The county borough of Torfaen lies within the historic boundaries of Monmouthshire in the south of Wales. The north of the county in particular, features wonderful green countryside and, although only a small region, Torfaen offers a huge choice of places to visit, both in and around its three largest towns, Cwmbran, Pontypool and Blaenavon. Situated in the heart of the county, Pontypool has a historic park, a dry ski slope and a shell grotto. This truly amazing spectacle was originally built as a summerhouse for the Hanbury family, with the bones and teeth of animals set in arcs, circles, stars, hearts and diamonds in the floor. Whilst the walls are mainly of bare stone and calcite crystals, the fan-vaulted ceiling is encrusted with thousands of shells, minerals and real stalactites from local caves. Cwmbran, on the other hand, is most famous for its claim as the largest undercover shopping center in Wales. The center includes many familiar high-street stores and the town offers further opportunities for shopping, as well as restaurants and pubs. Blaenavon was awarded World Heritage Status in the year 2000 and is best known for being a book town, with a wonderful selection of second-hand books shops, as well as gift shops and cafés.
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