Welsh Dragon

Geography: Towns and villages in Monmouthshire

Abergavenny: One of the traditional entry points into Wales from the English border stands in the shadow of the Sugar Loaf, Skirrid Fawr and Blorenge mountains. In addition to exploring the many historic buildings and the museum, visitors can also enjoy a range of shopping experiences, including farmers markets, antiques and craft fairs.

Caerwent: Located close to Wentwood Forest, its size today belies its significant past. 2,000 years ago it was an important meeting place of Roman and native influence. The Romans established a market town for the Silures, a local Celtic tribe, and called it Venta Silurum. The Roman town walls still stand in places and are some of the best preserved in Britain. After the fall of the Roman Empire, life centred on a Celtic monastery founded by St. Tathan - now called St. Stephen's church, which has a chancel built of Roman material and a Roman mosaic floor.

Caldicot: Lying on the fringe of the Gwent Levels - the most extensive ancient fenland in Wales and a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).Caldicot is mentioned in the Doomsday Book in the 11th century and excavations have unearthed Bronze Age remains. The town is probably best known for its castle - restored by Joseph Cobb, a Victorian barrister, as well as its male voice choir - which has performed overseas.

Chepstow: A compact and busy border market town, and the ancient gateway to Wales, Chepstow hovers on the brink of England, separated only by the River Wye. Its name is taken from the Old English 'chepe stow', meaning market place and its geographical position was exploited by the Normans - who built Chepstow Castle. Shipbuilding, fishing and the wine trade are important to Chepstow's history and ships were built in Chepstow as recently as the 1920s - with a revival during the Second World War. The main shopping streets slope towards a riverside walk that provides views of the famous Isambard Kingdom Brunel's tubular suspension railway bridge of 1852. Chepstow is located at the southern end of Offa's Dyke Path, a 168-mile borderland walk and is the starting (or finishing) point for the Wye Valley Walk from Chepstow to Hereford. Chepstow is the start of two National Cycle Network routes – the Celtic Trail heading west across the Newport Transporter Bridge and Lon Las Cymru heading north to Snowdonia.

Cwmyoy: Home to a local version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, in the form of Cwmyoy Church, whose leaning tower and walls are victims of subsidence.

Grosmont: The peacefulness of Grosmont belies its past. A border village, set in the countryside, near the river Monnow and the Herefordshire border, its castle was built to command the border during the troubled medieval period and its name is derived from the French grosmont, meaning 'big hill'. The size of the church in relation to the size of the community in Grosmont reflects the fact that the village possessed a castle. Old-fashioned lanterns still light the streets and help preserve the village's special character.

Llanover: A dispersed settlement, with the old village and parish church running alongside the River Usk. Llanover Fawr consists of the old parishes of: Llanover; Llandewi Rhydderch; Llangattock-nigh-Usk; Llanvihangel-nigh-Usk; Llansantffraed and Llanvair Kilgeddin - which are divided into upper and lower Llanover. There were originally seven pubs on the Llanover estate, but - as a teetotaller - Lady Llanover turned them into houses or coffee taverns. The only pub to escape was the Goose and Cuckoo in upper Llanover.

Llanthony: will 'scream' solitude to your visitors, as alongside the ruins of the Priory, little of the surrounding countryside has changed. The Priory's car park is a good starting point for walks along the borderland Offa's Dyke Path. To the north, the road passes Capel-y-ffin and Llanthony Monastery, before reaching the Gospel Pass - over which Wordsworth is said to have passed on his travels in Monmouthshire and the Wye Valley. Llanthony is also surrounded by some of the best pony trekking in the county.

Llantilio Crossenny: Stands deep in rolling border country, but its’ peaceful fields and farmlands were strategically important in medieval times - as illustrated by the positioning of White Castle - one of the so-called 'Three Castles'.

Monmouth: A prosperous market town exuding history. Agincourt Square is a good starting point for visitors. It is dominated by the 18th century Shire Hall and statues of two of Monmouth's famous sons - Henry V and Charles Rolls - and is home to the Nelson Museum. As well as the ruins of Monmouth Castle and the famous Monnow Bridge, there is a wealth of Georgian architecture and a Regimental Museum. Being located at the juncture of three rivers - the Wye, Monnow and Trothy - Monmouth is also noted for its fishing. The Kymin, an 840-foot hill overlooking the town, is crowned by the Round House, an 18th century pavilion and a Naval Temple, commemorating Britain's maritime victories.

Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal: The Canal meanders some 35 miles south from the ancient market town of Brecon to the top of the Five Locks in Cwmbran. A testament to the Industrial Revolution and the engineering skills of Thomas Dadford Jnr - one of Britain's most successful canal builders, the Canal, which opened in 1812 and once transported iron, coal and limestone, now offers a variety of leisure pursuits, such as: walking; fishing; canoeing and boating. Goytre Wharf, near Llanover, is an 8-acre canal-side area with a Heritage, Activity and Study centre offering a range of activities for all ages. The canal has many preserved features, such as: original warehouses, a tunnel, numbered hump-back stone bridges, wooden lift bridges and aqueduct - all of which indicate the important industrial history of canal.

Raglan: A historic village of shops and inns, with a population of about 2,000 people. Nearby is Raglan Castle, now under the stewardship of CADW.

Skenfrith: Set on the banks of the River Monnow, Skenfrith can be found deep in Monmouthshire - an ideal place for visitors to explore the castle, old church and surrounding countryside. The church at Skenfrith is characterised by its tower and wooden belfry. Inside are a magnificent medieval cope and Jacobean box pew. Skenfrith also boasts the renowned Bell Inn. Alongside the river is a mill building with a working water wheel.

Tintern: Deep in the Wye Valley, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is the picturesque village of Tintern, which has attracted visitors since the 18th century, when 2-day trips were organised for wealthy tourists on the infamous Grand Tours. Tintern has a number of attractions of interest to visitors, including: antique shops, craft outlets and second hand bookstores. Abbey Mill, one of the craft centres, is the original mill site of Tintern Abbey and the vineyard at Tintern Parva is also said to have abbey associations. The wooded hillsides above Tintern and the Wye saw much industrial activity in the 17th and 18th centuries and reminders can be found in many of the side valleys, such as Angidy Valley. There are numerous footpaths through the surrounding forests - the best starting point for these is the Old Station, near Tintern.

Trellech: The name Trellech means three stones. Originally a Norman town, by 1288 its population was larger than that of Chepstow, and at the beginning of the 14th century it was one of the eight largest towns in Wales - illustrated by its large church. Trellech is rich in ancient monuments, three of which: Harold's Stones - three Bronze Age megaliths; the Virtuous Well and the motte (Tump Terret) are celebrated on a 1689 sundial which now stands inside the church. The Virtuous Well is famous for the healing properties of its water. Many legends surround the origin of the megaliths - some say that they were erected by Harold, last of the Saxon kings, in commemoration of a victory over the Britons in 1063. Another says that the three stones mark the spot on which three chieftains fell in battle with Harold, who defeated the Welsh in Gwent. Whilst some claim that the stones were flung or thrown from the Skirrid Fawr Mountain (14 miles away) by the mythical giant Jack O'Kent!

Usk: The winner of many floral 'in Bloom' awards, Usk has a ruined castle and is famous for salmon fishing on the River Usk. Twyn Square is a focal point for the town and the clock tower was erected in 1887 to mark Queen Victoria's Golden Jubliee. Antiques, furniture shops, painted cottages and a notable selection of pubs and restaurants add to the browse appeal of the town. Although privately owned, the castle is open all year round to visitors and the gardens are part of the National Gardens Scheme.

Wye Valley: The Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a protected area of countryside with unique landscapes, offering endless opportunities for outdoor pursuits, such as: walking, fishing, canal-cruising, golf, cycling, canoeing and gliding. This is reputed to be the birthplace of British tourism in the late 18th century, with the development of the ‘Wye Tour’, which attracted artists, writers and poets of the day. There are fabulous viewpoints along the valley, such as Eagles Nest Lookout, created in the 19th century.

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