Crickhowell is an ideal centre for anyone wanting to explore the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains. Although it is only a small town it is an excellent tourist destination in its own right, particularly for those looking for a short break not too far from major centres like London, Bristol or Birmingham. I have been going there for several years now, and although I often think of staying somewhere else, I find it difficult to find anywhere as suitable for the two or three day walking breaks I take, usually in spring. I think back to the last time I visited Crickhowell. I had left home really only at about six o'clock in the morning and reached Abergavenny at about 8 o'clock. It was a Sunday morning and I called in the indoor market hall and had a breakfast bap from the snack bar. For a couple of quid I received a vast bun stuffed with egg, bacon, tomato and sausage - quite a good start to a day’s walking in the hills! I then drove on to Crickhowell another 20 minutes or so, turning left in the village and driving down to the Riverside campsite where I pitched my tent went off to walk round the village to buy a few items of food and drink. Later in the day, after a few hours walking in the Black Mountains I returned to Crickhowell, had a shower and then went down to the Bridge Inn. What an excellent pub that is, with its cosy interior and its riverside garden. I seem to be concentrating on food and drink in this opinion and although the Crickhowell is well-known for the excellence of its restaurants and pubs the Bridge Inn is an ideal place after a day's walking, especially if you like Welsh lamb or good quality steak together with a pint or two of real ale. Let me talk about the village itself. Crickhowell is situated on the river Usk. The river is spanned by a 17th-century stone bridge which for some reason seems to have a different number of arches on one side than on the other. I read about this featur
e in the guidebook and have puzzled over it ever since, occasionally crossing over to each side of the bridge and counting the arches. It really seems to be true! The town seems to be blessed by its own micro-climate. This is because it is situated in a bowl surrounded by mountains on all sides. It is a strange thing to be sitting outside the tent watching the clouds race towards you from the West and somehow break up and disappear as they cross the town. I am not saying that it never rains (after all this is Wales!) but it does seem to be the case that Crickhowell often get better weather than the surrounding countryside. To the north of the town is a large peak called Table Mountain, which although quite a climb, is worth the visit because of the marvellous views across the town (a leaflet on the route can be bought in the outdoor shop in the village). To the south is the Llangattock Ridge, a wonderful nature reserve running along the path of an old mountain railway and with many caves and other interesting features. Down by the river Usk there is a lovely country Park and you can walk along the banks of the river in either direction. A short way up the hill towards Llangattock you can crossed the Brecon and Abergavenny Canal or walk up the tow path for as far as you want. Crickhowell itself is incredibly pretty containing many Georgian properties and if you walk round in spring it seems to be a mass of flowers with pink Valerian cascading down the stone walls which surround so many gardens. This area of Wales has become very popular with commuters and holiday residents and this is reflected in the shops in the village which seem to have a wide range of top-quality and expensive produce catering for city dwellers visiting their holiday cottages. If you don't want to take a tent, there are many excellent hotels in Crickhowell and in the area roundabouts. I suggest you to a web search on hotels in Crickhowell or else ring
the local tourist board for a list. I will mention the very comfortable and convenient Dragon Hotel situated in the middle of the town and also if you want to go more upmarket I would highly recommend the Gliffaes Country House Hotel. But you are not going to go all the way to Wales just to spend your time in one little town however lovely it may be. It is as a tourist centre that Crickhowell really comes into its own. From Crickhowell it is very easy to visit the town of the Brecon and of course the famous range of hills, the Brecon Beacons. Or you could visit the lovely Llanthony Priory, a ruined monastery with an hotel built among the ruins which serves drinks and ice cream to its many visitors. Should the weather be wet it is worth visiting the Dan Yr Ogof caves and Dinosaur Park. Or you could visit The Big Pit, where you can tour an old coal mine taking a lift down to the coalface just as coal-miners used to do every day. Further afield you can visit the town of Hay on Wye (a lovely drive from Crickhowell), especially if you're interested in second-hand books (most readers will know that Hay is the biggest centre for second-hand bookshops in Britain). I would think that many visitors to Wales are intent on walking however and as well as exploring the Brecon Beacons I would highly recommend a day doing the “waterfall walk” at Glyn Neath on which you can see many spectacular waterfalls. At one point the path actually goes between the water and the cliff face and you can watch the sheet of water cascade down at your side. If you are feeling really energetic a walk up to Pen y Fan, the highest peak in southern Britain, is a good safe mountain walk on a sunny summer day, particularly if you approach it from the south side. You will be joining many other people with the same idea but the views from the top are truly spectacular. If there is the slightest doubt about the weather, go prepared because this area
is notorious for difficult conditions Crickhowell is an excellent centre for many other outdoor activities such as bird-watching, caving and climbing, fishing and canoeing. The Crickhowell Adventure Centre located near the old bridge offers many of these activities and is well worth visiting. I have many happy memories of spring in Crickhowell and will undoubtedly return there again. I’m not saying that it’s a place to spend a fortnight’s holiday, but for a few days exploring the area its hard to beat. P.S. At the time of writing (July 2001), Crickhowell is in the middle of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. This will undoubtedly affect the opportunities for outdoor pursuits. My sympathies go to local farmers and residents and I hope the situation soon becomes under control.