From Monmouth on the banks of the River Wye, trace the Wye Valley to Tintern Abbey and historic Chepstow.
The county town is rich in history with an unusual fortified gateway on the Monnow Bridge and winding streets filled with old buildings. The Shire Hall completed in 1724 was the setting for the Chartists Trials of 1840. There are remnants of a once great castle destroyed by the Parliamentarian forces at the end of the English Civil War.
Tintern was only the second Cistercian foundation in Britain, and the first in Wales. Although building started in 1131 most of the current skeleton ruins date from the late 13th century. Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries saw it fall into disrepair. Framed by rolling green hills on all sides, Tintern’s setting and size makes it a great place to visit.
Chepstow Castle, on cliffs above the Wye looking down on its 1816 road bridge, is often cited as the oldest surviving stone castle in Britain. Established at the lowest bridging point on the Wye by the Normans it has remains of a Benedictine priory, established within the walled town and has many narrow streets to explore. Chepstow racecourse hosts the Welsh National.
Veddw House Garden
Alan Titchmarsh described this garden as quirky, fun and inspiring. A visit to see its hedge garden and borders filled with a range of plants that, as well as those found in conventional borders, include some plants traditional gardeners may describe as wildflowers or even weeds is an experience that will challenge and also give loads of new ideas for your own garden.
The Castle sits majestically in tranquil gardens and a wooded country park. Founded by the Normans with the original motte being gradually replaced by what is now a largely 14th century castle. It was developed as a major stronghold in the Middle Ages and restored as a Victorian family home.
The garden originally created in 1863, and rediscovered in 2000, showcases the Victorian passion for rockeries, ferns and plants from around the world. The gardens feature many ponds and rills but interestingly a labyrinth of underground grottoes, tunnels and sunken ferneries. The rock gardens are made up of a mixture of real stone and faced stone.
At the mouth of the river Usk the tower skyline is dominated by the Transporter Bridge. Nearby castle ruins include Newport Castle itself, Pencoed Castle a ruined Tudor mansion, largely dating from the 16th century and Penhow Castle a fortified manor house. The town’s Belle Vue Gardens have benefitted from a major renovation project. £ 1.5m of heritage lottery money went towards restoring its former glory.
Usk sits on one of the finest salmon fishing rivers in the country, the River Usk, which is spanned by an arched stone bridge at the western entrance to the town. The 11th century castle overlooks the ancient crossing point and is the backdrop for the towns history of success in Britain in Bloom competitions.
Raglan Castle begun in 1430 was built for show rather than with battle in mind, it still held off parliamentarian forces for thirteen weeks in one of the last sieges of the Civil War. The castle was eventually taken and was systematically destroyed by parliament. Enough remains to still impress. The oriel window, a bay to end all bay windows, is one of Raglan’s defining features.