What’s going for it? I used to climb up the Malvern Hills as a kid and gaze at the rest of the universe from the top. I could always spot the Brecon Beacons: their chiselled, flat‑topped peaks gave them away, against the soft curves of the Herefordshire hills. Up close they’re just as recognisable, only now with added high-res moorland broodiness, glowering over the town of Brecon like something menacing that you sense from the corner of your eye. There’s little escaping them in the gay streets of this market town, a continuous gloomy foil to its brightly painted Georgian streets, dotted with craft galleries and secondhand bookshops. People come from far to test themselves against the power of the Beacons and their national park, calibrating their challenge according to the strength of their thighs and the age of their heart. The Brecon Beast? Or a gentle hike, leaving time for an ice-cream at Llanfaes Dairy, a bit of window shopping and a mooch around the ancient font inside the sturdy walls of the cathedral. Well, you know which one I picked.
The case against The glowering countryside and (whenever I go at least) grey weather is not for everyone. There’s no railway, so you’re here for the duration.
Well connected? Trains: no trains; decent buses, though, to Abergavenny (with a station; hourly, 40min-1hr) and Crickhowell (hourly, 25-40 mins), with six or seven a day to Cardiff, Hay and Llandrindod Wells. Driving: you’re in mid-Wales, so don’t expect speed; 30 minutes to Abergavenny, an hour to Cardiff, Hereford and Newport (and the M4), just over for Swansea and the seaside.
Schools Primaries: Mount Street Infants and Junior, Priory CIW and Llanfaes Community are all “good”, says Estyn. Secondaries: Brecon High is mostly “adequate and needs improvement”.
Hang out at… The fantastic Felin Fach Griffin dining pub with rooms is just outside. Though I had smashing fish’n’chips from the West End Fish Bar in town, and a delicious raspberry ripple at Llanfaes Dairy.
Where to buy The centre, curled around the cathedral on its hill, is full of delightful cottages and Georgian townhouses, either brightly painted or grey stone. Watton is a particularly fantastic stretch of period property. The eastern side of town has the best in suburban leafiness – try on and off Cerrigcochion Road and Camden Road. Large detacheds and townhouses, £350,000-£600,000. Detacheds and smaller townhouses, £200,000-£350,000. Semis, £150,000-£300,000. Terraces and cottages, £125,000-£200,000. Flats, £90,000-£160,000. Rentals: very little.
Bargain of the week In need of complete modernisation, a three-bedroom period terrace on the south side of the River Usk is yours for £105,000, with jamesdean.co.uk.
From the streets
Virginia Brown “The Hours cafe bookshop and deli – Brecon’s best.”
Nigel Spooner “A quiet, friendly feel – vibrant high street, riverside location. A shame we can’t revive the railway; the nearest station is Abergavenny, 22 miles away.”
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