Brecon Beacons travel guide
Sponsored Words : Hazel Plush | 13 November 2019

The Wanderlust guide to Brecon Beacons National Park

From waterfall walks and breathtaking bike trails, to some of Britain’s best stargazing – this wild slice of Wales is packed with adventure. Here’s how to plan your perfect break…

Discover more about Wales

The Brecon Beacons National Park is a microcosm of everything that makes Wales wonderful. For cloud-piercing peaks and high mountain passes, look to the Black Mountains and central Brecon Beacons themselves – while plentiful rivers and waterways nurture the lush valleys and wild waterfalls. It’s a hikers’, bikers’ and wildlife-watchers’ delight, with countless trails through untrammelled terrain, and skies alive with red kites. Whether you’ve two nights or two weeks, there’s always something new to discover – so pull on your boots and get stuck in… 

Getting to Brecon Beacons National Park 

Reaching the Brecon Beacons by  car (Visit Wales)

Reaching the Brecon Beacons by car (Visit Wales)

On the edge of the national park, Abergavenny and Merthyr Tydfil are well-served by trains and buses from Cardiff, the Midlands and beyond. To the west, Llandovery is on the Heart of Wales line, connecting it to other parts of the country. While driving is the easiest way to reach remote sights and activities in the park, the local buses are plentiful too. To leave the lightest of footprints, consider getting around by bike: there are many on- and off-road cycling routes.

The best time to visit the Brecon Beacons National Park

Summer is the most popular time to visit, with long days, bright skies and temperatures ideal for outdoor adventures. Spring and autumn bring their own unique charms (wild flowers in the former; blazing woodland colours in the latter) – and the trails are generally crowd-free. They’re quieter still in winter, when experienced hikers can enjoy bracing yomps through the valleys and snow-dusted peaks. But remember: without rain, Brecon Beacons National Park wouldn’t be half as leafy and lush as it is – so bring your waterproofs, whatever the season. 

Hiking the Beacons Way

Hiking the Beacons Way (Visit Wales)

Hiking the Beacons Way (Visit Wales)

Stretching for 159km, the Beacons Way spans the entire national park – an eight-day jaunt (with moderate fitness) through valleys, across moorlands, and up more hills than you’ll care to count. A little confusingly, it traverses both the Black Mountains (Mynyddoedd Duon, in the east) and the Black Mountain (Mynydd Du, in the west) – two epic hiking destinations – and crosses right through the Brecon Beacons themselves (south of Brecon). Waymarks are scarce so you’ll need strong navigational skills, and it’s essential to book accommodation in advance. It’s a challenge, yes, but with a bit of planning and training (and a few Welsh cakes in your pocket) the Beacons Way is a rewarding trail indeed. 

3 of the national park’s best shorter hikes...

Amazing day walks that’ll put a spring in your step

1. Horseshoe Ridge 

This 16km trail ticks off four of the park’s most thrilling climbs: Corn Du (873m), Pen y Fan (886m), Cribyn (795m) and Fan y Big (719m). You’ll need stamina and a head for heights (Fan y Big’s ‘diving board rock’ is a hair-raising viewpoint) – and around five or six hours to tackle the lot. Route details

2. Brecon to Pencelli

A gentle, leafy ramble alongside the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, this 7km route runs between Brecon Canal Basin and Pencelli – taking in Usk Valley views, towering aqueducts, and colourful narrowboats. It’s accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs, and the local bus can whisk you back to your starting point. 

3. Sugar Loaf 

At 596m, Sugar Loaf is one of Brecon’s more diminutive peaks – but its views are legendary. From the top you can gaze across the central Beacons, Black Mountains and the Usk Valley: not a bad result for the modest climb and 14km round-trip. It’s not all about the summit, though – the Deri Fach woodlands are beautiful, with red kites often seen wheeling overhead. 

Ways to get wild in the Brecon Beacons National Park 

Stargazing 

Thanks to its lack of light pollution, Brecon Beacons National Park is a designated International Dark Sky Reserve. On clear nights, the stargazing here is incredible: you can see major constellations and even the Milky Way. More details

Horseriding

Saddle up for a horseriding adventure: there are over 960km of hoof-friendly bridleways throughout the national park, with options for beginners and pros alike. For experienced riders, the four-day Three Rivers Ride comes to a spectacular finale in Brecon. 

Mountain biking 

Whether you bring your bike or hire one locally, the Brecon Beacons has opportunities aplenty for exploring on two wheels. There are five main MTB hubs in the park: Brecon, Crickhowell, Sennybridge, Talgarth and Talybont-on-Usk. For beginners, Brecon's Visitor Centre Route (8km) is a gentle doddle, while the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir Route (in Talgarth; 51.5km) is one for experienced riders.

Caving 

Some of the area’s most mesmerising terrain actually lies beneath the earth, in its cavernous grottoes and old mining pits. For naturally-formed wonders, head to Dan-yr-Ogof and Cathedral Cave, where million-year-old passageways and thundering waterfalls await. And for a spine-tingling insight into Wales's mining heritage, visit Big Pit National Coal Museum in Blaenavon, with its interactive exhibits and underground tour. 

Canoeing 

The placid waters of Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal are great for beginner canoeists, while the rivers Wye and Usk offer more varied conditions – such as rapids, slow currents and thrilling white water – depending on which section you’re paddling. Check out local operators for boat hire and guided tours.

Paddleboarding

Test your balance skills at Llangorse Lake, Wales’s largest natural lake and Brecon’s top spot for watersports. It’s a peaceful setting, with spectacular views of the mountains and meadows – and everything from paddleboards to pedalos for rent. To make a weekend of it, you can book a lakeside camping spot too.  

Where to stay in the Brecon Beacons 

Gliffaes Country House Hotel

 

Gliffaes Country House Hotel

Gliffaes Country House Hotel

Best for… a stylish, stately retreat

Built in 1888, this grand manor house in Crickhowell is surrounded by acres of landscaped lawns, lush woodland and the burbling River Usk. Rooms are cosy and characterful (think garden-view bathubs and kingsize beds), while the dining room serves locally-sourced produce and a fine Welsh wine list. More details

2. The Granary

The Granary

The Granary

Best for… a hiker’s home-from-home

At the base of the Black Mountains, this family-run B&B has everything you need after a long day’s hiking. Rooms are comfortable and clean (with glorious country views), and owners Ray and Joyce can recommend the perfect local pub. Breakfasts are a hearty feast, with plentiful veggie options too. More details 

 

3. The Town House

The Town House

The Town House

Best for… Brecon’s creature comforts

In the heart of Brecon, The Town House B&B has restaurants, pubs and shops galore on its doorstep – ideal if you want to keep driving time to a minimum. It’s a convivial spot, offering just three beautifully-designed en suite bedrooms, plus a living room with leather Chesterfield sofas and an honesty bar. More details 

Discover more about Wales

Enjoyed this article? Get the best of Wanderlust delivered straight to your inbox

Follow Team Wanderlust