top of page



Occupying a historically turbulent spot on the boundary between Wales and England, Presteigne has seen its share of action over the centuries – though it’s safely on the Welsh side of the border these days. With conflict long behind it, it’s now a lively little town with a unique arty ambience. Its past as a trade and administrative hub has left it with a wealth of historic buildings on display as part of one of the prettiest high streets you’ll find anywhere in the UK.

Nestled in rolling green countryside on the banks of the River Lugg, petite Presteigne is one of the hidden gems of Mid Wales. Its former status as an important stop on the coach road between London and Aberystwyth and the administrative centre of the county of Radnorshire is mirrored in its varied architectural townscape – an eclectic cluster of half-timbered medieval structures, handsome Georgian façades and upstanding Victorian townhouses.


With its days as a trading powerhouse behind it, Presteigne has built a big reputation as an arty enclave. The streets are dotted with galleries, vintage book stores and antique shops, while an annual arts festival attracting performers from far and wide further boosts the town’s bohemian cred.


It’s also home to a high street that can stand alongside that of many much larger settlements. As well as those aforementioned galleries, you’ll find a diverse collection of cafés, delis and clothes stores – plus market town staples like greengrocers, butchers and fishmongers.


You be the judge

Or the accused. Experience the justice system from both sides of the law at The Judge’s Lodging, Presteigne’s award-winning living history attraction. Serving as both the judge’s home and the county’s judicial centre, this restored 19th-century building features living quarters, a courtroom and selection of dingy cells where those awaiting trial would be held.


Lit with era-appropriate gas and oil lamps, it’s an authentically murky journey into the past – though things are noticeably brighter in the lavish rooms inhabited by the master of the house than below stairs where his staff lived and worked. The highlight is the courtroom (which heard its last case in 1970) where you can experience how a trial looked from the perspective of judge, jury and defendant.


Amazing architecture

Though a comparatively small place, Presteigne punches well above its weight when it comes to striking structures – each one a piece of the town’s long and rich history. Take a stroll through the streets and you’ll be hopping back and forth through the centuries.


There’s the elegant 19th-century Shire Hall (now The Judge’s Lodging museum) on Broad Street and the Italianate Gothic Assembly Rooms, built in 1869 overlooking the main crossroads. The timber-framed Radnorshire Arms at the north-western end of the High Street dates from 1616 (look out for the ancient panelling and moulded beams in the bar). Even further back in time is St Andrew’s Church. Largely dating from the 14th century, it still features traces of its earlier Saxon and Norman origins.


On the lookout

Overlooking Presteigne from a lofty position in the north-west of the town, The Warden was once the site of a castle, constructed by English invaders to subdue the unruly natives. Though all that remains today is the earthen mound where the fortress once stood, the 360-degree views over the surrounding countryside clearly demonstrate why its builders picked this spot.


Originally raised by the Mortimer family in 1249, the castle was destroyed so comprehensively by Welsh leader Llywelyn the Last in 1262 that it vanished from the historical record. The Mortimers’ loss is our gain, with The Warden now a tranquil swathe of woodland and wildflower meadows with truly showstopping views.


Into the wild

Stretching along the banks of the River Lugg, Withybeds Nature Reserve is a wonderfully wild landscape just a short stroll from the centre of town. This Site of Special Scientific Interest is strung with accessible walkways, making the squelchy willow marshes accessible in all weathers.


It’s at its most colourful in late spring and early summer, when the air is filled with birdsong from nesting flycatchers, willow tits and bullfinches – and marsh marigolds and wood anemones that bloom from the boggy ground.



  • Flower power. During the early 19th century, Presteigne was a hotbed of daffodil breeding. No less than 470 variations of Wales’s national bloom were created here by local horticulturalists, who would send their crops to be sold at London’s Covent Garden flower market.


  • Give us a ring. If you’re in town in the evening, listen out for the curfew bell being rung from the tower of St Andrew’s Church. It’s a tradition that’s been going on since 1565, when wealthy local cloth merchant John Beddoes made the daily practice a condition of his funding of the town’s grammar school.


  • A shifting borderland. Unusually for a Welsh town, Presteigne sits on what historically was the English side of Offa’s Dyke, the massive 8th-century earthwork built by Mercian King Offa to protect his lands. Its singular location made the town a flashpoint for attacks by native rulers including Llywelyn the Last and Owain Glyndŵr, who eventually succeeded in pushing the border back to its current location on the River Lugg.


  • In the navy. The grand Red House on Broad Street was once the home of Rear Admiral Peter Puget, a crewmember on the famous Vancouver Expedition which circumnavigated the globe between 1791 and 1795. The Puget Sound on the coast of Washington in the USA – one of the expedition’s numerous ports of call – now bears his name.


  • Crime and punishment. Explore the graveyard at St Andrew’s Church and you’ll find a headstone telling the sad tale of Mary Morgan. Convicted in 1805 of murdering her newborn child, this 16-year-old girl is widely believed to be the victim of a miscarriage of justice. When concerns were raised about her conviction a reprieve was secured from London, but the news didn’t arrive in Presteigne until after she had been hanged at Gallows Lane.


  • State of the art. Little Presteigne is home to two annual arts festivals. Now in its fourth decade, Presteigne Festival sees classical music and spoken word performances from international artists taking place in various venues, including St Andrew’s Church and the Assembly Rooms. For those with more modern tastes there’s the fun and friendly Sheep Music Festival, held in colourful tents at Went’s Meadow on the edge of town.


  • What’s in a name? Presteigne comes from the Old English preosta tun, meaning ‘priests’ town’. Its Welsh name, Llanandras, means ‘Church of St Andrew’.

  • d philanthropist who pioneered the global cooperative movement.



We want you to get the best out of your visit to Presteigne. There’s a lot to see and do in town, so we’ve picked out a few highlights. You’re free to approach things in whatever order you like, but we’ve arranged our itinerary in a way that makes sense geographically. And if you’re pushed for time, just take your pick from the places that spark your curiosity.


The Warden

Start out by getting your bearings at The Warden, former site of Presteigne’s motte and bailey castle. The castle is long gone (destroyed by Welsh forces in 1262) but the expansive views across the surrounding countryside show why this spot was such a good location for a fortress. With conflict long behind it, this blissful beauty spot is now a glorious green space popular with families, walkers and wildlife spotters.


Explore the streets

Encircling St Andrew’s Church and churchyard, Presteigne’s pretty streets pack plenty into fairly small amount of space. High Street is particularly attractive. Presteigne’s lively main street is lined with shops, cafés and galleries, housed in historic buildings that range from half-timbered Tudor structures to elegant glass-fronted shopfronts from the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s little wonder that Country Life magazine listed it as one of Britain’s top 10 small towns.


St Andrew’s Church

Though the current structure largely dates from the 14th century, the parish church’s roots stretch back to Norman and Saxon times. Inside, you can see a tapestry from the early 1500s depicting Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem and an ornate 13th-century coffin lid thought to belong to the Mortimer family (builders of Presteigne’s long-demolished castle), the powerful Marcher lords who once ruled in these borderlands.


Out in the churchyard you’ll find the gravestone of Mary Morgan who was unjustly executed here in 1805 and The Scallions, an area around the old lychgate thought to take its name from the old Norse word skallwega (‘the way of the skull’).


The Judge’s Lodging

Presteigne’s former Shire Hall, opened in 1829, is now one of Wales’s most fascinating historical attractions. Serving as both the judicial centre for the county of Radnorshire and accommodation for the judges who came here to try cases, it’s a perfectly preserved and thoroughly immersive time capsule.


You’ll see the grand chambers where the visiting law officials stayed and the more modest spaces for the servants below stairs, all lit with flickering oil and gas lamps. You can also spend some time in the dark cells where those awaiting trial were held, and the explore the courtroom that heard its final case in 1970.


Withybeds Nature Reserve

Complete your loop through town with a walk along the River Lugg in Withybeds Nature Reserve. Raised wooden walkways carry you over the marshy terrain alive with sparkling blue kingfishers, iridescent dragonflies and bright yellow marsh marigolds.

bottom of page