The histories of the Welsh market town Abergavenny and White Castle, seven miles to the east of it are closely entwined. There is a ruined castle in Abergavenny which was probably founded around the same time as White Castle (circa 1075). Both castles were in the southern Marches and were built to defend the Norman interests against the Welsh. Abergavenny was a Roman settlement with a small auxiliary fort there to defend against the warlike tribe, the Silures. White Castle is thought to be the oldest of the Three Castles.
White Castle was built on a low hill and is about a mile away from Llantilio Crossenny. It is one of the Three Castles in the Monnow Valley which include those of Skenfrith and Grosmont. For me White Castle is the one which most captures my vivid imagination. When you enter it you have to walk over a wooden bridge which is over the moat. I love sitting on the grass and picturing the women in their long, flowing mediaeval gowns wandering around the courtyard.
This castle has an interesting history as it was, like the other two a Royal castle, and was given to Hubert de Burgh by King John. Later it returned to royalty as it passed into the hands of Lord Edward who became Edward I in 1254. In 1267 it passed to his younger brother, Edmund, Earl of Lancaster and it is probable that during these years the Gatehouse and circular towers were added. The extra fortifications were deemed necessary because of the possibility of a Welsh uprising against their foreign rulers.
There is an older fortified motte and bailey castle close to White Castle too. White Castle has some stunning views of the surrounding countryside, and it is easy to see why it was built in such a strategic position.
The castle at Abergavenny passed through a number of hands, including those of the Williams de Cantelupe and ending in those of William de Braose. In 1177, de Braose invited all the Welsh chieftains to a Christmas feast at his castle. They were all slaughtered. These deaths were eventually avenged by Owain Glyndwr in 1404 when he destroyed the town and castle.
Abergavenny today is a thriving market town (still) and one I like to visit. There are several good places to eat and drink and some have courtyard areas where you can sit and bask in the sunshine (if there is any!). There’s also the Sugarloaf Vineyard to visit or stay at – they have accommodation and their wines have achieved “Quality Status” from the European Wine Standards Board. (You receive a complimentary bottle if you stay there.)
The Sugarloaf is a mountain and people paraglide and hang glide off it. The whole area is just within the Brecon Beacons National Park (as is the Penderyn distillery). There are amazing views over the Usk Valley and you can wander along the river banks in Abergavenny and watch kingfishers fly in and out of their nests in the river banks.
Visit Grosmont and Skenfrith Castles too for a great day out.
- Penderyn Distillery in the Brecon Beacons, South Wales (lynnee8.wordpress.com)