We mentioned last week that we were doing a bit of a recce for some upcoming VIP trips to the Brecon Beacons. Luckily we had a fabulous companion who wrote up a little blog for us. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have. Do add any comments at the end and any suggestions for our next recce.
Brecon Beacons Marketing Team
Easter in the Brecon Beacons
One of the best features of the Brecon Beacons is its ability to allow you to travel and explore at a patience and an exertion that suits you. Although best known for soaring mountain peaks such as Pen Y Fan, the region also boasts one of the quietest and most picturesque canals in the UK. The Monmouthshire and Brecon canal is this year celebrating its 200th anniversary, and has recently featured on Countryfile, delivering Buster Grant’s fresh ales from the Brecon Brewery to pubs along the route. Boasting overhanging trees along much of the route, with grazing pasture of cattle and sheep framed by mountains behind, it is undoubtedly one of the UK’s most scenic canals. There are a small number of companies which hire out boats for the week or weekend, and we were struck by how new or recently refurbished many of them were, ensuring the mod cons we are all so used to are to hand.
But for those of us whose pace of life is somewhat faster than glacial, and idea of a bedroom is wider than 6’10, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy a short break. Booking through Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages, we stayed in a self catering apartment in Dardy, Crickhowell, with seats at the end of the garden overlooking the canal. Needless to say, we were not heavily disturbed by the traffic! It also proved an excellent base to walk the flat tow path of the canal, taking in the locks of Llangynidr. Of course we couldn’t come to the Brecon Beacons without looking to get up a mountain, and experience the panoramic views. We particularly enjoyed a trip up to the Llangattock escarpment, where the cliffs were used for limescale mining. The advantage of this is that you can take a road right up to the top, where there is a car park, and flat mining tram tracks allow you to explore, and take in views that are usually the preserve of the hardiest hill walker, looking over a huge swathe of the Usk valley. The extra twist for the adventurous is that the hillside contains one of Europe’s largest cave systems. It is a national park, and access is restricted, at least to those in possession of proper caving equipment. I guess that means using your Iphone to take scenic pictures, not take you on a “Journey to the Centre of the Earth!”
After such a good long walk, we retreated to the small town of Crickhowell, to see what refreshments we could find. The town combines the traditional pleasures of butchers, bakers and The Bear coaching inn, with a few more recent, and welcome additions. Bookish is a new book and toyshop, with choices suitable for last minute holiday reading and nephew & niece gifts. Up the hill slightly from the main Brecon road is a peaceful courtyard, housing Debs cakes and Black Mountain Gold chocolate. As a Scot, I did think that our nation had most aspects of baking covered, but I had yet to meet Deb’s Welshcakes. Combining the best elements of cake and biscuit, I was faced with the realisation that the Welsh nation are worthy Grand Slam winners, both in rugby and in baking! A friend of mine who took up the challenge of the Horseshoe Walk which includes Pen Y Fan and Cribyn over the weekend reckoned she was sustained through mist and rain by the Welshcakes left for them in their holiday cottage!
Not forgetting Black Mountain Gold, a small chocolate producer, bringing cocoa and other ingredients from around the world, but combining them magically to produce exceptionally high quality morsels.
Personally I would also recommend Black Mountains Smokery smoked duck, which we picked up from the local deli, as the local foodstuff I would most rely on, whether it was caving, trekking or hosting a dinner party! I was so impressed with the flavour and quality I’ve even ordered from them since online – they deliver overnight!
Overall the commitment to producing good food and ales in the district is a real delight, and we finished off our stay with a very good dinner at No 18 in the High Street, a light, airy and modern restaurant. We were very taken with the way the pork and lamb were well accompanied by pepper and mint jus’s respectively to give them excellent flavour, and the chocolate cream dessert really did deliver a rich and smooth finale!
That’s all we had time for, but I’m looking forward to my next trip and more adventures in the Brecon Beacons.
by David Crichton