Last weekend we took a trip into Wales. The aim was to get to Hay-on-Wye (bordering Wales and England) which is the booklovers place to go with a riduculous number of secondhand bookstores in one location. Sounded like the place to be for a weekend of reading, browsing and generally lapping up that delicious smell of books.
Of course we decided to take in a few other sites on the way so we headed out early on Saturday morning. First stop, Chepstow. Our first lesson in roadtrips is that everything is a heck of a lot closer than we think. We arrived in Chepstow (Wales) within 15 minutes. Hmmmm, a bit early for anything actually to be open! Our main goal was the Chepstow Castle so we did a walk around the base of the castle then into the village to find the all important early morning coffee.
When Chepstow Castle finally opened we headed in. Being the only ones there at that hour of the morning really added to the magic of the place. This place is a close 1st place winner in regards to my favourite castle so far. Perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the river this is a magnificent piece of history. Here and there the castle has ornate additions which provide a grandeur to the functionality. Of course having a foggy, peaceful morning overlooking the river just added to the romantic setting of this location.
After Chepstow we headed to Tintern Abbey. To be honest, after having seen Glastonbury Abbey this was a bit of let down. I must preface this with the fact we didn’t actually even pay to go in because you can get an idea of what is in there as the wall surrounding the abbey is not that high. I probably would go back another time but at this stage I wasn’t really willing to pay another 8 quid with Glastonbury still fresh in my mind.
Meandering through the countryside we found a little organic food shop and stopped for lunch. The bread we found here was incredible along with a cool bottle of apple juice (even though it was still rather cold by this time).
Another great find was a town called Tretower. Here we investigated the local Tretower Court and Castle which were free to enter. We love free! Fantastic location with staff walking around in costume, a great fire blazing in the main hall, bright red apples overloading the trees outside and a castle tower in the backyard to wander through.
We finally made it to Hay-on-Wye around 4pm (a lot later than we had orginally planned), found some accommodation for the night and spent the rest of the day browsing the book shops. This is a quaint village which truly is focused totally on books. You could spend days here and still not see everything. Our B&B for the night was located right in the centre of town and as far as we could tell we were very fortunate to get accommodation at such short notice. One gentleman in the pub we ate dinner at was saying he had called 20 places before he finally found a bed for the night.
The next morning we decided to get going after another wander through the bookshops as we wanted to have a look at the Brecon Beacons. Traditionally this is an extremely popular area for walking (tramping). I must say as we drove through the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons region they really weren’t what we were expecting. It is still all basically farmland, quite wild and windy on the ridges I would imagine but at the end of the day they are a lot smaller than we imagined. I suppose I was thinking of the Tongariro National Park with large peaks and rocky terrain. I would still be interested in walking in the region but possibly thought it might be a bit more challenging. I think more research into this area is probably needed.
My second impressions of Wales at this stage? Love it! The country is open and uncrowded. I could quite happily spend a weekend here often. The castles in this area have been the best so far (not that I’ve seen too many to date). We got back into Bristol by 3pm, that’s how close everything was. In all I think we only did about 200 miles.
Looking forward to more adventures in Wales that’s for sure.