Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bamburgh Castle, Seahouses & Self Catering - Northumberland

There are many medieval castles built near or on the coast of Great Britain, many of them purposely built as coastal fortresses to defend against possible invasion. Therefore when you visit a British coastal town or port, seeing a medieval castle there or nearby is a common occurrence. Take for example Scarborough Castle which we visited and photographed on a misty, rainy (but very atmospheric day). Slap bang in the middle of Scarborough, high up on the hill straddling the two bays stands the castle and you simply cannot miss it once you enter the town.

One of the most striking views of a medieval castle from a British coastal town has to be that of Bamburgh Castle when viewed standing in the centre of Seahouses, a delightful little place on the Northumberland coast. When we last visited Seahouses we were fortunate enough to enjoy lovely, sunny weather. We were ravenously hungry when we arrived so headed straight for the main fish and chip restaurant (I think it's called the Neptune on Seafield Road and regarded by many as the finest fish and chip restaurant in Northumberland).

Only when we came out of the restaurant, suitably refreshed, did we take in the magnificent view looking northwards down the coast - high up on its rocky crag about 3 miles away stood Bamburgh Castle. You can imagine just how imposing it must have looked back in medieval times to anyone approaching from towns and villages in the area - let alone how it would have frightened anyone if they had dared to attempt an attack from the sea!

We came away that day promising ourselves to revisit Seahouses and perhaps even stay a few days in a Seahouses self catering cottage or a Bamburgh holiday cottage, which I understand from a friend can be high quality and very good value for money as a holiday option. (See his Seahouses blog: for more ideas). There is so much to see on the Northumberland Coast that, whether you are interested in medieval history or not, it's a fantastic place for a holiday. If you stay in a self catering cottage in Bamburgh or Seahouses you can come and go as you please, make your own timetable, enjoy fantastic visits to a wide range of castles including:
  • Alnwick Castle - remember the famous lawn there where Harry Potter was filmed taking his first broomstick flight. Visit the link and see the actual lawn I photographed. Well worth a visit!

Labels: , , ,

Monday, August 25, 2008

Neuschwanstein Castle - Happy Birthday Ludwig II

Today - 25 August - is the 163rd anniversary of the birth of Ludwig II of Bavaria, the 'mad' king who designed and built Neuschwanstein Castle. I'm lucky enough to have visited Neuschwanstein Castle not just once but twice. The trips were in fact over 15 years apart so both carry vivid memories in their own right.

Having visited the castle when I was just 16, my second trip there was much later with my husband whose family goes back to Bavaria and who has a love for Richard Wagner's music. So for him the experience was probably more impactful and meaningful than for most people, particularly as he also has a strong interest in the Wagner Tuba. Standing in the music hall of the castle where Wagner's music was often played was a special experience for him.

After going inside the castle we followed a sign for the 'Marienbrucke' and found ourselves standing on a small, fairly narrow, wooden footbridge over a high ravine directly behind the castle. The view across to the castle and the landscape in the distance is something I shall never forget. Stunning, exhilerating, breathtaking ... words fail to describe it. I will dig out the photographs we took standing on the bridge and post them on the Blog in the near future. So if you're a regular visitor then you should have something very special to look at soon.

So happy birthday Ludwig and thank you for what is a wonderful legacy - a truly fantastic fantasy castle which we should all celebrate and enjoy.

PS. Whilst in Bavaria we made a trip into Munich, just for the day and with one specific and very special place in mind .... a place that few people seem to know about but that made our trip to Bavaria even more special and memorable. Another story for another day!

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Trebuchet & Warwick Castle

I can't have listened to my history lesson teacher very much when I was at school because it was only when I got involved in that I learned what a trebuchet is.

I have to admit it's one of the more fascinating siege engines (no, not search engines!) and having read about the many battles in medieval times it's clear that when it was first introduced it must have had an incredible and terrifying impact upon those within castle walls which it was used to attack. I say attack but in fact, used properly and efficiently, a large trebuchet could actually demolish castle walls!

The world's largest trebuchet is at Warwick Castle and attracts many visitors every year from all over the world who come to watch the spectacle of their 18 metre high trebuchet being demonstrated (currently twice daily I understand). Warwick Castle has a lot more medieval associations in fact, being one of the original jousting sites which had royal approval with jousts still staged for the enjoyment of castle visitors (like the trebuchet demonstration) twice daily. We cover the history and tradition of jousting in more detail our medieval tournaments page.

If you like trebuchets you might like to build your own desktop trebuchet (great fun!) from a trebuchet kit which you can buy at our medieval online store which we operate in association with Amazon. (Note: all items are currently available for purchase in US Dollars).

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, August 4, 2008

Castle Ruins On The Coast: Scarborough Castle

We took this photograph on a cold and misty day during a weekend trip to the North Yorkshire coast of England. Only ruins exist of Scarborough Castle today but they are some of the most interesting ones we have ever seen. The location of the castle itself is tremendously impressive high up on a promentary looking out to sea. In fact, it's believed that the site was used more than 2,000 years ago such are its obvious benefits as a vantage point.

Scarborough Castle was built in the 12th century, a fine example of medieval fortress construction. It later figured in the English Civil War and in 1648, under siege from the Roundheads, its great Keep was damaged almost to the point of destruction.

A castle keep was one of the most important areas for defence.

Out of the picture but only a matter of a few hundred metres away is a beautiful, small church in whose graveyard is buried the famous writer Anne Bronte. Read more about Anne Bronte's grave in Scarborough.

Labels: , , ,