Southern Wales: Sep 6-7, 2019

Updated: Jan 25

Activities and blogs for this location:

  • Tintern Abby

  • Glamorgan Heritage Coastal Trail

  • Tenby

Day 31

We barely slept last night. The mattress was a bad combination of small, lumpy and soft. Within minutes of waking up we were online trying to find a new apartment in Cardiff, where we might have luck getting a last minute reservation. So we packed everything, loaded the car and left before noontime. The owners were very apologetic and tried to work out a solution. However, after being on the road for over a month we couldn't afford a few bad nights sleep - so we were on the move. On a positive note we had to pass Tintern Abby on the drive to Cardiff, so we added it to our itinerary for the day.


Tintern Abby

The Cistercian abbey of Tintern is one of the greatest monastic ruins of Wales. It was only the second Cistercian foundation in Britain, and the first in Wales. It was founded in 1131 by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepstow. The abbey was always closely associated with the Lords of Chepstow, their generous benefactors. The most generous was Roger Bigod III, grandson of Marshal's daughter Maud.


Bigod III's greatest undertaking was to complete a total rebuilding and expansion of the abbey. Alterations began in 1220 with the cloisters and domestic ranges around them, and finished with the great church between 1269 and 1301. It is the ruins of Roger's church which dominate the site today.

Tintern Abby in Southern Wales was founded in 1131.  Most the ruins date to the 1260-1301

Dave standing in the west front entrance to the abbey completed in 1300. The finely carved delicate window tracery is almost complete in the great west window. Imagine how it looked when huge panes of stained glass filled these giant windows.

Remains of the west front entrance to Tintern Abbey in South Wales completed in 1300.  Delicate stone window tracery.

By contrast, at the east end the great window, which took up most of the wall, is just a gaping hole. All that is left is the slender central mullion and circular window above.

Ruins of the great window in the east end of Tintern Abbey in Southern Wales.  Slender central mullion and circular window from Tintern Abbey East Walls.

Views towards the north transept of the church. Dave unknowingly provided perspective for the soaring height of the church.

Soaring height of the north transept of Tintern Abbey in Southern Wales

In the 14th and 15th century the abbey continued to prosper. Tintern was never a very large or important village or town so the abbey's history was relatively uneventful. Its location well away from the Welsh heartland meant that it suffered little during the periodic Welsh uprisings against the English in the medieval ages.


The view looking down the north aisle adjacent to the nave. It's incredible that after 700 years you can still see the intricate stonework on the pillars and arches.

Ruins of the stone arches in north aisles adjacent to the naïve in Tintern Abbey in Southern Wales
The intricate stonework on the pillars and arches in Tintern Abbey in Southern Wales

The period of prosperity came to a quick end for the abbey. In 1535 Tintern was the wealthiest abbey in Wales; a year later is was closed by Henry VIII. As part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536 to 1541), Henry VIII disbanded monasteries, priories, convents and friaries, in England, Wales and Ireland; appropriated their income; disposed of their assets; and provided for their former personnel and functions.

Ruins of the Tintern Abbey remain standing.

Adjacent to the church were the ruins of abbey and the vast number of buildings to support the monk population of Tintern.

Ruins of abbey and the vast number of buildings to support the monk population of Tintern Abbey in South Wales
Tintern Abby in Southern Wales was founded in 1131.  Most the ruins date to the 1260-1301

In September 1536, Abbot Wych surrendered Tintern Abbey and all its estates to the King's visitors and ended a way of life that had lasted 400 years. Valuables from the Abbey were sent to the royal Treasury and Abbot Wych was pensioned off. The building was granted to the then lord of Chepstow, Henry Somerset, 2nd Earl of Worcester. Lead from the roof was sold and the decay of the buildings began.


What an amazing site, so glad we had the unplanned stop at Tintern - the perfect ruined abbey.

Tintern Abby in Southern Wales was founded in 1131.  Most the ruins date to the 1260-1301
Remains of the north entrance to Tintern Abbey in South Wales

By early evening, we arrived at our Cardiff Airbnb. What a relief.

Day 32 Plans

  • Glamorgan Heritage Coastal Trail

  • Tenby

Glamorgan Heritage Coastal Trail (7.0 miles out and back)

After a great nights sleep, we were ready for a full-day adventure on the Glamorgan Heritage Coast Walk. We were looking forward to the walk since our last coastal hike/walk was the Great Bernera Hike in the Outer Hebrides.


With the completion of the Wales Coast Path, Wales became the first country in the world where it is possible to walk the entire length of its 870 mile coastline on a marked path. For today, we were walking just a tiny section of this path referred to as the Glamorgan Heritage Coastal Trail. The trail follows the coastline with its plunging cliffs, secluded coves, sandy beaches and overall incredible views. We started following the trail at Dunraven Beach.

Plunging cliffs at Dunraven Beach along the Glamorgan Heritage Coastal Trail in Wales

The tide was high so we had restricted access to the base of the rocky cliffs. The area is characterized by tall, vertical cliffs of almost perfectly straight thin-layered limestone and shale, colored grey to yellow and brown.

Tall, vertical cliffs of almost perfectly straight thin-layered  limestone and shale at Dunraven Beach along the Glamorgan Heritage Coastal Trail in Wales

There are numerous warning posted along the beach alerting hikers to consult tidal chart before investigating any cliff beaches - 'The entire beach disappears quite rapidly underwater when the tide comes in'. This section of the Welch coast has the second highest tidal change (50 ft) in the world after the Bay of Fundy in Canada. We felt comfortable since high tide had just peaked as we left Dunraven Beach.

Plunging cliffs and stone covered Dunraven Beach along the Glamorgan Heritage Coastal Trail in Wales
Stone covered Dunraven beach along the Glamorgan Heritage Coastal Trail

We left the beach and climbed the Coastal Path to the plateau that overlooks the sea. Although most of the walk provided clifftop viewing, the path diverted inland at times.

After Dunraven Beach Glamorgan Heritage Coastal Trail in Wales climbs a plateau

Being careful despite how the photo looks. The cliffs are subject to erosion caused by wind and rain; the softer shale layers are eroded leading to undercutting and collapse of the upper layers of hard limestone.


Overlooking the coastline referred to as 'Whitmore Stairs' where the cliffs are over 200 ft high. I'm unable to find words to adequately describe how it looked. We found a marked but rather steep path that led to the water and Cwm Nash beach.

Overlooking the coastline referred to as 'Whitmore Stairs' where the cliffs are over 200 ft high along the Glamorgan Heritage Coastal Trail

Looking directly at the 'Jurassic Cliffs of Wales' and 185 million years of the Earth's history.

Rocks that offer an almost complete record of the Mesozoic Era, running from around 250 to 65 million years ago are spread out along the Jurassic Coast. This is when I wish I had a better understanding of geology!

Views of the Jurassic Cliffs of Wales along the Glamorgan Heritage Coastal Trail

Since the tides was going out, we explored the beach. So glad we were able to experience these cliff from the water's edge

Low tide at the beach at the base of the Jurassic Cliffs of Wales along the Glamorgan Heritage Coastal Trail

Eroded limestone along the water's edge.

Eroded limestone at the water's edge along the Glamorgan Heritage Coastal Trail in Wales

Yes, it was extremely cold but there was no way we were leaving without getting our feet wet.

Low tide at the beach at the base of the Jurassic Cliffs of Wales along the Glamorgan Heritage Coastal Trail

Our last view after climbing back to the cliff top and returning back to Dunraven. It had been 3 1/2 miles of continuous amazing views. Too bad we hadn't arrived closer to low tide. In the hour we had spent on the beach the water had receded significantly from where it was when we first reached the start of the path down to the beach.

A wave-cut platform, shore platform, coastal bench, or wave-cut cliff along Glamorgan Heritage Coastal Trail

To give you a hint of how it would have look at low tide. This is a great picture (our exact location) of a wave-cut platform. A wave-cut platform, shore platform, coastal bench, or wave-cut cliff is the narrow flat area often found at the base of a sea cliff created by erosion. Wave-cut platforms are often most obvious at low tide when they become visible as huge areas of flat rock.

Attribute: CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=769632

Back at Dunraven after 4 hours and 7 miles of dramatic cliffs, isolated beaches and amazing coastlines. Time for dinner in Tenby.

Dunraven Beach along the Glamorgan Heritage Coastal Trail in Wales

Time for a 90-minute drive to Tenby for supper.


Tenby

Strategically located on the far west coast with a natural sheltered harbor from both the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea, Tenby was a natural settlement point that dates back to the 9th century.


In the late 13th century, after successful attacks by Welsh forces, the English fortified and enlarged the original city walls to protect this important harbor and trading center. The stone curtain wall, towers and gates enclosed a large part of the settlement—now known as the 'old town'. Further improvements to the walls were made in the following centuries. Through both the Georgian and Victorian eras Tenby was renowned as a health resort and center for botanical and geological study.

Now Tenby is known as a popular seaside tourist resort. Colorful, traditional, seaside shops line the street of 'old town'.

We found the perfect fish and chips shop.

After supper, we went for a walk along the beach.

Beach in Tenby, Wales
Cliff top buildings along beach in Tenby, Wales
Beach in Tenby, Wales

Full day and full stomach we headed home to Cardiff for a relaxing night. Loving Southern Wales!


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