Brecon Beacons National Park




Grwyne Fechan Llanthony Priory Cefn Cul Clydach Gorge
Established in 1957, Brecon Beacons National Park contains an east-west range of peaks and valleys in south Wales, and is the third such park in the country, along with Snowdonia and Pembrokeshire Coast. The preserve includes the most extensive areas of wild, undeveloped land in the UK south of Snowdonia, with some places over three miles from the nearest paved road - not so remarkable compared with, for example, the Lake District or the Scottish mountains, but still more remote than all other scenic landscapes in southern England and Wales. Most of the park is within Powys, while other parts are in seven other boroughs: Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Carmarthenshire, Merthyr Tydfil, Monmouthshire, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Torfaen.

The high country is characterised by barren plateaus and ridges, topped by low-prominence peaks, the highest 2,907 foot (886 metre) Pen y Fan. Most of the land is covered only by grass, heather, bracken and occasional bushes, though some of the hillsides are used for conifer plantations. The underlying rocks are mostly sandstone and gritstone, plus some limestone and coal towards the south, but are rarely exposed; this region lacks the dramatic craggy summits that are found in other British mountain parks. Streams draining the peaks unite to form a number of powerful rivers which have cut short but often deep gorges, containing many waterfalls and cascades, and usually lined by dense woodland, while the upper reaches of some of the drainages have been dammed to form reservoirs. The national park also contains caves and shake holes, and a variety of historic sites including castles, quarries, stone circles, standing stones, burial mounds, Roman remains and old religious buildings.

The relatively gentle topography, absence of cliffs and lack of forest cover make the peaks and valleys ideal for hiking; all areas are crossed by many trails, and cross-country walking is easy in most places. By far the most popular area is around Pen y Fan and its neighbouring peaks, seeing hundreds of visitors on summer weekends, and perhaps during icy periods in the winter, since snow settles here much more readily than on the surrounding lowlands.

Land within the park comprises four distinct hilly areas. The westernmost, least visited and most remote is Black Mountain, a plateau topped by lakes, ridges, scarps and peaks - about 12 by 10 miles in extent, ranging from Llandeilo in the west to the valley of the River Tawe in the east, which provides a course for the A4067. Between this route and the next major north-south road (the A470) is Fforest Fawr, a similar but slightly smaller and lower elevation region, while east of the A470 are the Brecon Beacons, the highest and most famous peaks, most of which have a horseshoe-like arrangement around the upper end of the valley of the Taf Fechan river. These three areas are essentially contiguous, while the fourth elevated region, the Black Mountains, is separated by the River Usk. The mountains comprise four narrow ridges and several lesser spurs, joined at the north end and separated to the south by narrow, winding valleys. One other region within the national park (and extending slightly outside) is Waterfall Country, south of Fforest Fawr; here the majority of the cascades and gorges are located.


Historic Sites



Brecon Cathedral
Brecon Cathedral
Gothic cathedral occupying the church of a former priory, with some sections from the 12th century

Rating: ★★★★
Castell Dinas
Castell Dinas
Ditches, mounds and the base of a gatetower, from an 11th century Norman castle

Rating: ★★★★
Crickhowell Castle
Crickhowell Castle
Fragmented but attractive remains of a minor Norman castle, beside the River Usk: a wooded motte and parts of three towers

Rating: ★★★★★
Hay Castle
Hay Castle
Relatively large but poor condition ruins of a Norman castle in the centre of Hay-on-Wye, soon to be restored

Rating: ★★★★★
Llanthony Priory
Llanthony Priory
Ruined Augustinian priory in a remote location within the Black Mountains; dark, aged masonry and soaring Gothic arches

Rating: ★★★★★
Morlais Castle
Morlais Castle
13th century castle on an isolated limestone hill; mostly just earthworks and overgrown stones, plus a deep cistern and a vaulted basement

Rating: ★★★★
Tretower Castle and Court
Tretower Castle and Court
Ruined castle beside a complete, unrestored, 14th century manor house; within Brecon Beacons National Park

Rating: ★★★★★

Peaks



Black Mountain Fans
Black Mountain Fans
Summits along a dramatic ridge above two isolated lakes, on the west side of the park

Rating: ★★★★★
Fan Fawr and Beacons Reservoir
Fan Fawr and Beacons Reservoir
Summit in the Fforest Fawr region, and a scenic reservoir lined by trees; explored by a 4 mile loop hike

Rating: ★★★★
Llangattock Escarpment
Llangattock Escarpment
Limestone cliffs below the rim of a grassy, boggy plateau with a wind-swept lake; site of several cave entrances, and 18th century quarries

Rating: ★★★★★
Pen y Fan and Fan y Big Horseshoe Walk
Pen y Fan and Fan y Big Horseshoe Walk
Spectacular loop hike to four summits in the Brecon Beacons, including the two highest points (Corn Du and Pen y Fan)

Rating: ★★★★★
Skirrid Fawr
Skirrid Fawr
Eastern outlier of the Black Mountains, circled by a 4 mile trail; overlooks a large area of south Wales

Rating: ★★★★★
Table Mountain, Pen Cerrig-calch and Pen Allt-mawr
Table Mountain, Pen Cerrig-calch and Pen Allt-mawr
Summits in the Black Mountains, reached by a 9 mile loop hike

Rating: ★★★★
Waun Fach, Grwyne Fawr and Nant Bwch
Waun Fach, Grwyne Fawr and Nant Bwch
Loop hike along ridges and valleys to several peaks on the north side of the Black Mountains

Rating: ★★★★

Waterfalls and Gorges



Afon Nedd Fechan
Afon Nedd Fechan
Major river flowing through a deep, wooded valley, over three large waterfalls and several lesser cascades; explored by the Elidir Trail

Rating: ★★★★
Afon Pyrddin
Afon Pyrddin
Cascades and two major waterfalls along a tributary of the Afon Nedd Fechan, flowing partly through a deep, wooded gorge

Rating: ★★★★
Caerfanell Waterfalls
Caerfanell Waterfalls
Up to 20 waterfalls in wooded gorges along the upper section of the Caerfanell River, and its tributary Nant Bwrefwr

Rating: ★★★★
Clydach Gorge
Clydach Gorge
Wooded valley containing a powerful river that forms several waterfalls and enclosed sections; also caves, old railway lines and industrial relics

Rating: ★★★★
Cwm Llwch
Cwm Llwch
Valley on the north side of the Brecon Beacons, containing waterfalls and a secluded glacial lake

Rating: ★★★★★
Four Waterfalls Walk
Four Waterfalls Walk
Four varied falls along the Mellte and Hepste rivers near Ystradfellte in the Brecon Beacons, set in deep, wooded valleys, near Ystradfellte

Rating: ★★★★★
Nant Ddu
Nant Ddu
Pathless valley south of Pen y Fan, containing several pretty waterfalls

Rating: ★★★★★
Nant Llech and Henrhyd Falls
Nant Llech and Henrhyd Falls
Short river flowing over the highest waterfall in south Wales, then through a deep valley containing several other cascades

Rating: ★★★★
Nant Pyrgad and Pistyll Crawnon
Nant Pyrgad and Pistyll Crawnon
Waterfalls at the head of the Dyffryn Crawnon valley, southwest of Llangynidr, including the tributary of Nant Pyrgad

Rating: ★★★★★
Sychryd Gorge
Sychryd Gorge
Short gorge along the River Sychryd, containing several impressive waterfalls and some old mine relics

Rating: ★★★★
Taf Fechan Gorge
Taf Fechan Gorge
Pretty, tree-lined valley between Merthyr Tydfil and Pontsarn, containing a river that forms pools, cascades and some narrow, sheer-walled sections

Rating: ★★★★


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