Chepstow Castle, South East Wales

Chepstow, on its rock above the swirling waters of the River Wye, stands guard over a strategic crossing point into Wales. In a land of castles, Chepstow can rightly claim special status. Started not long after the Battle of Hastings in 1066 by William Fitz Osbern, a companion of William the Conqueror, it was a landmark in more ways than one.

Chepstow, built to secure Fitz Osbern's new territories in the Welsh broders, was amongst the the first of Britain's stone-built strongholds. It was one of a new breed of castles which quickly spread across the landscape, replacing the olds timber-and-earth fortifications. The mellow-walled Chepstow we see today is an intriguing amalgam of different periods. Started during the infancy of castle building, it was improved throughout the centuries right up to the Civil War and beyond. As such, it is one of the few castles in Britain which traces the evolution of medieval military architecture from start to finish. At its core remains the Norman stone keep. In later centuries, towers, walls, gatehouses and barbicans were added, until the long, narrow castle occupied the entire cliff backed ridge above the Wye. As a final complement to its strength and sitting, Chepstow was adapted for cannon and musketry after a long siege in the Civil War, and continued in use until 1690. Beautifully preserved Chepstow Castle is a history lesson in stone. It not only brings to life the way in which a castle can grow from rudimentary keep to sophisticated fortress, but also reals a domestic dimension through its 13th century hall and kitchen block.