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Charming Cambridge Fall in love with the city of punting, literature & pubs

WIN a weekend in a Michelin-star hotel


18th-century follies


Royal bedrooms

Four-poster beds fit for a king (or queen)


The final insult to the deposed king NOV/DEC 2017 £4.50

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Inspiring Breaks

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National Trust Houses & Gardens

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Experience a weekend break with a difference as we combine visits to fine historic houses with either an exploration of the dramatic scenery of the Yorkshire Dales, discovering the upstairs, downstairs life of our ancestors in Cheshire or enjoying the Three Choirs Festival in Hereford.

Explore many of the National Trust’s special places, from spectacular landscapes and iconic landmarks to glorious gardens and fascinating houses with their rich history and impressive collections.

Fly to your destination. We have a selection of breaks to Northern Ireland, Ayrshire & the Isle of Arran plus Jersey, Guernsey & Sark. Discover the rich heritage, dramatic natural wonders and captivating landscapes across these beautiful islands.

• An experienced Tour Manager will meet you at the hotel and facilitate the smooth organisation of all aspects of your tour.

• Take advantage of our stress free Door to Door Club Class Home Collection Service. A uniformed chauffeur will collect you from home and transfer you to the hotel or airport in top specification cars or MPVs, then at the end of your holiday they will be waiting to whisk you home again.

• Flexible travel options on the majority of tours allow you to choose your preferred means of transport - whether it’s driving yourself to the hotel, taking the train, joining the coach at a convenient pickup point or even taking a flight to your destination. Join us at the hotel

• For every person who joins us on one of our inspiring breaks, we are proud to give the National Trust £25.

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This issue I travelled to the Peak District where I was staggered by the glorious views of Britain’s first national park and the sheer number of pretty stone villages that pepper its lush valleys and peat moors. I also got to see firsthand one of Britain’s most idiosyncratic traditions – that of well dressing. Read all about this special place, plus the people who found inspiration here, in Peak Places (p64). Talking of inspirational places, a small corner of Sussex, plus chats with his young son were all the stimuli AA Milne needed to create his beloved Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Ahead of a major new exhibition, we map out the places that feature in that fictional world in Going on a Bear Hunt (p14). Also this issue, our history expert explores Charles I’s legendary art collection and what happened to it in The King’s Collection (p31), and in Heady Heights (p49), we take a tour of some of the most awe-inspiring Gothic cathedrals in Britain – prepare to be dazzled.



















Charming Cambridge


a weekend in a Michellin Star Hotel

Fall in love with the city of punting, literature & pubs


18th-century follies


Royal bedrooms


Four-poster beds fit for a king (or queen)

cover 6th select.indd 1

The final insult to the deposed king NOV/DEC 2017 £4.50

22/09/2017 12:18

Cover image: The Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge © Chris Dorney/Alamy


As an exhibition opens at the V&A Museum, we track down Winnie-the-Pooh in Ashdown Forest Today we associate grottoes with Santa Claus, but at one time no English country house was complete without one. We highlight some of the best In a final insult, following his execution, King Charles I’s art collection was dispersed across Europe, never to be seen again... until now What could be more extravagant than a stay in a room that once hosted royalty? Gothic cathedrals once dominated our skylines. Here are some of our most awe-inspiring Gossip, intrigue and scandal lie behind one of Bath’s most iconic landmarks, which turns 250 this year

70 31












We explore the villages of the Peak District, which inspired both Charlotte Brontë and Jane Austen With dozens of bookshops, pubs and riverside walks, this Welsh town takes life at a leisurely pace Christmas carols are as essential to festive celebrations as mistletoe and ivy, but what are the British origins of this tradition of good cheer?

Share your stories and memories of Britain, your travels around the country, and your thoughts on the latest issue of the magazine






Win a luxurious two-night stay, plus a lavish five-course dinner at this Michelin-starred boutique hotel in Lancashire’s Ribble Valley





Go punting or in search of the perfect pint in the historic university city

Head of Market James Davis Senior Sales Executive Paul Beckham Sales Executive Samuel Sud Managing Director Paul Dobson Deputy Managing Director Steve Ross Publisher Steve Pill Finance Director Vicki Gavin Digital Marketing Manager James Dobson Senior Marketing Executive Drew Brown For VisitBritain Ronan Francis

SUBSCRIPTIONS UK and Rest of World: Tel: 01858 438 878 Email: BRITAIN, Subscriptions' Department, Chelsea Magazines, Tower House, Sovereign Park, Lathkill Street, Market Harborough LE16 9EF USA and Canada: Tel: 888-321-6378 (toll free) Email: BRITAIN, PO Box 37518, Boone, IA 50037-0518 (USA only); BRITAIN, 1415 Janette Avenue, Windsor, Ontario N8X 1Z1 (Canada only)

HM The Queen celebrates 70 years of marriage, walkers delight in a coastal path and a Scottish castle throws open its doors

In her lifetime, Aphra Behn was arguably a more successful playwright than Shakespeare

Editor Sally Coffey Deputy Editor Laura Silverman Art Editor Clare White

Printed in England by William Gibbons Ltd Production All Points Media



BRITAIN is the official magazine of VisitBritain, the national tourism agency. BRITAIN is published by The Chelsea Magazine Company Ltd, Jubilee House, 2 Jubilee Place, London SW3 3TQ Tel: 020 7349 3700 Fax: 020 7901 3701 Email:

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We conjure up a picture of the wizard through tales going back to the 6th century

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Write to us with your thoughts on the magazine and memories of Britain

I read with interest the article ‘Her Majesty’s Recipe for Drop Scones’ in September’s BRITAIN (Volume 85 Issue 4) and the sidebar that stated that HM The Queen is said to have sent this recipe to President Eisenhower 50 years ago. The book Dear Mr President: Letters to the Oval Office from the Files of the National Archives by Dwight Young (published by National Geographic), features Her Majesty’s note

and shows that the original recipe differs slightly from this interpretation. Her Majesty’s 1960 recipe was as follows: 4 teacups flour 4 tablespoons caster sugar (the Queen said she had used golden syrup or treacle instead, which can be very good, too) 2 teacups milk 2 whole eggs 2 teaspoons bicarbonate soda 3 teaspoons cream of tartar 2 tablespoons melted butter The quantity is for 16 people, but Her Majesty wrote: “I generally put in less flour and milk if there are fewer but use the other ingredients as stated.” She also cautioned that the mixture “needs a great deal of beating while making and shouldn’t stand about too long before cooking”. Mark Scott, by email Our favourite letter wins one of these lovely garden bird cushions from Mimi Emmett, England (worth £55, plus p+p) www.

EDEN UNCOVERED Earlier this summer I made my 11th trip to England. I love everything about your beautiful country and try to explore a new area each time I travel there. This past visit I spent some time in Yorkshire, basing myself in York and doing several day trips to the surrounding towns and villages. My travels took me to Eden Camp Modern History Theme Museum. It was amazing and I am wondering if you have ever featured it in your magazine? It is a must-see for anyone with an interest in

Second World War history. Eden Camp was initially built as a prisoner of war camp and it was fascinating to learn not only about how the prisoners spent their time (many helped out on local farms), but also to see the beautiful things that they made while there, including toys, games, clocks and shoes. Another reason to travel to England soon. Gloria Minnich, Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA

BRITAIN replies: Thank you for the tip,

we’ve not been but it’s now on our radar.

WRITE TO US! By post: Letters, BRITAIN, The Chelsea Magazine Company, Jubilee House, 2 Jubilee Place, London, SW3 3TQ Via email: FOLLOW US! Twitter: @BritainMagazine Instagram: @britain_magazine Facebook: Pinterest:




Your September issue (Volume 85 Issue 4) included a journey through the Suffolk wool towns. My own journey to Sudbury takes me back to 1944-45, when this beautiful area was one large airfield. Our American Army Air Force Bomb Group, the 486th, was stationed just outside of Sudbury, and this town and its wonderful people have often since honoured our service. A painting by the artist Roger Lane, called Hope and Glory to the 486th Bomb Group, hangs in my home. It depicts our bombers taking off with farmers tilling the land below them. In Lavenham, the original air control tower of the 487th Bomb Group still stands looking out at the old runway. My many visits to these towns always bring back lasting memories. Dr George Rubin, Medford, New Jersey, USA

Valerie Demetros Oh, we loved York! We stayed at The Churchill Hotel, which was lovely. The Shambles and the railway museum were fantastic. I could have stayed another week – I still haven't seen inside York Minster.



T di w he sco 20 i St u % Va th ra nt lid t un h i ti l s nd fro Ja st m nu vo ar or y u 31 c e st h 20 e 18 r




BULLETIN The Queen celebrates 70 years of marriage, the world's longest coastal path gets under way and a Scottish castle throws open its doors – we bring you all the news R OYA L FA M I LY


The Queen and I Theirs is the longest royal marriage in history. On 20 November, Her Majesty The Queen and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, will celebrate their platinum anniversary – a mere 70 years of marriage. The couple met when Elizabeth, then just 13, visited Philip’s naval college in Dartmouth. It was love at first sight. Eight years later, their wedding at Westminster Abbey brightened up the gloom of post-war Britain. During a long and happy union, the couple have combined thousands of public engagements with raising four children: Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward. As the Queen said on their golden anniversary in 1997, her husband is her “strength and stay”. As for the longest marriage, it is going to be a hard record to beat.



Cosy Cornwall

Winter at Windsor At 11.15am on 20 November 1992, a devastating fire ripped through Windsor Castle when a spotlight caught on a curtain. The Crimson Drawing Room, the Green Drawing Room and the Queen’s Private Chapel were badly damaged. Her Majesty was said to be devastated. The £36.5 million restoration took five years. But what a restoration it was. Today the castle looks as splendid as ever, and there’s no better time to see it than in winter. The Christmas display, with its 20-foot-high Nordmann Fir tree, (20 November to 5 January 2018) commemorates the restoration 20 years after completion.


Victorian remedy A portion of northwest England’s heritage has been saved by a local entrepreneur. Lake District ramblers may well know The Lighthouse. The homely café and restaurant sits in the heart of Windermere, half a mile from the lake of the same name. Beyond its unpretentious menu of pasta, salad and steak lies an insight into Victorian life. The 19th-century building, then called Acme House, was a chemist selling Victorian soaps and syrups. The building then became Boots, before reopening as The Lighthouse in 2002. Now Ian Dutton, founder of Dutton Cuisine, has stepped in to take over the reins, and so history goes on. www.




Coast to coast From the iconic White Cliffs of Dover to the historic charms of a fishing village in Northumberland, England’s coast is one of its many appeals. Some 300 miles is currently walkable, but Natural England has ambitions to open it all up. Work is now under way on every stretch of a new 2,700-mile route. Most recently, paths have opened up in North Yorkshire and Norfolk. The track, which will be the world’s longest coastal path, should be open by 2020. It would take two-and-a-half months to trace the whole route – at a brisk pace over eight-hour days with no breaks. We might do it in sections. england-coast-path



It’s famous for fudge and pasties; as an inspiration for Turner and Whistler; and as the setting of swashbuckling Poldark. Now Cornwall is making its mark in the world of blankets. But these aren’t just any blankets. Atlantic Blankets are made using soft natural fabrics – alpaca, cashmere, lambswool – and come in subtle but distinctive designs. Some have leather straps and waterproof coating, making them ideal for using outdoors. Gemma Teague and Alistair Graham, a local couple, started making the blankets 20 years ago. They even pick a shell from the beach for each creation for a touch of the sea. Prices from £40


Highland fling Do you dream of living in a castle in the Scottish Highlands? Set the of two buildingsmountains of the Old and Royal Naval College Yourbetween view is one moorland, lochs – almost in Greenwich, the Queen’s House England's 6,000 acres ofLondon, it. Your morning wake-up callwas is the residentfirst classical built in the 17th-century byhoney architect Inigo bagpiper.building, Breakfast is porridge topped with from the Jones for Anne of Denmark, as a gift from her husband, James I. resident bees. And your day comprises horse-riding, clay-pigeon Four hundred the splendid royal villa is due to shooting or fishingyears – orlater, a hot-stone spa treatment. reopen on 11 October which Get out that tartan. following Prepare aextensive wee dramrenovations, of celebration. have an isoverhaul the galleries housing its Your seen fantasy about totocome true. Welcome to famous Skibo Castle, collection of art – including key works by Gainsborough and home to The Carnegie Club, one of the most exclusive private Hogarth and original features, thenamed Tulip Staircase. members’– clubs in the world. Thesuch clubaswas after

industrialist Andrew (Carnegie), who transformed the estate Ifinthat’s not reason visit, it isthe likely to be the home 1898 into what it enough is today:to restoring Scottish baronial of the historicand Armada portrait Queen Elizabeth I (pictured architecture furnishing it in of Edwardian splendour. There above), one of the most iconic images of any British monarch. are four-poster beds in some of the rooms. One suite even has has you beenbeen the subject its The ownpainting library. Had a guest of of intensive Carnegie,fundraising you might to save it forwith the the nation since it Rockefellers was put up for With the have dined Churchills, or sale. Vanderbilts. funding due to be theAnd Queen’s Alas, intarget the modern era,hita this fee summer, is required. it’s notHouse cheap. will be the perfect place to view the portrait: Elizabeth I was Membership costs £8,000 a year, plus a one-off joining fee of born at Greenwich Palace 1533 and Queen’s House is the last £25,000. Rooms cost fromin£1,280 a night – albeit all-inclusive. remaining part of the palace complex.




Discover our fair isles from the comfort of your armchair

Pot pies were popular at Roman banquets, filled with venison, hare or birds


Mary Berry’s Chicken Pot Pie This recipe, packed with tender chicken and vegetables, makes a great, homely dish. This version is from Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook (£30, DK).

I n g re d i e n t s : S e r ve s 6 1 kg (2 lb) chicken

45 g (1½ oz) butter

1.25 litres (2 pints) chicken stock

45 g (1½ oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

1 onion, quartered

Salt and black pepper

1 celery stalk, thickly sliced

125 g (4 oz) frozen peas

Pared zest and juice of 1 lemon

175 g (6 oz) shortcrust pastry

2 carrots

Beaten egg yolk, for glazing

2 waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters

Method: Put the chicken, stock, onion, celery and lemon zest into a large saucepan. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the carrots and potatoes, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked and the chicken is tender. Remove the vegetables from the liquid and set aside. Leave the chicken to cool in the liquid. Remove the meat from the chicken and cut into bite-sized pieces, discarding the skin and bones. Dice the vegetables. Skim the fat from the cooking liquid, then bring 600ml (1 pint) of the liquid to the boil. Melt the butter in another pan, add the flour and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute. Stir in the hot stock, whisking until it comes to the boil and thickens. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Stir the chicken, diced vegetables, and peas into the sauce, then leave to cool. Pour into a pie dish. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry, then cut out the lid, and fill, cover, and decorate the pie. Glaze the pastry with egg yolk. Bake in a preheated oven at 190°C (170°C fan, Gas 5) for 30 minutes or until the top is crisp and golden brown. Serve hot.



Britain’s Best Small Hills by Phoebe Smith (£14.99, Bradt Travel Guides) Plan a scramble or a day out in the countryside in pursuit of heady views and magnificent sights. Be sure to pack your walking boots Who Built Scotland: A History of the Nation in Twenty-five Buildings by Kathleen Jamie et al (£20, Historic Environment Scotland) Explore the castles, abbeys and glens that shaped Scotland The Country House Library (£45, Yale University Press) Rummage through the crammed bookshelves of the great and the good Entitled: A Critical History of the British Aristocracy by Chris Bryant (£25, Doubleday) Discover the warriors, eccentrics and criminals at the heart of the ruling class Queen Victoria's Matchmaking: The Royal Marriages that Shaped Europe by Deborah Cadbury (£25, Bloomsbury) An intimate and absorbing portrait of the Royal Family






Special group rates available TOURS DEPART DAILY: 10:00 – 15:00




As London’s V&A Museum prepares for a major exhibition, we follow the Winnie-the-Pooh trail in Ashdown Forest WORDS AMANDA HODGES






The enchanting Ashdown Forest Inset: Winnie-the-Pooh, a bear of very little brain but enormous heart





he forest will always be there... and anybody who is friendly with bears can find it.” So AA Milne wrote of Ashdown Forest in The House at Pooh Corner and his words came true for this beautiful corner of East Sussex, which attracts everyone beguiled by the bear “of very little brain” and enormous heart who first appeared in print in the 1920s. This ancient hunting forest is about to come under the spotlight once more as Goodbye Christopher Robin, a major new film charting Pooh’s evolution, is released, followed closely by an exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum examining the partnership between Milne and his illustrator, EH Shepard. Excitingly, the original manuscript of Winnie-the-Pooh, usually held at the Wren Library of Trinity College Cambridge (Milne’s alma mater), will go on display at the V&A for the first time. Ashdown, a peaceful area of open heathland in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, retains all the charm that led Milne, then a Punch humorist and

writer of light drama, to pen his first book on the incorrigible bear with a penchant for honey. The forest, a former royal hunting ground where deer still roam freely, is today divided into woodland and heathland, the latter being the home of many important animal and plant species, including nightjars, Dartford warblers, marsh gentians and three types of heather – plus, of course, indelible traces of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet and Owl. Some fictional pilgrimages span vast areas, but the terrain inhabited by Pooh covers just 10 square miles. Back in 1924 when Milne’s first book of children’s verse When We Were Very Young appeared, he and wife Daphne bought 16th-century Cotchford Farm in Hartfield as their weekend country retreat, a refuge from their Chelsea home in London. Pooh’s popularity would, to Milne’s initial chagrin, soon eclipse his reputation as a successful playwright but Winnie-the-Pooh was still embryonic when they moved

Ashdown Forest retains all the charm that led Milne to pen his first book on the incorrigible bear with a penchant for honey 16



Clockwise, from above: Winnie-the-Pooh's house; Pooh and friends illustrated by EH Shepard; Wrens Warren Valley in Ashdown Forest







Clockwise, from this photo: Pooh Corner gift shop; Christopher Robin, Pooh and Piglet play Poohsticks; Poohsticks Bridge today

EH Shepard drew from life, inspired by the abundant heathland, gorse, bracken and clumps of pine trees in the forest

to Sussex. Genially, Milne wrote in verse to a friend at the time of the house’s purchase: “In Sussex, that enchanted spot I have a little weekend cot Intended, as one might deduce For Saturday to Monday use.” Milne called the sitting room at Cotchford “the most lovely room in the whole world” with French windows leading out onto the lawn. Daphne loved the spacious garden stretching out to the forest where Posingford Bridge crossed a tributary of the River Medway, now known as Pooh – or Poohsticks – Bridge. To reach the forest they had to walk over the old wooden bridge and it was on one excursion that the real-life Christopher Robin (Milne’s son, who was affectionately called ‘Billy’) and his nanny played a game that became known as ‘Poohsticks’: “And that was the beginning of the game called Poohsticks, which Pooh invented, and which he and friends used to play on the edge of the forest. But they played with sticks instead of fir cones because they were easier to mark.” Dismay at the prospect of children’s verse from a popular playwright soon gave way to acclaim with Pooh beginning life as a festive story for The Evening News in 1925 and evolving into a book in 1926. Explaining his inspirations, Milne said Winnie was inspired by a brown bear at London Zoo after a day out when Billy had named a disdainful swan Pooh. “Well, when Edward Bear said he’d like an exciting name all to himself, Christopher Robin said at once that he was Winnie-the-Pooh. And he was.” The Milnes loved the beauty of the surrounding countryside and it was the rural landscape of Ashdown Forest that EH Shepard vividly reflected in his memorable drawings. Shepard drew from life, inspired by the BRITAIN


To find out more about the V&A exhibition, go to

THE PLANNER GETTING THERE Ashurst railway station is the closest station to Hartfield. Trains take 50 minutes and run daily from London Bridge with a short taxi ride to Ashdown Forest. The Ashdown Forest Explorer Bus Service takes passengers from local stations into the heart of the forest.; WHERE TO STAY For a luxury break, Ashdown Park Hotel, four miles from Hartfield, is a 19th-century mansion with a spa and 2 AA-Rosette dining, in the heart of Ashdown Forest. WHERE TO EAT Piglet's Tearoom offers themed cream teas. At nearby Pooh Corner in Hartfield, you can also pick up souvenirs and leaflets with local information. For more substantial fare, try The Dorset Arms on the nearby Buckhurst Estate, an 18th-century real-ale pub, which serves Sunday roasts and also has rooms. pigletstearoom.php; SEE THE EXHIBITION Bone fide fans should head to the Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (9 Dec 2017 to 8 April 2018), which draws together original manuscripts, illustrations and letters. WHEN TO GO Ashdown Forest is always rewarding, but autumn and spring are particularly enjoyable as the colours of the heathlands, woodlands and valleys change dramatically throughout the seasons.

i 20



Above: The Milne and Shepard memorial plaque near Gills Lap

heathland, gorse, bracken and clumps of pine trees, as well as visits to see Christopher Robin Milne (Billy), when he sketched his menagerie of toys, most famously Edward Bear. In 1927, Milne wrote to his brother from Cotchford “we are terribly happy here” and from 1940, Sussex, ever a source of creativity, became the family’s main home and one that soon bore testament to the famous bear. Writer Nancy Spain, who visited in 1945, said: “Everywhere there were relics of Winnie-the-Pooh and Daphne told me there was a first edition of The House at Pooh Corner under the sundial.” One of the best places for embarking on a tour of Pooh locations today is Gills Lap, known as Galleons Lap in the Pooh books. This is a collection of pine trees at the edge of Ashdown Forest and it is Gills Lap that inspired the original ‘enchanted place’ of the books. Milne wrote: “Being enchanted, its floor was not like the floor of the forest, gorse and bracken and heather, but close-set grass, quiet and smooth and green. It was the only place you could sit carelessly, without getting up again... and looking for somewhere else. Sitting there they could see the whole world spread out until it reached the sky, and whatever there was all around the world was with them in Galleons Lap.” Close to Gills Lap is the Milne and Shepard memorial plaque. Christopher Robin said this was the spot where his father would sit, allowing Pooh explorers today to share Milne’s original views of the forest. Right of the memorial is Roo’s Sandy Pit, a disused quarry, while Eeyore’s ‘Sad and Gloomy Place’ is at Wrens Warren Valley. The woodland on the far side of the valley is called Five Hundred Acre Wood, although for Pooh it was the Hundred Acre Wood, mentioned in the story in which Eeyore lost his tail and also when Pooh went to visit Owl, who lived there. Pooh used the same route down into the valley on his “expotition” to the North Pole. As an adult, Christopher Robin wrote: “It is a real forest with giant beech trees, all dark and mysterious. You would need to be a brave explorer to venture into the Five Hundred Acre Wood at night, and I never did.” The magnetism of the whole area remains to this day, an unexpected haven of tranquillity in a busy world that still echoes the final bittersweet image from The House at Pooh Corner: “Wherever they go and whatever happens... in that enchanted place on the top of the forest, a little boy and his bear will always be playing.”  To find out more about the rural attractions of East Sussex, visit




The illustrations featured are from The Art of Winnie-the-Pooh: How EH Shepard Illustrated an Icon, by James Campbell (£25, LOM Art,

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Gentlewoman Rachel Ashford has moved into Ivy Cottage with the two Miss Groves. Together with her one-time love Sir Timothy, she searches for answers to the mysteries hidden within her father’s old books—and is forced to face her true feelings. Meanwhile, her friends Mercy Grove and Jane Bell face their own trials in life and love.

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Underground WONDERLANDS Today we associate grottoes with Santa Claus, but at one time no English country house was complete without one WORDS LAWRENCE ALEXANDER


osts to ancient Greek oracles and playgrounds of Roman emperors, the romantic otherworldliness of man-made caves has delighted us since antiquity. Whether enhanced natural caves or fabricated from scratch, left spartan or spangled with statues, stalactites and stones, grottoes convey mystery, magic and timeless romance. In the late 15th century, the Renaissance dream of a lost, romantic past became even more fabulous when Emperor Nero’s Domus

Aurea (Golden House) was discovered under the Baths of Trajan in Rome. The strange, ruined, underground grotto was a sensation. Everyone wanted a ruined palace in the grounds of their new Palladian-style villa. Young, wealthy men in 17th and 18thcentury Britain were encouraged to complete their education with a Grand Tour around Europe. They brought back ideas of the latest trends in art, architecture and garden structures. Architects with a keen sense of theatre such as Inigo Jones were early

Left to right: The grotto at Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire; the classical river god statue at Stourhead, Wiltshire







adopters of the ‘lost Arcadian paradise’ theme and later, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s, British landscape style simply begged for a grotto to go with the follies, temples and eye-catchers, studded with coral, seaweed, stalactites, seashells and fossils. Unlike the formal exteriors in Europe, British grottoes were intended to look half-ruined and lost, so they might be ‘stumbled upon’ during a stroll in a country park. Sometimes owners got two follies for the price of one. When New Wardour Castle in Wiltshire was built in a grand Palladian style, medieval Old Wardour Castle was left as a ruin. Stone from it was used to create the impressive frontage of a grotto – with the addition of brick, plaster and three standing stones from a local stone circle. Wardour is a classic example of an 18th-century folly – shallow and built from poor-quality materials, but designed to make a big impact from a distance. Follies and grottoes were the closest thing gardens had to a theatre set. Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire boasts one of the most magnificent early grottoes in the land. It was constructed between the late 1620s and 1641 – unusually, not in the garden but as a ‘surprise’ within the main house. With an interior decorated like an underwater cavern, including shell-work cherubs, dolphins and mythological figures, it was designed to sparkle in candlelight. Competing with the sheer array of temples and follies, William Kent’s 1739 grotto in the Elysian Fields at Stowe in Buckinghamshire is often passed over in favour of the stately home’s other garden features. This is partly because it was redesigned 20 years later to appear underground. Lord Temple used it for entertaining, but his guests found it cold and damp. Horace Walpole complained in 1770: “The evening was more than cool, and the destined spot anything but dry. There were not half-lamps enough, and no music but an ancient militia-man who played cruelly on a squeaking tabor and pipe.” He went on to laugh that “instead of tripping lightly to such an Arcadian entertainment, [we] were Clockwise, from top left: Statue of the goddess Sabrina at Croome, Worcestershire; Stourhead, Wiltshire; Croome; the Stowe grotto, Buckinghamshire









*Temporarily closed for refurbishment until 2020



hobbling down by the balustrades, wrapped up in cloaks and greatcoats, for fear of catching cold”. The grotto was recently restored and visitors can now witness that more-than-cool atmosphere for themselves, as a crouching statue of Venus in the room presides over water flowing from a basin below, back out into the river. Henry Flitcroft’s 1748 grotto at Stourhead, Wiltshire, looks from a distance like a pile of rocks. But on descending a set of twisting steps the visitor is deliberately plunged into pitch darkness for a few seconds before going through a Dante-esque ‘rebirth’ into the main chamber towards a rushing sound of water. A magical pool is presided over by the slumbering ‘nymph of the grotto’, lit by a small circular skylight in the domed chamber. Pebbles, flint and volcanic rock from Italy line the cave and a craggy window frames a vista of the sun-drenched lake and temples outside. An ancient river god presides over the exit, his urn gushing water from a hidden stream. One of Capability Brown’s additions at Croome in Worcestershire was the grotto, built in 1765 and recently restored. Like many follies of the time, it was intended to look bigger than it was and placed as an

Above: Old Wardour Castle, Wiltshire Top: About 4.6 million shells line the mysterious Shell Grotto in the suburbs of Margate, Kent

eye-catcher to be reflected in the lake. A large, curving stone screen, it was constructed using limestone, tufa and local rock. At one point, the interior was decorated with tropical shells, coral and semi-precious stones, including ‘Derbyshire petrifications’ and fossils, but visitors couldn’t help prising them off the BRITAIN



BOOK AHEAD Old Wardour Castle Set in the Wiltshire countryside, this ruined castle was once a luxury lakeside residence and the grotto is fronted with stone from the original medieval castle. old-wardour-castle Woburn Abbey This is one of the few surviving grottoes from the 17th century. Designed as an undersea cavern, it is one of the highlights of a visit to the family seat of the Duke of Bedford on the border of Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire. Stowe Once a venue to entertain royal guests of the 2nd Earl Temple, the modest grotto at Stowe in Buckinghamshire has recently been restored and features a statue of Venus in the main central chamber.



Stourhead The intriguing grotto at Stourhead in Wiltshire is shaped like a dome to resemble a cave, and hides a slumbering nymph. Croome The grounds of this Worcestershire country house was the first commission of landscape architect Capability Brown, who also designed its grotto. Calke Abbey This Derbyshire estate is home to one of the later grottoes introduced in England. Shell Grotto An estimated 4.6 million shells line the winding passages of this curious grotto in Margate, Kent.

walls as souvenirs. It was a fate also suffered by Alexander Pope’s grotto in Twickenham, London, once one of the finest in England. Calke Abbey in Derbyshire is one of our most mysterious stately homes. Allowed to decay for decades, it has been conserved but not restored. The grotto was built in 1809 by local architect Samuel Brown. Taking the form of a half-dome, it was embellished with satin spar, galena and quartz. Water cascaded into a pool, echoing themes from Gothic literature. The house and grotto then fell on hard times and, in 2012, gentle conservation began. The entrance was excavated, fallen stones reinstated and the pool dredged enough to allow water to flow once more. As tastes turned to the Gothic, the early 19th-century Romantic movement embraced grottoes in a rush of spooky fervour. The mysterious Shell Grotto lies in the suburbs of Margate in Kent. Its interconnecting underground corridors and chambers are covered in ornate patterns of once brightly coloured seashells. Discovered in 1835, no-one knows how old it might be – estimates range from 200 to 3,000 years, although most experts believe it dates from the 18th or early 19th century. A genuine Gothic horror story involves Catherine Tylney-Long, the young Regency heiress of Wanstead Park in Essex. Her rake of a husband locked her overnight in her own crystal-jewelled grotto and gambled away her fortune. Wanstead House was eventually demolished for building materials to pay off his debts. The grotto is now a genuine ruin. Sadly, as grottoes were constructed relatively cheaply, they didn’t have much staying power, and, as the style was going out of fashion in the late 19th and 20th centuries – the Victorians preferred innovation in plants and planting – many have now been lost. Some grottoes disappeared entirely; others teetered on the brink of destruction, like the magnificent Crystal Grotto at Painshill, Surrey. Built in 1760, it fell into disrepair, along with the landscape garden, during the early and mid 20th century. Yet after an award-winning restoration, this plucky survivor sparkles once again. Fortunately, across the country, this is now a growing trend. It seems we never quite lost our delight in mysterious, magical caverns after all.

 For more hidden treasures of stately homes, go to


Left: The 18th-century Crystal Grotto at Painshill, Surrey, has been recently restored



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Top to bottom: King George III with his wife Queen Charlotte and six of their children; a 1754 portrait by Jean-Etienne Liotard of a 16-year-old Prince of Wales, later King George III

THE KING’S COLLECTION In a final insult, following his execution King Charles I’s beloved art collection was sold off and dispersed across Europe, never to be seen together again...until now WORDS NEIL JONES


hrough the autumn of 1649, much to the wonder of onlookers, carriages from London’s palaces trundled to Somerset House on the Strand. Paintings, statues, carpets, tapestries and other royal trappings were unloaded, labelled with price tags, and put on display. Over the next four years, there was, as historian Jerry Brotton remarks in The Sale of the Late King’s Goods, “the sale of the century”. After nearly 24 years of contentious rule and beset by civil wars, King Charles I had been executed in January 1649. Within days, the new Commonwealth Parliament had announced the sale of his possessions to pay off debts

Above: The ‘Triple Portrait of Charles I’ by Anthony van Dyck, 1635-6

and help finance the navy against possible invasions, particularly from Stuart sympathisers. Thus, one of the most extraordinary and influential art collections ever assembled – Charles had acquired a host of masterpieces by the likes of Titian, Mantegna and Holbein as well as commissioning Van Dyck and Rubens – was scattered across Europe. Although Charles II retrieved many works during the Restoration, others became the core of public collections at places such as the Louvre in Paris and Madrid’s Prado. But from 27 January to 15 April 2018, and for the first time since the 17th century, a stunning exhibition at BRITAIN


London’s Royal Academy of Arts (RA) is reuniting more than 100 of the most important pieces, gathered from diverse museums and the Royal Collection. It is a superb way for the RA to begin its 250th anniversary year, as well as an exciting chance for visitors to experience a trove that changed the appreciation of art in England and gain fresh insights into the character of the notorious king and the tumultuous times in which he lived. Among many glittering stars of the Charles I: King and Collector exhibition will be Van Dyck’s monumental portraits of Charles I and his family, such as The Greate Peece (1632), as well as magnificent equestrian portraits of the king. Many of the images are imbued with tragic glamour in the light of subsequent events. Rubens’ Peace and War (1629–30) may have seemed at first to warn against allowing Anglo-Spanish relations to collapse, but it resonated quite differently as Charles’s reign disintegrated into civil war. And while the king may have imagined affiliation with the power exuded in Mantegna’s series, The Triumphs of Caesar (c. 1484–92), the work would, in due course, be retained in Hampton Court Palace to embellish and legitimise Cromwell’s regime. So how did Charles come to amass his collection, comprising around 1,500 paintings and 500 sculptures, as well as tapestries and other fineries? As Brotton observes in his fascinating study of the subject, “Great paintings always disclose more than their owners or






Clockwise, from far left: The famous Aphrodite (Crouching Venus) sculpture; The Greate Peece was Van Dyck’s first commission as Court Painter to King Charles I; Venus with Mercury and Cupid (‘The School of Love'), by Correggio c.1525; Andrea Mantegna’s, Triumphs of Caesar: The Vase Bearers, c.1484-92



even their makers wish to reveal.” And so the story of the late king’s goods unfolds. It is easy to imagine Charles’s desperation to create an image of authority: he had been a puny prince raised in the shadow of his charismatic older brother Henry, whose death in 1612 put Charles in line to inherit the crown from King James I. An escapade to Madrid in 1623 then opened his eyes to the symbolic power of art and gave him the buying bug. With his crony George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham – both disguised with false beards and calling themselves Jack and Tom Smith – the prince set off to win the hand of the daughter of King Philip III of Spain. The adventure failed on a romantic and political level, but Charles was dazzled by the Habsburg monarchy’s collection of art. Inspired to buy pieces of his own, including paintings by Titian and Veronese, he hastened home and appointed Abraham van der Doort as keeper of his pictures. While his private treasure trove might only be admired by the select few invited into the royal palaces, thanks to Van der Doort’s records we can follow in detail Charles’s efforts to outdo other collectors and connoisseurs close to the Stuart court such as Villiers and the Earl of Arundel. By 1625, Charles was king and had married Henrietta Maria of France, whose own patronage of the arts is also celebrated at next year’s RA exhibition. Now he set about a breathtaking artistic coup, opportunistically chasing the esteemed Gonzaga collection accumulated by the Duke of Mantua, a prize of 16th-century Renaissance paintings. As military and financial troubles beset Mantua – the Italian city fell to Habsburg troops in 1630 – Charles became immersed in the world of

Left: The Royal Academy of Arts Top: Charles brought Rubens to England, where he painted the ceiling of Banqueting House




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unsurprisingly, prevaricated over paying for his precious, if splendid, paintings. At odds with all this unrest, Charles had lured Van Dyck to England and appointed him Principal Painter in Ordinary to their Majesties in 1632. In the ensuing years, the artist created iconic images of the king in equestrian splendour, while his Greate Peece, at more than three metres high, is a towering portrayal of Charles as both powerful ruler and happy family man. The king may only have been 5ft 4in tall and exercised little control over the country, but in Van Dyck’s paintings his magnified majesty projected the lofty aspirations of absolute monarchy. In retrospect, perhaps, his triple portrait of Charles I, for all its aristocratic hauteur, has an air of melancholy that hints at tragedy to come. Meanwhile, Rubens, another artist Charles had brought to work in England, completed his paintings for the ceiling of London’s Banqueting House, extolling the life and wise government of King James I, the first Stuart monarch of England. One wonders what Charles I thought as, fortified by a glass of claret, he cast a last glance at such high-flown glorifications and stepped out of the Banqueting House to the waiting scaffold in 1649. The subsequent sale of the late king’s possessions was an unseemly, botched affair. Everything had a price, though no one quite knew what it should be as agents of foreign princes vied with merchants and veteran soldiers to snap up bargains. While inventoried goods were valued at more than £180,000, only a small proportion of this was ever realised as insider dealing took its toll and paintings were handed out to creditors in lieu of payments. Debts remained, but the symbols of Above: Queen Stuart power had been dismantled or repurposed – agents, spies and double-dealing. Spending a fortune Henrietta Maria with residences used by Cromwell were hung with royal (more than £18,000), he secured a large part of the Sir Jeffrey Hudson, tapestries and The Triumphs of Caesar. Gonzaga collection, including its highlight, Mantegna’s by Van Dyck, 1633 Following Charles II’s restoration in 1660, many The Triumphs of Caesar, and another star of the treasures were reacquired (sometimes forcibly), but the forthcoming RA exhibition, the 2nd-century Roman sale had put great art into the consciousness if not the marble statue Aphrodite or the ‘Crouching Venus’. hands of common people outside royal circles as never It was not necessarily a good time to be sinking money before. The idea of art as commerce also flourished and into art. Influenced by the reckless Buckingham, Charles London’s art market would soon had embroiled the country in costly, become one of the busiest in Europe. ill-fated wars with Spain and France, DID YOU KNOW? It wasn’t the legacy Charles I had for which Parliament had refused to envisaged, but then great paintings grant funds; bickering over authority Many paintings in the first consignment of Mantuan art shipped tell more stories than their owners and religion, Charles had also to Charles were ruined due to a cargo of liquid mercury might like. dissolved Parliament three times splashing onto them. Desperate attempts at restoring them between 1625 and 1629. Then he using milk, alcohol and spit did little to help and the canvases, dismissed it altogether to rule alone including works by Raphael, Tintoretto and Titian, languished  For more details about the Royal (1629-40). He neglected paying on a back staircase in Whitehall Palace. Academy’s Charles I: King and Collector exhibition, see his soldiers and supporters, and,




The sale of the late king’s possessions was a botched affair. Everything had a price, although no one knew what it should be

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ver wondered what it would be like to spend the night in a bedroom fit for royalty? Well, in Britain there’s no need to just dream. Many historic buildings across the country that once accommodated our kings and queens – from rustic coaching inns to medieval manor houses – have not only been faithfully preserved, but have been opened up to the public for hotel stays. Just like in Tudor times, the style and comfort of the bed itself at these retreats is of utmost importance – a display of riches and a source of pride. So dig out those velvet pyjamas (embroidered with the family crest, naturally) and prepare to be pampered. Inverlochy Castle Hotel, set against the drama of Britain’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis, is a spectacular place to start. Queen Victoria loved the Scottish Highlands so much that her cherished Prince Albert built her a home here: Balmoral. In 1873, on her way to this magnificent castle, she spent a relaxing week painting at Inverlochy. She stayed in what is now the Queen’s Suite, an elegant yet unfussy room furnished with an antique writing desk, a chaise longue and a four-poster bed draped in rich red and gold fabrics. Today, the castle presents an authentic imagining of the room as it was then – necessarily so, as the queen brought her own bed, all the way from London. The real joy of this suite, though, is the view: great bay windows look out onto a deeply peaceful landscape, with a boating loch and heather-pink hills beyond. Ask to see the dreamy watercolour Queen Victoria painted from this point and you’ll see the vista remains much the same as it was almost 150 years ago. In fact, you can enjoy a similar holiday to


Clockwise, from top left: Queen Victoria stayed at Inverlochy Castle in the Highlands; the Queen's Suite at the castle; Fawsley Hall in Northamptonshire; the Queen Elizabeth Master Suite at Fawsley. Previous page: The Lady Astor Suite at Cliveden



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Victoria herself – taking in the air in the grounds, indulging in lingering afternoon teas and sampling fresh local fare such as wood pigeon and sea trout at dinner. And make time for a wee dram of whisky by the fire: Queen Victoria was very partial to a drop of Scotch whisky and did much to popularise the drink among the middle classes. During her 63-year reign, Queen Victoria frequented many fine residences. On 14 August 1856, she wrote in her diary: “We saw yesterday one of the loveliest places possible – Endsleigh – the Duke of Bedford’s, about 20 miles from here.” Endsleigh, now a hotel, still features the botanical hand-painted wallpaper Victoria would have admired, perhaps from her bed while enjoying a lie-in. She slept in room 8, which bestows an exceptional view onto the romantic English garden and meandering River Tamar. Victoria also took a liking to what is now the resplendent Lady Astor Suite at Cliveden House in Berkshire, moving herself and 90 staff in for almost two months in 1866. You would need serious savings to do the same: the suite costs from £1,535 per night. To experience some Tudor hospitality with a few contemporary luxuries (who are we to turn down a coffee machine?), venture to Fawsley Hall Hotel & Spa in Northamptonshire. Queen Elizabeth I stayed at the country manor in 1575 – a fact commemorated by the regal-looking sign for the Queen Elizabeth Master Suite. Elizabeth liked to visit her courtiers’ rural estates during the summer when her own homes were undergoing their annual clean and various nasty diseases were rife Above: Queen Victoria in the capital. On this occasion, the queen was moved into Cliveden in entertained by Sir Richard Knightley, whose Berkshire for two months in 1866, bringing 90 staff Below: Victoria described Endsleigh in Devon in her diary as ‘one of the loveliest places possible'




Top: Stay in the Charles I Suite at The Lygon Arms Above: The king assembled his supporters here during the English Civil War

BOOK AHEAD Inverlochy Castle Hotel Queen Victoria checked into this Highland retreat for a restful week of painting. Fawsley Hall Hotel & Spa This country manor in Northamptonshire was visited by Queen Elizabeth I in 1575. fawsleyhall The Lygon Arms The golden Cotswold stone of this 14th-century Worcestershire coaching inn belies its thunderous past as host to leaders of opposing sides in the English Civil War.

Cliveden House & Spa Queen Victoria liked this luxurious house in Berkshire so much that she moved in for a while, with a huge entourage. The Westleton Crown This unassuming hotel in Suffolk welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge when they attended a friend’s wedding nearby. Hotel Endsleigh Room eight at this idyllic Devon hideaway still has the pretty hand-painted wallpaper from when Queen Victoria stayed in the 1850s.

devotion as a royal subject proved questionable years later when he was imprisoned for printing Puritan materials. Elizabeth was a fastidious guest, always sending her royal harbinger ahead to check the property was suitable before she arrived. If it was found wanting – perhaps the floors hadn’t been polished adequately – she would go elsewhere. So Sir Richard would have gone to tremendous personal expense, organising lavish banquets and stimulating entertainment, to welcome ‘Good Queen Bess’ and her 300 carts full of gowns and jewels, plus her state bed adorned with golden ostrich feathers. It wasn’t all feasting, fireworks and fun, though. Elizabeth also turned her attention to work while she was away and dished out knighthoods to two of Richard’s sons during her visit. You might prefer to switch off completely, however, and treat yourself to a soak in your rolltop bathtub or take an afternoon nap in your intricately carved four-poster, with its heavenly cashmere mattress. At newly renovated coaching inn The Lygon Arms in the Cotswolds, you can glimpse a more rambunctious royal history. In 1649, the inn found itself at the heart of the English Civil War – the bitter conflict between Parliamentarians (Roundheads) and Royalists (Cavaliers). The hotel’s Charles I Suite, with its exposed timber beams and a rocking chair in which you could spend hours whiling away the time, is not where the king slept – he had too much on his mind for that, but where he assembled his supporters ahead of battle. On his royal coat of arms, above the fireplace, the lion’s face is missing, probably chopped off by angry Parliamentarians – because in 1651, at the end of the war, the inn hosted the other side. Take a peek at The Oliver Cromwell Room, which is where leading Parliamentarian Oliver Cromwell stayed the night before the Battle of Worcester. It is now used for meetings – let’s hope more cordial ones than those in the 17th century. In the years since, the hotel has also hosted King Edward VII, and his grandson (who would briefly become King Edward VIII before abdicating to marry Wallis Simpson), the Duke of Edinburgh, and other glamorous guests, including Hollywood royalty Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Finally, at The Westleton Crown in Suffolk you can take comfort in the knowledge that today’s royals are a more down-to-earth bunch than their ancestors. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge checked into the pub, which dates back to the 12th century, when they were in town for a friend’s wedding in 2012 – on their own first wedding anniversary. They stayed in the £180-a-night Swan bedroom, named after the photograph on the wall behind the – yes, you guessed it – four-poster bed. By all accounts they conducted themselves like any other guests, even tucking into a Full English breakfast in the morning. No golden ostrich feathers here.  For more amazing places to stay, visit




Both King Charles I and Oliver Cromwell stopped at the Lygon Arms at points during the English Civil War

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A group of Islands located close to the South West shores of England. Offering the best beaches in England, first class family run hotels, bed and breakfast accommodations and self-catering. Booking early is recommended as many accommodations are pre-booked well in advance. Prepco Travel™ – Members of the Islands Partnership


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e’ve teamed up with the luxury boutique hotel, Northcote, located in Lancashire’s Ribble Valley, to offer one lucky winner and their guest the chance to win a two-night stay, plus dinner on one night in the Michelin-starred restaurant. The winner and their guest will stay in a superior room and will be treated to breakfast on both mornings, plus a five-course dinner on one evening in the hotel’s restaurant, which has held a Michelin star for 20 years. Founded in 1983, Northcote is an oasis of gastronomic excellence that alongside its restaurant also boasts an interactive cookery school and chef’s table, a kitchen garden and a carefully curated wine cellar filled with award-winning and unique wines. In September 2016, Northcote was named Hotel of the Year: England in the AA Hospitality Awards and in April 2017 it was named Hotel of the Year at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence. Rooms are divided between the original manor house, which dates back to 1880, and the new Garden Lodge, situated in Northcote’s gardens. The Garden Lodge has eight luxurious and spacious rooms, including the impressive master suite, which has enviable views across the beautiful Ribble Valley.

Each year Northcote hosts an 18-night gastronomic event called Obsession, which sees outstanding guest chefs travelling here from all over the world to produce a unique Obsession Menu, which guests are invited to try. Previous events have included three-Michelin star Japanese chef Hideaki Matsuo, Simon Rogan, Angela Hartnett, Brett Graham, Tom Sellers, and Ken Hom OBE. The next Obsession event will take place from 18 January to 4 Feb 2018. TERMS AND CONDITIONS

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Gothic architecture dominated western Europe from the late 12th century until the 16th century and Britain offers some of the most awe-inspiring cathedrals in this style WORDS CAROL DAVIS






Above: The intricate fan vaulting at Canterbury Right: Wells Cathedral is considered the first English cathedral to be built fully in the Gothic style Previous page: York Minster



s the setting sun illuminates the West Door of York Minster, the fine stone carvings covering the pointed arches simply glow. But the best is yet to come: as you step inside you’ll need to catch your breath as the splendour of the nave with its elegant stone columns soaring towards arching vaulting and gold bosses reveals itself. This is Gothic architecture – the aspirational style that flourished in Europe during the Middle Ages, developing from Romanesque architecture. The Gothic style is exemplified by pointed arches reaching to lofty ribbed vaults, and flying buttresses seemingly suspended in thin air. Light and airy with gables, pinnacles, rose windows and shimmering stained glass in brilliant colours, as well as fabulous stone statues, Gothic is a feast for the senses. In the 12th century, master masons built magnificent cathedrals in the new Gothic style, visible for miles, replacing stone-built structures that had grown around simple timber chapels many centuries earlier. The term ‘Gothic architecture’ (coined much later) was derogatory at first: the 16th-century Italian writer Giorgio Vasari referred to it as “the barbarous German style” in his Lives of the Artists, which charted the development of Renaissance art. But before Vasari’s scathing review, this style prospered in England for four centuries. The West Door of York Minster is the beginning of a journey from west to east in the cathedral, telling the

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Top to bottom: The interior is a testament to the Earls’ classical connoisseurship; the huge dome is the house’s crowning glory

The house has been in the Howard family for more than 300 years




story of salvation and inspiring visitors along the way. Take in the glorious Kings’ Screen and stern row of English monarchs before stepping through to the quire where choristers’ voices sing out to the heavens above. Finally, gaze up at the Great East Window, which depicts both the Creation and the Apocalypse. The pointed and lancet windows of York Minster comprise over half of England’s medieval stained glass, and as dusk falls the light shines out through the plate tracery surrounding the Heart of Yorkshire window through the West Door. Couples who kiss under the Heart of Yorkshire, locals say, will stay together for ever. Gothic architecture arrived in England in the late 12th century, following the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December 1170. As Becket was preparing for vespers, four of King Henry II’s knights burst through the cloister door and stabbed him to death with their swords. Canterbury quickly became a place of pilgrimage as followers flocked to Becket’s tomb, and many miracles were reported. Two years after his murder, Becket was canonised. When fire destroyed the quire and apse four years later, renowned architect William of Sens travelled from France to rebuild the quire in Gothic fashion, its stone vaults transporting visitors’ gaze to breathtaking heights. Today the fan vaulting around the crossing tower at Bell Harry (which came later) is simply spectacular. Sadly, William of Sens was badly injured when he fell from altar scaffolding, and died in 1180. But his work




The Heart of Yorkshire window is said to bring good luck to lovers Right: York Minster’s Kings’ Screen

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Visit one of the best Christmas Markets in Europe with over 100 traditional chalets, skate on the spectacular covered Ice Rink, and explore Christmas traditions past and present in the majestic Winchester Cathedral.

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CATHEDRALS was done and the rib vaulting was soon emulated to impressive effect in Durham Cathedral, while the fan vaulting was echoed centuries later at King’s College Chapel in Cambridge. Indeed, Gothic architecture rose skywards in every corner of the land. “The medieval cathedral is the most spectacular and lasting accomplishment of the English people,” believes Simon Jenkins, author of England’s Cathedrals. “They remain what they were a thousand years ago, the closest England comes to sublime.” Wells Cathedral in Somerset has a stunning 13th-century west front covered with beautiful carved figures, despite suffering damage during the Monmouth Rebellion of the 17th century. In the hushed interior, capitals are adorned with figurative carvings: fruit thieves in an orchard while the farmer beats them with his fork, a lizard slithering up a leafy corbel. Rich detail adorns the misericords, which were provided as an act of mercy for weary clerics to perch upon: parakeets sitting in a pine tree, a couple enjoying a jug of wine, a boy pulling a thorn from his foot. And in the spectacular chapter house, with its 51 niches for seating the gathered clergy, a central column and overarching vault resemble a palm tree reaching for the skies. Medieval cathedrals are on a truly spectacular scale, dwarfing all around them. Winchester Cathedral, which has the longest nave and is longer than any Gothic cathedral in Europe, is supported by sturdy flying

Winchester Cathedral is the longest Gothic cathedral in Europe Above: Wells Cathedral, in Somerset



Inspirational home of the Brontë family Set against the stunning Yorkshire moors, the Brontë Parsonage Museum houses the world’s largest collection of Brontë manuscripts, furniture and personal possessions. The museum runs an exciting programme of events, exhibitions and family activities throughout the year.

Mansions in the Sky A new exhibition curated by Simon Armitage to mark the bicentenary of Branwell Brontë. For full details of this and other 2017 events, please visit

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With its pointed arches and elegant stairways reaching high above the city, the neo-Gothic cathedral dominates the Liverpool skyline

The neo-Gothic Cathedral Church of Christ is a magnificent homage to the past



have survived rebellion, war, vandalism and the Reformation, and although the Gothic style fell out of favour during the Renaissance, later centuries prized and restored the ambitious architecture of the Middle Ages, with the Gothic Revival beginning in the late 1740s in England. For a startling example of how this medieval style influences British architecture today, pay a visit to Liverpool, where the skyline is dominated by the 20th-century neo-Gothic cathedral of the Cathedral Church of Christ. Built between 1904 and 1978, with pointed arches and elegant stairways reaching high above the city, it is a wonderful homage to the magnificent architecture that shaped the medieval world and proof that it is still a style close to Britain’s heart.


buttresses. Its High Altar has a gloriously ornate 15th-century stone screen, although the painted statues adorning the niches were destroyed in the Reformation. Westminster Abbey, in the heart of London, draws more than a million visitors a year, who delight at the architectural quirks of the 900-year-old building at every turn. It has also been the setting of every Coronation since 1066. Meanwhile, Glasgow Cathedral is a beautiful example of Scottish Gothic architecture and is one of the few medieval churches in Scotland to have survived the Reformation unroofed. Many of the impossible glories of medieval architecture are at the heart of Gothic cathedrals. At Ely, near Cambridge, the central octagon and lantern are suspended at improbable heights after a tower collapsed in 1322; the octagon that replaced it is striking. And in the massive Chester Cathedral, the superb oak carving of the stalls is topped with delicate canopies. Britain’s great cathedrals

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Join us in York for a week-long celebration of all things Viking

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Aphra Behn

In her lifetime Aphra Behn was arguably a more successful playwright than Shakespeare, but following her death she was overshadowed by men and virtually forgotten about WORDS HARRY CUNNINGHAM


ost of us are familiar with the plays of Shakespeare, Marlowe and perhaps Ben Jonson. But few people outside of literary circles have heard of Aphra Behn, even though she was equally if not more successful than her male predecessors. While Behn’s lines might not be as well known as those of the Bard, they deserve just as much attention. “That perfect tranquillity of life which is no where to be found but in retreat, a faithful friend, and a good library,” she wrote in her novel, The Lucky Mistake. Behn’s life is cloaked in mystery and intrigue. Though she always hinted that she came from a wealthy and successful family, it is now believed that Behn was born Eaffrey Johnson in December 1640 in a village near Canterbury to a barber and the daughter of a trader. The 1640s was a time of great political upheaval, dominated by the English Civil War, when more than a decade of bitter recriminations between Parliament and King Charles I came to a head. In her later works, we can see how Behn sided with the Royalists and the newly emerging Tory (Conservative) movement. Her play, The Roundheads, a farce set in the closing days of the Commonwealth, satirises the rival Whigs (Liberals) as being out of touch and self-indulgent, while The Feigned Courtesans dangerously pokes subtle fun at the Popish Plot – an elaborate plan allegedly by Jesuits to kill the king and replace him with his Catholic brother, which turned out to be a hoax. With anti-Catholic hysteria in Britain at an all-time high, many believed the plot was no laughing matter. Behn’s politics may have stemmed from personal experience. Before the Restoration of the Monarchy, she may well have worked for Charles II as a spy. There is evidence she knew Charles’s courtier and we know that later in her career she worked as a government agent in Antwerp.

It is also believed – though we cannot be sure – that Behn arrived in Suriname, South America, in 1663 with her family, by which time her father Bartholomew is presumed to have died. Her time there must have inspired her narrative Oroonoko. Not a play but more of an early novel, it follows the title character, an African Prince who is cast across the Atlantic into slavery by his grandfather. Behn explores the horror and brutality of slavery, and elicits sympathy for Oroonoko by portraying him as a fully rounded character. If Behn did indeed visit Suriname, then she would have seen slavery firsthand (though as a Tory she may well have been pro-slavery, believing it helped stimulate the economy of the Empire). Some have speculated that this is not a novel at all but an account of her time abroad. In 1664, Behn married, but by 1669 she is referred to as a widow. The freedom that widowhood gave Behn back in England – since she was no longer subordinate to a husband or her father – enabled her to become one of the first female writers to make a living. She earned money through her bawdy plays, which often poked fun at the sexual aspirations of many of her outlandish characters and revolved around a mischievous trick or misunderstanding. Her debut stage play, The Forc’d Marriage, first performed in 1670, centred on Erminia who is forced to marry a man she does not love by her father and the king. Her true love is a prince whose sister is in love with the man Erminia is forced to marry. Behn’s other plays include The Rover, her most successful play. Produced in two parts, its cast members included none other than Nell Gwyn, mistress of King Charles II. Following her death in 1689, Behn was accorded the highest accolade of any writer and was buried in Westminster Abbey.



 Next month: We chart the life and achievements of Elizabethan sea captain and privateer Sir Francis Drake


Before the Restoration of the Monarchy, she may well have worked for Charles II as a spy


Behn, painted by Peter Lely, was one of the first paid female writers in Britain








Gossip, intrigue and scandal lie behind one of Bath's most iconic landmarks, which turns 250 this year WORDS LAURA SILVERMAN





n the late 1700s, the Royal Crescent in Bath was the place to be seen. “In the season, on a Sunday, it is crowded with fashionables of every rank,” observed the writer Pierce Egan. “With the addition of the splendid barouche [a horse-drawn carriage], dashing curricle [another type of horse-drawn carriage], elegant tandem [two horses], gentlemen on horseback [more horses]... the Royal Crescent strongly reminds the spectator of Hyde Park, Rotten Row [the bridle path in Hyde Park] and Kensington Gardens.” Before long, Jane Austen, who lived in the city in the early 1800s, would have the Thorpe and Allen families in her novel, Northanger Abbey, “hasten(ing) away to the Crescent, to breathe the fresh air of better company”. The Grade I listed Crescent, which was the first of its kind in Europe, is just as magnificent today. The vision of Sir John Wood the Elder, it was built by his son, John Wood the Younger. Work began in 1767 and took seven years, which is no time at all given its palatial proportions. The Crescent is 150 metres long, 15 metres high and punctuated by 114 Ionic columns. The Woods wanted it to look like a grand country estate, with views of Royal Victoria Park. The stretch has ‘Queen Anne fronts and Mary-Anne backs’: the 30 houses look almost identical face on, but are really a mix of shapes. Each initial buyer used their own architect to construct their home. The uniform appearance hasn’t always been followed. In 1972, there was uproar from the council and preservation trust when Amabel Wellesley-Colley, of No. 22, painted her door primrose yellow. Wellesley-Colley protested by sunbathing on the balcony in a bikini to match. After a long legal battle, she won her case. She no longer lives there, but the yellow door remains – in defiance. Wellesley-Colley is not the only one to have caused a stir in the Crescent’s history. More scandalous, certainly

during the late 1700s, were the romantic escapades at No. 11. Thomas Linley, the composer, was trying to marry off his daughter, a beautiful young singer. After Elizabeth declined her father’s match – a landowner, 44 years her senior – she was pursued by a married family friend. One night, she ran away in despair. The plan, apparently, was for her friend Richard Brinsley Sheridan to take her to a convent in France, but they fell in love en route and married, underage and in secret, in Calais. It was not a happy union. Sheridan, who went on to write popular plays The Rivals and The School for Scandal, worried that Elizabeth’s singing career would ruin his reputation. Elizabeth then died aged 37 of tuberculosis. Other residents of the Crescent led equally eventful lives. Marie Thérèse Louise of Savoy, the Princesse de Lamballe and a confidant of Marie Antoinette, stayed at No. 1 in 1792 while she tried to persuade British nobility to support the French monarchy during the French Revolution. Shortly after her return to France, she was murdered by revolutionaries. The resident of No. 8 also came to a violent end. Jean Baptiste, Vicomte du Barre, loved to host card parties. One night, in the late 1700s, a dispute over prize money got out of hand and he was killed in a duel on nearby Claverton Down. These were fateful times. Modern visitors can sneak inside a couple of houses without such miserable risks. No. 1 Royal Crescent, once home to Henry Sandford, a retired Irish MP, has been furnished to its Georgian splendour and is now a museum. Nos. 15 and 16 are the Royal Crescent Hotel. With its elegant architecture and colourful history, Pierce Egan would no doubt agree that the Crescent is now somewhere to see and be seen. No horse required.  For more on the World Heritage City of Bath and what to do while you are there, visit


The grand drawing room at No 1. Royal Crescent has been restored to its former Georgian splendour



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We explore the villages of the Peak District, which inspired both Charlotte Brontë and Jane Austen WORDS SALLY COFFEY



Just one of the stunning views of the Peak District. Inset: Charlotte BrontĂŤ (left) and Jane Austen




he natural beauty of the Peak District, a bucolic region of central England that mostly falls in Derbyshire, is hard to deny. Its landscape is punctuated by steep valleys, dramatic ridges and moorland plateaus, all of which led to it being named Britain’s first National Park in 1951. There are two distinct areas of the park: the green valleys and limestone caves of the White Peak and the wilder heather-clad, weather-beaten open spaces of the Dark Peak – the very backdrop that Charlotte Brontë described in her seminal novel, Jane Eyre. Brontë stayed in the Peak District village of Hathersage when writing Jane Eyre, and North Lees Hall, an Elizabethan manor house just outside the village, is said to have been her inspiration for Thornfield Hall. Incidentally, Eyre is a local name – North Lees Hall was even built by a Robert Eyre of Highlow. Brontë stayed at the vicarage in Hathersage as a guest of her friend Ellen Nussey and letters revealed she modelled



the village of Morton in Jane Eyre on Hathersage. Today it is a popular gateway to the beautiful Hope Valley, while film lovers use it as a staging post to the rock at Stanage Edge – the longest inland cliff face in the country – that Keira Knightley stood on, looking out across the land, in an iconic scene from the 2005 film adaptation of Pride & Prejudice. It’s not for the fainthearted, though: as stunning as it is, the landscape is unforgiving and the actress had to be strapped on for her scene. From the pretty village of Castleton in the Hope Valley, you can visit four incredible caverns: Speedwell, Treak Cliff, Peak and Blue John. The last one is famous for the gemstone found there, which is unique to the Peak District. Many local shops stock jewellery made with it. Further south, the village of Eyam was the location of one of the biggest acts of self-sacrifice the world has ever seen. In 1666, the village, which had been ravaged by the plague, sealed itself off, stemming the spread of the disease. The plague had arrived in the village the

Clockwise, from above: Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice; pretty cottages of Hathersage; North Lees Hall was the inspiration for Thornfield Hall ; glorious views over the millstones under Stanage Edge




The dramatic landscape is unforgiving – Keira Knightley had to be strapped on for her iconic scene



Beautiful views

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Weddings & Events Windy Harbour Restaurant is situated in a rural location just outside Glossop, in Derbyshire. Offering spectacular views over the Woodhead and Longdendale we are in an unrivalled position on the edge of the Peak District. We offer you a warm welcome, delicious home cooked food, cask ales a well stocked bar serving speciality cask ales. Our twin and double en-suite rooms are all individually furnished. You can choose from bed and breakfast or dinner, bed and breakfast. We serve evening meals and lunches in the Harbour restaurant and afternoon teas in the garden during the spring and summer. Woodhead Road, Glossop, Derbyshire SK13 7QE United Kingdom | +44 (0)1457 853107 |

A new and exclusive property set in historic grounds offering 5* accommodation. Exceptional comfort and style, with panoramic views over the Derwent Mills World Heritage Site. Situated close to the historic mill town of Belper it is a perfect base for exploring the many treasures of the Peak District and convenient for visiting Derby and Nottingham.

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RURAL BRITAIN Left: View from Monsal Head Below: One of the modest ‘plague cottages’ in Eyam


The Armillary Court and Well Court Gardens at Snowshill Manor

previous year, supposedly in a bale of cloth all the way from London that had been inhabited by diseased fleas. As residents began perishing, the village’s new rector, together with his predecessor, convinced villagers to stay put and sacrifice their own lives to prevent the disease spreading to other villages and towns. In total, 260 villagers died, but thousands of other people were saved. The heroic actions of the people of Eyam are remembered in the three ‘plague cottages’ that remain by the church. Each of the modest stone cottages has a plaque recording how many people died – one woman was the sole survivor of her household, having lost 25 relatives in total. Also in the village is Eyam Hall, a Jacobean house now looked after by the National Trust, and a useful place for booking tours of the area. The hall itself, which was built just six years after the plague, is also worth a visit. Built from Derbyshire gritstone, it is a beautiful example of a 17th-century manor house and its English walled garden is delightful – in summer bright clusters of pink roses climb the walls of the building, while rose archways frame the pathway. A little outside Eyam you can visit the viewpoint at Monsal Head, which provides a stunning vista of Monsal Dale below. The Headstone Viaduct that you see here is a remnant of the disused Midland Railway line and this now forms part of a popular cycling, walking and horse-riding trail that weaves through old tunnels between Chee Dale and Bakewell. One of the old railway stations, Hassop, has even been restored into a popular pit stop and is a great place to rest for lunch. For a slice of English rural life, it doesn’t get much better than Ashford in the Water where they play cricket in whites on Sunday and chickens run around in the garden of the tea shop. One of the cottages even has its own chapel, while the village shop is a great place to pick up local delicacies



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Hawthorn Farm Bed and Breakfast is a 16th Century Grade II listed Farmhouse full of character. Being one of the oldest buildings in Buxton, originally owned by the Duke of Devonshire now has only its fifth owner. All rooms benefit from free Wi-Fi, free on-site parking and easy walking distance to the bars and restaurants in Buxton Lavender Cottage is part of a converted barn at Hawthorn Farm. The cottage offers self catering accommodation, which comprises of two double bedrooms and one double/twin room all with their own en-suite’s.

Stay & Play – Buxton & High Peak Golf Club have teamed up, why not select Hawthorn Farm as your Stay & Play choice? Please visit or call us on 01298 23230 to check availability and prices. 70 BRITAIN


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Above: The autumn colours in Ashford in the Water are simply beautiful Top: Colourful well dressing in Tissington

such as Hartington cheese and Thornbridge beer. The village, which is almost inconceivably pretty, is best known for its Sheepwash Bridge, whose name alludes to an old spring tradition that is resurrected each year during the town’s well-dressing festivities. During the custom of sheepwashing, lambs were placed in a pen on one side of the river and the ewes would swim across the water to reach them with the farmers scrubbing their fleeces as they went. The idea was that clean wool would fetch more money. Well dressing is a tradition peculiar to Derbyshire and takes place in Peak District villages between May and September. It’s a custom of using local flowers, seeds and other natural materials to decorate wells and springs, and

may have been started by the Romans or Celts to thank the gods for the water. You can’t go to the Peak District without visiting the market town of Bakewell, home to the famous Bakewell pudding. It was at the Rutland Arms (then the White Horse Inn) where the legendary pudding was first created. Apparently, it was the result of a misunderstanding between the mistress of the inn and her cook. The story goes that some guests ordered strawberry tart and rather than stirring the egg mixture into the pastry, the cook spread it on top of the jam. The result was so popular that the wife of a local chandler obtained the recipe and began selling the puddings from what is now The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop. Today a visit here is almost obligatory – you can even book a class and learn how to make your own Bakewell pudding. Bakewell is also an excellent base for visiting the stately home of Chatsworth House and we’re not the first to think so: some say that Jane Austen stayed in the Rutland Arms when she was writing Pride and Prejudice, although others say she stayed at Haddon Hall. Whatever the truth, Pemberley is most certainly based on Chatsworth and Bakewell was portrayed as Lambton in the book. Haddon Hall, near the village of Rowsley, is a striking medieval manor house, which lay dormant for 200 years until it was restored in the 1920s by the 9th Duke and Duchess of Rutland. This year marks 30 years since the release of The Princess Bride, which was filmed here, while fans of Charlotte Brontë can also enjoy strolling performances BRITAIN



RURAL BRITAIN Read our full review of The Peacock at Rowsley at peacock

THE PLANNER GETTING THERE The main gateway train stations for the Derbyshire Peak District are Chesterfield, Derby and Buxton. From the last two stations, the Transpeak bus route takes in many of the region’s pretty villages.; transpeak-service WHERE TO EAT Refuel along the Monsal Trail at the Hassop Station Café, housed in a former train station, which is open from 9am to 5pm as well as evenings in summer. The menu includes cooked breakfasts, salads, sandwiches and local pork pies.

Above: Haddon Hall is a striking medieval manor house Bottom: The owner of Tissington Hall will show you around

of Jane Eyre – a nod to the fact that two of the film adaptations and one of the TV series was filmed here. If you’re looking for somewhere to lay your head, then The Peacock at Rowsley, which dates from 1652, is a splendid Grade II listed boutique hotel that was once the dower house for Haddon Hall. Finally, at the southern edge of the Peak District is Tissington – a village that has been managed by the FitzHerbert family since the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Central to the village is the Jacobean manor house of Tissington Hall and, as well as self-guided visits, you can book on to a personal tour with the current owner Sir Richard FitzHerbert. If you ever wanted to meet a member of the aristocracy and hear firsthand about living in a historic home, then this is your chance.  For more Peak District inspiration, visit

WHERE TO STAY For more refined fare, the award-winning restaurant at Fischer's Baslow Hall, a sumptuous country house hotel, celebrates the best in British produce. After dinner, retire to one of the luxury rooms or suites, many of which have garden views from their mullioned windows. WALKING ADVENTURES If you want to explore Britain’s first national park on foot but don’t know where to begin, book a private tour with experienced guide Cath Lee who can draw upon her wealth of experience to devise the perfect walk for you.

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The Peacock at Rowsley Part of the esteemed Haddon Hall estate, The Peacock serves as an idyllic base for exploring the Peak District. Offering fifteen uniquely styled bedrooms, from cosy single rooms to a luxurious suite, an award winning fine dining restaurant and wonderfully atmospheric bar, with fine wines, local real ales and a cocktail menu. Step on to o r inta e trains from yesteryear and tra el thro h the ea tif l r ral o ntryside  llman ffet at ir sworth Station n train dinin pre oo only   se m oa h, iniat re Railway, Gift Shops and more… ir sworth Station, oldwell Street, er yshire,

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Ashbourne Self Catering Holiday cottages in the Derbyshire Peak District National Park. We offer a selection of 6 cottages ranging from 1 bedroom sleeping 2 to 3 bedroom sleeping 6 these can be booked in any combination sleeping a maximum of 40 persons. The quiet rural location is central to all the Derbyshire / Staffordshire Peak District has to offer. From Chatsworth house to Alton Towers ideal location to explore the Peak District. With Dovedale and the stepping stones only 3 miles. Paddock House Farm Holiday Cottage is centrally located to visit all the Peak District Market Towns of Ashboure, Buxton, Leek, Matlock and Bakewell famous for its Bakewell puddings. All cottages are fully equipped with Dish washers cookers microwave fridge freezers lounge TV DVD bathrooms and showers all you will need for a short break or a week’s holiday we are open all year. Paddock House Farm Holiday Cottages Peak District National Park, Alstonefield, Ashbourne, Derbyshire DE6 2FT T: 01335 310282 | M: 07977 569618 | E: paddockhousefarm


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Unique Bed and Breakfast and Self Catering Accommodation In Llangurig, Mid-Wales

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Fully furnished glamping pods in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, close to the renowned Wye Valley. A full size en-suite and cooking facilities make these ecopods a unique experience. Caplor Farm, Fownhope, Hereford, HR1 4PT, Tel. 01432 860644 Find us on AirBnB or Pitch - Just search for Caplor Farm 74 BRITAIN

We offer a warm welcome to visitors from all over the world to our unique Arts and Crafts Bed and Breakfast and our Distinct Self Catering & Holiday Cottages in Llangurig, Near Llanidloes, Mid Wales The Clochfaen is ideally situated for anglers wanting to fish the upper Wye. The Clochfaen is set in 20 acres of private woodland. This little explored area of the Wye Valley in Llangurig offers superb opportunities for fishing, and excellent walking and cycling tours. We’re only a stones throw away from the picturesque Market Town of Llanidloes!

For bookings and/or further information call : Tel: 01686 440687 (International Tel: +44 (0)1686 440687) or email: or visit: The Clochfaen, Llangurig, Near Llanidloes, Powys SY18 6RP



Browse the shelves of the open-air bookshop in the grounds of Hay Castle Below: The pretty streets are lined with shops selling more books and antiques



ocated at the northernmost point of the Brecon Beacons and to the east of the Black Mountains, the little Marches town of Hay-on-Wye would have been hard pushed to have found a prettier location. But the endearing town, which has become something of a mecca for bibliophiles all over the world, hasn’t always been a place of such quiet reflection. The magnificent Hay Castle has loomed over the narrow streets for more than 800 years – a reminder of the unrest that this border town has experienced throughout its history. The castle was built around 1200 AD by William de Braose, a Norman Lord known as the ‘Ogre of Abergavenny’, and his fearsome wife Maud de Braose, or Moll Walbee to the Welsh. Some believed Maud was a supernatural being. Local legend has it that she built the castle single-handedly one night,

With dozens of book and antiques shops, cosy pubs and riverside walks, this Welsh town takes life at a leisurely pace WORDS SIOBHAN DOWD

carrying stones in her apron. When one fell out, she threw it with such force that it landed across the River Wye in St Meilig’s churchyard, Llowes. The ancient cross carved into a standing stone inside the church is supposedly the discarded stone. The position of Hay Castle, close to the Welsh/English border, meant that it was attacked by everyone, from Welsh patriots to English barons and reigning monarchs. In 1231, it was even burned down by Llywelyn the Great before being rebuilt by King Henry III. By the early 17th century, however, relative peace had descended and a Jacobean mansion was added. Yet 800 years of turmoil have taken their toll on the medieval stronghold and the castle is currently closed for refurbishment. Visitors can still stroll around its grounds or buy a book from its open-air BRITAIN


You really are spoiled for choice when it comes to bookshops in Hay Below: The Swan at Hay is housed in an elegant Georgian coaching inn

bookshop, which has been a town fixture since the 1960s – just remember to leave a pound in the honesty box. Books, of course, are what attracts most people to Hay-on-Wye. It has been known as the ‘Town of Books’ since the 1970s – a nickname that was cemented when Peter Florence launched the Hay Festival in 1988, funding the first event with winnings from a poker game. The Hay Festival, held each May and June, is a highlight of the literary calendar, attracting about 80,000 visitors worldwide over 10 days – not bad considering the first event attracted just 200 people. Writers, editors and casual readers descend on the town to listen to a packed programme of talks and readings, and to share their love of



THE PLANNER GETTING THERE The closest train station if you're coming from the English side is Hereford. There are regular trains from London Euston and Paddington with one change. A regular bus runs from Hereford station to Hay-on-Wye. WHERE TO STAY The Swan at Hay is an elegant Georgian hotel in the centre of town with a highly-rated restaurant. Further afield, Mad Dogs & Vintage Vans offers boutique glamping in the Wye Valley.;



brilliant ideas and great writing. There are around 25 bookshops in the small town of Hay and with so much choice, which ones do you choose? Hay Cinema Bookshop can be found opposite The Swan at Hay (incidentally, an excellent hotel and restaurant with a fabulous Welsh menu for when you’ve exhausted yourself browsing). There are three floors of books, with rows and rows of shelves, as well as nooks and crevices stuffed to bursting. Most books are secondhand, and with an apparently erratic labelling system instead of a central database, the fun is in chancing upon old treasures. Also of note are The Poetry Bookshop – possibly the UK’s only bookshop wholly devoted to poetry – where you can find a host of first editions and rare books, and Richard Booth’s Bookshop. Booth, the self-proclaimed ‘King of Hay’ opened his first shop in 1962 and many credit him with turning the little-known town into a literary destination. Recently renovated, his flagship shop now has an adjoining cinema and a café, but the main attraction is still the three floors of books crammed onto wooden shelves, covering every possible area of interest. When it comes to browsing in Hay, it’s not all about books either. The market, which has been trading for more than 700 years, is held in the centre of town every Thursday from 8am to mid afternoon and sells everything from local produce to furniture. Antiques and curiosity shops also abound. The Old Electric Shop specialises in wonderfully quirky homeware and lighting, while Mostly Maps lives up to its name, selling dozens of charming antique maps and topographical prints, as well as the odd artwork. Make the most of the location with a riverside walk beside the Wye, which stretches all the way from the Cambrian Mountains to the Severn Estuary. There are many pretty picnic and fishing spots along its banks, and dawdling is recommended. For the more adventurous, Hay Bluff – a nearby hill – has several walking routes, so you can decide between a quick amble or an all-day hike. Or, of course, you could simply find a cosy corner – a well-worn armchair or a snug in a pub –and settle down for a read of one of your new books. No one would blame you for that.


Read our full review of The Swan at Hay at swanhay


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Nestled on the northern edge of the Forest of Dean, centrally located in the small market town of Ross-on-Wye, Raglan House is a charming Grade II listed Queen Anne building. Situated less than 18 miles from Gloucester, Raglan House also offers easy access to the Norman medieval Goodrich Castle, just 4 miles away. Each room features an en-suite bathroom with bath and shower, free Wi-Fi, and tea/coffee making facilities. Breakfast is served daily and it is a choice of a Full English or continental option.

17 Broad Street, Ross on Wye, HR9 7EA, United Kingdom Tel: 01989 564666

Rosedale Retreat B&B Cusop Dingle, Hay-on-Wye HR3 5RF

At Canoe Hire Wales we are able to offer the opportunity to paddle upper section of the beautiful river Wye. Our instructors will provide you with buoyancy aid and paddle, a river map, offer some tints and tips on paddling skills and even collect you by minibus at the end of your river trip and bring you back to your check in point. Hire sessions available are; A Five mile river trip – AM or PM A 10 Mile river trip - 9.30am to 4.30 Two to Five day river trips are also available with overnight camps or B&B options depending on your preference. Also available: Canoe & Kayak Courses and Gift Vouchers

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Rosedale is situated in the picturesque Cusop Dingle. Just a few minutes walk from Hay-On-Wye on the Offa’s Dyke footpath.

Rosedale Retreat nestles between the Magic Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons National Parks. Adrian & Karen Finley Tel: +44 (0)1497 821831/+44 (0)7582 798826 Email: Twitter: @RosedaleBnBHay Facebook: /RosedaleRetreat BRITAIN 77

The Great English Outdoors aims to be different selling the beautiful and unusual: Tailored Clothing and Wool Wear, Handmade Leather Work, World Textiles and Old Welsh Blankets and Ethical Objects for the House and Garden

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Kentchurch Butlers Hand painted and crafted in Devon, England...

The Swan at Hay Hotel is an independent 4 Star hotel just moments from the bustling centre of the world renowned 'Town of Books', Hay-on-Wye, on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park. A beautiful listed Georgian building, with 19 comfortable en-suite bedrooms, it is a wonderful location for short breaks, weddings and visiting the Hay Literary Festival. For further information visit: T: +44 (0)1497 821 188 E: @swanhay 78 BRITAIN



These delightful wooden side-tables are fun pieces of furniture to rest your drinks etc on. Standing 38� high, their sturdy trays are 25� above ground, an ideal height to place your favourite tipple when resting on your sofa after a hard day eventing. Perfect also for that birthday, wedding, anniversary or retirement present. Jockeys can be painted in your own silks and soldiers in your regiments. To see over 50 models and to order, visit our website. +44 (0)1803 732 933



Sing Song Merrily

Christmas carols are now as integral to festive celebrations as mistletoe and mulled wine, but what are the British origins of this tradition of good cheer? WORDS NEIL JONES


baby in a manger, angels, shepherds, holly and ivy, figgy pudding and a partridge in a pear tree – our Christmas carols conjure up a bewildering diversity of scenes. And while their messages leap from peace and goodwill to boisterous demands for food, the tunes and tempo switch from churchy reverence to the hoarse strains of frosty street corners. While purists might argue the difference between Christmas hymns and carols, most people treat

them simply as different ingredients in a rich seasonal tradition that has become our soundtrack to midwinter magic. Pagan worship, the Christian Nativity, medieval banqueting, scandalous dancing, pious poets, covert rebels – all have helped to shape the British carol. The earliest use of the word ‘carol’ in English denoted a round dance and had nothing to do with Christmas. The tune of Ding Dong Merrily on High is just one example of an enduring connection with the world of BRITAIN




toe-tapping tunes, having been published in a 16th-century French manual to accompany a vigorous dance performed by “lackeys and serving wenches”. English clergyman, George Ratcliffe Woodward, who added verses, spotted its jolly potential centuries later and it appeared in The Cambridge Carol-Book in 1924. We can look to medieval mystery plays for early religious carols, including Lully, Lulla, Thow Littel Tyne Child, sung by the women of Bethlehem to hush their children while hiding them from Herod’s murderous soldiers. Also known as ‘The Coventry Carol’, it featured in The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors, part of a cycle of mystery plays performed around Coventry’s streets. In other medieval religious carols we find Mary popularly identified with the rose (Ther is No Rose of Swych Vertu), but also Nativity figures portrayed as ordinary folk: encouraging the common man to understand the stories told, including ‘doubting Joseph’ carols expressing a husband’s concern over the paternity of his wife’s child. Carols were not necessarily linked to the Nativity, however, and any season could be celebrated. Many provided entertainment at banquets and it is no coincidence that the first printed collection of carols, from the press of Wynkyn de Worde in 1521, included The Boar’s Head Carol, which opens with the line “The boar’s head in hand bring I”. It has been claimed that boar’s head feasts hark back to the Norse midwinter custom of making sacrifices to the goddess of fertility Freyja, which points us also to the liberal mingling of Pagan and Christian motifs in carols. ‘Magical’ evergreens such as holly and ivy with their promise of life even in darkest winter embellished the festival of Saturnalia long before they were assimilated into the Christmas canon. During and after the Reformation, carol singing in churches was curbed

(Calvinist factions saw Christmas as a Popish abuse) and under Puritan rule Christmas was banned as part of an assault on saints’ days and church ritual. Celebrations returned with the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, but it was only when poet laureate Nahum Tate’s While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night was included in the 1700 Supplement to the New Version of the Psalms of David that a Christmas hymn was formally permitted to be sung in Anglican services. While Shepherds has since been set to dozens of different tunes, the sheer simplicity and cheerfulness of its lyrics guaranteeing perennial popularity. Outside of churches, carolling became part of wassailing traditions – from the Anglo-Saxon ‘waes hael’ meaning ‘be healthy’ or ‘good cheer’. Visiting singers were thought to bring good luck to the households of gentlefolk when, carrying a wassail bowl of hot, spiced ale or wine, they shared a drink with their host and were sent on their way with money or gifts. We Wish You a Merry Christmas with its demands for figgy pudding is an heir of such ‘luck visit’ practices, although the unfortunate singer who regaled Scrooge with God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was made to flee in terror. Indeed, we have Dickens and the Victorians to thank for a golden age of carolling as they revived and reinvented the ‘olde English’ Christmas customs we enjoy to this day. Already in the 18th century, a swell in congregational hymn singing in church, influenced by the growth of Methodism, was giving carols and carol writing fresh impetus. Then folk song collectors such as Cecil Sharp began to write down and tidy up the age-old verses they heard sung in villages and country lanes. Some of our best-loved carols stem from these times, including Once in Royal David’s City, which sends tingles down the spine of listeners around the world when it is broadcast from King’s College Chapel,

Clockwise from left: Carol singers offer their hosts a drink of hot, spiced ale or wine from the wassail bowl; Ely Cathedral Girls’ Choir; carol singing has become a joyful Christmas tradition; Methodist Charles Wesley wrote ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’





Visiting carol singers were thought to bring good luck to the households of gentlefolk




Few places are better to hear Christmas carols than St Paul's Cathedral




CAROL CONCERTS 2017 St Martin-in-the-Fields, London Concerts in this Georgian Anglican church – the Royal Family’s parish church – are legendary. St Martin, in London’s Trafalgar Square (above), has a strong musical tradition and throughout December it will host a series of concerts, from family carols by candlelight to performances of Handel’s Messiah. All proceeds go to supporting the church’s work helping young and homeless people in the capital.

Haddon Hall, Derbyshire This Christmas, step back in time at this stunning Tudor country house (below) as some of the most striking historic rooms are decorated to represent different carols. Against a backdrop of roaring fires, twinkling lights and festive garlands, visitors can see (and hear) interpretations of classic carols such as In the Bleak Midwinter and The Holly and Ivy as well as join in candlelit tours and browse the artisan market.


St Paul’s Cathedral, London What could be more memorable than singing carols beneath the famous dome of St Paul’s (left)? The carol services in December (as well as Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve) are open to the public, with seats allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Be warned though, queues do form early. Check the website for dates.

Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens, Northumberland Enjoy a Victorian singalong in the library of this country house, modelled on the classical temples of Ancient Greece, on 9 or 10 December. This year marks 200 years since its owners, the Middleton family, added the hall to the existing medieval castle. belsay-hall-castle-and-gardens

Cambridge, at the beginning of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols each Christmas Eve. Irish poet, hymn-writer and bishop’s wife Cecil Frances Alexander penned the captivating piece for her Hymns for Little Children in 1848 after she overheard her godchildren complaining about the dreariness of the catechism. Married to Henry John Gauntlett’s uplifting tune, it has been inspiring generations ever since. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is another resounding favourite at carol services, though its creators might be appalled at what it sounds like now. Hymn-writer and Methodist Charles Wesley actually wrote ‘Hark, how all the welkin [heaven] rings, Glory to the King of kings’ for Hymns and Sacred Poems in 1739 and would have frowned on subsequent editorial tinkering (goodness knows what he would have made of the version composed during the 1936 abdication crisis: ‘Hark the herald angels sing, Mrs Simpson’s pinched our King’). Wesley also requested slow, solemn accompaniments to his work – quite unlike Felix Mendelssohn’s energetic tune that many sing Hark to today. Mendelssohn completed his score in 1840 for 400th anniversary celebrations of Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press; categorically stating “it will never do to sacred words”. None of this stopped singer, organist and musical antiquarian WH Cummings combining text and music in the 1850s to produce another classic. The tangled story behind the music and lyrics of O Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles) is even more curious, with the most fascinating theories inspired by sleuthing in the 1940s by Benedictine monk Dom John Stephan from Buckfast Abbey, Devon. The original Latin words have been widely attributed, but significant modern manuscripts are traced to John Francis Wade, an 18th-century Catholic working in exile as a scribe in the French abbey of Douai. The claim is that under Wade’s influence the hymn became a coded plea to Catholics (the ‘faithful’) to support the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 and reinstate Stuart kings to England (Bethlehem). The music, incidentally, seems to be related to an air anglois playing in a Parisian comic opera. Arguments that The Twelve Days of Christmas was a covert way to help young Catholics remember the catechism (a partridge in a pear tree as Christ; two turtle doves for Old and New Testament, and so on) are now roundly dismissed. It appeared in the children’s book Mirth without Mischief in 1780 and is more likely a harmless memory and forfeits party game of French origin, channelling seasonal gift-giving motifs. Whatever the stories behind our carols, they provide a suitable chord on which to wish all BRITAIN readers a very merry Christmas.

 For more on British Christmas traditions, go to BRITAIN



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For a truly memorable day or stay, be sure to enjoy the magical beauty of this famous haunt. Rest and refresh yourself at La Sablonnerie Hotel and Tea Gardens, where a delicious Gourmet Luncheon or a superb Sark Cream Tea is served in this idyllic setting. Also, dine romantically by candlelight in the 16th Century restaurant, renowned for its excellent cuisine. The hotel is highly recommended by leading hotel guides for its comfort and good food. Own horses and carriages for hire. La Sablonnerie was recently highlighted by the hotel guide Which? as “The place to stay in the Channel Islands”. For further details and reservations call Elizabeth Perrée on (01481) 832061 or Fax (01481) 832408 Don’t leave the Channel Islands without visiting Sark and Little Sark. ‘It will be an experience that will live with you forever’.


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ambridge is the very definition of a university town. The old colleges shape the layout of the historic centre: their fronts line the main streets, their backs trace the River Cam. There are plenty of bookshops. There are even more bicycles. But this isn’t just any university. Founded in 1209, Cambridge is the second oldest in the English-speaking world (after Oxford), while many of the colleges could pass for stately homes or palaces (King’s was even built by King Henry VI). Away from academia, the museums and gardens are world-class, while punting on the River Cam has an unrivalled romance, especially when someone else is holding the pole.

Top: The Mathematical Bridge is one of the city’s most photographed sights Bottom: The Fitzwilliam Museum is home to over half a million works of art




Perhaps it is only fair to acknowledge that life existed in Cambridge before the university. The Romans established the settlement of Duroliponte around Castle Hill, and the area gained further status during medieval times when King Henry I gave it a town charter. Then a gaggle of Oxford scholars arrived. They had fallen out with the Oxford townsfolk and decided to establish an off-shoot of their university here. Today, there is gentle competition between Oxford and Cambridge, as shown in the Boat Race each spring (each one refers to their rival as ‘The Other Place’). Each of the 31 Cambridge colleges has a distinct feel: expect students and alumni to feel loyal to their own one. Peterhouse is the oldest existing college, having been established in 1284, although King’s, Trinity and St John’s attract more visitors



Clockwise from above: Trinity College; the First Court Lawn of Christ’s College; the Wren Library; browse the variety of shops along Rose Crescent


Cambridge: cut-out-and-go guide

Cambridge is 50 miles northeast of London. Direct trains from London King’s Cross and London Liverpool Street take about an hour. Aim for Cambridge station rather than Cambridge North. London Stansted Airport takes 30 minutes by train. Getting around Locals cycle. From the station, Citi buses 1, 3 and 7 go into town. WHERE TO STAY

The Varsity Hotel & Spa is in the prime spot: nestled on the banks of the River Cam, it is the closest hotel to the old colleges. Admire the city from the roof terrace bar. For a cosier option, head to Duke House, the former home of the current Duke of Gloucester. The five rooms are luxuriously furnished. Look out for Georgie, the Miniature Schnauzer, and Sox, the cat. Take up residence at a serviced apartment run by Tailored Stays. Your kitchen will even be stocked with local produce. WHERE TO EAT

Trinity – the younger sister of Varsity, the oldest restaurant in Cambridge – opened in spring and has garnered consistent praise for its modern British-European menu. Celebrating? They also serve oysters and Champagne A favourite of EM Forster and Rupert Brooke, The Orchard in Grantchester, a two-mile walk

or punt away, serves old-fashioned cream tea. Stop for fish and chips, and a pint at The Eagle. The 16th-century pub was a favourite with James Watson and Francis Crick, the scientists who discovered the structure of DNA. WHAT TO DO

Let a student or graduate show you around with Cambridge Alumni Tours (www. Trinity, King’s and St John’s also run their own tours. Just don’t step on the lawns – a privilege reserved for fellows. There are nine university museums. Fitzwilliam is the largest (; its displays range from Roman antiquities to Picasso and Matisse. Kettle’s Yard ( is renowned for contemporary work from Barbara Hepworth to Alfred Wallis, and will reopen next year following a makeover. Visitors with a quest for adventure can go in search of a giant elk at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences (www. and Captain Scott’s snow goggles at the Scott Polar Research Institute (www. Weather permitting, head outdoors to the 40-acre Botanic Garden. Even the most avid gardener might be hard-pushed to name all the plant species – there are 8,000 of them If it’s still dry, trundle down the River Cam with Scudamore’s, the oldest punt-hire company in the city ( BRITAIN





Cambridge: cut-out-and-go guide

Clockwise from above: King’s College; Queen’s College; look out for historic figures throughout the city. Bottom right: The dining room at Wimpole

READ Between Two Worlds by Jeremy Musson (Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers, £29.95): this beautifully illustrated coffee table book explores the architecture of Emmanuel College.



Cambridge University Press bookshop sales manager, Alastair Lynn It’s a cliché that I resisted for years, but cycling around Cambridge is a joy. Biking alongside the river on Midsummer Common on a sunny day is hard to beat. There are more museums in Cambridge than you could possibly visit in a day and all within a short walk of one another. Not to be overlooked is the exhibition space within the University Library, which will particularly appeal to book lovers. However, I often go to one of the smaller museums, the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, as I have a dinosaur-mad son. Lunch at Michaelhouse Café offers great food in a redeveloped church and is conveniently situated just a few doors down from my bookshop. The area around Mill Road has the best pubs, with the Devonshire Arms and the Cambridge Blue both offering a great selection of real ales.


EXPLORE Wimpole Estate, the largest house in Cambridgeshire. The 2,500-country estate, eight miles southwest of Cambridge, comprises a 17th-century mansion, plus a Capability Brown-designed garden and parkland. It was once owned by Elsie Bainbridge, the daughter of writer Rudyard Kipling.

Live like a local


SHOP at David’s bookshop (www. for a treasured first edition or Peter Crabbe Antiques (3 Pembroke Street) to make your fortune. Fitzbillies ( bakes the stickiest Chelsea buns. The Chocolate Guinness cake at Afternoon Tease is hard to resist (

because they are a fraction closer to the centre and a little larger. They are all suitably old, being built between the 13th and early 16th centuries. If you want a new college, Robinson was founded in the shockingly modern year of 1977. As well as admiring the architecture and praying for brilliant Cambridge intellect by osmosis (alumni range from William Wordsworth to Sir Ian McKellen), the colleges have other delights. The Fellows’ Garden at Clare offers two acres of hot-colour borders, a pond garden, a scent garden and a sub-tropical garden. Jesus College has an impressive permanent collection of sculptures, including a bronze horse by Barry Flanagan galloping in a courtyard and a naked man by Antony Gormley in the library (it is tasteful). Trinity has the Wren Library, where you can pore over Isaac Newton’s notebook and admire the original manuscript of Winnie-thePooh (see our Sussex feature on pages 14-20). Finally, King’s College has the Gothic splendour of its chapel, where Oliver Cromwell trained his crew of Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. This is best appreciated by attending choral evensong (Monday-Saturday 5.30pm and Sunday at 3.30pm).

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Mysterious Merlin

Best known for his links to Arthurian legend, the earliest mentions of the wizard Merlin date back to the 6th century One of the most enigmatic figures in British folklore, Merlin’s history is as tangled as his beard. Many of the earliest tales in which he features are in old Welsh from a time when Britain was made up of small kingdoms. When the Cumbrian King Gwenddoleu was killed during the Battle of Arfderydd at Arthuret in 573, his warrior-bard, Myrddin Wyllt, went mad with grief. He ran into the forest where he became a ‘wild man’ and made prophecies. The medieval Black Book of Carmarthen says his only friends were an apple tree and a pig. Later, an 8th-century monk called Nennius wrote of King Vortigern’s attempts to build a castle near Mount Snowdon. The tower kept collapsing. Vortigern’s magicians told him to sprinkle the site with the blood of a young boy born without a father. A lad called Ambrosius was found but avoided the sacrifice by explaining why the tower was collapsing: two dragons, one red, one white, were fighting below the earth, undermining the castle’s foundations. Geoffrey of Monmouth’s book, The Prophecies of Merlin, written in about 1135, took Myrddin the Wild Man, Ambrosius the Seer and other folk characters to create Merlinus Ambrosius. He shoehorned the visionary into The History of the Kings of Britain and The Life of Merlin, where he mentioned his resting place as Avalon. Geoffrey’s Merlin appears whenever something supernatural or strange happens. The dragon story is retold, set in Carmarthen, and explains that the



red and white dragons represent the Saxons and the British. Merlin arranges a liaison between Uther Pendragon and the wife of the King of Cornwall that will end in the birth of King Arthur. He moves Stonehenge to Salisbury Plain from its original home in Ireland and acquires a sister, Ganieda. Writers such as Gerald of Wales, Robert de Boron and Thomas Malory used Merlin when they wanted to solve plot problems. Merlin discovers the elixir of life, arranges the sword in the stone, creates the Round Table and tells Arthur about the Holy Grail. A legend sprang up that he would appear whenever trouble was brewing in Britain. Merlin’s popularity waned under Henry VIII – a priest was executed in 1535 for preaching from The Prophecies of Merlin – but Queen Elizabeth I’s magician, John Dee, was a fan and started a new craze. For Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Merlin represents the ‘old ways’, even though his Merlin is hoodwinked by a young witch, Vivien, into revealing his secrets only to have her trap him in mists. Some say Merlin’s mists lie in the legendary forest of Brocéliande in France. An ancient standing stone in Brittany is supposedly his tomb. Others disagree. After all, everyone knows the great magician remains with Arthur in Avalon, waiting for the hour of Britain’s greatest need.

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