Unless you’re somewhere in south-east Wales or, more specifically, the Brecon Beacons National Park. Within its realm, there are plenty of castles, mist and ranges of mountains. The Black Mountains and the Beacons offer great walks and the valleys, with their tiny villages, cosy pubs and restaurants, mean relaxation is never far away. The best way to see the park’s secrets is to jump on a bike and pedal away or walk up one of the many peaks and take a good look around.
Brecon Beacons National Park was designated in 1957 and covers 1347km2. The park is only a three-hour drive down the M4 from London over the Second Severn Crossing toll bridge (£4.70) and up through the winding roads of the Welsh countryside. Having a car is a good option for travelling around at your own pace – just make sure you aren’t stuck in the car with someone who thinks it’s hilarious to imitate a Welsh accent for the entire journey.
From backpackers to B&Bs, and hotels with incredible views, the towns and villages in the park offer many places to rest weary heads. Brecon and Abergavenny make good bases for exploring the park. Check out the tourist information centres in both towns, which give out free advice on routes and weather forecasts, as well as walking guides for £2.
Eating and drinking
It’s true, the Welsh eat leeks. Not only that, but apparently the Welsh eat more vegetables than any other country in Great Britain, so it’s no surprise to get a bowl of greens with every meal – even with a pub feed of fish and chips. There are loads of places to eat everything from pub grub to posh nosh, so there should be something to keep everyone happy.
SOAKING IT ALL UP
The Sugar Loaf
One of the most popular walks from Abergavenny is up Sugar Loaf Mountain. There are various routes for all levels of fitness. The shortest is an hour and, as it involves starting halfway up the 596m-mountain, it’s kind of cheating. A solid five-hour walk from the centre of Abergavenny takes you to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain (the winds are merciless) and back down the other side into a small river valley. The panoramic views are sweet and well worth the effort if the mist eases.
Between Brecon and Abergavenny lies Crickhowell, a small village with two main streets, a church, a ruined castle and views of the Black Mountains. Overlooking the town is Table Mountain – smaller than Cape Town’s version but majestic in its own right. It’s a hard walk to the top, but the views are great and the pubs awaiting below are good enough reason to hightail it down. The bright pink Dragon Hotel in the town’s centre serves delicious food and is a good place to drink the aches away. A walk at dusk to the castle ruins and medieval mound could be rewarded by the local falcon showing off its hunting skills.
Just outside Abergavenny is Raglan Castle, built around 1435 by the Blue Knight of Gwent, Sir William ap Thomas. It’s still a pretty impressive sight despite having fallen into ruin. It has a unique Great Tower with a moat, which has vertigo views from the crumbling top. Although the upper floors are ruined, the fireplaces in each room are still visible and hint at its previous wealth and splendour.
Additional information supplied by Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com). The fifth edition of Lonely Planet Britain is out now.
Bonus points for: Fresh air, castles and pubs
Loses marks for: The rain
Check out: www.godowales.com