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…

 

Culross, Kelpies & Falkirk Wheel

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It’s been two weeks since I last posted a blog; I have been traveling south through Scotland and into England spending a day or two in each location. Now I am in Wales and I have visited a whole lot of interesting places to share with you, my dear readers.  It’s been non-stop for 14 days!

I left Aberdeen on the 19th of August and drove as far as Scone (Point B on the map above) to visit my friend, Karen MacGregor, at her house for two days. IMG_3722I no sooner arrived when we jumped in her car along with another good friend of hers, Vicki, and took off across the countryside on an adventure.  We stopped at an old churchyard in Kinross near Loch Leven and saw a place over on the island where Mary Queen of Scots was held captive.

 

Then we stopped for lunch at a very lovely Tea Room at Dobbie’s Garden Center on the outskirts of Kinross just as we were leaving town.  (I just love how Scotland’s garden centers invariably have a Tea Room in them where you can get great food!  What a great idea!)IMG_3725
IMG_3723After a delightful lunch of jacket potatoes stuffed with chicken, pineapple, and a mango dressing, we headed off to our next stop – a delightful village called Culross, (Point C on the map) which has been preserved as it was many, many moons ago!

According to the National Trust for Scotland, “Culross is Scotland’s most complete example of a burgh of the 17th and 18th centuries.

White-harled houses with red-tiled roofs line the steep cobbled streets which run from the market cross to the hilltop abbey. In the center is the ochre-colored palace with its beautifully reconstructed period garden, complete with herbs, fruit and vegetables, and rare Scots Dumpy hens. Get a sense of what it would have been like to live in Culross Palace in its prime, with original painted woodwork and beautifully restored 17th and 18th-century interiors.

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It’s little wonder that Culross is acknowledged as one of the most picturesque villages in Scotland – or that it’s so often used as a film and television location. The streets of Culross have appeared many times in the hit US TV series Outlander.”

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It was a delightful experience to walk through the twisty cobbled lanes of the old village admiring each of the unique houses and manors. So much character around every turn.

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We worked our way up the hill to the old Abbey at the top.

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Inside was equally as beautiful…

IMG_3907We stopped at the Abbey Tea Room to enjoy some lemon sponge cake and some tea and coffee and then worked our way back down the hill toward the car to head off on even more adventures.

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Our next stop – the fabulous “Kelpies” sculptures near Falkirk!

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According to the Helix website:

The history of The Kelpies

Chosen by Scottish Canals at the inception of the project, The Kelpies name reflected the mythological transforming beasts possessing the strength and endurance of 100 horses; a quality that is analogous to the transformational change of our landscapes, the endurance of our inland waterways and the strength of our communities.

Each of The Kelpies stands up to 30 meters tall and each one weighs over 300 tons.

Andy Scott’s vision for The Kelpies follows the lineage of the heavy horse of industry and economy, pulling the wagons and plows, barges and coal ships that shaped the structural layout of the area. Retaining The Kelpies as the title for these equine monuments, Andy sought to represent the transformational and sustainable enduring qualities The Helix stands for through the majesty of The Kelpies.

“The artistic intent (of the Kelpies) is built around a contemporary sculptural monument. Water-borne, towering gateways into The Helix, the Forth & Clyde canal, and Scotland, translating the legacy of the area into proud equine guardians.” Andy Scott, Sculptor

Aren’t they fabulous?  We spent quite a bit of time here just admiring them (and taking about 300 pictures of them from every angle!)

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Last but not least was the amazing Falkirk Wheel!  It was closed by the time we got there but it was still a magnificent engineering feat the stand and admire. This wheel turns and lifts boats up into the air from the water below to meet up with the adjoining canal full of water above that runs off behind it and away from us from the view above.

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IMG_4054It was certainly a full day of wonderful discoveries and sights to please the eyes. The three of us headed back up to Scone to Karen’s place where she fixed us a wonderful meal followed by this fabulous dessert – a baked meringue shell filled with clotted cream and topped with fresh fruit – Pavlova.

Oh, my goodness gracious was that ever yummy!

 

 

 

Outstanding Orkney’s

Monday morning, July 2nd, Pat and I drove north from Dingwall to the northern tip of Scotland.  We were headed to Gill’s Bay near John O’Groats to catch a catamaran Pentland Ferry to the Orkney Islands. dingwall to gills bay

We could see the islands on the horizon as we neared our destination luring us over for a visit.  IMG_1314

It was a gorgeous day and we had been looking forward to this adventure since last year when we had such glorious time exploring Applecross together.

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As usual, we stopped along the 2 hour drive for refreshments and a bit of a leg stretch, and the tea room we stopped at had an alluring and tempting variety of treats available for sampling!

When we arrived at the ferry about an hour and a half too early for our scheduled sailing, we decided we had just enough time to visit a castle nearby, Castle Mey, a royal castle!  So off we went!  Fun!

IMG_1319Just a hop, skip and a jump away, we were soon turning up the drive and passing the gates.

Just around the corner there it stood in all its glory!  A nice, little, unpretentious castle just waiting to be explored!

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Like most castles that are still occupied, but still allow visitors to tour when they are not in residence, one is not allowed to take pictures inside for obvious personal identity reasons.  You can however learn a bit more about this castle and its history at the following link:  Castle of Mey

For now, we’ll stroll around the outside of the castle and visit the gardens.

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The self-guided tour inside was very nice.  I was a bit surprised that the interior decorations were not more fancy-wancy.  Mind you, very high quality, and the place was full of personal items of the Queen Mother, but not over-the-top with glitz.  It felt ‘lived-in’ and very unpretentious, down-to-earth, and real.  I liked that; not someone trying to out-do the next guy with all its glimmer and shine, just “quality,” human and loving, like a home.

The walled gardens were very extensive and flourishing with every kind of vegetable, fruit and flower.  A garden planted to supply a plethora of home-grown dishes for the table like this potato patch below for example which contained several different varieties, a different type planted in each row.

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Broad beans and onions…  Greenhouses, cold frames and cabbages!

Flower and herb borders… more vegetables in intensive beds…

Look at the size of those beautiful and perfect artichokes!IMG_1348IMG_1350

Then there were the immense, wire-covered enclosures containing the delectable berries of all varieties nestled in nicely out of the reach of the birds!  That’s handy!
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IMG_1354It was an absolutely huge garden with every inch of fertile space planted and yielding abundant crops! Wish I had a horn of plenty garden like that!  I’d spend the entire day, everyday out there dabbling and digging and smelling the roses!IMG_1355

Loved these little gems in a variety of colors below, although I do not recall ever seeing them before or knowing what they are.  Will have to investigate this winter when I’m not traveling.  If anyone knows, leave a comment, ok?

Really enjoyed visiting Castle Mey and its gorgeous gardens, but it was time to head back to Gill’s Bay to catch our ferry and begin our journey to the Orkney’s.

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A very interesting, catamaran ferry which loaded the cars under the upper deck in a clockwise fashion and positioned the caravan campers and lorry (truck) containers in reverse in the center.  Never seen a ferry like this before.  Pretty cool and efficient to boot!

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Before long we were leaving Gill’s Bay ferry landing and sailing away!

IMG_1369Nice comfortable seating below and above! It was a great sail; smooth, sun and wonderful vistas as we made our way past various small islands on our way to St. Margaret’s Hope.

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Soon we were off the ferry and driving through St. Margaret’s Hope, a quaint little village with some very interesting little tidbits here and there like this van for instance.

Across from Cromarty Square (above) was this delightful Blacksmith Museum (below)

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The tools and implements in the blacksmith were quite extensive and interesting to look at. In the reception area of the museum were these pictures of unusual activities that take place in St. Margaret’s Hope.  The town has an unique competition each year called “Boy’s Ploughing Match” to see who can plow the straightest lines in the sand and the girls get dressed up in Horse costumes! You won’t witness an event like that anywhere else, would you?

They also had some yummy treats available for sale like ‘tablet’ and ‘scotchbread cookies.’ Yum!

We continued to stroll about the village before heading out of town and working our way to Kirkwall.  IMG_1429

Along the way, we came across these very interesting features; barriers and blockships.

During WWII it was found necessary to build barriers between the islands to prevent German U-boat submarines from entering the eastern entrances to the channels and occupying the territory.  In order to do so they built causeways across the channels and sunk decommissioned ships in strategic positions.  Now the causeways also serve as a handy way to drive from island to island instead of having to take ferries each time.

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One of our first stops was the Italian Chapel.  What a fascinating place!  Italian prisoners of war were kept detained here during the war.  As the following placards explain, the prisoners were quite skilled and handy with tools.  Being a long way from their homeland they felt they needed a place to worship in their camp so they got permission to convert one of their huts into an Italian Chapel.  Truly a work of art!

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Let’s cross the threshold and take a look inside at what the Italian POW’s created…

Everything inside “looks” like it’s made out of bricks and mortar, but in reality, it’s all just painted to look like that.  Incredible and painstakingly realistic!  Wowsers!IMG_1450

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We drove a bit further up the road toward Kirkwall when we noticed a tour van stopped alongside the road at a local farm.  At first I thought the tourists were looking at sheep in a pasture, but later realized it wasn’t sheep at all!  It was curly haired pigs!  Never seen anything like these before!  Have you?

They are called The Mangalica, a Hungarian breed of domestic pig. It was developed in the mid-19th century by crossbreeding Hungarian breeds from Szalonta and Bakony with European wild boar and the Serbian Šumadija breed. The Mangalica pig grows a thick, woolly coat similar to that of a sheep. Go figure!

Not long after we arrived at what we would call “home” for a couple of days, The Kirkwall Hotel, located just across the street from the harbor and conveniently located near wonderful shopping, museums and St. Magnus Cathedral!  Perfect!

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Nice dining rooms, great room to sleep in, and the view outside the window – outstanding!

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It even had this really cool, old-fashioned lift! Fun! Later in the evening I had a nice walk along this harbor and enjoyed the sunset views.

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Being so far north however, the skies never actually got dark!  It was like twilight all night long.

The following day Pat and I began our adventures by walking around the quaint street of Kirkwall, visiting the magnificent St. Magnus Cathedral and shopping in the charity shops.  (I got quite a few nice tops to refresh my traveling wardrobe with!)

While we were shopping we ran into a friend of Pat’s, Alph Munro.  She was there with the Kiltearn Fiddlers, whom she teaches music to.  They are from the same area as Pat and just happened to be there to put on a concert that evening at the Reel.  How lucky are we?  We got to listen to a great concert put on by these highly talented young musicians!

After that wonderful encounter we went next door to St. Magnus Cathedral.  Wow!st magnus cathedral2

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While we toured the cathedral’s interior, this man serenaded us with organ music.

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Then we went back outside and across the street to the Earl’s & Bishop Palaces.

Later that afternoon we got in the car and drove across the island to visit Skara Brae, a very interesting and intriguing neolithic sight – a must see when visiting the Orkney’s!

According to the Skara Brae website: “On the southern shore of the Bay o’ Skaill, in the West Mainland parish of Sandwick, is the Neolithic village of Skara Brae – one of Orkney’s most-visited ancient sites and regarded by many as one of the most remarkable prehistoric monuments in Europe.

In the winter of 1850, a great storm battered Orkney. There was nothing particularly unusual about that, but, on this occasion, the combination of wind and extremely high tides stripped the grass from a large mound, then known as “Skerrabra”.

This revealed the outline of a number of stone buildings – something that intrigued the local laird, William Watt, of Skaill, who embarked on an excavation of the site.”

After we visited the neolithic sight, we walked up to tour the house of the laird, William Watt.

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Inside, we were allowed to take photos of the interior!  Here’s some of what we saw…

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We had a great time visiting this place.  Afterward, we drove a bit further on down the road to the harbor town of Stromness before the sun set on a beautiful day!

We drove through town and went out on the western edge to visit the cemetery.

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On the last day of our visit to the Orkney’s we took another ferry over to the island of Shapinshay for a few hours.  We visited a Broch, some gorgeous beaches, saw another castle, Balfour Castle (which didn’t offer any tours) and saw a lot of farmer’s harvesting while the sun shone!

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This broch on Shapinshay, much like the ones I visited in Glenelg, were perched on the edge of the sea and were very interesting to walk into and explore.

We returned to Kirkwall and then started making our way back to St. Margaret’s Hope to catch the Pentland Ferry back to the mainland at Gill’s Bay.

Before we boarded the ferry we had just enough time to visit a fascinating gallery of a very talented artists who weave utterly beautiful and stunning tapestries at Hoxa Tapestry Gallery.

Mother and daughter, Leila and Jo Thomson, are both Edinburgh College of Art graduates who chose to return home to Orkney to work. Their work is inspired by the rhythm of life and landscape of Orkney.hoxatapestry

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Isn’t their work just magnificent?  They truly capture the spirit of the Orkney’s in their tapestries and rugs.

A perfect ending to a perfect trip to the Orkney’s!

 

 

Emerald Island Escapades; Week 5 of 5

Ahoghill to Dublin. June 8 – 14th

This final week of our Ireland  adventure continues in Northern Ireland for a couple of days.  On Wednesday June 7th, Deirdre, Lynne and I left Deirdre’s house early to catch a ferry boat from Ballycastle harbor over to Rathlin Island for the day.

It wasn’t long before we were approaching the harbor of the island and we quickly found ourselves aboard the Puffin Bus shuttle bus which took us around the island and over to the west side where a very unusual lighthouse stands and the puffins, razorbills and guillemots were nesting for the season at the bird preserve.  What a fascinating sight that was.

It was also Lynne’s birthday so it made for a very special day for her. After touring the island we went back to the mainland via the fast ferry and had a nice, but quick visit with Deirdre’s Aunt Marion who owns a a B&B near the harbor in Ballycastle.  So nice to meet Marion, and Deirdre’s cousin, Boyd, as well.

For dinner we stopped at Stewart Frew’s fish and chip shop in Ahoghill and had the pleasure of seeing him and his daughter, Nicola, as well as feasting on some of their absolutely scrumptious fish!

On Thursday Lynne and I drove to nearby Antrim Castle & gardens after we renewed the paperwork on our rental car at the Belfast International airport.

The grounds were very pretty and the castle ruins interesting to wander through and admire.

There was even a very old Motte from the old motte and bailey. In days of long, long ago they used to build wooden castles upon a motte before the more modern stone and mortar types we are more familiar with.  A motte-and-bailey castle is a fortification with a wooden or stone keep situated on a raised earthwork called a motte, accompanied by an enclosed courtyard, or bailey, surrounded by a protective ditch and palisade.

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After our stroll through the grounds we stopped in to ‘refresh’ ourselves in the Tea Room and I indulged in a raspberry and white chocolate scone with clotted cream and fresh raspberry jam.  yum!

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That evening Deirdre, Lynne and I were invited over to Maureen’s house for a lovely dinner, a little libation and some really great laughs at her beautiful home.

Friday we stayed put all day and took a break.  I spent most of the day writing my blog post for the 2nd week of our adventures. It was rather nice to just take it easy for a change, do a little laundry and just chill.

On Saturday, my good friend Heather took us all out to the north Antrim coast again.  We started out with a really nice lunch at Strawberry Fayre Tea Room.  Although we were way too full after the delicious food, they certainly had some killer desserts that were extremely difficult to resist!

To walk off the lunch, we then ventured down a bit further to the coastline to visit a nice National Trust property, Downhill Demense House and Temple, perched upon a meadow on the cliff overlooking a beautiful stretch of beach below.

Sunday morning, after packing a picnic and saying goodbye to our wonderful and generous hosts, Roy, Deirdre and their son, Alex, we headed south toward Navan, visiting some interesting and very old sites along our path; Monasterboice Abbey, Valley of the Boyne river, Slane’s hill and castle, and last but by no means least, the ancient burial tomb at Newgrange.

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At Newgrange, we toured the Exhibit in the Visitors Center before our schedule shuttle bus took us out to the actual burial mound.  The exhibit was quite extensive, and had a lot of displays and dioramas which depicted the the people, their ways of living, and how they possibly built these types of ancient burial mounds.  It was very interesting and very informative.

When it was time to meet our bus, we walked across a bridge of the river Boyne and when we arrived at the mound sight another guide talked even further about the mounds before taking us inside.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t any photography allowed once we entered the narrow passageway way which took us right into the ancient ceremonial chamber in the heart of the mound.  It was incredible and other than a few braces that had been put in place for stability, the inner chamber was exactly the way it has always been.

Quite an interesting experience!

The following day we drove a short distance to the tidy town of Trim.  There Lynne got to tour Trim castle, where the movie Braveheart was filmed, while I walked around the outside of it and walked a bit around the lovely village of Trim.  I had already visited the castle once before a couple of years ago.

After her tour we met up once again, had a delightful lunch at Raychel’s Cafe on the Main Street of town and took a nice river walk along the Boyne river getting some fabulous shots of the castle and other nearby sights of the old sheeps gate, St. Mary’s cathedral, and the ruins of St Peter’s and Patrick’s cathedral.  We finished off our evening with a an hour or two of live Trad music at James Griffins pub before retiring for the day in our lovely accommodations at Highfield house B&B.

IMG_1638As much as hated to leave that nice village, we still had a couple of days left in our escapades to spend in Dublin.  So off we we went the short drive and soon found ourselves checked into the hostel and headed down to the giant spire on O’Connel street to join in a free walking tour around that bustling city.

The walking tour gave us a nice overview of some of the sights and history of Dublin and culminated near the Dublin Castle at St. Patrick’s cathedral.

Afterward we found a hop on – hop off bus tour and finished seeing from atop the open air bus more sights all over the place.

Then we went to visit a museum which houses some of the treasures found by means of archeaology.  Here are just a few samples of the unearthed treasures.

We had a bit more of a wander about town, taking in some more Trad music at a great pub, ate some dinner at a great Italian restaurant, visited a sweets shop and then called it a day

The next morning we set out once again, heading first to Trinity College to see the Illuminated Book of Kells and the adjoining library that is totally amazing with its collection of rare books from famous smart people throughout the centuries.

One is not allowed to photograph the Book of Kells, but I did get to take some shots of the library and some of its many treasures.

After enjoying an absolutely delicious eggs Benedict in a small cafe in the Temple Bar district, our last little bit of touring the sights included the old prison and the Museum of Modern Art.

The following morning our wonderful escapades had to come to an end.  We packed up our bags one last time and then I drove Lynne to the airport to catch her flight back home to Oregon.

I hated to see her go!  We had such a great time traveling all around the beautiful Emerald Isle and made a lot a very special memories together.  As they say however, all good things must come to an end and we had found ourselves at that point in time.

She flew off to chase the setting sun the day long as she flew west and I went to the docks to catch a ferry east over to Wales to continue my travels.  I boarded the Jonathan Swift fast ferry headed to Holyhead, Wales.  And that, my friends, is another travel tale to be continued on my next installment!  Until then… hope you have enjoyed this 5 part series of exploring Ireland.

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Emerald Island Escapades; Week 2 of 5

Kinsale to Ballinskelligs Week 2 of 5

Our second week of exploring the Emerald Isle begins in Kinsale.  In the map above you can see the route we took and where we stopped to visit along the way on just the first two days of the week!

After we left Kinsale, we happened upon Harbor view beach and took advantage of a breath taking vista.

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Our next stop was the Timoleague Friary.
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Not much further down the road we came upon an ancient stone circle….

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Our next scheduled stop after a bit of a drive through the beautiful countryside was a boat ride out to Garinish Island with seals basking on the rocks in the bay on the way.

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Once on the island, we were able to stroll around the walled gardens and pathways on this beautiful garden island.

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IMG_6208After soaking in the beauty of the gardens for awhile we boarded the ferry boat back to mainland to continue our explorations of the Ring of Kerry.  IMG_6203IMG_6204

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The road meandered through some more very picturesque countryside and we found ourselves climbing over the Healy Pass with some outstanding vistas to enjoy amongst the free range sheep.

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Once we cleared the pass in the mountains this gorgeous panoramic view unveiled itself to our amazement!

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Next stop, and not much further down in the valley we stopped to visit and take a walk through Dereen Gardens.

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After visiting Derreen Gardens we made our way to Kenmare to spend the night at Rockcrest House B & B.

 

The next morning we still had a bit to drive to get to our next destination, Ballinskelligs, so we climbed back in the car passing the town of Sneem along the way and it’s beautiful waterfall and church.

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