Liverpool was exciting for someone last night; it wasn’t one of us—either a lucky night or a bad one!
From Liverpool, we entered Wales from the north. And then, it was back in England as the tour bus traveled along the Welsh border in England’s Shropshire County, one of the country’s most unspoiled rural areas, with farms lined by an irregular grid of long green hedgerows. At nearly 1500 square miles, Shropshire is one of Britain’s least populated areas.
The spectacular Shropshire hills cover a quarter of the county and are designated an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. To the west the English/Welsh border is castle country; under the Normans, it became heavily fortified, indicated by the number of Norman Castles still standing here today.
A brief stop for food and toilet breaks followed in the medieval town of Ludlow, built to support Ludlow Castle, now in ruins.
Ludlow is a thriving medieval market town and an architectural gem with a lively community feel, busy with events and festivals throughout the year. The historic town center and the 11th century Ludlow Castle are situated on a cliff above the River Teme and are surrounded by the beautiful countryside of south Shropshire and the Welsh Marches. This proved to be one of our favorite stops.
Leaving the county of Shropshire, we entered the county of Hereford, home of our Hereford cattle in the US. The drive through Hereford provided views of picturesque farms of cattle, sheep, and rape seed. South of Hereford, the tour followed the River Wye southward; in this area the River Wye separates England and Wales.
Next we drove through the Wales county side to Tintern Abbey.
Tintern Abbey was founded in 1131,but fell into ruin after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century. Its remains have been celebrated in poetry and painting from the 18th century onwards. In 1984, Cadw took over responsibility for managing the site.
From Tintern Abbey, the tour took us to Cardiff, the capital and largest city of Wales, for sightseeing and overnighting. Upon arriving, we were taken on a brief walking tour of the town center. Since it was Friday afternoon, the streets and sidewalks were filled with people scurrying from pubs to sidewalk cafes to shops and stores.
Next, we toured Cardiff Castle.
Cardiff Castle is a medieval castle and Victorian Gothic revival mansion located in the city center. The original castle was built in the late 11th century by Norman invaders on top of a 3rd-century Roman fort. The castle was commissioned either by William the Conqueror or by Robert Fitzhamon, and formed the heart of the medieval town of Cardiff.
Over the centuries and into the 1800s, much renovation, rebuilding, and remodeling occurred. In the mid-18th century, Cardiff Castle passed into the hands of the Stuart dynasty. During the first half of the 19th century the family became extremely wealthy as a result of the growth of the coal industry in Glamorgan. Consequently, the castle was remodeled in a Gothic revival style. The resulting interior designs are considered to be among “the most magnificent that the gothic revival ever achieved” and, at least to me, a bit out of place. The grounds were re-landscaped and, following the discovery of the old Roman remains, reconstructed walls and a gatehouse in a Roman style were incorporated into the castle design as seen in the photographs. When the 4th Marquess died in 1947, the castle was given to the City of Cardiff (for tax purposes, of course). Today, the castle is run as a tourist attraction.