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Discovering Aberdeen’s history: Start at the Tolbooth!

As I mentioned in my previous post, we did not originally plan to spend much time in Aberdeen and did not really know much about the city or it’s history.  Our  intent was just to fly into Aberdeen and then quickly head out towards Inverness.  Naturally, most people want to see Inverness or Edinburgh but really, how often do people list Aberdeen on their list of places of must visits for history or anything else?  I will be the first to admit that we were initially quite disappointed when we had to alter our plans and eliminate Inverness from our tour. Our first depressing and foreboding thought was one of, “Well this is just great, now we’re stuck in Aberdeen for three days. What are we going to do with three days in Aberdeen?”  At the time, we really had no other choice but to rather petulantly and grudgingly accept our fate and try to make the best of it.  At the end of three days however, we were complaining because we did not have enough time to see everything.  My personal thought as I left was of how and when I could make another visit!

Aberdeen city of history

The disaster that led to our longer stay in Aberdeen was actually one of  fate or the powers above intervening on our behalf. It provided us an opportunity to explore, discover and appreciate a city that in my personal opinion does not get nearly enough credit for it’s historical importance or it’s present day contributions. What I want to do is share some of what we discovered and maybe change your mind about Aberdeen.  Hopefully by the time I’ve finished, you will be interested and inspired to look at this city not just as a stopping or transfer point on your way to those other places, but as a destination in itself.

First, let’s look at why we even decided on Aberdeen as our starting point for our trip rather than one of the other flight options. Our original plan was to do a driving tour. We knew we wanted to visit Inverness as well as Edinburgh so when we looked at the map, we saw that Aberdeen would be a good option. It is located on the coast a few hours north of Edinburgh and also only a few hours from Inverness. The drive from Aberdeen to Inverness would take you along the Castle trail. The Aberdeenshire area of Scotland is most famous for the number of Castles located there (My main reason for wanting to back)! 

This is a map showing various sites of interest close to the Aberdeen area. Yes, there are even Standing Stones nearby- I will be doing more research on them!

castles near Aberdeen

This map shows Aberdeen in relation to Inverness and Edinburgh. I do want to add here that because of the way our plans were altered, we were unable to fit Inverness into our schedule.  It is very easily doable to take the train from Aberdeen to Inverness, then train from Inverness to Edinburgh. When I checked the train time, it states about a 2 1/2 hour trip from Aberdeen to Inverness. That is not the purpose or focus here though so I am not going to go further into it here other than to say that our experiences with the train and bus systems were great. I will definitely go that option in any future trips!

map showing Aberdeen

Now you understand our main reason for choosing Aberdeen as starting point and why we were looking at it as just a quick stop over. Fortunately, we were inadvertently rewarded with that unexpected longer stay to get to know Aberdeen better!

What we found in Aberdeen was a fascinating history that stretches back at least 8000 years. Besides that history, we discovered a city that is friendly and welcoming but  not a kitschy, over done or over crowded tourist magnet.  There is a wealth of history to be explored here but that is not it’s truest wealth, asset or value.

1969 considerable deposits of crude oil were discovered in the North Sea. Since then, North Sea Oil has come to eclipse Aberdeen’s traditional industries, employing an estimated half a million people living in and around the city. Aberdeen’s port has been improved and developed to serve the off shore oil rigs with the result that most of the fishing fleets have been moved along the shore to Peterhead. Economically this so called “European Oil Capital” has left other Scottish cities behind – indeed, by some accounts it is the wealthiest area in the UK outside the southeast of England.

Aberdeen is a Scottish success story. Any visitor to the city will be impressed by the lively bustle of its streets and the ceaseless activity in the port. The impact of the petroleum industry is undeniable, but in some senses it should not be seen as a development which entirely breaks with the past: Aberdeen has always been a successful port city and has always had an internationally minded economy. Today this  University City is home to around a quarter of a million people and provides cultural diversions for all ages. For the visitor its grand granite buildings, which shimmer like polished silver, its distinctive neighborhoods, its harbour and sandy beach, provide other, more natural, attractions.

Throughout our stay, we observed that the city seems to be undergoing  massive renovation and construction in just about every area from the outskirts of the airport to the city center and all points surrounding it. Do not let that deter or sway you from visiting the area! Our taxi driver pointed out that this work is all much needed and deserved by the city that has contributed so much financially to the UK and it’s about time they got something back! He took all of the construction in stride and gave us a pleasant and much amusing trip from the airport to our hotel near the city center.  I have to say that everyone we encountered during our stay was friendly and helpful with suggestions and commentary about their city.  One other added bonus- everything was less expensive than in Edinburgh! 

As I’ve pointed out, we didn’t know much about the city so one of our first stops was the Tourist information center located near the city center. They went out of their way to help us with everything from free maps to writing notes and directions on the map for us, to giving advice and directions on using the bus system along with which bus to take to different areas. They also offer a variety of day tours to activities and sites outside the city making it very easy to many of those sites if you’re not driving.  One added suggestion on the bus system that they pointed out- besides the city buses, there are buses going to many of the outlying villages and sites you might want to visit. We did not have extra time for those options but the staff will happily fill you in on how to get to certain sites- such as which bus to take, where you can catch the bus and what times they run.  Because we knew so little about the city or it’s history, they suggested we start with a quick tour of the Tolbooth museum which happens to be right across the street from them. I did mention that there is a great deal of renovation and construction going on throughout the city- the Tolbooth block/building is no exception but do not let that deter you from your visit!

Tollbooth tower renovations

Tolbooth block and buildings undergoing renovations

tollbooth and townhouse plaque

plaque on building next door to Tolbooth

Tolbooth Museum

The Tolbooth Museum is one of Aberdeen’s oldest buildings and one of the best-preserved 17th century gaols in Scotland. It features displays on local history and the development of crime and punishment through the centuries. It  provides a unique experience in the form of its atmospheric 17th and 18th century cells, original doors and barred windows. Displays include the Maiden and the blade of Aberdeen’s 17th century guillotine as well as some animated cell inhabitants. Regarding the animations-they were not scary. This is not a spooky type tour. I have heard a few people comment that they were a bit disappointed or let down as they were led to believe it would be more of a ghost, haunting or scarier type experience with more visual effects. If that is what you are looking for, this does not fit that category. It was a bit eerie and haunting but in a realistic way of getting a feeling of what it was like to be incarcerated here back then. 

banner-ackobites-cell

tolbooth museum

 

While the supposed main focus or purpose of the museum is it’s history as gaol or jail, it does provide an excellent introduction to the history of Aberdeen. It is a free tour and probably takes less than hour to do…  we spent a bit longer in there because we had an excellent tour guide who was very informative and gave much additional insight to the overall history. The first half of the tour is about the history of Aberdeen with displays and dioramas of the earliest beginnings of the area that originally consisted of two separate villages. Once our guide realized we were very much interested in the history, he probably went into more depth on it than usual. He seemed rather excited to share the added history with us and we enjoyed all of it! During the first portion of the tour, we learned about some of the early  events and people that had connections to Aberdeen. These important connections go back as far as the Picts and much of the history can be found around Aberdeen yet today.  The legend of Saint Machar tells that Machar was  a companion of St Columba on his journey to Iona.  God (or St Columba) told Machar to establish a church where a river bends into the shape of a bishop’s crosier before flowing into the sea. The River Don bends in this way just below where the Cathedral now stands. According to legend, St Machar founded a site of worship in Old Aberdeen in about 580. He ministered to the Picts around Aberdeen. For this reason he was described anachronistically as the first Bishop of the see of Aberdeen.  The church was also the site for another legend surrounding William Wallace. After the execution of William Wallace in 1305, his body was cut up and sent to different corners of the country to warn other dissenters. His left quarter ended up in Aberdeen and is buried in the walls of the cathedral. 

 

Robert the Bruce also had a connection to Aberdeen. In 1136, David I began the development of New Aberdeen north of the River Dee, and the earliest charter was granted by King William the Lion about 1179, confirming the corporate rights granted by David I, which gave trade privileges to the burgesses. This charter is the oldest surviving charter. The city received other royal charters later. In 1319, the Great Charter of Robert the Bruce transformed Aberdeen into a property owning and financially independent community. Bruce had a high regard for the citizens of Aberdeen who had sheltered him in his days of outlawry, helped him win the Battle of Barra and slew the English garrison at Aberdeen Castle. He granted Aberdeen with the nearby Forest of Stocket. The income from this land has formed the basis for the city’s Common Good Fund, which is used to this day for the benefit of all Aberdonians.

Aberdeen is also home to King’s College, one of the oldest universities in the British Isles.  In 1495, William Elphinstone, the relatively newly appointedBishop of Aberdeen, petitioned Pope Alexander VI on behalf of King James IV to create the facility to cure the ignorance he had witnessed within his parish and in the north generally. A papal bull was issued in February 1495 (1491 in the calendar of the day) founding the university; a royal charter later that year recognised Aberdeen’s status as equal to that of Scotland’s two existing universities at Glasgow and St Andrews. As a former professor at the University of Paris, Elphinstone modelled the university very much on the continental European tradition. Hector Boece, a fellow professor at Paris, was awarded the status of first principal of the new institution. It would not be until 1509, with the issuance of a charter by Elphinstone, that university life at King’s truly began. Construction of the chapel began in 1498; it was consecrated in 1509 and dedicated to St Mary. By 1514, the university had some forty-two members in the form of both staff and students.

Once you finish your tour of the Tolbooth, you can easily find monuments to William Wallace and Robert the Bruce on a walk around the city. You can take a city bus to Old Aberdeen to tour St. Machar’s Cathedral and King’s College. You can also easily take a bus to another site, the Gordon Highlanders Regimental museum which I will talk about later. 

William Wallace monument in Aberdeen

William Wallace monument in Aberdeen

William Wallace monument inscription 1

William Wallace monument inscription 1

William Wallace inscription 2

William Wallace inscription 2

Robert the Bruce monument in front of Marichal College building in Aberdeen

Robert the Bruce monument in front of Marichal College building in Aberdeen

Marichal College building in Aberdeen, now used as offices

Marichal College building in Aberdeen, now used as offices

St Machar's Cathedral in Old Aberdeen

St Machar’s Cathedral in Old Aberdeen

King's College entrance in Old Aberdeen

King’s College entrance in Old Aberdeen

gordon highlander museum2 gordon highlanders museum

 

The only thing you won’t be able to find is Aberdeen Castle! The Castle was situated on Castle Hill, a site today known as the Castlegate, near the City center.  

Castlegate area today

Castlegate area today

Mercat cross at city center

Mercat Cross at Castlegate area near Tolbooth Musuem in Aberdeen

You will see the unicorn throughout Aberdeen and other places in Scotland as it is Scotland’s national animal! You will also find mercat crosses in various cities of Scotland. A mercat cross is the Scots name for the market cross found frequently in Scottish cities, towns and villages where historically the right to hold a regular market or fairwas granted by the monarch, a bishop or a baron. It therefore served a secular purpose as a symbol of authority, and was an indication of a burgh‘s relative prosperity. Historically, the term dates from the period before 1707 when Scotland was an independent kingdom, but it has been applied loosely to later structures built in the traditional architectural style of crosses or structures fulfilling the function of marking a settlement’s focal point. Historical documents often refer simply to “the cross” of whichever town or village is mentioned. Today, there are around 126 known examples of extant crosses in Scotland,  though the number rises if later imitations are added.

Aberdeen’s mercat cross history would go back to that earlier history when it received  Royal Burgh status from David I of Scotland (1124–53). 

The cross was the place around which market stalls would be arranged, and where ‘merchants’ (Scots for shopkeepers as well as wholesale traders) would gather to discuss business. It was also the spot where state and civic proclamations would be publicly read by the “bellman” (town crier). The cross was also the communal focal point of public events such as civic ceremonials, official rejoicings, and public shamings and punishments, including executions. Some crosses still incorporate the iron staples to which jougs and branks were once attached. This would be the reason for it’s close proximity to the Tolbooth, which would often hold public executions right outside their door.

Despite the name, the typical mercat cross is not usually cruciform, or at least has not been since the iconoclasm of the Scottish Reformation. The cross atop the shaft may have been replaced with a small statue, such as a royal unicorn or lion, symbols of the Scottish monarchy, or a carved stone displaying the arms of the royal burgh, or, in the cases of ecclesiastical burghs or burghs of barony, the bishop’s or feudal superior‘s coat-of-arms. Thus the reason for the Unicorn at top of Aberdeen’s mercat cross.

Five crosses: at Edinburgh, Dundee, Perth, Aberdeen and Preston (modern Prestonpans) were supported by a drum-shaped understructure, known as a cross-house, with a platform reached by internal steps or ladder. In the case of Aberdeen‘s late 17th-century cross the platform is supported by a series of open semi-circular arcades. 

 

close up of unicorn at top of mercat cross

Close up of unicorn at top of mercat cross

 

views of city center city center view of black friars pub

The castle was surrendered to the English in 1295 and on 14 April 1296, the English King, Edward I arrived in Aberdeen and stayed in the castle as part of his tour of the east coast of Scotland having defeated the Scots.  However the next year, after defeating the English at Dunnottar Castle in 1297, William Wallace marched his men to Aberdeen during their campaign to retake the east-coast for the Scots.

They found the English hastily preparing to leave in an armada of one hundred ships. The speed of Wallace’s arrival from Dunottar caught the English unawares and at low tide the stranded ships were attacked in the harbour, the crew and soldiers slaughtered, the cargo taken and the ships burnt. The English Sheriff of Aberdeen, Sir Henry de Lazom had been left in charge of the Castle, but during the chaos of the attack he defected, declaring it in the name of the Scottish King, John de Balliol.  This account of William Wallace’s actions and victory in Aberdeen would certainly explain or justify why the English may have sent a portion of his executed body back to Aberdeen! 

It is thought the castle and fortifications were burned down  by King Robert the Bruce in June 1308, during the Wars of Scottish Independence immediately following the Harrying of Buchan. Bruce and his men laid siege to the castle before massacring the English Garrison to prevent its use by the English troops of Edward II. It is said the Scots showed no mercy but “slew every man who fell into their hands. Edward I, indeed, had already set the example of executing his prisoners, and it was not to be expected that the other side would fail to follow the same course”. On 10 July 1308, English ships left Hartlepool to help the English garrison.  However, by August 1308, Gilbert Pecche and the last troops had all been forced out of the city. Following the destruction of Aberdeen Castle, Bruce marched his men to capture Forfar Castle.  Legend tells that the city’s motto, Bon Accord came from the password used to initiate Bruce’s final push and destruction of the castle.  Bon Accord translates to Good Agreement. 

In the first part of the Tolbooth’s history tour, you will find a diorama display of the earliest days of Aberdeen.  At that early time, it was still two separate villages and there were three hills. The city began as two separate burghs: Old Aberdeen at the mouth of the river Don; and New Aberdeen, a fishing and trading settlement, where the Denburn waterway entered the river Dee estuary.  The city was burned by Edward III of England in 1336, but was rebuilt and extended, and called New Aberdeen. The city was strongly fortified to prevent attacks by neighbouring lords, but the gates were removed by 1770. 

Aberdeen was in Pictish territory and became Gaelic-speaking at some time in the medieval period. Old Aberdeen is the approximate location of Aberdon, the first settlement of Aberdeen; this literally means “the mouth of the Don”. The Celtic wordaber means “river mouth”, as in modern Welsh (Aberystwyth, Aberdare, Aberbeeg etc.). The Gaelic name is Obar Dheathain (variation: Obairreadhain) (obar presumably being a loan from the earlier Pictish; the Gaelic term is “inbhir”), and in Latin, the Romans referred to the river as Devana. Mediaeval (or ecclesiastical) Latin has it as Aberdonia. You can see a remnant of the Pictish history on a tour of St Machar’s Cathedral.

Pictish carving at Machar's Cathedral

Pictish carving at Machar’s Cathedral

pictish cross stone information at Machar's Cathedral

pictish cross stone information at Machar’s Cathedral

Over the centuries, the rivers were diverted at various times and two of the three original hills disappeared. Aberdeen Castle sat on Castle hill (Castlegate). This is the only remaining hill. The other two hills were Port hill where the early City Gate was, and St. Catherine’s hill which has been completely leveled. Those three hills are represented on the city’s shield of arms and on the city’s banner flag by three towers.  

coat of arms for Aberdeen

coat of arms for Aberdeen

City Banner flag of Aberdeen

City Banner flag of Aberdeen

 

tolbooth2

 

The second half of the Tolbooth tour went further up the stairs to the cells with history of the jail and it’s various inhabitants from some early witches, a pirate, a lot of debtors, and some Jacobites after the rebellion of 1745. As he talked about the Jacobites, our guide gave us some insight from the standpoint and perspective of ones who were not Jacobites but suffered consequences and affects of the various rebellions. His comments and thoughts gave me pause for thought and inspired me to learn more about all of the sides, the reasons and complexities of so many events taking place over the years,  which combined and culminated in the last Jacobite rebellion.  Most of the tour history on the cells and inhabitants dealt with the period of that last rebellion and later. If you look at Aberdeen’s earlier history and the date the prison was built, it most likely played a part in the rebellions and civil wars during the 1600s. 

The Tolbooth was built between 1616 and 1629 by Thomas Watson, a master mason from Old Rayne. The Wardhouse of the Tolbooth was the prison for both the Royal Burgh of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire until the 19th century.

Over the centuries The Tolbooth has witnessed, and often played a part in, some of the key events in Aberdeen’s and Scotland’s history. During the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, when the Duke of Cumberland stayed in Aberdeen in order to put down the rebellion here before leaving for Culloden, he posted troops on the steeple of The Tolbooth to watch out for rebels and very visibly display the reasserting of royal authority. After the rebels had been defeated at Culloden hundreds of rebel prisoners were brought back to The Tolbooth where they were interrogated. In the mid-18th century The Tolbooth was one of the many places associated with one of the darkest episodes of Aberdeen’s history. A number of Aberdeen’s merchants and magistrates organised the kidnapping of hundreds of children from both the town and countryside. These children were then stored in various places, including The Tolbooth, before being transported to the Americas and sold as indentured servants.

Regarding the Tolbooth’s involvement in that darker part of Aberdeen history- the child slavery mentioned above, the Tolbooth museum was more recently involved in opening the curtains of that shrouded more secret history. On 11-06-07 the city of Aberdeen pulled back the curtain on a dark part of the cities history. At the Tolbooth Museum “Open to the Public” they had re-enactments of a very dark part of Aberdeen’s past history and helped to tell the stories of those children.  You can read the story of one of those abducted children here:

The Tale of Peter Williamson   http://unknownscottishhistory.com/articleseventeen.php

The Tolbooth stopped being used as a prison in the 19th century and was replaced by Aberdeen’s first ‘modern’ prison, the Bridewell, built on what we now call Rose Street. The Tolbooth remained in use during the time the Bridewell was opened and after, when the Bridewell was replaced by the East Prison on Lodge Walk, as a holding prison. The Tolbooth survived when the new Townhouse was laid out. The front of The Tolbooth was encased in granite, but the rear of the building still shows its original sandstone with its 17th century battlements. 

For anyone interested in history, this museum is an excellent introduction to the history of Aberdeen. It was my first stop on the way to learning about Aberdeen’s long, turbulent past and how it fit in with the rest of the many events that shaped and forged what Scotland has become today.  My only caution to those visiting the museum- it is not suitable for anyone with mobility difficulties as the only way to reach the museum is by way of very narrow medieval type spiral type steps up to the different levels. Because of the building, there is no way to provide any assistance or other option to reach the upper levels- my meaning in this- there is no way for them to say install a lift or elevator.  It is also probably not suitable or appropriate for young children who would not really understand much of the history presented. 

You can plan your visit to the Tolbooth for early in the morning and then head out to all of the other sites of interest within the city. After our visit to the Tolbooth, we went to the Maritime museum which was fairly short walk from city center. This museum gives you a great history of Aberdeen’s long connection to the sea as a port city from it’s earliest beginnings to it’s present day importance in the oil industry. There are a number of hands on activities for children and it also currently has a toy history exhibit which everyone will find interesting and fun!

Aberdeen maritime museum early diving suit at maritime museum robot diver at maritime museum

After the Maritime museum, we went back up to city center and embarked on a self guided walking tour of the city. The maps provided by the tourism office were excellent and we found it easy to find our way around the city. We stopped at St Nicholas Kirk which is easy to spot due the Arches. It is close to city center and you really can’t miss it!

St Nicholas Arch

St Nicholas Arch

St Nicholas kirkyard information

St Nicholas kirkyard information

walkway to St Nicholas Kirk

walkway to St Nicholas Kirk

graves and tombstone in St Nicholas kirkyard

graves and tombstone in St Nicholas kirkyard

St Nicholas Kirk

St Nicholas Kirk

We continued our walking tour and eventually found the William Wallace monument. It was a long walk but we had a beautiful day for it and the city was full of sites and scenery to view.

views of the city

Later in the afternoon, we returned to city center and headed out in the opposite direction with a trek down to the harbor, the old fishing village neighborhood of Footdee or Fittie. The guidebooks and tourist info are a little misleading about this area… it is not a living history village but is an actual residential neighborhood with it’s buildings still being those old stone cottages from the days of the original fishing village. It was a nice walk down to the harbor and beach though. You can walk along the seawall walk behind the cottages towards the beach area. 

footdee seawall walk footdee-fittie

north sea coast3 North sea coast at Aberdeen north sea 2

On our walk back up from the beach we found a great little pub called Fittiebar. You won’t find this pub/bar on the tour guides. It is not one of those trendy touristy type places, it is in the working neighborhood of the docks. There is nothing fancy about it. It is a casual comfortable working class place to grab a pint, a plate, relax and probably enjoy the company of regulars and friends. The menu is on the board listing the specials for the day, though the Bartender/server did laugh and mention that one of these days they get posh and order some real menus… My personal advice- don’t change a thing! Possibly the best part of the experience was seeing her mix up the batter for our fish with an addition of beer from the tap! 

fittie bar2

Fittiebar in Aberdeen

IMG_7531 fittie bar menu

That was our first day in Aberdeen! In my next post, I will share more of our stay in Aberdeen along with more of it’s history. This awesome Granite city so full of  interesting history that I am intrigued and fascinated with all of it! As I mentioned in the beginning, everyone is so interested in the other cities and places such as the Highlands and Edinburgh that Aberdeen and the area around it does not get the attention it deserves!  I look forward to returning and exploring more of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing Race adventure from Aberdeen to Dublin!

Before I share our adventure, I just want to apologize for my lack of posting for the past month or so. Much of that time was spent preparing for this journey and then embarking upon it. I also want to let my Vikings Saga followers know that I will eventually catch up with my show thoughts and reviews but it will probably be after this first half of the extended season has ended! I am behind in my viewing but have kept up with what is going on so far… my one thought right now is, who is going to be left at the end of this half?  Most of the adult older generation seem to be falling quickly- not that some of those falls all are such a bad thing! Also for Vikings fans, much of my tour included Viking related history in the various cities along with more ancient Roman history. One example of the Scandinavian history and influence was found on ceilings in Edinburgh! A number of tours pointed out the ceilings that showed the earliest Scandinavian motifs and designs.

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For Outlander fans and followers, I did just catch the season 2 premier and am looking forward to the rest of the season. I loved the way they’ve presented Frank’s side of the situation… but then again, I am a Frank fan anyway so I was thrilled with this scenario. I will be attempting to add more Outlander related posts throughout this upcoming season!  Some of my tour did include Scotland and Scottish history pertaining to the time period of the Jacobites and the rebellions but I will also be sharing some additional insights provided by various tour guides. One of the most insightful guides was at the Tolbooth museum in Aberdeen who shared some of the Jacobite history and how it affected others who were not Jacobites but suffered just as much through the various rebellions.  We also visited the Gordon Highlanders Regiment museum which gave us insight into years after the rebellion and how those regiments held onto their highland heritage. I will go into more of that insight and history in a separate post about Aberdeen.

banner-ackobites-cell tolbooth museum tolbooth2 gordon highlanders museum dirks with accessories gordon highlander museum2

 

In other miscellaneous news updates, I just want to share some recent comments about one of my favorite book series. I read this a while ago but didn’t have a chance to post it until now… author Elizabeth Chadwick shared a bit of  interesting and hopeful news about her William Marshal series! She has mentioned that the rights to it have been purchased for possible eventual filming! “my Marshal novels have had the rights bought by a film company recently – hooray!!. I have historical consultancy rights on board and they are looking at making a two hour pilot. There is still a long way to go and it still might not happen, but the spark is there.”  She posted this on her Goodreads page recently and I was thrilled to hear of this possibility. 

One last important update and forewarning… In order to accommodate all of the pictures involved with this vacation, I have had to begin culling older pictures from my media library! I am trying to cull only the unattached photos but I know from previous experience that sometimes those photos are attached to a post. If you are browsing through older archived posts and notice missing pictures, I do apologize for that but there is little I can do about it at the moment. I am running close to my media limits and after the expenses of this vacation, I can’t quite afford to upgrade yet to a higher limit!

 

Amazing Race adventure!

From Aberdeen to Dublin

Now, on to the main focus of this post, our Amazing Race adventure that began in Aberdeen, Scotland and ended in Dublin, Ireland. I have say that while this was truly an epic and awesome tour, it really did feel like Amazing Race with all of it’s challenges, roadblocks and detours. After spending so much time pre-planning this trip, we ended up scrapping the well laid plans and truly winging it. From the very beginning  hurdle/challenge in Aberdeen, I felt like Phil Keoghan was going to show up in front of us and tell us “I’m sorry but you’ve been eliminated” before we even started the race.  

Now that we have survived and won our personal race, I can look back on all of it and admit that some of the challenges and difficulties were caused by our own miscalculations and mistakes. The first massive setback was our ordeal with the third party rental agency that we had booked our car rental from. The car rental plan turned out be a disaster that ended with us losing the money we had pre-paid on the car rental as well as now having to completely alter our original plan of driving… In retrospect, that did turn out to be a huge hidden favor or blessing because realistically the driving idea was not so great as we originally thought.  At the time, however, this roadblock did create some initial moments of panic for us- as in, “Now what the hell do we do?”  Luckily, we are resilient and adaptable, and the panic quickly subsided. Our panic eased but our continued and still lingering irritation with said car rental agency has not disappeared. They cost us a lot of cash and time that could have been used to much better purpose than having to continue to wait on them! To make a long story short, we arrived in Aberdeen on Monday morning and our ordeal with car company dragged out till Wednesday. On Monday, they assured us that all of the problems could be taken care of and we could pick up a car on Wednesday with no extra charges… When we returned there on Wednesday, a different agent told us there was an enormous additional charge, that she did not know anything about any previous promises or assurances made to us and that she could not honor any such promise. The most frustrating part of that experience was that we had wasted much time on waiting around for the rental car company. If we had not been assured a resolution to the situation, we would have planned our time in Aberdeen differently! There were some excellent day tours available through the local tourism office that we could have taken advantage of had we not had to bother with waiting on that damnable car rental agency. One good thing to come from that horrific beginning was that we did get spend more time exploring the city of Aberdeen and it’s history!

william wallace monument1

Initial panic and frustrations aside, we opted for plan B… yes, we did have to quickly devise plan B but it actually worked out far better than the driving plan. Plan B was to check out the train system and alter our entire trip around it.  We should have just planned that route from the beginning, but as we all know, hindsight is 20/20.  This new much altered plan meant we had to eliminate some previously planned sites but it did allow for more time in the places we did visit. It also eliminated the stress of trying to drive, which my daughter admitted later was a good thing!

Our new plan gave us three and a half days in Aberdeen, three days in Edinburgh, two days in Cardiff, two days in London and one final day spent in Dublin.  

Overall, this all worked out so much better than our original plan and most of the hotels and booking agencies were very helpful with the changes we had to make to all of our reservations. I say most because there was one agency and hotel that turned out to be even worse than the car rental… I need to voice my still very seething frustration and outright disgust with Booking.com and with the Abbey Court Hotel in London! We had no problems what so ever with Hotels.com or with any other hotel during our trip but my personal advice, based our experience,  to other travelers would be to avoid booking.com and Abbey Court Hotel! Perhaps my view of Abbey Court was biased because of our experience with them in conjunction with booking.com and the fact that each party insisted on blaming each other for the problems. Perhaps my disgust and ill temper with them was due to sheer exhaustion by then and I am being overly harsh with them, expecting too much from them based on my experiences with the hotels in the other places we stayed. I did try to tell myself that.  I also made serious attempt to rationalize that this was London after all, and for the price we were paying, we should not really complain too much about the room condition… that being somewhat rationalized, I was still left with the fact that the staff was rude and passed off the issue on to others rather than trying to admit any blame or even appease us in any way.  I was also left with the overheard complaints of other guests about various aspects of the accommodations and service. That all being vented, the only plus for them was the fact that they were located close to Paddington Train Station as well as close walking distance to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Then again, so are a vast number of other hotels in that area- you should look into any one of those other hotels rather than Abbey Court!

Do not let the exterior facade of Abbey Court deceive you,  it looks so lovely on the outside…

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We’ve already discussed the attitude and general behavior of the staff, so no need to rehash that. We’ve already accepted that it’s London, should we really expect much more from an inexpensive hotel in a crowded city providing desperately needed rooms for the massive numbers of tourists. But, lets just look at exactly what you find once you’ve taken your chance on that ohh so lovely facade of Abbey Court.  First of all, you get no key card- nope, you get an old fashioned key which you have to turn into the front desk each and every time you leave the building. Ummm, one other thing to go along with that key and the door to your room… You get no door knob!

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You get a door latch that sticks, and once inside you kind of get the feeling you’ve been locked into your room/cell. 

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I understand that space is at a high premium in London, but really this room gave me a severe case of claustrophobia along with nightmares! If you feel you can deal with it, then by all means go for it- after all, you are in London and may not plan to spend much time in the room anyway…

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That’s it, that’s what you get for a room as opposed to say, what we got for the same approximate price at a Travel Lodge in Dublin? Actually, I think the room in Dublin cost much less than the one in London, but that is not really unexpected.

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My final observations on Abbey Court Hotel… WiFi is extremely limited free time and not very reliable- I suppose they want you to use it up quickly so you will pay for any additional required use. There is also no attached restaurant, well there is one connected to them but it is a separate entity and there is no room service available at all. They do offer some sort of breakfast downstairs in their basement but I was not up braving the cost or the quality of that experience. They do also offer some shuttle services to airports but when I checked on the price of shuttle to Gatwick, I realized it was far cheaper to just take the train from Paddington Station. 

Ok, I feel better now for having done what I feel is my traveler’s civic duty in forewarning you about my personal experiences with some fails. I did not give the name of the car rental agency because I will admit that part the issue with them was a serious lack of communication or understanding on all sides. We could have made better choices about that situation so we do take some partial responsibility for that failure.

This was just a brief overview of the tour. In upcoming posts, I will share our experiences and thoughts on each individual city that we visited as well as some additional information on dealing with the trains and buses in each area. 

Upcoming city posts: Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Cardiff, London, Dublin

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel planning and Last Kingdom!

Ahhhh I’ve been so busy with initial travel plans that I have not had time to focus or concentrate on much else lately. When you first think about it, 6 months seems like a long time in the future and one might have the thought of “That’s so far out there, why worry so much about it now?” In reality, we’ve come to realize that planning a trip such as this is somewhat similar to planning a wedding. When you break down all of the various details that need to be addressed in order for this to be successful, 6 months is not really all that long! I mentioned in my previous post that one of those important details needing attention so far ahead of time was the accommodations. Those have been set and so now they shape the rest of the travel plans because they set the route and the stopping points for the trip. We also quickly realized that while we would love to take that more care free, wing it attitude that we so often do with our road trips, we really need to plan ahead for this sort of adventure. We will remain somewhat flexible in our sight seeing options along the way but there are just some things that we feel we can not be quite so flexible on. 

As I mentioned in the previous article, there are a few specific places and sights that we have labeled as priorities and those sights must be included in our overall plan.  My daughter has added her own additional stipulations to the plans… she is determined expand her knowledge and appreciation of Beer and breweries. Neither of us are quite so fond of harder spirits such as Whisky but really, one can not visit Scotland without tasting the Whisky.  She was initially more set on the Beer and breweries so she set about a search for breweries in Scotland. She was immediately served with a list of distilleries rather than breweries in that area so has chosen to embrace, or at least experience the Whisky in Scotland. So, because of this, we must find a way to include some of that Whisky experience in our tour of Scotland. Her current thought is as long as the day ends at a pub with opportunity for appreciating the alcohol, she’s good with what ever else happens throughout the day. I am quite fine with that idea as well, and one thing we both agree on is that there will be absolutely no tasting, experiencing or appreciating Haggis!

We have spent the past week tweeking and adjusting our plan and schedule in regards to what we feel is most important and what is realistically workable for us. It has been a process of  thinking on what we truly want to see and experience the most, what we can do without and what we feel is actually doable given our tight timeline and budget. Part of this intense pre-planning is having an estimate far ahead of time on the budget aspect. We need to have a good idea of how much some of these must see sights and experiences will cost us as well when they are open and how much time they will take to experience.  Because of the time issues and the budget, we really do need to have a fairly detailed plan set well ahead of time. I wish it could be otherwise but as I said, in order for this marathon race to be successful, we need to be well prepared and have a good solid plan as to how to accomplish this adventure.

Our time in Scotland is pretty well mapped and set- I will give you more details about that in a separate post. In this post, I want to talk about the one portion or leg of the trip that we have spent the past few days working on. This is possibly the most important and exciting portion for me… and my daughter has begun to show some great enthusiasm for it as well. This one day trip from Edinburgh to Leeds will  be  full of history from ancient Romans, early Anglo-Saxons, Viking era, some Norman influences and some Scottish history. I can’t even think of which is more interesting or important and there is no way to try to eliminate one sight or place from the plan… believe me, we did try but when it came right down to it, neither of us could say “No, let’s toss this part out” so we opted for a way to include as much of it as possible. I will admit that being able to fit Bamburgh Castle into the plan and have my daughter get excited about it was a highpoint of the planning!

This portion of the trip will truly be a marathon day and because of that we have attempted to plan it out as much as possible. In order to hopefully include all of the sights we have listed as a priority on this portion, the pre-planning was and is essential. This will be an incredibly long day. Our ultimate goal is to visit each of the following sights/places and arrive in Leeds completely exhausted- probably late in the evening with no thought or plan to do anything there but sleep and be ready for the next day’s trip.

We will leave Edinburgh as early as possible on Saturday morning in order to accomplish our marathon history goal.  Our mapped out schedule is as follows:

Edinburgh to Prestonpans:

edinburgh to prestonpans

This is a relatively short trip, about 1/2 hour drive. Prestonpans is the site of the 1745 Battle of Prestonpans, and has a history dating back to the 11th century. The town boasts some impressive examples of historical architecture, such as the Preston Tower and the doocot and the local Mercat Cross, which is the only one of its kind in Scotland which remains in its original form and location.  The town is also credited for achieving the title of “Scotland’s Mural Town” with many wall murals reflecting the town’s colourful past.

According to certain stories Prestonpans was originally founded in the 11th century by a traveller named Althamer, who became shipwrecked on the local beach/coastal area. Finding it impossible to get home, the survivors of the wreck decided to remain where they were and founded a settlement named Althamer in honour of their leader. Whether this story is true or not is a matter of opinion, however when the monks of Newbattle and Holyrood arrived in the district in 1184 there was already a settlement named ‘Aldhammer’ on the site of what is now Prestonpans. The monks gave the settlement their own name, Prieststown or Prieston. Because of the salt manufacturing carried out by the monks using pans on the sea shore, the town’s name would later develop into Salt Prieststown and Salt Preston, and finally Prestonpans.

The Battle of Prestonpans (also known as the Battle of Gladsmuir) was the first significant conflict in the second Jacobite Rising. The battle took place on 21 September 1745. The Jacobite army loyal to James Francis Edward Stuart and led by his son Charles Edward Stuart defeated the army loyal to the Hanoverian George II led by Sir John Cope. The victory was a huge morale boost for the Jacobites, and a heavily mythologised version of the story entered art and legend. A memorial to the Battle of Prestonpans in the form of a modest stonemason-built cairn sits close to the battle site. An earlier (and tellingly, much larger and more impressive) monument to Colonel James Gardiner, a Hanoverian who was mortally wounded on the field of battle, was also erected in 1853 near Bankton House where the Colonel lived. It was sculpted by Alexander Handyside Ritchie. Each year on the anniversary of the battle, a Battlefield Walk is organised by local historians, and in September 2008 the Battle of Prestonpans 1745 Trust organised a symposium on local battlefields. A memorial in the parish church commemorates “John Stuart of Phisgul…barbarously murdered by four Highlanders near the end of the Battle.

Battle_of_Prestonpans_Cairn

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Prestonpans

I have stated previously that this trip is not any sort of Outlander theme type trip but more about all of the rich history of both Scotland and England. This site is important to all of that history and may interest some of the Outlander readers/fans because it the battle that the Jacobite forces won. The Battle of Prestonpans was the first significant conflict in the Jacobite Rising of 1745. The battle took place at 4 am on 21 September 1745. The Jacobite army loyal to James Francis Edward Stuart and led by his son Charles Edward Stuart defeated the government army loyal to the Hanoverian George II led by Sir John Cope. The inexperienced government troops were outflanked and broke in the face of a highland charge. The victory was a huge morale boost for the Jacobites, and a heavily mythologised version of the story entered art and legend. We will arrive at Prestonpans early in the morning and most likely won’t see too much, but we are hopeful that we can manage to fit in something of the history.

 

From Prestonpans it is  short trip on to Berwick upon Tweed. We will be following the coastal route down through this portion of England.

prestonpans to berwick

prestonpans to Berwick

The trip from Prestonpans to Berwick is about an hour.

Berwick-upon-Tweed  is a town in the county of Northumberland and is the northernmost town in England,  on the east coast at the mouth of the River Tweed. It is 2 12 miles (4 km) south of the Scottish border. It is about 56 miles (90 km) east-south east of Edinburgh, 65 miles (105 km) north of Newcastle upon Tyne and 345 miles (555 km) north of London. Founded as an Anglo-Saxon settlement during the time of the kingdom of Northumbria, the area was for more than 400 years central to historic border war between the Kingdoms of England and Scotland, and several times possession of Berwick changed hands between the two kingdoms. The last time it changed hands was when England again took it in 1482. Berwick remains a traditional market town and also has some notable architectural features, in particular its medieval town walls, its Elizabethan ramparts and Britain’s earliest barracks buildings (1717–21 by Nicholas Hawksmoor for the Board of Ordnance).

In 1296 England went to war with France, with whom Scotland was in alliance. Balliol invaded England in response, sacking Cumberland.  Edward in turn invaded Scotland and captured Berwick, destroying much of the town. Edward I went again to Berwick in August 1296 to receive formal homage from some 2,000 Scottish nobles, after defeating the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar in April and forcing John Balliol to abdicate at Kincardine Castle the following July. It was at this time that work began on building the town walls (and rebuilding the earlier Castle); these fortifications were complete by 1318 and subsequently improved under Scottish rule. An arm of William Wallace was displayed at Berwick after his execution and quartering on 23 August 1305. In 1314 Edward II of England mustered 25,000 men at Berwick, who later fought in (and lost) the Battle of Bannockburn.

Between 1315 and 1318 Scottish armies, sometimes with the help of Flemish and German privateers, besieged and blockaded the town, finally invading and capturing it in April 1318.[21] England retook Berwick some time shortly after the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333.  In October 1357 a treaty was signed at Berwick by which the Scottish estates undertook to pay 100,000 marks as a ransom for David II of Scotland,  who had been taken prisoner at the Battle of Neville’s Cross on 17 October 1346.

Berwick Castle was the site where one of Robert the Bruce’s supporters, Isabella Macduff was imprisoned for 4 years of the war between Scotland and England. She was the daughter of Donnchadh III, Earl of Fife, and Johanna de Clare, daughter of Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford. She was married to John Comyn, Earl of Buchan and thus was the Countess of Buchan. After Robert the Bruce killed John III Comyn, Lord of Badenoch at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries, the Earl of Buchan joined the English side in the Scottish Wars of Independence. Isabella took the contrary view.

According to tradition, the ceremony of crowning the monarch was performed by a representative of Clan MacDuff, but Isabella arrived in Scone the day after the coronation of Robert the Bruce in March 1306. However, the Bruce agreed to be crowned for a second time the day after, as otherwise some would see the ceremony as irregular, not being performed by a Macduff.  Bruce was defeated at the Battle of Methven in June 1306, so he sent Isabella and his female relatives north, but they were betrayed to the English by Uilleam II, Earl of Ross. Edward I of England ordered her sent to Berwick-upon-Tweed with these instructions: “Let her be closely confined in an abode of stone and iron made in the shape of a cross, and let her be hung up out of doors in the open air at Berwick, that both in life and after her death, she may be a spectacle and eternal reproach to travellers.”[1]

She was imprisoned in this cage for four years,  then moved to the Carmelite friary at Berwick. This was not necessarily a humanitarian move; it is suggested that by this stage Bruce was gaining support, his female relatives were potentially valuable hostages, and the English did not want them to die of ill-treatment. The last clear mention of her is being transferred again in 1313, her eventual fate is uncertain. Most of Bruce’s female relatives returned to Scotland when they were exchanged for English nobleman captured after the Battle of Bannockburn, but there is no mention of her in the records, so she had probably died by then.   Little or nothing remains of the original Castle other than ruins but I am hoping to see them!

berwick castleberwick castle2berwick castle3

With our arrival in Berwick upon Tweed, we will officially be in Northumbria! We will drive down the coast from Berwick towards the best part of all… for me anyway- we will make our way to Bamburgh Castle! For fans of Bernard Cornwell’s Last Kingdom series, Bamburgh Castle is the basis for Uhtred’s ancestral home of Bebbanburg!

berwick to bamburgh castle

berwick to bamburgh castle

From Berwick to Bamburgh Castle is about  1/2 hour drive and will take us past Lindisfarne/Holy Island. Due to our limited time frame, we will not be making the trip to the Island. I have been advised that there is the very real possibility and likelihood that we could get stranded there for a number of hours because of the tides. We will view it from the mainland as I am not about to miss out on Bamburgh Castle because I am stuck on Holy Island for 4-5 hours!

 

As I mentioned, Bamburgh Castle is the basis for Bebbanburg Castle, Uhtred’s childhood home.

Young Uhtred of Last Kingdom

Young Uhtred of Last Kingdom

I am Uhtred rightful lord of Bebbanburg I am Uhtred and I wll claim what is mine

For those of you waiting and anticipating the premiere of Last Kingdom on BBC America which airs on Saturday, just a few days from now- here is just a quick biography of Uhtred:

Uhtred was born into status as son of Ealdorman Uhtred, Lord of Bebbanburg, and raised to have hatred towards the surrounding kingdoms of Mercia, East Anglia, Wessex, Scotland and the Danes. Uhtred was originally called Osbert and was the younger of Ealdorman Uhtred’s sons. The name Uhtred was given always to the oldest son, but after his older brother was killed in a failed attack on the Danes Osbert’s name was changed to Uhtred. Uhtred was never taught swordsmanship in his nine years at Bebbanburg as his stepmother wanted him to pursue a life dedicated to being a priest.

In 866, the first of the Danish army began to arrive in Northumbria. In their speed the Danes were able to capture Eoferwic. Ealdorman Uhtred was killed in the failed assault to reclaim Eoferwic, and Uhtred was captured by the Danes following his furious but feeble attack on a Danish warlord. That warlord, Ragnar the Fearless, son of Ravn, decided to nurture Uhtred’s fury into a suitable fighting spirit and so adopted him. Uhtred found that living with the Danes was a much freer existence than with the pious Christians and their dour priests at Bebbanburg and embraced the Danish gods of Thor, Odin, and Hoder. Uhtred came to love Ragnar as a father and became a brother to Ragnar’s sons, Ragnar and Rorik, and daughter, Thyra.

Living in Ragnar’s company was enjoyable, even after Rorik’s death of sickness, until everything changed. Ragnar had made an enemy in a man named Kjartan due to an incident between Thyra and Kjartan’s son, Sven. The enmity came to a head one night when Uhtred was in the forest making charcoal for weapons. Kjartan led a warband to where Ragnar and his family were sleeping and lit their hall on fire, killing them all. Kjartan initially believed Uhtred to have also died in the fire. Uhtred was crushed by Ragnar’s death and left Northumbria to find family amongst the Saxons in Mercia, to the south.

Uhtred ended up in Wessex and in the service of Alfred the Great. Wessex was the last unconquered Saxon kingdom in England and thus always under constant threat from the Danes. Despite Uhtred’s childhood he began to fight and revel in Danish defeats. However, Uhtred had a particular hatred towards Alfred whom he believed too pious, weak and trusting to fight off the Danish invasion, although he maintained a healthy respect for Alfred’s intelligence. Alfred managed to calm any wanton violence between the two and Uhtred served him faithfully, though grudgingly, and at times with a mind to return to the Danes. Yet, as Uhtred’s usefulness improved so did Alfred’s attention, and as Uhtred aged he began to understand Alfred’s wisdom although dislike was always present.

 

Now, here is some information on the real Bamburgh Castle.

Built on a dolerite outcrop, the location was previously home to a fort of the native Britons known as Din Guarie and may have been the capital of the British kingdom of the region (see Gododdin, Bryneich and Hen Ogledd)  from the realm’s foundation in c.420 until 547, the year of the first written reference to the castle. In that year the citadel was captured by the Anglo-Saxon ruler Ida of Bernicia (Beornice) and became Ida’s seat. It was briefly retaken by the Britons from his son Hussa during the war of 590 before being relieved later the same year.  His grandson Æðelfriþ passed it on to his wife Bebba, from whom the early name Bebbanburgh was derived. The Vikings destroyed the original fortification in 993.

The Normans built a new castle on the site, which forms the core of the present one. William II unsuccessfully besieged it in 1095 during a revolt supported by its owner, Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumbria. After Robert was captured, his wife continued the defence until coerced to surrender by the king’s threat to blind her husband.

Bamburgh then became the property of the reigning English monarch. Henry II probably built the keep. As an important English outpost, the castle was the target of occasional raids from Scotland. In 1464 during the Wars of the Roses, it became the first castle in England to be defeated by artillery, at the end of a nine-month siege by Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick.

The Forster family of Northumberland provided the Crown with twelve successive governors of the castle for some 400 years until the Crown granted ownership to Sir John Forster. The family retained ownership until Sir William Forster (d. 1700) was posthumously declared bankrupt, and his estates, including the castle, were sold to Lord Crew, Bishop of Durham (husband of his sister Dorothy) under an Act of Parliament to settle the debts.  The castle deteriorated but was restored by various owners during the 18th and 19th centuries. It was finally bought by the Victorian industrialist William Armstrong, who completed the restoration. The castle still belongs to the Armstrong family, and is opened to the public. It also hosts weddings and corporate events. It has been used as a film location since the 1920s, featuring in films such as Ivanhoe (1982), El Cid (1961), Mary, Queen of Scots (1971), Elizabeth (1998) and both the 1971 and 2015 adaptions of Macbeth. This gives me all the more reason to see the current movie, Macbeth!

bamburgh castle1 bamburgh castle2 bamburgh castle3 bamburgh castle5 bamburgh castle6 bamburgh castle7 bamburgh castle8

http://www.bamburghcastle.com/castle.php

 

I may have extreme difficulty tearing myself away from Bamburgh… I have a feeling that my daughter may have to step in and forcibly drag me away! If we are able to manage departing this place in a reasonable amount of time, we will head on to Roman history at Housesteads Roman Fort which is a part of Hadrian’s Wall.

bamburgh to housesteads roman fort near hexham

It is about 1 1/2 hour drive from Bamburgh to Housesteads so we may end up in a sever time crunch to fit this or the next possible stop into our schedule. Set high on a dramatic escarpment on Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site, Housesteads Roman Fort takes you back to the Roman Empire. Wander the barrack blocks and the hospital. Peer into the oldest toilets you’ll ever see, and admire the stunning panoramic views from this ancient fortress. Our interactive museum showcases objects once belonging to Roman soldiers, and the mini-cinema will take you on a journey through time. 

Roman Fort and Tour

Imagine what life was like for the 800 soldiers living and working at Housesteads in Roman times.  The fort’s original name was ‘Vercovicium’ meaning ‘the place of the effective fighters’.

At the very edge of their empire, the soldiers were secure and self-sufficient within the fort. They had a barracks block, hospital, Commander’s House, granaries and communal toilets, all of which you can still see today.

 

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/housesteads-roman-fort-hadrians-wall/

 

housesteads-hadrians-wall-view housesteads-museum housesteads-roman-fort

 

As I’ve mentioned already, this will be a marathon day and if we manage to accomplish all of it, I think we shall consider ourselves winners!  From Housesteads, we will head for Leeds.

housesteads to leeds

It’s another two hour drive from Housesteads to Leeds so I can safely assume that by the time we arrive in Leeds it will be fairly late. Our plan is just to find our hotel and crash into bed! No sights or plans other than that for the Leeds area!  I was originally hoping to fit in a trip through Durham on the way to Leeds but being realistic, we’ll be lucky to accomplish what is on this list as it is without adding anything else to the plan!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TimeSlips makes travel plans, real ones!

TimeSlips travels

I just want to re-post this with a quick update. Yes, after many months of planning and a few glitches along the way, everything has now finally come together and I can breathe easier now and begin my official countdown to this much anticipated vacation! Tickets are bought, lodging is paid for, rental car is pre-paid, vacation is approved and my passport is finally on it’s way to my impatient nervous little hands! Five more weeks until our adventure begins. There have been a few minor changes but overall the general plan is still the same. The one major change will come at the end of the trip. We have managed to add a few days and adjust our schedule a bit so we will be making a stop in Dublin as well! It ended up being cheaper for us to fly home from Dublin than from London, even with adding in the cost of flights from London to Dublin. 

  It has always been a dream or wishful thought of mine to make one more trip across the pond to see places I never got to see the first time I visited the other side of that wide ocean. I never really thought it might happen and thus set the wish aside into that realm of not in this life time. Many years ago I had the opportunity to fulfill most of my travel dreams with a two year stay in Germany. I did as much as I could to enjoy and appreciate that chance of a lifetime. I visited much of Germany, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, I went to Austria and even to Spain during that time. I also managed a trip to England but that trip was limited by the fact that I was pregnant at the time. And, one other pesky event interfered with my short trip then… I happened to choose the most difficult time to attempt anything in England. I made the mistake of visiting England at the time Princess Diana and Prince Charles were about to celebrate their wedding with an untold throng of everyone and anyone who could find their way to London and any point within the country just to perhaps say they were at least in the country for the Wedding, if not the city or the church! Needless to say, that event put something of a damper on any of my plans even if they didn’t include wanting to visit London!  I did enjoy my brief visit and saw a wee bit of the country but I always regretted that I didn’t see more. I also always had a thought of regret at never getting to Scotland. Over the years, I can honestly say that it is one of the few regrets I have over my travel experiences. I have been blessed to see and experience as much as I have in this life and have accepted that one can not have everything they wish for!

Just because I have accepted the reality does not mean that there aren’t times late at night when I softly speak of those regrets and heart wishes to the universe… to the spirits that guide us and perhaps listen to our dreams even when we think they may not be paying attention to us. Recently, my daughter announced a plan she has been thinking of for some time. I knew that she had been thinking for quite a while of taking her own trip back across that ocean. She went to Germany when she was in high school and has always wanted to go to England and Scotland. It’s one of her personal bucket list things to do so when she mentioned that she was thinking of doing it this spring, that did not really surprise me… I would be thrilled for her to take such a trip and  happy with her sharing the whole experience with me on her return home. What did surprise and completely overwhelm me was her announcement that she was planning to include me in this trip of a life time. I am still overwhelmed that she would make such a choice and give me such an incredible heartfelt gift as this. Just the thought that she wants to do this for me and with me touches my heart and soul in a most indescribable way.  I do not have words to adequately explain how much this means to me!

My one thought right now is that those ancient ones, those wise ones, those spirits that guide me through life and destiny have indeed been listening to my whispered wishes and thoughts and have decided to possibly grant my wish. My other thought is that of my Father’s admonishments to be careful of what you wish for, you just might get it? When I was young, of course this never made much sense to me. As I grew older however, I began to understand his warning quite well! Sometimes those things we so fervently wish for and desire turn out to be difficult life lessons with our receiving of that gift. I  understand  how those spirits and guides choose to teach us hard lessons by giving us what we think we want and then showing us the high cost or  consequences . Hopefully they are not preparing one of these lessons for us!

So, because the universe appears to be listening, it seems that my daughter and I will be embarking on the journey of a life time next spring… if the prankster spirits do not create havoc and decide to foil our plans in some way.  I only mention this because we all know how the fates love to interfere with the best of plans just because they can! With all that being thought of and mentioned, we shall move on to how we hope to accomplish this trip of a life time.

We have chosen a daunting journey that may seem impossible. Who knows, it may well prove to be that- but we are determined to attempt the voyage anyway and hopefully we will survive the trip in one piece, still sane enough to recall or remember it and still on speaking terms with each other. When I get to the details of our plan you will understand the daunting nature of our plan.  We have a few things in our favor, the most important being our sense of humor and our ability to find said humor in even the worst  and most difficult situations. When I was left without words to express myself at this gift from her, my daughter’s reason was, “I am doing this for you so you will have something to talk about when I stick you in a home and this way you won’t feel bad when I commit you!”  My response to that is “If that is how I have to repay this trip, I’ll be quite happy in what ever home she chooses for me!”  Humor will get us through just about anything we might have to encounter on this trip or in life.

Another thing in our favor… we have what I think is some sort of unique genetic trait imprinted on us. I would describe this as a benefit of growing up in Northern Minnesota… the term road trip is essentially an every day life skill challenge and just some quirky fun idea that pops into our head! We are born with some sort of “Road Trip” trait imprinted in our genetic makeup! It allows us to think nothing of traveling long distances over nasty and barely driveable roads for many hours just to indulge something as mundane as an ice cream cone and think nothing of it! I believe this inherent trait will enable us to survive our future trip… Others who do not have this gene should probably not attempt the type of trip we are planning! Along with this unique Road Trip gene, we have also been blessed or cursed (depending how you look at it) with a wanderlust spirit that craves that adventure for adventure’s sake. This means we are flexible, adaptable and not so concerned with the final destination or outcome as much as the experience of getting to said destination. Of course, when destination involves set times for necessary transportation, then we must keep that end point in mind. As much as we would love to wander aimlessly throughout the world without a care, we are realistic and practical. We must return home to real life and jobs to pay for further excursions!

Now we can talk about this trip, how we came about our plan and what that plan entails so far.  My daughter and I are unabashedly proud history geeks- if you’re visiting this blog, you’re obviously aware of this fact! My interests run more towards the  medieval and earlier time frames while my daughter is more interested in the later time periods. We both are avid Outlander fans, but not the truly obsessive sorts so this will not be turning into an Outlander themed tour. We will be including a few Outlander type stops during our stay in Scotland but we will not be focused on the Outlander connection.  This trip is more about absorbing as much varied history and culture of the entire UK as possible within a very limited amount of time. When we started making decisions, we first took into account our time constraint of 10 days. We have 10 days to accomplish what some might perceive to be a rather impossible challenge- to tour Scotland and England in a road trip type driving tour. We knew from the start that we would prefer to do this on our own and not have to be at mercy of set transportation or tour schedules. Our road trip gene, wanderlust spirit, varied interests and curiosity do not mix all that well with rigid set schedules. We already know this and took that as our first consideration in planning this trip. We are willing to suffer the pitfalls and setbacks of traveling in this way in order to experience the journey in a way that suits us best. This may indeed be a crazed idea that we will at times regret but overall, we think it will be the far better option for us. Due to our road trip gene, we are well used to spending vast amounts of time in a car on unpredictable and sometimes treacherous roads in order to reach some unknown or undecided destination. For us, it is ultimately all about the journey, the surprises and the discoveries along the way. We enjoy the driving, the scenery and the ability to stop when ever we see something that inspires or interest us… not to mention being able to stop on our own schedule for such needs as eating and peeing.

For us, the driving experience was the first and most important decision to be made before anything else. Once that decision was made, we had to figure out the rest of the details in relation to the idea of a driving tour, set time limit and budget. While we are flexible, adaptable and willing to compromise, we do have a few non-negotiable goals or criteria for the trip that had to be worked into the plan from the beginning. Fortunately for us, we share many  of the same interests so the compromises have not really been that difficult. Our first criteria was that we see both Scotland and England. This was a priority for both of us and would shape the rest of our plans. My daughter’s non-negotiable items were and are that we visit Cardiff Wales and that we have some time for London.  My original non-negotiable was a visit to Isle of Skye. During the initial planning stage, I began to realize that visit might be stretching us a bit and would involve  a great deal of additional time that would thereby take away from time spent at other important places. Although I would still dearly love to see it, I just could not realistically fit into the plan without giving up some other equally important places.  My daughter did say that if it was important to me, we should find a way to fit it into the plan- she has been open and flexible, leaving much of the itinerary up to me other than her requirements of Cardiff and London. For my part, I just can not justify the added trip to Skye that she may not be as interested in. It would add to our time crunch and as I mentioned, it would potentially limit us as far as visiting other places that we both want to see. After mapping it all out and looking at the time required, I eliminated it from our plan.

Using our criteria of  driving tour and of seeing both Scotland in the allotted time limit of 10 days, we set about coming up with a travel plan that we think, hope will work out for us. Keep in mind, this plan is definitely not for the faint of heart or anyone daunted by the idea of  an epic road trip experience that involves learning to drive on the other side of unpredictable, unknown roads in a foreign country! We are now referring to this trip as our own personal version of Amazing Race. Our intent is to absorb as much as possible and arrive at our final destination on time in one piece with sanity intact. Our reward will be the accomplishment of completing this trip together, memories to last a life time and a fulfillment of life long dreams.  We have six months to plan and prepare for this very real trip through time and I will attempt to share the planning process as well as the actual trip when we finally get to that point.

For now, I will share the initial planning stage with you so you can see how and why we’ve come up with our travel plan. As I’ve already mentioned, we began with some basic specific requirements that have set the parameters and guideline for our planning. We have set the time frame for six months from now because it allows us to set up vacation time well in advance and it also provides us with enough time to make necessary reservations for air travel and hotel bookings. I should advise here that this advance planning is crucial when trying to find the best and most affordable options for lodging. Many of the places we looked at were already booked full even this far ahead of time. The airfare seems to be an opposite issue- by  booking so far in advance, you lock yourself into a price and miss out on any possible last minute deals that may show up at a later time. My daughter’s intent with this trip is to pay for as much as possible in advance and arrange it so she make purchases in chunks over the next six months. She has done this successfully in the past with other major trips so she is planning for this trip in the same way. We have set up an initial travel plan, set our time frame and booked lodging according to this plan in order to have the lodging accommodations available and not have to search last minute for places to sleep! So, our basic plan is set to include our most important requirements but everything else in between is subject to our own modifications once we arrive.

A major chunk of our budget will of course be the airfare costs. Because of that cost and my daughter’s budget planning, she has chosen the option of  doing the airfare in two separate arrangements of planning for one way tickets to and from rather than round trip tickets. This may cost more in the long run but it does enable her to pay for the two portions separately at different intervals. This is a compromise that she is willing to make- others with enough ready cash on hand will probably choose the round trip option. In our search for most affordable fares that will work with our plans, we found that Icelandair offers us the best price and the best overall travel option for both the trips.

When we took our desire to see both Scotland and England into consideration, we decided to start in Scotland and work our way down through England with a stop at Cardiff Wales and end up in London as our final destination and departure point for home.  Originally, we had planned to fly into Glasgow and start our tour with Isle of  Skye but as I previously mentioned, this would involve a great deal of additional time. If you look at the driving map from Glasgow to Isle of Skye, it is at least a 4 hour drive probably more like 5 hours at least for us in the beginning stages of adjusting to the travel. Then you would have to add the time to actually visit the Isle… this would end up being at least one entire day or more of our trip being spent on this excursion. If we were not working on such a tight schedule, I would certainly include Isle of Skye on our list. Due to our time constraints, I chose to change our arrival point in Scotland to one that will fit better with our time plus  offer us more benefit in sights and interest.

glasgow to isle of skye

Instead of Glasgow, we will be flying into Aberdeen. Our flight plan is as follows:

flight schedule to Aberdeen

On Saturday, April 2 our plan is embark on this ultimate adventure by boarding a flight from San Francisco that will eventually land us in Aberdeen, Scotland. Along the way we will stop for layovers at Seattle and then at Reykjavik Iceland. We will leave San Francisco at 1pm Saturday and arrive in Aberdeen at noon on Sunday.  I chose Aberdeen for a couple of reasons. First is it’s close proximity to Inverness, which was on our list of places to see. It is about a 3 hour drive from Aberdeen to Inverness and I am thinking that the drive will probably include points of interest along the way.

map and directions from aberdeen to Inverness

The second reason for Aberdeen as our starting point is that it is an area full of history and Castles…We all know I have a love of Castles! Aberdeenshire is known as ‘Scotland’s Castle Country.’  There are more castles per acre here than anywhere else in the UK. Scotland’s only dedicated Castle Trail lets you discover 18 of Aberdeenshire’s most famous and dramatic castles with our suggested 4-day itinerary and downloadable map. Simply follow the distinctive brown and white road signs through the heart of Aberdeenshire.

http://www.visitscotland.com/en-us/see-do/itineraries/castles/scotlands-castle-trail

There is so much to see that one could probably devote the entire 10 days just to this area. It includes everything from ancient ruins to more recent manor houses and it’s history stretches from the Picts , Robert the Bruce, wars of 1600s through the Victorian era when Queen Victoria made one of it’s area Castles, Balmoral her royal residence. Balmoral has been one of the residences for members of the British Royal Family since 1852, when the estate and its original castle were purchased privately by Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria. They remain as the private property of the royal family and are not the property of the Crown.

800px-Balmoral_Castle

Balmoral Castle

_tolquhon18.JPG

_tolquhon18.JPG

haddo-house

Haddo House

National Trust for Scotland

National Trust for Scotland Castle Fraser

We will spend two nights in Aberdeen with lodging booked at the Caledonian hotel. We will attempt to see as much as possible before heading towards Inverness sometime on Tuesday.

Caledonian hotel in Aberdeen

In Inverness, we will stay at a Bed and Breakfast, Ardmeanach House for two nights- Tuesday and Wednesday. This will give us a few days to tour the Inverness area.

http://www.ardmeanach.co.uk/

Ardmeanach house inverness2 Ardmeanach house inverness

The Ardmeanach website is excellent and provides a great list of the numerous points of interest in the Inverness area. One of our priorities for this area is Culloden Battlefield. Culloden Battlefield is situated about 5 miles from the City centre and is a must for anyone visiting Inverness. The site of the last Battle to be fought on British soil. There is a large Exhibition Centre and a walk around the battlefield is a must to soak up the history and atmosphere.

Culloden%20Grabstein

http://www.visitscotland.com/en-us/info/see-do/culloden-battlefield-and-visitor-centre-p247471

In honor of Outlander, we will also search out some standing stones. There a number of sites in the Inverness area so we should be able to accomplish our search for Standing Stones!  Situated in Glen Urquhart (8 miles west of Drumnadrochit) is the Corrimony chambered cairn surrounded by a circle of 11 standing stones. Robert Pollock has a guide to this site.

Six miles east of Inverness are the Clava Cairns (also known as Balnuaran of Clava). These Bronze Age chambered cairns are each surrounded by a stone circle in a wooded field. A most unusual place. Robert Pollock has a guide to this site. Photos online by Phil Wright and Undiscovered Scotland.

In the grounds of Brodie Castle there is a Pictish stone which was found in 1781 during excavations for a local church. It was moved here around 1840 and is sculptured with Ogham inscriptions including fish monsters and an elephant. This cross-slab of grey sandstone is known as Rodney’s Stone with varying stories as to the origin of the name. Photo reproduced by kind permission of Paul Warrener.

After Inverness, we will head toward Edinburgh where we have lodging booked at the Parliament House Hotel for Thursday and Friday.

Untitled_Panorama1-copy

Right in the heart of a city renowned for its heritage, the Parliament House Hotel has its own extensive history. Jacobean and Georgian buildings have been carefully brought together to form an elegant fifty-three bedroom hotel. We’ve retained many period features and introduced a little local character to all our rooms. However, we have also moved with the times and have incorporated all the latest in-room features today’s travellers expect.

Sitting in quiet seclusion at the foot of Calton Hill down a short cobbled lane, the hotel enjoys a tranquillity that belies its city centre location. Edinburgh’s main attractions like the Castle and Scottish Parliament, as well as its top shopping streets, are all tantalisingly close. Our central position makes us a popular choice for more than stylish accommodation and a good night’s sleep. We also appeal to business travellers with important meetings; family and friends attending a city wedding; theatre goers catching a quick bite in our bistro before the show; or couples making the most of all that Edinburgh and Scotland has to offer on a weekend break.

http://parliamenthouse-hotel.co.uk/about/

On our trip from Inverness to Edinburgh, we’re hoping to include a detour trip to Antonine’s wall, which was one of the attempts by the Romans at building a defensive wall border.

The Antonine Wall was a turf fortification on stone foundations, built by the Romans across what is now the Central Belt of Scotland, between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde. Representing the northernmost frontier barrier of the Roman Empire, it spanned approximately 63 kilometres (39 miles) and was about 3 metres (10 feet) high and 5 metres (16 feet) wide. Security was bolstered by a deep ditch on the northern side. It is thought that there was a wooden palisade on top of the turf. The barrier was the second of two “great walls” created by the Romans in Northern Britain. Its ruins are less evident than the better-known Hadrian’s Wall to the south, primarily because the turf and wood wall has largely weathered away, unlike its stone-built southern predecessor. Construction began in CE 142 at the order of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, and took about 12 years to complete. It may be noted in passing that Antoninus Pius never visited the British Isles, whereas his predecessor Hadrian did, and may well have visited the site of his Wall, though this has not yet been proved. You can find more information about wall on the official website:  http://www.antoninewall.org/

Antonine's wall

Although the Antonine Wall was not built of stone, its impact on the landscape was immense.

This is the route from Inverness to Edinburgh, which is approximately a three hour drive.  Seeing Antonine’s wall would require a detour from this route, or a trip to it from Edinburgh. To me it makes more sense to do the detour on our way from Inverness rather than plan for an added trip from Edinburgh.

map and directions from inverness to edinburgh

This detour would entail a three hour drive to the wall area from Inverness, then about an hour drive from Antonine’s wall to Edinburgh.

from inverness to antonine's wall

from antonine's wall to edinburgh

Our plan is to spend two days in Edinburgh… yes, we know that is barely enough time and we could also spend an entire two weeks soaking up Edinburgh! Never the less we will try to accomplish at least a few highlights of the city- the two priorities being Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace!

1024px-Edinburgh_Castle_from_the_south_east

Edinburgh Castle

1280px-Palace_of_Holyroodhouse,_Edinburgh

Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edinburgh_Castle

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holyrood_Palace

Are you dazed and exhausted yet just thinking about this plan? Yes, you probably are… I admit that it seems like a daunting challenge even to me!  I do have some doubts about it but, as I’ve said, we are determined to try and we are willing to make modifications mid trip if we realize that we are fighting a losing battle! Much of the trip will be spent in Scotland because we simply could not make a choice on what to leave out!

On Saturday we will head south towards England with a planned destination of Leeds. The route from Edinburgh to Leeds affords us a bit of much needed leeway depending on when we leave Edinburgh.  This map of the trip from Edinburgh to York and Leeds area shows about a 4-5 hour drive. The only reason I say it affords us some leeway is that there is only one current detour or sight along the way.

from edinburgh to York

We’re hoping to include a stop at Hadrian’s wall, which is along the route. This would break up the trip yet still put us on a continued path towards our Saturday destination of Leeds. It would be about a 3 hour trip from Edinburgh to Hadrian’s wall.

from edinburgh to hadrian's wall

http://www.visithadrianswall.co.uk/

800px-Hadrian's_wall_at_Greenhead_Lough 800px-Leahill_Turret_51B,_looking_East__Hadrian's_Wall

From Hadrian’s wall area to Leeds is about a 2-3 hour drive so this would put us at arriving in Leeds late afternoon on Saturday depending on how much time we would spend at the wall area. If we limit our time there, we could get into Leeds earlier and have more time for Leeds and Yorkshire area. There is a great deal to see in this area and we may end up finding a way to do a quick stop at a portion of the wall so we can get to Leeds sooner.

hadrian's wall to leeds

Another possible option besides the wall visit is a stop at Durham, which is on the route to Leeds. Durham is another city filled with history. Archeological evidence suggests a history of settlement in the area since roughly 2000 BC.  The present city can clearly be traced back to AD 995, when a group of monks from Lindisfarne chose the strategic high peninsula as a place to settle with the body of Saint Cuthbert, that had previously lain in Chester-le-Street, founding a church there. Durham’s geographical position has always given it an important place in the defence of England against the Scots.  The city played an important part in the defence of the north, and Durham Castle is the only Norman castle keep never to have suffered a breach.  The Battle of Neville’s Cross, which took place near the city on 17 October 1346 between the English and Scots, is the most famous battle of the age.

800px-Durham_Millburngate_Bridge durham castle

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham,_England

durham england

Durham England on the map

durham to leeds

route from Durham to Leeds

 

 

In Leeds, we will be staying at the Bridge Farm Hotel, a  family-run, 18th-century coaching house, Bridge Farm Hotel offers a small bar, a separate TV lounge, free parking and free Wi-Fi in public areas. In the morning, a full English breakfast is served in the dining room.Each bedroom is individually decorated and comes with an en suite bathroom and tea/coffee making facilities. A 15-minute drive from Leeds city centre and Wakefield city centre, Bridge Farm is only 10 minutes away by car from Temple Newsam Golf Club.

bridge farm2 bridge farm hotel in leeds

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g186411-d3396409-Reviews-Bridge_Farm_Hotel-Leeds_West_Yorkshire_England.html

We will be staying only one night in Leeds and if you think the previous portion of this whirlwind trip is a crunch, the remainder of it will be even more so! On Sunday, we will need to make our way from Leeds area down to Bristol and Cardiff Wales where we have planned to stay on Sunday night. It is about a 4-6 hour trip from Leeds/York area to our destination of Cardiff, Wales. This will that anything we want to see in the Leeds/York area will have to be done in the morning so we can head out at a reasonable time to make Cardiff by late afternoon. We may end up not seeing much of the York area in order to have some time for Cardiff, which is a priority on our list. In order to accomplish this, we may be better off heading from Leeds straight off in the morning. We really do want some time in Cardiff and this would be the compromise needed to get that time.

york area to bristol and cardiff

Once in Cardiff, we have reservations at Innkeeper’s Lodge.

inkeeper's lodge cardiff

A Cardiff hotel with the whole package

If you’re looking for hotels in Cardiff, our lodge offers budget accommodation close to the heart of the city. So whether you’re here for business or pleasure, you’ll be near enough to all the action, yet happily away from the hustle and bustle. The Millennium Stadium is just a 15-minute walk away, as is Cardiff Arms Park, and attractions such as Cardiff Castle and Cardiff Bay are also within easy reach. While you’re sightseeing, how about stepping into the future – or the past – by visiting the Dr Who Experience?

Of course, you won’t need a Tardis to get to us because the M4 is on the doorstep, and excellent rail and plane connections are just a taxi-ride away.  As for the lodge itself, our classic Victorian building was once a rich man’s townhouse. Today it’s anything but expensive to stay here. With a comfy bed and a cool pint or plate of hearty pub-food available in the pub downstairs, you’ll find it offers a great-value base for exploring the Welsh capital.

http://www.innkeeperslodge.com/cardiff/#about

Now, I must remind everyone that my daughter is in charge of the hotel reservations. I am quite certain that it was the specific mention of Dr. Who and the Tardis that swayed her decision to book at this hotel. She happens to be a devoted Dr. Who fan and I have a feeling that played a part in her insistence on visiting Cardiff. This is also the reason I am trying to give us some additional time in Cardiff on Sunday and Monday morning. I am trying too to make time in Cardiff to hopefully meet up with some friends who live in the area!

From Cardiff, we will need to make our way to London, our final pit stop of this race! It will probably be about a 6 or possibly 7 hour drive from Cardiff to London. I know the map says about 3 but I am adding time in as a buffer to include any stop we might decide to make along the way…such as a quick stop at any rest area that might give a view of Stonehenge. We’re not planning a stop there because you can’t actually visit the site anyway so why include it on our priority list at all. If it happens that we can get a view of it along our way, that’s fine- if not, we’re not concerned about it! I have a feeling that by this point we will not be concerned about much of anything other than getting to London.

cardiff to london

We have reservations made for two nights- Monday and Tuesday in London at Airways Hotel Victoria.  It is nothing fancy or interesting, just reasonably priced and in a convenient location- that was all we were concerned about for this final part of the trip.

Airways-Hotel-4

Looking for cheap budget hotels in London? The Airways Hotel, a cheap hotel in Central London, may be the answer to your search. We are a family run budget hotels in Central London offering affordable accommodation with quality service. En suite rooms in this budget hotel are clean and comfortably furnished, and our staff are well trained to ensure they can help you with whatever you may need and are eager to help. Although we are a low priced B&B Hotel still we have not compromised our quality of service. 

We are one of the most conveniently located Central London hotels.
The bed and breakfast hotel in Central London is 7-10 minutes’ walk from Victoria Station, which has links by Underground, Bus, Train and Coach to all parts of London, including tourist sites, and places as far as mainland Europe. Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, London Eye and Harrods are all within 20-30 minutes walk of the Hotel and if you use public transport you are within 40 minutes of all of London’s tourist attractions, including Tower of London, and airports (Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton).

Our budget hotel is housed in a mid Victorian building in a well conserved residential part of London. The Airways Hotel is the answer for tourist and business travellers looking for a cheap hotel in central London in a quiet and safe residential setting. We are one of the leading bed and breakfast hotels in London.

http://www.airways-hotel.com/

Our flight from London to home will depart on Wednesday afternoon, 1pm so we will really not have time to see much of London. As it looks right now, we will basically have one day- Tuesday to see anything we want to see in London. I know my daughter is still trying to figure out some way of making more time for London sights, but realistically I think by this point we will be so toured out that it may not be such a pressing desire. Add to that fact, it is at the end of our trip, extremely expensive and we will at the end limit of our tight budget besides our patience and our endurance!

This is our initial plan… we may come to our senses at some point during the process and make modifications to it, but modifications will most likely be in what we are willing to compromise on as far as sights or stops along the way. Our plan is to stick with the driving tour and the pre-planned hotel stays if at possible. If it becomes a seriously rocky trip, we may adjust some of the time spent in Scotland and compromise on that portion to give us added time in England. I will continue to keep everyone updated on our plans and the progress. Consider this as our real life trip through history!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Kingdom, Time travel in Scotland, plus Hail to Arthur Pendragon and Helen Hollick!

A quick update this morning to share some of the most recent preview pics released for The Last Kingdom! I know that many of us are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Uthred to our small screens. Thankfully BBC is finally letting us see some of the previews of it! The Last Kingdom premieres Saturday, October 10 at 10/9c. The Last Kingdom is a contemporary story of redemption, vengeance and self-discovery set against the birth of England.

Last Kingdom previews

Last Kingdom previews

Last Kingdom preview probably Ravyn, father of Ragnar.

Last Kingdom preview probably Ravyn, father of Ragnar.

Last Kingdom preview

Last Kingdom preview young Uhtred and Brida?

 

Last Kingdom preview- OMG It's Ubba!!!

Last Kingdom preview- Ubba

from vikings to last kingdom

Last Kingdom preview possibly Brida

Last Kingdom preview possibly Brida

For more info on the series and the cast list so far, you can read my previous article:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/25/temporary-cure-for-viking-withdrawals-last-kingdom-update/

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/last-kingdom-update/

The official website has been updated, You need to go check it out now!

http://www.bbcamerica.com/the-last-kingdom/

 

For fans of Outlander and other assorted time travel stories, I  want to share and suggest another series. I’ve mentioned it before and reviewed it on my books and reviews page but just wanted to give it a quick blurb here as a reminder or refresher for those looking for books to fill the time travel and Scotland craving. Laura Vosika has a great time travel series that combines her musical background with time travel and early Scottish history. I’ve enjoyed the Bluebells trilogy so far and I think a lot of others will enjoy it as well! Her series is a mix of past and present, some alternative “what if” theories, some great history along with mysteries and suspense! It deals with the history of Scotland during the 1300s.

Blue Bells of Scotland

The Minstrel Boy is now available on Kindle!

The Trilogy Begins….

Blue Bells of ScotlandShawn Kleiner has it all: money, fame, a skyrocketing career as an international musical phenomenon, his beautiful girlfriend Amy, and all the women he wants– until the night Amy has enough and leaves him  stranded in a Scottish castle tower.He wakes up to find himself mistaken for Niall Campbell, medieval Highland warrior.  Soon after, he is sent shimmying down a wind-torn castle wall into a dangerous cross country trek with Niall’s tempting, but knife-wielding fiancee.  They are pursued by English soldiers and a Scottish traitor who want Niall dead.Thrown forward in time, Niall learns history’s horrifying account of his own death, and of the Scots’ slaughter at Bannockburn.  Undaunted, he navigates the roiled waters of Shawn’s life– pregnant girlfriend, amorous fans, enemies, and gambling debts— seeking a way to leap back across time to save his people, especially his beloved Allene.  His growing fondness for Shawn’s life brings him face to face with his own weakness and teaches him the true meaning of faith.Blue Bells of Scotland is both a historical adventure and a tale of redemption that will be remembered long after the last page has been turned.

http://www.bluebellstrilogy.com/

You can find my reviews for the series on my books and reviews page. Laura Vosika is currently working on the next book in the series, called Westering Home. She is in Scotland right now doing some additional research and if you check out her facebook page, she is posting some fantastic photos of her trip and her research!

https://www.facebook.com/laura.vosika.author/timeline

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/books-and-reviews/

 

One last update! While we’re on the subject of books… In a previous article, https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/saxons-romans-and-arthur/  I mentioned a series on Arthur by Helen Hollick. At the time, I had just started reading it, was only through book one and didn’t give a complete review of it. The series is called the Pendragon’s  Banner and in it, Helen gives a more realistic presentation of the legend of Arthur.  There are three books in the series that takes us from Arthur’s early childhood to his death. I have now finished reading all three books and can honestly say that I am just as impressed with the ending as I was with the beginning of it! In the series, Helen presents her  version of  many of the different stories connected with the legend. The only parts she omitted in her version were Lancelot and Merlin. She omitted these characters for a good reason! Helen chose to focus on the fragments of history and legend that made a more historical connection to events during that time period. Rather than present the mythology and symbolism of Merlin and magic or Lancelot and knights on white horses, she instead had us follow Arthur on a  journey to Gaul, to parts of ancient France where the Romans were fighting a losing battle against the Franks at the time.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avignon

There in a place called Avignon, he face betrayal and failure, along with inner demons to haunt him and cause him to not want to return to his home in Britain.  While Helen insists that she is no historian, I was thoroughly impressed with  her attention to historical details and those tiny fragments of documented evidence. As the series went on, I found myself immersed in those small details and spent considerable time switching from the story google those little references. Now, for some that might not be considered a plus to the story telling, but for me, it was an awesome adventure into both the story and the actual historical theories about that time period!

When I chose her series, it was for the references to actual history and she did not let me down. Her way of weaving much of that history together made a great deal of sense to me. I especially like the turn she took in weaving Cerdic the Saxon into the story. That was the part I was most interested in from the beginning anyway! Historically, Cerdic’s genealogy and lineage were sketchy and there are theories that he may have been connected to the Romano Britons in some way… Helen went with that theory and it worked!

I highly suggest you read the series, and coincidentally, if you go to Helen’s web page, you will find the trilogy as this month’s feature!

Quote of the Month 

‘Arthur said, “Happy endings are only for lovers in Harpers’ tales.” ‘
from The Kingmaking

The kingmaking Helen hollick The Pendragon Banner 2 by helen hollickShadow of the king by helen hollick

http://www.helenhollick.net/index.html

In Helen’s journal, she has proclaimed August as Arthurian month and is offering a give away prize! So, all hail Arthur and Helen!!!

http://www.helenhollick.net/journal.html

 

 

 

 

Some miscellaneous news and updates!

Ok, first of all, there seems to be a huge renewed interest in Frank Randall of Outlander fame! I want to say Thank You to everyone who has visited recently while searching for information on him and on Diana’s thoughts on his character! I just want to let you all know that I do have a three part series on him that includes his history through all of the books and the novella that he is in!  The page that everyone is so interested in right now is a copy of Diana’s reasons and her explanation of  her creation of Frank Randall. The articles I’ve written are my personal opinions, thoughts and observations on his character! I hope that while you’re here you take some time to read this series as well as Diana’s words.

Frank haunted by Jack

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/outlander-on-the-matter-of-frank-randall-part-one/

You may notice that I have not kept up with continuing reviews and commentaries for the second half the season. I do have a few reasons for this. First of all, there are already so many excellent fan sites for the show that I do not feel a need to add to it.  While I enjoy the show and appreciate all that the show brings to us, my first fascination and loyalty is to the books, to the world and the characters that Diana has so vividly created and set into my mind. I appreciate the show and what Ron Moore had done with it in order to capture the essence of the story and bring it to life.  I understand the reasons for changes in the story completely and I can easily enjoy the show as something different than the books. In fact, I look forward to next season and seeing what those differences might be! As I already mentioned, my fascination is with the books and the story that Diana has given us, and I feel that I have covered much of  that wealth of information already. As we get closer to season two, I will probably return to a few articles that I did not get to earlier. I am completely sucked in by the mystery and the history of Master Raymond, who will be showing up next season! I absolutely can not wait to see this part of the story play out and I will be working on an article devoted to him at some point down the road.  My other reason for not continuing with an ongoing commentary and review is that of time constraints… If you look at my blog now, you will see that I am deeply involved in much earlier history- namely Viking and medieval history! I believe that I have found a little niche for myself within this early history, where my heart is so much closer to anyway.

I do owe a profound amount of gratitude to Diana Gabaldon and her Outlander Saga, as well as all of the followers and fans of her work. What she did was inspire me to express myself, to create and to take myself seriously. What all of you followers and fans have done is to encourage and support me in this endeavor. For that, I am forever grateful to all of you as you have given me that encouragement to branch out and explore all of the history that I am so passionate about!  Hopefully, all of you Outlander fans will continue to stop by and find bits of historical information that you didn’t realize you might be interested in! If you search through my archives, you will find a wealth of information on the history of Scotland, going back so much further than what Outlander touches on right now. The history of Scotland stretches all the way back through the Vikings times to pre-history with such places as Skara Brae where Master Raymond may have his earliest beginnings at!

 

Now on to other news… For all of you fans and followers of Bernard Cornwell’s Warrior Chronicles and Uhtred of Bebbanburg, I know you have been waiting impatiently for the next book. At one time it was not scheduled for release until some time in 2016, but never fear, your wait will soon be over! It is now scheduled for release on October 8, 2015! My amazon listing states you can pre-order now and get it on October 8.

Warriors of the Storm by bernard cornwell

October 8, 2015

The new novel in Bernard Cornwell’s number one bestselling series The Warrior Chronicles, on the making of England and the fate of his great hero, Uhtred of Bebbanburg.

A fragile peace governs the kingdoms of Wessex, East Anglia, under the rule of the late King Alfred’s son, King Edward, and Mercia, under his daughter Aethelflaed.

Uhtred, her formidable champion and greatest warrior, controls the northern parts from the strongly fortified city of Chester. But no one can prepare them for the storm that is about to descend…

The Northmen, allied to the Irish, come in force under the cover of night, up the Mersey, perhaps to attack Chester, perhaps to rage and pillage through Mercia, perhaps to take the troubled kingdom of Northumbria. They are led by the terrifying Viking warrior, Ragnall Iverson, a fierce fighter and ruthless leader.

He and his army are formidable enough but worse still, his brother is married to Uhtred’s daughter. With his passionate determination, Uhtred will stop at nothing to take back his corner of Northumbria and secure the future of Bebbanburg. But for Aethelflaed and the Mercians, doubt must arise to where his loyalty lies.

In the struggle between family and loyalty, between oaths given and political demands, there is no easy solution. And the clash between the Vikings and the Saxons will resound across the land.

That bit of news has made my week! I am so impatient to see Uhtred again… I also find this release date gift interesting and wonder if it has to do with promotion of the upcoming Last Kingdom series for BBC that is currently in production? Hopefully we will hear more news on that soon!

Last kingdom promo2

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/25/temporary-cure-for-viking-withdrawals-last-kingdom-update/

While you’re waiting for Uhtred’s return, you might want to check out some of Bernard’s other works? Because I am so steeped in Viking and Saxon history right now, I decided to go all the way back in time… all the way back to when the Saxons first arrived in a place called Britannia by the Romans. I have been researching that time period for an upcoming article on Saxon Rulers and how they came to claim their right to rule. So, in keeping with that research I am giving Mr. Cornwell a chance to present me with his version of events during that time. His series on King Arthur strips away the magic and the myth to tell a story much closer to what might have happened… though, I have to state ahead of time that my current research has shown me a different side to the Saxon migration. I will address that in my future article on their history! For now, I am going to enjoy Bernard Cornwell’s version of King Arthur!

Winter King by Bernard Cornwell

April 15, 1997

It takes a remarkable writer to make an old story as fresh and compelling as the first time we heard it. With The Winter King, the first volume of his magnificent Warlord Chronicles, Bernard Cornwell finally turns to the story he was born to write: the mythic saga of King Arthur.
The tale begins in Dark Age Britain, a land where Arthur has been banished and Merlin has disappeared, where a child-king sits unprotected on the throne, where religion vies with magic for the souls of the people. It is to this desperate land that Arthur returns, a man at once utterly human and truly heroic: a man of honor, loyalty, and amazing valor; a man who loves Guinevere more passionately than he should; a man whose life is at once tragic and triumphant.
As Arthur fights to keep a flicker of civilization alive in a barbaric world, Bernard Cornwell makes a familiar tale into a legend all over again.

 

Now, just one last bit of update, news and appreciation…. This blog did not start with my voyage into Outlander land, it began as a place to share my stories and my creations for Sims 3! That has gotten set aside for quite some time but I do still get a number of views and visits from simmers. I need to say Thank You to all them for their initial support and encouragement as I began this venture of blogging and writing. Just recently I had a comment and question about one of my historical Castle projects, Dunvegan Castle. I put a great deal of time, energy, research and creative process into the project but it has sat tucked away in my Sims 3 game library for quite some time, only half finished. Because Dunvegan Castle is so interesting – one of my favorite Castles in Scotland,  and it has ties all the way back to the Viking era or possibly earlier, I am going to find some time to go back, revisit it and hopefully finish it!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/?s=history+of+dunvegan+castle

Photos of Dunvegan Castle

Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye

Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye

dunvegan castle

A few photos of my work on a representation of Dunvegan Castle. These were beginning photos of the work- I have taken some creative license in the representation and have had to fight constantly with limits of the building constraints in the game but I think I have captured the essence of it.

Arial view of front of lot overview of front with windows, towers and turrets Screenshot-2 (3) view of back side entrances

 

Ohhhh and for you Outlander fans, when last I visited my inhabitants of Dunvegan Castle, they were in the 1700s and had received a rather curious invitation to a small, secret wedding…

Dunvegan recieves a wedding invitationwedding-invitation1

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/dunvegan-castle-recieves-an-odd-correspondance-and-invitation/

Alright, that is it for my updates and my news of the day… Be off with you now, Enjoy your visit to my realm!

 

 

TimeSlips: looking back and forward!

 

Timeslips cover

We’ve reached another huge milestone and once again it’s time to take a few moments to thank everyone who visits and travels through history with me! A few of you have been here since the beginning with me and I want you to know how much I appreciate your continued following through all of the paths we’ve taken in exploring history. Some of you arrived here via the Sims, where this all started, some made the journey through those mysterious Outlander Stones, and yet others have sailed in with the Vikings!  No matter how you have found us, many of you have chosen to stay on the journey.  I can not tell you how much it means to me, how much I appreciate your visits, your comments, questions, and your involvement in this site. I bid you all a gracious and heartfelt welcome and hope that you will continue to enjoy exploring the past with me!  As I mentioned, we have reached a personal milestone for me- 100,000 views! If you have been with me from the earliest beginnings, you will understand why this is such an amazing accomplishment for me.

I began this blog as a way to share my little fantasy world of the Sims 3, my builds, my characters and my stories within that context. One thing has been here since that initial beginning and that has been a life long love of history! I used that Sims platform to begin sharing my love of history, story telling and the weaving of those passions together. I am forever grateful to the Sims 3 for providing me with a basis to begin this journey!  If you look back in my archives, you will find the creations, the ideas and the stories that have led us to where we are today- in the middle of the Viking era with historical figures such as Ragnar, Rollo, King Ecbert, King Charles of France and others who will arrive in our future.

When I began building the castles and homes of history, I did it with the thought and premise that every building has a history filled with people, events and stories never told. I went on the idea that perhaps if one had such ability, they might be able to feel the vibrations, hear the sounds of that past and see the stories unfold in some way. Much of my early writing was a combination of building or renovation progress and the stories that came to life with that progress. I based it much on the way you might see it if you were renovating a historical building in real life. Each time you strip away a layer of paint or dust, you find a new layer, a new story of the past.

As I’ve mentioned, it all began with Sims 3, with castles, with royals, with history and fantasy woven together. Those creations, characters and stories were a huge part of  our beginnings here . While I have progressed from them, I have not forgotten them and I am proud of them. That early work enabled me to set a foundation for this blog that I have tried to keep in mind even today as I use other platforms such books and television to hopefully inspire and encourage you on your own explorations of history. My intent has always been to present history in a way that is interesting and captures your attention. I have always tried, from the beginning to present historical facts in a way that you might be curious enough to go off on your own search of history. In the past, I used the Sims 3 platform to weave together a long and ongoing look at history with a huge dose of fantasy… the Sims allowed me to explore that venue, that realm of vampires, fairies, witches and time travel and use them in telling the stories of the past. As I used that method, I always tried to incorporate actual events, facts and real life mysteries where ever possible along the way. Those early stories, while often fanciful did lead us through history from the present to the past and back again. Yes, I have taken a break from them, but as any writer can attest to, sometimes you need to step back, take a long break, and perhaps re-evaluate your work. The story remains in the background waiting for that time when you can return, re-focused with a clearer idea of where to go. That is where my story is… always in the back of my mind, always in my heart, waiting for that time when I can return to it and give it the proper attention and focus that it deserves!

In a way, my deviation and time away from the story is actually a way of doing more research into the past while keeping my original story and those characters that are now like a part of my family in mind. In some ways, the paths are always connected whether  or not you are ever aware of it. My mind continues to research, to piece together events and people together in relation to my beloved story of the past, the present and the future!

For those of you who have arrived later in the journey and have not searched this space for other bits of information, I can only suggest and hope that you take some time during your visits here to explore those other times, places and stories that are stored here! My archives have become a rather vast vault of time and history spanning from the earliest Roman history in Britain, to that now ever present Viking era that involves so much more than just the Vikings, it veers from tales and history of King Arthur to the mysteries of the princes of the tower. Our journey through time brought us to the world of Outlander, where we became lost in the Standing Stones and spent much time in the 1700s of Scotland and early America, and because of that trip, we found ourselves immersed in the world of the Vikings and early Saxon history! As a result, we are now on a journey through the early medieval period that includes those Vikings, Saxons, and everyone else in between that the Vikings influenced from the Frankish Empire to the creation of Normandy and the eventual battle for a united Kingdom of Britain, as well as future travels to Iceland, Ireland, Scotland, and possibly even on to earliest explorations of North America.

So, how do my early stories of history still remain connected to this present path we are on?  Well, for that you need to take a look at some of those early stories and where my characters have been in the past. First of all, you may need a short summary of how their stories actually began with a fantasy called Royals Castle and a young woman named Eleanor Deguille… my first blog entries covered the beginnings of her story and her life. She began at Royals Castle, traveled through time to various points in history, arrived in the present and then travelled back again. Throughout her story, she met a number of historical figures, viewed some important events and, her story introduced us to some other important characters who had their own stories to tell.

Lady Eleanor DeGuille through time and history, from a lonely child pawn of Royals to an uncertain romance, timeless friendship to a Mother's spirit within her guiding her journey and her destiny.

Lady Eleanor DeGuille through time and history, from a lonely child pawn of Royals to an uncertain romance, timeless friendship to a Mother’s spirit within her guiding her journey and her destiny.

Eleanor’s story was the start of this blog! If you are interested, you can read those earliest beginnings here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/eleanors-journal-entries/

For another look at Eleanor and how her life is woven together within the threads of history and legends, you can read this story about the legends of Avalon, Melusine the Water Goddes and my interpretation of that legend as it shows up through history with people such as Henry VIII and his ancestors making claims to being descended from Arthur and even Melusine! Melusine is a legend or tale that has it’s origins in early France, mainly Poitou, the low countries, and Normandy! She was often referred to as the  fairy of Normandy, or Bretagne. Connecting Eleanor to this legend gave her a more solid connection to the history of France.

Avalon cover1

Arthur and Vivianne

Arthur and Vivianne

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/melusinas-story-a-royals-link-to-avalon/

Eleanor Deguille’s mysterious life eventually connected her to the beginnings of tales of Britain, Romans  and a man named Arthur… that is was where her life, her time travel and her story began. While her story and the rest of it is steeped in the fantasy of those Vampires, Witches, Fairies and time travel, it is woven together with those real events of history. Eleanor’s story took her from that early beginning in the fairy tale realm of British history to the 1400s and 1500s of France, England and Scotland. In those earliest beginnings we met a man named Eric North. Eric’s story is just as important as Eleanor’s and it is a connecting point for that earliest time in Britain’s history. Eric’s story begins in the present day, and then goes on to tell the story of the earliest migrations of the Norse to areas of Northern Britannia as it was known then by the Romans who inhabited the isle. Eric began his life in one of the far off North places and made a journey by sea as a young child with his family to a place now known as the Isle of Skye on the coast of Scotland. He spent his youth growing up in that place which would eventually become Dunvegan Castle.  I used this place and this Castle as the setting for Eric’s birthplace and ancestral home because of it’s rich ties to early Viking history as well as it’s stories of such mythical things as the Fairie Flag. It’s location also lent itself well to making it plausible as a place that some of those earliest travelers might have made their way to. I have always attempted to make those  connections where ever possible when weaving together the fantasy and the history.

You can read part of Eric’s story here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/eleanors-journal72-erics-memories-a-time-before-vampyres-and-a-life-of-contradictions/

Eric in the Castle Eric's final farewell to loved ones

While Eric’s character and story are that of the fantasy realm, his story does make the connections from that earliest migration of the Norse, their settling in this new unknown place and their eventual plausible meetings with the Romans who were attempting to advance from the southern portions of Britannia into the northern portions which were already inhabited by groups such these ancient Norse and Picts…  Eric’s story tells of the rich history  those northern regions now known as Scotland. His story presents the earliest known legends and theories that go back as far as Egyptian migrations to that area!

You can find more of the ancient history of  the Romans and the Norse migration here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/from-the-creator-ancient-history-connects-the-norse-with-romans-and-king-arthur/

This early post explains some of the theories and thoughts on possible Egyptian migration to Ireland and Scotland!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/from-the-creator-historical-information/

As to why I chose the Isle of Skye for the setting, you can read that here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/from-the-creator-some-historical-background/

If you go back and read some of these early posts, I think you will see how Eric came to play such an important part in my story, how he sort of took over the story with his life and his story and why he remains such an important connection for me on my path through history which has landed me in this time of the Vikings and kept me here for so long!

 

All of those early stories of history have led us to where we are right now, exploring the real history of all of those people that Michael Hirst and other creators/authors introduce us to! One such important person is Rollo, who we have seen claw his way out of the shadows and darkness of his early life to put himself on the path to his own fame and dynasty.

 

Portrait of Rollo's destiny. Credit to Ines Jagger of Vikings Aftermath group and to lindamarieanson of deviant art. 600px-Cronological_tree_william_I_svg

William the Conqueror AKA William I

Recently, I began reading a book about our Viking, Rollo’s descendant, William the Conqueror and was rather surprised to find a mention of the Fairie Flag in it. The Fairie Flag is one of those relics of Dunvegan Castle that I originally found so intriguing when researching a past for my character,  Eric.

Dunvegan cup, Fairie Flag and rory mors horn

Dunvegan cup, Fairie Flag and rory mors horn

fairy_flag_2

http://fairyroom.com/2013/01/fairy-flag-of-dunvegen/

More information on the history of Scotland, Clans, Dunvegan Castle and the Fairy Flag can be found in this early post:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/21/from-the-creator-some-history-of-clans-in-scotland/

Now, as I mentioned, the book I was reading was about William the Conqueror and Normandy so I was immediately puzzled and curious about this  reference to the Fairy Flag. The book is  The Lion and the Rose: William Rising by Hilary Rhodes. It is the first book in a series about William, his history and his conquest of England. Yes, it is historical fiction, but it is extremely well researched and I think it presents a great picture of the man and his path to the Crown of England. The author presents and provides some excellent resources and references as well as weaving together an interesting story!

http://www.amazon.com/Lion-Rose-Book-One-William-ebook/dp/B00L4K5GKE/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1433189138&sr=1-3&keywords=the+lion+and+the+rose

Fairie flag and Robert of Normandy

In the beginning of the book, William’s Father, Robert the Magnificent or Robert the Devil, travels to the Byzantine Empire where he meets the Empress Zoe, who shares a foreshadowing, a prophecy of his future with him. That prophecy is a bit of a puzzle for readers to decipher throughout the book or books. I found it interesting, intriguing and of course I had to go in search of answers!  The prophecy states: The fighting man and the wyvern and the fairie flag, all will come, and all will give battle, but it is the lion that reaches for the roots. I can not see the end of that. I can not see if it will be enough. The deepest roots can be ripped free. And there is a great ripping to come, aye.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_I,_Duke_of_Normandy

In attempting to make sense of this puzzle, there is one other piece of information that shows up on the same page and is an important clue. This bit of information ultimately gives us the answer to the puzzle of the Fairie Flag and links the entire story and history of Dunvegan Castle to that of the Vikings. That clue is found in the mention of one Harald Sigurdsson… otherwise known  as Harald Hardrada!

Harald_Hardrada_window_in_Kirkwall_Cathedral_geograph_2068881

Harald Sigurdsson (Old Norse: Haraldr Sigurðarson; c. 1015 – 25 September 1066), given the epithet Hardrada (harðráði, roughly translated as “stern counsel” or “hard ruler”) in the sagas, was King of Norway (as Harald III) from 1046 to 1066. In addition, he unsuccessfully claimed the Danish throne until 1064 and the English throne in 1066. Prior to becoming king, Harald had spent around fifteen years in exile as a mercenary and military commander in Kievan Rus’ and in the Byzantine Empire.

When he was fifteen years old, in 1030, Harald fought in the Battle of Stiklestad together with his half-brother Olaf Haraldsson (later Saint Olaf). Olaf sought to reclaim the Norwegian throne, which he had lost to the Danish king Cnut the Great two years prior. In the battle, Olaf and Harald were defeated by forces loyal to Cnut, and Harald was forced in exile to Kievan Rus’ (the sagas’ Garðaríki). He thereafter spent some time in the army of Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise, eventually obtaining rank as a captain, until he moved on to Constantinople with his companions around 1034. In Constantinople, he soon rose to become the commander of the Byzantine Varangian Guard, and saw action on the Mediterranean Sea, in Asia Minor, Sicily, possibly in the Holy Land, Bulgaria and in Constantinople itself, where he became involved in the imperial dynastic disputes. Harald amassed considerable wealth during his time in the Byzantine Empire, which he shipped to Yaroslav in Kievan Rus’ for safekeeping. He finally left the Byzantines in 1042, and arrived back in Kievan Rus’ in order to prepare his campaign of reclaiming the Norwegian throne. Possibly to Harald’s knowledge, in his absence the Norwegian throne had been restored from the Danes to Olaf’s illegitimate son Magnus the Good.

In 1046, Harald joined forces with Magnus’s rival in Denmark (Magnus had also become king of Denmark), the pretender Sweyn Estridsson, and started raiding the Danish coast. Magnus, unwilling to fight his uncle, agreed to share the kingship with Harald, since Harald in turn would share his wealth with him. The co-rule ended abruptly the next year as Magnus died, and Harald thus became the sole ruler of Norway. Domestically, Harald crushed all local and regional opposition, and outlined the territorial unification of Norway under a national governance. Harald’s reign was probably one of relative peace and stability, and he instituted a viable coin economy and foreign trade. Probably seeking to restore Cnut’s “North Sea Empire“, Harald also claimed the Danish throne, and spent nearly every year until 1064 raiding the Danish coast and fighting his former ally, Sweyn. Although the campaigns were successful, he was never able to conquer Denmark. Not long after renouncing his claim to Denmark, the former Earl of Northumbria, Tostig Godwinson, brother of the newly chosen English king Harold Godwinson, pledged his allegiance to Harald and invited him to claim the English throne. Harald went along and entered Northern England in September 1066, raided the coast and defeated English regional forces in the Battle of Fulford near York. Although initially successful, Harald was defeated and killed in an attack by Harold Godwinson’s forces in the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

Modern historians have often considered Harald’s death at Stamford Bridge, which brought an end to his invasion, as the end of the Viking Age. Harald is also commonly held to have been the last great Viking king, or even the last great Viking.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harald_Hardrada

 

Harald Hardrada could be considered as the fighting man of the prophecy, but what connection would that have in relation to the other parts, such as the Fairie Flag of Dunvegan Castle?  What does the Fairie Flag or Dunvegan have to do with this at all? Well, for that, you need to know the history of Dunvegan Castle, and the theories on the origins of the Fairie flag!

dunvegan8

Dunvegan Castle

dunvegan3

Dunvegan Castle2

 

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/from-the-creator-history-of-dunvegan-castle/

Although three individual Chiefs in the last seven generations have been comprehensively ruined by the apocalyptic difficulties caused by the unrelenting hostility from centralised government towards the Clan system practised behind the Highland line, they have remained faithful to the Rock. Dunvegan Castle is said to be the oldest inhabited castle in Northern Scotland, having been occupied by the Chiefs of MacLeod continuously, for over seven centuries and still today remaining the Ancestral home of the present chief, Hugh MacLeod of MacLeod, the 30th of the line, and his family.

Geneologies trace the origins of the McClures and the MacLeods to a thirteenth century fellow named Leod (1200-1283), the son of Olaf the Black, King of the Isle of Man, who in turn was the descendent of the eleventh century Norse King Harald Hardrada. Leod married Lady Macarailt, an heiress to Dunvegan, the birth of their two sons (Tormond and Torquil) marking the entry of the MacLeods into Dunvegan and the pages of history. Very simply, “Mac” is a Gaelic word meaning “son of” with Tormond fathering the MacLeods of Harris, and Torquil begetting the MacLeods of Lewis. (Incidentally, the McClure’s are the descendents of Tormond.)

 As to the theories on the Fairie Flag…  Legends, however fantastic or far-fetched they may appear to be, are rarely without some trace of historical fact. When a relic survives to tell its own story, that at least is one fact it is impossible to ignore. The precious Fairy Flag of Dunvegan, the most treasured possession of the Clan, is just such a relic …The traditional tales about its origin, some of them very old indeed, have two themes – Fairies and Crusaders. Fairy stories are difficult to relate to fact; they often occur as a substitute for forgotten truth. The connection with the Crusades can, however, be linked to the only definite information available as to the origin of the Fairy Flag – the fabric, thought once to have been dyed yellow, is silk from the Middle East (Syria or Rhodes); experts have dated it between the 4th and 7th centuries A.D., in other words, at least 400 years before the First Crusade. So was it the robe of an early christian saint? Or the war banner of Harold Hardrada, King of Norway, killed in 1066, or did it emerge mysteriously from some grassy knoll in Skye? The Legends are all we have to guide us to the answer.

So, there is our connection between Harald Hardrada, the Fairie Flag and Dunvegan Castle! Harald’s connection to the prophecy and to William the Conqueror is that he was one of the fighting men attempting to lay claim to the crown of England at the same time as William. He felt he also had a valid claim and chose to fight Harald Godwinsson for it. It is sometimes thought that his battle with Harald brought about the end of the Viking age, and the end of Harald’s rule of England as well. Harald Godwinsson and his forces defeated Harald Hardrata at the  Battle of Stamford Bridge but did not have time to recover fully before having to turn around and face William and his army at Hastings. The forces were well evenly matched and the battle was close. It is thought that had Godwinsson’s army been better rested and recovered from the previous battle with Hardrada, they would probably have been victorious in the battle of Hastings.

There is one  bit of information on Harald Hardrada that should be of interest to all of us who are waiting for the next raiding season of the Vikings Saga to arrive…

Harald Hardrada was a descendant and a member of the Fairhair/Finehair dynasty of Norway. A member of that dynasty is rumored to be arriving on our Viking shores soon! One Harald Finehair and brother, Halfdan the Black will be showing up as rivals and threats to Ragnar.

peter franzen4

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/vikings-season-4-coming-soon-to-a-village-near-you/

Harald Fairhair (Old Norse: Haraldr Hárfagri, Norwegian: Harald Hårfagre; c. 850 – c. 932) was remembered by medieval historians as the first King of Norway. According to traditions current in Norway and Iceland in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, he reigned from c. 872 to 930. Most of his life remains uncertain, since the extant accounts of his life in the sagas were set down in writing around three centuries after his lifetime. A few remnants of skaldic praise poems attributed to contemporary court poets exist which seem to refer to Harald’s victories against opponents in Norway. The information supplied in these poems is inconsistent with the tales in the sagas in which they are transmitted, and the sagas themselves often disagree on the details of his background and biography.  Two of his sons, Eric Bloodaxe and Haakon the Good, succeeded Harald to become kings after his death.

Harald_Hardrada_saga_ancestry

A last bit of interesting information on Harald Hardrada…. it seems that there has been some effort and attempt being made to make a bio-pic movie about his life. I just recently came across a few articles regarding the possibility of Leonardo DeCaprio producing and starring in such a movie. The articles are a bit dated though and I have heard nothing else about such a project. I am curious about it  and wonder if it is still going forward…. With all of interest now in Viking history, I would think it might do well!

http://www.slashfilm.com/leonardo-dicaprio-producing-and-could-star-in-viking-film-king-harald/

 

This battle for the crown of England was  much a case of family disputes and feuds over who had right or claim to that crown. Harald Hardrada had a claim based on his link to the previous ruler, Harthacanut of Denmark and England but realistically he had a very weak claim at best. Harald Godwinsson had no real claim either, the only with any true justifiable blood claim to the crown was indeed William the Conqueror, who was at least a blood relative- even though distant- of King Edward. So, in this sense, William would end up digging deep into the family roots and toppling all to claim the crown. The only other person with a better and legitimate blood claim was unfortunately a young boy with no hope of winning any battle for the crown.

The one other part of the prophecy that we have not mentioned yet is the wyvern.

A wyvern (/ˈwvərn/ WEYE-vərn), sometimes spelled wivern, is a legendary winged creature with a dragon‘s head and wings; a reptilian body; two legs; and a barbed tail.

The wyvern in its various forms is important to heraldry, frequently appearing as a mascot of schools and athletic teams (chiefly in the United States and United Kingdom). It is a popular creature in European and British literature, video games, and modern fantasy. The wyvern is often (but not always) associated with cold weather and ice, and it will sometimes possess a venomous bite or have the ability to breathe fire. The wyvern is a frequent charge in English heraldry and vexillology, also occasionally appearing as a supporter or crest.

In regards to it’s mention in the prophecy, a wyvern is used as symbol in one very  important place.  The Wyvarn is depicted as the symbol of Wessex, the home of Ecbert and his descendents including Alfred the Great and on to Edward the Confessor who left the future rule of England in such dispute and question that his witan/council even went so far as to search for a long exiled and hidden heir residing in Hungary!

After the Danish conquest of England in 1016, Canute had the sons of Edward’s half brother Edmund Ironside, Edward said to be only a few months old, and his brother, Edmund, sent to the Swedish court of Olof Skötkonun  (who was either Canute’s half-brother or stepbrother), supposedly with instructions to have the children murdered. Instead, the two boys were secretly sent either to Kiev, where Olof’s daughter Ingigerd was the Queen, or to Poland, where Canute’s uncle Bolesław I Chrobry was duke.  Later Edward made his way to Hungary, probably in the retinue of Ingigerd’s son-in-law, András in 1046, whom he supported in his successful bid for the Hungarian throne. Many years later when it became apparent that King Edward and his wife Edyth were not going to produce and heir, a search for any missing heirs ensued and Edward the exile was found in Hungary.

On hearing the news of his being alive, Edward the Confessor recalled him to England in 1056 and made him his heir. Edward offered the last chance of an undisputed succession within the Saxon royal house. News of Edward’s existence came at a time when the old Anglo-Saxon Monarchy, restored after a long period of Danish domination, was heading for catastrophe. The Confessor, personally devout but politically weak and without children, was unable to make an effective stand against the steady advance of the powerful and ambitious sons of Godwin, Earl of Wessex. From across the Channel William, Duke of Normandy, also had an eye on the succession. Edward the Exile appeared at just the right time. Approved by both king and by the Witan, the Council of the Realm, he offered a way out of the impasse, a counter both to the Godwinsons and to William, and one with a legitimacy that could not be readily challenged.

Edward, who had been in the custody of Henry III, the Holy Roman Emperor, finally came back to England at the end of August 1057. But he died within two days of his arrival. The exact cause of Edward’s death remains unclear, but he had many powerful enemies, and there is a strong possibility that he was murdered, although by whom is not known with any certainty. It is known, though, that his access to the king was blocked soon after his arrival in England for some unexplained reason, at a time when the Godwinsons, in the person of Harold, were once again in the ascendant. This turn of events left the throne of England to be disputed by Earl Harold and Duke William, ultimately leading to the Norman Conquest of England.  Edward the exile did leave an heir, a young boy- Edgar the Aetheling who was immediately made heir apparent or Atheling. When Edward died, the boy, a young teen at the time was too young to successfully wage a fight for the crown or win any war that was certain to follow. The council feared being taken over again by outsiders waiting for a chance to claim England so they chose instead to elect Harald Godwinsson to the rule. Edgar eventually found asylum in Scotland with Malcom III, who had married Edgar’s sister Margaret.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_the_%C3%86theling

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_the_Confessor

Wessex is often symbolised by a wyvern or dragon.

Both Henry of Huntingdon and Matthew of Westminster talk of a golden dragon being raised at the Battle of Burford in AD 752 by the West Saxons. The Bayeux Tapestry depicts a fallen golden dragon, as well as a red/golden/white dragon at the death of King Harold II, who was previously Earl of Wessex. However, dragon standards were in fairly wide use in Europe at the time, being derived from the ensign of the Roman cohort, and there is no evidence that it identified Wessex.

 

800px-Flag_of_Wessex_svg

Wyvern on early flag of Wessex

 

Why is any of this important in relation to where we’re at now in history with the Viking age?  It is extremely important because the Vikings of our Vikings saga as presented by Michael Hirst, and hopefully soon the onscreen version of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Chronicles, will soon move on to the next years, the next era of the Viking history that includes so much more than just the story of Ragnar Lodbrok and his adventures. We will soon be traveling to the time when Ragnar’s sons and so many others make their own marks and contributions to history. We will see the beginning of Rollo’s great dynasty in Normandy take shape, we will see Ecbert’s grandson, Alfred the Great will take his place in history. The battles for land and claims to kingdoms will begin in earnest and we will witness all of it. As we do, I will continue to help weave the history and the stories together, and perhaps one of these days, I will even find time and inspiration to return to some of my original stories.  I hope that all of you will remain on the journey with me and enjoy all of it!