Caerleon Roman Ruins

by CameronM Mon, September 15 2003 05:56

A small section at the end of the Cardiff portion of the Lonely Planet guidebook mentioned the existence of Roman ruins in Caerleon, just north of Newport. With my trusty guidebook in hand, I was soon about to prove that no matter how recent the publication, nothing stays the same for long.

Leaving the Backpackers at 9am, I was too early for the local Tourist Information Centre (TIC), so I went to the bus station, where I was told by a ticket agent (for another company) that the next bus to Newport would depart at 9:45am and that I could pay the driver when boarding. The existence of bus 30, scheduled to arrive at 9:45am was also confirmed by numerous signs around the bus station. I patiently waited at the required stop, and waited, and waited while buses for all other destinations came and went. By 10:15 the mysterious number 30 hadn’t arrived so I decided I'd try the train station, which was located only a few short walk from the bus station. I was able to board a train within minutes and was soon on my way to Newport.

I had to triple check my watch when I wandered into the main street of Newport at 11am to find the place completely deserted. I know the guidebook said that Newport was short on loveliness, but I didn't know they also meant it was short of people too. I found the TIC, which the book said was open Sundays, to be well and truly closed. There goes getting any help on finding the right bus to Caerleon, I guess I'll be on my own. The book said to catch bus 7, but unfortunately bus 7 also does not run on Sunday so I tried to find the closest match, a task made harder since I didn't get the map I needed from the TIC (since as mentioned, it was also closed) and the bus station only offered a dismal map that meant nothing to a newbie like me.

After a few nail biting moments when I tried to comprehend the price for a day return ticket while also ascertaining what bus would actually go where I wanted, I hopped on the number 2E bus. I was over the moon when after only a short journey we arrived at Caerleon, a fact made obvious by the numerous signs to Roman this or Roman that in the immediate area.

A short walk from the bus stop and I was standing in front of the building housing the Roman Baths. The baths were excavated in the 1920's after being forgotten for 700 years. In fact most of the modern town of Caerleon sits on the remains of a Roman legionary settlement built in around 70AD.

Roman Baths in Caerleon - you can tell this was a bath because of the ripples!

Only a portion of the bath house, pool and exercise complex are visible within the building, I guess farmer Joe wasn't too happy about giving his farm up for the sake of history. While only the foundations remain, it was still interesting and the displays were also very informative.

A short walk from the baths is the excavated Roman amphitheatre which is a grassy arena and although it is now inhabited by kids in bikes rather than the Roman Legions, it remains an impressive structure. The amphitheatre is located just outside the fortress walls, which can still be seen running for several hundred meters.

Caerleon Roman Amphitheatre

 

Located near the Amphitheatre is Europe's only excavated Legionary barracks. The foundations of only one barracks have been left uncovered, with over 5000 men stationed at the Roman fortress and each barracks housing 100 men, they would have covered much of the current township.

Europe's only excavated Legionary barracks

 

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Taff Trail - Cardiff

by CameronM Sat, September 13 2003 05:14

I thought I'd really made a mistake by staying at the backpackers when last night revellers stayed downstairs partying until 2am. My room being directly above the bar I had absolutely no sleep and rose at 7am ready to kill anyone who mentioned what a great night it had been. After a breakfast of toast and coffee, I hired a bike from the hostel and headed south to check out Cardiff Bay, where they have spent a lot of money redeveloping the former port into a new commercial centre complete with restaurants and bars. At 9am nothing was open, but I was able to check out the foreshore and bay, which is now always at high tide thanks to the construction of a barrage that keeps the previous 12m tide outside the bay.

I returned to Cardiff and continued north along the Taff Trail - a 93km trail along the Taff river valley suitable for bikes and walkers. The trail heads towards Castell Coch, situated in the hills above Tingwynlais. Although it appeared impressive from afar, closer inspection revealed that the castle was quite small.

 Castell Coch, Cardiff

I continued along the trail until lunch time and stopped for what turned out to be the biggest hamburger ever (well close anyway). The lady at the pub where I stopped gave me a dirty look, I'm not sure if it was because I was covered in sweat, I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt or whether she just didn't like patrons (something a lot of shop/cafe/pub staff make no attempt to hide).

The scenery during the ride was for the most part very enjoyable, except for the few miles when it followed the rear of some rather dodgy housing areas or beside a roadway. The trail was clearly marked and mostly bitumen, with just the odd gravel sections. It was an enjoyable ride, but I was completely knackered when I returned to the hostel for a well earned shower and meal.

Some of the less inspiring vistas cycling the Taff Trail

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London - Cardiff

by CameronM Fri, September 12 2003 07:51

I had booked my ticket to Cardiff online and picked it up the day before at Victoria station, so all I needed to do today was finish packing my weekend gear into my backpack, store the rest at the hotel and make my way to Waterloo station. The train left on-time and it was a pleasant 3-hour trip through the countryside before arriving at Cardiff Central station.

The Backpackers was located only a short walk from the station, so soon I was joining the rest of the weary travellers, reading, watching TV or smoking in the lounge. I was surprised almost straight away at how little some backpackers actually do. I for one wanted to get out and explore, so I headed towards Cardiff Castle (Welsh: Castell Caerdydd) and wandered around the nearby park for almost an hour before heading back for a can of pasta and a shower.

As with St Paul's, workmen had disrupted my chances of a photo, with scaffolding around the front entrance of the castle. Interestingly the renovations are being funded by the Welsh lottery fund! What would we do without all the gamblers?

The Clock Tower begun in 1869

Castell Caerdydd

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