The Brecon Beacons doesn’t only serve up spectacular scenery and nature (though it has that in spades). It’s also home to arts, activities, culture and some of the world’s most unusual sports. Here are a few Beacons experiences that should be on your radar.
In 2012 the Brecon Beacons National Park became the first International Dark Sky reserve in Wales (and only the fifth in the whole world). Thanks to its lack of light pollution, it’s the perfect place for some serious stargazing. On a clear night, the sky is a shimmering blanket of heavenly bodies, with spectacular views of the Milky Way, distant nebulas and shooting stars. There are regular dark sky stargazing night at the National Park Visitor Centre in Libanus, so check the National Park’s events page for up to date details.
Spot a red kite
Named as the Official Bird of Wales in 2000, this iconic bird of prey was once on the brink of extinction here. Thanks to committed conservation efforts, they’re now a frequent sight in the skies of Mid and South Wales. You don’t need to be an experienced ornithologist to identify them – just watch out for their distinctive forked tails.
Get lost in a good book
An unmissable event for culture lovers, the annual Hay Literary Festival sees writers, poets, politicians, comedians just about everyone else converge on Hay-on-Wye for ten days of thought-provoking entertainment. Hay’s the perfect location for this ‘Woodstock of the mind’. The pretty little market town is packed with an outsized number of book shops (it’s why it’s known as the second-hand book capital of the world).
Let the games commence
Head to Llanwrtyd Wells, a few miles from the Brecon Beacons National Park’s northern edge for sporting adventures with a difference. You wouldn’t know it at first glance, but this little town is the global centre for alternative sports like bog snorkelling, stone skipping and mountain bike chariot racing. The annual World Bog Snorkelling Championships are now in their 34th year and attract competitors from as far afield as Iran, Korea and the USA, while other events include the gruelling Man vs Horse Marathon and the Real Ale Wobble, which combines off-road cycling with refreshing servings of local beer.
Go a little deeper
Travel underground at the National Showcaves Centre for Wales at Dan yr Ogof. Experience a subterranean world of to see amazing rock formations in echoing underground spaces like the massive Cathedral Cave and come face to face with ancient ancestors in the Bone Cave. The fun continues on the surface with a range of attractions including a dinosaur park (home to more than 200 life-sized prehistoric creatures), Shire horse centre and Iron Age farm.
Visit waterfall country
The Beacons are famous for hills and mountains, but some of the most amazing sights are found down in the valleys. In the Vale of Neath rushing rivers and streams have carved out a landscape of steep gorges and tumbling cascades. Known as waterfall country, it’s a great place for walks and nature spotting, as well as seeing some truly awe-inspiring waterfalls in action. For the ultimate close-range experience head to Sgwd-yr-Eira, where the path takes you right behind the falls themselves.
Blow away the cobwebs with some action and adventure at Langorse Multi Activity Centre. If you’ve got a head for heights, tackle the Sky Trek Experience, a high-altitude assault course of zip lines, ladders and crossings strung through the tree tops. Or head out on horseback for a rural ride through the Brecon Beacons’ lush green countryside. And don’t worry about the weather. There’s also indoor climbing, caving, abseiling on offer, alongside activities for younger visitors.
Get a taste of Welsh whisky
Launched in 2004, the Penderyn Distillery at the southern edge of the Brecon Beacons was the first new whisky distillery in Wales in over a century. Fast forward to today, and it’s a globally-recognised brand that’s landed numerous awards for its stellar single-malts. Its visitor centre is also an award-winner, giving some fascinating insights into the whisky-making process (plus an opportunity to sample some of the product).