One Day in the Brecon Beacons Itinerary: A Day Trip from Cardiff

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by Neota Langley

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Rugged mountains, serene lakes and hidden valleys, the Brecon Beacons (Bannau Brycheiniog in Welsh) is Wales’ beating heart. Located just over the border in the south, this National Park is one of the most accessible wild spaces in the UK so spending one day in the Brecon Beacons is the perfect option for a short getaway. 

Creating a Brecon Beacons itinerary is a joy, especially if you love to surround yourself with nature. Often overlooked for the larger Snowdonia National Park, the Beacons are not to be underestimated. You will find tall peaks with mountain lakes tucked away in the valleys, cascading waterfalls and cosy local taverns. All conveniently located so you can easily explore the highlights in just one day. 

How Many Days in the Brecon Beacons?

There may be plenty to see and do in the Brecon Beacons but that doesn’t mean you need to use up your holiday allowance. Whilst you could easily spend an entire week exploring this area, taking a weekend or even a day trip will give you plenty of time to make the most of this varied National Park.

How many days to spend in the Brecon Beacons depends on what you want to achieve during your stay and how far you are travelling to get there. 

With one day in the Brecon Beacons, you can explore the main town of Brecon, head out into the hills on a hike of your choice then settle in beside the fire at a local pub to enjoy a traditional Welsh meal.

This makes a Brecon Beacons day trip from Cardiff the perfect excuse to leave the city behind and explore the wilderness. It is also a doable day trip from Bristol, Swansea or even Birmingham. 

If you are travelling from further afield, you may want to spend two days in the Brecon Beacons. With two days you could take a Brecon Beacons road trip to explore further, discover more of the hidden gems and tackle two hikes instead of just one. 

Beautiful Brecon Beacons NP
Beautiful Brecon Beacons NP

Getting To & Around the Brecon Beacons

The most convenient way to travel to and around the Brecon Beacons National Park is by car but there are alternative ways to reach the hills if you don’t have access to a car. 

The Brecon Beacons are easy to reach from several major cities across the UK. Cardiff is the closest but within 1-3 hours you could reach the park from Birmingham, Bristol, Gloucester and Swansea. 

Driving from a nearby town or city is a breeze, with the M4 connecting south Wales with the rest of the UK, it’s only another hour or so from the motorway until you reach your destination.

Using a car is the best way to make the most out of your time in the Beacons as public transport can be unreliable, especially in the more rural areas. If you need to rent a car for your trip, you can browse options here.

This doesn’t mean you can’t visit the Brecon Beacons without a car, however, especially if you focus your stay in and around Brecon or another small town with decent transport links. There are train stations in Abergavenny or Merthyr Tydfil but to reach the national park from there, you will have to either take a bus or taxi. 

Taking a bike is another option for those who don’t have a car but seeing as you won’t be able to cover as much ground, this will require a little extra pre-planning. There are a few bike trails, especially suited to hybrid or mountain bikes but most of the routes involve a fair amount of road cycling which is something to be aware of. 

Another excellent way to get the best out of your one day in the Brecon Beacons is by joining a guided trip such as this full-day tour from Cardiff or this organised hiking tour. There are also local guides stationed across the National Park that will be able to show you the best sights backed up with local knowledge. 

Driving in Brecon Beacons
Driving in the Brecon Beacons

1 Day in Brecon Beacons Itinerary

Spending one day in this diverse national park will give you the opportunity to delve into Wales’ incredible emerald landscapes, climb high into the clouds and enjoy the quaint villages and their local pubs and restaurants scattered across this wilderness. 


Nestled in the heart of the national park, you will find the market town of Brecon. This is the perfect place to start your day with its welcoming atmosphere and plenty of points of interest where you can discover more of the area’s heritage. 

Brecon is steeped in history, and one of its most notable landmarks is the Brecon Cathedral, a striking, 12th-century place of worship. You can enter the cathedral for free to admire the beautiful architecture within. 

The town centre also holds a vibrant market where visitors can explore local produce, crafts, and antiques. The indoor market is only open on Tuesdays and Fridays but there are also outdoor markets once a month during the summer. 

For history enthusiasts, The Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh showcases the rich military history of the area. Housed in the town centre, the museum offers a compelling collection of artefacts, exhibits, and interactive displays, providing a glimpse into the heritage and traditions of The Royal Welsh regiment.

After taking the morning to wander around the small town, make sure to drop into one of the local cafes or restaurants to grab some breakfast before lacing up your hiking boots and heading out into the hills. 


It would be impossible to add just one hike suggestion for the Brecon Beacons, an area with hundreds of beautiful day hikes, mountains, lakes and waterfalls to discover. To help you decide, here are 4 of the best options with varying length and difficulty. 

Black Mountains

A lesser-known area of the Brecon Beacons are the Black Mountains. Characterised by undulating hills and dramatic landscapes, this range offers an adventure playground for hikers, cyclists, and nature enthusiasts. 

Traversing the Black Mountains unveils a tapestry of heather-clad moorlands, meandering rivers, and ancient woodlands. Popular trails such as the Offa’s Dyke Path and the Beacons Way wind through this wild terrain, leading to hidden gems like Llanthony Priory and the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir. 

If you want to climb a mountain but have either already climbed Pen Y Fan or want to go more off the beaten path, the tallest mountain in this range is Waun Fach. 

Start your hike in Talgarth, winding up through the Pwll Y Wrach (Witch’s Pool) woodland valley and onto the open moorland. From Pengenffordd, ascend towards the ridge of the Black Mountains. This initial ascent may be challenging, but the effort is rewarded with panoramic views.

This area is one of the most wild and remote in the National Park so if you do decide to hike here, make sure you have plenty of supplies, food and water to keep you going. 

Hiking in the Black Mountains
Hiking in the Black Mountains

Llyn Y Fan Fach

This trail leads you through some of the area’s most picturesque landscapes, including rolling hills, open moorland, and glacial valleys. The highlight is undoubtedly Llyn y Fan Fach, a tranquil lake surrounded by the majestic peaks of the Brecon Beacons.

Although one of the most beautiful hikes in this list, it is also a real hidden gem so you won’t have to deal with as many crowds as the more popular routes such as Pen Y Fan.  

The circular hike is approximately 5 miles (8 km) long and is considered moderate in difficulty. There is a short, sharp ascent behind the lake but once this is behind you, the rest of the walk is more meandering. It usually takes around 3-4 hours to complete. Parking is free at the small pull-in beside the Neuadd Reservoir. 

Pen Y Fan 

The Pen y Fan trek is one of the most popular and iconic hikes in the Brecon Beacons National Park, offering breathtaking views from the highest peak in South Wales.

The most common starting point is the Pont ar Daf car park, located off the A470 road. Another option is to start from the Storey Arms Outdoor Education Centre.

Begin the hike by ascending to Corn Du, which is the first peak on the route. The trail is well-marked but can still be steep in places. From Corn Du, you need to follow the horseshoe ridge across to the Pen y Fan summit. This section of the hike provides spectacular views of south Wales and on a clear day, even as far as the Bristol Channel. 

From the summit, you can either descend and return to the trailhead or continue your hike to one of the surrounding peaks such as Cribyn. 

Pen Y Fan is extremely exposed and for most of the hike, you are on a ridgeline, so check the weather forecast before you go and keep an eye out for the wind conditions. Even during the summer months, the weather can change very quickly so pack waterproofs no matter what the weather down in the valleys below. 

Hiking Pen Y Fan
Hiking Pen Y Fan

Waterfall Country

The Brecon Beacons National Park is home to several beautiful waterfalls, and there are various waterfall walks and trails where you can explore these natural wonders. One of the best waterfall walks is the Four Falls Trail, which takes you to four stunning waterfalls all in one loop. 

The trail begins at the Cwm Porth Information Centre, where you can get information about the trail and the waterfalls. 

All four waterfalls are magical in their own right, Sgwd Clun-gwyn, Sgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn, Sgwd y Pannwr and saving the best until last, Sgwd-yr-Eira.

This last waterfall is definitely the highlight of the trail, you can walk on the rock behind the sheets of cascading water for a fully immersive experience. For those who love to brave the cold water, you are also welcome to wild swim in the plunge pool which is an invigorating experience. 

The entire trail is approximately 5.8 miles (9.3 kilometres) long which takes around 3 hours to complete depending on how long you want to stop at each waterfall.

Make sure to pack Wellington boots or good waterproof footwear if you want to make the most out of this hike and the gorgeous scenery surrounding. The ground can get very muddy and after periods of heavy rainfall, the rivers can rise onto the paths.  



After a busy day embracing the Welsh weather out in the wilderness, now is the perfect time to head to a local pub to dry off those boots and enjoy the friendly atmosphere – a must on any trip to the Brecon Beacons.

Depending on where you decide to hike, the closest town/village will vary but you are guaranteed to find a cosy pub with a roaring fireplace in most villages. Talgarth is home to Bridge End Inn, you’ll find The Bear in Crickhowell or The Felin Fach Griffin in Brecon, all great options for cosy pub grub. 

Wales does have a few of its own national dishes if you want to truly embrace the Welsh spirit. The most comforting after a long hike has to be Cawl, a chunky vegetable soup often served with lamb, cheese and a bread roll.

Other options include asking for your curry ‘half and half’ (half chips and half rice) or trying Wales’ version of cheese on toast, Welsh Rarebit. 

Dark Skies

The night doesn’t have to end there, the Brecon Beacons has been an official ‘Dark Sky Reserve’ since 2012. The absence of urban glare allows for remarkable views of celestial wonders, including constellations, planets, and the Milky Way.

Popular stargazing sites like Usk Reservoir and Llangorse Lake offer expansive vistas for observing the cosmos. Whether you want to lie back and stargaze or you have a passion for photography and want to try your hand at astrophotography, this is the perfect place to get away from light pollution.

The Brecon Beacons National Park Authority actively promotes awareness of the importance of preserving these dark skies, holding events and collaborations with the local community throughout the year.

Star Gazing in Brecon Beacons
Star Gazing in the Brecon Beacons

Have 2 Days in the Brecon Beacons?

If you have a full weekend to spare, spending 2 days in the Brecon Beacons means you have an extra day to explore this rugged landscape. You no longer have to make the tough decision on just one hike or one town to explore. 

Within two days, you could split the National Park into two sections, Brecon and Pen Y Fan on day one then head across to the more off-the-beaten-track areas around Talgarth and Crickhowell. 

If you’re a fan of local spirits, you can also choose to visit the Penderyn Distillery – a single-malt whisky distillery nestled in the National Park.

And history buffs will love to take some time away from hiking to see Carref Cennen Castle, a 13th-century castle located just outside the village of Trap.

Spending a night is also the perfect way to enjoy the notorious dark skies and star gazing opportunities. All in all, there is a lot to do with a weekend in the Brecon Beacons.

Where to Stay in the Brecon Beacons

Ty Llew Lodge – This sustainable B&B in Abergavenny is an excellent base for exploring the Brecon Beacons. There are several en-suite rooms available and a great breakfast each morning.

Pen-Y-Worlod Cottages – Located in Abergavenny, these cottages are an excellent option for those after a self-catering stay in the Brecon Beacons. There are several cottages to choose from to suit your needs.

Glanye – These apartments in the town of Hay-on-Wye are perfect for those looking for a rustic and comfortable escape. There are several flats to choose from that are fully equipped with everything you may need.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Brecon Beacons hotels!

The Brecon Beacons is Wales’ smallest National Park but it is full of natural wonders, friendly local atmosphere and some of the most incredible hikes in the whole of the UK. You may arrive home from your Brecon Beacons road trip with muddy boots but you will also have a camera roll, full of incredible mountain scenes and memories to last a lifetime.  

Are you visiting the Brecon Beacons? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Neota Langley

Neota is a writer for The World Was Here First. Born and bred in Cornwall, she can usually be found with hiking boots on, ready to embark on an adventure. For the last 6 years, she has travelled throughout Europe in her self-built campervan with her trusty canine companion, Ivy. She loves exploring France, the Nordics and spending time in Alpine destinations.

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