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Things to do in Presteigne, Powys


Cross the River Lugg at Presteigne and you'll step ashore on England. This fascinating little medieval market town is right on the English border, with history and buildings dating back to the 14th century and once the county town of Radnorshire.

Beautifully set in gently undulating countryside on what was the main London coach road to the West, Presteigne offers the timeless charm and tranquillity of Mid Wales less than 60 miles from Birmingham.

This lovely area remains part of Mid Wales' unspoiled and calm, even at the peak of the tourism season. Visit Presteigne, and you'll be richly rewarded.

In its long history, Presteigne has catered well for travellers. More than 30 inns and taverns have flourished in the town, with 16 thriving at one time.

Several survive only as private houses but the visitor still has a fine choice of traditional hostelries all around the town. The oldest, The Bull in St. David's Street, dates from the 15th century.

The Judge's Lodging

One of Presteigne's most impressive buildings is the original Shire Hall in Broad Street, Built in 1829 with an imposing classic façade, it housed a complex of chambers for dispensing the law and administering the county's affairs.

Today the visitor can embark on an audio tour of the building - listening to the re-enacted words of a previous Chairman of the Bench. What is to be seen is a triumph of conservation and restoration.

The whole building's original contents survive intact and once again, oil lamps and gas lights glow on the mellow woodwork. Behind the public rooms, the Judge's lodgings - a remarkable mid Victorian household, complete with kitchen are open to view.

Withybeds Nature Park

On the outskirts of town alongside the river, you'll find the Withybeds - a marshy two acre treasure of plant and bird life.

There are nesting boxes for species like redstarts with pied flycatchers thriving on the prolific insect life of the Lugg. In spring, marsh marigolds cover the area, preceding wild garlic with aromatic blooms. More than 70 different plants can be identified here.

Stapleton Castle

In the 13th century, Stapleton - a mile to the north of Presteigne - seemed likely to absorb its then smaller neighbour. It was granted the right to hold a market and boasted a stone built castle protected by walled towers. The ruins which remain are those of the fortified manor which replaced the castle at the end of the 17th century.

Visitors to Presteigne should not approach the ruins of Stapleton Castle as they are on private land, and their ruinous condition means there is a risk of falling masonry.

Ghost

The site is said to be haunted by a ghost known as Lady Bluefoot, murdered by a servant who fell in love with her at the castle, when she did not respond to his overtures.

The local legend of Mary Morgan - said to have been hanged at the age of 17 in Presteigne in 1805, charged with the murder of her daughter. Fresh flowers are still said to appear on her grave in the local churchyard.

The Estate of Dr. John Dee, tutor to Elizabeth I and himself a sinister magician, was near town and most infamously of all a ghostly hound which is said to have stalked the hills above Presteigne, inspired Conan Doyle to write 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'.

Presteigne has a modern leisure complex with swimming, rugby and football facilities.

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