A campsite framed by a ruined abbey and dramatic mountains – what more could you want?
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.
The Owner Says
We visited on Jan 19th 2016 in what turned out to be the coldest night so far this year.
The priory grounds and ruins are lovely and well worth a walk around when you visit.
It may well be classed as Basic with just a tap in the field but this is perfect for the type of camping we were looking for.
The field is very soft at this time of year and driving in can result in you getting bogged down but there is a large free car park just yards away.
The toilets are about a minutes walk away (at the end of the car park) but they are there!
We had temps of -5 degrees so the tap in the field had frozen but the owners are extremely welcoming and invited us to get water from the farmhouse whenever we needed it.
Two pubs within walking distance although one of them decided they weren't doing food but we did manage to get a bowl of cheesy chips before we starved to death!
I will return and plan a trip with my daughters in February. We will use it as a base for hill walking.
2 of 2 readers found this review useful.
Descending wearily from The Black Mountains in to the Vale of Ewyas, Llantony Priory was unmistakable even at distance. The ruined 12th Century Priory would be worthy of a visit in its own right; throw in a campsite and a pub, set it all in stunning mountain scenery, and the offer is hard to beat.
Walkers, history buffs, ramblers, birdwatchers, peace-seekers and nature lovers will all love this site. The Campsite itself is a large field with nothing more than a tap, so it isn’t one for those seeking luxury but is well worth the visit for the location alone. The pub offers good meals all day along with a selection of cakes, drinks and postcards.
The Hamlet of Llanthony itself is very small and very quite, but The Half Moon pub is a 3minute walk away from the campsite and worth a look in if you can tear yourself away from the priory itself.
I found the owners at the attached Court Farm to be hospitable, friendly and very accommodating, and they were even kind enough to organise a baggage transfer for me, which was of enormous benefit.
A proper hideaway retreat for all those who wish to retire from the modern world for a while
1 of 1 readers found this review useful.
I loved the feeling of peace at this place - no music allowed so people who want to party go elsewhere, and you can hear the birds and the river. One big field, no marked pitches, and near two pubs which do food so no need to cook - hills all around, and best of all a nice farmer to tow you out of the mud when your campervan gets stuck (only small vans allowed but after lots of rain the mud still defeated our little one!)
Only downside is the long walk to the loo - so take a bucket for nightime!!
1 of 1 readers found this review useful.
Tents, dogs, small campervans, big groups (if booked in advance) – yes. Large campervans, caravans, young groups – no.
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. No campfires, but BBQs allowed off the ground. Cold-water tap and access to public loos. No other facilities.
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
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.
Court Farm charges £3 per person with a discount for families; age 5 and under free.