PAUL TRAYNOR tries out an award-winning inn .

There can be few better ways to start the day than a fine view of sunlit South Wales uplands from your bedroom window.

One of those few, though, is the full breakfast we were tucking into half an hour later in the restaurant downstairs. Excellent sausage and bacon from the local butcher, plenty of tea and coffee, more toast than we could handle - I'm getting peckish just thinking about it. Like a lot of things at the Usk Inn, it was just right.

They say an army marches on its stomach. We were certainly ready to take on whatever Talybont-on-Usk had to throw at us. Actually, what we had in mind was a modest stroll along the canal towpath, just a few hundred yards from the inn, but there's no harm in being over-prepared.

Talybont-on-Usk today is a quiet, unassuming village but that hasn't always been the case. Like so many places in southern Wales it was once a bustling, clanging centre of industry. The clue is its position on the Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal (now known as the Monmouthshire and Brecon) - in its day an arterial link from rural Breconshire to Newport. Talybont became a terminus for the Brinore Tramroad, an early 19th century horse-drawn tramroad linking the canal to to Trefil, which in turn was linked to ironworks and coal production in the Rhymney Valley. Remains of limekilns beside the canal at Talybont, and the tramroad itself, are intriguing reminders of how much today's landscape is shaped by our industrial past.

Now the eight-mile tramroad, completed in the hard-graft days of 1815, is used for recreation - it's one of the longest stretches of early railway open to walkers, cyclists and horse riders. And very popular it is, too, judging by the number of pedallers we saw on an April Saturday morning.

In fact, Talybont-on-Usk is a mountain biking 'cycle hub' one of a number of designated bases in the Beacons for mountain bike routes. These 'hubs' are close to off-road routes, have parking and other facilities such as loos, bike hire, and refreshments - which is where places like the Usk Inn come into play.

When we arrived at the inn on a Friday afternoon, on a day which had seen rain, mist, snow, hail, high winds and even some sunshine, a solo cyclist was just leaving. Zipping up his waterproof top up he greeted us in a broad Scouse accent: "You have some weather down here, don't you?" "Something for everyone," we diplomatically replied, stepping into the warmth of the bar as he sped off, wind-assisted, down the road.

The Usk Inn is a genuinely comfortable place - and I don't just mean plush seating in the lounge. Hands-on owners Mike and Barbara Taylor describe the place as a 'village inn and restaurant with rooms'. They won the AA Welsh Pub of the Year 2004 - 05 and they emphasise the food side.

But there's nothing precious or pretentious about the place. The style is relaxed and the emphasis is on good food, rather than fanciness, and our evening meals - boar steak for me and venison for my wife - were just the ticket.

Cooked perfectly, plenty of side vegetables, a sensibly-priced bottle of wine - who could ask for anything more? Well, we could, finishing off with a generous cheese board and liqueur coffee.

Then a pint of well-kept Greene King IPA at the bar, sitting opposite a wall dominated by a large framed print of Wales rugby pin-up Gavin Henson upending England's Matthew Tait in THAT tackle. Just perfect. n Visit , tel 01874 676251