England Sightseeing National
Skomar Island (England)
Skomar Island Last year my husband and I went up to Northumberland and wanted to go and see the puffins on the Farne Islands but it was the wrong season. We put it aside and thought we try again this year. It was them my husband remembered that there were puffins found on Skomar so we changed our destination to South Wales and ... created a new itinerary for this trip.
Now it is possible to take boat tips that take you around the Island and don't land but we wanted to actually go onto Skomar and there is only one comany that do sailings that allow you to land and stay on the island. Interestingly we saw a news item about two weeks before we went on our trip saying that this boat had sunk on one crossing but there was no loss of life so it didn't make big headlines!
This company sails from "Martin's Haven daily at 10am, 11am and 12 noon (29th March 31st October) No Landings on Monday (except Bank Holidays) Island is Closed 14th, 15th & 16thth May 2013 Extra Round Island Cruises will be available on these days from 10.00am.
During peak periods additional crossings may be scheduled.
Adults £11.00 - Under 16's £7.00 (no Advanced booking)
Landing fee of £10 for Adults, £9 for senior citizens & £5 for students"
That information is taken directly from their website
We had virtually decided not to bother going to Martin's Haven as the weather was very rainy and windy and they don't sail if the weather is bad. We tried one of the other companies to see if they were sailing and some were so we took a punt and drove all the way to Martin's Haven. This was a long way along narrow single lane traffic lanes. Heaven only knows what this is like in the peak season as you might spend you time reversing long distances.
You can't book this crossing prior to the day. So you can turn up at 8am and book for a sailing later in the day and sometimes at 8 am you are booking for the midday sailing as it is first come first served. You are then left with a dilemma - what do you do in those few hours as it is about an hour to get anywhere from Martin's Haven. Fortunately this didn't happen to us as there were twenty places on the next sailing which was five minutes away from when we arrived!
I think the company should have an office somewhere before the single lane roads and take the bookings there. That way only people booked on the small ferry will be driving down there rather than lots of frustrated, disappointed people who have failed to get onto any sailing.
THE BOAT AND SAILING
Once you have bought your ticket and been checked in you make your way to the small jetty, via the toilets as there are none on the boat and the only ones on the island are a mile inland.
The tiny little boat arrives and you board. To me this looked like a small fishing boat. It is licensed to carry fifty plus passengers and on the way over we had about twenty on board and thought it was full. There was a wooden bench round the back of the boat to sit on. In the centre of this small area was a couple of sealed boxes and inside these were the life jackets and the life raft .
Once we set sail one of the crew gave a very casual demonstration of the lifejackets.I thought of how careful they had been in the relatively calm and warm water around the Galapagos islands EVERY time we went on the zodiacs we had lifejackets on and kept them on until we got off the zodiacs. Here on a very choppy crossing on a pretty small boat we would have to wait for the crew to find the life jackets in these boxes before being thrown into a very cold sea. I did n't like our chances to be honest.
On the way back it was first come first on for the return sailing as so we got ther half an hour early and already there was a queue. They packed on the full load going back and people were everywhere packed and seated on these boxes holding the rafts and jackets. If the crew had had to get at them the people had no where to go. I really am amazed that they are licensed to carry that many as it seemed quite unsafe to me.
The crossing was quite pleasant on the way over and took about fifteen minutes. We saw sea birds of various types and one gull flew alongside the boat until the captain threw him a bit of something. He caught us on the return trip too. The return journey was less pleasant as the sea was choppier, the boat was packed and to top it off the rain was coming down hard and cold and there was no cover to the boat.
When you arrive the first thing you are greeted with are lots of steps upwards. Once you reach the top you are greeted by one of the volunteer naturalists and given a bit of a quick guide to the island. Although it is not that large it takes some time to actually walk around the entire island. We had just under three hours and in our view we were there to see the puffins so that was first on our agenda.
You could walk around the coast via trails or make your way across the centre to the old farm with its overnight accommodation, picnic area and the toilets and head on from there. We realised there was no way we were going to make it all around the island in the time we had as we wanted to spend time with the puffins and take photos etc. We decided to head towards where the puffins were nesting which was sort of slightly cutting off the corner then heading for the coast.
We were so lucky with the time we visited Skomar as the red campions and blue bells were in full flower and looked like carpets of pink and blue on the hills. That was a bonus for us as we had no idea that there were beautiful wild flowers in such abundance.
It took us about forty five minutes walking pretty fast to reach the coast although we did stop for photos of the flowers at various points. We also stopped once we reached the coast to watch the other sea birds and a few little puffins.
We wandered on and I am so glad we did as we came to the real puffin nesting area. There was another volunteer naturalist there ensuring that no one did anything they should not to the little puffins. You had to be very careful as they were small and quite happy to walk around your feet, they hid in the undergrowth and you might find yourself walking on one accidentally if you left the path.
It was like being back on the Galapagos islands as these cute little birds were quite unconcerned by all the people around them. They looked at us, crossed over the path in front and behind us and came right up to us. You obviously had to respect their distances yourself but they could come to you. You were not allowed to touch them but I think they would have moved off if you tried anyway.
We spent about half an hour here watching these gorgeous little creatures cleaning themselves, building nests, cleaning nests, flirting with each other, making their way to the edge of the cliff and flying off and even swimming in the sea a long way below us.
We realised we were running a bit short on time and needed to use the toilet and have our snack that we had brought with us. It was about another forty minutes across to the farm and we walked quite fast but again did stop for photos a few times.
The farm was exactly that an old farm which had fallen into disrepair. The barns have been converted into basic self catering accommodation for visitors and the volunteers stay here for a couple of weeks at a time. There is no shop, no food and no drinking water on the island so everything you need has to be brought with you and the volunteers get their provisions brought over by the little boats as it makes its way back and forth with visitors.
The pinic room was one of the farmhouse rooms with a new glass roof covering it. There were a couple of covered areas with tables and benches. In these rooms there were information notices for you to learn about the farm in its prime and the island generally as well as the animals found there.
The toilets were long drop toilets and the antibacterial gel was there for hand washing as there was no water. I am not sure I would fancy a night there and I salute the volunteers for their dedication staying there for that long. I bet it gets really cold in winter too. There is some basic cooking facility but it is basic in the extreme.
Having had our snack and used the long drop we then decided, as we wanted to be on the 3 o'clock boat to make our way back to the landing jetty. It was about twenty minutes walk from the farm to the jetty.
We were a bit early but we were not the first there. We amused ourselves by chatting to other visitors and watching the seabirds swimming and flying around. Other more expert visitors were able to name the various birds so I learned quite a lot while we were there waiting.
It just started to rain as we were queuing. I was not really very appropriately dressed as my husband and I had a slight misunderstanding re my thicker coat. I thought he had put it in the car and I added my leather coat as I thought an extra coat. It turned out to be my only coat so I was a little chilly at times despite layering up under it. I did have good walking shoes and they are certainly needed as some of the places are quite rocky and uneven. The steps onto and out of the boat can also be steep and quite slippery when wet so you do have to be quite sure footed getting on and off the little boat especially if the sea is choppy.
If you think you might like to see these lovely little puffins then check the times as I believe late May and June and the best times and they were a bit late this year. This seems to be the best time to go as you also get the bluebells and red campions in flower. The boats don't sail in winter nor if the weather in inclement so you have to check on the day which is annoying.
I absolutely loved the few hours we spent on the island and if the weather had been nicer I would have been happy to spend longer. In the rain it is less pleasant as there is virtually no shelter. You also have to take any drinks and food you might need so if you are a family you might need to carry quite a bit The only toilets are at the farm and while children might be okay squatting in the grass I think few adults would be ahappy so bear that in mind before you set off on your walk.
The first ferry over to the island is at 10am and the first back is 3pm so you need to think about how long you want to be there. Three hours went very quickly for us but children may get fed up walking and find three hours a long time. If you are a bit late in the queue for the first boat you may have another hour to wait fro the next and that time could be hard to fill
If you like seeing animals in the wild then this is a perfect place to see these lovely little birds. It isn't cheap as you have to pay for the crossing and for the landing fee which has to be paid on the boat in cash which seemed a bit odd to us as we paid for the boat ticket before getting on so the crew man collected our ticket and the landing fee. You had to keep the return ticket for the return journey though how else you might have got onto the island is a mystery to me!
Apart from the questionable safety of the boat, the weird booking system and the very limited and restricted crossing times the island is worth a visit for the puffins especially and the other birds as well and of course the wild flowers too.
I could go on for ages but I think you get the idea - a lovely little island but you do take your life in a boat to get there and back. The island gets five stars but the boat trip takes one off.
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Windsor Castle. After two unsuccessful attempts to visit Windsor Castle I finally managed to get to visit the castle last week. The first time I had booked on line and unfortunately I became ill the morning of the visit, the second time we actually got to Windsor along with the rest of the world so it seemed. The queues were ... enormous and stretched right down into the town. Last week I did not tempt fate again or book on line so we just turned up. The queue to go in took approximately 45 minutes to get to the ticket office and stretched back along the road.
A little background information.
Windsor Castle is one of the oldest inhabited castles in Europe and you cannot fail to notice it if you are driving along the M4 motorway or taking off from Heathrow airport with the frequent planes flying right over the top of it. This is the preferred home of the Queen and you may be lucky enough to see her driving around Windsor on her way to the Castle.
The castle was built in the 11th Century by William the Conqueror as part of the defences around London to protect the river Thames and the outskirts of London against invasion. Most of the defence castles were built along the same lines with an outer fortified wall and an inner tower built on a motte (mound) which was a man made hill surrounded by a bailey which was a fenced in yard. In total the area covers approximately 13 acres within the castle walls. The castle is built on top of a hill 30 meters above the river Thames and basically consists of three parts, the lower, middle and upper wards. The lower ward acts like an initial defence and contains a thick outer wall which acts as the initial defence. The middle ward contains the castle keep known as the round tower which can be seen for miles around. It is built on an elevated mound surrounded by a moat. The moat had been dug out and the chalk used to raise the hill even higher to fifty metres. The round tower is built on top of the manmade hill and not only affords fantastic views which stretches for miles around but acts as a last means of defence for the inhabitants. Much of the castle was built of wood but over the centuries it was fortified and built of stone. The upper ward contains the state and living quarters of the monarch.
The lower ward.
The lower ward contains a large inner courtyard and King Henry VIII gate is where you exit the castle following your visit. It is here where the beautiful church of St. George is situated. Many members of the Royal Family have been interred there. It is also the mother church of the Knights of the Garter a service is held here every year led by the Queen who leads the knights from the upper ward of the castle down to St. Georges chapel for the service of thanksgiving. There is also accommodation which is still used today to house some of the poor knights a lesser order of chivalry who maintain the order of St. George and step in for the Knights of the Garter. At the lower end are chapter houses for the clergy of St. George and the oldest part of the castle is found here including the curfew tower which forms part of the outer defence wall.
The middle ward.
As previously stated the middle ward contains the castle keep. It was originally a wooden building which offered a final line of defence for the king. Over the years it was rebuilt and a stone building was erected. It was again added to in the latter part of the 19th century and the height extended. It currently houses many of the Royal archives.
The upper ward.
The upper ward is where the Royal residence is found and consists of a large quadrangle surrounded by the state rooms on one side and the private apartments on the other including the accommodation of the Royal family. Many state occasions are held here especially when the Queen is hosting visits by heads of states of other countries. St. George's hall is usually where state banquets are held for foreign heads of state.
The outer parklands.
The grounds of Windsor castle are quite extensive and stretch out for miles around. It includes the long walk, a tree lined avenue that stretches for 3 miles, many small cottages inhabited by castle employees. There are a couple of farms and Frogmore house another Royal residence. There is also the burial place of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert Frogmore Mausoleum at Frogmore which is only open to the public on a couple of occasions a year however this year restoration work is taking place.
I would first advise you to make sure you are wearing comfortable and sturdy shoes as there is quite a lot of walking to do. After buying our ticket from the ticket office we entered the grounds of the castle approaching King Henry tower and the closed off gate to the Quadrangle. On the way to reach this there is the Jubilee garden where there is a small bandstand and nice little garden which was presented to the Queen on her golden Jubilee.
There are some nice views of the accommodation on the outer walls of the lower ward of the castle and of course the towering round tower. Looking through the gated entrance you can see into the Quadrangle which is closed off to the public. At the nearest end to the gate there is a bronze statue of King Charles II on horseback dating from the 1600's. The quadrangle is quite large and contains a lawned area in the middle. The covered main entrance to the castles state apartments looks quite grand and imposing. Visitors would alight from their vehicles under cover of the archway and the procession they were travelling in would drive off around the perimeter of the courtyard.
I could picture the disastrous fire that struck Windsor castle back in 1992 and see the lawn covered with fire hoses and precious pieces of art work as flames and smoke bellowed fifty foot out of the roof of the state apartments. It was fortunate that so many items were removed just the day before and some of the remaining articles were able to be removed by the staff, soldiers and others including Prince Andrew who happened to be at the castle at the time doing some research in the library. Although much of the State apartments were involved in the fire 80% of the castle was actually damage involving 100 rooms. It has now thankfully been restored.
We walked along the internal road past the garrison buildings and arms storage rooms below the round tower to reach a large square area in front of it. Looking over the wall of the moat it has been transformed into a floral garden with rose shrubs and other flower beds. The mound is covered in grass and shrubs up to the beginning of the stone walls of the round tower. The round tower looks very majestic and proud. At certain times of the year you are able to take a tour of the round tower up onto its roof but apparently it is not advisable if you suffer from claustrophobia or have a fear of heights. It was closed while we were there.
We then continued across the courtyard through an archway leading onto the North terrace overlooking the town below and the River Thames. We then went to the entrance to the State rooms. There was a separate queue for Queen Marys Dolls house which was very long indeed. I suggested we went in the state apartments first and could come out later to see the doll's house.
Prior to mounting the grand staircase we entered the undercroft where there is a large vaulted room currently displaying art painted by different members of the Royal family going back to Queen Victoria's reign. There are watercolours by both her and her husband Prince Albert and also some from Prince Philip and Prince Charles. There are many pieces of works here so expect to spend at least half an hour here.
The Grand staircase.
Entering through the main entrance up the grand staircase it certainly was beautiful and one sight that would leave you quite in awe and impressed. The public enter through this doorway from the North side whereas visiting heads of state enter from the Main entrance on the south side in the quadrangle. On either side of the staircase there were two mounted horses of knights in armour. High above your head the ceiling had glass which made the stairway quite light plus the wood was of light oak which also made it look quite welcoming. The first room you enter is the arms room and as the name suggests there are various weapons fixed in patterns around the walls including swords, muskets, knives and other ancient looking pistols. There are also two small sedans on display that belonged to Queen Charlotte. She employed four men that were at her beck and call to take her to wherever she needed to go in the Sedan. They had been sold off after her death but Queen Victoria bought them again and they are preserved here for everyone to see.
The Waterloo Chamber.
The next room we entered was the Waterloo chamber which is absolutely stunning. It was originally a courtyard but by adding a roof it was transformed into a very large hall and made into a beautiful dining room. The walls are covered with wood halfway up the walls and paintings dotted around this great chamber. The upper area is decked out in gold leaf that looks almost like damask wall paper and the roofing is supported by carved wood. It is a stunning room. The carpet on the floor was made by prisoners in Agra Jail for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. It is the largest seamless carpet in the world and weighs 2 tons. Thankfully it was rescued during the fire but it took 50 men to lift it. The centerpiece of the room is the dining table which can seat 60 people. It also doubles up as the table used for banquets in St. Georges hall and once extended can seat 160 people. The Queen has lunch here with the Knights of the Garter following the Service in St. Georges Chapel.
The Kings private quarters.
You then enter the Kings apartment which consists of five rooms. Including
* The Anti-throne room.
* The king's drawing room.
* The king's bedchamber
* The king's dressing room
* The king's closet.
Each of these rooms are very ornately decorated and only the most important people would have been allowed access and being granted an audience with the King in these apartments.
The drawing room is decorated with an olive green damask wall paper and the custom started by Queen Victoria was to have the name after an artist whose paintings were on display. This room has been called the Rubens room.
The bedchamber furnished with King Charles II's four poster bed. The walls are covered in crimson damask paper and a large oil painting over the fire place. The plaster ceiling is really quite ornately decorated with a circular centre piece showing an ornate cross with a crown from which hangs a crystal chandelier. Off this room is a tiny closet room which is where it is believed the King actually slept rather than in this room.The king's Dressing room as far as I can remember appeared nicely decorated but was rather dark in appearance. I cannot recall much about this room.
The Queens apartments.
Moving on to the Queens apartment which includes -
* The Queens drawing room
* The kings dining room
* The Queens ballroom
* The Queens audience Chamber
* The Queens Presence Chamber
* The Queens guard Chamber
The Queens drawing room is quite formal looking with red and gold damask wall paper. The ceiling is plastered and decorated with gold leaf. It was covered with old masters at one time and was called the picture gallery but these have been moved around to make it more formal looking. It then leads on to the Kings dining room which could be accessed by both the King and Queen. This room looks quite formal and imposing with a lot of panelling and a dark mural ceiling. In the canter of the room is a marble fire place over which there is a very ornately wooden carved decoration that is food orientated. The room is currently empty except for some small crockery units and a red carpet.
The Queens Ballroom is quite a large oblong shaped room with air force blue damask and silver paper. There is a solid silver table which is on one side of the room. Apparently there used to be six of them but often with Silver it was melted down and sold when times were hard. On the walls are paintings of five of Charles II children. There are two massive crystal chandeliers equally spaced down the centre of the room.
Surprisingly for me the Queens Audience chamber was very dark although looks quite a formal room there was a very dark ceiling with a mural depicting Queen Catherine Braganza in a chariot. To me at a certain angle in two of her paintings she has the appearance of having a five O'clock shadow. This room leads onto the Queens Presence chamber which was essentially used as a waiting room for her visitors. You leave the Queens apartment via the Queens Guard room where soldiers would be stationed to stop anyone attempting to enter the Queens Quarters.
St. Georges Hall.
The largest room in the Castle is St. Georges Hall. Most of the interior work had been completely burned during the fire which started just off the hall at the opposite end in a small anti-chamber after an arc lamp had been inadvertently left on. The fire raced through the castle at a rate of speed. The whole roof of St. Georges hall succumbed to the intense heat from the fire finally collapsing. Much of the wood panelling burnt away leaving but a shell. Around the room are shields of the Knights of the Garter. Each person had his name etched on the wood panelling with his name and a family coat of arms above it. There are some blank shields on display that represent those that have been shamed and their order has been removed from them.
The Queen holds magnificent banquets here when a visiting head of state visits the country. The table that is used is the table from the Waterloo room which extends to seat 160 people. It takes an army of people to lay the table which is so big that staff actually walk up and down the table wearing special covers over their feet ensuring everything is in place right down to measuring with rulers spaces between the plates, cutlery and glassware especially when you consider there may be several courses and several types of wine for the meal. Not only this there will be grand floral displays and much table decorations gold or silverware, candelabras and condiment sets.
At the far end of the hall there is a knight on horseback wearing a suit of armour. It was his role to ride into the palace of Westminster and three times throw down a gauntlet to anyone who challenged the New King and his authority. It is over the entrance to the Lantern Lobby where the fire started. This room was originally the private chapel of Queen Victoria but after the fire it has been transformed into the Lantern room. It is quite beautiful with a central marble design in the centre of what looks like an Octagonal room. It is made from English marble and the centre Red Cross is made from marble from the Duke of Devonshire's estate in Derbyshire.
The Semi State apartments.
After visiting these rooms you are led into the spectacular semi state apartments created for George IV. Although the rooms were damaged during the fire most of the furniture had already been removed as they were going to rewire the apartments. They consist of
* The green Drawing room.
* The Crimson Drawing room.
* The state dining room.
* The Octagonal dining room
* The China corridor
* The Grand reception room
* The Garter throne room.
These rooms are really ornately decorated with rich colours, gilt and gold leaf after all they are built to impress foreign dignitaries and visiting heads of state. The Green Drawing room is quite large and contains lots of beautiful chairs and little coffee tables. It is quite useful to be able to sit in smaller groups in this room whilst entertaining. The walls and furniture are inlaid with Green damask whilst the frames are covered in gold. Unfortunately the beautiful carpet that was designed for this room and was displayed during the Great exhibition in 1851 was damaged by the water from the fire. It is in such a delicate state now that you are not permitted to walk on it and during our visit some of it was rolled up to prevent you walking on it.
The next room you come into is the Crimson Drawing room which suffered terrible damage during the fire. The roof burnt and so did the floor. The roof was a steel roof which buckled forcing the potential collapse of the walls. It has been completely rebuilt and furnished as it originally was. There is a black marble fireplace in the centre of the room which survived the fire but the chandelier was completely ruined. Either side of the fire place are paintings of The Queen mother and the Queens father. The ceilings are gilt covered with a central chandelier. It is a very regal looking room.
The state dining room is where the queen entertains guests and friends who either have lunch here or for those lucky enough to stay the night will have dinner here. The room was completely destroyed in the fire but has been restored to its former glory after studying original photos and paintings of the room. The dining table looks quite formal although less so than when an official banquet takes place in St. Georges hall. The table seats around about 22 people.
The Octagon dining room is used as a small private dining room by close members of the Royal Family when they are in residence.
After the state dining room you walk along a long corridor called the China corridor where dinner services are set out in glass cabinets. The largest dinner service you can see is called the Manchester service which is a turquoise colour. There are different sets of Sevres porcelain around the room.
You now enter the Grand reception room which is very large and is really ornate and ostentatious with crimson drapes chandelier's gold ceilings and walls with inlaid tapestries hanging from the walls. At the end of the room is a very large green Malachite urn which was given to Tsar Nicholas I from Russia in 1939. This room was badly damaged in the fire and so was the urn that needed lengthy restoration. The parquet flooring largely survived the fire and those pieces that were singed were turned over and it looks fine.
The final room you enter before retracing your steps through the opposite end of the Waterloo Chamber is the Garter Throne Room.
The Garter Throne room.
It is in this room where the Queen creates the Knights of the Garter. This room is a long oblong room which has a picture of the Queen over the fireplace. It has a deep Navy blue carpet on the floor and there is a row of chairs along the centre of the room with stools along the sides of the room.. At the head of the room is a throne that was presented to Queen Victoria which is made completely of Ivory.
After visiting this room you come out into the Waterloo chamber but at the opposite end and then back down the stairs to the north terrace.
Queen Marys Dolls House.
The Queue for this had gone down quite considerably by time we came out. This is a special exhibition of a dolls house made for Queen Mary. It was not supposed to be played with as a dolls house but is more ornamental. It is supposed to have replicated a fine house somewhere in London. It is quite large and everything is made in miniature and they are actually working pieces for example the house has its own electricity supply, it has running water and even the toilets which are miniature flush too. Many items of furniture were either made by the original manufacturers or by specialist companies. The library is full of miniature books which are the printed inside. There are chandeliers, glasses, suitcases, rugs and carpets all copies of some of the things that are in the palaces. The wine cellars with miniature bottles of wine actually do contain wine and spirits too and all the trolleys work.
What is very clever is that underneath the house there is a draw which when pulled out reveals formal gardens and cars all scaled down to appear life like but in miniature form. The house was never meant to be played with but it was presented to Queen Mary who had it exhibited at different events to help raise money for her charities.
The outside of the building actually lifts up revealing the different rooms around the house. It is approximately 3 feet high. I think this little house would be any little girls dream house.
St. Georges Chapel Windsor.
St. Georges Chapel can be found in the lower ward of the castle. It is the chapel of the Knights of the Garter which is a personal gift of chivalry bestowed to people from the Monarch. It is an order steeped in history going back to 1348 and was founded by Richard III as one of two royal colleges. Members meet formally twice a year at Easter and at the end of June in the Garter room of Windsor castle. New members are created in the Throne room of the Garter room. They then follow in procession through the grounds of Windsor castle to the chapel to attend a service headed by the Monarch. It has been known by several names. Originally it was St. Edward the confessor chapel then the Blessed Virgin Mary, St Edward the Confessor and St. George the Martyr.. The services had been suspended in the 1805 and only started again in 1948 to mark its 600th anniversary of its founding.
There are approximately 26 Knights in the order of the Garter plus more that are known as poor knights who stand in for those unable to attend. Each member is allocated a seat in the choir where their name is placed on the rear of the seat. Their shield is displayed above the choir. When a member of the order of the Garter dies the vacancy is filled with a new member appointed from a list drawn up from the members of the garter. If any member becomes a disgraced member they are stripped of the order and their shield is torn down which is unceremoniously kicked out of the church until it reaches the outer moat of the castle where it would have been kicked out and left in a ditch. This has not happened since the 1700's
St. Georges Chapel.
The chapel contains the remains of many of the Monarchs and members of the Royal family of the United Kingdom. Most recently the Internment of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Princess Margarets ashes were also interred in the small side chapel of King George VI the Queens Father.
Entering the chapel through the main entrance for the public you are immediately standing in the south side aisle of the church. The inside appears quite bright due to the high ceiling of the building and all the stain glass windows of portraits of Popes, Kings and princes around the sides of the chapel dating from around the 1500's. There are large pillars stretching up to the vaulted ceiling that fans out giving a beautiful honeycombed visual effect. There are colourful bosses that hide the joints of heraldic shields, portcullis, flowers and dragons. To enter the choir it has a magnificent stone entrance which the Knights enter to reach their stalls. There is a covered oriel stall to the left of the altar built by Henry VIII so that his Queen Catherine of Aragon could observe the ceremony without being seen. The effect is simply stunning. From the walls above the choir hang heraldic flags covered with coats of arms adding to the visual appeal of the great nave.
There are several side chapels dedicated to members of the Royal family some are quite grand but the majority of the internments are inside the Royal vault. I expected to see grand sarcophagi in memory of the Kings and Queens of England but was surprised to see that they are really quite simple tombs. There are a few that are what I expected and they include the tomb of King George V and Queen Mary of Teck. Marble statues of them lying down as if asleep are on the top. I wrongly assumed most of the tombs would look like this. I was very surprised to see a simple plain black slab in the middle of the floor of the choir announcing the burial vault of Henry VIII and Jayne Seymour. It also contains the remains of Charles I who was executed and brought to the Chapel for internment plus an infant child of Queen Anne.
There is a very grand chapel as you are making your way out of St. Georges which contains the tomb of the youngest son of Queen Victoria the Duke of Clarence, her favourite son. Originally it was built by King Henry VII as his final resting place but instead he was buried at Westminster Abbey. It was handed over to Cardinal Wolsey and known as Wolsey's Tomb house. However when Prince Albert died Queen Victoria had it converted into a chapel dedicated to her husband hence its name. The reason it has been closed fenced off from the public apparently is due to tourists scratching their names over the memorials which is unbelievably irreverent especially in a place of worship. What is it with these numbskulls it is mindless vandalism to do such a thing have they no respect at all?
Queen Victoria and her husband are buried in their own mausoleum nearby at Frogmore. Controversially more recently the funerals took place of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor at St. Georges chapel although they are not buried in the chapel they are buried in the private Royal burial ground at Frogmore.
St. Georges is not all about death and burials it has also hosted marriages of members of the Royal family. Many of Queen Victoria's children were married here and more recently minor members of the Royal family have been married here too. Prince Charles had his marriage blessed here following the civil marriage to Camilla Duchess of Cornwall.
Outside of the chapel in the lower ward there are chapter houses where members of the clergy live and in the curfew tower is a peal of 8 bells which are rung prior to or after services. A special wooden frame was constructed within the tower to house the bells which cause a significant amount of movement when they are being rung.
Services are conducted every day at the chapel so it is best to check when they are happening. You will not be able to enter the chapel when one of the services is taking place unless of course you are there to worship.
Adult Ticket £17.75
Student or OAP £16.15
Under 17 £10.60
Under 5 free.
It may seem expensive for a visit but you can return as many times as you like over the next year as long as you get the reverse of your entry ticket stamped by one of the guards inside the castle plus you need to take proof of identity with you on your return such as a driving license, bank card or passport.
There are some toilets around the grounds of the castle and also a couple of souvenir shops selling quite expensive items. There is a cafeteria near the Round tower selling expensively priced ice creams, tea, coffee and snacks.
If you are interested in history or like walking around palaces then this is the tour for you. Expect to spend at least four hours or more here. You are also given a portable audio device to take around with you and simply press the number on the key pad to give explanations of the various sights around the castle. The room guards are particularly helpful in answering additional questions you may have and will always offer clear explanations.
Overall what did I think?
I absolutely loved my day at the Castle despite it being one of the hottest days of the year and very tiring for the amount of walking you have to do and hardly anywhere you can just sit and catch your breath. It was very crowded but not so much as to mar the visit and a lot of people visiting on tourist buses are usually confined by time limits so tend to rush around a bit. I will definitely return perhaps during the winter months when I would hope to find fewer tourists but as it is such a popular venue I am sure there are always going to be many people visiting. I would have loved to have seen much more of the castle but you are only permitted into the state apartments and state rooms. The grounds and Frogmore will require another days visit. I was disappointed that we were unable to stand in the middle of the Quadrangle. My other disappointment of course was that you are not allowed to take any pictures anywhere inside the castle at all but only in the grounds. A fantastic day out!
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National Seal Sanctuary (Helston)
Myself and my partner visited the Cornish Seal Sanctuary last week as part of our 5-day camping holiday down in Cornwall. We were staying in Helston so this was thankfully just 5 minutes away. Finding the sanctuary was not hard thanks to my sat nav, but without one you simply follow the instructions to go along the A roads, then the ... Sanctuary is sign posted with brown signs.
When turning down the road to find the Sanctuary, it seems unusual because it just looks like a road full of houses and doesn't look like the kind of place to have a tourist attraction, but it is here! The car park is quite large and can accommodate a number of vehicles - we arrived 15 minutes prior to it opening and got a great space under some shade.
The weather that day was pretty hot, around 30 degrees. This made the experience more enjoyable than if it had been raining, but it did get very hot whilst standing in one place for too long. One of the feeding presentations was actually delayed because a lady with type 2 Diabetes felt weak and required a sugary drink (they hadn't come out with anything to drink, in 30 degree heat with Type 2 Diabetes - this is asking for trouble!)
Before going, if you are staying somewhere local it is worth finding a tourist information place to get a leaflet about the Sanctuary or a book containing lots of local attractions as this will give you discount off the ticket prices. I had a "Save £4 on all adults" ticket but then just happened to have gone to Penzance the day before and when parking, my ticket had a "50% off entry" ticket which was the best deal - prices for the tickets when I went were £14.50 each, so this got the two of us in for £14.50.
When paying you get asked the usual question of whether or not you want a souvenir guide book - we said no!
After paying and entering, there is a 5-10 minute walk along an unmade road before you actually get to the area where the animals are. There is a train available that takes groups of people to and from the entrance to the animals for the elderly, unable, families with young children or the just plain lazy!
We walked and it is quite a nice short walk up a small steady incline with some good views. When you get to the animal area itself, there is a small place to stop where you can buy drinks and snacks and sit down and have a rest.
Next to this there is the hospital for the seals - a few people were here disappointed they couldn't see anything, however we weren't because it means there are none poorly enough to warrant being in there!
The feeding times and talks were at 11am so we spent the first hour exploring the rest of the Sanctuary. There is a small farmyard animal area with some horses, sheep and goats which is quite nice, all the animals are named and their full history is on display on signs attached to their fences.
After this we went through a nice group of trees and wild flowers/grass where a bird feeder was located, this joined up to a field where there is a large play area for children with plenty to do and to keep them occupied!
Otters were next which is another walk of around 5-10 minutes; again this was quite picturesque, especially on a nice day such as this! Upon arriving the Otters were quite difficult to find because they were sleeping together under some branches. There are signs that inform you they are most active during feeding time which was 12.30pm and 3.00pm.
There are a wonderful collection of Penguins up near the seals that were quite friendly. They were all out and basking on the rocks next to their water so were visible right next to the windows. There are 3 viewing areas for the Penguins - one under water down some steps, another on regular ground level through the windows and a third one up some steps looking over the whole area - this gave us the best view. One of the Penguins chased a butterfly, this was funny!
After all of this it was nearly time for the Seal feed and talk so we went to visit their pools; there are some wonderful seals here with many different types on show. The talk at 11am started on the furthest pool and then made its way from left to right so there wasn't far to walk in between talks.
The information provided by staff was excellent and you get a real personal history of a lot of the seals giving you a real understanding of why many of them have to be kept at the Sanctuary and not released into the wild. One Seal was 42 years old and believed to be the oldest in the world! Many of them have real individual personalities.
Watch out for the Seagulls too - they know the feeding times and managed to get several fish from the Seals! There is even a Seagull with one leg who they named Eileen, leg bitten off by an angry seal fighting for the food!
The 3 talks and feeds lasted around an hour and were the highlight of the day.
After this we had to head off - a lot of things to squeeze in to 5 days so we drove down to visit Trebah garden which was a phenomenal experience! A quick visit to the gift shop on the way out - this had lots of nice local things but we didn't spend any money.
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England Sightseeing National
Sightseeing National / Wroxham Barns, Tunstead Road, Hoveton, Norfolk. Tel = +44(0)1603 783762.
Sightseeing National / Centre for country walks located in Carnarvon Street, Off Fackley Road, Teversal, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Notts. Tel = +44(0)1623 442021.
Sightseeing National / Nuclear Power Station located in Sizewell Visitor Centre, Sizewell Power Station, Nt. Leiston, Suffolk IP16 4UR
Sightseeing National / A spectacular ravine on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon.
Sightseeing National / Address: Quebec Square, Westerham, TN16 1TD, London - Childhood home of General James Wolfe, victor of the Battle of Quebec (1759).
Sightseeing National / Address: University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, High Street, Oxford OX1 4BJ
Sightseeing National / An ancient hill carving etched into the hillside at Cerne Abbas in Dorset.
Sightseeing National / Norwich Cathedral, dating from the 12th century.
Sightseeing National / Civic Centre St Albans Herts AL1 3LD, England. Tel: +44 (0) 1727 844488
Sightseeing National /
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