The Uplands of South and Central Wales, a high country consisting of gently rolling moors, forests, plateaus, farmland, rivers and streams is known as Brecon Beacons. The National Park, lying within the southern uplands, is 519 square miles (1344 sq. km) in size and stretches 40 miles (65km) from east to west. There are four mountain ranges within the park. Near the border with England are the Black Mountains, Next lie the Brecon Beacons, then the Fforest Fawr and, in the far west, the wilderness of Black Mountain. The two highest peaks in southern Britain are located in the Park.
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In some areas sandstone gives the mountains and the soil a reddish colour. Erosion has, in other areas, laid down bands of colours. Limestone, grit and coal dominate various spots. Because of the different patterns of limestone and grit erosion, waterfalls, gorges and caves have formed over the centuries.
Nature dominates the scenery, originally molded by the ice age into U-shaped valleys, hanging cliffs and glacial lakes. Peregrine falcon and raven can be seen in flight. Red kites can be spotted in the oak and ash woodlands. Arctic alpine plants blossom, while in the valleys, foxgloves and bluebells hold sway.
The Usk is the major river in the park. It is famous for both salmon and trout fishing. The Wye flows along the eastern Park boundary and the Tywi repeats the same role in the west. Other rivers disappear into caves. At Devilís Bridge, the Mynach River plunges 300 ft on its way to meeting the River Rheidol. Man-made reservoirs have added to the natural lakes in the area.
Remnants of chambered long cairns dotting the valleys attest to manís long habitation in the area. Mysterious standing stones hide in the mountains. Even in Neolithic times there were farmers here. Iron Age man and the Romans built fortifications in the area, and the Normans, when they conquered Britain, constructed castles. And, in modern times, small family farms nestle in the mountains. Sheep and cattle are scattered throughout the landscape. Villages and towns from Abergavenny in the east to Llandeilo in the west continue to attest to manís long presence here.
Visitors to the park can enjoy walking, pony-trekking, caving, rock-climbing and boating. A good place to start your journey is at the Brecon Beacons Mountain Centre, six miles (10km) southwest of Brecon. There are waterfalls, old viaducts, reservoirs, castles, caves and walks to be enjoyed amid natureís scenic wonders. Because only a few major roads traverse the park from north to south, you donít need a lot of time to take them all in if youíre driving. Itís well worth it for the beautiful views. If you are an adventurous driver and time allows, take the narrow, unclassified roads for spectacular scenery. There are waterfalls, old viaducts, reservoirs, castles, caves and walks to be enjoyed amid natureís scenic wonders.
Brecon Beacons Mountain Centre is off the A470, 5 miles southwest of Brecon. The visitor centre has displays, talks, AV presentations, walks and picnic facilities.
Open daily from 9:30am, closing March and June at 5pm, July and Aug at 6pm, Sep and Oct at 5pm, Nov through Feb at 4:30pm.
For safety, if youíre hiking or walking in the mountains always check the weather.
Photos courtesy of Visit Britain and by Barbara Ballard