Rivers in the Brecon Beacons National Park

The National Park has many lovely rivers and streams, popular with paddlers and waterside walkers. The Rivers Usk, Monnow, Nedd and Tawe all start high in our hills. 

The River Usk

The silver ribbon of the River Usk truly belongs to our National Park. It rises on the northern slopes of the Black Mountain range and flows from our western moorlands to our fertile south-eastern farmland in a generous arc. On the way, it passes through many of our towns and villages. Sennybridge, Brecon, Talybont-on-Usk, Crickhowell and Abergavenny all once depended on the river for their prosperity. The Usk also feeds the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal.

The whole river is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It waters woodlands and grasslands and provides a habitat for salmon, trout, otters, dippers, kingfishers and herons, among many other species. In winter it can be wild and swollen with the force of mountain streams but in summer its character is calm and gentle.

The Promenade in Brecon is a pleasant place to access the Usk. You can hire boats here or simply walk along the riverside footpath, enjoying breathtaking views of the Central Beacons. To get here, turn off Ship Street onto Watergate, cross the Honddu Bridge and turn left onto the riverside path. Use postcode LD3 9AY to find the pay-and-display car park on Kensington by sat nav.

At Bullpit Meadow on the upstream side of the Usk bridge in Crickhowell, there’s a riverside footpath and great views of Llangattock escarpment. In Abergavenny, Castle Meadows gives you great views of Abergavenny Castle and the Sugar Loaf and Blorenge mountains.

The River Wye

Britain’s fifth longest river, the beautiful River Wye, makes just the briefest of visits to our Park, flowing through Hay-on-Wye in the north-east corner before winding east then south through Herefordshire and Monmouthshire to meet the Bristol Channel at Chepstow.

By the time it reaches Hay, the Wye is already a broad, meandering river. The Warren, a peninsula formed by a beautiful rocky loop in the river, just west of the town, is an ideal place for a dip. To walk there, take the road opposite the Cinema Bookshop. Turn right onto a footpath by the church, then left along the path above the river.

The Wye is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation, and its entire valley is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Rivers of Waterfall Country

With the exceptions of the Sychryd and Pyrddin, each of the rivers which combine to form the River Neath rise on the long southerly dip-slopes of the Old Red Sandstone hills of Fforest Fawr. They flow southwards through scenery whose variety and beauty is hard to match anywhere in Britain.

The Hepste has its source on the southern slopes of Fan Fawr. A lovely river, it flows through the wide expanse of moorland above across the open grasslands of the common above Penderyn before entering the steeply wooded gorge which brings it to its confluence with the Mellte. 

The Dringarth and Llia rivers rise respectively to the east and west of Fan Llia. Their courses converge to the north of Ystradfellte and the single river which is the product of their confluence is then known as the Mellte. 

The Nedd Fechan rises between Fan Nedd and Fan Gyhirych; it flows southward and after being joined by its tributary, the Pyrddin, it continues to a confluence with the Mellte to form the River Neath (Afon Nedd). 

Joining the Mellte near Craig y Ddinas is the Sychryd, which rises on the slopes beneath Craig-y-Llyn to the south of Waterfall Country and flows northward past Rhigos. The river executes an almost 90 degree turn and then tumbles through a steep boulder-strewn ravine to its junction with the Mellte.

Messing about on our rivers

The River Usk and the River Wye are hugely popular for canoeing, kayaking and boating, with Brecon Promenade, Glasbury and Hay-on-Wye the most used entry points. Smaller, steeper rivers such as the River Tawe and the River Sawdde offer exciting white water paddling in season. To strike a balance between conservation priorities and the interests of canoeists, anglers, farmers and land-owners, access to some stretches of the Wye and Usk is controlled by the Wye and Usk Foundation (www.wyeuskfoundation.org). To find out more, visit our pages on canoeing and sailing.