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United Kingdom & Ireland Travel Articles

Travel notes and articles for England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Ireland. Articles posted must be approved by the Admin before they are published.
 
United Kingdom, Britain, Great Britain - What's What? - Why are there so many names for the UK? The United Kingdom, Britain, Great Britain - what do you call that cluster of islands west of northern Europe? The United Kingdom (UK), full name "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland", is one sovereign country made up of four constituent countries: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The British Isles is a group of islands consisting of the islands of Ireland and...
 
The inspiration for Craig na Dun in Outlanders? We first visited Clava Cairns 50 years ago. We’d never seen anything like them before and were entranced by the stone cairns set back off the road surrounded by trees. They weren’t easy to get to, involving a bus and long walk. Few people visited and they were a secret and magical place. Times change. Now the cairns are very much on the tourist route and there is a huge car and coach park. Not only are they close to Culloden Battle Field...
 
Background I remember looking down onto Leeds Castle from the A20 on days out in the late 1950s and thinking that it was every child’s dream of what a medieval castle should look like. The castle was privately owned and very shut. Now it is run by a charitable trust and is a popular conference centre and wedding venue. It also offers accommodation either in the castle itself or one of its glamping tents. For those not wanting to stay overnight, there is the option of having afternoon tea...
 
Hever Castle is on the tick list of many visitors to England as it was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn and where she was wooed by Henry VIII. As a bonus, for those wanting to stay in a castle, there is also a range of accommodation to stay in. It is everyone’s dream of as perfect medieval castle with a moat. There has been a castle here since 1270 but the original castle would have been a wooden structure with a gatehouse and walled bailey. The present building dates from the C14th and...
 
St Winefride’s Well, Holywell, North Wales. St Winefride's Well has been a site of pilgrimage for over 1,300 years. It has survived the Reformation and the Puritan zeal to destroy ‘Popish’ shrines. It is still visited by pilgrims today, not just from Wales but across Europe. It has been described as the Lourdes of Wales. Around 660AD, Winefride (Gwenfrewi in Welsh) who was of noble birth spurned the advances of Caradoc, son of a local prince, as she wanted to become a nun. He cut off her...
 
Penmon Priory is a delightful spot at the south eastern tip of Anglesey. Part of its charm is that it has yet to reach the tick list of must see sights and doesn’t get many visitors. Although the Romans brought Christianity to Wales, it never really became established until the arrival of Celtic missionary saints in the C6th who established small monasteries, usually around an existing holy well. St Seiriol, who was of noble birth, settled here in the C6th and built a small cell (clas)...
 
When Edward I assumed the throne in 1272, Wales was ruled by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (Llywelyn the Last). Henry III had been a weak ruler and his reign had been marked by reign had been marked by rebellion, confusion and indecision. Llywelan had successfully exploited his weak and ineffective rule to obtain complete control of the principality culminating in English recognition of his title of Prince of Wales at the Treaty of Montgomery in 1267. Edward after fighting in the crusades was an...
 
The rapid development of towns during the Industrial Revolution led to to an enormous demand for slate for roofs of houses and factories. Welsh Slate was highly prized as the best as it was very durable and split easily. The National Slate Museum on the site of the workshops of the mighty Dinorwic quarry in Llanberis gives a wonderful insight into the industry and the lives of those who worked in it. Commercial quarrying began at Dinorwic in the early C19th and by the end of the century...
 
Criccieth, an unspoilt sea side town with a ruined castle. Criccieth is a typical sea side town with a strong Victorian feel to it. It grew rapidly once the railway arrived in 1867 and has been popular ever since. It is an attractive place to stop with a range of old fashioned family owned shops, some have been trading for over 80 years. There is still a very traditional shoe shop with shelves full of boxes of shoes). There are plenty of very good craft shops specialising in locally...
 
An attractive sea side resort which is quieter than near neighbours Scarborough and Bridlington. Filey was a small farming and fishing community until the arrival of the holiday makers in the C19th. The original settlement grew up on either side of the steeply wooded Church Ravine which formed a natural harbour where it entered the sea. This was sheltered from the worst of the weather by the promontory of Filey Brig to the north, which formed a natural breakwater. In stormy weather, it...
 
Bridlington Old Town - Away from the bustle of the harbour and beaches, this is a step back into the past. Bridlington is a town of two parts, which have grown to form a whole. Bridlington Quay grew up around the harbour. Bridlington Old Town, about a mile inland, grew up around the Priory and, until the C19th, was a much more important settlement than Bridlington Quay. It was the major trading area for many of the surrounding villages which were dependent on the goods and products sold...
 
Bridlington Quay - Tourism and the Lobster capital of Europe. Bridlington is made up of two parts. Bridlington Old Town is about a mile inland and grew up around the Priory and was the main trading centre for the area until the arrival of the railway in the mid C19th. Bridlington Quay is the area around the harbour which is still an impressive and well-preserved piece of C19 harbour engineering. The two only joined up in the C20th when the town grew rapidly. They still preserve their...
 
Withernsea - Very much the forgotten part of East Yorkshire. Holderness is very much the forgotten part of East Yorkshire and has a very old fashioned feel as if time has passed it by. It is a flat and very fertile area but has one of the fastest eroding coastlines in Europe with over 30 villages lost to the sea between Flamborough Head and Spurn Point. The effect of erosion can be seen from the end of the South Promenade. By the C15th the original village of Withernsea had disappeared...
 
Some background and history This is a lovely ride through the unspoilt countryside of Kent and East Sussex and is a wonderful example of a rural light railway. It is typical of the many railways developed at the start of the C20th to serve sparsely populated areas. The stations may be named after the nearest village but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are close to it. It is a leisurely ten and a half mile trip across the Rother Levels between Tenterden Town and Bodiam. The line has a...
 
Introduction The Talyllyn Railway is a narrow gauge railway in Meirionnydd, Mid Wales that was originally built to carry slate from the hills above Abergynolwyn to the wharves at Tywyn. It was made famous as Skarloey’s railway by Rev Awdry in his Thomas the Tank engine books. The railway still preserves the feel of the 1950s and is a lovely ride up the Afon Fathew valley. The railway was opened in 1866 and has an illustrious history. It was the first narrow gauge railway in Britain to...
 
The Pickering and Whitby Railway was built in an attempt to improve links from Whitby to the rest of the country so halting the decline of Whitby as a port. It opened in 1836 as a horse drawn railway to Pickering, which included a rope hauled incline at Beckhole. The line was acquired by the York and North Midland Railway in 1845 and converted to steam power and building the stations . The Beckhole incline was equipped with a stationary steam engine and iron hauling rope. In 1854 the...
 
On the western edge of Harrogate, these gardens were originally planned as a display garden and trial ground to test the suitability of plants for growing in northern Britain. The well known gardener, and broadcaster, Geoffrey Smith, was superintendent here for many years. The gardens were once part of the Forest of Knaresborough, which was an ancient Royal hunting ground. Springs of sulphur water were discovered in 1734 and a Spa was developed here in the mid C19th with hotel and bath...
 
At 26 miles, the Welsh Highland Railway is the longest of the Welsh Narrow Gauge Railways and runs through Snowdonia National Park between Porthmadog and Caernarfon. The line has been rebuilt along the trackbed of a line that closed in the 1930s and runs through an area of disperse settlement and isolated farms. The only settlement of any size is Beddgelert and that is little more than a big village. It was hardly surprising there was insufficient traffic for the line to run at a profit...
 
The Ffestiniog Railway is a preserved narrow gauge railway in the top in the top left hand corner of Wales. It was originally built to carry slate from the hills above Blaenau Ffestiniog to the slate wharves at Porthmadog. It is now a popular tourist attraction, providing much needed employment and bringing tourist money into the area. Some of the pictures have been scanned from slides taken in the 1980s and 1990s, which explains the slight colour cast in some of them. Others were taken...
 
The series of small fishing villages along the Fife coast are a popular tourist destination for many, especially those based in Edinburgh. What many people don’t realise is that there are equally as attractive villages on the Moray coast in the north east of Scotland. They get few visitors, but can easily be visited as a day from either Aberdeen or from Inverness. This just covers the series of small villages, ignoring the town of Fraserburgh, which is still the biggest shellfish port in...
 
Cotswold churches Visiting churches is very much an English tradition. There is always a sense of excitement as you push open a church door as you never know what you may find. Even the most uninspiring exterior may hold unsuspected delights. We spent several weekends exploring the churches of the Cotswolds and surrounding area in 2014. I've included post code and a grid reference for each church. The Cotswolds is renowned for its parish churches. Many have been there for a thousand years...

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