262km (163 miles) W of London; 78km (48 miles) NE of Swansea; 49km (31 miles) NE of Cardiff

This flourishing market town of nearly 10,000 people is called "the Gateway to Wales," and it's certainly the gateway to the Brecon Beacons, which lie to the west. The Welsh word aber means the mouth of a river, and Abergavenny lies at the mouth of the River Gavenny, where it joins the River Usk. The town is in a valley with mountains and hills spread around it. Humankind has found this a good, sometimes safe place to live for some 5,000 years, as revealed by archaeological finds from the late Neolithic Age. The Romans established one of their forts here; centuries later a Norman castle was built nearby.

The best time to visit Abergavenny is for its Wednesday flea market (tel. 01873/735811; www.abergavennymarket.co.uk), from 6am to 5pm. An antiques market is staged every third Sunday of the month.

Abergavenny is renowned as a center for outdoor holiday activities, including pony trekking, hill walking and climbing, golfing, hang gliding, and fishing. A Leisure Centre provides for indoor sports. The Tourist Information Centre keeps an up-to-date list of activities available at any season.