& Brecon Canal
South Wales
The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal (MBC) is a delightful 35 mile (56 km) waterway running mostly through the Brecon Beacons National Park, following the line of the lovely, wooded Usk Valley.
This tranquil rural canal shows little evidence of its original use as an industrial corridor for the transport of coal and iron, which was brought to the canal by a network of tramways and/or railroads, many of which were built and owned by the canal company.
Spectacular aqueducts carry this canal over the streams and rivers running through the beautiful Welsh valleys.
The canal is undergoing major restoration although a substantial amount is still in water. Despite the restoration work it is still possible to walk the entire length of the canal via the towpath.
Brecon Basin
The Brecon Basin is a great place to start your journey, with lovely walks along the canal. Canal Wharf is not only home to the town’s community arts centre at Theatr Brycheiniog, but also has a number of facilities such as picnic tables, benches for sitting, toilets and a ‘pay & display’ car park.
Because the canal rises 68 feet (21 metres) over its navigable length, there are six working locks. During the summer months hundreds of electric boats and canoes can be seen negotiating the canal.
Boat Trips
During summer, two companies operate cruises and boat hire on the canal - Brecon Park Day Boats and Dragon Fly Cruises.
- Brecon Park Day Boats
Electric Motorboats and Canoes for daytime hire.
Tel    +44 (0)800 612 2890  or  Tel +44 (0)7966 46181
- Dragon Fly Cruises
Tel:   +44 (0)7831 685222
Canal Holidays
The Brecon Park Day Boat company also owns a fleet of 18 luxury self-drive Narrowboats which can be hired for canal holidays from March to October. They also have a number of permanently moored Houseboats available from November to March, and self-catering canal-side Cottages.
If negotiating locks sounds like too much hard work, you can spend a week cruising a 25-mile (40 km) stretch of the canal without having to operate a single lock.
For more information Tel: +44 (0)1873 858277 
Hire a bike locally or use the Beacons Bus trailer to transport your own. The town of Brecon (just north of the Brecon Beacons themselves) is an ideal base because it is the starting point of 3 routes for novice to more experienced mountain bikers.
- Taff Trail
A traffic free, flat section of the Taff Trail starts from the car park at Brecon Canal Basin and follows the MBC for 3 miles (4.8 km) down to the first lock at Brynich. The canal towpath is well surfaced and ideal for novice cyclists.
Waterbirds such as ducks, swans, moorhens, coots, herons and kingfishers will keep you company as you ride or walk along the canal side. On the way look out for the life size sculpture of a man with his horse drawn tram which depicts the history of this section of the canal.
At Brynich you may get the chance to see narrow boats navigate the rise and fall of the small lock. There are picnic tables at the side of the lock and additional ones just a few hundred metres away on the other side of the lane. Looking down river from the bridge you can see Brynich Aqueduct crossing the River Usk.
Canal History
“The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal (popularly referred to as the Mon & Brec) was originally two separate canals - the Brecknock & Abergavenny Canal, and the Monmouthshire Canal. The 35-mile (56 km) navigable section seen today is mostly the former.
Following discussions in the 1790s, it was decided to link the two canals at Pontymoile. The Monmouthshire Canal, including a branch from Malpas to Crumlin, was opened in 1799 with the Brecknock & Abergavenny extending from Brecon to Gilwern by 1800, finally reaching Pontymoile by 1812.
Though originally constructed to transport coal, lime and agricultural products the canal was used extensively by ironmasters and industrialists as their main transport network, bringing the raw iron ore up the canal from Newport to Llanfoist Wharf and thence by tramroads to the iron works and returning with trams loaded with iron, the finished product.
In 1880 the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canals were taken over by the Great Western Railway. Within 35 years, commercial carrying had all but ceased. Throughout the 20th century various parts of the Monmouthshire Canal were filled in for road construction. Both canals were abandoned by the early 1960s but restoration work from Brecon to Pontymoile began in 1968 following vigorous campaigning by canal enthusiasts.
Recent developments have included a complete regeneration of the terminus at Brecon, and various works continue to reclaim the navigation between Pontymoile and Newport. The Blaenavon area and a section of the canal were granted World Heritage status in 2000 in recognition of its historical significance.”
This writer is indebted to David Dixon of the Canal and River Trust for this information.
Canal Route
Communities on or near the main arm of the canal include:
Brecon, Talybont-on-Usk, Llangynidr, Crickhowell, Gilwern, Govilon, Abergavenny, Goetre, Pontypool, Pontymoile, Cwmbran, and Newport.
Communities on or near the Crumlin arm of the canal include:
Crumlin, Risca and Crosskeys.
Much of the canal towpath is easily walkable along its entire route.
The towpath from Brecon to Pontymoile is passable by cyclists over its whole length. The Taff Trail cycle route, follows the canal for a few miles from Brecon, but the path after that is not suitable for cyclists with road bikes. National Cycle Network Routes 47 and 49 follow the canals between Crosskeys and Pontypool.
Contact & Further Information
Canal & River Trust