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. Its enviable location between three shapely hills – the Blorenge, Ysgyryd Fawr (Skirrid), and Sugar Loaf – makes it a superb base for walkers, while its annual food festival and its acclaimed restaurants (the best of which are actually just out of town) attract lovers of fresh, organic, seasonal Welsh cuisine.
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 regional importance grew.