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If it’s history and culture you want to experience then Southern Wales will surpass itself. Wales has more castles per square mile than any other in Europe and the largest numbers of these are in Southern Wales.
Chepstow Castle was the first stone built castle in Wales, designed to protect the important trading route down the Wye Valley and out to sea at the 'new port' on the coast. Not too far away is Raglan Castle, the last stone built castle in Wales and more of a fortified manor house.
Possibly the castle with the most beautiful setting is Ogmore at the side of the river with its stepping stones leading over to the sprawling sand dunes at Merthyr Mawr.
Travel northwards from Cardiff and you will soon arrive at Caerphilly. It's a charming little town with an abundance of shops, cafes and inns. The town is famous for the cheese and for having the second largest castle in the World! Caerphilly Castle stands on an island in the middle of its own lake and is spectacularly preserved. I t has a tower that leans more than its more famous counterpart in Pisa!
Long before the castles were built, the Romans arrived and settled in a number of places, but Caerleon was one of the most important settlements for them. The whole town is built over the original Roman town, although the baths, amphitheatre and barracks can still be viewed along with the Roman Legionary Museum, also in the town. The amphitheatre is also reputed to be the site of King Arthur’s Round Table.
There are also interesting museums at Chepstow and in Newport, with a particularly interesting one at Monmouth that is dedicated to Admiral Horatio Nelson who visited the town with Lady Hamilton.
Probably the finest is the National Museum in Cardiff’s Civic Centre, with the largest collection of impressionist paintings outside of the Louvre in Paris.
If your interests lie in ecclesiastical heritage, then no visit to Southern Wales is complete without going to see Tintern Abbey in the Wye Valley. Set spectacularly at the foot of the valley with the river running past it, the abbey was once the home of a thriving colony of monks.
Industrial Heritage is also important in Southern Wales and a visit to the World Heritage Site at Blaenavon will take you back to a much harder time in Wales, when men would spend the most part of their day underground. The National Coal Museum, or 'Big Pit' has the widest coal shaft in Wales and it’s possible to travel the 300 feet to the bottom to experience something of what they had to endure. Also in Blaenavon, countless reminders of the industrial revolution can be found at the town’s 18th century ironworks, one of Europe’s best preserved.
Just west of Cardiff is the National History Museum at St Fagan's which is a continually expanding open air museum with endangered historical buildings brought, brick by brick from many parts of Wales, to be re-built on the site and protected for future generations to see.
Northwards of Caerphilly at Nelson is Llancaiach Fawr, an ancient mansion and probably the most haunted house in Wales. Here you can step back in time to the 17th century and experience the stories and gossip that went on in a house of this type when the 'Master' was not at home. Costumed actors portray the servants and guide you around the house.