Grosmont: Grosmont with its church, castle and pretty village setting retains great charm, which is not yet overwhelmed by the new building on its fringes. The centre of the main street, next to the pub and near the shop post office, is dominated by the Town Hall. The stone building was rebuilt in 1829-32 at the Duke of Beaufort's expense (who gave up his rights in Grosmont in 1902); it has an upper chamber still used for Council meetings, with an open arcaded market space beneath. Grosmont had the distinction of being a medieval Borough with rights to hold markets and fairs and to elect a Member of Parliament.
The castle stands behind the main street, on the mound from which the village takes its Norman name. The present castle was built by Hubert de Burgh, who was Lord of the Three Castles (Grosmont, Skenfrith and Whitecastle) 1201-4 and 1219-32. It was modified by the Earls of Lancaster in the 14th century. An elegant stone-carved chimneystack known as Eleanor's tower survives intact. The castle was attacked by the Welsh under Owain Glyndwr in 1405, a year after the Welsh forces had been defeated at nearby Campston Hill. By 1563 it was ruined and decayed. Much remains however to give a sense of its once imposing turrets and walls.
There are a number of 17th-century houses and farms in the village and pleasant picnic spots.
See also St. Nicholas' Church.
Skenfrith: Skenfrith comprises a castle, a water mill, a stone bridge over the River Monnow marking the border between England and Wales, an inn, a church and scattered houses. Many people visit the castle to enjoy its setting in the meadows along the Monnow and to 'park and walk' the circular Three Castles Way (Skenfrith - Grosmont - Whitecastle).
In summer a Community Shop opposite the castle sells homemade bread and cakes and serves teas and ice creams.
Skenfrith (with Grosmont and White Castle) was part of a group of castles brought together into a single lordship by King Stephen in 1138. They remained in common ownership until 1902 and are now looked after by Cadw: Welsh Historic Monuments. Skenfrith Castle is owned by the National Trust (no entrance fee).
Recent excavations discovered the early landing quay and mill on the riverside below the church. The present castle building was built by Hubert de Burgh in 1220-2. Its circular towers and walls survive nearly to their full height. With its inner keep and wide moat (now grassed and levelled) it is every child's idea of a castle - less grand than Raglan and less remote than White Castle, it is the perfect place to come on a sunny day.
White Castle: Reached by a narrow road winding off the B4521, White Castle is a shock. A wide outer moat leads to a grass area, which was once used to house horses and men, then to the massive inner moat and bridge through the defensive walls. Inside, the towers can be climbed and panoramic views seen from the top. Below the turrets and walls is the original 12th-century entrance defensive mound, or Hornwork. It is now encircled by the moat, but can be reached with care across the narrow south bridge. The history of this, the third of the Welsh Trilateral castles, differs from that of Grosmont and Skenfrith.
The early Norman earthwork castle was strengthened with stone walls and a bailey by the king when the royal official Ralph of Grosmont paid £128.16s. in 1184-6. It was drastically extended and rebuilt in c1263 to defend it against the rising threat of the Welsh prince Llewelyn ap Gruffudd. The walls were rendered and lime washed and the name changed from Llantilio Castle to White Castle to reflect its new look.
Lonely and isolated, no village ever grew up around it so the castle was probably intended only to garrison large numbers of men in times of trouble. Even today, you are likely to have it to yourself.
The Castle is in the care of Cadw: Welsh Historic Monuments and an entrance fee is payable. Opening times: 1/4/07 - 30/9/07 - 10.00-17.00 Wed-Sun; open site Mon and Tue (exc. Bank Holidays) and from 1/10/07 to 20/3/08.