The Romantic Monastic Ruins in the Wye Valley
Tintern Abbey is a jewel in the Wye Valley, an heirloom of Britain’s monastic era. The Cistercian monks wanted isolation, seclusion to be away from the corruption of cathedral cities. They found it in the stunning Wye Valley.
The famous poet William Wordsworth captured this romantic scene in 1798 in the poem 'Tintern Abbey'. Lord Tennyson also wrote beautiful lines about the memories of people ‘that are no more.’ and the mysterious Abbey. In contrast the stone guardian of the Wye, Chepstow Castle is nearby, and we suggest a stop to experience two great medieval relics of Wales.
Lesser-known, Wales is very close to our hearts. It’s the fantastic countryside and the undiscovered feel of many quarters of the country. Enjoy the highlights of Wales on our classic driver guided tour. Watch the video click the play button above.
The brief history of Tintern Abbey
The Abbey was established in the early 12th century by Cistercian monks, who were happy to make do with simple wooden buildings at first. A reformed robber, Abbot Henry was better known for his strange habit of crying at the altar than for his architectural knowledge.
Later came austere and necessary stone buildings. The ‘Marcher’ lords became interested and invested in the Abbey. These powerful men built castles to guard the border between Wales and England, and when required launch attacks from their stone fortresses. But then, thanks to the patronage of the Marcher lords the humble white-robed monks began to have architectural ambitions.
In the mid 13th century they began to build a new abbey church. They didn’t stop until they’d created one of the great masterpieces of British Gothic architecture. The scale of the west front with its seven-lancet window and the soaring arches of the nave still impress visitors today.
England’s break from Rome during the reign of King Henry VIII was in many respects a form of ‘Brexit’ if only an ecclesiastical severing. The Pope refused to play ball by not securing the divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Henry retaliated by setting up the church of England and confiscating Catholic property across the land. The Catholic monasteries owned a quarter of quality cultivated land in England alone. Almost overnight, Henry became the richest man in the Christendom, which financed war and a rather flashy lifestyle, including sixty private homes, such as Hampton Court Palace. Abbey’s across England had their land sold off cheaply to the landed gentry, enabling them to build prodigy homes similar to Longleat House.
The old Abbey’s far and wide slowly fell into disrepair. Tintern was becoming something else of value, a picturesque ruin. To be appreciated, these antique buildings need admirers. Poetry is one driving force to draw people to the site, the second being art.
Joseph Mallord Turner (1775-1851) is Britain’s greatest artist. It was once said; ‘what Shakespeare is in the realm of British literature, Turner is in the realm of art.’ Turner visited Tintern on two occasions narrowly missing the poet William Wordsworth. Turner made incredibly detailed pencil sketches and after touring Wales returned to his studio to paint. The romantic paintings show the ruins entwined with ivy and plants. It was these images that provoked people to visit and appreciate the antiquity and grace of Tintern.
Come and experience this wondrous vista for yourself and make sure you try some welsh rarebit for lunch, in the White Monk tea rooms.
Touring and accommodation
Merging Wales with England makes for a dynamic experience of mountains, stately homes and cosy country pubs. If this is your first time to the UK, we would recommend a custom version of our Town and Country Tour; it covers the famous places and allows you to utilise your private driver-guide by getting-off-the-beaten-path. Our Classic tour of Ireland is a good place to start for the first trip to Ireland, and we suggest the Classic tour of Scotland for your first trip to the bonny Highlands.
There is a wide choice of accommodation in the Wales. Cottages, Manor House Hotels and traditional Guest Houses. For people who a like a traditional Manor House Hotel, we recommend staying at the Llangoed Hall Hotel. It is on the edge of the Brecon Beacons with easy access to local golf courses, hiking trails and small towns.
Tintern Abbey Gem of the Wye Valley
Come and see the monastic relic that has inspired art and poetry
- Stay at Llangoed Hall Hotel Nearby
- Tour the Wye Valley
- Tour Tintern Abbey on a Day Tour from the Cotswolds
- National Icon of Wales