Brecon and its Beacons

1 March 2022

When walking the narrow, winding streets of this characterful town, a real sense of history sweeps over you. The town has a couple of great museums and galleries, a strong military connection as well as many features that you wouldn’t find in many other Welsh towns.

Brecon Town

The uniquities of the town include its world-renowned Glassblowers as well as the groovy Brecon Jazz Festival. This has been held annually since 1984 and has seen performances from Van Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Jools Holland, and countless other musicians (I am not an expert in Jazz so if this appeals to you, you should really look into it).

The mentioned glassblowers are primarily housed at the Gate Gallery & Glassworks. They produce intricate and beautiful pieces which make for perfect gifts for those special people in your life. For a more hands-on glassblowing experience, KelZig Creations offers some great classes and experiences.

A major feature of the town is The Brecon Canal Basin, a part of the elegant and storied Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal. It is one of the most beautiful canals of all of the South Wales Network and most likely the whole country.

Alongside the canal, there are lovely towpaths suitable for walking and biking as well as some great cafes looking over the waterways. Of course, there are also options to experience the waterway from a canal which can be a very relaxing yet interesting experience.

There are two major museums in Brecon, The Royal Welsh Museum: Military Museum Brecon and Y Gaer (meaning The Fortress). 

The Military Museum’s major attraction is the Zulu War Room which recounts the experiences of the 24th regiment during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. This conflict is mostly remembered through the Michael Caine classic “Zulu” (1964). The museum provides a more historically sound and true account of the conflict, perhaps better than anywhere else in the country. As well as this, the town is home to the 160th Welsh Brigade, housed at The Barracks – Brecon.

Y Gaer is a museum, a public library, a gallery, and an all-around community hub for Brecon and Powys more generally. The large complex also houses a reconstruction of a Victorian Schoolroom, an interactive opportunity to educate children on bygone years. As well as this, the building houses one of the largest and coveted collections of Welsh Love Spoons in Wales. This is a traditional Welsh art form that makes for very cute, romantic, and memorable gifts.

Theatr Brycheiniog has been operating in Brecon since 1997 and attracts stand-up comedians, traditional Welsh folk singers, modern dance shows, full orchestras, and everything in between.

The theatre is also very well known for its authentic Welsh restaurant, the source of the best leak and potato soup anywhere outside of my nain’s kitchen.

There is also a great variety of different pubs and restaurants in the town…….

Watergate Fish Bar is your classic chippy, perfect for a quick takeaway. Why don’t you pick up some fish and chips and go and sit somewhere overlooking the canal? What more could you want?

The Brecon Tap is a top-quality, homely pub that serves some wonderful, hearty meals as well as some tasty ales from around the world. Looking for something more exotic? Zeera is a fantastic Indian restaurant with all the features you would expect.

My personal favourite however has to be Dewi’s Secret Garden Restaurant. Everything on the menu is top quality and you will struggle to find friendlier staff anywhere. I cannot recommend this place enough.

The Beacons

Now with a better understanding of the town itself, let us widen our scope to include some of the magnificent Brecon Beacons National Park. Wales is known for its mountains, and these Beacons are one of the major reasons why.

As one of the three national parks in Wales, it covers the Black Mountain range in the west, the Brecon Beacons and Fforest Fawr (the Great Forest) in its centre, and the confusingly similarly named Black Mountains in its east.

These mountains have countless walking and cycling trails that vary in suitability for all different abilities. There are also guided walks and tours with some local experts as well as a few bridleways for the horse lovers amongst you. Bushcraft, foraging, rock climbing, abseiling, and caving are also all possible in this stunning national park.

There are two dominant rivers throughout this part of Wales, the River Usk and the River Wye as well as some beautiful lakes and waterfalls. These rivers are perfect for water sports such as kayaking, canoeing, and boating. There are also healthy populations of fish ready to be caught on the end of your rod.

The Brecon Beacons are a regular inclusion in lists such as “Best Stargazing Spots in the UK”, as the area is so devoid of light pollution. On a clear night, you can have an amazing view of the Milky Way as well as major constellations. If you are lucky (or an expert stargazer), you may be able to watch some truly magic meteor showers here too.

Brecon and its Beacons around it are a really special part of the country. The town has a lot to offer itself, but it really comes into its own when used as a base to explore the surrounding areas. The valleys and mountains are almost indescribable, and I cannot encourage you enough to come and check out this part of Wales.