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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.
Peel is the largest settlement on the west side of the island and is renowned for its stunning sunsets. On a clear day there are good views of the Mountains of Mourne and this is the place to come to see basking sharks. Peel has a long history. Hunter gatherers from the stone age settled on St Patrick's Isle and later the Irish Missionaries established a monastery here. The Vikings built a castle and it became the capital of the island during Viking times, and the seat of the bishopric. A small settlement grew up round St Patrick’s Isle, which gradually became Peel. With the building of Castle Rushen, Peel’s importance waned. Peel castle continued to be used by the Lord’s of Mann until the Civil War and continued as a garrison until...
St Johns is often described as the historic and cultural heart of the Isle of Man. It is a small village on the A1 which cuts through the central valley joining Douglas and Peel. It is an important location at the crossroads of the A1 and the A3 Castletown Ramsay Road. The arrival of the Douglas to Peel railway line and later branch to Ramsay, both now closed, at the end of the C19th led to rapid growth of the settlement. As an integral part of its historical significance, St Johns has the only Manx speaking primary school, Bunscoill Ghaelgagh, on the island. St Johns was the site of one of the original Viking Tynwald sites which were scattered across the island. With its central location, itt became the main site in 1471. The ‘Hill’...
In the C16th, Douglas was a tiny settlement of a few houses clustered around the mouth of the Douglas River. Castletown was the capital and power house of the island. Douglas began to grow in the C18th as a result of the smuggling trade, a better harbour than at Castletown and good links to Liverpool. The harbour developed and merchant’s houses and warehouses were built along North Quay. St Matthew’s Church was built on the quayside as parishioners had to walk over a mile to attend services at Braddan Parish Church Douglas didn’t really begin to develop as a port until the introduction of steamships at the start of the C19th which provided a much more reliable service than sail. The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company running the service...
The village of Ballasalla on the Silver Burn, is a rapidly growing dormitory settlement for Douglas. There is a large industrial estate on the edge of the village. Ballasalla grew up around Rushen Abbey. After the Dissolution of the Abbey, the abbey was stripped of anything of value and much of the stone was robbed out and used as building stone for the houses in the village. Ballasalla is in the parish of Malew and the original parish church of St Lupus was a mile away. Not only was it a long walk but, as the population grew, the church was no longer able to seat everyone. A new church was built in the village at the end of the C19th. It is a large but plain church built from limestone quarried from Scarlet point. The inside is...
Castletown was the original capital of the Isle of Man, before it was moved to Douglas in the mid C19th. It still has many large and splendid buildings, especially around the Market Square. Castle Rushen was built by the Norse rulers of Mann in the C12th as their power base in the south of the island. A settlement quickly grew up round the walls of the castle, which became the capital of the Isle of Man. The town sits at the mouth of the Silverburn Burn. Breakwaters were built to provide safe anchorage for fishing boats. There is little fishing now, but small pleasure boats still moor in the inner harbour at the mouth of the Silverburn Burn, reached under a narrow swing bridge. Queen Street with its brightly painted houses...
The Sound is the southernmost tip of the Isle of Man and overlooks the Calf of Man and the even tinier Kitterland. This is the place to come and watch for seals, basking on the rocks of Kitterland. You may be lucky and also see dolphins and basking sharks. The Calf of Man is in the care of the Manx Wildlife Trust and has a small bird observatory. There has been a successful programme to eradicate rats which arrived after a shipwreck and decimated the bird population. Local boatmen run trips from either Port Erin or Post St Mary and it is possible to stay in bunkhouse accommodation on the island. The actual tip itself is a fairly flat grassy plateau, surrounded by rugged cliffs. The long distance footapth, Raad Ny Foillan...
Port St Mary was originally a major fishing and trading port, with its own boat yards, while near by Port Erin was still a handful of fishing cottages along the beach. The oldest part of town is still snuggled round the harbour with streets lined with two story buildings. The inner harbour with its small lighthouse at the end, was built 1812. It is tidal and dries out from half tide. The outer harbour was created in 1882 when the long Alfred Pier was built. This is accessible at all times, and is unique among Manx ports. RNLI lifeboat has a permanent floating mooring inside the outer breakwater. The harbours are still busy, although they are now mainly used by pleasure craft and the Isle of Man Yacht club has its head quarters...
At the southern end of the island, Port Erin is a small settlement around a beautiful enclosed sandy beach, protected by Bradda Head to the north and the Mull peninsula to the south. On a clear day On a clear day, there are views across to the Mountains of Mourne, nearly 30 miles to the west. Sunsets are particularly dramatic. Before the arrival of railway in 1874, Port Erin was a small settlement with a few houses along Shore Road, and scattered dwellings on Bradda Head. The population earned their living from fishing, subsistence farming and mining. The shallow bay provided easy landing for the fishing boats. A vein of copper ran through the Bradda headland and was mined in the C18th and C19th. The remains of the engine...
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 National Trust for Scotland and there is a charge for entry. The other attractions are free. Robert Burns Birthplace Museum was opened in 2010 at a cost of £21 million. It replaced a smaller building next to Burns Cottage which is now used as an...
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 heir and the estate passed to his brother, David Kennedy. He was a barrister and MP and, on assuming the title of the Earl of Cassillis, asked Robert Adam, the most fashionable architect of the time, to transform his boyhood home into a house worthy...
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 still important and the lower slopes are green and fertile. Many of the mountain tops are bare. The main road follows the coast around the island. There are only two east west roads. The B880, known as The Sting, runs through a valley across...
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 quadricycle is a popular way to explore the island. The road from the ferry terminal runs above the shore to Millport past the rocky outcrop aptly named Lion Rock. Millport grew as a town around the bay in the 1700s, linking the two older settlements of...
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 changed hands several times between England and Scotland and suffered many devastating raids by the Scots. Richard II granted Ralph Neville the Manor of Penrith in 1396. As Warden of the West March, he was responsible for the defence of the area against...
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 boats of all sizes, cafes and bars and a sandy beach. Its spectacular coastline is now a Global Geopark. Torquay is thriving. It has prehistory with Kent’s Cavern. The ruined Torre Abbey, once the wealthiest Premonstratensian monastery in England...
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 provided extra defence. It was built specifically for heavy artillery which were capable of sinking a ship. By the C12th century, Dartmouth was an important trading and fishing port, able to hold up to 600 vessels. During the Hundred Years War it was...
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 safe from raiding ships, a town grew up around the port. The town was used as an assembly point for a fleet of 146 ships setting out on the Second Crusade 1147, and again in 1190, when more than 100 vessels left for the Third Crusade. Hence the name...
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 chocolate and cream. At Kingswear, it was connected to Dartmouth by a passenger ferry, as the logistics of a building a bridge were too challenging and expensive. Dartmouth Station with its floating landing stage, was the only station on the rail network...
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...

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