Photogenic Landscapes and Historic Sites in Monmouthshire




Skirrid Fawr Chepstow Castle Llanthony Priory Grosmont Castle
Monmouthshire is one of the 13 ancient counties of Wales, and currently comprises about two thirds of its original size, after the 1974 transfer of the western section to five new, much smaller boroughs. The modern boundary of the county, or unitary authority, extends from Caldicot along a short section of the Bristol Channel, then follows the River Wye northwards, at one point incorporating a small area on the east side of the river, before moving northwest, past Monmouth to and a little beyond Llanthony in the Black Mountains, this the northernmost point. The western boundary of the country runs generally a short distance beyond the River Usk, coming close to Newport before veering southeast towards Caldicot and Chepstow.

Most of the land is rural, a mix of agricultural fields, small hills and winding valleys, with the most scenic areas being the Wye Valley in the east and the mountains of the far west. Monmouthshire contains a small section of the east side of Brecon Beacons National Park (most of which is in neighbouring Powys), including most of the Vale of Ewyas, and the isolated peak of Skirrd Fawr. Adjacent English counties are Gloucestershire to the east and Herefordshire to the north.

The landscapes are pretty, but Monmouthshire is perhaps best known for historic buildings, in particular its castles. Of the original 20 or so, nine are largely complete; four are found in city centres while the reminder have picturesque, rural settings. The relative abundance of castles is a consequence of the strategically important location, close to the historic boundary between Wales and England, which used to be a little further west of the current border; most of the forts were built by the English. The best castles are Chepstow, Raglan and White. Other noted antiquities include Caerwent Roman Town, which features extensive city walls up to 20 feet high, dating from the third century, and the beautiful monastic remains of Tintern Abbey and Llanthony Priory.



Castles



Abergavenny Castle
Abergavenny Castle
Town centre ruin with a long and varied history; surviving components include two towers, a gatehouse and part of the curtain walls

Rating: ★★★★★
Caldicot Castle
Caldicot Castle
Large Norman fortification, once a ruin but mostly restored in the 19th century, in a parkland setting surrounded by lawns and woods

Rating: ★★★★
Chepstow Castle
Chepstow Castle
Large, well preserved and historically important Norman castle with a beautiful location overlooking the River Wye

Rating: ★★★★★
Grosmont Castle
Grosmont Castle
Compact, peaceful and picturesque castle near the River Monnow, surrounded by a dry moat

Rating: ★★★★
Monmouth Castle
Monmouth Castle
Small castle in the city centre, birthplace of Henry V; now consists only of a great hall and a great tower

Rating: ★★★★
Raglan Castle
Raglan Castle
Spectacular, late medieval castle in the Wye Valley, complete with water-filled moat. Largely abandoned since the Civil War

Rating: ★★★★★
Skenfrith Castle
Skenfrith Castle
Remains of a small 13th century castle, in rural surroundings overlooking the River Monnow: a circular keep, five towers and a curtain wall

Rating: ★★★★★
Usk Castle
Usk Castle
Ruins of a relatively small, privately-owned castle with pretty, wooded surroundings. The oldest sections are from the 12th century

Rating: ★★★★★
White Castle
White Castle
Norman castle with a large, walled outer court and a moated inner court, in a remote, rural setting

Rating: ★★★★

Roman Sites



Caerwent Roman Town
Caerwent Roman Town
Relics from the Roman settlement of Venta Silurum, including a temple, forum, basilica, houses, and city walls up to 17 feet high

Rating: ★★★★★

Landscapes



Brockwells Meadows
Brockwells Meadows Nature Reserve
Four farm fields containing a good range of calcareous grassland plants, plus a few notable insect species; in a shallow valley near Caldicot

Rating: ★★★★
Clydach Gorge
Clydach Gorge
Wooded valley containing a powerful river that forms several waterfalls and enclosed sections; also caves, old railway lines and industrial sites

Rating: ★★★★
Prisk Wood
Prisk Wood Nature Reserve
Ancient, atmospheric woodland on the steep slopes of the Wye Valley, crossed by small streams

Rating: ★★★★★
Skirrid Fawr
Skirrid Fawr
Eastern outlier of the Brecon Beacons, circled by a 3.5 mile loop trail; overlooks a large area of south Wales

Rating: ★★★★★
Springdale Farm
Springdale Farm Nature Reserve
Working farm with meadows, pasture, streams, boggy areas and ancient deciduous woodland

Rating: ★;★★★★

Ruined Abbeys

, and other religious buildings

Llanthony Priory
Llanthony Priory
Ruined Augustinian priory in a remote location within the Black Mountains; dark, aged masonry and soaring Gothic arches

Rating: ★★★★★
Runston Chapel
Runston Chapel
Roofless ruin of a small Norman chapel, in a rural location southwest of Chepstow

Rating: ★★★★
Tintern Abbey
Tintern Abbey
Substantial, beautiful ruined abbey on the floor of the Wye Valley, beneath steep, forested slopes; established in the 12th century

Rating: ★★★★★


Map of Featured Monmouthshire Locations