As a farewell to 2016, and a premier adventure of the Welsh Borders, Tom and myself took the a470 and a479 along the borders down to Chepstow to check out the historic sights. For a Welsh Border Castle Adventure. Being December, a lot of places aren’t open to the public but are still able to be viewed from a distance.
Welsh Border Castle Adventure
First stop is the Castle Keep that remains of Bronllys Castle. Placed just outside of the village of Bronllys, on the a479 towards Abergavenny. The keep is open to the public for free all year round. There are stairs taking you up to it as well as to the top of the ruin. It offers a marvellous 360-degree views of the Brecons.
The Castle was initially a Norman built after 1066. Distinctively a motte and bailey, and later rebuilt and rebuilt. First from wood to stone, and then reinforced accordingly. However, by the 15th century, it was only seen fit to be a prison. There are a lot of steep stairs and narrow ledges but the view is totally worth it, even if it isn’t too clear of a day.
The next stop on the tour saw us going past TreTower and Court. This Cadw-owned property is only open in the spring/summer months but regardless is pretty nice to view. The Tower is viewable from the road as are the castle walls which integrate into the village itself. Even though we didn’t get to look around the tower, court and walls it was still nice to get a bit closer.
Onwards and forward to make it down to Chepstow for 3pmish, we continued on the road towards Abergavenny. The Market town boasts ruins of a castle in the centre, another Norman build. Like most Welsh border castles, laying in ruin after being ordered to be slighted in the English civil war. Cromwell just ruined everyone’s fun it seemed.
The missed stop…
The next stop was going to be Raglan Castle being the midpoint of Abergavenny and Monmouth, but, I may have missed the turning for it off the dual carriageway and then realised how big Raglan castle still is. This castle is unlike most other castles in Wales, being of Tudor design, much like Caernarfon in North Wales.
Originally built in the 15th century with Tudor additions and fortifications, it was never primarily designed for defence purposes yet still manage to hold sieges during the civil war. Again Cromwell made sure the castle was slighted and left in ruin. Damn, Cromwell.
Our Next stop, is Tintern Abbey. This has to be one of my favourite places. The only thing missing from this great building is windows and a roof, the grandeur of the walls and the detail in windows and doors are still visible. Another Cadw-owned property, the Abbey hosts a wealth of history with the White Monks and the lavish church refurbishments.
I’m not going to say much about Tintern Abbey as I strongly encourage everyone to go visit its tranquil beauty and absorbs the atmosphere.
After a picnic ploughman’s, and a cheeky hot beverage it was time to finish the day at our most southerly point of Chepstow. Due to the estuary and coastal factor of Chepstow’s location, the frets of the sea made the weather a little bit denser than that of our earlier viewings.
Again I underestimated the size of this Castle. This was another Castle that had many rebuilds and additions. The reason for its long rectangular apparel on the edge of the Wye Estuary. This is a castle you’ll need to spend a good 2-3hours at to enjoy it fully. And on a clear day as there is a lot of castle, and a lot of view which unfortunately we didn’t get to see fully!
The Fog was so bad you could hardly see the river below, let alone the full extent of the castle’s buildings and walls, another castle on the list of 2017 adventures.
On a brighter note, the pigeons that scattered the walls and crevasses are extremely pretty and friendly and that’s always nice.
By the time we finished at Chepstow the Sun was setting and it was time to get on down to Bristol before the long trek back to Aberystwyth.
Onto the camera stuff!
So days like this bring a lot of challenges. The lighting factors, the colour of the sky and of course the trouble with fog.
For landscape shots, such as from the top of the castle I aim for a minimum of f/8.0 aperture. Castle shots minimum of f/4.0.
It’s all personal preference. But it’s nice to have a guideline to work from before you find what works best for you. Today I was using just a 24-105mm L series canon lens with my canon 6d. Icapped the iso to 6400 and a shutter around 1/320 minimum.