Brecon Beacons National Park: The Complete Guide

Brecon Beacons National Park

 

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Brecon Beacons National Park

Address
Libanus, Brecon LD3 8ER, UK
Phone +44 1874 624437

Covering 520 square miles of Wales, the gentle walks and more challenging hikes available at the Brecon Beacons are seemingly endless. Home to some of the most stunning scenery in the U.K., the park has four distinct regions, and from all, you will be able to see the Back Mountain range looming all around. 

The highest peak in South Wales, Pen y Fan, provides a worthy challenge to anyone who is in the area for a short break, but this is certainly a national park where having more time would be ideal due to the sheer number of small towns, villages, and historical monuments including burial grounds, abbeys, and priories.

Here you will find some of the best hikes, other incredible things you can do in Brecon, and practical information on where to stay and how to get to Brecon Beacons National Park.

Things to Do

The Brecon Beacons offers so many things to do outside of hiking that it’s difficult to know where to start. While it’s possible to enjoy the Brecon Beacons for a day trip, there is more than enough to do to fill a week or more in the National Park, especially when you consider the towns and villages situated within the park. Here are a few of the major activities outside of walking, horseriding, and cycling:

Stargazing

If you’re staying locally overnight, then you absolutely should take the advantage to go stargazing as the area is an International Dark Sky Reserve (one of just five in the world) and, on a clear night, offers views of the Milky Way, major constellations, bright nebulas, and occasionally meteor showers.

Caving

One of the most popular places to go caving in the U.K., the Geopark includes four out of five longest limestone cave systems in the country. If you’d like to see a cave, and the rock formations, without going caving, there is also Dan Yr Ogof Showcaves which offers over 10 experiences.

Watersports

Brecon also offers multiple exciting options for anyone who enjoys watersports, including canoeing, paddleboarding, sailing, and kayaking. There is no shortage of rental shops to pick up what you need. Some of the top places to get out onto the water include the River Usk or River Wye, which offers a 100-mile stretch from Hay-on-Wye book town to the Bristol Channel, or The Beacons Water Trail, which runs from Brecon to Talybont-on-Usk. Water maps are available to pick up at the tourism information service desk.

Henry Vaughn Walk

For literature lovers, following in the footsteps of seventeenth-century poet Henry Vaughn is a gentle way to explore the area's beauty. This walk takes around an hour and a half and takes you through small villages, over canals, and through gardens.

Best Hikes and Trails

Horseshoe Ridge

This challenging hike, a favorite amongst regular hikers at the Brecon Beacons, takes you up the four peaks of Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn, and Fan y Big. With a distance of 10 miles, this hike takes around five to six hours.

Brecon to Pencelli

A casual and scenic canal-side hike over seven miles which takes you from Brecon town to the village of Talybont-on-Usk. The walk takes just under two hours.

Llyn y Fan Fach and Llyn y Fan Fawr Circular Walk

This spectacular half-day walk starting at Llyn Y Fan Fach car park in Llanddeusant takes you around two of Wales’s largest lakes surrounded by the Black Mountains. The route is well defined with a footpath and ideal for those of a medium fitness level.

Sugar Loaf and Usk Valley Circular

Starting at the car park at Mynydd Llanwenarth near Abergavenny, this route takes you via the riverside and through an ancient forest before climbing the Sugar Loaf. This half-day hike is easy to moderate, though it does involve a steep incline at the very end.

Peny Fan

There are two ways to approach hiking Wales’s highest peak; the first is from the Storey Arms car park, which offers an easier and shorter hike—but busier. While you should still wear good gear, this is a hike that can be enjoyed by anyone with average fitness levels. Alternatively, you can ascend via the five hours Cwm Llwch Horseshoe route, which approaches from the north and provides more challenge.

Tal y Bont Waterfalls Walk

This is a reasonably challenging dynamic 4-mile walk starting at Tal y Bont waterfall car park that will suit anyone with average fitness and offers a series of picturesque waterfalls. It follows the ridge of a glacial valley.

Ystradfellte Four Waterfalls Walk

This half-day hike follows the Afon Mellte river and is a fantastic way to see four of Brecon Beacon National Park’s most notable waterfalls: the Sgwd Uchaf Clun Gwyn, Sgwd Isaf Clun Gwyn, and Sgwd yr Eira. The hike can be steep but overall can be managed by most fitness levels as long as you have a pair of good boots as it’s slippery and involves some clambering. This hike starts at Gwaun Hepste car park.

Where to Camp

While wild camping in the Brecon Beacons is technically not permitted, many people do, and it is generally tolerated as long as you’re respectful to the surrounding environment. However, there are plenty of private campsites nearby where you will find excellent facilities, including:

  • Cefn Cantref Campsite: A small family-run campsite just outside Brecon town with basic facilities and good reception. Tents can be rented on-site, or you can bring your own. Adults and children over 13 can book online.
  • Aberbran Fawr Campsite: Located on the northern edge of Brecon Beacons National Park, this is a dog-friendly campsite that welcomes both tents and caravans. Tents are also available to hire if you don’t have your own. Showers and toilets are equipped, and you are even free to pick your own fruit from the area.
  • Priory Mill Farm: Found at the heart of the park, Priory Mill Farm offers two options: a holiday cottage and a campsite. You can opt to stay in the cottage or camp in the riverside meadow on the farm’s property. This campsite does not allow dogs or children and emphasizes beauty and serenity, all while being a 10-minute walk from Brecon town.
  • Brecon Beacons Camping & Caravan Park: This is a campsite that provides visitors with a choice between the caravan park and the campsite. You can hire a tent or a caravan on a day-by-day basis and, from there, enjoy all the hikes and nature walks you like. Children and dogs are allowed.

Where to Stay Nearby

With easy access to Brecon, Crickhowell, Llandovery, and Abergavenny, there are so many beautiful places to use as a base while exploring the Brecon Beacons National Park. It’s best to book ahead if you’re arriving in the summer or around the Hay Festival period, as hotels and inns book up quickly, but otherwise, you will find ample accommodation available.

Here is a selection of places to stay to make the most of your visit:

  • Cribyn Lodge: Located a very short walk from Brecon Cathedral, Cribyn Lodge is a homely place to stay that offers free WiFi, a shared lounge area, continental and gluten-free breakfast options. What sets this place apart is the massage therapy options provided to guests.
  • Nant Ddu Lodge: With mountains and moorland on your doorstep, Nat Ddu Lodge offers a perfect retreat. Spacious and quiet, this lodge provides massage and beauty treatments and healthy cuisine, and a selection of suite options for guests to choose from.
  • The Granary: As its name states, The Granary was once a grain store built more than a century ago. Today, a large guesthouse is run by a happy couple; it offers splendid views, a cozy atmosphere, and two different breakfast options for guests to choose from.

How to Get There

Renting a car is the easiest way to reach the Brecon Beacons with ample parking available and different areas of the park and surrounding towns. It’s also the easiest way to reach the trailheads outside of the main mountain and lake walks.

However, if you’d like to reach the park by public transport then take the train to Cardiff, and from there you will be able to hop on the bus to Brecon Beacons National Park. The T4 runs from Cardiff to Newtown via Brecon.

If you’re already in Wales, there are also buses running from Swansea, Abergavenny, Merthyr Tydfil, and other locations.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Pick up an Explore Wales Pass, which you can pick up in advance from railway stations and agents to make traveling around easier and cheaper. It gives you unlimited travel on all rail services and most local bus services in Wales as well as buses in and around the Brecon Beacons National Park.
  • Make sure to take plenty of snacks and water with you on your hikes. While there are plenty of shops and pubs in the surrounding villages and towns, there are few places to top up once you start your hike. 
  • If you’re hiking during the fall or winter, make sure to carry a headtorch, whistle, and a compass. It gets dark surprisingly quickly and early, so make sure to start early.
  • All of the Brecon Beacons National Park hikes are challenging enough that you should wear appropriate gear, including good hiking boots, appropriate layers, and waterproofs. Hiking poles and crampons during the winter would also be a good idea.
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Brecon Beacons National Park: The Complete Guide