Ridgetop adventures, a journey through Tolkein’s Shire and wild swims with a view are just a few of the reasons why this pretty town makes the perfect location to explore the east of Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park. Phillipa Cherryson is your local guide.

To the south of the Black Mountains and with the River Usk flowing beneath its famous 17th century stone bridge, Crickhowell is an absolute gem. Independent shops, pubs and cafes line its High Street; you can picnic next to the remains of its 13th century castle, or walk up to Crug Hywel, the Iron Age hillfort, which gives the town its name.

Main image: The Llangattock escarpment | Credit: Shutterstock

Unsurprisingly, it is a popular place for visitors, and the pavements are regularly filled with walkers heading off into the surrounding countryside. The Crickhowell Walking Festival is held in March and it’s also home to the Green Man Festival in August.

By way of facilities, walkers will want for nothing. Crickhowell Resource and Information Centre (01873 811970) is on the main A40 through town. The pay and display car park is at the rear it and it also has toilets and an art gallery. The compact Georgian town centre has a wide variety of places to stock up on supplies, including two butchers, a petrol station, two grocers, a wine shop and an outdoor gear shop, Crickhowell Adventure which will be familiar with those who follow the annual TGO Reader Awards!

You’ll be spoilt for choice in the surrounding countryside too. The 99-mile Beacons Way and 298-mile Cambrian Way both skirt the town. But if those sound a little too time-consuming, you can stroll, cycle or paddle along the Brecon and Monmouth Canal, go rock climbing or caving on the Llangattock escarpment or just laze in the riverside Bullpit Meadows.

There’s so much to see and do that you won’t fit it all into a single weekend – but there’s always next time.

Your weekend in Crickhowell, sorted

Pen Cerrig-calch_Credit Phillipa Cherryson

Pen Cerrig-calch. Credit Phillipa Cherryson

Your Crickhowell itinerary


No time for a lie in this morning! Check the weather forecast and, if it’s clear and calm, then it’s got to be a ridge walk. Leave the car keys at home today and set off from the town on the 10-mile (15.5km) Crickhowell Three Peaks which takes about six hours.

You’ll head west behind the Manor Hotel, birthplace of Sir George Everest – yes the world’s highest peak really was named after him. Then you’ll walk a section of the Beacons Way, before heading uphill to take in the three summits of 674m (2211ft) Pen gloch-y-pibwr, 719m (2359ft) Pen Allt-mawr and Pen Cerrig-calch, 701m (2300ft). I love this walk and call it my ‘Crickhowell Holy Trinity’.

If the clouds are down or the winds are up, then take a leaf out of Tolkien’s book and enjoy a walk through his Shire. Crickhowell is thought to be the inspiration for ‘Crickhollow’ village in The Hobbit. You’ll be able to see why on this 10km (6 mile) walk along riverside paths, field tracks and lanes. It will take you three to four hours.

If all of these sound too strenuous, enjoy a gentle two hour walk along the River Usk, into the Glanusk Estate on a permissive path, and then back along the Brecon and Monmouth Canal. You’ll enjoy lovely views of the Black Mountains on this 7km (4 mile) route with the chance of spotting river birds or even an otter.

If this is your choice, then you’ll get back into Crickhowell in time for lunch, so try Halo in The Courtyard and order a Buddha Bowl, its signature dish. Then enjoy an afternoon of retail therapy on the High Street.

If you headed out on a longer walk, you should still be back in time to enjoy tea and cake. My favourite is the café at the independent Book-ish where besides a steaming mug of tea and homemade cake, you can buy some evening reading.


Let’s hope for another clear day as we walk south across the river (the bridge is claimed to be the longest stone bridge in Wales and has 12 arches on the upstream side and 13 arches downstream). From there it’s up across the fields to the Llangattock Escarpment, on this 12km (7.5 mile) walk which blends industrial heritage and nature conservation. You’ll need four to five hours to take in the old quarry tramways, the Cilau National Nature Reserve and cracking views as you walk.

An alternative if you didn’t complete the Crickhowell Three Peaks, yesterday, is to climb up from the town to Table Mountain and explore its hill fort. You’ll find ditches and ruined stone defences and views over the Usk Valley. The 7km (4.5 mile) route will take about three hours and if you don’t set off too late, you can be back in Crickhowell ready for a roast lunch at the Bear Hotel – another regular on the TGO Reader Awards shortlist.

If you fancy something completely different and have your own transport, then drive up The Blorenge Mountain up the Tumble. This famous 6km cycling climb, with a 10% incline, has featured in many events, including the Tour of Britain. At the top park at Keeper’s Pond (GR: SO254107). Here you can take in a stroll along some of the well-marked paths, but the reason you are here is right in front of you.

Pen-ffordd-goch Pond was built in the early 19th century to provide water for Garnddyrys Forge. Now it’s known as Keeper’s Pond after the gamekeeper’s cottage that used to be nearby, and it’s a popular wild swimming spot. You’ll join groups of other dippers and most weekends you’ll find a wood-fired mobile sauna parked here, where you can pay to enjoy a warming session.

The Keepers' Pond. Credit: Shutterstock

The Keepers’ Pond. Credit: Shutterstock

Other walks nearby

The Llanbedr Horseshoe

(16.5 miles/26.5km 8-8.5 hours, 3166ft/ 964m)

This is a challenging route, and you’ll need to drive to park in Llanbedr village (SO239203), but this ridge-top full day takes in eight peaks, including Waun Fach, which at 811m/2,661ft is the tallest mountain in the east of the national park.

Sugar Loaf

(4.6 miles/7.4km 2.30hrs approx., 1133ft/345m)

Head east to the outskirts of Abergavenny for a walk up this 598m/1962ft iconic mountain. Park at the National Trust car park at Llanwenarth (SO268167) and either go out and back on the main path, or follow this route which heads left along a stone fence before dropping into a hidden valley. You’ll then climb onto the ridge of Mynydd Pen-y-fal to enjoy relative solitude and fabulous views before a micro-scramble to the summit. Return to the car park via the main path.


In pride of place in Crickhowell stands the Bear Hotel. With 35 en-suite bedrooms, it’s more than 500 years old and boasts a restaurant and real ale. There is also a good selection of B&Bs including the small family run Porth y Berllan Bed & Breakfast, Ty Croeso B&B has panoramic views and The Bluebell Country Inn is in neighbouring Glangrwyney. The Riverside Caravan Park is adults only while Cwmdu Campsite is a five minute drive away.

The old bridge in Crickhowell. Credit: Shutterstock

The old bridge in Crickhowell. Credit: Shutterstock

Food and drink

The Bear is well-known for its evening meals and Sunday lunches. For something different cross the bridge to the Horseshoe Inn at Llangattock for authentic Jamaican street food. The Dragon’s Head, in Llangenny, serves a cracking Sunday lunch (booking vital) and Red Indigo has Indian food to eat in or takeaway.

During the day Latte-Da, on Beaufort Street, the Book-ish Café, High Street, and Halo, The Courtyard, are all great for brunch, lunch and coffee. For a drink try micro-craft beer and cordial bar Treebeards on the High Street and wine shop Bacchus to take out.

Guides and activity providers

  • Crosfield Outdoors – run by husband-and-wife team Gavin and Kerry Crosfield. They offer mountain adventures, caving, climbing, canoe trips and other sports.
  • Kevin Walker Mountain Activities – Kevin offers small group guiding and teaches mountain navigation.
  • Raven Adventures – if mountain biking is your thing then Sion knows all the best routes.
  • Llangorse Multi Activity Centre – A short drive from Crickhowell, the centre offers indoor climbing & bouldering, horse riding, an aerial zip-line and challenge course.


There is a good selection of up-to-date walking guidebooks covering the area. Cicerone’s Walking in the Brecon Beacons: 45 circular walks in the National Park (£14.95), The Pocket Mountains series has Brecon Beacons 40 Favourite Walks for £6.99. Cracking Walks Around Crickhowell pamphlets can be ordered from the CriC centre for £3 each plus shipping and Brecon Beacons (OS Short Walks Made Easy) has a forward by yours truly (£8.99)

Getting to Crickhowell

The nearest railway station is Abergavenny. It has frequent services from Manchester and Birmingham from the north and Newport from the south. Taxis are available at the station or the bus station is a 10-minute walk away. The X43 is a regular bus service to Crickhowell and takes about 20 minutes.

Discover more of the UK adventure towns and villages that make great weekend bases from which to explore the hills.