Visiting Chepstow

The town of Chepstow lies on the train line from Cardiff to Gloucester and is well served by the railways. The M4 motorway gives the town access to London and the A466 winds through the Wye Valley via Llandogo and Tintern to Monmouth. Bristol and Cardiff Airports are within easy reach. Chepstow takes its name from the old English chepe stowe which means market place.

A picturesque walled town with much history, Chepstow sits at the entrance to the valley of the Lower Wye River. This is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Chepstow's situation makes it an ideal spot as a central point for touring the area. The town was always a busy port which traded in timber in medieval times. Visitors and residents enjoy spectacular walks along the Wye and its splendid valley, cliffs and woodland. In the town itself, alongside the river, is an attractive flood defence scheme with landscaped walks and gardens.

On limestone cliffs on the shore of the River Wye stands the splendid ruin of Chepstow Castle with its strong defensive position. It dates back to 1067 and was subsequently modified and extended through the Middle Ages, finally falling to Oliver Cromwell's men in the English Civil War. There are a lot of information displays and the castle provides a learning tool for students of history and visitors alike. The area beside the castle eventually became Chepstow and in 1294 the town was given permission to hold weekly markets and an annual fair. These flourished because they were exempt from English taxes! Around this time, the town wall was built and most of it remains.

In the town centre, a short walk takes you to medieval streets and Chepstow Museum teaches the history of the Wye Valley from the time of the Romans. More than one hundred and thirty shops are within easy walking distance of over 1000 car parking spaces so shopping is a pleasure here. As well as this, the town boasts over 16 bars, pubs and hotels as well as 15 cafes and restaurants. A two million pound regeneration scheme has revitalised the town centre which now has many interesting sculptures and other public art. Although there was local criticism at the time, some have received national acclaim for high artistic quality. A biennial festival is held in the town as well as an annual folk festival. Under professional direction, local residents take part in son et lumiere pageants which depict local historical events.

Chepstow's restaurants are proud to serve local food. The Afon Gwy Restaurant has an excellent menu. Situated on the bank of the river, this 18th century eating house has stunning views. In the town centre, the Petrus has a contemporary Mediterranean menu and also views along the river bank. Recently, the Wye Knot, also on the banks of the Wye, won the award of South Wales Argus Restaurant of the Year. This is definitely an area for the gourmet!

The area around Chepstow makes for a superb driving holiday as there is much to see and do in the vicinity. A short drive from Chepstow towards the town of Monmouth, lie the the 700 year old ruins of Tintern abbey, well worth a visit. Just 2 miles from Chepstow is the St Pierre Golf and Country Club with swimming pools and health facilities as well as two excellent golf courses.

The Welsh Grand National takes place at Chepstow Racecourse as does the National Hunt and Flat Racing. The Wye Valley provides a picturesque backdrop to the racecourse which is situated between Cardiff and Bristol and is easily reached being only a short drive from the Severn Bridge. There is a mix of flat race and jump meetings, many in the evenings and midweek as well as weekends.

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