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United Kingdom & Ireland Travel Articles

Travel notes and articles for England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Ireland. Articles posted must be approved by the Admin before they are published.
England was populated in prehistoric times and many burial tombs, stone circles and hill forts remain. The Roman conquest of Britain started in 43AD during the reign of Emperor Claudius. They built roads, towns and villas in the countryside and the remains of many have been preserved. The medieval history is everywhere, in the castles and historic houses. The industrial revolution also left sites that are interesting to explore today. Designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)...
Alloway, on the southern edge of Ayr, is popular with visitors as it was the birthplace of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns. As well as the cottage he was born in, there is a very good museum (with cafe and shop) about his life and work as well as the Auld Kirk (the inspiration for the poem Tam o’ Shanter), the Brig o’ Doon and the Burns Monument. Although dating after Robert Burns, the parish Church is also worth visiting. The Museum and Burns Cottage are in the care of the...
Culzean Castle is a dramatic setting on the cliffs overlooking the Firth of Clyde. The present building is C18th and was built as a status symbol for the Kennedy family, one of the oldest clans in Scotland, whose ancestry that can be traced back to Robert the Bruce. Designed by Robert Adam, it incorporated parts of a C16th tower house which had been built on the site of an older castle, Coif Castle. The 9th Earl of Cassillis, had begun to modernise the tower house. He died without a male...
Sitting off the Ayrshire coast, Arran is often described as Scotland in Miniature. It is easily reached by a 50 minute ferry crossing from Ardrossan to Brodick. It was a popular day out for Glaswegians in the C19th and still attracts day visitors in their thousands as well as those coming for a longer stay. Arran is dominated by its mountains and particularly Goat Fell. Most of the settlement along the coast. There is quite a lot of commercial coniferous forestry but pastoral farming is...
In the Firth of Clyde, just off the Ayrshire coast, the small island of Cumbrae is a popular day trip. There is a regular ten minute sailing to the island from Largs. It has a lovely old fashioned relaxed atmosphere. The island is fairly flat - the highest point, the Glaid Stone, is only 127m above sea level. The main settlement is Millport at the opposite end of the island to the ferry slipway. There are few roads and little other settlement. Cycling is very popular and the...
Over looked by the mountains of the Lake Lake District to the west and the Pennines to the east, Penrith is an attractive red sandstone market town and regional centre. The area has been settled since neolithic times and the Romans recognised its strategic significance on the main north south and east west routes. By the C9th, Penrith was the capital of Cumbria, a semi-independent state that was part of the Strathclyde region of Scotland, until it was taken by the Normans in 1092. It...
Marketing itself as the English Riviera with its mild climate and palm trees, Torquay was the place the posh people went on holiday after the war. The rest of us headed to Butlins or the nearest seaside town. The posh moved on to more exotic destinations and package holidays took over from the traditional seaside holiday. Now people head off to all inclusive resort holidays. Despite this, Torquay is still a popular and busy holiday resort with its long promenade, gardens, marina full of...
In a prominent position at the mouth of the estuary, Dartmouth Castle along with Kingswear Castle on the opposite bank, controlled entry to the river and harbour. A heavy chain between the two provided extra defence. It was built specifically for heavy artillery which were capable of sinking a ship.In a prominent position at the mouth of the estuary, Dartmouth Castle along with Kingswear Castle on the opposite bank, controlled entry to the river and harbour. A heavy chain between the two...
Across the River Dart from Kingswear, this is a delightful setting with timber frame and multicoloured houses spreading up the steep valley sides. On top of the hill overlooking the town is the splendid building of the Britannia Royal Naval College, which has been training naval officers since 1863. The River Dart forms a natural deep water harbour, sheltered in a steep valley. Its importance was recognised soon after the Norman Conquest. Hidden by a bluff at the mouth of the River, and...
The Dartmouth Steam Railway runs seven miles from Paignton to Kingswear, along the spectacular Torbay coast before crossing the peninsula to follow the River Dart to Kingswear. The line was built by the Dartmouth to Torbay Railway and opened in 1864 serving the holiday resorts of Goodrington Sands and Churston. There was a short branch line from Churston Junction to Brixham. It later became amalgamated into the Great Western Railway and stations are still painted in GWR colours of...
Exeter Cathedral is regarded as the most complete surviving example of Decorated Architecture in England and reflects the importance and wealth of Exeter when it was built. The west front with its statues is magnificent. It is unusual as the cathedral has two towers over the transepts but no central tower. These are part of the original Norman building with their round topped windows, arches and dog toothed carving. There has been a Minster Church here since the C7th and in...
Buckfast Abbey is home to a community of Benedictine Monks who live work and pray in a small monastery on the edge of Dartmoor. They still practice the tradition of welcoming all and the Abbey is now a major tourist attraction receiving thousands of visitors each year. It is a lovely site surrounded by attractive gardens. Despite the numbers of visitors, there is a sense of peace and quiet as soon as you walk through the gate and birdsong everywhere. The Abbey is self supporting with a...
Plymouth is a modern city. Much of the city centre was destroyed by bombing raids in WW2 and has been completely rebuilt with wide streets and rather uninspiring 1960s architecture. Plymouth has a long history stretching back to the Bronze Age and has been an important trading port since Roman times. A town grew up around Sutton Pool. Little remains of the early C15th castle built to defend the town and harbour from attack by the French. It was replaced by the Royal Citadel, a...
Teignmouth is an attractive holiday settlement at the mouth of the River Teign. A lot of money has been spent revitalising the town centre and sea front. It is now a worthy rival to larger seaside settlements further south along Tor bay. The town grew up round two tiny settlement, East Teignmouth with St Michael’s church overlooking the beach and West Teignmouth at St James’ Church overlooking the estuary. The river estuary provided a sheltered harbour and by the early C14th Teignmouth...
One of the best surviving of the emergency batteries built around the coast in anticipation of a German invasion in 1940. Battery Head is the wooded headland to the north of Brixham. The headland was first used as a battery in 1586 in preparation of a prospective Spanish Invasion. It was again used in1688 when William of Orange landed in Brixham, to protect his fleet and cover the road from Paignton. It was also used during the American War of Independence when Brixham was an...
At the southern end of Tor Bay and sheltered beneath Berry Head, this is still a thriving fishing village as well as a popular holiday resort. The harbour has one largest fishing fleets in Britain, plus thriving modern fish market. Over 100 fishing boats land and sell their catch at the local fish market on the quayside. Larger trawlers and smaller day boats bring in sales of over £18 million pounds a year. Historically Brixham was two separate communities with only a marshy lane to...
These delightful gardens are on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds, overlooking the Ancholme Valley. The gardens have been lovingly created over many years from farmland and are the inspiration of Helen, ably helped by Mike. There is no overall plan and the gardens have just grown over the years. The three and a half acres of garden are a wonderful mix of trees, shrubs and perennial plants along with wild flower grassland (and chickens). A derelict windmill mill has been turned...
Barnard Castle, or Barney as it is affectionately called by the locals, is a thriving small market town at the mouth of Teesdale. Although it has a Morrisons behind the market place, it still manages to retain many small family owned shops. It still has a weekly market as well s monthly farmers market. There are plenty of places to eat as well as some good antique shops. GlaxoSmithKlein have a large factory on the edge of the town and is a major employer. The town grew up round the...
Ripon Cathedral has been a place of Christian worship from the C7th, when a Benedictine Monastery was founded here. Wilfrid became abbot on his return from Rome and built a new Minster church in 672 AD. Wilfrid was a force to be reckoned with and was instrumental in the decision taken at the Synod of Whitby to adopt the Roman form of Christianity rather than the Celtic. He died in 710AD and was buried near the high altar. His shrine was destroyed during the Reformation. Wilfrid’s church...
A beautifully restored Medieval moated manor house Markenfield Hall is a medieval moated manor set in the midst of farmland just to the south of Ripon. Surrounded by C18th agricultural buildings, it is a rare survivor of a C14th building which is still lived in today. There has been a house on this site since the Domesday Book. The earliest parts of the house date from the C13th with the undercroft and great hall above. The building was extended in the C14th when Henry II granted the...
To anyone brought up in the age of social media and the need to tweet their every thought or activity, the cloak of silence which surrounded Bletchley Park comes as a surprise. A friend of my father let slip a few years ago that she had worked there during the war, but then refused to say anything else about what she did - she’d signed the Official Secrets Act and that ensured her silence. Even now, after she has died we still don’t know what she did. There were thousands of people who...

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