Article: 3 Day Southern Welsh Adventure – Part 1 Brecon Beacons National Park
Part 1 – Journey to Wales and Scenic drive to Brecon Beacons National Park with walk around Carreg Cennen Castle
This is the first days’ report of our 3 Day Welsh Adventure. You can read the other parts here.
In October we took my dad and his girlfriend from Germany with us on one of our adventures. It was a travel adventure for them as neither of them speaks English and hadn’t flown for a while. We flew from Frankfurt am Main to London Heathrow. Frankfurt is not one of our favourite airports for several reasons – security is at the gate (so you cannot really relax in the lounge or take any water or soft drinks through to the airplane), and it is not a particularly pleasant design.
The plus were that the security staff on our flights were friendly and one lady even praised me as I was so organized with my hand luggage 😉 if she only knew how much training we had over the years. Prior to our flight we were waiting in the Japan Airlines Lounge. The lounge wasn’t anything special. They served some spirits, beer, wine and soft drinks and the food was limited to Frankfurter sausages, sandwiches and cake. Overall it was ok for European standards. If you were to compare it with other JAL lounges, then it was rather below average.
I thought my Dad might be amused by the special Japanese toilet but something else came to his attention. At one point he remarked “Everyone is on their laptops!” He is old school and likes to chit chat with strangers. They were a bit nervous on take-off but everything went well and at the end my Dad reminded us of the days on holiday charter flights when some passengers would clap for the pilot after landing (fortunately he didn’t clap). Back then I always thought to myself “no one claps for me when I finish my work…”.
It was quite fun travelling with them especially my Dad’s commentary in the midst of the usual silent business travellers. Whilst Paul was sorting out the rental car at Hertz Heathrow, we were watching the airplanes coming and going. The rental location is immediately adjacent to a runway and it must be heaven for airplane fanatics.
From the airport we drove for about 2 hours to Newport in Wales where we settled into our hotel and later on we ate dinner at a British carvery chain restaurant. We always wanted to show them this British roast meal experience where for a low price you can choose from a variety of freshly cooked roast meats (often turkey, beef and/or pork) with a wide variety of vegetables and potatoes.
Day 1 Drive Brecon Beacons National Park and visit Carreg Cennen Castle
After a good sleep, we all met up for breakfast the next morning during which I quickly rescued my dad from an unintended taste of Marmite as he thought it was jam 🙂 Marmelade is a similar German word which means jam. Marmite is a salty savoury paste that should be sparsely spread onto bread. It is quite good on a sandwich or toast but is not comparable at all with sweet jam!
Thereafter we headed to the Brecon Beacons National Park which is one of three National Parks in Wales. We headed to Abergavenny and thereafter drove via the A40 along the northern part of the National park to our destination which was Carreg Cennen Castle. The weather started out a bit foggy but the higher we got into the mountains the better the weather became. We were so lucky with the weather there and the drive was beautiful. We drove past picturesque villages, enjoyed mountain vistas and of course encountered the Welsh sheep along the road.
At one point the road became very narrow and it was delightfully enclosed by hedges. About 10 minutes before we reached the castle, we reached a crossing and stopped to take in the view over the area. You could see the castle set on the hill and the surrounding area. It was simply beautiful. Thereafter we headed to the castle and parked for free near the tea room and craft shop. The Castle ruin originates from the 13th century and is right on the edge of a 100 metre high cliff. From below it almost seemed as if this cliff was especially carved for the Castle. Prior to our exploration we quickly had some lunch at the tea room and craft shop. The food was fine and so were some of the staff members.
As it was a beautiful day, we decided to skip visiting the actual ruin and instead take the walking path around the castle. There are two trails (one short and one long) and they are freely accessible. You only have to pay if you want to walk up to the Castle itself which is accessible via a gate separately from the two trails. The path to both walking routes starts just to the left hand side near the main entrance to the Castle ruin.
At first you walk downhill. You will soon reach the woods below the castle and a bridge across the Cennen River. If you were to cross the bridge then you could take the longer route which is about 5 miles long.
Our companion adventurers preferred the shorter route which is about 2 miles long and so we didn’t cross the river but followed the main path to the right below the castle and then walked back up along the road until we were in a field near the car park.
At one point I was a little bit behind the others when an Australian lady came past me. She soon reached the others. Paul said hi and then ahead of him some ways she came across my Dad and his lady friend and greeted them with “Hi, how are you?” They didn’t realize that I was quite a bit behind and that she was talking to them and somehow they did not respond and all. The only response the Australian had left was “really nothing?” My dad then then talked to her in German and she was like “sorry I don’t understand foreign, bye”. Paul had heard all of this and it seemed quite amusing.
The field near the car park offers a great angle for photographs of the Castle. If you are going into the actual Castle then make sure to bring a torch with you as this allows you to go to through the underground tunnel to see the natural cave within the rock that was used as a storeroom and Dungeon.
After the Castle we drove back to Newport. The quickest route would involve more of the M4 but it is not really nice to drive along motorway when trying to take in a place and so we took the A465 and thereafter the A470.
The A470 is supposed be one of the most scenic roads in the UK which is probably true if you were to drive through the National Park, however, we just drove along it after the Park and by then it wasn’t as spectacular. We actually preferred the route that we had taken in the morning. On our way back we went to a Sainsbury’s, a UK mid-range supermarket chain. The self-service checkout (where you scan your own shopping and pay a machine rather than interact with a cashier) was another new thing for my Dad and his lady. They don’t have this where they live in the German countryside.
Details of the Castle
Summer from 09.30am until 05.30
Winter from 09.30am until 04.00pm
The entire site is closed (including car park) daily at 6.30pm.
Adults: GBP 4
Students (with ID), Children (5 to 16yrs) and pensioners: GBP 3.50
Families (2 adults and children under 16): GBP 12
Click here to visit the website of Carreg Cennen Castle