Built between 1792 and 1812, the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal linked landlocked Brecon with Newport and the Severn Estuary. No longer a route for transporting stone and processed lime, it is now affectionately known as the Mon & Brec, and is one of the most picturesque canals in the UK.
The complete towpath covers just over thirty miles between Brecon and Cwmbran and all along the way there are stunning views of mountains, river valleys, farmland and woodland, making this the perfect place for a peaceful stroll. A two-mile accessible section of the trail starts from Brecon Wharf and follows the canal as far as Brynich Lock and back. As well as stunning scenery, the trail passes interpretation boards, community art projects and two picnic areas with wheelchair accessible tables – here, on a short track, is a reconstruction of one of the horse-drawn Hay Railway trams that once worked the length of the canal. A little further along there is a resting point with views over the River Taff – for a short while the river flows alongside the canal. A brightly coloured canal boat called the Dragonfly is in operation sporadically – for those lucky enough to be present at the same time, it offers an alternative, fun and wheelchair accessible way to reach the lock.
A small car park is located at Brecon, where there is a ramp onto the towpath. The start of the trail is narrow and uneven in places, but soon broadens out to become a wide and hard-surfaced cycle path, only restricted at bridges where headroom is also reduced. On wet days, deep puddles can form, so wheelchair users, mobility-impaired walkers and visitors with toddlers and pushchairs are best visiting on sunny days – when the scenery and views are at their best anyway. Deaf and hearing-impaired visitors should be aware that this is a busy cycle route and while signs request that priority is given to pedestrians, many cyclists speed along, ringing their bells as the only sign of their presence. On return to the Brecon car park, a push back up the ramp can be avoided by using the road on the left of the bridge, just before the wharf. Other barrier-free access points to the towpath are available at Talybont-on-Usk, Llangynidr to Llangattock, Gilwern and Govilon, though some of these have steep inclines.
Food & drink: The canalside Tipple’n’Tiffin bistro in Brecon serves lunches averaging £10 for a main course, but doesn’t have a children’s menu. Alternatively, the nearby Rich Way Café is a cheaper option, with lunch costing around £5 for adults and £3 for children.