THE THREE CASTLES:
GROSMONT CASTLE – in the village.
SKENFRITH CASTLE – 5.3 miles, 12 mins. NP7 8UH.
WHITE CASTLE – 6.7 miles, 20 mins. NP7 8UD.
The Three Castles stand in the open countryside of Monmouthshire where the valleyof the river Monnow creates a gap in the natural defences of the southern Welsh border. They were first raised as earth and timber castles, perhaps during the earliest Norman advance into the area by William fitz Osbern (d.1071), earl of Hereford. King Stephen (1135 – 54) united the strongholds in the single territorial lordship of the Three Castles in about 1138.
The transformation of the Three Castles into masonry fortresses began in the late 12th century, when White Castle’s inner ward defences were replaced in stone. Grosmont and Skenfrith retain their wooden fortifications until the early decades of the 13th century, when Hubert de Burgh (d.1243) held the lordship of the Three Castles. The castles were modified as they changed owners over the centuries, and while they briefly resumed a military role in 1404-05, during the revolt of Owain Glyndwr, the Three Castles where disused and abandoned by 1538. Free.
ABERGAVENNY CASTLE – 12.4 miles, 20 mins. NP7 5EE.
Abergavenny castle (1087) is one of the best examples of a motte and bailey castle in Britain. With a restored keep set on top of a man made mound, there are also enough walls remaining to show that this must have been an impressive castle when in full repair. The castle meadows, stretching out alongside the River Usk provide a picturesque scene at all times of the year, and the brick path makes for an idyllic walk. Free. More..
RAGLAN CASTLE – 21 miles, 25 mins. NP15 2BT.
Raglan is without doubt one of the finest and most enjoyable medieval castles to visit in Wales. Traditional home of the Somersets, Earls of Worcester, Raglan was one of the very last castles built in Britain, begun in 1435 by William ap Thomas. It is part castle, part palace, with far more attention to comfort than earlier castles. However, it was certainly built for defence as well, for it took one of the longest sieges of the Civil War to subdue it. Cromwell’s engineers did their best to destroy the massive Great Tower, but failed.
CHEPSTOW CASTLE – 34 miles, 50mins. NP16 5EY.
Chepstow Castle, in a spectacular setting on top of cliffs overlooking the River Wye, is the oldest surviving stone fortification in Britain. It was built under the instruction of the Norman Lord William Fitzosbern, soon made Earl of Hereford, from 1067, and was the southernmost of a chain of castles built along the English-Welsh border in the Welsh Marches. Over the centuries it has played an important part in the life of the market town that grew up outside the castle gates. Alterations to the castle over time reflect changes in weapons and warfare, and it is possible to identify the major phases of building with certain powerful owners.
TRETOWER COURT AND CASTLE (near Crickhowell) – 21 miles, 35 mins. NP8 1RD.
Against the backdrop of the Brecon Beacons stands a stark round tower, clearly a military fortification of great antiquity. Its companion piece, in contrast, is a handsome stone manor house. Oldest Tretower is a substantial 13th century stone keep built on the remnants of an earlier Norman earthwork castle. By the more settled 14th century, the castle’s tretower-castleinhabitants felt secure enough to build a spacious new court, a fine example of a grand late-medieval country residence.