In the foyer of the castle there are leaflets about what to do and see in the area (on steps on the left as you come in). Take a selection for ideas of where to visit during your stay but also study the links on this page to plan in advance of your trip. Select some 'inside activities' and some 'outside excursions' to allow for weather. Our staff at reception can provide you with print-outs of each local dog friendly walk in the area.
Vary the suggestions below according to preference and weather. This is only a suggested itinerary you can mix and match as you choose:
Day One - Local
Ancient Briton Pub
Welsh Show Caves
Explore locally - visit Henrydd Waterfalls (parking and access is free). Have an evening meal at the Penycae Inn or a drink at the Ancient Briton Pub. Both are within walking distance of the castle though the road between the castle and Penycae Inn lacks a pavement so is best driven. Bring torches as it is pitch dark at night going up the lanes. If raining, visit the Welsh Show Caves - 500 yards north of the Castle. There is a cafe and gift shop.
Day Two - Gower/ Swansea
Oxwich Bay and Oxwich Bay Hotel
Three Cliffs Bay
Swansea Maritime Museum
Mumbles via Swansea Bay beach and promenades walk
If weather fine, explore the best beaches in the area. Take a trip to the Gower. Oxwich Bay offers a long sandy beach with interesting coves, and no people to speak of. There is a small hotel at one end (Oxwich Bay Hotel) where you can have a drink either inside or out in their garden overlooking the bay. Children will enjoy the miles of sand. Allow 50 minutes to walk from one end to the other, or two hours to do the whole beach in both directions. At low tide you can walk on to Three Cliffs Bay. There are also walks through the sand dunes if you fancy a change on the return walk.
Alternatively, for a much larger beach, go to award winning Rhossilli Bay, popular for its windsurfing and surfing generally.
If weather is poor, and you fancy going south to Swansea, visit the Swansea Maritime Museum. Sometimes it can be raining at the castle, but you will often find it is clear in Brecon and Swansea. So do not let a wet day here put you off going out. Just be ready to venture further afield. The hills here attract above average rainfall, so we may get wet weather here yet it's clear and dry when you head just a few miles north or south.
If you have dogs, after a visit to the Maritime Museum (no dogs allowed inside) you can take the dogs for a long run on Swansea Bay Beach. You may want to drive along the coastal road towards the Mumbles to get on the dog friendly area of the beach. A half mile on from the Museum car parks, there's a useful but rather too busy beach side cafe and car park. It's half way along Swansea Bay, and you can generally get a place. If not, head further along the coastal road and you'll find more car parking areas for the beach on the left.
Finish off with a wander around the Mumbles. You can call in to the Mumbles on the way back from the Gower, or you can walk towards the Mumbles from Swansea Bay. With an hour or three to spare, you can walk all the way to the Mumbles from Swansea Bay. It is pleasant in good weather to browse along the pavement promenade that takes you around the whole bay. Try out some of the exercise / fitness equipment dotted along the paths. Stay a while and enjoy a snack, drinks or a meal in one of the many restaurants and cafes in the Mumbles, before heading back to wherever you parked along the Bay.
Swansea Bay offers a long sandy beach to walk along, but you need to avoid the mud flats at low tide. Don't walk too far out as the tide comes in fast and you can end up stranded on the mud flats! The Mumbles end is more pebbley so you'll want to walk along the Mumbles paved promenade, taking in the many varied shops and restaurants in this pretty coastal village. Mumbles is in contrast to Swansea itself as Swansea was sadly bombed heavily during the war and remains in need of some sympathetic town planning to restore its heritage.
Day Three -
Local and Craig y Nos
Craig y Nos Castle Breakfast and History Tour
Craig y Nos Country Park
Penwyllt tracks walk
Or head north to Hay on Wye in afternoon
Fancy staying local, but you get up and it's raining. You think, "What to do, today?" Start with a full English Breakfast at the castle (only available when castle is fully open), relax over some coffee afterwards by the fire in the Nicolini Lounge (do ask Reception to have maintenance light it for you if they haven't!) and at 10.30, join fellow residents of the Castle on a History Tour. The History Tour is free for residents, lasts up to two hours, 10.30-12.30 and dogs can sometimes come on the tour too.
The History Tour includes stories and an amazing history about the castle and its previous owner (the once world famous opera singer, Adelina Patti) that will fascinate and entertain you. You will explore the derelict upper levels of the castle and drop down into the old cellars, exploring behind the stage in the opera house. Discover hidden areas of the castle that have not changed in 150 years - areas the public do not have access to except on these special tours.
For the afternoon, take some fresh air and a good walk. Either stay local, and walk around the Country Park with the dogs to let them run off steam, or venture up the mountain to Penwyllt, on a longer circular walk, using the walks map from reception. Visit the old quarry and walk along the disused quarry railway tracks high up in the hills, enjoying great views over the remote landscape.
Or if you fancy a drive and tour, head north on to Hay on Wye, celebrated town of books, suitable in all weathers for a long browse around the numerous bookshops (dogs can come too, as there are plenty of walks in the area you can try, though dogs won't be allowed in all the bookshops). There are also some interesting antique shops in Hay on Wye.
Return and finish off with an evening meal at the castle (dogs welcome in the bar). Enjoy a two course evening meal for up to 6 persons, any evening of the week except Fridays or Saturdays when there is a wedding on.
Day Four - Local Hill & Lake Walk
Lake of Arthurian Legend
Fancy a longish excursion, if it is a bright sunny day? (Do this trip on another day if it is cloudy or misty as you won't get the views when mountains are in cloud).
Weather permitting, head north past the Castle towards the Tafan y Garreg pub, turn left up the single track lane opposite the pub, towards Trecastle. Stop on the mountain road soon after the first cattle grid, either near the small bridge, or further along up the hill track on the left where there are a couple of parking spaces on the rough ground. Head off over the open mountainside to the left to find the not very well marked tracks leading up a gently steepening hill where eventually, after some slushy bits and disappearing paths that leave you wondering if you are on the right course, you will suddenly level off and find you're looking over the hitherto quite hidden Lake of Arthurian Legend. This has a manageable path all around it and you can choose the clockwise option or go anti-clockwise. I prefer anti-clockwise.
Walk around the lake and if you fancy a climb, take the hill track at the far end of the lake from where you joined it, following the high stepped stones almost vertically above the lake for some really stunning views. A bit of a climb, some boggy ground in places, good walking boots essential, a remote mountainous area. Allow 3-4 hours if doing the top walk, or a couple of hours if just circumnavigating the lake itself.
Day Five - Brecon
Brecon Mountain Centre
Brecon Canal and Riverside Walk
Playground for children
Brecon Mountain Steam Railway
Brecon Mountain Centre Walk. Allow a couple of hours. Try and coincide with an event on at the Mountain Centre. There is sometimes a fete or craft fair at weekends. Discourage dogs from rolling while following all the many mountain tracks. The walks at the Mountain Centre are all clearly marked, and mostly level, as you are on a kind of plateau up here. The grass walkways are either mowed or sheep-grazed flat so you know where you are going, but there are a lot of sticky sheep droppings. Take care if taking a pram - its wheels will need a good wash afterwards, as will your boots. There is also a gift ship and coffee shop by the car park. Ensure dogs kept on leads as most dogs are inclined to chase sheep and with so many sheep around cannot be absolutely relied upon to come to call.
A visit to the Mountain Centre should be combined with a visit to Brecon itself. Saturdays are a good day as there is often a Market at Brecon Market Hall (a large Victorian covered building so you are indoors). You could visit Brecon Market Hall in the morning or early afternoon, moving on to the Mountain Centre in the late afternoon or evening, making sure you do the inside activity (Market) when the weather is not so fair and the outside activity (Mountain Centre) in fairer weather.
Or pop into the centre of Brecon for some local shopping, before wandering along (or driving along) to find the Brecon Theatre - see http://www.brycheiniog.co.uk/en/whats-on for what they have on during your stay.
At the Theatre there is a nice canal walk and canal basin in front of the theatre from where you can start your walk. Parking behind the theatre is only 50p for 6 hours (at least it was in 2017/18) so it's worth moving there if you have previously parked in town. Watch the boats descend or rise through the canal lock a couple of miles further along the canal path, as you walk a few miles along the canal towpath leaving Brecon behind you.
There is a convenient children's open air play area in a field behind the theatre - useful if you have children who need to burn up energy on the swings and slides. No dogs allowed here, so I leave mine on a lead outside the gate, within sight. Excellent dog walks all along the canal path which heads north out of Brecon. It goes on for many miles, through little villages and past more canal basins full of prettily painted canal boats and, if you know where to find them, past a few pubs.
There is an alternative walk back through fields alongside the river, so you can do a partially circular walk back if you prefer not to remain on the canal path all the time.
Visit the area for a walk, check out what is on in the theatre, and then maybe come back one evening to enjoy a performance in the theatre.
Depending on the season you can also take a ride on the Brecon Mountain Steam Railway, or, if there are no trains and you just fancy the walk, follow the footpath running parallel to the tracks, watching the trains go up and down the railway line.
Day Six -
Local Reservoirs & Waterfalls
Play Quarter Ystradgynlais
Usk Reservoir Walk. Take the same single track mountain road that you took for the Lady of the Lake walk, turning off left of the A4067 at Tafan Y Garreg pub, and heading for a few miles over the mountain, over two cattle grids, until you get to a T junction where you turn left along more single track lanes in turn opening out into a small valley. After a couple of miles, look out for a sign off to the right, to 'Usk Reservoir'. Park anywhere near the reservoir's dam, then walk across the dam, and head off on foot, anti-clockwise around the reservoir.
You can get a copy of the Usk Reservoir Walk guide from reception as there are some wrong turns that could hinder you doing the circle. Armed with the directions you will be fine, and even without the directions anyone with a good sense of direction and an eye on the reservoir, keeping the water in sight as much as possible to your left, will tend to find their way anticlockwise around it. Eventually you come out a little further along one of the lanes (if you go anticlockwise) that you first drove along, so will find your car as you follow the road signs back to the reservoir and the dam.
Allow two hours for this walk, three if stopping for a picnic. Weather permitting, you can picnic half way around, sitting on the wooden bench table in a small clearing by the footbridge - a most peaceful spot overlooked by mountains. You are unlikely to meet anyone else on this walk, even on a summer's weekend.
Afterwards, you may have worked up an appetite for another evening meal at the castle. Have an evening meal on your return from the Reservoir Walk. Or you might stop for a snack and a real ale at the Castle Coaching Inn (see below).
If you have time to spare, rather than hurry back, take some more unexplored lanes past the reservoir instead of retracing your steps. Eventually you will find your way to Trecastle, which has some tea rooms, a stove shop and a couple of 'junky' antique shops where you might pick up a rustic bargain. It also has (or had) a tea shop. They close around 5pm, so you need to time things to get there by 4-ish at the latest to allow an hour for browsing. If the shops are closed, the pub will be open. Trecastle used to have loads of pubs, some 30 or so apparently, quite remarkable given how small a place it is. Now the only pub I notice here is the Castle Coaching Inn, which is worth popping in to if you have time for a pint, or a bite to eat.
The pub is conveniently located on the lane that takes you over the winding mountain pass, back to the castle. Warning: Be sure to take the first important (unmarked) left turn that goes over the mountain or you will end up very lost on some endless windy mountain roads that go nowhere useful, known as 'the Black Mountains'. If you pass the turn and end up in the same valley you encountered on the way out, with Usk Reservoir signed to your right, you'll know you have missed the earlier left turn back to the Castle and so will have to turn around.
For better quality antiques than those you will find at Trecastle, head to Penybont Antiques at Penycae, on the single track lane opposite th Penycae Inn. Here you will find some nice furniture in a hidden but rather good quality antique furniture shop after a small bridge off the single track lane opposite the Penycae Inn. Look out for a pinky red painted house on the left, with large barn on its left, the barn facing you beyond the field gate. There are some horse fields off to the left as you look over the gate, and the pinky/ red house is to the right of the barn. It is not signposted, is not on the internet, it is not on the map, and it is not generally open but if you go in and find the owner he will open up for you. He is very talkative. You only know it is there if you are local or if it happens to be open (which is rare).
Hopefully you'll chance across it after you cross the bridge, leaving the Penycae Inn behind you, and before you get to the curvy part of the lane going past the small church. Well worth popping into for a decent table, chest of drawers, wardrobe, chest, or bedside table etc.
Further along these lanes there is an animal sanctuary, mainly monkeys, a minor zoo. So if you like small zoos, then pop along to the monkey sanctuary.
There is also a fairly substantial zoo area developing behind the Penycae Inn, as the owner there has a love of animals. This has expanded of late and is well worth visiting in its own right.
If you have time and fancy doing another interesting walk, go towards Glynneath and visit the Ystradfelte Waterfalls.
If the weather is poor and you have children to amuse, pop into the Play Quarter, at Ystradgynlais (a left hand turn off A4067 into an industrial estate before Tescos). This is an indoor children's play area and cafe, where parents can relax while children will happily play for hours on the equipment, really enjoying themselves and not wanting to leave. The Play Quarter is ideal for a rainy day or to fill in a gap when you can't be bothered to go anywhere too far but do not want bored children forced to sit at home. One partner can even go and do a shop at Tescos while the other sits with the children in the cafe.
Day Seven - Return Options
Heading East: St. Fagans
Heading West: Tenby
This is the day you are will be leaving after your week's stay, and as you will be out of the castle by 11 am, you may wonder what can you do to extend your holiday a bit, rather than drive all the way home too early?
It depends on what direction you are heading in.
1. If heading home East, past Cardiff on the M4, I recommend a two hour stop at St. Fagans Museum. Easy to get to, free entry, you pay £2.00 (when I was last there) to park. It's off J33 / M4. If coming over the Heads of the Valley Road (A465/470 route) you'll join the M4 at J32, so will need to go one junction back on yourself to J33. If coming along the M4 from Swansea, turn off M4 at J33 to St. Fagans.
This very interesting museum has a load of historic houses that have been dismantled and removed from their original locations and rebuilt piece by original piece at St. Fagans. Houses that would otherwise have been lost to new developments, roads and towns, have thus been preserved and are dotted around acres of woodland at St. Fagans. Go back in time hundreds of years and see how each family lived in each era. Fascinating - and dogs are allowed as well, though you will need them on the lead most of the time as it is a place you can get a bit lost in.
2. If heading West, consider dropping in to Tenby. A lovely little seaside village, suitable if you are heading out that way, nice long sandy dog friendly beach (dogs not allowed near town centre part of beach in the summer but the wider and longer expanse of beach heading off to your right past the promenade of hotels is fine year round).
Or head off to Laugharne Castle, which has a nice coastal walk, and if it is raining, you can visit the Dylan Thomas centre.
For other excursions, see the 'what to do locally' page, for more ideas.
Obviously you could do any one of these suggested excursions during any day of your stay. To complete them all you may need to come back next year to tick off what you do not get done this year. See also some of the many further afield excursions below:
Elan Village and Reservoirs <> Llynne Brianne Reservoir <>Talybont on Usk Reservoir <> Talley Abbey and Hills Walk <> Caerleon Roman Ruins <> Dinefwr Park, House and Castle.
More on what to do in the area can be found on our dog friendly wales outings page.
See pictures of the various dog walks here: Henrydd Waterfalls Walk (local walk, near castle), Brecon Mountain Centre Walk (accessible via lanes from Sennybridge/ Defynogg (20 minutes) or go to Brecon, take bypass, and turn off at Libanus (the long way around - 35 minutes' drive), Lady of the Lake walk featured above, Oxwich Bay Walks, Rhossilli Bay Walk, Usk Reservoir Walk, Penwyllt Mountain Tracks walk, and Ystradfelte Waterfalls.
Of course, this is only a snapshot of some of the things you can do in the area; let me know if you find any recommended additions I can include.