This really is a ride of two halves. From Abergavenny to Brecon, it’s a gentle towpath amble along the lovely Monmouthshire & Brecon. After Brecon… let’s just say it’s a bit less gentle.
You wouldn’t expect a route called “Cycle across the Beacons” to be flat, and it isn’t. Indeed, although Sustrans worked with the Brecon Beacons National Park to set it up, the hilly section isn’t numbered as part of the National Cycle Network – they considered it too tough for that. But if your legs are up to it, this is a magnificent 55-mile ride through the southern Welsh hills: the quietest roads, the sleepiest villages, the greatest views.
The hilly section west of Brecon really asks for a road bike, a cross bike or perhaps a hybrid. A mountain bike will be too heavy to haul up those gradients.
These are often single-lane roads with a grassy centre and a smattering of gravel, so don’t turn up with skinny tyres expecting pristine tarmac. Especially when you see the canal towpath after Abergavenny: some of it has been widened and smoothed out, but much of it is still essentially unimproved singletrack. Fortunately, there’s a tolerable road running parallel (the A4077/B4558), which roadies may prefer.
NCN-style stickers on lamp-posts and road signs have a little orange ‘Cycle across the Beacons’ logo: simply follow that. The very first section out of Abergavenny is signposted as NCN 46, and approaching Brecon it shares the route with NCN 8, the Taff Trail / Lon Las Cymru.
At 56 miles, it’s doable in a day, though many riders will choose to take two days over it. So where next?
You could extend the ride from Llandeilo to Carmarthen along the quiet B4300 road. (Sustrans and local councils have a plan to build a cycle track along the old Llandeilo–Carmarthen railway in due course.)
But perhaps most tempting of all is that Llandeilo is only 35 miles from the lovely Ceredigion coast. Add another day to your ride, and you could be eating ice-cream in Aberaeron by mid-afternoon. From there, it’s a 20ish-mile spin up the coast to Aberystwyth and a train home. Tempted?
Both Abergavenny, at the start of the route, and Llandeilo, at the end, have railway stations. Abergavenny has frequent trains but they can be busy, so book a bike space if you can. Llandeilo is on the tiny Heart of Wales branch line, perhaps Britain’s most rural railway, with just four trains a day in each direction.