Visit Abergavenny: Places to stay, things to do

Emily Blacker is well acquainted with the quaint town known as the 'Gateway to Wales'


Why go there?
Ideal for exploring the Brecon Beacons and its surrounding areas, Abergavenny is known as the ‘Gateway to Wales’. The little town not far from the border is host to busy markets, annual festivals and has plenty of things for people to do and see. Whether you wish to stroll along the river, hike among the Beacons, try your hand at paragliding on the Blorenge, or simply browse the boutiques in the town centre, there certainly is something for everyone.
For those of us who enjoy a ramble in the mountains, there are plenty to choose from in and around the town. The three peaks overlooking Abergavenny itself; the Blorenge, the Sugarloaf and the Skirrid, provide stunning countryside views and are suitable for all levels of walking (if you’ve driven from the centre, you can park halfway up the mountain if you choose…) The historic Offa’s Dyke footpath isn’t too far away, merely a short drive through picturesque country lanes. And why not sample some of the local produce after a hard days trek across the summit. About a mile from the town centre lies Sugarloaf Vineyard, offering some fantastic wines from grapes grown on the sunny side of the Sugarloaf Mountain.
As it’s situated close to the border, there is an abundance of castles in the surrounding countryside. Abergavenny castle itself is one of the best examples in Britain of a Motte and Bailey castle. The keep on top on the man made mound was restored some time ago, while the majority of the original walls gives one the impression of a rather impressive fortress in its time. Raglan Castle is also worth a visit, as it is by far the biggest and in the best shape of all the local ruins, and is also the newest.
Further afield from the town itself, there’s the opportunity to visit some of South Wales most famous heritage sites. About 40 minutes drive away is the Blaenavon Ironworks and Big Pit museum. The ironworks was at its peak in the 18th century, and shows visitors how important the industry was in the Industrial Revolution. Big Pit was a real working coalmine, and has opened its doors to the public in order to put them in the shoes of the miners that used to work there. As well as demonstrations and exhibitions around the site, there is the chance to enter the mine itself and experience first hand how the majority of local residents made their living.
The annual Abergavenny Food Festival takes place on 18th – 19th September, celebrating the wonders of local food by local people, as well as some from much further afield. The stalls and stands stretch right across the town, in the market and in the streets, and is well worth a gander. It does cost to go in however, but there is the chance to sample some products that you’ll be hard pressed to find elsewhere.
Where to stay?
If you fancy a hotel, bed and breakfast, cottages or camping, there’s no end of places to stay in and around the town. The Kings Arms in the town itself is a 16th century coaching Inn, and gives the idea of what the town would have been like before Georgian modifications. Its comfortable en-suite rooms give the sense of luxury in addition to those little personal touches that make your stay all the more enjoyable. The Inn even boasts its own microbrewery, serving the finest craft ales that take their names from the surrounding three peaks, Skirrid, Blorenge and Sugarloaf.
Where to eat?
There are numerous eateries in the town and it’s guaranteed there will be something that suits your taste. The Hardwick on the Old Raglan Road offers a fantastic seasonal menu all made with local produce. Good, honest food served by people who care about it, this country pub really does cater for the palate and is keen to provide customer satisfaction.
Tell us a local secret
The Skirrid Mountain Inn of Llanvihangel Crucorney just outside Abergavenny is reputed to be the oldest public house in Wales. It proudly displays its history throughout the pub, including the beam used to hang local offenders. The last hanging took place by the order of Oliver Cromwell; the crime was sheep stealing.
Did you know…?
The Knight bus in Harry Potter’s The Prisoner of Azkaban stops in Abergavenny.

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