Clytha and Coed y Bwnydd walk
A ramble through an 18th-century estate, taking in the wildlife-rich River Usk and Coed y Bwnydd - the largest and one of the best preserved hill-forts in Monmouthshire. There are beautiful views of the Sugar Loaf, wider Usk Valley and Clytha Castle, one of the outstanding 18th-century follies of Wales.
Clytha riverside car park SO361085
From the car park take the gate to the right of the interpretation panel and continue until you reach a kissing gate on your left as the path turns to the right. Follow the Usk Valley Walk way-markers. The path runs adjacent to the river for approximately 1.8 miles (3km) until you meet a road.
The River Usk
The Usk flows past the western edge of Clytha Estate. It's designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation and is well known for its salmon and trout. Wildlife watching can be very rewarding, with otters, dippers, sand martins, kingfishers and bats all living in or near this stretch of the river.
Turn left up the road and continue for 0.6 miles (1km). At the top of the hill follow the road into Bettws Newydd and turn right at the road junction, keeping the Black Bear pub on your right. Continue for 300m, then turn left on to the lane leading up to the church.
Enter the church gates and at the other end of the church yard go over the stile. Turn right then immediately left and continue until you reach a stile on your left. Continue uphill, cross the stiles and head down the road on the other side of the hill. Follow the narrow lane uphill between two buildings until you reach Coed y Bwnydd hill fort on your left. Follow the circular path left around the hill fort and return to a field gate at the original fort entrance opposite a stone field barn.
Coed y Bwnydd hill fort
Coed y Bwnydd is the largest and possibly best-preserved hill fort in Monmouthshire. A Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM), it has a history of human involvement stretching back more than 2,000 years. Today it's the perfect place to wander quietly, particularly in spring when the carpet of bluebells, red campion and orchids add a dazzling array of colour.
Go through the kissing gate and follow the permissive path across the field, keeping the stone barn on your right. At the other end of the field cross the stile on to the Clytha Hill lane. Turn left onto the lane and continue walking, keeping left where the lane forks until you reach a kissing gate on your left in the hedge. Pass through the kissing gate and follow the path down the grassy hill, through the gap in the line of trees and continue over two stiles until you reach the woods behind Clytha Castle. Follow the wooden signposts to Clytha until you meet the track in the woods to the entrance to Clytha Castle. Please respect the privacy of those staying at the castle.
Considered as one of the outstanding 18th-century follies of Wales, the castle was designed by John Davenport and built by William Jones of Clytha House with the purpose of 'relieving a mind afflicted with the loss of a most excellent wife'. It's now owned by the National Trust and leased to the Landmark Trust who rent it out for holidays.
On a clear day take in views of Sugar Loaf and Skirrid at the eastern end of the Black Mountains. Once you’ve enjoyed the view, follow the track behind the castle through the woods to the wooden gate and on to Clytha Estate park. Continue along a grassy track above the trees to a driveway. Cross the drive, keeping the fenced wood on your right and follow the line of trees diagonally uphill to a gate in the corner of the field. Follow the way marked route through three gates and down steep steps to the road.
'There are prospects far more extensive but few so pleasing: nature has placed the hills and mountains at such fortunate distances from this point of view that the eye is lost in the endless variety of bewitching scenery and knows not on what object to rest.’ Coxe (1801), describing the view from Clytha Castle.
Carefully cross the road to the road turning for Clytha Arms on the opposite side. Pass through the metal gate immediately in front of you and continue over the stile on the right. Follow the way marked path across several fields until you reach a large ancient oak tree in the corner of the field with Chapel Farm on your left. This fine late medieval farmhouse is one of the oldest buildings in the National Trust’s ownership.
Capel Aeddan & Chapel Farm
Here are the remains Capel Aeddan, a chapel dedicated to St Aythan, thought to have been founded in the 12th century. Little survives of the medieval chapel beyond an L-shaped section of wall footings. It is not clear when the site was abandoned, but it has been suggested that some of the stone may have been incorporated into Chapel Farm. Chapel Farm appears to have been built in two phases. A substantial 17th century house with stone-mullion windows was added to a 16th century stone house with upper crucks. The eccentric relationship of the two ranges has been taken to also suggest the former presence of earlier buildings, possibly relating to a manor house and medieval hall.
Pass through the kissing gate, cross the track into the wood. Follow the path behind the hedge, winding through the woodland until you meet another track. Turn left and then immediately right. Follow the path along the edge of the woodland for 400m. Before the path heads back down in to the woods take in the view of Clytha Castle to your left.
Follow the path down into the woods continuing along the waymarked route with Clawdd Brook on your right. Pass through a kissing gate into the park, at the back of Rose Cottage, keeping woodland to your right and turn right as you go through the small gate passing an old milk churn dock leading to the main road. Take care crossing the road and pass through the small metal gate. Turn right and follow the path along the railings turning left to follow a fence and passing through a gate to the river. You are now back on the Usk Valley Walk. Follow the path with the river on your right. After a sharp left bend follow the track back to the car park.
Clytha riverside car park SO361085
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