Thursday, September 14, 2006

Losing yourself in Wales

Now…this title is not speaking figuratively but comes from actual experience. The number of times I’ve managed to get myself lost travelling around Wales, yet still I manage to find the place I’m supposed to be going to.

Now….if you’ve not had exposure to Welsh names, it gets a bit tricky navigating your way around the place. Inevitably, the place you’re looking for will have two L’s, a “y”; a “w” & a silent “q” in the name !! So…….word of advice…… off to remember the first five or six letters of the name + the route number. Now….at this point I wish to point out that I’m not having a go at the Welsh but it is confusing to those of us not used to it.

The weather has been great: warm, sunny days for pretty much all of this last week. The locals keep saying that it will turn at some point soon. I kinda hope it stays this way for a bit longer.

This last week has been about exploring ye-olde-ruins that dot the Welsh countryside.


The town of Caerleon was known to the Romans as Isca. It housed the elite 2nd Roman Legion (approximately 5500 soldiers) who used it as a primary base to help police the countryside. These days, there’s not much left but you can see part of the barracks complex, you can wander through the amphitheatre & take a look over the baths.

On the road to Chepstow (coming from Newport), take a side-trip to the town of Caerwent. In Roman times, it was known as Venta Silurum and became the tribal capital of the Silures (a tribe from the region). These days, it’s a sleepy little village that contains the ruins of a temple, a basilica, a house & some shops. Did I tell you that the village is surrounded by a wall (up to 5m tall in some places) that you can walk across ?? It’s pretty cool !!


There are plenty of churches scattered all over the place. The most impressive ruin is that of Tintern Abbey in the Wye Valley. It is a beautiful place, serene & picturesque place. The ruins loom up from the valley suddenly as you’re driving along a narrow, winding road. The abbey was one of the largest Cistercian monasteries.

Another church I visited was Llanthony Priory. It’s an Augustinian church sitting in a picturesque valley in the border regions of the Black Mountains (part of the Brecon Beacons National Park). The priory isn’t much to write home about but there’s a pub that’s been built in the old abbot’s home. It’s quite amusing to see people sitting on the ruins, eating lunch & drinking a beer.


Wales is full of castles…some more impressive than others. I’ve only been to see two so far. Caerphilly Castle is pretty much like you expect a castle to be: lots of towers, a great hall, situated on an island & surrounded by a moat. There’s even a display of medieval catapults. What made the visit all the more interesting was the fact that the BBC was filming a kid’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. It was very funny to see all these actors come out of the Great Hall, dressed in their costumes (we’re talking tacky “Dracula” costumes), having lunch.

Cardiff Castle wasn’t that impressive I have to say. A tour of the castle is more about the family who owned it & the extravagance they went to in the 19th Century.

Wandering the countryside

Wales is such a great place to wander around. If you go to Llanthony Priory, take a walk up Hattererrall Hill. The walk up is a bit of a killer but the views of the valley & of the Brecon Beacons more than make up for it, especially if it’s a great day when you go up.

Today I went for a bit of a wander around the Gower Peninsula. There’s a village there called Rhossili that’s sits above the bay & has a long, sweeping beach going off into the distance. The beach seems quite popular with the surfers. There’s a pub that has a beer garden overlooking the bay…….it was pretty spectacular to see.

Culinary tips

At the above-mentioned pub in Rhossili, don’t order the so-called “beef-burger”. It’s just a pissy little beef pattie sandwiched between two pissy little buns & that’s it !! The chips that came with it were far more substantial & took up most of the plate.

Well…that’s it from for me for this posting. It’s getting quite late.

I’m off to the west coast tomorrow, heading to St. David’s before heading north to Aberystwyth, then Caernarfeon & finally Llangollen.

Until next posting, take care.


Blogger Falcon said...

Blackadder: Have you ever been to Wales, Baldrick?
Baldrick: No, but I've often thought I'd like to.
Blackadder: Well don't. It's a ghastly place. Gangs of rough, tough, sinewy men roam the Valleys, terrorizing people with their close-harmony singing and you need half a pint of phlegm in your throat just to pronounce the place names. Never ask for directions in Wales, Baldrick. You'll be washing spit out of your hair for a fortnight.

12:45 pm  

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