Isca Augusta was one of the three most important Roman fortresses in Britain, and its site can be visited at Caerleon, just outside Newport. It is just a short journey away from Cardiff city centre, so booking a hotel in Cardiff will make it easy to travel and spend a fascinating day on this historic site.
Caerleon is believed by some historians to have been the site of King Arthur’s Camelot. What is known is that the settlement, once known as Cair Lion, was listed in 830 as one of Britain’s 33 cities. It is to be found on the banks of the beautiful River Usk. Since the Romans left, the town has been variously attacked by Danes, Vikings and Saxons, as well as the Welsh themselves. The remains of the settlement are best seen on a walk around the area.
The walk begins on Broadway, which follows the line of the town’s main Roman road, which is now buried several feet below. The South West Gate was originally at the end of Broadway, and led from the fortress to the amphitheatre. The fortress covered more than 52 acres, with four gates in its stone walls. The amphitheatre was in the shape of an oval mound, with a hollow performance area in its centre, and is known by local people as King Arthur’s Round Table. The amphitheatre was large enough to hold 6,000 spectators, which was the population of the garrison.
Ahead is the site of the barracks, and to the right, turning clockwise, is Goldcroft Common, then you will come upon what was The Drovers Arms, now converted into a restaurant. This inn was used by drovers who brought their sheep to the four annual fairs, as well as to the livestock sales that were held regularly on the common. Further along is the town hall, which was built in 1836 and these days functions as the local community centre. A little further along is the National Roman Legion Museum. This is part of the National Museum of Wales, and is home to some fascinating artefacts that help to tell the story of the town’s history and heritage.
A little further along are the Roman baths. There was a great deal of care and effort involved in its construction and the complex featured an open-air swimming pool, hot, cold and warm baths, heated changing rooms as well as an exercise yard and exercise hall. Along the High Street are The Priory, The Square and the fascinating remains of the castle. Towards the end of the walk, visitors come to The Quay, a wharf and slipway that can trace its origins back to the Roman occupation.
With so much history and culture to see in the Usk Valley, the Vale of Glamorgan and other nearby areas, booking a hotel in Cardiff city centre is a great way to have a base with all the city’s attractions on one’s doorstep while having easy access to the delights of historic south Wales.