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Caerleon,  Monmouthshire

Featured Location Guide


It was the base of one of the major Roman legions in Britain, and said to be the base of a 'bishipree' greater than Canterbury or York until it was moved to St Davids. 

This is one of only three Roman Legion Headquarters in Britain. Today its the only Roman legionary barracks visible in Europe and has one of the most impressive amphitheatres, in Britain, added to this you have two major museums including a roman bath complex.

Today there is a lot to see in Caerleon, free entry to nearly all of it, including the amphitheatre and The National Roman Legion Museum, only the baths museum has an entry charge for some. Sections of the Roman fortress wall still survive, an amphitheatre that could once seat a whole legion - up to six thousand spectators, finest remains of Roman barrack buildings in Europe, the National Roman Legion Museum houses a superb display of artefacts found in the region, as well as having demonstration rooms and the reconstruction of legionaries' quarters.

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Penny Mayes

The Roman Baths Museum nearby uses modern technology to give the visitor a vivid image of its former grandeur. The museum is run by CADW, so opening times are not exactly the same as the Legionary Museum also there is an entry charge.

A heritage trail takes you around a larger selection of local sites as well as calling on the main sites. The trail itself is said to take about an hour, but you need longer to visit the sites along it.

Connection with King Arthur:- In early versions, including all by Geoffrey on Monmouth this was clearly stated as Arthur's base, Camelot was not mentioned, nor was the round table.

In more detail

Caerleon, was the location of the ancient Roman Military Fortress of Isca. Founded about 74AD, where the Second Augustan Legion encamped beside the River Usk in a strategic position, surrounded by sheltering hills and a wide sweep of navigable river. The Fortress took its name from the river; known by the Celts as Yr Wysg. Following to the Roman withdrawal, Caerleon maintained its importance as a seat of the Welsh Princes, and as a trading and industrial centre up to the end of the Nineteenth Century. The town has suffered the ravages of time and has been ransacked by Danes, Vikings, Saxons and Welsh.

Between the Hanbury and the river lie the remains of the ancient quay, wharf and slipway. The earliest record of Caerleon as a port after Roman times comes under a charter given by His Most Excellent Majesty King Edward II in 1324. In the last century, also found here was the terminus of the Ponthir and Caerleon tramroad, built by the Ironmasters to carry iron ore from the valleys to the iron foundries and tinplate from the works to the wharf for shipment to Bristol. The tramroad was originally built to connect Caerleon forge with the wharf, but it was extended north to Ponthir tinplate works. By 1812 it was further extended, linking with the Monmouthshire Canal at Halfway House, Cwmbran. The tramroad was closed about 1865.

From Roman times at least, probably well  before, there was cross channel trade with Bristol. It ended in 1896 when the last ship left the quayside. Due to the building of the Monmouthshire Canal and Newport Docks, Newport had become the commercial centre of Monmouthshire. Had the canal projected in 1792 between Brecon and Caerleon, via Usk, been constructed, Caerleon may well have retained importance for a longer time. The project was abandoned and in 1800 the building of the stone bridge in Newport prevented large ships from reaching Caerleon.

Beside the Hanbury Arms are the remains of the Round Tower, a part of the castle. Also forming a fortified Round Tower guarding the old bridge, there was another tower on the opposite bank, but this no longer exists.

In the  High Street, Caerleon House can be found, a large house with sash windows. Built about 1760 on the site of the Roman East Gate. The courtyard of this house is also the site of the Ffwrwm Arts and Crafts Centre with its unique sculpture gardens. Don't miss the thrones of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere and the ancient stone-carved bull's head with supposed magical qualities.

Opposite Caerleon House is Mynde House, previously named Castle Villa, a stone house built by John Jenkins, Tin Plate Master of Ponthir Works and part-owner of Caerleon Works, it was built in 1820 . He built high walls and the battlemented turrets around the four acres of the Motte and Bailey and remains of the Castle. It is said he did this to protect himself and his family from possible attack by members of the Chartist movement who had been campaigning throughout the country for the reform of Parliament and the achievement of certain democratic rights.

In 1870 the house passed to Thomas Woollet who started building an extra storey, but was prevented from completing it by the owner of Caerleon House on the grounds of "Ancient Lights". Leaving to this day the house with an unusual front.

The Castle remains are largely concealed behind the high walls, the main feature being the tall mound known locally as the Mynde. The Castle was probably originally built entirely of wood and was constructed by the first Norman Lords of Caerleon soon after the Conquest. According to the Doomsday Book, William de Scohies held land here "in the jurisdiction of Carlion Castle" and Turstin Fitz-Rolf was his tenant. Battles between Welsh and Normans destroyed the Castle on numerous occasions and Brut y Tywysogion, the old Welsh Chronicles, tells that in the year 1171 Iorwerth ab Owain and his two sons destroyed the town of Caerleon and burned the Castle. In 1217 William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, took Caerleon, but it was not until the end of the century, during the lordship of the de Clares, that Caerleon seems to have had a more secure period. The rebellions of Owain Glyndwr (1400-1405) ravaged Caerleon again and probably ruined the Castle, but there were still some Constables of the Castle after that and the walls were still standing in 1537. According to Archdeacon Coxe who was in Caerleon at the end of the Eighteenth Century, the Castle remains fell down in 1739 after a hard frost.

The Barracks

Roman Remains

Although having a larger history Carleon is best known for its Roman remains, and this is what most come to see.

Barracks:- The Roman Barracks, are the most extensive excavated area in the fortress. The modern playing fields nearby are on the site of the Roman Parade Ground, beyond which was a civilian settlement with its houses, shops and taverns.

Amphitheatre:- Before the excavations completed in 1928; the Amphitheatre was an oval-shaped mound with a hollow in the middle, known as King Arthur's Round Table. The excavations indicated that it was used like others in the Roman Empire, for shows, and troop training. The arena would have been covered with sand, a surface suitable for the variety of activities and spectacles, on occasions sometimes bloody and violent. The Amphitheatre was completed about the same time as the Coliseum in Rome in 80AD, and was capable of holding 6,000 spectators which was the size of the complete garrison based here.

Roman Legion Museum:-  A group of antiquaries and others formed the local Antiquarian Association in 1847, so as  "to form a Museum of Antiquities found in Caerleon and the neighbouring district and the furtherance of any antiquarian pursuits whether by excavation or otherwise." The neo-Greek external appearance reflects the interest of the period in classical architecture, later in 1936 it was given to the National Museum of Wales.  The museum was extensively re-built and refurbished to its present appearance in 1987. Next to the Museum is the Capricorn Centre, an educational facility for visitors and school children. Admission to the Museum is free (as is entry to all National Museum & Galleries of Wales sites).

Roman Baths:-  The Roman baths complex at Caerleon, was as good as any. It contained an open air swimming pool, a series of hot, warm and cold baths, exercise yard, heated changing room and exercise hall. Nowadays the entire site, in a modern building, can be viewed from an elevated walkway. Informative light and sound displays explain how the baths would have been originally. There is an entry charge for the baths museum only.

Sections of the Roman fortress wall still survive.

Hill Fort:- Just outside Caerleon, not on the walking route around Caerleon, and not on the normal tourist trail, you will find an Iron age hill fort known as Lodge Hill Fort/Lodge Wood Camp.  The Romans built a road from the North Gate of Caerleon right up to the fort and used the hill-top as a summer camp. For more details and how to find it, see the location guide for the hill fort Lodge Hill Fort.

One of the best ways to see Caerleon is by taking the walking trail, it takes around an hour plus extra time to look in more detail at each of the roman sites above. You can get a map and write up of what you will see from www.caerleon.net/intro/heritage.htm in total it has around 26 points, many more modern than those I have covered above.

Further information Grid



Caerleon, near Newport, South Wales

Ceremonial County: Monmouthshire

Grid Reference:


Map Link:


Aerial photo: Google Aerial Photograph



Best Times to Visit:

Any time, may be busy at major holiday periods.




Cadw - Caerleon Amphitheatre 

Cadw - Caerleon Roman Fortress and Baths

Other useful websites:


Wiki - Caerleon     Wiki - Isca Augusta

Nearby Locations:  
Other Relevant pages:



Planning Grid


Caerleon, near Newport, South Wales

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

Three miles from Newport, South Wales and only a little way from Junction 25 of the M4 motorway.


Well signposted.


Free parking in Broadway (off High Street) near amphitheatre.

At the Baths, the adjacent public house car park is a free public car park during the day.



Things To Do, See and Photograph:

A lot to see, and photograph see main description above.

What to take:


Nature highlights:

Mostly a village location so you may see some wildlife.






The National Roman Legion Museum Tel: +44 (0)1633 423134

Tourist Information Centre located next door to the The National Roman Legion Museum,  Tel. 01633 422656

CADW Tel 01633 422518.

Opening times:

Amphitheatre and Barracks Open Apr-Oct 9.30am-5pm Daily; Nov-Mar 9.30am-5pm Mon-Sat and 11am-4pm Sun. Closed 24-26th Dec and 1st Jan.

The National Roman Legion Museum Open 10am-5pm Mon-Sat, 2pm-5pm Sunday. Closed 24-26th Dec & 1 Jan.

The Roman Baths Museum  Open Apr-Oct 9.30am-5pm Daily; Nov-Mar 9.30am-5pm Mon-Sat and 11am-4pm Sun. Closed 24-26th Dec & 1 Jan.


Amphitheatre Entry is free (except for very occasional special events such as open air events and re-enactments).

Barracks entry - FREE

The National Roman Legion Museum - FREE

The Roman Baths Museum - FREE

Photo Restrictions:

None outside, probably OK in museums.

Other Restrictions: None
Special Needs Access: Museum sites should present no problems, amphitheatre has areas with steep sides and a narrow bridge.
Special Needs Facilities: Toilets are at the Roman Legionary Museum. There is a disabled toilet  (not fully adapted). There is a radar key toilet 200m (216yds) away
Children Facilities: All sites are ideal for children.
Dogs Allowed: Dogs are not allowed now on Cadw sites, but guide dogs and hearing dogs for the deaf are welcome.

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Keith Park Section: Roman Britain Section Key:
Page Ref: Caerleon Topic: Roman Britain Last Updated: 11/2011

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