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Chepstow Castle

AKA Striguil Castle

Chepstow, Monmouthshire, Wales

Featured Location Guide

Said to be the earliest Norman stone castle in Britain to survive, this impressive castle is larger than you will expect with a great deal to explore and photograph, sitting high on a cliff over the River Wye.

Chepstow Castles' front entrance is not large, and hides a far larger castle behind

Click on any smaller image to see a larger version, or see the gallery that has many more photos.

Chepstow Castle known as Striguil Castle until around 1400, was started soon after the Normans arrived as a vital part of the new defences of England, protecting Gloucestershire and Gloucester from attack from the west, it was also the southern of a line of castles that ran up what is now the English/Welsh border in the Welsh Marches. Today some of these castles are in England and some in Wales. Some think it was precautionary as the Normans were on good terms with the Kings of Gwent who had previously fought with King Harold. Another theory is that this was more a marking of and control of a border. A further theory is that it was a display of grandeur by the Normans and a meeting place where the leaders from the various small kingdoms that we now think of as Wales could meet up with the English King and his representatives. The concept of fielty by one leader to a greater one, meant that this was probably not a border as we think of it today but divisions between those lands run by the Kings appointees, and the areas run by existing leaders that accepted the King as their overall ruler. In this concept the strong force of the king was also a form of protection to these, as forces could come to their aid if others were to try to take over their lands. As far as what is now Cardiff and Glamorgan were parts of England, Wales was more what we think of now as mid and north Wales starting some point north of Brecon. Some of the stone for the castle came from the Roman remains at Caerwent in what is now South Wales, although most was mined locally. The castle was one of the first structures to be made of stone, most before and many at the time being constructed of wood.

Chepstow Castle sits on a high rock cliff with the river Wye on one side and a steep drop with a high curtain wall on the opposite side, shown in the larger picture, below right.  The river is wide and the castle can be supplied from the river.

Click on the smaller images to see larger versions, many more images are in the gallery

All images


It stands high on a cliff on the edge of the river Wye, with command over it and access to the river that could not be easily interfered with by others.

The market town and port, together with the Marcher Lordship of the area all went under the Striguil name, meaning bend in the river, until the end of the 14th century and after that as Chepstow.

Building work started on the castle under William FitzOsbern in 1067 or shortly afterwards. The Great Tower was probably completed by about 1090. Further fortifications were added by William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, starting in the 1190s. The wood in the doors of the gatehouse has been dated by dendrochronology to the period 1159-89. Marshal extended and modernised the castle, drawing on his knowledge of warfare gained in France and the Crusades. He built a new gatehouse, strengthened the defences of the Middle Bailey with round towers, and, before his death in 1219, may also have rebuilt the Upper Bailey defences. Further work to expand the Great Tower was undertaken for William Marshal's sons William, Richard, Gilbert and Walter, in the period up to 1245.

In 1270, the castle was inherited by Roger Bigod, 5th Earl of Norfolk. He constructed a new range of buildings in the Lower Bailey, as accommodation for himself and his family. Bigod was also responsible for building Chepstow's town wall, the "Port Wall", around 1274-78. The castle was visited by King Edward I in 1284, at the end of his triumphal tour through Wales. Soon afterwards, Bigod had built a new tower (later known as "Marten's Tower"), which now dominates the landward approach to the castle, and also remodelled the Great Tower.

After 1542 the castle became more of a great house. The castle saw action again during the English Civil War, when it was in the front line between Royalist Monmouthshire and Parliamentarian Gloucestershire. It was held by the Royalists and besieged in both 1645 and in 1648, eventually falling to the Parliamentarian forces on 25 May 1648. After the war, the castle was garrisoned and maintained as an artillery fort and barracks. It was also used as a political prison. Its occupants included Bishop Jeremy Taylor, and - after the Restoration of the monarchy - Henry Marten, one of the Commissioners who signed the death warrant of Charles I, who was imprisoned here before his own death in 1680.

In 1682, the castle came into the ownership of the Duke of Beaufort. The garrison was disbanded in 1685, and the buildings were partly dismantled, leased to tenants and left to decay. Various parts of the castle were used as a farmyard and a glass factory. By the late 18th century, its ruins became, with other sites in the Wye valley, a "Picturesque" feature on the "Wye tour", pleasure boat trips down the river from Ross-on-Wye via Monmouth. The first guide book to the castle and town was written by Charles Heath and published in 1793. Since that time it has been a place for tourists to visit.

The end farthest from the main gate

View of part of the inside of the castle from the top of large tower at the front,
there is a substantial piece the other side of the further most building you can see

I have visited many of the castles on the English welsh border and Chepstow is larger and more impressive than the others, and may have well been a meeting place for Kings in the region, and on the border of the kingdom at the time. You experience a series of developments as you climb the hill, and are able to climb the towers, and on to some of the curtain wall walkways and other high points as well as seeing a number of rooms, and looking out and down into the river. Several people have said that Chepstow and Harlech are the two most memorable castles they have visited in Wales. Although perhaps not as complete as some, it is larger, and you will find several hours are used in exploring this castle fully.

There is a bridge over the river and you can photograph the castle on its cliff from the other side of the river, although from within the castle there are views that show large sections of the castle, cliff and river. For the photographer there are also many creative opportunities, so allow enough time to appreciate these and allow some experimentation.

Nearby there are remains of the town wall, including a gateway.


a gallery is available for this castle, which links back to this page.

Further information Grid



Chepstow Castle, Monmouthshire, Wales

Ceremonial County: Monmouthshire

Grid Reference:


Map Link:


Aerial photo: Multimap



Best Times to Visit:






Other useful websites:


Castles of Wales

Castle Xplorer

Castle UK


Nearby Locations:

Tintern Abbey

Chepstow, Bulwark Camp

Chepstow, Port Wall

Other Relevant pages:

Gallery for this castle

Castles of Wales

How to photograph a castle



Planning Grid


 Chepstow Castle, Monmouthshire, Wales

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

Well signposted from all roads in the area


From pay and display car park


Town pay and display car park


Toilets, guidebook available, gift shop, on-site exhibition.

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Castle remains, Wye river and valley

What to take:

A range of lenses

Nature highlights:

wildlife on river


Bridge Street



NP16 5EZ


01291 624065

Opening times:

01.11.08-31.03.09: Mon-Sat 9.30am-4pm, Sun 11am-4pm

01.04.09-31.10.09: Daily 9am-5pm

01.11.09-31.03.10: Mon-Sat 9.30am-4pm, Sun 11am-4pm

Closed:- 24th, 25th, 26th December, 1st January

Last admission 30 minutes before closing


CADW and English Heritage members (1YR plus) free, English Heritage members fist year 50%.

Entry is FREE for Welsh residents aged 60 and over or 16 and under who have a valid pass.

Adult£3.60, Concession £3.20, Family £10.40

Photo Restrictions:

None known

Other Restrictions: None known
Special Needs Access: Like many castles access to the ground floor is not difficult, although in this case the castle is constructed as a series of enclosures going up a hill. There is access to many higher points and along walls but this may be difficult for some.
Special Needs Facilities:  
Children Facilities: An ideal place for children to explore, but they will need to be supervised as there are places they could fall.
Dogs Allowed: From April 2009, dogs on leads will be also welcome at Cadw monuments. please see information for dog owners

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Classification from the Grids above. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Keith Park Section: Castles Key:
Page Ref: Chepstow_Castle Topic: Castles Last Updated: 03/2009


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