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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.
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 1050, Leofric, Bishop of Crediton gained permission to move the Bishop's seat from Crediton to Exeter, because of a fear of sea-raids. He became the first Bishop of Exeter. In 1107 William Warelwast, a nephew of William the Conqueror, was appointed to...
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 farm and shop selling wine, honey beeswax, fudge and other items made by religious communities throughout the world. Buckfast Tonic wine has been made since the 1890s using a traditional French recipe and was marketed as a medicine using the slogan...
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 star shaped fort built in 1665, during the wars between England and the Dutch. It is one of the few surviving examples of a permanent C17th fort in England. Guns and a garrison protected the seaward approaches to the naval anchorage at Sutton Pool, as...
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 had grown into a significant port, second only to Dartmouth. It had its own market charter. Teignmouth grew rapidly in the C17th from wealth generated by the very productive Newfoundland cod industry. Wealthy captains houses were built. The men were...
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 important victualling station for the Royal Navy, and later during the Napoleonic Wars when gun emplacements were added. Little is left of these defences apart from some boundary walls, which were part of the 1860s rebuilding programme. In 1940, 116...
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 connect them. Cowtown was the area on top of the hill where the farmers lived, while a mile away around the harbour was Fishtown where the fishermen and seamen lived. In the Middle Ages, fishing was small scale hand line fishing. The industry boomed...
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 into a fernery and there are water and architectural features scattered throughout the gardens. The tall metal 'poppy seeds' are particularly stunning. There is so much to see and enjoy. The gardens are open Thursdays and Sundays and are...
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 Norman castle which stands high on a bluff at the top of the town overlooking the river. The town still retains its wide main thoroughfares that were traditionally used for the market as well as cobbled streets, twisting lanes and narrow...
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 was destroyed by the Danes in the C10th and only the crypt survived. A new Minster was built but was destroyed by William the Conquer during the Harrying of the North. The present building dates from the C12th. The west end was completed by 1220 and...
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 Markenfields a licence to crenellate. The family were Catholics and the Hall was one of the centres for the Rising of the North in 1569 which planned to replace Elizabeth I by Mary Queen of Scots. After the failure of the rising, Sir Thomas escaped to...
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...
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 2700-4300m. Geothermal energy raises the temperature of the water to 69-96˚. Under pressure the hot water rises up through cracks in the limestone forming hot springs. These hot springs have long been known to have medicinal properties. There is a legend...
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 Ages, a few people still continued to visit to bathe in the hot springs, hoping it would cure them of their ailments. The main wealth came from the manufacture of cloth, but trade declined in the C16th and C17th. The economy received a boost in the...
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 since Roman times and was an important Anglo-Saxon settlement with a minster, and became a bishopric in the C10th. King Æthelstan was crowned here. A choir of boys was formed to sing the liturgy and the Wells Cathedral Choir School dates from then...
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 Railway in the C19th. This was popularly called the ‘Strawberry line’ as it carried strawberries grown on the south west slopes. Cheese is still made in the village by the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company who have a shop selling many different varieties of...
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 export lead from local mines. There was a well established settlement here recorded in the Domesday Book, with 60 inhabitants. There was plenty of fresh water, meadows for grazing cattle and good agricultural land for growing crops. It was also well...
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 are several places called Weston in Somerset, descriptions were added to tell them apart. The area has been settled since the stone age and flint tools have been found. Worlebury Hill overlooking the town is site of possibly the largest and most...
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 the town although there two information boards at the site. It seems to be ignored and unloved by the local council but is cared for by a dedicated band of volunteers who been working over the last few years to remove the undergrowth and expose the...
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...

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