Discover CowbridgeIn many ways walking through Cowbridge is like walking back in time. Much of the town centre is arranged how it looked in medieval times with one long street running through the middle and plots coming off it. It is one of the only walled medieval towns in Wales with parts of the wall still visible even to this day.
In 1254 Cowbridge received its first borough charter from Richard de Clare, the incredibly wealthy then Lord of Glamorgan. History oozes out of this place. The town hall stretches all the way back to the reign of Elizabeth I and was a prison for criminals of the Vale and beyond until 1830 when it was converted to replace the Guild Hall.
It even boasts its own famous battle. In 1403 legendary Welshman Owain Glyndŵr led a combined force of French and Welsh soldiers against an army of Henry IV at the Battle of Stalling Down.
Beyond its rich history the town is like stepping back in time for other reasons. During a time when high streets are becoming more generic, Cowbridge still has a huge range of independent traders of which it is fiercely proud. At a time when many towns and villages close to the Welsh capital of Cardiff are becoming commuter towns, Cowbridge is a bubble. One person living and working in the town called it “a bubble where you feel safe”.
However this can be misleading. Yes the town is in many ways a throwback - a place which retains a sense of community, but this is not done by the businesses and people failing to change. On the contrary they have adapted and adjusted to survive in the modern world and through that have safeguarded their independence.
Throughout our Distinctive magazine we spoke to people living and working in Cowbridge, or to give it its Welsh name “Y Bont-faen” (the stone bridge). What we found was a group of people who were not only surviving in their town - but thriving.
Whether it be Wales’ first vineyard who had their crops ruined and turned it into a brandy or the illustrator whose picture books about a chicken have been converted into 13 languages, The Stone Bridge is a wonderful and inspirational little town. No better way is this illustrated than by the former pupils at the local school.
Oscar-winning actor Sir Anthony Hopkins, Frances Hoggan, the first female doctor to be registered in Wales and Welsh political journalist Patrick Hannan MBE were all educated in the town.
You can see why Cowbridge was named one of the best places to live in Wales.