If you find yourself in Cardiff, and you have access to a car, take the ride about 20 miles west to the town of Monknash where you’ll find a nice little pub with a cool history. Sample their fine Welsh ales and be sure to try their food. Read about their history from the menu and you’ll find the Plough and Hammer has been around for over 600 years, and has become home to a handful of ghosts over this time.
Even if you don’t have a car, I’ve heard there is a bus which makes infrequent trips here from Cardiff. Ask around and you might be able to make it by bus if you don’t have a car or plan on drinking a lot.
”The pub dates back to 1383 and as the name Monknash suggests had a very strong ecclesiastical background. Local tradition claims that there was a monastery here and the Plough formed part of it, but in fact Monknash was a grange – an outlying farm established by a monastery to provide food and other goods. In that function it differed little from any secular farm, though there was usually a chapel on site (this being just to the east of the pub) and the estate was run by lay brothers, the “draught oxen of God” as one unflattering chronicle put it.
The monks’ grange at Nash (hence the name) was the richest estate owned by the Cistercian abbey at Neath, it included accommodation buildings and a college (these recently have been rebuilt from ruins and can be found to the northwest of the pub), a forge (just down the lane to the west), a carpenters workshop (to the left of the pub), trout pools, dove cotes, animal buildings (ruins remain to the rear of the pub) and a huge tithe barn, over 200ft long, a building so large that the porch alone now accommodates a modern house!
To the left of the pub, the remaining ivy covered gable end can be seen from the garden but much of this barn was “robbed of stone” to build “newer” buildings over the centuries. All of this was surrounded by hundreds of acres of the best farming land in Wales.
With the downfall of monastic houses in 1536 the land and buildings were sold off to the wealthy Stradling family of St Donats Castle to the East, now home to Atlantic College.
The pubs name is apt too, considering the intense agricultural activity carried out here by the monastic servants over 450 years ago. The Plough is an example of a lobby entry house built at that time with its beamed ceilings, ‘Tudor’ doors and open fires.
The bar is now one large room and all traces have been removed of the partitioned chamber which stood at the far end, along the dartboard wall. Perhaps this is a good thing, for there are gruesome stories told that this room was use to store the shipwrecked bodies washed up on the beach after having their ships captain confused by the infamous “Wreckers of Wick”. They would tie lanterns around sheep’s necks and then let them wander the cliff tops so the captains would think they were nearing the docks of Barry or Cardiff and not the jagged rocks of the coastline or the deadly Nash sandbank.
It is said that the bodies were stored until the coffins were made in the carpentry shop next door before burial at the church just up the lane. A legacy of the historical events is that the pub and surrounding areas are home to a number of ghosts, these being clearly identified by a “Spooks” investigation in early 2006. Although there are a number of ghosts who take it upon themselves to throw glasses and move chairs and ornaments the present owners have been assured that they will come to no harm, unlike previous tenants.”
The Plough and Harrow is a very friendly traditional village pub and we found that it welcomes visitors as warmly as its regulars. OK, the outside may not be anything special to look at but this hides a very cosy interior – inglenook fireplaces, beams,etc.
The food we had was of a high standard with good sized portions and main courses under £10. We thoroughly enjoyed our Welsh faggots, local beef and lasagne. Even the sandwiches looked lovely and were served with salad and chips. It offered a range of regular and guest ales, plus no less than 8 different ciders!
If you want to really appreciate the excellent food and ales here then why not do what we did and build up your hunger and thirst with the pub walk that leads right to the door of the Plough and Harrow? The walk offers varied terrain, seaward views, a dramatic cove, some old ruins and a nature reserve! It can be downloaded for free at http://www.myfavouritepubwalks.co.uk/shopping/plough-and-harrow-monknash-cowbridge-south-glamorgan-cf71-7qq-walk2.asp
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