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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.
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 worked there and have taken their secrets to the grave with them. It wasn’t until the publication of F W Winterbotham’s book “The Ultra Secret” in 1974, that information began to appear in the public domain. Gordon Welchman published his own account of...
An important Christian site since St Augustine, the site of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket and the burial place of the Black Prince and Henry IV Not only is Canterbury Cathedral one of the oldest Christian Churches in England, it is architecturally one of the best. It has been at the heart of English Christianity for nearly fifteen centuries. It is a World Heritage site along with the nearby ruined St Augustine’s Abbey and St Martin’s Church, the oldest church in England. The martyrdom of Thomas Becket in 1170 put Canterbury very firmly on the tourist map and the cathedral became a major centre of pilgrimage. Visitors still arrive in their thousands today. There has probably been a Christian church here since Roman Times...
Cobblestones, higgledy piggledy houses and smugglers... Rye stands on a hill above the low lying expanse of Romney Marshes. A thousand years ago it was surrounded by sea and was an important harbour. It became a Royal Borough, running its own affairs raising taxes and operating its own judicial system. It was one of the Cinque Ports, responsible for supplying ships and men to defend the coast against French raiders. A fire following a devastating French raid on the town in 1377 destroyed nearly all the buildings. The centre of Rye has hardly changed over the years and still has many narrow cobbled streets lined with Medieval, Tudor and Georgian buildings. It is a delight to explore on foot. There is no by pass and traffic...
The Stade Although it was one of the Cinque Ports, Hastings has never had a good harbour and has always been in danger of coastal erosion. Boats have traditionally been stored and launched from the beach, as can be seen in this photograph taken in 1870 . Fishing has always been an important part of the economy of Hastings. It still has the largest beach launched fishing fleet in the country, with over 25 boats based on the Stade. This comes from the Anglo Saxon meaning launching place. By the start of the C19th, Hastings was beginning to develop as a fashionable sea side resort and this lead to a series of clashes between the fishermen and the corporation. In 1834, the first sea defence groyne was built beneath the cliffs at...
Nearly everyone will have heard of Pevensey, where William the Conqueror landed in 1066 to claim the crown of England. Pevensey was once an important settlement, on the edge of the coast and guarded by an impressive Roman Fort and Medieval castle. By the C17th, changes in sea level, silting up of the waterways as well as flood protection schemes and land reclamation, left Pevensey a mile from the sea. Its importance dwindled and now it is little more than the one main street. It is still surrounded by low lying marsh land, known as the Pevensey levels . Two thousand years ago, Pevensey was on the coast overlooking a large inlet of the sea. Towards the end of the Roman occupation of Britain, the south and east coasts of England...
Eastbourne is a popular holiday resort on the South Coast and reputedly England’s sunniest spot. It was little more than a village until the tourist boom of the C19th. Its promenade lined with splendid hotels and pier still attract holiday makers as well as the conference trade. In 1752, Dr Richard Russel who lived in nearby Lewis, published a “dissertation on the use of sea water” emphasising the benefits of sea bathing as a cure for many disorders. It became fashionable to stay at the seaside. Four of King George III’s children stayed here in 1780. During the threat of invasion by Napoleon, in the early C19th, a Martello tower was built as well as a larger fortress, the Redoubt. These are probably the oldest buildings to survive in...
Regency Bling at its best The Royal Pavilion with its flamboyant architecture, is one of the highlights of a trip to Brighton. It is a testament to George IV’s Regency dream. Brighton was developing rapidly as fashionable seaside resort and the patronage of the Prince of Wales (as he then was) really put Brighton on the map. The population was growing rapidly and work on the Royal Pavilion provided work for local tradesmen, labourers and craftsmen. The presence of the royal court as well as George’s guests and members of society was a source of income for local merchants and the service industries, although unfortunately they were often slow to be paid... Many of the handsome seafront squares and crescents that still stand today...
Background I remember looking down onto Leeds Castle from the A20 on days out in the late 1950s and thinking that it was every child’s dream of what a medieval castle should look like. The castle was privately owned and very shut. Now it is run by a charitable trust and is a popular conference centre and wedding venue. It also offers accommodation either in the castle itself or one of its glamping tents. For those not wanting to stay overnight, there is the option of having afternoon tea in the castle. Set on an island in the Rive Lee, it is also one of the most popular visitor attractions in Kent with visitors visiting both the castle and the attractive gardens. The castle has a long, illustrious history. It has been a Norman...
Hever Castle is on the tick list of many visitors to England as it was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn and where she was wooed by Henry VIII. As a bonus, for those wanting to stay in a castle, there is also a range of accommodation to stay in. It is everyone’s dream of as perfect medieval castle with a moat. There has been a castle here since 1270 but the original castle would have been a wooden structure with a gatehouse and walled bailey. The present building dates from the C14th and was extended in the C15th when it belonged to the Bullen (Boleyn) family, one of the most powerful families in England. They added wings to the original stone gatehouse forming a courtyard and turned the stark stone castle into a comfortable family...
Some background and history This is a lovely ride through the unspoilt countryside of Kent and East Sussex and is a wonderful example of a rural light railway. It is typical of the many railways developed at the start of the C20th to serve sparsely populated areas. The stations may be named after the nearest village but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are close to it. It is a leisurely ten and a half mile trip across the Rother Levels between Tenterden Town and Bodiam. The line has a very interesting history as it was the first railway line to be constructed under the Light Railway Act of 1896. This enabled railways to be built more cheaply in areas standard gauge railways would be uneconomic. There was a speed limit of 25mph and...
Banbury is an attractive market town in the Oxfordshire countryside made famous by the medieval nursery rhyme "Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross". Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross, To see a fine lady upon a white horse; Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, And she shall have music wherever she goes. This first appeared in print in the mid C18th and the ‘fine lady’ is thought to be a member of the Fiennes family, who were ancestors of Lord Saye and Sele who own nearby Broughton Castle. The statue of a fine lady on a black horse was commissioned by the council in 2006. There is still a Banbury Cross at the bottom of Horse Fair, but is Victorian, erected to commemorate the wedding of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter to the...

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