The historic town of Crickhowell lies on the River Usk on the southern edge of the Black Mountains in the Eastern part of the Brecon Beacons National Park. It takes its name from that of the nearby Iron Age hill fort of Crug Hywel which overlooks the town, but over the centuries that name has become anglicised to Crickhowell.
The town grew up around the initial motte and bailey castle built in 1121 probably by the Norman marcher Lord Robert Turberville, who was at the time a tennant of the imfamous Bernard de Neufmarche. The castle was later refortified in stone when an heiress of the family, Sybil Turberville married Sir Grimbold Peuncefote. Work began around 1242 to wall the castle and add substantial stone towers, a large bailey and a home within the castle walls befitting a royal ally in Wales. It later passed into the hands of the powerful Mortimer family dynasty of Marcher Lords and in the 1300's declined into a smaller estate with a large portfolio of titles, larger castles and lands attached.
In 1400, by royal command of new King Herny IV the castle was refortified, with a view to withstanding the uprising led by Owain Glyndwr. The work was carried out by Sir John Pauncefote, great grandson of a previous holder of the castle Sir Grimbold. However, the new defences did little to withstand Glyndwr's attacks, and it was largely destroyed by his forces in the early fifteenth century. Only the ruined double stone tower on the Castle Green remains.
Other notable features in Crickhowel include the curious seventeenth-century stone bridge over the Usk - the longest stone bridge in Wales - with its odd arches (thirteen on one side, twelve on the other) and its seat built into the walls. The beautiful fourteenth-century parish church of St Edmund is also worth a visit. It continues to hold a service every Sunday.
Just to the West of Crickhowell is a fine Georgian house called Gwerndale, now a hotel. It is here that Sir George Everest was born in 1790. He was appointed Surveyor Genral of India in 1830, and the pioneering methods of measurement he developed were used by his successor Andrew Waugh in 1852 to calculate the height of the highest mountain in the world. In tribute to Sir George, Waugh named the peak Mount Everest.
Agriculture continues to be an important industry in the area, alongside tourism. Significant parts of the surrounding countryside, over 20,000 acres, (80 km²) form part of the Glanusk Park estate currently in the ownership of the Legge-Burke family.