Sometimes you visit what seem like random small places, and they turn out to be a highlight of a trip somewhere. The National Roman Legion Museum Caeleon High Street was one of those gems.
It’s a small museum in Caerleon, Newport. We’d decided to stop off just over the border on the way to Tenby. It was a handy point to stop and stretch our legs. I love a free museum, and N’s always been quite interested in the Ancient Romans from school and Horrible Histories.
Wales has quite a history with the Romans, with a lot of forts of different kinds. There’s a few attractions with a Roman touch – the baths, barracks remains, amphitheatre and the museum – in Caerleon, although we only had time for two.
National Roman Legion Museum
The Caerleon Roman museum is quite small. It’s based on artefacts and history of a Roman Legion based in the area. There’s so much to find out about – from the changing environment, how the Legion was set up and worked, the armour, home comforts and items, and other personal and household artefacts. We also found out about how the Romans invaded, and extended into Britain and into Wales.
As well as the displays of treasure hoards of coins found, and the amazingly intact pottery, there’s also a replica of a room at barracks, the bunkroom for 8 soldiers plus their armoury storage room. The audio from a soldier told us how they lived, what the armour was like to wear, and being in the legion with so many other soldiers.
Outside there’s a roman garden. When we were there it was so green and lush. A lovely place to walk and enjoy, designed as they would have grown it. With trees, herbs and vegetables.
We also saw an example of the stone area where Romans could have enjoyed a peaceful time sitting out.
N had done the crack the code Easter trail where he had to find the 7 eggs with their letters, and work out the word. Nothing to do with Easter, but quite apt that the word was ‘tractor’. He won a large sharing chocolate bar which he proceeded to munch on through the holiday.
The museum itself is free, although we paid £3.50 for the easter trail – this also included a ‘make your own Easter bunny headdress/hat’, and the chocolate was large, so it was quite good value. It certainly kept N entertained amongst finding out about the Romans.
Afterwards, we still had some time, so decided to stop in at the Caerleon Roman Amphitheatre as it was on the way back to the car.
Bizarrely there was no sign or information to tell you about the Caeleon Amphitheatre at the site. That was missing for me, because N kept asking questions I had no idea about the answers. From online information about the amphitheatre, I discovered it was as expected, a place where the soldiers could relax and watch entertainment such as animal hunts and gladiatorial contests, as well as a parade ground.
The amphitheatre dates from 70AD, with seating space for 6000.
It’s quite an extraordinary place even with visitors sitting atop it with picnics.
Now grassed over, with stone areas of the walls still showing, you can see how it’s sectioned into 8 areas around the circular shape. And you can stand in the bottom and imagine what it might have been like surrounded by all those people watching.
Unfortunately we missed the barracks, as this is meant to be a really good remaining example.
If you’re on your way through, Caerleon museums and roman ruins are definitely worth a visit to bring the life of Ancient Romans in Britain to life.
If you’re interested in other Roman historical sites, we can recommend Chedworth Roman Villa.
What Roman sites do you enjoy visiting?
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