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Are you looking for the best things do in Monmouth Wales? Then, you’ve come to the right place.
If you’re heading out on a Wye Tour in the UK, then the ancient market town of Monmouth has to be on your list.
Tucked away in the Wye Valley on the English-Welsh border, this quaint town will wow you with it’s colourful history and incredible architecture.
It gets its name from the River Monnow that flows through here and it’s famous for being the birthplace of King Henry V who led the Battle of Agincourt.
Not to mention it has connections to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Admiral Horatio Nelson, Charles Rolls of Rolls-Royce and the Royal Family!
From shopping on its independent high street, crossing over 13th century bridges, exploring castle ruins and having a pint in ancient pubs – you’ll never be bored exploring this gorgeous town.
Here is a complete list of the best things to do in Monmouth Wales!
The History of Monmouth
Monmouth has an incredible history spanning back to the Roman era where it was a centre for the ironwork trade.
But, it was truly put on the map after the Norman invasion when a Norman lord called William FitzOsbern built a castle nearby in 1070.
This was also the humble beginnings of the famous Monnow Bridge which was originally built of timber at the crossing of the River Wye and Monnow.
A few centuries later, in 1272, this footbridge was rebuilt in Old Red Sandstone and is currently the only one of its kind still standing in Great Britain today.
It’s believed that the famous Welsh scholar Geoffrey on Monmouth may have had connections to the town and priory who was born in 1100
Although he has ‘of Monmouth’ in his name, there is little evidence to support that he was born here. He was most famous for his ‘Historia Regum Britanniae’ (a history of Kings in Britain) which famously spoke of King Arthur and the Arthurian Tales!
The Battle of Monmouth took place in 1233 between King Henry III and Richard Marshal the Earl of Pembroke. Marshal had formed an alliance with Owain ap Gruffudd who was part of the Welsh Rebellion.
King Henry V was born in Monmouth Castle in 1386 who famously led the Battle of Agincourt. You will find his statue in front of the Shire Hall in the centre of the town.
Although most of the town managed to be protected from the Welsh Uprisings it did have a brief involvement in the English Civil War. Royalists were stationed at the Monnow Bridge trying to take the town from Parliamentarian forces.
In 1802, Admiral Horatio Nelson visited the town after he approved a Naval Temple to be built in his honour on top of Kymin Hill. He famously dined at the Round House there and spent two days in the town exploring the area.
Monmouth has close links with the Rolls Family who built a mansion at The Hendre just outside of town. Charles Rolls established a new car-making business will Henry Royce. You will find his statue in Agincourt Square.
Writers like Wordsworth and William Gilpin with his ‘Wye Tour’ spoke of Monmouth’s ethereal beauty which made it a popular tourist attraction. Shortly after, artists and tourists started flocking to paint its wonderful Monnow Bridge and surroundings.
Nowadays, this sleepy town on the Welsh Border is a popular stop in the Wye Valley and is known for it’s quaint buildings, shopping and culture!
The very best things to do in Monmouth Wales!
So, what is there to do in Monmouth? Well, there is plenty to do for all interests.
From castle ruins, museums, ancient buildings, pubs, shopping boutiques and more.
Here is everything that you can do when you visit Monmouth…
1. Visit the Monnow Bridge
Out of all the attractions in Monmouth, my personal favourite was the Monnow Bridge! In my opinion, it’s one of the best things to do in Monmouth.
This impressive footbridge has a history since the Norman era where it started out as a small timber footbridge.
Then, in 1272 it was rebuilt in Old Red Sandstone and later was fortified with a gatehouse which sits on top.
Today, this is the only bridge in Great Britain of its kind where the gatehouse still sits on top of the bridge.
This bridge has played many roles for the town over the centuries. Forming part of the defence walls for the town, it has been involved in the Welsh Uprisings, the English Civil War and the Newport Risings with the Chartists!
It has also worn many hats being firstly a defence gate, a toll gate, a gaol, a residential dwelling (!), a munitions store and a bridge to allow cars through.
Nowadays, it’s completely pedestrianised and it is something that you cannot miss when you visit Monmouth.
Standing over the River Monnow, it’s incredibly impressive and you can explore it’s many tunnels as well as taking in the views.
You can go inside the Monnow Bridge but appointments must be made in advance. Contact the Shire Hall for more details.
Want to know more about this bridge? See my complete guide for the Monnow Bridge and Gate here!
2. Take a walk along the banks of the River Monnow and Wye
From the Monnow Bridge, you can easily take a leisurely stroll along the banks of the River Monnow.
This is the area where the River Wye and the River Monnow meet and you’ll be surrounded by the rolling hills of the Wye Valley.
Across the banks you’ll see historical buildings like the Parish Church of St Thomas the Martyr.
If you carry on, you’ll find the confluence of the two rivers and you can even visit the historic Monmouth Viaduct.
If you weren’t up for a long walk, you can simply sit by the river and watch the world go by!
Near to the Monnow Bridge there are a few cafés serving coffee for a pick me up or you can head into the local Fish Bar.
You’ll get a picture-perfect view here whilst munching on your Fish ’n’ Chips!
3. Visit the Parish Church of St Thomas the Martyr
I have to admit, there wasn’t much of note after you’ve crossed the River Monnow to ‘Over Monnow’. But, there was one church that stood out to me and that was the Parish Church of St Thomas the Martyr.
I first got a glimpse of this building from its stained glass windows that you can see from the Monnow Bridge and so I decided to check it out.
Although the majority of the building was rebuilt in the 19th century, some parts date back to the Norman era!
It has had a relatively quiet history, aside from the fact that it was almost destroyed during the Battle of Monmouth in 1233.
After the battle, the church needed to be completely rebuilt out of wood from the nearby Forest of Dean.
Today, it’s one of 24 buildings on the Monmouth Heritage Trail and it’s Grade II listed. Inside, you’ll find its impressive ‘dog’s tooth’ Normal Chancel Arch which is worth seeing.
4. Grab dinner in the historic Robin Hood Inn
At the end of Monnow Street by the Monnow Bridge is an old pub which is almost a tourist attraction in itself.
The Robin Hood Inn is thought to have been built in the late medieval period dating back to the 14th century!
It has always been a public house in the town but the blue plaque that sits outside the pub today commemorates its controversial religious history.
During the Reformation era, where Catholicism was banned, the landlord of the pub Michael Watkins allowed Mass to be celebrated on the upper floors of the building in the 1770s!
Today, it is still a tavern in the town that retains its olde world charm. It sits near the banks of the River Monnow and is the perfect spot to order a pint or some pub grub.
Inside you’ll find a cosy setting with some historic timber and stonework features. Plus, some references to the legendary Robin Hood and Little John. Although there is no evidence that he ever visited this way!
Or, if the weather is fine, you can enjoy sitting in their beer garden outside!
5. Go independent shopping on the colourful Monnow Street
One of the best things to do in Monmouth is to take a stroll on the glorious Monnow Street.
Monnow Street is the main High Street and you’ll notice that it is surprisingly large for such a small town. This is because it has a history as a medieval market street where traders would visit to sell their wares.
In fact, they would often pay their toll to the gatekeeper on the Monnow Bridge and then head up to Monnow Street and Agincourt Square to set up their stalls.
If you look closely, the street is narrow at both ends and then gets larger in the middle. This was so they could prevent livestock from escaping!
Today, the street is full of colourful buildings and bunting – making it inviting on even the gloomiest of days and it’s full of independent boutiques to explore.
You could shop ’til you drop here and you’ll find jewellery shops, antiques, clothing stores, galleries and bookshops too!
6. See the Charles Rolls statue – Founder of Rolls-Royce
Monmouth has many notable connections but one of its most famous is the connection to the Rolls Family.
Charles Stewart Rolls was born in 1877 as the third son of John Rolls, 1st Baron Llangattock. His family home being the Rolls Mansion built just outside of Monmouth at The Hendre.
He was to become a leading Welsh aviation and motoring pioneer and established a company with Henry Royce called Rolls-Royce.
The statue was originally built to honour Charles Rolls in 1910 as a way to celebrate his two-way crossing of the English Channel. But, he tragically died only a month later!
His aircraft crashed on Hengistbury Airfield near Bournemouth and he was only 32 years old.
Today, the statue stands as a celebration and memorial to honour his life. You can see him standing just outside of the Shire Hall in Agincourt Square, inspecting his Wright Flyer!
7. Admire the ancient Shire Hall
While you’re admiring the statue, you can’t help but admire the incredible Shire Hall built of Bath Stone that stands behind it.
This Grade I listed building was built in 1724 but it is actually the fourth building that has stood on this spot over the centuries!
The current structure was built to replace an Elizabethan court which then later transformed into an area for trading on the bottom floor.
Later, the top floor was used as a Court of Assizes and was most notably used to convict Chartist leaders that were involved in the events of the Newport Risings.
If you look above the Charles Rolls statue, you’ll find a statue of King Henry V placed in a small niche on the front of the building underneath the clock.
Today, the Shire Hall is closed to visitors but it is owned by the county council. It’s normally used for weddings and business conferences.
However, there is always something going on around the hall like markets and events. It’s well worth checking out.
Fun fact: The Shire Hall was used in a Doctor Who Christmas Special “The Next Doctor” in 2008 starring David Tennant!
8. Explore Agincourt Square
If you’re standing outside the Shire Hall, you’ll be happy to know that you’ve entered the famous Agincourt Square.
It was given the name after the Battle of Waterloo to commemorate Henry V who led the battle of Agincourt over the French. Also, it was named to promote tourism to the area with the famous ‘Wye Tour’.
It’s full of ancient buildings and has many stories to tell if you take a look around.
As an ancient market town, this square would have once been a busy place! Back then, it would have stretched back to Monmouth castle and would have been much larger than it is today.
It would be packed with traders, sellers and livestock. It would have been incredibly hectic, mucky, smelly and loud.
Back in the 19th century, there were over 15 pubs in the square surrounding the Court of Assizes. But, now there are just a few remaining.
These are The King’s Head which dates back to the era of Charles I. The King himself apparently visited the pub in 1645. You’ll find a bust of him in the bar!
Also, you’ll find The Punch House and The Beaufort Arms Hotel both had their beginnings as 18th-century coaching inns.
Another building worth noting is the timbered Agincourt House, which has has a long history since 1624.
9. Visit Monmouth Castle – the birthplace of Henry V
From Agincourt Square, it’s just a short walk up to Monmouth Castle on Castle Hill. This is the birthplace of Monmouth’s most famous son King Henry V also known as Henry of Monmouth.
He was born in 1386 at Monmouth Castle and reigned over England from 1413 until 1422.
Although his reign was short, he is famous for his military efforts during the Hundred Years’ War and his famous victory in the Battle of Agincourt.
You’ll most likely know of him from Shakespeare’s historic plays coined the “Henriad” where Henry V is immortalised as a great warrior king.
Although the castle is mainly a ruin nowadays, it is still one of the nicer things to do in Monmouth. You can explore what’s left on the hillside above the River Monnow!
It was originally established by the Norman Lord William FitzOsbern, then it was rebuilt in stone during the 12th century.
It has played an important border castle between England and Wales over the years, with Henry II being held prisoner here for a short while!
It was significantly destroyed during the English Civil War and over the centuries it was left to ruin, so now just a few parts remain.
It’s completely FREE to explore and you can read all about the history of this once great castle while you’re taking in the sweeping views.
10. Visit the Monmouth Military Museum
Just nearby is the Monmouth Military Museum which is the home of the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (or Militia).
Inside, this delightful attraction tells their story dating back to 1539 during the reign of Henry VIII.
This was way before there was ever such a thing as a regular army. They acted as militia forces for the aristocracy to maintain law and order in the county.
Inside, you can learn all about the Militia system and how it has connections with the Duke of Beaufort and Monmouth Town.
You’ll find all sorts of artefacts inside like uniforms, weapons, historical documents and women’s roles in the militia too!
The Monmouth Military Museum opening times are from 2 pm – 5 pm daily from the 1st of April to 31st October. It’s completely FREE to visit.
11. Learn history in Monmouth Museum (Nelson Museum)
Another one of the more interesting things to do in Monmouth is to visit the Monmouth Museum (Mon Life) which is full of local history!
You’ll find many displays on ancient history, Henry V and Charles Stuart Rolls. But, the most significant displays are around Admiral Horatio Nelson.
Although he was born in Norfolk, died at sea and is buried at St. Pauls Cathedral in London. He visited Monmouth in 1802 to see the Naval Temple built in his honour on top of Kymin Hill.
So, you’ll find a significant collection of artefacts to learn his story here. You’ll find pictures, weapons, models and letters written by the admiral himself.
It’s located on Priory Street and is completely FREE to visit. Click here for opening times as they are subject to change.
12. See the Victorian slaughterhouse viaduct underneath the Market Hall
Although you cannot go inside them, one of the quirkier things to do in Monmouth is to take a quick peek at the tunnels that sit underneath the Monmouth Museum and Market Hall.
These tunnels by the river are now abandoned but they are a popular photography location and Urbex spot.
This whole sandstone structure with its many stone tunnels used to be a Victorian slaughterhouse and was built in 1834.
A local architect called George Vaughan Maddox won a competition to design a structure by the riverside to divert market traffic from Church Street in 1834.
He designed the market hall above made of Bath Stone on Priory Street and then created the viaduct below as a slaughterhouse. So, the meat was freshly cut and brought up to the market stalls to sell!
Unfortunately, the waste from the butchers was then chucked into the river and floated downstream. Nice.
It’s made of Old Red Sandstone, similar to the Monnow Bridge and unfortunately, it’s completely abandoned today. But, if you stand just before the market hall on priory street you can just see this historic viaduct below!
13. Pop inside St Mary’s Priory Church
Once you’re finished in the Monmouth Museum, I would recommend looking around St Mary’s Priory Church that sits opposite on Whitecross Street.
It has been a Benedictine Priory since 1075 but most of what we see today was rebuilt in the 19th century.
As another one of the notable buildings on the Monmouth Heritage Trail, it has a long and complicated history since William I.
But, something that may catch your eye can be found in the graveyard outside the church itself!
At the eastern end of the church garden, you’ll find the gravestone of John Renie who was a house painter in Monmouth. He died in 1832 at aged 33.
His gravestone is unique in the way that it was carved into an acrostic puzzle! The puzzle from the large letter H in the middle reads ‘here lies John Renie’ in any direction.
Many say that Renie carved this gravestone himself. It’s now Grade II listed.
14. See Geoffrey’s Window in Monmouth Priory
Connected to Monmouth Priory is the famous Geoffrey’s window, a 15th-century oriel window that is dedicated to Geoffrey of Monmouth.
Although there is no solid evidence that the Welsh scholar was born in Monmouth, his name does suggest that there was a connection.
If you weren’t aware of who Geoffrey of Monmouth was, he was a great medieval storyteller and scholar who spoke of King Arthur and the Arthurian tales in his History of the Kings of Britain.
There are many Welsh versions of the tales that place King Arthur, Merlin the Wizard and Vortigern in the local area and you can visit King Arthur’s Cave just a few miles nearby.
In the 15th century, this oriel window was put in place to commemorate Geoffrey of Monmouth.
Many believe that this was an attempt to solidify the claim that Geoffrey of Monmouth had links to the town. But, he’s now thought to be more of a Monmouthshire legend than anything.
After you’ve admired the window, you can learn more about Geoffrey in the Shire Hall, see displays in the Monmouth Museum or head out on their Geoffrey of Monmouth trail. It’s a 1.7-mile trail that explores his life and the tales of King Arthur.
15. Explore Church Street
If you head back to Agincourt Square, I would recommend walking through the quaint and colourful Church Street!
It’s a small lane that acts as a throughway to St Mary’s Priory Church but there are lots of little shops and restaurants worth seeing here.
It’s completely pedestrianised and you’ll find traditional sweet shops, independent boutiques and more.
However, many people gather in this little street before a show at the famous Savoy Theatre!
16. Catch a play at the Savoy Theatre
If you have the time, it’s well worth having a look at what’s on in The Savoy Theatre.
First built in 1832, it’s a grade II listed theatre that has a capacity to hold 360 people! It’s now the oldest working theatre site in Wales.
Inside, you’ll find that it’s been traditionally decorated in glamour with gold gilt frames, red velvet curtains, curved seating and there are even theatre boxes to enjoy! It will transport you back to a bygone era.
There is lots going on at The Savoy all year including live theatre performances, independent films and blockbusters.
17. Take a hike up to the Naval Temple on Kymin Hill
A few miles out of Monmouth is the famous Kymin Hill that has been a popular picnic spot since the Georgian era. It used to be part of the Duke of Beaufort’s estate.
It’s home to an unusual Naval Temple called The Kymin that was built by public subscription in the 1800s. It was approved by Admiral Horatio Nelson himself and this inspired his visit to Monmouth in 1802.
He was the most famous visitor to dine in the round house here, four years after the Battle of the Nile.
As it sits on top of a hill, you can get sweeping views over the Wye Valley area and the Brecon Beacons on a clear day.
It’s currently owned and protected by the National Trust and it’s the perfect place to escape the crowds for a while and enjoy the views of the Welsh countryside.
The park is open from 8am – 6pm most days. Parking and entrance to the park is completely free.
The Round House however has an entry fee. It currently costs £3 per adult and £1.50 for children.
18. Visit in time for Monmouth Festival!
If you time your visit right, you may be here just in time for one of Monmouth’s incredible festivals.
The town hosts notable events throughout the year but the most famous has to be their signature Monmouth Festival.
It’s a FREE event that celebrates local talent and artists across numerous venues such as The Riverside, St Mary’s Church, The Methodist Church and the Monmouth Savoy.
You’ll find plenty of live music in all genres like live orchestra, jazz, folk, pop, rock and more.
Click the map below to find all these things to do in Monmouth
Where is Monmouth in Wales & how to get there?
Monmouth is a sleepy market town that is based in Wye Valley in the UK. A common question that people ask is ‘is Monmouth in Wales or England?’.
It’s most definitely Wales but the town is very close to the English/Welsh border and so you can get the best of both worlds in this area.
Monmouth is a popular stop on the spectacular Wye Tour which includes the famous Raglan Castle, Tintern Abbey, Chepstow, Goodrich Castle, Symond’s Yat and Ross-on-Wye.
So, if you were planning a road trip around the Wye, Monmouth is definitely one that you should add to your list.
It’s easiest to drive into Monmouth if you were planning a Wye Tour. You can find it easily along the A40 from Ross-on-Wye, Symond’s Yat or Goodrich Castle.
If you were heading from Tintern Abbey, it’s best to head down the A466 beside the Wye river – although the roads are kind of sketchy after dark in this area!
There is currently no train station in Monmouth, the nearest is either Abergavenny or Chepstow.
I would personally recommend Chepstow as, from here, you can get a regular bus service that runs into Monmouth.
Are you heading out on a Wye Tour?
If you are planning a day out around the Wye Valley, you’re in for a real treat. It really is one of the most spectacular parts of Wales and there is so much to explore.
Although William Gilpin wrote his “Observations on the River Wye” and created the Wye Tour over 250 years ago – It’s now a popular road trip for many to explore this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
So, I would recommend starting out your modern Wye Tour road trip in either Chepstow or Ross-on-Wye.
From Chepstow, you can visit the incredible Tintern Abbey, then head up towards Monmouth to explore the town.
After that, you can stop off at the beautiful riverside village of Symond’s Yat and take in the views from Yat Rock above. If you have the time, I would also recommend visiting King Arthur’s Cave in Biblins nearby.
Make a stop at Goodrich Castle for a portal back in time and then finish off your day exploring the English market town of Ross-on-Wye!
It’s a beautiful day out that gives you the very best sights along the English Welsh border.