Wednesday Wander – Caernarfon Castle, Wales

I’ve been to Caernarfon, located on the picturesque North Wales coast, a few times. But my most memorable visit took place quite a few years ago, when a friend and I were travelling through Wales together. We managed to find, on our meagre budget, a guesthouse with a view of the famous castle, a genial host named Norm, and a very generous breakfast (we may even have taken some extra packets of cereal with us for later in the day – very small travelling budget, as mentioned).

I don’t know whether Norm’s Place, as we affectionately dubbed our guesthouse, is still there, but the castle undoubtedly is. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1986, Caernarfon Castle was built in 1283 by Edward I, on the site of an earlier Norman fortress. It was one of a series of castles built by Edward after his defeat of the Welsh, to impose English rule on the land. Edward and his queen visited the castle in 1294 when, it is said, Edward II was born, and was designated the first Prince of Wales. Since that time, the title has traditionally been held by the eldest son of the British monarch, with Prince Charles, the current Prince of Wales, receiving his investiture at Caernarfon Castle in 1969.

The castle, despite its auspicious beginnings, has had a turbulent history. Sacked and set aflame by Madog ap Llewellyn during the Welsh uprising in 1295, the castle was recaptured and rebuilt by the English a year later. In the early 1400s it was besieged by Owain Glydwr, with support from the French – later that century, the Welsh Tudors took over the British throne and tensions eased, but the castle, which had been damaged over the years, fell into disrepair.

Despite being a Royalist base during the Civil War, the castle escaped destruction, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that repairs began. In 1911, the first modern Prince of Wales was named there, when Prince Edward (later Edward VIII) was invested by his father, George V.

Image: Manfred Heyde, Wikimedia Commons

Nowadays the castle, dreaming by the water, looks like something from a fairytale, a fortress from a vanished time. It is a popular tourist attraction, with almost 200,000 visitors in 2015, and is also home to the Royal Welsh Fusilliers Museum. It’s well worth a visit due to its wonderful state of preservation and its huge scale – you can see, looking at the size of the people in the photographs, how large it is. It must have been quite imposing in its day. In fact, it still is.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


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Thursday Doors – Keepers Cottage, Berkhamsted Castle

This rather lovely front door belongs to a cottage built within the ancient walls of Berkhamsted Castle, not far from where I live.

The castle is Norman, motte and bailey, and has an important part in the history of Britain. It was a Saxon holding before William the Conqueror arrived in 1066, and is the place where he accepted the surrender of the Saxon nobles before heading to London and the crown.

The Norman castle building commenced in the same year, as Berkhamsted lay on a key route from London into the Midlands, and so was seen as vitally strategic. It was a royal castle for centuries, and eventually formed part of the holdings of the Duchy of Cornwall. It remained so until 1930, when what remained of the castle was gifted to English Heritage, who manage the place to this day.

The castle, as you can see, has been plundered over the years, with much of the stone being taken for use elsewhere after it fell into ruin and was abandoned in 1495. In the mid 1800s, it narrowly escaped complete destruction – the new London Birmingham railway was being constructed, with the optimum route seen as being directly through the castle grounds. Luckily, there was a growing movement to preserve ancient buildings and so, when the railway route was sanctioned, the castle was protected, the first building to be protected from development in this way. Nonetheless, the railway route still ran through the outer fortifications, destroying the gatehouse and ditches in the process.

The Keepers cottage sits in the grounds and is occupied still – I think it must be completely wonderful to wake up and look out at a nearly one-thousand year old castle in your back garden, especially one with such an illustrious history. And so that takes us back to the little white door.

This is my response to Norm 2.0’s Thursday Doors challenge. For more doors, or to add one of your own, head over to Norm’s blog and click the link.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Wednesday Wander – Heidelberg Castle, Germany

It took me a while to figure out where to wander to this week. Usually a location will present itself to me, or I’ll scroll through my photos and find somewhere, but it all seemed a bit vague this week. Then I remembered a conversation I had with a fellow blogger where I mentioned Heidelberg, so I’ve decided to wander there.

More specifically, to the ruined castle, sitting high on the hillside overlooking the old town and the rolling Rhine river. Built in stages between 1214 and 1295, the castle was subsequently destroyed by lightning, fire and war, resulting in the picturesque ruins we see today.

For many centuries the castle was home to the Palatine counts, powerful nobles who married into royalty, including the English Stuart and French Orleans families.

Mark Twain visited the ruins and wrote about them in his book A Tramp Abroad, stating that,

‘A ruin must be rightly situated, to be effective. This one could not have been better placed. …one looks down through shining leaves into profound chasms and abysses where twilight reigns and the sun cannot intrude.’

I visited a little more recently than Twain, and can attest that not much has changed since he wrote those words. Trees and vines still garland the ruins, the view across the town and river just as breathtaking as it always was.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

#writephoto – The Glimpse

glimpseWell.

This was a bit of a pickle.

She’d thought she’d found a shortcut when the wall panel behind her gave way, stepping into the dark passage without even thinking, the square gleam of light at the other end looking very like the visitor’s entrance.

But as soon as the panel had closed behind her, so too had the light gone, as quickly as though someone had switched it off. She’d turned, but only found smooth metal underneath her fingers, no handle in sight.

And she really, really needed to pee.

It wasn’t all dark, though. A beam of light shone through a funnel shaped opening, a sliver of the outside world still visible. She squinted. What was that? A person? A big blue bottle? A light bulb? She sighed. Holding an art event inside a medieval castle was all very well, but really, how were you even supposed to know what was art and what wasn’t, what with the things people came up with these days.

She sighed again, pushing her face as far as it would go into the funnel.

‘Hellooo!’

No answer.

‘I’m stuck in here, please help,’ she trilled through the opening, trying not to think about the artwork she’d seen in the other room that had emitted random phrases, making visitors laugh.

She tried again. ‘Helloooo!’

Her voice cracked a little. She was starting to feel desperate, both in her bladder and somewhere deep inside, where fear lived.

This was what she got, she supposed, for taking a day to herself. She hadn’t told anyone where she was going, waking early and letting herself out of the house, a hastily scribbled note, ‘Gone out, back later!’, stuck on the fridge.

Feeling for her phone in her pocket she pulled it out, the bright square screen somehow reassuring in the darkness. ‘No Service.’

She swore, then.

Someone would be along soon to let her out, surely.

Wouldn’t they?

This is my response to Sue Vincent’s #writephoto challenge. Sue has a knack for taking wonderful photos that inspire stories, and this week is no exception. If you’d like to add your own story, you have until October 13th to write a post, linking back to Sue’s blog.

Book Spine Poetry

img_4068I saw this on Twitter a while ago and thought it a fun thing to do – basically, you make a poem from book titles. Here’s my attempt:

I capture the castle,

The daughter of time;

Away with the fairies,

Memory and dream

 

The dark is rising

Whispers underground.

Foxglove summer;

The new rulers of the world

As to what it means, I guess that’s open to interpretation. 🙂 I know what it means to me – what do you think?

 

Thursday Doors – St Mary’s Guildhall, Coventry

IMG_2671This lovely building is St Mary’s Guildhall, located in Coventry, England. Built around 1340, reputedly partly from the stones of the castle previously on the site, the Guildhall is a wonderful example of a medieval building. It also contains some rather fabulous doors.

IMG_2638This is probably one of the newest doors in the building, most likely from the last century. Improvements were done to preserve the building in the 1930s, and this may have been when this door was put in.

IMG_2648 IMG_2647And this is probably one of the oldest doors in the building. It’s the door to the 14th century Treasury Chamber, set in what is thought to be an even older tower from the castle that previously stood here. I couldn’t get the best angle of the front of the door, but managed to get a good shot of the back showing the huge timbers and iron bolts – they built things to last in those days.

IMG_2661This is also a door, though a secret one, set into the panelling. Only the tiny keyhole and hinges give it away for what it is.

IMG_2641And this door leads into a rather splendid council chamber – it’s probably 14th or 15th century in date. The guide I spoke to said there were doors of all eras in the building, from the 14th right through to the 20th century.

IMG_2668Finally, this lovely door leads into the Drapers Room – I love the carving and linenfold detail on it, though I do think the metal push panel detracts from the overall look. This room also has a gorgeous stained glass window, which I am adding here as a bonus.

IMG_2669I will probably be doing a further post on the Guildhall, as it’s a fascinating place with a rich history. But for now, this concludes my Thursday Doors entry for this week, part of Norm 2.0’s Thursday Doors Challenge. For more doors, or to add one of your own, head over to Norm’s blog and click the link.

Wednesday Wander – Silves Castle, Silves, Portugal

Today has been icy cold, a real change from the springtime promise of earlier this week. So, as a little escape from the cold and grey, my Wednesday Wander this week is to Silves Castle, one of the best-preserved Moorish castles in Portugal.

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The castle was constructed between the 8th and 13th century, when Silves was a Caliphate under Moorish rule, and one of the most important cities in the area. When the Moors were finally overthrown, it was by a fleet coming up the winding river from the sea – when you look out from the high battlements across the town, it’s easy to imagine how it would have been, seeing the boats coming closer and closer…

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The castle has been restored and excavated, with the remains of bathhouses and rooms now exposed. The pinkish domed shape under the tree at the rear is the roof of the giant water cistern – you can go down inside it, as it’s empty now, but it was used to supply water to the town until as recently as 1920. Apparently people used to swim in it when it was full, which I think would be quite an eerie experience as it is several stories deep with stone pillars throughout. The domed roof echoes as you walk down the stairs, pale light bouncing off the painted interior from windows set high above.

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As you can see, walking the battlements is a bit of a challenge if you’re not a fan of heights (and I’m not). There are guiderails only at the highest points, and the fall from the other side is quite steep. Still, I managed to capture this shot hanging over the side, showing the remains what was once an aqueduct.

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The town of Silves is a lovely place to visit, with nice cafes, shopping and an interesting museum, where you can walk down inside an 8th century well as well as along the top of the ancient city walls. Herons were nesting on many of the rooftops, and we stood for quite a while watching them come and go, riding the air currents and tending to their young.

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And that’s my Wednesday Wander for this week, a small slice of summer on a cold February day. Thanks for joining me 🙂