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St Briavel's Castle

Visited July 2011

Location St Briavels, Gloucestershire
Entrance Fee No
Railway Station   No
Parking Yes
Facilities None








For all intents & purposes St Briavels is a typical English village- picturesque cottages with roses around the doors, cosy pubs, peaceful rural ambiance- except it also has a 12th century castle that has been a hunting lodge, armoury and prison!!! That somehow sets it apart from your typical village in a rather spectacular fashion!!

Its proximity to the border with Wales was probably one reason a castle was built here, but  its location in the Forest of Dean, which was both a royal hunting ground, and a centre of iron production was also surely a factor. Iron was used in the production of weapons, especially for crossbow bolts. Edward I used the castle as a weapons arsenal prior to his Welsh campaigns. Once the Welsh  resistance had been subdued the castle declined in importance , and was used mainly as an administrative centre of the Forest of Dean, and as a prison for local ne'er-do-wells.





The site as it is today boasts a splendid gatehouse which once had three portcullises, and the former domestic block and chapel. There are a few fragments of the keep left in the grounds, as well as the remains of the great hall- a fireplace on the wall and a well preserved chimney which is big enough to see the sky through. There is a pillory in the grounds for that essential photo opportunity of your little rascal about to be pelted with rotten tomatoes (or whatever).





The castle is owned by English Heritage but run as a Youth Hostel, so if you are interested you could spend a night in the gatehouse. The outer grounds used to be the moat and are open to view at any time- this includes a garden area with a pond, and a good view of the curtain wall which is pretty much in tact all the way round, though not to its original height.  The inner bailey is open afternoons 1-4pm in the summer, but check the website for exact timings. There are no facilities for visitors and no opportunity to view the interior, unless you are guest of the Youth Hostel. It is certainly worth a detour if you are in the area, there is no entrance fee and it was not busy at all the day we went. We stopped by on our way to Clearwell Caves, which is about ten minutes drive away. Chepstow Castle is also close by.




More info:  English Heritage St Briavel's


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