United Kingdom · 2 Days · 12 Moments · February 2013

A weekend in South-East Wales

23 February 2013

Clifton bridge We stopped on our way back because I really wanted to see this suspended bridge. It is situated in Bristol and opened in 1864. If you cross the bridge by car you'll have to pay 50p, remember of having some change with you. To see it from afar you'll need to park your car on the side of Clifton Down and go uphill on foot to discover the view of the bridge across the river Avon. The scenery was worth it for me as I could take nice pics of the cliffs surrounding the river and the bridge just before sunset.
Caerphilly castle Caerphilly castle is massive and absolutely impressive. It's on a island in the middle of a lake, protected by moat, gatehouses, dams and circles of walls on both shores of the lake itself: before getting into the main ward, you had to pass under a lot of turrets and at least 3 massive gatehouses, a couple of drawbridges: if it's not paranoia... The whole castle, the second biggest in Britan, is quite well preserved, the walls, the keep and some passages are visitable, even if it would have been nicer to decorate a bit the various rooms: only the main hall had some velvet curtain and a table, but nothing really special. Also, the South-East Tower is impressive, leaning even more than Pisa Tower if you ask me: it looks like it could crumble down any moment! The entrance fee is £4.75 per adult.
Tintern Abbey Finally the weather allowed us to visit this abbey, built in the 11th century and then abandoned from the 16th century on. The structure of the whole church is quite well preserved, apart from the roof. The light passing through the open windows and the rest of the building was spectacular: eveybody was wandering silent, in awe of the almost mystical atmosphere of the place. The ambiance is very special as you walk through the ruins, it is as if you were transported into another time. It is a gorgeous place for photographers and I'd recommend to visit it when the sky is clear. Around the church, there are many more ruins to visit, that are what remains of the other building where the monks were actually living (refectory, infirmary, dormitory, and other -ories I don't remember), but although interesting, it's nothing compared to the magnificence of the abbey.

22 February 2013

Yaks N Yetis in Ross on Wye We were looking for a place not too far from our B&B and actually open, because everything closes quite early in this region. So we had a quick look on Tripadvisor and decided to try this restaurant serving Nepalese, Thai and Tibetan Cuisine. It was cheap, tasted good and the staff was friendly, just what we needed to get some warmth! There is a room with normal tables and chairs and another one where you can sit on the ground on comfy chairs with a low table.
Monnow bridge Monnow bridge is a medieval fortified bridge with its gate tower dating from the 13th century. It is a pedestrian bridge now so don't hesitate to cross it and even have a little tour in the surrounding streets. It wasn't far from where we were so we decided to have a look. The city of Monmouth where it is located has nothing special to offer though so we didn't stay long.
Abbey Mill On our first try to visit Tintern abbey the weather was quite bad so we decided to come back the following day and instead we had lunch in a nearby pub. They were serving a lot of different typical pub foods, plus local delicacy such as welsh cakes, local ciders that were really tasty and what they call "the infamous dragon pie". We tried a bit of everything, careful with the dragon pie it is quite hot. Don't hesitate to have a look to their fridge full of ciders and try a few!
Puzzle Wood I wanted to go there because it was one of the recurrent set of a few BBC shows and it looked like a mysterious and unique forest and I really wanted to pass through it. There is even a rumor saying J.R.R Tolkien was inspired by it. Puzzle wood has such an interesting shape partly because of the erosion of its natural underground cave systems and partly because of its exploitation from Iron Age settlers to Roman people. Once the Romans left the nature took over and created this mesmerizing landscape. An intricate labyrinth of paths, flyovers, bridges, etc made it long and confusing to explore, despite the fact it wasn't that big : we almost got lost a couple of times! Also, it's funny looking for the landmarks they challenge you to find (fallen trees, benches..) Don't forget your boots especially if it has rained the same week as it is quite muddy. There is an entry price of 6£ per adult and don't forget to check their websites for opening times as it changes depending the month
Raglan castle I absolutely loved this castle: it was built in the mid-15th century and remodeled in the Tudor period. Most of the residentail part (the hall, the rooms, etc) is in ruin, but the walls are still in good shape, as well as the defensive exagonal tower, circled by a moat. The top of this keep and of another tower in the main complex of building were accessible and offered a nice view on the surroundings. We didn't have a guided visit, but some panels explained the history of the castle while some free brochures helped us understanding the functions of the various rooms (or what remained of) of the castle, where a lot of fine details, such as coat of arms and other decorations, were still visible.
Symonds Yat Rock The owners of Broome farm advised us this place and you'll see signals for it on the A40. It is a nice and calm observation point located on a cliff top used by Iron age inhabitants, who built a fort here 2,500 years ago. There is also the possibility to take one of the forest trails around the forest. That day there were some ornithologists waiting for birds with their cameras as it is a good place to observe falcons.
The Red Lion The first night we were just so tired we went to sleep directly without having diner but the owners of the farm advised us a Pub near by. Think of going early, because even for British standards, 'early' tends to means something totally different when you are in the countryside. We didn't try this place but we did stop there to have a look. It looked nice and cosy inside and they have tables to eat outside too.
Broome farm How can I describe this place properly...It was like being at home but better. We've been welcomed with slices of a delicious homemade cider cake and cider from the farm, then we've been shown around to our room that looked really cosy. Every evening a bottle of fresh milk was deposed in front of our door. We had full English breakfast here every morning: everything was homemade and produced in their farm. So good and gave us energy for the whole day! It was such a lovely place with lovely people and I just regret we couldn't stay longer! It isn't super easy to find though. Once you find the way don't hesitate to go all the way to the end of the muddy road to find the farm. I would definitely go back if we are visiting this region again. (The owner also gave me the recipe for her cake and a whole free cake to bring back with us!)
General Tips on South-East Wales As many other places in UK, transports are limited and therefore I'd recommend renting a car to visit the region. During our trip we mainly stayed in the Monmouthshire region, that is just at the border between Wales and England. Also for that, we couldn't find many of Wales specialities, as the laverbread; be aware of this if you plan to visit the region also for Welsh gastronomy! The streets are generally well kept and the places well indicated: I'd recommend anyway having a navigator, particularly useful if you have to pass through Bristol - it's been quite a mess in there.