(please note that this post has a lot of photos so some are small, if you right click on them and select “open in a new tab”, you can see a blow up and maybe read the text)
Last week I set out on a 750-mile journey north to take in some scenery and history. My destination was Northumbria and specifically as far north as Hadrian’s Wall and Bamburg Castle. More on these later. I plotted a secondary highway course due north that amazingly would take me through no fewer the THREE National Parks in one day!
First up was the Peak District National Park and the A515. I had traveled part of this route before and thoroughly enjoyed it, on two lane roads with little traffic and passing over high moorland interspersed with lushly wooded valleys, at times driving a mile or more under an arching canopy of trees, only to pop out into the sun with a view for miles ahead over open country. My first night’s destination was the town of Buxton. I passed through earlier during a festival and it looked like fun. I booked a room at the Queen’s Head Inn and Pub right downtown. No festival this day (a Monday), but I did find a nice Greek Taverna and had some tasty Mediterranean food, which was a great change of pace from fish and chips. 125 miles and about three hours driving.
That’s not a very fast average speed, but I find that 40 mph average is about all you can expect if you avoid the Motorways. Some stretches you may hit 50-55 (60 mph limit), but with numerous villages (30 mph limit) and winding areas, 40 is about it.
Buxton is in the Park, so day two was the three Parks drive. Continuing north and skirting Manchester on the Motorway, I had no choice but to traverse the good-sized city of Bradford. With its nearby sister city of Leeds, there is a large Muslim population in this area. Very interesting passing through neighborhoods where the predominant dress is white robes for the men and hijabs for the women and most of the store signs are not in English. This is a big political issue here, but I will not get into it.
After clearing Bradford, I was soon in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The Parks here are not like at home. Here the land appears to be individually owned (or leased out) to farmers, cattle and sheep ranchers and the like. While sparsely populated, and with little if any commercial development, the land is still productive and at the same time protected. The Dales are a combination of high moorland and narrow, winding river valleys (hills and dales?). Wonderful and challenging winding roads, especially when passing huge semi-trucks coming in the opposite direction.
At the north end of the Park is the village of Kirkby Stephen. No choice but to stop and show my driver’s license to the local tavern tender. Big laugh, but no free beer. FYI, it seems likely that my family’s surname was actually Kirkby when they emigrated to America in the 1700’s. Back in the days when it was common for one to only have a first name, and then use a trade or other descriptive noun as a last name (i.e. Smith, Tanner, Fletcher, Miller, Cook, etc.), Kirkby meant “one who lives by the church (aka “kirk”). So, a Stephen that lived close to a church might well have been known as Kirkby Stephen, or Stephen Kirkby. Anyway, I have no known connection to this place, but at least now I can say I have been there.
A few miles further on I arrived at Barnard Castle. It’s right in the center of a town, so hard to get good photos, so I picked one off the internet. By way of excuse, it’s hard to drive in towns, villages and two-lane roads and take pictures, so I am sorry to say that I have a lot more fine photos in my head then on my camera.
BARNARD CASTLE (internet photo)
Then on northward into the North Pennines National Park, paralleling the Tees River through beautiful valleys and tumbling falls. Finally, I arrived, after six hours driving and 200 miles in Hexham, near Hadrian’s Wall. No time to visit the Wall (I had been there before), but enough to explore this ancient burgh whose Abbey dates back to the 600’s. I could have spent another day in and around this area as there are several museums and interesting historical sights nearby. Lot’s of Roman stuff, which is my “thing”.
HEXHAM ABBEY (internet photo)
Wednesday was the highlight of the trip, first with a visit to Lindisfarne and then on to Bamburg. Lindisfarne is on Holy Island, just a half mile off the coast of Northumbria, not far south of Berwick. The Island was the site of the very first Christian Priory in these parts, established by St. Aidan in AD635. Its most famous inhabitant was St. Cuthbert who was revered by the Anglo-Saxons for centuries. Lindisfarne is also famous for being the location of the first Viking raid on English soil in AD793 when the Priory was sacked. A 16th century castle, see below, was constructed using most of the stones from the original Priory.
Lindisfarne was selected as a site for the Priory because it is a “part time island”. At low tide only, you can cross from the mainland by car over a narrow causeway. To visit you have to check the tide charts. Mine indicated I could get across beginning at 11:10am and that I would have to be back by 3:00pm (or stay the night). When I arrived about 10:30 some brave souls were already attempting the crossing successfully, so I drove in. After visiting the castle (under renovation) and yes, I climbed to the top after walking about a mile to get to the base, it was off for Bamburg Castle and the main event.
THE LINDISFARNE CAUSEWAY, JUST AFTER THE TIDE WENT OUT
LINDISFARNE CASTLE, YES I CLIMBED TO THE TOP
PRETTY HARD TO ATTACK!
VIEW FROM LINDISFARNE CASTLE TO BAMBURG CASTLE
PRETTY BEACH, 2000 YEARS OF BLOOD
NOTE SIGN OVER THE DOOR, IT SAYS “LOO WITH A VIEW”
THE VIEW FROM THE LOO, ARROW SLITS!
Just ten miles down the coast, and visible from Lindisfarne, Bamburg is indisputably the most militarily important castle in England. It sits on a rock jutting into the ocean surrounded on three sides by water (or at least it did 1000 years ago before sea levels dropped leaving behind a rather wide beach now). Bamburg (earlier known as Beebenburg and even earlier as Din Guayrdi) has been occupied as a fort since prehistory. Succeeding hordes of Anglos, Saxons, Danes, Vikings, and Normans based their military hordes here (the Vikings took it in AD993).
Not only are the walls and defenses intimidating, but this castle is totally restored and furnished lavishly in a Victorian style, with lots of early days memorabilia and a superb archeological exhibit. Great fun.
YOU CAN BET THERE WAS NO PAVED PATH TO THIS GATE IN THE PAST
THIS IS THE VIEW FROM HALF WAY UP THE HILL!
THE HISTORY OF BAMBURG CASTLE IN THE PIX BELOW, HOPE YOU CAN READ THEM
FUN IN THE DUNGEON!
HEY! A PICTURE OF ME!
After a thorough tour, it was down the coast a bit to my overnight stop in Seahouses, a cute little beach town which reminded me of 1970’s Santa Cruz, complete with pinball arcade.
The final day was 225 miles of mostly Motorway, necessary to get me to my weekend stop at the Silverstone Classic Motor Festival. Stay tuned.