Visit Southern Wales

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Archive for tag: chepstow

Wonders of Wye

Tintern AbbeyThe Wye Valley and Vale of Usk is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it's not difficult to see why. 

The rolling countryside is a magnet for walkers with some well-known and popular trails including the Offa's Dyke Path.  It is also where the Wales Coast Path begins (or ends, depending on which way around you're going).  In fact, Offa's Dyke and the coast path join up so that you can complete a whole circuit of Wales if you really want to!

The plenty of historic attractions too.  There are castles galore including the first one to be built at Chepstow and the last one too at Raglan.  One of the most impressive monuments is Tintern Abbey standing proudly on the banks of the River Wye. 

Why not combine walking with history by doing the Three Castles Walk which is a 20 mile triangular walk taking in White Castle, Skenfirth Castle and Grosmont Castle.

The area also has a reputation for excellent food.  There are plenty of top class restaurants or cosy country pubs to choose from whilst Abergavenny's Angel Hotel is renowned for its Afternoon Teas - well worth indulging.  Don't miss the Abergavenny Food Festival each September which is an excellent chance to see (and of course taste) the best of the area's produce.

For more information on the area please visit the website

St David's Day

Welsh FlagDydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus (Happy St David's Day).  Okay, I'm a couple of days early, but this week does mark our National Day and on 1st March, up and down the country, people will be celebrating.

The day commemorates our patron saint St David and marks the day he died in 589AD.  He is said to have performed many miracles including when he caused the ground to rise beneath him when preaching so that everyone could see and hear him.

The Cathedral of St David's in Pembrokeshire, where his remains are buried, became a popular place of pilgrimage.  It was said that two pilgrimages to St David's equalled one to Rome.

The highlight of the festivities is the annual St David's Day Parade through Cardiff City Centre.  Beginning from outside City Hall at 12:30 pm the parade snakes its way through the capital's streets before ending up outside (quite fittingly) St David's Hall where there will be traditional musical entertainment as well as a St David's Day Market.

If you fancy taking in one of our castles then Cadw, the organisation responsible for most of our historic sites have announced that their properties will be opened free of charge on the day.

These include the biggest castle in Wales at Caerphilly, one of the oldest at Chepstow and the best preserved medieval abbey in Wales, Tintern Abbey.  More details can be found on the Cadw website.

Porthcawl will also be marking the occasion, when the town hosts the annual Celtic Music Festival.  Dancers, singers and entertainers from all over the world descend on the seaside town for a weekend celebration of all things Celtic.

The Hidden Gardens of Dewstow

Whilst we've already mentioned some of Wales best attractions that are well known about, we also have a lot of hidden gems.

Dewstow Gardens, near Chepstow is quite literary one of Southern Wales' hidden gems. The gardens were originally built around the turn of the 20th century and included all the things you'd expect in gardens - rockeries, ponds, water features and loads of plants and shrubs etc.  But the highlight was a subterranean world of tunnels and grottoes housing many tropical and unusual plants.

Over the years the gardens fell into disrepair and the tunnels and grottoes were filled in and forgotten about.  That is until the start of the 20th century when the land's new owners started clearing the land.  Curiosity got the better of them so they started digging and were amazed to discover the network of tunnels that had laid undiscovered for over 50 years.

A massive restoration project was undertaken and today the gardens have been restored to their former glory so that we can enjoy what was hidden away for decades.

To find out more about Dewstow Gardens click here

What is your favourite Welsh castle?

Caerphilly CastleYou may have heard a whisper that Wales has a castle or two. Indeed there are 641 at the last count, meaning that we have more castles per square mile than any other country in Europe. In fact almost every town or village has some form of castle or fort.

And now thanks to a deal between Cadw and The Friends of Manx National Heritage (FMNH) the historic sites of Wales have now become free to visit to FMNH members from the Isle of Man.

Good news that our heritage will be more open to visitors, but it got me thinking - Which of our 641 castles is our best?

How about the imposing splendour of Caerphilly Castle. Very few castles in Europe are as big as Caerphilly Castle. It dominates the otherwise quiet market town in which it stands. It was built in the 13th Century and must have been a quite a fearsome site to attacking enemies with its imposing walls and huge moat. Thankfully they're a bit more welcoming to visitors today and have opened the portcullis and put a bridge across the moat so you don't get your feet wet on the way in.

Caerphilly Castle is a mere youngster compared to Chepstow Castle as it dates from the 11th Century. As well as being the oldest it was probably the most strategically important as it stands guard on a hillside overlooking the River Wye which marks the border between Wales and England.

It may not be as grand as Caerphilly or as important as Chepstow but Ogmore Castle near Bridgend certainly makes up for this as being one of the most picturesque. Sitting quietly on the banks of the River Ewenny, access to the castle is via a set of stepping stones which leads from the tiny hamlet of Merthyr Mawr and its thatched cottages.

If it's grand castles that you want then there is none more opulent than Cardiff Castle. Don't believe me? Then take a tour of the apartments dating from the 1860s. You'll be amazed by the lavishness and luxury in which the Marquess of Bute, at the time the richest man in the world, once lived. As well as the extravagant apartments the castle also has a Norman keep and Roman walls. It's like all the castles of Wales rolled into one.

There's also the World Heritage Site castles of North Wales at Caernarfon, Conwy, Beaumaris and Harlech or the romantic ruins of Carreg Cenen sitting on a hilltop amongst the rolling hills of the Towy Valley.

So many to choose from. So it's over to you, which one is your favourite?

Wonderful Walking

Offa's Dyke FootpathWalking is one of the most popular activities in Wales.  When you see the scenery it's not really surprising.

There are hundreds of walks all over the country - in our towns and cities, through the countryside and along the coast.  Some are flat, some a little steeper.  All the routes offer their own challenges but if you're looking for something really testing then the biggest of the lot is the Offa's Dyke Path.

Offa's Dyke itself is the historic border between Wales and England which was built around 757AD and today the path follows this route all the way from Chepstow in the south, right the way up through the country to Prestatyn on the North Wales coast.  A total of 177 miles.

The path goes through some of the most stunning scenery in Wales - wild moorland, majestic valleys, and mysterious woodland.  It also goes through the Wye Valley, officially and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Sites to look out for on the route include the market town of Chepstow with its 11th century castle standing guard over the Wales/England border, the beautiful village of Tintern and its imposing Abbey, the 3 castles of Grosmont, Skenfirth and White Castle and the 12th century Llanthony Priory, sitting in a secluded valley in the Black Mountains.

If you're up for the challenge then it's definitely worth the effort.
www.visitwyevalley.com
www.offasdyke.demon.co.uk

And they're off!

Chepstow RacecourseThere can't be many more beautiful settings for a race course than the one at Chepstow.  Set in 440 acres of glorious Wye Valley countryside.  Located on the outskirts of the historic border town yet despite its rural setting is only a few miles from the M4 motorway meaning access couldn't be easier.

Chepstow is the premier racecourse in Wales and hosts a number of prestigious meetings throughout the year both on the flat and over jumps.  The highlight of the calendar is the Welsh Grand National held each December.

This Friday the course will stage its first evening race meeting of the year.  There are 7 races on the card with the first at 4:40pm and the last at 7:55pm and it promises to be an exciting evening of racing action.

Celebrate St David's Day

Welsh FlagDydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus (Happy St David's Day).  Yes, today is 1st March and up and down the country people are celebrating our National Day. 

The day commemorates our patron saint St David and marks the day he died in 589AD.  He is said to have performed many miracles including when he caused the ground to rise beneath him when preaching so that everyone could see and hear him.

The Cathedral of St David's in Pembrokeshire, where his remains are buried, became a popular place of pilgrimage.  It was said that two pilgrimages to St David's equalled one to Rome.

Today will see concerts, parades and children dressing up in the national costume.  The highlight of the festivities is the annual St David's Day Parade through Cardiff City Centre. 

Beginning from outside City Hall at 12:30 pm the parade snakes its way through the capital's streets before ending up outside (quite fittingly) St David's Hall where there will be traditional musical entertainment as well as a St David's Day Market.

And if you fancy taking in one of our castles then Cadw, the organisation responsible for most of our historic sites have announced that their properties will be opened free of charge today.

These include the biggest castle in Wales at Caerphilly, one of the oldest at Chepstow and the best preserved medieval abbey in Wales, Tintern Abbey.  

More details can be found on the Cadw website 

And remember if you're tweeting about St David's Day, remember to use the #stdavidsday hashtag and get it trending.

Welsh Castles Come Out on Top

Ogmore CastleGreat news this morning from the BBC that, according to a Visit Britain survey, what overseas visitors to the UK want to see more than anything are Welsh castles.

10,000 people from all over the world were surveyed and 34% said their must do activity was a visit to one of our castles.  The castles beat Buckingham Palace, a shopping trip to Harrods and watching a Premier League football match to come out on top.  A visit to our castles was particularly popular agmonst Russian and Polish holiday makers.

Of course it comes as no surprise to those that know out castles that it came out on top.  There are 641 castles in Wales and in Southern Wales we have the biggest, oldest, newest, grandest and most picturesque.

Caerphilly Castles is amongst the biggest in Europe.  It dominates the town of the same name and its impressive moat system would have been formidable to attacking forces in the middle ages.

If Caerphilly is the biggest then one of the oldest is Chepstow.  Standing on the banks of the River Wye, which marks the border between Wales and England, and was one of the first to be built by the invading Norman forces.  Nearby Raglan castle was one of the last to be built and was intended more of a grand stately home than as a fort.

If it's a grand stately home you want, then nothing beats Cardiff Castle.  Transformed from a Norman fort into a palatial residence by the Marquess of Bute, the apartments interiors have to be seen to be believed.

Finally Ogmore Castle has to be one of the most picturesque.  Sitting on the banks of the River Ewenny near the tiny village of Merthyr Mawr the castle is accessed via a set of stepping stones across the river.  The setting could not be more idyllic.

Nadolig Llawen

Cardiff's Winter WonderlandSouthern Wales Tourism would like to wish everyone a Merry Chritsmas.  Nadolig Llawen i chi gyd.

And just in case you've had enough of turkey, chocolates and Christmas TV bear in mind some of the great events happening over the festive period.

25 December
The Porthcawl Christmas Morning Swim
The brave (of foolish) take to the icy seas and Porthcawl's Coney Beach to raise money for local charities.  You're welcome to join in or take the sensible option and watch from the shore.

27 December
The Welsh Grand National
Chepstow Racecourse in the beautiful Wye Valley is the setting for the running of Wales' most prestigious horse race. 

27 December
Dragons v Blues
It's a local derby in the Rugby's Magners League at Newport's Rodney Parade ground.  Expect a passionate atmosphere and great rugby as these rivals go head to head

31 January
Calennig, New Year Celebrations
Wave goodbye to 2010 and say hello to 2011 at Cardiff's New Year celebrations on City Hall Lawn.  Ice skating, live music and a spectacular firework display will welcome in the new year.

Hidden Gem

Dewstow Gardens near Chepstow in Monmouthshire is one of Wales' hidden gems.  The gardens were originally built in the late 19th century but were buried in the 1940s and lay undiscovered for over 50 years until they were discovered by accident in 2000.  A huge restoration project was undertaken and now the gardens have been restored to their former glory.  The gardens contain many ponds and rills but also they contain a remarkable labyrinth of underground tunnels, grottoes and sunken ferneries. 

www.dewstow.co.uk