The Secret Castle of Usk
Norman ruins, garden art, and stunning scenery at Usk Castle in southeast Wales
Usk (Brynbuga in Welsh) is a town of just under 3,000 people in southeast Wales. It is located along the River Usk, a salmon fishing river. It developed as a small market town and is a regular winner of the Wales in Bloom contest. And it has a secret castle waiting to be discovered.
Usk was an overnight stop for us on a short trip into south Wales. In the morning, we planned to head directly to our next destination in the Brecon Beacons with a visit to Raglan Castle along the way. We knew there was a castle in Usk, but it did not receive the same amount of tourism coverage as other sites in the area, including Raglan. We almost left town without seeing the castle and that would have been a shame. The ruins were impressive, the grounds beautiful and peaceful, and the views stunning.
Usk Castle and town were likely laid out around 1120. The first mention of the castle is from 1138. Today the castle is privately owned. It is open to the public most days during daylight hours for self-guided tours. We passed through a stone archway to enter the grounds. On a shelf inside the entrance we found a money box for donations and a pot of pebbles. We were to take a pebble from the pot and place it into a wooden bowl, the owners’ way of counting visitors.
Signboards provide information about the history of Usk Castle. Topiary and wooden sculptures are found throughout the grounds. Rather than detract from or clash with the ruins, they blend nicely with their surroundings and add to the serenity of the site.
You only need thirty to forty-five minutes to tour Usk Castle, although you may want to linger longer and enjoy the scenery and serenity. In addition to being open to the public during daylight hours, Usk Castle is available to rent for weddings and other events.
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Another treasure you’ve brought to my inbox, Donna! I’ve never heard of Usk, but how lovely. I am always amazed that the owners of these historical sites allow and encourage visitors in order to preserve the history and make it a living thing.
Jacquie, it is a bit amazing that private owners preserve history in this way. But wouldn’t it be cool to own your own castle? You’d likely feel you had to share it!
How lovely! Clever way to count visitors and I love the topiary.
Deb, it was an unusual and clever way to count visitors. The topiary was a bit of a surprise. It was nicely done and fit into the landscape.
So green and I imagine the views were stunning – I’d love to see it when the flowers are blooming in Usk but the contrast of the deep greens and reds of the foliage was also beautiful. The castle of Usk may be off-the-beaten path but it’s definitely a place worthy of a visit. Lovely! Anita
Anita, the fall colours were lovely, but I imagine Usk Castle would be quite beautiful in summer when flowers are in bloom.
I love the grounds and the gardens that complement the ruins. I am glad that a private owner is keeping the history and tradition alive. I was thinking my daughter could have been married there instead of in Guthrie Castle in Scotland!
Carol, Usk castle would be a beautiful spot for a wedding but I’m sure your daughter’s wedding at Guthrie Castle was lovely too. Getting married at a castle sounds so romantic!
What beautiful pictures! I’ve been to Usk, but never made it to the castle…it looks charming, as does the Grounds.
Thanks for sharing.
Rebecca, it was beautiful. I’m glad we decided to stop before leaving town.
Even as ruins it is striking, I love the red vines adding contrast to the stonework of the ruins, beautiful
Noel, it was striking. I too loved the red vines.
I’ve never heard of Usk or its castle but the area looks so picturesque! I love how the ruins blend beautifully into the landscape.
Shelley, the ruins did seem to blend into the landscape. It was a very peaceful spot.
Always lovely to find something like this which is off the main tourist routes. Did you have it to yourself, or were there other visitors there. It looks like a lovely place to meander about.
Yasha, there was another couple who left shortly after we arrived. We were alone for the rest of our time there. It was lovely to meander around on our own in the misty morning.
Looks like you discovered a lovely secret that has preserved its history!
It was very lovely.
Usk Castle truly is a hidden secret in Wales. I’d love to return to Wales and explore more of its history and architecture ( and food!)
I’d like to get back too and explore more of Wales.
What a cool place! Love the gardens and vines growing on the castle walls.
The gardens created a great ambiance.
Usk sounds like a great short stop as you explore south Wales. I love wandering medieval ruins like that and imagining what it was like when it was new.
Rachel, I too usually enjoy imaging what ruins were like when new and did that in other sites. At Usk, I found myself more just soaking in the current mood and beauty.
Donna, I love Wales, but this is an area yet to be explored. I’ve heard of Usk, and am always fascinated by haunting ( or haunted!} old ruins. Result of an overactive imagination! Will add it to the itinerary on my next visit.
Ursula, haunting is a good word to describe Usk Castle. Lots to spark the imagination.
What a great find to visit Usk Castle! The luck of the Welsh was with you:)
On our first trip to Wales in 2014, we discovered that it truly is the land of Castles. That trip we were on the western shore and toured big sites like St David’s. The trip this spring, my sister and I will be seeking out these hidden gems. Donna, thanks for showing us another place to put on the list!
Rose Mary, this was first trip to Wales, but I got the feeling it has lots of hidden gems. Enjoy your upcoming trip.
Usk Castle is so picturesque and interesting! Loved the views, too!