The three castle we visited were all free and all part of a collective known as The Three Castles. They were all founded by Normans around 1100, built to dominate this area of Monmouthshire. In 1201 all three were granted to Hubert de Burgh who rose to become the King's Justiciar (administrator of justice). They were abandoned in the 16th Century, changed hands a few times (including to separate owners), but eventually they all ended up in state ownership where they still are today.
1. Skenfirth Castle
Skenfirth Castle is owned by the National Trust but managed by CADW. It is located in the small village of Skenfirth in Monmouthshire, the village used as 'Upper Leadworth' in the 'Doctor Who' episode 'Amy's Choice'. The Castle is free to visit. It stands in ruins and open to the elements, but large parts of it still remain. Hubert de Burgh rebuilt much of the castle in stone in 1228-1232, replacing the earth and timber that originally made up the castle.
Prominently standing in the middle of the ruins is the remains of the main tower which was a stronghold and residence. The height of the tower allowed archers at the top to fire over the outer castle walls.
Not far from the castle are fragments of a huge dockyard wall set on the bank of the River Mannow. This dock and river would have supplied the castle and been a source of communication. Looking at the remains and river today it is hard to image this, as silt has built up over the centuries making the river no longer suitable for barges.
Whilst we were visiting the castle their were some people having a picnic by the river and swimming in it. It is a lovely area, with space for picnicking, though there are no toilet facilities at the Castle.
Grosmont Castle is situated in Grosmont, another film location though this time for the 2007 film 'The Baker' (also know as 'Assassin in Love' - USA), a British comedy thriller in which an ex-assassin retires to a Welsh village and opens a bakery.
Grosmont town is described, on their town website, as having a 'vibrant community spirit and warm welcome'. It has a 13th century church which unusually has a eight sided tower, and the town is also home to Grosmont Castle.
Grosmont Castle, was also originally a defence earth and timber Norman structure, which was re-built in stone by Hubert de Burgh. It has a huge ditch around it. When it was completely rebuilt by Hubert, he created a rectangular hall-block and high curtain walls that remain today. In the 14th century more additions where made to the castle by other owners. The Earls of Lancasters influence can still be seen in the tall chimney that remains. They also extended the gatehouse including the drawbridge.
The village and castle are picturesque and a suitable place for lunch or picnic. The castle doesn't have any toilets but their are pubic facilities available in Grosmont.
3. White Castle
White Castle is the largest of the three castles, with perfect picnic spot within their outer ward walls (protecting you from any cold wind). This is actually where we stopped for our picnic, and others were picnicking too.
The Castle's name comes from a coat of white that used to cover the outer walls. The castle is made up of two parts, the Inner Ward which would have been the heart of the castle with the key buildings, and the Outer Ward which would have been suitable as an army base.
We visited all three castles by car, but there is a long distance circular walk of 19.4miles (roughly 9hrs 20mins) that connects all three, and connects the Offa's Dyke path (White Castle) with the Monnow Valley Walk (Skenfirth and Grosmont).
Just outside White Castle there is a sign for the Offa Dyke path that tells of how Hitlar's right hand man Rudolf Hess come to the area to paint during World War II, as he was allowed visits for health reasons to walk, paint, and sketch, whilst we was in prison near Abergavenny.
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