The term 'Brecon Beacons' is used to refer both to a range of hills south of Brecon and a much larger area encorporating other hill ranges which together form the Brecon Beacons National Park. The Brecon Beacons National Park was created in 1957 and was the third Welsh park created (the first two being Snowdonia and Pembrokeshire Coast). The park stretches from Hay-on-Wye in the east to Landeilo in the west and in total covers approx 519 square miles.
The four main regions in the park are, from east to west, the Black Mountains, the Brecon Beacons themselves, Forest Fawr and finally, the Black Mountain. To make matters rather confusing the Black Mountains in the east contain a peak called Black Mountain, the latter being the highest point on the Anglo-Welsh border. The Black Mountains also contain one of the more amusingly named hills - Lord Hereford's Knob.
The main Brecon Beacon range contains six main tops including Pen y Fan. Standing at 886m (2907ft), Pen y Fan is the highest peak, not only in the national park but in Southern Britain. It is also the 3rd most prominent peak in Wales. Quite rightly Pen y Fan is a very popular mountain and along with near neigbours Corn Du, Cribyn and Fan y Big it features a very distinctive north facing escarpment comprised of Old Red Sandstone formed during the Devonian Period.
To the west of the Brecon Beacons is Fforest Fawr, once known as the 'Great Forest of Breckknock' and which was once a royal hunting area. In 2005 the Fforest Fawr Geopark was created, the first of its type in Wales, and apart from Fforest Fawr also incorporates parts of the neighbouring Brecon Beacon and Black Mountain ranges. In the southern part of the Geopark, near the head of the Vale of Neath, lies Waterfall Country, an area famous for the large number of spectacular and easily accessible waterfalls.
To date I've only had the opportunity to do one walk in the Brecon Beacons, a horseshoe walk from Taf Fechan which included both Pen y Fan and Cribyn. At the start of the walk the weather was decidedly mixed and initially the tops were shrouded in hill fog. On the top of Corn Du I experienced one of my most memorable hill walking moments when the cloud dramatically blew away to suddenly reveal the Usk Valley below. The shapely Cribyn also made a big impact on me. Sadly since then I've not had any further opportunities for walking in the Brecon Beacons but as I have vague ambitions of climbing all the Welsh 2000fters I hope to get to know the area much better in the future.