History & the whole park

Historical stops and views in all four areas of the Brecon Beacons National Park, withless walking then other tours

£67 PER PERSON

(Based on 2 people, price is reduced with more people. Full pricing info is on our Booking and Prices page)
INCLUDES ENTRANCE FEES TO ALL CASTLES & A PICNIC LUNCH
Duration: 10am - 6pm
Number of places: 2-6 (or more if using your vehicle)
DISTANCE: 1.5 MILES
Includes a 0.5 mile walk at Carreg Cennen Castle with a 27m ascent and a 0.7 mile walk at Garn Goch Iron Aged fort with a 46m ascent

This tour passes through all 4 regions of the Brecon Beacons National Park, and is our only tour that features the western most area: The Black Mountain (Y Mynydd Du), which is situated in the Fforest Fawr UNESCO Global Geopark. The tour is both a historical and a scenic journey, starting with a 7,000 year old (Mesolithic) settlement site with a Neolithic burial chamber (5,750 year old), the oldest tree in Europe (5,700 years old), a Bronze Age standing stone, the largest Iron Age hillfort in Wales, a Roman fort, a Dark Age royal palace, Arthurian legend, eight medieval castles (two visited, six driven past), medieval folklore,  a medieval cathedral, the Anglo-Zulu War, and an Industrial Revolution quarry. All of this is set against stunning mountain backdrops.

History and the Whole Park map
Cwrt y Gollen Standing Stone
Cwrt y Gollen Standing Stone
Views of the Brecon Beacons from Mynydd Illtud
Views of the Brecon Beacons from Mynydd Illtud
Defynnog Yew Tree the oldest tree in Europe
Defynnog Yew Tree the oldest tree in Europe
Red Kite
Red Kites are frequently seen on this tour
Carreg Cennen Castle
Carreg Cennen Castle
Llywelyn ap Gruffydd Fychan
Llywelyn ap Gruffydd Fychan of Caeo was a wealthy Carmarthenshire landowner who was executed in Llandovery by Henry IV of England in punishment for his support of Owain Glyndŵr's Welsh rebellion
Brecon Gaer, Roman Fort
Brecon Gaer, Roman Fort
Brecon Cathedral
Brecon Cathedral
Llangorse Crannog, the only crannog in England and Wales
Llangorse Crannog, the only crannog in England and Wales

Itinerary

The tour starts at Abergavenny railway station (allowing you to do it as a day trip from several UK cities including Cardiff and London) or, by arrangement, at your Brecon Beacons accommodation.

Abergavenny - We start the tour in this historic town which grew up in Norman times but has been a site of settlement since the Romans. Situated on the River Usk, the town is almost entirely surrounded by mountains and hills. We will drive past the town's castle, which originated in around 1087, and the site of the Roman fort.

Cwrt y Gollen Standing Stone - Also known as The Growing Stone, the 4.2m standing stone at Cwrt y Gollen dates back to the Bronze Age. We will stop to admire this impressive prehistoric feature which is set next to a magnificent oak tree.

Crickhowell - We then drive on to view Crickhowell Castle, which is also known as Alisby's Castle. The castle was initially a motte and bailey castle built around 1121 by the Normans. In 1172 it was attacked by Welsh rebels and in 1273 it was used as a base to gather a 6000-strong force to help Edward I conquer North Wales. The castle was largely destroyed in about 1403 as part of Owain Glyndŵr's rebellion; he also attacked and burned Abergavenny town and other settlements in the area. It was at this time that the castle is thought to have been abandoned, with subsequent stone-robbing leaving only the ruined stone double tower on Castle Green. This beautiful market town that sits under Table Mountain, home of the Iron Age fort Crug Hywel. It is this fort that gives the town its name. Crickhowell was also home to Sir George Everest, the surveyor after whom the world's highest mountain was named.

Gwernvale - As we drive out of Crickhowell, we will pass by an unassuming monument on the side of the busy A40. This was in fact once a tomb, consisting of a long barrow, three side chambers and a forecourt. All that now remains of this prehistoric burial structure is the central chamber which was lined with large stone slabs. Excavations in the 1970s demonstrated that there was a previous settlement on this site.

Mynydd Illtud - Moving further into the National Park, we will arrive at Mynydd Illtud. This hill is named after St Illtyd, who is reputed to be King Arthur’s cousin (and whose stained-glass window will be seen in Brecon Cathedral later in the tour). From here, we have spectacular views over all four mountain ranges in the National Park and towards Twyn y Gaer hillfort.

Defynnog Yew Tree - As we pass through Defynnog, we will stop to visit the famous yew tree. At 5,600 years old this tree has recently been identified as the oldest in Europe! It is situated in the graveyard of Defynnog Church which also boasts a Roman gravestone and a font inscribed with Viking runes.

The Usk Reservoir - This is a great place to view the summits of the Black Mountain, and to learn about the mysterious lake that lies at their base: Llyn y Fan Fach. This lake is on Lonely Planet's 'most unusual lakes' list. It is enchanting and is enchanted, and is also the setting for the legend of the Lady of the Lake.  (The lake is not visible on this tour. If you want to visit it  please join one our Fan Brycheiniog Walking Tours).

Herbert's Quarry (The Black Mountain Quarries) - Set in a stunning location on Black Mountain with panoramic views we learn about the history and find fossils in the limestone.

Carreg Cennen Castle - This castle has recently been voted the most romantic ruin in Wales. The Castle was built by the Welsh of Deheubarth in 1197, and later changed hands between the Welsh and English several times. We explore the castle and visit the cave beneath the castle. We can also learn the about the interesting geology that creates the cliff on which the castle sits.

Garn Goch Hill Fort - This is the largest prehistoric hill fort in Wales. It is divided into the small fort and the large fort. On our tour we visit the small fort which has good views of the large fort.

Bethlehem - We pass though this village, but it is not the same Bethlehem where Jesus was born!

Llandovery Castle - A Norman castle with the earliest construction in 1116.  It changed hands between the Welsh and English many times in its history and was finally burnt by Hywel ap Rhys in 1532. 

Y Gaer Roman Fort - This fort  near Brecon was built in 75AD and sits on a crossroads of Roman roads that went along the Usk Valley and those that linked Mid and South Wales.

Brecon Cathedral - Brecon Cathedral started life as the Benedictine Priory of St John the Evangelist in 1093 and was built by the Normans soon after they conquered Brychieniog.  It became a Cathedral in 1923 when the Diocese of Brecon and Swansea was created. Inside the Cathedral is the Havard Chapel where the colours that were rescued from the Battle of Isandlwana in the Zulu War. My own grandfather was the last man to parade these colours through Brecon before they were permanently hung up on display.

Llangorse Lake - This glacial lake is the largest natural lake in Wales which also contains Wales' only crannog, which was a former royal residence for the kings of Brycheiniog. A crannog was a dwelling built on a partially or entirely artificial island in a lake. Llangorse Lake is also an excellent place to watch birds and has great views of the Beacons.

Tretower - On the way back to Abergavenny, we drive past Tretower Castle. This castle was built around 1150 as a motte and bailey castle and was enlarged in the early thirteenth century. The adjacentTretower Court is a medieval fortified manor house and is a rare survival, escaping destruction in wars or conflicts and total redevelopment over time.

BOOTS SYMBOL EXPLAINED

A video about Herbert's Quarry

WILD WEST (SIGHTSEEING TOUR)

Wild West was a slightly different version of the current itinerary. It had a long walk in it that has since been omitted.

"We were in Wales for a week and wanted to be able to spend a full day in Brecon Beacons. We were not going to have a car, so we needed a guided driver tour. After looking all over the web and reviewing several options we went with James at Brecon Beacons Tours. Wow are we glad we did! We did the Wild West tour and it was AMAZING! James is a local (he lives in the park) and he is also a geologist, so he knowledgeable about the local history and also the science behind how the park was formed. You can not go wrong with this company! My husband fell on some slippery steps while on the tour and John had the supplies and know how to bandage up his cut elbow like a pro! What most impressed me was that the weather was a little questionable in the morning (fog and light rain) so James modified the route/itinerary so that we were able to do the walking in the afternoon to take advantage of the improved weather. The lunch was delicious and it was partially home made by James own mother. Be aware that if you do The Wild West Tour that there is quite a bit of walking, some of it up fairly steep hills and inclines, so be prepared and wear good walking/hiking shoes."

Scott K., USA
Review was posted to GoogleSeptember 2016