Friday, April 30, 2010


There is just so much to see in the UK. Castles, churches, monastries, stately homes abound, some in ruins, some restored, others as they have always been.

Lindisfarne (or Holy Island) is off the coast of Northumberland and has a restored castle and a ruined priory.

To get to the island you have to either drive out there, or if you are a pilgrim, walk across the sands at low tide. Of course, the truly devout could do it on their knees, but you would get awfully muddy. The area is tidal and the causeway is covered at high tide, usually to a depth of a few feet. This hut on stilts is halfway across the causeway and can be used if you get stranded.

Apparently, people still get caught by the rising tide, even though the safe times to cross are well posted. Here the tide is still going out.

The castle off in the distance. It's about a mile walk from the small village on the island.

Meanwhile there is stuff to see as you walk through the village including this wall. It was really cold here with the wind whistling down from the north over the sea. Take a warm jacket for this place.

It was common in the area to take boats at the end of their useful seagoing life, cut them in two, turn them upside down and create two sheds.

The beach for the desperate.

So we continued out to the castle. Interestingly, we had done so much walking since we arrived in England that the walk up the hill was easy.

As you would expect, there are wonderful views in all directions. The two pilons in the middle of the picture marked the channel to the harbour at one time. A huge storm changed all that and created a new channel. It is sometimes difficult to remember that the calm and placid North Sea that we see on calm days can be really wild in bad weather.

Just below the castle is a marshy pond that I walked around.

A weather vane inside the entrance to the castle.

The castle may seem large, but the walls are thick and the rooms are small and dark compared to other stately homes and castles we have visited. Most places allow you to take photos, but no flash please. So in this case, you get a blury picture.

This is one of the larger rooms. Even though this was April and there were not the crowds of summer, this was the only room where I could take a photo with no people in the way.

So finally the top of the castle with the same views as before a bit higher up.

People walking up to the castle. There was a constant stream of them.

So we left the castle and I went for a walk around the pond area. Some kids had taken the local stones and spelled out their names. The stones were quite large, at least six inches across.

Since it was spring, there were lambs everywhere.

The other main attraction on the island is the ruined priory.

The priory came under the auspices of Durham and the columns of the priory have the same designs as those of Durham Cathedral. If you ever get a chance to see Durham Cathedral, take it.

The effects of the near constant wind from the north.

Really low tide on our way back to the mainland. For some reason or other, after three weeks in the UK, we are still yet to see a high tide anywhere in our travels. Perhaps they keep it hidden for the locals.

On the way up and back to Lindisfarne, we passed by this huge castle called Bamburgh. It's only about 10 miles south of Lindisfarne and this is quite common with castles or their remains every few miles. We did not have time (or energy) to visit this monster.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cragside and William Armstrong

We travelled up to the Northumberland area to stay for a few days and one day we went to Cragside, built by William Armstrong. It's worth while clicking on the link to read about this person and his inventions, particularly the hydrolic accumulator and the use of hydro electricity.

Cragside has a wonderful location and there are quite a few walks to do in the grounds down to the various dams, waterwheels and pumps he installed on the property to provide electricity to the house.

The house is quite fascinating to walk through. It's not as grand as Biltmore but it's got some really interesting stuff. Here for example are the first lamps powered by hydo electricity. Interestingly, when the light was turned off, it was more efficient to keep the electricity flowing so it was diverted into a simple resistor instead of the light bulb.

In the kitchen. This place would have required a substantial staff.

A bath tub. This was one of the first houses that included many of the newer technologies of the time that we take for granted today.

The rack beside the entrance for your top hats.

I liked these glass panes.

An interesting shape for a bedroom.

There are the usual family portraits, paintings and object d'art. I was particularly taken by this sculpture where somehow the artist managed to produce a gauze effect. Amazing stuff.

The gallery.

We wandered into the room with the billiard table and the guide for the room invited us to play so I picked up a cue and had a go. After a few tries, I managed to sink a few balls.

An absolutely amazing lounge room. Note the huge fireplace at the other end.
A seat within the fireplace.

And finally some stained glass.

I took approximately 150 photos at this place and there is a lot to see both in the house and in the grounds. This place is well worth visiting.

At over thirteen pounds, the entrance fee is not inexpensive though compared to Biltmore, it is cheap. We should have investigated a membership of the National Trust for Americans available through the Royal Oak Foundation. If you plan to go to just a few National Trust sites, buy their memebership and and you will recoup the costs.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Runswick Bay

Runswick Bay is about 10 miles north of Whitby and is a popular beach in the area.
We parked in the upper parking lot and headed down the hill which is over 200 feet high. Naturally, I was thinking about the climb back up when we returned. The bay itself is about a mile and a half with about a mile of sand that you can walk on.

The small village at the northern end has a hotel, a couple of eating places and oodles of cottages that are rented out to holiday makers. The white cottage on the right by the sea was apparently used in the series "All creatures great and small".

From the beach you could think you were looking at a small village in Cornwall, but the sand is better up here in Yorkshire.

Erosion is a problem and the old fishing shacks are gradually falling into the sea. Next year, this one may be gone.

Apparently these shacks have been handed down for generations but no new ones can be erected. There are very few left.

Caves in the cliffs and for the moment there were no children running in and out of them.

The cliffs at the southern end were mined for alum many years ago and the alum was hawled up the cliffs on inclined planes.

The sand disappeared to be replaced by rocks and seaweed.

A stone buried into a rock.

This was a fascinating beach to wander around with much to see.

This beach is absolutely wonderful for kids and no doubt some of these kids will remember these moments for the rest of their lives. Well, I hope so.

The old rescue boat shed which is now unused. It's a wonder it hasn't been turned into a holiday cottage.

Lobster pots. Commercial fishing is still a big industry in the area.

There are only narrow laneways leading to most of the cottages and it is quite pleasant to walk around them. All the cottages have names rather than addresses.

I liked the blue paint on this cottage.

I really enjoyed Runswick Bay and would happily go back for another visit. It's easy to see why it would be a favourite for families who would go back year after year for their holidays.