New year has rolled around again and its the only time my friends and I get our families together, book a big house and go live together for a week. Honestly, it’s one of the best things I’ve done in making that change during the festive season. I look forward to it more than Christmas now.
This year we opted for the Brecon Beacons in South Wales. The Brecon Beacons, or Bannau Brycheiniog National Park as it’s now known (The Bannau for short!). You can read a bit more about the name change here.
We have stayed in this area before but I wanted to share with you 7 of the best things to do in the Brecon Beacons.
Abergavenny Market is open every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday with an incredible Flea Market every Wednesday. It opens between 8am and 4pm. The market is where local produce, artisanal crafts and amazing sweet treats are sold under one roof. There are some amazing tasty regional specialities available too. If you’re a meaty there’s some amazing smoked salmon and lamb. There’s also a vegan fair too to check out at various points in the year.
Read more about timings and seasonal changes here.
Brecon Beacons Waterfalls
The Brecon Beacons are home to some absolutely outstanding waterfalls. There’s a walk which takes in 4 of them if you choose too. You can find the waterfall trail on the amazing OS maps app (subscriptions are currently hugely discounted here). Don’t miss the mesmerising sights at Sgwd Yr Eira, a waterfall you can walk behind. I have elaborated a bit about this walk here 🙂
Visiting Brecon Cathedral
Imbibe the rich history of the region by exploring Brecon Cathedral. Brecon Cathedral is an inclusive community within the walls of a beautiful Grade 1 listed building. It has some stunning architecture and there are guided tours available to delve into the stories of centuries past. Worth a quick visit whilst in town.
Hire a boat on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal
Slow down the pace and embark on a leisurely boat ride along the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal. Surrounded by serene landscapes, this canal journey provides a peaceful escape, allowing you to appreciate the beauty of the Brecon Beacons from a unique perspective.
The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, affectionately known as the “Mon and Brec,” offers a uniquely serene and picturesque cruising experience in the heart of the beautiful Welsh countryside. Stretching over 35 miles through the scenic Usk Valley, this canal is renowned for its tranquil, narrow waters that meander through lush, green landscapes, historic towns, and alongside the Brecon Beacons National Park. The canal’s relatively quiet route is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and offers an idyllic setting for a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Cruisers can enjoy the sights of diverse flora and fauna, including kingfishers, herons, and otters, making it a perfect journey for nature lovers. There are a few good hire places including:
Beacon Park Boats: https://www.breconbeacons.org/business/accommodation-beacon-park-boats
Dragonfly Cruises: https://www.dragonfly-cruises.co.uk/
Countrycraft Narrow Boats: https://www.countrycraftnarrowboats.com/
Stargazing at the Brecon Beacons Dark Sky Reserve
Stargazing in the Brecon Beacons National Park is an awe-inspiring experience, making it a premier destination for astronomers and night sky enthusiasts. Recognized as an International Dark Sky Reserve, this area in Wales boasts some of the UK’s most pristine night skies, largely free from light pollution. The dark skies reveal an enchanting tapestry of stars, planets, and celestial phenomena, offering an unparalleled view of the Milky Way, meteor showers, and major constellations. Visitors are often taken aback by the clarity and brilliance of the night sky, making it an ideal spot for both amateur stargazers and professional astronomers.
The National Park organises regular stargazing events and workshops, which cater to all levels of expertise. These events often include night walks, telescope sessions, and talks that enhance the understanding of the night sky and celestial navigation. Check out more information as to events here.
Take a Steam Train Journey on Brecon Mountain Railway
Traveling by steam train on the Brecon Mountain Railway offers a delightful journey back in time, providing a unique and nostalgic experience amidst the stunning landscapes of South Wales. The vintage locomotives and carriages, meticulously restored, evoke the golden age of rail travel, appealing to both train enthusiasts and those looking for a charming, leisurely outing. The journey begins at Pant Station, near Merthyr Tydfil, and winds through the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park, offering breathtaking views of the mountains, lakes, and verdant valleys. As the steam engine chugs along the historic narrow-gauge track, passengers are treated to the rhythmic sounds and sights of a bygone era, making it a memorable and photogenic journey.
In addition to the scenic beauty, the Brecon Mountain Railway experience is enhanced by the friendly, knowledgeable staff who share fascinating insights into the railway’s history and the surrounding areas. Along the route, there are stops at interesting destinations, including Pontsticill Reservoir, where passengers can alight to explore, take photographs, and enjoy refreshments at the lakeside café. The journey is not just a means of transportation but an immersive cultural and historical experience, perfect for families, history buffs, and nature lovers alike. This journey offers a serene escape from the modern world and a chance to appreciate the slower pace of travel from a bygone era, all while being surrounded by some of Wales’ most spectacular natural scenery.
Picnic at Llyn y Fan Fach
Pack a picnic and unwind by the shores of Llyn y Fan Fach. Llyn y Fan Fach is a beautiful glacial lake surrounded by hills and meadows, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy a bite to eat and really immerse yourself in this stunning part of Wales. On a quiet day the reflections of the hills in the waters are absolutely breathtaking. There are also a variety of walking paths and trails leading around and up and over the ridges above.
The lake is steeped in legends too, notably a little bit less scary than the previous walk I went on in North Wales, According to legend, a beautiful fairy maiden emerged from the lake’s waters, marrying a local farmer under special conditions, and their story is woven into the fabric of Welsh folklore. You can read more about it here.
Look out for Red Kites here too there’s a good few who sit and play on the updrafts of the cliffs!
Some frequent questions about the Brecon Beacons…
Are the Brecon Beacons worth visiting?
The Brecon Beacons are DEFINITELY worth visiting! There are 7 great things to do in the Brecon Beacons above but honestly, just go for the views, for nature, for quiet and peace. It really is absolutely stunning.
What are the Brecon Beacons now called?
The Brecon Beacons are now formally named Bannau Brycheiniog or informally as “The Bannau”.
The new name came into action on the the 66th anniversary of the Park’s designation, it’s pronounced Ban-eye Bruck-ein-iog.
The name is derived from the plural of ‘ban’, meaning ‘peak’ while ‘Brycheiniog’ refers to the old kingdom of King Brychan. Translated, it means ‘The Peaks of Brychan’s Kingdom’. Pretty cool huh?
What are the Brecon Beacons famous for?
The Brecon Beacons are famous mainly for they’re incredible natural beauty, outdoor activities, dark skies, industrial heritage and the wonderful peak Pen-Y-Fan.
Where are the Brecon Beacons located?
The Brecon Beacons are located in South Wales, north of Cardiff.
Do you know any great Brecon Beacons circular walks?
There are lots and lots of great Brecon Beacons circular walks. I am such a genuine fan of the Ordance Survey app. I love it for just finding paths where I am, but also for finding trails that both experienced and casual hikers have made. I’ve also added some of my own but there are a good few options in the Brecon Beacons. Download the app here, you won’t be disappointed.