Stretching west from the Anglo-Welsh border to Carmarthenshire, the Brecon Beacons form a rolling, wild landscape set within the 519 square miles (1,340 km2) of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The region’s high point is Pen-y-Fan at 2,907 feet (886m), also the highest point in South Wales. Well serviced by footpaths and bridleways, this is a place that’s fantastic for multi-day adventures on foot or bike; the area is also a dark sky reserve, perfect for watching the stars from a wild bivvy.
Our bikes loaded with everything we’d need for a weekend in the hills, four of us met just outside Brecon early on a Saturday morning. We began our ride by heading south on the Taff Trail, a mainly traffic-free 55-mile (89km) route between Brecon and Cardiff. The trail takes you through incredibly varied landscapes with mountain-lined valleys, waterfalls, gleaming reservoirs and a final decent through towns rich in industrial and mining heritage to reach the sea at Cardiff Bay. We rode a circular route, following the waymarkers as far as the Llwyn-onn reservoir. Here we left the trail, winding along minor roads and bridleways north-west above the waterfall-filled valley of Ystradfellte and heading out into the wild upland of Fforest Fawr. Finding a sheltered spot we pitched for the night, sharing supper as the grassy valleys and hillsides flooded with golden evening light. In the morning we headed east, stopping at the National Park visitor centre for a coffee before picking up the Taff Trail back to Brecon.
Regular summer showers and some giant puddles but with plenty of sunshine. The night was dry, clear and star-scattered and the spectacular sunrise well worth a second early start.
Eat, drink, sleep
Wild camping in England and Wales, with the exception of some parts of Dartmoor, is illegal without the landowner’s permission. It is, however, tolerated in many of the National Parks, particularly those with large, mountainous areas, as long as it’s done responsibly. In the Brecon Beacons the Camping on Farms leaflet lists farmers who offer occasional camping for a small fee; further details and an excellent article on wild camping in Britain can be found at campsites.co.uk. There’s also a great selection of official campsites to choose from, with welcome hot showers included.
Once we hit the bridleways those of us on fat-tyred hardtail mountain bikes found the going easier than those on gravel bikes. Many of the trails are paved with rocks and stones of a pretty good size, most unforgiving on skinny tyres, but if you’re sticking to the Taff Trail it’s less of an issue. An awesome set of Ortlieb bikepacking bags kept the riding enjoyable and the bike balanced and responsive, as well as keeping our kit dry throughout the showers. For the overnight camp we split between the Vaude Invenio SUL 3 and a Terra Nova Laser Comp.
The awe-inspiring waterfalls at Ystradfellte, deep within the Fforest Fawr area of the National Park. Visit early or late to miss the crowds and have the falls and pools all to yourself.