Of course the main thing to do in the Brecon Beacons is walking, and in the Mountain Centre you can get different maps of the area. Because I was only here for one afternoon, I just bought a small map for £1, which was sufficient for my short walk to Twyn y Gaer (more about that in the next tip).
I enjoyed my walk very much because I had not expected to be in a wilderness like that so close to Brecon. I had expected that so close to the Mountain Centre, there would be tarmac paths and that everything would be much more "orderly", so I was surprised that it was really rough here and that sometimes it was even difficult to find the right path. I was absolutely delighted because it felt like a real "wilderness experience". I absolutely loved the barren and rugged landscape, the scarce vegetation, and the fantastic views on Pen y Fan. Pen y Fan is the highest mountain in the Brecon Beacons and the whole south of the UK, and during my walk I had full view of it nearly all the time! Wow!!!
As I said, it was sometimes difficult to find the right path, but because of Pen y Fan you always know the right direction, and I just tried to keep in mind in which direction the Mountain Centre was located.
There were not many people walking here on this afternoon in March, and I was just happy that, although I was only here for such a short time, I still got such a great walking experience. It was exactly like I had imagined Wales, only that I had not expected that I could experience this on such a short day trip to the national park.
The destination of my walk was the iron age hill fort of Twyn y Gaer. This walk was proposed by the men working in the Mountain Centre, and I agreed because I am interested in prehistory and because they said that you have a very good view from there. And it was a very nice walk indeed!
The hill on which the fort was once constructed is 367m high. On the peak there is a white stone marking the highest point.
Close to the peak I saw a line of stones which were obviously pushed into the slope of the hill. Unfortunately I am not sure what these are. I read that at one time Romans settled on this hill, so maybe they are Roman stones, but I really am not sure and unfortunately I was unable to find out more. I did not find any good information about Twyn y Gaer at all, neither online nor in my travel guides.
The way up the hill is relatively steep, but once you have arrived, you have a great view - to one direction the Brecon Beacons, which looked beautiful in the afternoon sun, and to the other direction a pretty patchwork of green fields. The walk is really worth it!
From the Mountain Centre, the walk to the hill fort and back takes about an hour and a half to two hours, depending on how fast you walk.
While pictures 1 - 4 were taken on top of the hill, picture 5 was taken at the foot, before I climbed it.
The Mountain Centre is definitely the place to go if you do walking or hiking in this part of the Brecon Beacons. They have as many maps and guide books on offer as you can wish for, and in addition a selection of gear, special clothing, souvenirs etc. There is a help desk where you can buy leaflets and where staff are there to help you in case you have any questions, advise you on walks etc. The two elderly men I met here were very friendly and happy to help and explain the walks to me.
There is a large car park here, as well as a café. There are also bathrooms, including accessible toilets and a baby changing unit, that are open to all visitors.
Many walks start right at the Mountain Centre, so it is definitely a good place to start your walking adventures! I really want to go here with more time at hand, to do more of their walks and to enjoy the place in a proper manner.
A lovely walk along a chain of waterfalls down the Mellte and Hepste rivers, near Ystradfellte, in the Brecon Beacons National Park.
The most spectacular waterfall, Sgwd yr Eira, is at the end of the trail, where you will walk behind a curtain of water.
The trail is beautiful, through wooded countryside; fairly easy walking with the odd steep scramble. It can get muddy in rainy weather and this means you can slip easily. Mr Spincat once got very grumpy here, as he likes to get his own way about the route we take - well, so do I, and so does my dad!
Make for Pontneddfechan, where you can park. The walks are signed (you'll particularly see signposts to 'Sgwd yr Eira').
More pictures and descriptions of the area, information on travel and accommodation, and some local myths, are to be found at :
There is a C15th pub with food at Pontneddfechan and a couple of miles away at Pendryn there's, the Red Lion which does sandwiches.
Update, as of December 2005 I have just read a short bit in a newspaper about how Ystrafellte has just become the last place in the UK to get mains electricity. The four farms there paid 20,000 pounds each to be connected to the National Grid!
The present structure is C14th, though there was a much earlier church here.
St Mary's is said to have the second largest collection of medieval monuments of any church. One extraordinary item to have survived the the Puritans is an enormous wooden figure of Jesse, once part of an even more enormous wooden structure of a Jesse tree; this probably decorated the area behind the altar.
It is the only one of its kind, described in a brochure from the Tate Britain, where it was on show a few years ago, as "one of the finest medieval sculptures in the world."
Be sure to see the tombs with their alabaster knights in full armour resting with their ladies and heraldic beasts.
You will also find the Royal Arms: of Queen Anne, dated 1709 and a C12th carved font.
There is plenty of information in the church and a very helpful man - though he has to go home sometimes, I guess!
Website for the Local History Society is given below
The railway has all-weather carriages which provide amazing views of the route along the full length of the Taf Fechan Reservoir to Dol-y-Gaer. Passengers can alight at Pontsticill and visit the Café, admire the view across the water to the peaks of the Brecon Beacons, and go for a ramble alongside the reservoir. There is also a play area for children.
The train waits at Pontsticill for 20 minutes before descending, so you can choose to take the same train back, or catch a later train. The trains run about every 1h15m during the summer. The website has a timetable for the year.
At Pant (the bottom) there is a workshop where old steam locomotives are repaired, a footpath to a picnic site which has an amazing panoramic view of the valley, Licensed Tearooms which sell hot food, and a souvenir shop.
Children (under 15) £5
Many of the Brecon beacon ridges are quite sheer, particularly on the northern side, dropping deep into corrie lakes at the bottom.
In this featureless terrain with so few trees or paths, contour navigation is often your safest bet.
The Brecon Beacons Park Society, have just published their Summer 2009 walks programme,
loads of good walks in here, they are usually quite long and strenuous and you need a good level of fitness to keep up with the regulars. Its a great way to find out more about the area and get to places that youmight not feel confident navigating on your own their website is www.breconbeaconsparksociety.org
Hay festival is all about books and interesting people, it has a great atmosphere, there are tevents to make you laugh and events to make you think, as well as lots of events aimed at younger readers, the only down side is that it's not cheap (some of the talks are free but you still need to book a ticket) and the popular events tend to get booked up very quickly.
Be sure to visit the Wiggly Wigglers garden!
An easy walk of three and a half miles, a bit steep in places and can be very muddy where the horses have been using the bridleway. From the fort at the top of the hill you get some of the best views in the National Park, guess thats why those canny Romans chose it as a look out spot. There is a interesting little hunting tower in the wood on the way up, called Paxtons Tower.
Llangorse Lake, the largest lake in South Wales is situated in the Brecon Beacons National Park .
It is surrounded by common land and provides an ideal spot for walking, fishing, camping and water based activities.
It is also an important centre for scientific research and possesses many rare plants as well as a great variety of fish and birds.
Near the northern edge of the lake is a small island - a reconstructed Crannog. - Crannogs were artificial island settlement built on sediment and accumulated pebbles in Lakes. They were common in Scotland and in Ireland from prehistoric to mediaeval times but few have been discovered in Wales. And this was the first to be found in Wales. Research suggests that the foundations dated from 870 AD and that it was built as a fortified dwelling for King Brycheiniog but was destroyed after 100 years in an act of tribal vengeance by AethelFlaed, the Lady of the Mercians.
The reconstruction is approached by a wooden jetty and is a round house with a pointed thatched roof . Around the outside a viewing platform provides good views all around the lake . Inside the walls are covered with information boards for visiting school history groups.
Also- this little building in its picturesque setting is licensed for the celebration of weddings!
The Lake has been a pleasure centre for a couple of centuries. It has changed since I took my own children there for the rowing & paddle boats but on any sunny day families flock there for a day on or by the Lake.
For a detailed account of the geography and natural history of the Lake and how to get there see:-
For information about Crannogs see:-
You can make the walk to the top of the Sugar Loaf any thing from 1 3/4 miles to 9, depending on where you start your walk. The highest of the car parks is off the A40 on top of Mynydd Llanwenarth, take the first turn on the right after Neville Hall Hospital signed for Sugar Loaf vineyard and when you are on the narrow lane make sure you make two left turns, and then swing right at the vineyard, you will end up at the car park. You can park at St Marys vale (SO283162)and make it a four mile walk, or park around the back of the mountain at the Fro car park (SO292201)also a four mile walk to the summit and back. If you walk from the centre of Abergavenny its about a nine mile round trip. From the summit on a clear day their are fantastic panoramic views of The Black Mountains, The Central Beacons, the Usk Valley and The Blorenge Mountain. Use the ordinance survey OL13 or landranger 161.
This is an iron age fort on the wild and boggy Mynydd Illtyd common land in the Brecon Beacons National Park, named after St Illtyd who is the patron saint of Wales with St David. Legend has it he is buried on the common here.
Take care when walking here as a horse and farmer were nearly sucked into one of the bogs a few years ago - there are warning signs!
Mr Spincat can here be seen surveying the lovely views to the usk valley, which is your reward, having traversed the boggy terrrain.
The megalithic portal
has pictures of a standing stone in these parts.
I can't tell you much more about this place - except that my brother, aged four, once ate sheep droppings up here.
A wild and remote place; a winding and lovely walk or drive along the choppy, sparkling river Honddu.
Llanthony Abbey was founded by a Norman knight, William de Lacy, who sheltered in a chapel dedicated to St David whilst out hunting and had a mystical experience - as anyone might in this valley. A priory was esablished near the spot and was dedicated to John the Baptist. The towers faced the place of his birth, and, of the two original towers, one is partly standing, the other has been turned into hotel rooms.
The abbey was a magnificant building, but its fortunes fluctuated, with most of the monks retreating to Gloucester after the devastation caused by Owain Glyndwr's rebellion in early C15th - by 1504 there were only four canons left. After the Dissolution, the site was sold for about £160, left to decay, and, in 1803, Sir Richard Colt Hoare witnessed the great west window fall. The eccentric poet and painter Landor once attempted to found an artistic community here, and there are said to be remains from his experiment scattered around the countryside.
Surrounded by the ridges of the Black Mountains (Offra's Dyke Path runs along the ridge above the abbey) and with ponies cantering in the field over the wall, this is a truly amazing place. The ponies come from a trekking establishment next to the abbey. I highly recommend VT member MOB1US who covers the pony trekking experience up here, and who has other good pages on Wales.
This is a wonderful place to stay - see my accommodation tip! As well as the abbey hotel, there is very cheap camping from the farm/trekking centre (about £2 per person) and a bunk house for groups accommodation. If that doesn't appeal, there are B&Bs nearby.
The Skirrid (Ysgyryd Fawr) is known locally as 'Holy Mountain' and is situated a mile or so from Abergavenny. The strange glacial fissure in the hill is said to have been created by a fork of lightening at the moment of the crucifiction. This is illustrated on the local inn sign pictured.
At the summit, there's the remains of both an iron age fort, though it is hard to find very much remaining of this, and a medieval church, Roman Catholic Church of St Michael (many churches in high places are named for this saint) where, it is said, secret masses were held in C17. From the summit there are lovely views over the mountains and valleys.
There are some old beliefs about this mountain: that no snail or worm can live on it, because it is holy, and that earth from the mountain brings protection from evil if scattered on farm buildings or graves.
The local inn, the Skirrd at Llanvihangel Crucorney, is said to be one the oldest in wales, and one of the most haunted. It has a reputation for gourmet food, but this is now out of date, by any stretch of the imagination An attractive place to visit though, with good beer and 'OK' lunches. This makes for a good start or end of a trip down the Ewyas Valley (see my tips on Capel-y-finn & Llanthony).
The socialist writer Raymond Williams lived near here and his book about the land and the social conditions of the mid C20th, 'Border Country' is one to read on your trip.