If you’re on the lookout for a great value holiday, you should seriously consider hiring a narrowboat. It’s an exciting holiday that offers so much more for your money than other types of self-catering. The very experience of choosing when and where to moor up, and steering your accommodation from one location to the next, is sufficient activity for many holidaymakers as they adapt to the slower pace of life on the canal. The most mundane tasks become pleasant activities – learning how to drive the narrow boat, a morning walk to the local shop for a newspaper or preparing lunch to be shared on deck with friends.
Moor up to visit a local town and there are no car parking charges, and no booking fees if you decide to moor an extra night in a spot you particularly like. On the other hand, if you’ve seen all you want to see, you can move on to somewhere else at the drop of a hat.
Unlike many boating holiday companies, Beacon Park Boats offers inclusive holidays. We don’t charge extra for bed linen and towels, boat insurance, diesel for the boats, logs for the stove, gas and electricity, bringing your pet with you or for parking your vehicle in our car park. And you won’t need to worry about bringing cleaning materials, toilet rolls, dishcloths and tea towels, as we provide a pack of essentials.
Apart from busying yourself with manoeuvring the narrowboat and going through locks, there are plenty of other activities nearby that won’t cost a thing. Here are our top three free activities:
Some of the darkest skies in the UK are to be found in the Brecon Beacons. You don’t need any special equipment to get a glimpse of the major constellations, bright nebulas and meteor showers. Just lie down or lean back in a deck chair and look upwards on a clear night. To discover even more, there are stargazing events held in a number of locations across the park. The Brecon Beacons National Park has the prestigious honour of being an International Dark Sky Reserve – only the fifth destination in the world, and the first in Wales.
Our very own Sarah here at Beacon Park Boats has recently been on a workshop to learn more about this growing area of tourism. As a Brecon Beacons National Park Ambassador, Sarah keeps her tourism knowledge up-to-date so she can confidently answer queries from customers and, in turn, make their visits extra special. Since the workshops, Sarah has bought some books on stargazing to put in our two canalside holiday cottages, and intends to purchase some planispheres for the cottages and the canal boats. These maps of the night sky will help guests spot certain stars and constellations in the dark skies around us. (Image: ©Good Day Out & Will Lewis)
Step off your narrowboat and you’re on a towpath that’ll take you north to Brecon and south to Newport (the towpath continues further than the navigable section of the waterway). It’s virtually flat so is suitable for all ages and abilities, including little ones in buggies. There are spectacular views of the Usk valley as the Monmouthshire & Brecon canal hugs the mountainside, rather than being on the valley floor.
Circular walks starting from the canal are plentiful, and those suggested in John Norris' indispensable book 'The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal' are some of the best. Incidentally, once you've booked a holiday with us we'll send you a complimentary copy of John Norris' book so you can start planning what you want to see and do before you arrive. We love the 20-minute walk from Llangattock (Bridges 114 or 115) into the pretty town of Crickhowell crossing the old stone bridge over the River Usk. If you want to gain some height, head for the flat-topped Table Mountain above Crickhowell. You can retrace your steps or come back down via the hamlets of Llanbedr and Llangenny, before following the banks of the Usk back to Crickhowell. You’ll find OS maps of the area on our boats and in our cottages so you can plan your route in detail. Remember to wear suitable footwear and take waterproof clothing when going out for a walk, as the weather changes frequently in the Brecon Beacons. (Image: ©Visit Wales)
3. Festivals and events
For such a rural area, there’s a busy calendar of events. Hardly a week goes by without something happening near the canal. It’s possible to experience the biggest festivals, like Brecon Jazz Festival (in August), Abergavenny Festival of Cycling (in August) and Abergavenny Food Festival (in September), without going to specific concerts or workshops, as the towns’ streets come alive. On a smaller scale, there are regular art and craft exhibitions at Crickhowell, farmers’ markets to browse around in Abergavenny, Llangynidr and Brecon, and music in many canalside pubs.