On a crisp winter morning, I made my way to the Wye Valley in South Wales. Located just 30 minutes away from Bristol and 40 minutes from Cardiff, the Wye Valley is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The vale offers a peaceful escape to rolling hills, lush forests and striking scenery. On my day out, I drove and walked through the green valley and visited the arresting Tintern Abbey and the delightful towns of Chepstow and Monmouth.
1. Exploring the charming town of Chepstow
Chepstow is located on the border with England and at the end of the Severn Bridge linking South Gloucestershire with Monmouthshire. The delightful market town is the gateway to the Wye Valley, and is renowned for its Norman castle. Chepstow also boasts charming streets with colourful houses and quaint shops, as well as an impressive medieval town wall and gate.
The imposing Chepstow castle lies along the bank of the River Wye. First built in 1067, the stronghold controlled the river and the valley. Throughout the medieval ages, the fortress undertook many transformations and extensions as it adapted to changing times. The castle is now not only impressive in terms of size, spanning multiple towers and courtyards, but also in terms of location along the cliff tops of the river. For more information, please visit cadw.gov.wales.
Get lost in the streets of Chepstow, and discover charming houses, picturesque architecture and lovely scenery at every street corner.
2. Driving through the enchanting Wye Valley
The easiest way to discover the Wye Valley is by simply driving through the vale. The main road running from Chepstow to Monmouth follows the River Wye and snakes through the rolling hills. At every turn of the road, discover new scenery and different views of the enchanting Wye Valley, and be mesmerised by its raw beauty.
Don’t stick to the main road but explore the back roads and discover the hidden sides of the Wye Valley.
3. Gaping in awe at the arresting structure of Tintern Abbey
Nested in the heart of the Wye Valley, Tintern Abbey rests along the bank of the River Wye and among lush green hills and luscious forests. The striking archways and magnificent Gothic windows are the highlights of this Cistercian abbey. Built in the 13th century, the landmark is even more awe-inspiring with its open-air structure, bare windows and empty halls. Walking through the arresting structure, you can almost hear the long-lost murmurs of chanting monks.
You can also visit the ruins of the monastery next to the abbey and walk through the refectory, infirmary and abbot’s quarters. Only the bases of the walls have survived the centuries, but the edifices (and explanatory signs) retrace the life of monks in medieval times. For more information, please visit cadw.gov.wales.
Visit Tintern Abbey in the morning, and be struck with wonder as the sun streams through the splendid windows and the light dances among the eye-catching archways.
4. Hiking to the Devil’s Pulpit for breathtaking views
The best way to explore the Wye Valley is by walking along the River Wye, across the lush green forests and over the rolling hills. There are many hiking trails in the vale, and you can easily walk from Chepstow to Monmouth.
If you are after a short walk, I would recommend the hike to the Devil’s Pulpit. Set in the hill across from Tintern Abbey, the Devil’s Pulpit enjoys breathtaking views over the arresting landmark and the enchanting Wye Valley. Legend has it the devil preached from the stone to tempt the monks.
Don’t forget your binoculars to enjoy the striking scenery and wildlife of the Wye Valley. Also bring good hiking boots. When I walked to the Devil’s Pulpit during the winter months, the path was very muddy and quite slippery.
How to get there
To get to the Devil’s Pulpit, cross the old railway bridge upstream of the abbey and follow signs for the Offa’s Dyke path. Following the trail through the forest and up the hill (some climbs can be steep), you will reach the top of the hill and enjoy incredible views over the vale. You can then either continue along the Offa’s Dyke path or head back to Tintern Abbey. The round trip takes approximately 1 ½ to 2 hours.
5. Discovering the cobbled streets of Monmouth
The delightful market town of Monmouth is on the opposite side of the vale from Chepstow, and is the other gateway to the Welsh Wye Valley. Monmouth also offers a picturesque high street full of charming shops and a typical medieval town wall and gate. While the imposing St Mary’s Priory is worth a visit, the castle ruins tucked behind the Monmouth Regimental Museum parking lot are unimpressive compared to other Welsh castles.
Cross into England and explore the equally striking English Wye Valley.
Explore more: Day trips from Cardiff
From the magnificent Brecon Beacons National Park to the arresting Rhossili Bay and the majestic Raglan Castle, South Wales is filled with wonders. This awe-inspiring region offers spectacular scenery from coastline to mountain peak, and provides epic Welsh escapes. Find the best day trips from Cardiff.