There are many natural features within the Brecon Beacons National Park which make it unique and define it’s intrinsic appeal to residents and visitors alike. However it is not just these natural features that are unique but also those man-made features which to our mind are extraordinary and make the Brecon Beacons such an outstanding region to live and work within. Here is a list of those features which we feel make the Brecon Beacons distinctive and are further reasons to visit.
Castell Carreg Cennen
Near the village of Trapp in the far west of the Brecon Beacons, perched high on the top of a 100 metre limestone crag, stands the awesome ruin of Castell Carreg Cennen, (Carreg Cennen Castle). One of the iconic images of the Brecon Beacons this castle dates from 1248 and may well have been an Iron Age Hill fort. Finds of Roman coins from the 1st and 2nd centuries also support Roman occupation there. Carreg Cennen Castle, as a masonry structure, was probably built by Lord Rhys who died in 1197.
In 1283 Edward 1st granted the castle to the commander of the English troops at Cilmari, John Giffard. Cilmari is where Llywelyn ap Gruffudd,(the last Prince of Wales) was killed. The present structure dates from the late 13th or early 14th century and was deliberately dismantled, shortly after the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century as it was thought to be a threat to the monarchy and a Lancastrian stronghold. Ownership of Carreg Cennen passed to the Vaughan and Cawdor families and from the 18th century and attracted artists such as Turner who sketched the castle in 1798. In the 19th century the second Earl of Cawdor began extensive renovations and today it is now maintained by Cadw.
Garn Goch Iron Age Hill Fort
The Brecon Beacons National Park has many archeological remains including prehistoric settlements known as hill forts, which are found at high level throughout the park. Better or more properly referred to as fortified settlements, they were built by Celtic Tribes during the Iron Age. Situated on a hill top near the village of Bethlehem in Carmarthenshire, Garn Goch is a stricking example of a fortified settlement and is one of the largest,if not the largest in Wales, commanding impressive views over the surrounding countryside. The site at Garn Goch has two forts on the same hill, both of similar construction and both of the same date, with a small gap dividing the lower fort (Y Gaer Fach) from the main summit where the larger settlement (Y Gaer Fawr) sits. Dated at around 300 BC, it measures 700 metres by 200 metres and surrounded by original stone ramparts in excess of 5 metres thick.
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Craig Y Nos Castle
Situated in the picturesque upper Swansea valley amidst the grandeur of the Brecon Beacons National Park, Craig-Y-Nos Castle and grounds were once the estate of the celebrated opera diva Madam Adelina Patti. During her lifetime (1843 – 1919) she became one of the worlds most famous and highly rewarded entertainers, the Madonna or Kylie of her day!. She travelled extensively but liked nothing better than entertaining her friends at Craig-Y-Nos. In 1891 she opened the theatre,she had built at the side of the castle, which included state of the art technology for the time and was to be her miniature La Scala, Milan, It is well worth a visit and incorporates features from Wagner’s Bayreuth Festspielhaus opera house in Germany and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London. Over the years the castle has taken on the role of family home as well as a hospital and today it is a hotel and conference facility.
The reservoirs within the Brecon Beacons National Park provide most of the drinking water for the population and industry of South Wales. As a result, there are many large reservoirs in the park. All are owned and managed by Dwr Cymru (Welsh Water) and provide wonderful landscapes, with walking, fishing and sailing opportunities; although not all offer the same activity. What they all offer is a place of tranquility, away from the beaten track, either to relax, watch the many species of wildlife, enjoy walking in stunning scenery, or simply chill out. Dwr Cymru will have a full list of the activities and facilities provided by each reservoir. The Brecon Mountain Railway, runs from Merthyr along the eastern bank of the Pontsticill and Pentwyn reservoirs, and is well worth a visit. We have included them in this category because of effort and sheer hard work that went in to their creation in some of the most inaccessible places in the Brecon Beacons. Although man-made they, in our opinion add to the character of the landscape.
There are many prehistoric standing stones within the Brecon Beacons National Park. There are many theories as to their function such as way markers, commemorative stones, territorial marker and sites of religious significance. Maen Llia is a magnificent example, a standing stone measuring almost 4 metres high and it is likely a further quarter or third is buried underground. The magnificent monolith of Maen Llia is sited just a short distance from a minor road leading north east, from Ystradfellte to Heol Senni, following a section of Sarn Helen (Roman Road). Positioned in wonderful and isolated moorland at the junction of two valleys, and visible from a distance, it is thought to be an ancient territorial marker or even mark an ancient track way, guiding the traveller across the moor. Legends regarding Maen Llia abound. The truth however, is that nobody really knows with any degree of certainty and these magnificent edifices will remain a constant mystery.
You may wonder why we have included the canals in here. If you see the landscape through which they travel you’ll realise why. Firstly the vision required to see through such a project is commendable. You also have to stop and think of the endevaour of the workmen who actually dug the thing! Canals have been an important part of our transport and industrial history and today they play another important role in giving pleasure to resident and visitors alike. In an age dominated by the car and where speed seems to be all too present, why not turn back the clock and enjoy a more leisurely form of transport in beautiful surroundings. The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal is considered by many to be the most picturesque canal in Britain, for much of it’s length is within the boundaries of the Brecon Beacons National Park. This landlocked canal runs for 35 miles from the old market town of Brecon to Five Locks, Cwmbran, following the scenic Usk Valley. It offers glorious views of the Brecon Beacons and passes through fascinating small villages including Talybont-on-Usk, Llangynidr, Gilwern, Govilon and Llanfoist. The canal offers so much more with activities such as canoeing, walking, cycling, and fishing. The visitor has the option of day trips or boat hire for longer periods.
As with canals the endeavour of the workmen who constructed these things leaves you in awe when your follow one of the old train routes through the Brecon Beacons. Within the Brecon Beacons National Park, there are a number of active and disused railway lines. So whether your passion is for steam or just walking, then this is the place for you. Take a ride on the Brecon Mountain Railway, one of the most popular railways in Wales and travel in an observation car pulled by a vintage steam locomotive through beautiful scenery. The station is 1,134 feet above sea level and the line will take you from there into the heart of the Brecon Beacons Mountain Range, along the eastern side of Pontsticill reservoir with commanding views of the highest mountain in southern Britain; Pen Y Fan.(889mtrs). Disused railway lines make very good walking and mountain bike tracks. The old Neath to Brecon line is a classic example, as it cuts it’s way high on the eastern side of the upper Swansea valley, past Craig Y Nos Castle, towards Senni Bridge. The views are truly spectacular, with a choice of the Fan Hir Ridge and Fan Brycheiniog,(802 mtrs), to your left and Fan Gyhirych,(725 mtrs), on the right.
For the seven natural wonders of the Brecon Beacons click here
NB – Photos courtesy of © Crown copyright (2011) Visit Wales
If any of the above interest you, contact us now!