Monmouth had been recommended to us as a place to go in South Wales by a friend who knew about our weakness for visiting towns and charity shops.
Traveling across South Wales is not like traveling across a city or between urban conurbations where the roads are straightforward and speedy. The 33 mile drive took over an hour from Hay-on-Wye to Monmouth which I couldn’t believe. This was not helped by Neil as he’s not a fan of winding roads, so I had to take them at sane speeds to avoid that inevitable phrase “Are we there yet? I feel sick”. All the same it was a pretty drive and we took a route along the B4348, A465 and A466.
We parked up in a car park behind the main shops in the town centre. It was a very busy car park and people were hovering like vultures trying to nab a spot. We were very lucky to get a parking spot quickly and paid £1.50 for 3 hours.
Monmouth is a busy town and I’ve never seen so much traffic pass through one place. How people cross the main street without getting hit by a car on a daily basis is a miracle. This posed problems for me as I wanted to take photos of the buildings and kept getting random trucks and cars in shot. The street was busy too, with old people, families and tourists. I was genuinely surprised how popular this place seemed to be. Given the amount of pubs and places to eat it seems to be a popular destination for tourists. Behind the main shops I did spot a gardening shop-cum-café called the Potting Shed. It was a nice little quiet spot where you could enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of cake away from the hubbub of the town.
Architecturally, Monmouth is a rather pretty mix of rendered buildings which have evolved over the centuries. The baroque 18th century ShireHall is certainly the star of the town, with its perfectly symmetrical frontage looking grand and refined overlooking Agincourt Square – it’s clearly well maintained by the local council. On the edge of town is the Monnow Bridge which is the oldest surviving medieval bridge with a gate house in the UK. It’s certainly worth a look and makes a good photo opportunity as well as a chance to feed the local ducks who live underneath it.
We were here for charity shops, and Monmouth did not disappoint. Neil found a couple of CDs but managed to get stuck in Mind behind a mum and her screaming child. The child wasn’t impressed with the shop as she thought it was “smelly”. It wasn’t by the way, she was just tired and grumpy. I did have a charity shop regret here as I found a pottery goblet but didn’t buy it. As we walked around, I was bugged that I didn’t pick it up, so I went back only to find it had been sold already. Damn – I never learn!
I was impressed that Monmouth had a few craft shops and I spent some time browsing the fabrics. In one shop the assistant was upcycling a chair with vivid red chalk paint as it was a bit of a slow day. Needless to say I ended up buying more fabric for my stash.
Neil grabbed a bite to eat and had an uninspiring pasty, whereas I went to Caffe Nero and got a nice latte. It amused me to hear the staff discussing how well other chains had done over the weekend. It’s funny to see the competitiveness in the coffee trade.
All in all, Monmouth was definitely a successful trip for us – pretty, pleasant and some decent charity shops. The only downside was the traffic and I was certainly happy not to get run over – something from past experience I wouldn’t recommend. This is the kind of place you could easily spend a night or two in if you fancied a short break in this part of the world.
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