Brecon to Chepstow
Travel through the Brecon Beacons to the Bristol Channel
Follow the route - Brecon to Chepstow
> From Brecon continue southwards along the A470, exiting at Cefn-coed-y-cymmer to take unclassified roads northwards to Pontsticill.
Walking and boating are major attractions in this area; or you could have a journey on the steam train of the Brecon Mountain Railway, which runs for 4 miles (6km) up the valley.
Places to stay near Pontsticill
> Take unclassified roads to Talybont-on-Usk.
This delightful little village is now a tourist centre, especially for walkers and outdoor activities. The 18th-century Monmouth and Brecon Canal, which passes through the village, was built to carry coal and iron ore. Closed in 1962, it was reopened by volunteers in 1970 for pleasure craft.
Places to stay in Talybont-on-Usk
> Follow the B4558 to Llangynidr, then the B4560, an unclassified road and finally the A4077 to Crickhowell.
The name of this little market town is derived from the Iron Age fort Crug Hywel (Howell’s Cairn). The town grew up around Alisby’s Castle, which was captured and destroyed in 1403 by Owain Glyndŵr, and is now a picturesque ruin. The River Usk is crossed by an old bridge, dating from the 17th century, which appears to have 13 arches on one side but only 12 on the other – the result of 19th-century alterations.
Places to stay in Crickhowell
> Take the A40 to Abergavenny.
Abergavenny, known as the ‘Gateway to the Vale of Usk’, is overlooked by the Sugar Loaf mountain, 1,955 feet (596m) high, and Ysgyryd (Skirrid) Fawr, 1,595 feet (486m). Its ruined castle was founded in 1090. Impressive buildings in the town include the stone tithe barn, and the red sandstone Lloyds Bank. St Mary’s Church is built on the site of a former Benedictine priory.
Places to stay in Abergavenny
> Continue along the A40 to Raglan.
One of Britain’s finest ruins is 15th-century Raglan Castle which was actually built as a fortified manor. The keep is outside the main castle and Parliamentary troops overcame the Royalists here during the Civil War, by approaching from the opposite side. The castle houses an exhibition on the history of Raglan.
Places to stay near Raglan
> Follow an unclassified road south to Usk.
Usk is a small market town on the site of an ancient Roman settlement, Burrium. Visit the church to see the remarkable restored Tudor rood screen; and, at the other end of the town, the Usk Rural Life Museum, in an old stone malt barn, which is crammed with exhibits about life in the area. Usk Castle is privately owned but you can visit the ruins of the Priory next to the church.
Places to stay near Usk
> Cross the river and continue along unclassified roads for 8 miles (13km) to Caerleon.
One of the four permanent Roman legions in Britain was based here, and parts of the Roman city of Isca are displayed in an excellent exhibition room. The major find has been the amphitheatre outside the city walls. This oval earth mound seated 5,000 people, and is the only fully excavated amphitheatre in Britain. The National Roman Legion Museum has relics from the barracks, and replica armour to try on.
Places to stay near Caerleon
> Take the B4236, then an unclassified road to join the A48 for Penhow.
The oldest inhabited castle in Wales is Penhow Castle, which is perched on a hillside above the main road. Now privately owned, it is closed to the public but is an excellent example of the smaller type of fortified manor house.
Three miles (5km) further is Caerwent, on the site of Venta Silurium, the only walled Roman civilian town in Wales. Remnants of the wall and mosaic pavements can still be seen. Caldicot Castle Countryside Park, 2 miles (3km) away, surrounds the 12th-century castle.
Places to stay near Penhow
> Continue straight along the A48 to Chepstow.
Chepstow is a busy market town, close to the major hubs of Newport and Cardiff, and also Bristol in England. Located on the River Wye, it is also just two miles from the huge River Severn estuary and the old Severn crossing – the white bridge, rather than the newer peppermint-green one. Its name derives from the old English ceap stowe, meaning marketplace or trading centre. Although some might be slightly down on this town, it does have a splendid Norman castle, perched dramatically on a cliff top above the Wye.