Our recent jaunt to Wales included a trip to Tintern Abbey.
We’d visited White Castle earlier on the same day, which I’d enjoyed enormously, it felt like such a rare find. Although both the Other Half and I had been to Tintern previously, neither of the Daughters had ever been, and as we were so close, we decided to drive there next.
I was a little nervous about it. I hadn’t been to Tintern for so long, I assumed it would have become an even bigger and more commercialised attraction than it had been way back in the 1970s (which was the last time I went). My experience with Fountains Abbey, where so much about the visitor experience has altered over the years, must have been playing at the back of my mind.
But when we got there, having hugged the route of the marvellous River Wye, I wasn’t disappointed. Tintern has retained its gothic charm.
If I’m honest, Tintern doesn’t exactly ignite my heritage juices in the way some other ruins do. I’m not sure why that is, after all it has everything you’d expect, I just don’t seem to be able to ‘tune in‘ to the history there.
But there’s no denying the magnificence of the ruins or the scale of the building that must have stood on the site before the Reformation struck there in September 1536.
But don’t let my peculiar vagaries put you off. Tintern, the first Cistercian foundation in Wales, which dates from 1131, is undoubtedly magnificent. I was particularly interested in the fact that you get a good appreciation of the buildings that adjoined the principle church, and this in turn gives you an excellent understanding of the way of life of the monks who lived and worshipped there in medieval times.
For me, I think perhaps this was the best part of the visit, and the information boards here are very good, which does help stimulate the imagination.
The BBC have recently aired several programmes on a gothic theme. Well, Tintern could easily claim to have been a pioneer in the trend to establish the genre in the popular imagination. It has featured in the works of Wordsworth and Turner, and indeed many other artists and filmmakers ever since.
And I wonder if that is the special quality of TIntern. Many ruins are atmospheric for me, because they feel like portals into the past, whereas at Tintern, I get the feeling that although its original purpose has changed, it has gone on to have a new life. It may have started life in the 12th century, but it’s still fuelling artistic imaginations 900 years later. Tintern seems to look both backwards into history and also forward into the future.
I must go back again.
For visitor information go to the Cadw site for full details.
There are lovely pubs and tearooms nestling beside the Abbey – still a great place for a day out.