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After having a wander through the Bunratty Folk Park, we walked to the castle. The castle is on the edge of the folk park and just beyond a small grove of trees that separated it. Bunratty Castle is a good example of an Irish castle, known as a tower house. In the past, Ireland's lands were owned by many different wealthy families. Sometimes, fights would break out against neighbouring families, so these towers were built for protection and to show the status of the occupants.

bun ratty castle

Bunratty Castle was built in the 15th century along the river Shannon. This position on the river meant that it was a prime location, and the English had a fortress here to protect the area against attacks by the Irish. I saw a good view of the river from the top of the castle.

bun ratty castle

The castle was extremely busy with large tour groups when we arrived, and with such a small space, we did have difficulty maneouvering. The spiral staircases were also particularly difficult as they are narrow and can only allow movement in one direction. We had to wait awhile for the large groups to leave an area before we could explore it ourselves. Also, the castle may look imposing on the outside, but in reality, the rooms of the castle are small. 

bun ratty castle

Our first room was the Main Guard, and this was the dining area of the soldiers. Above this is the Great Hall, which was the dining room of the Earl of the castle and is a much larger room with a wooden vaulted ceiling. This is the largest room, and it attracted the large tour groups, so I did not get a good photograph of it.

bun ratty castle

The Earl's bedroom was the next room, and it had a large poster bed in it, and this looked like it filled the room.

bun ratty castle

We saw other private apartments as well.

bun ratty castle

The next room was the kitchen, and it also held a lot of items used for cooking - pots, pans, meat, and herbs.

bun ratty castle

bun ratty castle

We also saw the sleeping quarters for the servants, which included a modest bed in a corner on the floor of one of the rooms.

bun ratty castle

The last room we visited was the chapel.

bun ratty castle

The interior of the castle was actually like a maze with different and unexpected rooms and stairways. We were lucky not to run into the large tour groups in these parts of the castle.

Overall, this was one of the better castles that we visited on our trip, so I recommend visiting it and the folk park.

Bunratty Folk Park (Ireland)

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Early the next morning and after our visit to the Cliffs of Moher, we ate our breakfast and then drove southwest from Doolin toward Limerick. Our destination was Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, located between Shannon and Limerick. This post will feature Bunratty Folk Park, but the next post will be Bunratty Castle. Both attractions can be visited in approximately half a day, but one could also easily make a day of it if they wanted to get lunch here and spend longer looking at the exhibits. 

bun ratty folk park
Fisherman houses from Loop Head in County Clare

Bunratty Folk Park is set on 26 acres and is a "living museum", meaning that homes and buildings are set up the way that they would have been in the past (the 19th century), and the staff in traditional dress. The buildings have come from many different places in Ireland.

bun ratty folk park

We had a walk around the folk park, starting on the country trail where we discovered a horizontal mill, farmhouses, farm buildings, and a large area inside a group of barns that was filled with farm equipment and the largest selection of antique ploughs that I have ever seen in my life.

bun ratty folk park

As we were walking around the farm buildings, we saw the haystacks perched off the ground on stone and wooden blocks.

bun ratty folk park

bun ratty folk park

Dotted around were various antique farm equipment, such as the 'self feeder'. I did not get a good look at it, but it looks like dried ears of corn would be put into the top of it, and they'd turn the handle so that the kernels would come off. This would produce feed for animals.

bun ratty folk park

Many of the buildings were open, so we could take a look inside.

bun ratty folk park

bun ratty folk park

bun ratty folk park

There were animals in the folk park (like the donkey and pony above) as well, and another attraction are the walled gardens. These formed as part of the gardens for the castle.

bun ratty folk park

The largest building on site is a Georgian house known as Hazelbrook House, and it was built in 1898. It was owned by the family who created a famous Irish ice cream brand, HB (Hughes Brothers) Ice Cream, and the family also had a dairy. The family were more well-off than most, and this is reflected in the furnishings.

bun ratty folk park

bun ratty folk park

Outside of this house is a park filled with red deer.

bun ratty folk park

After a visit to the house, which is on the far perimeter of the folk park, we walked to the 'town' area. It contains a pub, post office, general store, printer's, and other shops that a small town would have.

bun ratty folk park

bun ratty folk park

One of the most unique buildings on site because of its colour is the building below. It is nearer to the castle. It's a fisherman's house, and it was near Kerry and used for salmon fishing.

bun ratty folk park
Cashen Fisherman's House

My next post will feature Bunratty Castle, which I visited immediately after looking around the folk park. Have you ever been to Bunratty Folk Park?

A Visit to the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

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On our first day in the Burren National Park in Country Clare on the western side of Ireland, we headed to the Cliffs of Moher and arrived just before the attraction was due to close. We had a quick look around the visitor's exhibition centre, where we saw some information on the sea life, bird life, and plant life in this unique area. We did not get to stay here for long as they were about ready to close up the centre, so we made our way up the trail to the sea cliffs, named the Cliffs of Moher.

cliffs of moher

The Cliffs of Moher are 214 meters high at their highest point, and they extend for over 8km over the Atlantic Ocean along County Clare. Below is an image of them looking southwest.

cliffs of moher

We walked up to the high point where a tower, known as O'Brien's Tower, was constructed in the mid-1800s for tourists to enjoy the views. The tower was not open when we arrived. 

cliffs of moher

cliffs of moher

cliffs of moher

cliffs of moher

We took in the views along the tower, stopping at the point where we saw warning signs about the footpath becoming unsafe. We then backtracked to the other direction to see views of O'Brien's Tower and the other cliffs and sea stacks. 

cliffs of moher

cliffs of moher

There's a large colony of birds that live off the Cliffs of Moher. Puffins are also meant to live here, but we did not see any. We did spot some birds down on the ledge of sea stacks below the cliffs, and I got a few photographs of them (below), but they do not look like puffins.

cliffs of moher

The Cliffs of Moher were formed hundreds of thousands of years ago from mud and sand. Some of this made up an ancient seabed where fossils can be found.

cliffs of moher

Cliffs of Moher is a beautiful place to explore and enjoy the scenery. I am sure that if we had had more time to spend here, we may have seen some dolphins and enjoy the wildlife more.

Easter Sunday in North Yorkshire was beautiful and warm, and after we had our Easter lunch at the Guy Fawkes Arms, the bloke and I drove down the road to visit Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden. The attractions are a UNESCO World Heritage site and are set over a couple hundred acres of land. I am unsure if the photographs do the attraction justice as it's really a beautiful place, and it would look attractive in any season.

fountains abbey

We arrived in the early afternoon, and the parking was nearly full and the grounds were busy with families with young children. The attraction was hosting an Easter Egg trail for the children, so this was popular but not quite as popular as the previous afternoon when we visited Brimham Rocks.

fountains abbey

On our walk through the fields to Fountains Abbey, we saw a pheasant. Actually, these pheasants were everywhere on the grounds. We did watch a fight between two male pheasants later in the day.

fountains abbey

We arrived with a view of the scale of Fountains Abbey, which was actually a lot larger than I expected. The abbey is one of the largest and best-preserved Cisterian monestaries in England. It ws founded in 1132 by thirteen months who had been expelled at St. Mary's Abbey in York after a disagreement, and they were provided with the land along the river at the present site of Fountains Abbey ruins. On this site, they successfully created the wealthiest monestary of its time.

fountains abbey

The monestary became ruins after Henry VIII's Dissolution of Monestaries after his disagreements with the Pope over his seeking of a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon from Spain. Catholicism ended in England at that point, and Henry VIII got his divorce and married Anne Boleyn.

fountains abbey

I hope that the photographs of the ruins of Fountains Abbey give some indication of the scale and grandeur of this monestary.

fountains abbey
Great Cloisters

fountains abbey
Cloisters courtyard (interior)

fountains abbey
Frater house (original floor tiles)

fountains abbey
Doorway

fountains abbey
Sculpture

fountains abbey
View of tower and Chapter House

fountains abbey
Nave

After having a quick look around Fountains Abbey, we walked out the other side to walk through the park/gardens. We wanted to visit St. Mary's Church, a church built in the late 1800s, before it shut at 4:00. A trail can be followed around the lake/river to the water gardens and deer park. The part of the trail that we followed went around the river/lake area in a clockwise fashion.

fountains abbey

We saw views over the Studley Royal Water Gardens below us at one point on the trail, and the trail followed the main stretch of the water gardens to the end. 

studely water gardens

We had to exit the grounds to get to the deer park and St. Mary's Church. St. Mary's Church is located inside the deer park. We did not see any deer, and I assume that they must be hiding or sleeping further afield than we walked. 

deerpark-fountains.jpg
Deer park

The church finally came into view, and we went inside and took some photographs. The organ was being played, and they were letting children have a turn at ringing the church bell. This is a gothic-style church from the late 1800s.

stmarys-fountainsabbey01.jpg

I loved the stained glass windows and the way that the light shone through them, and the ceiling was decorated beautifully as well too.

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After leaving the church, we had to re-enter the grounds. Not far away from where we entered is a bridge to cross the lake that forms the water gardens. The wooden bridge is at the edge with a large lake on one side and the water gardens on the other.

studely water gardens

studely water gardens
On the bridge, looking down toward the water gardens

I walked around the Studley Royal Water Gardens. These were created in the 1700s and were styled after mainland Europe's stylish gardens. They would have used coloured gravel and hedges to enhance the garden. Currently, these grounds are undergoing some development with hedgerows being planted to mimic the heyday of the gardens as recorded in paintings.

studely water gardens

Temples and statues make up the unique shaped water features.

studely water gardens

studely water gardens

I loved this place and could have stayed longer, particularly as the weather was so nice. Also, something seemed familiar to me about this place, despite never having set foot on it previously.

studely water gardens

While I was taking photographs at different angles, I noticed a mother and two children looking into the water for fishes or some sort of animal life. I started to look into the water as well, as I walked around the area, and I saw several toads in the water. The bloke was sitting on the side of the bank and did not walk around with me, and he mentioned seeing someone looking at some toads in the grass. At that moment, we happened to see one hopping in the grass toward us. I picked the toad up to take it over to the water, and it did not want to leave my hand. He/she clung on to my hand. I think he/she liked the warmth. Eventually, it left my hand and we watched several toads swimming around and enjoying each other's company.

studely water gardens

Eventually, we left the toads to do their own thing that toads do, and we walked up the trail. This led away from the water's edge and onto the cliff. We went through a tunnel carved into the side of the hill, and this tower was built on the top.

studely water gardens

The tower had nice views over the water gardens. We walked further along, through the trails with trees on both sides. Eventually, we came to this other tower. I've always loved these styles of temple with the excellent views from them. I want one. Unfortunately, the trees are a little overgrown here, so the views were not that great.

studely water gardens

We walked further, and the next spot was the surprise view, known as "Anne Boleyn's Seat". Anne never visited this spot, but it's named after a headless statue. The statue has been replaced, but it was covered up when we visited. The views from here are amazing. Fountains Abbey is in the distance.

fountains abbey

After enjoying the view, we walked back onto the trail, which descended the hill top and went along the lake. We watched a lone swan swimming in the lake, and he was soon joined by a couple of ducks. A fight broke out, and the swan succeeded in chasing the ducks off the water. A few minutes later, another arrived, and he hissed at the swan. The fight between the swan and goose did go on for awhile, and I got some photographs of the goose being chased and attacked, but they didn't turn out well. The goose was also chased off and gave up eventually, and he wasn't happy. He let the swan know it.

fountains abbey

The view of Fountains Abbey across the lake are beautiful.

fountains abbey

We soon made it around the trail to the other side of the abbey ruins. By this time, many of the visitors had left for the day. 

fountains abbey

I went inside the abbey to take some photographs, and it felt peaceful without the crowds.

fountains abbey

fountains abbey

fountains abbey

I stopped to write a couple of postcards here. I sat on the side of the nave where there's stone seating along the wall. I enjoyed the peace and quiet for awhile. There were still a few people wandering about, but this was nothing compared to how busy it had been earlier. This was a good end to a nice day, although my feet were tired by the end of it. 

I was in Harrogate on Easter Sunday to have a mini break. The bloke had heard good things about the "Guy Fawkes Arms" pub in Scotton, near Harrogate, so I decided to make a reservation for Easter lunch. We had had a slightly disappointing Easter lunch last year near Dartmoor, so I was not really expecting much, but the meal we had at the "Guy Fawkes Arms" was the best that I have had in awhile. I recommend it, and the photographs and write-up below will hopefully do it justice.

guy fawkes arms

Scotton is a small village near Harrogate, and the pub gets its name from its famous ex-resident, Guy Fawkes. Guy Fawkes is immortalised for his plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament with gunpowder, which is celebrated on November 5 in the United Kingdom each year. This act of treason cost him his life, and he was tortured before he was killed. The pub has information about him, the confession he signed, and his signatured before and after he had been tortured. The walls also contain a portrait of him and his coat of arms, of which the pub is named.

guy fawkes arms

We arrived a few minutes early for our Easter lunch and were welcomed by a "Happy Easter" sign and colourful spring flowers decorating the tables.

guy fawkes arms

After ordering and receiving our drinks at the bar, we were shown our seats. I had a soft drink, but the beer/ale/cider drinkers will not be disappointed as I saw many different brands on tap and on offer.

guy fawkes arms

After we sat at our table, we were offered bread. We had two slices of bread each, and this came with soft butter. The bread was delicious and fresh, and it was still warm. One slice was a white rosemary bread, and the other may have been tomato-based as it was orange in colour, but I really could not distinguish the flavour. Both types of bread tasted delicious and were 'light' and not starchy at all.

guy fawkes arms

The service was quick and efficient, and our main meals arrived quickly. The bloke ordered the roast sirloin of beef with a Yorkshire pudding.

guy fawkes arms

I ordered the corn-fed chicken breast with mushrooms in a white wine sauce with grilled asparagus.

guy fawkes arms

The pots of vegetables arrived with the meal. We had a choice of new potatoes or roast potatoes. Another pot contained mixed leek, carrot, peas, and baby peas in pods.

guy fawkes arms

The food was delicious, and I actually could not fault anything at all with our meals. Asparagus is actually not my favourite vegetable, but I ate all of it. I'm also not that keen on potatoes and roast potatoes, but these tasted lovely and were not too filling at all. My chicken breast also came with skin on it, and the skin was cooked crispy with peppercorn, and I also ate the majority of that, despite normally leaving the skin off to the side. The food was also presented well.

guy fawkes arms

We made room for desserts as well, and the bloke had his usual selection of ice cream. The ice cream is Brymor, a brand from the local area. He choose mint chocolate chip and strawberries and cream. 

guy fawkes arms

I ordered the trio of chocolate, and this contained a chocolate brownie, chocolate ice cream, and white chocolate sauce. The brownie was delicious and not too rich and not too filling.

I do plan on returning to the "Guy Fawkes Arms" the next time that I return to the Harrogate area. There's actually so much to see in this area of England, as readers of my blog will see when I start to post what I got up to over the long weekend. After our Easter lunch, we actually went to Fountains Abbey and walked off our lunch (and more) around the beautiful abbey and its gardens, and I'll be posting about that soon. This was a wonderful day with lovely warm and sunny weather, and this is a day that I will remember for a long time.

Ashby de la Zouch Castle

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One month ago, I went to Ashby de la Zouch and paid a visit to the castle. Ashby de la Zouch is a small town in the midlands in England, and it was an important market town for over 200 years. The town is named after a family named Le Zouch, and they owned a manor named Ashby in the 13th and 14th centuries. In the late 14th century, the manor was transformed into a castle. The castle is ruins today, but you can climb the tower and go into the cellars and see the remains of the garden layout.

ashby de la zouch castle

Ashby de la Zouch became a popular romantic ruin in the mid-1800s when the book Ivanhoe was published by author Walter Scott. The fictional book has a scene at the castle.

ashby de la zouch castle

The castle gardens and parks were designed by George Hastings in the early 1500s. The rooms were also decorated to a high standard for entertaining guests, and the rooms could overlook the beautiful gardens.

ashby de la zouch castle

The layouts of the gardens directly beside the castle can still be seen as the earth around them has been moved to create the garden area. They would have contained ornamental fish ponds, coloured gravel, and would have been laid out in different styles popular with continential Europe at the time. 

ashby de la zouch castle

The parks beyond would have had deer and would have been available for hunting.

ashby de la zouch castle

Unfortunately, the castle was destroyed in the 1640s, along with many other castles at the time. Many of the walls that remain show damage. The tower was also blown up so that it could not be used.

ashby de la zouch castle

The tower can still be climbed. 

ashby de la zouch castle

I climbed the tower, and there's a stone bench to sit in quite near the bottom.

ashby de la zouch castle

I saw some old carvings with the coat of arms, and I admired the views from the top.

ashby de la zouch castle

There's more views over the gardens.

ashby de la zouch castle

ashby de la zouch castle

ashby de la zouch castle

On the way down, I had a better look at the grafitti carved into the stonework from past visitors. I saw several from the 1800s, and I cannot remember now, but I think the oldest grafitti that I saw was from 1875.

ashby de la zouch castle

After climbing the tower, I walked back to the Great Hall toward the kitchen. I caught a glimpse of several arched doors.

ashby de la zouch castle

The next stop was the kitchen, and the ovens and fireplaces could be seen. These would have been used to create meals for hundreds of people a day. There is a small hatch (still visible) where food would be passed from the kitchen to the Great Hall.

ashby de la zouch castle

One of the other rooms visited held a fireplace with beautiful carved stonework design. This room was used for entertainment.

ashby de la zouch castle

The floors and an arched vaulted ceiling can be seen.

ashby de la zouch castle

Carved stonework and sculptures were dotted around the castle.

ashby de la zouch castle

I was lucky with the weather as it was sunny with clouds on the day that I visited.

ashby de la zouch castle

Finally, the last bit of the tour came, and that was to see the underground tunnels. The tunnel entrance started just outside of the tower. 

ashby de la zouch castle

This tunnel went under the stonework and out the other end, which was the kitchen. It opened up into a larger cellar at the kitchen end. The week previously was quite wet and rainy, so there was a puddle of water here. The drains come off the fields into this tunnel, but it was not that muddy.

ashby de la zouch castle

I took a few last photographs of the castle on my way out.

ashby de la zouch castle

The next stop was Ashby de la Zouch town. Unfortunately, all of the shops were shut, but I decided to head to The Vine Bar and Restaurant for Sunday lunch. I did struggle a bit to find something on the menu that I would eat, so I settled for the vegetarian option. This was tasty, but it was also a little bit too salty. The bloke had roast beef with all of the Sunday roast trimmings.

ashby de la zouch castle

Dessert was lovely, however. I had banana bread pudding. The bloke had a selection of ice creams. Overall, the meal was alright but I did expect a little more. Service let the experience down even further as we ended up waiting far too long, and our entire sitting was for over two and a half hours, so I really could not recommend it. 

ashby de la zouch castle

However, if you are in the area, give Zamani's Italian restaurant a try. I was based in Ashby de la Zouch for two weeks and made a visit to Zamani's two times. Both times were lovely, and I tried different types of food on the menu.

After our morning visit to Clonmacnoise, we headed to the area of western Ireland (County Clare) called the Burren National Park. The Burren, as it is known, is a one-of-a-kind place. I've never been to a place quite like it before. The area is charactierised by limestome slabs with fisures, formed during the glaciers 100,000 years ago. It's such a unique place that alpine and Mediterranian plants grow here, and it's host to a diversity of plantlife. 

burren-02.jpg

The National Park is filled with history as well as its geological features. Megolithic tombs and settlements can be found. Impressive cliffs, picturesque villages and caves can also be discovered.

burren-01.jpg

We drove in on the northern part of the road with nice views over the sea. We went through a couple of charming towns and ended up having a quick lunch in a cafe. Our first stop after lunch was a drive down some winding roads, leading up into the National Park with some impressive views. We stopped off at Aillwee Cave, on the side of a hill. The impressive limestone rocks were above us on the hillside, and I caught some bees buzzing around pretty flowers.

burren-03.jpg

burren-04.jpg

The views of the rolling green hills with barren limestone-topped hilltops were amazing.

burren-05.jpg

We did not have to wait long for our tour to begin. Tours of Aillwee Cave seemed to be popular, and we shared our tour with a large group of people. I'm not sure cave tours are good for children, though. One family took their little girl, and she got frightened of the dark and cried during the duration of the tour.  

aillwee01.jpg

Aillwee Cave was discovered by a local farmer who followed his dog chasing a rabbit. He kept the cave a secret for many years. It does contain an underground river and a waterfall amongst other popular cave features. The waterfall was the most impressive feature.

aillwee02.jpg

The cave is also popular because remains of bears were found inside. A reconstruction of a bear den is located near the start of the tour.

aillwee03.jpg

After the tour, we walked back through a different tunnel, which is a man-made tunnel. The cave was used in an episode of Father Ted, and the Father Ted house is also located in the Burren, which I really wanted to see but did not get to. Of course, we had to also visit the shop.

aillwee04.jpg

After the visit to Aillwee Cave, we headed for a drive through the Burren toward Doolin, which was the location of our hotel.

burren05.jpg

We ended up at Doolin Cave.

doolin01.jpg

We arrived just before the final tour, and we were the only four people on the tour. Another group had just finished and they said it was amazing, so we were looking forward to the surprise. While we waited, we read the information in the visitor centre about how the new entrance (pictured above) was created. It is five meters wide and 25 meters deep. The tunnels to the stalactite were dug by hand so that they would not cause damage. It took almost a year to open due to the work required to get the tunnels dug.

doolin02.jpg

The first part of the tour was negotiating some low ceilings and tight spaces. We saw some rock features, which had some names. Then, we ended up in a massive chamber with the most amazing and largest stalactite that I have ever seen in my life suspended from the ceiling. Apparently it is the fourth largest in the world and the largest in Europe. It's suggested that it is 11 meters long. Mexico has the two largest, and Lebanon has the third largest in the world.

doolin03.jpg

The Great Stalactite is the feature of Doolin Cave. It is unknown how long the stalactite has been growing, but it's probably tens of thousands of years old, and it's still growing. Some of it has stopped growing, and it's clear to see which part of the stalactite is 'dead' and which is still growing. The whiter the stone, the newer the part. Stalactites grow from the calcium in the rocks coming through the limestone.

doolin04.jpg

The Great Stalactite was illuminated with different lights, and we could walk around it to see it at different angles. 

doolin05.jpg

After visiting the cave and its impressive stalactite, we had the option to walk a 1km trail. We did walk this and saw wildflowers and goats. Along this trail, we could also see the original cave opening. 

burren06.jpg

Another place we visited in the Burren (near Gort) was Kilmacduagh. Kilmacduagh is ruins of a monastery. Some of the buildings in this complex date to the 7th century, and it was an important location in the middle ages, when more of the buildings at the location were constructed.

kilmacduagh01.jpg

There was not a visitor centre open when we went, so we explored the ruins on our own. By the time we arrived, it was early evening. 

kilmacduagh02.jpg

The monastery ruins do have an attractive round tower, a common theme for Irish monestaries. The ruins are also known as "the seven churches" after the buildings here, but there actually were no seven churches on the site.

kilmacduagh03.jpg

We could not access some of the buildings, but we had a good look around the site. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of information about the site.

kilmacduagh04.jpg

Have you ever been to the Burren?

Sunday was the annual Brooklands MINI Day, and I took my MINI and went for a drive to catch up with some friends that I have not seen in awhile. I used to be a little more active with MINI events, but I haven't been to any of the main or even smaller events for the past few years. Despite that, I've also never been to the Brooklands MINI Day, which is one of the first events of the season. It's also an event that isn't too far from where I live; Brooklands is located near Weybridge in Surrey. This year, a friend reminded me, so I put it in the diary.

Sunday was also the morning of the time change to British Summer Time, so I lost an hour of sleep, and the flat below my one decided to have a party into the early hours, and they wouldn't shut up. With little sleep due to their inconsideration, I still managed to force myself up in order to go.

The weather was not great, and we had rain throughout the day. Luckily, it was not hard rain in the morning, but it get worse after noon. Apparently, the weather's never great at Brooklands MINI Day, and they had snow a couple of years ago. The weather was beautiful during the week, but I wish it could be nice at weekends.

concord

The first stop was the Concord plane. Brooklands is the location where parts of Concord were constructed. The front and back sections of the plane were made here, and they were put together in Filton (Bristol). The Concord tour needs to be booked separately, so that's what we did first. 

concord
Concord

The Concord located here is one of the ones used for tests. It was decommissioned, and they had to put it back together. I was actually amazed at how small I thought the plane was as I imagined it was larger.

concord

We received our boarding passes and were told about the plane's history and various other facts about Concord before we stepped inside. These planes only took about four hours to fly to America from the United Kingdom, and they are the first passenger plane to break the sound barrier. The plane is built with these factors in mind, such as providing expansion and cooling inside the panels. Apparently, breaking the sound barrier means that the plane will get very hot, and it also caused the planes to expand. The floor was 'floating' to allow this expansion, and the angle of the cockpit needed to be able to rise and fall for the pilots to see the runway during takeoff and landing. 

concord

Another wheel was located at the back of the plane just in case the pilots miscalculated the angle while landing, and a mini-propeller is also underneath the plane so that the plane can still function if the engines cut out. The sheilds are also put over the engine to control the thrust. 

concord

We were shown the passenger area of the plane, and we could also have a quick look inside the cockpit (at a distance) to see all of the controls.

concord

I would have loved to have taken a Concord flight, but I was a little bit too young as the planes were decommissioned in the early 2000s after an issue during takeoff at Paris airport. (Note that the issue wasn't even Concord's fault; it was a previous plane that had left metal on the runway which damaged the plane, and I guess most accidents happen during landing and takeoff anyway.) Apparently, people lost a little bit of faith in them, plus the planes were highly expensive as they drank a lot of fuel.

The end of our tour was a video with a 'mock takeoff' so that we could pretend that we were taking off and flying, and this was set to Queen's "Mr. Fahrenheit" song with several shots of the planes and vibrating seats during takeoff and at various points where the plane gathers momentum to break the sound barrier. All of us received a flight certificate on the way off the plane.

After the Concord experience, we wandered around other older planes in the open yard and also went into a hangar which was filled with various historical planes from as early as 1907. We saw a World War 2 plane, the Wellington, which was rescued from its watery grave at Loch Ness, and there were other World War 2 planes. There were also displays on weapons and bombs. During the wetter moments, the museums became extremely popular as people tried to keep dry.

Brooklands is the first purpose-built race track in the world, and it was built in 1907. In the photograph below, the tilted concrete that the cars are on is part of the old race track. Not much of it exists, but I walked down it to look at the MINIs that were on display.

Most of the MINIs there were classic MINIs, and each one is unique. There's really not two alike as these cars are easy to customise to the personality of the owner.

The old race track does get extremely steep, but it's probably not too noticeable in the photographs I've taken. You really do have to climb on hands and knees to get to the 'top' portion of it, and I saw a couple of guys do this. On the other side of the track and beyond the trees is the main train line to London Waterloo, which I'd travel on each and every day. Brooklands can be seen if you're on a train and passing through.

The red classic MINI is a classic version of my MINI. This is the style of MINI that toy Corgi brand cars use. 

Surrey New MINI club had one of the largest displays, and all of these are the new MINI car. They are larger and take up more room. The cars are larger because of the restrictions in law, so they have to be larger and thicker. Each year, different rules are released for car manufacturers. The new MINIs also have to adhere to the changing rules, so differences can be seen in the different years. For example, there are restrictions for the angle of the front of the car now to protect pedestrians in case they are hit by the car. As a result, a company or MINI could never make another car that looks exactly like the classic. 

The classic cars are cuter, despite the safety aspects mentioned and the lack of comfort.

Brooklands was extremely busy with MINI enthusiasts, and the photograph below was taken in the mid-morning while the majority of the cars were still there and lined up on the old race track.

The below indicator panel was 2012's special edition MINI. MINI were one of the sponsors of the Olympic Games (see my post here), and they brought out a MINI with special Olympics graphics and interiors. Logo aside, the car does look beautiful with its red, white, and blue interior and exterior trim. The roof has a full-sized Olympic logo. I imagine that these will be sought-after in another fifty years.

As the picture below shows, the weather did get worse and I found it a challenge to keep my camera lens protected.

The next stop were the museums so that I could get out of the rain, and everyone else had the same idea. The museums had a variety of race cars from the early days to the modern Formula 1 cars. There were cars built to break speed records as well as cars that were taken on the track here at Brooklands. One of the cars was the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car, and another famous one is the Napier Railton. Another building contained the London Bus Museum.

After the museum visits, I headed back out into the rain in order to watch the MINIs in action.

Unfortunately, the weather led to the cancellation of the MINI hill climb, which is set on the Test Hill (built in 1907). This tests cars' ability to climb the hill as well as their brakes.

I normally have not posted much about my MINI days out in the past, but one of the best events that I have ever been to was MINI United Day, which attracted owners from all countries. It was held toward the end of May in 2009 in Silverstone, and I posted about it in my post MINI United!.

London Travel: Shad Thames

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Shad Thames is an area of London just east of Tower Bridge and on the southern bank of the river Thames. The area is filled with warehouses, which have since been converted into expensive housing and restaurants. The buildings retain the warehouse atmosphere on the exterior, with steel footbridges on the upper levels. The warehouses were closed down in the early 1970s, and the buildings started to become regenerated in the 1990s. There's good views of the river and Tower Bridge from the river-facing properties, and it's not far to walk to the City, so each flat costs millions.

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Shad Thames

This is a nice area to visit and have a meal on the river front as there are a few restaurants in the area here and to get photographs of the warehouses and their steel walkways.

A Morning at Clonmacnoise (Ireland)

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We started off early from Galway (which I posted about previously) to visit Clonmacnoise at opening time; staying in a hotel meant that we could check out when we wanted in order to do this. The idea was to stop somewhere along the way to get breakfast, but we did struggle to locate anywhere and had to opt for a roadside services in one of the villages we traveled through and get a pastry. From here, we traveled to the monastery ruins and were the first to arrive; we had to wait for the doors to open. The site at Clonmacnoise contains the ruins of a cathedral, several churches, two round towers, a few high crosses, and a museum with other engravings and inscriptions from graves.

clonmacnoise

Clonmacnoise is an important early Christianity site. It was founded in 544 by Saint Ciarán and became an extremely important site for religion and everything that went along with it, including education and the arts. Before its Christian roots, it was considered an important place by the Irish and the kings of Tara (Irish kings) are meant to be buried in the area. Today, Clonmacnoise remains as an important pilgrimage site and contains the historical monastery ruins. 

clonmacnoise

When we arrived, we saw some ruins outside of the monastery site on the approach to the car parking and opposite the parking spaces. This ruin (pictured above) is all that remains of Clonmacnoise Castle. After our walk around outside, we came back to the museum for another look and watched the video in English in order to understand the site. We wanted to get out and see everything before the large tour group prevented us from doing so.

clonmacnoise

When we entered, we had a quick walk through the museum and then returned to look once again at the items. The high crosses and some original engravings are stored here, and some replicas have been made to be re-sited on the original locations. 

clonmacnoise

The moss-covered crosses looked pretty, and we had perfect sunny weather for our visit.

clonmacnoise

We walked around the various ruins of the cathedral and churches. This was once a bustling place.

clonmacnoise

One of the high crosses sits on the banks of the River Shannon. Those views were perfect.

clonmacnoise

clonmacnoise

clonmacnoise

The doorway to the cathedral is known as "Whispering Arch". We tried to whisper in the doorway to see if the sound would carry inside, but this did not work. Perhaps it was only the "Whispering Arch" when there's a roof on it. The legend mentions that it was used as a confessional.

clonmacnoise

The round tower in the photogaph below is O'Rourke's Tower, and it was struck by lightning in the middle ages and lost the top of the tower. The high cross replica (Cross of the Scriptures) seen in the museum is in the foreground. It is one of the famous high crosses of Ireland and contains an inscription. (Although they are worn from centuries of weathering, the original crosses have held up much better than the replicas.)

clonmacnoise

clonmacnoise

Saint Ciarán died of the plague in 544, and he was buried in the original wooden church that was at the location before the stone structures were built. A small oratory, Temple Ciarán, was built over the spot where the wooden church stood. Many others with affiliation to the monastery also died at this time, but the religious centre grew in later centuries and it became the target of Irish, Viking, and Norman raids. The 12th century saw a decline in the use of the monastery here in favour of one built at Athlone.

clonmacnoise

The round tower in the photograph above is Temple Finghín & McCarthy's Tower, and the River Shannon looks beautiful in the distance. It dates from the 12th centuries. Another photograph of the oratory where the saint was buried is below. This is a popular pilgrimage place. I'll let the photographs do the 'talking'...

clonmacnoise

clonmacnoise

clonmacnoise

clonmacnoise

clonmacnoise

clonmacnoise

clonmacnoise

Pope John Paul II visited Clonmacnoise in 1979. A new building was constructed on the site, and the area was filled with people who wanted to see him. There's a plaque at this building to commemorate this event, and there's an offerings area.

clonmacnoise

clonmacnoise

clonmacnoise

The three saints are above the doorway, known as the "whispering arch". The saints are Dominic, Patrick, and Francis.

clonmacnoise

I also discovered a carving of a face. I think this was on one of the crosses that I found in the cemetary area.

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Crosses marked the graves, and I took so many photographs of these crosses with moss on them.

clonmacnoise

This is a beautiful place to visit, and it's so old and has so much history. The museum is also worth a visit to see the crosses (a must), and a replica of the wooden church. The video is also worth a watch, but the video is rotated in different languages. I would not mind other languages, as long as they all had English subtitles! Unfortunately, everywhere that we went in Ireland, they did not have English subtitles, so we would have to wait for the next English video or just miss out.

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