Keen for a pre-New Year stroll, we headed up to Crickhowell in mid Wales for a spot of shopping, light lunch and brisk walk in the crisp mountain air.

Situated on the banks of the River Usk, this attractive market town is surrounded by the stunning Brecon Beacons National Park, which makes it a great base from which to explore the nearby countryside.

The River Usk from Crickhowell

The town’s USP, though, is its independent shopping – the townsfolk have been adamantly opposed to big name corporations spoiling their high street and last year launched a petition to stop a supermarket opening up in the town.

The town is home to some great family run shops, including the department store Nicholls, women’s fashion boutique Cwcw, a book shop, two good butchers and an off-licence selling wines, spirits and local beers and ciders. Former royal nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke also runs a B&B in the town.

Crickhowell Castle

The town’s name derives from the Welsh, Crug Hywel, aka ‘Hywel’s rock’, and is thought to refer to an old fortress belonging to the legendary Welsh king Hywel Dda.

Our walk took us through the town, past the old ruined stone castle (above), which was built in 1272, and down to the River Usk.

The ruins of Crickhowell Castle

The town is home to some really beautiful, characterful houses and I enjoyed ambling around and admiring the buildings, they’re so charming.

An old stone bridge (the longest in Wales) traverses the river at the bottom of the town – on the one side, the river was perfectly still; on the other, it ran fiercely.

We then wandered back up to the high street, past the old St Edmund’s Parish Church where there’s an effigy of Lady Sybil Pauncefoot, the church’s founder, who notably cut off her hand to pay for her husband’s release when he was captured on crusade.

Back on the high street, we stopped off at The Courtroom Café for lunch – it serves simple yet tasty fare such as jacket potatoes, toasted sandwiches and quiches, along with very tempting homemade cakes. Altogether, it was a very pleasant, relaxing day out.

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