Castles, Gardens and Battlefields: The Historic Isles are Calling

the-british-islesYou don’t have to be a history buff to be intrigued by the traces of the past that linger everywhere in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Roman ruins, Neolithic standing stones, Norman keeps, palatial Georgian homes, Victorian monuments – they all remind us of other times and other lives.

Talk all you will about “Cool Britannia” with its trendy designers and of-the-moment pop stars. But sometimes, it’s just more interesting to meander down the lanes of the past. And if there’s one thing the British Isles have plenty of, it’s the past.

For North American visitors, the big draw is often genealogy, tracing the stories of ancestors who may have fled the Irish famine of the 19th century or the Scottish rebellions of the century before that. Genealogical travel is huge business these days, with dozens of companies offering tours and vacation packages, and often including research assistance as well.

This renewed fascination with the past has only been helped by a slew of historical dramas, both films,and television series, that have brought the past alive to new generations. The Starz TV series, Outlander, has drawn countless visitors to Scotland’s Culloden Battlefield, where the Jacobite dream died in 1746. ITV’s Victoria has ignited a fascination with the first modern monarch, a woman who not only encouraged scientists, artists, and free thinkers but mastered the art of personal brand management long before it was a thing. And numerous Second World War dramas – Foyle’s War, The Bletchley Circle, Their Finest, and Dunkirk among many – keep our fascination alive with dark conflict, heroes and villains.

The past lingers in the castles, palaces and stately homes, as well as abbeys and cathedrals, that dot the land. Wales, for instance, is often called “the castle capital of the world” for its sheer number of structures – 600 of them, of which 100 are still standing. And each era leaves its mark on its buildings through architectural embellishments. The Gothic flying buttresses of the Middle Ages aren’t just beautiful; they reflect an advanced technology of the time. The same goes for the stately structures of the Tudors, the symmetry and plastered ceilings of the Georgian era, the ornate detailing of the Victorians, and the clean minimalism of contemporary design.

But in this green and pleasant land, the historic gardens are as renowned as the buildings they surround. The most distinctive are those designed in the 18th century by Capability Brown, “England’s greatest gardener,” whose “gardenless” landscapes of rolling lawns broken up by clumps of trees and serpentine lakes ushered in the Romantic wildernesses of the 19th century. It’s estimated that he was responsible for more than 170 gardens surrounding some of the greatest estates, including Belvoir Castle, Croome Court, Blenheim Palace and Harewood House – all places where his work still endures.

Of course, many of these great homes also have royal connections, making the UK a “must-visit” destination for those fascinated with the monarchy, both past and present. But even before William the Conqueror arrived in 1066 and started construction on Windsor Castle, there were the Romans who ruled over Britain for nearly 400 years starting from Claudius’ invasion in 43 AD. They laid down roads, built baths and erected walls. There are still plenty of ruins to be seen in the sceptered isles, from Hadrian’s Wall in the north to Chedworth Roman Villa in the Cotswolds to the Roman baths in Bath. And one of the best places to discover Londinium’s Roman history is the Museum of London, which boasts more than 47,000 objects in its Roman collection. But even before the Romans, there were the Neolithic peoples whose memory lingers through the standing stones at Stonehenge or Craigh na Dun, as well as hill figures like the Uffington White Horse.

In the British Isles, it seems no matter where you wander, the past is never very far away.

Odenza Reviews Dublin, Ireland

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Dublin, Ireland is an excellent travel destination for single travelers as well as the whole family! Just a few of the cities daytime tourist offerings include: the Dublin Zoo, St. Stephen’s Green park, Dublin Castle as well as designer boutiques. Dublin also happens to be a historical and contemporary center for education, the arts and contains tons of monuments and landmarks dating back hundreds of years. One of Dublin’s newest monuments however is the Spire of Dublin which is illuminated from the top to provide a beacon in the night sky across the city. Of course Dublin is also known for having a vibrant nightlife and is reportedly one of Europe’s most youthful cities, with an estimate of 50% of citizens being younger than 25. The most popular area of Dublin’s nightlife scene is Temple Bar, which is known among tourists as host to numerous stag and hen parties from Britain.

The Three Sisters, County Kerry, Ireland

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A photo of beautiful Ireland in honor of St. Patrick’s Day

 

“An Triúr Deirfiúr, (The Three Sisters in Irish) are a group of three peaks at the northwestern end of the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland, situated just to the north of the village of Baile an Fheirtéaraigh.”

Odenza travelers – Celia’s trip to Belfast, Amsterdam, and London

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It’s always a great way to start a morning off with some awesome feedback from our customers!

“Hey! It was amazing! My favorite city was Amsterdam, and of course, I wish I had more time there! But we really enjoyed each city in their own way, they were all so different. Great idea going to Belfast- we really enjoyed walking through the town, talking to the people. Everyone there is sooo nice and we were super impressed by the restaurants there. We did a tour of the countryside and the Giants Causeway which was amazing! It was a great way to end the trip with such a relaxing and beautiful environment, rather than the hustle and bustle of a city. We ended up taking an air coach bus from Belfast to Dublin on Sunday morning (changed our flight from 9 am flight with a stopover, to 11:40 direct flight). The bus was about 14 pounds and took only 1 hour and 30 minutes in the early morning, and dropped us right at the terminal. Super convenient!

Amsterdam was gorgeous and I loved the relaxed vibe everyone had. We did a lot of walking around the city just getting to know the culture and the beautiful scenery. We did a nighttime canal cruise which was awesome! We also walked from our hotel to Vondelpark to see the I Amsterdam sign, went to eat at a fancy restaurant at a hotel nearby, went to a club, ate great pancakes and fries, did a ton of shopping. It was all so wonderful!
London was great and a nice way to start off the trip. We were so tired on Sunday when we landed so we walked from the hotel to Buckingham palace, Westminster abbey, Big Ben, London Eye, and then went back to the hotel to sleep! The next two days we spent exploring neighborhoods like Notting Hill, Carnaby Street, Shoreditch and did a lot of great shopping. The food was great here too, and we got really lucky with the weather. We took the tube everywhere, since it was so easy to follow, and so quick! It was a very successful trip, had such a blast, and now I’m sad to be back in NY and back to reality! Hope to do another trip again next year. I included some pictures of the highlights! Thanks again so much for all of your guidance and tips. Couldn’t have done it without you!
Thanks,

Celia”

Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

This amazing photo is of Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

The columns are formed by solidified lava from a volcanic eruption long ago. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven or eight sides. The tallest are about 12 metres (39 ft) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 metres (92 ft) thick in places.