Visitors flock to Cowbridge at all times of year to enjoy its quiet appeal. Lying in the heart of the vale and known as the ‘Bond Street’ of South Wales, it is an attractive place to visit and a fantastic place to shop with a diversity and choice generally unexpected of a small town. Many traditionally run family businesses and new enterprises combine to create a unique mix of traditional and modern, offering an unrivalled level of expertise and service.
Eating out in Cowbridge is always a treat, whether you’re looking for a lunchtime bite or a three-course meal. The town boasts a superb range of bistros, restaurants, pubs and wine bars, catering for all tastes and each with their own individual character and style.
An annual food festival is held in the town every October and an annual Reindeer Parade every November.
Cowbridge’s historic past is reflected in its present day buildings, which add to the interest and character of the town. The area around High Street is a pleasure to explore while the tranquil Physic Garden is a relaxing place to learn more about the curative properties of plants.
The first real evidence of a Roman settlement in Cowbridge came to light in 1977 when remains of shops and houses were discovered during the Cooper’s Lane excavation opposite Old Hall. Further excavation behind Bear Lane revealed that there had been a sizeable military and civilian presence at Cowbridge until the Second Augustan Legion moved away to defend Hadrian’s Wall, and the town became deserted.
The Normans entered South Wales at the end of the 11th century and soon established control of the lordship of Glamorgan. Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and Lord of Glamorgan founded Cowbridge, in the aftermath of the Siward rebellion of 1245. Towns like Cowbridge were a response to the booming economy of the early and mid-13th century and to the increasing demand for manufactured goods and services from the rural population. The town received its first charter in 1254, in which it is called Longa Villa (Long Town), an apt description in view of its layout. Unusually for a Welsh planted town, Cowbridge lacked a castle, although Richard de Clare’s castle at Llanblethian was only half a mile away and overlooked the town.
The town walls were completed by about 1300, their purpose being to protect the Lord of Glamorgan’s valuable rental properties and burgage plots as well as providing a suitable way of collecting tolls from the twice-weekly markets. Much of the wall still stands, especially around the Old Hall garden and near the South Gate. Cowbridge is the only town of the old County of Glamorgan to retain its walls.