Brecon local and best-selling novelist Amanda Robson reveals the active things you can do in the glorious hills that have been her back garden for 30 years...
The walking in the Brecon Beacons is extraordinary. There are three mountain ranges – The Black Mountain, The Brecon Beacons and The Black Mountains.
Each offers a variety of scenery, from sculptured glacial peaks to gentle forest walks. Three walks in particular are worth putting on your to-do list.
Pen-y-Fan: the highest peak for miles and so the views are spectacular. There are lots of different interesting routes (including up and down the ridges). It looks majestically Himalayan in the snow.
The Black Mountains: walk either Pengenffordd to Crickhowell or Talgarth via Waun Fach. The views down the valley toward Crickhowell are glorious, as is the view off the ridge to the low-lands surrounding Hay–on–Wye. You can walk all day and not bump into anyone else.
The Monmouth and Brecon Canal: the best walk for peaceful contemplation, without too much effort. An hour each way on the flat, with refreshment at both ends. You can either park at the Coach and Horse pub in Llanynidr, and walk to The White Horse, or the Star Inn, at Talybont-on-Usk. Or go the other way round.
Excellent canoeing is available across the Brecon Beacons – on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, the River Wye, the Usk, and Llangorse lake. One trip of note is from Glasbury to Hay-on-Wye with Wye Valley Canoes. This section of the River Wye is stunningly beautiful; wide and tree-lined, teaming with wildlife and running through beautiful farm land. There are plenty of places to stop and swim, or picnic.
Another popular spot is ‘the rapids,’ a rocky shelf, where the river bubbles over. Fortunately, they're not really rapids. Canoes/kayaks slide over easily and right by a picturesque beach, popular with both locals and visitors, for swimming and picnicking.
In this peaceful and unspoilt area with over 600 miles of well-kept bridle paths, horse riding is a joy. There is such a variety of scenery to admire as you ride; rolling farmland, bracken-covered mountainsides, carpets of purple heather, vast swathes of moorland and woodland.
Cantref Riding Centre, Transwales Trials and Llangorse Multi Activity Centre are all good options. Cantering along on horseback on a mountain side makes me feel as if I am on top of the world – away from the strife of modern life. It is a perfect way to enjoy the mountains (as long as you know how to ride a horse!)
There are two major areas for outdoor climbing in the park, Langattock and Dinas Rock. The Langattock Cliffs - an old lime quarry high above the Usk Valley, with spectacular views overlooking Crickhowell - is the place for ‘traditional climbing.’ You can stay in the YHA bunkhouse and organise an instructor/guide through them. 56 climbs here are listed on UK Climbing.
Dinas Rock lies in a limestone belt on the southern edge of the park between the Brecon Beacons National Park and the Fforest Fawr Geopark. Maintained by National Resource Wales, it offers sports climbing on a steep overhanging area of the southern face and easier routes for organised groups in the former quarry at the western end of the rock. There are over 75 routes through a variety of grades.
The Brecon Beacons is very popular with paragliders with many organisations offering 'buddy rides' for those just starting out. The view from hundreds of feet in the air are, as you can imagine, breathtaking.
For something really different, you could visit the Black Mountains Gliding Club, just outside Talgarth. Most gliding clubs in the UK are on flat land (very few are above 1,000 ft) or on the edge of 1,000 square kilometres of rugged upland moorland, steep long ridges and mountain peaks.
For those who've never glided before, the club offers something they call their 'first experience.' It comprises a 20 to 30 minute flight, in a dual controlled glider, with a qualified instructor. After appropriate instruction you will be invited to take the controls. There are a range of longer courses for those who are bitten by the bug and want to take it more seriously.
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