid range to luxurious hotels, cosy B & B’s and inns, Guest Houses, Self Catering houses, cottages, camping facilities and pub stays; there is accommodation available in Brecon, Crickhowell and Hay-on-Wye within the park boundaries and also in Abergavenny, Aberdare, Merthyr Tydfil, Ebbw Vale, Llandeilo and more that are all conveniently located for further exploring the Brecon Beacons. The cities of Cardiff and Swansea; both offer a choice of accommodation, facilities, amenities and transport links offering a convenient choice for visitors to base themselves from when exploring Brecon Beacons and the surrounding local area.

Visitor Centres & Information Points are located at various locations in the Brecon Beacons. Visitor centres are located at Libanus, Abergavenny, Brynaman, Brecon, Craig-y-Nos and other locations across the park, each has knowledgeable staff with local knowledge on local attractions, things to see and do, local tips and advice. The centres include books, maps, gifts, stationary, leaflets, brochures and more. A visit to the visitor centres and village information points provide a good first port of call for visitors and can help to better plan, organise and enjoy your trip.

Brecon Beacons Towns & Villages include Brecon located in the north of the park, 18 miles north of Merthyr Tydfil. The market town has been established since Norman times; history has been well preserved with narrow streets, canal basin and Georgian facades in evidence. Local attractions include the South Wales Borderers Military Museum, Brecknock Museum and Art Gallery and the cathedral that dates back to the 12th century.

The town is still a market town hosting the Brecknock Farmers Market, on the second Saturday of each month. There are a number of independent shops in the town along with organic and specialists stores and produce available. There are a choice of entertainment facilities and a number of pubs and restaurants in the town along with accommodation making it a popular choice for visitors to the area.

The town of Abergavenny is a lively market town located close to the south eastern corner of the park, 20 miles east of Merthyr Tydfil. The town has long established itself as a gateway to both Wales and the Brecon Beacons located close to the border of both. The town dates back to Roman times, local attractions includes the ruins of Abergavenny Castle dating back to the 11th and 12th centuries, visitors can see the museum that is located on top of the motte, it tells the storey of the market town from prehistory right through to the present day. The town is also known for the Abergavenny Cycling Festival and Food Festival The town includes a choice of shops, pubs and restaurants and its convenient location makes it a popular place for visitors to base themselves from when visiting the park and surrounding areas.

Talgarth is an historic and compact market town located in the north east of the park, under 30 miles from Merthyr Tydfil. The town is known for being the gateway to the Black Mountains offering great opportunities for mountain biking and hill walking. Local attractions include the Parish Church that dates back to the 14th century and the 13th century Pele Tower located in the town centre that is now home to the tourist information centre. Talgarth Mill, is a restored 18th century flour mill, visitors can take guided tours to learn more about the mill and its history. Local nature reserves include Park Wood and Pwll-y-Wrach, both are located near by.

Crickhowell is a compact Georgian town located in the east of the park in the Usk Valley, less than 20 miles from Merthyr Tydfil. Local attractions include Crickhowell Castle that date back to the 13th century, the hill fort of Crug Hywel dates back to the Iron Age and is also referred to as Table Mountain look over the town. The Beacons Way path goes through the town with a number of walks available beside the River Usk. The town hosts the Crickhowell Walking Festival and a Dragon Festival. The town includes a range of shops, pubs and restaurants.

Carreg Cennen Castle is located in the west of the park, in the village of Trap a few miles from Llandeilo. The castle is noted for its stunning location on a rocky hilltop. The ruined castle is thought to date back to the 12th century, over the centuries war has damaged the castle and it is currently managed by Cadw. Visitors can have guided tours of the castle to learn more about it and its fascinating history.

Brecon Mountain Railway offers visitors plenty of nostalgia, taking visitors back to the golden age of rail travel. The narrow gorge railway uses steam trains beginning at Pant Station located north of Merthyr Tydfil to Pontsticill where visitors can see the Pontsticill Reservoir. At Pontsticill visitors can visit the lakeside café serving a choice of food and drinks and there is a play area for children. The train then returns back to Pant where visitors will find the restaurant, gift shop and workshop where the steam locomotives a repaired and built.

Llangorse Lake is located 7 miles east of Brecon, between the Central Beacons and the Black Mountains. The lake is the largest natural lake in Wales, the lake is surrounded by fields, green hills, meadows and hedgerows, the scenic location offers visitors a great place to paddle, sail and enjoy a picnic. Visitors can hire a canoe, kayak, pedalo or rowing boat and there are refreshments available on site too. The lake is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, conservation is important here and there are restrictions on the number of people can take to the water and where boaters can go.

There is plenty of wildlife for visitors to see with water voles and otters, local birds include coots, swallows, swifts, warblers and geese. The lake is a popular place for nature trails, bird and wildlife watching.

Walks & Activities are available in the Brecon Beacons, with a number of walks ranging from gentle strolls in scenic countryside to moderate, energetic and much more challenging routes. Visitors can set off on a self guided walk, join an organised walk or set off with a qualified walking guide. There are walks for everyone available including those with an interest in history, the countryside, family walks, nature walks, riverside walks and more. There are a number of walking routes these include the Beacons Way, a challenging 95 miles hill walking route.

Other popular routes include the Black Mountains, Central Beacons, Brinore Tramroad and Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal offering 33 miles of towpath with pubs and picnic spots along the way offering a more relaxed walking adventure.

There are guided walks available from qualified walking guides, visitors can benefit from local knowledge and expertise. The walks are a great way to learn more about the park and see the wildlife, archaeology and ecology up close.

Cycling is a popular activity in the park with country roads, towpaths, lanes and hillside tracks offering plenty for cyclists. Cycling in the Brecon Beacons offers a great way to get closer to nature, get fit whilst enjoy the scenery and see the countryside up close in an environmentally friendly way. There are a number of traffic free moderate touring routes these include the Usk Reservoir Trail, riding around the reservoir, Garwnant Forest Trails, a woodland ride and Brecon to Talybont Towpath, a flat canal towpath that includes a picnic area.

Other activities in the park include water sports such as kayaking, canoeing, white water rafting, caving, potholing, fishing, golf, rock climbing, abseiling, horse riding and pony trekking, star gazing and bird. The activities offer visitors a great way to further explore the national park and see the best in the varied wildlife and landscape of the park. There are a number of activity centres where visitors can try a number of the activities. The activities and walks cater for people of all abilities, with a number of things to see, so and experience, there is something for most tastes and interests.

Visitors to the Brecon Beacons will find there is plenty of things to see, do and enjoy in the park, it is a well known and popular destination for day trippers, weekend and short breaks and longer breaks. The park has good road and public transport links, making it assessable from Wales and much of England especially the Midlands and south of England. The range of rugged landscapes, waterfalls, open spaces along with the historic villages and hamlets makes the Brecon Beacons an ideal place to relax and enjoy the great outdoors with the chance to enjoy outdoor recreation away from the stresses and strains of everyday life.

How to Get There


Brecon Beacons are accessible by both car and public transport.

By Car:

From Cardiff, Brecon is located just over 40 miles away via the A470, from Swansea, Brecon is located 43 miles away via the A483, A465 and A470. The journey time from both Cardiff and Swansea is 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. The Brecon Beacons are located 170 miles from central London. From London, take the A4, then the M4 motorway up to junction 24. Then at junction 24 take the A449 exit towards Newport. Continue along the A449 until the junction with the A40 and take the A40 towards Abergavenny, then take the A465 and the A4077 then the A40 and B4601 that leads to Brecon. The approx journey time is 3 hours 15 minutes to 4 hours depending on traffic and time of day.

By Train:

The train station at Newport has regular services from London Paddington station and from Newport there are services to Abergavenny, the journey time is approx 2 hours 15 minutes to 2 hours 45 minutes, depending on service and time of day. From Cardiff Central railway station there are services to Abergavenny; the journey time is approx 35-40 minutes.

By Bus/Coach:

There are regular coaches available from London Victoria coach station to both Cardiff and Swansea. The approx journey times are 3 hours 15 minutes for Cardiff and 4 hours for Swansea, depending on service, traffic and time of day. From Cardiff, there are bus services available to the national park, for information on daily buses in the Brecon Beacons please see: Brecon Beacons Buses. Coach services are provided by National Express

Contact Details


Brecon Beacons National Park Authority
Plas y Ffynnon
Cambrian Way
Brecon
Powys
LD3 7HP
Wales

Telephone: +44 (0)1874 624437

Website: Brecon Beacons National Park

Map




For Local Search and Directions see: Brecon Beacons National Park Map

Tips & Other Considerations


The weather and climate can be unpredictable, there can be elements of all four seasons in one day. Ensure you check the weather forecast before you travel and have the correct clothing and footwear including comfortable walking shoes, fleece, raincoat and umbrella.

Follow travel advice and remain alert, vigilant and aware of your belongings at all times especially your wallet/purse and valuables and ensure they are hidden away from public view. If you have a bag try to use a shoulder bag with a good quality, strong strap, that is put across your shoulder not on your shoulder making it more difficult for anyone to take your bag.

If you are travelling by car to the Brecon Beacons ensure you are well prepared with maps and Sat Nav to aid your journey, particularly if you are not familiar with the local area and roads. Use the journey planner for door to door directions. Check traffic updates before you travel.

If you are looking for car parking in and around the national park, ensure you fully understand the rules, regulations & charges for car parks and street parking. The rules & regulations can be complex & confusing if you are unclear, it is wise not to park there.

If you are travelling by public transport, check for service updates prior to beginning your journey for any delays, disruption or cancellations to services that may impact on your journey. Ensure you have the service timetables for the trains, trams, buses and coaches. Remember when the last services are and ensure you make it to the train/bus/coach stops well in time to avoid missing the service.





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