The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal

The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal stretches for 35 navigable miles from the Brecon Basin to the Pontymoile Basin in Pontypool. It regularly features in my walks but it is a wonderful setting in its own right.

Passing through the Brecon Beacons National Park and the UNESCO Blaenavon World Heritage Site, it is considered to be one of Britain’s prettiest waterways.

Sometimes when life is hectic, it is enjoyable to go for the type of long walk that does not require any significant route planning or map reading. It is often nice to have a chance to unwind and appreciate the peace and quiet away from the everyday hustle and bustle.

The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal provides an opportunity to walk for miles on flat terrain. This route starts in the town of Brecon.

The canal towpath begins (or ends depending on your direction) at the Brecon Basin, which is only a short walk from the town centre. This section is also part of the Taff Trail (a 55-mile walking and cycling route between Brecon and Cardiff Bay).

The Brecon Basin

The path soon passes points of historical interest including Watton Wharf and Limekilns. Constructed in the early 1800s, the kilns produced quick lime from the coal and limestone that was transported along the canal.

Further along, the towpath reaches the Brynich Lock before crossing the Brynich Aqueduct. The four stone arches of the aqueduct were built between 1797 and 1800 to take the canal over the River Usk. It is recognised as a scheduled monument and a Grade II listed structure due to its historical and engineering significance.

The towpath continues through stunning countryside where it is possible to see a variety of wildlife species. This walk can be as long or as short as required and it is easy to follow. It is particularly spectacular in the autumn when the trees display their full golden colours.

There are a number of options to leave the towpath and create a circular route but by turning around and going back along the same path, there is the potential to see the canal from a different perspective.

For a further extension to the route, a visit to Brecon Cathedral is only a short walk from the canal. Originally founded as a Benedictine priory in the eleventh century, it became the Cathedral for the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon in 1923. As well as the main Cathedral building, there is also a Heritage Centre, shop and restaurant.

Brecon Cathedral

To get the most out of this walk, check the website of the Canal & River Trust before arriving to ensure there is no maintenance work taking place that may affect access to the canal towpath.

If you are looking for a leisurely route that is suitable for families, the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal is a must-see for a wonderful day out.


A version of this article first appeared in ‘Bwrdd’ – The Newsletter for Mensa Cymru, September 2019.

Other articles featuring the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal include A Reservoir Walk In The Brecon Beacons, The Blorenge, Mynydd Llangatwg – An Assortment of Landscapes and Tor Y Foel – A Small Gem In The Brecon Beacons.

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