Burcht van Leiden

Leiden is a small city which is situated between the Old and New Rhines. The same applies to the castle there, which as the story goes, is built upon a man-made hill, and was probably originally used as an escape in case of the very same rivers flooded.

Burcht van Leiden

So, this very same castle was built on this hill, and though it has not seen extensive military action it has stood there since the 11th century. Passed through many an owner’s hand to get to the modern day, it does not retain much of those former lords in its present state. Indeed, the inside shows where a well once was and a few trees illustrate the rest of the barren hilltop.

Nevertheless, the structure itself is so different to the surroundings, the aspiration of the original man in this area to conquer Mother Nature, that it is worth climbing up there. Though not particularly high or mighty, it was high and mighty enough to serve the purpose that those Dutch passed onto it.

And that is all it needed to do.

Holy Trinity Church, Bungay

It is rare of me to dedicate an entire post to a single church; nevertheless, having learned of the interests of a colleague of mine, Bob Mitchell, in (Saxon) round tower churches, I figured that this post would be a perfect way to show some appreciation to a fellow history enthusiast. Namely, this old church in Bungay was the first place for me to visit after learning a bit about round towers carrying a special meaning (even if this meaning is under debate).

I’ll let the intrepid explorer discover more about round tower churches themselves while I mention a few things about the Holy Trinity at Bungay.

The round tower at the Holy Trinity in Bungay

Interesting stories about this church include that the time when nearly the entirety of the market town of Bungay burned in the fire of 1688, this church was where the ‘the Fire was Stayed’. The church also escaped the Black Dog Incident of 1577 which was quite damaging to some of its neighbours.

A word on the round tower itself will potentially place it to the early Norman times though round towers could also originate during the Anglo-Saxon kingdom. My colleague’s site notes a probable Saxon origin, but I’ll cautiously point out that the plaques near the church itself only point out that possibility and remain vague.

The one bit of information to append is that the octagonal expansion of the upper tower is definitely more recent, but in a way it suits the original. It’s not much to consider how the resident priests here may have looked out at the trying times that Bungay passed through in its long history, no matter the style in which the topmost layers of the tower are built.

Bungay Priory

Finally a place with a story or two to tell though mostly because of the tragedies that have struck Bungay in times past. Yet, are ever the stories people remember different? As Tolkien wrote:

“Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.”

Hence, the stories associated with this place: firstly, on August 4th, 1577, a massive thunderstorm struck Bungay. During this storm, a black dog appeared in the church and two men were killed immediately with others wounded. An apparition of the devil? Mayhaps…

The second story is perhaps a bit more helpful as it tells of how the Church of St Mary (the former Priory) was alighted by “helpful” people during the Great Fire of 1688 when local people were dragging their furniture into the place while trying to save their belongings. Didn’t go all that well, clearly.

Look towards the former Priory and the new adjoining St Mary’s Church

I liked this place; the ruins on the ground were such a clear indication of the past and all that has gone before while the adjoining modern structure was a wonderfully refreshing look into the present and all that has happened since.

So, while some might say that this many posts on Bungay are superfluous, I am less certain. This place has some charm, and is indeed quite special in what it offers: there’s military history, there’s cultural history. Also, as we are in Norfolk, there’s the sense that this place was so much more though indeed I am not an expert in the Waveney and how it has evolved over the years, but it must have looked so different to allow Bungay access to the sea — which was still the case not too long ago. But, times change…

And where do you lead?..

Scotney House (Country House)

The new house at Scotney (vis-a-vis the old one) is not the most remarkable of country houses to visit although the obvious reason to be thankful for the original owners is that we have the ruined old castle to cherish.

By design and contents, this is a fairly standard place: lots of art, especially stuff recovered from the Old House and the surrounding moat. Some of these are very unique though admittedly my interests right now are more into general architecture so I did not spend very much time investigating these relics.

Scotney House

The gardens around the main house were also quite bland (though one might suggest that in November quite a few of the English country houses do not have the most exciting gardenscapes). I was, similarly, hoping more from the walled garden but this was somehow especially empty of feeling.

Somehow my sense of this place tells me that the first thought was for Old Scotney Castle, and only after that the rest of it. So that, at present, we see a wonderful lake with its adjoining house, sights truly worthy of everything. Around these is a good pensive atmosphere with plenty of trees and walkways. The excavated quarry area which was also purpose-built is of a similarly interesting nature — or is it just the prevalence of plants in this part of the estate?

The Quarry

Maybe that’s the way about it, and I was expecting to see more life up by the new house? Can’t really say. Either way, even if the new house does not capture you, the old one and the estate itself will.

Schloss Linderhof

Linderhof I liked. It carries the same burden of Neuschwanstein — it is new. It is so very recent indeed. But, nevertheless, it has spirit (and it has a fountain which could have been the deciding factor). Therefore, visit this place in the summer as the careful Bavarians cover up the fountains in the winter so that the water would not freeze and cause damage to the masonry.

In any case, back to the schloss. I find Linderhof beautiful. It is delicate and it is so very precise in what it wants to be — an exquisite retreat for an introverted person. I cannot fault Ludwig for wanting a place like this, and I guess on of the things to lament is how little time the King was finally able to spend in places like this which would have probably satiated his wanderlust for quite some time.

Yet, even as I say this, I am not the best of friends with the Alps, and Linderhof lies under this mountain range. One can see the mountains visible in every direction from here, and there is no sea, no lake, no river. I so prefer places with water of any kind — one of my regrets that I have not made it to Herrenchiemsee yet. But, that’s what the future is for…

Back to our wonderful palace. I of course also appreciate the name though it does not come from my favourite tree, but an eponymous family. Nevertheless, I find it a pleasant name and a joyful one, as indeed this palace is. I can imagine André Rieu’s Johann Strauss Orchestra playing the very best of waltzes in this courtyard, for this is what it was meant for.

What else to say? The grounds are good to walk around in, with small gems litterred around the area. The Moroccan/Moorish house is one such place, but there are many others. The fountain at the back of the palace is something I quite like, and it is worth climbing all of the nearby hills to see what the view is like from there.

I think this option of appreciating the palace from so many different view-points is a very good thing to have here, as one can replace the missing historical depth with one’s own emotional sense. The mountains here, the castle there, the castle here, a pond there (as there actually is, despite my above lamentation, a small swan pond near the castle though not near-near)…

Having not been to Herrenchiemsee, this is my favourite of Ludwig’s palaces — and probably also my favourite palace I have visited in Bayern (Bavaria) though I have only had a very limited reach into there thus far.

Although, as a last note, I’d definitely try to miss the tourists if I was to visit…

Schloss Neuschwanstein

As one of King Ludwig’s palaces, Neuschwanstein has the sense of grandeur one might expect. Other than also having developed into the archetypal Disney-castle model, this schloss is a beautiful example of the Bavarian mountain-building style and the elegance which they could put into these difficult projects (though one should probably steer clear of discussing the fiscal arrangements projects like this demanded).

Fortunately — or perhaps unfortunately, to add a point of conversation — Neuschwantstein can be a contentious name. As it stands, the castle presently known as Hohenschwangau approximately a mile from the Disneyesque citadel used to be called Neuschwantstein until being renamed in the late 19th century. This castle replaced two earlier (Mediaeval) castles when Ludwig started its construction, and presently the Neuschwantstein citadel is definitely the one to leave a mark on the landscape.

However, on a closer investigation, though the castle looks magnificent from far away, it is less so on a personal level. Or, rather, it’s perhaps more impressive, especially when viewed from the Marienbrücke where the low-lying Bavarian countryside is visible behind the castle.

What I meant is that this place is so recent — and, yes, plenty of country houses, even my much-beloved Anglesey, have been built or rebuilt considerably later — that I was not particularly moved when I walked in this place. Naturally, the mediaeval feel is more of the make-believe kind, with the 19th century people trying to put their own touch into what they thought the ‘rugged 13th century’ must have looked like, and in this they obviously exagerrated.

But it is not just this… This recent construction, the enhancement of the picturesque instead of the graceful, has led to places which I would recommend one visit, but perhaps without expectations. The beauty in these places lies in what the viewer’s eye — your eye — can make of the place for yourself. There is not sense that for more than a thousand (or, for some especially long-standing places, two to four thousand) years this has been a culturally important site. It is new, and you know it when you look at it.

Nevertheless, go and take a look. It is inspiring, though of course Ludwig had it easier than many of us today (though, his personal life is one of the greatest tragedies amongst the 19th century royalty). But what would the castle of your dreams look like?.. Would it be as sleek, as delicate, as excquisite as Neuschwanstein?

Kellie Castle

I have to begin by saying I did not like Kellie much. Kellie has a very good garden, but it is severely disadvantaged by some aspects of the house as it seems to me. There is a section which supposedly remains directly from the Medieval period — or, rather, two sections of the house are from the Medieval period with the inter-connection having been built later.

Or maybe I actually did like it?… Difficult to say now. I had some good discussions about the Covenanters and the Jacobites with whom the family in this house was involved (/not involved). Some of this family history was absolutely phenomenal and the people working here know it to a very good level for all four of the families to live here.

However, the stuff I did not appreciate as much — and this is strongly personal as I just don’t have that much of an interest in certain modern arts — is the reconstructions organised by the Lorimers. They also turned the original Medieval guard tower into an art salon, which is probably the worst offense to my conscience.

Nevertheless, the garden at Kellie is absolutely wonderful and definitely deserves a wander around. Better yet, even if the castle itself is closed, you can go for a walk in the gardens…

The walled garden at Kellie Castle

Dunfermline Palace

I happened to Dunfermline by accident, heading further into Fife. Being close enough, I figured I should take a look, as I’d heard that the place was an ancient capital.

Be that as it is, Dunfermline itself is not the focus of my post. The former abbey and palace structure, however, is. Naturally, it wasn’t open as it should have been as there was a problem with water and the Historic Environment Scotland person had had to reduce the opening hours.

In any case, I got to go around the place and take a look at most of it. The view to the outer wall was pretty good, and indeed the main attraction in my mind. The rest of the structures were quite crumbled and not particularly interesting, though of course the new cathedral is worthy of taking a look at.

Dunfermline Palace

This image hopefully gives an idea of the former strength of the place. An odd thing I noted was that the ground outside seems to vary considerably in topography, with this area where the building used to exist nearly the only level area. The forest outside, or rather the park, was actually quite impressive. It obviously did not stretch to the walls of the palace in the olden days, but has got to it now.

This palace and the abbey were the work of David I, the son of Margaret of England, a princess devoted to piety. This original royal beginning also ensured that later kings would be patrons of this site, up to Charles I who was born here. I am not certain I got the sense of this royal history here, but it is interesting to ponder.

I think a walk in the park would be most worthwhile in Dunfermline, especially with the occasional hope of catching a glimpse of the palace through the woodland. Nevertheless, as my destinations were further into Fife, I did not opt for that walk. Maybe I should have.

Falkland Palace

Falkland. The place which gave the name to the eponymous islands — or rather, which gave the name to the Lord of the Admiralty for whom the Falkland Sound was named, which later got transferred to the surrounding islands.

This is a truly beautiful palace with a very Scottish feel, as I guess it should. Supposedly it was here that James VI heard he was now also James I (and then he ennobled the local lord whose descendant the Lord of the Admiralty later on was).

Admittedly, a large part of this palace — the main central hall — has fallen into disrepair and no longer exists. The buildings on the other side from here were converted into bedrooms which they were not during the original occupancy of the palace, and hence a lot of the original lore of the place has been lost.

Nevertheless, these places have been done up nicely by Historic Environment Scotland to represent an idea of what life in the High Medieval Ages could have looked like. But, when I look back at the pictures I took at Falkland, I am not as impressed as when I think back at it.

It was a typically Scottish day, with more rain than sun and most of it not falling directly towards the ground, though I’d still consider parallel rain a more Norfolkian event. In any case, there are things to see, and I’d recommend a visit to Falkland if you are in the area. I would definitely go back, if only to ponder some more about the ruins.

The other thing worth noting, not visible on the picture below, is the amazing front gatehouse. That also serves as an entryway into the building itself and leads into the first bedrooms that a guest can visit. Oh!.. and the first rooms had portraits of both Charles’ which was definitely a nice touch.

Falkland Palace

Culzean Castle

Culzean is an iconic castle in Ayrshire. It is indeed so iconic that it has been featured on Scottish banknotes for the last thirty years. However, what possibly makes it more iconic is its association with the winner of World War II, President Eisenhower.

Along with the castle featuring in ‘Coast’, there is also a mystic aura I always heard when people mentioned the place down in England. Inexplicable really, but there was a sense of the Highlander aura, even though Culzean is so far from the Highlands…

If I had to try and explain it, I would say it has to do with both the majestic coastline as well as what one can see: Ailsa Craig — but one has to be careful and look at where one is. Seeing Ailsa needs careful positioning on the grounds, as from most places it is exactly beyond the coastline, just a bit too far to the south. However, from a few promontories, it is possible to spot the outlying granitic island (also featured in the same ‘Coast’ episode as the castle itself). The other momentous place that can be seen from the castle is the Isle of Arran, parts of which I have described beforehand. Arran is similarly poetic in its nature to Ailsa, but a lot more visible (and, hence, inspirational?).

Causeway to Culzean

One of my favourite sights on the grounds there was the faux-causeway. I don’t know whether it was the spectacular nature of the construction, meant to remind people of the ancient nature of the Kennedy’s seat, or the simple enjoyment of a Lord’s pleasure that had it built like that, but the result is entirely wonderful.

Admittedly, I found parts of the rest of the grounds very underwhelming, especially with late 20th century pavilions installed, but it is understandable with regards to the grounds acting as a community centre for sports and local people from what I took in while I was there. The walks by the cliffside and the sea were both nevertheless unspoilt and amazing to experience.

Lastly, a word on the American president Mr Eisenhower. A suite in the rooms of the castle is dedicated to the man, having been granted as a residence for him for his contributions to the Allied effort in World War Two. He did not visit often, but he did at times, and going through the tour there are suitable moments where the American President is honoured as he should have been. Admittedly, I think the Kennedy’s could have done better by focussing on the man on the front and promising to host a WWII serviceman if they were to visit, but it was a good gesture nevertheless.

Culzean Castle

Lastly, I’ll present the motto of the Kennedy’s, the Marquesses of Ailsa and Earls of Cassilis:

Avisez la fin. [Consider the end.]