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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 15 best things to do in the Brecon Beacons

This spectacular national park so much more than hills and hikes.

John Bills
Amy Houghton
Written by
John Bills
Amy Houghton

The Brecon Beacons National Park — or Bannau Brycheiniog (ban-aye bruch-ay-nee-og), as it's otherwise known — is a slice of Welsh magic. It's not quite a hidden gem, them being massive hills and all that, but this breathtaking part of Wales doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Besides being an area of natural beauty, offering walks galore and plenty of outdoor adventure, it's home to a load of wonderful culture and tradition. From the highest peaks to the deepest caves, books to boogying, here are the best things to get up to in the Brecon Beacons. 


📍The best places to go in Wales 
👀 The best things to do in Cardiff
🌤️ The best things to do in the UK
⛰️ The best things to do in Wales 

This article was recently updated by Amy Houghton, a writer from the Brecon Beacons. At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines.

Best things to do in the Brecon Beacons

Climb up to the peak
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Climb up to the peak

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. There are a few different routes you can take, depending on your ability. For an gentler amble up to the trig point, start from the Storey Arms. Or if you're up for a challenge you can take on the Horseshoe Ridge, a 10-mile slog through trees and moors that eventually gives way to the mountain's steep face. 

2. Soak up Waterfall Country

Yes, there are a lot of hills here, but did you know that one part of the Brecon Beacons is actually known as the UK’s Waterfall Country (‘Bro'r Sgydau’ in Welsh)? The Vale of Neath has earned the title thanks to its Four Waterfalls Walk. There are different trails you can follow based on your abilities but if you want to go full adventure-mode you can trawl down tree-lined gorges, clamber down rocky stairs, tread behind the 90ft Henrhyd Falls and brave a cold swim at the base of Sgwd y Pannwr



Get lost in the world's first book town
Photograph: Cornfield/Shutterstock

3. Get lost in the world's first book town

There are few things more comforting than the dusty atmosphere of an old bookshop, and the small town of Hay-on-Wye is obsessed with them. 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. Check out the three-storey Richard Booths complete with a cafe and cinema, and if you're around in the spring, don't miss out on all the goings on at the famous Hay Festival. When it comes to literary tourism in the UK, Hay-on-Wye is a real bucket list spot. 

Give in to gluttony
Photograph: Ceri Davies/Shutterstock

4. Give in to gluttony

Nothing builds up an appetite like a trek through steep peaks and winding valleys. So, quite rightly, the Brecon Beacons has delicious, hearty food in droves. For a filthy award-winning burger head to The Hills; for a mega cheese fest, gorge on a Celtic toastie at the International Welsh Rarebit Centre, for some stunning pub grub look no further than The Bear or the Felinfach Griffin and for desert grab some fresh, flavourful ice cream at Llanfaes Dairy. However, with its acclaimed annual food festival, Abergavenny is the area's culinary capital and the Michelin-starred Walnut Tree may be its pièce de résistance.

Storm the castles
John Bills

5. Storm the castles

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. Abergavenny Castle is now home to a fine museum, Hay Castle is a lively cultural centre and the remains of the 11th century Brecon Castle stand guard over the Usk and Honddu rivers. A personal favourite is Carreg Cennen Castle, which sits atop a steep cliff and has panoramis views for days. It was once voted Wales’ most romantic ruin and was even beautifully interpreted in sketches by JMW Turner in the eighteenth century. 

Ride the mountain rails
Photograph: Shutterstock

6. Ride the mountain rails

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.


7. Discover Welsh whiskey

Obviously Scotland is the first place that comes to mind when you think of whiskey. But hidden in the foothills of Bannau Brycheinog is a dark horse. In the late 1990s, Penderyn arrived to bring the ‘lost art’ of Welsh distilling back to life and was the first of its kind to open in Wales for over a century. With a little sprinkle of Scottish influence from master distiller Dr Jim Swan (who died in 2017), Penderyn’s smooth malt whisky has gained global recognition. Visitors can take an hour-long tour and watch the distilling process first hand, with the promise of samples waiting at the end! 


8. Dance 'til dawn

Forget Glastonbury. Every August Bannau Brycheiniog plays host to Green Man Festival, a magnificent event lauded by NME as the ‘understated triumph of festival season’ and by Rolling Stone as ‘the most well-oiled of festival machines’. Nestled in the grounds of Glanusk Estate, Green Man caters to all demographics. There are creative workshops for kids in the light of day, intense drum and bass sets into the early hours of the morning and everything in between, all overlooked by a giant man constructed out of foliage. Yes, tickets have become increasingly hard to get a hold of, but it’s worth the scramble.

Giddy up!
graham bell / Alamy Stock Photo

9. Giddy up!

Horses are magnificent creatures. Graceful, powerful, intuitive and downright beautiful, what’s not to love? Brecon Beacons National Park 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.

10. Enjoy unique celestial views

In 2012 this national park was Wales’ first International Dark Sky Reserve and only the fifth place in the world to earn the accreditation. We think that makes it pretty darn special. On a clear night, in the right spot, fans of the cosmos can admire the Milky Way, bright meteor showers, dazzling nebulas and dreamy constellations hugged by the equally magical Beacons landscape. The National Park Visitor Centre, Llangorse Lake, Llanthony Priory and Usk Reservoir all great places to optimise your chances of a spectacular display.


11. Take an alpaca for a trek

Why just go on a plain old traditional walk when you can do it with a fluffy alpaca trotting alongside you? At Alpaca My Boots, you could be joined by almost 30 alpacas on a 90 minute stroll through the gorgeous landscape surrounding Blaenrheon Farm, a short drive outside of Brecon town. Along the way you'll probably catch a glimpse of  remnants of a 4,000 year old Iron Age hill fort and Mynydd Illtyd, which features evidence of Bronze Age activity. Over the summer, the farm even offers mindfulness sessions with the creatures.

Conquer the terrain on two wheels
Photograph: Shutterstock

12. Conquer the terrain on two wheels

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. Bike Park Wales in the valleys between Brecon and Merthyr Tydfil happens to be the largest bike park in the country with 40 dramatic descending trails for everyone from pro to beginner.  There are also plenty of road routes and traffic-free family-friendly routes for those that like to keep the heart rate at a nice average pace. 


13. Learn how to survive in the wild

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.

Amble along the canal
Photograph: Leighton Collins / Shutterstock

14. Amble along the canal

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. If you don't fancy it on foot, cruise down on a rented day boat or hop in a kayak

Investigate the underground
Photograph: Shutterstock

15. Investigate the underground

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. If small spaces aren't your thing, Dan Yr Ogof (aka the National Showcaves of Wales) can be seen without the need to crawl on all fours. 

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