max 886 meters
Discover rolling, green valleys, lofty peaks and lush dense forest — all to the chorus of a thousand stunning waterfalls. Welcome to Brecon Beacons National Park.
Neatly tucked away behind the rolling valleys of stunning South Wales, Brecon Beacons National Park is a breathtaking slice of untouched Welsh landscape. The perfect adventure playground, you’ll find the highest peaks south of Snowdonia, vast woodland and countless magical waterfalls — all in a mere 45-minute drive from Wales’ capital city.
Brecon Beacons National Park
One of Wales’ three national parks, Brecon Beacons straddles the counties of Powys, Monmouthshire and Carmarthenshire. It comprises the Central Beacons ridge in the middle of the park, the mighty Black Mountains to the east, and a network of interconnected forests, valleys, rivers and lakes. Known as Waterfall Country, the park is also home to hundreds of breathtaking waterfalls that toss water down through the valleys. So you can see it all, thousands of miles of well-maintained hiking, cycling and mountain biking paths wind through the park.
Due to the vastness of the region, there’s practically nothing that you cannot do in the park. Fancy a day on the water? You’ll find innumerable waterways ranging from grades 1 to 6, which are perfect for rafting, canyoning, canoeing or kayaking. Want to discover what lies beneath your feet? Explore the fascinating Dan yr Ogof show caves, the UK’s largest cave system, located in the west of the park. If you’d prefer to go in the opposite direction, three distinct mountain ranges bring you into the clouds — perfect for hikers, climbers and mountain bikers alike. And when you need to unwind after a long day of adventuring, an array of quirky accommodation options — from ‘glamping’ style yurts to quaint country cottages — invite you to spend a cosy night under a blanket of a billion stars.
Pen y Fan
Pen y Fan is the park’s premier attraction, being the highest mountain in the UK south of Snowdonia. At 886 metres, most can reach the summit in 2 hours or less — but that doesn’t mean your hike is going to be an easy one. From whichever direction you approach, whether you start at the popular Storey Arms car park, ascend from Brecon town itself, or come up from the pretty Upper Neuadd Reservoir area, the final push is going to put you through your paces. Pen y Fan and its two neighbours, Corn Du and Cribyn, are also some of the busiest peaks in the country, so you may have to contend with some crowds at the top. But don’t worry: The vastness of this place means you’ll easily be able to find a quiet spot to enjoy the stunning views by yourself.
The easiest route up starts at the Pont ar Daf car park and follows the Beacons Way to the summit of Corn Du. From there, it’s a pleasant stroll over to the summit of Pen y Fan. If you’re looking for a more challenging hike, however, consider completing the popular ‘Horseshoe’. This walk starts and ends at the Upper Neuadd car park and takes you up over the peaks of Cribyn, Pen y Fan and Corn Du, before bringing you back along the opposing ridge to your car. This walk will take you around three and half hours.
Whichever route you take, always bring rain gear. You have to be quite lucky to enjoy clear skies from the top of Pen y Fan, so even if it’s dry on the valley floor, it may be raining at the summit.
Brecon Beacons National Park is easily accessible from practically anywhere in the UK. From Wales’ capital city, for example, it’s a mere 45 minute drive, whereas it’ll take you a little over 3 hours to drive here from London. Once you’re in the park, many of the roads are extremely narrow and often only allow for one car to pass at a time.
If you’re travelling on public transport, the main train station in the nearby town of Merthyr Tydfil welcomes trains from the larger surrounding cities of Newport, Cardiff, Hereford and Birmingham. Buses also travel regularly to (and through) the park. Bringing your bike? National Express coaches also come equipped with bike racks.
Wildlife and plants
Brecon Beacons National Park is home to a huge array of wildlife, birdlife and plantlife. In the skies and the treetops, you’ll find kestrels, reed warblers, ravens, peregrine falcons and even a red kite if you’re lucky. If you don’t get to spot one in the wild, the Red Kite Feeding Station in Llangadog offers visitors a rare chance to visit this elusive bird of prey up close.
If you head up to Pen y Fan or Corn Du in the Central Beacons mountains, you’ll almost certainly encounter the increasingly rare Welsh Mountain Pony. With fewer than 1,000 breeding mares left in the wild, this beautiful creature is officially endangered. Additionally, badgers, otters, dormice, bats and — naturally for the rolling Welsh pastures — an innumerable number of sheep call the park home.
Around the lakes in spring, you may also be lucky enough to spot the great crested newt. Akin to a dinosaur or a shrunken-down komodo dragon, these interesting little lizards are a European Protected Species, so be sure not to disturb any if you’re lucky enough to come across them.
As for the fauna of the park, there’s plenty of beautiful plant life to see here, too. Due to the wet, protected and fairly warm climate of the region, there’s life everywhere, ranging from the mighty oak, ash and yew trees that comprise the forests to the host of various fern species that can be seen lining the grazing pastures. Interestingly, along many of the dense waterways, a canopy of sorts has developed above the forest, giving birth to a ‘Welsh rainforest’, a unique and stunning eco-system, the likes of which are rarely seen anywhere else on the planet.
Where to stay
Brecon Beacons National Park is home to innumerable accommodation options, ranging from campsites to luxury hotels. Bed and breakfasts are also in abundance in every corner of the park, it’s just recommended you book in advance before your visit.
Activities in the park
kayaking / rafting
When should I visit the park?
The park is open and accessible year-round, although visiting between May and September will increase your chances of experiencing dry, clear weather.
Do I need to stick to trails?
Much of the park falls under the Right to Roam laws, so you can walk freely. Maps denoting specific areas where these rules do not apply are available at the National Park Offices.
Can I go wild camping?
No. Wild camping is prohibited in the park.
Can I bring my dog?
Dogs are fully permitted in the park, although it is requested that they remain on a lead due to the extensive livestock grazing throughout the park. There are also no dog-waste bins anywhere in the park.
Where do I park?
There are numerous car parks throughout the park. Many are completely free of charge.
Is the use of drones permitted?
Drone use is permitted in specific parts of the park. More information is available by contacting the national park authority.
National parks in Wales
There are three stunning national parks in Wales: Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia and Pembrokeshire Coast.
In total, Great Britain counts 15 national parks: Brecon Beacons, Broads, Cairngorms, Dartmoor, Exmoor, Lake District, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, New Forest, Northumberland, North York Moors, Peak District, Pembrokeshire Coast, Snowdonia, South Downs and Yorkshire Dales. The national parks cover an area of almost 2 million hectares. Within continental Europe, only Norway surpasses this.