Covid-19 and Preparations for Exploring Scotland

Well, this pandemic has certainly scuppered my plans to visit lots of castles this year. But in the scheme of things, that is not so bad. I will see them eventually I am sure.

In the meantime I have been filling my no work time by preparing for trips in the future.

A while ago I went to the Isle of Mull for a holiday. While on that holiday I picked up a free book issued by Visit Scotland. You can download it free here. It lists many films and TV shows that have been shot in Scotland. Seeing I have lots of free time now, I made a map of most of the locations with the name of the film they refer to.

The blue place marks are ones I have not seen yet, the brown ones I have already visited at one time or another. While placing some locations I was a bit ticked off as I knew I had been there, but had not been to that specific location.

The movie Cloud Atlas was mentioned a few times and I was intrigued.

So I have ordered the book and DVD, though I am not sure when they will arrive. I hope in the future I will be able to visit some of its locations mention in the book.

Plus I really want to explore Glasgow, that was mentioned a lot too. I have been once, but didn’t really get a chance to explore the area.

In the meantime, I am not going anywhere. I am doing as I am told and staying home or within walking distance of my home. Stay safe 🙂

Bolsover Castle

The UK continues to have a very blustery start to 2020. I went to this castle during a break in the weather and on a day I didn’t have anything else to do. I have family in Derby and on the journey there I always noticed signs for Bolsover Castle. Every time we passed the signs I would ask…have you been there? The answer was always no. So, seeing as I had nothing to do, no funds, and an English Heritage membership, I decided to go. Free for me.

Getting there was very easy, but the carpark was full and flooded, even on a work day. I would not like to visit on a sunny weekend. In retrospect, I think the entry price on the day I went was quite high. I am glad I got to go as part of the membership. If there had been a horse demonstration or event then I think it is reasonable considering the parking is free. But on the day I went there was nothing happening within the grounds.

The castle itself is gorgeous and you can wander almost every part of it. There is an audio tour, but I chose not to listen to that this time. The castle is fairly close to me so I will visit again.

The first place I explored was the riding house, as I stated there were no horses on the day I visited, hence the reason I will go back. It seems you have to book in advance.

Then I wandered around the outside and the walls. You could see all the way to the snow on top of the Peak District and the closer New Bolsover Model Village.

Then I wandered the inside. Just to note there are no lifts, it is a castle after all. The stairs are not steep, but there are lots of them.

There are lots of rooms to explore, each is sparse, but there is something to see in in each. I like the little things, such as the way the floor in the kitchen has been worn away by water. Things like that help you imagine a room full of cooks, fire, and steam

Next I wandered the grounds, garden, and wall. The garden is quite small but there are nooks and a liaison room. Again, these help you imagine life in medieval times.

I enjoyed the day out here, it wasn’t busy and there was lots to explore. The staff were very friendly, asking where I was from and why I had decide to visit. They said most people do what I did and one day just decided to go after seeing the signs on the way to somewhere else. Which is a shame as it deserves to be a place you visit all for itself. Go along and find out the interesting history of the place, you might even see a ghost.

Cardiff Castle

This was the second castle I visited last weekend. It was amazing and disappointing all at once.

The castle itself was terrific. From the outside and the animal wall to all the amazing rooms inside the house. But what was disappointing was the information on the app and posted inside. Basically I felt there was a push towards buying the official book because that was the only place you could find any detailed information. We even saw some tour guides as we wandered around and they didn’t seem to be imparting much information or showing much enthusiasm unless they were in costume.

In the end I was really lucky to be accompanied by a Welsh friend who loves history and made connections for me. Though she did try to fool me with made up stories too and I had to try and figure out the real ones …fun…not.

There were also unexpected things at the castle, such as the shelter corridors.

While walking through them Churchill can be heard announcing the beginning of WWII, it is quite moving. Later we went to the museum that honors the history of the Welsh Soldier. There was a display of Victoria Crosses given out at Rorke’s Drift. As Zulu was alway a favourite film from my childhood, I was quite moved by that too.

Another part of the castle that was a surprise to see and where little information could be found was the Charioteer Roman street scene.

We were quite lucky to see it as it was only reopened a few months ago. The only information I could find was on the Cardiff Castle Facebook page which states…

Hidden from view beneath the Castle’s south-east corner since 2006, this intricately detailed 3D mural depicts the encounter between the local Silures tribe and the invading Roman army in the 1st century AD. Originally completed in 1983 by local artist, Mr Frank Abraham it is once again open to the public after restoration work by a team from Cadw.

So, a small museum, but well worth a visit. For any more information I would recommend buying the official Castle guide and perusing it before going. Though at £30 you might not want to. Here are some more photos from my visit.

The animal wall outside was still one of my favourite parts if the castle. You can read all about the history of the wall here.

So another lovely day, I can’t wait to return to Wales…the North and Harlech!!

Oh and while you are at the castle visit these shops very close by for tasty, sweet snacks. Both of these shops opposite the castle sell delicious wares. Take your pick Fabulous Welshcakes or Nata&Co ‘s Pastel De Nata.

Goodrich Castle

Last weekend I went to two castles…TWO!! I was a bit excited. To be honest I could have gone to more as I was in Wales and there are sh** loads there. Actually saying that, the first one I went to was in England. I blame my Welsh friend, she had never been to this one so to be nice we visited this one first.

This was the first time I used the English Heritage membership I had just purchased. With the cost of the parking and the entrance it was basically equivalent to two month of payments, so winning.

Even though this castle is in England it appears on this Welsh Castle Website as it is located just over the border. That link will lead you to a world of information, which I don’t care to repeat. If that isn’t enough for you then visit this website.

For me the best parts of this castle were the stained glass window and the scary staircase.

This window was in part designed by local children.

And the staircase….

All in all it was a lovely day out with super company. I don’t think I would go here on a wet or icy day due to the scary steps being the best part for me.

That tree is pretty awesome too, I bet it would look lovely in summer.

I am sure there could be loads more things I could have mentioned but I was too busy chatting with my friend and showing her how to use a Box Brownie.

Cholera Momument grounds Sheffield

I visited this place today. I thought I would mention it as it is part of the ‘green link‘, which is a cycle way in Sheffield. I hadn’t intended to go to the park and once there I was intrigued by the history of the place. You can read an in-depth history here. Basically around 1832 there was an outbreak of cholera in England, and it reached Sheffield by the middle of the year. There were over 400 deaths and those bodies had to go somewhere, there weren’t enough spaces in local churches. This space was used as a burial ground and a monument erected a couple of years later.

Today it is a nice peaceful park over looking Sheffield. It has great views of the skyline and is a good walk. I suspect it would be a hard cycle for me though.

If you do visit Sheffield try going out of the back of the station rather than the front. I didn’t even know this area existed and it is very interesting to wander around.

Conisbrough Castle

Another day, another castle. There are quite a few in the UK after all. This one is part ruin and part restored, hence you have to pay a small fee to get into this one.

The car park also has to be paid for and can only be done so via an app or by calling someone and handing over your credit card details. The app was a pain to set up as my bank decided it was fraud so I had to do some extra steps to get it to work. But I did manage…all for a £1 fee, friggin annoying. After I figured it all out, I was leaving the parking lot when another couple came in and struggled like I did. In the end I added their car to my app and they paid me.

Anyway, on with the castle. It looked great from the bottom of the hill.

View from near the car park.

There is a visitors center at the entrance, along with a small museum and shop.

Once a ticket has been purchased you are free to wander around. To be fair, it did seem like a bit of an honour system as there was nobody checking tickets at the entrance to the castle.

Around the grounds are plaques with information about the place.

You can read all you want about the castle at this website, and this one. Plus I also found this one while searching for information about the castle, and the writer has a book out about women in medieval history. Might be an interesting read.

I had a wander around the grounds, while deciding if I should climb the keep.

Hmm, knee pain, castle, knee, castle, I do live nearby, I could come back later, fitter. Sod it, I am going up.

While climbing the keep there are a few wooden floors with rooms off to the sides to explore. And a dungeon type thing with loads of coins at the bottom.

At the top of the tower you get great views of the local area, including Conisbrough Viaduct. This amazing structure is now a cycle path and part of the Trans Pennine Trail and I intend to cycle over it at some point.

Oh and did you know “Coningsburgh Castle” in the Sir Walter Scott novel, Ivanhoe, was based on Conisbrough Castle. Cool.

Then it was back to the car via a small park, Coronation Park, which maybe should be renamed memorial park.

And that’s it, a short day out. It didn’t take long to explore the area. But another castle visited this year.

Pontefract Castle

Today was a lovely sunny winter’s day and I just have a couple of days left of my holiday. So what better than a trip to a local castle and even better, one I have never been to before.

Why have I never been to this castle? I live 20 minutes away, no excuses. But that is all rectified now. Hello Pontefract Castle.

The car park was completely free and was empty when I arrive, full when I left. I have a feeling this is one of those places locals say, “Do you know, it’s nice out, let’s go to the castle for a wander.” And then the small car park gets full up. There are plenty of alternative parking choices nearby so not to worry.

The walk up to the castle is a touch steep, but it s lovely and cobbled with a cracking wall to study along the way. Golly, my writing has turned proper Yorkshire in the months I have been back in the UK.

Anyway look at this cracking wall.

At the top is a cracking house too. What about this for a front door? With three lions as well.

There is a plaque on this building with details of its history.

In fact there are plaques all around the castle with information about its history and guide books can be found in the castle shop.

I would write about the history of the castle, but then I found this fantastic blog which I recommend reading before you visit. It has everything you might wish to know and I can’t really add to it. And even if you don’t read it, then there are guided tours and handy little wind up history stations.

You can’t really see the castle in its full glory, it is a ruin after all. But it is a super place to sit and chill with friends or play with your children in the play area.

And if the castle isn’t enough then there is a lovely little church at the bottom of the hill.

And that is it, job done. I don’t like to add a lot of text, but add links if you want to read more. That way the choice is yours. Some people like reading long blogs others don’t. I do not. I prefer to go and wander and read the links while I am there.

…taking my time and enjoying the view