My husband and I are looking for a couple of pretty villages in the southeastern part of Wales that will give us an idea of what the country is all about. We like to walk and would enjoy a little history, good places to eat, drink and stay. Any suggestions?
Part of SE Wales is covered by the former coal mining area - hence - it has some really horrible villages & towns. (This area is roughly north of the M4 & south of the A465 and west of Pontypool. Avoid this area - apart from driving through on an expressway, and you will find some wonderful country with scattered villages).
If you want to find a really small village in lush countryside that is away from the tourist hoards, I suggest Skenfith - though, to be honest, it is more like a hamlet than a village.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skenfrith
Skenfrith has some expensive accommodation at ‘The Bell’http://www.skenfrith.co.uk
If you do visit, you might find White Castle down a nearby back road. The odds are that you would be the only visitors as even the Brit’s don’t know about it!
This is the official website covering the very SE part of Wales:>http://www.visitwales.com/explore/south-wales/wye-valley-vale-usk
Tintern has the famous ruins of an Abbey and although a village, does lie on an ‘A’ road (A466).
Usk has a reaonably attractive village square but most of the main street has too much traffic.
Apart from the Wye Valley between Chepstow and Monmouth, the Use valley between Abergavenny and Brecon has very attractive scenery - route A40. You then enter the Brecon Beacons National Park.http://www.breconbeacons.org
If you want top of the range accommodation in this area consider:>http://www.gliffaeshotel.com
Airbnb search places such as Crickhowell or Brecon should bring up smaller places.
Going just west of Cardiff, we have the attractive Vale of Glamorgan and the small town of Cowbridge could well be what you are looking for. Click the video:>http://cowbridgeguide.co.uk
It is only a 15 minute drive down to the coast - which is mainly cliffs and rocky beaches though Southerndown is sandy and Llantwit Major has some sand. Monknash beach - reached via a wooded combe, has an extensive near empty sandy beach (except at high tide) about a 7 minute walk w of the rocky bit. Frequent buses go into Cardiff - or you could drive. If in the Vale of Glamorgan, be sure to visit Dyffryn Gardens. St.Fagans Castle & Museum of Welsh Life - just W of Cardiff - deserves around half a day. http://www.visitcardiff.com
The previous response sounds most excellent. Chepstow to Monmouth is great. Chepstow has a nice castle. Tintern has the abbey ruins, across the Wye River from a bit north of Tintern is St. Briavels which has a classic small castle used by King John as hunting base and now used as a youth hostel so it can be viewed. With a nice pub next door offering meals, a small grocery, and a quiet church across the street the old town is lovely. Offa's Dyke passes along this side of the river. Monmouth has a great 'chained library', a mappa mundi, and an early Magna Charta along with some other historic books. In case you need them, Monmouth's crematorium is next to the city water works...hmmm.
Not far from Monmouth is Hay-on-Wye...the used book store capital. And between Hay-on-Wye and Monmouth is the Golden Valley, a nice drive.
We booked a really, really nice flat 6 or 7 miles out of Tintern, north along the Wye. Not far from a Micheline restaurant. It was thru Airbnb.
Look into Crickhowell and Brecon in the Brecon Beacons. Beautiful scenery and lots of great walking. At night -- pubs! We stayed in Crickhowell and enjoyed it. Day tripped to Brecon and thought it looked great - a bit larger with more to do.
Although I agree with the recommendations on visiting the valley of the River Wye, I should point out that the Mappa Mundi and chained library are in Hereford Cathedral not Monmouth. This is, however, an area of great beauty, like all the borderlands between England and Wales. You will encounter fewere tourists than in the over-visted Cotswolds.
Look at "Escape to the Country" on Netflex or BBC America...it has some really good Welsh episodes.