Enclosed on three sides by the rivers Wye and Monnow, MONMOUTH (Trefynwy), fifteen miles north of Chepstow, retains some of its quiet charm as an important border post and county town, and makes a good base for exploring the pastoral border-country to the north.
The centre of the town is Agincourt Square, a handsome open space at the top of the wide, shop-lined Monnow Street. The cobbled square is dominated by the arched, Georgian Shire Hall, in which is embedded an eighteenth-century statue of the Monmouth-born King Henry V, victor of the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. In front is the pompous statue of another local, the Honourable Charles Stewart Rolls, co-founder of Rolls-Royce and, in 1910, the first man to pilot a double flight over the English Channel. Almost opposite Shire Hall is Castle Hill, which you can walk up to glimpse some of the scant ruins of the castle, founded in 1068. A small regimental museum (April– Oct daily 2–5pm; Nov– March Sat & Sun 2–4pm; free) is the only part that can be visited. At the bottom of Monnow Street, the road narrows to squeeze into the confines of the seven-hundred-year-old Monnow Bridge, crowned with its hulking stone gate of 1262, that served both as a means of defence for the town and a toll-collection point. To burn off some energy, you could rent a canoe for a trip up the Wye from the Monmouth Canoe & Activity Centre (Tel:01600/713461, Web: www.monmouthcanoe.com ) in Castle Yard, Old Dixton Road.