It would be hard to find a more idyllic holiday destination than the peaceful valleys, dramatic peaks and pretty villages of Mid Wales. You’ll find rivers flowing through the Brecon Beacons National Park, challenging walks through the Black Mountains, scenic bike rides and some of the UK’s darkest skies for stargazing.
If you fancy a getaway to this glorious part of the world, we have compiled some of the best things to do in Mid Wales.
#01 Go climbing in the Black Mountains
The Black Mountains flow through Powys and the Brecon Beacons with peaks such as Hay Bluff, Sugar Loaf and the Twmpa to climb. There are a trio of Marilyns in the range including Waun Fach which at 811 metres is the highest point in the Black Mountains.
- The Sugar Loaf is one of the most popular peaks to tackle in the Black Mountains and the walk to the top from Abergavenny includes heather-clad moorland and wildlife-rich wildflower meadows.
- Other climbs include heading up Hay Bluff via Offa Dyke’s Path to enjoy views over Hay-on-Wye and tackling The Skirrid which is also known as Holy Mountain as it’s home to the ruins of St Michael’s Chapel.
- If you fancy cooling off after a challenging walk in the Black Mountains, head to the tranquil Llyn Y Fan Fach glacial lake. The waters here are the setting for local legend ‘The Lady of the Lake’.
#02 Browse bookshops in Hay-on-Wye
Hay-on-Wye is known as the town of books and you’ll find around 30 independent bookshops dotted amongst pubs and cafes along its cobbled streets and historic alleyways. The Welsh market town also plays host to one of the world’s leading art and literary events in the form of the annual Hay Festival which is renowned for workshops and talks from a range of different authors.
- The medieval walls of Hay Castle are home to one of the town’s most unique places to buy books - The Honesty Bookshop. Shelves in the fortified castle walls hold hundreds of second-hand books with an honesty box where you can pay for any titles that take your fancy.
- One of the largest bookshops in town is located in the former Hay Cinema and there are so many titles to seek out that you’ll be given a map to help you find your way round.
- Richard Booth’s Bookshop is the place that started the ‘town of books’ title for Hay-on-Wye and we love the cosy chairs dotted around the characterful store where you can take a seat and read some of the wonderful second-hand books.
#03 Explore a historic castle
You’ll find historic castles with fascinating pasts throughout Mid Wales and it’s well worth visiting these ancient sites to uncover some of the rich history and heritage of the area. You can scale a 13th century stone tower, explore a medieval court building and enjoy some of the finest views around from the sites of romantic ruins.
- Bronllys Castle near Brecon was originally built in the early 12th century but the stone tower that you can see today dates back to the 13th century and you can climb up three floors for a spectacular view from the top.
- The ruined remains of Crickhowell Castle are free to explore throughout the year and have an elevated spot in this Mid Wales market town with the castle bailey now a playground and the surrounding grounds a perfect spot for a scenic Crickhowell walk.
- Hay-on-Wye Castle is a grand medieval fortress that once guarded the border between England and Wales and different parts of the building date back to the Norman, Victorian and Jacobean eras. A cobbled courtyard houses a number of independent shops and a restoration project will transform parts of the castle into a local centre for arts.
- On the outskirts of Crickhowell is Tretower Court and Castle which includes the remains of a grand circular tower and an original medieval court building which is laid out for a lavish 15th century feast.
#04 Take a scenic walk through the Brecon Beacons
The Brecon Beacons National Park covers a large part of Mid Wales so you’ll find no shortage of scenic walks to try with popular options including the Offa’s Dyke Trail and gentler rambles that follow the undulating paths of the Usk and Wye rivers.
There are walks starting at the major towns of the Brecon Beacons; Abergavenny, Crickhowell, Hay-on-Wye and Brecon and off the beaten track woodland walks such as Pwll-y-Wrach where you can seek out a waterfall. Here are some of our favourite walks to try:
- Following the Offa’s Dyke Path from the remote Llanthony through woodland to Hatterall Ridge where you can enjoy stunning views out over the Vale of Ewyas.
- A circular 4-mile ramble around the village of Cwmdu which takes in wildflower meadows, rural farmland, pretty parkland and Maescastell, an ancient Iron Age hillfort.
- You can walk alongside the River Usk for 8 miles between Abergavenny and Crickhowell to visit two market towns and enjoy some of the Brecon Beacons prettiest countryside.
- Take a 6-mile circular walk along Talybont Reservoir, the largest stillwater reservoir in the Brecon Beacons, which lies close to the pretty village of Talybont-on-Usk.
#05 Take to the water in Brecon
There are lots of beautiful lakes, rivers and reservoirs in the Brecon Beacons and various ways you can take to the water during a getaway to Mid Wales. One of the best destinations for wonderful waterways is Brecon, a market town that marks the start of the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal and is just a short drive from popular Llangorse Lake.
- Hire a dayboat from Dragonfly Cruises in Brecon for a relaxing 2-hour canal journey through the Usk Valley countryside. Saloon seating means you can enjoy refreshments in comfort as you cruise with commentary provided so you can learn more about the area.
- Travel by canoe on the Beacons Water Trail, a specially designated boating route that you can row along from Brecon Promenade to Talybont-on-Usk. Canoe hire is available from Brecon Park Day Boats and you can spot some wonderful wildlife along the way.
- Llangorse Lake is the largest natural lake in either Mid or South Wales and is a perfect spot for trying out some water sports on a calm and tranquil body of water that’s surrounded by spectacular mountains. Canoes, kayaks, rowing boats, pedalos and paddleboards are all available to hire from a hut on the lake’s jetty.
#06 Stargaze in tranquil dark skies
The Brecon Beacons National Park is an internationally recognised dark sky reserve and one of the best locations in the country to spot stars, planets, meteor showers, the Milky Way or even the Northern Lights. Highlights to look out for include Draco the Dragon, a long curve of stars that swirls around Polaris, and the Draconids meteor shower that lights up the night sky each October. Places to go stargazing in Mid Wales include:
- Hay Bluff is one of the highest points in the Brecon Beacons and there’s a wonderful car park near the Gospel Pass road where you can enjoy the big dark skies that surround you.
- Llanthony Priory has a dramatic location in the remote Vale of Ewyas with no light pollution so you can see stars shimmering in the dark night sky.
- The Brecon Beacons National Park Visitor Centre is located close to Brecon on the edge of the small village of Libanus with views out over Pen Y Fan. There are picnic tables here and lots of useful information so it’s a good choice for stargazing with little ones.
#07 Get far from the madding crowd
You’ll find a range of remote locations in Mid Wales where you can go off-grid and get far away from the hustle and bustle of larger towns. There are also lots of great places where you can enjoy a relaxing glamping break in Mid Wales surrounded by the beautiful countryside of the Brecon Beacons. If you fancy doing a digital detox and getting in touch with nature, here are some of our best glamping properties in Mid Wales.
- Bluebell Shepherd Huts - a romantic retreat with stunning views across the Bryn Awr Valley from a private spot on a peaceful medieval farm.
- Goshawk Lodge - an eco-friendly safari lodge located close to the river on the edge of Talybont-on-Usk with a fire pit and hot tub for spectacular nights under the stars.
- Dreamcatcher Wagon - this quirky wooden cabin is nestled high in the Back Mountains within a 17-acre farm with a water hole for wild swimming, an assortment of walks to try and a private hot tub to relax in.
#08 Take a challenging cycle ride
Whether you prefer mountain biking in the forest or following an undulating road that passes through the mountains, there are plenty of cycling options in Mid Wales. What’s more, you can find bike hire in Brecon, Hay-on-Wye and Talybont-on-Usk to help you on your way.
- The long-distance Taff Trail cycle route passes all the way through the Brecon Beacons National Park and you can follow riverside paths and forest roads from the Pontsticill Reservoir through to Brecon.
- The Talybont Forest Trail is an 11-mile blue-rated mountain bike route that takes in pretty woodland and is one of four different trails that circle around Talybont-on-Usk.
- Gospel Pass is the highest road pass in Wales and you can follow a winding 22-mile route between the Twmpa and Hay Bluff from Hay-on-Wye for spectacular views over the Black Mountains.
Plan your getaway to Mid Wales
If you have been inspired to visit this beautiful part of the world you’ll find lots of lovely Mid Wales holiday cottages where you can rest your head after exploring towns and villages such as Hay-on-Wye, Talybont-on-Usk, Brecon and Crickhowell.
For more Welsh holiday inspiration read our guide to perfect places to stay in the Brecon Beacons and start planning your next getaway.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.