“ Tintern Abbey was originally founded by Cistercian monks in 1131 AD. in the reign of Henry I. Between 1270 and 1301 the Abbey was rebuilt and by the end of the rebuilding, around four hundred monks lived in the complex. The Black Death arrived in 1349 and affected Abbey life badly but it continued to operate until 1536. In that year the Abbey was part of the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. Within a few years the lead was stripped from the roof and the building began to decay. The Abbey then became a source of building stone and only in the eighteenth century was any interest shown in the ruin. Around 1760 the site was cleaned up and visitors to the Wye Valley began to be entranced with the beauty of the site and surroundings. Turner was the best known artist to visit Tintern at the end of that century along with the poet Wordsworth. „
On our recent short break to South Wales we had a list of places we would like to visit and explore. On looking through our many books on Places to see before you die this came up as one of the 501 must see places.
This Abbey ruins were built way back beginning in 1131but they were not finished for another four hundred years, This was a Cistercian abbey with farm, hospital and accommodation for the monks who lived and worked there. It was the first Cistercian abbey in Wales.
Sadly Henry VIII 's destructive official took it over in 1536 and destroyed most of it. Despite the fact that it is a ruin today it is still awe inspiring in its beauty and sheer size.
The day we visited was a sunny (yes you did read that correctly) Sunday in June and the car parks were packed. The car parks are pay and display and cost £3 but you can get a refund back on that for anything you buy in the Abbey souvenir shop. All these car park were full and we had to park in an overflow car park behind the Anchor pub. This also cost £3 and we could get that back in the form of a drink in the pub or spend it in the café attached to the pub which is what we did.
OPENING HOURS AND PRICES
The Abbey is managed and maintained by Cadw which is the Welsh equivalent of the English heritage or National trust and a very fine job they have done too.
The Abbey is open 29 March - 30 June - 9.30 - 5pm
1 July - 31 August - 9.30 - 6pm
1 Sept - 31 Oct - 9.30 - 5.pm
1 November - 28 Feb- Mon - Sat 10 am - 4 pm Sun 11 am - 4 pm
Closed 24,25, 26 Dec and Jan 1
Family ticket - 2 adults and all children under 16 costs £13.50
Seniors, students and under 16s £3.40
Children under 5 FREE
Disable visitor plus companion FREE
Despite the fact the car parks were full to overflowing somehow the actual Abbey and grounds were fairly sparsely peopled which was lucky as I hate visiting places that are packed. My husband hates strangers in his photo and when we visit crowded places we have to stand for ages waiting for no one to be in the photo. Photoshop get rid of the ones that manage to sneak in!
You pay for the entrance in the main shop and then after that you can wander as you feel throughout the abbey and grounds.
The kitchen, laundry, accommodation and hospital are pretty much just low stone walls now but you can sort of see the layout where they stood. The information signs explain what was there and have artist drawings of what it must have looked like when it was all still standing.
The abbey or church is the main attraction as the walls are still standing with all the window arches and columns inside. The' carpet' is now grass but when you are in the church it is easy to see how magnificent it must have once been. It I easily as big as some of the larger Cathedrals in the country and somehow even more romantic and Gothic being a ruin than it might have been in its full glory.
It was one of those places which appeals to artist and photographer as there were so many really attractive parts. Somehow ruins have their own special attractiveness. It did help that we had beautiful blue sky for our visit as a visit in the rain would not have been nearly as appealing.
There is disabled parking on site and there are also cycle stands. Public toilets are near the car park but I am not sure what they are like as I used the one in the pub café. They do have baby changing facilities. The entire site is all on ground level and accessible to all though pushing a wheel chair could be a bit of a challenge.You can even take your dog provided it is on a lead. There is no smoking on the site and if you want more information then you can buy a guide book; I think they were about £4.50 each.
The gift shop sold the usual souvenirs, postcards, welsh woolen clothing and books, mug etc. I have to admit we didn't spend too long looking around a we never buy souvenirs as we have enough clutter in our house without adding any more.
On the day we went there were families with children walking along the walls and generally running around, couples and singles sitting in sunny spots just looking or reading, a couple of artists sitting and drawing and many more of us with cameras trying to get the perfect shop.
I would certainly recommend Tintern Abbey for a visit as it is a beautiful, very atmospheric ruin. We were very lucky as we had a beautiful sunny day and I would imagine on a cold and wet day the appeal might be slightly less as it is all out in the open with no shelter at all.
This is the kind of place where you can learn as much about the history as you want or just look around and been awe truck by the sheer beauty of the place. It is hard to imagine that almost 1000 years ago people built this place using very simple tools. Even today it would take years and many skilled craftsmen to build it and we have modern technology to help. It is quite breath taking and makes you appreciate what incredible talent our ancestor had.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same username.
Sitting just inside the Welsh border, the ruined Cistercian abbey at Tintern is definitely worth a couple of hours of anyone's time. The village itself might be tiny, but dominating it are the ruins of the abbey. Indeed, whichever side you approach it from it's hard not to be impressed by the scale of the remaining ruins.
A Brief History Lesson
Originally founded in the 11th century, the great Cistercian abbey essentially dominated the surrounding countryside and formed a vital part of the local economy of this part of South Wales during medieval times, as well as acting as an important religious centre. Sadly, like so many others, the abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1536 and the building slowly fell into a state of disrepair, some of its stone looted for use in buildings elsewhere. The once grand abbey was left exposed to the elements for over 400 years, a symbol of one King's obsession and greed before any serious efforts were made at conservation
Although tucked in a relatively isolated position in the middle of nowhere, the abbey is still pretty easy to reach thanks to the miracle of modern roads. Although some of the roads approaching it are a little windy, they are all well-maintained and nice and wide. Tintern is situated close to the English-Welsh border, so whichever side of that dividing line you are on, it's fairly simple to find.
The ruins of the abbey sit alongside the river, surrounded by green fields and even in today's busy world it's an incredibly tranquil place. It's easy to see why the monks chose it as the location for their monastery.
Tintern is maintained by Cadw (the Welsh equivalent of English Heritage) and they have done a fine job on turning it into a tourist attraction, without making it tacky. A large car park (complete with an overflow area) means that even at the busiest times, you should have no problems parking you car, and a small visitor centre and gift shop has been tastefully created as the entrance to the abbey so that it doesn't look tacky or out of place. Facilities are fairly limited (toilets and a gift shop), but the village is less than five minutes' walk away and offers several option if you want to eat or drink.
Admission to the abbey in summer 2010 (when we went) was incredible value for money: £3.60 for adults, with concessions available for children or pensioners. When I visited Clifford's Tower in York, the admission price was £3.50 and I was only there for about 20 minutes. Even if you just do a brisk walk around Tintern and don't stop to read any of the information boards, it will still take at least twice that to walk around the whole site. Mrs SWSt and I easily spent at least 90 minutes there. It's even better value for money if you are a member of the National Trust or English Heritage, as you can get in for free (or half price if you are in your first year of membership).
Cadw have done an excellent job with Tintern. Pathways are clearly laid out and make it easy to walk around and help to make sure you don't miss anything out. Although you can buy a guidebook for £3.50, this is not really necessary as excellent information boards are available throughout the site telling you the function of each room and explaining how the abbey expanded and developed over time. These boards also feature plenty of illustrations with artist impressions of what the site might once have looked like, and these give you some idea of the scale of the achievements of these twelfth century monks.
The centrepiece has got to be the stunning church, the shell of which is still standing almost intact. It really gives you an idea of how incredible the abbey must have been in its heyday and, even in its ruined state is still awe-inspiring. It is an incredibly humbling experience to stand in the middle of the church and admire the incredibly skills that went into building such a massive structure hundreds of years ago. Some of the original carvings can also still be seen in the stonework which gives you some idea of how elaborately decorated and impressive it must have been inside, as well as out. There are even areas where you can climb to the upper levels and get a bird's eye view of the complex, helping you appreciate its size and scale.
One thing you do need to bear in mind is that Tintern is not going to be particularly accessible for disabled, the infirm, or those in wheelchairs. Although there are suggested routes for wheelchair users, I'm not sure how appropriate these are. The use of gravel paths and the need to go across the grass at several points would make pushing a wheelchair very hard going. There are also some parts which would be completely inaccessible, either because you need to climb onto the stonework to move from one room to the next, or because you need to climb stairs to access a few areas.
Tintern Abbey has long been one of my favourite places. Surrounded by beautiful scenery, peaceful and tranquil, it still offers a haven from the hurly-burly of the modern world. The achievement of building such an incredible structure that has lasted almost 1000 years cannot be over-stated and if you find yourself near the Welsh border, this absolutely has to be on your list of "must visit" places.
© Copyright SWSt 2011
When I first joined dooyoo I was in the middle of writing travel reviews, especially those that concentrated on the British Isles. That was back in 2006 so I don't expect you read any of those. It does limit me in what to write about, especially with the spell of nice weather we've had recently though. So I thought about particular places, rather than regions or National Parks. I don't hide the fact that I live in South Wales. There would be little point since a few of my reviews have appeared on Welsh Travel Sites. I even got contacted once by the BBC though it came to nothing. At that time I was writing about Pendine Sands, a part of Wales with a great history. One of my favourite places to visit is Tintern Abbey in the part of Wales that's on the border with England. It still comes under the heading of the Forest of Dean though.
~~ The Approach~~
Half the fun of going somewhere is the actual journey there and I feel so sorry for the driver who is en route to Tintern. There are several approaches to the junction, but once you take the A446 from the M4 then it's only a matter of some four to five miles before you reach your destination. The road starts out flat, following the general run of the Chepstow Racecourse. After about a mile the road starts to rise rapidly until it snakes through the many bends that once made this a dangerous road to navigate. When I was a child we often visited this area and I remember the signs that warned motorists of falling rocks. Now the cliffs have been shorn up and the road widened slightly, but it's still enough to send shivers down your back as twilight starts to fall.
It's the geology of the area that causes this particular place to show visitors many different aspects of itself, and I've seen the reactions of people when they see it in various seasons.
For the Wye Valley cuts through some rugged landscapes and the combination of river, cliffs and deep forest is endemic to this one special valley.
On a sunny day the view through the trees as the motorist starts the descent from the cliff-side is one of dappled sunshine opening out onto a vista of pure delight. The plain of the River Wye opens out at Tintern for a few miles and what a spectacular place that is!
The river widens and opens out here so that it causes a specific aspect once the sun starts to go down and the mist creeps across the river, rising to the tree line and engulfing the abbey itself in a hauntingly beautiful gossamer thread.
But the day is sunny, we have just arrived and what can we expect?
~~ The Abbey and Grounds ~~
Tintern Abbey was founded by the Cistercian monks in 1131, the second community that settled in Britain and the only one until then in Wales. Over the next two hundred years it was considerably remodelled and the grounds spread out to house several less lofty buildings so that the Abbey became self-sufficient. The valley is quite sheltered and even in winter it rarely sees snow. To get an idea of what it once looked like the visitor needs to enter the abbey, where the entrance price is surprisingly good value for such a large and imposing building. Like many monasteries and religious buildings, it was damaged considerably with the dissolution of monasteries under Henry V111. It once had large stained glass windows and would have been richly decorated.
Legend has it that many of the Monks managed to escape the slaughter by means of a bridge over the river Wye and following a path which led to hidden caves. Certainly the old wooden bridge was rebuilt with iron and the caves are still to be seen free of charge for those that can make the rough journey.
Entering the Abbey itself, you can look around the exhibition first and listen to the audio tour. Or you can glance around at how the abbey once looked and then just go on at your own pace to marvel at the wonders that are still visible. Maybe the soldiers had little heart in destroying this wonderful building, or perhaps it was just too imposing. Either way there are still a lot of the ruins to see. The North Nave rises to 228 feet along with remains of the nave column and the Southern arcade. The lower window hasn't the impact of the main one, but it still looks amazing, especially by moonlight. Expect to see sumptuous carvings, elaborate mouldings and tracierced windows. In places you might have to read about the ruins. The monks quarters certainly suffered along with the outbuildings. Some are even outside the abbey proper, as the cost of keeping this monument from falling down must be expensive to say the least. Yet one wouldn't begrudge a penny of the amount spent on it, not with the views through the windows that have captured the imagination of visitors for over a century.
~~ The Romantics.~~
Although greatly reduced and left to decay, the abbey became a favourite place of poets and artists alike. The most famous of artists to paint it was Turner. It appealed to his style of painting with its stark walls rising through the mists of the valley. Once you have seen the abbey close to nightfall, with white mist curling around its walls you cannot fail to see why poets and artists were swept away by the sight. Tennyson visited, as did Wordsworth. In fact Wordsworth returned and wrote one of his best-known poems here. *
Romantic still visit, but these spend special nights in the many inns that started to spring up in the Georgian era. These places are soaked in atmosphere and offer the visitor such romantic delights as four-poster beds, Tudor beams in the dining area and the best of both Welsh and English cuisine. A round of drinks won't leave you penniless either. Tintern village gives value for money.
~~ Other Delights.~~
Apart from the inns, there are a few café's and some gift shops. None are commercialised to any extent though. The village has an old mill that still works, but nowadays just turns water and has a delightful garden under the shop premises. Children scamper around safely, though it's wise to keep an eye on them near the river banks.
There is a road leading up to an old church which perches on the edge of a hillside. Now it's not in use anymore, but one famous writer used it in one of his horror stories. It's certainly very desolate.
Overall you can spend an entire day here and still want to come back to see it in other seasons. Since I've been inside the abbey a few times I am happy to have a picnic on the banks of the river and maybe do a few sketches of the abbey and environs. Back In March of this year I watched as my grandson Jack skipped from stone to stone on the abbey outskirts. He peered under rocks to look for Macca Pakka (from the TV programme in the Night garden), and generally enjoyed himself by making up his own games.
Entrance fees for the abbey are £3.25 per adult, £2.75 concession and £9.25 for a family group. Since it can take several hours to wander around the price is reasonable. Of course you can just park and take in the general view, but there is something special about being in the abbey itself. Whether you feel closer to nature there or closer to God, I can't say. But on a misty evening when the whole landscape is dark green, blue and gold, you can imagine the monks with their candles, breath pluming in the evening air as they walk the long aisle to the grand window.
Lines Written A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, On Revisting The Banks of the Wye During A Tour, July 13, 1798.
Five years have passed; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a sweet inland murmur. -- Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
Which on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again repose
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view
These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
Which, at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Among the woods and copses lose themselves,
Nor, with their green and simple hue, disturb
The wild green landscape. Once again I see
These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild; these pastoral farms
Green to the very door; and wreathes of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees,
With some uncertain notice, as might seem,
Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,
Or of some hermit's cave, where by his fire
The hermit sits alone.
Part of a longer poem by William Wordsworth.
© Lisa Fuller May 2008.
Admiring stranger, that with lingering feet,
Enchained by wonder, pauses on this green;
Where thy enraptured sight the dark woods meet,
Ah! rest awhile and contemplate the scene.
These hoary pillars clasped by ivy round,
This hallowed floor by holy footsteps trod,
The mouldering choir by spreading moss embrowned
Where fasting saints devoutly hymned their God.
So wrote Edmund Gardner towards the end of the eighteenth century and this passionate flow of words sits as a wonderful introduction to the beauty of Tintern Abbey and the landscape around. Britain seems to be a land of churches and monastic buildings and due to the politics of the Reformation, many of these have been left in ruins. But if you think that such sites are drab piles of masonry then Tintern Abbey will make you think again.
Cistercian monks originally founded Tintern Abbey in 1131 AD, during the reign of Henry I. Between 1270 and 1301 the Abbey was expanded and by the end of the rebuilding, around four hundred monks lived in the complex. The Black Death arrived in 1349 and affected Abbey life badly but it continued to operate until 1536. In that year the Abbey was part of the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. And within a few years the lead was stripped from the roof and the building began to decay. The Abbey then became a source of building stone and only in the eighteenth century was any interest shown in the ruin. Around 1760 the site was cleaned up and visitors to the Wye Valley began to be entranced with the beauty of the site and surroundings. So today we find a site that is a combination of ruin and restoration that combines to make the picturesque views that caused Gardner and his more famous colleague, William Wordsworth, to write such emotive descriptions about it.
The Abbey and the village of Tintern that it stands in, are easily arrived at by car. Being situated just off of the A466 about four miles north of the town of Chepstow, Monmouthshire means that it is not far from the M4 making an easy connection with Britain's motorway system and thus making the journey easily undertaken from almost anywhere in the country. Even the approach to the location is wonderful, a taste of the delights to come. The road winds down the wooded hillside as it drops away to the flood plain of the River Wye and suddenly in front of you is a lovely village that would look at home on the lid of a chocolate box and nestled on the edge are the statuesque remains of the Abbey.
If you are not in the habit of visiting ruins, for that is essentially what we have here, then it might seem that there is little to do here, but between the Abbey itself and the village there is certainly half a days worth of things to see and if you stop for food or a quiet drink somewhere then it easily becomes a full day out. Parking is easy as it's not the busiest of places and even if you can't get into the car park opposite then there are enough side roads around the village that will accommodate.
A small gift shop is negotiated and a after a very reasonable payment (Adults £3.50, Family £10.00) you are in. What you have at Tintern is a set of, in many cases, quite substantial walls that map the growth of a medieval Abbey. Monastic buildings such as this evolve through time, as would a castle or house and a number of plans can be identified from a number of different phases.
The abbey and grounds are surrounded by a 4ft stone wall. At the front of the grounds next to the road, grazing cattle seem oblivious to the imposing structure dominating their pasture. Although smaller than similar ruins such as Fountains Abbey, the wide-open interior spaces of the chapel and nave at Tintern are more captivating. The great lancet windows at each end of the chapel serve as breathtaking picture frames for the green hills beyond. The floor of the chapel is covered in a carpet of clipped green grass, broken by tall, decorated columns reaching toward the sky. The floor is also dotted with giant corbels, stones that once adorned the tops of Tintern's massive pillars. The corbels and surviving columns set against the wide-open spaces of the chapel floor, are a marvel to behold. While walking the floor of the chapel the symmetry and spacing of these huge pillars create vast sectioned views of the interior, making this part of the abbey the most memorable.
But an Abbey was more than just the church, it was a whole community of monks and as such here we find evidence for all the associated activities of the people that dwelt here. There are libraries and store rooms, kitchens and gardens, dormitories and latrines, even the plumbing system and water courses are there to be admired, in fact there is as much to see here as there is in a small castle, and much of it better preserved.
Enjoying such a place requires a certain attitude. At the end of the day it is basically a set of crumbling walls if you chose to see it as only that. With a bit of imagination though you can imagine the past coming to life in these hallowed rooms, the ghosts of a thriving community can be found all around you. There is plenty of information to be had to help with this either in the form of placards and notices, guide books or even an audio tour via a hand held tape recorder.
And once you have exhausted the Abbey itself there is still a lot else to do. The Abbey stands literally on the banks of the River Wye as does the village itself and the shops and cafes, the pub and the railway bridge (no longer in use) all give you a number of things to look at. With Chepstow and its castle just down the road there is a full day out in the area by combining the turbulent military of that with the soft tones and gentle ambience of the Abbey. I thoroughly recommend a day out here for families, history buffs and lovers of the outdoors in general, it's a wonderful part of the world just see it before it becomes too popular.