Best beaches in the UK

Barafundle Beach, Wales



Previously a privately owned beach, Barafundle Beach in Pembrokeshire, Wales, is now open to the public. The solitary patch of sand that makes the bay is set between cliffs to the north and south and is surrounded by areas of rural beauty with few urban areas surrounding it. The lack of beach side facilities – while irritating for those in need – does mean the beach is often deserted – so it’s a great location to avoid noise.

Lansallos Bay, Cornwall



A small, enclosed, and peaceful bay in Cornwall, perfect for anyone craving quiet from noisy tourists. Lansallos Bay is great for swimming thanks to the calm waters and is also dog friendly. The bay is slightly secluded yet near enough to some towns and the Killigarth holiday park to make nearby stays comfortable.

Holkham Bay, Norfolk



Holkham Bay is located in Norfolk, about an hour’s drive from Norwich. This bay stretches for miles on end with little urban interference, which many will appreciate. With beautiful, (but often bleak) scenery it’s a great location for long walks rather than the usual not-doing-anything-on-a-sun-lounger.

Rhosilli Bay, Wales



Located in South-West Wales this gorgeous three-mile beach is a great spot for beauty thanks to surrounding cliffs and fields. A natural unspoiled location that’s also popular for water-sports, in-particular surfing. Rhosilli Bay is accessible from the small village of Rhosilli but could easily be reached from the nearby Swansea if you fancy a more traditional hotel location.

Camber Sands, Sussex



This is the closest the UK gets to the hot, golden, beach stereotype Hollywood has so kindly given us to feel jealous of over the years. Camber Sands of East Sussex stretches seven miles and trades in the traditional British pebbles for stretching golden sand dunes. Go there for a sunset walk on a hot day and you might just forget you were ever in Britain.

Porthminster Beach, Cornwall



Another much loved Cornish beach near the busy town of St Ives. This popular tourist location is home to a wide stretch of beautiful white sands and (on a good day) blue sea. Near to several shops and restaurants it’s a great choice for a family outing.

Nairn Beach, Scotland



On the small coastal town of Nairn, Scotland lays Nairn Beach. If you are comfortable with the proud northern traditions of cold and rain then you will be able to appreciate the quiet scenic beauty of this open sandy beach.

Brighton Beach



Brighton Beach is a fairly simple stretch of sand, but the brilliant surrounding city and extending pier attraction means it makes its way onto the list. Brighton is a busy coastal city, very popular with tourists and filled with great restaurants, shops and accommodation all in close proximity to the beach. Plenty of great places to stroll along the beach and on-the-whole calm waters for swimming make it a great summer destination.

Sandwood Bay Beach, Scotland



A picturesque desolate beach about as far north in Scotland you can go. At this beach you trade comfort and warmth for a striking natural landscape of white sandy dunes and cliff views.

Blackpool Sands, Devon



South Devon is home to a beautiful sandy, sheltered bay. This crescent beach is a popular tourist destination for those who want an exotic, sunny location without having to wait for the passport office to sort that renewal out. A great spot for swimming due to clean and calm surrounding waters.

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A commuter is getting revenge on First Capital Connect by Photoshopping its CEO’s face every time his train is delayed

“I’m aware that this is not normal behaviour,” Oli admits in the ‘Why am I doing this?’ section of the blog.

“I have to hide my screen from other commuters while I’m doing ‘my work’.  Once I spent two hours making you a little suit made out of repeating patterns of your face. You have to ask yourself some serious questions when you find yourself doing a thing like that.

“The thing is, Tim, it helps me get through the stress of the journey. Editing your face is very cathartic.”

He continues: “So, what’s my beef with First Capital Connect?

“To start with, the trains are pretty rubbish. You have to admit. Old. Knackered. A bit smelly. There is NEVER a seat on the way home after work and sometimes there isn’t one on the way in. Have you ever stood up from London to Brighton, Tim?

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Men in tears at Norwood Junction. Women fainting on the “dark stretch” between Horley and Croydon. I’ve seen vomit in Balcombe and smelt some of the finest B.O. in Sussex.

“However, the thing I’m going to focus all my baffling attention on is the fact that every train is delayed. You may well have ruddy-faced analysts telling you that: “We’re actually running a service with 79% of trains running on time.” But take it from me. A man at the fried-chicken smelling coal-face. Almost every single train to and from work is delayed.”

Apparently ignoring delay repay forms,  the frustrated commuter has now altered Mr O’Toole’s profile shot 68 times, turning him into a dog, a shrimp, Pat Bucher and more, and showing no sign of slowing down.

Tim is now barely recognisable in the blog

“This is definitely one of the most creative complaints that I’ve seen and Oli’s work is an improvement on my photo!” O’toole commented.

“But there’s a serious point here: trains on this section of the route are frequently held up in the area around London Bridge and I’m sorry that Oli and others get delayed because of this.

“It’s mostly because we have to share tracks around the station with many other routes and operators, and there is plenty of improvement work going on in the area for the Thameslink Programme.

“This will result in a brand new station and dedicated train tracks and platforms for Thameslink services and there will be a fleet of new, longer, trains as well from 2016 which we’ve been developing with the Government – unfortunately we won’t be getting the opportunity to deliver these improvements ourselves because GoVia will be operating the route from September.”

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Guernsey: Speed up to take it slow

You may get there faster – but be prepared to take it slow when you arrive. The speed limit is just 35mph and no one seems in much of a rush. “The people are just more laidback,” Paul Brady, sales manager of St Peter Port’s Duke of Richmond Hotel, told me over crabcakes. “Many companies – Pizza Express, Burger King – failed here. They didn’t introduce change gradually; they didn’t work the Guernsey way.”

So, after a quick flight, I was hoping for a relaxed long weekend. On arrival, guide Elizabeth Gardener-Wheeler took me on a (leisurely) tour of the wedge-shaped island: it’s vaguely triangular, the south coast cliffs sliding down to sandy shallows in the north. Our drive passed wide beaches, Guernsey cows and parish churches. We entered the Déhus Dolmen, a neolithic tomb dating back to 3500 BC and drove to the Little Chapel, a grotto-like shrine, built in 1914 and now encrusted with shells and porcelain.

Elizabeth is not a native Sarnian, but fell in love with the island. “I’ve been here for over 20 years,” she said. “I’m even a member of the Guernsey Occupation Society – they say I’m an honorary donkey!”

Sorry? Elizabeth explained, first that Guernsey locals are called donkeys (“they’re stubborn and persevering”), and also that she’s fascinated by the island’s Second World War history. The Channel Islands were the only British territory occupied during the war. Nazi forces commandeered the island from 30 June 1940 to 9 May 1945 – it was a time of curfews and privation.


Torteval loop hole towerTorteval loop hole tower (Sarah Baxter)

The evidence of this period is still conspicuous. Aside from the jumble of guns, uniforms and 65-year-old preserved plums on display at the German Occupation Museum, military bunkers and trenches scar the island; Martello towers, built in the early 19th century to keep Napoleon at bay, are topped with Nazi extensions. The level of fortification for such a small outpost is startling – over 66,000 mines were laid here. For Hitler, little Guernsey was a big prize: a strategic brick in the Atlantic wall, a potential staging post for a mainland offensive and ideal rallying propaganda – German troops on British soil.

The next day, I maintained an easy pace. A booklet of local Tasty Walks – scenic hikes, all with restaurants or cafés en route – provided my inspiration, and I headed south from St Peter Port to trace the island’s most dramatic seaboard. I was up early, and the capital’s cobbled streets and boat-bobbed marina were quiet. Castle Cornet, which has stood guard over the harbour for nearly eight centuries, was at peace – its five museums not yet open for the day.

I had no plan other than to walk. If you had energy and time enough, you could make a loop of Guernsey: it’s a 39-mile circuit. I doubted I’d get that far, but the sun was shining, the Channel glinting and the path – passing pools where Victor Hugo once bathed, and leading up into bluebell woods – was inviting.

I’d expected Guernsey to be charming, but I wasn’t prepared for it to be quite so spectacular. The cliffs, up to 100m high, were cloaked in furze and wildflowers; they dipped to secretive bays and shattered into the clear green-blue. No wonder Renoir was so fond – he painted the Moulin Huet area several times after a visit in 1883.

And there was that history too: 15 loop-hole towers were built around the island between 1778 and 1779 to deter French incursions – poignant reminders of past ugliness amid the beauty.

My shore-hugging walk was linear, and to return to St Peter Port I’d intended to detour to a bus stop when I’d had enough coast. However, given the island’s bijou proportions, I realised I could just walk back, heading inland via a shimmy of ruettes tranquilles – narrow lanes with a 15mph speed limit. This also gave me a chance to shop. Many islanders sell “hedge veg” – home-grown produce, ranging from carrots to tomatillo chutney – from their verges; you pay via an honesty box. By the time I got back to town and settled into a sea-view bar with a local Breda lager, I’d ticked off exquisite bays, a German cemetery, military defences, thatched cottages, pickled beetroot and some 2.5 billion-year-old rock. All without being in a hurry.

I had no intention of speeding up on day three. I’d thought about taking the fast ferry to tiny Herm Island (just 1.5 miles across) but instead chose a slower vessel.


A 'hedge veg' stallA ‘hedge veg’ stall (Sarah Baxter)

Ant Ford-Parker of Outdoor Guernsey met me at Petit Bôt Bay, which – when I’d passed by the previous day – had been just a smidgen of shingle; now, the low tide revealed a sweep of soft sand. We carried kayaks to the water’s edge and pushed off.

We paddled lazily eastwards, wending through a scatter of rocks, nosing into channels, navigating close to cliffs of nesting gulls and steering around seaweed-frilled obstacles. It was as if Disney had designed a kayak ride, so perfect were the twists and turns; I half expected the Black Pearl to burst from the depths.

Alas, no Jack Sparrow. Just a snack. “Guernsey has 200-odd types of seaweed, and they’re all edible,” Ant said, scooping up a handful of what seemed to be floating spaghetti. “This one – thong weed – is the best; I put it in pasties.”

So Ant and I drifted, nibbling the salty bootlaces and startling oystercatchers as we went. We paddled a bit, paused to revel in our fish-eye view, paddled a bit more. No rush, just taking it slow.

Travel essentials

Getting there

Aurigny (01481 822886;  aurigny.com) flies to Guernsey from several UK airports. Embraer E195 jets operate four times a day on the Gatwick-Guernsey route, reducing some flight times to an underan hour; fares start at £39 one way.

Condor Ferries (0845 609 1024; condorferries.com) operates between St Peter Port and Jersey, Poole, Weymouth and Portsmouth.

Staying there

The Duke of Richmond (01481 726221; dukeofrichmond.com), in St Peter Port, has comfy beds, attentive staff and a great restaurant. Doubles from £145 BB.

Visiting there

Outdoor Guernsey (01481 267627; outdoorguernsey.co.uk) offers a range of activities; a two and-a-half-hour kayak trip costs £35pp.

More information

visitguernsey.com

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English seaside hotels: The Big Six

The Mizen Head, Northumberland

This restaurant-with-rooms sits in the tiny village of Bamburgh on the sweeping

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Northumberland coast. Freshly-caught seafood and fine-quality meats are the order of the day, with dishes that range from seared scallops to lobster thermidor and Scottish Borders charcuterie. Roaring log fires, parquet floors, and a grand staircase give way to six rooms upstairs, furnished with either coastal or country views. Offshore, Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands beckon for coastal exploration.

The Mizen Head, Northumberland, NE69 7BS (01668 214 254; mizenheadhotel.co.uk). Doubles from £90, BB.


Titchwell Manor, Norfolk

From the north Norfolk village of Brancaster, this hotel looks out across open marshes to the North Sea. Housed in a former Victorian farmhouse, it has been owned by the same team, Margaret and Ian Snaith, since 1988. Some of the rooms shrug off the traditional nautical palette of coastal hotels in favour of audacious, clashing colours, while others keep it calm and neutral. Downstairs, there are two restaurants, the Eating Rooms and the Conservatory, both run by the Snaith’s son, Eric.

Titchwell Manor, Brancaster, Norfolk PE31 8BB (01485 210221; titchwellmanor.com). Doubles from £95, BB.

The Scarlet, Cornwall

The Scarlet stands above Mawgan Porth beach on the north Cornwall coast, with an adults-only policy that makes it ideal for a romantic getaway. Add to that a sought-after spa – with tented treatment rooms, an indoor pool and a clifftop hot tub – and you’re in couples heaven. Each of the rooms boasts its own outdoor patch, from private courtyards to garden terraces and balconies. Many cast their eyes across the Atlantic, while those that don’t will find the sea waiting through the windows of the hotel’s restaurant.

The Scarlet, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, TR8 4DQ (01637 861800; scarlethotel.co.uk). Doubles from £195, BB.

The Gallivant, East Sussex

The Gallivant prides itself on bringing a slice of the Hamptons to the shores of Sussex. Set back from dunes of Camber Sands, it’s decked out in soothing coastal colours of blues and whites. Rooms come with homely touches: books, beach bags, and regularly refilled cookie jars. Downstairs, there’s a Larder of Guilty Pleasures for guests to tuck into and a seafood restaurant by Ben Fisher, who trained under Thomas Keller of the French Laundry. Food is sourced from within a 30-mile radius, supplied by local fishermen and farmers.

The Gallivant, Rye, East Sussex, TN31 7RB (01797 225 057; thegallivanthotel.com). Doubles from £115, BB.

The Reading Rooms, Kent

The Reading Rooms is testament to the changing face of Margate, which has recently welcomed the Turner Contemporary gallery and replaced tired seaside shops with quirky boutiques. Opened in 2009, it’s run by a cosmopolitan couple who graduated from backgrounds in graphic design and the music industry to open this luxury BB. There are three huge rooms, each with floor-to-ceiling windows, antique floorboards, and hand-carved beds. The best is Room Three, up in the eaves, with views of the sea.

The Reading Rooms, Margate, Kent CT9 1PH (01843225166; thereadingroomsmargate.co.uk). Doubles from £150, BB.

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Lewis: Walk of the month

The hope, says Tony Robson, one of its organisers, is that this will be a celebration of a culture that too rarely stands in the spotlight and that it will attract many descendants of those who left the island in desperate circumstances. “There are a lot of people in the US, Canada and Australia whose families originate in the Outer Hebrides,” says Tony. “There are a tremendous amount of links to the 1800s, when people were either poor, or were shoved out by landlords and the Highland Clearances. People don’t tend to forget; those events are still felt today.”

Tony’s words come back to me as I climb to the summit of Forsnabhal, deep in the Uig peninsula on the western edge of Lewis. The view is both magnificent and melancholic, and my eye is drawn to the scattered, smashed crofts and summer dwellings, known as sheilings.


Sculpture of a Lewis chess manSculpture of a Lewis chess man (Alamy)

The final section is steep, but I’m rewarded at the summit with a genuine “wow” moment and it’s easy to ignore the telecommunications infrastructure. To the east is the rugged uninhabited island of Little Bernera, behind that the outline of the coast of Lewis; to the south there’s the solid wall of mountains at the heart of Harris; to the west are the seemingly infinitely large Uig sands, where the Lewis chessmen were uncovered nearly 200 years ago. The 360-degree view is completed by the lonely Aird peninsula, poking northwards. From there, it’s clear water to the polar ice cap. Yet, there’s more. Clearly visible on a good day, are the islands of St Kilda, which loom up hauntingly, in a vaguely “Bali Ha’i” way.

Descending the hill, I aim for a track a mile distant. To get there involves a classic Hebridean yomp across open moorland, bouncing off sprigs of heather, skipping across the boggier bits and funnelling down a miniature glen. The track winds its long and lonely way past Loch Mor and a marooned islet colonised by common terns. The path almost circumnavigates the loch before flicking south to reveal a hidden, smaller loch. So far, I’ve followed the track for more than a mile and it has the feel of a wild, moorland walk set deep in the Highlands, far from the sea.

Then, the track twists around a hairpin bend and jolts me back to the coast, revealing glorious Clibhe Beach, far below, half a mile long and pummelled by rollers from the Atlantic. The track drops down towards the beach. Far up on the right-hand corner of this delightful picture is a dramatically perched cemetery. Like so many graveyards on the Outer Hebrides, it seems to all but punch out into thin air above the ocean.



The track joins the quiet road that runs around the Bhaltos peninsula and passes Loch Sgailleir, long and thin, its inky waters coloured by peat drained off the surrounding steep hills.

Many walks tend to wind down near the finish line, but there’s a glorious crescendo in store. I take a steep goat’s track uphill to rise high above Bhaltos Glen. Following the fenceline, I glance down at the thrilling, dizzying gorge, created by melting glaciers carrying a sandy outwash that carved deeply and steeply, through the rocks. It’s a bit like walking through an empty Cheddar Gorge or Glen Coe. Across the glen, the southern plateau is just as dramatic, with a lonely loch glistening in the sunshine of this lost world. It’s possible that in modern times fewer people have seen this exact view than have climbed Mount Everest.

The plateau drills west for the best part of two miles before gently dropping me down to a stony track and a gate back to Timsgearraidh. I finish the walk back at what proves to be a life-enhancing community café and museum. A generous helping of salmon and salad and a mouth-watering home-made ice cream put me back on my feet. I add it to my personal list of the world’s superb, hidden cafés. The adjacent museum is up there, too, with a replica of a traditional blackhouse and accounts of just how tough it has always been to eke out a living in Uig. People may have been driven away, and not missed the hardships they left behind, but you can see why they – and outsiders – are drawn here.

Getting there

Caledonian MacBrayne (0800 066 5000; calmac.co.uk) ferries sail to Stornoway on Lewis from Ullapool, which has bus connections from Inverness; see bit.ly/InvUIla.

Flybe (0871 700 2000; flybe.com) flies to Stornoway from Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh, while Eastern Airways (0870 366 9100; easternairways.com) flies from Aberdeen except at weekends. Mark Rowe travelled with Cross Country Trains (0844 811 0124; crosscountrytrains.co.uk) to Edinburgh and on East Coast’s Highland Chieftain service (08457 225 225; eastcoast.co.uk) to Inverness. Other services are operated by ScotRail.

Staying there

Mark Rowe stayed at Taigh a’ Chreagain, 15 Valtos, Uig (01851 672209). Doubles start at £60, BB.

Visiting there

The Lewis Tattoo (bit.ly.LewTattoo) takes place from 7.30pm on 8 August to 11pm on 9 August.

More information

visitscotland.com/homecoming

visitouterhebrides.co.uk

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Laurie Lee: Memories of the man

I had come to the village of Laurie Lee’s childhood to meet those who remember him. Adam Horowitz is a younger poet who grew up in the valley in the 1970s and knew Laurie since then. “If you’re growing up here as a writer, as we did, the landscape talks to you. Walking through it inspires poetry. It’s both safe and wild. There’s a continual cycle of death and life, change and decay, as any nature writer will tell you. At the heart of him, Laurie needed to be here, to reconnect. It was a grounding thing.”

We ambled out into summer sunlight and Adam showed me the village. In the garden of Laurie’s childhood home, a young mother was bustling around her children. I asked whether she ever thought about Laurie and his six siblings squeezed into the tiny, bleached stone cottage back in the 1920s. “Oh no,” she said firmly, “not unless I’ve been watching the films. You don’t live in the past.”

The memories were still vivid up at Furners Farm, the last cider orchard in the village, where Julie Cooper sat me in her medieval kitchen and poured a glass of their home-made cider. So this was the stuff they drank back then. It was cool but fierce, like a gentle brandy. “We met the original Rosie once,” she smiled, “if there was a real Rosie. About 20 years ago they brought her here for a documentary. She’d been a post-mistress in Cheltenham. She was in her seventies; she’d been to the school here. She was very sweet. But she didn’t remember kissing Laurie Lee under a hay wagon.”

Julie introduced me to her son, a handsome 13-year-old whose name was Laurie. As I turned to go, she said: “The kiss with Rosie happened in the second field beyond the stile. Past the old apple trees. Look out for it.”

So I stumbled along there and stood on a field still laid to hay, sweeping down to the stream and the village. Laurie always said there were several Rosies, the book could have been called “Cider With Edna” or “Cider With Doreen”. But whatever the truth, the setting for his delicious tale could easily have been this patch of earth.

In his essay on Writing Autobiography, Laurie said that “the only truth is what you remember”. Critics have questioned how much of his famous trio of memoirs was literally true. The documentation does not exist to ever really tell. But someone who knows more than most is his daughter, Jessy, who still lives in the village.

I walked to her cottage. It had whitewashed walls and an inglenook fireplace and a garden bright with flowers. “This was my childhood home,” she said, fixing me with enormous green eyes. “This is where we all lived. It was wonderful being brought up here, playing in the stream, picknicking on Swift’s Hill. We were here together when he died. On a beautiful evening the sky turned totally black and a double rainbow stretched across the valley. It was extraordinary.”

For the centenary she has published a book of Laurie’s paintings and drawings, which she found after he died, hidden beneath a bed. “It’s a homage really to Dad, because I never really thanked him.” She pauses. “He did often seem tormented, which is one of the side effects of great art. But then he wrote wonderful celebratory poems about the landscape. And his prose was a long version of his poetry. I defy anyone not to get something out of his work.”

There is one more memory of Laurie. I met him myself, at a poetry reading in the early 1980s. He read in a soft, heavy voice with a rich country accent, wonderful to hear. Afterwards I found him by the bar, nursing a glass of chilled white wine. “Aren’t you drinking the cider?” I asked, pointing at a tray full of tumblers. “Oh no,” he smiled wryly, “I don’t touch it any more. You can get into trouble with that.”

Getting there

The writer travelled with First Great Western (03457 000125; firstgreatwestern.co.uk) which offers advance single fares from London Paddington to Stroud from £23.30.

Staying there

The Falcon Hotel (01452 814222; falconpainswick.co.uk) in the village of Painswick has double rooms from £89, including breakfast.

Furners Farm (01452 813216; furnersfarm.co.uk) in Slad has one double room for £40, including breakfast.

Visiting there

Museum in the Park, Stratford Park, Stroud (01453 763394; museuminthepark.org.uk) will exhibit Laurie Lee’s paintings from 6 September to 5 October; entry free.

Further reading

Laurie Lee: A Folio, by Jessy Lee (Unicorn Press, 24.99).

Laurie Lee: Life and Loves, by Valerie Grove (Robson Press, £12.99).

A Thousand Laurie Lees: The Centenary Celebration of a Man and a Valley by Adam Horowitz (The History Press, £12.99).

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Scotland: Back to the battle lines

An Englishman venturing this way seven centuries ago would have been less agog at the scenery, and more alert to signs of danger. England and Scotland were dug into a war that had been afoot for nearly 20 years – and the prize at stake was Scotland’s very soul. The Battle of Bannockburn, which dragged its bloody feet through the mud two miles south of Stirling on 23 and 24 June 1314, 700 years ago this coming week, would help save it.

It can be tricky, at such historical distance, to grasp the importance of this military tussle. Yet it remains a crucial point in the national narrative – a sliding-doors moment as key to the shaping of borders and identity as the Battle of Hastings or the Battle of Britain. An overwhelming Scottish victory, it largely dispelled the prospect of the medieval kingdom of Scotland having its independence snuffed out by its English counterpart. That its 700th anniversary should fall at a juncture when the definition of the political relationship between Edinburgh and London is under fiercer scrutiny than at any time since the Act of Union in 1707, when the word “independence” again floats on the air, is wholly appropriate.


Statue of Robert the BruceStatue of Robert the Bruce (Alamy)

The path to the battlefield was a complicated one. At its root was the death of the Scottish king Alexander III without viable heir in 1286, and the power vacuum that it created. In 1290, England’s warrior monarch Edward I was invited north to assess the many claimants to the empty throne and advise on an appointment – a decision that was akin to asking a wolf to take part in a sheepdog trials. Espying Scotland’s weakness, Edward launched an aggressive campaign of conquest that – despite an iconic victory for minor noble William Wallace at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 – seemed to be all but complete by 1304.

However, the king’s death in 1307 changed everything. Edward II, his successor, was not built in his father’s image, and was more interested in bestowing privileges on his favourite, Piers Gaveston (the men were probably lovers), than waging an inherited war. And while Edward idled, a new Scottish champion emerged. Robert the Bruce had displayed ruthlessness in having the other main candidate for the top job, John Comyn, killed on sacred ground in 1306 – before having himself crowned king and retaking much of the lost territory. By March 1314, Stirling was one of only two Scottish fortresses still in English hands, and was under siege. An oddly civil pact was negotiated – if the castle was not relieved by midsummer, it would be surrendered. Edward stirred himself to arms.

I can see no hint of the drama of this real game of thrones when I arrive at the battlefield – nor of the £9m that, in the past two years, has been spent on upgrading the site for the 700th anniversary. The new visitor centre is neither huge, nor especially eye-catching.

But what waits within dissects this seismic collision with thrilling modernity. Eschewing what you might expect of a museum that gazes back 700 years – suits of armour, faded maps – the visitor centre brings the events of 1314 to life via technological wizardry. You enter a darkened space where, on two walls, motion-capture figures – Sir James Douglas, one of Bruce’s right-hand men; Sir Robert Clifford, a respected baron on the English side; Dafydd ap Cynwrig, a Welsh longbowman reluctantly fighting for Edward – relay their tales to those who stand before them. Behind, a mini auditorium of curved screens and 3D wonder recreates slivers of the combat – swords swinging, horse hooves pounding. Any doubt I have that this is history in child-friendly form is removed by the gasps of the school party next to me. I am also drawn in. When a unit of English archers fires a hail of arrows across the room I take an unconscious step back, as if to avoid this deadly shower.


Bannockburn Visitor CentreBannockburn Visitor Centre

The centrepiece, however, is a separate theatre, where a model of the battlefield gives the geographical setting and a simulator shows how events unfolded. You have two options here: “Battle Show”, which plays out the actual cuts and thrusts as they occurred and “Battle Game”, where visitors are split into two teams of up to seven, and combine – with the aid of a “Battlemaster” – to direct the armies, ordering attacks and defending positions.

Either side can win – and realistically, the English should. But taking part in this makes clear to me why, despite having more than twice the muscle (upper estimates suggest 25,000 English soldiers to 10,000 Scotsmen) Edward’s men were so badly beaten. Bruce had firmer strategies, such as the use of schiltrons – disciplined units bristling with spears – while the English became mired in (and were slaughtered in) the boggy ground around the Bannock Burn. Equally, the “Battle Game” underlines the fact that, with both kings in the field, this was a high-stakes affair. English victory would not have reconquered the country – but had Bruce died, Scotland would have been plunged back into headless chaos. As it was, the annihilation of Edward II’s army – fatalities may have numbered 11,000 – all but ended English interest in fighting north of the border for a generation. The Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, signed in 1328, recognised Scotland as a sovereign state.

Outside, the area of grass that is ring-fenced as the battlefield provides a calmer picture, local residents walking dogs across a realm of green. Archaeological research indicates that this was not, specifically, a place that witnessed combat, but was probably the site of Bruce’s camp. Yet this does not puncture the puffed-chested pride of the twin memorials stationed here – a statue of Bruce on horseback; the Saltire taut in the breeze. A sea of people will swirl about them over the next few days. The exact septcentenary, on Monday and Tuesday, will see costumed skirmishes and weapons demonstrations. “Bannockburn Live” (28-29 June) will repeat the dose with added musical shows, plus a farmers’ market.

Unlike many of his men, Edward II survived the carnage, fleeing first to Stirling Castle – where he was denied admission – then leaving Scotland via Dunbar, on the east coast. I follow him on the first leg of this desperate exit, keen to glimpse a city where the past readily rears its head – almost literally in the case of the National Wallace Monument, which perches on the volcanic bluff of Abbey Craig, two miles north-east of the centre. A Neo-Gothic tower completed in 1869, it offers a far more solid tribute to this fabled guerilla soldier for his sharp tactics in 1297 than any howling Mel Gibson movie caricature. The steep stroll to its doorstep is ironically peaceful, carrying me through pockets of bluebells – before the view works its magic, showcasing not just the crossing point over the River Forth where Wallace achieved his brutal feat, but Ben Lomond prodding at the horizon.

The crag that forms the original kernel of Stirling also flirts with former eras. Even its main retreat, the Stirling Highland Hotel, is wedded to yesteryear, lovingly slotted into an 1854 school – all ghosts of chalky blackboards and homework. I pause for the night here, eat a hearty breakfast in a restaurant that was once a classroom, then wander up the hill and succeed where Edward II failed – in gaining entry to the castle.

The aftermath of Bannockburn is quietly apparent here – in the way this lofty fortress developed into an eloquent Scottish royal statement. True, many buildings only date to the 15th and 16th centuries, but in their pomp and style, they sing of a monarchy that came to thrive. The palace, constructed by James V in 1538, was designed to present the king as a leading Renaissance ruler, statues of Greek gods peering at the observer. The panorama from its windows is no less glorious, as the sun smiles on the Forth below.

There is a footnote too. Outside, the Church of the Holy Rude bears the bullet wounds of another English incursion into Stirling – this time Oliver Cromwell’s troops in 1651. But the pertinent spot lies inside. By the altar, a paving slab notes that James VI was crowned here in 1567. In 1603, on the childless death of Elizabeth I, he would go south to become James I of England. In the end, Scottish crown ingested English. When September’s referendum is held, it might be worth asking – who is seeking independence from whom?




Travel essentials

Getting there

East Coast trains (03457 225 333; eastcoast.co.uk) run to Edinburgh and Stirling from London, York and Newcastle. By air Edinburgh is served by British Airways (0844 493 0758; ba.com) . CityJet (0871 221 2452; cityjet.com), easyJet (0330 365 5000; easyjet.com), Flybe (0871 700 2000; flybe.com) and Virgin Atlantic (0844 209 7777; virgin-atlantic.com).

Visiting there

Battle of Bannockburn Visitors Centre (0844 493 2139; battleofbannockburn.com; daily 10am-5.30pm; £11). Bannockburn Live (0844 481 8727; bannockburnlive.com; 28-29 June, 10am-7pm; £10 per day). Church of the Holy Rude (01786 475 275; holyrude.org; 11am-4pm daily; free). National Wallace Monument (01786 472 140; nationalwallacemonument.com; 10am-5pm, April-October except July/August to 6pm; £9.50). Stirling Castle (01786 450 000; stirlingcastle.gov.uk; 9.30am-6pm; £14).

Staying there

Stirling Highland Hotel, Spittal Street (01786 272 727; thehotelcollection.co.uk). Doubles £100, room only.

More information

visitscotland.com; homecomingscotland.com; nts.org.uk

Article source: http://rss.feedsportal.com/c/266/f/3860/s/3bb60434/sc/10/l/0L0Sindependent0O0Ctravel0Cuk0Cscotland0Eback0Eto0Ethe0Ebattle0Elines0E955120A30Bhtml/story01.htm

Laurie Lee: A literary landscape in the Cotswolds

But, of course, the Slad Valley is hardly unknown: its pastoral beauty has been much celebrated ever since Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee’s autobiographical evocation of rural life there, became a bestseller in the 1960s. It’s the centenary of Lee’s birth on 26 June and I had come to preview a new walking trail commemorating the writer.

Lee moved to Slad with his mother and a great tumble of six brothers and sisters in the latter years of the First World War, when he was a small boy. They all squeezed into Bank Cottages – now known as Rosebank Cottage – off Steanbridge Lane and lived cheerfully and frugally on money sent by Lee’s father, who had in all other respects deserted them. Lee left school at 15, and home at 19. He walked to London. He walked through Spain. He drew; he played the violin; and he became a poet. He was 45 when Cider with Rosie was published and its enormous success enabled him and his wife, Kathy, to buy a house back in Slad. With their daughter Jessy, they divided their time between London and the Slad Valley. While Lee continued to write, he also bought land in the valley in order to help protect the area and campaigned vociferously against development. His favourite haunt was Slad’s down-to-earth Woolpack inn. Today, his grave in the village churchyard overlooks The Woolpack – as Slad people say, he lies between pulpit and pub.


One of the literary postsOne of the literary posts (Anne-Marie Randall)

That local flavour I gleaned as I explored the valley with Pete Bradshaw, manager of the area’s Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust reserves. Living close by, he often saw Laurie Lee at The Woolpack and recalled how Lee even had a seat there with his name on it. Bradshaw had come to show me the new Laurie Lee walking trail devised by the trust. As we set off, he pointed out an area of woodland, now named Laurie Lee Wood, that the trust acquired from the Lee family last year. The new trail runs through it and combines walking with Laurie Lee’s poetry. It’s a five-mile route, in parts heart-pumpingly steep, dotted with 10 posts that each display an appropriate poem.

The fog was starting to disperse as I read the lines on the first post and by the time I read the last post, with the glories of the valley increasingly revealed, I felt almost tearful at the lyrical resonance of landscape and words. “If ever I saw blessing in the air,” begins “April Rise”, “I see it now in this still early day/ where lemon-green the vaporous morning drips/ wet sunlight on the powder of my eye.”

Read more:

Sunshine was seeing off all but a few trails of mist as we climbed Swift’s Hill, an exceptional area of limestone grassland. Bradshaw pointed out common spotted orchids at our feet, adding that 14 varieties, including the rare bee orchid, thrive here. We stopped on the broad hilltop to take in fabulous views across to Slad village, over a wealth of undulating green to Stroud where controversial development at the edge of the valley is currently under planning negotiation. No doubt Lee would have been incensed.

The walk finishes at ancient Frith Wood, which offers further compelling views over to Painswick, with the spire of St Mary’s church piercing the horizon. The length is just right: this is no route march but it presents a healthy opportunity to work up an appetite, so we headed to the pub for lunch, stopping at Slad’s Holy Trinity church on the way.


The Woolpack pub in SladThe Woolpack pub in Slad

There is no trail of brown signposts pointing to Laurie Lee sites; little Slad is too pragmatic for that. Rather than becoming a heritage brand, the author is remembered here as a real person. At Holy Trinity a memorial window to Lee, funded largely by local donations, was installed in 2011. Adjacent, a series of noticeboards feature a charming display of photographs, poetry and newspaper cuttings about the writer, alongside the parish news. This included details of the Slad Valley Festival, which runs until 29 June and is a local celebration of Laurie Lee, devised with the help of Kathy and Jessy Lee. There’s a village picnic, “Cider with Laurie” poetry readings at the Old Schoolhouse and a cider and flamenco fiesta at The Woolpack. A marquee is going up there in anticipation of the crowds.

The roadside pub isn’t a conventional beauty from the outside, but step through the door and you’re in a place creaking with atmosphere. There are old settles, wooden floors and great views from the back. A little worn around the edges, this is the antithesis of designer Cotswold pubs elsewhere, with well-thumbed books on shelves and wild flowers in vases. It’s the hub of the community, as it was in Lee’s day.

An inspiring walk, a look at the church and lunch in the pub: you could leave a visit to Slad at that. But you’d be missing out. A few miles down the road in Stroud there’s a lively museum of Gloucestershire rural life, set in a 17th-century wool merchant’s mansion. The Museum in the Park offers a tremendous insight into the world Laurie Lee was writing about and even features a small Laurie Lee corner that at intervals plays recordings of the writer himself reading passages from Cider with Rosie.

For me the best section, though, is the schoolroom display. On top of the teacher’s desk, I leafed through a facsimile collection of reports of a pupil in the 1920s. He is hopeless to start with – “I am disappointed in the boy”, wrote the headmaster in 1926 – but he improves and by 1928 is excellent at the violin, good at English and art. They don’t make much of these reports at the museum, but look closely and you’ll see that they were, in fact, Laurie Lee’s.

 


Visiting there

A free leaflet on Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s Laurie Lee Wildlife Way can be downloaded from gloucestershirewildlifetrust .co.uk and is also available at the Woolpack.

The Woolpack, Slad (01452 813429).

The Slad Valley Festival takes place until Sunday 29 June (sladsociety.org.uk).

More information

Laurie Lee centenary celebrations continue throughout 2014 (laurielee.org).

The Cotswolds Stroud district tourist office: www.visitthecotswolds.org.uk

‘April Rise’ reproduced with permission of Curtis Brown Group Ltd, London on behalf of the Estate of Laurie Lee © The Trustees of the Literary Estate of Laurie Lee 1983. ‘Laurie Lee Selected Poems’ is published by Unicorn Press (unicornpress.org).

Article source: http://rss.feedsportal.com/c/266/f/3860/s/3bb60439/sc/10/l/0L0Sindependent0O0Ctravel0Cuk0Claurie0Elee0Ea0Eliterary0Elandscape0Ein0Ethe0Ecotswolds0E95512460Bhtml/story01.htm

Laurie Lee: A literary landscape

But, of course, the Slad Valley is hardly unknown: its pastoral beauty has been much celebrated ever since Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee’s autobiographical evocation of rural life there, became a bestseller in the 1960s. It’s the centenary of Lee’s birth on Thursday and I had come to preview a new walking trail commemorating the writer.

Lee moved to Slad with his mother and a great tumble of six brothers and sisters in the latter years of the First World War, when he was a small boy. They all squeezed into Bank Cottages – now known as Rosebank Cottage – off Steanbridge Lane and lived cheerfully and frugally on money sent by Lee’s father, who had in all other respects deserted them. Lee left school at 15, and home at 19. He walked to London. He walked through Spain. He drew; he played the violin; and he became a poet. He was 45 when Cider with Rosie was published and its enormous success enabled him and his wife, Kathy, to buy a house back in Slad. With their daughter Jessy, they divided their time between London and the Slad Valley. While Lee continued to write, he also bought land in the valley in order to help protect the area and campaigned vociferously against development. His favourite haunt was Slad’s down-to-earth Woolpack inn. Today, his grave in the village churchyard overlooks The Woolpack – as Slad people say, he lies between pulpit and pub.


One of the literary postsOne of the literary posts (Anne-Marie Randall)

That local flavour I gleaned as I explored the valley with Pete Bradshaw, manager of the area’s Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust reserves. Living close by, he often saw Laurie Lee at The Woolpack and recalled how Lee even had a seat there with his name on it. Bradshaw had come to show me the new Laurie Lee walking trail devised by the trust. As we set off, he pointed out an area of woodland, now named Laurie Lee Wood, that the trust acquired from the Lee family last year. The new trail runs through it and combines walking with Laurie Lee’s poetry. It’s a five-mile route, in parts heart-pumpingly steep, dotted with 10 posts that each display an appropriate poem.

The fog was starting to disperse as I read the lines on the first post and by the time I read the last post, with the glories of the valley increasingly revealed, I felt almost tearful at the lyrical resonance of landscape and words. “If ever I saw blessing in the air,” begins “April Rise”, “I see it now in this still early day/ where lemon-green the vaporous morning drips/ wet sunlight on the powder of my eye.”

Sunshine was seeing off all but a few trails of mist as we climbed Swift’s Hill, an exceptional area of limestone grassland. Bradshaw pointed out common spotted orchids at our feet, adding that 14 varieties, including the rare bee orchid, thrive here. We stopped on the broad hilltop to take in fabulous views across to Slad village, over a wealth of undulating green to Stroud where controversial development at the edge of the valley is currently under planning negotiation. No doubt Lee would have been incensed.

The walk finishes at ancient Frith Wood, which offers further compelling views over to Painswick, with the spire of St Mary’s church piercing the horizon. The length is just right: this is no route march but it presents a healthy opportunity to work up an appetite, so we headed to the pub for lunch, stopping at Slad’s Holy Trinity church on the way.


The Woolpack pub in SladThe Woolpack pub in Slad

There is no trail of brown signposts pointing to Laurie Lee sites; little Slad is too pragmatic for that. Rather than becoming a heritage brand, the author is remembered here as a real person. At Holy Trinity a memorial window to Lee, funded largely by local donations, was installed in 2011. Adjacent, a series of noticeboards feature a charming display of photographs, poetry and newspaper cuttings about the writer, alongside the parish news. This included details of the Slad Valley Festival, which runs until 29 June and is a local celebration of Laurie Lee, devised with the help of Kathy and Jessy Lee. There’s a village picnic, “Cider with Laurie” poetry readings at the Old Schoolhouse and a cider and flamenco fiesta at The Woolpack. A marquee is going up there in anticipation of the crowds.

The roadside pub isn’t a conventional beauty from the outside, but step through the door and you’re in a place creaking with atmosphere. There are old settles, wooden floors and great views from the back. A little worn around the edges, this is the antithesis of designer Cotswold pubs elsewhere, with well-thumbed books on shelves and wild flowers in vases. It’s the hub of the community, as it was in Lee’s day.

An inspiring walk, a look at the church and lunch in the pub: you could leave a visit to Slad at that. But you’d be missing out. A few miles down the road in Stroud there’s a lively museum of Gloucestershire rural life, set in a 17th-century wool merchant’s mansion. The Museum in the Park offers a tremendous insight into the world Laurie Lee was writing about and even features a small Laurie Lee corner that at intervals plays recordings of the writer himself reading passages from Cider with Rosie.

For me the best section, though, is the schoolroom display. On top of the teacher’s desk, I leafed through a facsimile collection of reports of a pupil in the 1920s. He is hopeless to start with – “I am disappointed in the boy”, wrote the headmaster in 1926 – but he improves and by 1928 is excellent at the violin, good at English and art. They don’t make much of these reports at the museum, but look closely and you’ll see that they were, in fact, Laurie Lee’s.

 


Visiting there

A free leaflet on Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s Laurie Lee Wildlife Way can be downloaded from gloucestershirewildlifetrust .co.uk and is also available at the Woolpack.

The Woolpack, Slad (01452 813429).

The Slad Valley Festival takes place until Sunday 29 June (sladsociety.org.uk).

More information

Laurie Lee centenary celebrations continue throughout 2014 (laurielee.org).

The Cotswolds Stroud district tourist office: www.visitthecotswolds.org.uk

‘April Rise’ reproduced with permission of Curtis Brown Group Ltd, London on behalf of the Estate of Laurie Lee © The Trustees of the Literary Estate of Laurie Lee 1983. ‘Laurie Lee Selected Poems’ is published by Unicorn Press (unicornpress.org).

Article source: http://rss.feedsportal.com/c/266/f/3860/s/3bb228cc/sc/10/l/0L0Sindependent0O0Ctravel0Cuk0Claurie0Elee0Ea0Eliterary0Elandscape0E95512460Bhtml/story01.htm

Bannockburn: Back to the battle lines

An Englishman venturing this way seven centuries ago would have been less agog at the scenery, and more alert to signs of danger. England and Scotland were dug into a war that had been afoot for nearly 20 years – and the prize at stake was Scotland’s very soul. The Battle of Bannockburn, which dragged its bloody feet through the mud two miles south of Stirling on 23 and 24 June 1314, 700 years ago this coming week, would help save it.

It can be tricky, at such historical distance, to grasp the importance of this military tussle. Yet it remains a crucial point in the national narrative – a sliding-doors moment as key to the shaping of borders and identity as the Battle of Hastings or the Battle of Britain. An overwhelming Scottish victory, it largely dispelled the prospect of the medieval kingdom of Scotland having its independence snuffed out by its English counterpart. That its 700th anniversary should fall at a juncture when the definition of the political relationship between Edinburgh and London is under fiercer scrutiny than at any time since the Act of Union in 1707, when the word “independence” again floats on the air, is wholly appropriate.


Statue of Robert the BruceStatue of Robert the Bruce (Alamy)

The path to the battlefield was a complicated one. At its root was the death of the Scottish king Alexander III without viable heir in 1286, and the power vacuum that it created. In 1290, England’s warrior monarch Edward I was invited north to assess the many claimants to the empty throne and advise on an appointment – a decision that was akin to asking a wolf to take part in a sheepdog trials. Espying Scotland’s weakness, Edward launched an aggressive campaign of conquest that – despite an iconic victory for minor noble William Wallace at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 – seemed to be all but complete by 1304.

However, the king’s death in 1307 changed everything. Edward II, his successor, was not built in his father’s image, and was more interested in bestowing privileges on his favourite, Piers Gaveston (the men were probably lovers), than waging an inherited war. And while Edward idled, a new Scottish champion emerged. Robert the Bruce had displayed ruthlessness in having the other main candidate for the top job, John Comyn, killed on sacred ground in 1306 – before having himself crowned king and retaking much of the lost territory. By March 1314, Stirling was one of only two Scottish fortresses still in English hands, and was under siege. An oddly civil pact was negotiated – if the castle was not relieved by midsummer, it would be surrendered. Edward stirred himself to arms.

I can see no hint of the drama of this real game of thrones when I arrive at the battlefield – nor of the £9m that, in the past two years, has been spent on upgrading the site for the 700th anniversary. The new visitor centre is neither huge, nor especially eye-catching.

But what waits within dissects this seismic collision with thrilling modernity. Eschewing what you might expect of a museum that gazes back 700 years – suits of armour, faded maps – the visitor centre brings the events of 1314 to life via technological wizardry. You enter a darkened space where, on two walls, motion-capture figures – Sir James Douglas, one of Bruce’s right-hand men; Sir Robert Clifford, a respected baron on the English side; Dafydd ap Cynwrig, a Welsh longbowman reluctantly fighting for Edward – relay their tales to those who stand before them. Behind, a mini auditorium of curved screens and 3D wonder recreates slivers of the combat – swords swinging, horse hooves pounding. Any doubt I have that this is history in child-friendly form is removed by the gasps of the school party next to me. I am also drawn in. When a unit of English archers fires a hail of arrows across the room I take an unconscious step back, as if to avoid this deadly shower.


Bannockburn Visitor CentreBannockburn Visitor Centre

The centrepiece, however, is a separate theatre, where a model of the battlefield gives the geographical setting and a simulator shows how events unfolded. You have two options here: “Battle Show”, which plays out the actual cuts and thrusts as they occurred and “Battle Game”, where visitors are split into two teams of up to seven, and combine – with the aid of a “Battlemaster” – to direct the armies, ordering attacks and defending positions.

Either side can win – and realistically, the English should. But taking part in this makes clear to me why, despite having more than twice the muscle (upper estimates suggest 25,000 English soldiers to 10,000 Scotsmen) Edward’s men were so badly beaten. Bruce had firmer strategies, such as the use of schiltrons – disciplined units bristling with spears – while the English became mired in (and were slaughtered in) the boggy ground around the Bannock Burn. Equally, the “Battle Game” underlines the fact that, with both kings in the field, this was a high-stakes affair. English victory would not have reconquered the country – but had Bruce died, Scotland would have been plunged back into headless chaos. As it was, the annihilation of Edward II’s army – fatalities may have numbered 11,000 – all but ended English interest in fighting north of the border for a generation. The Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, signed in 1328, recognised Scotland as a sovereign state.

Outside, the area of grass that is ring-fenced as the battlefield provides a calmer picture, local residents walking dogs across a realm of green. Archaeological research indicates that this was not, specifically, a place that witnessed combat, but was probably the site of Bruce’s camp. Yet this does not puncture the puffed-chested pride of the twin memorials stationed here – a statue of Bruce on horseback; the Saltire taut in the breeze. A sea of people will swirl about them over the next few days. The exact septcentenary, on Monday and Tuesday, will see costumed skirmishes and weapons demonstrations. “Bannockburn Live” (28-29 June) will repeat the dose with added musical shows, plus a farmers’ market.

Unlike many of his men, Edward II survived the carnage, fleeing first to Stirling Castle – where he was denied admission – then leaving Scotland via Dunbar, on the east coast. I follow him on the first leg of this desperate exit, keen to glimpse a city where the past readily rears its head – almost literally in the case of the National Wallace Monument, which perches on the volcanic bluff of Abbey Craig, two miles north-east of the centre. A Neo-Gothic tower completed in 1869, it offers a far more solid tribute to this fabled guerilla soldier for his sharp tactics in 1297 than any howling Mel Gibson movie caricature. The steep stroll to its doorstep is ironically peaceful, carrying me through pockets of bluebells – before the view works its magic, showcasing not just the crossing point over the River Forth where Wallace achieved his brutal feat, but Ben Lomond prodding at the horizon.

The crag that forms the original kernel of Stirling also flirts with former eras. Even its main retreat, the Stirling Highland Hotel, is wedded to yesteryear, lovingly slotted into an 1854 school – all ghosts of chalky blackboards and homework. I pause for the night here, eat a hearty breakfast in a restaurant that was once a classroom, then wander up the hill and succeed where Edward II failed – in gaining entry to the castle.

The aftermath of Bannockburn is quietly apparent here – in the way this lofty fortress developed into an eloquent Scottish royal statement. True, many buildings only date to the 15th and 16th centuries, but in their pomp and style, they sing of a monarchy that came to thrive. The palace, constructed by James V in 1538, was designed to present the king as a leading Renaissance ruler, statues of Greek gods peering at the observer. The panorama from its windows is no less glorious, as the sun smiles on the Forth below.

There is a footnote too. Outside, the Church of the Holy Rude bears the bullet wounds of another English incursion into Stirling – this time Oliver Cromwell’s troops in 1651. But the pertinent spot lies inside. By the altar, a paving slab notes that James VI was crowned here in 1567. In 1603, on the childless death of Elizabeth I, he would go south to become James I of England. In the end, Scottish crown ingested English. When September’s referendum is held, it might be worth asking – who is seeking independence from whom?




Travel essentials

Getting there

East Coast trains (03457 225 333; eastcoast.co.uk) run to Edinburgh and Stirling from London, York and Newcastle. By air Edinburgh is served by British Airways (0844 493 0758; ba.com) . CityJet (0871 221 2452; cityjet.com), easyJet (0330 365 5000; easyjet.com), Flybe (0871 700 2000; flybe.com) and Virgin Atlantic (0844 209 7777; virgin-atlantic.com).

Visiting there

Battle of Bannockburn Visitors Centre (0844 493 2139; battleofbannockburn.com; daily 10am-5.30pm; £11). Bannockburn Live (0844 481 8727; bannockburnlive.com; 28-29 June, 10am-7pm; £10 per day). Church of the Holy Rude (01786 475 275; holyrude.org; 11am-4pm daily; free). National Wallace Monument (01786 472 140; nationalwallacemonument.com; 10am-5pm, April-October except July/August to 6pm; £9.50). Stirling Castle (01786 450 000; stirlingcastle.gov.uk; 9.30am-6pm; £14).

Staying there

Stirling Highland Hotel, Spittal Street (01786 272 727; thehotelcollection.co.uk). Doubles £100, room only.

More information

visitscotland.com; homecomingscotland.com; nts.org.uk

Article source: http://rss.feedsportal.com/c/266/f/3860/s/3bb21e09/sc/10/l/0L0Sindependent0O0Ctravel0Cuk0Cbannockburn0Eback0Eto0Ethe0Ebattle0Elines0E955120A30Bhtml/story01.htm