Tuesday, December 23, 2008

English Castles - Part 2

By C. LaRene Hall

After traveling back to England, the first castle we decided to go to was the Farleigh Hungerford ruins. The gatehouse was two stories and the arch was set in a square-headed recess into which the drawbridge closed. Above was the family coat of arms. The chapel was amazing and stood above a crypt where 16th and 17th century Hungerford’s are visible. Indented into them are the death masks of the deceased. Also around the sides of the tombs are coats of arms.

The only thing left of the 13th century Winchester Castle is the great hall. It is famous for King Arthur’s Round Table, which has hung in the hall since at least 1463. The many stain glass windows were stunning.

The Wolvesey castle ruins, is also in Winchester, and was formerly the principle residence of the Bishops of Winchester. The Roundheads destroyed it during the English Civil War in 1646.

One other place we visited that I consider a castle is Buckingham Palace. We arrived early enough to get a close spot to take pictures of the changing of the guards. Today this palace is the weekday home of the Queen and Prince Philip, the Duke of York, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex.

This certainly wasn’t the end of our trip, just the end of visiting castles. I'll be out of town for a week so next year, I’ll tell you about all the churches we saw along the way.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Castles in Wales

By C. LaRene Hall

We continued our tour of castle in Wales and our first stop was the Chepstow, which is a Norman Castle ruin sitting high above the banks of the river Wye. It has a twin tower gatehouse. We were interested in their displays of printed placards explaining the castle’s history along with wax figures of the Marshal Family.

Then we drove to a 12th century Norman Keep, the Cardiff Castle. I was surprised to find this castle in the middle of a busy city. On the tour, we learned that they decorated all the rooms around a theme. The most common themes were astrological and Biblical. I loved the beautiful clock tower, and the room that represented the seasons of the year and the days of the week. It was no surprise to find the nursery decorated with fairy tales and nursery rhymes.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

English Castles - Part 1

By C. LaRene Hall

In England, the castles were much the same, ancient. The first one we visited was the Alnwick Medieval Castle. They filmed the Harry Potter movie there. For over 700 years, this castle has been a family home. The English and Scots fought many battles here. I enjoyed watching the performance of the British Soldiers on the green.

I slept at the Durham Castle.

The next Castle on our agenda was the Raby Castle. The Nevell’s built this 14th century medieval castle. During the tour, I was surprised to learn that the garrison room has 20 feet thick walls. They built the chapel between 1364 and 1367. The most interesting room was the octagon drawing room.

Next, we crossed the River Tees and climbed a path up the large hill to arrive at the ancient ruins of the Bernard Balliol’s Castle. This is the largest medieval castle in northern England. If it had been a cooler day, I would have enjoyed my stroll among the ruins much more.

In Nottingham, they built this 17th century ducal mansion on the site of the original medieval castle. I enjoyed the wonderful landscaping with bushes shaped as Robin Hood and a knight on a horse. The other things I enjoyed seeing was the beautiful designs on the walkway near the entrance.

The largest castle ruin in England is the Kenilworth Castle. My heart ached as I wandered among the red sandstone remains. What a waste of so much history.

At the Warwick Castle, we explored towers, and dungeons. The entire day and evening was wonderful and everything I expected. I loved sitting below the castle on the bank of the Avon River and watching the trebuchet – a catapult – hurling projectiles. It was exciting to watch the knight putting armor on the squire then they battled it out in hand-to-hand combat. There were knights on horses and a jousting match. In the evening, we attended a five-course meal, the King Maker’s Feast.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Scottish Castles

By C. LaRene Hall

The one thing I never tired of on my trip to Europe in 2006 was the endless castles. They were all different, and each had something unique that I liked. The pictures are all mine, taken with my new digital camera received the prior Christmas in anticipation of this trip. I’ll confess I’m not a photographer.

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but since it was my first castle, I have to mention the Dumbarton Medieval Castle ruins. I liked the fact that in the 9th century it served as the Viking’s headquarters. Another interesting story is the castle protected Mary, Queen of Scots, while she was a young girl until her safe removal to France.

Next, we drove to the Isle of Bute, and saw the circular Rothesay Castle ruins. I also mentioned this one before but didn’t mention that strolling among the ruins was intriguing. In fact, I was so enthralled I forgot to take any pictures.

Before leaving Scotland, we had to see the Edinburgh Castle. All of the streets inside the castle were cobblestone, which was difficult to walk on. We were fortunate to get a ride to the top of the huge castle where you could see a splendid view of the entire city. The most fascinating room was the heavily guarded one with Scotland‘s glittering crown jewels. The Saint Margaret Chapel was beautiful, and is the oldest building in the city. We took time to visit the Scottish National War Memorial. Everyone was excited to watch the one o’clock gun ceremony. They have fired the guns almost every day except Sunday since 1861. This was a busy castle, but well worth the time to visit.