Activities in & around Craswall
We are ideally located for stargazing (dark-sky status of the Brecon Beacons), walking (right from your doorstep). mountain biking and fly-fishing (with the proximity of all the main rivers such as the Wye and the Usk).
- We can organise a personalised guided mountain bike ride in the Black Mountains. The riding here is out of this world! And you'll discover unexpected paths with our expert, Hanneke van der Werf (£100 for half a day, £200 for a full day). Hanneke is fully-insured and qualified guide, Max 8 people. Please contact us.
Craswall is an authentic rural village set along the Monnow River in 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 control, it kept its independent character. The position is spectacular, just at the foot of Black Hill and the Black Mountains, a chain of mountains from the Primary Era later eroded when glaciers withdrew from our British latitudes. The views are majestic: from the pass leading to Craswall Priory and Hay-on-Wye, one can see the whole of Herefordshire. The main activity of our local community is high-quality sheep farming. In Craswall, 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. As an alien priory, it was suppressed in the 15th century.
- Saint Mary's Church. This charming small parish church is said to have been built using the stones and a medieval set of windows from the Priory after its demise. Our Anglican parish is now attached to several others such as Clodock, Michaelchurch and Longtown.
- Concerts for Craswall Festival. Created and managed by Sue Norrington and her team of local volunteers, this high-quality music festival takes place three times a year: for the Harvest Festival in late October, in March, and in summer, at the breathtakingly beautiful Dore Abbey. Please contact us to enquire about the 2017 season. We can buy tickets on your behalf if you wish.
- White Haywood Farm restaurant. Set in an impressive, historic barn, this award-winning restaurant will please you for its good home cooking which uses local produce (the meat comes from the farm itself and is succulent), and for Pauline and Philip Goodwin's friendly welcome. Alternatively, you can order some dishes from the restaurant for delivery directly to your cottage.
- Outdoor adventures. If your party is larger than 6 adults, and if you look for great outdoor experiences, Mountain Mayhem might just be right for you. Among the many options, why not try poney-trekking in the Black Mountains, canoeing on the river Wye, or rock climbing?
- Star-gazing. We are in one of these rare areas in the UK with hardly any light pollution. The star-gazing experience can be unforgettable.
WALKING HOLIDAYS: OFFA'S DYKE, BLACK MOUNTAINS, BRECON BEACONS, ETC.
Upper House Farm is ideal for walking holidays because of its position directly at the foot of the Black Mountains, on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Offa's Dyke is one of the many walking routes available. For many walks, you can start right on your doorstep, without having to drive your car a single minute. Please follow the major safety recommendations that you will find on the various websites listed below and on our packing tips page.
- 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. This path which runs over 2 ridges down behind the Farm above the Olchon Valley, crosses many areas of outstanding natural beauty.
- Black Hill and Hay Bluff. Right above the 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 poneys.
- Brecon Beacons National Park. The National Park's website provides you with a full list of thematic walking activities and their dates. You will find useful information to prepare your walk too.
THE HAY FESTIVAL
The 2017 Hay Festival will take place from 25 May to 4 June. 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. For a full program of the Festival, please click here (a new page will open).
We can organize an optional taxi service from the Farm to Hay-on-Wye/return; the journey takes about 20 minutes through a spectacularly beautiful landscape.
HERITAGE: COUNTRY HOUSES, CHURCHES, ETC.
Herefordshire, and its two neighbouring counties of Monmouthshire and Powys in Wales, are rich in architectural treasures:
- Country houses. Several of them are worth visiting. For example, 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. We will be able to advise you on many more houses if you wish so.
- Churches. Herefordshire and our neighbouring villages are famous for their romanesque and gothic churches. 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, Patricio Chuch, dedicated to St Issui, is famous for its exceptional 16th century rood screen. It is a place of outstanding natural beauty and serenity.
- Abbeys. In addition to Craswall Priory, several active or derelict abbeys surround Upper House Farm. In Wales, the nearby Augustinian Llanthony Priory, in the Brecon Beacons National Park, is magnificent. You can reach it from Upper House Farm either on foot (schedule a full day for the return journey) or by car (1 hour). It was dismantled during the Reformation but very impressive romanesque and gothic ruins are now well preserved. A lovely pub occupies one of the buildings.Tintern Abbey near the Severn Estuary is also outstanding. In Herefordshire, the Benedictine Belmont Abbey of St Michael and All Angels is still one of the most dynamic of the country.
- 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. Within 45 minutes or less from Upper House Farm, we recommend in particular the spectacular Raglan Castle (famous Medieval Festival each July) and the suggestive fortresses of Grosmont, Longtown (next to Craswall), Skenfrith, White, and Abergavenny.
NATURE: FAMOUS GARDENS, FAUNA, FLORA, BRECON-BEACONS, ETC
Upper House Farm is situated in a place of outstanding natural beauty. Children and adults will be delighted to discover the farm animals and the wild life surrounding the Farm. Several remarkable gardens also deserve your attention.
- Wildlife. On the estate, you might observe badgers, foxes, feasants, buzzards, owls, and a rich variety of song birds. We are blessed to have a few of the now rare cuckoos; male cuckoos sing from early May to mid-June, so don't miss this true-spring opportunity. Outside the estate, on your walking excursions, you might get close to the wild poneys of the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons.
- Flora. Following our introduction of an organic scheme, we see a growing number of wild orchids, lady's mantle, blue bells, and forest anemones coming back at Upper House Farm each spring. In autumn, you may enjoy collecting some crabapples to prepare your own marmalades and collect fresh hazelnuts, unless you prefer magic mushrooms! At Christmas, holly red berries in the hedgerows bordering the old fields contrast beautifully with the snow.
- Famous gardens. We will be able to recommend a wide variety of other stunning gardens around us in Herfordshire and Wales.
We'll be pleased to recommend you other restaurants outside Craswall and fine local food producers. Please contact us.