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Did you know that Crickhowell Bridge is the longest stone arch bridge in all of Wales? It’s often described as one of the finest early bridges in the country!
Although there has been a bridge here to allow a crossing over the River Usk since medieval times, the stone bridge we see today was built in the 18th century.
Its design is quite unique due to the fact it has a different number of arches depending on which side you’re standing to admire it!
Here’s a complete guide with the history and how to visit in the Brecon Beacons.
The history of Crickhowell Bridge
There has been a record of Crickhowell Bridge since medieval times. It was first recorded in 1538 but at that time it was made entirely of timber.
In 1706, the bridge was completely remade of stone by the Hundred of Crickhowell at the cost of £400. It was 128 metres long and had 13 archways that stretched over the River Usk. It was an impressive feat of engineering for the period.
Overtime, this bridge became too narrow for those needing to use it and two horses could barely pass each other! So, it needed to be widened.
Fate would intervene and a terrible flood damaged the stone bridge in 1808. So, a wider temporary bridge was provided to retain access over the River Usk.
A toll was put in place for people to cross and the booth was placed in the building of the Bridge End Inn we can see today. There were different fees for pedestrians, horses, wagons, livestock and carts.
After that, the bridge was completely rebuilt in 1828. However, the architecture is oddly unique.
Unlike other stone bridges of its kind, Crickhowell Bridge has 12 arches upstream and 13 downstream. Also, the downstream arches are recessed whereas the upstream ones are not!
The reason why is the fact that a wider arch was built to replace two smaller ones upstream in the 1820s. But, it still puzzles historians today as to why exactly that happened as there are no records to explain. Strange but true and I guess it shall remain a mystery!
Today, Crickhowell Bridge is famous because it is the longest stone bridge in Wales. It measures a whopping 128 metres long or 420 feet and still provides cars with access over the River Usk.
It’s now protected as a Grade I listed and scheduled monument and is often described as one of the finest early bridges in all of Wales!
Where is Crickhowell Bridge in the Brecon Beacons?
You’ll find the longest stone bridge in Wales within the gorgeous and underrated town of Crickhowell in Powys, South Wales. It’s tucked away in the spectacular Brecon Beacons National Park.
It can be found between the market town of Abergavenny and the popular Tretower Court and Castle.
Crickhowell is also easily accessible on the main A40 road so it makes the perfect stop for any Brecon Beacons road trip.
If you approach from the A4077 road to Gilwern, you’ll be able to drive across this incredible bridge as you enter the town!
How to visit Crickhowell Bridge
The best way to access Crickhowell in the Brecon Beacons is to drive. But, if you’re based in Abergavenny there are regular bus services from Stagecoach.
Once you reach Crickhowell, you’ll find a large visitor car park on Beaufort Street. It’s £1 per hour to park.
The sign for the turning into the car park is quite hidden, so make sure to put the street or the postcode NP8 1AE in your SatNav in order to find it!
Alternatively, there are free parking spaces on the High Street and Castle Street but these are timed for 2 hours max. between 8am – 6pm.
From the vibrant Crickhowell High Street, you can make your way through to the The Dragon Inn. Then carry on down to Bridge Street.
At the end of Bridge Street, you’ll eventually come to The Bridge End Inn and the Crickhowell Bridge will be right next to it.
Things to do at Crickhowell Bridge
So, what is there to do around Crickhowell Bridge? Well, you may be surprised but there is actually quite a lot.
Here are some of the incredible things to see and do from here!
Walk across the amazing stone bridge
Of course, the first thing you must do is cross the Crickhowell Bridge. But, it’s not as easy as it looks!
You see, the bridge is made for cars to drive over so there isn’t much room to walk on it. Especially, on the downstream side.
There is a small pathway on the upstream side that’s a little wider to cross. You may need to dip into the recessions a little if you meet other walkers coming the opposite way to avoid walking on the road!
The bridge traffic is controlled by traffic lights and only one set of cars can go over the bridge at a time. So, the area can get quite congested but there is a small lull between crossings.
Despite this, it is worth crossing over as you can get some incredible views of surrounding area and the River Usk!
Enjoy spectacular views of Crug Hywel (Table Mountain)!
The best part of visiting Crickhowell Bridge is the fact you get some of the best views of the Llangattock escarpment.
One of the views you’ll notice is a mountain with a flat top which is called Crug Hywel. This is where the town of Crickhowell gets its name!
In Welsh it translates as crug, meaning a hillock, and hywel meaning conspicuous. So, a ‘conspicuous hillock’.
It’s nicknamed Table Mountain due to its flattened top. During the Iron Age, pre-historic Celtic humans made a hill fort there. If you wanted, you could make the journey up to the top!
Take a stroll in Bullpit Meadow
A great place to enjoy views of Crickhowell Bridge would be the field nearby The Bridge End Inn called Bullpit Meadow.
There is a small bench near the river bank where you can bring your sandwiches. From here, you can watch the world go by.
You can then take a leisurely stroll along the River Usk via the pathway that’s been created recently. It’s a great spot for birdwatching, wildlife spotting and for wildflowers!
Enjoy a pint at The Bridge End Inn
Update: Unfortunately, in February 2020, the Bridge End Inn was severely flooded during a storm. It’s currently undergoing renovations and is due to reopen in 2021 (fingers crossed!)
If you fancy a bit of lunch or a pint opposite the bridge, then I would look no further than The Bridge End Inn. The building has been here since the first bridge in the 16th-century.
In the 19th-century, this used to be called the Bridgend Hotel and had a toll gate which would charge those using the Crickhowell Bridge.
Today, it’s rather aptly called The Bridge End Inn. You can enjoy some rustic dining inside or you can have a pint in their beer garden next to the River Usk!
The best location for Crickhowell Bridge photography
When you’re on the bridge itself, you’ll quickly realise its quite hard to get any decent photos of it from there.
Not only is it a bridge that sees car driving over it all day, it’s also on the River Usk. So, in order to capture it well, you’ll need to head over to the river banks.
By far the best and most accessible photography location for Crickhowell Bridge would be Bullpit Meadow. You can access the entrance to the park opposite the Bridge End Pub.
From this field, there is a ridge that allows you to get some height. So, you can capture the gorgeous stone bridge with views of the Brecon Beacons in the background!
Alternatively, there is the opposite side of the river bank for photos. From there, you’ll be able to capture the bridge with the town of Crickhowell in the distance. You’ll get a photo with the Bridge End house, the church spires and maybe even Crug Hywel too.
The only downside is this is not as accessible. I tried to access the river banks but I couldn’t find an access route. Maybe you’ll have better luck?
There is also a small pub garden outside The Bridge End Inn which is on the river banks. So, when it reopens again, you can enjoy a pint with the view of Crickhowell Bridge.
Looking for more things to do in Crickhowell?
Crickhowell is a lovely town in the Brecon Beacons and there is lots more to do here after your visit to the bridge.
You can head back up Bridge Street and visit the ruined Crickhowell Castle! There is a small hillside that has more ruins and provides incredible views over the town.
After that, it’s worth visiting the High Street that has a green grocers, chocolate shop and the famous bookshop ‘Book-Ish’ that also has a lovely café. Pubs here include The Britannia and The Dragon Inn.
If you want to continue walking, you can carry on down the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal or walk up to Crug Hywel to see the Celtic hillfort. For those brave enough you can continue onto Pen Cerrig-calch.
Or, you can continue your road trip to the likes of Tretower Court and Castle, Abergavenny, Langorse Lake and Brecon!