Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Medieval Castle With Its Own Harbour

Now here's something you don't see every day ... a medieval castle with its own harbour. On a recent visit to Scotland we took in a trip to Threave Castle.

Set in a stunning location on a tiny island in the middle of the river Dee, the remains of this medieval castle can only be reached by walking down to the river's edge, ringing an old-fashioned bell and waiting for the ferryman to come and take you across in his little boat! With room for only 4 passengers, the boat happily phut-phuts along taking just a minute or so to cross the narrow stretch of water to land you on the jetty the other side.

Threave Castle is a ruin but one you can still go inside and from its highest point you can savour its uniqueness by surveying the unspoiled landscape around it, watching the current of the river Dee cut a swathe past the castle's own little harbour which was once vital to the castle's inhabitants for bringing in supplies. In the distance at the top of some tall trees we could see a large nest and with the benefit of binoculars realised it was that of a pair of Ospreys - what a wonderful sight!

The history of Threave Castle is fascinating as is its architecture but we will save those to cover another day. Suffice it to say, if you get the chance to visit Threave Castle, don't miss it!

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Medieval English Diet

The medieval diet was more varied than many people realise. As well as crops there would have been herbs, fruits and berries and then of course meat. However meat could only be eaten fresh in the summer as Turnip Townsend was still 400 years in the future and livestock was generally slaughtered before the winter came.

Poor people kept pigs whilst the rich and nobles hunted deer, wild boar, swans, hares and just about anything that moved!

Fish was popular and a mandatory dish on Fridays and of course during lent when the devout gave up meat. Manors and monasteries would have had their own fish ponds and castle moats were often well stocked with fish.

Potatoes - there were none! It was Christopher Columbus who brought the common spud back from the New World in 1482.

Meats were generally served on thick trenchers of bread ... with only the nobles using plates.

Salt, something which is so common now, was a luxury.

The main meal of the day would have been eaten 9 am and 12 noon. In medieval castles it was served in the Great Hall.

Overall there was a large variety of food prepared and cooked in ways that we have long forgotten about. For more on that you can check out some medieval recipes.

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