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Brecon Beacons National Park/Wales

Introducing Brecon Beacons National Park

Rippling dramatically for 45 miles from Llandeilo in the west all the way to the English border, Brecon Beacons National Park (Parc Cenedlaethol Bannau Brycheiniog) encompasses some of the finest scenery in South Wales. High mountain plateaus of grass and heather, their northern rims scalloped with glacier-scoured hollows, rise above wooded, waterfall-splashed valleys and green, rural landscapes. It couldn't be more different than rock-strewn Snowdonia to the north, but it offers comparable thrills.

There are four distinct regions within the park, neatly bounded by main roads: the wild, lonely Black Mountain (Mynydd Du) in the west, with its high moors and glacial lakes; Fforest Fawr (Great Forest), which lies between the A4067 and A470, whose rushing streams and spectacular waterfalls form the headwaters of the Rivers Tawe and Neath; the Brecon Beacons (Bannau Brycheiniog) proper, a group of very distinctive, flat-topped hills that includes Pen-y-Fan (886m), the park's (and southern Britain's) highest peak; and, from the A40 northeast to the English border, the rolling heathland ridges of the Black Mountains (Y Mynyddoedd Duon) – don't confuse them with the Black Mountain (singular) in the west.

In 2005 the western half of the national park was given geopark recognition by Unesco. The Fforest Fawr Geopark stretches from Black Mountain in the west to Pen-y-Fan in the east, and it takes in important landscape features such as the ice-sculpted northern faces of the Brecon Beacons, the gorges and waterfalls around Ystradfellte, and the caves and limestone pavements of the southern Black Mountain.

There are hundreds of walking routes in the park, ranging from gentle strolls to strenuous climbs. The park's staff organise guided walks and other active events throughout summer. A set of six Walk Cards (£1 each) is available from the town tourist offices in and around the park, as well as the national park visitor centre near Libanus.

Likewise, there are many excellent off-road mountain-biking routes, including a series of 14 graded and waymarked trails detailed in a map and guidebook pack (£7.50); see also www.mtbbreconbeacons.co.uk.

Ordnance Survey (OS) Landranger maps 160 and 161 cover most of the park, and have walking and cycling trails marked.