Brecon Beacons

THE Brecon Beacons are a mountain range in south Wales. They include south Wales’s highest mountain, Pen y Fan. 

The range forms the central section of the Brecon Beacons National Park, which also encompasses ranges both to the east and the west. This much wider area is also commonly referred to as ‘the Brecon Beacons’, and it includes the Black Mountains to the east as well as the Black Mountain to the west. The highest peaks include Fan Brycheiniog to the west and Pen y Fan.

The National Park was established in 1957, the third of the three Welsh parks after Snowdonia in 1951 and the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in 1952. In the spring of 2023 there was a reported move to have the Brecon Beacons National Park referred to more widely by its Welsh name of Bannau Brycheiniog. Welsh language speakers more commonly call the mountain range simply Y Bannau (The Beacons).

At 886 metres (2,907ft) above sea-level, Pen y Fan is the highest point (county top) of the historic county of Brecknockshire (though in modern administrative terms, it now lies within the unitary council area of Powys). The twin summits of Pen y Fan and Corn Du at 873m (2,864ft) were formerly referred to as Cadair Arthur or ‘Arthur’s Seat’.

The mountain and surrounding area are owned by the National Trust whose work parties attempt to combat the erosion caused by the popularity of this peak with walkers. The mountain is used by the military as part of the selection process of the UK’s Special Forces personnel. 

View of Llangorse Lake from Mynydd Llangorse © Hawlfraint y Goron / © Crown copyright (2021) Cymru Wales

Llangorse Lake is the largest natural lake in mid and south Wales, and is situated in the Brecon Beacons National Park, near the town of Brecon and the village of Llangors.

The lake is famous for its coarse fishing (particularly pike), watersports, the afanc (a monster nicknamed ‘Gorsey’) and has the only example of a crannog in Wales. The crannog is a small artificial island about 40 metres from the north shore. It is constructed of massive planks of oak behind which was built a dwelling platform formed from layers of stone, soil and brushwood.

Llangorse Lake is also one of the most mentioned sites in Welsh folklore. It is a site of international conservation importance.

In 916 Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians, sent an army into Brycheiniog to avenge the murder of the Mercian abbot Ecbryht and his companions. The Mercian army seized and burnt the royal fort on Llangorse Lake, and took the Queen of Brycheiniog and 33 others captive.

Due to the lake’s long history of human activity, it has been known by several different names during its history, both in the Welsh language and in English: other names include the lake’s original Welsh name, Llyn Syfaddon/Syfaddan, and Brycheiniog Mere. The name Llangorse Lake is comparatively recent.

The Brecon Mountain Railway is a narrow gauge tourist railway on the south side of the Brecon Beacons. It climbs northwards from Pant along the full length of the Pontsticill Reservoir (also called ‘Taf Fechan’ reservoir by Welsh Water) and continues past the adjoining Pentwyn Reservoir to Torpantau railway station. The railway’s starting point at Pant is located two miles north of the town centre of Merthyr Tydfil.

The Brecon Beacons Food Festival is an annual event that was established in 1998. The festival is held during October in Brecon, located in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

The Brecon Beacons Food Festival attracts around 70 stalls selling food and drink and is timed to coincide with the local harvest season. It aims to promote the town of Brecon, local food and drink producers and raise awareness of the local farming industry and the type of produce available in and around the Brecon Beacons.

The festival focus is mainly on food and drink with live cookery demonstrations by chefs, as well as cookery presentations and culinary crafts. There is also music and other forms of entertainment, including talks, demonstrations, educational activities, and activities for children.

The festival is held indoors in the Market Hall in Brecon and has around 10,000 visitors.