BRECON BEACONS NATIONAL PARK

BRECON BEACONS NATIONAL PARK

The Parc Cenedlaethol Bannau Brycheiniog encompasses 837 dramatic square kilometers of barren peaks, well-watered forests, and windswept moors. The park is divided into four regions: Brecon Beacon, where King Arthur’s fortress is thought to have once stood; Fforest Fawr, with the spectacular waterfalls of Ystradfellte; the eastern Black Mountains; and the remote western Black Mountain (singular). Brecon, on the fringe of the park, makes a pleasant touring base.

TRANSPORTATION. Trains (08457 484 950) run from London Paddington to Abergavenny at the park’s southeastern comer and to Merthyr Tydfil on the southern edge. National Express ( 08705 808 080) bus #509 runs from London (5hr. daily, £19) via Cardiff (IMhr. £3). Stagecoach Red and White (e01633 838 856) buses arrive from Abergavenny and Newport (#21; M-Sa, 6 per day; £3-4.50.)

BRECON (ADERHONDDU). Just north of the mountains, Brecon is the park’s best hiking base. Buses arrive at the Bulwark in the central square. The tourist office is in the Cattle Market parking lot; walk through Bethel Square off Lion St. ( (01874) 622 485. Open daily 9:30am-5pm.) The National Park Information Centre ( (01874) 623 156) is in the same building. Mulberry House 0, 3 Priory Hill, across from the cathedral, is in a former monks’ habitation. (624 461. £18 per person.) Camp at Brynich Caravan Park O, 2.5km east on the A40, signposted from the A40-A470 roundabout. ( (01874) 623 325. Open Easter-Oct. £5 per person, £11 for 2 people with car.)

FFOREST FAWR. Rivers tumble through rapids, gorges, and spectacular falls near Ystradfellte, about 11km southwest of the Beacons. The YHA Ystradfellte 0 is a perfect launching paid for those willing to walk there. ( (01639) 720 301. Open mid-July to Aug. daily; Apr. to mid-July and Sept.-Oct M-Tu and F-Sa. Dorms £9, students £8, under-18 £6.50.) From the hostel, 16km of trails pass Fforest Fawr, the headlands of the Waterfall District, on their way to the somewhat touristy Dan-yr-Ogof Showcaves (Open Apr.-Oct. daily 10:30am-5pm. £8.50, children £5.50.) Stagecoach Red and White bus #63 (lVShr. 2-3 per day) stops at the hostel and caves en route to Brecon.

THE BLACK MOUNTAINS. Located in the easternmost section of the park, the Black Mountains are a group of long, lofty ridges offering 130sq. km of solitude, linked by unsurpassed ridge-walks. Begin forays from Crickhowell, or travel the eastern boundary along Offa’s Dyke Path, which is dotted with a handful of impressive ruins. The YHA Capel-y-ffin 0 (kap-EL-uh-fin), along Offa’s Dyke Path, is 13km from Hay-on-Wye. Take Stagecoach Red and White bus #39 from Hereford to Brecon, stop before Hay, and walk uphill. ( (01873) 890 650. Lockout 10am-5pm. Open July-Sept. daily; Oct.-Dec. and Mar.-June M-Tu and F-Sa. Dorms £9, students £8, under-18 £6.)

THE BRECON BEACONS. These peaks at the center of the park lure hikers with pastoral slopes. The most convenient route to the top begins at Storey Arms (a carpark on A470) and offers views of Llyn Cwm Llwch (HLIN koom hlooch), a 610m deep glacial pool. Because this route is the most convenient, however, it is also the most overcrowded. Consult guides at the National Park Information Centres (in Brecon or Abergavenny) for recommendations on alternate trails.

ST. DAVID’S (TYDDEWI)

An evening walk in St. David’s (pop. 1,700), a major medieval pilgrimage site, inevitably leads to list. David’s Cathedral, where visitors and locals gather to watch the sunset. Its history dates to the 6th-centuiy, when it was built with hopes that the defendable church would offer some protection from marauding pirates. Legend has it that the bones of St. David are still kept in the cathedral’s relinquary. (Cathedral open daily 6am-5:30pm. Suggested donation £2.) The Bishop’s Palace, across the stream from the cathedral, features over 150 carvings of fantastic beasts and human heads, ( 720 517. Open June-Sept. daily 9:30am-6pm; Apr.-May and Oct. 9:30am-5pm; Nov.-Mar. M-Sa 9:30am-4pm, Su noon-2pm. £2.)

To reach St. David’s from Cardiff, take the train to Haverfordwest (21Mvr. 2 per day), and then take Richards Bros, bus #411 (50min. 2-5 per day). The tourist office is on the Grove, ( 720 392; www.stdavids.co.uk. Open Easter-Oct. daily 9:30am-5:30pm; Nov.-Easter M-Sa 10am-4pm.) Beautiful Alandale , 43 Nun St. has friendly proprietors whose warmth and filling breakfasts will make your stay worthwhile. ( 720 404. Singles £28; doubles £56.) For excellent Welsh food, head to Cartref , in Cross Sq. Try the Celtic pie (£9.30), a Welsh dish that combines cheese, oats, flan, and bread. (Dinner from £10. Open June-Aug. daily llam-3pm and 6-8:30pm; Mar.-May llam-2:30pm and 6:30-8:30pm.) Postal Code: SA62 6SW.

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