Goldie Lookin Chain's guide to Newport
There's a definite vibe about Newport. It's noticeably different to everywhere else in Wales. It's difficult to put your finger on how and why. I guess there's the geography of the place. It's the first city you encounter when you cross the Severn Bridge from England and places near the border between two countries tend to be a bit different, don't they.
Newport Castle, Wye Valley and the Vale of Usk
One of the things I always tell people to do when they visit Newport is look up. You quickly get to understand the place better when you realise the amazing range of architecture in the city centre. The ruins of Newport Castle right in the heart of the city go back to the 15th century. It's right on the edge of a very busy road, but there's a pedestrian walkway there so you can have a look around.
There's a great pub, Ye Olde Murenger House, which is one of the oldest buildings in Newport. There's a room upstairs with murals dating back to around 1500 and it's supposed to be haunted too, so I'd definitely stick that on your itinerary.
Ye Olde Murenger House pub, Newport
The Civic Centre is an amazing art deco-style building. The clock tower wasn't built until the 1960s. They had a vote to decide whether it was worth spending the public money to do it and the vote was 40-1 against, but they did it anyway. Just as well, I reckon. There's a collection of 12 murals by a German artist called Hans Feibusch on the base of the tower.
Tell you one of the things that'll help you get a feel for the city is the Newport Explorer. Basically, when you see a Newport Explorer sign you can use your smart phone to get loads of information about the place. It's modern.
The Newport Transporter Bridge is one of the city's most famous landmarks. There are only six working bridges like it in the world. It's basically a ferry in the sky and it saved people a four-mile walk to work when it opened in the early 1900s, which was very handy.
Newport Wetlands RSPB Reserve, Vale of Usk
Adam Hussein, who's one of my partners in crime in Goldie Lookin Chain says that his dad and his mates used to hang on the bottom of the transporter as it travelled across the river, then they'd let go and swim back to the river bank. That's crazy because the tides there are so strong. So whatever you do when you visit Newport, take my advice, a trip on the Transporter is well worth it, but don't go hanging off the bottom of it.
I'd also recommend a visit to the RSPB Newport Wetlands Reserve for a nice walk or cycle, with otters, dragonflies and butterflies as well as Egrets, Shoevelers, Dunlins and other birds. If you're a twitcher, this is a must. Get involved, stay involved.
Tredegar House is another place that's definitely worth a nose around. It was built in the late 17th-century in about 100 acres of grounds. They have a lot of events there, so it's worth checking out what's on.
Tredegar House, Newport
As far as food and drink in Newport goes, there's something to cater for everyone. A few personal highlights include Ye Olde Murenger House, which I mentioned earlier and Bailey's Real Ale in Bailey Street, which was done out in 1986 and no one has touched it ever since. It's like a museum of beer. The Secret Garden café is highly recommended. It's run by a bloke called Phil, who looks like a 50s greaser. He does a really good sandwich. The Mahin Spice in Stow Hill do a garlic chilli chicken tikka massalla. They'll cook it in front of you and it'll blow your head off. It's brilliant.
Two places worth visiting outside the city are Caerleon and The Celtic Manor Resort.
Caerleon was one of the most important strongholds of the Roman Empire. You can find out all about it at the Museum. Caerleon is a cool place to visit, it's a gateway to some pretty dramatic countryside.
National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon by National Museum Wales
The Celtic Manor is a huge hotel overlooking the city. It's where The Ryder Cup golf was played in 2010, which is one of the biggest sports events in the world. There are three golf courses there and loads of nice places to eat and relax. They've got escalators that seem to last forever - it's like the future.