A route that takes the walker along one of the prettiest river valleys in the land, through the finest grit mountains by trickling streams and surging waterfall, and finishing at a town well-beloved by all hikers is one to be recommended.
The Usk Valley Walk begins in what might be Monmouthshire’s oldest town, Caerwent, which signs will not cease to remind you was the Roman Uenta Silurum, north of Newport. It is by the banks of the River Usk before the latter descends to the new-old city.
Setting off north, the path keeps the river in sight to the west. The Usk here curves in broad, serpentine waves amongst broad, green meadows and pretty villages, the path following it through wood and meadow to Llantrisant, where it touches the riverbank and follows the east bank of the river up to the little town of Usk.
The route skips across the River Usk at its eponymous town and follows the west ban of the river, for the most part, northwards, artfully dodging entanglements with villages of any size until Llanellen.
The Brecon and Monmouth Canal towpath provides the route above Llanellen for many miles, and if there is a criticism of the route chosen it is this section, fixed to a man-made canal on a made path for too long. On this section the route passes by Monmouthshire’s northernmost town, Abergavenny, and a number of the villages which grew up for the industrial coal fields and never grew down again. Then it enters Brecknockshire and almost at once passes under the Heads of the Valleys Road.
In Brecknockshire the route finds a path between the noble mountains of this county, the river glittering in the valley below while the approved route is still stuck to the canal, for want of any convenient footpath along the river itself. The Black Mountains rise on one side behind Crickhowell, and the crags of Mynydd Langatwg to the south, behind Llangattock. Here though the path is released from the towpath and clambers the shoulder of the latter mountain to gain a good view over the narrowed valley and the Black Montains beyond.
Soon there are another three miles along the canal, but this can be avoided: there is a path along the bank of the River Usk most of that way, as far as Llangynidr, a little below which the route climbs across Tor y Foel to get to the short valley of the Caerfanell , then over the hills again above the Usk, which here is swallow and sweeping in broad loops.
The route rejoins the canal for the last miles. Again these might be avoided by taking the little paths and lanes through Llanfrynach.
In fact, there is an alternative route the keen hillwalker might prefer from Llangynidr, albeit one with a bit of road walking: across the river and north (directly by road or roundabout by path) to Bwlch, then along the Three Rivers Ride, and whatever paths you choose into te final destination town.
After 50 miles, the path comes into Brecon, its destination, a town in the midst of the Brecon Beacons, and in those hills lie other adventures.
- Explorer (1: 25 000):
- Landranger (1:50 000):
- Walks in Monmouthshire and the Vale of Usk by Alastair Ross
- Pathfinder Walks Guide Books: