Road trip through Wales: Fishguard to Chepstow & Tintern Abbey

I wrapped up my road trip through Wales in Chepstow. This charming little city on the border of England is the start of the Wye River valley and is home to several attractions, most notably Chepstow Castle and the Chepstow Racecourse. It’s also an easy drive to Tintern Abbey…the main focus for this part of the trip.

I set out from Fishguard fairly early. I wanted to get in as many castles as I could on my 7 day Cadw Explorer pass. I broke up the trip to Chepstow by staying the night at a fabulous Airbnb just outside of Swansea. On the way there I managed to visit two castles and one really cool restaurant/pet center/outdoor fun center.

Day 1

Laugharne Castle

Laugharne Castle was my first stop on the way to Swansea. I wanted to make sure that the castles I stopped at were on the way to my destination. After all, this day was pretty much a travel day, sprinkled with some historical stops if I could get away with them. Laugharne Castle was about 10 minutes off the highway and set in the middle of town on the banks of the River Taf.

This castle is worth the visit. It is a good example of a Norman castle and it also had a brief life as one of the Tudor castles. The castle itself is mostly a shell but there is one tower you can climb for beautiful views of the estuary and the town of Laugharne.

Kidwelly Castle

Kidwelly was my next stop. Again a quick 10 minute trip off the highway. By the time I had reached Kidwelly, which was about a 30-minute drive, the clouds decided to cover and the heavens opened. Lucky for me I happened to be one of the only people who decided to explore the castle that day.

Kidwelly Castle is massive and a lot of it is open to exploring. It is also one of the largest Norman castles still standing. You might recognize it as the castle that was in the opening scenes of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (One of my favorites) Many of the towers are open for you to climb. The stairs are steep and close together so make sure that you’re wearing good shoes.

At this point, I had skipped lunch and needed something to eat. Luckily in Kidwelly, very close to the highway there is a great place to stop called Burns Parc Y Bocs Farm shop and cafe. There really is something for everyone here. The shop itself is geared toward pets/animals and grocer. Upstairs they have a beautiful cafe with delicious offerings. I had the Mac and cheese, it was really decadent but it was cold and a perfect substitute for soup. I would highly recommend stopping if you’re in the area.

Mac & Cheese at Burns Parc Y Bocs

Day 2

Swansea to Tintern Abbey

I got a later start than I meant to this day. The Airbnb I stayed in was so nice I didn’t want to leave it. The apartment was an old converted barn with one bedroom upstairs and the kitchen downstairs. I loved it. Here’s the link if you’re in the area and want to stay there. Linda and her husband are wonderful hosts. The Grooms Quarters

View from the Grooms Quarters

I knew I had about an hour and a half drive to Tintern Abbey. It was a gorgeous day. I really lucked out on my trip to the UK this year. Most of the way was highway, however, when you got past Chepstow and the Chepstow Racecourse the foliage began to cover the road and you felt like you were being transported back in time. There is something so beautiful about the drive to Tintern Abbey. It really makes you feel like you’re in another century.

Tintern Abbey

As you’re driving all of a sudden your vantage point opens up and on your left is Tintern Abbey in all its glory. I was there in September. As I approached the Abbey I kept thinking how perfect it was in it’s setting. Set in a valley surrounded by the hills of Wales and feet from the Wye River you are instantly transported. I felt like a knight dressed in mail and seated on a horse could’ve ridden by at any moment.

The Abbey itself was magical. It wasn’t hard to envision what it had looked like with wooden floors instead of green grass. I imagined the stained glass that once must have sat in the stone frames. It really must have been a sight in its day. I think I could have spent all day just wandering around the ruins.

Next door to the Abbey is a few eateries where you can get things like water and snacks. I ate lunch at the Anchor Inn, they had to best smells coming from their kitchen. It was also, literally next door to the Abbey. Although it was a little pricey the portions were generous and the atmosphere was perfect. They had several dining areas to choose from, a warm comfy pub, a bright dining room, a conservatory dining room, or you could eat outside on one of their many picnic tables. I can recommend that their burger is pretty tasty.

Chepstow & Chepstow Castle

After lunch, I drove to Chepstow Castle in the heart of Chepstow. Not only was this my last Welsh castle but it was also the most interesting that I visited. The castle was made up of several keeps, each one seeming to increase in elevation. Set on a cliff overlooking the Wye River, this castle has quite a few of their battlements open as well as some of the keeps. Although I wasn’t the only visitor at the time, because the castle was so vast I felt like I was exploring on my own most of the visit.

Before I knew it it was time to check into my hotel. I staying only a few blocks from Chepstow castle at the Beaufort Hotel. The rooms were clean and the staff was friendly. I stayed in what felt like an annex room but it was quiet and comfortable.

There are quite a few options for dinner in Chepstow. I was so tired from climbing castles and exploring Abbeys that I just ended up eating at a Wetherspoons pub called the Bell Hanger. If you haven’t eaten at one of these pubs in Britain, give it a go. The food is consistently good and cheap.

Next stop…Bath.

The next day I would get up and drive to Bristol which was the closest place I could drop off my rental car and it was also the end of my Welsh road trip. I know I’ve said it before but Wales is gorgeous, with so much to see and do. It really should be on everyone’s list to visit. If you’re looking for somewhere to visit with few tourists and breathtaking scenery, you could do a lot worse than Wales. Do you have a hidden gem that you like to visit? Let me know in the comments. Until next time.

Interior View of Tintern Abbey

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