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Sculpted uniquely by millennia of relentless geology, the Brecon Beacons are totally unique amongst Britain’s wild places. Walks in the Brecon Beacons take you across ancient high mountain plateaus, around glistening glacial lakes, past dramatic waterfalls and spacious grassy moorlands. Here, the ancient hills jut out above seas of verdant green, dotted with dark forests and the vestiges of the coal mining industry that once thrived here.Established in 1957, the national park takes in 520 square miles (837 km) of delectable stomping ground. Pack your head torch, as hikes in the Brecon Beacons take you into the heart of one of the very first international dark sky reserves, making the area perfect for exploration underneath a canopy of bright stars. Or you can conquer the highest hill in the south of Britain, Pen-y-Fan at 2,910 ft (886m), an icon of South Wales.
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The best hiking trails in the Brecon Beacons – and certainly the most popular – are those which traverse the high, unique escarpment of Pen-y-Fan and its satellite peaks. These stunning hills are accessible from all directions and reward the intrepid hiker with huge views of South Wales. After all, the summits can be seen from hundreds of miles around, which is why signal fires used to be lit on their summits to warn the Welsh of invading English raiders. Invaders of a different sort take to these vast hills these days – the elite special forces regularly use the open, high ground to train and hone their navigation skills.
In the sweeping valleys that divide the high plateaus, there is plenty more to explore. Tranquil forests surround the southern end of the massif, interspersed with numerous reservoirs that are a pleasure to walk alongside. Hikes in the Brecon Beacons are enjoyable all year round, though it is worth noting that Pen-y-Fan can be very busy on sunny weekends and public holidays.
A sense of space is what makes the national park so special, in more than one sense. Stride out under huge blue skies, across massive thrusts of grassy sandstone that rise wedge-like above shimmering glacial lakes below. As the sun sets, and its tendrils fade from the long, straight valleys, the dark skies above become ablaze with the celestial glow of thousands and thousands of stars. For solitude and even darker skies, two other areas of stunning upland sprawl away from the central peaks: the Black Mountain (Mynydd Du) to the west and the Black Mountains (Y Mynyddoedd Duon) to the east. Look out for the semi-wild Welsh ponies that gallop the wild pastures found here.