Glastonbury Abbey

If you are in the Mendips region of Somerset you really shouldn’t miss visiting the wonderful Wells Cathedral nor the historic town of Glastonbury, possibly the quirkiest town in England. Steeped in history, myth and the smell of incense, it may not be for everybody.

However, do not let that put you off visiting the beautiful site of Glastonbury Abbey. Since Medieval times, the abbey has held legendary status as the earliest Christian foundation in Britain linked to Joseph of Arimathea and the burial place of King Arthur.

It’s a peaceful place – 36 acres of grounds to explore. Plenty of benches to sit and relax and take in the atmosphere. The remains of the abbey to walk around, which must have been enormous in its day. A medieval herb garden. Views of the Glastonbury Tor.

The abbey was built on the myth that followers of Christ settled here within the 1st century CE and built ‘The Old Church’. Abbot Dunstan remodelled and expanded the abbey and by the time of the coming of the Normans, the abbey was the wealthiest in England.

Continue reading Glastonbury Abbey

Historic Dumfries and Galloway

Historic sites are scattered through the glorious region of  Dumfries and Galloway. Being the border county with England there is a history of battles. Till the 12th century, when it came under the Normans, the eastern Solway had alternated between English and Scottish rule.

We passed several interesting looking properties on the way to somewhere else, though nearly always during the evening when the grounds were closed. Fortunately some were quite small and close to the road so we were able to take photographs.

Threave Castle

Located in one of the more interesting locations, this castle is built on an island in the middle of the River Dee and you have to take a small boat across. A lovely circular walk from the entrance takes you through Kelton Mains farm to a small wood leading to the river. A number of bird hides can be found along the route, including one to view an osprey nest.

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This massive tower house was built in the late 14th century by Archibald the Grim, Lord of Galloway. It became the stronghold of the Black Douglases and still today, round its base you can see the artillery fortification, an innovative defence years ahead of its time, built before 1455 when James II besieged the castle. (Threave Castle)

Cardoness Castle

A fine example of a six storey Scottish tower-house castle, Cardoness Castle was built in the later 15th century as the fortified residence of the McCullochs.  Its battlements command excellent views over Fleet Bay.

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MacLellan’s Castle

MacLellan’s Castle was named after Sir Thomas MacLellan of Bombie (d. 1597). Sir Thomas was provost of Kirkcudbright and a powerful man in local politics. Following the Protestant Reformation in 1560, he acquired the site and buildings of the convent of Greyfriars, established in the town by James II in 1449, and set about building himself a new residence in its place. By 1582, MacLellan’s Castle was sufficiently complete for him to move in. Five years later, he and his second wife, Grissel, entertained their sovereign, James VI, in this spacious house.

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The remains of this late 16th century house shows how architecture changed from the heavily defended tower house to a new, more domestic scale.

Dundrennan Abbey

Dundrennan Abbey was founded in 1142 by Fergus, Lord of Galloway, with the help of King David I of Scotland. The white-robed Cistercian monks came from Rievaulx Abbey, in North Yorkshire. After establishing the abbey at Dundrennan, monks went forth to found two more Cistercian abbeys in Galloway – Glenluce, near Stranraer, around 1190, and Sweetheart, in the village of New Abbey, south of Dumfries, in 1273.

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The abbey‘s most famous visitor was Mary Queen of Scots. On 15 May 1568, she was welcomed at the gates following her escape from Lochleven Castle, near Kinross, and her defeat at Langside, beside Glasgow. Mary was making for England and the comparative safety, so she thought, of her cousin, Elizabeth I of England. On the following morning she boarded a boat bound for the Cumberland coast. She never returned to her native land.

Sweetheart Abbey

Sweetheart Abbey was founded in 1273 by Lady Dervorgilla of Galloway in memory of her husband John Balliol. In 1268, Lord John Balliol died. His grieving widow, Lady Dervorgilla of Galloway, had his heart embalmed and placed in an ivory casket. She carried it with her everywhere. When she too died in 1289, she was laid to rest in front of the abbey church’s high altar, clutching her husband’s heart to her bosom.

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The graceful ruin nestles between the grey bulk of Criffel and the shimmering waters of the Solway Firth, whilst its blood-red sandstone walls contrast with the lush green grass at their feet.

Carsluith Castle

Carsluith Castle is a lightly-defended tower house. It is typical of the many L-planned tower houses built by the landed gentry throughout Scotland after the Protestant Reformation of 1560.  This eye-catching tower is on the road between Newton Stuart and Dumfries. And next to it is the Markbury Smokehouse.

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Just Back From… 1066

It seemed fitting for my 100th post on this blog to write about an historical event, one with far more importance though…

It is a date that every English child will know sooner or later. The year 1066, when King Harold was shot in the eye by an arrow and died on the battlefields at Hastings.  The most famous battle  fought on English soil  and the last successful invasion of this country. Continue reading Just Back From… 1066