We spent a weekend on the Welsh border, staying two nights in Ewyas Harold (pronounced "Yewass") in the Old Rectory B&B. This was a lovely house, very comfortably set up, with the only slightly disconcerting feature the ubiquitous hunting paraphernalia and paintings.
On the Saturday we visited Hay-on-Wye. This was a lot of fun — the guide lists 25 bookshops and we must have visited 15 of them — but I restrained myself and only bought one book (from Hay Castle Bookshop, from the King of Hay himself). And there were plenty of other shops, selling maps and prints, clothing, homewares, etc., from which Camilla bought a bit.
The weather was overcast and foggy, but the scenery was still nice. We drove to Hay up the Golden Valley, via Abbey Dore, and came back over the mountains, via Abergavenny.
On the Sunday we visited Blaenavon. The whole area here is World Heritage listed, representing the coal mines and ironworks of South Wales and Britain, which played a key role in the Industrial Revolution and were at the centre of mining communities for centuries.
We started at the visitors centre, which has a brief history of Blaenavon town and the World Heritage listing, then went to the Ironworks, which is the most intact site of its kind and also has some restored workers cottages.
The big attraction, however, is the Big Pit Coal Museum. Here we went on the fifty minute underground tour, which goes 120 metres down what was a functioning coal mine. This gives a much better feel for working underground than any description. There are a lot of buildings that can be visited, but the old baths contain a more traditional museum, with equipment, oral histories, photographs, and much more. There's also a gallery with quite realistic walk-in reconstructions of different kinds of mine faces, along with video commentary.
We didn't get to do any walking, opting for the museum because of the weather, but we came back with a packet of cards describing walks in South Wales and Brecon Beacons, and pamphlets describing the walks around Blaenavon. It did clear on the Sunday afternoon, however, and we had lovely light driving back to Oxford through the Forest of Dean.
The area definitely warrants another visit!