Today Caerleon is an attractive small historic village with a good selection of pubs, restaurants, and craft shops,but around A.D. 75 it was called Isca, and was the base of the 2nd Augustan legion.
The 5,500- strong legion established a 50 acre fort and the remains of the barrack blocks are the only examples currently visible in all of Europe.
It is now one of the most important sites of the Roman occupation in Britain.
There are remains of the barracks, fortress walls, baths, and the amphitheatre.
The amphitheatre held 6,000 spectators and was the scene of bloodthirsty entertainment involving wild beasts and gladiators.
There is also a legionary museum which tells of the history of the town, and also there are exhibits of the relics that have been found during excavations.
There are not many shops, but do look for an alley called Roman Gate, and the Ffwrwm Art & Crafts Centre where there are some nice craft shops and a collection of trees that have been carved into fantastic sculptures. This alleyway is called "Roman Gate" because it was the entrance to the Roman garrison.
Parking in the town leaves a lot to be desired, I usually take the sign for the amphitheatre car park.
Before the excavations of 1926 to 1928, carried out under the guidance of Sir Mortimer Wheeler; the Amphitheatre was an oval-shaped mound with a hollow in the middle, known locally as King Arthur's Round Table. The excavations revealed that it was used like others in the Roman Empire, not only for 'shows' but also for troop training. The arena in Roman times was covered with sand, a surface more suitable than the present smooth grass for the variety of activities and spectacles (sometimes bloody and violent) which took place here. It is interesting to note that the Amphitheatre, completed about the same time as the Colosseum in Rome in 80 AD, was capable of holding 6,000 spectators - the size of the complete garrison.
Fortress Baths which was once a “giant leisure centre” with heated changing rooms, swimming pool, huge gymnasium and bath halls.
Open: Every day, except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day & NewYears Day, closed Sunday
Location: High Street, parking in the Bull Inn car park
Photos by Kind permission of Nick Kingsbury
National Roman Legion Museum
Built in 1850, the museum became part of Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales in 1930. Today at Caerleon you can learn what made the Romans a formidable force and how life wouldn't be the same without them. You'll be able to see Exhibitions and Artefacts that show us how they lived, fought, worshipped and died.
Children under 11 must be accompanied by an adult at all times. Free Entry
Ffwrwm Art & Crafts Centre
is entered through an historic arch fronting Caerleon's main street, and consists of an art gallery, five craft workshops, and a restaurant, all set in the glories of an l8th century walled garden. Within the gallery is a Tourist Information point, where local events and places to visit are posted. Ffwrwm is open all year long, and is an ideal place to come for all the family, to take in the magic of Arthur or relax and see the art and crafts on offer.