. But however you travel around Caldicot Castle, you will find yourself transported back to the Middle Ages, and tracing the development of castle-building in Southeastern Wales.
Caldicot Castle was built on a site that had long been recognized for its strategic value. In fact, the Romans actively made use of the area in the early centuries AD, when Caldicot stood on the Via Julia roadway to Caerwent, the Roman town of Venta Silurum (ruins visible) just to the north. Caldicot's placement near the Bristol Channel allowed observation of the comings and goings of ship traffic and eased transport of supplies to the site. Its useful location was recognized by the Normans as early as 1086, and they built a motte with two baileys and a deep surrounding ditch to control this portion of south Wales.
Now one of the most impressive structures at Caldicot, the still resplendently green motte was crowned by a round stone keep, probably constructed around 1221 after Humphrey de Bohun, the "Good Earl" of Hereford, inherited the lordship of Caldicot. The de Bohuns kept control of the castle as hereditary constables until 1373, when it became the property of the Crown. With its nine foot thick walls made of local gritstone, the four storied keep was a formidable structure which would have withstood virtually any assault. Interestingly, the bottommost floor was embedded in the motte, and the main entry point into the great keep was reached by a set of steps climbing the hillside of the mound. Inside, architectural detail was elaborate and accommodations lavish, indicating that this keep was routinely used as a residence. Spiral staircases allowed access between the floors, and hooded fireplaces, windows with seats, and a semi-circular latrine turret all provided comfort for the dwellers. The otherwise solid turret contained a vaulted dungeon in the basement, a fairly nasty chamber reached only from a small trapdoor in the ceiling. The great keep's exterior is faced with finely-cut smooth stonework, and buttressed at the base with a splayed plinth. The top of the keep was once crowned with battlements, and putlog holes remain where timbers supported the hoard, a wooden fighting platform. Arrowslits penetrate the walls, enhancing the keep's defenses, and the well sits beneath one of the slits. Today our climb to the top of the keep rewards us with wonderful vistas of the countryside, and a bird's eye view of the layout of the castle.