It was said that Abergavenny Castle was “oftener stained with the infamy of treachery than any other castle in Wales”, which is quite some claim to fame. This once magnificent pile stood over the market town of Abergavenny since Norman days. It’s now a ruin, but still makes for a splendid site and is well worth a visit for anybody exploring the numerous charms of the nearby Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal. A walk along this stretch of canal takes in a variety of sights, including a giant redwood tree, the remains of old industrial ironworks and Goytre Wharf, which has a visitors centre run by the Canal & River Trust.
The castle at Abergavenny was constructed in the decades immediately following the Norman Conquest by a Norman lord, and was originally made from timber. It was here because it overlooked the Usk valley, and could protect against incursions into the town by the Welsh coming from the hills in the north and west. Although the castle probably wasn’t used as a principle residence, it was the scene of a massacre at Christmas 1175 when some Welsh nobles were invited to the castle for reconciliation but were instead murdered. The castle was destroyed in revenge but then rebuilt in stone.
During the Civil War, it was deliberately damaged by Charles I so it could not be occupied and from that point it began to fall to ruin, with stone taken to be used in other buildings. In the Romantic era, this made it a popular site for visitors seeking picturesque views, and the ruin became a local attraction. A hunting lodge was built on the grounds in 1819 and this is now Abergavenny Museum, offering an overview of the local history from prehistoric times. Highlights include Roman remains, Victorian artefacts, a reconstructed air raid shelter and a poster advertising a show the Beatles played in Abergavenny.
Abergavenny’s history now includes the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, which comes through the Brecon Beacons National Park between Brecon and Newport. The waterway opened at Abergavenny in around 1805. This section of canal was once the separate Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal, but was reopened and assimilated into the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal. The canal is now a popular walking and cycling route through the beautiful national park.