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Caerleon is a small village/town that feels distinctly foreign, or at least foreign for Wales. It feels more like somewhere in Somerset.

However that is nothing to how alien it would have seemed back in the first century CE when it was the major Roman stronghold of Isca, and the Empire's main base in the principality.

Whilst most of the fort is buried under the modern town, sufficient remains to give a good idea of the enormous size of the fortifications.

The Roman Amphitheatre


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The most visible of the remains is the Amphitheatre. This is on the outskirts of the town and is popular with the locals as well as the visitors.

It was built around 90CE outside the walls of the fort, a sign of how confident the Romans were that they would not be attacked.

What we see today is just the ground floor of the stadium. This would almost certainly supported a timber grandstand much like a modern Spanish bullring. They reckon it would have seated around 6,000 people, which give some idea of the importance of the town.

Near here some of the best preserved sections of the Roman walls can be seen.

The Roman Baths


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Only a narrow slice through the main buildings of the Roman Baths have been uncovered along with the outdoor swimming pool. These are now housed in a purpose built exhibition hall.

However, enough is visible to give a good idea of the huge size of the complex, and it is not nearly as confusing as the Roman baths in Bath.

Rather sweetly, video of swimmers is projected onto the floor of the swimming pool; although it might be more realistic if they had been naked, or at least wearing flesh coloured trunks rather than red Speedos.

See Cadw's official site, detailed below for opening times, admission prices, etc.

The Roman Barracks


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A short walk from the amphitheatre and easily overlooked is the undeveloped eastern corner of the roughly square Roman camp.

Here you can see the floors plans of four barrack blocks, which could just as easily have dated from the nineteenth century as from the Roman period. In fact only one of them is original, the other three were reconstructed in the 1920s after a rather brutal archeological excavation.

The contrast between these recognisably modern buildings and the round houses of the indigenous British could not have been greater.

It brought to mind the mix of European and African architectural styles you see in places such as Kitgum in Uganda.