Visit a canal basin today and it’s hard to reconcile the tranquil beauty of the surroundings with their original function. Basins were basically inland ports, usually designed to be the end point of any canal journey as the place where cargo was loaded and unloaded. There were often in town centres, surrounded by warehouses and offices, high walls that shield the hard work of the canal from public scrutiny. The basin was the embodiment of the canal’s function, and since the canal’s function has changed, the basin has had to move with it. Brecon Basin is the start (or end) point of what is considered Britain’s prettiest canal and the industry that takes place there now is entirely leisure based. It boasts a theatre and café, as well as trip boats and day boat hire, and is also a great place to begin walks from the edge of town into the enveloping countryside.
The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal – which originally consisted of two canals – runs in large part through the Brecon Beacons National Park, some of the loveliest countryside in the UK. The Brecon stretch was completed in 1800 to link Brecon with the Monmouthshire Canal at Pontymoile. Largely transporting coal, it was threatened by the railways, with some sections converting to rail as early as 1853. By 1881, the canal’s terminus at Brecon had been filled in, but following sterling work by the restoration movement it was completely restored in the 1990s.
Brecon Basin is now home to the Theatr Brycheiniog, which has a varied arts programme including theatre, dance, music and visual art, plus a couple of cafés. Dragon Fly Cruises run public boat trips, and you can also walk along the canal past historic lime kilns towards the nearby Brynich Aqueduct. It’s also not far from here into the town of Brecon itself, making it a great place to begin or end your journey around the city.