Farewell & Final Blog Post…

Writing a travel blog and sharing my adventures with all of you here has been a whole lot of fun. I can’t believe, however, that I have come to the end of my stories and pictures. And I’m sorry to tell you but this post will be the last one that I write. I will still be travelling, but will no longer be blogging about it. It’s been fun, I’ve learned a lot, made a lot of friends, and it’s been an adventure in itself.

My granddaughter, Nichole, was right when she suggested I give it a try about 2 1/2 years ago. She encouraged me to share my interesting stories on a blog explaining to me that there would be a whole bunch of people “out there” that would love to hear the stories and read my blog if I took the time to write it.

There certainly have been a lot of people “out there” who are interested and who seem to be quite entertained; she was right. I have gathered dedicated “followers”; some that I know and others who are total strangers from scattered corners of the planet. So interesting. I really appreciate their support and encouragement.

Since returning home from the trip I’ve been earnestly trying to get the last of the adventures blogged in chronological order. That’s a lot of places! I’m getting tired. You must be too! Although it’s been worth it, writing a blog requires an inordinate amount of work, dedication, disciplined daily effort, stamina, ideas and time!

I have enjoyed sharing my adventures with you and have posted a whole bunch of photos, told a few stories and shared a lot of information I’ve gathered along the way. Hopefully, it has served to not only entertain you; but also inspired you to venture out and do a little travelling yourself. Maybe you are unable to travel and like to travel along vicariously; that’s wonderful too! Maybe I’ve given someone the courage to venture out on their own, travelling solo, as I often do.

There is so much to see and do in this wonderful world. Go live it and experience it your way, in whatever fashion you desire. If I had to wait until someone else had the time, the money and the desire to go with me, I probably wouldn’t have seen a fraction of what I’ve experienced and seen so far; I’d still be waiting. Life is too short for that. Go find it, even if it means going by yourself – you’ll soon be making friends along the way!

I sincerely hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for coming along for the ride on this blog with me and reading it.

What follows is the last story about the final days of my 4 1/2 month travels in Ireland, Scotland, England & Wales 2017:

One More Little Taste of Each ~ Wales, Ireland & Scotland ~ Before I Head Home

It was September 8th, my last day in Wales. I started the day early at about 9 o’clock because I had a reservation on a train to take me to the top of Snowdon Mountain.

I arrived at the Snowdon Mountain Railway station and was soon ushered aboard a railcar pushed by a diesel locomotive named George. Soon we began our hour-long ascent to the summit!

From the moment we left the station the train began the journey upwards into the clouds.  According to their website:

“This is a fabulous land of faeries and giants and kings. For centuries Welsh princes held council here. It is a land rich in alpine flowers and rare ferns left behind the retreating ice age and it is dotted with ruins that chronicle the history of long lost communities. These ancient mountains thrust upwards by volcanic forces 450 million years ago, once towered 10,000 metres. Over eons, the wind and rain and successive ice ages have sculpted them to their current form.”

Soon after the train left Llanberis station the track crossed the first of two viaducts across the Afon Hwch river and offered a wonderful view of the waterfall plunging into the gorge below.

As we emerged into open ground, I would have had a first glimpse of the peak of Snowdon, but its peak was shrouded in clouds! The train soon passed Car Esgob, Bishops Field and the ruined Hebron Chapel before starting its final summit ascent in earnest amongst spectacular countryside.

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IMG_7446A lot of people hike up to the summit on Snowdon. I admire their abilities and stamina and am extremely grateful that I can ride a train, otherwise, I would not be able to see the summit.

Including stops at the passing loops, the train takes an hour to climb to the summit and an hour to descend again, at an average speed of around 5 mph. It is is a narrow gauge rack and pinion mountain railway and steadily, but slowly, moves along for 4.7 miles offering up beautiful scenic vistas to enjoy all the while.

IMG_7475We arrived at the summit station, disembarked, walked through the Visitor Centre to the outside and then followed the rock stairs up to the brass marker.

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Since we were shrouded in clouds, our vistas were limited and could barely see down to the train tracks, let alone the lakes and landscapes way below. I have pulled a picture off of the trains’ website and posted below so at least we can see what it would have looked like if it had been clear. Quite a view I must say! Will have to go back and try another time.snowdon summit

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We started back down the mountain clearing the clouds about halfway down and the vistas opened up once again. Behind us Snowdon is still quite dark and ominous looking.

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On the way down we passed another steam train headed up the mountain. Before long we were pulling into the station and the ride was over.  Sure was a fun one!

The sun was shining brightly in Llanberis at noon. I spent the rest of the afternoon at the hostel doing domestic chores like laundry and sorting out my luggage. The following morning I would be taking the ferry across the Irish Sea to Dublin. I also had to clean out the rental car I’d been using since June and after driving it for over 6,200 miles. (That’s a lot of miles; I’ve loved every one of them!) I finished off the day with good traditional local fare for my supper and enjoyed a beautiful rainbow while doing so.  It was a perfect day!

I had a few more days left in September on my itinerary. I wanted to use them wisely, so I returned to a couple of my favourite haunts to see some of my favourite people one more time before I headed back home to America.

After an uneventful ferry ride back to Ireland, I rented another car and made a beeline to Northern Ireland to see my good Frew friends for a few days…Deirdre, Heather – the whole Frew girl lot! I had some additional special personal time together with both Deirdre and Heather, exploring a few new sights. Deirdre, and her wonderful little great-granddaughter, Lilly, took me to the waterfalls at Glenariff and then we drove along the northern coastline near Carnlough and Glenarm. Beautiful!

Heather treated me to a visit to her sister’s fabulous tea room near Armagh.

All the “Frew girls” near Ballymena are always a delight to see. It’s a real hoot to get together and spend time with each other (usually  laughing our heads off!)

After spending a week or so in Ireland, I spontaneously decided at the last minute to change my plans. My sister, Sue, and her husband, George, had arrived in London a few weeks earlier and had been travelling north to Scotland while I was exploring Wales. We didn’t think we would see each other while we were both in the UK at the same time. That was until I decided to surprise them!

After conspiring with my cousin Lindsay in Aberdeen, I drove back to Dublin, returned the rental car, took the ferry back to Holyhead, rented another car and then proceeded to drive all the way to Aberdeen to his house arriving the same day that my Sue and George did.

That was a long drive, let me tell you! I didn’t arrive in Aberdeen until the well after midnight. While I was driving they arrived in Aberdeen, had dinner with our cousin Lindsay and made plans for the following day to go visit a castle or two. When they arrived at Lindsay’s front door in the morning, I went out the back door and circled round to the front, and then waited for a couple of minutes for them to get a bit settled, then I rang the doorbell.

Lindsay commented to Sue & George, “Oh, I hope you don’t mind; a neighbour lady friend of mine heard we were going to visit a castle and wondered if she could come along. Do you mind if she joins us?”

“Sure, the more – the merrier!” my sister replied. He opened the door and invited me in, pretending to introduce his “neighbour friend” and boy you should have seen the look of surprise and delight when they realized it was me. They couldn’t believe it and were quite surprised!  We all had such a great time together; a special “family heritage, ancestry” time exploring castles we have ancestral ties to with each other for a couple of days.

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First, we visited Fraser Castle, the Clan that our Frew ancestors are associated with. We visited another castle at Braemar that Sue and I share ancestral connections to and we also toured Craigievar Castle just because it’s one of my favourites and also because I was sure they would absolutely love it.

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Spending a little extra special time with each of my favourite people at the end of a very special trip was the perfect way to end it.

IMG_8286Well, like they say, all good things shall come to an end…

I have had a fun time sharing my travel adventures here on this blog.  Thanks for reading it, sharing it with friends and family and coming to read the posts on my blog.  Happy Trails!  ~ Claudia

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Wales – Part Five ~ Swallow Falls at Bets-y-Coed, Conwy Castle & Ancient Llys Rhosyr

map“Another wonderful day for exploring,” I thought to myself as I rose from my slumber on the 7th of September. I decided to go the opposite direction than I had gone the day before to visit yet another impressive castle – Conwy.

I drove up the canyon from Llanberis to Pen-y-Pass and then down the other side to a nice little woodsy town called Bets-y-Coed just to see what was there and what I might find along the way. I was pleasantly surprised.

Along the road, interesting looking and quaint IMG_7174places to eat, drink, sleep and be merry were scattered here and there amongst the gorgeous landscapes. They looked rather inviting. Here’s one in particular that falls into the “interesting” category; I’m not even sure it’s currently open, but it sure looks like it’s seen its share of happy times, happy travellers and has plenty of stories it could tell!

IMG_7172Another one, Tyn-Y-Coed, looked inviting and pleasant and one that has been here awhile. Across the road was a really neat old horse-drawn carriage on display in the car park. What a ride on these back roads that must have been in its day!

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A bit further down the road which followed the twisting river downhill, I came upon another interesting inn, complete with its own set of waterfalls!

What a beautiful and refreshing spot this was!IMG_7177

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IMG_7189As I came up the staircase from the rivers’ gorge below and passed through the gates of Swallow Falls, I noticed this sign; what a perfect reminder of why I love to travel and see new “things.”  It expresses exactly what I mean when I tell people I love to travel and see beautiful things.  “Things” I refer to are the people, the places, memories, pictures, feelings, smiles…  This gorgeous waterfall made me smile and laugh, caught my breath and helped to remind me that it just doesn’t get much better than this. What a lucky girl I am!

The town Bets-Y-Coed was a nice little bustling place nestled in the woodland glen with the river winding through it. I didn’t stay long, however, I only stopped long enough to get some fuel in the car and enjoy some baby horses grazing & lazing in a field.

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Nearby, the bridge which spans the River Conwy exclaims it was built the same time the Battle of Waterloo occurred in 1815!IMG_7192

I drove another 14 miles or so north toward the ocean following the Conwy river and arrived at Conwy Castle near the mouth. The castle dominates the entrance to Conwy, immediately conveying its strength and power. The majestic suspension bridge connecting the castle with the main peninsula still guards the main approach to the castle at the river as it always has.IMG_7308

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I had briefly visited Conwy earlier in the summer in mid-June. I spent the night at the delightful hostel up on the hill just above the walled town. I only had one night, however, and only enough time to quickly check out the town before getting back on the road heading north. I knew I would be coming back to it about 3 months later and now I here I was. IMG_7222It’s a really interesting little town with a very interesting castle. Here’s an illustration of how it’s laid out.

Conwy Castle and the town are surrounded by a well-preserved wall. A similar town wall exists at Caernarfon but is far less complete. Conwy’s wall maintains the town’s medieval character. It was built about the same time as Caernarfon by King Edward I in about 1283 and was part of a plan to surround Wales in an iron ring of castles to subdue the rebellious Welsh population.

Below is a picture of the back side of the castle, at low tide, and from across the river. This massive castle has eight great towers.IMG_1677IMG_7210IMG_7211First a glimpse from a painting of what the castle looked like long, long ago.

Now for the front of the castle and the inside. I got my ticket and made my way up the side of the steep rock face embankment toward the entrance.

In the photo below, notice the zig-zagging path the visitors are following up to the arched entrance on the right-hand side. Directly below the arch is what remains of another massive stone structure; a stone ramp which is now gone.
IMG_7388Like Caernarfon castle, Conwy also had a very long steep stone ramp with a drawbridge at the top of the ramp directly across from the arched entrance. Between the stone ramp and the arched entrance, the wooden drawbridge could be raised if under attack, leaving an insurmountable open gap. They had a very handy interpretive panel nearby to describe and show what it would have looked like.

Below, looking down Castle Street, is what the town of Conwy looks like from the entrance arch of the castle…

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IMG_7221Through the next arched doorway, we’ll enter the castle’s exterior walls and proceed inside to see its interior courtyard.

IMG_7226IMG_7227Interesting inner courtyard; it’s narrower than I imagined and with so many more large rooms all around the perimeter of the castle walls than expected. Lots and lots of rooms and many levels to ascend and explore! Let’s start this exploration with the Northwest Tower…and climb to it’s top.

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The views of the town, river and harbour below, and surrounding countryside in the distance, from the top of the Northwest Tower, were commanding!

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IMG_7246While I was up so high, it was great to walk along the tops of the rooms and curtain walls gaining a birdseye view of what lies below.

 

Like Caernarfon, the signage and interpretive panels were very artistic, informative, maintained in good shape, and well placed, making them easy to read, understand and follow.

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The views from the top were astounding!

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There is so much to see in this place, feels never-ending as you weave your way through each tower, each room, each connecting passage.  Lots of fun! This place is huge and has everything, even a couple of baby dragons!

One can spend hours wandering around this castle, and I did. So much so I was working up an appetite, so since I had my fill of castle exploring I left and walked down into town and into the harbour to find some fresh fish ‘n chips for lunch to eat by the water’s edge.

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While I was sitting on the dock eating that yummy fish, I noticed that the smallest house in Britain was right there before my eyes! It’s absolutely tiny! I’ve seen playhouses bigger than this place! IMG_7371People have actually lived in there? I paid a pound to enter and could barely turn around inside. Below is a photo collage of what it looks like inside. it was all of about 6 feet deep and 5 foot wide with a single bed above accessible by a ladder.

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I continued walking around the town, eyeing the wares in the windows (luckily I had eaten my lunch and so was able to resist the tempting delights below)…

IMG_7314…when I came upon a very old building maintained by the National Trust, Aberconwy House, a 15th century Merchant’s House. Tree-ring analysis of the roof timbers shows that the trees were felled c. 1417–1420. This dating makes it one of the oldest, datable houses in Wales and exemplifies the importance of the building. Ooooh! This could be an interesting little slice of history to go look at and experience!

It has an interesting style of construction with the big timbers on top, the stonework on the lower level, and with the top floor being jettied and the overhanging structure supported on corbel stones, what is said to be “a mark of prosperity.” The entrance to the living quarters is at the top of the stone stairs. Accessible by the arched doorway at lower left, the basement underneath is the Merchant’s Shop.

Upon entry in the living quarters, we’re greeted by volunteer tour guides in the main part of the house and the dining room.

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We then proceeded with the tour into the kitchen in the adjoining room.

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After the kitchen, we climbed the stairs to the top of the house where the living room and bedrooms were. They had the whole place laid out with authentic furnishings, artwork and one could really get a feel for how the people lived and interacted with one another inside their home at various times throughout its history.

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The bedrooms were quite comfy looking and offered some glimpses into how the place is constructed with waddle and daub.

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We finished the tour down in the shop below the house and headed back outside through the arched doorway at street level.

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The rest of the afternoon I spent driving around the countryside exploring many roads. I ended up heading over to the Isle of Anglesey near a remote beach and came upon an ancient site of the Welsh princes at  Llys Rhosyr.IMG_7390

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It was getting late in the day so I started heading back toward the hostel at the base of Snowdon. When I return to Wales one day, I would really like to concentrate my explorations out on the Isle of Anglesey as I didn’t allow for it on this trip. They have some absolutely wonderful beaches, lighthouses, windmills and a few more very interesting buildings, including another castle, Beaumaris, that I would love to visit and an old burial tomb like the one in Newgrange in Ireland. So many things to see, so little time!

Tommorrow morning we’ll head up Snowdon Mountain to its summit on the steam train. That’s going to be an adventure you won’t want to miss!  Until then… happy trails!

 

Wales – Part Four ~ Caernarfon Castle & the Welsh Highland Railway

IMG_6759I was snuggled up real cozy at the YHA Snowdon Llanberis hostel on the morning of September 6th. The hostel was nestled at the base of Snowdonia Mountain. I opened my eyes, peeked out the window from my warm bed and pinched myself; what an idyllic location! I noticed it was a bit misty outside, but, was glad that at least it wasn’t raining! I was excited about exploring this new territory in oh-so-many-ways. The guidebooks & travel articles I read, as well as some personal experiences that friends have shared, have revealed that there are a lot of things I would like to see and experience here in Northern Wales.

After a satisfying breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast, I decided to go for a walk along the edge of the nearby lake, Llyn Pardan, to kick start my morning. Along the way, I thoroughly enjoyed the company of some very friendly local swans who quickly swam over to me greeting me curiously as I strolled.

 

Since it was my first full day in this area and I had so many things I wanted to see and do the next three days, I began prioritizing them. For instance, there is a steam railway in Llanberis which travels up Snowdonia Mountain right to the summit! As you might imagine, it is quite popular, therefore requiring the purchase of tickets at least a couple of days in advance.

Since riding that particular steam train was a top priority I made sure I purchased my ticket straightway. I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the first run in the morning on the very last day I would be staying in town.  That was lucky! In the future, I will definitely go online and purchase them a lot sooner instead of waiting until I got there as I almost didn’t get one at all during my stay! That could have proved to be quite disappointing!

Another attraction I wanted to see was Caernarfon Castle. Luckily it was only about 7 miles away along a beautiful country road from where I was staying in Llanberis so after saying farewell to the swans, I jumped in the car and began the beautiful drive west in the sunshine that had broken through. In no time at all, I was standing right in front of that mighty impressive castle right at the water’s edge!

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It appeared in person just as the castle’s website had described it:

“A brute of a fortress. Caernarfon Castle’s pumped-up appearance is unashamedly muscle-bound and intimidating. Picking a fight with this massive structure would have been a daunting prospect. By throwing his weight around in stone, King Edward I created what is surely one of the most impressive of Wales’s castles. Worthy of World Heritage status no less.”IMG_6761

Like so many, it also had previously been the location of a Norman motte and bailey castle and before that, a Roman fort. The river and easy access to the sea made the banks of the River Seiont an ideal spot for King Edward’s monster of a castle with its polygonal towers; the Eagle Tower being the most impressive!

 

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The castle and its walled city were built in 1283 and it amazes me that they are still standing despite having been ruinous for a large number of those years!IMG_6911

It’s a fun little town to walk around both inside and out. I am so grateful that people had the foresight to preserve these beautiful architectural treasures for future generations.

The parking area on the right in the photo below is where all the ships and shipping activities flourished in the past. Rather quiet now with just parked cars! It used to bustle!IMG_6775

 

IMG_6880Like so many castles I have had the pleasure to visit on this trip, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Caernarfon Castle also holds ancestral connections for me. Edward I, King of England (1239 – 1307) built and lived in this castle and he is my 20th great-grandfather  Geez, it just gives me goosebumps when I make these discoveries!!!! 

I didn’t realize this fact until just now, as I write this blog and therefore didn’t know it while I was visiting the castle. Usually, before I visit a castle I check my family tree in Ancestry to discover whether or not the person who built the castle was an ancestor of mine. I didn’t check ahead of time because I didn’t realize I had any family connections in Wales. However, when the thought occurred to me to at least check now, although after the fact – lo and behold! – I did have a connection! Amazing!

I suppose I should be getting quite used to this by now, but it never ceases to impress upon me how complex my ancestry is; how many golden ancestral threads crisscross the countryside of this island. It’s like my ancestry DNA is weaving its own beautiful tapestry with a thread from each place containing all the individual pieces of splendour and history from each location and each person in my family tree.

I cannot recommend highly enough nor encourage you more to trace your roots. Tracing your family history and visiting the actual locations they come from is such a unique and wonderfully fulfilling experience. Sure, it takes a little work to figure out who your ancestors are (and that can be quite fun in itself) and it also takes some more time to map out where they came from, but it’s oh-so-worth-it!  Doing so has really helped me to learn a lot more about history, my ancestors and most importantly, myself, who I am and where I come from.

So….anyway, back to this castle – one that one of my great grandpas from way-back-when built in 1283…   It’s pretty amazing both inside and out. Let’s take a detailed look.

I walked around the outside perimeter and also walked around and through the small quaint city inside the walls while I waited for the castle doors to open for the day. The city had all kinds of interesting buildings and shops, a town square called the Maes, churches and many busy little side streets that were fun to explore.

 

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No matter what angle I took a picture from, the castle constantly appears formidable and takes centre stage. The view above is taken from the town square, ‘the Maes,’ and the big archway opening on the left side of the castle is called Queen’s Gate. There used to be a stone ramp that led up to it from the quay, but it’s long gone.

Below are pictures which were taken from the Queen’s Gate arch looking both into the interior of the castle, and looking back down to the Maes.

 

King’s Gate, the main entrance, is about halfway down the right side of the castle walls. After getting all of these great pictures of the outside, I ended up at the castle doors just at the right time to be greeted by a friendly face who was opening the doors and welcoming his guests to the castle.

 

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Off I went exploring further inside after purchasing my concessionaires discount ticket! (I love being a senior citizen!)

 

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I climbed to the top of the towers… and there were a lot of them!  I think I counted about 9 and some of them were about ten stories high at their rooftop levels! I got my exercise that day… The views from atop were outstanding and magnificent.  My favourites!

 

 

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All throughout the interior of the towers and rooms throughout the castle were numerous displays and exhibits, such as The Royal Welsh Fusiliers Regimental Museum,

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where you will find a wealth of original exhibits with film, sound and models, telling the story of over 300 years of service by Wales’ oldest infantry regiment.

 

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IMG_6856There was also this display of all of the main characters throughout the course of the castle’s history set on a chess board. The white pieces represent the English; the red represents the Welsh. It was a very interesting way of presenting a very dry subject and it was fun to walk around and intermingle amongst them.

 

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Then there was the King’s bedroom in another tower….IMG_6905

 

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IMG_6909It was a wonderful castle to tour; one of the best I’ve been to, actually. They had really good audiovisual equipment, professional and updated contemporary signage. Their displays were extensive and quite informative.

After visiting such a massive structure, however, I was ready for something a little bit smaller, kind of cozy, and gentile.  So, I got back in the car and headed inland this time and down the road to another wonderful spot, the quaint village of Beddgelert. Straightway I found a handy parking place right next to a perfect outdoor cafe with riverside seating where I enjoyed a delicious lunch while listening to the flowing and rippling water nearby.

 

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After a very satisfying meal, I took off on foot exploring across the bridges, down the streets and on the pathway to an unusual grave.

 

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IMG_7002Next, I walked to the top of the town where the train station is, IMG_7001bought a roundtrip ticket and boarded a steam train bound for Porthmadog.

 

 

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It was a really cool old train which meandered through the glen following the river most of the way, going through tunnels and blowing its whistle. I felt like a little kid and enjoyed it tremendously.IMG_7066

 

 

 

 

As we approached Porthmadog, the ground levelled out and we were travelling through farmland looking at the mountain ranges on either side of the lush valley.

 

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Entering Porthmadog was an event in itself. The train tracks go right down the main street to the station and vehicular traffic as well as foot traffic is barricaded so the train can drive down Main street and over to the station.

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Once we arrived at the station, all passengers disembarked and stretched their legs while the Engine went down to the turntable to reposition itself.  It also gave us a chance to have a good look at the engine that had been pulling us.

 

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I mosied around the train station for a little while I waited, grabbed a fresh coffee and a lovely little welsh pastry to go with it, and discovered quite a few things of interest close at hand. That station was right at the harbour’s edge, in the centre of this bustling little seaside town.

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There were several very interesting and beautiful steam trains to marvel at.

 

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IMG_7068Soon it was time to board the train again to head back to Beddgelert. The First Class cabin had pretty lush and comfortable looking seating, but you couldn’t open the window and let the wind blow in your hair! I’ll take the latter, thank you!

We began the ascent up into the mountains and enjoyed the beautiful scenery once again in reverse order.

When I arrived in Beddgelert again, I still had just the right amount of sunlight left in the day to take the same road through Pen-y-Pass as I had the day before, retracing the way I had come. There was some absolutely gorgeous scenery through there and I wanted to take my time, stop at every turnout and take a picture or two this time through. The day before I had been driving all day long and was looking for my next hostel so I hadn’t had time to stop but once or twice.  Now I had plenty of time to stop, much more sunlight for my photos, and much more time to spend enjoying and capturing nature’s grandeur and beauty.

 

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It was a delightful day, full of fun train rides, beautiful scenery and an outstanding historic castle. Who could ask for more? Not I! My day had been chock full of wonderful surprises and discoveries and I was grateful for them all.

I returned to my hostel nestled up on the side of the hill at the base of Snowdonia. I treated myself to a serving of Bangers and Mash supper that the hostel offered for dinner that night, chased it with a nice dram of Scottish whisky and then my day was complete.  I tucked away for the evening in my cozy bed back in my “room with a view” in anticipation of the next day – yet another castle to explore, wonderful waterfalls and an ancient archaeological site to visit!

 

 

Wales – Part One ~ Cardiff Castle

driving mapIMG_5911IMG_5912Driving the roads from Beer to Cardiff on the beautifully sunny last day of August was a breeze. The sky was blue and the roads were clear and uncrowded. The next part of my journey took me to Wales for 9 full days to explore its’ hidden treasures.

IMG_6151Once I arrived in Cardiff and stashed my things at the modern looking hostel, I couldn’t think of anything better I’d rather do than visit the local castle. What an impressive castle and significant one it proved to be!

According to the castles’ website, ‘Cardiff Castle is one of Wales’ leading heritage attractions and a site of international significance. Located in the heart of the capital, within beautiful parklands, the Castle’s walls and fairytale towers conceal 2,000 years of history.’

First, it was in the hands of the Romans from about 45 – 500 AD. They started building forts here on a strategic site with easy access to the ocean nearby! Archaeological excavations made during the 1970s indicate that there were four forts built over time, each a different size. Remains of the Roman wall can be seen today.

Fast forward another 566 years – after the Norman conquest in 1066 – the Castle’s keep was built, re-using the site of the Roman fort. The site was also divided into inner and outer wards, separated by a huge stone wall. The Inner ward was used by the Lord and his family; the Outer Ward contained the Shire Hall, a chapel and houses for the lord’s supporter, the “Knights of Glamorgan.”

This early view of the Castle and Green shows what it looked like before 1777 as well as ancient walls and buildings that were built.IMG_5918 (2)Below, a present-day view of the greens with the castle ‘Keep’ in the center background.IMG_5920

The first Keep on the motte was erected by Robert Fitzhamon, the Norman Lord of Gloucester, concentrating the defensive works into the western half of the site, which became the ‘inner’ ward.

At the northern end of the ward, Fitzhamon built a ‘motte’ 40 feet high. This Keep was surmounted by a timber stockade giving shelter and protection to the wooden buildings which housed the lord, his household and his garrison.

The Castle passed through the hands of many noble families. This is where it gets particularly interesting for me personally.  Yep, you guessed it – another ancestral connection – or two, or three…IMG_5925Henry I “Beauclerc” King of England (1068 – 1135) was my 24th great grandfather. He had several children, including a son named Robert, who, as luck would have it, eventually married Lord Robert Fitzhamon’s daughter, Mabel.

Lord Robert Fitzhamon died of wounds received in battle in 1107, and his heiress daughter, Mabel, married King Henry I’s son, Robert (my 23rd great uncle.)

Afterward, King Henry elevated his son, Robert, to the title of “Earl of Gloucester,” and made him “Lord of Glamorgan,” in 1122. He was lauded on all sides as a brave soldier, a wise statesman and patron of the arts, and is also credited with having built the first stone keep of Cardiff Castle.

Over the years the castle changed hands down through the heirs eventually ending up with the next significant person in my lineage, Gilbert de Clare, in 1217. Gilbert was my 21st great grandfather and the descendant of a noble family which claimed kinship with William the Conqueror. Below is the lineage through my paternal grandfather, William Rose Frew II.

Gilbert Magna Carta DeClare (1182 – 1230)
21st great-grandfather
Richard IV De Clare Eighth Earl of Clare, sixth Earl of Hertford, Seventh Earl of Gloucester (1222 – 1262)
son of Gilbert Magna Carta DeClare
Sir Gilbert Red De Clare Earl of Clare, Earl of Hertford, Earl of Gloucester (1243 – 1295)
son of Richard IV De Clare Eighth Earl of Clare, sixth Earl of Hertford, Seventh Earl of Gloucester
Elizabeth DeClare (1295 – 1360)
daughter of Sir Gilbert Red De Clare Earl of Clare, Earl of Hertford, Earl of Gloucester
William 3rd Earl of Ulster De Burgh Lord of Connaught (1312 – 1346)
son of Elizabeth DeClare
Elizabeth Countess of Ulster DeBurgh (1332 – 1363)
daughter of William 3rd Earl of Ulster De Burgh Lord of Connaught
Thomas Richmond (1384 – 1420)
son of Elizabeth Countess of Ulster DeBurgh
William Richmond (1410 – 1441)
son of Thomas Richmond
William Richmond (1436 – 1502)
son of William Richmond
William Richmond (1502 – 1578)
son of William Richmond
Edmond Richmond (1532 – 1575)
son of William Richmond
Henry Richmond (1555 – 1634)
son of Edmond Richmond
John Richmond (1594 – 1664)
son of Henry Richmond
Capt Edward Richmond (1632 – 1696)
son of John Richmond
John Richmond (1660 – 1740)
son of Capt Edward Richmond
Cyrus Richmond (1693 – 1719)
son of John Richmond
Sylvester Richmond (1737 – 1813)
son of Cyrus Richmond
Ichabod Richmond (1772 – 1841)
son of Sylvester Richmond
Sarah Richmond (1808 – )
daughter of Ichabod Richmond
Hiram Brundage (1835 – 1914)
son of Sarah Richmond
Nancy Anne Brundage (1867 – 1948)
daughter of Hiram Brundage
William Rose Frew II (1885 – 1976)
son of Nancy Anne Brundage
William Kenneth Frew (1917 – 1997)
son of William Rose Frew II
Claudia Louise Frew
You are the daughter of William Kenneth Frew
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The Castle stayed in the de Clare family for numerous generations down through Gilbert ‘The Red.’
(Cool! There is a stained glass depiction of my 19th great grandfather!)
IMG_5922The ever-present threat of attacks upon the castle caused him to reconstruct its defences with a great sense of urgency. He constructed a central embattled wall to link the Keep with the south gate and the Black Tower.
The east side of the embattled wall (the outer ward) now provided permanent lodgings for the Knights of Glamorgan, and their grooms and men-at-arms, during their periods of garrison duty.
IMG_5921Armed with all of this rich ancestral history, I began the ascent to the castle Keep on the mound, the one my 21st great grandfather lived in and Lorded over! Wow!IMG_6095
About half-way up the steep stone stairs, the well appeared within its walls.

Once inside, and past the Keep to the inner courtyard, it appeared larger than I had imagined it would be; actually quite spacious.IMG_6101I started climbing the steps and exploring the rooms of the castle, making my way to the very tip top, thinking to myself as I made my way, that my great grandfather many generations ago, stepped through that doorway, hung around in this room, looked out that window…climbed those stairs!

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IMG_6117The Keep’s rooftop provided outstanding views of the acreage below and I could just imagine Gilbert standing up here surveying his lands.

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Back down the steep stairs, past the well, and down into the inner ward.

The next section of the castle to explore would be a guided tour through the Apartments’ interior! I was looking forward to this.IMG_5934

The Castle passed through the hands of many noble families until, in 1766, it passed to the Bute family.

The tour lined up outside the doors to the apartments offering close-up views of the gargoyle rainspouts fashioned as various types of animals along its inner roofline edges.

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The 2nd Marquess of Bute was responsible for turning Cardiff into the world’s greatest coal exporting port. The Castle and Bute fortune passed to the 3rd Marquess of Bute, who by the 1860s was reputed to be the richest man in the world.

From 1866 the 3rd Marquess employed a genius architect, William Burges, to transform the Castle lodgings. This is where the guided “House Tour” took us. Within the gothic towers, we saw the lavish and opulent interiors, rich with murals, stained glass, marble, gilding and elaborate wood carvings which William Burges created. Each room has its own special theme, including Mediterranean gardens and Italian and Arabian decoration.

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First stop of the tour was the Men’s Winter Smoking Room.

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Every inch of this room was elaborately painted with astrological signs and suns, and figures depicting tales of yore.

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IMG_5950As one leaves this room, a scary monster guards its entrance above your head in the ceiling; supposedly to scare the woman away from this man cave!IMG_5955The next room we visited was the Nursery. As in the previous room, childhood tales are depicted on the walls and carvings throughout its interior. nursery

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Just carving this one little intricate corner of the fireplace mantle must have taken awhile to accomplish! Every inch is ripe with characters, animals, nuts, leaves…

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We also visited the Banqueting Hall…banquet hall

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IMG_5996The Lord Bute’s Bedroom…ButeA very ornate bedroom, with an equally ornate and “blingy” ceiling of crystals and mirrors!

The Lord’s bathroom was also pretty darned fancy!

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We went up to the rooftop to appreciate it’s beautiful garden and was shown a picture of what it looked like in its heydey when full of lush foliage and flowers. The ornately painted tiling was incredibly detailed and exquisitely artistic.

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The last room we visited was the Library…

libraryFollowing the death of the 4th Marquess of Bute, the family decided to give the Castle and much of its parkland, known as Bute Park, to the city of Cardiff. For 25 years, the Castle was home to the National College of Music and Drama. Since 1974, it has become one of Wales’ most popular visitor attractions.

IMG_6061When the tour was finished, there was a great gathering of people outside in the inner courtyard. As luck would have it, about 80 Zulu players along with Queen Mantfombi Dlamini, and her son His Royal Highness Prince Bambindlovu Makhosezwe Zuluabout, Prince Buza, and Princess Nqobangothando had travelled to Cardiff to take part in a re-enactment of the Battle of Isandlwana which occurred around 1879.

This re-enactment marked the 135th celebration of King Cetshwayo’s capture. After his capture, the king was brought back to England where he met Queen Victoria and was reinstated back to KwaZulu-Natal as the King.

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It was quite fun to watch the re-enactment, get up close to the Zulu Royalty, and enjoy the festivities.

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What a great spectacle that was! Afterwards, I decided to head back outside the castle walls and walk down their length to the entrance to Bute Park, passing the great corner Tower along the way.

IMG_6163Just past the tower, stone statutes of animals began appearing along the top of the wall, as if they were escaping their environs. That’s when I learned about the “animal wall!”

According to the sign below, “The Animal Wall is one of the most delightful and photographed historic features in Cardiff. It was designed by architect William Burges for the 2nd Marquess of Bute. Burges died before even the structure of the wall was completed and the carving of the animals was not begun until the late 1880s. Architect William Frame brought the animal wall to completion, based on the sketches by Burges. The original wall was located directly in front of the Castle and was decorated with just nine animals.

IMG_6161Later, the castle road needed to be widened and aligned with the new bridge, so the wall was relocated to its present position. Six additional animals were added to its length and are stylistically different than the original 9, which have the characteristic glass eyes.

As I strolled along the length of the wall photographing each critter, a young local girl of about 18 or so noticed me. She stopped to chat and stated that although she has walked this way many a time, she hadn’t actually noticed the animals along its top until she saw me stopping at each one to get a picture! She thanked me for drawing her attention to them and relaying their history. Amazing how one doesn’t notice the things in their own neck-of-the-woods, ‘eh?

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At the end of the wall, the main gate to Bute Park appeared and I stepped through to wander through its pathways.

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I saw a lot of beautiful trees, flowers and riverside views…

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That was some introduction to Wales! The history lessons of my ancestral connections to this interesting place are also quite intriguing! It made me wonder with delight of what was yet to come over the course of the next 8 days!

Next, I headed toward the most westerly portion of Wales in Pembrokeshire to explore its reaches, but, as usual, that’s another story for another day… Until the next time! Thanks for reading and following along on my adventures with me ~ Claudia

 

Swanage & the Jurassic Coast

Driving map (2)Another fine day on the southern coast of England presented itself with a bright sunrise on August 29th. The road beckoned so I drove out of Brighton driving due west with the destination of Swanage in mind about 90 miles away.

I was following along the base of some hills in South Downs National Park bordering my route on the right; the ocean to my left. I had only travelled about 20 miles when I noticed I needed some fuel for the car. I rounded a corner and caught a glimpse of some castle towers peeking out over the treetops just beyond the next exit at Arundel. “Looks like the perfect place to find some gas, go for a walk to stretch my legs in the fresh morning air, and what better place to do that – around the grounds of a castle!  Perfect! This exit looks like it has everything I need and could want!”IMG_5648

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Arundel Castle

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A lot of pathways to follow, according to the map above, and a wonderful subject for an impromptu photo shoot wouldn’t you say? I didn’t really have time to take the guided tour of the inside of the castle, especially since it appeared to be quite extensive and lengthy but it’s supposed to be a very interesting tour. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy walking around the grounds and taking photos of this magnificent and impressively formidable castle.

IMG_5683According to the castles’ website, “There are nearly 1,000 years of history at this great castle, situated in magnificent grounds overlooking the River Arun in West Sussex and built at the end of the 11th century by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel.”

It has been the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for over 850 years.

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IMG_5661This was the site of the original Norman castle. The oldest feature is the Motte, an artificial mound, over 100 feet high from the dry moat, and constructed in 1068. It would have had a wooden structure built on top of it in the beginning.IMG_5664

After the Motte was built, next came the gatehouse two years later in 1070.
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Bevis was a great giant of ancient times, and who, as legend has it, agreed to be the warder of the gate of Arundel Castle. It is said that the Bevis Tower was built to accommodate him.

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Bevis Tower

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Hmmm…lions guarding the drawbridge at Bevis Tower; better turn around and go the other way! Eventually, I worked my way back to the courtyard near the front of the castle where the door to enter is located and where the tour inside begins.

Course, I didn’t buy a ticket to go inside, so I just chatted with the guard at the door for a few minutes and then started back down to the entrance gates at the bottom of the hill.

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IMG_5677As I made my way back down, I came upon the rose garden off to the right. I had been so busy looking at the castle on the way up earlier, I hadn’t even noticed there was a garden! Imagine that, me missing a garden! That’s strange, indeed! I can’t imagine how I didn’t smell the aromatic fragrance of their blooms! It was superb; the blossoms filled the air with their profuse perfume in every direction!

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I felt a bit hungry after that nice walk so I decided to stroll through the village outside the castle walls to see what I might find to snack on. The ‘square’ on High Street offered up a wide variety of places to choose from and several items to tempt my tastebuds!

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That small ‘square’ had every kind of shop imaginable including the Butcher,

the Baker…

and where is that Candlestick maker? Okay, no candles that I can see but I’ll take one of those yummy looking puff pastries with the caramelized apple slices in it, please!

Across the street from the Baker on the left side of the street was a delightful little “second hand” shop with all kinds of wonderful things. Once inside, every room on each level of this very old and rickety building was filled with treasures galore to explore!

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It’s probably a good thing my suitcase wasn’t big enough to take all I would have liked, especially that toy horse on wheels!

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On the way back to the car I spotted some really cool old lace and pretty pottery too!

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The drive west took me through South Hampton, a bustling port, and down through the New Forest National Park lands down into Bournemouth where I hugged the coastline until I came to a small ferry which crosses the narrow channel near Brownsea Island and takes cars & cyclists over to the Studland and Godlingston Heath National Nature Reserve. (Phew! That’s a mouthful!)

It was a cute little ferry that took about 5 minutes to cross the channel over to the nature reserve where the eastern edge of the Jurassic coastline begins.IMG_5713IMG_5714

Not much further to go now, only about 6 miles to Swanage! I wondered what it had in store for me. As I came down the road, it turned near the water’s edge following along a pebbly beach filled with colourful beach chairs & umbrellas. Families were frolicking and splashing in the blue-green water beyond as I entered this little seaside village by the bay.IMG_5763

IMG_5729Across town and slightly up the hill behind it, I found the Swanage Youth Hostel that I would call home for the night. This elegant Victorian house offered fine views across that beautiful bay.

As the sign states, Captain John Anderson, of the SS Great Eastern, built this villa with the proceeds he received for laying the first-ever transatlantic cable from Ireland to America. It’s a nice homey type of place; beautiful wood panelling in the living room, spacious and it has a really comfortable feel about it; thanks, Captain John!

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Before descending back down to the seashore, I noticed a sign pointing uphill from the hostel to a castle! Think I’ll go check it out!

Durlston Castle was a small structure perched on the cliff overlooking the English Channel looking south toward France. The land it sits on, The Durlston National Nature Reserve, is perfect for exploring the Jurassic Coast, a newly designated World Heritage Site that tells a geological story covering 200 million years. Find the Dinosaur footprints! The castle has all kinds of exhibits set up for this very purpose! What I enjoyed the most, however, was the panoramic views from it offered!

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Like Brighton Beach, Swanage is an activity-packed seaside holiday location, but much more relaxed, kicked-back and low key; a bit more my style. It boasts a safe sandy Blue Flag beach, spectacular coastal scenery, high sunshine ratings and festivals galore. After looking at the ocean from above, I decided to head down to the bay and get my tootsies in the water. It looked so inviting!IMG_5748

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Then I started walking along the edge of the bay toward the beach on the other end to see what wonderful treasures this sunny and inviting village would unveil.

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Across the pavement from the beach in a pedestrian-only zone, there were little huts lined up one after the other with colourful doors and which reminded me of storage units one rents to keep ones’ extra stuff in. Turned out they were storage units of sorts. These people keep all of their beach gear here; the BBQ, chairs, tables, cups, silverware, floaties and whatever else one needs for visiting the beach. They rent these coveted units year round. That way they have everything they need, including a refrigerator & microwave, when they head to the beach to play! Ingenious!

Beyond the seashore, I ventured into the inner streets browsing the shops in town…

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Which included a quaint little train station…

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As a finale, I went up to the Grand Hotel perched on the cliff above the beach on the opposite side of the bay from where I started. It was a very nice place and had some gorgeous views of the bay and village beyond. Bet it looks really nice at night with the lights reflecting on the waters’ surface.

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IMG_5780It was great fun exploring this lovely seaside village. I liked the way it was cozy, relaxed, and had a low-key ambience.

I easily settled in nicely for the evening after all that walking, enjoyed a nice fresh fish supper, and relaxed on the veranda at the villa (er…I mean, hostel).

 

 

 

Along the Ancestral Castle trail to Tantallon & the Birthplace of One of My Heroes in Nearby Dunbar

Livinston to Tantallon, Dunbar and Berwick-upon-Tweed mapI had one last day to spend in Scotland so I travelled in an easterly direction from Edinburgh hugging the coastline as much as possible to see what I could find of interest along the way the morning of August 23rd.

I had said my farewells to my good friends Keith & Helen, thanking them enormously for such a wonderful and memorable visit to the tomb of King Robert in Dunfermline and the time I enjoyed with them in their lovely new home.

IMG_4581As I followed the coastline, the first place of interest that I came across was a castle sitting out on a promontory point big as you please.  Seemed so appropriate to visit one more castle on my last day in Scotland! Tantallon was standing so majestically perched on the cliff’s edge overlooking the ocean and the entrance into the Forth estuary!

I can’t seem to go anywhere on this trip and not run into ancestors! This castle was no exception.

William Douglas, the man who built it in the 1350s was my 17th great grandfather (through my Clapp family line once again, just like recently at Dunfermline!)

He was also the nephew of Sir James Douglas “the Good,” Robert the Bruce’s trusted deputy.  Williams’ illegitimate son, George, became head of the Red Douglas’s and became heir to Tantallon castle in 1389 when the Douglas line split in two sides; the Red Douglas’s and the Black Douglas’s (headed by Archibald III Douglas “The Grim,” who had his stronghold at Threave Castle in Dumfries and who is also my 17th great grandfather!)

Let’s go take a closer look at this fascinating castle with its convoluted ancestral history! After passing through the reception area to pay my entrance fee, a pathway meandered out toward the castle across the field. Ditches and fortification earthen walls are immediately quite apparent. Evidently, it was no easy task approaching this place and getting in its gates once upon a time. It’s nice, however, that today I can just leisurely stroll in without any trouble whatsoever.

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IMG_4598Once inside the gate, the outer close presents itself.  As I approached the drawbridge at the entrance there was a huge Doocot (or Dovecot) out in the centre of the outer close in the front of the castle.

IMG_4605At left is what the doocot looked like from the inside.  Each little square cubby hole was a nest for doves.

The outer close would have had all kinds of buildings and dwellings for local tradesmen and serfs in its time to supply the castle’s needs  (see the interpretive panel below.)IMG_4599

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As I approached the entrance a huge moat appeared which the drawbridge would have spanned. Let’s cross the bridge, go through the door and into the massive barbican to see what lies beyond!

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A little more history reveals itself in the panel below – Enter the Covenanters!

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IMG_4692IMG_4697 IMG_4608IMG_4698Now that we’ve learned quite a bit about this tantamount castle, let’s explore around inside and see what life would have been like in its heydey.IMG_4637The Great Hall where just about everything important occurred.IMG_4735

IMG_4651The two-story portion of the building at left with the large windows was the Great Hall.

IMG_4738Nice view of the harbour below taken from one of the Great Hall windows.

 

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IMG_4654This place was absolutely humongous! I kept climbing stairs and following hallways eventually being rewarded with  amazing vistas!IMG_4672IMG_4700

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IMG_4708Back down to the ground floor again, I checked out the massive 32-meter fresh water well sunk through the solid rock before exploring inside the Douglas Tower!IMG_4643

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IMG_4752Back outside once again, I headed over to the furthest corner of the fortress by the ocean to have a closer look at the little island just offshore – The Bass Rock. It even has an old prison on it with a lighthouse!

I walked to the opposite end of the grounds from the harbour to get a full shot of the castle walls which face the ocean and then took another photo looking further east to see what lies beyond the castle. What an incredibly beautiful location!IMG_4767IMG_4769

This Castle has very good interpretive panels conveniently placed throughout which explains its history and provides renditions of what the castle would have looked like before it was destroyed by Cromwell’s armies. I really appreciate it when they provide informative and helpful guides like these for self-touring purposes.IMG_4770

IMG_4771Okay, now there was one last part of the castle to explore and it was over on the left-hand side – the East Tower – another 5-story tower! Phew!IMG_4772

More stairs to climb!IMG_4796

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IMG_4795IMG_4788The view of the scenery below the East Tower was another nice little harbour like area – well worth the climb up the stairs.  IMG_4789It was fun exploring Tantallon, and I had worked up quite an appetite doing so.

IMG_4800Back in the car, I continued eastward along the coastal road a short distance to Dunbar where I found a lovely little place to eat with some absolutely delightful fare at No. 5 Duke Street Pub!

 

IMG_4798IMG_4799First my appetizer of fried brie with fruit compote and a nice green salad, then the fresh & yummy langoustine! It was fabulously fresh and delicious!

The small town of Dunbar had a surprise or two for me as well as I explored its nooks and crannies. I started out at the beach to have a nice walk on the beach after my lunch.

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IMG_4815As I got back into my car and was preparing to head on down the road a bit further, the sign shown at left caught my attention. The very first item of “Things to see and do in Dunbar” intrigued me as I am a big fan of the Scottish-American naturalist, author and environmental philosopher, John Muir.

He’s one of my heroes especially because he was an early advocate for the preservation of wilderness, like Yosemite, in the United States. I often wondered where in Scotland he came from and I was just about to find out! “This is great!” I thought, “All I have to do is find 126-128 High Street – shouldn’t be too difficult!”

IMG_4818There it was; the birthplace of John Muir. It’s now a centre for study and interpretation of the work of the Scottish-American conservationist.IMG_4819

IMG_4821This is what it looked like when he lived in it with his family.330px-John_Muir_birthplace

Once inside, the former home is not what it used to look like, nor is it distinguishable as a home apart from the two remaining fireplaces situated on the south wall of the first two stories (as shown below).

Otherwise, the whole building is set up with displays with information about this famous man, his life and his work. It is quite informative and extensive.

IMG_4824On the ground floor, near the hearth where John and his family would have gathered, interpretive panels explained a bit about his family and their life story…

IMG_4848This was a great place to visit. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The pictures I have shared barely scratch the surface of the extensive collection and resources the centre has to offer.

IMG_4850Outside once again and I looked around for anything else to explore. I decided to head down to the harbour and the ruinous Dunbar Castle at its head.

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Hanging around a nice snug harbour with a castle that has birds nesting in the crooks and crannies of its old castle walls was quite a nice way to spend the afternoon.

 

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I spent the rest of the afternoon travelling through the rest of Scotland as I headed to the Borders. That was my last day in Scotland and I felt delighted that I had I spent it quite well amongst ancestral sights and homes of heroes!

In the next few posts, I will be sharing with you more stories about travelling south through England on its eastern side and middle section, starting with Berwick-upon-Tweed, York, and then Sherwood Forest as I headed toward the southern coastline to visit the famous white cliffs of Dover. Hope you’ve enjoyed this post and perhaps even learned something new.

Until the next time…happy trails!

 

Castle Fraser

IMG_3335Yesterday, 17 August 2017, was another bonnie day in Scotland so Lindsay and I decided to take advantage of the good weather to head out for yet one more adventure together to visit one more castle together in Aberdeenshire.

I’ve been here with Lindsay in Aberdeen for the last 40 days or so having a grand old time with him cavorting all over the countryside. We’ve had lots of laughs and seen oh-so-many wonderful sights together.  As they say, however, all good things must come to an end and tonight after I finish this post I’m going to have to pack up my suitcase once again and start heading south on my own say fare-thee-well to my good buddy Lindsay.  I’ll still have at least another 5 days or so in Scotland visiting friends in Scone and further south near Edinburgh.  I’ve been in Scotland since the 13th of July (67 absolutely glorious days so far in the land I love best!) and it’ll be difficult at best to leave.

I digress… as I was saying, Lindsay and I took advantage of the lovely sunshine yesterday and headed out about 15 miles west of Aberdeen to visit Castle Fraser!

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I parked the car after dropping off Lindsay at the front gate and walked back down to meet up with him again, soaking up the view before me.  Isn’t it just wonderful?

We walked around the west side of the castle taking it all in toward the entrance on the south side.

There’s the front door where we’ll enter to take the self-guided tour.  Before we do, however, let’s take a look at the various heraldic symbols, the cylindrical imposing tower, and elaborate turrets…

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IMG_3369This castle is a National Trust for Scotland property, and we’re in luck today because unlike a lot of places, we are allowed to take pictures indoors as long as the flash is turned off!  We were greeted by these two wonderfully delightful and helpful ladies at the reception desk.

Once the tour begins our first stop is the kitchen!

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As well as cooking implements they also had on display this artfully crafted model of the castle…

Next, we began the climb up the first set of stairs (complete with spy holes in the stairwell) to the next level leading into the Grand Hall.

This massive Hall opened up before us.  The door we entered was not the original 1400 medieval door to the castle.  The rock-lined alcove with the ‘kist’ (locking trunk) featured in the photo below was where the first door to the castle actually existed.

I took pictures of the interpretative sheets explaining each room as we entered them so you can read for yourself about each room and its features.  (Hint: If you find that the image is too small to read as it appears, right-click on the picture and ‘open it in a new tab,’ it will open up in another window; then to make it larger, and therefore, easier to read, use your zoom button on your browser page and increase the size of the image for easier reading.)

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So many interesting things around the Great Hall to admire… paintings, violins, and family genealogy!

IMG_3422Immediately after leaving the Great Hall through the doorway beside the fireplace, we entered the dining room.

Usually, the table is set with its finery, but preparations for a wedding that would soon take place were underway for the occasion, but there was plenty of other things to look at and admire.

IMG_3431IMG_3433Just off of the dining room was a small room containing a very interesting and unique exhibition – a very old map that been wadded up to stop a draft in a chimney and found years later under the floorboards!IMG_3438

 

 

It was quite amazing to look at the ancient map mounted on the wall behind glass.

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IMG_3439There were extensive display boards explaining the process that was undertaken for the preservation of the old map.  I took individual pictures of each of the display items so you can see each one up close.

I created a photo collage below of all the individual images. If you click on the collage, the photos will open up in another window allowing you to scroll through each of the photos.

We walked back through the dining room to the other side, stepped through the door and entered the round tower portion of the castle into the Peacock Parlour. It was chock full of more interesting items to explore…

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We then began the steady climb up the towers’ winding staircase stopping at each subsequent level to visit various bedrooms and sitting rooms until we reached the top floor which was