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One of my favourite viewpoints in all of Wye Valley has to be from The Kymin in Monmouth.
Although it’s nearly 250 metres above sea level, the summit is surprisingly easy to access on a short car journey.
From the top, the spectacular views allow you to look over Monmouth, Wye Valley, Brecon Beacons and over 9 counties on a clear day!
As well as the breathtaking views, there is also plenty of amazing things to do at The Kymin.
You can visit the only British naval temple in the world and the famous Roundhouse where Admiral Horatio Nelson dined in 1802. Plus, there are many walks, picnic spots and wildlife to enjoy too.
Here’s a complete for visiting The Kymin with everything you can do here!
What is The Kymin?
The Kymin is Wye Valley’s best kept secret. It’s a hill that rises up around 800 feet above sea level (243 metres) and overlooks Monmouth, a market town in South Wales.
It’s tucked away in the Wye Valley, An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and on the fringes of Forest of Dean.
It’s most famous for being a Georgian picnicking spot and for its two neoclassical monuments. Those are The Kymin Roundhouse and Kymin Naval Temple.
As well as these historic monuments, the site boasts a lush woodland with lots of wildlife in the Beaulieu Grove.
Today, the site is owned and protected by the National Trust. Many walkers make their way to the top via the Offa’s Dyke trail to take in jaw dropping views from the summit.
However, the peak is also easy to access on a short steep drive from Monmouth. The road makes it a convenient stop on a Wye Valley road trip.
The history of The Kymin
Although the hill has been here since time immemorial, it became known in the Georgian era as a picnic spot.
The Monmouth Picnic Club, or the Kymin Club, was founded by Philip Meakins Hardwick. Notable members and subscribers included Duke of Beaufort and over 8 members of parliament at the time.
The club used to meet on occasion and dine together in a ‘friendly social setting’. But, they needed a venue in order to eat up here at The Kymin and to protect them from inclement weather.
So, the club then decided to build the gleaming white Roundhouse that sits on the viewpoint in 1794.
It was made with a two-storey tower that looks like a folly with its crenellated rooftop. The kitchens were placed in the lower floor and the banquet room was placed above it. There were huge windows to admire the views and telescopes installed to get a closer look!
As well as setting up the Roundhouse for dining, outside there was a bowling green and stables set up for horse riding. Walking trails were also put in place and some benches for people to sit and enjoy views of the valley below.
The only naval temple of its kind!
The club was also responsible for building the Kymin Naval temple a few years later in 1800.
It was built to commemorate the second anniversary of the British Naval victory at the Battle of the Nile in 1798. Also, to remember those admiral officers who fought in years past.
It was dedicated by the Duchess of Beaufort who was the daughter of Admiral Bascowen. You’ll find a small plaque on the temple to mark the occasion.
This naval temple is thought to be the only one of its kind in the world. You’ll notice on top of the temple is a bronze statue of Britannica and around it are plaques and medallions to honour 16 admirals for the battles they fought in.
Lord Nelson and The Kymin Roundhouse
The most famous visitor who made a journey up to the Kymin was Admiral Horatio Nelson along with Lady Hamilton and her husband in 1802.
He travelled along the Wye River by boat from Ross-on-Wye to Monmouth and was greeted with celebrations by the town and the Monmouth Militia.
The party only stayed for a couple of days but made a visit to the Kymin Roundhouse where Nelson had breakfast and enjoyed the views.
Nelson was extremely impressed with the Naval temple and said “it was the only monument of its kind erected to the Royal Navy in the Kingdom”.
Beaulieu Grove and the Wye Tour
As well as Lord Nelson making a visit from the Wye river, the Kymin and the neighbouring Beaulieu Grove was a popular spot for tourists on the Grand Wye Tour since the 1750s.
This holiday became famous when the picturesque artist William Gilpin made a visit here and wrote his Observations on the River Wye.
This tour was the British alternative of the Grand Tour in Europe while Britain was still at war with France.
The Wye tour was a boat journey along the River Wye from Ross-on-Wye to as far as Chepstow. Travellers would dine in purpose built Wye tour restaurants, take in the viewpoints and explore ruined castles. It was almost like the first package holiday!
Tourists would also make a stop in Monmouth on their tour then hire horses to make their way up The Kymin to enjoy views. They learned how to appreciate them in the ‘picturesque’ way.
Beaulieu Wood was set up as a tourism spot in the late 18th century. There was an entry gate and benches set up in the woodland for visitors to explore. Picnics were set up and groups would stroll together here.
It remained popular until the late 19th century when it lost favour. The infrastructure was then altogether abandoned.
Why you must visit The Kymin today
Although the Wye Tour was disbanded years ago. It is still worth visiting the Kymin today on a modern Wye Tour road trip.
Not only is there lots of nature here to explore but you get to enjoy the incredible views over the Wye Valley and Brecon Beacons.
As the hilltop is protected by the National Trust, the area is well laid out and it’s the perfect place to escape the crowds!
The best part about it is that you can park almost at the summit, so everything here can be accessed via a short, easy walk.
Things to do at The Kymin in Monmouth
So, what is there to do on top of the Kymin while you’re here? Well, there is actually quite a lot!
From scenic walking routes, spectacular views, the roundhouse and the temple. Here are all the things to do at The Kymin!
1. Explore the Kymin Naval Temple
The first thing that you will reach from the car park is the small Naval Temple which is accessed via a gate.
It’s not a large monument, so you can just have brief look around and notice the plaques for those admirals that were honoured. There are also a few plaques to read about the grand opening.
Inside the temple, there are two benches on either side that are sheltered. So, if it’s raining you can take some cover. Or, you could sit and relax a while on the grounds.
It’s thought to be the only one of its kind in the world but it has been renovated many times since it was first built due to weather damage. It’s now Grade II listed.
2. Visit the Kymin Roundhouse
The Roundhouse can be found just above the Naval Temple and is run as an attraction by the National Trust today.
They have preserved the building and it’s like stepping back in time to the era of opulent dining in the countryside!
It is usually open to visitors in the summer months and the National Trust charge a small fee for non-members. This is £3 an adult and £1.50 a child. National Trust members enter for free.
You can take a look around the banqueting hall admire the views from the top of the tower!
As well as a tourist attraction, the Roundhouse is the highest venue in South Wales. So, if you were looking for a romantic location for your fairytale wedding. This could be it!
Update: The Kymin Roundhouse is currently closed for visitors. On further research, the National Trust has said it’s closed “indefinitely” for now. Fingers crossed it will open again soon!
3. Enjoy some of the best views over Wye Valley
I think the thing that most surprised me on my visit was the breathtaking views you can get from this spot.
Usually, in order to get a good view like this in the Wye Valley, you have to climb up massive hills which can be quite strenuous. But, not The Kymin!
As you can drive most of the way up the hill, you get to enjoy these spectacular views with very little effort.
As it’s located 800 feet above sea level, the vantage point allows you to see for miles over the Wye Valley!
It was so strange as you could see cars driving by on the A40 but you’re so high up you can’t hear them. It’s a world away from the hustle and bustle up here. It’s so peaceful and all your can hear is birdsong.
4. Pull up a picnic!
This location was a famous Georgian picnic spot once upon a time. So, it would be rude not to follow in the tradition!
There are a few benches opposite the viewpoint which is the perfect location to enjoy your lunch with a view.
I decided to eat my sandwiches here as it was sunny and enjoyed looking over the hilltops of the Brecon Beacons! You can just see the peak of Sugarloaf Mountain.
Or, if you’d rather sit on the grass, there is a green just opposite the Roundhouse where you can set up your lunch. It’s perfect for sunny weather.
5. Look out for rare wildlife
Did you know that The Kymin is home to lots of wonderful and rare wildlife?
It’s has one of the largest populations of the Red Wood Ant which is almost extinct. You’ll see their nests dotted around the forest where you can check them out.
You also may be lucky enough to spot some wild Boar. The Forest of Dean has the largest population in England.
They used to be extremely common here but were hunted to extinction over the centuries, similar to brown bears.
Now, their numbers are very few but the population does continues to grow and will one day be thriving. So, you may get lucky and see one.
There are also lots of birds to spot plus nocturnal creatures like bats and Tawny Owls. So, keep your eyes peeled!
6. Head out on The Kymin Walk
There are a few easy walks from the Roundhouse here into the woods where you can follow in the footsteps of Nelson and Lady Hamilton.
However, many people visit The Kymin on a circular route from Monmouth below. The whole track is around 7 miles and takes you by the Redbrook & Penallt Viaduct.
Alternatively, if you just wanted to head back to town, the walk down will take you around an hour.
You can start out at The Kymin and work your way down through the woodlands to the Wye Valley river. Then, you end up at the Monnow Bridge in Monmouth.
7. Explore the ancient Beaulieu Woods
If you walk on from the Kymin Roundhouse and into the woodland, you’ll eventually reach the ancient Beaulieu Grove.
I loved exploring this forest as all the trees and rocks were covered in moss which gave it a real dark fantasy feel!
This spot was extremely popular for tourists who were travelling around on the Wye Tour in the 18th century.
Canal boats used to park up on the Wye River in Monmouth and day trippers would hire carriages to take them up to viewpoint in the woodlands.
In the 19th century, the forest was set up as a pleasure gardens. There was a gate as you entered to create a sense of mystery and wonder.
The famous artist William Gilpin made remarks on these woods in his ‘Observations on the River Wye’ saying they were “rich, as a picturesque imagination could conceive them.”
Unfortunately, a lot of the infrastructure for the Wye Valley tours has been disbanded today. The viewpoint fell out of favour when the woodlands were being cut down for construction.
But, it’s well worth exploring the area! It feels like you’re walking through a fairytale. I saw lots of bluebells, wildflowers growing and twisted mossy trees.
8. Take a walk along Offa’s Dyke
Offa’s Dyke is the famous boundary line between England and Wales that was established by King Offa in the 8th century.
Offa built it to clearly define his territory, the Kingdom of Mercia, from the bordering Kingdom of Wales and other rival kingdoms.
Today, it’s a 177-mile long walking trail which connects the Severn Estuary, Wye Valley, Brecon Beacons, Shropshire Hills and Dee Valley!
A small part of the Offa’s Dyke path can be experienced up here on The Kymin and the walking trail is clearly marked.
It’s a long descent down but very pretty. You can carry on this path over to Monmouth, Abergavenny, and even Chepstow if you wanted to.
9. Explore the ancient market town of Monmouth
You simply cannot plan a visit to The Kymin without stopping by the historic market town of Monmouth!
It’s the birthplace of King Henry V, the supposed birthplace of the legendary Welsh scholar Geoffrey of Monmouth and hometown of Charles Rolls of Rolls-Royce!
The highlight has to be the ancient Monnow Bridge which is one of the last remaining stone bridges with a gatehouse on top.
If you’re interested in history, there is Monmouth castle ruins and the Military Museum to explore.
You can also admire the ancient market hall, see Geoffrey’s Window, catch a play at the Savoy Theatre or go shopping on the High Street.
The Kymin facts
- The Kymin is located around 800 feet above sea level and the Roundhouse is the highest event venue in South Wales!
- It is though that the Kymin naval temple is the only one of its kind in the entire world.
- Lord Nelson dined at the Roundhouse here in 1802.
- The Kymin was a favourite spot in Georgian times for picnics!
- Many people would visit here on the Wye Valley tour to enjoy the views. It became a popular in the 1750s when artist William Gilpin wrote his Observations on the River Wye.
- You’ll find lots of wildlife here, including bats, owls, birds and even rare sightings of Wild Boar!
- The Kymin is home to one of Britain’s rarest and largest ants, the Red Wood Ant. You’ll find their nests everywhere here.
How to visit The Kymin in Monmouth
The Kymin can be accessed just a mile outside of the historic market town of Monmouth in the Wye Valley.
The easiest way to access the viewpoint would be to drive there. You can easily find a National Trust sign for the turning on the main A40 road that snakes from Symonds Yat or Raglan Castle. You’ll then turn onto A4136 which takes you from Monmouth to the Forest of Dean.
It is not recommended to follow your SatNav as it may deliver you to the wrong place. But, I found I had no problem, with the Kymin postcode NP25 3SF.
To be sure, the best way to find The Kymin it is to follow the signs provided by the National Trust.
I will warn you now that the drive up here is very steep as you’re driving up a great height. You’ll be driving on narrow country roads and approach blind hairpin turns. It’s mostly single lanes with passing places so be careful as you go!
Alternatively, many people enjoy The Kymin Walk from Monmouth. It runs on a circular route along the River Wye and through the forest. It will take you around an hour to reach The Kymin Roundhouse from the town.
The Kymin parking
The Kymin has a large FREE car park that is run by the National Trust. There’s lots of room to park here and there is room for larger vans. But, the drive up here may be challenging.
The car park is left quite natural to the forest around it, so you may find it boggy and muddy if there has been heavy rains.
The Kymin opening times and prices
The Kymin opening times are from 8am – 6pm throughout the year.
The Naval Temple is open to explore but the Round House is currently closed to visitors. You can’t even look inside as the curtains are closed to protect it from weather damage.
The Kymin park and viewpoint is completely FREE to visit. So, it make a great budget activity in the Wye Valley!