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Visiting Brecon, Wales, with its ancient Cathedral and the nearby Brecon Beacon mountains: tranquillity in Mid-Wales

Updated on May 14, 2011
Flag of Wales
Flag of Wales | Source
Brecon Cathedral
Brecon Cathedral | Source
Pen y Fan from Cribyn
Pen y Fan from Cribyn | Source
Map location of Powys, Wales
Map location of Powys, Wales | Source

Peace in a majestic region

Brecon (Welsh: Aberhonddu), in Wales's Powys country, is a quiet town which seems a long way from the bustling urban areas of South Wales.

Some features of Brecon

Brecon's Cathedral (Welsh: Yr Eglwys Cadeiriol) owes its origins to a Benedictine Priory dating from 1093, although it is thought that an older church may have been built on the site. Upon the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, the priory became Brecon's parish church.The church achieved Cathedral status in 1923, not long after the creation of The Church in Wales (Welsh: Yr Eglwys yng Nghymru), after the formal disestablishment in Wales of the Anglican church.

A Heritage Centre and Restaurant exists in the Cathedral Close.

Also at Brecon is a Norman castle, which dates from the 11th century. Given the confluence of the Honddu and Usk Rivers (Welsh: Afon Honddu and Afon Wysg respectively), the strategic nature of the location was noted and Bernard de Neufmarché erected a defensive structure which is still a landmark in Brecon.

The Brecon Beacons

The nearby mountains, known as the Brecon Beacons (Welsh: Bannau Brycheiniog ), have a number of peaks, the highest of which is Pen-y-Fan, which has a height of 886 metres. I have climbed this peak more than once; the area, with its paths, lends itself to hill-walking, especially in the warmer weather. While Great Britain has a temperate climate, with comparatively mild winters and not excessively hot summers, visitors to the Brecon Beacons during some of the cooler months need to be aware that, particularly given its higher elevation, temperatures are prone to dropping suddenly. Canadians especially will probably be instinctively aware of the need to take extra precautions in the winter months, but the Brecon Beacons have somewhat of a history of taking unawares some British visitors who are not used to severe weather in an otherwise southerly location in Great Britain. The British army has long used the Brecon Beacons for endurance training, given its ideal environment to test for stamina in adverse conditions.

The nearby village of Libanus hosts the Brecon Beacons Mountain Centre, a National Park Visitor Centre sponsored by the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority.

Also worth visiting

Hay-on-Wye (Welsh: Y Gelli Gandryll; distance: 25 kilometres) is a market town with a Medieval Castle, and many bookstores, to which industry the economy of the town is substantially devoted. A local bookseller (and inveterate joker) named Richard Booth proclaimed himself the King of Hay, giving the bookselling industry a further talking-point. While the border between England and Wales runs between Hay and Cusop, these constitute to a limited extent a single agglomeration in the midst of a wider, rural area.

Clyro , Wales (Welsh: Cleirwy) distance: 26 kilometres) once had a Medieval castle, of which only earthworks remain. Its parish church was rebuilt in the 19th century, having a tower dating partly from the 15th century. In the 18th century, the Methodist leader John Wesley is recorded as having been very active in the district. Local clergyman Francis Kilvert (1840-1879) was a diarist, whose writings are widely read.

Cusop, England (distance: 26 kilometres) is a village referred to in the Domesday book of the year 1086 as 'Cheweshope'. It has with an old stone church, with magnificent old trees in St. Mary's churchyard; there is also a memorial to a William Seward, killed by local people in 1740, who objected to his beliefs and religious activities; he is referred to as the first Methodist martyr. The border between Wales and England occurs at a short bridge between Hay-on-Wye and Cusop; St. Mary's church is situated some kilometres further, bearing right from the bridge. North Americans may note that at border crossings within the constituent countries of the United Kingdom there are no formal passport checks (although some ferry trips may informally demand identity documents.)


How to get there: Continental Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport , from where car rental is available. London Heathrow is 263 kilometres from Brecon. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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