Visit Wales and its 641 castles – a mixture of gothic, medieval, and Victorian styles

With its rolling hills and numerous royal conquests, there’s no place where history comes alive in such a lush setting as it does in Wales. Everywhere you look, the evidence of kings, queens, conflict and empire call to you. There are more than 600 castles – 641 to be precise – so even without trying you’ll come across a few. Even the country’s young capital has one – right in the heart of the city. Cardiff Castle mixes medieval and Victorian gothic architectural styles to thrilling effect.

These proud battlements are a historical legacy that is testament to a tumultuous past, and to the indomitable spirit of the fighting Welsh – these castles were built for a reason.

When the Romans withdrew, the separate Welsh kingdoms were left to squabble and spar for centuries until the Normans landed in the 11th century. But the Welsh proved unwilling subjects even then. It was not until Edward I – the famous subduer of William “Braveheart” Wallace – launched his war of subjugation two centuries later that Wales finally fell to England’s boot.

Edward consolidated his victory with the impressive castles you can still visit today. Most are in excellent repair, with walls as solid now as when their first stones went in the ground.

Beaumaris – the biggest castle Edward built and a truly imposing military fortress. It is located on the island of Anglesey, separated from mainland Wales by the Menai Strait, which is home to Prince William in his duties as a Royal Air Force search-and-rescue pilot.

William is most intimately connected to the most majestic of the Unesco castles, the stunningly preserved Caernarfon Castle. This is where his father, Prince Charles, was invested as the Prince of Wales – and where, one day, William is likely to follow suit.

 

Keep reading: The Guardian – Discover the proud history of Wales

 

 

Continue reading Visit Wales and its 641 castles – a mixture of gothic, medieval, and Victorian styles

Charles Dickens London

I’ve got a little trip coming up for Amy’s birthday and was browsing around on airbnb. We’re hoping to find a nice little cottage in Santa Barbara for a few days.

Anyway, I found their blog and this great post on Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday on February 17, 2012.

Doubtless, the dour Victorian author would have wanted us to celebrate the day exploring the city he loved and hated, London.

Dickens’ London was a magnificent and horrendous place. At the height of the British Empire, London was the envy of the world, by far the most majestic city anywhere. Unimaginable wealth passed through its gates every day.

Charles Dickens Museum

 

The Charles Dickens Museum is in Bloomsbury, right in central London, and is housed in an actual Dickens residence. Visiting it gives you a sense of exactly what it was like to live in Dickens’ house – if that house were stuffed with hundreds of thousands of artifacts, manuscripts, and other historical objects.

Cheshire Cheese

 

With roots going back to the Middle Ages, this pub is tucked away from Fleet Street up a narrow alley. Fans of the pub tout its mention in A Tale of Two Cities, although Dickens never mentions the pub by name. Apparently, though, it’s a great place to grab a pint or two after you’ve been acquitted of treason.

Southwark Cathedral

 

You won’t find this cathedral mentioned anywhere in Dickens’ works. That’s because in his time, it was just a plain ol’ church (named “St Saviour’s”).

The cathedral – one of the oldest churches in London – appears in a classically Dickensian sentence from Oliver Twist: “The tower of old Saint Saviour’s Church, and the spire of Saint Magnus, so long the giant-warders of the ancient bridge, were visible in the gloom.”