The beautiful and evocative ruins of Llanthony Priory are situated in the picturesque Vale of Ewyas, close to the Black Mountains. These haunting remains are all that survives of one of the greatest buildings of medieval Wales.
In the early 12th century, the wealthy nobleman William de Lacy, while out hunting in the Vale of Ewyas, sheltered in the ruined Celtic chapel of St David and was overcome by devotion. He decided to found a priory here. By 1108 a small church had been built and a community of Augustinian monks established.
The priory flourished and was given many lands and gifts. One was the right to take fish from Llangorse Lake and because of this the way known as Rhiw Pyscod developed. Fish, still alive and wrapped in wet rushes, were brought from Llangorse over the mountains to the fishponds at the monastery. Another path, Rhiw Cwrw, was built to bring the monks' beer from Abbeydore.
Nothing remains of the original buildings today, because attacks on the primarily English community by local people forced the monks to retreat to Hereford and Gloucester. The original buildings were destroyed.
In the 13th century, the priory was re-established and the Priory Church rebuilt in magnificent style. The structures that are visible today date from this time. The beautiful windows and archways that survive, although fragmentary, are clues to the grandeur and importance of this site in its heyday and the devotion of the God-fearing monks who thrived here.
Llanthony Priory was one of many of the great buildings of Wales to be attacked in the early 15th century, during the rebellion of the great Welsh Prince Owain Glyndwr, as part of his campaign to recapture Welsh land from the English. During this period of upheaval most of the religious community at Llanthony retreated once again to Hereford and Gloucester.
By the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, under King Henry VIII, only four Canons remained at Llanthony. The site was sold for £160, the canons were pensioned off for £8 each, the buildings reduced to ruins and left to crumble for hundreds of years.
In 1807 the land was acquired by the poet Walter Savage Landor. He had ideas of creating a grand estate for himself, The Sharples, at Llanthony. He planted a large number of beech, chestnut and larch trees, some of which still stand today. However, he had so much local opposition he eventually gave up the project and went to Spain. The estate was bought from his family by tenant farmers earlier this century.
Visiting Llanthony Priory
The site is now in the guardianship of Cadw. It is open all year round, entry is free and there is a car park. Part of the structure has been renovated and now forms part of the Llanthony Priory Hotel.
How to get there
Llanthony Priory is 14km north of Abergavenny on the B4423 between Llanfihangel Crucorney and Hay-on-Wye. Please note: The road between Llanthony and Hay-on-Wye is narrow with limited passing places.
Nearest town or village
OS grid reference
Explorer Map OL13 or Landranger Map 16 - SO288278
Cadw, tel 01443 336000, www.cadw.wales.gov.uk
There are interpretation boards and an electronic information point in the car park. The nearest shops and pubs are in Llanfihangel Crucorney.
There are basic toilets in the main car park including a disabled access toilet.
The car park has a compacted stone-dust surface and can be rough in places. The surface in the grounds is grassy and uneven. Certain parts can only be reached by one or two steps. Some of the ruins can be viewed from close to the car park.