Castles, Conquest & Power
Straddle the border and visit seven castles both inside and outside the National Park
£66 PER PERSON
(Based on 2 people, price is reduced with more people. Full pricing info is on our Booking and Prices page)
INCLUDES ENTRANCE FEES TO ALL CASTLES & A PICNIC LUNCH
Duration: 10am - 6pm
Number of places: 2-6 (or more if using your vehicle)
Wales is famous for its castles and this tour will not disappoint. It visits seven different castles and two medieval manor houses. The visited sites are, Raglan Castle, White Castle, Grosmont Castle, Longtown Castle, Tretower Castle, Crickhowell Castle and Abergavenny Castle. The castles are situated both within the National Park and in adjacent areas to the east, including a castle that is in modern day England (but it was in Wales when it was built!) These castles were originally built by the English to conquer and control Wales, and now guard the south-east entrance and approaches to the National Park.
Views of the Blorenge, Sugar Loaf and Skirrid Mountains (which are in the Brecon Beacons National Park) from Raglan Castle.
The view from Longtown Castle in the Black Mountains
Raglan Castle - We start our tour in one of Wales' most impressive fortresses, considered to be the equal of any other castle in Wales or England. Construction was first started in the 12th century but the present castle dates from between the 15th and 17th centuries. The large hexagonal keep is known as the Great Tower or the Yellow Tower of Gwent.
Hen Gwrt Moated Site - We briefly stop at the remains of this moated medieval manor house. It is reputed to once have been the home of Brecon Beacons nobleman Dafydd Gam who was a direct descent of the Kings of Brycheiniog. He famously died at the Battle of Agincourt fighting for King Henry V. In his lifetime he helped defeat the rebellion of Owain Glyndwr and was at both the Battle of Crecy and the Battle of Poitiers. Gam had a bad leg and his name lends itself to the modern expression a 'gammy leg'.
White Castle - White Castle is one of 'The Three Castles'. This term collectively describes White Castle, Skenfrith Castle and Grosmont Castle . All three sites have evidence of very early Norman earthworks, possibly made just a few months after the Norman conquest of England in 1066. The earliest castle at White Castle would have been made of wood, with the inner stone castle being built in 1186-7.
Grosmont Castle - this is also one of 'The Three Castles' and is in the village of Grosmont which is right on the Welsh/English border. It is generally considered to have been largely built by Hubert de Burgh early in the 13th century, on an earlier Norman foundation, but was extended in the 14th century. Grosmont Castle is believed to have been founded as a wooden motte and bailey castle during, or shortly after, the time that William FitzOsbern was Earl of Hereford, immediately after the Norman conquest of England. Earl William was killed in 1071 and his son Roger was stripped of his lands in 1075. The powerful Marcher Lord Pain fitzJohn acquired Grosmont in the reign of King Henry I (1100–35). In 1142, it was granted to Walter of Hereford, and became part of a single lordship with Skenfrith and White Castle. Although it has been asserted that the stone castle was built at the time of Pain fitzJohn, as the centre (or 'caput') of the honour of Grosmont, records indicate that, late in the 12th century, it was probably still a timber construction. Grosmont Castle was abandoned by the 16th century, and, with Skenfrith and White Castle, was sold by the Duchy of Lancaster to the Duke of Beaufort in 1825. In 1902 it was again sold, to the landowner and historian Sir Joseph Bradney, before it passed into state ownership in 1923.
Longtown Castle - Longtown Castle is situated in the Black Mountains, but in a part of that mountain range that lies in the modern English county of Herefordshire. However, at the time the castle was built, this location was in Wales and the modern boundary was only established much later by Henry VIII. The castle was built around 1175 by Hugh de Lacy, possibly reusing former Roman earthworks, the castle had an unusual design with three baileys and two large enclosures to protect the neighbouring town. Early in the next century the castle was rebuilt in stone, with a circular keep erected on the motte and a gatehouse constructed between the inner and outer western baileys. By the 14th century, Longtown Castle had fallen into decline. Despite being pressed back into use during the Owain Glyndŵr rising in 1403, it became ruined. The main reason for the decline of Longtown was that most of its inhabitants fell victim to the Black Death.
Tretower Court and Castle - Tretower Castle was built around 1150 as a motte and bailey castle and was enlarged in the early thirteenth century. Tretower Court is a medieval fortified manor house. The Court evolved from the adjacent Tretower Castle site and is a very rare example of its type, in that it shows the way in which a castle gradually developed into another significant type of medieval building, the fortified manor house or defended house. It is also a rare survival, escaping destruction in wars or conflicts, partial damage or slighting, for example during the English Civil War, and total redevelopment over time. The Court was the meeting point from which the local contingent of Welsh archers left for service in France under King Henry V and contributed to the English victory at Agincourt.
Crickhowell Castle - Crickhowell Castle is also known as Alisby's Castle. The castle was initially a motte and bailey castle built around 1121 by the Normans. In 1172 it was attacked by Welsh rebels and in 1273 it was used as a base to gather a 6000-strong force to help Edward I conquer North Wales. The castle was largely destroyed in about 1403 as part of Owain Glyndŵr's rebellion; he also attacked and burned Abergavenny town and other settlements in the area. It was at this time that the castle is thought to have been abandoned, with subsequent stone-robbing leaving only the ruined stone double tower on Castle Green
Abergavenny Castle - The castle was established by the Norman lord Hamelin de Balun in about 1087. It was the site of a massacre of Welsh noblemen in 1175, and was attacked during the early 15th century Glyndŵr Rising. William Camden, the 16th century antiquary, said that the castle "has been oftner stain'd with the infamy of treachery, than any other castle in Wales"
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CASTLES - BEACONS' GATEKEEPERS (SIGHTSEEING TOUR)
"We found James online when we arrived in Abergavenny; my husband thought his castles tour would be a good way for us to get out and see some of the ruins in the countryside since we did not have our own car. And he was right! We connected with James via email and arranged for him to pick us up in his minivan at the Abergavenny bus station. Our tour was just the three of us: me, my husband, and James. We did the full day castles tour and hiring James was a great idea because that allowed us to get out and see little places we would not have seen otherwise. Also we were fortunate to have a beautiful, sunny day, but the tour would still have been fun on a cloudy or slightly wet day. We saw several different castle ruins, along with multiple churches which were often near the castles. Later in the day after getting to know us a bit, James suggested that we divert from his "regular" route and look at a ruined abbey, so we did, and it was a smart choice since that was one of my favorite sights of the day. Things we enjoyed: getting off the beaten track out into the countryside; seeing all of the sights; getting to know James, who is personable, intelligent, and eager to exchange ideas; our substantial lunch included with the tour, which contained a sandwich, slice of quiche, crispy snacks, two kinds of fruit, a chocolate bar, and Welsh cakes, along with water. Tips if you go: wear comfortable shoes and clothes that allow for climbing stairs, walking in potentially muddy areas, etc. Layer your jackets/overshirts - there is a lot of time in the vehicle but there is time outside, too. Overall we thought our day out with James was one of the best days of our two-week holiday in England and Wales and we would certainly go out on tour with him again."