History – Castles, Museums and Churches

Information on Castles in Wales can also be found in the Colins Wales Tourism Guide. 

  • Chepstow Castle: The first of the great castles built in Wales.  Impressive clifftop location on the River Wye. Worth a visit.  You get a good view of the castle from the nearby bridge over the River Wye .  Please see their website for admission charges and opening times.  (10  minutes drive)
  • Caldicot Castle and country Park.  The castle was founded by the Normans. Admission is free, except on event days when charges apply.   Castle entry is closed in winter, but the country park is open all year around. (15  minutes drive)
  • Raglan Castle  Raglan Castle dates from the 1430s, it was built for show rather than with battle in mind, enough remains to still impress.  Please see their website for admission charges and opening times.  You can combine this with a drive up the Wye Valley.  (35 mins drive)
  • Cardiff Castle In the heart of the capitol city.  (45 mins drive,  there is parking in the city centre or you can use the park and ride)
  • Castell Coch – means Red Castlin Welsh (North of Cardiff, 45 mins drive)
  • Caerphilly Castle is one of the great medieval castles of western Europe.  It is the largest in Britain after Windsor and it is the first truly concentric castle in BritainPlease see their website for admission charges and opening times.  (50 mins to an 1hr depending on traffic)
  • Tintern Abbey: Made famous by the romantic poets. Astonishingly beautiful ruin with access through CADW (the Welsh equivalent of English Heritage).  (5 miles away up the Wye Valley)
  • St Fagans: National Museum of Welsh Life in Cardiff.  An impressive collection of relocated and immaculately rebuilt structures from Welsh History.  For example, there is a  14th Century church, Welsh chapel, Victorian shop and school,  cock fighting ring, and a delightful row of miners’ cottages, each one decorated as if in a different decade, that allows you t see the changes over time.  A lovely afternoon out.   Free Entry!!  (40 mins drive, close to the M4).
  • Tredegar House: National Trust.  Grade 1 home of the Morgan family.  Beautiful 17th Century structure.  (25 minutes drive, off M4)
  • Caerleon: Roman Legionary Headquarters, museum, and amphitheatre.   Caerleon was the site of one of Britain’s three permanent Roman Legionary Fortresses and many believe it to be the location of King Arthur’s Camelot.  In 830 AD Nennius listed Cair Lion as one of Britain’s 33 cities. Nowadays it’s a thriving town where past and present combine to delight both visitors and residents. (11 miles)
  • Caerwent: Once the largest town in Wales, now the barely noticeable remains of a Roman city.  Worth a stop off on route to Newport or Cardiff.  (3 miles, on A48)
  • Chepstow is a medieval town, and worth wandering around.
  • Heston Brake: Nearby in Portskewett, on a little hillock stands the neolithic chambered tomb of Heston Brake, one of the oldest surviving monuments in the area.  It is not much to write home about, but if you are into atmosphere and want a sense of historical continuity this is as good a place to start as any.   (10 minutes)
  • This is an interesting article to read about a local archaeological dig .  Archaeologist defies sceptics in pursuit of lost city of Trellech – Article in The Guardian

Cathedrals, Abbeys and Churches

  • Gloucester
  • Bath (Bath Abbey boasts the last gasp of the Gothic with some truly spectacular fan vaulting)
  • Chippenham
  • Tewkesbury
  • Bristol

Local churches worth a visit

  • St Tewdrics Mathern: has a lot of associated history and a direct connection with Moynes Court (see Willam Ayot’s Contextual History in the white folder, when you visit the Gatehouse) (3 mins drive)
  • St Mary’s Priory Chepstow (impressive tympanum and romanesque architecture),
  • St Jerome’s Llangwm Uchaf (a rare local survival of a carved rood screen.  Look for the hidden green man carving).
  • St Mary Radcliffe Bristol (said to be the greatest, most beautiful parish church in Britain.  A matter of taste but very impressive).
  • Kilpeck church (famous sheela-na-gig, extraordinary corbell carvings on the exterior of this village church make it worth the trip).
  • Pennant Melangell: Hidden in a valley some way north of us is a restored shrine built to an early welsh saint (Melangell), who saved a hare from hunters by hiding it in her skirts.  The prince she defied gave the land to her and the valley became a sanctuary.  Today this beautiful little spot is well worth a trip on route to the north or mid wales.  The local name for the hares that still play in the valley are ‘Melangells’ lambs’  (3 hours +)

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