Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle P1020073

I think that Northumberland is one of the loveliest parts of the United Kingdom, with the Cheviot Hills and in particular the beautiful golden sands along the coast of the North Sea. It also has a large share of castles. Since we moved here we’ve visited all of the coastal castles, except that is the ruins of the castle at Dunstanburgh. It’s a spectacular ruin standing alone on the coast on an isolated headland between Embleton and Craster, looking out over the North Sea.

Last Tuesday we decided it was time for us to go there. It was a lovely hot, sunny day and we walked from the car park down the road to the little village and harbour at Craster, well known for its kippers.

Craster P1020067

From there it’s about a mile and a half walk northwards along the coast to the castle, which is owned by the National Trust (NH) and managed by English Heritage(EH). But we never actually got to the castle, because the heat defeated us and my knee, which has been a problem for a few months now, became painful so we only walked about halfway there, then turned back. I took a few photos zooming in as close as I could:

Dunstanburgh Castle P1020072

Thomas, Earl of Lancaster began building Dunstanburgh Castle in 1313. He was the wealthiest nobleman in England at the time and later took part in the barons’ rebellion against Edward II, resulting in his execution in 1322. John of Gaunt modernised it in the 1380s and later during the Wars of the Roses it became a Lancastrian stronghold, finally falling into ruin in the 16th century.

We will go there again to see more. At least we enjoyed the coastal walk and the view of the castle, despite the heat. And as always I was trying to visualise what it must have been like when it was new and how it had changed over the centuries, thinking of the battles that it had seen, of all the people who had lived and died there.

Cragside: The Turkish Baths

I haven’t done a Saturday Snapshot for months!

Turkish Bath P1090264

Here are some photos of the Turkish Baths at Cragside, in Northumberland that I’ve been meaning to post since our last visit. There’s a lot to see at Cragside. It’s now owned by the National Trust and was formerly the home of William George Armstrong (1810 – 1900). We didn’t manage to see this suite of rooms the first time we visited as there was quite a queue.  But on our second visit there weren’t as many people. You go down stairs from the Library lobby to go into the rooms below the Library. The guide book describes them as:

The suite of rooms includes a steam bath, a cold plunge, a hot bath and a shower, as well as water closets and a changing room. They are the lowest and the first completed part of Norman Shaw’s first addition to the original house. His plan, which shows that modifications were still being made, is dated 5 May 1870, and Armstrong’s friend, Thomas Sopwith, recorded in his diary that €˜the Turkish Bath at Cragside was used for the first time on November 4th 1870€².
The baths were part of Lord Armstrong’s innovative provision of central heating for the whole house. The space occupied by the baths is cleverly situated between chambers with huge water-pipe coils, which, heated from the boiler to the north, were the source of hot air that was ducted up into the main house. (NT guide book for Cragside)

Turkish Bath P1090265

Turkish Bath P1090266Apparently, Lord Armstrong was keen to build up foreign business and thought that:

Chinese or Burmese, or Japanese arms ministers would be more likely to agree to handsome contracts, if they were both well entertained and comfortable – even in a Northumbrian winter. (NT guide book for Cragside)

I think it’s an excellent idea and wish we had space for something similar!

Saturday Snapshots

It’s been a busy time here recently, as these photos of some of the places we’ve visited show:

We’ve been away visiting family. We stayed at Marlow in Buckinghamshire. The photo below shows the Marlow Bridge – a road and footbridge across the River Thames. The original crossing probably dates back to 1309. The current suspension bridge was built 1829 and 1832 and was restored in 1956-7.

Marlow Bridge P1090134

There were the usual boats, ducks and swans but we were surprised to see this driving up the Thames:

Amphibious car Marlow P1090141We had a flying visit to Eton and Windsor, not far from Marlow. We had lunch at the 300 year old George Inn at Eton on one side of the Thames:

George Inn Eton P1090082and then we crossed the bridge into Windsor for a quick look at Windsor Castle:

Windsor Castle P1090097

 Other trips out were to Silverstone in Northamptonshire where our nephew has a hospitality suite and we watched the practice for the British MotoGP. His suite, located right over the pit lane, has fantastic views over the start/finish straight.

Silverstone P1090230And then we were off to Coventry to see our other nephew’s show The Prodigals (he’s the musical supervisor/director). Before  the show we managed to go to Coventry Cathedral, but only to see the outside as it was near to closing time for the Cathedral and opening time for the show. The photo below shows the entrance to the Cathedral through the huge Screen of Saints and Angels, with a reflection of the ruins of the old Cathedral:

Coventry Cathedral P1090236and finally the next photo shows the enormous bronze statues, designed by Sir Jacob Epstein, of St Michael defeating the Devil:

Coventry Cathedral P1090238

I’ve got more photos – plenty for several Saturday Snapshot posts!

For more Saturday Snapshots see Melinda’s blog West Metro Mommy Reads.

Saturday Snapshots: Pisa

I’ve been looking through some old holiday photos – these are from 2000 when we visited Pisa whilst staying near Florence.

This is our first view of the Leaning Tower, which doesn’t actually look as though it’s leaning much at this angle:

View Leaning Tower Pisa DCP_0104But when we got nearer you can see just how far it leans:

Leaning tower Pisa DCP_0105That’s me in the sun hat.

And here’s another view of the Tower taken from the roof of the Cathedral:

View Leaning tower Pisa DCP_0133We didn’t have long to spend in Pisa itself after we had looked round the Cathedral, but I was interested in this little church we passed on the way to the Cathedral Square. It’s Santa Maria della Spina, tucked away next to the river Arno:

Santa Maria della Spina, Pisa DCP_0101A lovely Gothic church, in sparkling white marble and very eye-catching as we walked by. I wished we’d had time to see more but we had to catch the train.

(Click on photos to enlarge)

For more Saturday Snapshots see Melinda’s blog West Metro Mommy Reads.

Saturday Snapshot: Castle Stalker

I was delighted to find this romantic ruined castle during our holiday on the west coast of Scotland. This is Castle Stalker, a 15th century tower house built by the Stewarts of Appin. It’s on a small island in Loch Linnhe, just north east of Port Appin (the setting for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped, a fictionalised account of the “Appin Murder” of 1752).

It was quite late in the day when we got there and the light was fading, so my photo is rather dark. I’d love to go back and take a trip across the loch to the island and see round the castle. It’s privately owned and there are tours on just 5 weeks of the year. There’s a brief history of the castle on the Castle Stalker website.

Castle Stalker is the location of Castle Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh in the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky at At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

 

Saturday Snapshot: Rosslyn Castle

During our recent visit to Scotland we went to Rosslyn Chapel and also to Rosslyn Castle. This was our second visit to the Chapel, but our first to the Castle. (We went to Rosslyn Chapel three years ago – see this post for information on the Chapel and some photos.) On that first visit the Chapel was surrounded with scaffolding and you could go up to the roof. From there you can see the Castle far below the Chapel built on high on a rocky promontory in the Roslin Glen.

The Castle is in Roslin Glen – the nearby village is spelt Roslin, but the Chapel and Castle are spelt Rosslyn – like the earldom. The derivation of the name is from the Celtic words ‘ross‘, a rocky promontory and ‘lynn‘, a waterfall – not as described in The Da Vinci Code as deriving from a longitudinal Rose Line on the north-south meridian that runs through Glastonbury!

This time we decided to go to the Castle after seeing the Chapel. It’s down a little lane between trees and you walk over a bridge to get to the ruins.

It was a dismal rainy day but still the castle ruins stood out – stark and dramatic against the  skyline:

These are the ruins of the original 14th century castle, built in the 1330s for Henry Sinclair, the Earl of Orkney. At that time there was a drawbridge – replaced now by the modern access bridge. Behind the ruined walls you can see what looks like a house:

My photo is dark because by this time it was raining quite heavily. The castle was largely destroyed during the 15th and 16th centuries and was rebuilt in the 16th and 17th centuries as a fortified house with five floors. The building from this side looks like any other house, but from the other side it is enormous. We didn’t go round to see it, but there are photos on the Landmark Trust website showing its size and the renovated rooms that are available to let as holiday accommodation.

The photo below shows the remains of the west wall:

and here are the remains of the gatehouse:

There were only a few other people walking round the ruins, whereas the Chapel was packed, with people arriving in cars and coaches. In fact inside the Chapel it was so crowed you could hardly walk round for other people. I suppose it’s the popularity of The Da Vinci Code that attracts so many people, but it’s hard to get a proper sense of its history and to see its beauty with so many other people there. There is now a Visitor Centre, where you can buy books and souvenirs and get drinks and sandwiches etc, also very crowded.

I preferred the Castle – so atmospheric.

For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

Saturday Snapshots: Stirling Castle

We spent last week in Scotland. Except for Monday the weather was atrocious with torrential rain on most days. But Monday brought blue skies and glorious sunshine, so we took advantage of the good weather and visited Stirling Castle, maintained and managed by Historic Scotland. This is a most spectacular castle standing high on a volcanic rock. It was one of the most favoured homes of Scottish kings and queens from the 12th century, although it is an ancient site.

I have many photos – here is just a small selection:

A statue of King Robert the Bruce stands outside the modern entrance to the castle:

Robert the Bruce statue

In the background is the National Wallace Monument which overlooks the scene of Scotland’s victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297.

Stirling Castle Forework

The Forework (above) was installed by James V around 1500, originally the main entrance, it is now an inner entrance to the castle.

The photo below shows the Queen Anne Garden, which on Monday was being used for a crossbow demonstration – children were queuing to have a go for themselves. Behind the garden is James V’s Renaissance Palace of Princelie Virtue which he had built for himself and his French Queen, Mary of Guise (the parents of Mary Queen of Scots) on the site of earlier buildings.

The pale golden building peeping out beyond the Palace is the Great Hall, commissioned by James IV (who died at Flodden Field in 1513) and completed in 1503. It almost glows in the sunlight because it is covered with ‘king’s gold’ limewash. It has been renovated and was reopened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1999.

Stirling Castle Queen Anne Garden

Just visible in the photo above are the statues on the facade of the Palace and the Prince’s Walk. The statues are grotesque and warlike, portraying monsters hurling missiles south against any invaders. They include one of the Devil, with breasts:

Stirling Castle Devil Statue

There is so much to see and so much history within the Castle that I’d really like to go again one day. As well as the Official Souvenir Guide Book there are guided tours of the castle and an audio tour that you can listen to on your own, if you prefer – which I did.

I have far too many photos for one post, so maybe ‘ll post more photos in due course.

For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.