Mid Wales & Brecon Beacons - Castles & Gardens
Montgomery Castle sits high on a hilltop above the town. Built in 1223 to guard the border, it is one of many Norman castles in the area and commands fabulous views over the surrounding countryside. The original motte and bailey is now known as Hen Domen and was built sometime between 1071 and 1074. The fortress was destroyed by Prince Llywelyn ab Iorwerth in 1215. Rebuilt in stone in the 1220's, it held out against Owain Glyndwr's forces in 1402 even though the walled town of Montgomery itself was sacked and remained in ruins for 200 years. Further action during the Civil War saw the castle surrender to parliamentary troops in 1643 and it was later demolished. In recent years it has undergone significant restoration.
Glansevern Hall Gardens
In a romantic setting on the banks of the River Severn between Welshpool and Newtown, some 4 miles north-west of Montgomery, the gardens extend to over 20 acres and are noted for their collection of unusual trees. Beautiful lakeside walk, more formal gardens closer to the house, Victorian grotto, superb walled garden - and much more, including sculptures within the grounds.
Powis Castle at Welshpool is a stately home and gardens with over 700 years of occupation and is the only castle of Welsh origin that has remained in continuous habitation throughout its history. The last Prince of Powis renounced his royal title in 1266 and became Baron de la Pole (Poole/Welshpool). A descendant sold the lordship and castle in 1587 to Sir Edward Herbert, whose wife was a Roman Catholic; in 1644 the castle was captured by Parliamentary troops and not returned to the family until Charles II was restored. Improvements were carried out in the late C17th. In 1748 the third Marquess of Powis died and the castle was inherited by his Protestant kinsman, Henry Herbert, who was made Earl of Powis. His daughter married Edward Clive, hence the union of Clive and Powis estates. The Clives' wealth paid for much needed repairs and the magnificent garden and park were also improved. Part of Clive of India's marvellous collection of old master paintings, furniture and curiosities were brought to the castle and the Clive Museum today features Indian artefacts from the C18th. Powis Castle's world famous gardens were influenced by French and Italian styles and this is one of the few places in Britain where a true baroque garden may still be fully appreciated. The terraces were hewn from the rock in the early 1670s and these terraced gardens are still defined by the yews, often trimmed into abstract topiary, planted in the C18th or earlier. The original water gardens were dismantled by 1809 but some notable items remain, including the lead statue Fame from about 1700, now situated in The Courtyard. The gardens boast an orangery and an aviary and unusual and tender plants thrive in the shelter of high walls and the dense hedges. Situated just south of Welshpool with excellent views across the Severn Valley.
The Dingle is a sloping hillside garden with a collection of 4000 rare and interesting trees and shrubs. Lakeside and woodland areas, colour themed and unusual planting, with something to offer all year round. Situated 2-3 miles west of Welshpool with an extensive plant nursery alongside.
A richly planted garden developed over the last 15 years or so at Kinnerton in the Radnorshire hills, with superb views of the border country. It comprises a small entrance garden with Fernery, The Yew Walk and Parterre, a 'church' sculpture covered in roses and clematic, The Lavender Garden and meadow.
Hergest Croft Gardens
Four distinct gardens extending to over 50 acres, with over 4000 rare trees and shrubs. The Kitchen Garden includes an old-fashioned rose garden, Azalea Garden, Edwardian House surrounded by beautiful plants and the Park Wood. Hergest is just outside Kington.
At Brecon itself, the confluence of the Honddu and Usk rivers made for a valuable defensive position for the Norman castle built in the late C11th, which overlooks the town. The castle was besieged six times in the C13th but the remains of the motte can be seen today in the garden of the Bishop's Palace.
South-east Wales is home to many fascinating castles such as Tretower Court near Crickhowell and Abergavenny Castle. The castle was sited above the River Usk, a naturally defensible position that has probably been used as such since the Bronze Age. The early motte was built at the end of the C11th but was sacked by Llewelyn the Great's forces. Control of the castle passed back and forth during the turbulent years of the C12th as the Welsh Marches changed hands between English and Welsh forces. During the rebellion of Owain Glyndwr, Abergavenny town was sacked and burned by Welsh forces in 1402, although the castle itself didn't fall. The gatehouse and youngest part of the castle dates from 1400 and was probably a measure taken to further fortify it. Much of the castle was damaged badly in the Civil War when it suffered slighting to prevent it subsequently becoming a stronghold. In the late C19th the present square 'keep' building was constructed on top of the motte as a hunting lodge for the Marquess of Abergavenny. It now houses the Abergavenny Museum and the grounds are used for open air plays and historical re-enactments.
A listed 15 acre garden and arboretum about 4 miles south of Abergavenny, begun in the C18th and including streams, canals, cascades, ponds, lawns and a circular walled garden. It now boasts one of the largest collections of magnolias in Wales and is open by appointment April to end September.
A beautiful listed 3 acre garden in rural Monmouthshire, dating from Edwardian times and developed by the current family from the 1980s. Mature trees and open lawned areas contrast with more formal hedged areas. In the last 6 years an octagonal brick folly, a summerhouse and a canal with waterfalls have been added.
Dryslwyn and Dinefwr Castles
Welsh castles built in the 1220s by the princes of Deheubarth and for a long time central to the security of the kingdom. Dryslwyn Castle was captured by the forces of Edward I in 1287 but later seized by Owain Glyndwr in the summer of 1403. Dinefwr Castle at Llandeilo came into English hands at the end of the C13th and was unsuccessfully besieged by Owain Glyndwr. Extensive rebuilding was carried out at the end of the C15th and around 1600 Newton House was built nearby and the castle keep modified as a summer house. It burned down in the C18th and the castle is now in the care of Cadw but lies within the National Trust's Dinefwr Park.
Castell Carreg Cennen
Romantically situated Castell Carreg Cennen stands above a limestone precipice at Trapp, 4 miles south of Llandeilo. Previously an Iron Age hillfort, Roman coins have also been found here. The first masonry castle was built in the late C12th and it remained in possession of the Deheubarth dynasty until coming into English hands by the 1280's. In July 1403 Owain Glyndwr attacked Carreg Cennen but failed to take it despite a long siege. In 1461 during the Wars of the Roses, the castle became a Lancastrian stronghold but was subsequently captured and demolished by the Yorkists. Ownership passed to the Cawdor family, who carried out extensive renovations in the C19th, and from the C18th it started to attract artists (Turner sketched Carreg Cennen in 1798). The castle stands at the western end of Brecon Beacons National Park and is under the care of Cadw.
Inspirational Aberglasney deserves it reputation as one of Britain's most remarkable gardens, with a wealth of historic importance and an extensive range of rare and unusual plants. Ten acres of gardens include 3 walled gardens: an Elizabethan/Jacobean cloister and rare parapet walk, a Cloister Garden where finding may date the site to the C13th, and an award winning indoor garden filled with exotic plants.
Hay-on-Wye has two Norman castles within a short distance of each other. On the western edge of Hay-on-Wye is a small but well-preserved motte. The main fortress was situated on the great site commanding the town and river under the current ruins of the castle and mansion. It's possible that the keep is the oldest Norman tower in Wales, dating to 1070. In 1231 the town was burnt, although the castle survived and saw service in the Barons' War of 1263-66. With the conquest of Wales by Edward I, life became more peaceful in this Marcher town. Around 1401 both town and castle suffered damage by the forces of Owain Glyndwr. The fortress later came to the dukes of Buckingham during the Wars of the Roses. In the 1660s, James Boyle of Hereford built a new mansion on the north side of the castle, while most of the curtain wall was demolished to improve the views. The mansion is now used for second-hand bookselling, for which the town itself is famous (image is the view from the castle overlooking the small town).