An A-Z Journey Around Britain

34 Newport, Pembrokeshire

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The City of Newport is located in the South East of Wales. Newport in Pembrokeshire is a one street town and has a smaller castle than big Newport but it is important. The coastal scenery is great, and the town is close to the Preseli Hills. There is a connection to the King of Rock and Roll. The name Preseli inspired the Mississippi variation, and Elvis is derived from the Welsh name Elwiss. No wonder he was polite to Tom Jones.

My Elvis CD collection and the prospect of a worthwhile stroll obliged me to walk the Preseli Hills and climb Carn Ingli. I thought about Welsh history, the importance of roots and Elvis.

The hills are packed with ancient monuments. First prize goes to the 5500 years old Stonehenge lookalike Pentre Ifan. On rain free days the coastal views are distinguished by an unforgettable blue sea. The National Geographic magazine voted Pembrokeshire the second best coastal destination in the world and the 186 mile Pembrokeshire Coastal Path second in the top ten coastal paths.

Newport is situated between Fishguard and Cardigan. Fishguard can be seen from the coastal range above Newport. Moby Dick was part filmed at Fishguard. The director John Huston was guilty of boorish browbeating, and maybe between takes Gregory Peck was tempted to walk the coast and hills for relief.

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Fishguard just about passes the tourist test in the day. Though urban it has the usual trendy cafes and there are some neat streets.   But at night alienated and glum British youth appears. A visitor notices that neglect and indifference are as harshly felt in scenic areas as elsewhere. Pembrokeshire has beaches and heart stopping bays but none of them persuade the unemployed teenager that his life will be pleasant, especially if he is convinced he has to become rich to be worthwhile. Elvis has to take some responsibility. Presley rock and roll and what followed has prevailed over the Preseli hills and coastal walks. Maybe this is fancy, and instead the area has somehow always produced independent truculence. In 1797 Fishguard woman Jemima Nicholas, armed with only a pitchfork, captured twelve French soldiers.  The twelve men had been drinking but no one invaded Britain after Jemima. Teenagers keen to rankle should be wary of touching her gravestone in the local church. Cerys Mathews, who was in the band Catatonia, was from Cardiff but educated at Fishguard Comprehensive.

Newport, though, is friendly. It has decent pubs that serve real ale and good food. The three art galleries are all worth a visit. Alice Tennant paints bright landscapes that are original, quirky and distinctive. She does have a fabulous blue Irish Sea for inspiration. Anybody who visits Newport should spend the day walking the coastal path and discovering quiet and beautiful bays. But the town of Newport has a Norman Castle that occupies a flattering perch over the town. A visit can be incorporated into a pleasant walk. The last time I visited the town I met people aggrieved about a statutory cull of badgers.

Elvis, Catatonia, one woman and a pitchfork, badgers and the Preseli Hills, it is complicated.

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Next week, down to earth, Nottingham

 Howard Jackson has had four books published by Red Rattle Books. His 11,000 mile journey around Brazil is described in Innocent Mosquitoes. His latest book and compilation of horror stories is called Nightmares Ahead. Published by Red Rattle Books and praised by critics, it is available here.

If you want to read more about his travels click here.

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