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
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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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…

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We also visited the Banqueting Hall…banquet hall

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IMG_5996The Lord Bute’s Bedroom…ButeA very ornate bedroom, with an equally ornate and “blingy” ceiling of crystals and mirrors!

The Lord’s bathroom was also pretty darned fancy!

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We went up to the rooftop to appreciate it’s beautiful garden and was shown a picture of what it looked like in its heydey when full of lush foliage and flowers. The ornately painted tiling was incredibly detailed and exquisitely artistic.

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The last room we visited was the Library…

libraryFollowing the death of the 4th Marquess of Bute, the family decided to give the Castle and much of its parkland, known as Bute Park, to the city of Cardiff. For 25 years, the Castle was home to the National College of Music and Drama. Since 1974, it has become one of Wales’ most popular visitor attractions.

IMG_6061When the tour was finished, there was a great gathering of people outside in the inner courtyard. As luck would have it, about 80 Zulu players along with Queen Mantfombi Dlamini, and her son His Royal Highness Prince Bambindlovu Makhosezwe Zuluabout, Prince Buza, and Princess Nqobangothando had travelled to Cardiff to take part in a re-enactment of the Battle of Isandlwana which occurred around 1879.

This re-enactment marked the 135th celebration of King Cetshwayo’s capture. After his capture, the king was brought back to England where he met Queen Victoria and was reinstated back to KwaZulu-Natal as the King.


It was quite fun to watch the re-enactment, get up close to the Zulu Royalty, and enjoy the festivities.

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What a great spectacle that was! Afterwards, I decided to head back outside the castle walls and walk down their length to the entrance to Bute Park, passing the great corner Tower along the way.

IMG_6163Just past the tower, stone statutes of animals began appearing along the top of the wall, as if they were escaping their environs. That’s when I learned about the “animal wall!”

According to the sign below, “The Animal Wall is one of the most delightful and photographed historic features in Cardiff. It was designed by architect William Burges for the 2nd Marquess of Bute. Burges died before even the structure of the wall was completed and the carving of the animals was not begun until the late 1880s. Architect William Frame brought the animal wall to completion, based on the sketches by Burges. The original wall was located directly in front of the Castle and was decorated with just nine animals.

IMG_6161Later, the castle road needed to be widened and aligned with the new bridge, so the wall was relocated to its present position. Six additional animals were added to its length and are stylistically different than the original 9, which have the characteristic glass eyes.

As I strolled along the length of the wall photographing each critter, a young local girl of about 18 or so noticed me. She stopped to chat and stated that although she has walked this way many a time, she hadn’t actually noticed the animals along its top until she saw me stopping at each one to get a picture! She thanked me for drawing her attention to them and relaying their history. Amazing how one doesn’t notice the things in their own neck-of-the-woods, ‘eh?

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At the end of the wall, the main gate to Bute Park appeared and I stepped through to wander through its pathways.



I saw a lot of beautiful trees, flowers and riverside views…

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That was some introduction to Wales! The history lessons of my ancestral connections to this interesting place are also quite intriguing! It made me wonder with delight of what was yet to come over the course of the next 8 days!

Next, I headed toward the most westerly portion of Wales in Pembrokeshire to explore its reaches, but, as usual, that’s another story for another day… Until the next time! Thanks for reading and following along on my adventures with me ~ Claudia


Beer (Need I say more?)

IMG_5797It was only about an hours’ drive on the morning of August 30th so it didn’t take me any time whatsoever to arrive at my hostel nestled in the East Devon Area of Natural Beauty and the charming and absolutely gorgeous fishing village of Beer!

driving map

The charming hostel snuggled up on the hillside overlooking the town was (as usual) very conveniently located and quite inviting. I was a bit early for checking in, however, so I stowed my refrigerator items in the self-catering kitchen, headed down to the village below and got right to the task of exploring this fascinating little hamlet.

The place was pristine and every lane was adorned with beautiful examples of architecture made out of the local stone – chalk, flint, chert & sand. I worked my way down the winding streets and marvelled at how ingenious they were to incorporate the stream flowing downhill into the landscape serving as a handy watering hole for dogs as they wandered with their owners all the while adding its own rustic charm to the sidewalk

The shops were delightful to peer into with all manner of wonderful and artful items, but it was the architecture and the variety of buildings that really caught my attention. The wonderful thatched roofs for example.

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The numerous stone buildings of every ilk glowing in their respective hues of the rock they were built of or the tidiness of mortar and paint coupled together to create a piece of art just fascinated me.

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IMG_5820About halfway down the main street, I came upon this beautiful church and it beckoned me to peek inside.

IMG_5823Its interior was light and airy, the feeling of spring and hope emanating from every corner with its pink marble columns, honey-coloured pews and woodwork, and beautiful decorations adorning the walls.

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The church’s porch, lawns and garden beds were all ablaze with glorious blossoms.

Naturally, one would guess there might be an establishment (or two, or three) that specialized in beer, and you wouldn’t be disappointed. You can even “Have a Beer in Beer, from the Barrel of Beer!” (Try saying that real fast 3 times!)

At the bottom of the hill, the road ended at the pebbly beach below with all the fishing boats and gear, swimming areas, cliffs and vistas to die for.

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All of this wonderful scenery and fishing gear in abundance! I just had to stop at the local fish market at the landing and pick up something yummy for dinner tonight. How about some fresh scallops and pulled crab?IMG_5798

I took a different route on the way back up the hill to the hostel to put my dinner in the fridge. Along the way, I passed these tidy little fisherman cottages lined up in a row with respective gardens across from each one on the other side of the street.

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IMG_5860Just a mile away was the town of Seaton. The town itself wasn’t much to write home about but I sure enjoyed a nice stroll along the promenade.

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IMG_5865A bit further east of Seaton the Axe River flows into the sea at Axe Yacht Club. I loved the way the currents of the river and ocean combined swirled the rounded rocks into a fascinating formation. Kind of reminded me of a seahorse.

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IMG_5880Working my way from the bottom of the Haven Cliffs to the yacht club, I met this beautiful collie who just loved having to find the rock his owner just threw! Isn’t he just a stunning animal?

IMG_5878IMG_5887Having worked up quite an appetite I made my way back to the hostel and prepared that wonderful fresh seafood so patiently waiting for me. What a scrumptious meal that was!

After dinner, I couldn’t resist one more trip down to the waters edge for a little contemplation and relaxation.IMG_5889IMG_5890Another perfect day to be thankful for, filled with beautiful ocean vistas, scrumptious bounty from the sea, outstanding examples of stone architecture and beautiful blossoms everywhere. I could easily spend a few days in this lovely nook.

Early the next morning I packed up my belongings, however, and headed out with the rising of the sun. Before leaving this beautiful area, I wanted to explore another little cove just a couple of miles west which I had learned about from some fellow travellers staying at the hostel. From the way they described it, I definitely didn’t want to miss seeing it.

It was tucked down a narrow canyon that twisted and turned on a one-track road and at the bottom, this treasure, Branscombe, appeared.IMG_5900


The loop trail into the canyon looked very intriguing and promised to provide some beautiful gems as far as geology was concerned. I’ll definitely return to this place and plan on spending a lot more time doing so!  There was even this adorable thatched roof building right on the beach that I’m sure has quite a menu of wonderful delights to enjoy after walking in the stunning surrounding acres with gorgeous views…ahhhh….I am definitely to return another time.

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It was time to hit the road once again though since I had quite a few miles to cover that day. That’s the last stop in England and what a beauty it was. Next, I headed to Wales to explore that mythical land for the next 9 days. Oh boy! We’re in for a real treat!

Until next time…

Speaking of which, I won’t be writing another post for at least a couple of weeks. I’ve been home now back in Oregon for over a month and trying to get caught up with the blog posts sharing my stories of where I’ve been and what I’ve seen and experienced.

That itch to head down the road doesn’t take me long to want to scratch, however, so I’m off again! I’m headed down through the length of California to La Jolla Shores, getting to visit friends and lots of family members along the way; cousins, sisters, aunts & uncles – the whole gang – and before the weather turns sour and the holidays are a mad rush!

But I’ll be back, you can count on that, armed with many more exciting and fun travel stories to share. Until then… happy trails!

Swanage & the Jurassic Coast

Driving map (2)Another fine day on the southern coast of England presented itself with a bright sunrise on August 29th. The road beckoned so I drove out of Brighton driving due west with the destination of Swanage in mind about 90 miles away.

I was following along the base of some hills in South Downs National Park bordering my route on the right; the ocean to my left. I had only travelled about 20 miles when I noticed I needed some fuel for the car. I rounded a corner and caught a glimpse of some castle towers peeking out over the treetops just beyond the next exit at Arundel. “Looks like the perfect place to find some gas, go for a walk to stretch my legs in the fresh morning air, and what better place to do that – around the grounds of a castle!  Perfect! This exit looks like it has everything I need and could want!”IMG_5648

Arundel Castle


A lot of pathways to follow, according to the map above, and a wonderful subject for an impromptu photo shoot wouldn’t you say? I didn’t really have time to take the guided tour of the inside of the castle, especially since it appeared to be quite extensive and lengthy but it’s supposed to be a very interesting tour. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy walking around the grounds and taking photos of this magnificent and impressively formidable castle.

IMG_5683According to the castles’ website, “There are nearly 1,000 years of history at this great castle, situated in magnificent grounds overlooking the River Arun in West Sussex and built at the end of the 11th century by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel.”

It has been the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for over 850 years.

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IMG_5661This was the site of the original Norman castle. The oldest feature is the Motte, an artificial mound, over 100 feet high from the dry moat, and constructed in 1068. It would have had a wooden structure built on top of it in the beginning.IMG_5664

After the Motte was built, next came the gatehouse two years later in 1070.

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Bevis was a great giant of ancient times, and who, as legend has it, agreed to be the warder of the gate of Arundel Castle. It is said that the Bevis Tower was built to accommodate him.

Bevis Tower

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Hmmm…lions guarding the drawbridge at Bevis Tower; better turn around and go the other way! Eventually, I worked my way back to the courtyard near the front of the castle where the door to enter is located and where the tour inside begins.

Course, I didn’t buy a ticket to go inside, so I just chatted with the guard at the door for a few minutes and then started back down to the entrance gates at the bottom of the hill.

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IMG_5677As I made my way back down, I came upon the rose garden off to the right. I had been so busy looking at the castle on the way up earlier, I hadn’t even noticed there was a garden! Imagine that, me missing a garden! That’s strange, indeed! I can’t imagine how I didn’t smell the aromatic fragrance of their blooms! It was superb; the blossoms filled the air with their profuse perfume in every direction!

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I felt a bit hungry after that nice walk so I decided to stroll through the village outside the castle walls to see what I might find to snack on. The ‘square’ on High Street offered up a wide variety of places to choose from and several items to tempt my tastebuds!

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That small ‘square’ had every kind of shop imaginable including the Butcher,

the Baker…

and where is that Candlestick maker? Okay, no candles that I can see but I’ll take one of those yummy looking puff pastries with the caramelized apple slices in it, please!

Across the street from the Baker on the left side of the street was a delightful little “second hand” shop with all kinds of wonderful things. Once inside, every room on each level of this very old and rickety building was filled with treasures galore to explore!

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It’s probably a good thing my suitcase wasn’t big enough to take all I would have liked, especially that toy horse on wheels!


On the way back to the car I spotted some really cool old lace and pretty pottery too!


The drive west took me through South Hampton, a bustling port, and down through the New Forest National Park lands down into Bournemouth where I hugged the coastline until I came to a small ferry which crosses the narrow channel near Brownsea Island and takes cars & cyclists over to the Studland and Godlingston Heath National Nature Reserve. (Phew! That’s a mouthful!)

It was a cute little ferry that took about 5 minutes to cross the channel over to the nature reserve where the eastern edge of the Jurassic coastline begins.IMG_5713IMG_5714

Not much further to go now, only about 6 miles to Swanage! I wondered what it had in store for me. As I came down the road, it turned near the water’s edge following along a pebbly beach filled with colourful beach chairs & umbrellas. Families were frolicking and splashing in the blue-green water beyond as I entered this little seaside village by the bay.IMG_5763

IMG_5729Across town and slightly up the hill behind it, I found the Swanage Youth Hostel that I would call home for the night. This elegant Victorian house offered fine views across that beautiful bay.

As the sign states, Captain John Anderson, of the SS Great Eastern, built this villa with the proceeds he received for laying the first-ever transatlantic cable from Ireland to America. It’s a nice homey type of place; beautiful wood panelling in the living room, spacious and it has a really comfortable feel about it; thanks, Captain John!


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Before descending back down to the seashore, I noticed a sign pointing uphill from the hostel to a castle! Think I’ll go check it out!

Durlston Castle was a small structure perched on the cliff overlooking the English Channel looking south toward France. The land it sits on, The Durlston National Nature Reserve, is perfect for exploring the Jurassic Coast, a newly designated World Heritage Site that tells a geological story covering 200 million years. Find the Dinosaur footprints! The castle has all kinds of exhibits set up for this very purpose! What I enjoyed the most, however, was the panoramic views from it offered!

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Like Brighton Beach, Swanage is an activity-packed seaside holiday location, but much more relaxed, kicked-back and low key; a bit more my style. It boasts a safe sandy Blue Flag beach, spectacular coastal scenery, high sunshine ratings and festivals galore. After looking at the ocean from above, I decided to head down to the bay and get my tootsies in the water. It looked so inviting!IMG_5748

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Then I started walking along the edge of the bay toward the beach on the other end to see what wonderful treasures this sunny and inviting village would unveil.

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Across the pavement from the beach in a pedestrian-only zone, there were little huts lined up one after the other with colourful doors and which reminded me of storage units one rents to keep ones’ extra stuff in. Turned out they were storage units of sorts. These people keep all of their beach gear here; the BBQ, chairs, tables, cups, silverware, floaties and whatever else one needs for visiting the beach. They rent these coveted units year round. That way they have everything they need, including a refrigerator & microwave, when they head to the beach to play! Ingenious!

Beyond the seashore, I ventured into the inner streets browsing the shops in town…

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Which included a quaint little train station…


As a finale, I went up to the Grand Hotel perched on the cliff above the beach on the opposite side of the bay from where I started. It was a very nice place and had some gorgeous views of the bay and village beyond. Bet it looks really nice at night with the lights reflecting on the waters’ surface.



IMG_5780It was great fun exploring this lovely seaside village. I liked the way it was cozy, relaxed, and had a low-key ambience.

I easily settled in nicely for the evening after all that walking, enjoyed a nice fresh fish supper, and relaxed on the veranda at the villa (er…I mean, hostel).




Savouring the Delights of the Historical University City of Cambridge

Saturday, the 26th of August, proved to be a lovely day for driving along the pristine and unspoiled countryside of England. I only had to travel about 100 miles south to my next destination, Cambridge.  I’ve been here once before a couple of years ago and was looking forward to returning. There is so much to see and do in this fascinating University-laden city with its rich intricacy of Gothic architecture. Its claim to some of the world’s greatest minds (Milton, Darwin, Hawking, etc.) is mind-boggling!

IMG_5184I arrived at the conveniently located YHA Cambridge hostel near the train station and got settled right in. This was the first hostel I had ever stayed at when I toured two years ago and it holds a special place in my heart because it welcomed me and introduced me to the world of hosteling which I have grown to love immensely!


Botanic Garden & Hostel neighborhoodAs you can see on the map above, the hostel (upper right-hand corner) and the Cambridge University Botanical Gardens (lower left) are just a couple of blocks from one another. Trumpington Road, which borders the garden on its western edge, leads straight north into the heart of the oldest part of the city a short distance away.

During my first visit, I did not have enough time to meander through the Botanical Gardens so this time I put it first on my list! I was not disappointed in the least. In fact, I think it is one of the most beautiful and extensive botanical gardens I’ve ever visited!


We owe the existence of this garden, occupying a 40-acre site, to John Stevens Henslow, the Professor of Botany at Cambridge from 1825 – 1861. He laid out the garden in 1846 to accommodate a wonderful tree collection, but he also planted his ideas about ‘variation and the nature of species’ that would be taken up in a new and revolutionary fashion by his famous protege, Charles Darwin.

I entered the garden through the Station Road gate and began following the meandering pathways throughout discovering jaw-dropping vistas and colourful displays of flora along the way.

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The Glasshouse held a wide variety of beautiful specimens from various climates to behold.

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More paths to follow took me past glorious blooms and bursts of colour!



The school’s garden shop even offered up some whimsical and cheery yard art!

I kept following the intriguing pathways to see where they led through bamboo tunnels and past giant specimens of some very special trees like Britain’s Dawn Redwood!

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This place was vast and never ceased to amaze me with its variety at every turn. In the big grassy areas, there were all kinds of interesting herbaceous beds laid out in unusual patterns. I really liked the way they made circular and oblong beds scattered throughout the large lawns. I think this would look great, and work quite effectively, in my front yard lawn at home, only on a smaller scale, of course! You have to look closely to see it in the picture, but the second-to-last photo in the photo collage below shows how they staked out the beds and strung string between the posts to outline the new beds.

Ingenious! I love the way they used the space and didn’t create rigid corners in a ‘formal’ type of planting. So much more interesting and fun to wander through and around.

I ventured past two locals, a mother and daughter, painting flowers in the garden and had a nice chat with those two lovely local ladies before continuing on.


IMG_5356The path meandered on through more beautifully and artfully set plantings, eventually leading me back to where I started. What a delightful way to spend the first part of the morning!

After all that walking and traversing through garden paths, I’m ready for a little cruising! I’m going to enjoy lazy summer punting on the River Cam!

If anything is stereotypical ‘Cambridge,’ this is it. Punting involves being propelled in a long wooden boat by pushing a pole against the shallow river bottom as you glide effortlessly down the river.


Another great feature of the hostel is that it offers discount tickets to activities such as punting! Armed with my ticket I found my way to Scudamore’s Boatyard Punt Station and climbed right aboard – no waiting in line!

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We glided along the “Backs” of all the major Universities: King’s College, Trinity, St. John’s, etc., passing underneath its wonderful bridges like the Mathematical Bridge, Bridge of Sighs at St. John’s and turned around at the Magdalene Bridge to make our way back.

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IMG_5293Nearing the end, as if on queue, this swan appeared alongside the boat and graciously escorted us back to the punting station where we originally boarded. What a wonderful and delightful outing. A definite must see – must do kind of activity!

IMG_5401I really wanted to continue touring around the rich gothic architecture of the Universities and the winding streets of the city’s centre but didn’t want to walk.

What better way to see the city than riding a bicycle like the locals. Most of the city centre’s streets are closed off to vehicular traffic and are pedestrian-only anyway. It’s such a lovely,  relaxing and fun way to take in the sights.

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Cambridge University has many famous alumni, including mathematicians such as Sir Isaac Newton, philosophers such as Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein, and writers such as John Milton and Lord Byron. It was the site of Rutherford’s pioneering work in nuclear physics as well as Crick and Watson’s DNA work. Cambridge academics have won more Nobel Prizes than those of any other university in the world.


And there are also a few others that are not quite so famous…

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To top off a perfect day exploring the beauty and history of Cambridge, a glorious sunset adorned the western skyline! What more could I ask for? I feel so grateful to have had such a perfect day exploring this wonderful city and discovering more of its many treasures.

The next morning I drove further south to a town made famous by Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, another university city which boasts some of England’s finest medieval architecture, including one of its oldest cathedrals. However, as I have said before, that’s another story for yet another day!






Nothing Says Medieval Quite Like York

The morning of August 24th I arrived in the quirky and ancient city of York after a pleasant drive south for a couple of hours from Berwick-Upon-Tweed. I got checked into the YHA hostel (which was quite modern, spacious and very conveniently located), had a nice snack of fried shrimp and a salad and then checked my itinerary google map containing the list of things I hoped to visit in this delightful walled city.

Luck would have it there was a peaceful riverside walking pathway I followed which took me along the River Ouse. The trailhead was located just outside the hostel leading right into the heart of the city! Now that’s handy!

It lead me right up to the Lendel Bridge boat landing along the Dame Judi Dench walk.

There used to be a ferry at this location which took people from Barker Tower, on the south-west bank, to the Lendal Tower. Lendal Bridge is a cast iron bridge built in 1863 and has colorful Gothic style details all over it which were popular in the Victorian era. The ornate parapet features the white rose of York, the crossed keys of the Diocese of York and the lions of England. Additional ironwork includes York’s coat of arms and the initials V & A, representing Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

judi dench walkAlso bordering the River Ouse at this point are the grounds of a 10-acre Botanical Garden and home to many ancient and ruinous Roman historical sights.IMG_4999

Let’s enter the gates to take a look around…


Another very interesting ruin within the gardens was once the oldest and largest medieval hospitals – St. Leonards.



Once inside the grounds of the hospital, I could also see the inside of the multangular tower I had just viewed from the outside a few minutes ago. This ancient Roman fortress is very impressive.


After leaving the gardens, I started making my way along the twisted streets toward York Minster. Along the route, I came upon this ornately decorated Catholic church of St. Wilfrid on the left.

Architecture fascinates me and this city has a vast array of interesting and varied specimens. I am not a particularly religious person, but I certainly admire the people who are so devoted and highly respect them. However, I also really appreciate the craftsmanship and artistic talents of the masons who built the churches and the artists who decorated them with their fine paintings and statutes for example.

Inside was equally ornate, including the ceiling!



Even the organ was quite detailed with designs and colors!

IMG_5028Across the street, this brick building which houses solicitors just shouts, “Look at me!”11142418_971512042873493_8281101858849280746_nAt the end of the same street stands the magnificent York Minster. It’s a massive place and it’s quite difficult to get a photograph of its stature from up close, especially the entrance on the east end.York Minster


It’s well worth the entrance fee to tour this stunning cathedral. Allow for quite a bit of time to do so as it is very, very large with many sights to behold. Just looking up at the ceilings makes me feel dizzy! If you’re lucky, as I was, the choir boys will enter and fill the acoustical chambers with a glorious song! It’s quite the experience.

Back outside once again, I discovered a statue of The Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, who was proclaimed Emperor at this site in 306 AD, just outside the doors to the Minster. Of course, the church wasn’t built until much later. Gothic style cathedrals arrived in the mid 12th century. Walter de Gray was made archbishop in 1215 and ordered the construction of a Gothic structure in York comparable to Canterbury and building began in 1220.

After that magnificent display of gothic architecture, I decided to roam the twisty-turny streets and peek inside some of the vast arrays of extremely interesting and colourful shops which seemed to go on forever!IMG_5068York has long been well renowned for its chocolate confectionaries and there are a plethora of ‘sweet shops’ and Tea Rooms around every corner that are hard to resist so why try?

I just fell in love with these beautiful petit-fours above and the little piggies in Betty’s Cafe & Tea Room when I stopped to get some bulk English tea for my granddaughter.IMG_5067It’s so entertaining just to roam the streets and take in the sights, smells and sounds.



York is a fascinating city to visit. Its history is so multi-faceted: Romans, medieval times, Vikings, and its elements – chocolate & confections, railways, Opera, theatre, food, pubs, museums, etc. One could easily spend 4-5 days here and still barely see and visit the numerous sights it has to offer. It’s no wonder it is one of England’s top visitor attractions.

I saw as much as I could take in during one day and I certainly was not disappointed in the least. I know that each time I travel through England in the future, York will always be one of the stops on the itinerary as there will always be something else to explore that I haven’t seen yet!

Although I thoroughly enjoyed this place, it was time to move on down the road a bit further. The following day I packed up my belongings and headed to Sherwood Forest – the land of Robin Hood and Maid Marion.

But that’s another story for another day…hope you’ve enjoyed the stop at York. Until the next time…


One Interesting Night in Berwick-Upon-Tweed

IMG_4975Earlier in the day on August 23rd, I had been exploring Tantallon Castle and the town of Dunbar. My final stop for the day was this great YHA Hostel in Berwick-Upon-Tweed.

A lot of the hostels I’ve stayed in during this trip have been converted old buildings and repurposed. I like this kind of recycling! YHA Berwick is housed in a 240-year-old restored former Granary and boasts a fantastic blend of original features with a state of the art hostelling experience at the docks. In addition to the hostel, the building also houses a bistro, meeting rooms and a very nice Exhibition Art Gallery.IMG_4977Below are the traces of the rail line leading out to the docks beyond the doorway from the entrance to the hostel.

IMG_4976Looking to the right of the railway gate outside in the courtyard of the hostel are traces of where the Old Bridge Tavern used to be. This place is chock full of historical sights just outside my hostel doors!

Berwick-Upon-Tweed sits at the most northerly tip of Northumberland, just 3 miles from the Scottish Border. It’s a nice coastal town with sandy beaches and beautiful riverside walks, perfectly situated for a relaxing break – a haven for walkers and cyclists. Just what I needed after a long day of exploring. Since there was still quite a bit of daylight left, I headed out the granary rail gate and explored the dockside just beyond which offered fantastic views of the Tweed River and a bridge.

A famous artist, L.S. Lowry (1887 – 1976) visited the town of Berwick many times beginning in the mid-1930s. The ‘Lowry Trail’ identifies the sites of many of his finest paintings and drawings of the town. Lowry was a regular visitor to this town. The exact date of his first visit is unclear, but his first oil painting of Berwick showing the High Street is dated 1935 and he continued to visit the town a year before his death in 1976. In total, Lowry produced more than 20 paintings and drawings of the town, from the harbour and its piers, the beach at Spittal, salmon fishing on the River Tweed and even a football match at the ‘Stanks,’ according to the town’s website.

As I began my walk around Berwick I happened upon the 10th location on the “Lowry Trail,” his painting of Bridge End.



IMG_4892At left is what it looks like today!

I walked down to the corner to get a closer look at the buildings that had been mentioned in the sign and then walked along Bridge Street taking in the sights.


There’s the William Cowe & Sons “Home of the Original Berwick Cockles!”

IMG_4900Aha! Another Lowry trail sign and sight of one of his paintings! This is fun!


Bridge Street

IMG_4903When I got down to the end of Bridge Street, I turned right onto Sandgate Road making a loop back to the quay in order to find the quay walls which border the river. Along the way, I passed the Hen & Chickens Hotel.IMG_4904Just beyond the hotel, I found the historical Sandgate, and above it, the Quay Walls I could walk upon and follow around the perimeter of the town.IMG_4907


IMG_4906IMG_4908Once I climbed the stairs up onto the Quay Walls, I had a really nice view of Sandgate Road I had just walked down.






Such a beautiful evening it was and this walk offered some stunning views as I strolled.IMG_4917

IMG_4918Across the way was the “Spittal” in the distance and a whole host of sailboats catching the last gentle winds of the day for a ride around the mouth of the river.


IMG_4919I passed a building that looks like they’re going to restore and repurpose. Looks interesting; I wonder what it will become?

Next, I came upon Coxon’s Tower and it also offered some nice views of the harbour and the mouth of the river.



IMG_4923Lots of swans and sailors enjoy this estuary! I can even see the Berwick Lighthouse at the end of the jetty.IMG_4926IMG_4929Next, I came to one of the 6 canons at Fisher’s Fort … good defences to guard the River Tweed with against enemy ship attacks!IMG_4932

IMG_4933Then to the left is Pier Road.IMG_4934

Hey! I found another piece of the Lowry Trail!

After the harbour, the trail led up a grassy hill. Off to the left, behind a wall, I discovered quite a delightful community garden. It was massive and so well cared for.IMG_4950

IMG_4947As chance would have it I also stumbled across yet another piece of the Lowry Trail, “The Lions!” I really liked the Lowry trail; it’s very interesting and fun to follow!IMG_4946



Just past the lions, the path turned once again with another great view of the gardens below.IMG_4954Around the corner and through the gate I come to the other end of the gardens and spy one of the community gardeners I can have a chat with. Evidently, having a spot allotted to you is quite the treasure and there is a long waiting list for others who want to join! I can certainly understand why it is so prized to get a spot allotted to you. This dirt has been tended for such a long time, is rich with nutrients and loving care thereby lending itself to a bountiful harvest! What gardener wouldn’t want a piece of that treasure?IMG_4955

IMG_4958IMG_4959As I made my way down the narrow rock wall-lined pathway back to the centre of town, I noticed the light was beginning to fade and decided to get a few last pictures in the middle of town while I still could.IMG_4960IMG_4961Quite an impressive Town Hall was waiting patiently for me to capture its tall stature!IMG_4963

IMG_4964Loved the way the birds made good use of the tippy-top mount at day’s end, singing their little hearts out!IMG_4966IMG_4967Working my back down toward the Quay and the hostel, I followed delightful winding cobblestone streets. Such a nice little town to explore with all of its little twists, turns, trails and garden views. I barely scratched the surface on the Lowry Trail. Perhaps one day I’ll return to explore it further. It had been a long day exploring Tantallon Castle, the town of Dunbar and the birthplace home of John Muir, then driving the rest of the way to Berwick.

It was time to put my feet up for a while, have a bite to eat and settle in for a good night’s sleep because the next day I was off once again down the road headed for York! But that’s another story, for another time…

This post is the first of the stops I made while travelling through England. On this 4-month holiday, I started out by exploring Ireland for 5 weeks with my friend, Lynne. After I took her to the airport in Dublin, I crossed the Irish Sea as a foot passenger on the Irish Ferries from Dublin over to Holyhead, Wales. There I rented another car and started making my way north through the western side of England, visiting Liverpool, towns in the Lake District (Ambleside and Keswick) for a week or so before crossing the border into Scotland.

I spent the next two months exploring all over every possible inch of Scotland that I could manage and had a whole lot of fun doing it. During this next part of the trip, I travelled down through England for about 8 days visiting quaint English villages, towns and cities such as Berwick-Upon-Tweed, York, Sherwood Forest, Cambridge, Canterbury, Dover, Swanage, Brighton and Beer.

driving map of England stops

In the next 8 posts, I’ll be sharing with you all of my adventures through each of these places. It’ll be quite the adventure with lots of wonderful sights to see – medieval setiings, cathedrals, where Robin Hood hung out, and a whole host of gorgeous remote seaside hideaways! You won’t want to miss it.  Until then…



Culross, Kelpies & Falkirk Wheel


It’s been two weeks since I last posted a blog; I have been traveling south through Scotland and into England spending a day or two in each location. Now I am in Wales and I have visited a whole lot of interesting places to share with you, my dear readers.  It’s been non-stop for 14 days!

I left Aberdeen on the 19th of August and drove as far as Scone (Point B on the map above) to visit my friend, Karen MacGregor, at her house for two days. IMG_3722I no sooner arrived when we jumped in her car along with another good friend of hers, Vicki, and took off across the countryside on an adventure.  We stopped at an old churchyard in Kinross near Loch Leven and saw a place over on the island where Mary Queen of Scots was held captive.


Then we stopped for lunch at a very lovely Tea Room at Dobbie’s Garden Center on the outskirts of Kinross just as we were leaving town.  (I just love how Scotland’s garden centers invariably have a Tea Room in them where you can get great food!  What a great idea!)IMG_3725
IMG_3723After a delightful lunch of jacket potatoes stuffed with chicken, pineapple, and a mango dressing, we headed off to our next stop – a delightful village called Culross, (Point C on the map) which has been preserved as it was many, many moons ago!

According to the National Trust for Scotland, “Culross is Scotland’s most complete example of a burgh of the 17th and 18th centuries.

White-harled houses with red-tiled roofs line the steep cobbled streets which run from the market cross to the hilltop abbey. In the center is the ochre-colored palace with its beautifully reconstructed period garden, complete with herbs, fruit and vegetables, and rare Scots Dumpy hens. Get a sense of what it would have been like to live in Culross Palace in its prime, with original painted woodwork and beautifully restored 17th and 18th-century interiors.


It’s little wonder that Culross is acknowledged as one of the most picturesque villages in Scotland – or that it’s so often used as a film and television location. The streets of Culross have appeared many times in the hit US TV series Outlander.”




It was a delightful experience to walk through the twisty cobbled lanes of the old village admiring each of the unique houses and manors. So much character around every turn.


We worked our way up the hill to the old Abbey at the top.


Inside was equally as beautiful…

IMG_3907We stopped at the Abbey Tea Room to enjoy some lemon sponge cake and some tea and coffee and then worked our way back down the hill toward the car to head off on even more adventures.



Our next stop – the fabulous “Kelpies” sculptures near Falkirk!




According to the Helix website:

The history of The Kelpies

Chosen by Scottish Canals at the inception of the project, The Kelpies name reflected the mythological transforming beasts possessing the strength and endurance of 100 horses; a quality that is analogous to the transformational change of our landscapes, the endurance of our inland waterways and the strength of our communities.

Each of The Kelpies stands up to 30 meters tall and each one weighs over 300 tons.

Andy Scott’s vision for The Kelpies follows the lineage of the heavy horse of industry and economy, pulling the wagons and plows, barges and coal ships that shaped the structural layout of the area. Retaining The Kelpies as the title for these equine monuments, Andy sought to represent the transformational and sustainable enduring qualities The Helix stands for through the majesty of The Kelpies.

“The artistic intent (of the Kelpies) is built around a contemporary sculptural monument. Water-borne, towering gateways into The Helix, the Forth & Clyde canal, and Scotland, translating the legacy of the area into proud equine guardians.” Andy Scott, Sculptor

Aren’t they fabulous?  We spent quite a bit of time here just admiring them (and taking about 300 pictures of them from every angle!)


Last but not least was the amazing Falkirk Wheel!  It was closed by the time we got there but it was still a magnificent engineering feat the stand and admire. This wheel turns and lifts boats up into the air from the water below to meet up with the adjoining canal full of water above that runs off behind it and away from us from the view above.


IMG_4054It was certainly a full day of wonderful discoveries and sights to please the eyes. The three of us headed back up to Scone to Karen’s place where she fixed us a wonderful meal followed by this fabulous dessert – a baked meringue shell filled with clotted cream and topped with fresh fruit – Pavlova.

Oh, my goodness gracious was that ever yummy!




Castle Fraser

IMG_3335Yesterday, 17 August 2017, was another bonnie day in Scotland so Lindsay and I decided to take advantage of the good weather to head out for yet one more adventure together to visit one more castle together in Aberdeenshire.

I’ve been here with Lindsay in Aberdeen for the last 40 days or so having a grand old time with him cavorting all over the countryside. We’ve had lots of laughs and seen oh-so-many wonderful sights together.  As they say, however, all good things must come to an end and tonight after I finish this post I’m going to have to pack up my suitcase once again and start heading south on my own say fare-thee-well to my good buddy Lindsay.  I’ll still have at least another 5 days or so in Scotland visiting friends in Scone and further south near Edinburgh.  I’ve been in Scotland since the 13th of July (67 absolutely glorious days so far in the land I love best!) and it’ll be difficult at best to leave.

I digress… as I was saying, Lindsay and I took advantage of the lovely sunshine yesterday and headed out about 15 miles west of Aberdeen to visit Castle Fraser!

driving map


I parked the car after dropping off Lindsay at the front gate and walked back down to meet up with him again, soaking up the view before me.  Isn’t it just wonderful?

We walked around the west side of the castle taking it all in toward the entrance on the south side.

There’s the front door where we’ll enter to take the self-guided tour.  Before we do, however, let’s take a look at the various heraldic symbols, the cylindrical imposing tower, and elaborate turrets…


IMG_3369This castle is a National Trust for Scotland property, and we’re in luck today because unlike a lot of places, we are allowed to take pictures indoors as long as the flash is turned off!  We were greeted by these two wonderfully delightful and helpful ladies at the reception desk.

Once the tour begins our first stop is the kitchen!


As well as cooking implements they also had on display this artfully crafted model of the castle…

Next, we began the climb up the first set of stairs (complete with spy holes in the stairwell) to the next level leading into the Grand Hall.

This massive Hall opened up before us.  The door we entered was not the original 1400 medieval door to the castle.  The rock-lined alcove with the ‘kist’ (locking trunk) featured in the photo below was where the first door to the castle actually existed.

I took pictures of the interpretative sheets explaining each room as we entered them so you can read for yourself about each room and its features.  (Hint: If you find that the image is too small to read as it appears, right-click on the picture and ‘open it in a new tab,’ it will open up in another window; then to make it larger, and therefore, easier to read, use your zoom button on your browser page and increase the size of the image for easier reading.)


So many interesting things around the Great Hall to admire… paintings, violins, and family genealogy!

IMG_3422Immediately after leaving the Great Hall through the doorway beside the fireplace, we entered the dining room.

Usually, the table is set with its finery, but preparations for a wedding that would soon take place were underway for the occasion, but there was plenty of other things to look at and admire.

IMG_3431IMG_3433Just off of the dining room was a small room containing a very interesting and unique exhibition – a very old map that been wadded up to stop a draft in a chimney and found years later under the floorboards!IMG_3438



It was quite amazing to look at the ancient map mounted on the wall behind glass.


IMG_3439There were extensive display boards explaining the process that was undertaken for the preservation of the old map.  I took individual pictures of each of the display items so you can see each one up close.

I created a photo collage below of all the individual images. If you click on the collage, the photos will open up in another window allowing you to scroll through each of the photos.

We walked back through the dining room to the other side, stepped through the door and entered the round tower portion of the castle into the Peacock Parlour. It was chock full of more interesting items to explore…




We then began the steady climb up the towers’ winding staircase stopping at each subsequent level to visit various bedrooms and sitting rooms until we reached the top floor which was the Estate Office.