Brecon Beacons National Park comprises 835 sq. km (519 sq. miles) of land from the Black Mountains in the west. National parks in the British Isles are maintained differently from those in the United States. Here people own land, live, and work within the park boundaries, though the landscape is safeguarded, and access to the park area is provided.
The park takes its name from the mountain range in the center of the park area. Pen y Fan, the highest peak in the range, rises to nearly 914m (3,000 ft.). The park contains sandstone moors covered with bracken and limestone crags with wooded gorges. Vast stretches of open common land lie in pastoral country. Farming is the main industry of the park. You can enjoy drives over the mountains, but walking and pony trekking are the best ways to explore the park.
There are nature reserves, a mountain center, and 51km (32 miles) of canal. The limestone area contains Britain's deepest cave system. A number of ancient monuments and historic buildings lie within the park boundaries.
For information regarding the park and its facilities, call one of the National Park Information Centres, the main one being at Wharton Mount, Glamorgan Street, in Brecon (tel. 01874/624437; www.breconbeacons.org). Other information numbers include tel. 01873/853254 in Abergavenny and tel. 01550/720693 in Llandovery.
The park's southern boundary is only 40km (25 miles) from Cardiff, 23km (14 miles) from Swansea, and 16km (10 miles) from Newport. Abergavenny lies on the eastern boundary.
Run by the Brecon Beacons National Park Committee, the National Park Centre, near Libanus (tel. 01874/623366; www.brecon-beacons.com), 8km (5 miles) southwest of Brecon, offers a good point from which to begin your tour of the park. The center, a spacious lounge, has displays explaining the major points of interest, talks and films, an informative staff, a picnic area, a refreshments buffet, and toilets. The entire building is wheelchair accessible.
The center is open daily, except Christmas Day, from 9:30am; the buffet is open from 10:30am (10am July-Aug). Closing times vary according to the time of year. The center shuts its doors at 5pm in March to June, September, and October; at 6pm in July and August; and at 4:30pm from November to February. Closing is a half-hour later on Saturday, Sunday, and bank holidays from April to June and in September. The buffet closing time varies, so check when you go to the center.
Over the millennia, the force of flowing water has carved underground caverns through the extensive limestone regions in the southwestern portions of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Experienced cavers can explore many of these by making arrangements with one of the caving clubs, through the National Park Information Centres. However, only the Dan-yr-Ogof Showcaves, Abercraf (tel. 01639/730801; www.dan-yr-ogof-showcaves.co.uk), are open to the general public, including children. Midway between Brecon and Swansea on the A4067, this is the largest show cave complex in western Europe. Visitors are able to follow dry, firm walkways to see stalagmite and stalactite formations under floodlights. Adults are charged £12; ages 3 to 16 £7, and 2 and under free.
The Brecon Beacon's Dinosaur Park is filled with life-size models of creatures that disappeared 65 million years ago. Children are especially awed by the massive reptiles, particularly by one of the oldest -- and the most terrifying -- dinosaurs, tyrannosaurus rex.
Tours through Dan-yr-Ogof, Cathedral Cave, Bone Cave, and the Dinosaur Park last about 2 1/2 hours. The complex is open from Easter to the end of October daily from 10am to 3pm (it closes at 5pm in high season). The charge is £12 for adults and £7 for children 3 to 16; children 3 and younger are admitted free. Admission also includes Mr. Morgan's Farmyard (an open farm, where people can mingle with the animals), a re-created Iron Age village, a replica of an ancient stone circle, and a horse center. There are a restaurant, craft shop, museum, dry-ski slope, and information center at the caves.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.