Before you start
Get to know your bus. Services run at rough hourly intervals throughout the day. Take the X43 for a more direct route along the main A40 road, or choose the 43 service which winds through the valley’s smaller villages for a more leisurely trip. Visit the Stagecoach website for up-to-date timetables and service information.
The bustling town of Abergavenny is well-known in gastronomic circles for its annual food festival (the biggest in the UK), but that’s just one of its many attractions. The Victorian Market Hall is busy throughout the week, with stalls selling local produce, antiques, bric-a-brac and one-of-a-kind gifts, while the streets are full of tempting independent boutiques and cafés. There’s history here too. You can find out about the town’s past at Abergavenny Museum, located in a restored early 19th-century hunting lodge within the grounds of the town’s ruined Norman Castle. There’s also the 12th-century Tithe Barn, which houses an exhibition centre exploring Abergavenny’s history all the way from 1087, along with a café and shop.
You can pick up the bus at the main bus station, which is just a short walk from Abergavenny train station, while stops can be found through the centre of town.
As the X43 heads towards Brecon you’ll come to Crickhowell, sat beneath the flat-topped Table Mountain – once site of Iron Age hill fort Crug Hywel which gives the town its name.
The bus will drop you in the centre of this lively town Your first stop should be the Crickhowell Resource and Information Centre. Open seven days a week, it’s packed with information on things to see and do in and around town, plus a café and gallery showcasing local art. Stop for a picnic near the remains of the 12th-century Norman Castle or in the wide Bullpit Meadow which lies next to the River Usk. Watch out for the 16th-century bridge spanning the river, which unusually has 12 arches on one side and 13 on the other.
If you’re using the direct X43 service to Brecon, the village of Tretower is a short distance from Crickhowell along the A40. A short walk of around from the bus stop will bring you to the ruins of Tretower Castle and the impressive Tretower Court, Once home to powerful local families, this fortified manor house is one of the best-preserved in Wales. Inside, rooms have been restored to how they would have looked in the 15th century, from the luxurious living quarters to the busy kitchens.
If you’re using the 43 service, the bus turns off the A40 at Crickhowell to Llangattock. Here you’ll find a circular walk in Llangattock Beechwood. Although there are no longer any mature beech trees as its name suggests, keep your eyes peeled as you follow the route for several wooden sculptures carved by Neil Gow to depict the different plants and animals found within the wood.
The bus continues on through the village of Llangynidr, following the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal until it reaches Talybont-on-Usk. The canal is a great place to spot wildlife. Keep your eye out for azure blue kingfishers and darting dragonflies, two of the canals most colourful inhabitants. Talybont is a pretty village where you can see the remains of lime kilns on the canal, or stop for some refreshment in one of a choice of waterside pubs. Explorers can stroll the Henry Vaughan Walk, or take a longer walk along the canal. If you’re feeling energetic, you could even ditch the bus and cover the final stretch to Brecon on foot.
Reach the end of the line in another busy market town that’s famous for an annual festival. In Brecon’s case it’s the yearly Jazz Festival that brings in visitors from far and wide every summer. There’s plenty to see during the rest of the year too, from the Royal Welsh Regimental Museum which tells the true story that inspired the movie Zulu, to the grand Brecon Cathedral, which dates back to the year 1093.