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You may find it helpful to view and print off a copy of the regional map and cross reference with the description below. The letters in brackets correspond to the biking routes.
Abergavenny in the Vale of Usk is a prosperous market town whose origins date back to the 11th century. The remains of Abergavenny Castle house the town’s museum. St Mary’s Church has an exceptional treasury of stone, alabaster and oak tombs. A carved Jesse tree shows the family lineage of Jesus. Close to the town, the village of Blaenafon, central to the iron trade, was awarded UNESCO World heritage status. Big Pit Mining Museum is a must see – on a trip down a 90m shaft you get a sanitised view of the conditions that coal miners had to endure during their working day (A, B, J).
To the east of Abergavenny, the town of Monmouth sits at the confluence of the Wye and the Monnow Rivers. Monmouth Castle was started in 1068 and continued into the 14th century. The town also houses the Nelson Museum, describing the life of Horatio Nelson, Britain’s most famous and best loved sailor, and exhibits include his glass eye! The Monnow Bridge is an intact late 13th century fortified river crossing. From Monmouth a purpose-built cycle trail follows the River Wye to Symonds Yat, a famous beauty spot. Yat Rock is one of the most well known view points in the Wye Valley. It is a popular place for bird watchers because Peregrine falcons nest in the surrounding cliffs. Standing high on a rock outcrop above the River Wye just north of Symond’s Yat, Goodrich Castle is one of the region's most striking ruins (A).
From Monmouth, the Wye flows south towards Chepstow through a beautiful steep-sided wooded valley. On the western bank stands Tintern Abbey, one of the greatest monastic ruins of Wales. The abbey was immortalized by Wordsworth in print and by Turner in oils. Founded in 1131 by Walter de Clare, the present building dates largely from the 14th century and functioned as an abbey until the Dissolution around 1540 (A).
Raglan Castle between Monmouth and Abergavenny is a prime example of late-medieval grandeur (A).
In the Wye Valley and the Vale of Usk there are more castles to the square mile than anywhere else in Britain. The Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is an internationally important protected landscape area straddling the border between England and Wales.
The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal links Abergavenny with Brecon. Running for 32 miles through idyllic scenery, the canal was built between 1797 and 1812 to link Brecon with Newport and the Severn Estuary. Crickhowell, a compact and well-preserved Georgian town has a 13th century castle and an unusual 17th century bridge with more arches on one side than on the other! Nearby is Tretower Court, an impressive medieval manor house and castle (B).
Brecon is a traditional Welsh town, whose chief attractions are Brecon Cathedral and the Brecknock Museum and Art Gallery, housed in the town’s former Shire Hall. The origins of the cathedral date back to a fortification built by the half brother of William the Conqueror after he captured the town in 1094. Inside the embattled walls the most unique group of monastic buildings in Wales still survives (B, C, D).
The Brecon Beacons National Park encompasses high open country with limestone crags, wooded gorges, waterfalls and caves. The region is dotted with picturesque market towns, hill sheep farms, forests and spectacular lakes. The National Showcaves of Wales and the Craig-y-Nos Country Park Forest Centre lie within the park’s boundaries. Just west of Brecon are the remains of the Roman fort at Y Gaer. At Ystradfellte there are spectacular waterfalls, wooded gorges and some of the deepest caves in Britain (C).
South of Brecon Tallybont Reservoir is on the Taff Trail – a purpose built cycle trail that runs from Brecon to Cardiff. Mynyd Illtyd, a Roman road that leaves Brecon to the west gives glorious views of the Brecon Beacons (C).
To the north of Brecon Mynydd Eppynt offers wonderful views over the surrounding mountains. The valley of the River Irfon joins the Wye in the old spa town of Builth Wells (D).
The Wye Valley continues north through beautiful and remote countryside. The next habitation of any size on the way north is the market town of Rhayader (E, F, G).
In the beautiful Elan Valley to the west of Rhayader are a string of reservoirs that blend in perfect harmony with their rugged surroundings. The dams with their baroque towers are especially impressive. The Elan Valley Visitors Centre beside the Caban Coch dam describes the construction of the lakes as well as the valley’s natural history. The remote moorland and woodlands around the lakes are an important wildlife habitat – the rare red kite can be seen here. At the Red Kite Centre just outside Rhayader you can watch the birds being fed (E).
East of Rhayader is a region of woodlands, valleys and sheep-dotted moorlands. The “Radnor Ring” is a signed circular route that forms part of the National Cycle Network and passes through some of Mid-Wales’s most spectacular scenery. Abbey-cwm-hir – The Abbey of the Long Valley –once rivalled those at Durham, Winchester and York. The beautiful Heart of Wales Railway Line passes through the area (F, G).
Snugly tucked away in the narrow valley of the River Teme, the market town of Knighton sits astride Offa’s Dyke – a huge earthwork built in the 8th century by Offa, King of Mercia, to defend Saxon Mercia against raids from Celtic Cymru (Wales). The town is overlooked by Caer Caradoc, a hill topped by the substantial remains of an Iron Age hill fort (G).
In the Victorian spa town of Llandrindod Wells the National Cycle Museum tells the story of push-bikes through the ages. Many of the bicycles on view at the museum were collected by Tom Norton who started his business in Llandrindod in 1898 dealing in cycles and sports equipment (F).
South of Knighton, Presteigne was once the legal and administrative centre of the former county of Radnorshire. The commodious and elegant Judge’s Lodgings have been restored as a museum (G, H).
On the outskirts of Kington Hergest Croft Gardens comprise 50 acres of fine parkland created over a period of 100 years. South of the town is the Small Breeds Farm Park and Owl Centre (H).
Book-lovers from all over the world descend upon the quaint border town of Hay-on-Wye every year for the annual Festival of Literature – the town has more than 30 second hand bookshops. Hay Castle – a 17th century mansion standing in the grounds of the original 13th century castle - dominates the quaint little streets, with their antique, art, craft and curio shops (H, I, J).
To the east of Hay is the tranquil and picturesque Golden Valley of the River Dore. At Abbeydore the old abbey church stands in beautiful surroundings. To the west is the more remote and atmospheric Grey Valley. Longtown Castle is a very impressive motte and bailey castle dating from around 1200. Above the village of Dorstone stands Arthur's Stone, a great slab, reputed to be the entrance to an ancient burial chamber dating from around 3000BC (I).
South from Hay the road that climbs up the magnificent Vale of Ewyas to the summit at Gospel Pass offers superb views of the surrounding countryside. From the pass there is a long descent to Llanthony Abbey, founded by the Augustines in 1108. The ruins have fine early English archways and decorative stonework. East of Llanthony three impressive castles are sited within a relatively small area – Grosmont Castle, Skenfrith Castle and White Castle (J).