The Brecon Beacons National Park stretches from Hay on Wye in the north to Pontypool in the south, and east from Llandeilo to Abergavenny. Its proximity to the Welsh/English border has left a legacy of a dozen castles, and market towns linked by swathes of rugged countryside perfect for horse riding, hiking, and mountain biking.
Brecon is a quaint market town with a relaxed vibe. It is a beautiful place to base yourself for a self-catering holiday in the Brecon Beacons, and perfect for a day out. Brecon is the home of the illustrious Royal Welsh Regiment, and military buffs will appreciate the excellent museum showcasing the regiment's history.
If it's a nice day, have a picnic on the Promenade. With a children's park and dog exercise area, it is especially popular with families at weekends and during school holidays. The main path is accessible, but it is unsurfaced upstream from the car park and can be difficult for wheelchairs and buggies even in dry weather. There are some places where you can access the shingle bank of the river to paddle your toes and skim stones. Parking is near Watergate Bridge and the Promenade is signposted from the B4601 (Cradoc Road).
Other points of interest in Brecon are the Cathedral, which dates from 1093 and which has close links to the Battle of Agincourt, and lovely independent galleries, boutiques and shops stocking antiques, books, and crafting materials. You could lose hours browsing in Brecon!
Craig-y-Nos Country Park
In a secluded valley north of Swansea, Craig-y-Nos Country Park was created in the Victorian era and is a wonderful choice for a family and dog-friendly day out. There are flower-filled meadows, flat grassland ideal for ball games, shady wooded areas rife with bluebells in spring, fishponds and lakes.
Craig-y-Nos was developed by Adelina Patti, a famous opera singer whose career spanned more than 50 years from 1851 until 1914. No expense was spared in the creation of her retirement hideaway beside the River Tawe, and it is rumoured Adelina is as attached to the property now as she was during her lifetime and still haunts the castle.
Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal
The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal flows 35 miles from Brecon all the way to Pontypool, before continuing south to Newport. The canal was created as a way of transporting coal from the mines to the docks. The canal path is now a peaceful place to take a gentle walk with herons, kingfishers, and red kites all spotted regularly. The entire length of the canal is wheelchair accessible, though as much of it is gritted it can get muddy after a lot of rain.
Visit a (Distant) Relative
The Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary provides a caring home for rescued primates who are unable to live in the wild. You can see chimpanzees, gibbons, spider monkeys and tamarins, among other species, and even be a keeper for a day. One of the newest residents is a chimpanzee named Bili who was rescued from a poorly-run zoo in Bulgaria. It isn't a full day out, and the prices are what you would expect for a larger zoo, but the sanctuary is an interesting and uplifting place to visit, and you can see how the money benefits the care of these animals.
Explore a Castle
Wales is renowned for the number and quality of its castles. The Brecon Beacons National Park includes around a dozen of these imposing fortifications in various states of repair. Some of them, like Crickhowell, are little more than a column of stones with great views, while others, like Abergavenny Castle, are more impressive. A good castle to visit is Carreg Cennen near Llandeilo. It is privately owned, and there is a modest entry fee. You can save money by bringing a torch to explore the cave that was once the castle's dungeon, but if you forget, then they are available to hire.
Cyfarthfa Castle is near Merthyr. Built as a monument to the success of the local iron industry, it includes a good museum and 160 acres of parkland that feature a children's splash park (water play area that is fantastic, though very busy, in summer) and a cafe. Cyfarthfa is not really a castle but a very grand country house. For an authentic medieval experience visit Tretower Court and Castle. The present buildings were built in the 1300s and 1400s, and some excellent restoration work allows you to see how earlier residents would have lived.
Visit a Rebel's Hideout
Above Trefil Quarry on the Llangynidr moors, an unassuming looking cave provided a welcome hideout for the Chartists rebels to store weapons and supplies in preparation for their march to Newport to protest their lack of political rights. Though generally referred to as the Chartists' Cave, it used to be called Tylles Fawr (meaning "great hole" in Welsh).
Llangynidr is a small village north of Crickhowell. It is near both the Monmouthshire to Brecon Canal and the River Usk, and there are several waterside walks. There are two great pubs in the village: The Coach and Horses, which sits alongside the canal and serves a fabulous Sunday lunch (booking essential!), and The Red Lion which serves a wide selection of lager and ales and has a large beer garden in which to enjoy them.