Whilst the two Severn Bridges both make an impressive entrance to Wales, for many years the lowest crossing point was the Old Wye Bridge at Chepstow. Overlooked by the imposing bulk of Chepstow Castle, this forms an equally imposing entrance to the principality.
The castle, however, was not built to defend the Welsh from the English. The oldest part, the Great Tower dates from 1067, and was built by the Earl of Hereford, William fitzOsbern, as the southern end of a chain of castles built along the English-Welsh border.
Perched on the top of a narrow limestone ridge with the river cliff to the north and a steep sided valley, known locally as The Dell to the south, the site was at first excellent defensive location. However the high ground on the other side of the Dell proved a disadvantage when the cannon was invented. Although still garrisoned, in 1508 the buildings were extensively remodelled as private accommodation by Sir Charles Somerset, later the Earl of Worcester.
In 1685 the garrison was disbanded and the buildings were either dismantled, put to other uses or allowed to decay. Then in 1914 it was bought by a local businessman, William Royse Lysaght, and restoration work commenced. His family gave it to the Ministry of Works in 1955 and it is now in the care of Cadw.
For opening times, admission prices, etc. please see Cadw's official site detailed below.
One of the treasures of the castle is its old doors, which it claims are the oldest castle doors in Europe. They are over 800 years old and, until 1962 they hung in the main gateway. They are now displayed in the entrance to the Earl's Chamber. It remains to be seen if they enjoy their retirement, or preferred being out in the wind and the rain.
It is also worth noting that Chepstow itself is surrounded by an almost complete late thirteenth century stone wall, known as the Port Wall.