Two CADW sites to visit near Chepstow

After fifty years tolls have been removed from the Severn bridges which link England and Wales. As we can cross the river Severn for free we decided  to revisit a couple of our favourite places in Monmouth, Tintern Abbey and Caerleon Roman camp this Easter.  Both  are managed by CADW, the organisation which looks after historical sites in Wales. If you enjoy visiting historical sites it is a good idea to take out an annual membership which allows free entry to all the CADW sites.  For senior citizens like us it is £28.50 a year. Once in Wales both sites can be accessed easily from the M4 and are well signposted.

Carleon Roman Fort

Our first outing was to Caerleon.

A plan of the carleon barracks
Part of the remains of the barracks

Carleon which is just outside Newport was known as Isca by the Romans and is on the banks of the river Usk. Founded in A.D.  75 as the headquarters of the second Augustan legion. it was one of only three permanent legionary sites in Britain and unlike the other two in Chester and York it has not been built on. This means that archaeologists including  the BBC time team have been able to make significant finds.

At one time almost 5,000 Roman soldiers were quartered here. The Roman museum is shut for repairs until the Autumn but Caerleon is still worth visiting. As well as the most complete remains of barracks any where in Europe  we were able to see the amphitheatre where soldiers would have trained and gladiators fought. This is the best preserved Amphitheatre in Britain.

The Amphitheatre at Carleon
Part of the amphitheatre at Caerleon

For me the most impressive part of the site are the Roman baths. They were more like a modern sports centre with an indoor exercise hall and even changing rooms with underfloor heating. They also had hot and cold swimming pools. The remains are covered and have been enhanced with digital technology and impressive lighting.  Children can take part in interactive quizzes.

A holograph of a swimmer in the baths
Digital technology is used to give the impression of a swimmer in the Baths.

To find out more click here Cadw Carleon Roman Remains

The amphitheatre and barracks are free to visit but there is a small charge for the Baths. CADW put on special events throughout the year when we visited staff were blowing up duck balloons for an Easter hook a duck game in the Baths.

The Wye

The river flowing through woodland
The river Wye. England is on the left and Wales on the right.

Our second outing was a trip up the Wye valley to Tintern. The Wye river marks the border between Monmouth and Gloucestershire or to put it another way between England and Wales. The deep wooded valley is a favourite destination for tourists and the river itself is popular for canoes and Kayaks. There is also a long distance footpath for walkers.

The footpath through the woods
Part of the long distance footpath along the Wye.

TIntern Abbey

Our destination was Tintern: the site of a ruined Cistercian abbey. The Cistercians were a monastic order from France. The monks combined prayer with labour on the fields  and the order became very rich thanks to the wool trade. The abbey was built in the gothic style between 1361 and 1550. Like many monasteries in Britain it was dissolved by Henry VIIII  but the fact that so much of the stonework survives is a tribute to the skill of those early builders.

Stone columns inside Tintern Abbey
The interior of the abbey. The figures give some idea of the scale of the building.

The site is now cared for by CADW who organise a programme of activities. When we visited a handler was giving a falconry display.

A falconer with a long white beard holding a kestrel.
A falconer with a kestrel.

Tintern itself is a small village with several gift shops and restaurants.

To find out more. click here Tintern Abbey

There is a small charge for entry. We parked at the nearby Anchor inn and were able to claim the cost of parking against the cost of an ice cream.

28 Replies to “Two CADW sites to visit near Chepstow”

  1. Another to add to my list. We got to Scotland but never went South. I will have to go back one day as this looks like such a beautiful part of our world. Thanks for sharing!

  2. The membership is a great idea to save a few pennies & encourage you to visit more places. I’ve never actually used the crossing over to Wales, I probably should give that a go as there are a few places I wouldn’t mind checking out, including these. I’ve never been to Caerleon and must admit total ignorance as I hadn’t realised there even were Roman baths there. Great day trip suggestions, Anne! 🙂
    Caz xx

  3. I have ancestors from both England and Wales. It is soooo on my bucket list to get over there and see some of the sites. Ideally, I’d love to take some of my grandkids too and share the experience with them. Thanks for sharing!!

  4. I hardly know Wales at all. These both look very interesting. I’ve been to Tintern Abbey many, many years ago but I don’t think I’ve been to Carleon. Growing up in NE England I became familiar with other Roman sites though. And we have some here too – I don’t think I’d heard of the Antonine Wall till we moved to Glasgow. All focus was on Hadrian!

    1. I studied history at Bangor University in
      North Wales so know a thing or two about castles. North East England does have the best walls. Offa’s dyke is not as impressive.

  5. There were several Cistercian churches in the area where I grew up, but I have to admit that the Tintern Abbey ruins look incredible.
    The river Wye and its surroundings look absolutely tranquil. All the best x

  6. Hi Anne, It is really interesting to see and hear stories from other parts of the world. I would also be very interested in the Roman baths. Your photos are beautiful! 🙂 Erica

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