After Abergavenny, we headed northwards into the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park, to the historic town of Brecon, in the largest Welsh county, Powys…
Status: Powys, Town, Wales
Eating & Sleeping: Costa Coffee
Attractions: Brecon Cathedral, Brecknock Museum, Castle, River Usk, Usk Bridge, St Mary’s Church, Duke of Wellington Statue, South Wales Borderers Museum etc
Much like in Abergavenny, Brecon is a quaint little town, with a lot of old stone buildings and tight streets, full of interesting and colourful buildings. This is the road we parked up on, which is one of the main roads in the town. We started in Costa Coffee, to relax after the journey up from Abergavenny. After that, it was time to explore!
In the first picture, if you look past the end of the row of houses on the right hand side you can see a grey building jutting out. That is the back of the above church, which we had a quick look inside (at first we mistook it for the Cathedral but that is actually further out so we got to that later). The statue outside the church is of the Duke of Wellington (remember the similar statue in Glasgow that always had the cone on it’s head?) (1769 – 1852, the famous British Soldier).
The church itself is called St Mary’s, which started life as a chapel. The main tower was built in 1510 to a full height of 90 metres, whilst the main building is from the 14th or 15th centuries. Inside it is well decorated, with impressive windows and and a beautiful timber interior roof.
From here we cut through to the Brecon Beacons Visitor Centre, which includes information about the local area as well as a map of the national park. There are also souvenirs available, and we picked up a few memento’s of the town.
Further back down the main road is the main museum in the town, the “Brecknock Museum”. The building itself is the Shire Hall from 1824, and converted into the museum in 1974 after a brief stint as a court building.
The museum covers local history including artefacts from the bronze, iron and stone ages, as well as an art gallery. It was shut when we visited as it is undergoing restoration but will be open again soon.
From the Museum we walked down the river Usk which snakes it’s way around the town, with the Usk Bridge crossing it. Before it was built the river could be forded which means it could be crossed by vehicles without the need for a bridge, but that was a long time ago.
The path runs down the side of the river until a set of steps leading up to the bridge itself.
Standing on the bridge itself you get a great view of the ruined Brecon Castle. After 1066 the Norman’s created many castles, including Brecon Castle, which was deemed important enough to be enlarged from the original timber structure. The earliest known drawing of the Castle dates from 1610 so isn’t known what it first looked like, or even what the main stone structure looked like. It is known however that the Castle suffered 6 attacks between 1215 and 1273, only three of which were successful.
It had become a ruin by at least 1645, and an adjoining house on the site was turned into a hotel from 1809 onwards and is still there today.
The day was moving on quickly and we had one more place I really wanted to show Gemma before we went back to Hereford so we didn’t have time to go up to the Castle itself, and we collected the car for a quick stop at Brecon Cathedral, only a mile away. It’s a fantastic building, quite small but inside it is full of history, detail and another fantastic timbered roof.
Originally the building was Brecon Priory from 1215, then Brecon Parish Church by 1538, and in 1923 it was given Cathedral status. There were other buildings on the site surrounding it but they were left to full to ruin and eventually demolished.
Inside the building workers were setting up a small stage for an event later on in the day, which I wish we could have stayed for, just to see the old building at night.
There are no train stations in Brecon but the main A-Roads coming from the rest of Powys, and Abergavenny as well as North Wales come around the town, including the most important road, the A470.
It’s a beautiful little town, in the middle of an important National Park, full of rolling hills and mountains, that you could drive around all day and still find something new.
This was our last stop in Brecon, and I took Gemma and Co onto the town of Llandrindod Wells, with a lake and cafe that I have a particular soft spot for…