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Monnow Valley, Brecon Beacons and Welsh borders

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Craswall is an authentic rural village set in the Monnow Valley in the most Western part of Herefordshire. It is the old border area between Wales and England, known as the Marches. The Marches were a “free zone” where local yeomen freely ruled until the 16th c. Craswall used to belong to the Lord of Ewyas Lacy until 1536. Although Henry the VIII finally brought the area under full English control, it kept its independent character. For example, all houses here are built in beautiful red stones and many of them can still boast a stone roof. The Monnow Valley’s position is spectacular, just at the foot of Black Hill and the Black Mountains, the first chain of mountains of the Brecon Beacons where Offa’s Dyke trails. The views are majestic: from the pass leading to Craswall Priory and Hay-on-Wye, one can admire the whole of Herefordshire and up to Shropshire, Worcestershire and Monmouthshire. In Craswall, and the nearby Olchon Valley which form an area of outstanding natural beauty, you will be able to re live the evocative scenes of the recently-released film, “Resistance” by Owen Sheers.

Interesting places to visit and things to do:

  • Craswall Priory. The Grade II-listed ruins of the church and claustral buildings of St Mary’s priory of Craswall are suggestive. The Priory was founded by the Lord Walter de Lacy circa 1225. It was part of the French Grandmont Order which only had two other priories in Britain. This order dates back to the 11th century and its months were looking for close to eremitic life. The wildness and unspoiled nature of our valley suited them perfectly, in the same way they fascinate visitors who need to escape hectic cities.
  • The Monnow Valley Art Center is one of the leading art centres in Western Herefordshire in Walterstone. In addition to permanent collections, it organises regular exhibitions. The award-winning gardens are totally exceptional. The Centre also organises a series of courses and workshops and has artists in residence in its art studio.
  • Star-gazing. We are in one of these rare areas in the UK with hardly any light pollution with the Dark Sky status of the Brecon Beacons. The star-gazing experience can be unforgettable.
  • The 2015 Hay Festival will take place from 21 May to 31 May. It is considered as one of the most prominent in the UK and attracts noted writers, musicians, historians, journalists, scientists, poets and comedians from all over the world. Hay on Wye itself is a delightful town of the Borders with its bookshops, including the famous Richard Booth’s, antiques and specialty stores of great quality and variety.
  • Country houses. Llanvihangel Court is a wonderfully well preserved family-owned, early 17th century, Jacobean Manor house just outside Abergavenny at a 25 minute drive away from us. It was a reputed hideaway for Charles 1st during the Civil War. Near Leominster is Berrington Hall, a National Trust owned, neo-classical mansion set in a parkland designed by “Capability” Brown in the 18th century. The French furniture collection is particularly worthwhile. Croft Castle and its parkland are equally very attractive.
  • Churches. Herefordshire and our neighbouring villages are famous for their romanesque and gothic churches. St Mary’s of Craswall is unique for its intimacy and location which offers an amazing view over the Black Mountains and the whole Monnow Valley. Of course, Hereford Cathedral and its Mappa Mundi are a must see, but we also recommend the romanesque Peterchurch, the unique Garway Templar church, and Madley with its rare polygonal apse. In Wales, Patrishow Chuch, dedicated to the ermite St Issui, is famous for its exceptional 16th century rood screen. It is a place of outstanding natural beauty and serenity.
  • Castles. The Welsh Marches are the setting of a rich network of medieval castles built after the Norman Conquest to protect England against the Welsh. Raglan Castle (famous Medieval Festival each July) is particularly remarkable and the fortresses of Grosmont, Longtown (next to Craswall), Skenfrith, and White are thrilling discoveries for all the family.

The Welsh borders are walkers’ paradise:

  • Offa’s Dyke. This National Trail is a 285km-long path starting at the Severn Estuary and ending in North-East Wales. It is the longest British National Monument and dates back 1,200 years ago, when the Anglo-Saxon king Offa commissioned this defensive construction in the second half of the 8th century A.D.
  • Black Hill and Hay Bluff. Right above Upper House Farm, this 8.2-mile-2h35 walk will enchant you for its views, and the variety of flora and fauna you will discover, including the beautiful wild ponies.
  • Brecon Beacons National Park.

Places for delicious food:

  • The Bull’s Head pub in Craswall. This is our local gastro-pub of well known critics acclaim (only one of the three places by the Good Food Guide for Herefordshire and The Independent’s number 2 pub in all the UK in 2013). The building is a delight, full of character and so is the food. Great local ales and ciders are available. Reservations recommended.
  • White Haywood Farm restaurant in Craswall. Set in an impressive, historic barn, this award-winning restaurant will please you for its excellent home cooking which uses local produce. The Herefordshire-labelled, award-winning meat comes from the farm itself.

Other activities:

  • Outdoor adventures. If your party is larger than 6 adults, and if you look for great outdoor experiences, Mountain Mayhem in Craswall might just be right for you. Among the many options, why not try pony-trekking in the Black Mountains, canoeing on the river Wye, or rock climbing?

You may wish to stay at Upper House Farm when visiting this beautiful part of the UK