While North Wales can speak of the mountains of Snowdonia, South Wales has its own set of peaks – those that sit in the Brecon Beacons National Park. Mountain-wise you can roughly divide the park into three: to the west the hills that make up Black Mountain, including one of the highest peaks in the whole park, Carmarthen Fan; in the middle are those of the Brecon Beacons including the highest in the park, Pen-y-Fan; finally in the north-east of the designated national park, the Black Mountains (not to be confused with Black Mountain) with some of the most iconic shaped uplands like Sugar Loaf, Hay Bluff and the rather unfortunately named Lord Hereford’s Knob (Twmpa).
Whichever part you choose to base yourself, the Brecon Beacons National Park is a great place for caravan holidays in South Wales. Less dramatic than Snowdonia the Brecon Beacons still have an aura of respect but you’ll also find beautiful, soft undulations and delightful valleys through which run sparkling streams and numerous lakes and reservoirs that sit peacefully amid the natural landscape.
Throughout the national park you’ll see the occasional pretty village while the half a dozen larger towns circumnavigate the edge, providing gateways to the central core – Abergavenny, Hay-on-Wye, Llandovery, Merthyr Tydfil and Brecon.
Of these the town of Brecon is the only one that actually resides within the boundary of the national park, sitting on the northern edge, midway between the eastern and western fringes. The town also sits across the River Usk, providing a really picturesque setting and the opportunity to discover Brecon by boat – even if that’s simply using the Brecon Boathouse pedalo hire from the Promenade. You might also wish to make the most of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal that starts and stops right in the centre of town. Not to be missed though is the charming, historic Brecon Market Hall Cinema or, indeed, the Brecon Farmer’s Market that takes place on the second Saturday of every month when you’ll be just as likely to find still-warm made-on-the-premises Welsh Cakes and handmade chocolates as you will locally produced fruit and veg. Yum!
Of course, the Brecon Beacons National Park is just crying out for those who love outdoor activities whether that be walking in the Brecon hills or cycling in the valleys – or, indeed, vice versa. You’ll find watersports on Llangors Lake, and waterfalls to marvel at throughout the appropriately named Waterfall Country in the south of the Park. A great place from where to begin an information-hunt on the history, geology, activity or anything else you wish to know about the area is the National Park Visitor Centre at Libanus, four miles southwest of Brecon. Here you can also discover more about the Brecon National Park’s status as an International Dark Sky Reserve, indicating the quality of the night sky throughout the area. The prospect of witnessing a shooting star provides the perfect excuse not to pull the blind across that Heki rooflight at night!
Top five things to do in Brecon
Cycle or walk along the traffic-free Usk Valley Walk between Brecon and Abergavenny (and beyond to Usk) or the Taff Trail, which covers 55 miles between Brecon and Cardiff Bay. Both are virtually traffic-free for the entire route through the Brecon Beacons, utilising the towpath of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal and, for the Taff Trail, disused railways and forest tracks to Pontsticill on the edge of the national park.
View the Brecon Beacons from a railway carriage while on board a steam train. The Brecon Mountain Railway runs from the station at Pant, just north of Merthyr Tydfil along the full length of the Pontsticill Reservoir to Torpanteau high in the Brecon Beacons. There are marvellous views of the reservoir and the surrounding mountains.
Hire an electric boat on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal. Dragonfly Cruises rents out small self-drive boats from the canal basin in Brecon, including two picnic launches, which carry up to eight people and incorporate plush seating and picnic tables. It’s a lovely way to explore the canal up to Brynich Lock.
Visit The Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh in Brecon, providing an illustrated history of 320 years of military service. On display are military artefacts, a vast collection of images and exhibitions on specific military battles and wars, including the Second World War.
Make the most of the Brecon Beacon National Park’s status as an International Dark Sky Reserve to witness the Milky Way, meteor showers and major constellations. There are numerous stargazing and astronomical events held throughout the year in various locations and for all ages, a great way to get started if you don’t have your own telescope.
When to visit Brecon
From the end of February to the start of March, it's the Crickhowell Walking Festival, during which you can enjoy strenuous hikes in the hills, go Nordic walking, combine creative writing and poetry with walks, help to light up Table Mountain or see Welsh Cakes and chocolate being made.
At the end of May it's the Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts, which is renowned worldwide and has given Hay-on-Wye it's reputation as the town of books.
August is the time when the three largest of Brecon's many annual events takes place. Visit the Brecon County Show at the start of August for rural and agricultural interest. After that, go to the Brecon Fringe Festival and Brecon Jazz, which is considered particularly fine among music festival lovers.
For cyclists there’s the Abergavenny Festival of Cycling held every August.
From the summer months onwards you can have lots of fun hunting for unusual regional foods in the Brecon Beacons. Hay-on-Wye hosts a Summer Food Festival in June. In September it's the Abergavenny Food Festival. In October it's the annual Brecon Beacons Food Festival.
To make the most of the great outdoors, one of the best family events is the Brecon Beacons Summer Fayre that takes place every August Bank Holiday weekend at the National Park Visitor Centre.
Every August in Crickhowell it's the Green Man Festival. It’s considered one of the best-placed music festivals in the country, held in the beautiful surroundings of Glanusk Park.
In September, if you and your friends and family are feeling active, the Brecon Beacons Canalathon is a team event, celebrating the 33-miles of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal that runs through the national park.
How to get to Brecon
The quickest route into the Brecon Beacons National Park (and to Brecon itself) is to utilise the M4 to Cardiff followed by the A470 dual carriageway to Merthyr Tydfil and beyond. An alternative and particularly attractive route from the east of the region is to use the M50 and A40 to Abergavenny. Once in the park, care should be taken on this route at Bwlch as, while perfectly accessible to caravans, there is a sharp hairpin bend and steep climb. The A40 also continues west of Brecon along the top of the National Park to Llandovery (and beyond), a useful road for accessing the most western areas of the National Park. From North Wales, use the A470 to Brecon. Take care also on the B4558 from Brecon to Llangattock if towing; it is narrow in places and it’s advisable, unless required to approach a campsite, to use the parallel A40 instead.
If you’re passing through the area and wish to stop in Brecon, you can park with a towed caravan in The Promenade car park in Fenni-Fach Road to the west of the town centre. Sufficient pay and display tickets should be purchased for the number of bays taken up with both car and caravan.