Is know which Newport you are going to.
Newport is the name Wales liked so much they had to have it twice. So you’ve got Newport on the River Usk just a hop, skip and a jump from the capital of Cardiff. And then there’s another but completely different Newport over on the Pembrokeshire coast. They are 107 miles apart and, from what I gather, quite different places in character as well as geography.
What happened was this: we booked our first Airbnb experience ( was brilliant, would love you to go and read about it) and decided to travel to the area based solely on the fact that we wanted to stay in that accommodation. What we might find and do there was secondary. So when we briefly looked up ‘Newport ,Wales’ we looked at the wrong one. Which meant we weren’t going to see the things we thought we might, but we were still going. I mean, there’s something to see everywhere, right? All the places are interesting.
The Newport of Pembrokeshire promised antiques, museums and coastal walks. The Newport we were actually going to promised… well, we weren’t really sure. A quick google told me Newport had been home to a historic armed protest, produced Goldy Lookin Chain and suffered an outbreak of rabies in the 1920s. That kind of rough-around-the edges pedigree is good enough for me. We decided to wing it and see what it threw at us. It paid off, we discovered streets of surprises and an absolute gem of engineering. If you’d told younger me I’d one day get excited by engineering sorts of things, I wouldn’t have believed you. And yet here we are…
Newport Transporter Bridge. Industrial, stark, beautiful in it’s own way. I think so, anyway. And a bit of a rarity, being one of just six operational in the world. That statistic makes it something special, yet before I visited Newport and experienced a bit of the local pride in their bridge I’d never heard of it. And had only a vague idea of what a transporter bridge was.
The transporter bridge is made up of a high level frame from which is suspended a gondola that moves from one side to the other by means of a couple of motors and a hauling cable. It creates a flying ferry service that operates over the river, as opposed to the traditional variety that would sail upon it. No need to tunnel, no obstruction to other ships using the waterways and and effective means to get from A to B. Clever stuff.
The Newport transporter bridge was opened in 1906 to connect the work force based to the west of the river with the industry that was booming to the east. At the time it was an economical solution to a practical problem. The bridge cost £98,000 to build, but given that it’s still getting people and vehicles from one side of the river to another I’d say it’s given a pretty good value for money.
Unfortunately at the time of our visit we could only admire the bridge and its workings from the river bank as it was… I think you know what’s coming… closed due to Covid. I’m hoping the days of Covid closures are behind us, and if/when we head back that way I’d love to make a crossing on this funny old flying ferry. And if I’m feeling energetic, I’d also fancy tackling the 270 steps up to the top level for what has to be some amazing views up and down the river.
I was looking at this picture I snapped of the steps up to the top and it looks a fair old climb. And what goes up must come down. Do you know what would be really amazing ,though. A slide from the top back down to the river bank. Can you imagine how much fun that would be?
Newport Transporter Bridge, feel free to use that idea. You’re welcome.
If the bridge is a relic of the city’s industrial past, the city centre streets are a monument to where the money being made was going. The older streets in the city centre are beautiful. If there’s a second rule to exploring this place, it’s to look up. Honey coloured stone, wrought iron, ornate carvings. If you look past the high street shops at eye level, there’s some gorgeous architecture. I don’t know what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it.
Parts of Newport actually reminded me of some of my favourite German cities like Dortmund and Hannover. The industrial past, the older parts of the city sitting alongside new developments. The bonus in Newport is the building you are admiring are likely to be genuinely old whereas in Germany , with whole cities wiped out by bombing, you’d usually be looking at a clever reconstruction.
I didn’t get as many pictures as I would have liked of the ornate facades and I think we missed some of the city sights. I was just enjoying some time with the family, plus a couple of hours round the shops with the Teenagers wiped me out. I’ll say this though: I liked the place a lot, enough to consider a return visit to pick up the things we we missed. This Newport doesn’t have a reputation as a destination, but I’d recommend it. Food, drink, shopping, history, gorgeous buildings and a rare breed bridge…what’s not to like?
As for that other Newport, it’s on the list. We’ll get there…eventually.
If you liked this post you might also enjoy reading about our unusual Newport accommodation.