The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal
If you prefer smooth water to rushing rapids, you’ll love our canal. Once an important transport route, it’s now a lovely place for lazy strolling and boating. Peaceful and rural, with a flavour of times gone by, it’s often voted Britain’s prettiest canal. It passes through a generous swathe of the Brecon Beacons National Park, with appealing towns and villages to visit on the way.
Fed by the clear waters of the River Usk, the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, or the Mon and Brec as we like to call it, is clean and pleasant, muddy though it may look at times. The 35-mile stretch between Brecon Basin and Pontymoile Basin used to be called the Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal. Almost all of its original course has been restored and is navigable – the only bit missing is a short stretch at the top, beyond Brecon Basin.
At Pontymoile, near Pontypool, just outside our Park, the former Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal connects with the Monmouthshire Canal and is navigable as far as the Five Locks Basin in Cwmbran. It’s not connected to the remainder of the British canal network, but enthusiasts find plenty to enjoy on this single length of water.
It’s a little under three miles from Brecon Basin to the first lock at Brynich. There are five locks in quick succession at Llangynidr. The final 23 miles from Llangynidr to Pontymoile are lock-free. Most of the way, it’s leafy and peaceful. It’s gorgeous in spring when the trees are in bud, and superb in autumn when the colours are at their best.
The canal follows the contours of the hillsides for most of its route, giving lovely views. It passes through the pretty villages of Pencelli, Talybont and Llangynidr before reaching the interesting little town of Crickhowell with its lovely waterside Bullpit Meadows.
After continuing through Llangattock, Gilwern, Govilon and Llanfoist near Abergavenny, eventually you reach the splendid Goytre Wharf which is not far from the end of the canal at Pontymoile Basin. At the wharf, there’s a marina with boats for hire and a Canal and River Trust visitor centre, restaurant and picnic area. It’s a special place, closely connected to the Blaenavon World Heritage Site, one of the cradles of the Industrial Revolution.
Messing about on our canal
All craft using the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, including canoes, must have a British Waterways Boat Licence, which is included in membership of the British Canoe Union or the Welsh Canoeing Association, or can be purchased from the Canal and River Trust (tel 0303 040 4040, www.canalrivertrust.org.uk). The funds raised help support this wonderful waterway.
Canoes, narrowboats and small motorboats can be hired at several points on the canal including Brecon Basin, Llangynidr, Gilwern and Goytre Wharf. As well as narrowboats with conventional diesel engines, Castle Narrowboats (tel 01873 830001, www.castlenarrowboats.co.uk) at Gilwern have electric narrowboats and electric four-seater dayboats for hire for quiet, eco-friendly cruising.
Travelling by narrowboat, it takes a couple of hours to get from Brecon to Brynich Lock and back, or seven hours to get from Brecon to Llangynidr, taking into account the Ashford Tunnel and the Llangynidr locks.
If you’d rather let someone else man the tiller, you can climb aboard a narrrowboat at Brecon Basin for a scenic cruise to Brynich Lock. This stretch of water has magnificent views of the Central Beacons with the sparkling River Usk just below. Canal trips also operate from Goytre Wharf.
Towpath walks and bike rides
All 35 miles of our towpath are yours to explore, with wildlife-watching opportunties, pubs and picnic spots along the way.
From Brecon Basin, there’s a short, all-ability walking route which passes information boards, community art projects and a picnic area with a reconstruction of a horse-drawn tram on a short length of track.
Brecon Basin is the start of the Taff Trail (National Cycle Route 8). The first part of this long distance cycle touring and walking route takes you along the towpath, past the remains of old lime kilns. The three mile ride from Brecon to Brynich Lock is easy-going and thoroughly pleasant. Whenever you’re cycling on the tow path, remember to give way to pedestrians.
There’s all sorts of wildlife to be seen as you explore the canal. Mallards, moorhens, swans, butterflies and dragonflies are often around and if you’re lucky you may spot a frog or a kingfisher. Look out for shy, elusive mammals, too, such as otters, water voles and bats. To find out more, visit our pages on Wildlife-watching, birdwatching and nature trails.
Canalside restaurants, cafés and pubs
There are several convivial spots on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal where you can enjoy tea, a pint or a tasty lunch, right beside the water, while watching the narrowboats, cyclists and ducks go by.
At Brecon Basin, you can enjoy the views of the narrowboats and ducks as you relax over something to eat and drink at Tipple ’n’ Tiffin, the café at Brecon’s Theatr Brycheiniog (www.brycheiniog.co.uk).
In the village of Pencelli, four miles south-east of Brecon, The Royal Oak (LD3 7LX) near Cross Keys Bridge (no 153), stands beside the canal. It's a cosy pub with a modern interior, great food and a beer garden leading right up to the towpath.
In Talybont-on-Usk, The Travellers Rest (LD3 7YP, www.travellersrestinn.com), an attractive restaurant with rooms, is near Graiglas Bridge (no 142). The White Hart Inn (LD3 7JD, www.breconbunkhouse.co.uk) and The Star Inn (LD3 7YX, www.starinntalybont.co.uk), traditional pubs with canalside beer gardens, are both near White Hart Bridge (no 143). There's also a café and restaurant at Goytre Wharf.
History of the Mon and Brec
Our canal is an important heritage site. Click here to read our page about its history.