August 2013 Trip to Wales UK

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Friday-Saturday, August 16-17

Friday I took an early morning train from Worcester to Cardiff (Wales). I met our tour group of 7 people from Dragon Tours and the owner - Mike Davies. It rained this morning, but finally cleared up by mid-morning. We first drove to Caerphilly Castle (begun in 1268). It was a beautiful castle and we walked around for about 45 minutes. We then drove to Big Pit National Coal Museum where we had about 2 hours. We got our ticket for the mine tour (free) and then had a 50 minute tour in the coal mine. We had to leave all batteries (including watches) and electrical stuff (no cameras) up above, so I could not get actual pictures down below. This was very interesting and it was amazing hearing the stories from an actual coal worker (now a guide). Definitely worth a visit. We had a quick lunch but not enough time to see the rest of the museum area before we were on our way again to the small town of Caerleon. This was a Roman outpost and had some excellent Roman ruins. It was about 4pm when we arrived, and we had time to individually visit the Roman Baths Museum, Roman Legion Museum, Roman amphitheater and Roman barracks.  They were all about a 5-10 minute walk from our B&B - The Priory Hotel, so it was a nice way to end the day. 

Saturday started with a hearty English breakfast at the hotel, and then we were off to LLanthony Priory (built 1180). It felt into decay after Henry VIII and the Dissolution of the Monasteries, but you could still see the walls. A small drive away was Tretower Court and Castle, although interesting, was probably a bit forgettable. We did lunch at the town of Hay-on-Wye - which has many used bookstore (I was in heaven!). I grabbed a quick ice-cream lunch, and spent the available time shopping for used books - I could have probably spent all-day there!   Tintern Abbey (founded 1131)  was next, and it was the highlight of the day. It was a bit like the LLanthony Priory, but much larger and you could tell how grand it must have been before it was abandoned during the 1500's Dissolution. I certainly was interesting to compare the inside of a ruined abbey against going into working abbeys and cathedrals. 

Joanne entering Wales

 

Caerphilly Castle

 

A medieval loo at Caerphilly Castle

Joanne at Big Pit mine

Big Pit mine

Roman Baths Museum 

Roman amphitheater

Joanne at Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey

Sunday-Wednesday, August 18-21

Sunday we drove west to Pembrokshire and had lunch at a nice town of Tenby where he had some time to eat lunch (I had some wonderful coconut ice cream). It had a nice seaside view and some shops, but not a lot to  with regards to sightseeing. We drove to St. Nons Chapel and Holy Well (6th century). We then drove a bit north to St. Davids, a town that was known for pilgrimages in the Middle Ages. We had time to visit St. David's Bishops Palace, which was a ruin. It looks small on the outside, but is actually quite large when walking through all the rooms. It is amazing the luxury the bishops lived in while the common peasants lived very poorly. We also had time to visit St. David's Cathedral (1176) next to the Palace. This is still a working cathedral with many tombs of famous people. We arrived at our hotel Golden Lion in Newport around 5pm. Right around the corner of the hotel was a Neolithic burial chamber - Carreg Coetan - which is about 5000 years old.  It is funny that its just in someone's back garden. 

Monday morning we drive to a larger Neolithic tomb - Pentre Ifan - which dates to about 1500BC. The capstone weighs about 16 tons, so it is amazing how they built it. I always love visiting these prehistoric chambers and tombs. Next onto St. Brynach Church - (founded in 6th century). It has a few impressive features - first is a celtic cross (10th or 11th century). Inside the church is some very rare examples of Ogham writing, which is an early Irish alphabet with only about 400 surviving stone inscriptions. From there we continued to Aberystwyth for lunch (I was not overly impressed). We continued onto Llangollen to the Gales Hotel for the evening. 

Tuesday morning we started with Caernarfon Castle (1283 by Edward I). This is probably my favourite castle that I visited, as it was still structurally sound and in excellent shape.  One could probably make an entire day here, but I was able to get through much of it in a few hours. I really enjoyed climbing up and down the circular tower (definitely need to hold onto the ropes as the stairs are very steep and narrow). Next we took a drive near Anglesey Island to the place with the longest place-name in the world - Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. It was a definite tourist-trap - but you have to see it if you are in the area. Our tour guide could actually pronounce the entire name - I could not even attempt pronouncing it. Then we went on to the town of Conwy where we had several hours. I first visited Plas Mawr (1576) - which is a beautiful medieval house all decked out on how it would look hundreds of years ago. It is always interesting seeing how people lived back then without 'modern' things like toilets. I then walked a few block to Conwy Castle (1283), which is another castle built for defense by Edward I. This was seemed to be more for defense that Caernarfon - with many more turrets to climb. It was a bit more in ruins, but still great to visit. It was wonderful climbing the turrets for a great view of the castle and surrounding area. 

Wednesday morning was our last day, and we first drove to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct built by Thomas Telford in (1795-1805). It was quite amazing as this structure is 126 feet above the river and barges are going along it - quite a site. We had a short drive to Valle Crucis Abbey - a Cistercian abbey build in 1201 but dissolved in 1537. We had lunch just over the English border in Ludlow, and continued south to Cardiff where the tour ended.

Overall - this was a wonderful tour to see as much as Wales as possible in 6 days. We had a lovely group of 7 people who got along great and I would highly recommend Dragon Tours. The owner made it a wonderful experience. . Its definitely worth visiting Wales! 

Joanne at Pentre Ifan

Celtic cross at St. Brynach Church 

Example of Ogham writing 

 

Caernarfon Castle

 

Caernarfon Castle 

 

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle 

Caernarfon Castle

Llanfairpw.. Train Station

Plas Mawr bedroom

Attic area in Plas Mawr

Conwy Castle 

Conwy Castle

view from turret of Conwy Castle 

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

 

 

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct