Crickhowell Square Bus Stop, map reference SO 218 183, is 221 km west northwest of Charing Cross, 89m above sea level and in Powys, Wales. It is served by lines 43/X43 (Abergavenny – Brecon) with 12 buses a day Mon-Sat and 5 on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Saturday Walkers’ Club: This walk is doable as a daywalk from London, especially if you have motorised transport, but also if taking a train to Abergavenny to connect to above bus service.
From the centre of the rightly popular town of Crickhowell, the route leads across the Usk River and the Monmouth & Brecon Canal up steeply through quiet pastures-with-views up to the easterly end of the Llangattock Escarpment and the fascinating limestone pinnacle of the Lonely Shepherd, overlooking the Clydach Gorge. From there you follow the escarpment westwards, past ex-quarries, surreal looking grassy spoil heaps, a couple of raised bogs and some extensive cave systems leading deep into the underlying limestone layers.
The natural amphitheatre of the Craig y Cilau escarpment with its spectacular high limestone cliffs and extensive cave systems, is negotiated with some easy walking along a former tramroad contouring the dramatic grassy ledge with some superb sweeping views across the Usk Valley to The Black Mountains, from the Mynydd Llangorse and Mynydd Troed via Table Mountain and Pen Cerrig-Calch to Sugar Loaf. You continue through the Craig y Cilau National Nature Reserve, where the Eglwys Faen cave system allows for some optional caving and down the slope to the raised bog of the Waun Ddu.
A very scenic descent and re-ascent leads through the beautiful Cwm Onnau and across into the very lush Usk Valley, from where you contour through more pastures with extremely fine views of the Central Black Mountains back down to the canal and via Llangattock village to Crickhowell with its many tea options.
A bus stop of line 43 at Hillside Road, Llangattock enables a start there (cut 1.0 km).
A Morning Shortcut cuts 1.5m and 40m ascent.
A rougher version of that shortcut, up a long and steep bouldery track, cuts another 1.4 km.
Cut out the out-and-back to the Lonely Shepherd limestone pinnacle with views: cut 1.4 km.
Caving (for beginners) can be done in the Eglwys Faen complex. Bring your headtorch and an extra layer or two! Good profile soles necessary, scrambling experience reassuring. And mind your head!
An Afternoon Shortcut, cutting the ascent out of the Cwm Onnau and into the Usk Valley,cuts 2.8 km.
An Extension of the route, higher up the Cwm Onnau adds 2.0 km and 35m ascent. This starts with 20 minutes along the grassy verge of a busy road though.
The Old Rectory Hotel Ffawyddog Road, Llangattock, Powys, NP8 1PH (01873 810 373). The Rectory is located 1.2 km from the end of the walk.
The Horseshoe Inn Hillside Road, Llangattock, Powys, NP8 1PA (01873 268 773). The Horseshoe is located 200m off route and 1.2 km from the end of the walk.
The Vine Tree Legar, A4077, Llangattock, Powys, NP8 1HG (01873 812 277). The Vine Tree is located 100m off route and 700m from the end of the walk. Open all day Wed-Sun.
The Bridge End Inn Bridge Street, Crickhowell, Powys, NP8 1AR (01873 810 338). The Bridge End Inn is located 450m from the end of the route.
The Dragon Inn 47 High Street, Crickhowell, Powys, NP8 1BE (01873 810 362).
The Britannia Inn 20 High Street, Crickhowell, Powys, NP8 1BH (01873 810 553).
The Bear Hotel Crickhowell, Powys, NP8 1BW (01873 810 408).
Several Cafés in Crickhowell, see the walk directions for details.
Brecon Beacons National Park
Home to spectacular landscapes, a rich variety of wildlife and fascinating cultural and geological heritage, the Brecon Beacons National Park in Mid-Wales boasts a magnificent array of Old Red Sandstone peaks, open moorland and green valleys, spanning 1,344 km2 (520 mi2). Pen y Fan within the Central Beacons is perhaps the best-known summit but there are many others in the five distinct parts of the National Park (Black Mountain, Fforest Fawr, Central Beacons, the Llangattock & Llangynidr Hills, and the Black Mountains).
Mynydd Llangatwg/Llangattock Mountain
Mynydd Llangatwg or Llangattock Mountain in the Brecon Beacons National Park is named after the village of Llangatwg (or 'Llangattock') which sits in the valley of the River Usk to the north of it. The undulating plateau rises in the west to a height of 530m and in the east to 529m at Tŵr Pen-cyrn (the area nearby between two Neolithic cairns was supposedly the site of a battle in 728AD between Ethelbald and Rodri Molwynog, Prince of north Wales), with the shallow pool of Pwll Gwy-rhoc sitting in a broad depression in between. The hill forms an impressive northern scarp overlooking the Usk Valley and commonly referred to as the Llangattock Escarpment. Its eastern end is defined by the drops into the Clydach Gorge. To the west the hill merges with Mynydd Llangynidr which has a similar character.
Particular features of note include 'The Lonely Shepherd', an isolated limestone pinnacle which stands at the eastern tip of the plateau, left there by quarry workers who removed great quantities of the surrounding rock. A couple of gas pipelines have been laid across the mountain and their courses can be traced variously by fences, vegetation changes and marker poles. The greater part of the length of the northern escarpment is scarred by limestone quarries which operated for much of the 19th century. The rock was removed by means of a series of tramroads or tramways.
Mynydd Llangatwg is formed from a layer cake of sandstones and limestones which dip gently southwards into the South Wales Coalfield basin. Imposing cliffs of Carboniferous Limestone occur along the northern escarpment and this rock hosts the extensive cave systems which lie beneath it, notably those of Ogof y Daren Cilau and Ogof Agen Allwedd, together with the shorter and more accessible cave of Eglwys Faen ('stone church'). The first two systems are amongst the longest in Britain.
Usk Valley/River Usk (AfonWysg)
The River Usk (Afon Wysg in Welsh) rises on the northern slopes of The Black Mountain (Y Mynydd Du in Welsh), in the westernmost part of the Brecon Beacons National Park, initially forming the boundary between Carmarthenshire and Powys. It flows north into Usk Reservoir, then east by Sennybridge to Brecon before turning southeast to flow by Talybont-on-Usk, Crickhowell and Abergavenny after which it takes a more southerly course. Beyond the eponymous town of Usk it passes the Roman legionary fortress of Caerleon to flow through the heart of the city of Newport and into the Severn estuary at Uskmouth at Newport Wetlands. Its total length is 102 km/63 mi.
The name of the river derives from a Common Brittonic word meaning "abounding in fish" or "water", which also appears in other river names such as Exe, Axe, Esk and other variants.
The whole river downstream of Usk Reservoir has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and has long been a noted salmon and trout fishing river.
Cambrian Way/Taith Cambria
The Cambrian Way (‘The Mountain Connoisseur’s Walk’) is a very challenging 479 km (298 mi) linear long-distance high-level footpath traversing much of the highest and wildest parts of Wales. It runs coast-to-coast from Cardiff Castle to Conwy Castle over the Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons, Carmarthen Fan, Plynlimon, Cadair Idris, the Rhinogs, the Snowdon massif and the Carneddau and is unmarked in the higher mountain areas. Navigational skills are therefore of paramount importance. http://www.cambrianway.org.uk/
Usk Valley Walk/Llwybr Dyffryn Wysg
The Usk Valley Walk is a linear 78 km (48 mi) waymarked Long-Distance Path starting in the south from Caerleon and following the Usk (and the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal) upstream to Brecon.
Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal (The Mon & Brec)
The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal/Camlas Sir Fynwy a Brycheiniog is a small network of canals following the line of the Usk Valley through the Brecon Beacons National Park. It is currently navigable for 56 km and with only 6 locks (5 of them in Llangynidr). Its rural character and tranquillity belies its original purpose as an industrial corridor for coal and iron, brought to the canal by a network of tramways and/or railroads.
The "Mon and Brec" was originally two independent canals – the Monmouthshire Canal from Newport to Pontymoile Basin and the Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal from Pontymoile to Brecon, before joining in 1812. Both canals were abandoned in 1962, but the Brecknock and Abergavenny route and a small section of the Monmouthshire route have been reopened since 1970. Much of the rest of the original Monmouthshire Canal is the subject of a restoration plan, which includes the construction of a marina at Newport.