A scenic drive from start to finish and lots of interest along the way. Our journey began at a civilised time of the morning in south Pembrokeshire. We called in at Carmarthen, now fondly known as the ’West End of West Wales’ since the new shopping development in St Catherine’s Walk brought designer shops, chain stores, a multiplex cinema and Pizza Express to the already popular and busy market town.
The sun shone obligingly as we continued along the A40 skirting the northern edge of the beautiful Brecon Beacons. Abergavenny was very busy. Has Christmas fever already set in? It is still only early November. It took three attempts to find a coffee shop with a free table. Thankfully the fresh coffee and carrot cake were worth waiting for.
Having seen pictures and read about Abergavenny’s excellent market hall that was the first place on the agenda. It did not disappoint. We happened to be in town on the second Saturday of the month when Craft Fairs are held. The high ceiling spanning the huge hall is festooned with decorative stuff representing the wares on sale. Stands were piled high with quality crafts such as hand thrown pottery, lovingly turned woodwork, colourful things made from fabrics and so much more. My favourite was the wrought iron work – wonderful designs in all shapes and sizes, skillfully crafted, from candle holders and coat hooks to wellie stands and garden gates.
The streets were filled with music as local Morris Dancers amused the crowds whilst desperately trying to enduce passers by to join their happy group. It takes all sorts…We hurried along enjoying the little shops but eager to jump in the car once more. This time to make a flying visit along the old road to Hay on Wye.
The B4350 is narrow and lies between high hedges with stunning views on either side. Nestled in the wild and alluring Vale of Ewyas in the Black Mountain’s foothills lies Llanthony Priory’s atmospheric and remarkably intact ruins. The priory church is one of the great medieval buidings of Wales and well worth a visit. They are in the care of Cadw and entry is free.
As the tiny church of St Mary the Virgin at Capel y Ffin peeped at us with its owl eyed windows we made a mental note to visit next time.
Meanwhile there was just enough time to spend a delicious hour browsing through Hay on Wye book stores and gawping longingly at a much coveted chandelier in the window of Bullring Antiques. It has been hanging there for some time now but a hefty price tag keeps me safely at arms length. There is no harm in looking.
To complete our very enjoyable and satisfying day we headed for Crickhowell to enjoy an excellent meal in The Bear – an old coaching inn dating back to 1432. The low beamed bar, filled with polished antiques glinting in the warm firelight and a convivial ambience honed over centuries made it a relaxing place to unwind and plan our journey home – but that is another story.