Tag: castle

Norfolk Mini-Series: A Visit to Castle Rising

This is the 3rd post of our mini Norfolk series.  If you’ve missed the last two, please click here and here.  Thank you!

Right after we visited Norfolk lavender farm, we headed off to Castle Rising which wasn’t too far from the farm.  A bonus since we wanted to visit as much places as we can in a day.

Castle Rising is a medieval castle which was first built in 1138 by Norman lord William d’ Albini for his new wife, the widow of Henry I.  Later in the 14th century, it also became the home of Queen Isabella, another widow and who also supposedly murdered her husband King Edward II.  Ah these royals and their secrets and scandals.

I love old ruins, the older, the better.  I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that a building has been standing all these years.  I touch the walls and wonder what it was like in the medieval times.  What were their lives like?  What were their thoughts, dreams and fears?  Do you wonder the same too?

You approach the castle from the side and it is located on a hill.  I believe many years ago, this was probably the site of a medieval village surrounding the castle.  Like many, it is surrounded by a moat, but it’s currently a dry one.

And there it is, Castle Rising in all it’s glory and there’s  little T on the ground, contemplating how it was like centuries ago.

Can you imagine Queen Isabella entering the castle, dressed in her finest gowns and jewellery.  Upon entering that door, you step into a concrete stairs leading into the castle.

Can you see how much it has been restored?  All these years and these steps and walls are still standing.

This is the first room you step-into from the concrete stairs.  Of course, what is left are only walls and no more ceiling.

Apparently, when the ceiling collapsed (don’t know which century), they had to dig into the walls to create a hallway.  See how thick the walls are:

Little T had fun exploring every nook and cranny of this medieval castle.

Surprisingly the rooms on the top floor were more restored than the ones below.

Do you think Queen Isabella whispered to these walls and admitted her guilt?  I don’t think it’s ever been established whether she killed the king or not.  It’s one of those royal mysteries that’s never been solved.

And outside, T also had the chance to explore the site of a Norman chapel that actually even predates Castle Rising.

Too much exploring can tire out even an energetic little girl like T.

Do you enjoy exploring medieval castles too?

Chepstow Castle, Wales

Those who have been following my blog will know that we had an American friend visit us last month and because of this, we had the lovely opportunity to turn into tourists, as we showed him parts of England (especially in Cornwall where we live), and some places we’ve never been before as mentioned on a couple of posts (here and here).  Then we drove up to Bristol to stay with another good friend which gave us a chance to show him the city which is very dear to our little family.  And most importantly, meet up with more good friends, it was like a mini-reunion for all of us who have met, volunteered and lived together in Ghana many years ago.

Our Bristol friend then took us to the land of the red dragon – Wales.

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This is Chepstow Castle.

A short(ish) drive from Bristol is Chepstow Castle, the oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in the UK.  It is perched up above the banks of the river Wye. The castle was made in 1067 under instructions from the Norman Lord William FitzOsbern, a year after William The Conqueror was crowned King of England.  FitzOsbern was later made Earl of Hereford, apparently his was one of the first peerage titles in English Aristocracy.

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The castle was further expanded in 1189-1300.

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FitzOsbern’s Great Tower seen above.

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Inside the great tower.

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Amazing medieval carvings can still be seen on the corner walls, which makes one think If only these carvings could talk, imagine what they would say?  The history it would tell, stories of ancient battles, Lords and Mistresses who have resided in this castle over the centuries …

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 Part of the arch built to separate the first floor room in the great tower in the 13th century.  The intricate details are still very much visible as seen on the photo above.

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Little T had great fun exploring the medieval castle with her own red dragon bought by our Bristol friend and her little Grommit hanging by her belt.

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The breathtaking views of the Welsh countryside as seen through an ancient window.

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A medieval door was currently being restored when we visited.

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A definite must-visit when in Wales!

Click here for more of Chepstow’s history and directions on how to visit this lovely Norman castle.

This post is linked with Coombe Mill’s country kids.

St. Michael’s Mount – Revisited

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The first time I visited St. Michael’s Mount in Marazion was sometime in 2008.  When we got there, the tide was just out so it was possible for us to walk to the island.

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By the time we reached the top of the castle, the tide rolled in, but you could still see the stone path that connects the island into the mainland.

Fast forward to the first week of September 2013 when we came with our American friend J, the tide was already in, so instead of walking, we had to ride a boat to get to the island, which in itself is also a nice experience.  Little T loved it.

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For those who aren’t familiar with St. Michael’s Mount, it is a small tidal island in Cornwall.  A lovely romantic castle dating back centuries ago, stands on the top overlooking the island.  It’s really like a scene straight out of a movie or a Barbara Cartland novel.

Legend has it that St. Michael the archangel, appeared to local fishermen on the mount sometime in the fifth century, hence the name.  It is also believed to be the site of a monastery in the 8th to early 11th century. The monastic buildings were built during the 12th century, although an earthquake destroyed some buildings in 1275, which was rebuilt sometime in the 14th century.  Parts of that ancient bit, is still standing today.

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Here’s my T posing in front of the romantic castle.

In 1659, the mount was sold to Colonel John St. Aubyn.  At the present day, while the National Trust owns it now, the same St. Aubyn family remains tenants of the famous mount.  In fact, some rooms are closed off to visitors and there are many portraits of the family hanging on the castle walls and also some personal photographs.

If you read a lot, the name St. Aubyn may sound familiar to you, that’s because English novelist Edward St. Aubyn author and Man Booker Prize winner comes from the same family.  (I love the way he writes.)

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For the record, there were no Edward St. Aubyn novels were found in the library.

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Can you imagine dining in a room like this where there is so much history around you?

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Intricate plaster frieze detail depicting hunting scenes from long ago.

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Lovely Stained glass window with Dutch, French and Flemish origins.

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And this is where the gentlemen retired after dinner – the Smoking Room.

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Top of the castle.

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Lovely 14th century chapel, this may be the oldest bit of the castle.

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And you can see the boats below, ready to take the tourists back to the main-island.

The gardens were off-limits to the visitors when we visited the second time around, which was a pity because it is also a must-see when visiting the island.  You’ll be surprised to see subtropical plants flourishing in the garden, must be the lovely Cornish air.

And of course, when writing about St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, one must not forget to mention the one in France which is bigger, older and some say grander than the Cornish one.  I have yet to visit the Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy.  For now though, I’m just really pleased that I’ve visited this one – twice!  And would gladly visit again.

For more information on St. Michael’s Mount click here.

The Charm of Arundel Castle

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We were lucky our good friend who hosted our stay in Brighton also happened to live near an 11th century castle named Arundel in West Sussex.  Don’t you think it sounds very Arthurnian or like a place in a Tolkien book?  It certainly is grand.  And inside, you would imagine a medieval castle to look dark with small rooms and look dingy.  Arundel isn’t like that at all.  It is as impressive inside as it is outside.  Large stately rooms, the only dark room was the library with centuries old books.

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The castle has also been owned by the family of the Duke of Norfolk for over 400 years now.  In fact, some of the rooms are closed-off to visitors because they are being used by the family members. You’ll also see some personal photos of the family scattered in the many rooms in the castle.  Going through the rooms, left me wondering what it’s like to live in a medieval castle in the modern age?   A bit eerie I guess.

It’s also interesting to note that the castle had (still has) a Catholic chapel.  Imagine being a Catholic during the time when it was actually illegal to be one in England?  This was during the reign of Henry the VIII during the English Reformation.

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 Arundel castle is a lovely place to visit, not just for adults but for children as well.  As you enter, you will see a few tents up with a story-teller, a pirate’s tent and an archery tent for children who wants to try out archery.

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Storyteller’s tent

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Duel with a pirate.

And of course, exploring the castle’s rooms one-by-one is a wonderful experience.  For safety and privacy reasons, visitors weren’t allowed to take photos inside, so all the photos I took were taken outside.

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Just a small bit of the castle’s wing.

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Visitors enjoying the medieval castle’s view.

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The keep of the tower, one of the oldest parts in the castle.

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I sneaked my camera out of my pocket to take this photo of T looking out the many windows of Arundel Castle.  Notice how small the windows are?

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And that’s T playing in Arundel’s garden with her wooden sword, purchased from the Castle’s souvenir shop.

If you’ve just visited Brighton and you’re still in the area, visiting Arundel Castle is a definite must, especially if you are into history and also have children in tow.  For more information about the castle, click here.