Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sampling the U.K. -- Part 3: Durham, Hadrian's Wall, and North Wales

Durham, in the northeast of England, was our next destination.  From London, we took the train a pleasant three-hour journey.  We were met by Darrell, a former student of my husband, and his family who took us for a brief walk about the town, the Cathedral, and then to supper. 

Historically significant as the burial place of St. Cuthbert, the great Northern saint, and the Venerable Bede, author of the first English history, Durham Cathedral is recognized by many in this century as the site of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films, with a spire digitally added to the towers. 

Thank you, Darrell, Tracey, and your great kids, for a delightful evening.

Unfortunately, my camera was misplaced for much of the rest of our stay in Durham, meaning photos were not possible; however, we were wonderfully hosted by the family of a faculty member from the Department of Archaeology at the University of Durham (where Darrell recently completed his Ph.D. studies). Sten's lecture at the University, the impetus for this trip, was very well-received, and we enjoyed meeting many of the students and faculty at a reception and dinner after the lecture.

Darrell drove us the next morning to  Housesteads Roman Fort, about halfway across the narrow belt of the U.K. where the remains of an impressive garrison fort and Hadrian's Wall are visible. The following photos are taken there. 

The next two photos go together and are self-explanatory.  The Romans with their baths and toilet facilities were obviously ahead of their time.

The organizations responsible for maintaining the Housesteads complex had a group of actors filming a promotional video, drawing on the Game of Thrones popularity while we were there. It seemed like the perfect setting.

Darrell, whose specialty is Roman archaeology, was a great tour guide.  Thank you, Darrell.

Upon returning to the east coast, this time to Newcastle, we caught the train taking us across country to Liverpool and then Bangor, in the north of Wales.  We were met by our friend and colleague, Eveline, and her husband who drove us to their home, a bed and breakfast in Maentwrog. We drove by Caernarfon Castle, famous for being where the Prince of Wales was invested by his mother, the Queen. A famous son of the area is T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia), who was born in Tremadog, a village we drove through.  It was already dark outside, but it appeared to me that there might be some mountains/hills in the area. What a lovely surprise awaited me on that score in the morning.

Eveline and Ross's charming ecological B&B, Glanddwyryd, is located in a beautiful Welsh village whose name means Twrog's stone. The legend is that a giant named Twrog hurled a stone down from the top of a hill into the settlement and destroyed a pagan altar. The stone is said to be the one located in the courtyard of St. Twrog's church, right next to their home. 

That first evening, they prepared a beautiful supper of salads, breads, and cheese for us. After a cozy evening chatting by the fire in their sitting room, we all happily retired for the night to our comfortable beds.

After a good night's sleep, we awoke to this view of the village church out our bedroom window.

Their property butts up to the churchyard.  Ross, at the bottom of this photo, is feeding their chickens they keep for fresh eggs.

Across the street, a neighbor, who directs the local ukelele orchestra, has decorated the entrance of his home with all sorts of interesting hanging objects and plants. Next to that is the monument pictured, and the view down the street to the right is next.

After a delicious breakfast prepared by Eveline and Ross, we headed out together to see what we could of the area within driving distance of their home. It was a beautiful clear day, and Harlech Castle -- built by Edward I during his invasion of Wales in the 13th century-- was in its full glory. We learned that Wales, which at one time had 400 castles, has about 100 of them still standing.  No wonder it's sometimes referred to as the "castle capital of the world."

There's a view of the Snowdonia's mountain peaks to the north and a view of the sea the to the west.

I took this photo for its listing of items in both English and Welsh.  In this part of Wales, many speak Welsh; one village almost exclusively.  I learned that the "w" and "y" are used as vowels in Welsh and that the written language is quite phonetic, which makes figuring out how to pronounce it much easier for an English speaker once you know the rules.

Next, we drove south to this beautiful spot along the coast, the church of Saint Tanwg, right in the dunes along the coast in Llandanwg.  It wasn't open while we were there, so we could only peak through the windows to see inside, but if you're interested here's a blogpost I found with beautiful photos inside the church: I'm sure the church wasn't always almost buried in the dunes, as it is now. There aren't services every week, but on major holidays it's well attended, we were told.

Our next stop was some very old dolmens, the Dyffryn Ardudwy neolithic twin burial chambers, believed to date from 3500 B.C. These are some of the oldest stone structures in Britain. Excavations in the 1960s revealed Neolithic and Bronze Age pottery fragments which indicate that this burial site could have been used over a fairly long period of time.

Wales is a popular destination for mountain bikers and hikers.  We went next to  Coed y Brenin, one of the most popular areas in the north of Wales for hiking and mountain biking. Here are a few shots from there.

After our full day of sightseeing and hiking outdoors, our hosts suggested supper of some hearty pub food with good conversation. Here were a couple of our orders: a vegeburger and mushroom stroganoff with wild rice.  Both were delicious. I forgot to photograph our "puddings" -- British for "desserts," but they were equally good.

The next morning, we needed to head back to Bangor to catch our train to London, but before doing that we went to see the church next door.   

Here's the view of the mountains from the churchyard.

And here is the legendary stone thrown by Saint Twrog, after whom  the church is named.

The ride to Bangor was through the Snowdonia National Park and its beautiful mountains.  

We had no idea before coming to Wales, how beautiful and mountainous it is.  We certainly would enjoy a return visit, and would highly recommend Glanddwyryd Ecological Bed & Breakfast.  The location is beautiful, the food delicious, and the hosts delightful.  Thank you, Eveline and Ross, for everything.

Here's the B&B's website: