The pace of life seems to slow down a little when you reach Monmouthshire, which is no bad thing because that’s exactly what you want when you’re on holiday; time to unwind and take your ease, the days and hours stretched out before you waiting to be enjoyed.
And enjoy them you can in this beautiful county that forms the borderlands of England and Wales; the scenery is spectacular, greatly shaped by the picturesque waterways that wind their way through the landscape, and there’s much to see and do for young and old alike.
It’s a largely rural area so there aren’t many towns but it’s nice to spend a morning mooching about the independent shops and admiring the architecture; Chepstow is well known for its racecourse, where the Welsh Grand National is run. With mountains all around, Abergavenny is a quite a draw for foodies with its annual food festival and regular artisan markets; Monmouth brings in the crowds with its music festival and the one day Monmouthshire Show. The town has a very rare 13th century gatehouse, and high on the hillside, looking down on the town is the Kymin, built as a banqueting house in the 18th century; the views from up there are incredible.
If you’re into history, you’ll be happy; there are no less than nine castles in Monmouthshire, plus the majestic remains of Tintern Abbey in the Wye Valley AONB, and the 4th century walls of Caerwent Roman Town. If you like walking you can pick up part of the Wales Coast Path, the 8th century Offa’s Dyke Trail, or the wooded paths of the Wye Valley Walk. You can even take in part of the Brecon Beacons National Park, famous not just for it’s wild beauty and breathtaking viewpoints, but also for its status as an International Dark Sky Reserve, so take your telescope if you’re staying out late.
The more active can have fun kayaking or paddle boarding on the River Wye, those who prefer something more sedate might prefer to fish the banks of the Usk, take a narrowboat trip along the Mon & Brec Canal, or a gentle cycle ride along the towpaths; plant lovers will enjoy High Glanau Manor, Dewstow Gardens and Grottoes, and Wye Valley Sculpture Gardens.
Just do it; go and explore, find something you’ll love, and then make time to stop at a country pub for a bite to eat, have a generous slice of homemade cake in a tea shop, buy some locally produced food from a farm shop, cider from a cider farm where it’s still made to traditional methods. Slowing down, time to yourself, that’s the magic of Monmouthshire.