The historic The Bear Hotel in the charming market town of Crickhowell is an excellent base for exploring the delights of the Brecon Beacons or to just revel in its awesome ales, as IWAN GABE DAVIES discovered on a recent trip.

Just a few miles away from Abergavenny, across the Monmouthshire border in Powys, lies the picturesque small town of Crickhowell with its array of attractive pubs, tearooms, cottages and stone bridge over the River Usk.

Originally a 15th century coaching inn, standing tall at the top of the hill is The Bear Hotel.

Once it was one of four overnight stops on the gruelling journey by horse-drawn coach from London to West Wales en route to Ireland.

You can still see evidence of its historic past in its cobbled courtyard, archway to the old stables, framed coach timetables and bell-pulls to call for service.

These days it is an award-winning hotel, a member of the Great Inns of Britain and a cosy and welcoming place to pamper the 21st century traveller or pleasure-seeker.

It has kept its charm across the space of 600 years with log fires crackling in grates during these cold months, fabulous low-ceilinged bedrooms with four-poster beds, a wonderful multi-roomed bar with exposed beams, wood panelling and some charming and eclectic furnishings and decorations.

A regular in the drinkers’ bible, CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide, the inn is a haven for the aficionado.

Popular with both locals and guest alike, it has a fine range of ales, ciders and lagers. Brains’ The Rev. James comes highly recommended from my pleasant time spent here.

Food in the oak-beamed restaurant was also a treat and the menu, featuring a lot of local produce, offers good hearty favourites like fish and chips.

Their breakfast is also superb with cereals, fruits and Welsh yoghurt being offered alongside the knockout cooked option.

The staff are also universally lovely in this friendly part of the world.

For the more adventurous, it is a terrific base for hikers wishing to explore the magnificence of the surrounding Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons National Park.

I must admit to staying in front of the fire with the wife and savouring the heavenly The Rev. James.

For more information or to book, contact The Bear Hotel, Crickhowell, Powys, NP8 1BW,

01873 810408 or go online at