Brecon Beacons Youth Hostels - Seven Oldies

by : Keith Valentine

A YHA cycling route resembling a "figure eight", popular in the 1960's, began in England and meandered south into the Royal Forest of Dean, through the Wye Valley into Wales, headed north to the Black Mountains and west to the Brecon Beacons. The route then led south to the River Severn, crossed over the Wye back into England, then headed north into the Wye Valley again. Follow this route and you can see for yourself how picturesque this area actually is.

Sadly many of the old youth hostels in the Brecon Beacons and Wye Valley during the sixties are now closed but the beautiful countryside they were located in is still very much alive. This particular district occupies scenic regions of England and Wales west of Hereford. Following this bike route, here are seven of the most popular youth hostels in and around the Brecon Beacons during that time:

Forest of Dean, Upper Wye Valley & The Black Mountains

- Mitcheldean: This hostel is now shut down, and was located in this thriving large village with old timbered houses and narrow streets and a medieval church. Once a centre for the brewing industry, the original brewery now known as The Mews, is occupied by several local businesses. On the edge of the village is a large business park, which includes Xerox, one of the largest employers in the Forest of Dean.  

- St. Briavel's Castle: You will have no trouble thinking what to write on your postcards if you stay in this Youth Hostel, housed in a moated Norman castle. It was once the hunting lodge of King John in 1205 on the site of an earlier stronghold. Its towers were added in 1293 as part of the Ring of Stone around Wales. On a plateau high above the Wye Valley, St Briavel's commands spectacular views.

- Capel-y-Ffin: Scheduled for closing soon, this small hostel that was once an old hill farm. It is nestled amidst the Llanthony Valley of the Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons. Situated some 14 miles from Abergavenny on the Anglo-Welsh border, it's now an excellent base for walkers and cyclists. There are routes leading through unspoilt countryside in all directions, including the Cambrian Way, Offa's Dyke trails and Sustrans Route 42.

Brecon Beacons National Park

- Ty'n-y-Caeau: With its operations now terminated, it was close to the town of Brecon, famous for its jazz festival. Llwyn-y-Celyn: a new hostel, has opened nearby - another old Welsh farmhouse in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Accommodation should be similar to Ty'n-y-Caeau, with 2-6+ bedded rooms and facilities include laundry, kitchen and evening meals. It makes a comfortable base for exploring the park with outdoor activities ranging from horse riding to sailing, paragliding, quad biking and hiking.

- Crickhowell: Since this hostel ceased functioning it has been replaced with nearby Llangattock Bunkhouse. This newly built stone building has accommodation for up to 30 people and is equipped with modern ensuite facilities. Self-catering or catering is offered and it includes a large dining and seating area with substantial outdoor space. It is located in a very remote area, with a magical setting on top of a mountain with access to ancient woodlands, rare marshland and wildflower meadows.  

Lower Wye Valley

- Chepstow: Though this hostel is no longer in use, it was located in this border town straddling Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire. Chepstow is situated at the confluence of the River Wye and River Severn on the Severn's west bank. It is famous for its castle and racecourse, which hosts the Welsh Grand National. Chepstow proper is on the west bank of the Wye, within Wales; the English part on the eastern bank consists of Tutshill and Sedbury.

- Staunton-on-Wye: Yet another hostel that is not open anymore, it was located in this small village with a Norman church. Staunton was named "the place of the stones" by the Anglo-Saxons. From here you can visit the Buckstone, in Highmeadow Woods, a popular, panoramic viewpoint. Local legend claims it was a sacred Druid site. The Staunton Longstone, a Bronze Age standing stone, can be seen alongside the A4136, between Staunton and Coleford.

What are the Brecon Beacons? A mountain range in mid-Wales, containing some of the most spectacular and distinctive upland formations in southern Britain, covering an area of 1,347 sq km (520 sq miles). You don't have to inspect every square mile of the National Park to appreciate this wonderful area. You can cycle, hike or even go horseback riding through the Forest of Dean, in the Wye Valley, across the Black MountainsBusiness Management Articles, to the Brecon Beacons - and back again!