Jewel of South East Wales
Lovers of ancient ruins will relish a visit to Tintern Abbey in the beautiful Wye valley. Should you find yourself driving across the Severn Bridge from England into Wales, and medieval buildings are you thing, then be sure to visit the impressive ruin of Tintern Abbey on the banks of the River Wye in Monmouthshire.
The name Tintern Abbey will be familiar to fans of William Wordsworth’s poetry – he wrote “Tintern Abbey” in 1798. The poet loved the countryside around the ruins, as the last lines of the verse demonstrate: “… Nor wilt thou then forget, That after many wanderings, many years, Of Absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs, And this green pastoral landscape, were to me, More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake!”
The Abbey Dates Back to 12th Century
This Cistercian abbey is one of the greatest monastic ruins in Wales. Founded in 1131, and dissolved in the dissolution of the monasteries ordered by Henry VIII in 1536, its structure remains in a truly remarkably good condition. It has a cruciform plan with an aisled nave, two chapels in each transept ad a square ended aisled chancel. The main church building is 72 metres long. Although its foundations were laid in the 12th century, it was rebuilt in the 13th and early 14th centuries. The buildings are constructed in old red sandstones, in colours that vary from grey to purple. It is an impressive sight as you drive into the village.
A King’s Visit
In 1326 King Edward II visited Tintern and spent two nights there, however, after the Black Death swept the country in 1349, the abbey’s fortunes began to decline as it became harder to recruit new monks and to find people to work the land.
Tintern Abbey has ample parking, with public lavatories with baby-changing facilities. There is an on site gift shop, and several cafes and tea-rooms close by. To walk around the grounds of the abbey is free, but a charge is made to go inside the ruins. Ticks cost £3.70 per adult, or a family ticket costs £10.70.
At times, church services are held in the abbey and visitors should check in the gift shop for times. Services are dependent on the weather, since the abbey has neither roof nor windows…. Even the most devout Christians are reluctant to stand under pouring rain for long.
The Wye Valley and The Forest of Dean
The Wye Valley is one of the most beautiful in Britain, straddling as it does the Welsh and English border. After visiting Tintern, it’s well worth walking up the river, or driving up the valley to admire the gently undulating countryside. The Forest of Dean is nearby, which is a fabulous area for walking and cycling. Head for The Speech House, where you can find maps of the forest and cycle-hire shops.