Castle Tour of South Wales

by Lexa Pennington / Oct 03, 2012 /
Lexa Pennington's picture

South Wales makes for a lovely family holiday in the countryside with the rolling hills and valleys, the Brecon Beacons National Park and Wye Valley. Cardiff is centrally located to reach all the nearby attractions and there are several great Cardiff hotels to set up base camp at. Start your family holiday by exploring the city and the medieval Cardiff Castle. The castle was originally a Roman fort (or possibly two) that was then built on by the Normans in 1091 by Robert Fitzhamon, lord of Gloucester and conqueror of Glamorgan. The castle has history that continues into the Victorian era, but is now sometimes host to large rock concerts such as Stereophonics, Green Day and Tom Jones. In fact during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, there was a military tattoo similar to the renowned Edinburgh Tattoo. If that wasn’t enough for you, nearby Caerphilly is host to the largest castle in Wales. Caerphilly Castle is something truly remarkable, surrounded by tranquil water defences. The castle also has four replica siege engines on display and some fantastic history surrounding the castle itself.

 

If your family love hiking, the 48 mile Usk Valley Walk is a challenge that can’t be missed. The entire route can take three to five days and starts at nearby Caerleon. It’s well worth a visit to the Isca Augusta, the remains of a roman legionary fortress and settlement while you’re in Caerleon which features one of the most impressive military amphitheatres in Britain, a military bath house and museum and the Roman legionary barracks which are the only visible barracks in Europe from Roman times.

 

Throughout the walk, you’ll climb the Wentwood Ridge, cross beautiful pastures, see riverside towns and end up in the immense Brecon Beacons National Park. The Brecon Beacons consist of six peaks at a highest of 2,907 feet. As the name suggests, the peaks may have been used as beacons to warn towns and villages nearby of imminent attacks, similar to the beacon scene seen in Peter Jackon’s film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. The scenery here is really something to remember, with rolling mountains and several huge calm reservoirs.

 

Continue your tour of the beautiful South Wales by heading back down and east to visit the market town of Abergavenny. Abergavenny is known as the Gateway to Wales and is situated on the River Usk and surrounded by two towering mountains. It’s a lovely little town where you can enjoy shopping in the narrow little streets and looking up at the historic clock tower. Although mostly ruined by the English Civil War, the remains of Abergavenny Castle can be seen overlooking the river valley.

 

Carrying on your journey, you could visit the city of Newport too, a marvellous manufacturing and engineering centre. Newport Castle is also here for the castle fanatics - originally known as Castell Newydd (“new castle”), this castle gives Newport its name. It’s well worth viewing the facade of Newport Castle from the east side of the River Usk where you will easily be able to see the brilliant water gate.