From Rushock I headed a bit south to Hereford to spend the night. I'd heard that the Magna Carta (1215) was on display in the cathedral so I had to go look. Also there is the Hereford mappa mundi. Both were in a darkened room, behind glass. No photos allowed but I did sneak one of the Magna Carta while the official guard, I mean guide, wasn't looking. Terrible photo though. The document itself is quite small. Nevertheless, it's probably the most important document in the history of constitutional government.
There's a lot of renovation work going on at this cathedral: scaffolding everywhere. While that's inconvenient for photography it's excellent to know that the old places are being cared for.
From Hereford I headed into Wales for a couple of days. Cymru to the locals. I think that translates as "cold." ;) Beautiful countryside though.
I based myself at Aberystwyth on the central coast for a couple of days.
There are plenty of castles in Wales - built mostly by Edward I during his campaigns to subdue the Welsh princes and add Wales to his empire. I checked out three of them: Aberystwyth, Harlech and Caenarfon. The first is little more than a ruin, just a few broken towers and such like. Lovely setting though, overlooking the Irish Sea. I must say though, it's a very chilly wind that comes in off that sea!
The remains of Harlech are more substantial. It's a concentric castle, ie., it has two sets of defensive walls. The inner walls in such castles are always much higher than the outer walls so that defenders can shoot from both walls without fear of the outer guys getting an arrow in the back from the inner wall guys. I climbed the spiral staircase in one tower and the view from the top was pretty nice. Between the castle and the sea is now a golf course.
Harlech itself is a smallish village/town. Most buildings are built out of dark grey stone - that seems to be the standard material in the Welsh areas I saw. I found it a bit depressing to be honest. Houses in Irish towns are often painted in different colours which is much more cheery to look at.
I stopped in at the pub in Harlech for a coffee to try to warm up. There was a real coal fire burning away. I haven't seen a proper coal fire in decades. Like everyone else I've spoken to in the UK and Ireland, the publican knew someone in Australia so we had a bit of a chat. One interesting thing she said was that it was cheaper for her to buy her lamb from Australia than to buy the local produce. Bit sad for Welsh farmers.
I also had a quick look at Caenarfon castle, further north. This is where the Prince of Wales is invested. I mainly wanted to have a look because I have vague memories of a family holiday there way back in the Dark Ages. I know there's an old photograph somewhere of either Peter or Paula, or maybe both, sitting on the cannon in the castle grounds. So, of course, I took a pic of the cannon.
One of the main reasons for going to Wales was to try to find the cottage of Bron Yr Aur - where Jimmy Page and Robert Plant stayed (1970 I think) to write most of the material for Led Zeppelin III. I got as far as the bottom of the road that leads to the cottage. There's a sign at the bottom saying "Road not suitable for motors". I thought about trying to drive up anyway but decided against it - what if I got the car stuck and couldn't get down, etc etc. I also thought about walking up but it's a very very steep hill. Eventually I decided it wasn't worth risking a heart attack for the sake of a photograph. Bummer.
So, instead, I went for a drive up though Snowdonia National Park to Yr Wyddfa, Mt Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales. It was bloody cold up there (average temp at the top is 2.5C) but the views were worth it.
I think Snowdon might be the inspiration for Misty Mountain Hop.
So, from Wales I headed back to Liverpool, where I am now. I've had a yucky cold all this week so have done bugger all. On Monday, however, I'm heading south to the Cotswolds - got 6 nights booked in a B&B in Chipping Campden. I plan on doing several day trips - Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, Blenheim Palace, Bath, etc. Should be good!
Right then, I think I'm finally caught up.
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