Category Archives: 2015 05 UK – East Coast

Northward bound: Scotland road trip

Lands High and Low

Tuesday, June 2, to Saturday, June 5

Since we had another week before Chris arrived, we decided to keep the car and cross the border via roads versus waterways.

The weather was what we now define as typical UK:  clouds, showers, sun, cloud, showers, sun… repeat. But, it certainly didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for heading north. The last time I had visited this country was in 2000, and I wanted to expose Max to the inviting warmth of the Scots living in this giant landscape.

We decided to go without reservations thinking it was still too early to worry about not finding a room, especially since the kids’ school half-term had just finished the previous weekend.

Armed with Rick Steves’ Scotland tour guide we left in the morning and began our drive up, skirting Edinburgh heading towards Inverness. To reach that area we drove through Pitlochry where we stopped to spot any salmon running. Too early for them.

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We then entered the dramatic scenery of Scotland’s lowlands into the highlands and the snow-patched, Cairngorm mountains, the highest landmass in Britain. Most of the time it felt like it was just us and the ubiquitous sheep.

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Max saw some deer grazing along the vertical hillsides, and we later discovered it was the one reindeer herd in Scotland.

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Just following the road we ended up passing Balmoral, where we stopped, took some pics of the entrance (and the tour bus to see the grounds)

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and of the church where the royal family worships when in town (August-October or so). The previous church, Crathie Kirk, was where Queen Victoria worshiped for 45 years. Then her daughters, Princesses Louise and Beatrice, organized a two-day bazaar at Balmoral, raising some money to help build a new church, which opened in 1895. Queen Victoria’s beloved John Brown is buried across the road from the church. The royal family continues to worship at the church when at Balmoral with the south transept and porch are reserved for them.

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Soon it was time to check for places to stay and we discovered that it really would have been a good idea to book ahead; yet, we knew we could get rooms within our budget as long as kept asking.

Sure enough on our third time of asking if any rooms, we landed in Dulnain Bridge where we were lucky enough to meet Elle and Malcolm Cooke, owners of Auld Manse. They had just opened their B&B the year before, which meant everything was pristine. Not that it wouldn’t be even after ten years judging by the standards they set.

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I noticed some felt artwork and asked Elle about them. One in particular captured the sensation of being amidst these hills living in a croft (one of the country stone cottages).  Like me some friends Carol W., Kathy W. and Katie P. would appreciate these pieces of art.

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The next morning Malcolm suggested we head for Skye and to make a reservation ahead, which we did.

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After a hearty Scottish breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, potato scone, toast, beans, blood sausage, haggis (we opted out of some of the items and I bet you can guess which ones), we took off for the one destination we had agreed on ahead of time:  Culloden Battlefield outside of Inverness. But, we had to take a picture of the squirrel feeders (!) first.

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The non-indiginous gray squirrels have taken over the British red squirrels habitat, so now many people are actually feeding these rodents. The Cookes laughed when we explained to them we trap our red ones in have-a-heart box and release them off island. In short, we do everyting we can to NOT feed them.

The visitors’ center for this 1746 battle was just opened in 2013, and it was one of the more impressive centers for a single battlefield I had been on. The Park-and-Pay sign was in Gaelic as well as English. Similar to Wales, Scotland is ensuring its native tongue doesn’t fade away, so almost all signage we saw is uses both languages.

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Culloden is where Bonnie Prince Charlie (1720-1788), a direct descendent of Mary Queen of Scots, lost his fight to retake the British throne. As one of the Catholic Stuarts, he had been born in Rome, the grandson of King James II/VIII who’d been deposed in 1688 due to his despotism and pro-Catholic stance. This belief in the divine right to rule ran in the family resulting in an unfortunate ending for King Charles I who had his head lopped off by Oliver Cromwell in 1649.

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This April 16, 1746, battle was the last Jacobite uprising (Jacobite comes from the Latin name for ‘James’) with previous ones in 1708, 1715, and 1719 and the last major battle fought on British soil. Placing this war in the context of Scotland vs. England is the romanticized view. A more accurate description is calling this a Civil War between two dynasties:  Stuarts (represented by Prince Charlie) and Hanovers (represented by King George). There were some Red Coats who fought with the Jacobites, and some Scots who fought under the English flag. The reason for the latter is many Scots feared a return to the tyranny of divine rule and Catholicism if a Stuart took the throne. (FYI:  a lot of Scots had converted to Presbyterism, thanks to the rabid preachings of the Scottish John Knox a century earlier.)

I find fascinating the public relations used to further the cause of one side against the other. To incite folk against the Jacobites the English government printed bulletins like the one below depicting an angry mob of Highlanders wrecking havoc among unarmed citizens.

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Prior to walking onto the battlefield, we toured the visitors’ center. The center provided an excellent primer for what took place. Both sides, that of Bonnie Prince Charlie and of the Duke of Cumberland (1721-65), the third and youngest son of King George II, are explained in detail ending with the Jacobites being soundly and finally beaten after winning most of the major battles the year before.

The Jacobites’ military decisions reflected a deep division on exactly how to face the British, who outnumbered them. When Cumberland ended up in Nairn (12 miles from Culloden) after prepping for six weeks in Aberdeen, the Jacobites were undecided how to approach him, or even if they should engage the English right away. Some Clan chiefs wanted to withdraw and then ambush Cumberland’s army in the Highland passes. The Highlanders were expert at hand-to-hand combat, firing their muskets at close range then ferociously charging the enemy screaming and yelling with deadly weapons.

Unfortunately, Charlie and some of his other commanders argued for a stand-and-fight battle. The latter won out, but only to lose big time the next day. Not only were the Jacobites outnumbered, they were also exhausted. The night before the battle Charlie had sent his soldiers out to launch a surprise attack on Cumberland and his troops (the Duke was throwing his own b’day bash that night). The Jacobites never made it because of the slow-going through thick woodland, rain and fog. They retreated, only adding exhaustion to their list of woes. The map below shows the troops leaving for the surprise attack (bottom line) then returning (top lines).

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Even by morning there was an opportunity for the Jacobites to withdraw to Inverness and recoup their strength, but Prince  Charlie refused to listen to his senior commanders, and the Battle at Culloden Moor was fought. The result:  Charlie didn’t only lose his chance at being King. He also lost the Highlanders their way of life.

To ensure the Jacobite cause would not come back to haunt them, the English under Cumberland’s leadership (later he earned the title ‘Butcher’) ruthlessly demolished the Highlanders and their clan system. The victors hunted down over 3,000 who fought for Charlie. Many died in prison while 120 were given trials with the verdict pretty much pre-determined, publicly executed, then put on display as warnings to anyone thinking of rising up.

On display was a 1644 legal text referenced and marked by Lord Balmerino who used it during his trial for treason. He was executed in August 1746.

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Some Jacobites were sold into slavery and transported across the Atlantic, which is how some friends of mine came to be in Maine due being descendants of those sent abroad.

Kilts and tartans were outlawed, Chieftains lost their legal power and clansmen, their weapons.

Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped thanks to Flora MacDonald hiding him. She then dressed him as her maid allowing him to escape to the Isle of Skye. Supposedly he used this compass when on the run.

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On September 20 he finally managed to get on a French ship and hightail it out of Scotland. He continually tried to raise support for his cause but no one took him up on it, and Prince Charles Edward Stuart died in Rome and in obscurity until later revived in a romantic depiction. Flora, for her efforts, was thrown into the Tower of London but was later released and became a cause celebre. A few days later we saw her grave on the Isle of Skye.

The Jacobite cause, however, soon became romanticized thanks to heroic poems and ballads. In the 1780s visitors began touring the Highland areas. Walter Scott’s novel Waverley increased the interest in the Highlands, and he created a grand pageant for the visiting King George IV. And, because this king wore a kilt, the tartans came back into fashion.

Rick Steves theorized that it was due to Charlie losing the war that led to our American revolution. Steves’ ‘what-if’ cogitation is… if the Bonnie Prince won, there wouldn’t have been the Seven Years’ War with France… taxes wouldn’t have been raised… so American colonists probably wouldn’t have felt the need to revolt. Who knows?

Out on the battlefield there’s a croft where a family lived until the early 1900s. An interesting connection to the 1746 battle is from a story relayed by the grandmother. A wounded Jacobite who lost his hand in the battle ran into their house (it wasn’t the one we saw on the battlefield) only to sizzle his stump on the iron pot to staunch the bleeding. Not something I’d need to witness.

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After listening to the audio-guide and reading the center’s displays, we felt like we had stepped back in time. We definitely left there glad we had made it one of our primary goals of the road trip. And, Max said he understood the poignancy of some songs a favorite group, Schooner Fare, has sung over the years, such as “Bonnie Prince Charlie” and “Loch Lomond”. Scotland had entered our hearts and souls.

Before leaving the area we stopped at Balnuaran of Clava, Neolithic burial sites. The rings of stones were once covered with the entrances lining up with a winter solstice setting sun. Not a lot is known about these structures but to walk around and into these chambers once used over 3,000 years ago is worth a visit.

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On our way west we drove along Loch Ness and stopped in at Urquhart Castle to take some photos for our friend Joanne Urquhart. We decided not to do the tour but were glad we got some pictures peering through the buses from the parking lot.

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That night we landed on the west coast just a few miles from the Isle of Skye. Our room in Dornie was comfortable and well-outfitted, just like the Cooke’s Auld Manse. We unpacked then went across the lane to a hopping pub where we met some other travelers:  father-son motorcyclists and a young couple from D.C. (both born in Italy). We also met a few locals, one being the bartender who was originally from Toronto area. No live music but the camaraderie, local beer, and food made up for it.

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And, there was a castle five minutes from our room, The Eilean Donan Castle.

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It’s one of the most photographed castles but it’s really less than 100 years old. Although, the current structure was built on a site where a castle stood until destroyed in battle in 1719. You might recognize it from several movies: Sean Connery’s Highlander (1986) and a 1999 James Bond film (The World Is Not Enough).

The next morning we left for Skye, just 10 miles away and connected by a bridge. It was showery and gray but patches of sunlight filtered through, and we made the most of driving these winding roads. Similar to driving through the Cairngorms, these ‘hills’ were magnificent, making us feel very, very wee indeed.

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The scenery was awe-inspiring but so were some of the folk we met. We met a touring Aussie couple, both retired now and enjoying a major trip each year. We ended up meeting up at several sites (there’s only one road around, and in many instances only one lane).

We pulled into another overlook next to a guy enjoying his hot chocolate while surveying the Outer Hebrides in the distance (Skye is one of the Inner Hebrides). We got out to peer at the view and met Steve, one of the happiest people you can run into. He had delivered a small container to someone on Skye and was just enjoying the stretch of seascape. He and his wife are from England but had moved to Ireland so she could raise horses and he could focus on buying and selling vintage motorcycles. His outlook on life was so cheerful it was contagious. We found ourselves not really wanting to leave; yet, we wanted to tour the next peninsula over, which meant continuing our circumnavigation of the island.

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Well, we should have stayed with Steve for no more than five miles down the road, after visiting Flora MacDonald’s grave,

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we heard a funny sound. Rolling down my window I noticed it got worse. Sure enough, we had a big ole’ flat tire.

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We were just up the hill from Uig where a gas station was located, so we shot up the sad tire with that white stuff rental cars have in lieu of spares, and limped down to the station. Here we met another friendly person who let us use her phone. After an hour on the phone with Enterprise Car Rental and a roadside service, we finally learned the best option was to head back to Dornie (we got permission from Enterprise to drive on the inflamed tire) and call the roadside service once we reached our room. (The service would have sent out someone from Fort Williams or Inverness, both two-to-three hours away, which seemed stupid considering there were tire shops in two towns right on the island.)

Shortening a long string of frustrating misinformation calls, we discovered we were responsible for getting the tire fixed and could have just gone straight to one of the tire places and had it fixed within an hour. But, this did give us another opportunity to appreciate the hospitality and openess of these islanders.

Our second night at the pub we met up with young Italian couple who invited us to share a table (the place was packed once again with locals and travelers, always a good sign for a pub :).

The next morning we returned to Skye where we met a few more locals (yet, like the woman in Uig, one has also immigrated here from England) and got our tire fixed.

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We then left for Oban, further south along another beautiful road,

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stopping for our picnic lunch

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and to take advantage of some signage close to Oban.

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Again, we lucked out with a small B&B out of town. We ate our picnic dinner and even watched a Bond movie on the TV.

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Saturday morning we decided to head for home but not before retracing our steps a bit to reach a marina on the outskirts of Oban. My Dad, his wife Micki, and my siblings and nephews had some meals there when we were touring the area in 2000. It was nostalgic but not the same, so I was glad to grab a few photos and then head back into the present.

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Our last stop in Scotland was Stirling Castle.

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This fortress sits above an expanse of countryside with memorials to William Wallace at one site (far in the distance on the left) and Robert the Bruce at another (on the right in the background).

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What was more impressive, we found, was the Church of the Holy Rude next door bounded by its cemetery hosting graves as old as 1600s.

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This church was where Mary Queen of Scots held her son’s Roman Catholic baptism. Within several months, though, events changed dramatically with Mary leaving her son and fleeing to England after being accused of murdering her second husband, Lord Darling. During this time the religion of choice switched to Protestantism; and, inside we saw the plaque indicating where her 13-month old son, James VI, was crowned by that fiery Presbyterian preacher, John Knox July 29, 1567.

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Back in the car and three hours later we arrived home to JUANONA at Amble Marina. Now, prepping for Max’s son Chris who arrives June 9th for a sail up the coast and passage to Norway :)

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Northward bound: Iain & Sarah

East Coast from Hartlepool to Amble with some road trips inbetween

Saturday, May 23 to Sunday, May 31

When Iain joined us on our last passage to reach Orr’s Island ending our first Juanona voyage, he said he wanted to buy a boat and go sailing. He was still in school and this was his first blue water sailing. I’m thinking that’s a nice thought but…

Fast forward to today and he’s happily married to Sarah who also loves to sail. After selling the first boat he purchased (a Sabre 28), they bought their second boat in 2011 (a Niagra 35). They live on her (s/v BLUE) during the summer when they can rent out their home to fellow beach goers in Nags Head, NC. Working and saving and enjoying life, they also love to travel; so, when they expressed interest in joining us, we said of course!

They arrived in Newcastle-upon-Tyne late afternoon where we picked them up and returned to Hartlepool. The sun was still strong and bright thanks to being so far north, so we enjoyed some evening time in the cockpit.

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It was quite special having these two young people aboard. Now, if only the weather would cooperate for sailing!

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We had been checking the weather and it seemed the best time to go was mid-week. But, it wasn’t just wind we needed to take into consideration. To enter Amble, our next port of call, we had to arrive 2-3+ hours on other side of high tide thanks to a sill that kept water in the marina. Outside of the marina in the channel it could get as low as 3 feet. Fortunately, we had all the info aboard in charts and books.

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While waiting for weather we used the car to take them to several of our favorite haunts, the first being Whitby where they experienced a crowded Sunday stroll around the priory and down in the cobble-stone town. It was Sarah’s first time in Europe, and Iain’s first time in England, so the humongous ruins of the abbey required some photoshops.

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We headed out along one of the jetty and passed others out enjoying their Bank Holiday weekend.

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I couldn’t resist this pic of a family eating their fish & chips. They’d make a great ad for whomever sold them those take-away meals. We satisfied ourselves with ice cream cones.

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We stopped by the James Cook Museum but only to look around outside.

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We then headed back to Hartlepool for the night where mixologist Max did the honors

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and, I pulled out cheese bits.

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Then, we toasted having them aboard with Juanona glasses they had given us several years ago.

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Monday we left for Hadrian’s Wall, where we all enjoyed just being outside stretching our legs.

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Use to living in a confined space, they quickly fit into JUANONA’s routine, even taking over the nightly duty of dish washing and drying.

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Wednesday was the day we could leave, but it had to be at 4am in order to get out of the lock in Hartlepool. Fortunately, it started getting light at 3:45am; and, the four of us got up, untied from the pontoon and headed just around the corner to the lock. After waiting for the water to fill, we exited motoring slowly as we made our way out to the harbor.

But, all of a sudden we all felt ourselves stopping a bit. Sure enough, JUANONA was hitting the bottom. Max told Iain to unfurl the jib while Sarah and I held our breaths as we untied the fenders and lines in prep for stowing.

We made it past the shallow parts and into the open water. Thank god we left 30 minutes earlier than originally planned. The marina guys had mentioned we might want to do that because the high pressure we were in actually lowers the water below the charted tide levels. If we had left any later, we’d probably have been sitting there for a good while as we waited for the tide to go all the way out and then start back in again. Not a good feeling.

The winds were perfect and lasted beyond the forecasted time. We had a great sail

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arriving at Amble almost three hours ahead of our ETA thanks to the winds maintaining their strength.

The marina people are extremely welcoming, just like in Hartlepool. It’s filled with both pleasure boaters and fisherman, and the camaraderie is immediate.

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We walked around town with Max in search of a boat part, which he found at a candy store.

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Since it had some remaining lollipops in it, the crew obediently began to empty out the container.

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Now, to modify it to ensure the perfect fit.

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And, voila! Janona’s new ice chest…

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As I mentioned, Sarah and Iain are boat people, so they didn’t mind the usual hanging laundry lines used when rain instead of sun appears.

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The next day Iain, Sarah and I walked to Warkworth Castle, just a mile from the marina. It was typical showery-sunny day, and Sarah saw her first castle, which happened to belong to the Percy family, the Earls of Northumbria. This was their second home, the first being the larger Bamburgh Castle where the Kings of Northumbria had held court (we briefly checked that out on our coastal-route drive the next day).

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Friday we headed to Holy Island or Lindisfare where St. Cuthbert (the guy finally buried in Durham Cathedral) landed after being inspired by St. Aidan. To provide some background:  Aidan was an Irish monk who lived on the island of Iona in southwest Scotland. However, this monk’s fame really grew thanks to a young boy. This young man, Oswald, the second son of the Northumbria king Aethelfrith, fled to Iona after his father was killed in battle in 616 c.e. Oswald embraced Christianity; and, when he became king in 633, he established a mission on Lindisfarne under Aidan’s care.

Unlike other monasteries, Lindisfarne was only for men and boys, the reason being women wouldn’t have been able to do Aidan’s type of missionary work (walking the streets and accosting strangers, which is how Aidan knew to convert folk to his religion; at least Aidan recognized the importance of female leadership since he is credited with placing Hilda as the Abbess of Hartlepool and Whitby.). At this point it was the Irish Ionian monks who were spreading the word; so, to ensure the mission wouldn’t die out once they died off, Aidan set about establishing Lindisfarne as a place of learning. He died in 651 at King Oswald’s Bambrugh castle.

While Aidan was busy with the Priory of Lindisfarne another monk, Cuthbert, was gaining a reputation for devotion and sanctity. He became Prior of the Melrose monastery (in southern Scotland) in 664. That same year the Synod of Whitby (held under St. Hilda) settled whether the Celtic Rite or the Roman Rite was right. Turns out the Roman Rite was agreed upon. Cuthbert was then assigned to Lindisfarne to transition that monastery from Celtic to Roman.

This island is also where the famous Lindisfarne Gospels (to define a gospel, for those, like moi, who weren’t sure, it’s the story of Jesus and his faith) was created. Unusually, one monk, the Bishop of Lindisfarne (698-721) Eadfrith, created this beautiful medieval manuscript. Its historical significance is how he blended both the Celtic and Roman churches’ traditions to reflect a growing ‘Englishness’. (It’s now part of the British Library’s revolving display of historic literature.)

Soooo, a long explanation on how these two saints’ lives intertwined and why they are so important to Christians of England.

To reach this holier-than-thou island you had to wait for the tide to clear the causeway, which meant we had lunch (notice pickle jar on car roof :) while waiting for water to drain off the one road on/off this island. No Moses arrived to part it, just Mother Nature.

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There were warnings in the car park, too, about watching the tides and not getting caught out.

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The island was beautiful with the ruins of the monastery perched on one side of a small harbor overlooked by a castle across the way. (Below, we’re facing the castle.)

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We walked around the bottom of the castle, built in 1550 during Henry VIII’s time after the dissolution of the monasteries (1536-40).

Around the castle cairns and sheep covered the marshy expanse, and the sun came out in between showers. Opportunities for selfies with sheep occurred as we strolled back to the harbor.

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In just our brief time spent going to and from the castle, the harbor had started to dry out.

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We also saw a beach of seals basking in the shallow waters as well as a cross on a small island looking towards the mainland.

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Climbing a hill at the head of the harbor we looked down at the priory. The priory was constructed in the 11th century next to where St. Aidan’s Irish monastery stood.

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We recognized the typical Norman archways and saw a sketch of what these ruins would have looked like way back when.

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The little museum had some surprising finds, such as how brightly colored some of these stone works would have been. Below are replicas of two, rare Anglo-Saxon stones. These are rare because they named two people, Osgyth and Beannah, who lived and worked at the community when the Lindisfarne Gospels were created. These colors were found through x-ray fluorescence and magnification. So strange to think of these ancient sites in full color when we’re only seeing them way past their heydays in muted beiges and grays.

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We left the island and headed back timing it to ensure we crossed without any water under the car.

Saturday dawned clear and bright with Iain and Sarah taking a long walk, and Max and I hanging out. Sunday we dropped them off at the station to catch the train to Edinburgh.

A short visit but filled with a wonderful time together with our niece and nephew :)

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Northward bound: Road trip!

Hadrian’s Wall

Wednesday, May 21

Having made the decision to stay in Hartlepool to await our nephew Iain and wife Sarah’s arrival, we decided to explore a bit further. This time we headed north to the magnificent Roman ruin, Hadrian’s Wall.

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Begun in 122 c.e. and built over a six-year or so time period, this stone wall ran 73 miles from the Solway Coast in the west to Wallsend near Newcastle upon Tyne in the east and incorporated 17 forts and 80 milecastles (these were much smaller buildings placed roughly one mile apart housing anywhere from 12 to 30 soldiers).

Emperor Hadrian (76-138 c.e.) built this wall as a defense against the wild and wooly ‘barbarians’ whom he and his predecessors didn’t have any luck taming. So, instead of expanding the Roman Empire, he consolidated it.

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He was quite a guy. When Hadrian’s father died, his father’s cousin Trajan became his guardian. Lucky for Hadrian, Trajan later became emperor (98-117 c.e.), and when he died, Hadrian followed in his footsteps. Although, some say he set himself up better for getting the emperor title by saying he had been adopted by Trajan and his wife. Whatever. It worked, and Hadrian left his governor’s post in Syria to rule the Roman world.

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This emperor is considered one of the good ones due to his belief in the philosophy of stoicism. In trying to find a concise definition of this ancient Greek philosophy, I stumbled across one on the Internet that says stoicism is learning to enjoy what you have and not crave what you don’t. I guess taken further this philosophy evolved into enduring pain without showing it. I like the first definition better.

Hadrian, I gather, was a realistic guy who was strongly influenced by the Greeks, hence the stoicism. He was the first emperor to grow a beard, which was a Greek thing to do. He loved building (no surprise there) with one of the most memorable landmarks in Rome, the Pantheon, in existence today thanks to him as well as his villa at Tivoli.

He travelled through his empire extensively (all the places in orange are places he visited) and he came to Britain to inspect his wall in 122.

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Not being a dummy he married his guardian’s great-niece, Vibia Sabina, in 100, yet loved a young male Greek named Antinous. His lover tragically drowned, and they say Hadrian never fully recovered from this loss.

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This stone barrier snaking across the top of England offers a wonderful glimpse into the lives of those Romans who built and defended this stretch of the Roman Empire. Knowing we only had one day to do view this structure, we selected three sites to learn about Hadrian’s Wall.

The first was Houseteads Roman Fort, touted as the most complete Roman fort in Britain. It’s also where you can actually see the wall and even walk on part of it.

The fort was a half-mile from the visitor’s center, so we trekked up spotting sheep spotting us as we climbed to the little museum and the fort itself running along part of the wall.

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I must say you have to use your imagination to envision the way it must have been back in Roman times, but the displays both in the little museum and explanations on site were excellent educators.

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Having explored the fort we went to the wall and slowly travelled a bit with Max perfecting his Roman soldier stance and his one-foot-down-one-leg-up pose.

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He also checked the stones to ensure they were properly set.

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It was a beautiful day so the stroll both on and beside the wall was spectacular, including a visit from a welcoming puppy eager to share her sheep poo.

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Peering down one side of the wall we found ourselves once again in awe of the engineering prowess in building something so substantial without the benefit of the mechanical tools and construction aids we have today.

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They would build an envelope of well-placed stones and then fill the middle with rubbled stones and used lime stone to cement it.

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Our next stop six miles away was a twofer:  The Roman Army Museum and Vindolanda. To reach the museum you enter through the remains of a settlement outside the fort, then through the fort itself. What’s really cool about this site is that you can watch archaeologists find items as they continue to excavate this fort.

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We stopped to chat and were there when they pulled out a nail that hadn’t seen the light of day for over 1800 years. We were the first people to hold it since some Roman had used it for construction. The archaeologist who showed it to us said the reason for finding such excellently preserved artifacts was due to the aerobic soil. Since the fort was built atop eight previous ones, tons of items were stuck in the mud keeping them safe and sound until dug up and help by folk such as us.

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Reaching the museum we were in awe of all that had been recovered, from a full set of broken samian ware from the late 80s (they concluded this was the date because the same potters’ stamps appeared on an unopened crate at Pompei (destroyed 79 c.e.)

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to pieces of glassware

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to leather shoes

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to jewlery

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to the most important of all, writing tablets.

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It is because of these slim, wooden tablets that we know so much about the actual daily lives of the Romans in Britain. Besides finding descriptions and tallies of the number of soldiers and their assignments, they’ve also discovered tablets relating to every-day life. One of the most famous is a birthday invitation, one of the earliest examples of Latin penned by a woman translated below:

‘Claudia Severa to her Lepidina, greetings. On the third day before the Ides of September, sister, for the day of the celebration of my birthday, I give you a warm invitation to make sure that you come to us, to make the day more enjoyable for me by your arrival. Give my greetings to your Cerealis. My Aelius and my little son send their greetings. I shall expect you, sister. Farewell, sister, my dearest soul, as I hope to prosper, and hail.’

To me it’s fascinating to imagine this woman sitting down to ask a friend to join her for a birthday celebration. In spite of the language being both flowery and formal, the warmth of this friendship is apparent. Can’t you see her? I could.

First discovered in 1973, many of these tablets are now housed in the British Museum and listed as one of their top ten treasures. Fortunately, for us, Vindolanda were able to keep some for display.

Another unique find in addition to the writing tablets was the actual fringe you see illustrated on Roman helmets. They came this is the only one to-date found fairly intact.

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Having sated our desire to experience Hadrian’s Wall, we headed for the car and started looking for an inexpensive place to stay while driving these windswept moors.

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After checking out several pub accommodations in small towns along the way, we found one that came with bathroom en-suite, a full English breakfast and a friendly pub-keeper. Pretty wonderful way to spend a night and morning break.

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Helmsley

Thursday, May 22

Next day we headed due south, back to The North Moors National Park where we first travelled through to get to Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay. Only this time we’d be on the far SW corner at Ducombe Park.

The reason for heading to this park in Helmsley is that it featured the International Centre for Birds of Prey. I had read about this organization in one of the many pamphlets we’d picked up and I was curious to see the flying demonstrations they touted.

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I’d never forgotten one I’d seen in Scotland over 14 years ago. It was a friend’s (Marci’s) birthday, and Joanna, her partner, had arranged an amazing party. My sister Betsy and I went. It was spectacular. And, one of the optional events was seeing the bird man with his birds. So, when I saw I could show Max something similar, I persuaded him to go.

In spite of two roadmaps, an iPad GPS, and our own eyes, and with 2.5 hours to make a 1.5 hour journey, we barely made it to the first showing at 11:30. Thankfully our navigational skills at sea seem to be better than our shore based ones.

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Two trainers alternated flying several different types of birds.

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The demonstrations were filled with lots of swooping birds but also time spent gazing at the sky or a tree in search of the free-flying object. The trainers were excellent, though, at keeping up an educational patter as we all strained to see a little birdie. Lots of practice, no doubt.

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One of the interesting displays was how they eventually got the birds back to the demo area. The trainer would swing around a line (baited with a meat item since these are birds of prey… one of the trainers said you may not want to look too closely at that end of the rope)…

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the bird would swoop down and catch it…

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the trainer approached very carefully while winding up the rope…

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finally getting close enough to switch out the baited line with another piece of meat…

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resulting in both emcee and actor being content.

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After the first show we toured the facility where these birds of prey are captivity bred for conservation. This northern branch was opened in 2013, and the site is both lovely and engaging. We walked among all the pens (each bird is flown every day) and I snapped photo after photo. Unfortunately, it was through mesh screens for most of them; but, don’t worry–I’ll only post a few!

The profiles were so regal it was as if these birds were used to posing for photographs.

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And, the owls were wonderful. I mean, look at these faces. The first one below has a wreath of feathers that are amazing in their exactness. The face appears to have been shaved with the underneath part being the tiny white feathers.

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The wee burrowing owl (so small it can’t carry the weight of a radio transmitter like the larger birds have, so it gets its own carrying box) was a comedian as the trainer explained how they couldn’t fly that fast so to escape predators they burrowed. He told us they can sometimes share prairie dogs’ homes, and the dogs actually appreciate these little fellows because their whistle will alert everyone to danger; and, if a snake tries to come down, the owl can imitate another snake’s hiss scaring off the approaching menace.

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Of course, there was the comical moment or two.

How could you not love a guy who sees the following…

then does this? :)

We found a spot for good cell coverage and called Eileen,

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then took in one more demo where we saw the largest bird being flown, the Sea Eagle. The trainer said he grew up around here and, when he was little, he pleaded with his parents to take him to see the birds. They did so and he saw a sea eagle. From then on he fell in love with the majesty of birds.

Twenty years later, he’s back and training and flying the son (!) of those same birds he first saw so long ago. Karma.

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What is so exceptionally clear is the devotion these people have for these birds. That emotion came through with every bird they flew.

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Happy to have experienced this intriguing center it was time to return to JUANONA, and so we set off, driving through the beautiful English countryside to Hartlepool.

Soon, Iain and Sarah!

Northward bound: Exploring Hartlepool

HARTLEPOOL

Sunday, May, 17, 2015

We had met some racers the night before at Hartlepool Yacht Club who invited us to join them for Sunday’s race. I gracefully declined while Max agreed to crew on BATHSHEBA, Stu and Sue’s boat.

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Located at Hartlepool Headland, it was a good forty-minute walk from the marina, which we were planning on doing anyhow in order to visit St. Hilda’s Church and the statue of Andy Capp (the comic strip’s creator, Reg Smythe, was born here).

We passed the construction of a humongous gas rig platform, a replica of the ones we passed sailing up the coast. Impressive. And, there was another one being built behind it. It is strange to come upon these manmade structures sticking out of the sea’s surface, like the wind turbines that populate these shores.

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While Max raced I walked to St. Hilda’s, a church still in use today. Like most of these larger, more substantial edifices, the current church, constructed at the end of the 1100s, stood where a smaller one had earlier resided.

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Peering into the main part of the church I was spotted by a church-goer who kindly asked if I’d like to come in. Figuring if I hadn’t been hit by lightening by this time, I and everyone one else in the church was safe, I said sure; and, for the first time in decades, I actually sat through a service not related to a wedding, christening, or funeral.

After it was over the woman at the end of my pew struck up a conversation. I told her I had just stopped in to tour the church, and she suggested I ask Tony for a tour. Her eyes widened when she found out my last name for, lo and behold, some Bruces built the church.

Back then, their name was de Brus, coming over from Normandy following the defeat of the last Saxon King, Harold, at the Battle of Hastings 1066. If they’re my ancestors, the de Brus family proceeded to atone, I’m sure, for their many transgressions by constructing some religious buildings.

Max and I later found the Brus’ also helped build Hartlepool; although, never studying any genealogy, my Bruce ties here could be a bunch of hooey. But, we’ll have to check with some friends, Doug and Dale, also with the surname Bruce, who may have better info. Whether or not my ‘Bruce’ came from here, it was fun to consider the possibility.

Tony happened to be the nice man who invited me in to the service. As we slowly walked through St. Hilda’s he showed me a tomb that history says might hold a de Brus (but probably not),

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some graffiti made by crusaders prior to leaving for the Holy Land,

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the typical wooden roof of that time (pre-flying buttresses so couldn’t support stone),

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and the remaining southern doorway from the first Normal construction.

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A christening was being held soon, so I exited the church promising Tony I’d be back with my nephew and his wife (coming the following week) if time permitted.

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Exiting into bright sunshine and stiff winds I started the walk back to the marina, passing by the Andy Capp statue.

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Nearing our pontoon I looked out just in time to catch a glimpse of what could have been BATHSHEBA finishing up her race. A perfect way to spend a sunny day.

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Northward bound: More inland cruising

Durham

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

One of the towns close by was Durham, the site of another famous cathedral. Discovering it offered evensong everyday except Monday, I wanted to hear it. The first and last time was in Canterbury with my friends Carol and Katie, and it left all three of us in awe. I’m not religious but I do love music; and, now, here was another opportunity to share a similar experience with Max. We discovered we could easily get there via the local bus. So, on a rainy Tuesday we made our way to the bus stop and joined a few other folk taking the local route.

Once there the sun began to peek out as we climbed the winding cobble-stone lane to the top of a hill where both a castle (now a university) and the cathedral perched. The rocky peninsula is surrounded on three sides by the River Wear and overlooks the medieval town. The cathedral sits boldly beside the castle, the latter we couldn’t really enter due to school still being in session (some lucky kids actually get to sleep in a dorm in this castle begun in 1072 under William the Conqueror); but, we were able to enter the cathedral.

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Unlike most of the cathedrals we’ve toured, Durham is free. No photos were allowed so we wandered around following a small pamphlet’s instructions on what’s what.

What I found truly amazing is why I hadn’t heard of this place before considering the folk buried here:  Bede (at least some of his bones) and St. Cuthbert, the guy who figured prominently during St. Hilda’s time. Bede (672-735 c.e.) was enshrined here in 1370; and, St. Cuthbert (634-687 c.e.), the famous monk, bishop, and hermit who helped spread Christianity, ended up here in 995 after his body was moved twice (the first time in 875) to escape Danish plundering. The second time his remains (supposedly) telegraphed that Durham should be his final resting place. I’m sure no politics influenced THAT decision.

Anyhow, St Cuthbert’s tomb became a shrine to which oh so many pilgrimages poured their thanks into the open palms of Durham’s oh so reverent leaders. Nothing like a saint to earn some dough. First a church (998) and, later, a cathedral was built (1081-96) to house this shrine with many additions occurring into the subsequent centuries.

Staring up at the imposing stone walls and stained glass while wandering down the center aisle we ran into John Adams, a volunteer who happily and helpfully provided us with information about his church. I say his church because there have been services held here daily for over 900 years, which even for someone like unchurchy me is impressive.

After an hour or so, we left but not before snapping a pic of the Sanctuary Knocker.

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In the Middle Ages fugitives from justice could seek sanctuary by knocking on the north door (where this knocker, a replica, was, although, it must have been lower or the fugitive brought a ladder because it was pretty high up). The fugitive had 37 days to decide whether to stand trial or put himself/herself into exile. If the latter, they had three days to reach the closest port (Hartlepool) and wait for a ship, any ship. As long as they were in the water (waiting for that ship) they were still considered outside the long arm of the law.

When we asked John why such odd day counts, he smiled and said everything was based on the bible’s 40 days. That rang a slight bell in my head, enough for me to say “Ahh”.

We finished our tour and exited to walk around until 5:15, when evensong was occurring.

The town was small, filled with students as well as some other tourists, and we just strolled around enjoying the ambiance and the not-too cold temps.

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At 5:00p we were back at the cathedral and sat with twenty or so other listeners as the service began. The voices were angelic with a range of ages participating, from little girls to older men. The sound was lovely. To be able to witness such an event knowing something akin to it had occurred over 900 years earlier was a bit like time traveling; and, both Max and I soaked it up as the notes literally soared to the sky. All in all a nice way to spend a Tuesday.

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Northward bound: Exploring inland

YORK   

Saturday, May 16, 2015

After two days along the coast we headed inland to the historic city of York. Only an hour away by train, this Yorkshire town built in 71 C.E. was originally called Eboracum and served as Rome’s capital of the northern province. It maintained its prominence after the Romans left, renamed Eoforwic under the Saxons. Danish names for streets show the influence of the Vikings who settled here beginning 867 C.E. and the city continued to thrive as one of Europe’s trading centers. York became even more prominent, becoming England’s second city between 1100 and 1500. When we mentioned York as a place we were considering visiting, locals enthusiastically agreed.

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We can’t say enough about the friendliness of these folk! Everyone we’ve met goes out of their way to make us feel welcome, beginning with the marina folk here at Hartlepool. And, it’s not just in Hartlepool. On the streets in York a man stopped to ask if we needed help (we were trying to locate something on a map). He then went out of his way to ensure we were headed in the right direction.

So, on this Saturday morning we joined the throng of merry travelers including those continuing onto London two hours past our stop in York. It was packed, which meant making space on the floor since most seats were reserved. Armed with crosswords and sudoku, we easily passed time and within an hour were gliding into York.

Leaving the station we walked towards the river, following the ancient wall. And, found a mother goose and her ducklings alongside the river bank.

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Our initial stop was the largest landmark in this ancient city, York Minster, towering over the narrow streets clustered around it, like a big hen and its brood. ‘Minster’ means a missionary teaching church, and York Minster is the largest medieval Gothic cathedral north of the Alps. Similar to other large cathedral sites we’ve visited, this cathedral is located where once a smaller, wooden church stood. Matter-of-fact, King Edwin of Northumbria was baptized here in 627 C.E., which means so was his grand-niece Hilda, that abbess mentioned earlier. 

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We entered the cathedral just in time to catch the beginning of an hour tour. The guide was informative without being overly so and we proceeded to learn about this awe-inspiring building begun in 1220 and completed 250 years later (lots of add-ons and renovations, not the least being a major fund-raiser to clean and restore some of the 128 stained glass windows).

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As we walked down one side and up the other, our guide pointed out old family shields hanging on the walls. These indicated who paid for those particular windows. Some windows also featured the donor with one set actually including a whole panel of the entire family. Nothing like cash to get you into heaven. Or, the good graces of powerful church figures.

The shields also helped identify the archbishops, such as this one on a tomb.

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Our guide mentioned that the shields identifying who was who and the stained glass windows depicting biblical scenes were easy ways to inform a mainly illiterate public.

One of the unusual features was the Chapter House located behind the alter.

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This room had excellent acoustics with each stone seat along the walls placed in its own alcove. Stone carvings ran above the seats, and, with so many faces needed to decorate such a room, most of the designs were left to the discretion of the carvers themselves, resulting in some quite startling expressions.

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On one side of the choir stood a 15th-century stone screen. Statues of the kings of England were featured, beginning with William the Conqueror and ending with Henry VI. The latter was the pious king of the mid-1400s who built the King’s Chapel in Cambridge,  which we visited with Hugo back in April.

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The last point of interest was a board listing all of the archbishops, including Thomas Wosley from Ipswich and who helped Henry VIII split from Catholicism.

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Outside we were once again reminded of this city’s antiquity when we saw a Roman column

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the statue of Constantine whose coronation was held here in 306 C.E.

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This town is loaded with kingly presence. Richard III, the last Plantagenet King, spent most of his youth at Middleham Castle north of York. He only ruled for two years, being defeated by Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth. He had a soft spot for York, and the city milked it for what it was worth. No different from savvy politicians and their donors of today’s world.

You may remember hearing about this infamous (he’s the one who’s accused of murdering his two nephews in order to grab the crown for himself) king in the news this past March. His bones were recently re-interred after being found in a Leicester car park. Some say he wanted to be buried in York, but, Leicester was chosen because (a) he left no actual written will stipulating York as his desired burial place, (b) bodies are generally reburied where they were originally found, and (c) the Battle of Bosworth occurred close to Leicester. Also, as a gentleman told us who helped us with directions, a local leader has ties to Leicester, which easily could have influenced her vote on where to put Richard’s old bones.

There was a museum dedicated to Richard III housed in one of the original, medieval city gates, Monk Bar. We didn’t go to the museum but did climb to see the murder holes (where they dropped nasty stuff on anyone stupid enough to try to enter blindly) and the portcullis that still works (but wasn’t demonstrated).

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We peeked into a tranquil sanctuary, the Church of Holy Trinity. The guide who happened to be from Seattle (her father’s English, which is how she ended up here) walked us down to the original part of the church, which is roughly two feet below the current site) and pointed out some original Norman walls (marked by these chevrons).

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While wandering along these old streets we took in the end of a busker’s show (with quite an original name) eating are lunch brought from JUANONA.

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The crooked streets were filled with crooked houses, some more so than others.

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We walked to another medieval site, Clifford Tower. Located on a mound where William the Conqueror built his wooden castle (although he didn’t use it much), the tower was built by Henry III 100 years later.

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Max pointed out how far we’d sailed to-date on an English Heritage promo poster (we joined thanks to some cruisers who told us about this organization),

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then we climbed to the top and tried to get a good pic of the tower model only to have an (American) kid constantly insert himself, which the mother only thought was adorable.

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A good view from the top where I, with my fear of heights, kept a tight hold on the inner fencing.

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Saw the medieval red devil notes on Stonegate Street, built over a Roman road,

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and continued to check out the Yorkshire Museum located in another green oasis, St. Mary’s Abbey, founded in 1086. Thanks to York’s wool trade along with royal and papal privileges this Benedictine abbey was one of the richest in Britain. We just perused the museum shop (we find that’s a good way to suss out whether we’re up for another cultural bit) with Max finding the perfect card for JUANONA (and him!).

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By then it was time to catch the train home as we enjoyed the afternoon sun, crossing the old city walls and back to the bridge we first crossed heading to York Minster.

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On the ride home looking out the window we passed the 19th-century white horse carved into the sides of Sutton Bank in the North York Moors. Reading later I discovered William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy also visited these North York Moors in 1802. If the horse had been there then, we may be reading a poem today, only, I’m sure it’d be galloping through a host of golden daffodils.

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Northward bound: Exploring northward

TYNEMOUTH  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

We headed north this time, towards Newcastle where our nephew and his wife would be flying into for a visit. This city known for its shipping of coal has a reputation for night life and all that goes with it: clubs, music, events, and restaurants. It also features several marinas, one of which we were checking out along with other ports of call further north.

It was blustery and chilly but we enjoyed walking the streets of Tynemouth after visiting Tynemouth’s headland with yet another priory and castle. This one had the typical convoluted history (to me) as other old and crumbling ruins:  began as a smaller building in 600s; later sacked by the Danes in 800s (St. Hilda’s nuns who went there to be safe found themselves massacred at one of these attacks); rebuilt during Norman times (1000-1300s), and, later the monastic buildings were dismantled during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the Catholic Church’s holdings 1536-40.

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But, the castle and Prior’s house were saved. The castle ended up being the birthplace of the 9th Earl of Northumbria, Henry Percy in 1854, and there’s a beautiful chapel still on the grounds.  This 9th Earl Percy was the grandson of the 6th who was originally betrothed to Anne Boleyn prior to her becoming Henry VIII’s second wife. If only she had known where her future was headed….

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This priory was also on a headland similar to Whitby. The reason for the prominent placement of these priories is they weren’t serving as retreats from the world but as missions to spread the word of Christianity. Therefore, it made perfect sense to site these grand behemoths in actively trading ports found where river mouths ran into the sea.

This particular site remained in use as a garrison for British troops but then, like most of these magnificent ruins, evolved eventually into an English Heritage site for people like us to troop around while trying to imagine what it was like way back when.

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Walking down the streets running parallel to the river Max spotted some people-watchers

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who were sitting above a spot where a famous musician ate some fish and chips.

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Getting back in the car we headed for one of Newcastle marina’s when we saw some boats sailing in this brisk wind.

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We hopped out and met up with the sailors with one captain letting Max try his hand.

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This sailing club has been in existence for more than 100 years, and these guys are part of a group who meet Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 11:00 a.m. to race. A nice way to enjoy the simple pleasures of sailing.

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The rest of the day entailed driving to and checking out marinas in Newcastle (a bit out of town if using the one close to the river mouth), Blythe (small and very industrial), and Amble (extremely friendly with access 2hrs-45 mins to 3hrs-45 mins either side of high tide depending on whether spring or neap tide). By the end of the day we were ready to head home happy to be returning to Hartlepool.