Our Skirrid cottage is named after a small Monmouthshire mountain which rises to 486m from the Gavenny Valley in splendid isolation. In Welsh, it is known as Ysgyryd Fawr and its owned by the National Trust.
Ysgyryd translates as “shake” or “tremble” while Fawr is “big”. The name describes the massive landslide which took place in the past and created the smaller hill to its side called Ysgyryd Fach or Little Skirrid.
Local legend has it that the landslide took place at the moment Christ was crucified and that is one of the reasons for its other name of “Holy Mountain.”
The other is the fact that there was a chapel at the summit used by Catholics after the reformation which saw Catholicism banned and great abbeys such as Tintern destroyed. Worship took place at the top until at least 1680. Little remains of St Michael’s now, but it is certainly worth a walk to the summit.
There are stunning views all around: west to the Black mountains and Brecon Beacons; north to Herefordshire; west to the Forest of Dean and Gloucestershire, and south across the Usk Valley, over the Severn Estuary to Somerset and the Mendips.
I did the walk with my wife and our new lurcher puppy a couple of weekends ago and at a very leisurely pace, stopping to chat to fellow dog walkers and to enjoy the views, we took one and a half hours there and back from the convenient car park at the bottom which is on the Abergavenny to Skenfrith road.
Make sure you have plenty of change as you must buy a parking ticket. There are plenty of spaces.
There is a very clear path up to Pant Skirrid Woods and then upwards, sometimes steeply, to the open ridge. It can be muddy in places, but it is well defined and there are usually quite few other walkers about to point the way.
As you break into the open there is a sharp rise before the ridge flattens out to a gentle incline with views on all sides. There are a few handy rocks and hollows ideal for a sheltered short break or a picnic.
At the top there’s a trig point to confirm you’ve successfully “bagged” your mountain. You’ll be standing in the ruins of St Michael’s Chapel. It’s a great introduction to hill and mountain walking and ideal for children to experience the thrill of walking in high places and the satisfaction of reaching the top.
The ridge is exposed so make sure you have adequate clothing to keep you warm and dry, and the right sort of footwear.
We retraced our steps to return to the car park on our trip but there are circular options which I can show you. There’s an OS map of the area in all three cottages which you are welcome to borrow.
If you are walking a dog, make sure you have it under close control as there are sheep about and from the spring to late summer dogs must be on a lead to avoid disturbing ground nesting birds such as Skylark.
When we finished, we went for a drink and food at the Hunter’s Moon at Llangattock Lingoed which a short drive is away (NP7 8RR ). It’s a super pub which is welcoming and has a good menu and selection of drinks including Robinson’s cider which is a favourite of mine.
It will take you half and hour to drive to the Skirrid car park from Upper Glyn Farm.