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A range of mountains in South Wales offering dramatic views and enjoyable activities

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The Brecons are a range of mountains in South Wales, fully contained within the Brecon Beacons National Park. Visitors to the area often wonder how it got its unusual name, and in fact, the word "beacons" is a reference to the old practice of lighting signal fires on the various mountain summits. This was a quick and easy way of warning people about imminent invasions! Of course, this is no longer necessary though the beacons can still be seen on special occasions, such as the Queen's coronation, and the turning of the new millennium.

A typical view in the Brecon Beacons
Photo by Frank Van De Velde
At 886 metres, Pen y Fan is the tallest mountain in both the National Park, and the entire southern side of Wales. It is often considered as a relatively easy mountain to climb, making it accessible to all ages. A trickier, but rewarding walk is around the "Brecon Horseshoe". This is a popular route that takes in Pen y Fan, as well as several other peaks. Much of the walk is along tall ridges, making for some seriously impressive views.

Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons
Photo by afcone
Advice and information about walking routes, or the area in general, can be found at the Brecon Beacons Mountain Centre. The building contains a shop, which sells maps and equipment, as well as a three-dimensional map of the entire National Park. Guides are usually on hand to give specific advice, and to host various guided walks throughout the year.
One of the most well-known trails is the "Brecons Way", which lasts for a huge 160 kilometres. This covers the full length of the Brecon Beacons - but don't worry, you don't have to do it all in one go!

Walking along the Brecons Way
Photo by P-A-S
Instead of walking around the park, some people prefer to ride bicycles, or horses. Both are available for hire. Even more adventurous types can either climb up the mountains, or jump off them, as the Brecons are popular places for both rock climbing and hang-gliding.
As you explore, watch out for the various standing stones, or other unusual rock formations. People have been visiting the area for many centuries, and there are many old monuments left over from these ancient days. Some of them are so primitive that it can be difficult to tell whether they were constructed by man, or nature!

Unusual rock formations
Photo by Kristi Herbert
The park is also home to the remains of numerous castles and fortresses, which are scattered throughout the Brecons in the most unlikely of places. There is no better example than Carreg Cennen, which sits high up in the mountains, balanced precariously on a sheer cliff-edge, with a drop of 100 metres. In its time, this fortress would have been virtually unassailable. Unfortunately, over the years, it was defeated by Brecons' notorious weather, and it now lies in ruins.

The ruins of Carreg Cennen
Photo by zingyyellow
There are several towns and villages within the national park's boundaries. Brecon, of course, shares its name with the mountains, and is one of the more popular places for tourists and walkers to bed up for the night. It hosts a market, and even has its own - admittedly small - cathedral. Hay-on-Wye is another notable place. Despite its tiny size, it has around 30 second-hand and specialist bookshops! This has given it something of a reputation within the literary circuit, and has made it a tourist destination in its own right.

The centre of Brecon
Photo in the Public Domain (PD)

Hay-on-Wye in the Brecon Beacons
Photo by gluemoon
Wherever you choose to stay, it's sure to provide a fantastic jumping-off point for all the dramatic views and enjoyable activities that the Brecon Beacons have to offer.

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