When we woke up in the morning at Thornbury Castle, we still hadn’t decided what our day would ultimately look like. All we knew is that we would be stopping briefly in Oxford, and then eventually ending up in Surrey. However, since we were in Thornbury, we were only a 15 minute drive from the Welsh border and the temptation of taking a hit-and-run tour of southeast Wales was too much to resist. We couldn’t justify being so close to another country and not at least dipping our feet in. Not to mention, the Welsh are neck and neck with the Irish for best accent in the British Isles, so even hearing a few people speak would make the quick side-trip worth our while.
To get from England to Wales, we crossed the River Severn via the Severn Bridge. There’s no border check and you just need to pay a toll of £6.70 to enter Wales but there is no charge if making an eastbound crossing. We’re told that Wales is well known for it’s rain, but we were lucky enough to have a beautiful sunny morning – one of the few sunny days we experienced in our week in the UK.
The first stop was to Chepstow Castle in the town of Chepstow. The castle sits on top of a hill overlooking the River Wye and is famous for being the “oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in Britain”. It was built starting in 1067 AD…so it’s really old.The castle served as a home base during English expeditions into Wales, was critical in the conquest of Gwent, and saw some action during the English Civil War in the 17th century. The castle is now open to the public Monday-Saturday from 10AM – 4PM and admission is £6.00 for adults.While we were there, we went for a short walk on the trail that runs alongside the castle and intentionally struck up a conversation with an old woman walking her dogs just so we could hear at least one Welsh accent during our brief visit.
After driving another 15 minutes north, we arrived at our second and final Welsh destination: Tintern Abbey. Founded in 1131 AD and expanded over the next 400 years, Tintern is considered the best preserved medieval abbey in all of Wales. Although the remains of the building are merely a shell, it is still an incredible work of architecture. Like Chepstow Castle, it is open to the public 10AM – 4PM and admission is £6.00 for adults.
All in an hour’s time, we managed to check Wales off our bucket list. Obviously we only saw a tiny sliver of the country, but we liked what we saw. The depth of history was incredible, the accents lived up to expectations, and the fact that all of the street signs were in Welsh and English gave a glimpse into the country’s unique culture. Hopefully we’ll be able to return someday and see more of what wales has to offer.