275km (171 miles) W of London; 64km (40 miles) N of Cardiff
This busy little market town is the main base for touring Brecon Beacons National Park. Brecon, situated where the Usk and Honddu rivers meet, is the center of a farming section.
The Romans thought the area was a good place for a military encampment to discourage the Celts, and in A.D. 75 they built a fort, Y Gaer, about 4km (2 1/2 miles) west of the present town. To get to Y Gaer, you walk across private farm fields. You can look around free.
Brecon Castle, built in 1093, is practically nonexistent, but it was militarily important when Llywelyn the Great and later Owain Glyndwr were battling against outsiders who wanted sovereignty in Wales. However, at the close of the civil war after Cromwell's visitations, the people of Brecon, tired of centuries of strife, pulled the castle down. All that's left is a section of wall joined to the Castle of Brecon Hotel and the Ely Tower, named for the bishop of Ely imprisoned there by Richard III. Access to the ruins is free, and there's no time limit on when it can be viewed. Oddly, it lies on the grounds of the Castle of Brecon Hotel and requires a transit through the hotel lobby to view it.
Of special interest is the fortified red-sandstone priory church of St. John the Evangelist, with its massive tower, now the Cathedral of Swansea and Brecon, Priory Hill (tel. 01874/623857; www.breconcathedral.org.uk). It stands high above the River Honddu. The oldest parts of the cathedral date from the 12th century. It's open daily 8am to 6:30pm and admission is free.