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Wye Valley and Vale of Usk

River Usk by Barbara Ballard The Wye and Usk rivers meander through green valleys and rolling hillsides, dominating the landscape of this area. Whether touring by car or walking, scenic trails, charming towns and villages and historic sites are around every corner. The Wye Valley Walk is a waymarked walk along the spectacular gorge of the Wye as far as Monmouth in Wales.

Caerleon amphitheatre courtesy Visit Wales This area, on the border between England and Wales, was once fighting ground for Romans and Normans alike. The Welsh clashed with the English Marcher Lords over control of the land resulting in, possibly, more castles per square mile than anywhere else in Britain.

Caerleon Legion Museum by Philip Halling courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland Caerleon Castle was a Norman motte and bailey castle constructed circa 1085. A 13th century tower is all that remains of the castle. The area is considered one of the most significant Roman sites in Wales, and there is much of the Roman past to see here. Be sure to visit the Roman Legionary Museum, one of the National Museums of Wales, for all the details.

Usk village square by Barbara Ballard Usk Rural Life Museum by Barbara Ballard The town of Usk, situated on the river of the same name, is a pleasant place to stop. In addition to a number of 16th century buildings, the attractive town square has a Victorian clock set on a pillar. The ruins of a medieval castle overlook the town. A 12th century square stone keep, round tower and parts of a curtain wall survive. There is an interesting Rural Life Museum, chock full of domestic, agricultural and rural artefacts and vintage machinery, that details life in Monmouthshire between 1850 and the end of World War II.

Chepstow town gate by Eirian Evans courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland Chepstow castle by Barbara Ballard Chepstow is a historic walled town where Britain's first stone built castle is perched on the edge of a bluff above a loop in the River Wye. The town was named Striguil in Norman times, but became known as Chepstow from the old English "ceap stowe" meaning market place. A tariff was collected at the 16th century town gate on all cattle and goods that passed through. In later years Chepstow became a busy timber trading and shipbuilding port. The museum has displays on the industries and occupations of the town over the years. There's a scenic walk along the River Wye.

Tintern Abbey arches by Barbara Ballard North of Chepstow the wooded Wye Valley reaches from Tintern to Monmouth. Tintern Abbey, in a remote area of the Valley-now designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty-was founded by the Cistercians in 1131, the first Cistercian abbey in Wales. The abbey church, missing its roof and windows is well preserved otherwise (thanks to some help by the Duke of Beaufort in the 18th century), and its architectural splendour is still visible.

Tredegar House by Barbara Ballard Nearby Tredegar House, on the outskirts of Newport, a very busy full-of-traffic city, is a grand post Civil War house. The rich Morgan family were the owners, but future generations became impoverished, and the house passed into public ownership. Today its grounds are a public park. The interiors, open to viewing, are luxurious evocations of wealth with carvings, wood panelling and gilding.

Penhow Castle interior by Barbara Ballard Penhow Castle, covers 800 years of history, reflected in the variety of its rooms. It has evolved from its beginning as a stronghold for nearby Chepstow Castle’s knights to a lived-in home. It was the first home of the famous Seymour family, of which Jane is one of the better known members.

Monnow Bridge by Barbara Ballard Monmouth Castle by Richard Croft courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland Monmouth, an ancient market town, derives its name from the river Monnow. It is actually located on land between both the Wye and the Monnow rivers. The Normans used it as a religious, commercial and military site. The only castle remains are the great gatehouse built in the late 14th century. Henry V was born in the castle. However, there is a fine Renaissance home in the castle grounds. It contains a Regimental Museum with the castle's history. The town's medieval street plan is still in place, including the uniquely designed 13th century Monnow Bridge with its fortified gatehouse. At one time there were seven medieval churches in Monmouth.

Grosmont village street by Barbara Ballard Grosmont church and countryside by Barbara Ballard Grosmont is a charming hillside village with the ruins of one of the castles (the others being Skenfrith and White) that make up a well-known walk. It was built by the Normans to control the Herefordshire-Usk Valley routes. Grosmont's name comes from the French gros mont meaning big hill.

Grosmont castle by Barbara Ballard The castle remains sit on the edge of the village on an earthen hill. Originally the ground floor served as a basement, and the main rooms were on the first floor. Later a stone curtain, gatehouse and towers were added. Henry III stayed here in 1233. In the 14th century the castle was remodelled to suit a noble household. It was a favourite residence of the Earls of Lancaster. 800 Welshmen died here in battle in 1405 during Owain Glyndwr's rebellion.

Skenrith Castle by Barbara Ballard White castle by Andrew Lewis courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland Skenfrith was a timber and earth castle that was levelled and replace in the early 1200s by stone. The circular keep is the main feature. It stands at the centre of a ward that has round towers on each corner. White Castle is a pear-shaped, secluded, 12th century castle; originally named Llantilio Castle. It is thought to be work of Henry II. It was remodelled in the latter part of the 13th century, and its outer bailey defences are largely intact. The north side curtain wall connects six round towers, two of which form a gatehouse. A large walled inner ward with has towers and a wooden bridge leads over the water filled moat.

Llanthony Priory by Barbara Ballard Llanthony Priory arches  by Barbara Ballard The spectacular ruin of Llanthony Priory lies in the Black Mountains on the far eastern edge of the Park. A chapel dedicated to St. David was established here in the 6th century. The chapel ruins were discovered by William de Lacy, a 12th century Norman knight, who decided to renounce the world and build a new hermitage that evolved into the Augustinian priory we see today. Although mostly a ruin, eight surviving early English arches and superb stonework decorations grace the green hills.

Abergavenny Museum by Keremy Bolwell courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland Abergavenny Castle by Derek Harper courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland Abergavenny is full of historic, architectural, cultural and scenic interest. Many of the town's original buildings still exist. There are the remains of a motte and bailey Norman castle, the former seat of the lords of Abergavenny. A local museum is housed in its 19th century keep. St Mary's, formerly a priory church, was restored in the 19th century but still retains its 14-15th century choir stalls. The church has an extensive collection of effigies, considered some of the best in Britain. Three alabaster tombs are located in the Herbert Chapel. The 15th century figure of Jesse is extraordinary.

Raglan castle by Barbara Ballard Raglan castle interior wall by Barbara Ballard Raglan Castle's 15th century ruins rise above the Monmouth-Abergavenny road. This castle had two purposes—it was used for defence as well as for palatial living quarters. Luxury was an important consideration, and traces of decoration and fine stonework can be found in the extensive ruins. There is much to explore, including a striking great tower, a hall fireplace, inner courtyard, gatehouse, court, gallery, chapel, kitchen, keep and a moat walk.

Treetower Court ceiling by Barbara Ballard Treetower Keep by Barbara Ballard Treetower is the site of two separate buildings. One is a 13th century three storey round keep. The keep was added to a castle built in 1150 and served as a residence. The other building is an excellent example of a late medieval fortified house, Tretower Court. The house was built in more peaceful times in the 15th century and is much as it was then. Some rooms are displayed as they would have been at the time.

Wye Valley and Vale of Usk Attractions

For opening times and full details of attractions see the Attractions section of our website.

Abergavenny Museum, Gardens & Castle
Castle St, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire
Tel. 0 1873 854 282

Abergavenny Priory and Deer Park
Abergavenny, on the A40/465

Abergavenny Roman Fort
Abergavenny, on the A465/A40

Brynderwen Park and Garden
Just north of A40 at Llanarth, Monmouthshire

Caerleon Castle
Caerleon, on the B4236
Near Newport, Monmouthshire

Caerleon Roman Fortress and Baths
Caerleon, on B4236
Just northeast of Newport, Monmouthshire
Tel. 0 1633 422 518

Caerwent Castle
Caerwent; off A48 between Newport and Chepstow

Caldicot Castle and Country Park
Church Road, Caldicot, Monmouthshire
In landscaped parkland signposted from B4245
Tel. 0 1291 420 241; Fax. 0 1291 435 094
Web: Caldicot Castle and Country Park

Castle and Regimental Museum, The
The Castle, Monmouth, Gwent off the A40
Tel. 0 1600 772 175

Chapel House Garden
Monmouth, Monmouthshire; on A40

Chepstow Castle
Chepstow, Monmouthshire, on the A48
Tel. 0 1291 624 065

Chepstow Museum
Gwy House, Bridge St; on the A48
Chepstow, Monmouthshire
Tel. 0 1291 625 981

Chepstow Priory
Chepstow, on the A48
Tel. 0 1291 620 980

Dewstow Gardens and Grottos
Caerwent, Caldicot, Monmouthshire, NP26 5AH
Tel. 0 1291 430 444

Gaer Llwyd (Garnllwyd) prehistoric site
Minor road south of A48 from Bonvilston, Monmouthshire

Glanusk Park and Penmyarth
Llangattock; on the A4077
Near Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

Grey Hill stone circle
Minor road north of A48 from Caerwent, Monmouthshire

Grosmont Castle
Grosmont, on the B4347
For photos and more details see our article Three Castles Walk

Harold’s Standing Stones
Near Raglan and Trellech, Gwent

King’s Garden
Castle and Regimental Museum
Monmouth Castle, Monmouth, Monmouthsire
On the A40
Tel 0 1600 772 175

Kymin, The (historic building)
Near Monmouth, Monmouthshire
Off the A4133

Llandegfedd Reservoir
On minor roads off the A4042 east of Pontypool and south of the A472, Usk
Tel. 0 1291 673 722 (rangers from March-Oct); 01495 769 281 (rangers from Nov-Feb)

Llanmelin Wood Hillfort
From Cwm Farm near Great Llanmelin
Reached from A48 north of Caerwent

Llanthony Priory
Minor road off A465 from Llanvihangel Crucorney, Monmouthshire, in secluded Vale of Ewyas
For photos and more details see our article Llanthony Priory

Mathern Bishop’s Palace
Mathern, just south of Chepstow, Monmouthshire, off the M48

Monmouth Castle
Monmouth, off the A40

Monmouth Roman Fort
Monmouth, on the A40

Mounton House
Mathern, just south of Chepstow, Monmouthshire
Off the M48

Penhow Castle
Just off the A48 close to the Severn Bridge between Newport and Chepstow
Tel. 0 1633 400 800
For photos and more details see our article Penhow Castle

Plas Machynlleth
Machynlleth, (A499/487) Montgomeryshire, Powys

Raglan Castle
Off the A40 near Monmouth, Monmouthshire
Tel. 0291 690 228

Roman Legionary Museum
High Street, Caerleon, Monmouthshire
Off the M48
Tel. 0 1633 423 134; Fax. 0 1633 422 869

Skenfrith Castle
Skenfrith, on the B4521
On the Welsh side of the Monnow River
For photos and more details see our article Three Castles Walk

St Bartholomew Church
Old Llanover, Monmouthshire
On the River Usk, on the right of the A4042 from Pontypool to Abergavenny

St Bridget Church
Skenfrith, on the B4521

St Elli Church
Llanelli, near Gilwern, on the A4077

St Mary Church
Abergavenny, on the A40

St Mary the Virgin Church
Welsh Newton, on the A466

St Mary’s Priory Church
Monmouth, on the A40

St Mary’s Priory Church
Usk, Monmouthshire, on the A472

St Michael and All Angels
Llanvihangel Crucorney
On A465 north of Abergavenny

St Nicholas Church
Grosmont, Monmouthshire, on the B4347

St Peter's Church
Goetre (Goytre), off the A4042
From Pontypool to Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

St Peter's Church
Llanbedr, near Crickhowell, on the A40

St Telli Medieval Cell
Llanthetty, halfway between Taybon-on-Usk and Llangynidr on B4558

St Thomas the Martyr
Monmouth, on the A40

St Wonastow
Wonastow, on minor road off A40
South of Monmouth, Monmouthshire

Tintern Abbey
Four miles (6km) north of Chepstow Monmouthshire
Off the A466
Tel. 0291 689 251

Tredegar House and Park
2 miles south-west of Newport, Gwent
Off the M4
Tel. 0 633 815 880

Tretower Castle
Tretower, off the A479
Five miles northwest of Crickhowell
Tel. 0 1874 730 279

Tretower Court and Garden
Tretower village, off the A479
Five miles northwest of Crickhowell
Tel. 0 1874 730 279

Usk Castle
Overlooks town of Usk, Monmouthshire
On a lane along Raglan Rd; off the A472
Web: Usk Castle

Usk Priory
Usk, on the A472

Usk Roman fortress
Usk, on the A472

Usk Rural Life Museum
The Malt Barn, New Market St, Usk
On the A472
Tel. 0 1291 673 777

Valley Inheritance Museum, The
Park Buildings, Pontypool, Monmouthshire
On the A4042
Tel. 0 1495 752 036

Veddw House Garden
Devauden, Monmouthshire
Tel. 0 1291 650 836
Web: Veddw House Garden

White Castle
Seven miles east of Abergavenny, on low hill
One mile from Llantilio Crossenny, on the B4233
Tel. 0 1600 780 380
For photos and more details see our article Three Castles Walk

Wyndcliffe Court Gardens
St Arvans, 3 miles north of Chepstow, Monmouthshire on the A466
Tel. 0 1291 622 352

Photos courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
Caerleon legion museum by Philip Halling; Chepstow town gate by Eirian Evans; Monmouth castle by Richard Croft; White castle by Andrew Lewis; Abergavenny museum by Jeremy Bolwell; Abergavenny castle by Derek Harper

Photo of Caerleon amphitheatre courtesy of Visit Wales
Other photos by Barbara Ballard

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