Last weekend, the Celtic Manor Resort in Southeast Wales hosted the Ryder Cup - Team Europe scored 14.5 points while Team US scored 13.5 points in this prestigious golf match. The TV coverage reminded me of the trip my husband and I took in June 2008. I'd like to share that trip with you and giveaway two related books.
Our trip targeted the UK's West Country, sampling Wales, Devon, and Cornwall. We flew Baltimore-Newark-Bristol on Continental Airlines. We spent the first four days at a farm B&B outside Newport, Wales. We intended to eat our first dinner in Cardiff, but our hostess warned us that Bruce Springsteen was playing in the Millennium Stadium, so traffic would be difficult. Instead, we walked around Newport and found St Woolos - the first of many Norman churches scattered across the southwest. Newport was a little run down, but should be cleaned up for the Ryder Cup in September 2010 at the Celtic Manor Resort. The resort rises above the M4 on a magnificent volcanic rock and slopes into Caerleon - a picturesque village that began as a Roman Fortress. To tour Careleon and other ancient monuments, we purchased a three day pass from CADW - the guardian of historic monuments: http://www.cadw.wales.gov.uk/
|Caerleon Roman Amphitheater|
Caerleon is the site of the 50-acre Roman legionary fortress of Isca, the permanent base of the Second Augustan Legion in Britain from 75 AD. The amphitheater is considered the best preserved in the UK. The Bath House has been preserved in a formal enclosure where tourists can still see the imprint of a human and dog foot when the bricks were still wet 2000 years ago. Many of the Normal castles in the area were built upon Isca outposts.
|Caerphilly Castle's "Leaning Tower"|
Chris played the Roman Roads course at the Celtic Manor Resort while I toured the Brecon Beacons (Bannau Brycheiniog), including Hay-on-Wye. http://www.hay-on-wye.co.uk/.
It was a sleepy village until Richard Booth bought the castle ruins and established a book store. Other book stores followed and the village soon achieved international fame as the largest collection of second hand books I was in HOG HEAVEN!! Read Richard's bio to learn about his quirky publicity stunts: http://www.richardbooth.demon.co.uk/.
|Original castle converted into book store|
On my way back to Newport, I stopped by another CADW property, Tretower Court and Castle. It is unique with a Norman keep (in the sheep pasture) and a medieval manor house (with great mountain views).
Before we crossed the Severn river back to England, we stopped by Caerwent - a village built within the original Roman town walls and around the ruins of the Roman temple. Nearby is Caldicot Castle, still intact with a Norman keep and medieval buildings: http://www.castlewales.com/caldicot.html.
|St. Andrew's Parish Church in Kenn, Devon|
We drove south to our farm B&B on the Devon/Cornwall border. But we first stopped in Kenn - a village south of Exeter. My great-grandmother lived in Kenn with her 7 siblings in a two bedroom cottage. We ate lunch at the Ley Arms, established in 1245. We also visited St Andrews Parish Church, where we found a Berlin crew filming the church for a Rosamunde Pilcher movie adaptation. We then drove across Dartmoor (mystical setting for Hound of the Baskervilles) to Bovey Castle: http://www.boveycastle.com/.
The castle began as an Edwardian hotel for the Great Western Railroad. The moor view was breathtaking ... and the grand salon was elegant!
|Bovey Castle's elegant salon|
Upon on arrival at our B&B, we learned that the farm had been owned by the Duke of Bedford, a descendant of the Duchess of Bedford who made "afternoon tea" fashionable in Victorian England. The Duchess was the honorary hostess of the Fort Meade Tea Party in February 2007 when we hosted 20+ romance authors,
To me, this was Karma.
Our farm B&B was situated on the Tamar River, designated as a Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). We didn't have an alarm clock, but didn't need one with the roosters, chickens, duck and geese waking us every morning! We visited the manor homes owned by the National Trust, http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/:
- Buckland Abbey: Given to Lord Grenville by Henry VIII, then purchased by Sir Francis Drake, it is a medieval house on the edge of Dartmoor.
- Cotehele, Medieval House maintained to the time period; the great hall has a fascinating display of antique weapons and a peak hole for the lord's servant to spy on guests during banquets.
- Killerton Estate, Georgian House with costume collection - did you know that Queen Victoria was 4' 9'' tall with a 42" waist?
- Lanhydrock, Victorian House with 50 furnished rooms. The Long Gallery is full of historic paintings, antique books, and ceiling plaster decorated with Biblical scenes.
- Saltram House, Georgian House and film location of Sense and Sensibility, with a special exhibition titled "Curious Curves", featuring the history of the corset.
We also visited the crumbing castles of English Heritage http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/, including:
- Berry Pomeroy Castle, a Medieval home purchased by the Seymour family as their fortune increased with Jane's marriage to King Henry VIII, but abandoned when the family fell out of favor (no doubt their rise and fall will be featured in The Tudors on Showtime.)
- Dartmouth Castle, a strategic fort built by Henry VIII (and near the Naval College)
- Launceston Castle, a Norman keep that became the capital of Cornwall and established the Duchy of Cornwall as income for the King's heir
- Lydford Castle, a Normal keep that became a Medieval prison
- Okehamtpon Castle, hunting lodge perched on a Norman motte over looking Dartmoor, it was abandoned when the Earl of Devon lost his head to Henry VIII
- Restmoral Castle, another Norman keep that replaced Launceston Castle as Cornwall's capital
- Totnes Castle, a Normal keep transformed in the Medieval castle to protect trade on the River Dart
and most magnificent, Tintagel Castle, legendary birthplace of King Arthur on the Cornish coast. The now ruined castle was built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall in the 13th century. Richard claimed that he was a descendant of King Arthur and built his castle on Roman ruins as a means to win over the Cornish people.
On the way back from Tintagel Castle, we stopped by the Jamaica Inn on the Bodmin Moor, http://www.jamaicainn.co.uk/. The Jamaica Inn is the 18th century coaching house that inspired Daphne Du Maurier's novel of the same name. The Jamaica Inn features a pub, B&B, and Smugglers' Museum with a Daphne Du Maurier room, including her desk and other memorabilia. We also found several standing stones on Bodmin Moor - even more bleak than Dartmoor.
Chris golfed at the Launceston Golf Course, Exeter Golf Course, and Tavistock Golf Course (with Dartmoor ponies grazing on the 16th green). My cousin arranged the golf dates with her friends and neighbors. Her friend in Launceston invited us back to her house where she whipped up the best scones after playing 18 holes. Perhaps she inherited the talent - her mother worked for Sir Winston Churchill at Chartwell House!
|Sir Francis Drake on Plymouth Hoe|
We toured Exeter (Medieval Cathedral and Roman Walls) and Plymouth (Elizabethan Barbican and Mayflower Steps). Most interesting was St Andrew's Cathedral in Plymouth, whose walls only survived the WWII bombing. The cathedral displayed a picture of Lady Astor in the naive one day after the destruction ... and she was instrumental in rebuilding the cathedral and city. Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor, was an American who became the first women to be seated in the House of Commons. She was elected to the position vacated by her husband when he assumed his father's title (and seat in the House of Lords). There is a famous exchange between Winston Churchill and Lady Astor when they were both staying at Blenheim. The two politicians had been at each other's throat all weekend when Lady Astor said, "Winston, if I were your wife I'd put poison in your coffee." Whereupon Winston said, "Nancy, if I were your husband I'd drink it."
|Sir Winston Churchill|