A visit to the Lower Wye
Extract from 1905 Baedeker's Great Britain guide book
EXPLANATORY NOTES: All measurements are in miles ('M'). One mile equals 1.609km. Prices are in 'old money', where one shilling (1s) equals 5p, with 12 pennies (d) to the shilling. So, two shillings and six pence (2s 6d) would be equal to 12½p. Next to the hotel names, R = room and D = dinner.
Ross is the starting-point for a visit to the Lower Wye, the 'devious Vaga' of the poet, which presents some of the finest river-scenery in the country.
The river also flows past Tintern Abbey, one of the most beautiful of England's ecclesiastical ruins, while Raglan, one of the most interesting of English castles, is within easy reach of its banks.
The Wye flows to the S. from Ross, passing Monmouth, and joins the Severn near Chepstow, which is 27 M. distant as the crow flies, but about 40 M. by the windings of the river.
The traveller has his choice of road, rail, and river; the last route is preferable, and it may be combined with digressions on foot.
A boat with one boatman from Ross to Goodrich Castle costs 6s to Symond's Yat 10s., to Monmouth 15s., to Tintern 25s., to Chepstow 30s.; with two men about one-half more.
For boats apply at the Hope & Anchor Inn. Boats may be hired also at (10½ M.) Monmouth.
Perhaps the best plan is to go by boat to Tintern and to walk thence to (5½ M.) Chepstow, as the lower (tidal) part of the Wye - except at high tide, is disfigured by ugly mud-banks.
This walk also includes the Wyndcliff considered the finest single point in the valley. Those who have only one day at their disposal should visit Symond's Yat and Tintern by rail, and walk from the latter to Chepstow by the Wyndcliff.
Monmouth is the best stopping-place for those who devote two days to the trip. The railway skirts the river nearly the whole way and most of the stations are close to its banks. The times and fares from Rose are as follows:
to (7½ M.) Symond's Yat in 25 min. (fares ls. 3d., 10d., 7½d.);
to (13 M.) Monmouth (Troy Station) in 35 min. (2s. 2d., 1s. 5d., 1s. 1d.);
to (22 M.) to Tintern in 1 hr. (3s. 9d., 2s. 6d., 1s. 10½d.);
to (27½ M.) Chepstow in 1½ - 1¾ hr. (4s. 6d., 3s., 2s. 3½d.).
In summer, day-excursion tickets issued at lower fares.
Like the Severn, the Wye is famed for its salmon ('there is salmons in both'), and the fishery brings in a yearly rental £20,000.
The lower Wye forms the boundary between Gloucestershire amd Monmouthshire.
The 'coracle', a primitive British boat made of hides or tarred canvas stretched over a frame of timber or wicker-work, may still be seen on the Wye; and Gilpin ('The Wye Tour') tells of an adventurous boatman who went from the Wye to Lundy and back in one of these frail craft.
Leaving Ross by boat we obtain a good view of Wilton Castle (12-16th cent.), on the right bank, and beyond it we pass under Wilton Bridge.
Wilton Castle at one time belonged to Thomas Guy, who bequeathed it to the London hospital that bears his name.
About 4½ farther on, on the same bank, are Goodrich Court, a modern imitation of of a medieval mansion, and Goodrich Castle, a fine ruin dating partly from the 12th cent. (admission 6d.).
It was at Goodrich Castle in 1793) that Wordsworth met the little heroine of 'We are Seven'.
Below Goodrich we pass under (1 M.) Kerne Bridge (railway station; Inn) , beyond which the river makes an immense loop, and the scenery becomes more varied.
To the east. lies the Forest of Dean. At the end of the loop, near (3½ M.) Lydbrook (station; Queen's Head), we again pass under the railway.
Farther on, at (¾ M.) the Coldwell Rocks, the Wye doubles back upon itself, flowing towards the North for 2½ M. and then returning to within 600 yards of its former channel.
The tourist may leave the boat to navigate this bend, while he ascends Symond's Yat (660 ft.), the hill at the neck of the loop, commanding an exquisite view of rocks, and woods, and meadows, not unlike the view from the Marienburg at Alf, on the Moselle.
Close by is Symond's Yat Station (Rocklea, R. 3s. ; Prospect House Temperance ; Saracen's Head; Symond's Yat; Bungalow Boarding House).
Boats may be hired at the Rocklea Hotel for excursions to Lady Park Cave (adm. 6d.), etc.
Symond's Yat is separated from the Great Doward by a defile named the 'Slaughter', and both hills are crowned with ancient encampments.
The river then flows through the richly wooded park of the Leys, and the valley becomes more open.
Monmouth is 10½ M. from Ross in a direct line, and about twice as far by the river. The road misses a great part of the scenery.
Monmouth (Beaufort Arms; King's Head; Bridge Hotel; Angel)
Monmouth a town of 5,095 inhabitants, which Gray calls 'the delight of the eye and the very seat of pleasure', is beautifully situated on a rising ground at the confluence of the Monnow and the Wye.
The old castle, of which some remains still exist, was the birthplace of Henry V. (1388-1422), the 'Prince Hal' of Shakespeare. The room in which he was born is still pointed out.
On the old bridge crossing the Monnow is an interesting gateway of the 13th century, adjoining which is a small Norman chapel.
The romancing chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth (d. 1164) was born here and a building (of much later date) is known as 'Geoffrey's Study'.
The caps for which Monmouth was formerly celebrated ('wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps', Henry V., iv. 7) ale no longer made here.
There are two railway stations at Monmouth: May Hill, near the bridge, and Monmouth Troy to the south of the town.
Passengers for Tintern and Chepstow sometimes have to change carriages at the latter, the train going on to Raglan, Usk, and Pontypool Road .
The view from ½ M.) Kymin Hill (700 ft. above the river; ascent 1 hr.), on the opposite bank of the Wye, is very extensive and beautiful. About 1¼ M. to the S.E. of this hill is the Buckstone, a rocking-stone, or 'Logan Stone' .
Monmouth is a good centre for numerous charming excursions, and the tourist is advised to interrupt his descent of the Wye long enough at least for a visit to Raglan (Beaufort Arms), 7 M. to the S.W. - railway (G. W. R.) in ¼ hr.; fares 1s. 1d., 9d., 6½d
Raglan Castle (adm. 6d.), now a picturesque ruin, was built in the 14-15th cent., and in 1646 was gallantly defended against the Parliamentarians for 10 weeks by the Marquis of Worcester, then in his 84th year.
It was the last fortress to hold out for the king. The second marquis, the son of the heroic royalist, is distinguished for having invented and constructed the first steam engine, which was set up at Raglan as a pumping engine.
Lord Raglan, the British commander in the Crimean War, took his title from this spot.
Beyond Raglan the train goes on to (12 M.) Usk (Three Salrmons, R. or D. 2s. 6d.), an ancient place with an old church and castle and a noted salmon-fishery, and (18 M.) Pontypool Road.
Other interesting places near Monmouth are (8 M.) Skenfrith Castle, (13½ M.) Grosmont Castle, and (9½ M.) White Castle.
Below Monmouth the valley of the Wye soon again contracts, and is enclosed by steep wooded bills.
The railway from Monmouth to Chepstow skirts the river nearly the whole way.
On the right bank, 2 M. from Monmouth, lies Pennalt, near which is Troy House, now occupied by French nuns.
On the opposite bank are various traces of the industries carried on in the Forest of Dean. At Bigsweir (4 M. from Monmouth) we reach the highest point where the flow of the tide is perceptible.
About 2 M. to the E. is St. Briavels.
The train next passes (3½ M.) Tintern Parva and Tintern Station, both on the right, and after rounding another loop reaches (1½M.) the ivy-clad Tintern Abbey, one of the most romantic ruins in England, lying in a green meadow on the right bank of the Wye (adm. 6d.).
The abbey was founded by Cistercian monks in 1131, but the church, the chief feature of the ruins, dates from the end of the following century.
The building, which is 228 ft. long, is a fine specimen of Dec. Gothic.
The roof and central tower are gone, but the rest of the structure is still well preserved.
The window-tracery and other decorations are very beautiful.
The secular buildings are much smaller and less important than those of Fountains Abbey.
The village of Tintern (Beaufort Arms, R. from 4s., D. 1s. 6d.; Royal George, R. 2s. 6d., D. from 2s. 6d.; Rose & Crown, R. 2s. 6d.) is close to the abbey. The railway station is 1 M. distant by road.
The river-scenery between Tintern and (7 M.) Chepstow is very charming, though it loses much of its attraction at low tide.