Meandering through the Welsh countryside the isolated Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal is the most popular attraction in the stunning Brecon Beacons National Park. It is one of our most beautiful and peaceful waterways following the line of the lovely wooded Usk Valley, it is a true hidden gem. The navigable section of the canal runs for 35 miles from Brecon to the Pontymoile basin.
Its location makes it a haven for wildlife and a favourite with nature-lovers, walkers and cyclists. The northern section forms part of the Taff Trail Long Distance Footpath, a 55 mile route that can be walked or cycled that starts at Brecon Basin and ends in Cardiff.
Days out and waterside walks
There are numerous activities to enjoy on this beautiful canal, relax on a boat trip, take in the local heritage, there are lime kilns and old workings from our industrial heritage that can be seen all along its length, spot wildlife, buzzards, red kites, herons and dragonflies.
Enjoy a family day out to the wonderful sites of Brecon Basin, Llangynidr locks or Goytre Wharf, with its historic limekilns or pop in for a snack at Pontymoile or any of the numerous canal side pubs or cafes.
A 35 Mile Team Endurance Challenge following one of the most scenic canal routes in Britain. Help celebrate over 200 years of one of the most scenic canal routes in Britain. This challenge that will take you on an historic journey through the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Boat rally & live music at Brecon canal basin finish.
Our Top 5 Memorable Stops Along the Canal
- Llangynidr’s five locks
Llangynidr’s Five Locks suddenly come along all at once. Not only is it an interesting stopping point, it’s also a beautiful spot, right in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park, and there’s a pub called the Coach & Horses, by the bottom lock. Nearby attractions include Talybont Reservoir, famous for its water-based sport activities, and the very interesting Tretower Court & Castle historic house.2. Talybont-on-Usk
The Star Inn Talybont was Powys Pub of the year, it has great beer garden and a very refreshing pint with some nice food. Other places to eat close by include the newly revamped TalybontPost Office and Café which serves the most amazing cakes and the White Hart Inn.
3. The Brecon Basin
The finishing or starting point of the canal, offers a wonderful welcome or goodbye atmosphere to the town of Brecon. The sights of canal boats docked up, the beaming Brycheiniog Theatre and surrounding cafes creates a great environment.
4. Llangattock Escarpment & Hillside
Between bridges 111 and 112 there’s an excellent viewing point of the surrounding area. There are some limestone cliffs and the view behind Llangattock is of the picturesque Sugarloaf Mountain. Passers by can also spot an Old Marina. Also nearby is a famous geomorphic area where you’ll find some caves and some nice peaceful green fields.
5. Govilon Wharf
This is a nice stopping point where you’ll find a café, some old lime kilms, a picturesque Victorian church.
Historic sights include Bailey’s ware-house which was built on Govilon wharf in 1820 at the end of the Llanvihangel and Baileys tramway. Constructed on the wharf around 1820 was a bank of three limekilns, one of which made use of the canal for direct charging. There are also the remains of an old building which is believed to be an old Inn.
History of the Mon & Brec
What is nowadays popularly referred to as the Mon & Brec started life as two separate canals: the Brecknock & Abergavenny Canal, and the Monmouthshire Canal. The 35-mile navigable section seen today is mostly the former. In the 1790s, the Monmouthshire Canal Company received its Act of Parliament at the same time that the Brecknock & Abergavenny was being planned. Following discussions, it was decided to link the two 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.
Both canals were supported by horsedrawn tramroads that were mainly used to bring coal, limestone and iron ore from the hillsides. The canal played a significant part in our industrial heritage, connecting Hill’s tramroads to the iron works in Blaenavon and the forges at Garnddyrys.
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. Remains of this heritage can still be viewed along the canal today these include wharfs and lime kilns.
The Blaenavon area and a section of the canal were granted World Heritage status in 2000 in recognition of its historical significance.
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 and its Crumlin Arm were filled in for road construction. The line was all but obliterated through Cwmbran, and was effectively unnavigable further north. It’s fair to say that this beautiful part of our canal network came close to disappearing altogether. But vigorous campaigning by canal enthusiasts heralded a new dawn for the canal, and in 1968 restoration work from Brecon to Pontymoile began in earnest.
Recent developments have included a complete regeneration of the terminus at Brecon, and various works continue to reclaim the navigation between Pontymoile and Newport.
Part of the Crumlin Arm has also been restored, and the Fourteen Locks Canal Centre is open regularly to the public.
The Mon & Brec today
This peaceful and almost entirely rural waterway is a must-see for nature-lovers. The Llangattock escarpment is designated as a Special Site Of Scientific Interest (SSSI), and is the entrance to an extensive cave network.
The canal passes through a World Heritage Site, which contains industrial landmarks such as the Big Pit Mining Museum. The Cefn Flight of fourteen locks has also been recognised as being of international significance, and is on Cadw‘s list of Scheduled Ancient Monuments.
As the Mon & Brec is not currently accessible from any other waterway, most boaters cruise it on a hire-boat. There are several fleets based on the canal, including Beacon Park Day Boats, Dragonfly Cruises and Castle Narrowboats
Click here for more information about the Monmouthsire and Brecon Canal