We explore Wales’s illustrious and ancient mountains.
THE WEEKEND: Spend an inspiring weekend amidst gorgeous rolling countryside and valleys, dramatic mountain ranges, breathtaking waterfalls and forests. The Brecon Beacons National Park is a haven for lovers of the outdoors at every level of exertion, from leisurely strolls along the River Usk, stopping at traditional Welsh inns along the way, to thrill-seeking activities like kayaking and potholing (the Park boasts the greatest concentration of cascades, caves and gorges in Britain). Permeated throughout is a richness of cultural heritage; dotted everywhere are ancient, Roman and medieval remains, while its historic villages and towns bear a strong community identity informed by its traditional past and way of life.
WHERE? There are plenty of inns, hotels and camping facilities, but to really get away from it all, self-catered cottages offer greater independence and privacy. Recommended is the immaculately presented Little Hare Barns, a smart barn conversion – all oak floors and original beams – just outside Crickhowell, or 4 miles west from Abergavenny on the A40. Ideal for its proximity to excellent walking routes, it sits on the hillside route to Sugar Loaf, offering an unbeatable view of the valley and Brecon Beacons that’s a pleasure to wake up to.
THE FOOD: With its thriving agricultural industry, just about everywhere proudly champions the local produce. Worth a visit for delicious smoked foods is the family-run Black Mountains Smokery in Crickhowell, from irresistible salmon, through ‘fishy treats’ in caviar, game birds and cheeses. Stop in the chic Oak Room at the Angel Hotel, Abergavenny for lunch, where you can sample the local lamb or beef cooked simply but perfectly; its accompanying wine list is winner of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Or go for their indulgent Afternoon Tea, just named the BBC Good Food’s number one Afternoon Tea in the UK.
ASK ABOUT: 2017 is Wales’s Year of Legends, themed around its legends both of past and present, with a series of events, exhibitions and projects going on throughout the year. This is in addition to its calendar of festivals; the great and good of the literary world gather in Hay-on-Wye for the Hay Festival, while the Green Man is the civilised, less muddy Glastonbury. Abergavenny hosts its own food festival, while more regular events include stargazing sessions and pottery making.
AND AFTER THAT? Unmissable are the romantic ruins of Carreg Cennen castle, near the village of Trap in the west of the Park, perched on a formidable limestone crag 300ft above the river Cennen. Its earliest masonry dates to the late twelfth century, with some evidence of original prehistoric and Roman constructions beneath. Rugged and dramatic, kids will especially love it. Whisky lovers should pilgrimage to Wales’s only whisky distillery, Penderyn. It’s a slick operation, with efficient and fascinating tours available daily, tasty samples included. It’ll be impossible to leave without taking a wee drinkable souvenir.
NEED TO KNOW: Reach Abergavenny from Paddington in 2.5 hours from £48 with the travel comparison app GoEuro (visit goeuro.co.uk). Getting around is easiest by car; the Eco Travel Network supports electric vehicle hire, (visit ecotravel
network.co.uk) and cycling routes are increasing in number and coverage, as are some bus routes between major sites.