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On approaching ABERGAVENNY, the tourist's attention is involuntarily arrested by the singular beauty and variety of interest which the spot embraces, particularly in its encircling hills. The road skirting the Little Skyridd, a well-formed hill richly laid out in wood and pasture, opens to a fine display of the vale of Usk beneath ; on the opposite . side of which the continuous ridge of the wild Pontypool hills, which form the western boundary of the county, terminate in the heathy high-swelling Blorenge: a tract of wood sweeps along its base, and mixes with the sylvan knoll of Lanfoist, decorating its northern extremity. Further to the right, the elegant smooth cone of the Sugar-loaf, the highest of the Monmouthshire mountains, presents itself, issuing from among the four tributary eminences of the Pen-y-vale hills. Eastward of this mountain is the Great Skyridd, an object of considerable interest ; its bipartite and truly Alpine summit, without being a forced opposition, strikingly contrasts the general undulating line of the neighbouring bills, and rears a distinct and noble character on the scene. The views from this mountain are scarcely inferior to those from the Sugar-loaf; while its craggy form, its asperitous summit, jagged into an immense fissure, and shelving to a ridge apex of fearful narrowness, impress a mixed emotion of awe and admiration on the adventurous climber of the height, that more than compensates for a small interiority of altitude, There was formerly, at the top of this mountain, a Roman Catholic chapel dedicated to St. Michael, of which no vestiges remain ; but a remembrance of the site is preserved in a hollow place formed by the superstitious, who, resorting here on Michaelmas eve, carry away the earth to strew over the sepulchres of their friends. According to the barometrical measurement of General Roy, the height of the Sugar-loaf mountain is 1852 feet perpendicular above the Gavenny rivulet, near its junction with the Usk. The Blorenge is 1720, and the Great Skyridd 1498 feet from the same level.
The expansive bases of these mountains, nearly approximating, descend to a finelywooded fertile valley ; through which the river Usk, rushing from a majestic portal of wood, winds in a bright translucid stream, with all the impetuosity of its mountain
character. At the foot of one of the confe derated hills sustaining the towering cone of the Sugar-loaf, which gently inclines to the river, ABERGAVENNY is situated; a straggling irregular town, pleasingly interspersed with trees, but deriving its highest attraction from the charms of its position.
Upon an eminence above the river, near the southern extremity of the town, is the ruined castle, which in its present state exhibits very few memorials of former magnificence. The gate-house, or principal entrance, is tolerably entire, and vestiges of two courts may be traced among the broken walls; but of the citadel no traces remain, although an intrenched mound close to the ruins evidently marks its site. The town was also fortified, and many portions of the work remain, particularly Tudor's gate, the western entrance, furnished with two portcullisses, and remarkable for the beautifully composed landscape seen through it. This castle is said to have been built by a giant named Agros : without contending for the accuracy of this tradition, however, it is certaint, that the principal part was erected
by the Normans upon the site of a British fortress.
In the twelfth century some native forces, headed by Sitfylt ap Dyfnwald, a Welch prince, assailed this castle, and took prisoners the Anglo-Norman garrison, with their chief, William-de-Braose, lord of Brecon. William being, upon an adjustment of differences, • reinstated in his possessions, invited Sitfylt, his son Geoffery, and other chieftains of Gwent, to a great feast at Abergavenny Castle, where they were all treacherously murdered : he then surprised Sitfylt's house, and slew his other son, Cadwallader, in the presence of his mother. This barbarity did not escape punishment. William, flying his country, died. a wretched wanderer at Paris; and his wife and son were famished in Windsor Castle, : The fate of his grandson, Reginald, may also be considered in the light of a retribution : Llewelyn prince of Wales, suspecting him, 'as Dugdale relates, “ of over much familiarity with his wife,” subtilly invited him to an eastern feast; and towards the close of the banquet, charging him with the act, threw him into prison, where he suf
violent death, together with the adultress. In 1273, we find the country of Overwent, including the castle of Abergavenny, in the possession of John de Hastings, a very pink of chivalry. A suc- . cession of valorous knights inherited this domain; but Richard Earl of Warwick, who became lord of Abergavenny in the commencement of the fifteenth century, surpassed them all, and even Johor himself, in military fame, and manners debonnair: he signalized hintself in tournaments at most of the courts in Europe, and obtained the honourable appellation of “the father of courtesy.”
The church is a large Gothic structure, and appears to have been built in the form of a Roman cross, but is now curtailed of its transepts; at the juncture of one of them, a circular arch, now filled up, wears a Nora man character, and seems to have beer part of the original building. Three arches, curiously dissimilar, separate the north aj! from the nave.
The choir remains in its antique state, with stalls for a prior and his monks, formed of oak, and rudely carved ; and the ailes on either side are furnished