Saturday, January 17, 2015

King of the Castle

Hi Kids,
     To the right is a map of the United Kingdom (sometimes called Great Britain) -- ask your teacher to show you where it is on the world map.  Miss Elaine's daughter Zoe lives way down toward the left corner of the map.  Can you see the small green arrow?  That is pointing to Penzance in the county of Cornwall in England.
      The little yellow lump on the left is the country of Wales.  It's not very large -- less than half the size of Massachusetts and about the size of the Oklahoma panhandle plus the two contiguous (I love that word -- it means "next to" something) counties.
      Miss Zoe, Miss Elaine, Mr. Jack and I drove to Wales.  Actually, Miss Zoe did all the driving.  In the U.K (short for United Kingdom) everybody drives on the left side of the road, which is very confusing for people used to driving on the right.
     Wales may be a small country but it is packed with fantastic scenery, things to do and CASTLES.  There are 641 castles in Wales.  They are very old. I don't think anybody lives in them any more -- at least not in the ones we visited!

Can you see me in the picture above?  I look very small in front of the huge gateway into the Cardiff Castle grounds.  The castle is surrounded by a huge wall.

This is part of the wall.  There are cool animals on top of it.  I like this proud lion.  Beside him is the Clock Tower.  There is a lot of space within the castle walls.  The actual castle is very small.

     This is the real castle.  It is very old.  Originally there was a Roman fort on the site.  Later some people called Normans invaded Britain and built a wooden castle here but it didn't last and they replaced it with this stone one about 800 years ago.  The castle has been repaired so you can walk into some of the rooms but no one could live here.  About 150 years ago a very rich man bought the castle property.  There was a medieval (about 500 years old) house built into the wall on one side.

 He it restored and decorated like he thought a medieval castle would have looked.  Below is the banqueting hall -- much bigger than a regular dining room.

     The fanciest room in his house is called the Arab Room because he thought an Arabian palace might look like this.  The ceiling is covered with real gold.

     Zoe's favorite thing was seeing the falconry exhibit.  She got to hold this four-pound eagle owl named Hector.  Miss Elaine wanted to take my picture with him but I didn't want to get too close.  Do you see those talons?

          Below is a picture of Castle Coch.  It was almost a total ruin until the family that bought Cardiff Castle bought it and fixed it up.  It is one of many castles built by King Edward I of England.  He wanted to control the people in the area so he built castles all across the land and stationed his soldiers there to keep order.

     Cerreg Cennen Castle is another of Edward I's castles.  As you can see, no one has restored it.  The hilltop location gave the soldiers a good view of any approaching enemies.  Long before Edward got here, the Romans had built a fort on this site for the same reason.

The day we visited, it was drizzly and chilly.  My fur was getting damp and Miss Elaine was cold and didn't want to climb that big hill so Miss Zoe took the camera and took pictures while the rest of us stayed inside and drank hot tea!

The largest castle we saw was in the northern part of the country at Caernarfon.  It's not the biggest castle in Wales but probably the most important and has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It was here in1282 that the son of Edward I was born -- the first English Prince of Wales.  

     The castle's location by the River Seiont gave the King easy access to the sea.  Here's a view from inside the castle.

     This is another of Edward's castles, Beaumaris, on the island of Anglesey.  It, too, had easy access to the ocean.  This is me by the moat.

     A little over a hundred years after it was built, it was captured and held by Welsh soldiers of Owain Glyndwr, who held it for two years before the English recaptured it.  Owain Gwyndwr was the most important leader for the independence of Wales and he is still a hero there today.  He's kind of their George Washington, except Wales is still a part of the United Kingdom instead of an independent nation.

     In olden days there was a heavy wooden grill that could be lowered over the entrance.  The castle was also protected by murder holes where soldiers inside could pour boiling oil down on anyone trying to break in.  Arrow slits were built so that archers could shoot out but it would be very difficult for anyone to shoot in.
Conwy Castle was the last castle we visited -- we only have 635 more to go!  Here is a drawing of the castle:

     By now, Miss Elaine and I were a little tired of castles.  We went inside but didn't spend much time there.  I did pose with a large wooden sculpture called "The Guard".  Can you see me on his lap?

     The castle is built into a wall which surrounds the whole city.  This is part of the wall near where many of King Edward's most important helpers worked.  Do you see those little boxy-looking pieces that stick out of the wall?  Those are toilets the king built for his men.  Plumbing was very different in those days -- just a bench with a hole in it.  Watch out below!

     After we toured the castle, we went to dinner.  When we came out, it had rained and the sun was coming out.  The sun was going down but just hit the top of the castle.  Don't you think this is pretty?


No comments: