Wales – Part Three ~ Off to Snowdonia National Park in Northern Wales

The 5th of September was another rainy and dreary day in Pembrokeshire Wales when I packed up my car and started driving north for about 150 miles toward my next stop, Snowdonia National Park.map

IMG_6607I drove along the coast for quite a while at the beginning of the drive, and then I ran into some heavy traffic I had to pull over and wait for…

21640583_1680793351945355_1876317576_oAlthough it rained most of the early part of the day I did manage to sneak in a couple of rain-free stops in some cute little coastal fishing villages along the route…

…First at a very small place called Abercastle…

A bigger place called Fishguard…

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IMG_6636…and a relaxing place called Newport Town.IMG_6646

So far I had only driven less than one-third of the miles I needed to drive that day so I continued on up the road. I had gone only 2 miles further when I noticed a sign for the small village of Nevern. I had heard of this place before and remembered what my host in Haverfordwest had told me about the church there. Evidently, it’s a very old church and inside the churchyard is a very unusual Yew tree; one that purportedly bleeds red! Now I just had to go see this for myself!

Sure enough, there was the Yew tree, just like they said, and it’s sap does bleed red! Amazing!

IMG_6663There were quite a few interesting things about this small, quaint, and off-the-beaten-track church; for instance, this ornately carved Celtic cross…

The Great Cross at St. Brynach’s church in Nevern is one of the most perfect examples of ancient Celtic Stone in all of Wales. The total height is 13 feet and two feet wide. Experts date the Cross as late 10th or early 11th century. All four sides of the column are carved with interlacing celtic and key patterns.

Inside, this small church held even more interesting things…

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For instance, along one windowsill were some interesting carvings in the stone…

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Back outside, I still had some exploring to do around the grounds…

IMG_6656…the first interesting thing to see was the Mounting Block; the stone steps were used by gentry to mount and dismount their horses in a dignified manner when attending church services. They were once common in this country in the 18th century.IMG_6658I made my way around the outside of the church…

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Afterwards, I climbed back in the car, drove over the bridge,  through the colorful village and got back on the main road heading north.

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IMG_6719Although the traffic was extremely slow at times when following farm vehicles, I remained vigilant and covered the next 60-some miles along the coastline until the road turned inland and dove into forested mountains on the edge of the National Park boundaries. What a beautiful sight appeared when I reached Coedy Brenin Forest Park.IMG_6723

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I followed the road further to a beautiful lake, Llyn Gwynant, with its beautiful array of waterfalls at its head.IMG_6732

IMG_6733With only about 10 miles left to drive I turned left onto the A4086 and went over the steep Pen-y-Pass with Snowdonia Mountain still on my left. It was a beautiful drive through the gorge with its rivers, waterfalls, giant rocks and towering peaks.

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IMG_6745At the base of Snowdonia, in the small village of Llanberis, I found my way up the back streets to the YHA Snowdonia Hostel nestled against the hillside where I would spend the next 3 days while I explored the environs around me! What a great location! I had no idea Snowdonia would be so scenic and quite so breathtaking!

IMG_7570There’s a lot to see and do in this area. In the next blog post, we will visit nearby Caernarfon, where there is a fantastic, historic castle where the Prince of Wales is crowned. We’ll also start exploring the many lines of the Welsh Steam Railways! It’ll be fun; you won’t want to miss it!

Until then…happy trails!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wales – Part Two ~ Saint David’s Cathedral

Wales – Part Two ~ Saint David’s Cathedral

To read my most recent blog post, click on the link below:
https://globetrekkergrandma.com/2017/11/12/wales-part-two-saint-davids-cathedral

mapOn the first of September, I left Cardiff and headed toward the most westerly portion of Wales. Since there weren’t any hostels available around there, I rented a room for 3 days from a very nice woman in a private home in the town of Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire for 3 days. What a ‘comfy-cozy’ place that was!

A friend of mine, Meinir, who also loves to travel and who I first met at the Eiffel Tower a couple of years ago, lives nearby. This was the perfect opportunity for the two of us to reconnect and to get to go exploring together in her neck of the woods. She took me to St. David’s where we saw the beautiful and ornate cathedral and the ruins of the Bishops’ Palace. She travels all over the place but hadn’t visited this place since she was a young school girl and was excited to see it again after all these years.

We travelled to the tip of Wales, seeing coves and small harbours along the way,

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until we arrived at the center of town where all sorts of delightful tastes are to be found!

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We enjoyed a really yummy sandwich and salad combination for lunch at an outdoor cafe. Afterward, we were fueled up and ready for some exploring within the confines of the cathedral grounds.

Since the 6th century, there has been a church on this site.  For the past 1500 years, prayer and worship have been offered here and continues to this day. The monastic community was founded by Saint David, Abbot of Menevia, who died in 589.  This cathedral is quite large and the grounds surrounding these enormous buildings are also quite extensive!IMG_6327

IMG_6298From the car park, we started out with a bit of a stroll down to the backside of the cathedral working our way around to the front of the building…

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Quite a piece of construction; very impressive! From the view above, I turned to the left, and on the other side, I saw the ruins of the Bishop’s Palace as shown below…IMG_6254

IMG_6246We headed toward the entrance admiring the soaring tower and the many turrets and ancient windows.  IMG_6245

IMG_6357Once inside, the cathedral begins to reveal its many treasures starting with the Nave.

 

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The nave is the oldest surviving part of the cathedral and built in a Transitional Norman style. Originally it didn’t have seats and was used for indoor processions. Each of the rounded arches is carved with a different pattern.

The stone screen, or ‘pulpitum,’ which divides the nave from the choir is quite unique. The stone carvings were beautiful.IMG_6369

 

IMG_6365As luck would have it, a wedding had just taken place and we were lucky enough to get a picture of the lovely bride and her attendants.

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Skeleton vaulting with murals inside the ‘pulpitum’

Inside the ‘pulpitum’ is skeleton vaulting decorated with murals, it is thought that these are remnants of an earlier screen absorbed by the present one.

 

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As we wandered around the vast interior, around a corner we discovered the cathedrals’ Treasury! “There ought to be some very interesting things to look at within its confines,” I thought.

Sure enough! I was right.  According to the Cathedrals’ very well-written interpretive signs and brochures:

“Treasures of the Bishops
A variety of objects, reflecting the power and status of the Bishops of St Davids, were discovered in the Cathedral graves of four early Bishops. Amongst these were rings which are now on display in the Treasury – rings decorated with amethysts which belonged to Bishop Beck and Bishop Carew and a plain gold ring with five notches on it, perhaps intended to remind the wearer of the five wounds of Christ.  Silver Chalices on
show were also buried with Bishops Beck and Carew and date back to the 13th century.”

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“The croziers or Bishops’ staffs of office are perhaps the greatest of the treasures on display. They are made of copper and gilded and would have been carried by bishops during services 800 years ago. One found in the grave of Bishop Gower is much plainer than the others on display, made of latten, an alloy of copper, zinc, lead and tin, and was specifically made to be buried with the bishop. Medieval coins were found in the grave of Bishop Beck.  They date from the reign of King Edward III (1327-1377).”

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Once again, according to the cathedrals’ sources:

“David was born in the year 500, the son of St Non and a prince of Ceredigion. Legend states that Non gave birth to him on a cliff top during a violent storm. The present cathedral stands on the site of the monastery he founded in the inhospitable area known as ‘Glyn Rhosyn.’ David and his followers lived a simple life; they refrained from eating meat or drinking beer. David’s symbol, now a national symbol of Wales, is the leek.

David rose to become a bishop in the church and made several pilgrimages including one to Jerusalem during which, tradition states, he brought back with him a stone which now sits in an altar in the south transept of the cathedral.

The best-known miracle associated with David is said to have taken place when he was preaching in the middle of a large crowd at the Synod of Llanddewi Brefi. When those at the back complained that they could not hear him, the ground on which he stood is reputed to have risen up to form a small hill so that everyone had a good view. A white dove settled on his shoulder, a sign of God’s grace and blessing.

David died in the year 589.”

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Right next to St. David’s Shrine and in the middle of the room, is another famous grave, that of Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond (father of King Henry VII) who died in 1456 at the young age of 26.

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Nearby was yet another really old stone effigy of Rhys Ap Gruffydd, one of the most successful and powerful Welsh princes.

We wandered around all the nooks and crannies of that multi-faceted building. The ceilings above in each chapel were amazingly intricate. I especially enjoyed the fan-vaulting.

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So many interesting carvings and stonework to admire along with heraldic symbols.

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IMG_6261After that interesting tour inside the cathedral, we headed back outside and proceeded to cross a very old footbridge as we made our way over to the Bishop’s Palace.IMG_6259

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The Bishop’s Palace is as big, if not bigger, than the cathedral! With all it’s many floors and stairwells to follow, it took a lot longer to tour!

According to CADW (the historic environment service of the Welsh Government);

“The whole site sends shivers down the spine. It evokes a period when religion was the order of the day and bishops were powerbrokers par excellence. Lavish decorations, corbels carved as human heads and striking chequerboard stonework are all testament to the wealth and status of these medieval men of religion.

Bishop Thomas Bek undertook significant new building work on the site but it was Bishop Henry de Gower who was responsible for virtually the entire palace we see today. His legacy consists of two great ranges. The east range – the simpler of the two – was the first to be built. This was his private domain. The second, the south range, was much grander and built for stylish entertaining. The great hall, the most impressive chamber in the palace, created the perfect backdrop for banquets.”

I headed into the east range first.

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After exploring the lowest levels of the east range, I then turned my concentration to the newer and more opulent south range where all the stylish entertainment occurred.

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When I went back downstairs below the Great Hall, there was a very interesting wooden model of the Palace with intricately carved figures and cute little scenes depicting life at the time that you could walk all the way around and look into each room.

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Elsewhere on the bottom level were huge rooms where a lot of activity used to take place.

What a fantastic tour of both places. Rich with history, outstanding architecture, art and historical figures burial sites.

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We headed up the hill to the Gatehouse above to exit the grounds to start making our way back to Meinir’s house about 40 minutes away.IMG_6244

IMG_6488When we got to her house, her father had prepared a wonderful typical Welsh supper for us and we really enjoyed our last bit of time together in the comfort of their home. What hospitality!

It was a great day spent with Meinir and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to explore with her, learn about her home, meet her family. It’s so much fun to be with a “local” and get the feel a place through their experience. Thank you Meinir!

I stayed in the quaint town of Haverfordwest for a couple more days, but it began raining so I took the opportunity to take care of some domestic chores that were much needed. Things like watching my clothes after travelling constantly for 2 weeks was a good start, also went grocery shopping to restock my stores, and sat inside with the fireplace warming me while I got caught up with blog posts.

When it cleared my host took me around her town while she shopped pointing our many of its charms as we went. We also enjoyed a nice lunch and a yummy coffee at a cafe on the river’s edge in centre of town.

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The town had all kinds of interesting shops with unique Welsh ware…

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To the top of the town we went to visit the ruins of a small castle.

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Inside the main building within the castle walls was the museum, so we ducked in just before closing and were able to see old pictures and relics from days long ago.

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It was a fun day and an interesting little town and I really enjoyed getting to know some of the local people and how and where they live. The next morning, however, I gathered up my clean clothes,  packed my groceries neatly before stashing them in the car, and started heading north. In my next entry, we’ll be visiting scenic Northern Wales, exploring a couple of more castles, traipsing in the mountains and taking a ride or two on the Welsh Steam Train Railways!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canterbury

Nothing says Canterbury like the Cathedral! Once I arrived in town in the afternoon of August 27th, I made my way on foot through the twisty-turny, pedestrian-clad streets of the well-preserved and bustling old town to find its iconic centrepiece.

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In the heart of the city, the tower gate to the cathedral grounds loomed large; a masterpiece to behold all by itself!

As I wandered into the cathedral grounds from the gate, taking in its grandeur, it began to sing… (Note: the video below is a bit wiggly because I was walking as I filmed it, (sorry) but it’s worth it to hear the bells ring just the same…)

Unfortunately, there was a lot of restoration work being done on the magnificent structure and the interior was closed for tours. That didn’t stop me from admiring it from the outside, as well as a little bit of the interior wherever we were allowed to peek in ever so briefly.

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Below are some photos I was able to get shots of inside some of the various parts of the interior.

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The sign below is a layout of the cathedral as seen from the backside (or East); it has so many elements in every direction you look! Details, details, details!

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I continued to wander around its “backside,” from left to right, as shown in the diagram above, making my way gradually all around its exterior.

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Once I passed through the arched doorway in the wall, a labyrinth of hallways, doorways and stairways opened up before me for exploration…

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There was this one arched opening which intrigued me and I was delighted to find it opened out into a lovely little sunlit garden. What a wonderful little respite for the inhabitants (and visitors) to enjoy.

Back into the labyrinth and continuing onward, the cloisters appear on my path and welcome me into their embrace.

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Followed by the Chapter House…

Having circumvented the entire massive building, and enjoying every step and minute along the way, I headed back toward the gates I entered through and strode through winding my way back to the car park. Time to find the hostel I’d be spending the night in.

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The YHA Canterbury wasn’t far at all; in fact just up the street from where I had parked the car in the car park and was quite easy to find. It was a delightful old historical and refurbished Victorian villa with a lot of charm! I like this place. Feels like I’m coming home!

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One of the big bonuses I enjoy about staying at hostels is the fellow guests I get to meet who are from all over the world. On this occasion, I had the pleasure of meeting one such fella, John Cawley, from the town of Deal which was about 10 miles away on the coast just north of the cliffs of Dover.

After visiting for awhile and enjoying a nice chat, I discovered he was in the middle of making plans to catch a train, which connected to a bus line, which would take him to his home at the seashore. Since I was so close to the southern shoreline of the UK and hadn’t had a seashore fix for at least 4 days straight while travelling to towns inland, I asked him if he’d like me to just give him a ride in my car instead. I told him I wanted to head down to the beach anyway and perhaps he could point out some interesting places as we went. He wholeheartedly agreed, offered to pay for some gas and off we went. We had a great time together doing just that.

One place that he took me to was the quaint & upscale – yet quiet and unpretentious -village of Kingsdown.  Parts of the village are built on or behind the shingle beach that runs north to Deal and beyond, while other parts are on the cliffs and hills inland.

 

It has a wonderful long-stretching pebbly beach which ends at the northern edge of the Cliffs of Dover.

There is a wonderful little brewery a friend of his owns right there on the beach, so we sat and enjoyed a cool glass of refreshment while we watched the families frolicking on the beach and the English Channel panoramically spread out before us.

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At the end of a perfect afternoon and after dropping John off at his place in Deal, I headed back to the hostel in Canterbury and then walked to the nearby grocery store to stock up on some essentials for making breakfast in the morning.

Much to my delight when I returned to the hostel and was putting my items away in the kitchen fridge, there were a couple of young men cooking a huge pot of yummy smelling burritos for a large group of male teenagers from Germany who were all travelling on a long-distance bicycle run together.  They had prepared so much extra food that after the boys had eaten all that they needed; they ended up also feeding the rest of the guests, like myself, who were staying at the hostel as well! What a treat and what a nice group of young men to share a meal with!

I settled into the comfortable folds of a couch in the living room after a very filling dinner of burritos, chatted with my new friends while I downloaded my plethora of pictures off of my iPhone from the day’s adventures and then headed upstairs to sleep – calling it a day, plopping my head down on the pillow and feeling thankful for such great new friends, beautiful shoreline vistas and the glorious grandeur of the oldest cathedral in England to behold.

 

 

Savouring the Delights of the Historical University City of Cambridge

Saturday, the 26th of August, proved to be a lovely day for driving along the pristine and unspoiled countryside of England. I only had to travel about 100 miles south to my next destination, Cambridge.  I’ve been here once before a couple of years ago and was looking forward to returning. There is so much to see and do in this fascinating University-laden city with its rich intricacy of Gothic architecture. Its claim to some of the world’s greatest minds (Milton, Darwin, Hawking, etc.) is mind-boggling!

IMG_5184I arrived at the conveniently located YHA Cambridge hostel near the train station and got settled right in. This was the first hostel I had ever stayed at when I toured two years ago and it holds a special place in my heart because it welcomed me and introduced me to the world of hosteling which I have grown to love immensely!

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Botanic Garden & Hostel neighborhoodAs you can see on the map above, the hostel (upper right-hand corner) and the Cambridge University Botanical Gardens (lower left) are just a couple of blocks from one another. Trumpington Road, which borders the garden on its western edge, leads straight north into the heart of the oldest part of the city a short distance away.

During my first visit, I did not have enough time to meander through the Botanical Gardens so this time I put it first on my list! I was not disappointed in the least. In fact, I think it is one of the most beautiful and extensive botanical gardens I’ve ever visited!

BOTANICAL GARDEN MAP

We owe the existence of this garden, occupying a 40-acre site, to John Stevens Henslow, the Professor of Botany at Cambridge from 1825 – 1861. He laid out the garden in 1846 to accommodate a wonderful tree collection, but he also planted his ideas about ‘variation and the nature of species’ that would be taken up in a new and revolutionary fashion by his famous protege, Charles Darwin.

I entered the garden through the Station Road gate and began following the meandering pathways throughout discovering jaw-dropping vistas and colourful displays of flora along the way.

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The Glasshouse held a wide variety of beautiful specimens from various climates to behold.

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More paths to follow took me past glorious blooms and bursts of colour!

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The school’s garden shop even offered up some whimsical and cheery yard art!

I kept following the intriguing pathways to see where they led through bamboo tunnels and past giant specimens of some very special trees like Britain’s Dawn Redwood!

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This place was vast and never ceased to amaze me with its variety at every turn. In the big grassy areas, there were all kinds of interesting herbaceous beds laid out in unusual patterns. I really liked the way they made circular and oblong beds scattered throughout the large lawns. I think this would look great, and work quite effectively, in my front yard lawn at home, only on a smaller scale, of course! You have to look closely to see it in the picture, but the second-to-last photo in the photo collage below shows how they staked out the beds and strung string between the posts to outline the new beds.

Ingenious! I love the way they used the space and didn’t create rigid corners in a ‘formal’ type of planting. So much more interesting and fun to wander through and around.

I ventured past two locals, a mother and daughter, painting flowers in the garden and had a nice chat with those two lovely local ladies before continuing on.

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IMG_5356The path meandered on through more beautifully and artfully set plantings, eventually leading me back to where I started. What a delightful way to spend the first part of the morning!

After all that walking and traversing through garden paths, I’m ready for a little cruising! I’m going to enjoy lazy summer punting on the River Cam!

If anything is stereotypical ‘Cambridge,’ this is it. Punting involves being propelled in a long wooden boat by pushing a pole against the shallow river bottom as you glide effortlessly down the river.

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Another great feature of the hostel is that it offers discount tickets to activities such as punting! Armed with my ticket I found my way to Scudamore’s Boatyard Punt Station and climbed right aboard – no waiting in line!

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We glided along the “Backs” of all the major Universities: King’s College, Trinity, St. John’s, etc., passing underneath its wonderful bridges like the Mathematical Bridge, Bridge of Sighs at St. John’s and turned around at the Magdalene Bridge to make our way back.

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IMG_5293Nearing the end, as if on queue, this swan appeared alongside the boat and graciously escorted us back to the punting station where we originally boarded. What a wonderful and delightful outing. A definite must see – must do kind of activity!

IMG_5401I really wanted to continue touring around the rich gothic architecture of the Universities and the winding streets of the city’s centre but didn’t want to walk.

What better way to see the city than riding a bicycle like the locals. Most of the city centre’s streets are closed off to vehicular traffic and are pedestrian-only anyway. It’s such a lovely,  relaxing and fun way to take in the sights.

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Cambridge University has many famous alumni, including mathematicians such as Sir Isaac Newton, philosophers such as Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein, and writers such as John Milton and Lord Byron. It was the site of Rutherford’s pioneering work in nuclear physics as well as Crick and Watson’s DNA work. Cambridge academics have won more Nobel Prizes than those of any other university in the world.

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And there are also a few others that are not quite so famous…

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To top off a perfect day exploring the beauty and history of Cambridge, a glorious sunset adorned the western skyline! What more could I ask for? I feel so grateful to have had such a perfect day exploring this wonderful city and discovering more of its many treasures.

The next morning I drove further south to a town made famous by Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, another university city which boasts some of England’s finest medieval architecture, including one of its oldest cathedrals. However, as I have said before, that’s another story for yet another day!

 

 

 

 

 

Sherwood Forest – Land of the Legendary Robin Hood

I woke up peacefully on the morning of August 25th in York. Because I didn’t have a long distance to drive to my next destination, I was able to leisurely eat my breakfast, help a fellow traveller from the hostel get to the train station on time and then head south in the trusty rental car to the town of Edwinstowe near Sherwood Forest.

Ever since I was 9 years old, I’ve been fascinated with old castles and legends from medieval times, particularly Robin Hood. Why the age of 9? Well, one day when I was 9, I had been riding my bicycle around a parking lot across the street from my house pretending I was a race car driver. I had been going just a wee bit too fast as I rounded one of the debris-filled corners. The wheels of my bike went out from underneath me and I ended up sprawled out all over the pavement having rolled a few times, scrapeing my legs and arms. Ouch! That hurt and it hurt really bad.

Still, I managed to get myself up, walk across the street, leaving my bicycle where it lay, and walked into the house calling, “MOM!” I was scraped up pretty bad as I recall; both sides of both legs & arms as a matter of fact. She promptly put me in a tepid bath and then gingerly and ever-so-carefully, picked out the small rocks and goat-head stickers and other small pieces of debris the Mojave desert is famous for, from the scraped up raw flesh of my limbs. Afterward she put me in bed and kept me home from school for about a week until my open scrapes healed over.

After the first day or so, and when the pain and shock subsided, I got pretty bored just lying there in bed, so she brought me a big old thick book to read, Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe.” I got so enthralled in that story – the rest of the week just flew by!

It was the first novel I had ever read; the first real genuine adult-type book without a bunch of pictures filling up the pages! I was impressed that I actually read the whole thing and found that it inspired me to want to read more. It also piqued my interest in all things really, really old and my very first “hero” appeared on the scene – the legendary Robin Hood!

ClaudiaLouiseage9When I was planning the itinerary for this 4 1/2 month trip, my route was originally planned to go from York directly to Cambridge. I noticed, however, that Sherwood Forest was right along the path I was intending to follow.

How could I NOT stop and indulge the freckle-faced, hair-in-braids, 9-year-old little girl within? I just had to go!

Upon arrival at the YHA Sherwood Forest Hostel, I was pleasantly surprised to find a brand new building which was very cozy, and particularly handy, because it sits, literally, right on the edge of the park! It couldn’t be more convenient! I could just park my car (for free!) and walk to everything I wanted to see and experience.

I spent the afternoon following most of the trails traversing through Sherwood Forest, taking in the beautiful sights, imagining the antics of outlaws around the woods, and let that youthful 9-year-old imagination run wild all the while. It was fun!

Upon my return to the hostel, I enjoyed a very nice home-cooked meal, Bangers & Mash, followed up by a scrumptious cake thingy dessert with custard pudding! Even ended up having the whole female 4-bed dorm room to myself for the night!

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Walking through the forest was a special treat. This 450-acre park is the last remaining part of the old Sherwood Forest of medieval times. It has one of the best examples of oak and birch woodland in the country and has an important and unique wildlife habitat.

The name ‘Sherwood’ was first recorded in 958AD when it was called Sciryuda, meaning ‘the woodland belonging to the shire.’ It became a Royal hunting forest after the Norman invasion of 1066 and was popular with many Norman kings, particularly King John and Edward I. The ruins of King John’s hunting lodge can still be seen near the Nottinghamshire village of Kings Clipstone.

‘Forest’ was a legal term, meaning an area subject to special Royal laws designed to protect the valuable resources of timber and game. Laws were strictly and severely imposed by agisters, foresters, wardens and rangers, who were all were employed by the Crown.

In the 1200s, popularly thought to be the time of Robin Hood, Sherwood covered about 100,000 acres, which was a fifth of the entire county of Nottinghamshire. The main London to York road, the Great North Way, ran straight through Sherwood and travellers were often at the mercy of robbers living outside of the law. Hence the name ‘outlaw.’

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The largest oak tree in England, perhaps in the world, this famous tree – the Major Oak – has withstood lightning, the drying out of its roots and even a fire. The hollow tree has a circumference of 10 meters and the spread of its branches makes a ring 85 meters around.

The cavity in the trunk is 2 meters in diameter and it is said that Robin Hood, and some of his men, used to hide here. Because many thousands of visitors were compacting the soil around it, the tree had to be fenced off to preserve it in order that water could still penetrate its roots and keep it alive and well. Branches have become so heavy they are also propped up to keep them from breaking off.

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What a beautiful and scenic forest to walk through. It’s just the way I imagined it would be. Funny how that works!

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There’s even a 105-mile walking path which meanders through the nearby countryside following the footsteps of Robin that one can take if one so desires. I didn’t walk it; it was a bit more than I had allowed time for. Sounds like a great walk, however. You can check it out at the following link: Robin Hood Way
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After that wonderful woodland walk, I headed toward the village of Edwinstowe in the other direction from the hostel passing St. Mary’s Church along the way.

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As I walked around the church and amongst its many headstones, I kept an eye out for any bearing the name of Sherwood. I didn’t find any but was hoping I might. One of my ancestors, Thomas Sherwood, emigrated from this town to Connecticut in 1634. He was a 9th great grandfather.

The town of Edwinstowe, which is just outside of the forest boundaries, gets its name from King Edwin. The Anglo-Saxon word ‘stowe’ means special, or holy place. King Edwin was the first Christian King of Northumbria; a kingdom which stretched from Edinburgh as far south as the River Trent.

His reign ended when he was killed at the nearby Battle of Heathfield in 633. His body was buried (temporarily) here at the church and later, the site was deemed to be holy by the people because Edwin was a Saint. A wooden chapel was built and it became known as the place of Edwin, or Edwinstowe. They still celebrate St Edwin’s day each year on October 12th.

Edwinstowe has all kinds of interesting buildings to behold and lovely little shops and pubs to wander in and out of. Here are a few examples of what lies on either side of the main drag, High Street, as I walked down into the small village.

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Robin Hood Holiday Cottage

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Lots of beautiful floral displays graced the colorful shop fronts…

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And of course, artistic statutes of Robin Hood and Maid Marion grace the centerpiece of this delightful village at Robin Hood Plaice.

I was so pleased I had included this stop. Such a pleasant and easy-to-get-around location and a real treat for the child within.

The park is beginning construction of a new visitor’s center directly across the lane from the hostel. It should make a big improvement over the existing facilities within the park that are a bit out-dated and seen better days. I didn’t include any photos of the shops and facilities because, quite frankly, they weren’t much to look at.

Just the same, I was amazed at how many people, especially families with children, visit this place. There was a plethora of little boys with bows and arrows donning Robin Hood hats throughout the grounds and young girls with conical Maid Marion hats as well. With newer, more modern facilities in the near future, I have a feeling they will be attracting many, many more visitors! Earlier in the summer, around mid-July they also host a Robin Hood Festival with parades, games, archery events, etc., which I am sure is quite a popular and fun event to attend.

Just next door to the hostel is a medieval craft centre, artisan shops, and great eateries too, including a big favourite, the Chocolate Factory. There’s something here for everyone!

I had a very restful sleep in this cozy respite amongst the trees. I woke feeling grateful that I had the opportunity to indulge the child within exploring the magical and mythical forest with her. A rare opportunity indeed!

The sun was shining brightly the following morning, coaxing me out for yet another adventure and a drive further down the road to a famous, and most-beloved, academic center – Cambridge!  We’ll explore that wondrous place in the next post.  Until then… hope you’ve enjoyed a glimpse of the land of the legendary Robin Hood!

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Nothing Says Medieval Quite Like York

The morning of August 24th I arrived in the quirky and ancient city of York after a pleasant drive south for a couple of hours from Berwick-Upon-Tweed. I got checked into the YHA hostel (which was quite modern, spacious and very conveniently located), had a nice snack of fried shrimp and a salad and then checked my itinerary google map containing the list of things I hoped to visit in this delightful walled city.

Luck would have it there was a peaceful riverside walking pathway I followed which took me along the River Ouse. The trailhead was located just outside the hostel leading right into the heart of the city! Now that’s handy!

It lead me right up to the Lendel Bridge boat landing along the Dame Judi Dench walk.

There used to be a ferry at this location which took people from Barker Tower, on the south-west bank, to the Lendal Tower. Lendal Bridge is a cast iron bridge built in 1863 and has colorful Gothic style details all over it which were popular in the Victorian era. The ornate parapet features the white rose of York, the crossed keys of the Diocese of York and the lions of England. Additional ironwork includes York’s coat of arms and the initials V & A, representing Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

judi dench walkAlso bordering the River Ouse at this point are the grounds of a 10-acre Botanical Garden and home to many ancient and ruinous Roman historical sights.IMG_4999

Let’s enter the gates to take a look around…

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Another very interesting ruin within the gardens was once the oldest and largest medieval hospitals – St. Leonards.

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Once inside the grounds of the hospital, I could also see the inside of the multangular tower I had just viewed from the outside a few minutes ago. This ancient Roman fortress is very impressive.

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After leaving the gardens, I started making my way along the twisted streets toward York Minster. Along the route, I came upon this ornately decorated Catholic church of St. Wilfrid on the left.

Architecture fascinates me and this city has a vast array of interesting and varied specimens. I am not a particularly religious person, but I certainly admire the people who are so devoted and highly respect them. However, I also really appreciate the craftsmanship and artistic talents of the masons who built the churches and the artists who decorated them with their fine paintings and statutes for example.
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Inside was equally ornate, including the ceiling!

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Even the organ was quite detailed with designs and colors!

IMG_5028Across the street, this brick building which houses solicitors just shouts, “Look at me!”11142418_971512042873493_8281101858849280746_nAt the end of the same street stands the magnificent York Minster. It’s a massive place and it’s quite difficult to get a photograph of its stature from up close, especially the entrance on the east end.York Minster

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It’s well worth the entrance fee to tour this stunning cathedral. Allow for quite a bit of time to do so as it is very, very large with many sights to behold. Just looking up at the ceilings makes me feel dizzy! If you’re lucky, as I was, the choir boys will enter and fill the acoustical chambers with a glorious song! It’s quite the experience.

Back outside once again, I discovered a statue of The Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, who was proclaimed Emperor at this site in 306 AD, just outside the doors to the Minster. Of course, the church wasn’t built until much later. Gothic style cathedrals arrived in the mid 12th century. Walter de Gray was made archbishop in 1215 and ordered the construction of a Gothic structure in York comparable to Canterbury and building began in 1220.

After that magnificent display of gothic architecture, I decided to roam the twisty-turny streets and peek inside some of the vast arrays of extremely interesting and colourful shops which seemed to go on forever!IMG_5068York has long been well renowned for its chocolate confectionaries and there are a plethora of ‘sweet shops’ and Tea Rooms around every corner that are hard to resist so why try?

I just fell in love with these beautiful petit-fours above and the little piggies in Betty’s Cafe & Tea Room when I stopped to get some bulk English tea for my granddaughter.IMG_5067It’s so entertaining just to roam the streets and take in the sights, smells and sounds.

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York is a fascinating city to visit. Its history is so multi-faceted: Romans, medieval times, Vikings, and its elements – chocolate & confections, railways, Opera, theatre, food, pubs, museums, etc. One could easily spend 4-5 days here and still barely see and visit the numerous sights it has to offer. It’s no wonder it is one of England’s top visitor attractions.

I saw as much as I could take in during one day and I certainly was not disappointed in the least. I know that each time I travel through England in the future, York will always be one of the stops on the itinerary as there will always be something else to explore that I haven’t seen yet!

Although I thoroughly enjoyed this place, it was time to move on down the road a bit further. The following day I packed up my belongings and headed to Sherwood Forest – the land of Robin Hood and Maid Marion.

But that’s another story for another day…hope you’ve enjoyed the stop at York. Until the next time…

 

Robert the Bruce’s Grave at Dunfermline Abbey & Queensbury crossing

IMG_4288It’s been quite awhile, about 3 weeks, since I wrote the last blog post about when I attended the Perth Tatoo, visited Scone Palace and drove through the beautiful glens of Perthshire with my tour guide Karen.

In addition, an entire month has passed since I left Perth to go to my next stop in Scotland where I visited my dear friends, Keith & Helen Mitchell. My, my how time flies when you’re having a whole lot of fun!

After visiting with Keith & Helen, I traveled the rest of the way through Scotland down to the borders at Berwick-upon-Tweed. Then I made my way south through England to its southern coast where I turned west and followed the coastline westward to finish up the tour of the United Kingdom with a couple of weeks in Wales on the last leg of my 3n month journey. I continuously moved every day or so and didn’t actually stay in any one spot long enough to have time to devote to blog post entries to describe what I had been seeing and experiencing.

I have since returned home again, just the night before last, am doing my laundry now and finally have time to sit down and be still for a while, allowing me to reflect upon where I’ve been, what I’ve seen and what I’m dying to share with you.

There were so many wonderfully delightful sights and sensational vistas to behold along the travel route I followed fervently.

So, let’s see, where were we? Oh, yes – my last post – being in Perth and attending that wonderful Tattoo in the park with all those men in kilts!

After that entertaining stop, I headed just a short distance south to Livingston near Edinburgh. Upon my arrival, Keith & Helen asked if I would like to visit the Dunfermline Abbey while I was in town. I replied, “Sure! Sounds great!”

Off we went one wonderful afternoon. As luck would have it, I was to experience a very BIG ancestral surprise! Neither Keith nor Helen knew it would be a surprise either. After we arrived, found a handy spot in the car park on the grounds to park the car, and were approaching the stunning ancient architecture on foot, they brought to my attention the stone letters at the top of the cathedral’s tower, ‘King Robert.’

That’s when I exclaimed, “Wow! This place is in honour of Robert the Bruce?!? Thee Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland? He is my 20th great grandfather! This is fantastic! Thank you!”

Robert Bruce King of Scotland I (1274 – 1329)
20th great-grandfather
Marjorie Bruce (1297 – 1316)
daughter of Robert Bruce King of Scotland I
King Robert II Stewart (1316 – 1390)
son of Marjorie Bruce
Robert III King of Scotland Stewart (1337 – 1406)
son of King Robert II Stewart
James I King of Scotland Stewart (1394 – 1437)
son of Robert III King of Scotland Stewart
Lady Annabella Stewart Scotland Countess (1432 – 1509)
daughter of James I King of Scotland Stewart
Alexander Huntly Gordon (1460 – 1523)
son of Lady Annabella Stewart Scotland Countess
Lady Janet Gordon Countess Argyll (1489 – 1530)
daughter of Alexander Huntly Gordon
Archibald 4th Earl of Argyll “Gillespie Roy” Campbell (1508 – 1558)
son of Lady Janet Gordon Countess Argyll
LORD COLIN ARGYLL CAMPBELL (1542 – 1584)
son of Archibald 4th Earl of Argyll “Gillespie Roy” Campbell
Archibald 7th Earl of Argyll “Gruamach” Campbell (1575 – 1638)
son of LORD COLIN ARGYLL CAMPBELL
Lord Archibald Campbell Marquis of Argyll Earl of Argyll (1606 – 1661)
son of Archibald 7th Earl of Argyll “Gruamach” Campbell
Archibald “9th Earl of Argyll” Campbell (1629 – 1685)
son of Lord Archibald Campbell Marquis of Argyll Earl of Argyll
David Daniel Campbell (1675 – 1753)
son of Archibald “9th Earl of Argyll” Campbell
Charles Campbell (1699 – 1767)
son of David Daniel Campbell
William Campbell (1728 – 1803)
son of Charles Campbell
Jeanette Campbell (1770 – 1851)
daughter of William Campbell
John Holliday (1803 – 1872)
son of Jeanette Campbell
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday (1842 – 1872)
daughter of John Holliday
Nancy Anne Brundage (1867 – 1948)
daughter of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday
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
Each piece of the ancestral puzzle keeps fitting together delightfully one by one as I find them. This piece ties a lot of the loose ends together of other places I have visited previously on this trip. For instance, it brings in the Stewarts and Gordons from my visit to Huntly Castle up in northern Aberdeenshire earlier in the month and also the Campbells from Inverary Castle in Argyll on the west coast which I visited back in June! It also demonstrates how they each relate to one another and down the line to me. That’s so cool!
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Well, we’ve got a lot of exploring to do. Let’s walk around the grounds, look at the outside of this cathedral and the nearby ruined Refectory and then head inside to see what interesting treasures are to be discovered.
It’s quite old, and like many churches I have visited during my travels, it has gone through some changes over the centuries. The Abbey church is the centerpiece of Dunfermline, one of the oldest settlements in Scotland and once its proud capital. The history is entwined with that of Scotland itself, as it was the burial site of the Scottish monarchs before the adoption of the island of Iona which I also had the pleasure to visit earlier this summer in July.
The Abbey and the ruins around it are all that remains of a Benedictine order founded by Queen Margaret in the 11th century. The foundations of her church are under the present nave (or Old Church), built in the twelfth century in the Romanesque style by David I (son of Margaret and Malcolm Canmore).
David I, King of Scotland, is also one of my great grandfathers, 24th to be exact. His relation to me comes from a different lineage than the previous relationship of Robert I who came through my dad’s paternal side of the family. This time the relationship comes down through the Clapp family line, on my dad’s maternal side. Interesting that it ties those two separate lineages over the centuries together to culminate at the generation of my paternal grandparents!
This Clapp lineage includes other previous ancestral discoveries I made when I visited Tolquhon Castle and its’ Forbes ancestral connection earlier in August.
Just gotta love the way the pieces of the puzzle keep fitting together so nicely creating a landscape of interlocking memories of places I’ve been visiting up and down in this blessed land of Scotland and how they each offer something to learn about myself and who I come from bit by bit.
David I King of Scotland (1080 – 1153)
24th great-grandfather
Henry Northumberland Scotland (1114 – 1152)
son of David I King of Scotland
David Etherington Huntingdon Scotland (1144 – 1219)
son of Henry Northumberland Scotland
Lady Isobel “Isabel” MacCrinan of Huntingdon (1190 – 1256)
daughter of David Etherington Huntingdon Scotland
Sir Robert 5th Lord Annandale & Constable to England and Scotland DeBruce (1210 – 1295)
son of Lady Isobel “Isabel” MacCrinan of Huntingdon
Sir Robert VI Lord Annandale DeBruce (1243 – 1304)
son of Sir Robert 5th Lord Annandale & Constable to England and Scotland DeBruce
Maud Matilda deBruce (1275 – 1323)
daughter of Sir Robert VI Lord Annandale DeBruce
Lillias Ross (1329 – 1366)
daughter of Maud Matilda deBruce
Matilda Urquhart Heiress de Troupe (1363 – 1413)
daughter of Lillias Ross
William “Earl Marischal of Scotland” Keith (1389 – 1463)
son of Matilda Urquhart Heiress de Troupe
Gille Egidia Lady Keith (1424 – 1473)
daughter of William “Earl Marischal of Scotland” Keith
Patrick Forbes (1446 – 1476)
son of Gille Egidia Lady Keith
David Forbes (1478 – 1509)
son of Patrick Forbes
Patrick Forbes (1516 – 1554)
son of David Forbes
Sir William, 7th Lord of Tolquhon Forbes (1530 – 1596)
son of Patrick Forbes
John Forbes (1568 – 1635)
son of Sir William, 7th Lord of Tolquhon Forbes
John Fobes (1608 – 1661)
son of John Forbes
Lieut William Fobes (1649 – 1712)
son of John Fobes
Phebe Fobes (1679 – 1715)
daughter of Lieut William Fobes
Mary Seabury (1715 – 1755)
daughter of Phebe Fobes
Pvt John Southworth (1743 – 1832)
son of Mary Seabury
Hannah Southworth (1796 – 1842)
daughter of Pvt John Southworth
Hannah Mae Case (1828 – 1898)
daughter of Hannah Southworth
Daniel A Clapp (1853 – 1913)
son of Hannah Mae Case
Hannah Elizabeth Clapp (1897 – 1977)
daughter of Daniel A Clapp
William Kenneth Frew (1917 – 1997)
son of Hannah Elizabeth Clapp
Claudia Louise Frew
You are the daughter of William Kenneth Frew
Alrighty, let’s get back to a little more history… After the Reformation, Dunfermline ceased to be an Abbey, but since the nave of the church continued to be used as the local parish church, much of the Abbey has survived to this day. The present parish church, to the east of the Old Church, was added in the nineteenth century.

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Once inside, we find ourselves inside the Old Church it’s carved columns and arched ceilings frame some absolutely beautiful stained glass windows on either side the length of the time-tested structure spread out before us.

IMG_4315IMG_4534Standing amongst the soaring carved pillars one can get the feeling of how ancient it is and the spirit of the people who’ve been here is in the air like a comforting warm wrapping.

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The windows continue to amaze me with their vivid colors and scenes.

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Well, that just about covers the Old Church, now we’ll go into the newer portion of the old, old, church and where we’ll find the tomb on Robert I, King of Scotland!  Here’s a video I took as I crossed the threshold and began looking around inside…

Now, for the moment I’ve been waiting for, the tomb of Robert I, King of Scotland, my 20th great grandfather!

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It’s a pretty incredible feeling to be standing beside the tomb of such a famous and significant Scottish ancestor. It’s difficult to describe; pride & honor come to mind for starters and the knowledge that this person, who represents one piece, one part, of what I come from is coursing through my being at this very moment.

He’s part of who I am and if just one person anywhere in my varied lineages, such as this person, didn’t exist in that golden ancestral chain, I simply would not exist at all.

Feelings and thoughts such as these serve to remind me that each of us plays our own little tiny little part and that we are connected for an eternity through time and space in this universe through our shared DNA and spirits of life.  IMG_4338

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Nearby in a closed case, there is even a plaster cast of his skull!

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On display near the exit of the church were these very informative interpretive panels set up with the history of his tomb, the church and the restorative work completed. I’ve included them here in case you might like to read and learn about it. Quite interesting…

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The banners hanging from the columns were quite spectacular and I was so pleased to find this handy sign explaining what each one represented – quite an array of nobility and positions!

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Of course, I can’t forget to get a picture of that wonderful organ that has been serenading us in the videos! In fact, the man that was playing the organ that day was a retired pastor of this church. He really played well and enjoyed himself tremendously while doing so.

After we had seen everything there was to see inside, we headed back outside to the churchyard. We had also worked up a bit of an appetite so we worked our way through the sculpture garden located in the corners of the grounds and went upstairs to the abbey cafe overlooking the majestic surroundings as we enjoyed our freshly baked soup and scones.

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IMG_4388IMG_4387IMG_4367After the replenishing meal, we made our way back across the churchyard toward the ruins of the Refectory and the Royal Palace, in the opposite corner of the grounds. The Royal Palace was rebuilt from the guest house of the monastery during the sixteenth century for James VI and his Queen. IMG_4369On our way to the Palace, we passed the east gable of the church which contains the tomb and shrine of St. Margaret. It’s been a place of pilgrimage since medieval times.

The tomb of Saint Margaret and Malcolm Canmore, within the ruined walls of the Lady chapel, was restored and enclosed by command of Queen Victoria.

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This place goes on and on!  It’s incredibly interesting and so full of significant history.

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We will start with what used to be the Royal Palace; three stories high and adjacent to the monks’ refectory.

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In the photo above, the interpretive panel explains how the Palace may have looked in its heydey.  I took a before and after picture of each section on each floor and have arranged them below so you can compare what each portion of the castle may have looked yourself, like the one just below shows the upper right-hand portion of the Palace that would have held the Royal Bed in the bedroom: four embroiderers adorned a special bed for the royal birth with gold and silver threads, green silk and velvet. It was a gift from James to Anna.

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On the 2nd floor below: a Grand window, Anna added this in her 1589 renovations. It gave her a view down over the Tower Burn. Also note the #5 denoting a perilous spiral staircase, in 1602 Roger Aston ‘fell over a pair of high stairs at the Queen’s chamber door where he was taken up dead and so remained for 3 hours.’ A nobleman had already fallen here and ‘dashed out all his brains!’

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The Gallery at number 3: Residents and guests could play music and games here, and exercise in comfort on wet days.

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#4 The Hall: Guests and residents would dine here, and wait to enter the Queen’s presence-chamber next door.

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The kitchens, storage and servants’ quarters were all below ground level.IMG_4464IMG_4465

IMG_4466Now for the other side of these complex and massive ruins – the Refectory…IMG_4298

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It’s been extremely interesting, informative and emotional for me to visit this spectacular iconic treasure.  One more shot before I get back to the car park… I will long remember this place.IMG_4537IMG_4538Our next stop is the Queensferry bridges spanning the wide divide of the Forth estuary from Dunfermline to Edinburgh with particular attention being paid to the red railway bridge, an engineering feat in its own right and had the world’s longest spans (541 m) when it opened in 1890. It remains one of the greatest cantilever trussed bridges and continues to carry passengers and freight.

Its distinctive industrial aesthetic appeal is the result of a forthright and unadorned display of its structural components. Innovative in style, materials and scale, the Forth Bridge marks an important milestone in bridge design and construction during the period when railways came to dominate long-distance land travel. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Two other bridges nearby carry the trucks and cars across the Forth. When the photo below was taken the crews were finishing up the last remaining touches on the newest third bridge as it was due to open in just one week’s time!  The newest bridge is the one furthest away and appears slightly lower in the photo than the older one in the foreground.

IMG_4562We viewed the bridges from Queensferry and then walked through the adjoining neighbourhood surrounding the waterfront, enjoying an ice cream along the way.  What a pretty spot with some very intriguing sights!IMG_4546IMG_4547IMG_4548IMG_4549IMG_4550IMG_4552IMG_4553IMG_4554

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It certainly turned out to be one heck of an ancestral surprise kind of a day and was filled with many beautiful, historical sights with a sweet ending at an old-fashioned Sweet Shop.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Keith and Helen but the next day I packed up my belongings once again and to continue on down the road a little further to my next destination, Tantallon Castle & Dewar, making my way to the Scottish Borders on the east coast.  That’s another story, however, for another time in another blog post. Until then…