With many thanks and felicitations, the M25 was long behind us and we arrived at our lodgings on the A40 just after 2pm, some 3 hours later than originally planned. Undaunted, and with spirits high, we made our way to the ‘Spar’ to check-in s instructed, only to not locate said supermarket. It turns out that the Spar was incorporated with the petrol forecourt shop some time ago, and was now one and the same thing. After waiting patiently in the queue behind lorry drivers paying for their diesel, we filled out the forms, received the key to our room and made our way there directly. On entering, we were pleasantly surprised that a budget ‘motel’ was as pleasant as we found it. One thing I was a bit surprised about however, was the totally empty (aside from our transport) car park, there were only 2 rooms available when we booked it, and I was expecting it to be busy accordingly.
Having done a fair bit of travelling over the years, I just assumed that most of the rooms had been booked by Motorway maintenance, or construction tradies who’d be back later. I hadn’t considered that the bulk of the rooms were in fact occupied by reformed(ish) addicts, formerly homeless people and other such citizens down on their luck, with the bill kindly footed by Monmouthshire Council. Ensuring that the bikes were covered with a handy blanket in the back of the car was added to the to-do list just in case (despite the guys we spoke to being pleasant enough).
After a brew and a quick splash, we decided to explore locally as there wasn’t enough time to find the forest and hit the trails proper in what was left of the afternoon. Looking at the touristy pamphlets from the reception area, we discovered that there was a Castle down the road, which happened to be sort of on the way to the nearest town. One quick change, and a further wait for Tommy to have a quick crap, we had the bikes out of the car and we were off.
In keeping with our usual misdemeanours, we covered the 2 miles to the castle fairly rapidly, despite the somewhat interesting route choice of a gravel covered section of cabling running alongside the A40. After a short power climb, a quick downhill (wrong turn) and another short power climb, we found the castle exactly where it should be. We hadn’t however taken into account the fact that everything needed to be pre-booked because of Covid, nor had we done our homework properly as it was closed (what with it being Monday and everything). Deflated, but bolstered by our newly learned Welsh which we were both looking forward to using at the earliest opportunity a long arm over the fence and a quick view of the phone screen meant we could quite legitimately say that we’d seen Raglan Castle.
Feeling somewhat smug with our achievement, we had a quick conference and agreed that a drink was in order, so we headed into Raglan proper to see what the local pubs are like. Being mostly downhill from the castle was a bonus, the slightly complicated junction/road layout was less so. No idea how, but we entered Raglan from a completely different direction to the route I’d scoped out previously. Disorientated, I almost missed the pub, and had it not been for the Eagle Eye of Tommy, would have pedalled straight past it. As it turns out I could have easily missed Raglan itself, there’s really not a lot there (or if there is, we failed to find it, which is probably nearer the truth).
Having stowed our bikes, in the bike friendly car park and plonked our muddy arses down at one of the outside tables, I was delighted to discover that Guinness was not only on the menu, but also very very well served and after sampling several of rich creamy Iron we swiftly decided that we may as well stay for dinner without really thinking about what we were going to do for the 2 hours we had to kill before our table became ready at 6. Prudently, I ordered another Guinness while we pondered this miild conundrum, and then another as we’d failed to find a resolution. By the time I’d finished the last one, and Tommy drained his fizzy amber liquid, it had become a little chilly. On seeing this, our server invited us inside, where we were immediately found a table next to a warming open fire and furnished with another round of drinks and a menu.
Although the menu was limited in terms of available dishes, It was still a difficult choice of starter and main (required to take advantage of a meal deal rather than our desire to become fat bastards) soo I threw caution to the wind and went full on with the steak main, and whitebait starter, Tommy played it safe with a Pate starter and Fish and chip main. Outstanding choices for both of us, leading to food envy on both sides of the table. This single meal, ruined the plan of cycling to 2 other pubs for dinner as it was going to be rather difficult to beat.
Meal complete, and perhaps another Guinness later, it was time to try and make our way back to the lodgings. After a bit of fumbling with both lock and lights, we managed to wobble through the car-park but steadied up a bit as we hit our rhythm and left the Beaufort Raglan behind us for the evening. We actually made it back to the lodge in a pretty respectable time, stowed the bikes back in the car, and hit the room. Despite it being relatively early, the day’s adventure, Guinness and a huge meal took their toll and we were both asleep in fairly short shrift.