If you are new to narrow boating, the Monmouth and Brecon Canal is an excellent choice for beginners. Considered one of the most scenic, tranquil and peaceful canals in the UK it has a little bit of everything for the novice boater. As this canal is not connected to the rest of the canal network it means you can concentrate on the finer things in life such as the stunning scenery, beautiful towns and villages and lots of wildlife spotting. The Brecon Beacons National park is a walkers’ paradise, so always have your walking boots to hand.
Starting at our boatyard in Pencelli, a short 2 hour cruise north and only 1 lock will lead you to the market town of Brecon. This is a good choice for your first evening onboard. The final mile of the canal leading into Brecon travels high on the hillside with the River Usk in view below you for the whole journey. The approach into Brecon is dotted with pretty houses and gardens and eventually you’ll reach the terminus at Theatre Basin which has plenty of mooring space. There are a few eateries in Brecon and you will find Brecon Cathedral in the town centre if you fancy a wander.
In 2015 the western half of the Brecon Beacons National Park was given UNESCO status to become a Global Geo Park. The Fforest Fawr Park is one of 150 parks worldwide which is recognised for its geology. A 10 minute taxi ride from Brecon will take you to the Geo Park Visitor Centre at Libanus.
Heading south on the canal, bypassing the boatyard at Pencelli, you’ll encounter beautiful scenery and countryside all along the remainder of your route. After approximately 4 hours you’ll arrive at Talybont-on-Usk and this might be a suitable stopping point for some lunch. Talybont is a small holiday centre with plenty of outdoor activities such as fishing, mountain biking and hill walking. You can find out more information at the Talybont Venture Centre in the village. For a more relaxed option, you may just want to take a stroll in to the village, have a pub lunch and do a spot of bird watching from the canalside. There are canalside pubs at both bridge 142 and 143 and also a traditional village inn close to the little aqueduct.
After Talybont you’ll encounter your first tunnel at Ashford (375 yards long) then the gentle cruise remains lock free until you come to the 5 locks at Llangynidr. The first 3 locks pass through woodland and there is a pleasant picnic area nearby. Next you’ll pass over a small aqueduct before doing the final lock at Cwmcrawnon. At Depot lock 65 the Canal and River Trust have a welcome station with some information on the canal and there are moorings available near lock 64 if you’d like to visit the local pub.
Another couple of hours cruise will bring you into Llangattock which is a good stopping point on your second evening. Mooring up close to the wharf, just beyond bridge 115, the village lies just below the canal. Walking about a mile out of the village by road you’ll come to the town of Crickhowell – this area comes alive and is very busy during mid-August when the annual Green Man music festival takes place at the local Glanusk Estate. It also boasts a bustling high street with lots of independent shops and pubs. Crickhowell was voted Britain’s best high street in 2018.
A short 1.5 hour cruise from Llangottock will take you down to Gilwern; this small village has one main street but there is a shop for essential supplies that can be found opposite bridge 103 and you’ll also find waterside moorings at nearby Gilwern Wharf. Just south of Gilwern you’ll also find the pretty little canalside village of Govilon which has two pubs and a waterpoint where you can refill your water tanks on the boat.
As you cruise along you’ll encounter some horseshoe bends, where the navigation changes course to avoid the elevation of the land. At the end of these bends you’ll often pass over a small aqueduct where streams from the hillside flow underneath you. The land is very steep in this area as you pass through old mining quarries – evidence of the tramway tracks are still visible in places.
Next you’ll approach Llanfoist, which is a suitable stopping place if you’d like to visit the much larger town of Abergavenny. The Boatyard Bridge is the best place for visiting Abergavenny by foot or the local bus takes just 12 minutes. Abergavenny has a bustling high street with some nice independent shops and pubs; there is also a supermarket in town if you require any supplies. The town is overlooked by mountains and hills on all sides and every March there’s a “3 Peaks Challenge” to ascend Sugar Loaf, Blorenge and Skirrids mountains, all in the same day.
After a lunch stop in Abergavenny, continue south towards Llandover Park which consists of 18 acres of Grade II listed gardens situated within the park itself. The canal winds its way to Goytre Wharf which has moorings, a nice canalside café and a heritage centre. Either moor up here or carry on to Bridge 72 – the Goytre Arms pub is just east of the bridge. For your evening meal you may wish to cruise down to Bridge 65 – the Horseshoe Inn is about ¼ mile walk north of the canal.
Take this opportunity to soak up the beautiful vistas of the Brecon Beacons on your final evening.
In the morning, turn just before bridge 62 to begin your return journey and enjoy your lovely surroundings all over again.