Brecon Beacons Cultural Highlights


Person in black and white floral shirt playing saxophone

The Brecon Beacons are perhaps most well known for the spectacular scenery that makes the national park such a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. There is, however, a huge amount of variety here for visitors – the area has a rich heritage to explore through its ancient castles and other historic buildings, along with thriving arts, crafts and foodie scenes to boost your break.

Here we'll show you a few of the cultural highlights you should check out when visiting the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Brecon Beacons historical landmarks

Carreg Cennen Castle

Up on an exposed limestone cliff in the west of the Brecon Beacons near Llandeilo, Carreg Cennen Castle can be seen for miles around – but it's well worth a visit for a closer look at this ancient and atmospheric site (once voted 'most romantic ruin in Wales’ by readers of Countryfile magazine).

The history of the castle dates back to at least the 13th century, although archaeologists suggest that the site may have been inhabited since Roman times. There’s an entrance fee to visit the castle itself, but it's free to visit the rest of the grounds, perhaps following one of two waymarked trails for castle views from all angles.

Brecon Cathedral

There’s been a religious building at this scenic riverside spot on the edge of Brecon for almost a thousand years – but in fact the former priory only officially became Brecon Cathedral in 1923.

Visitors are welcome to attend daily services or events such as concerts and poetry evenings. Outside of service times, you're able to explore the cathedral itself (look out especially for the 12th-century carved stone font), as well as the walled cathedral close, the ancient tithe barn and the former monastic buildings – together they make up one of the finest collections of heritage buildings anywhere in Wales.

Tretower Court and Castle

A visit to Tretower Court and Castle near Crickhowell gets you two historic attractions for the price of one. The first of these is the sturdy stone castle built here back in the 12th century, much of which is still intact today.

After you've explored there, move on to the magnificent medieval manor established by Sir Roger Vaughan. This place that was once a lively social hub for aristocrats, poets and musicians was abandoned in the 18th century, but it's been beautifully brought back to life in recent years to give a real sense of what life would have been like – from the kitchens to the great hall dressed for a party.

Local arts and music scene

Wales is proud of its reputation as the 'Land of Song’, so it's no surprise to find that there's a thriving music scene in south Wales. The stunning landscapes of the Brecon Beacons have also inspired numerous visual artists, so there’s plenty of cultural interest here for visitors. 

Much of the cultural interest in the Brecon Beacons lies in finding small-scale galleries (such as CRiC in Crickhowell) or stumbling upon concerts by local brass bands or male voice choirs in village halls or churches. Look out for posters locally – especially at weekends and in summer – and you'll often find wonderfully intimate events with a real community spirit.

The Brecon Beacons are home to a couple of major arts highlights as well, so it's well worth checking out the programmes below to see what’s on when you visit.

Theatr Brycheiniog

Theatr Brycheiniog, in a gorgeous location between the River Usk and Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal in the town of Brecon, is the biggest arts venue in the Brecon Beacons. The theatre hosts a wide variety of drama, music, comedy, cinema relay and children's events, and there’s a cosy café/bar that's open throughout the day.

Current programmes are listed at the Theatr Brycheiniog website – and even if you don’t attend a live event, you can download details of the poetry trail that takes you around the town to find 10 poems etched on local slate.

Brecon Jazz Festival

For one toe-tapping weekend in high summer, Brecon becomes a hive of all things jazz-related when the Brecon Jazz Festival comes to town. The festival marked its 40th year in 2023, with the usual blend of big-ticket concerts in Brecon Cathedral, family-friendly outdoor gigs and pop-up events in churches, cafés, pubs and the like.

Missed the main event? Brecon Jazz Club runs popular events throughout the year.

Festivals and events in the Brecon Beacons

The Brecon Beacons National Park is worth a visit at any time of year – but timing your trip to coincide with a major event will add an extra element and showcase the area at its finest. Here are our top picks for events in the Brecon Beacons.

Hay Festival

People flock from all across the country to this world-renowned literature and arts festival, which runs for around 10 days in May/June. Established in 2001, the festival was once described by Bill Clinton as 'the Woodstock of the mind' – and that’s a fitting description for the programme of talks, workshops and performances that are both intelligent and accessible, with plenty of family-friendly options.

The festival takes place at a dedicated site 10 minutes' walk from the town of Hay-on-Wye, and it's free to enter. An entry fee applies to the individual events, and you can book ahead or pay as you go as long as there's space. Some popular events sell out well in advance, so it's worth looking at the Hay Festival programme and booking any sessions you’re particularly keen to see.

Missed the festival? Hay-on-Wye was the first town given the title of ‘Book Town’ because of its large number of bookshops (including secondhand and antiquarian book shops) so there's plenty to intrigue bookworms at all times of the year.

Brecon County Show

There are many agricultural shows around the UK – but this is a special one, as it's hosted by the oldest agricultural society in the UK (established in 1755).

All the key elements of a traditional agricultural show are here at the Brecon County Show – animal judging in the main arena, parachute and classic car events, falconry displays, ferret racing, craft demonstrations and a fairground among them. There’s also plenty of delicious local food to try out!

Tickets can be bought in advance at the Brecon County Show website, or purchased on the gate.

Crafts and local products

The Brecon Beacons is an area with a strong creative heritage, and there are still many people here keeping traditional crafts and recipes alive. Here we've picked out a few of our favourite places to find unique handmade souvenirs and sample classic Welsh dishes.

Welsh crafts and artisans

As has been the case for centuries, there are numerous crafts people at work around the Brecon Beacons, whittling wooden love spoons, weaving colourful wool blankets and creating gifts from pottery or slate.

Many of them work on their own, selling their wares through craft shops or markets around the area rather than having their own shop. Some of the best places to find traditional crafts are at collectives such as The Makers Gallery in Abergavenny, Beacon Crafts in Brecon, or Crafts Alive in Llandeilo, as well as pop-up craft fairs or stalls at weekly markets.

Food and drink

There are lots of delicious things to eat and drink around the Brecon Beacons, whether you’re buying local produce in a deli or farm shop, sipping a pint in a pub or treating yourselves to a Michelin-starred meal at The Walnut Tree.

If you’d like to see where your food and drink comes from, here are some of the Brecon Beacons food and drink producers to visit:

  • Penderyn Distillery – for a range of award-winning whiskies, with tours and tastings available

  • Black Mountains Smokery – for delicious smoked fish, cheeses and meats, with other artisan foods in the shop

  • Talgarth Mill – for bakery products made with flour ground at the water mill on site

  • Cascave Gin – for a unique cave-aged gin that can be sampled at the farm where it's made

  • Sobremesa – for a tap room serving craft beers and ciders accompanied by local snacks (open Fridays and Saturdays)

Planning your trip

Whatever your personal interests, it’s easy to create a Brecon Beacons break that suits you, picking from outdoor activities, heritage visits and local events. Need somewhere to stay? Pitchup has a great collection of glamping and camping sites in the Brecon Beacons, so you can make the most of those gorgeous landscapes.