In the summer of 2021, I got the chance to stay in the Brecon Beacons in Wales. This is a National Park I have always wanted to visit and it is one of the most beautiful regions of Wales. The Beacons offers some amazing mountain landscapes, rolling hills, charming villages, and excellent natural scenery. It is the perfect place for those who enjoy exploring the outdoors and getting up close and personal with nature.
If you want to visit the Brecon Beacons, you will undoubtedly need inspiration on what to do! To help, I have listed four simple but exhilarating day trips within the Beacons that anyone can enjoy. Of course, there is more to do, but these are four popular things that anyone can undertake – even with children.
1. Climbing to the Summit of Pen-Y-Fan
- Location: Central region of the Brecon Beacons
- Website: https://www.visitwales.com/things-do/adventure-and-activities/walking/crowning-glory-4-ways-walk-pen-y-fan
- Opening Times: N/A
- Duration of Visit: Allow for 4+ hours depending on your route
One of the main attractions of the Brecon Beacons is the beacons themselves – the mountains! In the central region of this national park, you have access to some of the tallest mountains in South Wales.
The crown of this pack of peaks is Pen-Y-Fan. Pen-Y-Fan is the highest mountain in South Wales and stands at a height of 886m. It is actually a twin peak and stands next to the slightly lower summit of Corn Du at 873m.
If you want to test your physical endurance but aren’t ready to tackle some tougher mountains, Pen-Y-Fan is a brilliant starting place. This is a highly accessible summit and this is a hike that children can also accomplish.
There are four main routes to ascend Pen-Y-Fan which you can find detailed here. However, the easiest is undoubtedly the trail from the Pont ar Daf Car Park. The postcode of this car park is LD3 8NL and it is free to use. There is also usually a snack wagon there selling drinks and burgers.
Climbing Pen-Y-Fan from Pont ar Daf
The trail from this car park is self-explanatory. You can’t miss the initial path as it has various signposts and information boards. Once on the path, it’s essentially a straight climb until you reach the first main ridge. From here, the summit of Corn Du is to your left. You can bypass Corn Do if you want, but I would recommend the short walk to it – you can then say you have climbed the TWO highest peaks in South Wales.
From Corn Du, the summit of Pen-Y-Fan lies a short distance to your right. You have to walk down from Corn Du, and then up again. At the top of Pen-Y-Fan, the summit is quite spacious and there is a cairn together with a sign marking the top.
Once you have summited both Corn Du and Pen-Y-Fan, you can either head back down, or venture further on the trail to reach the other summits of Cribyn and Fan Y Big.
The Pen-Y-Fan walk is considered moderate difficulty. I found the trek challenging, but I am not exactly in the best shape! My advice is to take the walk at your own pace. From the Pont ar Daf car park, it is essentially a steady, continual incline until you reach the top – there aren’t many flat sections on this trail.
In total, the distance from the car park is approximately 4.5 miles. I would allow for 3-4 hours to complete the walk to the top and back again. You can do it faster, but it depends on your pace, and how much time you wish to spend at the top. The views are amazing, but the peaks are often shrouded in mist.
I would suggest taking a backpack with plenty of water and a few snacks. Also, wear sunscreen if it is sunny. For footwear, I wore a simple pair of sketchers trainers. I considered hiking boots, but the path to the summit is well maintained and quite stable. The only real difficult section of the terrain is the approach to the summit of Corn Du. Hiking boots may be a good idea after bad weather, but a sturdy pair of trainers are fine!
2. Walking the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal Trail
- Location: Brecon to Cwmbran
- Website: https://www.breconbeacons.org/things-to-do/attractions/natural/monmouthshire-brecon-canal
- Opening Times: Public byways
- Duration of Visit: As long as you want!
The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal is a monumental feat of human construction and ingenuity. This waterway stretches for some 35 miles through the Brecon Beacons. It starts in Brecon at the canal basin and continues in a southeasterly direction until it culminates in Cwmbran.
Much of this canal has a walking/cycling trail that runs alongside the water. As a result, it is an amazing route for long afternoons of walking or cycling. I walked a small section of this canal from Pencelli to Talybont-on-Usk – it was incredibly peaceful and the walk was serene.
Where to start from?
As this is such a long canal, there are numerous starting points. The obvious starting point is in Brecon itself. The town of Brecon is a great place to visit, and it has some interesting attractions of its own, such as the Royal Welsh Regimental Museum.
Alternatively, you could start at one of the many villages that are dotted along the length of the canal. For example, I parked just outside the small village of Pencelli. There is a pub here – The Royal Oak that serves some amazing traditional meals.
Notable points of interest
There aren’t many notable points along the trail and canal. It’s just a beautiful, peaceful, and picturesque place. The walking trail is well-maintained and it generally runs parallel to the canal. Depending on where you start from, you can pass through numerous places such as Talybont-on-Usk, Brecon, Pencelli, Llangynidr, Crickhollow, and Gilwern.
This is an easy walk or cycle. The walkways are well-maintained. Also, it’s virtually all flat. Along the trails, there are also regular benches or spots for a picnic.
The main consideration is finding somewhere to park, and toilet breaks! There can be long stretches without a village or any amenities so make sure you go to the toilet before you start!
You can plan your route between two villages, however, to make sure you have toilet access. The stretch I walked started and ended at a village, and I had a meal at a pub before setting out!
3. Visiting the National Botanical Gardens of Wales
- Location: Middleton Hall, Llanarthne SA32 8HN
- Website: https://botanicgarden.wales/
- Opening Times: See website
- Duration of Visit: Allow for 3+ hours
The Brecon Beacons are not just a place for walking. There is also a brilliant range of attractions for all the family to enjoy. One such place is the National Botanical Gardens of Wales. This is a similar attraction to the Eden Project in Cornwall and has something for everyone.
The site actually lies outside the Brecon Beacons National Park, but it is highly accessible along the A40 that runs through it. In the sections below I will describe the main attractions of this exciting centre.
This park has a wealth of beautifully maintained gardens. You could easily spend hours simply walking around the grounds and admiring the various gardens. Obviously, the best time to visit is during the spring and summer – when the flowers and plants are growing and blossoming.
The walled garden is particularly pleasant and has some gorgeous flower arrangements, and a section dedicated to home gardening. Also, there is a tropical glasshouse that contains exotic plants from tropical climates.
The British Bird of Prey Centre
There is also the separate British Bird of Prey Centre. This is within the grounds of the National Botanical Garden, but you pay a separate entry fee – it’s only £3 and I highly recommend visiting it. Within the centre there is a range of different birds including an Eagle Owl, Red Kites, Kestrel, and Golden Eagle.
The birds look really well cared for, and there is also a wealth of information about each species. At set times throughout the day, they also host live demonstrations with the birds. It is fantastic to see them fly and learn more about their behaviour.
The main attraction for many is the immense glass biodome. This is a huge structure and is just impressive to look at! However, inside it also contains a brilliant array of plants, trees, and flowers from Mediterranean climates.
It is fantastic to walk through the dome and explore the different areas. For children and nature lovers, it is also highly factual with information on the plants, and the different regions represented here.
There is virtually everything you need inside the gardens. It has fantastic amenities including toilets, cafes, and a play area for children. Also, the ticket prices are reasonable, and there is a large car park with plenty of overflow. You can find details on admission prices here.
4. Walking the Trails at Talybont Reservoir
- Location: Talybont-on-Usk
- Website: N/A
- Opening Times: N/A
- Duration of Visit: Allow for 2+ hours
If you want a shorter adventure to fill an afternoon, Talybont Reservoir is a great place to explore. This freshwater reservoir is located to the north of the village of Talybont-on-Usk, and to the east of Pen-Y-Fan and the Beacons.
It is a fantastic place for walking and you can make the walk as long or as short as you wish. There is a complete trail surrounding the reservoir but some of the walking routes also branch off and join to other long-distance treks.
Where to start from?
There is no designated car park for the reservoir. However, at the side of the dammed section, there is a layby where you can park for free. This fills up quickly, however, and there is a smaller layby further down that road which is also a great place to sit for a picnic.
The dam of the reservoir is a spectacular sight and I always wonder at how these places were constructed. You can see down from the dam to the outlet flow of the reservoir and the water station below. Also, there is a beautiful tower that sits in the water and is connected by a small bridge to the walkway. You will often see flocks of nesting swallows here.
Visit The Brecon Beacons Today and Enjoy These Day Trips!
I hope this article has given you inspiration. I thoroughly enjoyed these day trips and they made my time in the Brecon Beacons memorable. Please remember that this is only a handful of things to do in the Brecon Beacons. It is a huge National Park and there are many other hidden gems to see!