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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

Blarney Castle

Kissing the Blarney Stone

As the long line of tourists - us included - crept through the ruins of Blarney Castle, I kept shaking my head. Kissing the Blarney Stone has never been on my radar, yet here I am, being herded through the maze of unkempt rooms and twisty narrow 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

P1130421

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

The Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Learning about Scotland’s History in the Edinburgh Castle

It started raining as soon as I entered the Edinburgh Castle, even though the sky had looked bright when I climbed up the hill. Tip for visitors: Bring an umbrella, the weather changes quickly in Scotland. The Edinburgh Castle has stood on a 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

Abbotsford ( Ann Burnett )

Re-visiting Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford in the Scottish Borders

I had to read Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe at school and vowed never to open one of his books again. So what am I doing visiting Abbotsford, his house in the Scottish Borders? It’s re-opened to the public after a refurbishment (the Queen did the honors 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

Stirling Castle sits high above the plain (photo credit: Ann Burnett c 2013)

Paying Homage to King James V at Stirling Castle, Scotland

It’s the color that strikes us at first. How could sixteenth century Scotland be so full of color? Even on this dull, rainy day (dreich as the Scots call it) the outside of the Great Hall of Stirling Castle is a luminous cream. One of the many guides 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

Ruins of abandoned houses, St. Kilda (Copyright Stillman Rogers Photography)

Stepping into the Past on Scotland’s St. Kilda Archipelago, a UNESCO Site

The taste of salt was strong on the wind as we sailed past cliffs that dropped to a wave-dashed tumble of stones below. Beyond this cluster of cliff-bound islands known as St. Kilda, open Atlantic stretched to the gray line of the horizon. The Read More

Steep headlands in Scotland's Outer Hebrides

Cruising Scotland’s Islands on the Hebridean Princess

As we approached the ship, an opening skirl sounded from a piper on the upper deck, and he piped us aboard to the rousing strains of Scotland the Brave. So began our immersion into Scotland’s Western Isles, where more often than the highland Read More

Gold State Coach, Royal Mews, London

Visiting the Queen’s Horses at the Royal Mews, London

First, a confession. I was hardly aware of the existence of the Royal Mews; they were not on my ‘to do’ list for London. In fact, they do not seem to be high on the tourist radar at all. Just a stone’s throw from the mile long queue snaking around 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

Caernarfon Castle from the sea

Visiting the Historic Castle of Caernarfon, North Wales

I never get tired of castles. It’s just as well because North Wales is full of them, some crumbling away on overgrown mountainsides, others preening themselves for the visitor. There are so many, and of such quality, that four of them have gone and 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

FREE TO USE - VIRGINMONEY EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL FIREWORKS

Concert-Going at Edinburgh’s International Arts Festival

The rippling notes of a Beethoven piano sonata pour into the auditorium. Edinburgh’s Usher Hall, filled to capacity, is under a spell. It’s world-famous virtuoso Alfred Brendel’s final performance at the Edinburgh International Festival and some 2200 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

Edinburgh-festival-Fringe on the Royal Mile

Embracing Chaos at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on the Royal Mile

“Do you want to see something dangerous?” the man shouts at the crowd of onlookers. They clearly aren’t impressed with what they've seen so far: they barely muster a mumble. He tries again. “Do you want to see something really dangerous?” When he Read More

Isle of Eriska Hotel Manor House (Stillman Rogers photo 2012)

“The Sweetness of Doing Nothing” on Scotland’s Isle of Eriska

A private island, a staff to indulge my every whim, a skilled chef to please my palate, a 19th-century Scottish manor house as a setting, and a day with absolutely nothing I needed to do. My goal was to spend a blissful day basking in something the 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

Butresses at Rosslyn Chapel

Cracking the Da Vinci Code: a Visit to Rosslyn Chapel, Scotland

You surely know all about Rosslyn Chapel: you’ve read The Da Vinci Code and if you haven’t, you must have seen the film. So have I, but for some strange reason I don’t seem able to recall exactly where the chapel comes into it. Not that that’s a Read More