Insider Guide to Abergavenny

Jude Rogers and her son at the top of Skirrid Fawr.

Jude Rogers and her son on top of Skirrid Fawr, South Wales by Jude Rogers
Welcome to Abergavenny, the loveliest place in Wales… although I’m biased, of course. I’m Jude Rogers, a broadsheet journalist, broadcaster and Welsh girl who has moved back home in recent years, and I frequently find myself staggered by the loveliness of this market town on the stunning Welsh borders. It’s surrounded by gorgeous mountains and hills, and packed with quirky, interesting places to while away an hour, a day or – yes, I’d go there – even longer. So grab your rucksack, good boy, or good girl, and welcome to Aber…

It’s a walker’s paradise

Top of Sugar Loaf Mountain, Abegavenny

Sugar Loaf mountain, Abergavenny by @brianp01
You can’t go anywhere in Abergavenny without noticing you are on the lush edges of the Brecon Beacons.

Very close to the town are three peaks that just beg to be climbed: the brilliantly-named Sugar Loaf, Blorenge and Skirrid. Sugar Loaf is the only actual mountain, and for the hardier walker: a 4-hour hike from Llawenarth Car Park takes you to the summit through gorgeous woodlands and moorlands. Blorenge’s summit is easier access – there’s a long, twisting road to the top – but the beech-tree lined walk to the stunning Punch Bowl lake shouldn’t be missed. The Skirrid is smaller, but jagged and dramatic, and its peaks an easy climb that I’ve done with my 3-year-old twice. You can see the Severn and the Malverns from here on a clear day. Prefer to amble gently? Enjoy the Linda Vista Gardens in town, full of rose gardens and rockeries – and next to a free car park.

It’s a creative hub

A paper exhibition in words, pages, spaces, holes,  edges and images at Broadleaf Books.

Broadleaf Books, Abergavenny by @melissa_appleton
Abergavenny is full of arty people (says she) and lovely spaces to go with that. Take local institution The Art Shop, burrowing back from a 16th century townhouse front door into a warren stocked with every art material under the sun, gorgeous cards, and books from Welsh presses. It also has a gallery upstairs, which hosts fantastic small exhibitions, artfully tucked around corners and even into the shop’s tiny kitchen. Its sister venue in Market Street, The Chapel, sells local pottery, prints and more books around a gorgeous café – the ham hock hash with fried egg for breakfast is a dream. It also has a play corner for kids, a venue upstairs, hosting classical, folk and world music gigs. And don’t miss The Court Cupboard Craft Gallery a mile outside town, an artists’ co-operative selling jewellery, woodwork, artwork and more.

Into reading? Don’t miss Broadleaf Books, a gorgeous second-hand shop selling folio editions, Penguin paperbacks, and quirky old guides to the local area, or the town’s writing festival every April – it’s just celebrated its third year.

It’s full of treasures down alleys

Exterior of Chester’s Wine Merchants in Abergavenny.

Chester’s Wine Merchants, Abergavenny by @chesterswinemerchants
Always keep your eyes open in Aber. A tiny alley off Cross Street houses the tiny Annie’s Accessories, selling gorgeous vintage costume jewellery, including 1920s diamante capes. Another off Frogmore Street takes you to Lewis Lane, where you’ll find brand new independent wine merchants, Chester’s (named after the shop’s happy dog), the amazing cakes in Emmeline’s Tea Room, and the small, red-bricked Baker Street Cinema, converted from an old drill hall in 2010. The mews cottages in Nevill Street also house tiny coffee-and-lunch cafe Fig Tree, and adorable garden centre and gift shop Stitch N Time. And a top tip: the best way to get to the town’s small but beautiful Abergavenny Castle, with its accompanying lovely museum, is to take the tiny lane just after the lovely Black Mountain Fabrics on Cross Street, and wind your way up through the trees and castle walls. 

It’s full of even more food

People outside at festival site - Abergavenny Food Festival.

Abergavenny Food Festival, Wye Valley
Yes, Aber has a food festival in September – and it’s HUGE. Be prepared to jostle with the crowds to hear top TV chefs, food critics, and fill your plate with gourmet goodies. The town’s gorgeous old market is at its busiest every Tuesday – our car parks fill with coaches – but the fourth Thursday of the month is the great Farmers’ Market, full of locally sourced produce. For posh nosh, have afternoon tea at the town’s grand hotel, The Angel, or try their bakery next door for sourdough bread and unusual pastries. Two miles north out of town, enjoy wine and cheese platters at Sugarloaf Vineyards, or four miles to its east enjoy blood orange proseccos and sea bass at the wonderful Hardwick. I’m also partial to Nevill Street’s many treats: the nettle curries at the Nepalese Gurkha Corner, Welsh cheese and beers at The Marches Delicatessen, and the swish cookware and aprons at Cooks Galley. If I ever get back to my actual home to cook anything, that is...

I haven’t even banged on about my favourite gift shop in town, Mockingbird, my Welsh-language gift go-to emporium, That’s Lovely That, or beautiful kids’ boutique, Cuddle & Cwtch…in short, Aber’s an endless delight. So come join me, and you’ll know that I’m right.