We arrived in the car park a little thirsty, and followed the signpost to the shops in the hope of finding a drink. We searched and searched but found ourselves on a wild goose chase with no retail establishments in sight. It turned out that the shops the signpost referred to were last open about 1500 years ago. Now in ruins with the foundations showing the floor plan, information boards explained what we were looking at and provided a picture of how they would have appeared in their heyday.
Caerwent, then known as Venta Silurum, was the capital of the Silures people, who inhabited South East Wales in Roman times. Founded in 75 AD, it was on a main Roman road near to Caerleon, one of 3 Legionary bases in the UK. Unlike Caerleon, this was a civilian settlement, although a wall was built around the city – the best preserved of any in Roman Britain.
The southern half of the wall is the most intact, and we set off to walk along it. It’s a fairly easy walk of less than 2 miles, although not suitable for wheelchairs and we had to take care with our daughter F, as there is a drop of up to 17 feet (5 metres) on the outside. Originally, it was twice that height. Although the wall goes around a Roman City, we felt like we were on a country walk. We looked out across farm fields and woodland and even inside the wall, there were fields with sheep grazing. We found out later that there are unexcavated remains in these fields.
Still thirsty, we could see a garden with play equipment alongside tables and chairs. Was this a pub garden or a mirage? We completed the southern perimeter and turned north along the east wall. It was no mirage and we gratefully arrived at the Coach and Horses Inn. The refreshment and a chance for F to play were both welcome.
After lunch, we walked through the village and came across more Roman remains. We hit on the old forum with its adjacent basilica and shops. F confused it for an adventure playground. We then arrived at the site of a temple. More information boards showed illustrations of how the buildings would have appeared. On leaving the temple site, we noticed a sign asking visitors not to climb on the ruins. Whoops! If only they’d put one at the entrance the other side. We’ll know next time.
It was easy to imagine this place as a hive of activity nearly 2000 years ago. It would have been a bustling commercial centre back then. Now this tranquil village has just a church, a post office and a pub. At least we managed to find a drink.
Caerwent is in South East Wales between Cardiff and Bristol
The village is just off the A48 road and has a free car park open from 10am to 4pm. The nearest train station is Caldicot (2 miles). Bus 73 runs from Newport to Chepstow and stops at Caerwent. Newport and Chepstow both have train stations
The Roman Remains
The remains are maintained by CADW and are open to the public between 10am and 4pm, free of charge
Accommodation and Refreshment
The Coach and Horses Inn serves food and drink and has rooms available. It is located in Caerwent, adjacent to the east wall