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Jazz and Chips in the Welsh Rain
Brecon in General
Member Name: kittykat18
Brecon in General
Date: 31/01/02, updated on 01/02/02 (160 review reads)
Advantages: Lots to do, lots of pubs, jazz festival every summer.
Disadvantages: Hard to get around without a car, over-run by PGL staff in blue T-shirts!
Llangorse was a pretty enough place, with the largest lake in Wales and several pubs, but not a lot else, so on days off most staff members would go to Brecon.
(I have written another opinion on the village of Llangorse so won't say much about it here.)
Brecon (Welsh name Aberhonddu) is a fairly small town (but I would say that coming from Birmingham). There is however, a lot I can say about it so I will split this op up into sections.
How do I get there?
There are coaches from Birmingham, Cardiff and London, although no train station as yet. The nearest train station is in Abergavenny, 18 miles away, so you could get a bus from there. If you are driving, Brecon is on the A40, between Abergavenny and Llandovery. From Cardiff, take the A470. It's a nice drive to get there so enjoy it!
What does the town look like?
There are some very pretty parts, namely the Cathedral and George Square, as well as Brighton row with its' pretty houses in pastel colours. The promenade walk alongside the river Usk is also very attractive. There are other parts of the town though, that are very ordinary. The surroundings are more beautiful than the town itself, although some locals may disagree with me!
How do I get around when I'm there?
Your best bet is to take a car with you. Parking is quite cheap (you can always park in Safeway car park as long as you buy something from there!) and it is difficult to visit attractions outside of the town without a car. If you don't take a car, there is a day ticket called the Beacon Saver which enables you to travel all day in the Brecon Beacon area. Bus services are
reliable but not all that regular. I used to take the post bus from Llangorse to Brecon when I wanted to go there! It was actually a red Postman Pat van with about 7 seats in the back for passengers! Now where else in the world could you do that?
What is the shopping like?
Brecon does not have a huge range of shops. If you want to do a big shop, especially for clothes, you would be better getting the coach to Cardiff or even to Abergavenny which is only 18 miles away. When it comes to chain stores, Brecon has a huge Safeway, Dorothy Perkins, Woolworths, and WHSmith.
There are a lot of outdoor shops selling specialist walking and camping equipment such as tents and hammocks.
My favourite shop in Brecon has to be Sirus, which sells all sorts of funky things like body jewellery (they do piercings too), cushions, bongs (what could they be for then?), dangly things for your bedroom (oooh!) and ornaments. Sirius is located in the shopping square next to Safeway. There is another branch of Sirius in Hereford but I have never seen them anywhere else. I bought my boyfriend a neon, spiky, glow in the dark rubber lighter from here! It is not expensive either, so if you are ever in Brecon go there and buy something for yourself, your daughter, or er, me!
Brecon is not really a place that is famed for its' shopping to be honest. There is a farmers market every Wednesday where you can pick up locally produced foods. This is held in the Market Hall in the town centre. If you are a book lover, it is well worth taking a visit to Hay on Wye, "village of books", about 15 miles away.
So why do so many people visit the town?
For the beautiful surroundings. Brecon is bang in the middle of the Brecon Beacons, which are fab hills including Pen-Y-Fan, the highest one which loo
ks like a volcano.
The Black Mountains are only about 6 miles away. Just driving around in the area is made a very pleasurable experience as the views are so stunning. All around you is greenery, rolling hills, oh yeah, and sheep. Everywhere!
The landscape is gorgeous and plush, with lakes and rivers aplenty. You don't just get ancient ramblers visiting the area, but outdoor enthusiasts who like outdoor sports. There are loads of outdoor activity centres around, and you can try your hand at horse riding, gliding and water sports to name just a few. If you want to go sailing, canoeing or windsurfing, go to Llangorse Lake, 5 miles from Brecon. It's well signposted from the town centre.
For horseriding, try the Llangorse ropes and riding centre. There is also a modern indoor climbing centre which is well worth an afternoon of your time. If you just want to walk alone or in a group without a guide, there are plenty of maps and walk itineries available in the shops. Try the tourist centre located in Safeway car park for loads of leaflets about local events and maps.
Last summer due to foot and mouth this area suffered greatly as all of the hills were closed off and there was often unpleasant smells in the air from the burning..so do your bit and take a holiday here to help their economy out a bit. It really is a beautiful area and as long as you have a car there are plenty of attractions in the area.
If you want to get rid of your kids for a week or two whilst having a break yourself, you could send them to PGL, an activity company with several bases in the Brecon Beacons for kids of all ages. Yes, I did used to work there, but no, I am not being paid to write this! Go to www.pgl.co.uk!
Where should I stay?
Brecon relies on tourism but hasn't turned into a Tack paradise like other popular locations (yes, Barry Island that means you!) and there is a
n abundance of small, family run B+B's in the town, with prices starting at around £20 a night. At most times of the year you should be able to turn up and find somewhere to stay without pre-booking.
The exception to this is the long weekend of the Brecon Jazz Festival, which falls in August. All accomodation becomes booked up very quickly for this event, including caraven and camp sites, so if you want to come to the festival book quick. Or else you will face a long drive from Cardiff! If you want to look at accomodation, I have put a website address at the end of the op.
Where Can I eat?
The good news is that there is, as yet, NO McDonalds, Burger Kings or their like in Brecon. And thank goodness for that. There are a number of fish and chip shops though, all of which in my opinion are top clss! You can't beat eating chips in the street in rainy Wales for a holiday, can you? I have to admit I never frequented any classy restaurants whilst I was working at the camp, partly because I got food at the camp and partly because my wage was a pittance! So I am not exactly an expert in this area. However, I can recommend Safeway cafe for a cheap breakfast! There is also a great cafe next to Llangorse Lake selling freshly cooked meals.
More importantly, where can I drink?
You will be pleased to hear that Brecon has loads of pubs. There is an army barracks in the town, so the soldiers need somewhere to drink in. I always drank in the Bear Inn, which is located next to the river. The drinks are fairly cheap (less than £2 for a pint or a bottle) and when it is sunny there is an outdoor area overlooking the river. Lovely.
Where can I party?
Well, Brecon isn't exactly the party capital of Europe. I have been infored that there is a small club loca
ted opposite the George Hotel in Geroge Square. A reliable source has told me it is not exactly delightful. So save your partying and dance moves for Cardiff if I was you. Stick to drinking and nice meals whilst staying in Brecon.
What attractions are there in the area?
* There is a canal, you can take an afternoon trip on a barge (costing £4/£2 children) which leaves from the canal basin outside the theatre. Yes, Brecon even has a theatre!
* The Brecon mountain railway, which suspiciously is actually located in Mythrr Tydfil, not Brecon is worth a visit. It's a cute little train which leaves from a traditional old fashioned station. There are some great views, the train goes to a point and then the engine swaps over to the other end to take you back to the station.
* Dan-Yr-Ogof, also known as the National Showcase Caves. This is a 20 minute drive from Brecon and could take up an afternoon (not a whole day though). There is a dinosaur park for the kiddies and some stunning natural caves, including the Cathedral Cave which has a waterfall cascading into it. There are signs that guide you through your visit with lots of information on how the caves were discovered and the formation of rocks. The gift shop sells lovely bookends made out of rocks as well as some rather nice jewellery.
* The Waterfall Park. This is located along the road that leads from Brecon to Cardiff. It is a beautiful natural water park with waterfalls and lakes aplenty. Many people take disposable BBQ's and spend a day there sunbathing (yes, you do get sun in Wales occasionally!), sunbathing and diving off the rocks.
So what's this Jazz all about then?
One of my best memories of the summer was going to the Brecon Jazz Festival. It is renowned all over Europe and attrac
ts big names such as Van Morrison and the Bootleg Beatles. There are loads of indoor concerts for which you need tickets, which can be expensive and sell out quickly. The town is transformed for the long weekend, all traffic is banned from the city centre and loads of marquees are put up.
As well as the paying events, there is loads going on for the rest of us who want to join in the fun. In George Sqaure there is a stage where bands play for free. The night I went there was a brass band (similar to Blues Brothers music). They were brilliant and really interesting to watch with all the different instruments. There was a great atmosphere, everyone was dancing (despite the drizzle).
There are also loads of stalls set up selling all sorts of arts and crafts type things. I got a cow print cushion cover and purse (I LOVE cow print! I must find some for my profile page!) The streets are packed and it feels as though everyone from Wales is there (but don't let that put you off! Joke). For more information on the 2002 festival, go to their website which is www.breconjazz.co.uk And enjoy yourself if you go! Dance in the street and get merry!
Brecon is a lovely place set in gorgeous surroundings. You can do loads of sports in the area or just take a gentle walk. It's a whole world away from holidays as seen on ITV's Club Reps, but contrary to popular opinion, it's not just for old people. Go on, visit and breathe some good Welsh country air into your hardened lungs!
For lots more information on the town, go to: