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Court Farm, Llanthony, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire NP7 7NN
01873 890359
20 23 27 24
 

We say

Llanthony Priory resembles a mini Tintern Abbey but, being totally buried in a little-known spot in Wales, amid the enormously gorgeous Black Mountains, in the heart of the Brecon Beacon National Park, it’s far less of a tourist trap.And unlike the great ruins of Tintern, it has its very own pub attached. Once you’ve persevered through the winding country lanes of the Ewyas valley and arrived at these antiquated ruins, it’s hard to imagine how a small band of Augustinian monks managed to build such a majestic structure way back in the early years of the 12th century. As you take in the glorious scenery it is, however, easy to see why they bothered.

As well as a public bar in the crypts of the abbey and a hotel occupying the Llanthony Priory’s former lodgings, Court Farm – next door to the church opposite and the priory – has riding stables and a field reserved for camping.The facilities are simple and thankfully the Passmore family who own the place are firm believers that Less is often in fact More. For example, rather than having a toilet block obscuring your view of the dramatic mountainside, the two-acre field has a cold-water tap with access to the public toilets in the nearby Priory car park.With no showers near this field, only hardcore campers are going to stay clean.

Bugle (pronounced Bew-glie) bridge is a well-known place to jump into the river on hot summer days, both to cool off – and clean up. The bad news is that even on colder summer days the campsite doesn’t allow fires. Never mind: if the chickens, who amble freely around the site, get round to laying, there are eggs available from the farm as well as homemade beefburgers and sausages to sizzle over barbecues on request.And the location, with the dramatic landscape framed by the arches of the abbey’s remaining window frames, can’t be beaten.

The campsite is rarely full, but because of its proximity to the abbey it remains popular all through the summer and much of the winter. Its other big draw is the omnipresent wall of the Black Mountains either side of the valley. Don’t let the hardy climbers who often frequent the campsite put you off: once that initial climb is made, the ridge runs for miles without losing or gaining much height.All is not lost if you’re not a hillwalker either: this valley holds a line of secretive paths and tracks along its entire length, which lead from one heavenly scene to another. The stroll to Cwmyoy, to view its mostly 13th- century parish church of St Michael, which leans improbably all over the place due to subsidence (honestly, it is unbelievable), will be one of life’s little highlights.And leaving the confines of this Shangri-La to the north (10 miles as the crow flies or about 35 minutes of winding road) brings you to the bookish town of Hay-on-Wye (Y Gelli) right on the England/Wales border – a nice town in itself, but above all great for loading up on reading matter from its 30-odd second-hand bookshops before heading back to the site to read in perfect tranquillity.

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★★★★★

Llanthony Priory

With facilities listed as ’cold water tap’, you know this is going to be a back to basics experience. We travelled to this delightful site for a weekend in May to take part in the Big Black Mountain Challenge. Even with the site relatively full of booted, map-reading obsessives, and a variety of campervans and tents, the peace and tranquillity was worth ever minute of both the 5 minute hike to the loos in the public car park and the freezing cold tap for what can only loosely be defined as a ’brisk wash’. Set right next to the Priory grounds and staring up at Offa’s Dyke, the beautiful camping field is nestled in a real sense of history. We stayed with two teenage children, who were slightly apprehensive at the necessary cavalier attitude to personal hygiene, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend this site to anyone wanting an ipod charging point or hair straighteners. It wasn’t long before they had forgotten about the trappings of home and the lack of mobile coverage, and were commenting on the friendly atmosphere of the village and just how dark the night sky was. Given the back to basics experience, we took plenty of food and bottled water. We didn’t actually cook anything once we had discovered the brilliant Half Moon Inn about 100 yards away. The welcome the patrons gave us on the first night, and the down to earth, wholesome grub, made the thought of washing up in cold water a bit of a non-starter. If you are truly lazy, as we were, speak to them the night before and a stunning full welsh breakfast will set you up for a day on your feet. We’re planning a return trip in the summer, though one of the downsides is that the campsite doesn’t take bookings. If it didn’t get full on one of the area’s biggest events of the year, I’m fairly relaxed that won’t be an issue though. And when we return we’ll be testing out the pony trekking at the farm next door which is available for all abilities. We were more than a bit envious watching a group heading out as we sadly packed away our tent in preparation for the boring drive home, but planning our return visit made the journey back to reality just about OK.

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Nearby Campsites

Cool Factor

A campsite framed by a ruined abbey and dramatic mountains – what more could you want?

Location, location, location.

Who's In

Tents, dogs, small campervans, big groups (if booked in advance) – yes. Large campervans, caravans, young groups – no.

On Site

No campfires, but BBQs allowed off the ground. Cold-water tap and access to public loos. No other facilities.

Few and far between. Court Farm has a cold-water tap and there are public toilets (open 24 hours) at the Priory’s car park.


Off Site

The countryside at Llanthony is stunning so you may not want to do much or move far once you’re settled, indeed there’s a spiritual feel to the place that is addictive. A track leads up to join the Offa’s Dyke long-distance footpath, there’s horse riding available (01873 890359), while to the south, in the village of Cwmyoy, the Downey Barn Gallery (01873 890993), displays and sells the work of children’s author Caroline Downey. In Abergavenny, the market is worth a look, with general retail (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday), flea market (Wednesday) and a monthly farmers’ market.

If it rains

Abergavenny market (01873 735811) usually has something going on with general retail (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday), flea market (Wednesday), collectors’ fairs and farmers’ market. Hay-on-Wye is 10 miles to the north.

Food & Drink

The Llanthony Priory Hotel bar (01873 890487) – known locally as The Abbey – in the crypt under the Priory ruins, cooks up imaginative bar meals, served in unforgettable surroundings. Treats (01873 890867), in the village, does breakfasts and lunches. The Half Moon Inn (01873 890611) is a short stroll away and serves simple meals between 7pm and 9pm. The best place to eat, though, is the Foxhunter Inn in Nantyderry (01873 881101), whose modern British cuisine is well worth the trip. The Abbey Hotel (01873 890487) is in the crypt under the Priory ruins, with imaginative bar meals, all served in unforgettable surroundings.

Open

All year.

The Damage

Court Farm charges £3 per person with a discount for families; age 5 and under free.

Getting There

From south use M4 and A449/ A470 to Abergavenny, from north and midlands M5, M50, and A40 to Abergavenny, then A465 towards Hereford, then after 4 miles, turn left onto unclassified road signposted to Llanthony Priory and keep following the brown signposts. The first campsite you come to is Lower Henllan Farm’s, about 5 miles down the road. It has a wooden sign on the gate, then further up is Maes-y-beran Farm (with a white sign outside), then finally you’ll reach the Priory and Court Farm’s site.

Tags

Bicycle routes  Dogs welcome  Nice views  Remote location  Waterside location