189: Skenfrith Castle

OS Explorer map 189, Hereford & Ross-on-Wye – I own this map, but had not visited it before starting this blog. Visited for this post 29th December 2021. This is the last of three posts about my trip to the Wye Valley with the Dearest Progenitors.

Google Maps location links: Skenfrith Castle

The great majority of this year’s post-Christmas trip to Herefordshire and Monmouthshire with my parents was described in my last-but-one post about map OL13, covering the Wye Valley. The end of that post told you of our one lengthier trip during that holiday, across the Welsh border to visit Monmouth, and the post after that continued the tale as we visited the spectacular White Castle. This final post continues that about that trip covers just the second castle we saw that day, Skenfrith Castle. [1]

Skenfrith, like White Castle is another of the Three Castles, a trio of castles that sit fairly close to each other in this area of Monmouthshire. When we set out from our holiday cottage on this day, I didn’t have specific plans as to how many of them we’d go to see: White Castle was the one I wanted to aim for most, so we went there most, but then I thought we could see how energetic we were feeling as to whether we wanted to pick up one or both of the others before returning home. In the end, we did just one, picking Skenfrith, since it was on the direct route back to the cottage.

Inside Skenfrith castle, with its tall central keep visible in the middle

Skenfrith Castle sits right in the middle of the village of the same name. It’s right next to the River Monnow (another section of which we’d seen earlier that day at Monmouth), presumably to be able to control river traffic, or the crossing point or some such. This also puts it, though, rather unusually for a castle, right at the bottom of a reasonably steep valley, which one imagines isn’t the best for defense. However, if I recall the information boards correctly, this is the reason why the castle has its interesting tall central keep: it gave a raised lookout point to mitigate the disadvantages of such a low-lying spot.

Personally I didn’t find it quite as spectacular as White Castle – that deep moat is hard to beat – but it still falls squarely into my favourite category of castles, namely “big enough to be impressive, ruined enough that you can just walk in and poke around”. We spent an enjoyable twenty minutes or so there having a good explore, before jumping back in the car and heading off to the holiday cottage!

The interestingly-parked car!

One other thing of (slight) note that happened during this stop: when we parked up, we were mildly bemused to see a car that was sitting with its front tyres driven up and over the little grassy mound that formed the front of the parking spaces. Later, as we were getting back in the car after exploring the castle, there was an older lady getting out of her car nearby, whom my dad greeted, and joked about the strangely-parked car. “Do you know how long it’s been here?”, she asked Father Dearest. Apparently, she’d been here a month ago and the car was already like that, and took us for locals who might have seen it before then. It was an enjoyable little exchange!

I am sad to have visited this map area and not seen more of it: particularly I’d like to come to Hereford one day, to see the Cathedral and so on. Oh well, I can still do so at a later date.

[1] Somewhat oddly, despite the fact that this post only covers about 20 minutes of this holiday, I actually spent nearly the whole holiday in this map area. This is because both Ross-on-Wye (which we visited a couple of times during the trip), and the holiday cottage a few miles to the south where we stayed, are in the overlap between maps OL13 and this map, 189. However, since we visited some areas unique to OL13 on short walks near the cottage, I thought it made more sense to write about the cottage and Ross in OL13.

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