I'm writing these transportation tips to point out some problems I encountered when touring the Beacons.I don't want to scare people off from going there. It's a beautiful area!
Getting around in the Brecon Beacons without a car is a challenge. A car would have been a good thing and I could have visited more places. However, for me, driving on the left without someone next to me who keeps saying "left" is an even greater challenge, one , that I wouldn't have enjoyed. So I went by bus and train.
It seems to me that there is a different bus company for every single connection between two places. I asked a lot of questions in the VT forum, looked at a lot of websites, compared a lot of bus schedules and finally felt that I'm up to this challenge.
My goal was to see as much as possible in the little time I had in the Beacons. I had found out about the Freedom of South Wales Flexipass, which allowed seven days of bus travel and three days of train travel within South Wales. Off peak price is 30 GBP.
I arrived in Cardiff at the central bus station and wanted to buy this pass. At the bus station I was told that it is only for sale in the train station, so I went there and bought it. After some problems - there are no less than three different bus stations in Cardiff - I got into the bus for Brecon.
The central bus station in Cardiff is next to the train station. National Express coaches arrive and leave there. I was sent to the bus stops at Greyfriar's Road, only when I reached them I couldn't find a timetable for Brecon. So I asked again, only to be told that no buses to Brecon leave from these stops. They are for local service within Cardiff only.
In the end I found the right stop. You see several bus stops on the main street, but there's also a single one around the corner, which cannot be seen from the main street. This is the stop for the Brecon bus.
The next day I wanted to take the bus to Hay-on-Wye, showed my pass to the driver and was informed that he couldn't accept this pass. I told him I had checked , the service Brecon-Hay was covered by this pass but he said this was true only for the weekday service. The Sunday service was done by a bus company from Herefordshire, who does not accept the Wales pass.Oh well, so I paid another 4.55.
My ticket showed a date in mid-September, but it was October. The driver said the machine was broken, the manager was still in bed, so there's nothing he could do. But not to worry, he'd be the only driver that day, so he'd know that the ticket was valid.He did pick me up later, and everything went fine.
In Brecon there are two bus stops,all the timetables are shown in the main stop,called Brecon Bulwark. When you see the timetables, you assume the bus leaves from this stop, don't you?
The bus to Abergavenny, however, leaves from another stop, called the Watton. This stop is about 100 meter down the road, behind a curve. It wasn't just me who was confused, there were several local people who weren't sure they were waiting at the right stop.If you're not sure, ask as long as you find someone who knows.
The timetables are all bilingual, Welsh and English, but the destinations indicated on the buses are not always in English.A few times I had to run back to the timetable and check for the Welsh name of the town I was going to, to make sure I got into the right bus.
Don't get me wrong, I thouroughly enjoyed my travels in the Beacons, I'm just saying :Come prepared, so that you don't lose too much valuable time waiting for buses.
Here are some websites:
Another thing to be aware of: There are not always bus stops which can be recognized as such, so make sure you wave to the driver when you want to get on. I found the drivers were all very friendly and let people get on and off where they wanted.
I had taken the train to Llandovery and wanted to go back to Brecon by bus. The bus was supposed to leave from the train station. Only when I got off the train I couldn't see any bus stop. I walked to the tourist information, asked about the bus stop and was told that the main bus stop is right next to the tourist information. But the very friendly lady wasn't sure where the bus to Brecon leaves from. She said she had seen it turning at the bus stop, but she knew that it didn't stop there. She told me to go back to the train station and wave when I see a bus coming. That's what I did and finally the right bus showed up. The driver told me to wait while he turned, then I got in and he took me back to Brecon. He didn't stop once on the way, nobody else got in, so it was like having my own, private taxi-bus.