Home to some of the most spectacular scenery in Wales, the Brecon Beacons National Park is as diverse as it is beautiful. Boasting high mountain plateaus, thundering waterfalls, rolling heathland and craggy castles, the Brecon Beacons is an ideal spot if you want to get away from it all and enjoy the Great Outdoors. With so much to see and do here, putting together an itinerary can be tricky – so to help you out and get you inspired, here are 9 places to visit in the Brecon Beacons.
1. Llangorse Lake
As the largest natural lake in Wales, Llangorse Lake is a haven for watersports enthusiasts, and if you’re looking to do a spot of sailing, boating, canoeing, windsurfing or water-skiing on your holiday, you won’t find a better spot. This ancient glacial lake is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and there’s plenty of interesting wildlife to spot here too. Keep an eye out for otters, water voles, and birds including warblers, swifts, and Canada geese.
Surrounded by a tapestry of green hills, meadows, and fields, Llangorse Lake is also just a great spot to enjoy a relaxing day by the water – and you can admire gorgeous views of the Black Mountains as you sunbathe. The village of Llangorse is well worth a visit too. There are some lovely pubs and cafes here, and if you’re interested in history, be sure to visit St Paulinus church, which has a ‘weeping sanctuary’, a Byfield organ, and six historic bells.
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2. Pen y Fan
If you want to enjoy some hiking on your holiday, the Brecon Beacons certainly isn’t short of trails – but if you fancy a bit of challenge, not to mention some jaw-dropping views, then you might want to think about trekking up to Pen Y Fan. As the highest peak in South Wales (886m), Pen Y Fan is enormously popular with hikers, and though this is a strenuous mountain walk, there are several different routes you can take depending on how big a challenge you want.
Most hikers set off from The Storey Arms Centre on a four-mile circular walk that’s generally pretty manageable – though the views of the wild, sweeping moorlands will still take your breath away – and from the top you can admire views of the Severn Estuary, the Cambrian Mountains, Gower, and Somerset. If you’re in the mood for a more vigorous hike, you can follow an 11-mile circuit that also takes you past the mighty Corn Du (873m) and Cribyn (795m): two summits that were used as burial places in the Bronze Age.
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3. Brecon Mountain Railway
The Brecon Beacons are known for their mountains and hills, and if you want to admire the beauty of this dramatic region but feel like taking it easy, then why not take the train? But not just any old train – the Brecon Mountain Railway. At the village of Pant, you can climb aboard a vintage steam locomotive that takes you through the Brecon Beacons National Park, where you can marvel at sensational views of the mountains and lakes.
From Pant, the train will chug along the full length of the Taf Fechan Reservoir, stopping at the lovely village of Pontsticill where you can have lunch at the café, enjoy an invigatoring walk around the water, and admire views across the reservoir to the peaks of the Beacons. After, the train will climb up to the station of Torpantau before returning to Pant, where you can visit the workshop where the old locomotives are repaired. A wonderfully unique way to enjoy the beauty of this national park!
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4. Penderyn Distillery
We all know that Scotland and Ireland produce top-quality whisky – but what about Wales? Deep in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons is the Penderyn Distillery, which just so happens to be the only whisky distillery in Wales. Established in 2000, Penderyn Distillery’s Visitor Centre is one of the top visitor attractions in South Wales – and for good reason. Penderyn produces award-winning single malt whiskies, and if you’re a fan of this golden drink, you can’t miss the Penderyn distillery tour.
Led by an expert guide, this is your chance to explore the exhibition area, where you’ll take a journey through the Welsh history of whisky making, and wander through the distillery itself, where you’ll visit the mill, mash tun, washbacks, and stills, and see how whisky is made. The tour includes tastings – and you can also sample Penderyn’s other spirits, which include cream liqueur, vodka, gin, and rum. If you fancy yourself as a bit of a whisky connoisseur, you can even take the Masterclass – although these need to be booked in advance.
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5. Henrhyd Falls
The Brecon Beacons aren’t short of impressive waterfalls – there’s a reason part of the national park is nicknamed ‘Waterfall Country’! But, if you only visit one waterfall during your holiday, you should probably make it Henrhyd Falls. Hidden away on the western edge of the Beacons, and plunging 90ft into a densely wooded gorge, Henrhyd Falls isn’t only the highest waterfall in South Wales. It also has the honour of doubling as the Batcave in the film The Dark Knight Rises.
Whether you’re a fan of the Caped Crusader or just enjoy exploring spectacular beauty spots, Henrhyd Falls is well worth a visit. It’s one of the only waterfalls in the country that allows you to walk behind it, and the pool at the bottom is perfect for a spot of wild swimming. The surrounding Graig Llech Woods are filled with wildlife, so why not take a hike after you’ve visited the falls? Keep an eye out for birds like woodpeckers, tree creepers, warblers, and wrens, and in the falls themselves, you may even spot some trout jumping!
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6. Llanthony Priory
Located on the northeast border of the Brecon Beacons, in the stunning Vale of Ewyas, is Llanthony Priory, a must-visit attraction for history buffs and nature enthusiasts alike. Tucked beneath the brooding Black Mountains are the ruins of a former Augustian Priory, and this evocative site has got to be one of the most atmospheric places to visit in South Wales. Though Llanthony has long been abandoned, its former magnificence lives on, and while today it’s a 900-year-old ruin, you can still see that it was once one of Wales’ grandest Gothic buildings.
The history of Llanthony is just as fascinating as its architecture. When Norman knight William de Lacy came across a dilapidated chapel, he decided to found a hermitage and build a church here, and from 1118 to 1539 Llanthony became a peaceful monastery of Augustinian canons. Nearby is the River Afon Honddu, which is the perfect setting for a walk – and if you fancy some refreshments after, why not enjoy a drink or meal at Llanthony Priory Hotel? Nestled within the grounds of the historic priory, this has got to be one of the most beautiful places to sip a pint!
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If you’re a lover of literature, you simply can’t pass up a visit to the town of Hay-on-Wye. Situated on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, on the banks of the winding River Wye, this small market town is famous all around the world for being a hub of literature and culture. The annual Hay Festival of Literature is known as ‘Woodstock of the mind’, and if you’re someone who loves a good browse in an interesting secondhand bookshop, you’ll be utterly spoiled for choice.
There are over 30 bookshops to visit here, including the popular crime and horror bookshop Murder & Mayhem, as well as Rose’s Books, which specialises in rare and out-of-print children’s books. But this town is packed not only with bookshops but with galleries, music shops, boutiques shops, and arts and craft stores too – so if you’re looking to pick up some unique souvenirs on your holiday, this is the place to head. Packed with quirkiness and culture, as well as dozens of characterful pubs, restaurants, and cafes, Hay-on-Wye makes a wonderful base for exploring the Beacons.
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8. Carreg Cennen Castle
Located on the Western edge of the Brecon Beacons is Carreg Cennen, which is known as Wales’ most spectacularly positioned castle. Dating back to the 1200s, this castle has a fascinating history, but its setting – perched on a steep hilltop overlooking the rolling green countryside, and dominating the skyline from miles around – is just as impressive. From the moment you first glimpse Carreg Cennen, and see the sky silhouetted through the arches of this enormous fortress, you’ll see why it’s been voted the most romantic ruin in Wales.
Carreg Cennen is believed to have been built by John Giffard, who fought for Edward I in the battle of Irfon Bridge in 1282. Over the years it survived several sieges, including one during the rebellion of Welsh Prince Owain Glyndwr in 1403, and it had part of its interior destroyed after the War of the Roses, too. Be sure to explore the nearby natural cave, as well as the vaulted passage that’s carved into the cliff – and if you’re in need of some refreshments after, you can relax in the cosy tearoom.
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9. Skirrid Mountain Inn
If you’re fascinated by ghosts and the paranormal (or you’re just interested in rather macabre history) then you can’t pass up a visit to the Skirrid Mountain Inn, which isn’t only Wales’ oldest pub – it’s also said to be the most haunted. Standing for over 900 years, the Skirrid Mountain Inn has become entirely intertwined with the history and folklore of this region – and not only did Owain Glyndwr once rally his troops here, but Shakespeare himself is said to have been inspired by the inn.
Steeped in myths, legends, and terrifying tales, today you can still see the oak beam where hundreds of people were hanged over the years – and if you’re so inclined, you can even go on a ghost tour here – or, if you’re brave enough, spend the night! But even if you’re not interested in the darker side of history, Skirrid is still worth a visit: the nearby Skirrid Fawr trail takes you through pretty woodland, before climbing up to the summit of Skirrid itself, where you can visit St Michael’s Church and admire some stunning views.
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Straddling the counties of Carmarthenshire, Powys and Monmouthshire, and covering more than 500 square miles, the Brecon Beacons is a beautiful spot for a staycation.
Boasting dramatic mountains, deep caves, thundering waters and tranquil reservoirs, the scenery here is incredibly varied, and perfectly suited for all kinds of outdoor activities, from hiking and cycling to swimming and canoeing. But equally, if you fancy taking it easy, there are dozens of characterful market towns, quaint villages, historic castles and lively pubs to visit – there truly is something for everyone here.
Are you thinking about visiting the Brecon Beacons this year? Or do you have any of your own Beacons tips you’d like to share with our readers? We’d love to hear about your holiday plans! Leave us a comment below, or join the conversation on the Rest Less community forum.