This is the place where I record and then archive my monthly updates and what's new in our hunt for castles UK.
My first blog for over a year, 2012 where did that year go, it started badly, finished bad and wasn't nice in the middle. One of the few high spots was my new scooter, it was time to roll back the years I must be at that 'age', having passed my bike test when I was 16 I can ride anything but it's a 125cc to start with. Driving has changed a lot, so I took the Compulsory Basic Training that all learner motorcyclists must complete and it was a good job I did, it's an eye opener. In my day you rode down the side of the road and let the cars come passed, now you ride in the middle commanding your space and it works. Car drivers hang back giving you room but you still have to watch the cars coming out of side roads, it took me 2 day to learn that some people just don't look or see bike!
In 2012 we did a couple of Scottish hunts, in January we went back to Penicuik and our best hunt was to Stirling, it's a great town and a good day out. First stop was the Battle of Bannockburn and the statue Robert the Bruce, then on the Stirling, with it's town wall, shops for the spotter, the 16th century Mar's Wark and the 17th century John Cowane's house and the Argyll's Lodging on the way up to the castle. Stirling Castle is a great symbol of Scottish independence and you can walk in the world of Scotland's Renaissance Kings & Queens. Its magnificent banqueting hall, completed around 1503 is the largest of its kind ever built in Scotland and was the crowning achievement of King James IV’s building scheme at Stirling. King James V’s Palace is one of the finest and best-preserved Renaissance buildings in Great Britain and following a major programme of research and re-presentation, it can now be seen by visitors much as it may have looked on completion in 1545. Then it was on to the site of the Battle of Stirling Bridge and the Wallace Monument, built to commemorate Sir William Wallace the 13th century Scottish hero, it stands on the Abbey Craig, a volcanic crag and it's a fair walk up to the tower and its viewing gallery, the 246 step spiral staircase is a killer but the view at the top was the only way to end the day.
In July we were back in Glasgow, stopping near Carlisle on the way up and near Lockerbie coming back, we love Glasgow there's tons of castles all around and this time we managed to find the sad ruin of Cathcart Castle and the impressive Crookston Castle which took no finding. Our top hunt was to catch the ferry to the Isle of Bute and visit Rothesay Castle, 2 tower houses, a bit of a funny ruin and an earth ringwork, which took us in a loop around the island, another great day out, we do like boats.
In December this was my 1 and only newsletter of 2012, to say it's been a bit of a year, is lot of an understatement, our year started bad and then headed south. Most of it family troubles but my year is ending with Sciatica but it's the one thing you don't ask Father Christmas for. The website is looking better but I haven't got everything done, I don't think I'll ever get it looking like I want it to.
2013 can only be better, it's going to be back to castle hunting and the website I hope.
To start with we are looking forward to nice little 3 day hunt around Bamburgh, it's an area we both love and a chance to just get away.
On the 2nd of January 2013, we started our castle hunting year and this was the last trip in the Smart, heading north for Wooler and then turning right to Seahouses was the plan. A warm day for the time of year 8 to 10°C it was nice to be on the road again, turning off the A1 at Morpeth we head for our first tower at Longhorsley. One in the bag we carry on north to Edlingham Castle and the fortified church, we have been here a couple of times before (and it's still not on the website) but it's our kind of site, riverside ruins, principally the solar tower, of a manor house progressively fortified against the Scots during the 14th century, heaven, this is castle hunting at its best. We drive to Crawley Tower who now have cottage accommodation, with B&B at the farmhouse, the views here are spectacular, been here before but I had a better look round this time. It's past mid day now, so we get back on the main road and head for Chillingham, Wooler will have to wait for another day, the castle at Chillingham is closed, I was hoping to get a view but didn't. Hepburn Bastle is within the grounds of Chillingham Park and its a nice site to end the day with, never ones to miss a bastle we hop over the gate but this is a big old medieval building and very smart. It's more an early 16th century tower or hall house but contemporary documents called this a bastle house, so a bastle it is, you don't mess with bastle descriptions, in the rays of a low sun we have a good look round, it's calm and quiet, a peaceful place. On to Seahouses, we check in to the friendly Bamburgh Castle Inn and get a room with a balcony overlooking the harbour, with views of the Farne Islands, sat on our balcony with a beer, we could have stopped there forever.
Next day we take a 2 hour boat trip to the Farne Islands, there's a large colony of Grey Seals on the islands and Prior Castells Tower on Inner Farne, we walk all the way around Bamburgh Castle and visited Doddington Bastle which is another building that's not a bastle, this one is a late 16th century T-plan strong house of three storeys.
Last day we go to Alnwick, we love Alnwick, we always visit Alnwick, we always look at the dirty bottles in the dirty window of the Dirty Bottle Shop, it's the Ye Olde Cross pub, at the end of Narrowgate but we never go in, we never do. On the way back we get a picture of the multi-phased Rock Hall and visit the late 15th century Heiferlaw Tower and then we walk on Embleton Bay sands to Dunstanburgh Castle which is always closed when we get there, it always is but we don't care.
I would like to thank everybody for your emails of support, we have a 4 day castle hunt planned in February, first to Newcastle and then on to Kinross in Scotland, another place we both love. RIP the Smart car is no more, I'm planning to get a Vespa 300 scooter in March, happy days, 16 again.
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