Activities and Adventures:
Located in the wonderful Brecon Beacons National Park there are a wealth of outdoor activities and adventures available to our guests. Our B&B is supremely convenient for you in that you can leave your car behind and head straight out in the morning on one of our ‘Walks From the Door’ options below: not just green but less effort! If you’re interested in something a little further afield, see our ‘Within Half an Hour Drive’ and ‘Under an Hour Away’ for some suggestions and information. If you aren’t travelling by car or you too want to reduce your footprint on the Beacons give us a ring for information about public transport. If we’re able, Caroline will drop you off at the starting point of your walk.
We live in Wales, so sometimes it’s a good idea to have a rainy day back-up plan if you run screaming from the sight of a cagoule. Luckily, we live in Wales! You can’t move without tripping over some local history round here. We couldn’t possibly cover everything here, but take a look at our Cultural Attractions section below for some of our favourite sights and activities.
WALKS FROM THE DOOR
CADAIR FAWR (90 minutes, moderate)
Our local hill, you can reach the top in 45 minutes. Take some time to visit the bronze age stone circle nearby, and see the multitude of shake holes where underground streams have eroded the stone, and the caves beneath have collapsed.
There is some remnants of a limestone pavement on the hill, and an ancient lime quarry. The views from the top are fantastic, across the open moor to Penyfan to the north, and over to the adjacent valleys east and west.
SGWD YR EIRA (2 hours, moderate)
The amazing waterfall you can walk behind. The usual route is down our lane to the village of Penderyn, and along a footpath to the river. This is the only crossing point of the river Hepste, and in days gone by farmers would use the route behind the waterfall to take their sheep across.
We have longer walks around many of the waterfalls in this area, some from the door and some from a start point you can park at, see the walks page for more details.
PENDERYN MOEL (2 hours, moderate)
Another smallish hill on the far side of Penderyn, but with fantastic views from the top. You can see down the Neath valley, across the hills that the waterfall valleys run between, and of course to Penyfan which is also easy to spot because of it’s shape. You can combine this trip with a visit to the Red Lion in Penderyn for some interesting ales.
EXPLORE BEILI HELYG (30 minutes, Easy)
Make a circle of the farm, meet the chickens, pigs and geese, find the bird and bat boxes in the woods and explore the streams and protected marshland (a Site of Special Scientific Interest).
GARWNANT MOUNTAIN WALK OR BIKE RIDE ( 2-3 hours walk, Medium)
Our B&B is perfectly located for the newly refurbished Garwnant Forestry Centre. Why not save the £2 parking charge and walk or bike from the door? We can give you a suggested route. The centre itself includes a new restaurant, information centre, children’s play area, forestry walks and mini-MTB mountain bike trails.
There are often events on – why not take a look at their website? www.forestry.gov.uk/garwnant
N:B the Taff Trail (Cardiff- Brecon) also passes through the centre.
www.droverholidays.co.uk offer mountain bike hire.
WELSH WHISKY WANDER (2-2 ½ hours, Easy)
Only a lovely 30 minute walk down the winding lane to Penderyn village (and a 40 minute wobble back!) you’ll find the only whisky distillery in Wales. Penderyn distillery produces internationally award-winning “Welsh Gold” as well as their own vodka, gin and “Merlyn” (a cream liqueur a little like Baileys and Caroline’s personal favourite). Let us book you a sample-tasting tour of the distillery and visitor’s centre and find out why this little village is fast becoming an internationally recognised name. Opening hours 9.30 – 17.00. Last tour at 4pm. The tours are an hour long or there are master classes which are longer.
Take a look at their website www.welsh-whisky.co.uk
LLWYN ONN FISHING TRIP (45 min walk to the reservoir, Easy)
A ‘necklace’ chain of reservoirs that have supplied South Wales with water for almost 100 years, runs through the valley. The Llwyn Onn reservoir is a short moor and forestry walk from our B&B and is well stocked with trout.
To fish you will need a fishing licence which can be bought from machines at the Garwnant car park at the head of the reservoir. Alternatively, why not just take a walk around to the reservoir itself?
In high summer and other dry spells you may be able to spot the submerged bridge Pont ar Daf, which shows where the old road from Merthyr to Penderyn went. The hamlet of Ynysyfelin was abandoned and the valley flooded in 1914 to provide the reservoir. Before the area was flooded there were farms, two pubs, the Red Lion and the Farmers Arms, the Pwllcoch woollen mill a school and a chapel here. The Bethel baptist chapel was rebuilt outside the flooded area at Llwyn Onn and can be seen alongside the A470.
WITHIN HALF AN HOURS DRIVE:-
PORTH YR OGOF/ CWM PORTH; one of the waterfall car parks provided by the forestry, which is about a 10 minute drive, which links neatly to the walking routes of both long and short walks along the rivers Nedd, Mellte and Hepste. It also has a rather impressive cave entrance underneath which is always worth a look.
BIKEPARK WALES; a fantastic new mountain bike centre at Gethin Woods; a huge range of single track and downhill trails for all abilities, with an optional uplift to transport you back to the top of the park so you can do it all again. They also offer bike hire, a bike shop and Woodland Cafe. The website is at www.bikeparkwales.com/
WATERFALL VISITOR CENTRE AT PONTNEDDFECHAN; about a 10 minute drive, the centre houses a Geopark exhibition that tells the geological story of the Brecon Beacons over hundreds of millions of years, which explains why we have so many waterfalls. It also has maps and guides to tell you how to visit them.
STOREY ARMS; the car park closest to the top of Pen y Fan is about a 10-12 minute drive.
The walk to the top is about an hour. the path has been paved to protect the mountain from erosion of frequent visitors, which makes the route very easy to see, although it is still all up.
JOSEPH PARRY’S COTTAGE
Outside May-September you’ll have to make an appointment to visit this tiny cottage where Wales’ most famous composer was born. Best known for Myfanwy and Aberystwyth, Dr Joseph Parry also composed operas and oratorios. Find out more about him here.
The house is a superb example of an ironworker’s cottage and on the ground floor you can see what life was like for its residents in the 1840s. Upstairs is a Joseph Parry exhibition. Find out about opening times here.
BRECON MOUNTAIN RAILWAY
For a really unique day out why not combine a panoramic walk in the Beacons with a ride on the Brecon Mountain Railway? These vintage steam locomotives chug along the old line from Pant to Torpantau, along the length of the Taf Fechan reservoir. You can stop off at Pontsticill and spend some time admiring the view across the water to the Beacons and refresh yourself in the cafe.
Walking around the reservoir or taking a longer route via Morlais Castle is also great – just don’t miss the last train! In Pant you can visit the workshop where the trains are maintained. Popular with kids from three to seventy-three! See here for some great suggestions for walking from the station. www.breconmountainrailway.co.uk/walks.html
To get there by public transport, take the No 35 bus from Merthyr bus station.
CASTELL COCH (Red Castle)
A fairy-tale castle situated in deciduous woodland on a hill between Merthyr and Cardiff, this Victorian folly of the Middle Ages was designed by William Burges for the third Marquess of Bute. The woodland surrounds make it particularly romantic in Autumn and worth stopping to take a look if you’re passing along the A470, even if you don’t go into the castle itself. Beautifully decorated and furnished in the gothic style, it’s closer than Cardiff Castle but overall we think there’s less to see. Opening times vary depending on the season, make sure to check the website: http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/daysout/castell-coch/?lang=en
BRECON GAER ROMAN FORT
Dating from 75 AD, this fort is North-West of Brecon and located at a strategically important point for Roman Wales. The fort was built for a contingent of up to 500 cavalrymen, recruited originally in Spain. Excavated in the 1920s by Sir Mortimer Wheeler, a lot of the relics (including the tombstone of young cavalrymen Candidus) have been removed to BRECKNOCK MUSEUM in Brecon, but visitors can see the remains of a guard tower, walls some 3 metres high and a gatehouse. More information at http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/daysout/Brecon-gaer-roman-fort/visitorinformation?lang=en. Cadw Heritage runs the site.
CYFARTHA CASTLE MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY
A short distance from Beili Helyg, set in lovely parkland with lots for children to do in spring/summer. Take along some leftover bread and join locals feeding the ducks on the lake. In summer there are often festivals, fairground rides, live music, fetes etc.
Their website http://www.visitmerthyr.co.uk/attractions/cyfarthfa-park-museum/cyfarthfa-castle-museum.aspx puts it better than we could:
“The ‘Ironmaster’ William Crawshay commissioned Cyfarthfa Castle in 1824. This grand castellated mansion overlooked his immensely successful ironworks and has been called, “the most impressive monument of the Industrial Iron Age in South Wales”.
At the Castle you can admire the extensive fine and decorative art collections, including Swansea, Nantgarw and Wedgwood porcelain. Stroll through the atmospheric social and industrial history galleries, which chart the rise of this once great ironmaking town; learn about Richard Trevithick’s Penydarren Locomotive of 1804, the first locomotive to pull a load along rails; discover the roots of the Labour movement, from the Merthyr Rising of 1831, and the martyrdom of Dic Penderyn, to the first Labour MP – Keir Hardie; see our ‘museum of a museum’ including curiosities from around the world – ancient Egyptian grave goods, Greek and Roman artefacts, and Far Eastern decorative arts.”
Some of the exhibits (the taxidermied animals particularly) look a bit dated now but are genuinely very interesting. A really good choice for a wet afternoon.
Closed on Mondays. Free admission.
CYNON VALLEY MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY
Located very close by in Aberdare, we haven’t visited this museum ourselves yet, but it certainly has a very swish website. Situated on the old Gadlys Ironworks the museum showcases life in the valleys in the last 200 years, but we’re particularly interested in their collection of contemporary Welsh art and design…
UNDER AN HOUR AWAY:-
“Roman garrison, Norman stronghold, Victorian gothic fantasy.” Fabulous day out in Cardiff city centre, come rain or shine. One hour drive or one hour on the train or X4 bus from Merthyr/Aberdare. Unless it’s a Sunday we recommend the bus or train as it’s not only more eco but the price of a ticket holds up very well against the cost and sheer bother of parking in Cardiff. The train takes 58 minutes and costs £6.80 for an anytime return, the bus is cheaper again. We don’t advise this trip if you have problems with stairs.
Did you know that Wales was the world’s first industrial nation? By 1850 the country had more people employed in industry than in agriculture. At Blaenavon Ironworks, the site of the acclaimed BBC Coal House series, thousands of visitors come to see what life was like for workers at Stack Square. Easily combined with the Big Pit Mining Museum for a fascinating insight into how the cutting edge technology and the people of South Wales powered Britain’s Industrial Revolution.
Most suitable for those with cars – follow the signs on the A4043.
See also RHONDDA HERITAGE PARK (below)
BIG PIT (NATIONAL COAL MUSEUM)
The ex-miners who take you underground are excellent, humorous guides, real characters and a mine (ahem) of information on anything to do with the coal industry in Wales, past or present. I’ve taken visitors three times and the 90 metre drop in the lift shaft never gets any less ooh-er and the quality of the guides is never less than excellent. The landscape around the mine is a designated UNESCO Heritage site in itself. A real must-see, this museum won the prestigious Gulbenkian Museum of the Year prize in 2004, just after opening.
Here’s what you get:
“Enjoy a multi-media tour of a modern coal mine with a virtual miner in the Mining Galleries, exhibitions in the Pithead Baths and Historic colliery buildings open to the public for the first time.
All this AND the world-famous Underground Tour. Go 300 feet underground with a real miner and see what life was like for the thousands of men who worked at the coal face.”
See http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/bigpit/ for visitor’s information.
The second largest castle in Britain (after Windsor), this moated, medieval giant was a masterpiece of military planning, built by one of Henry III’s barons (Gilbert de Clare) in the late 13th Century. If Welsh prince Llewellyn the Last had had his way, it never would have been built at all. The castle was instrumental in preventing him from realising his ambitions of reconquering South Wales. Find out how to visit and learn more about the castle’s fascinating history (plus see its famous leaning tower) here and here. If you visit at the time of the Caerphilly Big Cheese festival you won’t just get to try a lot of great local produce but you may bump into a few medieval knights and peasants going about their business in the castle grounds.
RHONDDA HERITAGE PARK
The Black Gold Tour of Lewis Colliery features a fully guided with ex-miner guides and involves multimedia presentations, a tour of the pit head buildings and a trip ‘underground’ to experience the life of a coal miner. Very popular with school groups. Tours at 10am, 12pm & 2pm daily, pre-booking is advised as spaces are limited. Website is: http://www.rhonddaheritagepark.com/ . Call 01443 682036 to book a tour.
See also BIG PIT, BLAENAVON IRONWORKS.
A bit further from us (4 miles west of Cardiff City centre) and there is a lot of outdoors as well as indoors, but St Fagan’s Open Air Museum of Welsh Life is not to be missed! Home to over 40 original buildings that were moved brick by painstaking brick to the fabulous castle grounds of the museum. Everything from a Celtic village to the stunning St Teilo’s Church (it took them 20 years to move it) can be seen in this “living museum”. Craftsmen and artisans can be seen demonstrating their skills throughout the buildings – clogmakers, blacksmiths and a weaver are just some examples and you can have a go at some too. There’s a good tearoom when you need a break. Don’t forget to take a look at the excellent new Oriel gallery, which examines “what it means to be Welsh and live in Wales today”. Incredibly, the whole museum is FREE ENTRY, so you’ll have plenty of money left over to spend on shortbread.
There’s always a catalogue of events and activities going on at St Fagan’s so make sure you look at their website http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/stfagans/ or give them a call ((029) 2057 3500) before planning your trip.
Did you know? Two episodes of Doctor Who were filmed here!
You can get to the museum on the 32 and 320 buses from Cardiff City Centre Bus Station. Car park costs £3.50 per vehicle.
RHOSSILI AND THE GOWER
Recently voted ‘Britain’s Best Beach’ and one of the best in the world; by anyone’s standards this bay has 3 miles of completely gorgeous sands and coastline.
It’s dog friendly all year round, has some fantastic coastal walks and picnic spots, and is a great place for water-sports/ surfing. There is car parking, loos and refreshments available. Take a walk over to Worms Head, the tidal island, but do make note of the tide times as swimming across is not safe.
<A HREF=”http://www.bedandbreakfasts.co.uk/thirsk/thirsk”>Thirsk Luxury Hotel</A> from BedandBreakfasts.co.uk with Google Maps Technology