The Wye Valley Castles of the Marcher Earls

Dr Rob W. Jones
A five-day tour exploring the Wye Valley castles of the Marcher Earls
Dr Rob W. Jones

Tour Dates

25/10/2021 - 29/10/2021 Book
21/03/2022 - 25/03/2022 Book
08/08/2022 - 12/08/2022 Book

The Wye Valley Castles of the Marcher Earls

The great fortifications of Caernarfon, Conwy, Beaumaris and Harlech were massive statements of England’s domination over its neighbour, however these were not the first castles built to project English power into Wales.

Along the Rivers Wye and Monnow – the traditional border between the two countries - the Marcher Earls of Pembroke and Hereford studded their lands with stone symbols of lordships and status.

Join us on a small-group tour of these fascinating locations, discovering how the Castles of the Wye Valley helped shape English and Welsh history.


The expert leading your tour 

Dr Robert W. Jones is a historian, author and Visiting Scholar in History at Franklin and Marshall College.

He specialises in warfare as a cultural phenomenon, seeking to understand the participants' experience of war, and how their behaviour on the battlefield was shaped as much by the culture and society from which they came as by the practicalities of combat.

His books include ‘Bloodied Banners: Martial Display on the Medieval Battlefield’; ‘Knight: The Warrior and World of Chivalry’, and ‘A Companion to Chivalry’, and he is also a costumed interpreter and instructor of Historical European Martial Arts, focusing on medieval longsword combat.
 

Highlights of this four-night history holiday

  • Hereford Cathedral, home of Mappa Mundi
  • The lordship of ‘The Three Castles’, guarding Hereford from the Welsh
  • The clifftop fortress of Chepstow Castle
  • Goodrich Castle: the elegant baronial seat of the de Valence family
  • The magnificent Tretower Court, restored to its full fifteenth-century glory
  • Raglan Castle, the grand home of the Herbert Earls of Pembroke


Tour prices

This four-night history holiday costs from £1,299 per person, based on two sharing if you are taking part in the tours, and from £999 if you are not taking part in the daily tours. 

There is no single supplement for individuals staying in single rooms, and a small extra charge for individuals in twin or double rooms. 
 

Included in your holiday

  • Expert guide
  • Tour manager
  • 4* hotel accommodation
  • Executive minibus travel to all sites, with space so you can always have a spare seat next to you
  • Breakfast and dinner each day


Available dates

This tour is available for one date in 2021 and two dates in 2022. Departures are available on 25 October 2021 (book here), 21 March 2022 (book here) and on 8 August 2022 (book here). 

Numbers are limited, reserve your place with a low 5% deposit and enjoy the full flexibility of our COVID guarantee. 

Accommodation

You'll be spending much of your time exploring sights and attractions with your tour expert, so when you return to your hotel we know how important it is to be somewhere you can relax and refresh in comfort.

For this tour, you'll be staying in a luxurious four-star hotel in Hereford. You'll have everything you need for a comfortable night's sleep with rooms that are ensuite and facilities including a TV, radio and complimentary wifi.

Each day we'll provide meeting times for tours, meals and evening activities, leaving you with time to enjoy your hotel or explore locally.  
 

Your booking includes:

  • Ensuite room with tea & coffee facilities and wifi
  • Breakfast and dinner
 

There are extra charges for:

  • All food and drink outside of breakfast and dinner. 
 

Transfers during your tour

For transfers between all tour destinations we use large 17-22 seater executive minibuses so that the seat beside you can be empty.

Transfers will be a luxury experience and your minibus will have comfortable reclining seats with safety belts, a fully operational air-conditioning system, an on-board refrigerator and a fully functioning toilet maintained throughout your journey.

Our drivers are friendly, smart, professional and punctual. so you are always in safe hands. 

 

Solo travellers welcome

Our tours are perfect for solo travellers who want to expand their knowledge and understanding of a subject, and prefer the choice of being as solitary or social as you like. Each tour is a journey of an independent mind – fellow travellers will be intelligent, well-read, knowledgeable and like-minded people, and a mutual interest in a particular topic can lead to life-long friendships.

Read more about our welcome for solo travellers here.
 

Options for non-touring partners

Our base for this tour is the cathedral city of Hereford, and for partners who want to enjoy this the beautiful part of England, on the River Wye and not far from the border with Wales, there is plenty to enjoy.

Hereford has a lovely High Town with car-free streets and boutique businesses, with eye-catching attractions that include Hereford's stunning Norman-era Cathedral and the New Library, which is home to the incredible Mappa Mundi, the world's largest surviving Medieval map of the world.

The Black and White House Museum is a Jacobean timber-framed house built at the start of the 1620s, and the interior has been frozen in time to tell visitors about the lives of the 17th century residents. 

Kids can be kept entertained solving interactive puzzles and dressing up in period costume.

Hereford is surrounded by apple orchards and the region was once a centre for cider. The famous brand Bulmers was born here, and the company's old production facility is now a museum.

If you take a scenic walk westwards along the River Wye you'll reach the Waterworks Museum, where there is the UK's largest assortment of pumping engines from across the ages. 

Head a little further afield for National Trust properties that include Berrington Hall and the Weir Garden on the River Wye. 

Herefordshire is known for its pretty villages, with Ross-on-Wye topping the list of must-visits. The town is resplendent with Tudor buildings and a middle ages Market House, and lays claim to be the birthplace of tourism in England. Another for your must-see list is Hay-on-Wye, the famous ‘town of books’, where you can explore a myriad of second-hand and specialist book shops.

The Wye Valley is incredibly beautiful and boat trips reward travellers with stunning views, and the famous beauty spot of Symonds Yat gorge offering another memorable setting.

Tour Dates

25/10/2021 - 29/10/2021 Book
21/03/2022 - 25/03/2022 Book
08/08/2022 - 12/08/2022 Book

Itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Hereford and check in at your 4-star hotel. Spend the afternoon visiting Hereford Cathedral, with its stunning Romanesque nave, the effigy of Sir Richard Pembridge, one of the founder knights of the Order of the Garter, chained library and its famous Mappa Mundi, depicting the medieval world as understood by thirteenth century scholars.

Day 2

In a full day we visit four of the smaller, but more typical castles of the Welsh March. Our first stop is the motte and bailey of Kilpeck Castle and, in its lee, the Church of Saints Mary and David, which boasts remarkable Romanesque stone carvings with representations of human faces, hares, fish, fowl, stags, and other creatures.

From there we head to visit the lordship of ‘The Three Castles’, comprising Grosmont (besieged by the forces of Owain Glyndŵr), White Castle (where there is a massive outer ward and stone-lined moat), and Skenfrith, with its water gate and impressive round keep. Grouped together under a single lord, these three fortresses served to guard the route from Wales to Hereford and were on the front line of the conflict between the Welsh princes and England throughout most of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Though small by comparison with the castles we will go on to visit, they are typical of the Marcher castles in this region.

Day 3

We take in two castles and an abbey on the River Wye. Starting with the imposing cliff-top fortress of Chepstow Castle, with its enormous Norman keep and complex series of four baileys built by the famous knight William Marshal, we then travel up the Wye Valley, stopping to have lunch in the shadow of the magnificent ruins of Tintern Abbey, before spending the afternoon at Goodrich Castle.

Another of William Marshal’s castles, it was almost completely rebuilt in the 1270s by William de Valence, uncle to Edward I, as a grand baronial seat. It is also home to ‘Roaring Meg’, the last surviving example of an English Civil War mortar, cast in order to bring the walls down during the siege of 1645.

Day 4

After making a brief stop at Longtown Castle, a motte-and-bailey nestling amongst the earthworks of a Roman fort, we head for Tretower. Here we will explore the castle with its rather strange circular tower built within the earlier square keep, and the magnificent fifteenth-century manorial court, built by Sir Richard Vaughan, one of the most powerful men in Wales during the Wars of the Roses. The court has been meticulously restored, providing visitors with a real sense of a late medieval noble residence.

We stop for lunch in the market town of Abergavenny and then spend the afternoon at Raglan Castle, built in the fifteenth century by another Yorkist family, the Herberts. It boasts an impressive octagonal moated tower, the remains of grand state apartments and formal gardens of Elizabethan date.

Day 5

We’ll take you out to Hay on Wye – the famous “town of books” – for a morning browsing through its myriad second-hand and specialist book shops that sit in the shadow of the ruins of its own castle. You are then returned to Hereford for your departure home.