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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.
St Davids with its Cathedral and Ruined Bishop's Palace (#5) is Britain's smallest city. The Cathedral with the shrine of St David, has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries and is still a honey pot destination for visitors today. St Davids is the largest and most important medieval diocese in Wales, with property scattered across the south west Wales. The Cathedral houses the relics of the C6th St David who is the patron saint of Wales and attracted substantial number of pilgrims. So much so, that in the C12th, Pope Calixtus II stated that two pilgrimages to St Davids was equivalent to one pilgrimage to Rome. William I came in 1081 to pray at the shrine of St David. Henry II and Edward I both made pilgrimages. Pilgrims and...
Tenby is a popular holiday resort in south west Wales with its walled old town with brightly coloured houses, harbour overlooked by a ruined castle and four sandy beaches. Add in a tidal island with a C19th fort (#4) and Caldey Island with its monastery, what more could you want? Pembrokeshire has been described as “Little England beyond Wales” as the area was settled by the Normans in the early C12th. It still feels more English than Welsh, with the population speaking English rather than Welsh. It was only since the passing of the Welsh Language Act in 1993 that bilingual signs became common. The Normans built a castle in Tenby on the high point of the headland above the harbour in around 1090 and a settlement grew up under...
Narberth is a small town about ten miles north of Tenby. It is often included in coach excursions from Tenby for its “shopping centre , local foods and art galleries”. But there is a lot more to Narberth than that! It is along the Landsker Line, the language border between Welsh and English speaking areas of Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire. A series of castles, including one at Narberth, was built along the line by the Norman Kings in the C11th and C12th. A town grew up in the shelter of Narberth Castle and became the administrative centre for the area. Today it is an attractive small town with a good range of family owned shops and multicoloured Edwardian and Georgian buildings. The war memorial is in the Market Square...
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, third daughter of John Williams, 1st Baronet of Bodelwyddan, married Henry Peyto, 16th Baron Willoughby de Broke of Compton Verney in Warwickshire. After his death in 1852, she returned to North Wales with a keen desire to see Bodelwyddan created as...
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 be rebuilt in 1714 after the top was damaged in a storm. This explains the difference in stonework. There was a major restoration, especially of the chancel area by George Gilbert Scott in the C19th This plan is taken from Medieval heritage website...
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 as the main administrative centre for the area. Originally lime washed, its stark silhouette could be seen for miles - a constant reminder of English dominance. Unlike the better known, but now ruined Edwardian Castles of Caernarfon, Conwy and...
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 staunch Royalist, scorning Puritan simplicity and wanted a chapel full of high church decoration. It escaped a Victorian makeover and is a rare survivor of a chapel from this time. By the door is asimple stone octagonal font with a wooden cover...
The longest aqueduct in the British Isles and the highest in the world This is an impressive sight both from above and below. It is exhilarating either to cross on foot or by boat. The late C18th was a time of peak building of canals, needed to carry raw materials and finished goods across the country. A canal was proposed to carry cargoes from the mineral rich coalfields of North East Wales. This was an ambitious project across difficult terrain. William Jessop and Thomas Telford were engaged to work on the project. Their early plans were for a low level aqueduct across the River Dee with locks on either side, but this was abandoned in favour of Telford's grand design: a cast iron trough mounted on stone pillars spanning the...
Llangollen is an attractive market town on the banks of the River Dee, and is surrounded by the Berwyns and Clywdian mountains. It is overlooked by the ruins of the Welsh stronghold, Castell Dinas Bran. The name comes from the C7th monk, St Collen who founded a church here, although the present building is C15th. The town grew up to the north of the river, where there was more flat land. The railway and canal are on the south bank. The Dee Bridge across the river was built in 1345 and was widened in the 1960s to cope with modern traffic. There are good views of the town from it. When I visited, it was covered with over one hundred patchwork panels. I overheard someone describing it as looking like washing day. These are part of...
Llandudno is dominated by the massive limestone headland of the Great Orme rising nearly 700’ above the town and bay. It is impressive seen from below. Seen from above, as can be seen from this photograph from the Visit Conwy website, really shows just how big and impressive it is. It is equally as impressive when seen from the town. One of the best ways to appreciate its bulk is from the Marine Drive, cut out of the side of the cliffs.
Mold is a small and attractive town on the River Alyn , overlooked by the Clwydian Hills. It used to be one of the main routes to North Wales, but is now bypassed. It is still a thriving market town for the area with a lot of independent shops in the town centre which have survived the arrival of the out of town supermarkets A motte and bailey castle was built here in the late C11th and was one of the early castles built by the Normans to consolidate their hold on Wales. A town grew up round it and the houses round the base of the Castle on Bailey Hill are some of the oldest in Mold. With the end of the Welsh Wars in the C14th, traded grew rapidly between the Welsh and English merchants. The town had a weekly market and two...
A deserted quarry village that has been brought back to life as a Welsh language and heritage centre The hard granite hills of the Llyn Peninsula provided excellent stone for roads. In the C19th setts from these quarries paved the streets of Liverpool, Manchester and other industrial cities. Nant Gwtheryn was site of three large quarries providing employment for over one hundred men. Stone was taken down steep inclines and loaded onto ships at one of three small piers from the beach. When the quarries closed down the villagers left and the houses became derelict. (Photo taken in the early 1980s.) The village has been taken over by a trust who have restored the houses and brought the village back to life as a Welsh Language and...
St Winefride’s Well, Holywell, North Wales. St Winefride's Well has been a site of pilgrimage for over 1,300 years. It has survived the Reformation and the Puritan zeal to destroy ‘Popish’ shrines. It is still visited by pilgrims today, not just from Wales but across Europe. It has been described as the Lourdes of Wales. Around 660AD, Winefride (Gwenfrewi in Welsh) who was of noble birth spurned the advances of Caradoc, son of a local prince, as she wanted to become a nun. He cut off her head in his anger. A spring rose from the ground at the spot where her head fell. Winefride was restored to life by her uncle, St Beuno. He called down the wrath of God on Caradoc who was struck dead and swallowed up. Beuno sat on a stone and vowed...
Penmon Priory is a delightful spot at the south eastern tip of Anglesey. Part of its charm is that it has yet to reach the tick list of must see sights and doesn’t get many visitors. Although the Romans brought Christianity to Wales, it never really became established until the arrival of Celtic missionary saints in the C6th who established small monasteries, usually around an existing holy well. St Seiriol, who was of noble birth, settled here in the C6th and built a small cell (clas) next to a holy well and began to preach and baptise. Gradually a monastic settlement grew up here and its fame spread. It became very prosperous with two fine carved stone crosses, but it was looted and destroyed by the Vikings in the C10th. The...
When Edward I assumed the throne in 1272, Wales was ruled by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (Llywelyn the Last). Henry III had been a weak ruler and his reign had been marked by reign had been marked by rebellion, confusion and indecision. Llywelan had successfully exploited his weak and ineffective rule to obtain complete control of the principality culminating in English recognition of his title of Prince of Wales at the Treaty of Montgomery in 1267. Edward after fighting in the crusades was an experienced and decisive leader, determined to make his mark on England. Relations between Edward and Llywelyn quickly deteriorated, resulting in two campaigns to defeat Llywelyn and bring Wales under English rule. To increase his hold and control of...
The rapid development of towns during the Industrial Revolution led to to an enormous demand for slate for roofs of houses and factories. Welsh Slate was highly prized as the best as it was very durable and split easily. The National Slate Museum on the site of the workshops of the mighty Dinorwic quarry in Llanberis gives a wonderful insight into the industry and the lives of those who worked in it. Commercial quarrying began at Dinorwic in the early C19th and by the end of the century, employed over 3000 men producing 1700 tons of slate a week. Slate was brought down to workshops built on flat land at the head of Llyn Padarn, created by tipping of slate waste. Over 100 men worked there. As well as splitting and trimming slate...
Criccieth, an unspoilt sea side town with a ruined castle. Criccieth is a typical sea side town with a strong Victorian feel to it. It grew rapidly once the railway arrived in 1867 and has been popular ever since. It is an attractive place to stop with a range of old fashioned family owned shops, some have been trading for over 80 years. There is still a very traditional shoe shop with shelves full of boxes of shoes). There are plenty of very good craft shops specialising in locally made crafts. There is a very good butcher and I can recommend the beef and vegetable pasties from the Idris Cafe. They have a good selection of filled rolls and cakes, all very reasonably priced. In the centre is Y Maes, a large open expanse of...
Introduction The Talyllyn Railway is a narrow gauge railway in Meirionnydd, Mid Wales that was originally built to carry slate from the hills above Abergynolwyn to the wharves at Tywyn. It was made famous as Skarloey’s railway by Rev Awdry in his Thomas the Tank engine books. The railway still preserves the feel of the 1950s and is a lovely ride up the Afon Fathew valley. The railway was opened in 1866 and has an illustrious history. It was the first narrow gauge railway in Britain to carry passengers using steam locomotives. The line never closed and is the oldest narrow gauge railway still running in Britain, as well as the first of the narrow gauge railways to be preserved by volunteers. It still has its two original locos...
At 26 miles, the Welsh Highland Railway is the longest of the Welsh Narrow Gauge Railways and runs through Snowdonia National Park between Porthmadog and Caernarfon. The line has been rebuilt along the trackbed of a line that closed in the 1930s and runs through an area of disperse settlement and isolated farms. The only settlement of any size is Beddgelert and that is little more than a big village. It was hardly surprising there was insufficient traffic for the line to run at a profit. Even now, most of the stations are unmanned halts. The complete return journey takes nearly six hours. Gradients are steep and trains are pulled by Beyer Garrett locos bought from South African Railways as these are the only narrow gauge steam locos...
The Ffestiniog Railway is a preserved narrow gauge railway in the top in the top left hand corner of Wales. It was originally built to carry slate from the hills above Blaenau Ffestiniog to the slate wharves at Porthmadog. It is now a popular tourist attraction, providing much needed employment and bringing tourist money into the area. Some of the pictures have been scanned from slides taken in the 1980s and 1990s, which explains the slight colour cast in some of them. Others were taken using a digital camera in 2019. EARLY HISTORY Some of the best roofing slate is found in North Wales. Originally this was carried by pack horses down to wharves on the River Dwyryd and then taken by boats downstream to be loaded into larger sea going...

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