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The 'Great Fire of London' Walk

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Three-hundred-and-fifty years ago on September 2, London burned for four days just a year after the Great Plague (Black Death) plagued the city. The city and most of its buildings, including St. Paul's Cathedral, was largely destroyed by the fire. This destroyed over 130,000 homes and 84 churches and left thousands homeless considering only approximately six people (that they know about) perished.

We know a little bit about the unfolding events from Samuel Pepys and his writings in his diary. Because this year marks 350 years since the anniversary of the fire, many events are taking place to commemorate it. One of the events is a free two-hour walk around the City, which takes place all week this week at different times. I decided to join one of the walks earlier today. I know this part of the City very well as I worked near Cannon Street and Bank Station.

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Our meeting point was Monument, the monument created after the fire as a memorial. It is a large free-standing column with a frieze on the side. The Monument can be climbed (as there is a staircase inside the column) and views can be enjoyed; I climbed Monument a few years ago and received a certificate. The location of the Monument is imporant because if it was laid down, the gold flame on top would meet the location where the great fire is said to have started.

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Thomas Faryner's bakery on Pudding Lane is attributed to the start of the fire and printed on maps after. He was the King's baker. It is thought that his maid forgot to put the fire in the ovens out, but something else may have set the fire off. The summer of 1666 was very hot and dry, so it may have been a spark or started by something else. We will never know. The maid was actually one of the few who is thought to have died in the fire. A plaque, gifted by the Worshipful Company of Bakers, marks the spot near where the bakery would have stood.

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The baker and his family did manage to escape. The buildings were built so close together with some of the top floors almost joining. They managed to jump out of the window and into the neighbours house and escape. 

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On the Monument, the frieze depicts London as a lady lying on rubble. The older figure to her left represents Father Time, and the two figures in the clouds represent peace and wealth. This means that London will rise again from the ashes. On the right side, the King and architects/scientists/other important people build the city up again.

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The flame on the top of Monument is plated with gold.

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From Monument, we headed down the hill and across the road to St. Magnus-the-Martyr. Just to the right of this church was the original entrance to the old London Bridge. I have previously covered this church in a blog post, and it's worth a visit to see the model of London Bridge. The walk was meant to go inside the church to see the model, but the church was shut. You can read more about London Bridge, the model of the bridge and St. Magnus-the-Martyr here.

After the visit to the church, we walked along the Thames and got to Cannon Street Bridge where we were told about the steel yard. It was actually a place for weighing wool, not for steel. It was owned by foreigners (we were told that they were mainly Dutch, French and German), and at the time of the fire, it was thought that the fire started here and anyone with a foreign accent was to blame and some suffered violence during and after the fire.

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We were also read passages from Samuel Pepys' diary. In the diary, he mentions Cannon Street and Walting Street. We walked around the area where Bow Church is because these streets follow a similar footprint to the original streets from 1666. 

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Bow Church looked lovely in the sunshine.

We then headed north across Cheapside, which was a wider street and the main shopping area. The fire managed to jump across the street here. We walked down Ironmonger Street.

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Near the Guildhall, I captured a photograph of one of the old buses.

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The Guildhall mostly survived the fire, but it needed a new roof. The fire did continue northward and further east and west.

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We then made our way down Gresham Street toward St. Paul's Cathedral. We stopped off at the candlemaker's livery hall, which is decorated well. Next door is the goldsmith's hall.

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We came to St. Paul's Cathedral. The original cathedral was destroyed by the fire. Actually, many years before the fire, another fire had burnt part of the cathedral. The scaffolding remained while it was being repaired, but this caught fire and the whole cathedral and its beautiful tower was destroyed. Christopher Wren constructed this new one with the second largest dome in the world. He is buried in the crypt.

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While they were clearing the burnt rubble from the original cathedral, they found the stone with the word 'resurgam' ('will rise again'). This had meaning for them, so they made a new stone with this word and a falcon rising from the ashes on top of it. Although London suffered, it did rise again from the ashes.

While the King and mayor were at a loss and not taking the situation seriously, Samuel Pepys was instrumental in coming up with a solution to tear down houses so that they would not spread fire.

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The 'Fire of London' walks take place all week this week in the lead up to the 350th anniversary of the great fire, which started on September 2. The walks are free and led by a City of London guide.

For more information about other events, visit http://www.visitlondon.com/greatfire350. Also, the Museum of London is holding an exhibition about the great fire until next spring.

An Afternoon at Lincoln Castle

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We visited Lincoln at the end of July, and we explored the city and looked at the poppy installation in the grounds of Lincoln Castle. While in Lincoln, we also decided to take advantage and see Lincoln Castle. We paid to enter the Victorian prision (located inside the castle walls), walk along the castle walls, see the Magna Carta and listen to the audio guide. The Magna Carta, a document dating from 1215 specifying liberties and freedoms to citizens, is currently outside of Lincoln Castle to be shown with its counterpart at Salisbury and two at the British Library. The Magna Carta at Lincoln Castle is only one of four in existance. A replica can be found at the castle until the original is returned later this year. Because it is currently not on display, we had our entrance tickets marked so that we could return to the castle to see it for free.

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The castle itself dates from the 1000s, and it was built on the site of a Roman fortress. The town was a popular strategic centre and market town, and it is built on two mottes (raised earth). It is one of the best examples of a Norman castle.

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The walls are Norman, and we walked around them. Along the walls are information panels about each area, but I listened to the audio guide. 

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At Cobb Tower, over-looking the cathedral, hangings were held above the trap door into the tower. This tower was used as a prison. When soldiers were stationed here, they drew grafitti. Most of these were crosses, but there were figures (probably of saints) drawn as well.

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Further along the wall walk is the old location of one of the mottes, and this is now a cemetery inside the walls with large trees. The graves are of prisoners or their children.

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We also saw one of the other exist gates, which suffered from damage due to a property developer.

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The last part of the castle tour consisted of visiting the prison (the red brick building below). The prison was separated into a men's prison and a smaller prison for women. Actors and actresses played out the prisoners and their victims, and the rooms could be visited to see the living conditions. Many of the rooms also contained interactive elements for children.

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A museum with World War memorabilia was also inside one of the larger rooms to coincide with the poppy exhibit. There was also another part of the prison that houses artefacts discovered on the grounds of the castle, such as a skeleton.

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The prisoners also had the benefit of a church, but there were panels between the prisoners so that they could listen but not interact with each other.

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This prison was one of the first to be regulated and also took an overflow of prisoners from London. The rooms in London would hold several prisoners to a room, and many would get the wrong connections or be in danger. The number of prisoners to a room would be limited and modest. 

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We did not have long before the castle closed, so we rushed through the prison. However, we have the ticket so that we can return again. Have you been to Lincoln Castle?

Ruins of Southampton Castle and City Walls

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Southampton Castle is in ruins now. It is located at the western end of the Southampton City Walls, which can still be seen along the western part of the city. Only parts of the ruins of the castle can be seen today. It was impressive in its day as Southampton became a busy port on the southern coast. In the 1500s, the repairs on the castle stopped and the castle fell into ruin before being sold to property developers in the 1600s.

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A city wall walk reveals glimpses of the former glory with the great tower and garderobe being accessible via stairs. The city wall has a bridge where visitors can walk across the top.

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The castle is a part of the old city walls walk and can be visited for free. Interesting sculptures, wall walks, and buildings can also be seen when walking around the city walls on the western and southern sides of Southampton.

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At the end of July, the bloke and I visited the city of Lincoln. Lincoln was one of the few tourist cities in England that I had not yet visited, and I've wanted to make a visit for the past few years. Finally, this plan became a reality at the end of last month when we spent the day in the city. I did plan on spending the weekend there, but all of the hotels were full by the time I got the opportunity to take time to book it. Despite not having that long there, we did see a lot of the city and got the opportunity to see the poppies at Lincoln Castle, a visit to Lincoln Castle, and a short visit to the cathedral.

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Lincoln was founded on an Iron Age settlement, which became a Roman settlement with a city wall. It was a very wealthy city in the middle ages due to the wool trade and dying of the wool in bright green (known as Lincoln Green) and red colours.

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The coat of arms of King James I adorns this Roman archway.

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A climb up Steep Hill is necessary to take in the views, and many small shops are located here. Several of these are sweet shops, cafes, and tea rooms that cater to the tourists. I took so many photographs on the walk up, and the hill is very steep in places.

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Also along this stretch are beautiful buildings, such as the "Jew's House" below. The city had a large Jewish population at one time, but they were treated unfairly.

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At the top of the hill is the castle and the cathedral, which opens into a beautiful square.

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On the way back down Steep Hill, I noticed the plaque on this pie shop. It mentioned Lawrence of Arabia. He lodged here and wrote about his life leading the Arabian troups in World War I.

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The views were amazing, and we had such lovely weather.

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At the top of the hill, we also had a look at the cathedral and peeked inside. There is an entrance fee to enter the cathedral, but we opted to give it a miss and see what we could from the entrance of the cathedral. A cathedral was built here in the 1000s, but it burnt down and had to be rebuilt in 1185. That cathedral fell in an earthquake and was built again. Each new cathedral was larger than the last, and the spires on this were the tallest man-made structure, higher than the pyramids. The spires were since removed because they were struck by lightning. 

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We headed back to the car at the bottom of town, where Brayford Pool is located. This is a modern part of town, although the old settlement was located around the pool until the castle was built on the top for defense. Many restaurants and entertainment venues are in this area.

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Have you ever visited Lincoln?

Poppies at Lincoln Castle

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In 2014, the Tower of London had a popular exhibition of a field of poppies to commemorate the people who gave their lives 100 years ago during World War I. The poppies are symbolic in that they each represent a British soldier that died during the conflict. The art installation (Blood Swept Land and Seas of Red), arranged by Paul Cummins, became extremely popular with many people making the pilgrimage to see them at the Tower of London, which I covered here. Due to their popularity, a section of the poppies known as 'the wave' were kept back from sale in order to tour around the country so that others could see them in case they never got the chance to visit them in London.

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I recently went to Lincoln, and I caught a glimpse of the poppies on display in the grounds of Lincoln Castle. The wave lifts off the ground of the bank of the inner walls of the castle and cascades toward the top of the wall.

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Lincoln Castle was used in World War 1, and there is a display of some items (weapons, uniforms, models of planes, and other bits and pieces) that date from that time on display in the castle.

Below are photographs of the poppies at Lincoln Castle

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The 'Wave' is on display at Lincoln Castle until September 4. It can be visited without purchasing an entrance to the castle.

The summer has come at last after a couple of months of cold and wet weather. We visited the pub at Titchfield (the Fisherman's Rest) for a third time. Titchfield is near Portsmouth; it is between Portsmouth and Southampton. We'd previously visited it with friends with the goal in mind to see the abbey after a Sunday roast. However, storms the day before at the end of June meant that the abbey was closed. We decided to try to visit it again, and we had wonderful weather and the grounds of the abbey to walk around in. 

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The first time, we all had Sunday roasts, which were really yummy. I can vouch for the chicken fajitas too, except they set off the smoke alarm that we were sat under. Ops. On the third visit, we had the standard menu as this was on a Saturday. I was spoiled for choice and went with the chicken curry in the end. It was actually big enough for two people, and the only criticism was that the sauce was too thin (and marked my new shirt as it was impossible to eat).

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After eating, we walked across the road to visit Titchfield Abbey. The premonastarian abbey at Titchfield near Portsmouth was founded in 1231. The 'white canons' (named that beause of their white robes) lived and studied here, and there were about 15 of them here at a time. They primarily worked for the community and helped to spread religious studies, and a couple of them were vicars for nearby churches. Of course, the monastaries came to an end after Henry VIII. Before this, Edward VI, Elizabeth I and Charles I visited.

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After the monasatries were dissolved, Henry VIII gave the land to one of his loyal servants (Thomas Wriothesley) as a reward. He converted the building into an elegant mansion that he called "Place House". Some of the structures that formed the monastary were removed, and others were used for the mansion. For example, the cloisters became the courtyard and the abbey became the main gatehouse. Shakespeare was a friend of Wriothesley and probably visited and performed some of his plays here as one of the rooms is known as a 'theatre' in some of the plans.

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Some of the tiles from its time as a mansion can be seen laid out inside the courtyard area.

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Many of the gargoyles appear around the gatehouse on both sides, and some of them are in better shape than others.

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One of our friends took his car up to the abbey for photographs. Classic cars and old architecture make a beautiful photo.

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I also had a stoll around the grounds, and I noticed a few apple trees. Perhaps these apple trees are descendants of the original ones that would have grown here in the days when the structure was a monastary.

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We couldn't have hoped for better weather. Have you ever been to Titchfield Abbey?

Last year on the Saturday before Easter Sunday, the bloke and I headed out to Brimham Rocks. Everyone else had the same idea, and the rocks were busy with families enjoying themselves and participating in an Easter Egg hunt. This would have been an amazing place to run around if I was a kid again; this would have been right up my street. I could not help to feel a little jealous of all of the children enjoying such a wonderful place with large rocks to hide amongst and climb on/around.

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We spent a long weekend around Harrogate, and I previously posted my visit to Harrogate, afternoon tea at Betty's Tea Rooms, Mother Shipton's Petrifying Well, Knaresborough, and Knaresborough Castle.

I explored Brimham Rocks for a couple of hours, enjoying the views from some of the rocks and climbing my way around/between others. The rocks cover a large area of ground, and there is a small museum and shop on location that explains how the stones were formed. It also explained that the rocks were visited during the Victorian days and people from Harrogate would come to Brimham Rocks for the day as an excursion. It was marketed to resemble the landscape of far-away lands, such as America.

Photographs from my visit to Brimham Rocks can be seen below.

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Have you ever been to Brimham Rocks?

Knaresborough is a town in Yorkshire located near Harrogate and on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Knaresborough is built around a limestone gorge (complete with the River Nidd at the bottom of the gorge). The recognisable viaduct, a railway bridge, is built on the banks of the gorge over the river. Stunning views can be enjoyed from the stairs to the top where the old town is and from the castle. Mother Shipton's Cave and Petrifying Well (the first recorded tourist attraction) is located in Knaresborough, and it's also home to Knaresborough Castle. I visited both attractions, starting in the morning with Mother Shipton's and finishing the afternoon off at Knaresborough Castle.

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The town of Knaresborough has a High Street and a market square, and it has one of the oldest chemist shops in the UK. Historic buildings are also located along the river. St. John's Parish Church is one of these. Visitors can also hire/rent a rowboat on the river.

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Another one of the historical buildings along the river is The Old Manor House. The Old Manor House was a hunting lodge built for King John in the early 1200s around an old oak tree. Oliver Cromwell would have come here to sign some documents after Royalists were defeated nearby. Over 400 years ago, King James I had a mulberry planted inside the courtyard, and it still grows and flowers each year.

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The Nidd Gorge is the lowland where the river runs through Knaresborough. The sandstone and limestone rock was carved out by the river over 16,000 years ago. 'Nidd' is probably the Celtic word for 'hidden' or 'covered' as the river disappears underground further upstream. Knaresborough was settled very early, and it was mentioned in the 1086 Doomsday Book. 

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Mills were built on the river to pump water to the town, create paper, and to create textiles in the industrial age.

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The viaduct is the most famous symbol of the town today. It was built in the mid-1800s. The bridge constructed just before had actually collapsed into the river just before its opening. 

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Further along the river are a set of stairs that ascend to the top of the gorge where the main streets of Knaresborough are located. The stairs go past Knaresborough Castle, and the views on the way up and from the castle are amazing.

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After reaching the top, we had a wander through the town to browse a few shops and the Market Square. 

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We also had lunch. Before visiting the town, I looked online for a few recommendations. One of the recommendations was McQueen's cafe, located on the High Street toward the station. The cafe do cooked meals and lunches with soup and sandwich, and they do pastries and coffees too. I opted for the soup and sandwich, which was really yummy. The bloke had a steak pie with mashed peas and chips. I also had a scone (which came with butter, as I assume they prefer that 'up north'), and this was also tasty.

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I found Knaresborough to be a charming village, and it's packed with things to do and see.

Afternoon at Knaresborough Castle

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Knaresborough Castle (located in Yorkshire and not far from Harrogate) probably started construction in 1066, and it was extended in the 1200s by King John. He used it as a hunting base when he wanted to hunt in the Forest of Knaresborough. The ruined structure seen today actually dates from the 1300s, and this was built by King Edward II. Upon his death, it went to Queen Phillipa, and she spent a lot of time here. Some of her possessions are in the museum next to the castle.

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The castle is currently owned by the Queen. It was under Royalist control during the Civil War, but it had to surrender to Cromwell in the 1640s. Cromwell planned to destroy it, but it was saved because the townspeople of Knaresborough asked for it to be kept to be used as a prison. I'm glad this happened because so many castles were completely destroyed by Cromwell.

The ruins, courthouse next door (which doubles as the museum), and underground tunnels can be visited.

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When entering the castle from the Market Place and High Street of Knaresborough, we were welcomed by the old gated entrance to the castle. On the ground in front of the gate are historical moments in the history of the castle, from the first fortification built around 1066 to its extension in the 1200s, to Queen Phillipa living here in the 1300s after King Edward II passed away, and to its partial destruction and surrender in the Civil War.

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From the gates, the castle grounds can be walked across. It's just flat grassland now, and the two structures are the courthouse and the ruin of the castle. The ruin is called "King's Tower" and makes up only a small part of the historic castle. It was a fortified residential area. Part of this tower can be climbed to visit the garderobe, and a dungeon is below.

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This arch is the remains of a room, and it is though this was a waiting area for people who wanted to visit with the king.

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We had a quick visit of the tower. The dungeon area had stone balls on display, and these could have been catapulted at enemies or placed on the tower chutes to roll down to crush people. We also saw pieces of stone with carved letters on them.

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The garderrobe could also be visited. Clothes would have been stored here to keep the moths away. The garderobes could be breached by sending up a small boy up the chute to open the door. The garderobes also had to be cleaned every now and then, and someone was paid to do it. 

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The grounds of the castle were beautiful and planted with spring flowers. From here, a wonderful view over the River Nidd can be enjoyed.

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The eastern sallyport (underground tunnels) can be visited on a guided tour for a small cost, and I believe that tours run roughly each hour. There's also a western sallyport, but these cannot be visited. The tunnels are located in the castle grounds, and a tunnel descends through the earth and exits on the outside of the walls and into the moat. We were told that the tunnels was built so that a quick escape could be made on horseback, although I am not sure if there would really have been enough room for this. The exit on the other side of the castle walls was not suspecting because this was a dirty place where the waste and rotting items would be discarded. 

In addition to quick escapes, the sallyports could also be used for men to leave in the night to attack unsuspecting enemies.

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The museum located in the courthouse was well worth a visit and covered a variety of topics and showed many items on display. One exhibit was the interior of how the courthouse looked in Tudor times. This is also the oldest part of the building, and the courthouse dates to 1600s.

Information about local famous residents, such as Guy Fawkes, 'Blind Jack', and Mother Shipton, could also be read. Queen Phillipa's belongings, such as a chest, can also be seen. 

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Knaresborough Castle and the museum are well worth a visit for the fascinating information and displays.

Last Easter, the bloke and I went to Harrogate, Yorkshire (England) to enjoy a long and much-needed weekend break. I was not expecting good weather because the weather is usually not good when you want it to be. However, despite this first day in Harrogate, we did have great weather. Our first day was a wet one driving up to Harrogate. When we arrived, the weather was gloomy with showers, but we did not let this put us off making the most of it. 

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We stayed at Old Swan Hotel, a classic hotel with a lot of history. I'll go into more later.

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Harrogate's claim to fame is that it was a fashionable Victorian town and known for its spas and sulphur springs, which were thought to heal a variety of problems. The Royal Pump Room was the strongest sulphur spring in Britain in 1626. It was built in the mid-1800s, and water was dispensed by the same lady (Queen of the Wells) until her death in 1843. Today, it is the Harrogate Museum, which opened in 1953, and the sulphur spring was still open for use then.

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Thw town of Knaresborough (up the road from Harrogate) was a larger town built around a castle and river. In 1571, the well with medicinal powers was discovered at Harrogate, and the small community grew. More wells were discovered and opened. The healing powers of the wells drew people in to treat a variety of problems, such as scurvy, epilepsy, ulcers, sores, and skin conditions.

As visitors increased and the rich visited the town during Victorian times, hotels, ballrooms, and luxury shops were built.

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The first well, 'The Tewit Well', was founded in 1571. Many additional wells were discovered after this across Harrogate, and there were around a dozen of these. The common wells had to be extended and more treatment rooms included on them to separate the men from the women and to cater for different illnesses. I learned a lot of important facts about these wells and the history of Harrogate in the Harrogate Museum. Below is a model of how it would have looked in the mid-1800s.

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The Harrogate Museum also has an amazing Egyptian collection that is worth a visit. (Photographs are not permitted, but this was interesting.) In addition, the old sulphur well can be seen from above, and there's also a section dedicated to war heroes.

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After our wander around the museum, we went to our reservation at 'Betty's Tea Rooms' in Harrogate. I previously covered my visit to Betty's Tea Rooms in a post published last year. By now, it had started to rain, so there was a queue for the cafe. I was glad that I had booked it in advance.

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After the afternoon tea, we continued to have a wander around the town. We saw the statue of Cupid & Psyche. The statue was carved in the mid-1800s for the spa, but they were put into storage and forgotten about when the gardens at the spa were removed. They were only re-discovered about fifteen years ago.

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The gardens of Harrogate are beautiful, but they are more beautiful in the sun.

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Before calling it a day, we wandered around the Harrogate Valley Gardens. We were nearly half the way around the gardens when it started to rain harder. I still managed to photograph the gardens. I remember visiting ten years ago at Easter, and I remember the flowers being out in bloom a lot more. I was also lucky with the weather then.

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The Wishing Well in the park at Harrogate was designed to look like the familair wells. This wishing well takes coins, which are donated to charity.

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We saw some ducks in the stream that ran through the lower part of the gardens. Of course, it was weather for ducks.

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The path around the gardens was named 'Elgar Walk' after an Edward Elgar who took regular walks here between 1912 to 1927. The walk received the name in 1989.

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We headed back to the Old Swan Hotel. This infamous hotel was constructed in the 1800s for the wealthy visitors attending the spas. In the 1920s, it became famous for another reason. Crime/mystery fiction writer Agatha Christy was found here after she disappeared for eleven days after having a breakdown due to her mother's death the previous year and finding out that her husband wanted a divorce so he could marry his mistress. 

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Because of the wet weather, we decided to eat at the hotel. I had the soup to start and chicken. The bloke had salom. For dessert, he had chocolate brownie and I had creme brulee.

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I do hope to return to Harrogate and book time at the spa. (I tried to book it in advance, but there wasn't any availability.) The Old Swan Hotel also have themed nights and murder mystery events. I would not mind returning.

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  • jenn: Yes.... but that's only for the islands. Mostar and Montenegro read more
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  • pantich: More info about the best day trips from Dubrovnik can read more
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