Day 2. Into Wales – Chepstow and its Castle

Chepstow Castle

Do you get that moment, perhaps when going on a walk, get out of the car, stretch, look at the hills you are intending to climb and a feeling of great relaxation spreads over you? It was one of those moments now perched on my bike at the apex of the Severn Bridge, looking way below into the muddy waters of the Severn and ahead at the hills and valleys of South Wales. Gave a shove and started freewheeling towards The Coach and Horses Inn in Chepstow. Had booked it beforehand, it was in the old part of the town, the reviews showed it to be a friendly place to stay and had WiFi. Walking in saw that all the beer pumps had Welsh brewed beer from Brains, was given a cheery welcome from both the barman and customers and was soon sitting down to the meal and, after a long day crossing most of England, this was well-deserved.

However, WiFi hardly worked in my room and it was explained that this was a 16th century coaching inn, had solid stone walls but there was good WiFi in the bar. It had been a long day, the bar was busy, a quick beer, bed and a prompt start in the morning seemed a much better idea.

After a good breakfast, decided to sort out the next night’s accommodation – got a shock, all the normal accommodation was full. It had seemed feasible, when researching beforehand, to choose somewhere to stay as I went along as there was plenty of available accommodation along the South Wales coast and it was out of season. I was intending to decide where to stay the next night based on the most interesting places and distance covered. Now, my position in the corner of the bar started getting more difficult as someone belonging to the pub or Brewery had arrived and an increasingly interesting conversation about the running of the pub was taking place and, embarrassingly, far more commercial information was being discussed than I ought to know so I upped sticks and headed through the historic town centre for the Tourist Office.

Chepstow has just been celebrating 950 years of history, on the banks of the Wye, the boundary between Wales and England. Its river crossing is guarded by the Castle. The original castle was built by the newly-created Earl of Hereford as a base for his advances into the Welsh kingdom of Gwent. His Great Tower still forms the basis of the castle today. The development of the coal and iron industries in the Valleys meant that prosperity moved west and Chepstow’s historic centre not significantly redeveloped.

The person managing the Tourist office proved very helped, a few checks on their accommodation site showed, to her surprise as well, that everywhere was full, but she was determined to find somewhere so suggested I started looking around the Castle while she continued. It is spectacularly perched above the river Wye. When I returned some time later she had not found any available accommodation but had the home and mobile number of a landlady in Caerleon who had left a message on both to say she had accommodation available tonight. Clutching these lifelines, I went to the topmost parts of castle and, after several tries, got through on the mobile number. The vacancy was confirmed, and I was on my way to Caerleon.

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