Brecon Beacons (Bannau Brycheiniog) Area Guide


View over the Brecon Beacons

The Bannau Brycheiniog/Brecon Beacons National Park is the youngest of Wales's three national parks, having been established in 1957. At 519 square miles in size it's smaller than Eryri (Snowdonia) but bigger than the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

The terrain here is mostly mountainous, and indeed it’s home to the highest mountain in south Wales, the iconic flat-topped Pen y Fan. With waterfalls, lakes, caves, forests and ancient castles to explore – as well as plenty of peaks and valleys – it's no wonder this is a real paradise for hikers and photographers, as well as general outdoor enthusiasts.

Where are the Brecon Beacons?

The Brecon Beacons are in south Wales, about 25 miles north of Cardiff and easily accessed via main roads running from the M4. The vast majority of the land is rural, with just a few villages (such as Crickhowell and Talybont-on-Usk) within the heart of the park. Around the edge of the national park, small towns like Brecon, Llandeilo, Abergavenny and Hay-on-Wye all make good bases for outdoor adventures.

It’s very handy to have a car for travelling around the Brecon Beacons, but there are several bus services and railway stations in the park – Llandovery, on the scenic Heart of Wales line, is a particular favourite for many visitors.

The mountainous scenery of the Brecon Beacons is often compared to that of its northern cousin, Eryri/Snowdonia National Park. If you're looking for outdoor adventures in north Wales instead, check out our guide to Eryri/Snowdonia.

What is the new name for the Brecon Beacons?

The official name of the Brecon Beacons National Park was changed to Bannau Brycheiniog in April 2023, as part of a new management plan launched on the park’s 66th anniversary. 

The 'new name’ is in fact not new at all – it’s simply an official return to the traditional Welsh name that the park originally used when it was formed back in 1957. And that name is very old indeed, with references to the Bannau Brycheiniog area (meaning ‘the peaks in the kingdom of Brychan’ – a ruler from the 5th/6th century) being found in texts from poets and travellers in the 16th century. 

In practice, although the Welsh name is gaining traction, the name ‘Brecon Beacons’ is still used widely – and that looks likely to continue for some time.

How to pronounce Bannau Brycheiniog

If you’re not a Welsh speaker, saying the name Bannau Brycheiniog can appear difficult at first, but it's easy once you’ve learned how. Phonetically it reads as ‘Ban-eye Bruck-eye-nee-og’, with the ‘ck’ being a soft sound produced at the back of the throat – much like the ‘ch’ sound in ‘loch’.

Need a bit more help? Here's Welsh actor Michael Sheen’s introduction to the park and its official name.

When to visit Bannau Brycheiniog

Like all of the UK's national parks the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park has a lot to offer in all seasons. The warmer temperatures and longer days of summer make this the most popular time to visit (especially if you're camping), but the wildflower blooms of spring and the colourful trees of autumn are also very attractive for hikers. Winter visitors, meanwhile, can expect crowd-free trails, snowy peaks and waterfalls at their fullest.

Waterfall in the rain, surrounded by lush greenery

Whenever you’re visiting, it's important to follow 'leave no trace’ principles and adhere to the Countryside Code to avoid any negative impacts on the environment– taking all your rubbish away and keeping dogs on leads around sheep or wildlife, for example. 

It's also worth remembering that the weather can be very changeable in Wales – even in summer and on popular trails, conditions at higher altitude can be significantly colder and harsher than those at the trailhead. It’s always a good idea to be prepared with suitable clothing for cold or wet weather, and to have plans for alternative outings – places like the National Showcaves Centre for Wales are excellent options on damp days.