How to spend a wild weekend in the Brecon Beacons, UK
From foraging and hill hiking to wildlife walks and eco-retreats, the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales is one of the UK’s best spots for getting back to nature.
Begin your stay by getting a taste of the place — literally. The Brecon Beacons might be renowned for its hilly, grassy moorland, but by joining local author and forager Adele Nozedar on a foraging workshop, you’ll discover it’s anything but barren. Adele runs half-day courses that focus on using the senses to explore the plants, fungi and wildlife of the Beacons. There’s even a botanical gin workshop on offer if you want to extend the experience by another three hours.
Now give your legs a proper stretch. The national park looks at its best from up on high, so head up the 2,907ft Pen y Fan, starting at the Storey Arms Outdoor Education Centre. The four-mile circular route is the choice of most, but there are more demanding and longer options. Alternatively, head to the east of the park to climb the small but distinctive Sugar Loaf, topping out at 1,955ft.
Few places lend themselves to outdoor know-how as well as the Brecon Beacons. Make the most of it by signing up for a full-day bushcraft adventure with Mountain and River Activities. Its small-group sessions cover everything from building shelters and finding water to making a fire and foraging for food in the wild — there are various dates available over spring and summer. There are two-day options available as well, while navigation courses are also on offer for those who want to take their map reading to the next level.
Then go from one extreme to the other by unwinding back at your comfy bricks-and-mortar accommodation. To keep the ecotourism feel going, try Brecon Retreat, which has four weekend-hire self-catering properties and a Green Tourism Gold certification. With a strong emphasis on sustainability, the converted barns surrounding habitats have been designed with bees, birds, bats and butterflies in mind, and at two of the properties, you’ll also find electric car charging points.
Birds of prey are a common sight in the Brecon Beacons, and you’re not restricted to admiring them from afar. Join Wings of Wales, in the south of the park, for a half-day encounter flying Harris hawks and owls in the local countryside, with an introduction to their environment and behaviour. You’ll learn about falcon husbandry and diets, then experience what it’s like to handle these impressively powerful birds and have them fly to your glove. There’s also the chance to watch them flying at full speed, which can be as fast as 100mph.
Round things off at the Michelin-recommended The Felin Fach Griffin, which is renowned for its Sunday lunch. The kitchen garden produces leeks, onions, peas, garlic, lettuce and much more besides, including a fruit bounty of strawberries, rhubarb, apples, pears and raspberries. Many of its other ingredients come from local suppliers, and it also stocks organic and biodynamic wines from nearby Ancre Hill Vineyard in Monmouth. Menus change daily and seasonally, and there are rooms if you need to sleep it off.
Published in the May 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)
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