Brecon Beacons National Park

Part of the Brecon Beacons National Park, looking from the highest point Pen y Fan (2907 feet, 886 metres) to Cribyn (2608 feet, 795 metres)

The Brecon Beacons National Park is located in southern Wales, part of the United Kingdom. Within an area of 1347 km2 (520 sq miles), the park contains some of the most spectacular and distinctive upland formations in southern Britain. Stretching from Hay-on-Wye in the east to Llandeilo in the west, the park includes the Black Mountains, the Central Beacons, Fforest Fawr and the Black Mountain as well as a vast array of moorland, forests, valleys, waterfalls, lakes, caves and gorges.


A number of small towns and villages lie within or directly besides Brecon Beacons National Park and can serve well as a base from where to discover the park. For this reason, many have become rather popular tourist destinations with proper facilities for travellers. Good examples include Abergavenny, Brecon, Crickhowell, Llandeilo, Llandovery, Hay-on-Wye (famous for its book stores) and Merthyr Tydfil. Other options are Brynaman, Govilon, the small villages Llangadog, Capel Gwynfe and Bethlehem, Llangorse, Pontneddfechan, Talgarth, Talybont-on-Usk, and the lovely parish of Myddfai.

The Brecon Beacons (or simply 'the Beacons') can refer both to the central range of mountains which stretch east from Storey Arms to Talybont and also to the national park as a whole which contains other extensive ranges as outlined below. Though use of the alternative term 'the Brecons' has increased in recent times, it is not used locally and will not win you friends! Old writings suggest that the entire collection of mountain massifs between Abergavenny and Llandeilo was once known as the Black Mountain - which helps to account for some of the confusion that arises with modern naming of the area.


The Brecon Beacons mountain range together with the neighbouring Black Mountains, Fforest Fawr and Black Mountain ranges was designated as the Brecon Beacons National Park in 1957. It was the last of the original ten to gain its status.


Sgwd yr Eira Waterfall

The larger part of the area is underlain by Old Red Sandstone rocks which despite the name are generally brown in colour and do contain layers of softer mudstone. It is this layer cake which is also tilted to the south which gives rise to a characteristic stepped appearance to some of the mountain slopes, particularly in the Black Mountains of the east. All of the various ranges have been carved by rivers and glaciers giving rise to steep north facing scarps and longer southerly directed valleys, many of which are heavily wooded. A number of these valleys in the central part of the park have been dammed gving rise to around a dozen picturesque reservoirs.

A band of limestone running east-west through the park brings with it a pock-marked landscape riddled with caves, some of which are amongst the longest in Europe. Along the southern edge of the park, adjacent to the South Wales Coalfield are numerous signs of former industry such as quarries, tramways and limekilns.

The major river within the park is the Usk which rises on the western Black Mountain, gathers waters from the central Beacons and then flows along the southern edge of the eastern Black Mountains. Its valley provides the main east-west route through the park.

Flora and fauna

Native broadleaf woodland is abundant within the valleys though it's greatly supplemented by conifer plantations in certain areas. A number of rare whitebeam species cling to limestone cliffs in parts of the park; these are generally protected as nature reserves. The global populations of some of these species is only around 25 to 30 trees! The red kite is emblematic of the park, particularly west of Brecon though it's becoming a more common sight in the east too. Herons, kingfishers and dippers are a common sight on the area's rivers which are in the main unspoilt - indeed the Usk catchment has SAC status, the highest level of protection, not least for its fish and lamprey species with there also being a healthy population of otters. Water voles have recently been re-introduced to Llangorse Lake area.


Being an upland area, the Brecon Beacons get their fair share of rainfall though the eastern Black Mountains are distinctly drier than the western Black Mountain. The stretch of country between Brecon and Hay-on-Wye is the driest part of the park followed by the eastern part of the Usk valley towards Abergavenny. The ranges often form a weather divide with dry weather on say the northern side of the watershed whilst rain falls on the southern slopes.

Get in

From London, take the M4 motorway into South Wales. Turn off at exit 22 (near Cardiff) onto A470 towards Brecon. Further west, leave the motorway at exit 43 onto the A465 or at exit 45 (near Swansea) onto the A4067. Take both roads in the direction of Brecon. The A4067, in particular, passes through some very pleasant scenery, and you will be reminded of the famous quote by a notable Buddhist master the whole way: "the journey is the goal." One scenic drive off of the main A470 is the A4059. It sticks to the high ground and offers an opportunity to see wild Welsh Mountain Ponies.

There are regular bus services from both Swansea (Quadrant Bus Station) and Cardiff (Railway Station bus terminal) into the park area.


Access to the park and its tourist offices is free though there are parking charges at some locations.


Wild Welsh ponies still roam the Brecon Beacons.



Stay safe

Britain's mountains are not especially high, but they can be dangerous and people do get injured and lost frequently. The weather can change rapidly, especially above 2,000 feet.

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, November 13, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.