Featured

My New Blog Site for 2018

IMG_4213I am off traveling once again, however, I have created a new blog for my 2018 travels.

If you have enjoyed reading my Globetrekkergrandma blog, you might also wish to continue following my travels by visiting my new blog site Claudia’s Travels.

Just click on the link above and it will take you straight to it! Look forward to having you join me once again!  ~ Claudia

Featured

“Fords of Frew” & the Village of Kippen

In the morning I visited the William Wallace National Monument and Cambuskenneth, an ancient Abbey where ancient ancestors of mine are buried.  My next stop for the day was out in the countryside, west of Stirling.

I was in on an ‘ancestral treasure hunt,’ trying my best to locate the “Fords of Frew.”  I had spent considerable time researching and hence, pouring over the maps of the area.  I practically had that map memorized in my brain.  I headed west on the A811 toward a town by the name of Gargunnock.  According to the map the second road on the right after the turn off for Gargunnock should lead me to a farm at the end of the road.

I found the road, drove to the end, but alas, no one was home at the farm and I didn’t feel I should start walking out in their fields toward the river without their consent.  So I drove back to A811 and continued west until I came to a roundabout, indicating that the village of Kippen was the first exit to the left.

My tummy was grumbling and so I decided to head up the hill to the village to see if I could find a place to get some lunch.

map

Kippen was very pretty and there seemed to be a few possibilities for some food.  Before leaving the village I decided to turn around and head back to the center of the village.  Luck would have it that where I turned around offered a stunning panoramic view of the countryside below – the farm lands.

“Somewhere out there are Fords of Frew, the Frew farms, and by golly, I’m gonna find them!” I told myself.

That’s when I also noticed a church spire.  “Hmmm, I should take a few minutes and check out that church while I’m here.” I thought.

I’m so glad I did.  This little Kippen Parish Church was quite small, but boy-oh-boy was it ever packed with a treasure trove of beautiful items!

And look, the door was open, beckoning me to enter and explore! Just inside the door a spiral staircase wound upward to the bell tower and gorgeous stained glass windows welcomed me.

Once inside the sanctuary I was delighted with various hand-stitched embroideries which were obviously quite old and very much revered. This one tapestry alone was longer than a single pew.  I had to take several pictures of it just to capture its beauty and to appreciate the story that it unveiled! It made me wonder how long it must have taken the artist to create it!

Everywhere I turned there were beautifully crafted windows relating stories in themselves.

Look at the date on the cross-stitch above; 1691!  This church has been around for quite awhile indeed! Then in a little chapel tucked back behind the bell tower was this stunning statue.  Amazing!

img_8849

As I left, this open door, which had invited me in, and the wonderful inspiring items I found within, reminded me of a poem by Nancy Byrd Turner.

img_8851

If you come cheerily, here shall be jest for you;If you come wearily, here shall be rest for you.If you come borrowing, gladly we’ll loan to you;If you come sorrowing, Love shall be shown to you.Under our thatch friend, place shall abide for you;Touch but the latch friend, the door shall swing wide for you.

By now my tummy wasn’t just grumbling; it was running on empty.  I was famished!  Just around the corner on the main street I headed into an interesting little pub for some grub.  This place has also been around quite awhile – almost as long as the church!

Inside I found a nice table, cozied up by the fireplace with a wonderful latte and found a new friend, Jessie, a very friendly chocolate lab.

img_8864For starters I ordered this delightful concoction: Tartar of dill cured smoked salmon, lemon creme fraiche and freshly baked oat cake.  Yum!

img_8862

This place was obviously a favorite with the locals…and had some quirky eclectic furnishings and items to ponder!

After my delicious starter I enjoyed my fav – haddock and chips – with mushy peas and perfectly made Tarter Sauce made with capers, lemon, red onion, and a touch of gherkins. Jessie helped me finish up the chips!

The Chef was superb (and also was my waiter).  What a wonderful place!  He and his wife also have rooms to rent in this wonderful B&B!  Very reasonably priced; its a superb place to stay with absolutely divine dishes to choose from.  I highly recommend it!  I want to stay here the next time I’m in the area.  It is a perfect place for exploring Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Check it out – The Cross Keys.

img_8856The group of people sitting at the corner table (a grandma and grandpa having lunch with their daughter and grand daughter) had finished before I had. When I went outside to continue on my search, they were still outside, visiting on the sidewalk.

I approached them, introduced myself and asked if they were ‘local’ to the area.  They replied that they were!

I explained that I was looking for the “Bridge of Frew” and “Fords of Frew” and inquired if they might know which direction I should go. The young mother exclaimed, “Why my best friends’ maiden name is Frew!  Just head back down the hill and go straight through the roundabout toward Thornhill – you’ll find it – you can’t miss it!”  I thanked them profusely and told her to tell her friend that she had just met a Frew from Oregon!

Armed with this new information, and feeling quite confident and with a full belly of yummy food, I headed back down the hill.  Sure enough, just about 1/2 mile from the roundabout I found the Bridge of Frew!  Wowsers – that was easy!

A little further where the road turned sharp and split in a “Y” I also found the old Frew Tolbooth house!  Sweet!  (and they are all marked so well in wrought iron!  That’s handy!)

I turned right and started to follow a one track road through the farm fields and found each of the Frew farms!  Again, very well marked!img_8887

img_8895

img_8891

img_8893

I kept following the road through the fields along the winding Forth River, and the road finally dead-ended at the Easter Frew farm!

As I drove into the yard, the whole family with the dogs came out to greet me as if they were expecting me.  Grandma and Grandpa, John Lindsay and his wife and one of their twin sons – Ian.  What a friendly bunch they were!img_8900

I introduced myself and apologised for any inconvenience, and told them how I had come from Oregon, just to find the “Fords of Frew.”  Ian was flabbergasted and asked me,

“You’re from Oregon?  Where the “Ax men” show on television is filmed? Wow!”  He thought that was pretty cool! John, the father, finally asked me, “Well, do you want to see where the fords are then?” “Sure!” I replied and he took me over by the barn and pointed out over to the river bank nearby.  img_8921He asked me, “You see that line of trees running from the farm to the river?”

(The same farm I had driven to but no one was home!)

“That line of trees mark the line where the old road used to be.  Just there by that big bush is on the bank is where the fords are located in the river!  The road then continued up the bank on this side of the river and headed on over those other fields to the Goodie river over there.” “Would it be okay with you if I walked in your pasture and took a picture or two of the Fords?” I asked.  “The water is pretty high so you can’t actually see the rocks and gravel bar underneath, although they’re there alright.” img_8901“He looked down at my tennis shoes and asked, “Did you bring your wellies with you?” “No, I’m afraid I didn’t pack any ‘wellies’ on this trip.”

“Well, what size do you wear?  You think you could fit in a man’s boot?” and he pulled out a pair from the back of his truck and handed them to me to change into.

Before I knew it I was climbing over the fence and walking along the fence line between the cows and the sheep making a beeline for the river nearby.

And by golly, there was the spot!  He was right, I couldn’t see the gravel bar and rocks on the bottom, but there sure was evidence of a lot of rock on the river bank across from me. “This is so cool,” I thought, “I actually found the Fords of Frew!”

(Frew Name Meaning – This is a Scottish locational name from the Fords of Frew (also known as “The Frews”), a fortified site on the River Forth. The name derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century “frwd” meaning: a “current” or “stream.”

Frequently, settlements grew up at the lowest crossing point of a river as happened in this case. This place was the lowest crossing point on the river Forth, and so an important strategic location in the Middle Ages.  These fords in the river might very likely be the origin of my surname!)

After such a successful adventure, I decided to take another route back to the Stirling Hostel rather than taking the same route I had taken earlier.  I returned to Kippen and headed over the hill and down into some very rural country on mostly one track roads thought Klintry, along the Carron Loch and then made the final descent back down from the mountains to the south side of Stirling.

map2

Here are just a few of the rural sites I spied along the way…

When I got back to the hostel, I ran into Mary, another solo traveler from British Columbia who was also staying at the hostel.  Such a delightful woman I had the pleasure of meeting; one who travels all over the world, often solo, just like me!

It was such a treat to connect with a fellow solo traveling woman like her!  We spent the rest of the evening swapping stories and the delights of being independent women! Unfortunately however, I was leaving first thing in the morning to return to Aberdeen, but I sincerely hope to connect with her once I do return to Oregon one of these days….

 

Oh My Goodness it’s Oban – with a visit to the Isle of Iona!

When I left Rowardennan Lodge on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, I didn’t drive very far to my next destination, Crianlarich, which is just past the north end of Loch Lomond.

It was a dreiky day, as the Scottish would say when describing blustery, cold weather, so I just cozied up in the hostel lodge (which had great internet connectivity), made a fresh pot of coffee in my French press that travels with me, and spent the day uploading photos to WordPress and writing another blog post.

While I did so, a couple of brothers, Peter and Bill, from New Zealand started chatting with me and it turned out to be a delightful day despite the weather. Those two guys were quite the characters and kept me in stitches as the photos went round and round loading.

The following morning I headed west another relatively short distance to the lovely seaside harbor town of Oban for a 3-day stay.  Not much of particular note along the route except for this bridge and the interesting falls, which appear under it when the tide is out, just before arriving in Oban.

IMG_0451

Once I arrived in Oban, and before descending down to the harbor, I headed to the iconic crown at the top of the hill to get a birdseye view of this lovely town I would be spending a bit of time in.

And oh what a view the crown offered!

Soon after I was making my way down the hill to the right side of the bay to the next hostel I would call home. As luck would have it, it which was situated right on the waters edge! Check out the view I had from my dorm bed on the second floor bay window below. Quite simply – Glorious!

I explored around the winding,  one-way streets in town, found the local Tesco grocery store, did a bit of shopping, and settled in just dandy.

Another very interesting guest at the hostel, Jonathan Bishop, struck up a conversation with me over a discussion about a can opener in the self-catering kitchen that neither of us could figure how to operate.  He was from Lancaster, England, but had spent many a summer’s holiday with his parents as a lad and was a wealth of information about places to visit and intriguing sights to see.

I told him about my plans to take a ferry the following day to Iona.  He had, of course, been there once before and was providing a treasure trove of great tips.  As he explained it’s various virtues he expressed a desire to return himself one day.  I asked him if he would like to come along with me the following day.  After considering my offer for a minute or two (and mentally sizing me up, determining if I was reputable or something) much to my delight, he replied, ‘What the heck, why not? Thanks for the invite!’ We eagerly caught the 9:20 ferry the following morning and the adventure began!

He was very nice company and quite the conversationalist as it turned out.  I loved listening to his stories and the wealth of interesting facts he consistently offered with ease and confidence.

As we headed out of the harbor the views of the town from that ferry heading west out into the bay were great too.  We passed DunOllie castle and Dogstack rock on the right, not far from the hostel (and which I also explored the following day).  As we ventured further west we also sailed past the Isle of Kerrerra on the left.

Our ferry ride took us to the Isle of Mull where we would then have to drive a few miles to the other end of the Isle to take yet another ferry at Fiahnnport a short distance further to Iona.

Just before we landed on the Isle of Mull yet another castle came into view out on a point.  Absolutely stunning, don’t you think?

IMG_0481

Before we headed across the Isle I just had to get a bit closer to that castle and check it out, although I didn’t have time to tour inside.

I discovered it was a Maclean castle!  Then we drove about 45 minutes or so through this gorgeous glen complete with little tiny wild orchids and other miniature alpine type wildflowers dotted across the landscape.

Soon we arrived at the next ferry landing where we had to park the car and hoof it the rest of the way.

We also had to wait for the ferry just long enough to sample (and devour) a small cup of freshly caught crabmeat from a small roadside seafood shack while we enjoyed the colorful rock formations and the contented free range sheep.  Oh doo!

Before we knew it we were aboard the small ferry and rapidly approaching the small & quaint harbor landing just a hop, skip and jump away on Iona.

We were blessed with blue skies and the promise of a wonderful day of exploring its treasures of abbeys and sacred graveyards where the ancient kings of Scotland are buried in their final resting places.

IMG_0505

After strolling past a few houses and local businesses the first Old ruins we encountered was the Nunnery.

A bit further and the ancient and beautifully restored and lovingly maintained Abbey came into view front and center stage!

IMG_0523

IMG_0525

IMG_0533

IMG_0543

The cloister adjacent to the church had beautiful carvings on every pillar.  Many were painstakingly carved anew with all the fine masonry details replicated for many that had deteriorated over the centuries.  The workmanship was absolutely amazing, intricate and perfect in their execution.

Also, along the walls of the walkways surrounding the cloister stood upright gravestones of Crusader Knights, clergymen and saints.  Very impressive headstones, each telling a story of their own. In addition small, but no less signify the finds in every nook and cranny.

IMG_0573

IMG_0575

I can can only imagine how many buried headstones there must be hidden here and which could be revealed in this iconic and ancient graveyard!  So many must be hiding under the grassy mounds of wildflowers!

IMG_0588

To allow all of the beauty and reverence we had just witnessed at the Abbey, Jonathan and I decided to take a stroll to the northern tip of the Isle to see if we could find a hostel we heard was situated out on the point.

There it was, nestled in a wildflower pasture, overlooking the ocean and some incredible white sand beaches with turquoise water lapping at its edges.

We sat and enjoyed the view for quite awhile before deciding it was probably time we started walking back to catch the ferry to the mainland.

I think I found another hostel I definitely need to return to once or twice more in the future sometime in order to really experience its tranquility and ponder spiritual matters while I do so.  Seems such an appropriate place to do so.

IMG_0518

We returned to the landing, stopping at the Low Door for a latte and a bit of chocolate for refreshment, enjoying once again the isle’s crystal clear waters while we waited for the ferry to take us back to the reality of the mainland.

IMG_0604

We arrived back in Oban just in time for a nice dinner on the pier at a simply divine restaurant called E.E. Usk and enjoyed some deliciously divine freshly caught hake with mussel sauce and a Caol Isla whisky,  finished off with a melt in your mouth piece of lemon cheesecake.  (Sorry, but I forgot to take pictures of the food; as I was totally emersed in the moment.)

As we finished our meal we were entertained by the ever changing masterpiece of a sunset.  The perfect ending to a perfect day visiting a perfectly wonderful sacred site….

IMG_0609

IMG_0617

Then we casually strolled back to the hostel, enjoying the lights of town, reveling in the experiences, sights and sensations we had both enjoyed that fine day on the Isle of Iona.

Farewell & Final Blog Post…

Writing a travel blog and sharing my adventures with all of you here has been a whole lot of fun. I can’t believe, however, that I have come to the end of my stories and pictures. And I’m sorry to tell you but this post will be the last one that I write. I will still be travelling, but will no longer be blogging about it. It’s been fun, I’ve learned a lot, made a lot of friends, and it’s been an adventure in itself.

My granddaughter, Nichole, was right when she suggested I give it a try about 2 1/2 years ago. She encouraged me to share my interesting stories on a blog explaining to me that there would be a whole bunch of people “out there” that would love to hear the stories and read my blog if I took the time to write it.

There certainly have been a lot of people “out there” who are interested and who seem to be quite entertained; she was right. I have gathered dedicated “followers”; some that I know and others who are total strangers from scattered corners of the planet. So interesting. I really appreciate their support and encouragement.

Since returning home from the trip I’ve been earnestly trying to get the last of the adventures blogged in chronological order. That’s a lot of places! I’m getting tired. You must be too! Although it’s been worth it, writing a blog requires an inordinate amount of work, dedication, disciplined daily effort, stamina, ideas and time!

I have enjoyed sharing my adventures with you and have posted a whole bunch of photos, told a few stories and shared a lot of information I’ve gathered along the way. Hopefully, it has served to not only entertain you; but also inspired you to venture out and do a little travelling yourself. Maybe you are unable to travel and like to travel along vicariously; that’s wonderful too! Maybe I’ve given someone the courage to venture out on their own, travelling solo, as I often do.

There is so much to see and do in this wonderful world. Go live it and experience it your way, in whatever fashion you desire. If I had to wait until someone else had the time, the money and the desire to go with me, I probably wouldn’t have seen a fraction of what I’ve experienced and seen so far; I’d still be waiting. Life is too short for that. Go find it, even if it means going by yourself – you’ll soon be making friends along the way!

I sincerely hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for coming along for the ride on this blog with me and reading it.

What follows is the last story about the final days of my 4 1/2 month travels in Ireland, Scotland, England & Wales 2017:

One More Little Taste of Each ~ Wales, Ireland & Scotland ~ Before I Head Home

It was September 8th, my last day in Wales. I started the day early at about 9 o’clock because I had a reservation on a train to take me to the top of Snowdon Mountain.

I arrived at the Snowdon Mountain Railway station and was soon ushered aboard a railcar pushed by a diesel locomotive named George. Soon we began our hour-long ascent to the summit!

From the moment we left the station the train began the journey upwards into the clouds.  According to their website:

“This is a fabulous land of faeries and giants and kings. For centuries Welsh princes held council here. It is a land rich in alpine flowers and rare ferns left behind the retreating ice age and it is dotted with ruins that chronicle the history of long lost communities. These ancient mountains thrust upwards by volcanic forces 450 million years ago, once towered 10,000 metres. Over eons, the wind and rain and successive ice ages have sculpted them to their current form.”

Soon after the train left Llanberis station the track crossed the first of two viaducts across the Afon Hwch river and offered a wonderful view of the waterfall plunging into the gorge below.

As we emerged into open ground, I would have had a first glimpse of the peak of Snowdon, but its peak was shrouded in clouds! The train soon passed Car Esgob, Bishops Field and the ruined Hebron Chapel before starting its final summit ascent in earnest amongst spectacular countryside.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_7446A lot of people hike up to the summit on Snowdon. I admire their abilities and stamina and am extremely grateful that I can ride a train, otherwise, I would not be able to see the summit.

Including stops at the passing loops, the train takes an hour to climb to the summit and an hour to descend again, at an average speed of around 5 mph. It is is a narrow gauge rack and pinion mountain railway and steadily, but slowly, moves along for 4.7 miles offering up beautiful scenic vistas to enjoy all the while.

IMG_7475We arrived at the summit station, disembarked, walked through the Visitor Centre to the outside and then followed the rock stairs up to the brass marker.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Since we were shrouded in clouds, our vistas were limited and could barely see down to the train tracks, let alone the lakes and landscapes way below. I have pulled a picture off of the trains’ website and posted below so at least we can see what it would have looked like if it had been clear. Quite a view I must say! Will have to go back and try another time.snowdon summit

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We started back down the mountain clearing the clouds about halfway down and the vistas opened up once again. Behind us Snowdon is still quite dark and ominous looking.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On the way down we passed another steam train headed up the mountain. Before long we were pulling into the station and the ride was over.  Sure was a fun one!

The sun was shining brightly in Llanberis at noon. I spent the rest of the afternoon at the hostel doing domestic chores like laundry and sorting out my luggage. The following morning I would be taking the ferry across the Irish Sea to Dublin. I also had to clean out the rental car I’d been using since June and after driving it for over 6,200 miles. (That’s a lot of miles; I’ve loved every one of them!) I finished off the day with good traditional local fare for my supper and enjoyed a beautiful rainbow while doing so.  It was a perfect day!

I had a few more days left in September on my itinerary. I wanted to use them wisely, so I returned to a couple of my favourite haunts to see some of my favourite people one more time before I headed back home to America.

After an uneventful ferry ride back to Ireland, I rented another car and made a beeline to Northern Ireland to see my good Frew friends for a few days…Deirdre, Heather – the whole Frew girl lot! I had some additional special personal time together with both Deirdre and Heather, exploring a few new sights. Deirdre, and her wonderful little great-granddaughter, Lilly, took me to the waterfalls at Glenariff and then we drove along the northern coastline near Carnlough and Glenarm. Beautiful!

Heather treated me to a visit to her sister’s fabulous tea room near Armagh.

All the “Frew girls” near Ballymena are always a delight to see. It’s a real hoot to get together and spend time with each other (usually  laughing our heads off!)

After spending a week or so in Ireland, I spontaneously decided at the last minute to change my plans. My sister, Sue, and her husband, George, had arrived in London a few weeks earlier and had been travelling north to Scotland while I was exploring Wales. We didn’t think we would see each other while we were both in the UK at the same time. That was until I decided to surprise them!

After conspiring with my cousin Lindsay in Aberdeen, I drove back to Dublin, returned the rental car, took the ferry back to Holyhead, rented another car and then proceeded to drive all the way to Aberdeen to his house arriving the same day that my Sue and George did.

That was a long drive, let me tell you! I didn’t arrive in Aberdeen until the well after midnight. While I was driving they arrived in Aberdeen, had dinner with our cousin Lindsay and made plans for the following day to go visit a castle or two. When they arrived at Lindsay’s front door in the morning, I went out the back door and circled round to the front, and then waited for a couple of minutes for them to get a bit settled, then I rang the doorbell.

Lindsay commented to Sue & George, “Oh, I hope you don’t mind; a neighbour lady friend of mine heard we were going to visit a castle and wondered if she could come along. Do you mind if she joins us?”

“Sure, the more – the merrier!” my sister replied. He opened the door and invited me in, pretending to introduce his “neighbour friend” and boy you should have seen the look of surprise and delight when they realized it was me. They couldn’t believe it and were quite surprised!  We all had such a great time together; a special “family heritage, ancestry” time exploring castles we have ancestral ties to with each other for a couple of days.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

First, we visited Fraser Castle, the Clan that our Frew ancestors are associated with. We visited another castle at Braemar that Sue and I share ancestral connections to and we also toured Craigievar Castle just because it’s one of my favourites and also because I was sure they would absolutely love it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Spending a little extra special time with each of my favourite people at the end of a very special trip was the perfect way to end it.

IMG_8286Well, like they say, all good things shall come to an end…

I have had a fun time sharing my travel adventures here on this blog.  Thanks for reading it, sharing it with friends and family and coming to read the posts on my blog.  Happy Trails!  ~ Claudia

Wales – Part Five ~ Swallow Falls at Bets-y-Coed, Conwy Castle & Ancient Llys Rhosyr

map“Another wonderful day for exploring,” I thought to myself as I rose from my slumber on the 7th of September. I decided to go the opposite direction than I had gone the day before to visit yet another impressive castle – Conwy.

I drove up the canyon from Llanberis to Pen-y-Pass and then down the other side to a nice little woodsy town called Bets-y-Coed just to see what was there and what I might find along the way. I was pleasantly surprised.

Along the road, interesting looking and quaint IMG_7174places to eat, drink, sleep and be merry were scattered here and there amongst the gorgeous landscapes. They looked rather inviting. Here’s one in particular that falls into the “interesting” category; I’m not even sure it’s currently open, but it sure looks like it’s seen its share of happy times, happy travellers and has plenty of stories it could tell!

IMG_7172Another one, Tyn-Y-Coed, looked inviting and pleasant and one that has been here awhile. Across the road was a really neat old horse-drawn carriage on display in the car park. What a ride on these back roads that must have been in its day!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A bit further down the road which followed the twisting river downhill, I came upon another interesting inn, complete with its own set of waterfalls!

What a beautiful and refreshing spot this was!IMG_7177

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_7189As I came up the staircase from the rivers’ gorge below and passed through the gates of Swallow Falls, I noticed this sign; what a perfect reminder of why I love to travel and see new “things.”  It expresses exactly what I mean when I tell people I love to travel and see beautiful things.  “Things” I refer to are the people, the places, memories, pictures, feelings, smiles…  This gorgeous waterfall made me smile and laugh, caught my breath and helped to remind me that it just doesn’t get much better than this. What a lucky girl I am!

The town Bets-Y-Coed was a nice little bustling place nestled in the woodland glen with the river winding through it. I didn’t stay long, however, I only stopped long enough to get some fuel in the car and enjoy some baby horses grazing & lazing in a field.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Nearby, the bridge which spans the River Conwy exclaims it was built the same time the Battle of Waterloo occurred in 1815!IMG_7192

I drove another 14 miles or so north toward the ocean following the Conwy river and arrived at Conwy Castle near the mouth. The castle dominates the entrance to Conwy, immediately conveying its strength and power. The majestic suspension bridge connecting the castle with the main peninsula still guards the main approach to the castle at the river as it always has.IMG_7308

IMG_7367

I had briefly visited Conwy earlier in the summer in mid-June. I spent the night at the delightful hostel up on the hill just above the walled town. I only had one night, however, and only enough time to quickly check out the town before getting back on the road heading north. I knew I would be coming back to it about 3 months later and now I here I was. IMG_7222It’s a really interesting little town with a very interesting castle. Here’s an illustration of how it’s laid out.

Conwy Castle and the town are surrounded by a well-preserved wall. A similar town wall exists at Caernarfon but is far less complete. Conwy’s wall maintains the town’s medieval character. It was built about the same time as Caernarfon by King Edward I in about 1283 and was part of a plan to surround Wales in an iron ring of castles to subdue the rebellious Welsh population.

Below is a picture of the back side of the castle, at low tide, and from across the river. This massive castle has eight great towers.IMG_1677IMG_7210IMG_7211First a glimpse from a painting of what the castle looked like long, long ago.

Now for the front of the castle and the inside. I got my ticket and made my way up the side of the steep rock face embankment toward the entrance.

In the photo below, notice the zig-zagging path the visitors are following up to the arched entrance on the right-hand side. Directly below the arch is what remains of another massive stone structure; a stone ramp which is now gone.
IMG_7388Like Caernarfon castle, Conwy also had a very long steep stone ramp with a drawbridge at the top of the ramp directly across from the arched entrance. Between the stone ramp and the arched entrance, the wooden drawbridge could be raised if under attack, leaving an insurmountable open gap. They had a very handy interpretive panel nearby to describe and show what it would have looked like.

Below, looking down Castle Street, is what the town of Conwy looks like from the entrance arch of the castle…

IMG_7218

IMG_7221Through the next arched doorway, we’ll enter the castle’s exterior walls and proceed inside to see its interior courtyard.

IMG_7226IMG_7227Interesting inner courtyard; it’s narrower than I imagined and with so many more large rooms all around the perimeter of the castle walls than expected. Lots and lots of rooms and many levels to ascend and explore! Let’s start this exploration with the Northwest Tower…and climb to it’s top.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The views of the town, river and harbour below, and surrounding countryside in the distance, from the top of the Northwest Tower, were commanding!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_7246While I was up so high, it was great to walk along the tops of the rooms and curtain walls gaining a birdseye view of what lies below.

 

Like Caernarfon, the signage and interpretive panels were very artistic, informative, maintained in good shape, and well placed, making them easy to read, understand and follow.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The views from the top were astounding!

IMG_7254

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is so much to see in this place, feels never-ending as you weave your way through each tower, each room, each connecting passage.  Lots of fun! This place is huge and has everything, even a couple of baby dragons!

One can spend hours wandering around this castle, and I did. So much so I was working up an appetite, so since I had my fill of castle exploring I left and walked down into town and into the harbour to find some fresh fish ‘n chips for lunch to eat by the water’s edge.

IMG_7313

While I was sitting on the dock eating that yummy fish, I noticed that the smallest house in Britain was right there before my eyes! It’s absolutely tiny! I’ve seen playhouses bigger than this place! IMG_7371People have actually lived in there? I paid a pound to enter and could barely turn around inside. Below is a photo collage of what it looks like inside. it was all of about 6 feet deep and 5 foot wide with a single bed above accessible by a ladder.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I continued walking around the town, eyeing the wares in the windows (luckily I had eaten my lunch and so was able to resist the tempting delights below)…

IMG_7314…when I came upon a very old building maintained by the National Trust, Aberconwy House, a 15th century Merchant’s House. Tree-ring analysis of the roof timbers shows that the trees were felled c. 1417–1420. This dating makes it one of the oldest, datable houses in Wales and exemplifies the importance of the building. Ooooh! This could be an interesting little slice of history to go look at and experience!

It has an interesting style of construction with the big timbers on top, the stonework on the lower level, and with the top floor being jettied and the overhanging structure supported on corbel stones, what is said to be “a mark of prosperity.” The entrance to the living quarters is at the top of the stone stairs. Accessible by the arched doorway at lower left, the basement underneath is the Merchant’s Shop.

Upon entry in the living quarters, we’re greeted by volunteer tour guides in the main part of the house and the dining room.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We then proceeded with the tour into the kitchen in the adjoining room.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After the kitchen, we climbed the stairs to the top of the house where the living room and bedrooms were. They had the whole place laid out with authentic furnishings, artwork and one could really get a feel for how the people lived and interacted with one another inside their home at various times throughout its history.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The bedrooms were quite comfy looking and offered some glimpses into how the place is constructed with waddle and daub.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We finished the tour down in the shop below the house and headed back outside through the arched doorway at street level.

IMG_7365

The rest of the afternoon I spent driving around the countryside exploring many roads. I ended up heading over to the Isle of Anglesey near a remote beach and came upon an ancient site of the Welsh princes at  Llys Rhosyr.IMG_7390

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was getting late in the day so I started heading back toward the hostel at the base of Snowdon. When I return to Wales one day, I would really like to concentrate my explorations out on the Isle of Anglesey as I didn’t allow for it on this trip. They have some absolutely wonderful beaches, lighthouses, windmills and a few more very interesting buildings, including another castle, Beaumaris, that I would love to visit and an old burial tomb like the one in Newgrange in Ireland. So many things to see, so little time!

Tommorrow morning we’ll head up Snowdon Mountain to its summit on the steam train. That’s going to be an adventure you won’t want to miss!  Until then… happy trails!

 

Wales – Part Four ~ Caernarfon Castle & the Welsh Highland Railway

IMG_6759I was snuggled up real cozy at the YHA Snowdon Llanberis hostel on the morning of September 6th. The hostel was nestled at the base of Snowdonia Mountain. I opened my eyes, peeked out the window from my warm bed and pinched myself; what an idyllic location! I noticed it was a bit misty outside, but, was glad that at least it wasn’t raining! I was excited about exploring this new territory in oh-so-many-ways. The guidebooks & travel articles I read, as well as some personal experiences that friends have shared, have revealed that there are a lot of things I would like to see and experience here in Northern Wales.

After a satisfying breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast, I decided to go for a walk along the edge of the nearby lake, Llyn Pardan, to kick start my morning. Along the way, I thoroughly enjoyed the company of some very friendly local swans who quickly swam over to me greeting me curiously as I strolled.

 

Since it was my first full day in this area and I had so many things I wanted to see and do the next three days, I began prioritizing them. For instance, there is a steam railway in Llanberis which travels up Snowdonia Mountain right to the summit! As you might imagine, it is quite popular, therefore requiring the purchase of tickets at least a couple of days in advance.

Since riding that particular steam train was a top priority I made sure I purchased my ticket straightway. I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the first run in the morning on the very last day I would be staying in town.  That was lucky! In the future, I will definitely go online and purchase them a lot sooner instead of waiting until I got there as I almost didn’t get one at all during my stay! That could have proved to be quite disappointing!

Another attraction I wanted to see was Caernarfon Castle. Luckily it was only about 7 miles away along a beautiful country road from where I was staying in Llanberis so after saying farewell to the swans, I jumped in the car and began the beautiful drive west in the sunshine that had broken through. In no time at all, I was standing right in front of that mighty impressive castle right at the water’s edge!

IMG_6762

It appeared in person just as the castle’s website had described it:

“A brute of a fortress. Caernarfon Castle’s pumped-up appearance is unashamedly muscle-bound and intimidating. Picking a fight with this massive structure would have been a daunting prospect. By throwing his weight around in stone, King Edward I created what is surely one of the most impressive of Wales’s castles. Worthy of World Heritage status no less.”IMG_6761

Like so many, it also had previously been the location of a Norman motte and bailey castle and before that, a Roman fort. The river and easy access to the sea made the banks of the River Seiont an ideal spot for King Edward’s monster of a castle with its polygonal towers; the Eagle Tower being the most impressive!

 

IMG_6848

The castle and its walled city were built in 1283 and it amazes me that they are still standing despite having been ruinous for a large number of those years!IMG_6911

It’s a fun little town to walk around both inside and out. I am so grateful that people had the foresight to preserve these beautiful architectural treasures for future generations.

The parking area on the right in the photo below is where all the ships and shipping activities flourished in the past. Rather quiet now with just parked cars! It used to bustle!IMG_6775

 

IMG_6880Like so many castles I have had the pleasure to visit on this trip, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Caernarfon Castle also holds ancestral connections for me. Edward I, King of England (1239 – 1307) built and lived in this castle and he is my 20th great-grandfather  Geez, it just gives me goosebumps when I make these discoveries!!!! 

I didn’t realize this fact until just now, as I write this blog and therefore didn’t know it while I was visiting the castle. Usually, before I visit a castle I check my family tree in Ancestry to discover whether or not the person who built the castle was an ancestor of mine. I didn’t check ahead of time because I didn’t realize I had any family connections in Wales. However, when the thought occurred to me to at least check now, although after the fact – lo and behold! – I did have a connection! Amazing!

I suppose I should be getting quite used to this by now, but it never ceases to impress upon me how complex my ancestry is; how many golden ancestral threads crisscross the countryside of this island. It’s like my ancestry DNA is weaving its own beautiful tapestry with a thread from each place containing all the individual pieces of splendour and history from each location and each person in my family tree.

I cannot recommend highly enough nor encourage you more to trace your roots. Tracing your family history and visiting the actual locations they come from is such a unique and wonderfully fulfilling experience. Sure, it takes a little work to figure out who your ancestors are (and that can be quite fun in itself) and it also takes some more time to map out where they came from, but it’s oh-so-worth-it!  Doing so has really helped me to learn a lot more about history, my ancestors and most importantly, myself, who I am and where I come from.

So….anyway, back to this castle – one that one of my great grandpas from way-back-when built in 1283…   It’s pretty amazing both inside and out. Let’s take a detailed look.

I walked around the outside perimeter and also walked around and through the small quaint city inside the walls while I waited for the castle doors to open for the day. The city had all kinds of interesting buildings and shops, a town square called the Maes, churches and many busy little side streets that were fun to explore.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

IMG_6814

No matter what angle I took a picture from, the castle constantly appears formidable and takes centre stage. The view above is taken from the town square, ‘the Maes,’ and the big archway opening on the left side of the castle is called Queen’s Gate. There used to be a stone ramp that led up to it from the quay, but it’s long gone.

Below are pictures which were taken from the Queen’s Gate arch looking both into the interior of the castle, and looking back down to the Maes.

 

King’s Gate, the main entrance, is about halfway down the right side of the castle walls. After getting all of these great pictures of the outside, I ended up at the castle doors just at the right time to be greeted by a friendly face who was opening the doors and welcoming his guests to the castle.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Off I went exploring further inside after purchasing my concessionaires discount ticket! (I love being a senior citizen!)

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I climbed to the top of the towers… and there were a lot of them!  I think I counted about 9 and some of them were about ten stories high at their rooftop levels! I got my exercise that day… The views from atop were outstanding and magnificent.  My favourites!

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All throughout the interior of the towers and rooms throughout the castle were numerous displays and exhibits, such as The Royal Welsh Fusiliers Regimental Museum,

IMG_6836

where you will find a wealth of original exhibits with film, sound and models, telling the story of over 300 years of service by Wales’ oldest infantry regiment.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_6856There was also this display of all of the main characters throughout the course of the castle’s history set on a chess board. The white pieces represent the English; the red represents the Welsh. It was a very interesting way of presenting a very dry subject and it was fun to walk around and intermingle amongst them.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_6888

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Then there was the King’s bedroom in another tower….IMG_6905

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_6909It was a wonderful castle to tour; one of the best I’ve been to, actually. They had really good audiovisual equipment, professional and updated contemporary signage. Their displays were extensive and quite informative.

After visiting such a massive structure, however, I was ready for something a little bit smaller, kind of cozy, and gentile.  So, I got back in the car and headed inland this time and down the road to another wonderful spot, the quaint village of Beddgelert. Straightway I found a handy parking place right next to a perfect outdoor cafe with riverside seating where I enjoyed a delicious lunch while listening to the flowing and rippling water nearby.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After a very satisfying meal, I took off on foot exploring across the bridges, down the streets and on the pathway to an unusual grave.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_7002Next, I walked to the top of the town where the train station is, IMG_7001bought a roundtrip ticket and boarded a steam train bound for Porthmadog.

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was a really cool old train which meandered through the glen following the river most of the way, going through tunnels and blowing its whistle. I felt like a little kid and enjoyed it tremendously.IMG_7066

 

 

 

 

As we approached Porthmadog, the ground levelled out and we were travelling through farmland looking at the mountain ranges on either side of the lush valley.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Entering Porthmadog was an event in itself. The train tracks go right down the main street to the station and vehicular traffic as well as foot traffic is barricaded so the train can drive down Main street and over to the station.

IMG_7071

Once we arrived at the station, all passengers disembarked and stretched their legs while the Engine went down to the turntable to reposition itself.  It also gave us a chance to have a good look at the engine that had been pulling us.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I mosied around the train station for a little while I waited, grabbed a fresh coffee and a lovely little welsh pastry to go with it, and discovered quite a few things of interest close at hand. That station was right at the harbour’s edge, in the centre of this bustling little seaside town.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There were several very interesting and beautiful steam trains to marvel at.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_7068Soon it was time to board the train again to head back to Beddgelert. The First Class cabin had pretty lush and comfortable looking seating, but you couldn’t open the window and let the wind blow in your hair! I’ll take the latter, thank you!

We began the ascent up into the mountains and enjoyed the beautiful scenery once again in reverse order.

When I arrived in Beddgelert again, I still had just the right amount of sunlight left in the day to take the same road through Pen-y-Pass as I had the day before, retracing the way I had come. There was some absolutely gorgeous scenery through there and I wanted to take my time, stop at every turnout and take a picture or two this time through. The day before I had been driving all day long and was looking for my next hostel so I hadn’t had time to stop but once or twice.  Now I had plenty of time to stop, much more sunlight for my photos, and much more time to spend enjoying and capturing nature’s grandeur and beauty.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was a delightful day, full of fun train rides, beautiful scenery and an outstanding historic castle. Who could ask for more? Not I! My day had been chock full of wonderful surprises and discoveries and I was grateful for them all.

I returned to my hostel nestled up on the side of the hill at the base of Snowdonia. I treated myself to a serving of Bangers and Mash supper that the hostel offered for dinner that night, chased it with a nice dram of Scottish whisky and then my day was complete.  I tucked away for the evening in my cozy bed back in my “room with a view” in anticipation of the next day – yet another castle to explore, wonderful waterfalls and an ancient archaeological site to visit!

 

 

Wales – Part Three ~ Off to Snowdonia National Park in Northern Wales

The 5th of September was another rainy and dreary day in Pembrokeshire Wales when I packed up my car and started driving north for about 150 miles toward my next stop, Snowdonia National Park.map

IMG_6607I drove along the coast for quite a while at the beginning of the drive, and then I ran into some heavy traffic I had to pull over and wait for…

21640583_1680793351945355_1876317576_oAlthough it rained most of the early part of the day I did manage to sneak in a couple of rain-free stops in some cute little coastal fishing villages along the route…

…First at a very small place called Abercastle…

A bigger place called Fishguard…

IMG_6612

IMG_6636…and a relaxing place called Newport Town.IMG_6646

So far I had only driven less than one-third of the miles I needed to drive that day so I continued on up the road. I had gone only 2 miles further when I noticed a sign for the small village of Nevern. I had heard of this place before and remembered what my host in Haverfordwest had told me about the church there. Evidently, it’s a very old church and inside the churchyard is a very unusual Yew tree; one that purportedly bleeds red! Now I just had to go see this for myself!

Sure enough, there was the Yew tree, just like they said, and it’s sap does bleed red! Amazing!

IMG_6663There were quite a few interesting things about this small, quaint, and off-the-beaten-track church; for instance, this ornately carved Celtic cross…

The Great Cross at St. Brynach’s church in Nevern is one of the most perfect examples of ancient Celtic Stone in all of Wales. The total height is 13 feet and two feet wide. Experts date the Cross as late 10th or early 11th century. All four sides of the column are carved with interlacing celtic and key patterns.

Inside, this small church held even more interesting things…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For instance, along one windowsill were some interesting carvings in the stone…

IMG_6682

IMG_6681

IMG_6684

IMG_6699

Back outside, I still had some exploring to do around the grounds…

IMG_6656…the first interesting thing to see was the Mounting Block; the stone steps were used by gentry to mount and dismount their horses in a dignified manner when attending church services. They were once common in this country in the 18th century.IMG_6658I made my way around the outside of the church…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Afterwards, I climbed back in the car, drove over the bridge,  through the colorful village and got back on the main road heading north.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_6719Although the traffic was extremely slow at times when following farm vehicles, I remained vigilant and covered the next 60-some miles along the coastline until the road turned inland and dove into forested mountains on the edge of the National Park boundaries. What a beautiful sight appeared when I reached Coedy Brenin Forest Park.IMG_6723

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I followed the road further to a beautiful lake, Llyn Gwynant, with its beautiful array of waterfalls at its head.IMG_6732

IMG_6733With only about 10 miles left to drive I turned left onto the A4086 and went over the steep Pen-y-Pass with Snowdonia Mountain still on my left. It was a beautiful drive through the gorge with its rivers, waterfalls, giant rocks and towering peaks.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_6745At the base of Snowdonia, in the small village of Llanberis, I found my way up the back streets to the YHA Snowdonia Hostel nestled against the hillside where I would spend the next 3 days while I explored the environs around me! What a great location! I had no idea Snowdonia would be so scenic and quite so breathtaking!

IMG_7570There’s a lot to see and do in this area. In the next blog post, we will visit nearby Caernarfon, where there is a fantastic, historic castle where the Prince of Wales is crowned. We’ll also start exploring the many lines of the Welsh Steam Railways! It’ll be fun; you won’t want to miss it!

Until then…happy trails!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wales – Part Two ~ Saint David’s Cathedral

Wales – Part Two ~ Saint David’s Cathedral

To read my most recent blog post, click on the link below:
http://globetrekkergrandma.com/2017/11/12/wales-part-two-saint-davids-cathedral

mapOn the first of September, I left Cardiff and headed toward the most westerly portion of Wales. Since there weren’t any hostels available around there, I rented a room for 3 days from a very nice woman in a private home in the town of Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire for 3 days. What a ‘comfy-cozy’ place that was!

A friend of mine, Meinir, who also loves to travel and who I first met at the Eiffel Tower a couple of years ago, lives nearby. This was the perfect opportunity for the two of us to reconnect and to get to go exploring together in her neck of the woods. She took me to St. David’s where we saw the beautiful and ornate cathedral and the ruins of the Bishops’ Palace. She travels all over the place but hadn’t visited this place since she was a young school girl and was excited to see it again after all these years.

We travelled to the tip of Wales, seeing coves and small harbours along the way,

IMG_6213

until we arrived at the center of town where all sorts of delightful tastes are to be found!

IMG_6224

IMG_6228

We enjoyed a really yummy sandwich and salad combination for lunch at an outdoor cafe. Afterward, we were fueled up and ready for some exploring within the confines of the cathedral grounds.

Since the 6th century, there has been a church on this site.  For the past 1500 years, prayer and worship have been offered here and continues to this day. The monastic community was founded by Saint David, Abbot of Menevia, who died in 589.  This cathedral is quite large and the grounds surrounding these enormous buildings are also quite extensive!IMG_6327

IMG_6298From the car park, we started out with a bit of a stroll down to the backside of the cathedral working our way around to the front of the building…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_6253

 

 

Quite a piece of construction; very impressive! From the view above, I turned to the left, and on the other side, I saw the ruins of the Bishop’s Palace as shown below…IMG_6254

IMG_6246We headed toward the entrance admiring the soaring tower and the many turrets and ancient windows.  IMG_6245

IMG_6357Once inside, the cathedral begins to reveal its many treasures starting with the Nave.

 

IMG_6359

 

The nave is the oldest surviving part of the cathedral and built in a Transitional Norman style. Originally it didn’t have seats and was used for indoor processions. Each of the rounded arches is carved with a different pattern.

The stone screen, or ‘pulpitum,’ which divides the nave from the choir is quite unique. The stone carvings were beautiful.IMG_6369

 

IMG_6365As luck would have it, a wedding had just taken place and we were lucky enough to get a picture of the lovely bride and her attendants.

IMG_6366

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_6370

IMG_6375
Skeleton vaulting with murals inside the ‘pulpitum’

Inside the ‘pulpitum’ is skeleton vaulting decorated with murals, it is thought that these are remnants of an earlier screen absorbed by the present one.

 

IMG_6379

As we wandered around the vast interior, around a corner we discovered the cathedrals’ Treasury! “There ought to be some very interesting things to look at within its confines,” I thought.

Sure enough! I was right.  According to the Cathedrals’ very well-written interpretive signs and brochures:

“Treasures of the Bishops
A variety of objects, reflecting the power and status of the Bishops of St Davids, were discovered in the Cathedral graves of four early Bishops. Amongst these were rings which are now on display in the Treasury – rings decorated with amethysts which belonged to Bishop Beck and Bishop Carew and a plain gold ring with five notches on it, perhaps intended to remind the wearer of the five wounds of Christ.  Silver Chalices on
show were also buried with Bishops Beck and Carew and date back to the 13th century.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“The croziers or Bishops’ staffs of office are perhaps the greatest of the treasures on display. They are made of copper and gilded and would have been carried by bishops during services 800 years ago. One found in the grave of Bishop Gower is much plainer than the others on display, made of latten, an alloy of copper, zinc, lead and tin, and was specifically made to be buried with the bishop. Medieval coins were found in the grave of Bishop Beck.  They date from the reign of King Edward III (1327-1377).”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_6410

Once again, according to the cathedrals’ sources:

“David was born in the year 500, the son of St Non and a prince of Ceredigion. Legend states that Non gave birth to him on a cliff top during a violent storm. The present cathedral stands on the site of the monastery he founded in the inhospitable area known as ‘Glyn Rhosyn.’ David and his followers lived a simple life; they refrained from eating meat or drinking beer. David’s symbol, now a national symbol of Wales, is the leek.

David rose to become a bishop in the church and made several pilgrimages including one to Jerusalem during which, tradition states, he brought back with him a stone which now sits in an altar in the south transept of the cathedral.

The best-known miracle associated with David is said to have taken place when he was preaching in the middle of a large crowd at the Synod of Llanddewi Brefi. When those at the back complained that they could not hear him, the ground on which he stood is reputed to have risen up to form a small hill so that everyone had a good view. A white dove settled on his shoulder, a sign of God’s grace and blessing.

David died in the year 589.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Right next to St. David’s Shrine and in the middle of the room, is another famous grave, that of Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond (father of King Henry VII) who died in 1456 at the young age of 26.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Nearby was yet another really old stone effigy of Rhys Ap Gruffydd, one of the most successful and powerful Welsh princes.

We wandered around all the nooks and crannies of that multi-faceted building. The ceilings above in each chapel were amazingly intricate. I especially enjoyed the fan-vaulting.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So many interesting carvings and stonework to admire along with heraldic symbols.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_6261After that interesting tour inside the cathedral, we headed back outside and proceeded to cross a very old footbridge as we made our way over to the Bishop’s Palace.IMG_6259

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Bishop’s Palace is as big, if not bigger, than the cathedral! With all it’s many floors and stairwells to follow, it took a lot longer to tour!

According to CADW (the historic environment service of the Welsh Government);

“The whole site sends shivers down the spine. It evokes a period when religion was the order of the day and bishops were powerbrokers par excellence. Lavish decorations, corbels carved as human heads and striking chequerboard stonework are all testament to the wealth and status of these medieval men of religion.

Bishop Thomas Bek undertook significant new building work on the site but it was Bishop Henry de Gower who was responsible for virtually the entire palace we see today. His legacy consists of two great ranges. The east range – the simpler of the two – was the first to be built. This was his private domain. The second, the south range, was much grander and built for stylish entertaining. The great hall, the most impressive chamber in the palace, created the perfect backdrop for banquets.”

I headed into the east range first.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After exploring the lowest levels of the east range, I then turned my concentration to the newer and more opulent south range where all the stylish entertainment occurred.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When I went back downstairs below the Great Hall, there was a very interesting wooden model of the Palace with intricately carved figures and cute little scenes depicting life at the time that you could walk all the way around and look into each room.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_6343

IMG_6328

Elsewhere on the bottom level were huge rooms where a lot of activity used to take place.

What a fantastic tour of both places. Rich with history, outstanding architecture, art and historical figures burial sites.

IMG_6254

We headed up the hill to the Gatehouse above to exit the grounds to start making our way back to Meinir’s house about 40 minutes away.IMG_6244

IMG_6488When we got to her house, her father had prepared a wonderful typical Welsh supper for us and we really enjoyed our last bit of time together in the comfort of their home. What hospitality!

It was a great day spent with Meinir and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to explore with her, learn about her home, meet her family. It’s so much fun to be with a “local” and get the feel a place through their experience. Thank you Meinir!

I stayed in the quaint town of Haverfordwest for a couple more days, but it began raining so I took the opportunity to take care of some domestic chores that were much needed. Things like watching my clothes after travelling constantly for 2 weeks was a good start, also went grocery shopping to restock my stores, and sat inside with the fireplace warming me while I got caught up with blog posts.

When it cleared my host took me around her town while she shopped pointing our many of its charms as we went. We also enjoyed a nice lunch and a yummy coffee at a cafe on the river’s edge in centre of town.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The town had all kinds of interesting shops with unique Welsh ware…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To the top of the town we went to visit the ruins of a small castle.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Inside the main building within the castle walls was the museum, so we ducked in just before closing and were able to see old pictures and relics from days long ago.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was a fun day and an interesting little town and I really enjoyed getting to know some of the local people and how and where they live. The next morning, however, I gathered up my clean clothes,  packed my groceries neatly before stashing them in the car, and started heading north. In my next entry, we’ll be visiting scenic Northern Wales, exploring a couple of more castles, traipsing in the mountains and taking a ride or two on the Welsh Steam Train Railways!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wales – Part One ~ Cardiff Castle

driving mapIMG_5911IMG_5912Driving the roads from Beer to Cardiff on the beautifully sunny last day of August was a breeze. The sky was blue and the roads were clear and uncrowded. The next part of my journey took me to Wales for 9 full days to explore its’ hidden treasures.

IMG_6151Once I arrived in Cardiff and stashed my things at the modern looking hostel, I couldn’t think of anything better I’d rather do than visit the local castle. What an impressive castle and significant one it proved to be!

According to the castles’ website, ‘Cardiff Castle is one of Wales’ leading heritage attractions and a site of international significance. Located in the heart of the capital, within beautiful parklands, the Castle’s walls and fairytale towers conceal 2,000 years of history.’

First, it was in the hands of the Romans from about 45 – 500 AD. They started building forts here on a strategic site with easy access to the ocean nearby! Archaeological excavations made during the 1970s indicate that there were four forts built over time, each a different size. Remains of the Roman wall can be seen today.

Fast forward another 566 years – after the Norman conquest in 1066 – the Castle’s keep was built, re-using the site of the Roman fort. The site was also divided into inner and outer wards, separated by a huge stone wall. The Inner ward was used by the Lord and his family; the Outer Ward contained the Shire Hall, a chapel and houses for the lord’s supporter, the “Knights of Glamorgan.”

This early view of the Castle and Green shows what it looked like before 1777 as well as ancient walls and buildings that were built.IMG_5918 (2)Below, a present-day view of the greens with the castle ‘Keep’ in the center background.IMG_5920

The first Keep on the motte was erected by Robert Fitzhamon, the Norman Lord of Gloucester, concentrating the defensive works into the western half of the site, which became the ‘inner’ ward.

At the northern end of the ward, Fitzhamon built a ‘motte’ 40 feet high. This Keep was surmounted by a timber stockade giving shelter and protection to the wooden buildings which housed the lord, his household and his garrison.

The Castle passed through the hands of many noble families. This is where it gets particularly interesting for me personally.  Yep, you guessed it – another ancestral connection – or two, or three…IMG_5925Henry I “Beauclerc” King of England (1068 – 1135) was my 24th great grandfather. He had several children, including a son named Robert, who, as luck would have it, eventually married Lord Robert Fitzhamon’s daughter, Mabel.

Lord Robert Fitzhamon died of wounds received in battle in 1107, and his heiress daughter, Mabel, married King Henry I’s son, Robert (my 23rd great uncle.)

Afterward, King Henry elevated his son, Robert, to the title of “Earl of Gloucester,” and made him “Lord of Glamorgan,” in 1122. He was lauded on all sides as a brave soldier, a wise statesman and patron of the arts, and is also credited with having built the first stone keep of Cardiff Castle.

Over the years the castle changed hands down through the heirs eventually ending up with the next significant person in my lineage, Gilbert de Clare, in 1217. Gilbert was my 21st great grandfather and the descendant of a noble family which claimed kinship with William the Conqueror. Below is the lineage through my paternal grandfather, William Rose Frew II.

Gilbert Magna Carta DeClare (1182 – 1230)
21st great-grandfather
Richard IV De Clare Eighth Earl of Clare, sixth Earl of Hertford, Seventh Earl of Gloucester (1222 – 1262)
son of Gilbert Magna Carta DeClare
Sir Gilbert Red De Clare Earl of Clare, Earl of Hertford, Earl of Gloucester (1243 – 1295)
son of Richard IV De Clare Eighth Earl of Clare, sixth Earl of Hertford, Seventh Earl of Gloucester
Elizabeth DeClare (1295 – 1360)
daughter of Sir Gilbert Red De Clare Earl of Clare, Earl of Hertford, Earl of Gloucester
William 3rd Earl of Ulster De Burgh Lord of Connaught (1312 – 1346)
son of Elizabeth DeClare
Elizabeth Countess of Ulster DeBurgh (1332 – 1363)
daughter of William 3rd Earl of Ulster De Burgh Lord of Connaught
Thomas Richmond (1384 – 1420)
son of Elizabeth Countess of Ulster DeBurgh
William Richmond (1410 – 1441)
son of Thomas Richmond
William Richmond (1436 – 1502)
son of William Richmond
William Richmond (1502 – 1578)
son of William Richmond
Edmond Richmond (1532 – 1575)
son of William Richmond
Henry Richmond (1555 – 1634)
son of Edmond Richmond
John Richmond (1594 – 1664)
son of Henry Richmond
Capt Edward Richmond (1632 – 1696)
son of John Richmond
John Richmond (1660 – 1740)
son of Capt Edward Richmond
Cyrus Richmond (1693 – 1719)
son of John Richmond
Sylvester Richmond (1737 – 1813)
son of Cyrus Richmond
Ichabod Richmond (1772 – 1841)
son of Sylvester Richmond
Sarah Richmond (1808 – )
daughter of Ichabod Richmond
Hiram Brundage (1835 – 1914)
son of Sarah Richmond
Nancy Anne Brundage (1867 – 1948)
daughter of Hiram Brundage
William Rose Frew II (1885 – 1976)
son of Nancy Anne Brundage
William Kenneth Frew (1917 – 1997)
son of William Rose Frew II
Claudia Louise Frew
You are the daughter of William Kenneth Frew
Gilbert_de_Clare
The Castle stayed in the de Clare family for numerous generations down through Gilbert ‘The Red.’
(Cool! There is a stained glass depiction of my 19th great grandfather!)
IMG_5922The ever-present threat of attacks upon the castle caused him to reconstruct its defences with a great sense of urgency. He constructed a central embattled wall to link the Keep with the south gate and the Black Tower.
The east side of the embattled wall (the outer ward) now provided permanent lodgings for the Knights of Glamorgan, and their grooms and men-at-arms, during their periods of garrison duty.
IMG_5921Armed with all of this rich ancestral history, I began the ascent to the castle Keep on the mound, the one my 21st great grandfather lived in and Lorded over! Wow!IMG_6095
About half-way up the steep stone stairs, the well appeared within its walls.

Once inside, and past the Keep to the inner courtyard, it appeared larger than I had imagined it would be; actually quite spacious.IMG_6101I started climbing the steps and exploring the rooms of the castle, making my way to the very tip top, thinking to myself as I made my way, that my great grandfather many generations ago, stepped through that doorway, hung around in this room, looked out that window…climbed those stairs!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_6117The Keep’s rooftop provided outstanding views of the acreage below and I could just imagine Gilbert standing up here surveying his lands.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_6140

Back down the steep stairs, past the well, and down into the inner ward.

The next section of the castle to explore would be a guided tour through the Apartments’ interior! I was looking forward to this.IMG_5934

The Castle passed through the hands of many noble families until, in 1766, it passed to the Bute family.

The tour lined up outside the doors to the apartments offering close-up views of the gargoyle rainspouts fashioned as various types of animals along its inner roofline edges.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The 2nd Marquess of Bute was responsible for turning Cardiff into the world’s greatest coal exporting port. The Castle and Bute fortune passed to the 3rd Marquess of Bute, who by the 1860s was reputed to be the richest man in the world.

From 1866 the 3rd Marquess employed a genius architect, William Burges, to transform the Castle lodgings. This is where the guided “House Tour” took us. Within the gothic towers, we saw the lavish and opulent interiors, rich with murals, stained glass, marble, gilding and elaborate wood carvings which William Burges created. Each room has its own special theme, including Mediterranean gardens and Italian and Arabian decoration.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

First stop of the tour was the Men’s Winter Smoking Room.

winter smoking room

Every inch of this room was elaborately painted with astrological signs and suns, and figures depicting tales of yore.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_5950As one leaves this room, a scary monster guards its entrance above your head in the ceiling; supposedly to scare the woman away from this man cave!IMG_5955The next room we visited was the Nursery. As in the previous room, childhood tales are depicted on the walls and carvings throughout its interior. nursery

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Just carving this one little intricate corner of the fireplace mantle must have taken awhile to accomplish! Every inch is ripe with characters, animals, nuts, leaves…