South East Wales

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If you're coming in from the West Country or the West Midlands, the south eastern part of Wales is likely to be the first part of Wales you are likely to see. There's every chance you'll approach the first county, Monmouthshire, via the M4 or M48 motorways, or by train via the Severn Tunnel or Chepstow.

Less than 50 years ago, the county of Monmouthshire was part of England before becoming part of Wales, absorbed into Gwent. Today, Monmouthshire's border with England is along the River Wye. 

On the banks of the river, on the Welsh side are Chepstow and the county town of Monmouth. Chepstow is known for its castle and Town Gate, which dates from the late 13th Century. Its castle is the oldest post-Roman stone castle in the UK. Other attractions in the town include a racecourse, whose Second World War function was RAF Chepstow.

Upstream is Monmouth. It is a small market town which also has a castle of similar origin to its southern neighbour. It is also the birthplace of Henry the Fifth of England. Today, it is also the headquarters and regimental museum of the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers. The oldest working theatre in Wales is situated here.

As the M4 and main railway line from London Paddington continues westward, one important stop is Newport. The city of Newport has nine bridges across the River Usk including the UK's second operational transporter bridge. Attractions include The Riverfront arts centre with two theatres and galleries. It is also a city passionate about sport, with the Rugby Union and Association Football sides sharing Rodney Parade football ground. Just outside the city centre is Celtic Manor, a golf resort and conference venue which has held the 2010 Ryder Cup competition.

Minutes away from Newport is the new town of Cwmbran. For exploring the Brecon Beacons, it is a good starting point. It also has frequent rail services to Cardiff, Newport and Manchester Piccadilly. Caerphilly, just off the M4, is famed for two things: its castle, and its cheese.

South of Cardiff is the seaside resort of Barry Island, and the town of Barry. Both places have featured in the BBC sitcom 'Gavin and Stacey'. At one time, it was a favoured destination for Cardiff holidaymakers. In later years, it was famed for Woodhams Yard, where a great number of British Railways steam locomotives were left for scrap. Today, two-thirds of the doomed locomotives joined the preservation movement, key to the success of Barry Tourist Railway. It runs parallel with the local service from Barry Island to Cardiff Central, up to Barry Docks.

Sports fanatics will be placated by the amount of golf courses. Followers of Rugby Union and Association Football too are suitably catered for, not only with Newport R.F.C. and Newport County F.C., but also Barry Town and Cwmbran Town at semi professional levels.

South East Wales is well connected by rail between Severn Tunnel Junction and Cardiff, with regular trains from Birmingham New Street, London Paddington, Portsmouth Harbour and Manchester Piccadilly railway stations. Local services from Cardff Central and Queen Street stations continue to Barry Island, Treherbert, Rhymney and Merthyr Tydfil. By road, it is connected to the national motorway network by means of the M4.

For a real change of venue, the south eastern part of Wales is a genuine alternative to the popular and often busy city centre conference venues. One that also happens to be convenient for most major centres throughout the UK.