Top Five: Ways to Explore the Brecon Beacons National ParkBy Angelica Malin
The Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales is the ideal country escape for those looking for a weekend away from the 9-5 rat race. Just a two and half hour train journey from London, explore the expansive park comprising of over 500 square miles of beautifully serene and secluded countryside. With mountain ponies and sheep roaming free, the sprawling moorland boasts impressive waterfalls, valleys and caves – and is the perfect backdrop to brighten up a city-centric social feed.
The Run-Down: This may sound obvious, but the best way to explore the park is to simply walk it. Home to the highest peak in South Wales – Pen y Fan offers hikers the chance to climb the mountain (886 metres above sea level), whilst enjoying spectacular panoramic views of the park beneath. Hikers can choose from numerous routes to ascend the peak, including the opportunity to conquer neighbouring peaks Corn Du, Cribyn and Fan y Big. The most dramatic way to reach the summit starts from Cwm Gwdi carpark and takes around four hours to complete the seven mile route.
Photo credit: Dan Santillo, cribyn and upper Neuadd reservoir from pen y fan
The Run-Down: Take to the water and canoe down the River Wye to enjoy mother nature. Passing the Black Mountains, Hay Bluff and Lord Hereford’s Knob, canoeists can grab the perfect candid shot whilst paddling down the river. Visitors looking for more challenging graded waters will need to put their phone aside as they tackle white water rafting in South Wales’ most demanding conditions. Adrenalin-fuelled junkies looking for a real adventure can take their pick from a range of Grade 6 waters.
The Run-Down: For those interested in understanding the Welsh history and involvement in the Industrial Revolution, The Big Pit National Coal Museum delivers an insight into the coaling industry of the 19th century. Situated in Blaenavon, a UNESCO world heritage site, visitors can travel underground and explore what it was like to work in the mines. Beneath the national park, guest can also travel underground and explore the expansive network of caves and mines at the Dan Yr Ogof Showcaves, Cathedral Cave and Bone Cave. Each offers a unique underground experience, boasting impressive rock formations and beautifully lit caverns.
The Run-Down: Offering over 600 miles of bridle paths and tracks, the National Park is the ultimate destination to explore on horseback. Home to traditional, native Welsh cobs and ponies, the park offers trails from the National Bridleroute Network and a series of cross country routes suitable for all riders. From short beginner rides to longer hacks, experienced riders can even sign up for tailor-made riding holidays where luggage is transferred between different accommodations, with riding centres providing guides to explore the vast open countryside.
The Run-Down: Swap tube lines and bus routes for towpaths and hillside tracks; the National Park offers a variety of terrains suitable for mountain biking and cycling. Catering to all abilities and boasting an abundance of mapped routes, bikers can explore the park’s gentle off-road trails or fast descents. Visitors can journey through the picturesque landscape including Sennybridge, Talybont-on-Usk, Crickhowell and Talgarth. One of the most challenging routes takes on the legendary climb up The Tumble, used in the Stage Three finale of the Tour of Britain.