Farewell & Final Blog Post…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a beautiful and refreshing spot this was!IMG_7177

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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The views from the top were astounding!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

Swanage & the Jurassic Coast

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

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

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Arundel Castle

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

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

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

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

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

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Bevis Tower

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

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

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

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

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

the Baker…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Which included a quaint little train station…

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

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

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

 

 

 

Traveling West Along the Southern Coast of England – White Cliffs of Dover to Brighton Beach

On the beautiful crisp morning of August 28th, I rose early, grabbed my belongings after making myself some scrambled eggs & bacon, climbed in the car and proceeded to enjoy a very nice morning ride through the orchards and farms, all traffic-free mind you, from Canterbury to the coastline at Dover. (Dover is represented by Point A on the right side of the map below.)

My desired destination for the day was Brighton Beach (Point B), and I was hoping I would arrive by early afternoon since it was only about 75 miles away. “It should be a nice, leisurely drive following the coastline.” I thought.driving mapFor the next three nights while I continued to travel west, I would be spending just one night in each location; Brighton, then Swanage and finishing up with the little town of Beer! Mmmm…sounds refreshing!

Each town had a hostel that I pre-booked. I was anxious to see what they had in store for me! It’s always such a treat to arrive, see the building and get a feel for its locale. Although I’d seen pictures of the hostels online when I booked, it’s never quite like it is when it’s “live and in person.” Almost always, better!

I drove the short distance from Canterbury down to St. Margaret’s Bay at the eastern boundary of the famous white chalky cliffs. There is a really nice State Park at the edge of the small cove and I was greeted by several camping families waking up from their caravan campers and preparing their breakfast on an open fire along the pebbled beach. (I didn’t take any pictures of them, however; I know what I look like when I have just woken up. I certainly wouldn’t appreciate my photo being taken, posted on a blog looking like that and frightening everyone!)IMG_5539It certainly would be a nice place to wake up in, however, and so picturesque. I walked along as far as I could in both directions and soaked in the scenery and the salty smell of the ocean.

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The morning was getting away from me and I felt like I needed to go down the road further, so I drove back up the steep, narrow and winding canyon road to the top of the bluff and drove a short distance west to the city of Dover and it’s huge harbour.

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Just to the east of the city is the National Trust site – the “White Cliffs of Dover.” I drove up to the ticket window, showed my membership card and quickly found a convenient parking place right next to the trailhead leading out along the edge of the cliffs.IMG_5545It’s quite an extensive area to explore, complete with lighthouses and even tearooms to enjoy as well. (I’ve realized that there is never a tea room too far away in the UK, even in the remotest areas where I least expect to find one!)

One could walk for miles in this vast area that once held a prison, barracks and has witnessed a lot of history in the making over the centuries. I walked along the cliff trail for a while enjoying the sweeping and iconic views.IMG_5556

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After my cliff hike, I drove down into, and through, the busy town of Dover venturing further west hugging the coastline through small towns and villages along the way, stopping now and then to take in their splendid vistas.IMG_5558Soon, however, I noticed that the traffic had increased ten-fold and I found myself in bumper-to-bumper traffic for the remainder of my journey to Brighton. It ended up taking me a lot longer than I had thought it was going to take and although it was leisurely, very leisurely, in fact, it wasn’t all that pleasant.

What I hadn’t realized was that this was the last bank holiday of the summer season, just like it was at home in the USA with Labor Day weekend. Everyone in southern England was headed to the same place I was – their favourite seaside holiday destination!

Brighton was also a much bigger town than I had imagined, more like a city, and I kept driving down into the heart of it until I reached the famous pier perched on its seashore. Right across the street from that famous pier was the hostel! What a super location and it’s an old historic Victorian hotel!IMG_5560

front door of Brighton YHAThe Royal York has been a feature in the city since it first opened in Steine Place as a hotel in 1819. It was named after the Duke of York, brother of the Prince Regent, and was the first of the new large-scale hotels in Brighton at the time. It had one hundred beds, and became the most fashionable venue in town with concerts and recitals given in the public rooms; the first Tradesmen’s Ball was held there in 1823.

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Inside it was quite massive and had been remodelled just a few years ago, reflecting a more modern tone. It had a really nice self-catering kitchen tucked back in the corner and a nice dining room and bar for meals and refreshments. Everything I could ask for!

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Best of all it was located directly across the street from the seashore and the iconic Brighton Pier. As soon as I was properly checked in, I wandered back outside into the hustle and bustle of merry-making on the beach and promenade along its never-ending length. IMG_5570To say that everybody, and their brother, was there was an understatement.  Everybody, their brother AND their brother-in-law was there! People everywhere! So much fun to watch and be amused with for hours!IMG_5571People were enjoying themselves in every fashion; swimming, sunbathing, riding bicycles, walking their dogs, skating, playing on the pier, fishing, riding carousels – you name it! One could hear the gleeful giggles of children for miles!

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IMG_5583IMG_5584I mused while looking at the lifeguard tower and wondered how long it must take the lifeguard to get down those spiral steps and over to the water to save a drowning victim. Too bad they didn’t have a fireman’s pole attached to the crow’s nest so they could just slide right down in seconds! Or how about a slide down to the water’s edge right over the sunbather’s heads?

After getting my fill of people watching for a while, I meandered back across the boulevard and walked into the old town to see what other gems could be found. That’s when I stumbled upon the Palace!

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It’s a shame I was only there for one night; the History Pass above sounded like quite a good deal! Unfortunately, since it was a national “holiday,” the Royal Pavillion employees were also enjoying a ‘day off’ and so the tours inside were closed. I was only able to enjoy its splendour from the exterior. I hear it’s quite magnificent inside with its Chinese motif. Perhaps another time…for now I would enjoy the beautiful Indian architecture on the outside.

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IMG_5607The light was beginning to get low in the sky so I worked my way back toward the beach; stopping off at the hostel on the way for a bit of refreshment (lemon cake and whisky)  before I strolled along the shoreline promenade as the sunset appeared upon the horizon.

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Further down the promenade I noticed a large pole-like structure and asked an elderly local couple walking their dog what it was. They explained that it’s the newest addition to the amusement choices at the seashore; the British Airways i360.

Similar to the “Eye” in London, it has a glass ‘doughnut-shaped’ viewing platform wrapped around the pole and it rises to its’ full height, some 400 feet in the air, offering a 360-degree view of the surrounding coastline and countryside stretching inland toward London.

As I walked closer, the “doughnut” began rising. I arrived at its base just in time to purchase a ticket for the last flight of the day – after dark! Ooooh! This is going to be fun!

As we watched the spectacular colours appear in the sky and waited on the flight deck while it made its descent, a happy young couple nearby enjoyed some nice big lounge chairs.

IMG_5628Soon the pod was at the bottom and descending underground where the occupants would disembark into the gift shop below.

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Once the passengers disembarked below deck, it rose back up where we waited and then we were allowed to board.

Soon thereafter it started its gradual and very smooth climb to the top, offering beautiful views of the coastline below. One barely noticed it was moving at all.

At the very top, the view was quite outstanding!

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Back down on ground level, I meandered along the promenade back toward the pier which was all lit up now in all its glory.

IMG_5641IMG_5646It’s no wonder families and kids of all ages love coming to this delightful seashore destination and have done so for centuries. One certainly would not get bored in this atmosphere! I know I wasn’t!

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…

 

 

 

 

Leith Hall Gardens, Kildrummy Kirk & Hairy Coo’s – All in a Day’s Work of Blogging!

mapSince this is a rather long trip to the United Kingdom this year, I don’t have to hurry and rush through places.  Sometimes, I wake up in the morning and think to myself, “What shall I go see today? Where shall I go?”

Today was one of those days… I couldn’t seem to decide which direction to head; west toward Braemar or northwest toward Huntly. Finally, I decided to just flip a coin and let it decide.

I had driven to Leith Hall near Huntly late in the day a week or so ago, after visiting Huntly castle, but once I arrived there, the last tour had already departed around the house and there was a bit of a chill to the air, so walking around the gardens wouldn’t be much fun. Instead, I decided to come back another time. The flipped coin decided to head back to Leith Hall and return via Alford to Aberdeen.

Well laid plans can often go awry… After visiting Leith Hall I headed toward Alford, only to discover the road was closed, so I ended up having to double back and go further south than anticipated; about halfway to Braemar anyway. Guess what?  It was a beautiful day and a superb drive after all.  Even found a couple of things along the unforeseen route that was quite delightful and a treat to visit.

Sometimes one just has to let oneself wander and be open for surprises! Oh, what I do to find a story to blog about! Someone’s got to do it! Such tough work I tell ya!

Let’s go back to the beginning of the day… driving to the town Kennethmont where Leith Hall is.  Along the route, we passed many a field of barley, ripe for harvesting – ‘Ah… the stuff that lovely whisky is made of!’

IMG_2407The sun was shining and soon we were driving through the gates of Leith Hall Garden & Estate.

Unfortunately, since it was Monday, the house wasn’t open for tours (apparently it’s only open Thursdays to Sundays!) but it was just as well because we had come to see the gardens and ponds. Guess we’ll have to return yet another time if we want to see the inside of the house – dang! – we have to come back again…

We set off down the path toward the ponds first and almost immediately came upon this tree.

Further down the woodland path, we came upon a lovely old bridge crossing the burn.

Following the path a bit further we came to the beautiful ponds filled with lily pads and gorgeous delightful reflections of the blue sky above.

We lingered here for awhile, drinking in the beauty and tranquillity, listening to bird song all around us.

As we made our way around the pond, it started to shower a few drops for a few minutes, so we sat upon a stone again at the water’s edge under the protection of the leafy canopy above us and watched the rain drops dance on the tranquil surface.

The rain didn’t last long and soon we were walking along the path again rounding the pond – continuing to enjoy its peacefulness.

We passed the old boat house and enjoyed the beautiful flowers blooming along the shoreline…

Soon we were back where we started at the old bridge with a view of the house and the neighbouring fields.

Although the house wasn’t open for tours, we were still able to gaze upon its beauty from outside and investigate its inner courtyard, heraldic symbols on the outer walls and admire its statuesque beauty.

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Our tummies were beginning to grumble so we ventured into the garden to find a nice spot to enjoy our picnic lunch. Starting at the uppermost highest corner of the gardens near the old stables, we began our search.IMG_2541

IMG_2469There it was, some steps with a gorgeous backdrop and the beautiful gardens laid out before our eyes.  Perfect spot for a picnic nestled in next to the delightful star like Scottish Thistles!

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After a satisfying steak and tomato sandwich, we meandered over to the Stone Collection.

Next, we ducked into a pathway leading through the tall hedge which revealed the vegetable and fruit garden beyond complete with a ‘Scareboy’ in the children’s garden bed portion!

 

In the midst of all those veggies and fruits were the fantastically fragrant and multi coloured sweet peas to delight our nostrils!

A bit further on and outside the walled gardens, we came upon this vast path meandering along the outside of the wall as far as you could see; a wave of colourful blossoms of every ilk!

Smack dab in the middle of the long meandering path of flowers was another rope-lined pathway leading out to a gorgeous rock garden.

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Back through the flowers and into the lower portion of the walled garden, we see row after row of trees growing and the walls adorned with vines and statuary offering many sights to meditatively enjoy the gloriousness of the space within its walls.