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Brecon / Aberhonddu


Brecon, or Aberhonddu as it is known in Welsh is an historic market town in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Ancient Britons, Romans and Normans have each left their mark on Brecon.

The huge Iron Age hill fort of Pen-y-Crug, on a hill just to the north of the present town has a circumference of 503m and ramparts 5.5m high.

To the West of the town lies the largest Roman fort of its type in Wales - Brecon y Gaer, and the remains of the eleventh century castle constructed by the Norman baron Bernard de Neufmarche, can be found in the gardens of the Castle Hotel and Bishop's Palace gardens.

The Town

The town's name comes from that of the old Welsh name of the kingdom - Brycheiniog' in whose territory Brecon stands. The kingdom took its name from Prince Brychan who founded it, and who remains a colourful character in local folklore and legend. The name later became anglicised to Brecknockshire or Breconshire. The Welsh name for the town 'Aberhonddu' indicates the position of the town as being at the 'mouth of the Honddu' - where the River Honddu meets with the River Usk near the town centre.

A short distance upstream, the River Tarrell enters the Usk river. Before the building of the bridge over the Usk, Brecon was one of the few places where the river could be forded, making it an important strategic military position as well as an important crossing point in mid Wales for drovers, farmers and merchants.

It is therefore not surprising that during the Norman invasion of Wales, Brecon became the site for a defensive Norman castle built by Bernard de Neufmarche in the late 11th century. Less than a mile from the remains of the castle stands Brecon Cathedral, founded as a Benedictine monastery by Neufmarche's confessor, a monk from Battle Abbey in Sussex. While fairly modest as cathedrals go, nevertheless it is of great historical interest, and has seen both Norman lords, Welsh princes and leaders worship and be interred in its grounds. It boasts the biggest cresset stone in Britain with 30 cups (a cresset stone is an ancient form of lighting - essentially a stone slab with a number of holes carved out of it in which to put candles).

Alongside the cathedral stands the Prior's house. One of its most notable occupants was Sir John Price (1502-55) who was church commissioner for Wales under Hernry VIII, and the man given responsibility for dissolving the monasteries in Wales in 1547. He is also the author of the very first book to be printed in the Welsh language 'Yn Y Lhyvyr hwnn' an instruction manual for the Welsh priesthood.

The hills around Brecon boast some of the finest walking and mountaineering terrain in Britain, including Pen-y-Fan, the highest point in southern Britain at 886m. A few miles outside the town is the Brecon Canal basin which forms part of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, and is the starting point of the Taff Trail, a walking and cycling route that follows the Taff river right down to Cardiff.

In August, the annual Brecon County Show takes place. Also the Brecon Jazz Festival is held over 3 days within the town centre with performances in several open air venues, and in a number of indoor venues including the town's market hall and at Theatr Brycheiniog.

Brecon has strong military links to this day. There are two military bases located outside the town. Dering Lines is the home to the Infantry Battle School, formerly known as Infantry Training Centre Wales, and the Brecon Barracks are home to 160 solders of the Wales Brigade. Eight miles away near Sennybridge there is a third military establishment. Sennybridge Training Area is an important training facility for the British.

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