England: The Bucket List

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Visiting the Durham Home of the Prince Bishops

It is difficult to imagine a defensive structure more strategically situated. Guarded by steep slopes descending to an almost complete loop of the River Wear, Durham Castle remained impregnable for eight centuries. Yet even this fortress is dwarfed Read More

High Force

Seeking the Teesdale Assemblage, County Durham, England

The Durham Dales often take one a tiny step beyond the magic. While their more illustrious southern neighbours, the Yorkshire Dales have their own unarguable beauties, I always feel that Weardale and Teesdale offer just that little bit extra. And Read More

Roman Baths

Walking With the Ancients at the Roman Baths, Bath, England

“It isn’t fair,” says the elderly Roman rather tipsily. “We aren’t invaders. Who on earth comes wanting to fight?” He swigs from his stone bottle and offers it, a little unsteadily, to the camera-laden tourist sitting beside him on the stone Read More

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Discovering the Industrial Revolution at Ironbridge, Shropshire

The picturesque escarpment of Wenlock Edge, inspiration of poetry and music, offers no hint that it was once an industrial cauldron. My wife, a friend, and I were traveling to discover the clangorous bustling past of a region that some call the Read More

Stones at Avebury

Uncovering the Mystery of Avebury’s Stones

A group of people, standing in pairs at the centre of the stone circle, perform a solemn ritual with exaggerated hand movements and stamping on scraps of paper. Perhaps an obscure Wiccan ceremony, or just a bonding exercise. Such sights are Read More

Taking the waters

Taking Tea and the Waters at the Pump Room, Bath, England

You’d think after a lifetime of drinking tea I’d be undeterred by thorny problems of etiquette. But here in the elegant, eighteenth-century Pump Room in Bath I’m suddenly overcome by nerves. Because, as anyone who’s ever picked up a Regency romance Read More

'Roman Legionaries', Housesteads Fort

Following the Roman Legions Along Hadrian’s Wall

As I left the car park at the side of Cawfields Quarry, I was glad of the breeze, for the day promised to be hot. I followed the footpath along the pond’s edge, past the tall quarry face and gently uphill to the walls of Milecastle 42. The section of Read More

1920 Fowler Road Locomotive (Photo credit: MCArnott)

Attending the Traditional Cart Marking Ceremony in London, England

What do Montgomery’s Rolls Royce and a butcher’s handcart have in common? They appeared in a London ritual dating back to 1667: Cart Marking. The first time I heard the name of this ceremony -- Cart Marking Under the Worshipful Company of Carmen Read More

Seymour Tower and Intertidal Reef (photo: Anthony Toole)

Crossing Jersey’s Intertidal Reef to the Seymour Tower

Along the south-east coast of Jersey, stretching from St Helier to Gorey, the seabed is so shallow that at low tide an area of 17.5 square kilometres becomes exposed, making this one of the largest intertidal reefs in the world. Because of this, the Read More

La Marmotiere

Sailing to Les Ecrehous in the English Channel in the Early Morning

As the boat slowly sailed past the St Catherine’s breakwater, on the north-east corner of Jersey, a small flock of Brent geese, winter visitors from the Arctic, took off ahead of us. Clearing the breakwater, our skipper, Richard, revved the motor, Read More

Long brown building with many pointed spires and a giant clock tower at the right hand end, on the far side of a broad river

Pondering Power at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, A UNESCO World Heritage Site in London, England

When in London, listen to the stones. The Tower of London says, "Power comes from the King and his army." Westminster Abbey says, "Power comes from God." You would expect the Houses of Parliament to say, "Power comes from the people", but that's not Read More

Stone wall with a carved row of flowers and leaves, at each end there is a strange best. One looks like a bat and the other is more like a snarling lion.

Searching for Souls at Westminster Abbey, A UNESCO World Heritage Site in London, England

Why visit Westminster Abbey? Occasionally I go to indulge my private delusions of grandeur. Before I can be crowned Queen of England, approximately a billion people will have to die. Then, when I'm first in line, I'll follow tradition and have my own Read More

Skyline of the Tower of London showing light coloured walls and many towers

Finding the Bodies and the Loot at the Tower of London, A UNESCO World Heritage Site in London, England

The Tower of London is an architectural bully, a big tough bouncer at the door of England’s history. Don’t worry, the people at the Tower are lovely and helpful. But the walls themselves? They were built to keep the likes of you and me in our Read More

Large man in green velvet coat with gold chain around shoulders, black hat with white feathers trim, another man in red robe, no hat, in courtyard

Advising King Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace in London, England

King Henry VIII looks down from his chair and puts the question to his trusted advisors, “What are we to do about the Queen?” We advisors were just 21st-century tourists five minutes ago. Now we have the serious business of telling the most powerful Read More

Shakespeare memorial

Discovering the City of Dickens and Shakespeare with a London Walks Tour

Our guide is loud and theatrical, and has no problem making himself heard by the crowd of people clustered hopefully around him. "It had to happen sometime," he booms. "A North American telling you about those two icons of English literature, Dickens Read More

Cornish Pasties

Finding Cornwall’s Best, Authentic, Traditional Pasty

Without the patient GPS lady at my side – “Please make a U-turn at the earliest opportunity” – I’d probably still be wandering Cornwall’s tangled ribbon of world-class, narrow lanes looking for what is purported to be Cornwall’s best Read More

Blenheim Palace, England

Following in the Steps of Winston Churchill at Blenheim Palace, England

The first thing I notice when we turn into the grand drive of Blenheim Palace is a woman (or should I say a lady?) in a flowery dress and a big hat. A moment’s panic, while I wonder if I am suitably dressed for such august surroundings, but I relax Read More

Fountains Abbey North Yorkshire

Walking Into the Past at Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire

Visiting Fountains Abbey is like peeling away layers of history. Are we exploring the 12th century Cistercian Abbey that became the wealthiest foundation in Europe, or the monastery that was plundered by Henry VIII, or the ruin that became part of an Read More

Dover Castle

Exploring the Secret World War II Tunnels in Dover, England

Walking up the hill to Dover Castle, I expected tales of jousting and medieval brutalities: chain mail and armor, cold old stone, and a torture chamber or two. And indeed, there were plenty of old stone walls, and I'm quite certain a dungeon -- Read More

King Arthur's Castle

Encountering the Real Camelot at King Arthur’s Castle in Cornwall, England

With my poo-hoo nose firmly in the air, I’m on my way to Tintagel on Cornwall’s northwesterly edge. Tintagel is widely known, and wildly visited, for the ruins of its castle – King Arthur’s castle. King Arthur’s castle? Had no one noticed that Read More

Massive buff-coloured factory with allotment gardens in front

Peering into the Life of a 19th-Century Mill Worker in Saltaire, Yorkshire

Whenever I discover something about one of my English ancestors, I wonder, "What was it like for them?" and begin to imagine the streets and houses of their time and place. To find out more about life as a Victorian-era worker in a woolen mill, my Read More

Flowers in February at Kew Gardens (photo credit: Jill Browne)

Smelling the Flowers at Kew Gardens, London, England

I’m looking at hundreds, possibly thousands, of orchid blossoms in one of the world’s absolute best plant places: Kew Gardens, London. The waxy lustre of the extravagant petals gives the deceptive impression that these plants are indestructible. Read More