Why Brecon Beacons National Park has changed its name – and why you should visit now 

Bannau Brycheiniog is the new name for the Brecon Beacons – our expert shares why you should visit this national park

This week the Brecon Beacons National Park launched its new name – Bannau Brycheiniog.

Park bosses used its 66th birthday on Monday to announce the name change, drawing on its Welsh heritage.

A new logo was also revealed, with the well-known emblem of a burning beacon replaced by an image depicting the park’s most famous mountain, a river, a crown and a star.

As an ambassador for the park (and as someone who has called it home for more than 25 years), I can tell you that now is the perfect time to visit, with mountains, wooded valleys, waterfalls and bustling towns awaiting visitors.

Sunset over the Central Beacons mountainsCredit: Shutterstock /gazadavies93

Here I reveal the top locations to visit in the 520-square-mile park (1344 sq km), along with more information on the name change – along with correct pronunciation of its new Welsh title.


Why has Brecon Beacons National Park changed its name?

BBNP Chief Executive Catherine Mealing-Jones explains that Bannau Brycheiniog had always been the Welsh name for the park, and now this is being brought to the fore, rather than the English version. 

“Reclaiming our old name reflects our commitment to the Welsh language, but we understand people are used to calling the park by the name everyone’s used for 66 years, so we don’t expect everyone to use Bannau Brycheiniog, at least straight away,” she explains. 

The name change has attracted criticism from some quarters as an expensive and unnecessary rebranding, but it is part of a wider overhaul of how the park is managed, to try to address serious environmental challenges.

A new management plan will attempt to reverse big declines in wildlife species by 2030 and hit a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2035. Bosses say the plans include working with partners to plant a million trees, restoring 16,000 hectares of damaged peatland, building renewable energy schemes, new fruit and vegetable growing projects and improving public transport. 

How to pronounce Bannau Brycheiniog – and what it means

Bannau Brycheiniog is pronounced ‘ban-aye bruch-ay-nee-og’, with the ch making the same sound as in ‘loch’. 

The new name means ‘the peaks of Brychan’s kingdom.’ Brycheiniog was named after 5th Century King Brychan, and was an independent kingdom in the early Middle Ages – its borders roughly match those of the national park today. 

With a new name and image, now is the perfect time to visit Bannau Brycheiniog, which attracts more than four million visitors every year. 

The 10 best places to visit in Bannau Brycheiniog National Park

Bannau Brycheiniog is home to a mix of mountains and moorland, standing stones, castles, waterfalls and wildlife. Here are my top 10 favourite places to visit in the park. 

1. Pen y Fan

This is the highest mountain in the south of the United Kingdom. Pen y Fan is awe inspiring and a visit to the National Park isn’t complete without at least seeing it, alongside its neighbouring peaks of Cribyn, Corn Du and Fan y Big. 

A view of Pen y Fan, the highest mountain in the south of the UKCredit: Shutterstock / Murrissey72

There are vantage points from laybys on the A40, east of Brecon, and the A470, south of Brecon.  

But if your fitness and the weather allow, then nothing beats a hike up to the summit. On a clear day you’ll enjoy views to the Severn Estuary and the mountains of mid Wales. 

The easiest route is very popular, so set out early as the car parks fill up quickly, especially at weekends and holidays.  

2. Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal

Exploring the canal is a wonderful way to spend a few hours. You can walk or cycle along the tow path or take to the water in a hire boat, paddleboard or canoe. 

A white house on the banks of a canalCredit: Shutterstock /Chrislofotos

Visit the Fourteen Locks Canal Centre for all the info about the canal and to see one of Britain’s most impressive staircase lock systems. Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, has a café and you can hire boats and canoes. If you fancy a walk, there’s a lovely out and back route from Brecon Basin to the historic Brynich Aqueduct. 

3. Waterfall Country

No visit to the park would be complete without a visit to Waterfall Country. It’s one of the most beautiful and popular parts of the park, with steep, tree-lined gorges and stunning waterfalls. 

A waterfall in South WalesCredit: Shutterstock / Billy Stock

You can enjoy a variety of walks here, from ones which are suitable for wheelchair-users, to the most Instagrammed waterfall, Sgwd yr Eira, where you can walk along a path behind the waterfalls. It is an easier path than it looks but be careful as it is slippyI’ve walked it a few times and find using a walking pole really helpful. Once again, arrive early as the car parks fill up quickly. 

4. Hay-on-Wye

This is a gem of a town to visit, especially if you are a book lover like me.

A bustling street in Hay-on-WyeCredit: Shutterstock / Leighton Collins

It’s known as the second-hand book capital of the world and every year attracts thousands to the Hay Festival which sees writers, politicians, comedians and musicians perform. I think Hay-on-Wye is worth a visit at any time of year. It’s not just bookshops, but cafes, clothes shops and a great deli. 

5. Brecon Mountain Railway

The park is famous for its hills and mountains, and this steam train is a wonderful way to travel into the heart of the mountains while letting the train take the strain.

A steam train travelling through hilly countrysideCredit: Shutterstock / Phil Darby

The Brecon Mountain Railway starts at Pant, Merthyr Tydfil and the journey takes you alongside two reservoirs before climbing to Torpantau in the heart of the Central Beacons mountain range. You can head out on a walk from here, before catching a later train back. Or else stop on the way back at Pontsticill where there’s a café and views across the reservoir to the peaks.

6. Crickhowell

A pretty market town in the Usk Valley with a host of independent shops, cafes and pubs. I love spending a Saturday morning wandering along its High Street.

A view of a bridge over a river with a village on the far shoreCredit: Shutterstock / As You See it Media Ltd

Must visits include Book-ish , an award-winning independent bookshop, Nicholls a country clothing and lifestyle store and The Bear, a 500-year-old coaching inn, with a choice of real ales. There’s also a gallery featuring local artists and lovely riverside walks.

7. Llanthony Priory

You’ll need to drive a few miles along a winding country lane to reach Llanthony Priory, but I think it’s worth it.

A ruined priory surrounded by mountainsCredit: Shutterstock / Billy Stock

The ruins of a 900-year-old Augustinian priory sit in jaw-dropping surroundings overlooked  by the ridges of the Black Mountains. There’s a hotel and pub within the priory grounds and a car park and toilets which are free to use. Llanthony Priory is also one of the best locations to go stargazing in the UK.

8. Cerreg Cennen Castle

Spectacularly perched on a sheer cliff face, right in the west of the park, Cerreg Cennen Castle is worth a visit if you have time.

A castle is South Wales perched on a cliff topCredit: Shutterstock / Richard Whitcombe

The castle dates back to the 13th century and besides taking in the stunning views, you can visit its dungeons too. There’s a friendly tearoom with great cakes (I’ve tested them myself) and a farm which is home to more than 50 Longhorn cattle. 

9. Llangorse Lake

This is the largest natural lake in south Wales and for me, a lake of two-halves.

A lake surrounded by reeds and mountainsCredit: Shutterstock / Margaret Clavell

On the north shore of the lake, you’ll find parking and loads of water sports, including dinghy, windsurfing, canoe and paddle board hire. 

On the south side you’ll find a hide among the wildflower meadows and reed beds, where you can watch wildlife and birds – there are otters here but they are very shy. This is my favourite side of the lake for a walk, but it can get boggy in wet weather. 

10. Nant y Bedd Gardens

This woodland garden, north of Abergavenny, is the Royal Horticultural Society’s Partner Garden of the Year, for 2022.

A wildlife pond in a gardenCredit: Nant y Bedd

Nant y Bedd has hosted Gardeners World, Alan Titchmarsh and national and international journalists. Owners Sue and Ian have spent 40 years creating this 10-acre organic garden and woodland, which boasts a rope bridge, gorge, treehouse and natural swimming pond.  

Bannau Brycheiniog also hosts award-winning restaurants including the Michelin-starred Walnut Tree, the Felin Fach Griffin and Hardwick. There are farmers markets selling local produce, walking festivals, including ones at Crickhowell and Talgarth, and music festivals including Brecon Jazz and Green Man. 

It’s a stunning part of the world and one I feel privileged to call my home. If you haven’t visited before, then there is no better time than now to see it for yourself. 

Phillipa Cherryson

Written by Phillipa Cherryson she/her


Phillipa Cherryson is Saga Exceptional’s Fitness Channel Editor. Phillipa has been a journalist for 30 years, writing for local and national newspapers, UK magazines and reporting onscreen for ITV.

Her passion is outdoor fitness. She’s a trainee mountain leader; an Ordnance Survey Champion; she organises walks and instructional events for South Wales members of online community the Adventure Queens and she’s vice chair of the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Local Access Forum.

She hated sports at school and only started getting the fitness bug as she reached her 50s. Now she loves mountain walking, trail runs, e-biking, paddleboarding and climbing. She also loves cake.

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