Bustling, workaday Abergavenny has played many roles on history's stage: Roman fort, Norman stronghold, tanning and weaving centre, and prison for Hitler's deputy. Nestled between three shapely hills – the Blorenge, Ysgyryd Fawr (Skirrid) and Sugar Loaf – it's a superb base for walkers, and uplifting greenery is everywhere a glimpse away. With an annual food festival, and some acclaimed restaurants on the fringes of of town, it also attracts lovers of Welsh produce and cooking.
Its ancient name, Y Fenni (Welsh for 'place of the smiths'), was given to a stream that empties into the River Usk here, and later anglicised to Gavenny (Abergavenny means 'mouth of the Gavenny'). The Romans established Gobannium Fort here, exactly a day's march from their garrison at Caerleon, which they maintained from AD 57 to 400. Not long after the Norman Conquest, a marcher lord, Hamelin de Ballon, built the castle and the town's importance grew.