Travel Journey of the Week: The Emerald Isle

This week’s place from Liberated Traveler is Ireland, so I have had to cast my mind back to the one and only time I visited this country for four days in October 2003. I could only have four days because at the time I was doing a PGCE course to become a secondary school teacher. Although it was half-term and in theory we should have had a week’s holiday, the training school insisted we went in for three days for additional lectures. So making the most of a very cheap Ryan Air flight to Dublin from Birmingham (£1 one way) we arrived in a very wet Dublin airport on an early Wednesday evening. Continue reading Travel Journey of the Week: The Emerald Isle

Norfolk: Castle Acre Priory and Castle

The village of Castle Acre lies further south of the county, only 4 miles north  of Swaffham and 15 miles east of King’s Lynn. It is well worth the drive to see such a lovely medieval planned settlement with the broad tree-lined Stocks Green where you can find a café and a pub. The town was entered in the 12th century by the Bailey Gate, now the only remaining gate of the town. Many of the houses in the town have been built from blocks of stone from the priory.

We stopped here on our way to Oxburgh Hall which is south of Swaffham mainly to see the Priory, but we were quite taken by the charming village and the castle too.

Castle Acre Priory, which is under the care of English Heritage, is a beautiful and peaceful place with some of the most intact Cluniac priory buildings in England. For 450 years it was the home and workplace of monks and their servants, a refuge for pilgrims and a stopping point for royalty, clergy and nobility. While rooted in the economy and society of Norfolk it was also part of a vast monastic network centred on the great abbey of Cluny in France. Walking around this site you get a feeling of the size and serenity of this place and if you use the audio tour provided then you can listen to the monks tales and walk in their footsteps.

Whilst in Castle Acre we also visited the Norman ‘motte and bailey’ castle which was abandoned in the middle ages, and although what little of the building left is in ruins, there are impressive earthworks.

A great day out except for the weather which was a little damp!

North Norfolk Churches: Hindringham St Martin

Hindringham St Martin dates from the 14th century and is typical of the churches in the region  having a tall west tower, a tall nave with north and south aisles and large Perpendicular windows. This building has five clerestory windows above to provide even more light to the inner space and consequently, like many of the Norfolk churches that we visited, the interior is surprisingly light and airy. There are two interesting windows, one at the east end of the south aisle containing some 15th century glass remnants and the other a Decorated window with five main lights and reticulated tracery.

The clock on the tower was given in 1867 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

The 15th century octagonal font is expertly carved with beasts representing the saints – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and four different shields.

The east window of the south aisle contains some medieval glass and two distinctive angels formed from the fragments. You can tell that they depict 15th century angels by the wonderful feathery tights they are wearing. The other interesting piece is a baby on the corner surrounded by golden rays, which could be the ‘Christ Child in Glory’.

At the east end of the nave is a Victorian wooden eagle lectern.

eagleThe impressive East window glass was made by Ward & Hughes in 1862 and shows several scenes from Christ’s Life and Death. Above these five main lights are representations from the Old Testament, including Noah’s Ark, the selling of Joseph and the Ten Commandments.

(sources of information: Church Tours in 2012 leaflet by Lyn Stilgoe; and the British Listed Buildings Website)

Just Back From… Laugharne

…and some like myself, just came one day, for a day, and never left; got off the bus, and forgot to get on again…”

~ Dylan Thomas

Laugharne (pronounced Larn) is probably most famous for being the last place where renowned Welsh poet Dylan Thomas lived, wrote, drank and is laid to rest; he died in New York.

His Boathouse and Writing Shed overlooking the wide Tâf estuary draw in the crowds and you can even get a cup of tea at the Boathouse, though not when we visited as it was closed for filming a new film about Dylan Thomas’s fourth and final reading tour of America which is being made to mark next year’s centenary of his birth. The play “Under Milkwood” and “Poem on his Birthday” were written here. There is even a ‘Birthday Walk’, which if done on your birthday entitles you to a complimentary birthday gift. Climb up Sir John’s Hill for mind-blowing views across three estuaries (River Tâf, Towey and the Gwendraeth) and over the bay to the Gower Peninsula.

It’s not all about Dylan though, there is also a ruined castle built in the thirteenth century with more spectacular views of the estuary and out to Carmarthen Bay, an interesting clock tower on the town hall, and a unique Tin Shed Experience – a quirky 1930s – 1940s museum. It is also one of the oldest  self-governing townships in Britain, presided over by the Portreeve wearing his traditional chain of gold cockleshells.

Close to Laugharne is the seven mile beach known as Pendine Sands which was used to set world land speed records as it has a wide, flat and firm surface. Several generations of the Campbell family have raced there and there is a Museum of Speed. And if you travel a little further west you will discover the turquoise waters of Amroth, reminiscent of neighbouring Saundersfoot and Tenby in Pembrokeshire.

Carmarthenshire is often overlooked by people rushing through to the beautiful Pembrokeshire coastline, but it has much to offer itself with a new Coast Path which passes through a range of habitats including fresh water marshes, salt marshes, sand dunes and pine forests.

North Norfolk Churches: St Peter’s of Great Walsingham

St Peter’s of Great Walsingham is one of the finest examples of an unspoilt Decorated Church built between 1330 – 1340 with a square tower. The noticeable clerestory, made out of quadrefoil windows above the wide aisles, add lots of light to the interior of the church which has an almost square footprint due to the chancel being destroyed. The chancel arch has been bricked in with a couple of windows added. The font is original but has a strongly painted canopy that is probably Jacobean.

The 15th century Poppy Head pews, which depict floral designs, animals, saints, angels and townsfolk are well worth careful study. These benches are one of the finest complete sets in Norfolk.

back of pews

poppy head 1