Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Places to visit - Tintern Abbey in Wales

I realised I haven't done any travel posts for ages - mainly because we really haven't been doing any travel. Still, over our short Christmas break we took a few day trips so here's a peek into one of our days out.

Tintern Abbey, WalesTintern Abbey is only just across the Bristol Channel from us and oh my goodness it's amazing!

The current buildings (or ruins) on site were started during the 1100s and were inhabited by Cistercian monks and lay brothers until that vandal Henry VIII in the 1500s came along and ripped out the lead from the roofing to start the decay of the buildings.

I do have quite a grudge against Henry VII for the dissolution of the monasteries as I visit these beautiful places and compare them to places like Tewkesbury Abbey which was saved by the local people purchasing it from the Crown. Tewkesbury is still in use as a place of worship, whereas Tintern is a tourist attraction. Anyway, enough ranting about ancient history...
Ruit at Tintern Abbey
Tintern was founded to be in a very remote location so the monks could focus on God. It's not so remote these days, but is set in a beautiful valley.

We were lucky to have glorious sunshine (pretty rare for Wales, I have to say!).

Another ruin at Tintern Abbey
And it was lovely that the place was open at all. The National Trust in England has most of its properties closed 'till March (and they're expensive to visit). English Heritage is a bit better as staying open and also has more free and cheap places to visit.

 Cadw is the historic environmental division of the Welsh government and they run places like Tintern Abbey. I've got a lot of time for them - lovely staff, lovely stuff in their little shops, amazing castles and ruins and they don't take three months off! Anyway, I'm ranting again...

Inside Tintern Abbey
The Abbey church was in the traditional cross (or cruciform) shape with chapels and screens and things to break up the space. It's over 70 metres long inside. 

Book cupboard in Tintern Abbey

As well as the great big church there were rooms for various purposes: dormitories, dining rooms, a kitchen and infirmary as well as an excellent drainage system (still working) and gardens. One thing that tickled my fancy was these book cupboards. Books would have been very rare and expensive so needed to be kept safe and dry.
View from inside Tintern Abbey
You can see the sun on the beautiful hillsides through the ruined window. There would have been some stunning stained glass in the church...

West window Tintern Abbey
It started getting dark around 3ish as the sun dropped behind the hills. This is a view of the reconstructed west window from inside the church.

River Wye near Tintern
We went for a quick walk up Offa's Dyke beside the River Wye as it the sun was setting. We were trying to find a place called The Devil's Pulpit but gave up after about an hour of slogging uphill through mud over boulders on a very rough track. It was amazing to be walking on such an old man-made structure, but we didn't want to be toddling about the woods in the dark! 
Houses on the River Wye
 If it looks cold, it's because it was! Rather chilly tromping about outside for several hours, but worth it for the gorgeous views. This is the other side of the bridge over the River Wye.

The Anchor Inn near the Abbey looked like it had a delicious dinner menu but I wolfed down some lovely carrot cake and a warming glass of mulled wine after our walk up the hill.
River Wye at dusk

The sun is just hitting the tops of the hills. So purty! I can see why this area has inspired artists for centuries.

So basically, if you haven't been to Tintern Abbey and you can make it - go! Especially go on a fine day in winter as it wasn't at all crowded. And plan for a meal at the Anchor Inn to complete a lovely day out.

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