The Beyond Stonehenge Blog

Hello, welcome to the Beyond Stonehenge blog. Here you'll find bits and pieces about historical characters, historical places, history trivia and anything else that I feel like posting on an historical theme.

Getting ready for the new season.

Yesterday my new 2011 National Trust handbook arrived, complete with the 'What's On' papers for the South East and East Anglia. I don't think the National Trust can quite decide where we northern Home Counties people live or go out to visit, so they hedge their bets and send us a couple just to be on the safe side. The fact is that as a family, we tend to head north or east rather than south most of the time, but of course no one at the Trust is going to know that, still it seems a pity they don't have a way to ask us which area details we'd prefer.

Nevertheless, this is a lovely exciting time of year when we can really get down to planning some trips out and about.

It's good to see that more properties are opening for longer now. It has always been a bug bear that there are some months when you can't see your favourite places, but of course it isn't just a case of conservation, it's also a question of staffing the property. It's hard enough to find sufficient volunteers in the peak season for some places, so it must be even harder to persuade people to volunteer their time when the weather can be so temperamental.

This afternoon I'm going to make a strong coffee and sit down with my diary and make a few dates. I'm determined to visit some entirely new to me venues this Spring as well as getting along to old favourites. One other resolution I've made this year is to visit more of the Trust's gardens. I rarely go out specifically to see the gardens, but when I'm at a property, I always find they give me a special pleasure, so this year I've decided it's time for more nature!

Historic Places & Christmas Shopping - the perfect combination.

As I sit here writing in my lovely warm study, I'm watching my neighbour shovelling snow from his drive. This isn't the weather that makes me want to leap into the car and indulge my passion for visiting historic places.

But with Christmas just around the corner now, I thought instead I'd have a look online for beautiful historic places that will be having a special Christmas Market in the next couple of weeks. Combining Christmas shopping with a tour of a historic town, castle or cathedral is a lovely way of getting into a relaxed, Christmas spirit, and it beats the depressing crush of shopping in a mall hands-down.

Lots of towns around the country hold Christmas Markets, but here to whet your appetite are just a few that have that magical mix of sparkle, history and theatre that makes for enjoyable seasonal shopping.

If Dickens and a Victorian Christmas appeals, Rochester is staging a Christmas Market in the grounds of the truly imposing Rochester Castle, Kent. The event runs from the 3rd of December to the 19th. Have a look at the official website here for full details.

If castles are your thing - they're certainly mine! - then Caerphilly in South Wales, has a wonderful event on the 11th and 12th December at it's magnificent ruined castle. There's a Christmas market inside the castle walls, where they'll be recreating medieval preparations for celebrating Christmas. This is the official website for further details.

Bath Abbey

If Georgian elegance is more to your liking, take a trip to Bath, Somerset, where the area around Bath Abbey, right in the centre of the city, is host to Bath's Christmas Market from November 25th until December 12th 2010. You'll have no trouble finding all sorts of unusual gifts and if you feel tired, there are plenty of lovely cafes and pubs where you can refresh yourself. You're just steps away from a variety of historic attractions too, including the Roman Baths.

The Roman Baths, Bath.

Years ago, I lived in Yorkshire and one of my favourite towns to visit was Skipton, North Yorkshire. Not only is it a really thriving traditional town with masses of character, it also has one of the most intact and impressive castles, which is open to visitors all year (not Christmas Day). This year, Skipton's Yuletide Festival & Christmas Market will be held in the High Street from the 5th December until the 12th December. See here for more details. 

Skipton Castle is wonderful, so leave yourself time to fit it all in.

Not surprisingly, Cathedrals have a very special atmosphere at Christmas time, so if you're near Winchester, Hampshire, take yourself off to the Winchester Christmas Market, which is running from the 25th of November until the 19th of December. Oh and if you're brave, take your ice-skates too, they'll be having an ice-rink. Full details here.

Worcester Cathedral at Christmas

And I have to mention Worcester, my home city, because that's the place where I feel most Christmassy of all. The Worcester Christmas Fayre runs from the 2nd to the 5th of December, with over 100 stalls around the heart of the city. I know I'm horribly biased, but Worcester Cathedral is also my favourite, so if you're going to the Fayre, pop inside the Cathedral too and say hello to King John (he's buried there). Oh and a little tip - go to the cafe in the Guildhall for lunch or afternoon tea. It's the most amazing building.

Harvington Hall Elizabethan Christmas.

For anyone who hasn't seen the post on my other blog this is just a short post to let you know that Harvington Hall, near Kidderminster, Worcestershire, is having another of it's Elizabethan Christmas open days on Saturday 12th December 2010. 

The Hall will be open from 11.30 until 4.00pm. The tearoom and gift shop will also be open.

Harvington Hall is a really evocative house and seeing it during the Winter gives it a special appeal. If you're in the area, don't miss this last chance to tour Harvington Hall until next Spring. Put it in your diary.

Welcoming all history lovers

While I've been starting to build the Beyond Stonehenge website, I've also been occasionally blogging at my other blog site on topics that relate to historic places and the people connected with them. I've always loved the idea of being able to visit the same sites that interesting characters from British history once knew, so some of the posts link people with places, for instance the rather tragic Lady Jane Grey and the somewhat pitiable George Talbot, sixth Earl of Shrewsbury.

Others are just little snippets of history trivia, or news relating to favourite historic sites. 

There are also occasional suggestions for seasonal places to visit. At the moment I'm featuring places that either stay open during the Winter, or those that are particularly lovely at this time of year. 

Now that the Beyond Stonehenge website is live, I'll be aiming to add posts here, although for the time-being, I'll still be posting to too. I do hope you'll come and have a look from time to time.

© 2010