Big Pit- a real coal mine to descend

Big Pit- a real coal mine to descend

Perrygrove steams through the Forest!

Scaled down real steam trains in outstanding scenery

Monmouth to Brecon Canal

Easy walking and cycling meets heritage

Tintern Abbey- history made large

Discover  our fabulous area- so many interesting places to explore!

We cannot possibly list then all here  so we have confined outselves to the most local and to the ones our guests repeatedly tell us they love. If we have missed one of your favourites  just let us know!


Just a mile from Foxes Reach and a couple from Tintern Abbey Cottage a walk or cycle to and round this attractive village makes an interesting outing ( good pub!)

The  small hamlet village of Trellech, between Monmouth and Chepstow was once one of the most important towns in Wales – in its medieval heyday it was larger than Newport and Chepstow. The three standing stones  from which it takes its name indicate that the area was important even in prehistoric times. (The stones may once have been part of an ancient large avenue or stone circle.)

Terret Tump, a forty feet high mound near a Court Farm farmhouse was once the motte of a Norman French castle. The Normans built many of these on the borders of Wales soon after the invasion of 1066. The tiny castle at the top of the mound would have been made from wood and all traces of the building vanished long ago.

A church of “Trylec” was given to Llandaff by a King Ffernwael thirteen centuries ago but that nothing remains of this or the first Norman church. The present church is held to date largely from the 13th. and 14th. centuries, but the spire was re-built around 1792. When the floor of the church was disturbed in recent times many skeletons were discovered and the obviously hurried burials were thought to be connected with the Great Plagues of 1340 and 1350.

The churchyard contains a large stone pedestal upon which once stood a large ancient cross. This would have been destroyed at the time of the Reformation, on the orders of King Henry VIII. The church itself houses several fascinating objects carved from stone. One of these is  an ancient font, perhaps a reminder of the Norman church. The well known  and remarkable Trellech sundial is just nearby

Trellech’s holy well, known as St. Anne’s or The Virtuous Well, used to be a place of pilgrimage. , famous for its cures. It is said to be four springs, three containing iron and each curing a different illness. Its niches held cups and offerings and there were stone seats for travellers.Little is known about the present structure but an inscription on the sundial in the church (dated 1689) seems to indicate that Lady Magdalene Probert was responsible for this. It can safely be assumed that the well had been a significant religious site for many centuries before 1689. Interestingly, the tree at the rear of the well is still always festooned with strips of rag. It is well known that this custom was common in medieval times. Pilgrims to holy wells would tie strips of cloth to nearby trees or throw bent pins into the water. Modern shamans in other countries believe that when the cloth dipped in such waters rots the illness will be healed.

Along the road from Catbrook to Trellech   you can see the archaeological dig of The  LOST CITY of Trellech. It is possible to spend a day working on this site which is a marvellous treat!

They have discovered a Manor , a massive Round Tower six metres across. Within the manor house complex we have discovered several different rooms one with a fireplace and chimney stack and one with a central fireplace. At the centre of the courtyard lies a well in which many interesting finds have been uncovered including a nearly complete mediaeval pot, metal work, wooden objects and parts of leather shoes.

In all, these buildings seem to date from 1300 A.D. when the town was reorganised and built in stone after the attacks by both English and Welsh forces in the previous decade. Evidence of the earlier town has been found below some of the buildings and occupation on the site may have started 100 years previously. By 1400 some of the buildings had fallen into ruin and by 1650 after the civil war the last of the buildings was abandoned.

The Monmouth to Brecon Canal

The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal draws people, nature and history together. Flowing through the stunning scenery of the Brecon Beacons National Park, making it a must for nature lovers, this canal also shows off its cultural heritage as it traverses the Blaenavon World Heritage Site. Steep green hills, thick woodlands and wild moors are all part of the view. At times, the canal perches high on the hillside above the River Usk.

The towpath is a wonderful way for walkers and cyclists to explore the area at an easy pace. The northern section forms part of the Taff Trail Long Distance Footpath.

The canal is not connected to the rest of the waterway network, but it is still very popular to cruise by hire boat. A number of boating holiday companies have fleets on the canal and day hire is posible. There are few locks on the canal, making it a gentle route for first-time boat hirers. The canal is peaceful and almost entirely rural, except where it ends in the historic market town of Brecon. The Fourteen Locks Canal Centre is open regularly and makes a very interesting visit.

 Wyndcliffe and the Eagles Nest

Dramatic viewpoint platform with far-reaching views across the River Wye and over the Severn Estuary. The nest was made in 1828 for the Duke of Beaufort when such dramatic viewpoints were fashionable. Part of the historic Piercefield Picturesque Walk runs through here and was essential for Wye tourists of the day. It was largely created from 1752-1772 by Valentine Morris the Younger and followed the Wye river cliff, culminating in the 365 steps up the to Eagle’s Nest (early 19th century).

The long distance Wye Valley Walk passes through Wyndcliff Wood .The obvious car park is Lower Wyndcliffe on the A466 between Tintern and St Arvans  but parking at Upper Wyndcliff car park allows you to enjoy the viewpoint avoiding steep gradients and the energy-sapping haul up the 365 steps. You can also walk to Upper Wyndcliffe from behind Tintern Abbey Cottage by following the Wye Valley walk, thus avoiding the  main road.

Grid Reference 527 974

Clearwell Caves

This impressive natural cave system was later mined for iron ore and now makes a great underground experience for all the family. The caverns are very atmospheric; nine large caverns are open to the public, linked by winding passageways. Displays throughout the mine reveal how iron ore and ochre pigment has been mined here for over 4,500 years, much of it transported by young children. There is a good gift shop and the café sells a wide range of delicious cakes, with excellent teas and coffee.

For the more adventurous visitor,  the owners will  take small groups deeper into the workings to explore parts of the 600 acres of workings beyond the public area.

Free parking. Picnic area.  See website for full details of activities and special events. Excellent illuminations and decorations pre Christmas.

Dean Forest Railway

Take a magical 8.5 mile trip through the medieval forest to Parkend on The Dean Forest Railway. Experience the sight, sounds and smells of travel on a rural branch railway operated by steam trains – with some heritage diesel services.

There is free parking, cafeteria, museum and gift shop at Norchard station.  There are also stations at Parkend, Whitecroft, Lydney Town and Lydney Junction where it is possible to join the train.

You pay once & can ride all day – stations are near real ale pubs, park, shops, footpaths and cycle paths – with longer walks to the restored Lydney Docks and RSPB Nagshead.

* Check the website for operating days and timetables.

* The Railway also runs family events and dining trains.

The Old Station Tintern

(About half a mile towards Monmouth  from Tintern )

Built as a Victorian country railway station, situated in the beautiful Wye Valley (AONB) the station is a quiet haven from the hustle and bustle of daily life. An ideal starting point for numerous waymarked walks.

Has a tea room/cafe.* The tea room serves breakfasts from 9.30, light snacks and  cakes( April to October).

* Toilets, including disabled. * Local tourist information.* Play area, children’s activities always available.

* Wooden sculptures of local historical characters.* Gift shop.* Signal box exhibitions . Miniature train rides some weekends

* Daily  parking charge.

Exploriing the riverbank? Tide times may be helpful Chepstow Tide Times”>click here!

Chepstow Castle

Chepstow  Castle guards the entrance to the Wye Valley. Century after century from around 1067 , the castle grew and grew along its narrow cliff top ridge. The oldest building is the Norman great tower but building work continued well into the 17th century as medieval battlements  built to withstand bows and arrows were replaced by stronger musket-friendly parapets. The Castle boasts the oldest castle doors in Europe- 800 years old.  Some rooms have been restored to their quite garish authentic colours. Quite a suprise!

Raglan Castle

The great Tower and the great Gatehouse WOW visitors just as its original owner intended.  If, as they say, an Englishman’s home is his castle, then William Herbert’s Raglan is the Welshman’s equivalent. Raglan was begun in the 1430’s, rather late in terms of  castle building and it was modern for its time. Mod cons such as massive mullioned windows flooded rooms in  light. The huge  oriel window is one of Raglan’s defining features.

Built for show rather than with battle in mind, it nevertheless held off Oliver Cromwell’s forces for thirteen weeks in one of the last sieges of the Civil War. The castle was eventually taken and was systematically destroyed by Parliament. Happily enough remains to impress today.

The castle remains up to date with  Bluetooth technology. Use your mobile phone to download audio stories for an insight into castle life and ask at the reception desk for their amazing ipad with interactive explanations of how the castle was destryed by parliamentarians!.

The Shire Hall Monmouth

The Shire Hall is a magnificent Grade 1 listed building right in the heart of Monmouth. Built in 1724 as the Court of Assizes and Quarter sessions, the building has been refurbished to a very high standard. The history and heritage of this very important building has not been lost – visitors can step back in time to the famous Chartist Trials of 1840 in Courtroom number 1 and visit the prisoners in the basement holding cells.

The Nelson Museum -Monmouth

One of the world’s best collections on the famous Admiral Nelson & Local history. Discover Monmouth’s origins as fortress river town & market. Charles Rolls (Rolls Royce) features.

Regular temporary exhibitions. Shop.  Free entry.

Tintern Abbey

Despite the shell of this iconic grand structure being open to the skies, it remains the best-preserved medieval abbey in Wales.

Guests who arrive into Tintern after dark are blown away by it  lit at night . The views of its beauty are the reason we bought Tintern Abbey Cottage directly across the road.

Tintern was only the second Cistercian foundation in Britain, and the first in Wales. The present-day remains are a mixture of building works covering a 400-year period between 1131 and 1536. Very little remains of the first buildings but you will marvel at the vast windows and later decorative details displayed in the walls, doorways and soaring archways. The hospital wing  and the kitchen even had flushing water drains hundreds of years ago.

The main abbey buildings were contained within a walled precinct of 11h within which there were many other secular buildings, including Tintern Abbey Cottage.. The remains of some, including the guesthouse, have been exposed to the west of the church, between the car park and the main road. The arch of the water-gate leading to wharves and a ferry over the river remains next to the Anchor Hotel, and the gatehouse chapel, clearly visible above the main road, has been converted into St Annes, a private house. Sections of the precinct wall remain on the west and south, parts in a ruinous state, parts incorporated into garden walls.

Henry the  8th was responsible for the damage when he dissolved the Abbey  in 1536, but in the 19th Century the Dule of Beaufort had the interior turfed and the  lumps of “untidy” stones  and debris cleaned up and thrown in the river to make it appealling to visitors! . The Abbey was loved by Wordsworth ” Lines written above Tintern Abbey“, and painted by JMW Turner in 1792-3. No wonder.

Try to go early in the day when all is quiet. It is magical when there is a slight river mist and the Abbey appears to float . Open air events occasionally in summer and the Carol service by torchlight first Friday of December. Don’t miss them

Visit Tintern , its not just the Abbey!

More than the Abbey , its packed with eventful history – from the bronze age to your visit.

Tintern (early spelling Tyndyrn: Fort of the King – perhaps King Tewdrig) is situated in the beautiful lower Wye Valley on the  ancient border between Wales and England, in the county now known as Monmouthshire, a territory long disputed between them and hence full of castles and other places of historic interest. It is also an area which saw the beginnings of the industrial revolution of which some preserved traces are still visible.

Bronze Age – evidence of activity in area

Roman settlement –  established at Tintern Parva (Little Tintern, at other end of village from Abbey), remains of river crossing by ford at Fryer’s Wharf by St Michaels church visible at low tide, undergoing archaeological investigation.

King Tewdrig – 6th c., retired to hermitage in Tintern Parva, but emerged to defeat Saxon invading force in battle at Pontysaison  “the Saxon Bridge” near the Fountain inn..

Offa’s Dyke – massive earthwork running for 170 miles along Welsh-English border, built in 8th c., path along dyke passes near Tintern.Dont miss the Devels Pulpit!

St Michael’s parish church – built in 8th century on site of earlier Celtic church, rebuilt over the centuries, currently undergoing restoration, Wye Valley Walk passes through its ancient churchyard, church open to public.

St Mary’s church – ruined remains of Victorian church, rebuild of mediaeval church, and ancient churchyard, visible above Abbey, can be visited

River Wye – became important commercial highway in Middle Ages carrying coal, wood, charcoal, iron ore, stone. Famous for flat-bottomed trows weighing up to 100 tons. Several weirs still visible built at Tintern to trap fish.

Brassworks – established near the ruined Abbey by Queen Elizabeth  Ist in 16th c. for production of cannon and wire, shares were held by Herbert Family and Sir Francis Bacon, leading philosopher and Lord Chancellor under James I, produced wire for the first transatlantic cable in 19th century.

Blast furnace – one of the earliest in Europe began construction near Abbey in 1590 for production of iron for making household goods, driven by water power, ceased production in 1828, now excavated as heritage tourist site in Angiddy Valley where several other furnaces were located.

Thomas Gray – of Gray’s Elegy fame visited Tintern in 1769 as one of its earliest tourists.

William Gilpin – following visit to Tintern and River Wye Valley published Observations on the River Wye in 1782 which started fashion for tourism in the area and for ‘picturesque’ style of landscape painting.

William Wordsworth – stayed in Tintern 1798 when he wrote one of his most famous poems, Lines Written Above Tintern Abbey.

William Turner – one of many painters who visited Tintern and painted the Abbey and surrounding landscape in the early 19th century.

Flora Klickman –  born 1867 and lived nearby in Brockweir, edited Girls’ Own Paper and Woman’s Magazine for 22 years, an early ecologist who wrote about and painted local plants, gardens and landscape.

Bertrand Russell – born in 1872 at Cleddon Hall a couple of miles above Llandogo/Tintern.

Moon and Sixpence – ancient local tavern originally named Masons Arms changed its name following visit by Somerset Maugham, author of 1919 novel of the same name.

This is  a strongly recommended walk  around Tinterns Hidden Histories  which you can download and which allows you to open all sorts of interesting facts to view as you walk- right on your phone!

 The Big Pit.

One of the National Museums of Wales and so FREE

Wonderful surface level exhibitions of mining life but for most visitors the highlight is the underground tour ( wear a coat and sensible shoes. There is a minimum height and age limit)

Prepare to be lowered 90 metres (300 feet) down the Big Pit mineshaft for the  famous underground tour – a captivating journey around a section of original underground workings. Visitors wear the very same equipment – helmet, cap lamp, belt, battery and ‘self rescuer’ – used by miners. The modern Lamp Room is a working area, used to maintain and charge the electric cap lamps used by both visitors and staff. The Big Pit lamp man and his staff also look after that most easily recognized symbol of the coal industry – the flame safety lamp.

Once underground, you will be guided (a 50-minute walk) around the coal faces, engine houses and stables in the company of a former coal miner.

Your guide will explain the different ways in which coal was mined and transported, and share some of his own experiences.

 Blaenavon World Heritage Centre

The ideal starting point for your visit to the South Wales Valleys.. Located in the sympathetically restored former St. Peter’s School, it provides an overview of how the stories of Blaenavon Industrial Landscape are of global importance.

You can browse the traditional displays and videos that illustrate the extraordinary history of the area and you can delve deeper into the history of Blaenavon by using interactive touch screens to explore a range of topics, including standards of living, geology, transport systems and World Heritage.

You can also visit the centre’s gallery which hosts regular temporary exhibitions, often featuring the work of talented local artists or photographers. The centre has a well stocked gift shop

One of the National Museums of Wales and therefore FREE

Roman Legion Museum- Caerleon

A MUST for those interested in history and especially if you have children “doing” Romans or learning Latin , the museum has all sorts of lively activity days too.

In AD 75, the Romans built a fortress at Caerleon. Today at the National Roman Legion Museum you can learn what made the Romans a formidable force and how life wouldn’t be the same without them.

There is  a great collection of artefacts ,an amazing Roman garden,. The most complete Amphitheatre in Britain, beautifully presented Fortress Baths, and the only remains of a Roman Legionary Barracks on view anywhere in Europe.

Constructing barracks to house over 5000 meant systematic and detailed planning was essential. The barrack blocks are long, narrow L-shaped buildings. Twelve pairs of rooms can be seen at Caerleon, fronted by a verandah, with a larger suite at the end to house the Centurion.

The fortress baths were an especially ambitious undertaking with novel architecture and massive vaults. Located under a modern cover, you can view reconstructions, a detailed model of the building and hear spoken commentaries.

The eye-catching excavations include an open-air swimming pool (natatio) and cold bath suite (frigidarium), which represent only a portion of the vast original structure.

The National Museum of Wales – Cardiff

One of Europe’s best collections of Impressionist works is within the  art collection  of the National Museum – itself  one of Europe’s finest. Five hundred years of magnificent paintings, drawings, sculpture, silver and ceramics from Wales and across the world.

Like to meet a dinosaur or a basking shark , or a giant earthworm 1.2 meters long? Dip into the museums Natural History section. Your, and your children will be transfixed!

One of the National Museums of Wales and therefore FREE


Puzzlewood is a magical day out in the Forest of Dean. You can explore one mile of pathways winding through deep gulleys of mossy rocks, over wooden bridges and through fantastic tree and rock formations, all set in 14 acres of ancient woodland. It has an atmosphere quite unlike any other wood and is often used as a TV & film location for ‘Merlin’ and ‘Dr Who’ as well as Warner Bros. ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’. JRR Tolkien is reputed to have taken his inspiration for the fabled forests of Middle Earth from Puzzlewood, and it is easy to see why.

More recently Star Wars was filmed here and fans  can easily recreate one of the scenes for your own photos!

There are childrens play areas , a cafe, and animals to meet. A lovely family  outing.

 The Sculpture Trail

Established in 1986, this four mile long Sculpture Trail was one of the first to open in the UK. The Trail features sculptures created by artists to interpret the Forest environment and the history of this very unusual landscape. It provides a unique opportunity to walk through the woodlands and discover art along the way. Perfect for all ages and abilities, you don’t need to know about art to enjoy what you see. Pet welcome.

The sculptures are installed within the woodland to encourage you to seek them out – the posts with blue rings will direct you – but if you want to make life easier for yourself, pick up a map at Connections at Beechenhurst.

Capability Brown would probably describe the artworks as ‘punctuation marks in the landscape’. Pause for thought and consider – what inspired the artists and what story does the sculpture tell?

Charge for parking at Beechenhurst.  Foresty Commission car park which has a cafe and toilets. Trail free.

 Dean Heritage Centre

The Dean Heritage Centre is one of Gloucestershire’s leading attractions. Set across a stunning and fully interactive five acre site, the centre protects and preserves the unique history and heritage of the beautiful Forest of Dean.

With a wide range of things to do and see, including five onsite galleries exploring the history of the Forest from the Ice Age to the present day; a reconstructed Victorian cottage; a charcoal burner’s camp; an adventure playground; chainsaw carving demonstrations; a variety of animals, an onsite gift shop and cafe there’s always something new and exciting to interest, inspire and surprise you. Often has featured events such as Father Christmas and the Gruffalo.  Now has a great tea room run by the team we used to love in Tintern old station!

St Fagans Museum of Welsh Life

The museum stands in the grounds of the magnificent St Fagans Castle and gardens, a late 16th-century manor house donated to the people of Wales by the Earl of Plymouth. During the last fifty years over forty original buildings from different historical periods have been re-erected in the 100-acre parkland, among them houses, a farm, a school, a chapel and a splendid Workmen’s Institute.

Traditional crafts and activities bring St Fagans alive, in workshops where craftsmen still demonstrate their traditional skills. Their produce is usually on sale. Native breeds of livestock can be seen in the fields and farmyards, and demonstrations of farming tasks take place daily. Visitors gain an insight into the rich heritage and culture of Wales, and the Welsh language can be heard in daily use amongst craftsmen and interpreters.

St Fagans explores all aspects of how people in Wales have lived, worked and spent their leisure time. Like generations of visitors, you will be inspired by its celebration of Welsh traditions and lifestyles.

The Museum is one of the UK’s top ten FREE attractions as voted by users of TripAdvisor

Usk Castle

Enchanting, romantic ruins overlook the small town of Usk, and the wide river valley beyond Like a secret castle !  A  natural and peaceful setting, the ancient walls covered with creeper, and old stone towers inviting the visitor to explore. This is a medieval castle that fell into disuse 500 years ago. Usk castle is open almost every day, during reasonable daylight hours. There is a box for donations on the left of the stone archway at the entrance, and as you pass, please take a pebble from the pot and put it into the wooden bowl – that’s how we count our visitors!

The lane to the castle is opposite the Fire Station on Castle Parade, off the road leading east out of Usk to Monmouth and Raglan, and goes up hill to a small car park. Walk up towards the stone archway, where you will see a kiosk on your right, with castle guides and local information.

Usk Museum of Rural Life

The museum houses a unique collection of over 5000 artefacts from the smallest handtools and household items through to large agricutural machinery and vintage tractors.

It  portrays rural life in Monmouthshire covering a period of approximately 100 years from 1850 – 1950. The collection is housed in a 16th century malt barn and an extensive collection of adjoining buildings.

Specialist collections include a Victorian cottage, a forge, carts, a cobbler, cheese making, WWII (including a bomb!), a stable, a hardware shop and many more. Sometimes its scary that things in a museum are still in daily use in our own home. How many are still in yours?

Free parking adjacent.


Hay on Wye

Hay-on-Wye is a small border town nestled just into Herefordshire on the border with Wales. It is surrounded by hills which make it  a lovely places for walkers or cyclists to recover after a good outing. Dont miss the spectacular route from Hay to Llanthony over Hay Bluff.

Hay has become world famous for its secondhand and antiquarian bookshops. At present there are approximately thirty major bookshops in the town some specialising whilst others carry general stock. The town also has a number of attractive little boutiques. In general its quirky shopping is not possible to resist!

The last week of May each year sees the excellent International Festival of Literature  when  the town is jam packed with famous writers, broadcasters and their fans. Accommodation in the busy town is at a premium at this time but if you are willing to drive a little further, or if you only want to attend a  select few events,  Monmouthshire Cottages are ideally suited. Vanilla Cottage is under an hour away via Crickhowell  whilst  Foxes Reach and Tintern Abbey Cottage another 20 minutes. We go to the Festival ourselves and its easy.

Ross on Wye

High on a sandstone cliff, overlooking a large loop in the beautiful River Wye is the historic market town of Ross-on-Wye. Situated in the heart of rural Herefordshire and in the picturesque Wye Valley it has become a popular destination for tourists.

Ross is an attractive and friendly town with Tudor timbered houses clustered around the striking 17th Century Market Hall where the twice-weekly markets are still held. The street layout of the town centre has remained almost unchanged since mediaeval times with many of the houses being rebuilt in the early seventeenth century including ‘John Kyrle House’ which stands opposite the market house and was home to the famous ‘Man of Ross’. Few people have had a greater impact on a town than John Kyrle had on Ross-on-Wye, amongst other things he was responsible for laying out the Prospect Gardens and for reconstructing the 14th cen

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