11 of the Best Things to do in the Brecon Beacons

The Beacons are perfect for the outdoors adventurer, showcasing some of the very best that Wales has to offer. This guide covers the best things to do in the Brecon Beacons National Park to help you plan your trip.

At a little over 500 square miles, the Brecon Beacons National Park punches well above its weight when it comes to things to do. With castles, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, wildlife and incredible walks, there really is something for everyone here.

Spread across some of the most beautiful countryside that mid and south Wales has to offer, tucked up against the English border, the Beacons are one of the most accessible parts of Wales to explore. When you add in sweeping mountain roads with glorious views, you get the added bonus of a great road trip.

With the sheer variety of activities on offer, it can all seem a bit daunting. If you’re only here for a couple of days then I’d recommend doing a hill walk on one day and then enjoy some waterfalls and castles the next. If you’ve got a little longer then you can add in some of the water-based activities or try your hand at caving.

Here are the best things to do in the Brecon Beacons along with some essentials you’ll need to plan your own visit to this stunning part of Wales.

11 of the Best Things to do in the Brecon Beacons

Get Your Walking Boots On

Obviously, the Brecon Beacons National Park is famous for its sheer variety of walking routes. Whether you’re after something long, short, challenging or chilled there’s actually a hike for everyone. One of my favourite things about walking here is the diversity of landscapes – from moors to mountains, valleys and stunning waterfalls.

The hardest thing (other than dragging yourself up another hill) might actually be deciding which trail to pick. I recommend considering the following 3 things:
1. Your level of fitness – there are a LOT of hills on some trails.
2. The amount of time you have available – most routes require 2-3 hours, but there are many longer options.
3. What you want to see – some routes feature mountains, others have reservoirs and there are also amazing waterfalls to be found.

READ THIS | The Best Walks in the Brecon Beacons (coming soon)

Multi-Day Walking in the Brecon Beacons

If you’re fairly fit, have at least a week, want to see all the highlights of the Beacons on foot and are up for a bit of a challenge then you could tackle the Beacons Way. It’s a stunning multi-day hike from Abergavenny in the East through to Bethlehem in the West.

You’ll climb Pen y Fan, South Britain’s highest peak; walk through Fforest Fawr, a Dark Skies reserve and UNESCO Geopark and encounter the legend of the Lady of the Lake at Lyn y Fan Fach.

At 99 miles (159km), the full route will take about 8 days to complete and is definitely at the challenging end of the spectrum. You need to be fully prepared for hiking on unmarked trails in mountains with highly changeable weather. Alternatively, you could tackle the route in sections over a few weekends.

Day Walks in the Brecon Beacons

You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to day hikes. There are multiple routes to climb Pen y Fan with a variety of difficulties. I really enjoyed the Horseshoe Ridge which is a challenging 10 mile (16km) hill walk.

To get away from the crowds you might want to consider a trip to the Black Mountains region in the East where you can climb the Dragonsback Ridge. Alternatively, take a visit to the Black Mountain range in the West, home to the beautiful Llyn y Fan Fach and Llyn y Fan Fawr circular.

Waterfall Walks in the Brecon Beacons

If high peaks aren’t really your thing then some of the best waterfalls in the country can be found in close proximity. It’s up to you whether you want to take a leisurely walk to one or two, or the full circular Pontneddfechan Waterfalls route that will make you work for it.

Get Your Feet Wet

There are loads of options for getting out on the water here, with lakes, rivers and canals scattered through the region. The Brecon Beacons Water Trail is a great place to start, running from Brecon through to Talybont-on-Usk along the Usk River.

Boating, canoeing and kayaking in the Brecon Beacons

The X43 bus runs between Brecon and Talybont, allowing you to paddle the 6.5 miles of the route and then catch public transport back to your starting point. You will need a licence to use the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal, which can be obtained from the Canal River Trust or by having British Canoeing membership.

TIP | If you’re planning to go it alone, there are various regulations in place on the waterways. Check where you want to paddle on the River Wye, River Usk and the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal.

Depending on your starting location, there are several options for hiring boats so that you can explore the waterways on your own. Alternatively, you can opt for a guided tour. Popular locations for paddling are the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, the River Wye, the River Usk and Llangorse Lake.

Who | Beacon Park Day Boats
Where | Llangattock, 7 miles west of Abergavenny
What | Boat and canoe hire
Cost | £50-120 per day

Who | Riverstrokes
Where | Digeddi, 1.5 miles from Hay-on-Wye
What | Kayaking courses, holidays and trips
Cost | from £180 for a weekend course

Who | Black Mountain Adventure
Where | Brecon
What | Kayak & canoe hire/courses. Rafting
Cost | half-day hire £26, full-day £36

Who | Lakeside Caravan Park
Where | Llangorse Lake
What | Rowboats, kayaks, canoes and SUPs
Cost | from £10/30 mins

Swimming in the Brecon Beacons

If you’re more into jumping into the water then there are a significant number of spots for wild swimming here. Just remember that reservoirs are strictly off limits – there are currents and machinery hidden under the water and people do actually die swimming in them. The water in most of Wales is, not to put too fine a point on it, bloody freezing. You’ve been warned!

Stand-Up Paddleboarding in the Brecon Beacons

Stand-up paddleboarding is another fun option on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, with a popular launch point at Talybont. Alternatively, many of the lakes in the area also allow paddleboarding – just make sure that there aren’t any signs forbidding launching and you’re good to go.

If you don’t have your own board you can hire one from Black Mountain from £26.00 per board (cost includes SUP, Paddle, Leash, Buoyancy Aid & Transport)

Go Chasing Waterfalls

Because we all know that TLC got it horribly wrong. Some of the best waterfalls in the country can be found in the Brecon Beacons, you’ve just got to do a little bit of leg work to get to them.

One of the easiest to visit is Sgwd Gwladys, which is an easy 1.3 mile (2.1km) stroll along the Elidir Trail from Pontneddfechan. The path is relatively flat, if a little muddy in parts, and about a 1-hour return from the village. There’s plenty of parking in the village itself, and a lovely cafe and a couple of pubs to fuel you for the trip.

READ THIS | The Best Waterfall Walk in Wales – Pontneddfechan Waterfalls Walk

You can extend the Elidir Trail by another mile or so, which will allow you to enjoy another 3 small waterfalls and take you to a picnic area by the river. Doing this will give you a 2-3 hour moderate walk and is the easiest way to enjoy waterfall country.

Two of the best waterfalls in the area, in my opinion, are Sgwd Henrhyd (a steep 10 minute walk from the carpark) and Sgwd yr Eira (5 miles/8 km and 2.5h return from Pontneddfechan). You can walk behind both of these along good trails, and it’s definitely a thrill when the falls are in full force. In warmer weather the pools below are a lovely place to cool off.

Experience the Breacon Beacons Red Kite Conservation Success Story

A visit to the Red Kite Feeding Station in the northwest of the park is a mindblowing experience. You’ll get to witness dozens of red kites spiralling in the air above you, before they start diving down for food. The red kite was protected by Royal Decree in the middle ages, and killing one would lead to someone killing you.

Some time in the 16th century, though, they started to be considered (along with other large birds of prey) as vermin, with a bounty placed on them. By the late 1800s, the kite was extinct in Scotland and England, and as few as 20 breeding pairs existed in Wales up until the 1960s.

TIP | Combine a visit to the Red Kite Feeding Station with a visit to the Llyn y Fan Fach reservoir

Thanks to programs like those in Llanddheusant, providing the kites with a regular food source, there are now in excess of 1500 breeding pairs in the UK, accounting for about 7% of the world’s population. Sitting in one of the hides, watching these incredible birds performing their aerial acrobatics is a must if you’re in this area of the park.

What | Llanddheusant Red Kite Feeding Centre
Where | Llanddheusant, in the northwest of the park
Cost | £5/adult
Hours | Feeding is at 3pm BST, 2pm the rest of the year. Closed Mon/Tues.

Climb Every Mountain

Okay, not every mountain, but there are more than a few places suitable for climbing here in the Beacons. If you’re an experienced climber then you definitely don’t need me to tell you where to go and what to do, but if you’re a novice then there are several companies that will sort you out with a trip.

Some of the popular areas for climbing are Morlais Quarry, near Merthyr Tydfil and Dinas Rock, just outside Pontneddfechan. You should allow at least 3-5 hours for organised climbing activities. Adventure Britain, Into the Blue and Mountain and River Activities all organise climbing sessions in the Beacons.

Head Underground

Once you’ve done some of the outdoors activities, why not take some time to explore what’s under your feet?! Whilst it’s definitely not for everyone, caving in the Brecon Beacons National Park is an incredible experience. The Geopark contains four of the five longest limestone cave systems in Britain and the caving here is considered to be some of the best in the world!

Perhaps the idea of squeezing through tiny caves in the dark totally freaks you out. Well, good news, you can still explore some of the largest caves in the area at the National Showcaves Centre for Wales. There are three beautiful cave systems to explore, including Cathedral Cave where waterfalls cascade into underground rivers.

What | National Showcaves Centre for Wales
Where | Dan yr Ogof, in the Southwest of the National Park. Map.
Cost | £16/adult
Book | here
Open | Daily 10am-5pm

If you’re a solo adventurer then, obviously, you shouldn’t be heading into any cave system on your own. The folks at Learn to Cave run a very cool Caving Weekend option, with the opportunity to meet other people of your ability. Other options are Blue Ocean Adventure (from £40/2.5h) and Hawk Adventures (£275/full day).

Get on your Bike

Biking in the Brecon Beacons is incredibly popular, with trails suitable for mountain biking, road cycling and traffic-free routes all available. Two long-distance cycling routes also run through the park in the form of the Taff Trail and Lôn Las Cymru.

Just like walking here, there’s a huge variety of terrain to choose from. Here’s a quick selection of some of the best cycle routes depending on your choice of ride:
For experienced mountain bikers there’s the Black Mountains Blitz, the Long Gap or Doethie Valley.
Road cyclists should check out the Gospel Pass Loop, the Abergavenny Loop or the Brecon Loop.
Traffic-free and easier routes include the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal Trail, the Usk Reservoir Loop or the Talybont Reservoir Loop.

TIP | Pick up a copy of Mountain Biking in the Brecon Beacons to get all the information to plan your own trip.

You might, however, be like me. A person who simply cannot motivate themselves to do a bike ride solo. Which is weird since I’m totally happy to go on an epic hike alone. In the event that you want a little more guidance, check out the guided mountain bike trips with Treads and Trails.

If you want to try cycling here but don’t have your own bike, then you can hire a mountain bike from Bikes & Hikes or Biped Cycles. Drover Cycles in Hay-on-Wye have the widest selection of bikes available including electric, tandem and road bikes in addition to mountain bikes.

Become King or Queen of the Castle

There are literally dozens of castles scattered throughout this part of Wales. It’s just a question of deciding which ones you want to visit. I really love Castell Carreg Cennen, perched on top of a limestone crag with amazing views across the western Beacons.

Other impressive castle ruins in the area can be found in Hay, Brecon and Tretower, but it’s honestly just a question of keeping your eyes open. You’re bound to find one wherever you go!

What | Carreg Cennen Castle
Where | Trapp, in the west of the park
Cost | £5.50/adult
Hours | April-Oct 9:30am-6pm; Nov-Mar 9:30am-4:30pm

What | Hay Castle
Where | Hay-on-Wye, in the northeast of the park
Cost | n/a
Hours | currently closed for restoration (2021)

What | Brecon Castle
Where | the grounds of the Brecon Castle Hotel, Brecon in the north of the park
Cost | n/a
Hours | as hotel

What | Tretower Castle
Where | Tretower, in the east of the park
Cost | £6.90/adult (free with Cadw membership)
Hours | 16 April – 31 Oct 10am-5pm Wed-Sun (closed 1-2pm); 1 Nov – 31 Mar 10am-4pm Fri-Sun only

Hunt for the Milky Way

The Brecon Beacons National Park became an International Dark Skies Reserve in 2012 thanks to the lack of light pollution in the region. At the correct time of year on a moonless night, you can easily see the Milky Way with the naked eye. In Wales, you’re looking at mid-April to mid-July as the best times to see the Galactic Core.

READ THIS | Top Astrophotography Tips for Beginners (coming soon)

There are several locations that are considered to be some of the best for the darkness of the skies. I’d recommend Llanthony Priory, Carreg Cennen Castle, Sugarloaf Mountain and Llangorse Lake for some of the best landscapes for photographers.

For those who just want to do some stargazing, you can have a picnic beside the Usk or Pontsticill Reservoirs and then set up for the night. If you’d like a little more guidance then Dark Sky Wales run events throughout the year to show you what you’re looking at.

Who | Dark Skies Wales
What | Group stargazing and astrophotography trips
Cost | £20 for group stargazing, £55 for astrophotography

Get Stuck Into some Local Food and Drink

With all the activities and walking you’ll be doing whilst you’re here, it only makes sense to sort out some eating and drinking options. Fortunately for you, there’s a wealth of options to choose from. I love the farmers markets for stocking the van, and you can find the hours and locations of all of them here.

The Farm Shop at the Welsh Venison Centre is a treasure trove of local produce and run by the loveliest family. You’ll find lots of organic veggies and other local goodies, so this place isn’t all about the meat. Although if you eat it this looked like a great place to buy.

Food Festivals In the Brecon Beacons

Hay-on-Wye usually hosts a food festival to coincide with its summer and winter festivals in June and November. In Brecon, you’ll find the Brecon Beacons Food Festival in October. There’s also the Abergavenny Food Festival in September. All of these are a wonderful opportunity to sample food and drink from local producers.

Cafes in the Brecon Beacons

If you decide to tackle Pen Y Fan via the Beacons Horseshoe Ridge walk, then I thoroughly recommend popping into the Old Barn Tea Room for the full afternoon tea treatment. You’ll need to bring cash as there’s no internet signal for the credit card machines to work!

Whilst it’s pretty easy to find a meaty meal in this part of the world, vegans and veggies have it slightly tougher. Cafe Chameleon in Ystradgynlais is a great option, having recently gone meat free. The Honey Cafe in Bronllys uses local suppliers and also has a good selection of veggie and vegan options.

Penderyn Distillery

We all know that I’m a big fan of gin, so it should come as no surprise that I’m a firm supporter of Penderyn, who started as a whisky distillery but now sell a large range of Brecon Gin. Their tours and tastings, unfortunately for me, are all about the whisky, but they’ll let you taste a gin if you ask nicely!

Where | Penderyn, in the south of the park
What | Distillery tours and masterclasses
Cost | £11.50/adult
Hours | Shop 9am-5pm, Tours 10am-6pm

Take to the Skies

So you’ve walked the length and breadth of the Brecon Beacons, jumped in the water, climbed and caved then eaten and drunk your fill. Why not do something totally different and go join those red kites in the skies? You’ll find some of the best paragliding and gliding in the country here, so now seems like a perfect time to learn. Right?!

Tandem paragliding flights, where you’ll be strapped in with a fully qualified instructor can be booked with Axis Paragliding or Crickhowell Paragliding. You can give gliding a go with the Black Mountains Gliding Club.

How to get to the Brecon Beacons National Park

Although the park feels like it’s in another world when you’re here, it’s actually pretty easy to get to by either public or private transport.

If you’re driving, it’s a little under 4 hours from London or an hour from Cardiff, where there’s also an International Aiport.

Abergavenny is serviced by train on the Cardiff to Manchester line, and can be reached from London Paddington with a change at Newport. Merthyr Tydfil also has a train station. I recommend booking in advance on the Train Line as tickets are usually cheaper this way.

To reach the town of Brecon you can take the T4 Cardiff-Newtown bus or the T6 Swansea-Brecon.

If you’re planning to take multiple forms of public transport on your trip then it’s worth looking into the Explore Wales Pass which is valid for 4 days of travel within an 8 day period.

Where to Stay in the Brecon Beacons

There are a multitude of accommodations to suit all tastes in the park, so it’s really a question of deciding on where you want to base yourself.

For the East of the park you’re best off looking at options in Hay-on-Wye, Abergavenny and Crickhowell. This will enable you to explore the Black Mountains area. There are, obviously, many options outside of these main towns.

READ THIS | Where to Eat, Drink and Stay in the Brecon Beacons (coming soon)

For the centre of the park, where you’ll find Pen y Fan and many of the caving experiences, Brecon is a good option in the north. In the south, although just outside the park, Merthyr Tydfil has a wide range of accommodation types and is close to waterfall country.

The west of the park, where you’ll find the Black Mountain, Carreg Cennen Castle and the Red Kite Feeding Station, there aren’t any large centres to speak of. You’ll find a small cluster of options in Llandeilo, just outside the park.

Getting around the Brecon Beacons

Undoubtedly the easiest way to explore the region is with your own wheels. If you don’t have a car then I’d suggesting hiring one whilst you’re here, since it will enable you to cover the most ground in the time you have.

If you’re planning on sticking to a smaller area then it’s possible that public transport, your bike, or your own two feet will do the job. Be mindful of the changeability of the weather in the mountains and the fact that the terrain here is far from flat.

Many of the roads are single track with poor visibility and high hedgerows so drive accordingly. Familiarise yourself with the rules of driving on country lanes, take it slow, and always be prepared for sheep (and cyclists) to appear out of nowhere.

Planning A Trip To Wales?

With world-class hiking, incredible cycle paths, and a blossoming local produce scene, Wales is one of the most underrated destinations in Europe. Here are more posts to help you plan your own trip to this wonderful part of the UK.

TRAVEL INSURANCE | Don’t go anywhere without it! I use and recommend Safety Wing.

THOUGHTFUL TRAVEL | No matter where you go, always be aware of the fact that travel impacts the place and people that live there. Being a thoughtful traveller is more critical than ever. Here are my top tips to make your trip a mindful one.

PHOTOGRAPHY | Love my photos and want to know how to take better shots on your own trips? Then my photography guide is for you. Here’s all the photography gear I use too. Want to buy one of my images? Head to the Print Store.

ESSENTIAL GEAR | You’ll find my travel essentials here, and a complete guide to all my hiking gear here.


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