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Brecon Beacons National Park

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Jan 5, 2022

The Brecon Beacons National Park (Welsh: Parc Cenedlaethol Bannau Brycheiniog) is located in southern Wales, part of the United Kingdom. Within an area of 1347 km2 (520 sq miles), the park contains some of the most spectacular and distinctive upland formations in southern Britain. Stretching from Hay-on-Wye in the east to Llandeilo in the west, the park includes the Black Mountains, the Central Beacons, Fforest Fawr and the Black Mountain as well as a vast array of moorland, forests, valleys, waterfalls, lakes, caves and gorges.

Part of the Brecon Beacons National Park, looking from the highest point Pen y Fan (2907 feet, 886 metres) to Cribyn (2608 feet, 795 metres)

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Several small towns and villages lie within or directly besides Brecon Beacons National Park and can serve well as a base from where to discover the park. For this reason, many have become rather popular tourist destinations with proper facilities for travellers. Good examples include Abergavenny, Brecon, Crickhowell, Llandeilo, Llandovery, Hay-on-Wye (famous for its book stores) and Merthyr Tydfil. Other options are Brynaman, Govilon, the small villages Llangadog, Capel Gwynfe and Bethlehem, Llangorse, Pontneddfechan, Talgarth, Talybont-on-Usk, and the lovely parish of Myddfai.

The Brecon Beacons (or simply ‘the Beacons’) can refer both to the central range of mountains which stretch east from Storey Arms to Talybont and also to the national park as a whole which contains other extensive ranges as outlined below. Though use of the alternative term ‘the Brecons’ has increased in recent times, it is not used locally and will not win you friends! The mountain area on the east of the national park (extending to the English border) is called the Black Mountains, and the area on the west of the park (towards Llandeilo) is known as the Black Mountain (singular). Old writings suggest that the entire collection of mountain massifs between Abergavenny and Llandeilo was once known as the Black Mountain – which helps to account for some of the confusion that arises with modern naming of the area.

The Brecon Beacons mountain range together with the neighbouring Black Mountains, Fforest Fawr and Black Mountain ranges was designated as the Brecon Beacons National Park in 1957. It was the last of the original ten to gain its status.

Sgwd yr Eira Waterfall

The larger part of the area is underlain by Old Red Sandstone rocks which despite the name are generally brown in colour and do contain layers of softer mudstone. It is this layer cake which is also tilted to the south which gives rise to a characteristic stepped appearance to some of the mountain slopes, particularly in the Black Mountains of the east. All of the various ranges have been carved by rivers and glaciers giving rise to steep north facing scarps and longer southerly directed valleys, many of which are heavily wooded. A number of these valleys in the central part of the park have been dammed gving rise to around a dozen picturesque reservoirs.

A band of limestone running east-west through the park brings with it a pock-marked landscape riddled with caves, some of which are amongst the longest in Europe. Along the southern edge of the park, adjacent to the South Wales Coalfield are numerous signs of former industry such as quarries, tramways and limekilns.

The major river within the park is the Usk which rises on the western Black Mountain, gathers waters from the central Beacons and then flows along the southern edge of the eastern Black Mountains. Its valley provides the main east-west route through the park.

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