|Conwy harbour from the castle|
So, first task: sort out the accommodation. We don’t have enough gear for camping, and that is a pain anyway when you’re on the move every day. Hotels and B&Bs are quite expensive, £80+ a night, which for a minimum wage earner adds up over 8 nights. And big cooked breakfasts every morning are wasted on Vicki and dangerous for me with my lack of will/won’t power. So it was to be Airbnb again and it worked brilliantly. We averaged about £35 per night and all bar one included breakfast - mainly cereal, fruit and milk - perfect. Interesting hosts too. Perfect for us, though recently we looked for Airbnb places near to where we live for friends and found local prices double what we paid! That’s the difference between one of the most expensive areas in the country and Wales and the dreaded “North” of England.
|The amphitheatre at Caerwent|
First stop the English/Welsh border country. We had lunch at an unexpectedly interesting village – Caerwent. Here are the remains of one of the best-preserved Roman forts in Europe - Venta Silurum - and there are a lot of remains, barracks (a Legion was base here for hundreds of years), walls, and the remains of a large bath complex.
The drive up the valley
of the River Wye, which marks the border between England and Wales) is beautiful, and in the middle are the remains of Tintern
Abbey, a truly spectacular ruin. It
is easy to see why the Cistercians built it here as they like remote locations
for their abbeys, unfortunately it cannot escape the hordes of tourists, like us.
A night at Hay-on-Wye, famous for its literary festival and numerous second-hand bookshops, was only “spoilt” by traction engines rumbling through town for a classic car and steam festival the following day. We sprinted out of the pub (where we had just finished a superb dinner) and chased them down the road to get a photo and find out what was going on. Depressingly we had to leave early the next morning to get to our next stop, and it only got worse as various classic cars passed us heading for the festival.
Driving through the Brecon Beacon “mountains” is very peaceful and atmospheric. One of the remotest spots south of Scotland, and we found some very quiet one-lane roads as we searched for ancient iron-age forts and castle ruins. It was a bit of a shock emerging into the Welsh mining valleys, poor and sad. We were trying to hurry as we were heading to the west coast for the night, but the valleys go north to south so it was a convoluted trip through places with names like Ystradgynlais, Ystalyfera and Cwmllynfell. Clearly a shortage of vowels as well as money in the area.
stayed near the port of Fishguard which must have been quite remote once upon a
time as in 1779 the pirate ship the Black
Prince bombarded it when the populace refused to pay a £1,000 ransom! We
enjoyed the following day’s drive up the coast where we even stopped to watch
dolphins frolicking. The port towns are very colourful, but full of people at
this time of year.
|Fishguard lower town |
(not the modern ferry port to Ireland)
No one seems to know much about the middle of Wales; the south has the mining valleys, the Brecon mountains, and the big Welsh cities of Cardiff an Swansea; and the northern part is known for the Snowdonia mountains - good walking country. There are also plenty of engineering “marvels”, early viaducts taking railways or canals across steep valleys.
|A canal on a bridge across a valley! Pontcysyllte aqueduct.|
|Standing stones at Pentre Ifan|
|Welsh countryside from the|
iron-age fort Garn Goch
|Carreg Cennan Castle|
And, returning to the earlier subject of weather, we had only one day of heavy drizzle, in the north of England. Mustn't grumble. :-)
For more photos, take a look at our gallery.