White Castle – Monmouthshire

Wales is described as the ‘Land of Legends’ and there is no better way to experience this than with a walking route incorporating a magnificent castle.

White Castle is one of Monmouthshire’s many impressive fortifications. It was constructed by the Normans during a tumultuous period in history when the border between Wales and England was the setting for constant conflict. The oldest surviving sections date from the 12th century.

This walk begins in the village of Llantilio Crossenny, located between Abergavenny and Monmouth. St. Teilo’s Church is a Grade 1 listed building and considered to be ‘an unusually grand cruciform church’. Built in the medieval period, it was named after St. Teilo, the bishop of Llandaff, who died in 580 A.D. He is buried within the grounds where there was a former church on the same site.

St. Teilo’s Church

From here, the path crosses fields and stiles to join up with a section of the Three Castles Walk. Covering 18.6 miles along the Welsh Marches, the full length of this official walking route includes the three castles of White Castle, Grosmont and Skenfrith.

The path leads directly to the main feature of this walk – the impressive White Castle. You would think that such a large structure would be visible from miles away but it is well-hidden when approached from the direction of Llantilio Crossenny.

Originally called Llantilio Castle, the remarkable historical monument is maintained by Cadw and entry is free. The enduring name of White Castle comes from the colour of the old whitewashed walls.

Rebuilt using stone in the 12th century, imposing round towers overlook the inner ward which is surrounded by a moat and accessible using the drawbridge. The outer ward is protected by the gatehouse which had its own drawbridge, portcullis and two gates.

The gatehouse

White Castle was constructed for military action as opposed to being a domestic dwelling. It was last utilised for this purpose in the 15th century during an uprising led by Owain Glyndwr. It is believed to have been abandoned shortly after. This castle is perhaps not as well-known as others in the county but it is definitely worth a visit.

White Castle

The walk continues along a section of the Offa’s Dyke Path. This National Trail follows the Dyke that was constructed by King Offa to defend the Kingdom of Mercia from the Welsh. The total length of the path is 177 miles but this route only follows it for a short distance along a lane and across fields to return to Llantilio Crossenny.

The walk is clearly signposted when on the major trails of the Three Castles Walk and the Offa’s Dyke Path. However, some of the other waymarks can be confusing so good observation is required to avoid missing the more concealed pathways.

Let your imagination take you back to a time of battles of treachery! This is a superb walk for anyone looking to immerse themselves in medieval history.

A version of this article first appeared in ‘Bwrdd’ – The Newsletter for Mensa Cymru, January 2019.