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This long and meandering ride follows one of Britain’s prettiest towpath routes through the rural Vale of Usk, with remarkable mountainous scenery across the Brecon Beacons National Park. 

1 monmouthshire and brecon canal


Take the little wooded trail from the car park in Church Lane, on the edge of Abergavenny, before zig-zagging sharply upwards to join the banks of the canal. The dramatic scenery across The Black Mountains in the opening miles is impressive, with the giants of Skirrid and Sugar Loaf visible on the distant horizon.

Within a few miles you’ll be near the little villages of Llangattock and Crickhowell, where the limestone cliffs of Llangattock Escarpment dominate the hillside to the left and the distinctive flat top of Crug Hywel or ‘Table Mountain’ can be seen to the right. Thick woodland covers the slopes of the valley in parts - look out for red kites soaring over the treetops and for the impressive red country house of Gliffaes and its Italian-inspired bell tower poking out from between

the trees at Myarth Hill. Locks are in noticeably short supply throughout this ride, which makes the five Llangynidr Locks a bit of a rare treat. They appear at around the halfway point and make a pretty spot for a mid-ride picnic.

Alternatively, The Coach and Horses pub near the bottom lock has a scenic waterside beer garden. After the Llangynidr Locks, watch boats disappearing into the long, dark Ashford Tunnel, before climbing up to join the short and quiet road that will take you around it.

Back on the towpath you’ll reach the pretty village of Talybont-on-Usk in the Central Beacons where there are lovely traditional pubs to stop at. There’s also an opportunity here to leave the canal behind and head for the attractive Talybont Reservoir along a section of the renowned Taff Trail.

In the final miles, cross the gushing River Usk on Brynich Aqueduct. Brecon is close now and the towpath is often busier with walkers and cyclists around here. End at Theatr Brycheiniog at Brecon Basin or follow the short road into the narrow streets of Brecon centre. The cathedral and the ruins of Brecon Castle overlooking the Rivers Usk and Honddu are both worth a visit.


Essential info

Start/Finish: Car park at Church Lane, Llanfoist, near Abergavenny to Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon

Distance: 22 miles

Grade: Moderate

Terrain: Mostly flat with a climb up to the towpath at the start and gentle climbing in the route’s second half. Tarmac path and stony trail, narrow and rugged in parts

Cafes/pubs: The Coach and Horses is canalside at Llangynidr. At Talybont-on-Usk try The Star Inn, The White Hart, The Usk Inn and Talybont Stores and Canalside Café. The Three Horseshoes near Brynich Aqueduct is popular or try Tipple ‘n’ Tiffin at Theatr Brycheiniog at the route’s end. Venture into Brecon town centre where The Café on High Street is lovely and Tower Café at St Mary’s Church is very friendly with a pretty tea garden.


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The routes come from Sustran’s Traffic-Free Cycle Rides – 150 Great Days Out (£12). The book brings together 150 of the UK’s finest traffic-free walking and cycling routes in celebration of twenty years of the National Cycle Network (NCN). GPX files for each route are also available to buy online.


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