A short Halloween special…
I thought today we’d have a visit to the spookiest place I’ve been to for ages – Llanthony Priory, in the middle of nowhere, about seven miles north of Abergavenny….
Now when I mentioned to my well-travelled brother that we were planning to go there, he sounded very happy and told me what a beautiful place it is and how I’d really love it.
And I suppose that if you were there on a bright sunny day, he’d have been right. It certainly has the potential to be a very picturesque spot indeed. But despite having been a glorious early autumn morning the day we went, by the time we arrived at Llanthony Priory, the weather had changed – a lot!
So much so that the narrow, winding lane that eventually brought us into Llanthony was running in rain water, and thick clouds had rolled down from the heights of the Black Mountains which tower over the ruined Augustinian Priory, shrouding the remains in the most perfect spookiness you could hope for.
If I tell you that I had to significantly brighten the original shots, you’ll understand that it was a dark afternoon.
There is just enough of the Priory still standing to give you a feel for its former stature, but it has been very severely robbed out over the years – what stays is austere, imposing, perhaps more than a little intimidating.
I felt cold to the bone as we wandered about. And all the time, in every direction you look away from the stones, you see the high hillsides crowding in over you. It felt incredibly claustrophobic to me, I found myself desperate to walk up the hills, to be up there looking down, not the other way around.
Which is why, after not a very long time at all, we repaired to the other attraction at Llanthony – the Abbey Hotel and its warm, welcoming crypt bar!
Llanthony Priory – one of the rare Augustinian ruins with a public bar – you go down where the lights are shining at the windows. (I should also mention that the beer was very good indeed, and I regretted having already agreed with the Other Half that I would drive on to Hay-on-Wye from there – although as the road from Llanthony to Hay is one of the more challenging you’re ever likely to encounter in the UK, it’s probably best to approach it in full command of your senses).
The Abbey Hotel has rooms, so if you fancy it, you can stay over. It would be the ideal hotel for someone wanting total peace and darkness – who isn’t troubled by claustrophobia – I’m afraid that although it’s wonderfully old and unusual, I won’t be rushing to spend a weekend there.
Well, I thought it was the scariest ruin I’d been to for a long time, and I Googled ‘ghosts at Llanthony’, pretty convinced that there would be a whole host of spectral spirits to tell you about, but unless they were deliberately hiding, I really couldn’t turn anything up other than an unsubstantiated account of a benign apparition of a monk.
It just doesn’t seem right – this is a wonderful location for some top-quality haunting. So I suppose we’ll just have to invent our own legend. Perhaps a return visit to the bar is called for…
Happy Halloween everyone!
Despite the pictures, it’s well worth finding, even if just for the thrill of the drive there. Be warned, the roads are extremely narrow and although it is exquisitely beautiful in that area, treat it with respect – or it will bite you back.
The Cadw site for Llanthony is here.
There is a primitive style campsite in the village and pony trekking – I know the daughters are going to want to go back when the weather is better.