The small market town of Brecon is a great place for a short break or as a base from which to explore the surrounding Brecon Beacons national park. Its narrow streets and passages, lined with Georgian building hide all sorts of interesting shops and eateries. Shoppers should also remember the market that is held every Tuesday and Friday. If you are after something more exclusive, try the craft market every third Saturday of the month. Brecon is not just for shoppers, though, there are other things to see and do.
Jazz fans descend on the town each year in August to enjoy the world-famous Brecon Jazz Festival. The 31st festival takes place in 2015 over the weekend of 7-9 August.
Read on to find out what else you can expect from a stay in Brecon, or Aberhonddu if you want to use the Welsh name.
Accommodation in Brecon
Brecon offers a wide range of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets from simple B+Bs and rooms in pubs to gracious living in beautiful period houses and larger hotels. Should you decide you prefer an out of town location, there are many farmhouse rooms, self-catering cottages and other possibilities waiting to welcome you in the Beacons national park itself.
I live too near to Brecon to have any personal experience of Brecon accommodation. Here are three photos I took that show the range of options that are available.
Brecon town centre
As mentioned above, Brecon is a shopper’s paradise, with lots of quirky little shops tucked away all over the place. My daughter delighted in some of the clothes shops. Anyone wanting to avoid mass-market clothing labels will do well here. After wandering around, we found a delightful cafe with a huge tea menu and good coffee as well.
This was my Brecon favourite!
Brecon has been a military centre since the Roman times. The remains of the Roman fort of Brecon Gaer are a couple of miles to the west of Brecon. Admission to the site, which is maintained by Cadw, is free. Access is through Gaer Farm.
The Norman Bernard de Neufmarche built a castle at Brecon in the late eleventh century and this became the administrative and military headquarters of the lords of the region. The Georgian building that was eventually constructed beside the remains of the castle is now the Brecon Castle Hotel, one of the oldest hotels in Wales.
During the Napoleonic wars, many French prisoners of war were detained in Brecon.
The Watton Barracks, built in 1805, dominate the south-eastern end of the town and are the headquarters of the 160 Wales Brigade. It was from here that soldiers were sent to fight against the Zulus in the Battle of Rorke’s Drift in 1879.
The film “Zulu” produced in 1964 contains a very romanticised version of the battle. The scene of Welshmen singing “Men of Harlech” is considered to be historically without foundation, but it has captured the imagination of many as shown in the video clip below.
Next door to the barracks is the Regimental Museum of the Royal Welsh, formed in 2006 from The Royal Welch Fusiliers (23rd Foot) and The Royal Regiment of Wales (previously 24th, 41st and 69th Foot, later South Wales Borderers, Welch Regiment and Monmouthshire Regiment).
Brecon is the northern end of the 55-mile Taff Trail that starts in Cardiff Bay and passes through Pontypridd, Aberfan and Merthyr Tydfil before crossing the Beacons over into Brecon. Cycling or walking the trail is another way to reach this historic town.
The site of St Mary’s Church in the centre of Brecon has been a place of worship for at least 900 years.
The liturgy of the church is in the Liberal Catholic tradition. The music that is featured is strongly influenced by the Gregorian and plainchant tradition, thus offering many visitors a unique experience.
During weekdays, however, the church places itself firmly into the centre of the local community. Uniquely (at least in my experience), the whole of the main body of the church is given over to being a cafe, where local people and tourists alike can relax, meet, work or grab a quick bite.
A short walk uphill from the town centre is the Cathedral, which is rich in history and has many interesting artefacts.
All in all, Brecon is a perfect base if you intend to visit the Brecon Beacons national park or if you are seeking a pleasant place for a short break. If you intend to climb Pen y Fan, there are buses from Brecon to the Storey Arms, which is one of the starting points for the ascent.
All photographs on this page are the author’s own. Copyright K. Williams 2014.