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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)...
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...
The Roman Baths are probably the most impressive public building from Roman Britain. They played an important social function. As well as bathing they were a place to meet and socialise. As well as the actual baths and hot spring, they also included a temple to Sulis Minerva and a tholos, a small round temple surrounded by an open colonnade of pillars, and the only one known in Britain. Rain falling on the Mendip Hills percolates down through the limestone to a depth of...
People have been visiting Bath for over two thousand years for its hot springs. Roman Bath, known as Aquae Sulis, thrived with people coming from across the Roman Empire to take the waters and worship at the Temple of Sulis Minerva. After the departure of the Romans, Bath declined in importance, although it was probably still a market for the local area. It became a fortified Burgh under the Saxons and may even have had a mint. Edgar was crowned King in Bath Abbey in 973AD. In the Middle...
Wells is the smallest Cathedral city in England and is very much a regional centre with its twice weekly market and good range of small specialist shops. It is a delightful small town to wander round with cathedral, ruined bishop’s palace, old gateways, cobbled streets and medieval architecture. It has managed to avoid the tourist crowds of places like nearby Cheddar or Bath. Its name comes from the wells that can be found around the Bishop’s Palace. The area has been inhabited...
Cheddar is a busy tourist town at the base of the Mendip Hills. Visitors flock here for the dramatic gorge and the caves. Even its name comes from the old English word for a deep dark cavity. There is good walking and plenty of tourist shops and tea rooms. Away from the main street, it is still quiet and unspoilt. Its wealth came from farming and particularly cheese making, with cheeses being stored in the local caves to mature. Tourism really took off with the arrival of the...
Uphill, to the south of Weston-super-Mare has managed to avoid being consumed by its larger neighbour. It still retains very much its own identity with an open landscape of limestone grassland, grazing marsh, saltmarsh and scrub. To the south are the Somerset Levels. It stands on high ground above the mouth of the River Axe. The name comes from a combination of Scandinavian personal name Hubba and the Old English ‘pill’ for creek. It is thought the Romans may have had a port here to...
On the Bristol Channel, this is a popular seaside resort with promenade, gardens, long expanse of sandy beach, donkeys, Grand Pier and a big wheel. It is everyone’s idea of a seaside holiday. Mind you, with the second highest tidal rise in the world, the sea does go out a very long way, leaving a large expanse of thick mud which is dangerous to walk across, and the reason for the Marine Lake. The name Weston is made up of two Saxon words meaning the west tun or settlement. Because there...
Possibly one of the most important hillforts in England - and yet no-one knows about it! Standing up to 100m high, the wooded Worlebury Hill dominates the northern edge of Weston-super-Mare. It is the site of one of the most significant hillfots in England with its three Bronze Age ditches and seven Iron Age valla (walls and ditches). You won’t find anything about it on the Weston Super Mare website and it only merits a small mention on the North Somerset one. It isn’t signposted from...
Better known as the Marble Church, this is the gleaming white spire seen from the A55 Expressway and is a local landmark for miles around. When it was first built, St Margaret's Church was called the ‘Pearl of the Vale’. Now it is better known as the Marble Church, not from its colour (which has turned grey over the years from pollution) but because fourteen different sorts of marble were used in its construction. It took four years to build and cost £60,000. In 1829, Margaret Williams...
Reputed to be the smallest ancient cathedral in Britain, there has been a church on this site since the C6th when St Kentigern built a church and monastery here. When he returned to his native Scotland he left it in charge of his favourite pupil, Asaph. A new cathedral was built in the C12th, but was destroyed by the armies of Edward I in 1282. It was rebuilt, only to be burned by Owain Glyndŵr’s troops in 1402, who left it in ruins. The existing building is largely C14th. The tower had to...
A statement of English power and supremacy that later became a much loved family home Standing on a rocky outcrop above the confluence of the Dee and Ceiriog rivers, Chirk Castle was built to impress. It was one of the last of the great Edwardian castles built in the late C13th to subdue the Welsh and bring Wales firmly under the control of Edward I and the English throne. It controlled the Marcher land along the Welsh and English border, controlling movement and trade as well as acting...
An extravagant private chapel of an arch Royalist who clung to the old ways... Rug Chapel is a lovely setting among the trees and surrounded by a garden with roses, lavender and herbs. From the outside it is a very plain building, with a small bell cot above the west end. Nothing prepares you for the magnificence of the interior where every available bit of wood is carved and every surface painted. The chapel was built as a private chapel for Colonel William Salesbury in 1637. He was a...
Elgin Cathedral is a magnificent ruined cathedral in the centre of Elgin. Dating from the C13th, it was built to replace an earlier cathedral near the Bishop’s Palace in Spynie. This had once been an important religious community surrounded by a wall with four gateways through it. The Pans Porte on the east side still survives. The cathedral was at the centre of the complex. All of the church dignitaries had a manse in the precinct surrounded by a garden. Now the only one to survive is...
The ruins of this Cistercian Abbey occupy a lovely isolated setting by the Water of Luce, north of the village. The monastery was founded in 1190 and was a convenient stop for pilgrims visiting nearby St Ninian’s shrine. Robert the Bruce, James IV and Mary Queen of Scots have all stayed here. Little is known about its history. At the Protestant Reformation, the fifteen monks in the abbey accepted the new religion and were left to live in the abbey. When the last monk died in 1602 the...
This is a lovely ruined priory, set on a small wooded island in the Lake of Monteith, and rreached by boat. The priory was founded in the C12th by Augustinian canons who wanted to be isolated from the world to worship God. The church was built first followed by the rest of the monastic buildings. It was close to Stirling, a key centre of power in medieval Scotland. Robert the Bruce visited three times and Mary Queen of Scots was brought here as a child by her mother, Mary of Guise...
Seen from the A9 Ruthven Barracks stand silhouetted against the skyline, on a natural mound of sand and gravel deposited by melting ice. They are the smallest but best preserved of the four barracks built in 1719 after the 1715 Jacobite rising. The site has a chequered history. A wooden castle was built on top of the mound by the Comyns in the 1200s and it was the chief seat of the Badenoch lordship as it controlled passageway through the glen. In 1306, John Comyn was killed by Robert...
Corgaff Castle is a startlingly white harled tower house silhouetted against the skyline and surrounded by a star shaped wall. It is a splendid location miles from anywhere at the head of Strathdon, surrounded by rounded low hills, pastureland with sheep, some forestry and heather covered tops. Corgaff castle was built as a fortified tower house in 1550 and would originally have been surrounded by a barmkin wall. The tower would have been fairly small with vaulted storage rooms on the...

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