The valley is best entered from the south, at Chepstow. Trains go to Chepstow from Cardiff and Newport (40min. 7-8 per day). National Express buses ( (08705) 808 080) arrive from Cardiff (50min. 7 per day) and London (21ihr. 10 per day). There is little Sunday bus service in the valley. For schedules, pick up Discover the Wye Valley on Foot and by Bus in tourist offices.
Hiking grants the most stunning views of the valley. The 219km Wye Valley Walk treks north from Chepstow, through Hay-on-Wye, and on to Prestatyn along wooded cliffs and farmland. Offa’s Dyke Path consists of more than 293km of hiking and biking paths along the length of the Welsh-English border. For information, consult the Offa’s Dyke Association ( (01547) 528 753).
CHEPSTOW AND TINTERN
Chepstow’s strategic position at the mouth of the river and the base of the English border made it an important fortification in Norman times. Castell Casgwent, Britain’s oldest datable stone castle, offers stunning views of the Wye from its tower walls. (624 065. Open June-Sept. daily 9:30am-6pm; Oct. and Apr.-May daily 9:30am-5pm; Nov.-Mar. M-Sa 9:30am-4pm, Su llam-4pm. £4, students £3.) Trains arrive on Station Rd.; buses stop in front of Somerfield supermarket. Purchase tickets at The Travel House, 9 Moor St. (623 031. Open M-Sa 9am-5:30pm.) The tourist office is on Bridge St. (623 772. Open Apr.-Oct. daily 10am-5:30pm; Nov.-Mar. 10am-4:30pm.) Visit Mrs. Presley , 30 Kingsmark Ave. for beautiful rooms and a conservatory. (624 466. Singles £20; doubles £40.) Postal Code: NP16 5DA.
Eight kilometers north of Chepstow on A466, the haunting arches of UTintern Abbey “connect the landscape with the quiet of the sky” as described in Wordsworth’s famous poem, written just a few kilometers away. (689 251. Open June-Sept. daily 9:30am-6pm; Apr.-May and Oct. daily 9:30am-5pm; Nov.-Mar. M-Sa 9:30am-4pm, Su llam-4pm. £2.50.) A 2’2km hike will get you to Devil’s Pulpit, from which Satan is said to have tempted the monks as they worked in the fields. A couple kilometers to the north on A466, the tourist office is housed in a train carriage at the Old Station. (689 566. Open Apr.-Oct. daily
WHEN GAULS ATTACK!
The most recent (and perhaps least-known) of the UK’s many invasions took place in 1797, when a fleet of Frenchmen landed just outside of Fishguard. They were an unruly bunch of ex-cons who had been dredged up from various French jails expressly for the purposes of the expedition. They arrived under the unsteady command of one General Tate, his only relevant military qualification being a uncertain familiarity with the coast of Pembrokeshire.
Upon landing, his men set up their headquarters in a local farmhouse stocked with provisions for an upcoming wedding. They proceeded to raid all of its liquor (as well as the liquor stashes of neighboring farmhouses), and they kept themselves hopelessly drunk for the rest of their “attack.” Many of their number were captured by local citizens; Jemima Nicholas, a 47-year-old cobbler, managed to take 12 French soldiers hostage wielding only a hay-fork and the bottle of whiskey she had used to fortify herself for the assault.
Tate’s troops were eventually bested by a troop of red-cloaked Welsh women, whom they mistook for soldiers and to whom they promptly surrendered. The women had actually just been gathering to watch the spectacle of their inebriation. A formal treaty of surrender was signed at the Royal Oak Inn, which is now (appropriately enough) a pub in town.
10:30am-5:30pm.) YHA St. Briavel’s Castle 0, 6.5km northeast of Tintem across the English border, occupies a 12th-century fortress. While a unique experience, St. Briavel’s is somewhat remote, and should only be booked by those willing to walk uphill. From A466 (bus #69 from Chepstow) or Offa’s Dyke, follow signs for 3.25km from the edge of the bridge. ( (01594) 530 272. Dorms £11.55, under-18 £8.30.) The cozy Holmleigh B&B 0 is near the edge of Tintem Village on A466. ( 689 521. £16.50 per person.) Try The Moon and Sixpence 0, next to Holmleigh B&B, for an astonishing array of dishes in a traditional pub atmosphere.