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A picturesque section of the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal in Brecon, Wales
Photograph: Leighton Collins / ShutterstockA picturesque section of the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal in Brecon, Wales

The 11 best things to do in the Brecon Beacons

The Brecon Beacons encapsulate the best of the best that Wales has to offer, and this is the best of the Brecon Beacons.

Written by
John Bills

It isn’t entirely accurate to call the Brecon Beacons a hidden gem, them being massive hills and all that, but this beautiful part of Wales doesn’t get the attention it deserves. The best things to do in the Brecon Beacons are up there with the best in all of Wales, with history, culture, tradition and excitement waiting around every corner. There are plenty of gorgeous walks for the amble-friendly, and southern Britain’s highest peak awaits intrepid explorers.

All in all, the Brecon Beacons deserve your attention, and they will respond will love.

Best things to do in the Brecon Beacons

Give in to gluttony in Abergavenny
Photograph: Ceri Davies/Shutterstock

1. Give in to gluttony in Abergavenny

Why go? A quaint market town on the border with England, Abergavenny has made the headlines over the centuries for a variety of reasons. Its much-lauded annual food festival takes the cake these days, and the raucous celebration of all things culinary (which takes place every August) has become one of the must-attend events in all of Wales. The town’s castle and museum are also worth a look, although watch out for the ghost chicken that may or may not haunt the latter.

Ride the mountain rails
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Ride the mountain rails

Why so? The Brecon Mountain Railway is just about as romantic as the Beacons get. This old steam locomotive chuffs down a restored route that originally opened in 1864, making it a stunning way to experience the imposing magic of the Brecon Beacons. The train runs between Pant and Torpantau and usually takes a couple of hours to make the journey, with a charming tearoom and souvenir shop at the former station.

Read a book in a town full of them
Photograph: Cornfield/Shutterstock

3. Read a book in a town full of them

Why go? There are few things more comforting than the dusty atmosphere of an old bookshop, and the small town of Hay-on-Wye is famous for the things. Known colloquially as the ‘town of books’, this little town of fewer than 2,000 people has more than two dozen bookshops dotted around its streets, selling everything from new releases to the classics of yore in a variety of forms. When it comes to literary tourism in the UK, Hay-on-Wye is a real bucket list spot.

Go on a long walk
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Go on a long walk

Why go? From lazy strolls to seriously challenging climbs, the Beacons are full of walks to suit anyone and everyone. Pen y Fan is usually the centre of attention, the least you’d expect from the highest peak in South Wales. Climbing it isn’t for the faint-hearted, however, as a challenging 10-mile slog through trees and moors eventually gives way to the steep face. An amble through Craig-y-Nos Country Park is an altogether more relaxing affair, taking the stroller through ponds, lakes and opulent majesty.


5. Explore the waters

Why go? As comfortable on the water as you are on land? You might be a fish, but that is beside the point. A whole heap of water-centric activities are waiting in the Beacons, everything from windsurfing to kayaking via sailing, boating, stand up paddle boarding and more. The Usk and the Wye rivers saunter through the park, and the ambition of humanity has found plenty of ways to experience them from within. The Brecon Beacons is also home to plenty of waterfalls, and the four falls walk is one of the most popular activities in the entire country.

Amble along the canal
Photograph: Leighton Collins / Shutterstock

6. Amble along the canal

Why go? Is there anything more relaxing than a meandering stroll alongside a much-lauded canal? No, in a word. The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal is one of the finest waterways in Wales and just so happens to snake right through the heart of the national park, covering 35 miles from beginning to end. Almost all of the original route has been restored, with plenty of pubs and picnic spots along the way.

Storm the castles
John Bills

7. Storm the castles

Why go? The Brecon Beacons might be famous for, you know, all that gorgeous nature, but there happens to be plenty of history and culture hidden within the rolling hills. The awkward relationship between Wales and its castles continues here, with destroyed fortresses reminding visitors of this nation’s tumultuous relationship with its noisy neighbour. Abergavenny Castle is now home to a fine museum, while the remains of the 11th century Brecon Castle stand guard over the Usk and Honddu rivers.

Conquer the terrain on two wheels
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Conquer the terrain on two wheels

Why go? Are wheels better than legs? Such existential queries have no place in a travel-focused article, but biking enthusiasts will find plenty to back up their argument in the Beacons. A range of mountain biking routes are found within nature, snaking through deep foliage before dramatically descending to lord knows where. Well, to the rest of the route, obviously, but you get the point. There are also plenty of road routes and traffic-free family-friendly routes for those who are happy with their heart rate as it is, thank you very much.


9. Learn how to survive in the wild

Why go? While we all dearly wish that such skills will never be required in a real-life situation, it can’t hurt to know your friendly plants from the ones that will kill you, right? Bushcraft and foraging have undergone something of a renaissance in recent years (an unusual sentence, but a legitimate one), and the sweeping landscapes of the Brecon Beacons make for a perfect playground. Bushcraft and foraging guides are available for the day and will prove vital if you ever find yourself, you know, lost in the jungle or something.

Investigate the underground
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. Investigate the underground

Why go? The main event might be found above ground, but the magic of the Brecon Beacons extends far further underground than one might initially assume. In fact, the Beacons are home to four of the five longest limestone cave systems in Britain, and the underground network is open for investigating, provided you pick up a guide on the way. Don’t forget the torch, although that is the guide's responsibility. Guides, don’t forget your torches!

Giddy up!
graham bell / Alamy Stock Photo

11. Giddy up!

Why go? Horses are magnificent creatures. Graceful, powerful, intuitive and downright beautiful, what’s not to love? Brecon Beacons NP has developed into a hotspot for horse-riding, with more than 600 miles of bridle path and tracks making it one of the premier riding destinations in Europe. Everything from day trips to full-on hacking holidays are available, so simply make your decision and saddle up.

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