Tag Archives: England

Yorkshire Monasteries

In the second part of our series on our trip to England, we recount Raul’s independent excursions in beautiful Yorkshire.

While Lauren attended presentations and events at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds, Raul sought his own lessons in medieval history with a visit to the ruins of a Cistercian abbey and the scenic water gardens on the surrounding estate: Fountains Abbey.

Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey

Raul’s chief difficulty of the excursion was driving (a right-hand drive vehicle once again) and navigating the approximately fifty-five miles on his own. Along the way, he stopped for picnic victuals from a massive ASDA supermarket, the most interesting of these purchases being a flavorful and mature English cheese.

The estate that Fountains Abbey resides on is one of twenty-eight UNESCO World Heritage sites in England. At the site, Raul walked a short while from the entrance to the ruins. In the shade of the tower, he attended to his picnic lunch while observing the other visitors. There was at least one school group, with students all dressed in monk’s garb.

As luck would have it, there was scheduled to begin a free guided tour just as Raul finished lunch. The tour guide was a knowledgeable elderly woman, and there were no questions she could not answer satisfactorily. She skillfully depicted to the visitors what daily life would have been like for the residents of the abbey all those centuries ago. The social hierarchy of the residents and visitors, the functions of the various buildings, some of which only have small traces left which tell us a great deal, the problems and solutions of sanitation, medicine and food, the economic challenges and success that the abbey achieved, and the rituals and roles that the monks performed are some of the numerous topics that were discussed.

Unfortunately, the day was wearing on and Raul needed to make haste in order to visit the rest of the estate before making his way back to Leeds in time to pick up Lauren. The water gardens were added hundreds of years after the monasteries were closed by Henry VIII, so in a way the estate and gardens are a second attraction next to the ruins. Raul quickly walked the length of the park and eventually made his way back to the car.

On the second day of the conference, Raul visited another estate containing a monastic ruin, Bolton Abbey. The ruins of Bolton Priory lie on the estate, and there are a number of other attractions throughout the park. A hole in the wall grants visitors access to a trail leading into the estate:

Hole in the wall

Hole in the wall

The priory lies on the banks of the River Wharfe, adjacent to a shapely bend in the river.

Bolton Priory

Bolton Priory

Raul hiked within the picturesque grounds to a café, where he conveniently took shelter while a thunderstorm rolled through. Once the sun was shining again, he found a picnic table and ate lunch with greedy ducks eyeing every crumb and waddling around his feet. Only an approaching dog was able to scare them away.

He hiked back along the other bank of the river and observed the priory more closely.

Bolton Priory Door

Bolton Priory Door

On the third day, Lauren planned only to spend half of the day attending a few presentations that she did not want to miss. Raul spent the morning reading in a park, and then they left Leeds together in the direction of the Lake District. Along the way, they stopped to hike the Ingleton Falls Trail. Along the trail were five different waterfalls and several crossings of the rivers. The terrain is quite varied, from very wooded to wide open vistas. This photo was taken approximately halfway through the five-mile loop.

Ingleton Falls Trail

Ingleton Falls Trail

In our final installment in this series, we will visit the Lake District.

England Makes Good Weather for Us

Recently, Raul and Lauren spent one week in England. Lauren was engaged to present at the venerable 2014 International Medieval Congress in Leeds, so Raul decided to tag along and make a short excursion of it.

On Saturday, they arrived at Manchester Airport, greeted by grey, gravid clouds, just as the weather forecast predicted. By the time they picked up the rental car and dropped their belongings at the lovely home of Emily and Luke (and their dog Lola), their Airbnb hosts, it seemed that Yorkshire was determined to make fools of weather forecasters. The sunshine and blue sky roused the weary travelers from the temptation of a quiet nap and they made their way to lovely York with its impressive walls and Minster.

York 005

York Minster

Besides her own exalted forum, Lauren would also attend numerous other presentations on Monday and Tuesday. Therefore, Raul was named the official driver for their hired car. Although he had previously driven on the left side of the road on Eleuthera, this would be his first experience driving a right-hand-drive vehicle. The drives on Saturday and Sunday, with Lauren navigating, engendered the vital comfort and confidence necessary for Raul to go adventuring alone on Monday and Tuesday.

By unhappy coincidence, the Tour de France started the very weekend of their arrival, in Leeds itself. Raul and Lauren were delighted by Yorkshire’s enthusiasm for “The Tour,” but the purpose of their visit was orthogonal to the Tour de France, and they faced a few inconveniences such as road blocks and the extra expense associated with lodging in such circumstances. On the other hand, they were within a mere couple of miles of the future king and queen, who were seeing the competitors off at Harrogate, so maybe that counts for something.

Sunday morning, they visited their first of several abbey ruins, the Kirkstall Abbey, a testament to the tyranny of Henry VIII and his destructive rejection of the Catholic Church.

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Kirkstall Abbey ruins

After taking in the ruins, Raul and Lauren strolled around the abbey grounds. Raul found an easy tree to climb, though not easy enough for Lauren to conquer.

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An easy tree

The rest of the day was spent exploring the estate of Lotherton Hall. The grounds were peaceful, with wooded lanes, an impressive tennis court constructed of impeccably laid bricks, fountains and rose gardens, a bird garden, and of course the country house itself.

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Lotherton Hall grounds

Their lodging near Leeds was a pleasure. Emily and Luke treated Raul and Lauren to a home cooked dinner of Spaghetti Bolognese, with portions maybe too large even for Trent Terwelp. The following night, all four of them sat together to watch the semi-final World Cup game between Brazil and Germany, which will not soon be forgotten.

Raul fancies the classic taps in the bathroom, with hot and cold water having independent spouts.

Taps 001

Traditional taps

In the next post, Raul visits two more ruins, and Lauren joins him for a hike through the Yorkshire Dales.