Catching Up!

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a good documentary, although my Sky planner is full of the things. I’ve decided to try and catch up with a lot of the stuff I’ve been recording, anyway, starting with this two-part series on the Incas. I was always very interested in the Incas, the Aztecs and all that sort of Pre-Columbian, meso- and south-American history when I was growing up, but somewhere in my late teens I seemed to lose interest.

While Machu Picchu is probably the most famous Inca relic, this documentary has introduced all sorts of other sites that look absolutely incredible, principally among them (to me), the Moray agricultural terraces shown in my tweet above. Designed to facilitate crop cultivation at high altitude, it’s another of the really humbling scientific innovations of the past!

I’ve decided to sleeve my entire Lord of the Rings LCG collection, a project that has been going on fitfully this past week, but is sufficiently mindless to occupy my while catching up with these things. I think I’ve used around 30 packs, which has allowed me to sleeve four decks, along with pretty much all of the scenarios released to date – not counting print-on-demand or Saga stuff. It’s a demanding task, but hopefully will be worthwhile in the end! Lord of the Rings, I’ve recently realised, is my most-played card game, and I’m concerned that the player cards might not hold up much longer. As it is also my most-beloved card game as well, it’s time to make some effort to protect it against wear and tear, methinks!

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Time to relax #StarWars #novels

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve been enjoying a return to some classic Star Wars with The New Rebellion, one of my all-time favourite stories from the Bantam era! Published in 1996, the story details the efforts of the Force-sensitive Kueller to set himself up as a new Emperor. Some of the story is a little, well, daft, with occasionally unclear motivations for the characters, but overall, it still stands up for me. I really enjoy the way the story is paced – it’s a big book, 532 pages in paperback, and has pretty much exactly the right amount of story within its pages. This could so easily have been padded out to form a trilogy, which would probably have diminished its impact, I would say. Lots of plots, lots of intrigue, and lots of subterfuge, with Han returning to his smuggling roots, Luke doing some Jedi stuff, and Leia going up against former Imperial senators. Even the droids have a significant part to play in the plot! Really good stuff.

Only a couple of things really detract from it. First of all, the chapters are fairly short, and a significant number of them end on cliffhanger-style “tune in next week to see if Han survives being shot in the ass” sorts of things, which kinda gets old after a while. Also, the title kinda bothers me. While “rebellion” is defined as armed resistance to the established order, within the context of the GFFA, “rebellion” conjures a different sort of sense to that which is portrayed in the novel. We see very little of Kueller and his forces until the very end, which is kind of necessary for the plot, but this means the novel is primarily one of intrigue and subterfuge – the sort of novel that I really, really enjoy, but it just feels like the title is a bit misleading.

But that’s all pretty secondary. The novel is great, and if you can still manage to find a copy, I can definitely recommend you pick it up!

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#StudioGhibli #awesome

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Last week, I read this excellent post from fellow blogger, travelling in my bookcase, which reignited my interest in Studio Ghibli. I was first introduced to these anime films back in 2008 by an ex-girlfriend, with the classic Spirited Away, and really enjoyed the everything about it. We watched a couple of others, which I also enjoyed, and while I had often thought of getting some of them to watch again since we broke up, it wasn’t until now that I did anything about it. Having had an amazon voucher burning a hole in my pocket for about three months now, I hope you’ll agree, I’ve made a sound investment with it!

In the coming weeks and months, anyway, I’m sure these will be featured as I get through them!

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#PathfinderACG #Pathfinder #DrunkenMaster

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Games now. Last week I finally got round to getting a copy of the new Wrath of the Righteous core set for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, having had the character pack and adventure pack two delivered from my Paizo subscription. While I haven’t actually played a game with it yet, I have found myself returning to the Rise of the Runelords game, playing with Sajan, my drunken master Monk, which has been pretty good anyway! I’m still only playing through Burnt Offerings, so there’s still a long way to go, but it’s good to be within this universe once again, though the card game can be quite repetitive so I’m not intending to play this a lot. But I have made up a new deck using the Wizard class deck, for the necromancer, Darago. Looking forward to seeing how that works with the adventure! The class decks are pretty exciting, anyway, so it’s good to see they’re going to be putting some more out this year – including that for the Monk!

Since watching the new Titansgrave series from Geek and Sundry, combined with the recent focus on the Pathfinder ACG, I’ve been feeling the need for a RPG adventure in my life. Soon, hopefully!

On the subject of card games, though, FFG has released a couple of expansions for the LCGs in the last week, and taken another look at the upcoming Great Devourer for the Warhammer Conquest LCG. The Tyranids were always going to be fun to play, and the previews for this box definitely support that idea. Of course, I’m still looking forward to the Necrons more than anything, but it looks great all the same. Some guys have recently started a LCG group at my local store – after that demo of Android Netrunner I gave, no less! – so I’m hoping to get in some more games there.

The Thousand Young expansion for Call of Cthulhu is another deluxe expansion that’s looking pretty exciting, as does Attack Run for Star Wars, the latter bringing a brand new Fate card that looks really powerful! I’ve recently made up a Sith deck for this game, in the hope that some more games aren’t too far off. We’ll see, anyway!

Remember this? It was set to be released in June, I seem to remember, but that seems to have been pushed back to next month now, I suppose in reflection of the Marvel comics being delayed, too. I haven’t kept up with the comics in years, but the Secret Wars storyline does sound vaguely interesting. Beware of following that link if you want to avoid spoilers for the comics, however!!

What’s that Volume 1 all about, on the lower-right? Hmmm!

I haven’t played Legendary for a long while now – not since February, in fact – so should probably make some effort to correct that soon… I’ve finally found the new Fear Itself expansion to Legendary: Villains on sale here in the UK, so looking forward to seeing that when it arrives in my hot little hands… I seem to recall reading somewhere Iron Man will be a commander in his enchanted armour…

While we’re on the subject of comics-based games…

DC Teen Titans

The fourth core set for the DC deck-building game, Teen Titans brings, well, the Teen Titans to the game, with playable heroes such as Red Robin, Wonder Girl and Beast Boy. Man, I love these names! The most interesting aspect of this one is the Ongoing Abilities that certain cards will have. Something that very few deck-builders incorporate (as far as I can tell), it’ll be interesting to see how the game plays when you have more options available to you on your turn. It’s coming out next quarter, along with another Crossover Pack with the Arrow TV series. I’ve not watched the series, unfortunately, but I believe it’s awesome. However, this pack uses stills from the show rather than comic-style art, so I’m currently thinking I’ll pass on this one. Later in the year, we’re getting Legion of Super Heroes with some time-travel mechanic, and then a Watchmen Crossover Pack, presumably before the end of the year, which gives a co-op with defector flavour to the game. Interesting…

Ruins and Games

Hey everybody!

It’s the last day of another week off work, sadly, though this one didn’t go quite according to plan – I was supposed to be going to Milan, but as it turned out that didn’t happen. Milan, in case you’re interested, is a pretty great city to visit – you can check out my photos of a previous trip in one of my first blogs here!

It’s been a good week regardless, as I’ve celebrated my one-year anniversary of being here on WordPress and haranguing you all with nonsense. The festivities were centred on Indiana Jones, as I explored anew one of the great movie franchises, and managed to squeeze in a look at one of my favourite boardgames, Fortune & Glory! If you haven’t already, make sure you check that one out, as it’s a lot of fun!

Games haven’t featured as much as I thought they would, actually – I think I’ve been too annoyed at the change in plans to relax enough. I did have a game night on Friday though, where we tried out a couple of new ones (games I have had for months, but just not played yet – it happens a lot). This coming Tuesday, you can expect a blog on one of these two; it’s a game that has been mentioned on here quite a lot, actually – the game of Fallen!

I’ve largely spent the week split between my two great passions, heritage-hunting and Star Wars. I managed to get two ruins in during the awesome weather we had mid-week: Stokesay Castle, and Witley Court!

Stokesay Castle is off the A49 in south Shropshire, and has long been a favourite of mine. I think the intimate feel of the place really plays a big part of this – it’s essentially the fortified manor house of a fourteenth-century wool merchant, so while it is a defensible structure, it’s not a castle in the sense of a military fortress such as Caernarfon, for instance. Instead, we get the rooms of medieval domesticity such as the solar and bedchambers, and it’s all really nice.

By contrast, Witley Court is the shell of a country house, which was a centre of the Victorian country house party circuit before the disastrous fire of 1937 gutted the place. I first visited the ruin three years ago, after a day spent in the Hereford and Worcester area, and it quickly became my very favourite place in England. I haven’t been able to make it back until this week, but it was great to be there again, I have to say!

It’s now quite famous for the restored fountain, which fires hourly during the day. As I got there, it was still going, but I hung about until the noon extravaganza too, and it was funny to see the amount of people who emerged from the ruins to witness the spectacle shortly before 12…

Driving often gives me a headache, and driving in the sun is not much fun for me, so I didn’t manage to get anywhere else. That said, I did manage to read some pretty awesome Star Wars bits and pieces – some of the very early newspaper comic strips (check them out here and here), and the new Heir to the Jedi, which I reviewed on Friday. For a quick recommendation, I definitely suggest you check out Heir to the Jedi, as it’s a really awesome book! It’s part of the new continuity of course, which alone had given me pause before I read it, but as it happens it’s pretty contiguous with the EU that I know and love. Well worth checking out, though! I’ve since moved on to reading another Luke story, Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, which I’ll doubtless be entertaining you with just as soon as it’s finished, though this is one that I have read before, so I can recommend it to you now, anyway 🙂

Also on the subject of Star Wars, I had the chance to try the new Armada game at the local games shop on Friday, and that’ll be written up in blog form soon no doubt. It was pretty good, too, though I’ll save my thoughts for the blog itself. But this brings me back to the subject of boardgames, and while I haven’t played many this week, there’s still plenty of excitement here!

new games

I’d gone to the local shop to pick up some stuff, and got caught up in the Armada thing, but yeah: new Lord of the Rings box, and new Necron stuff! The Treason of Saruman is a new Saga expansion for the game, and follows the first half of The Two Towers. As such, there’s a new Fellowship hero, Aragorn! I’m quite excited, anyway, because I now have ten more Saga expansion quests to play through in my ongoing project, having now had Fog on the Barrow-downs as well, though I haven’t gotten around to any more plays yet. Soon, however…

Following the game of Warhammer 40k the other week, even though I don’t know when I’d be playing next – if at all, to be honest – I’m feeling vaguely more interested in what I’m actually modelling and painting now, beyond the way something looks. Buying the Doom Scythe was largely the result of a gameplay idea rather than wanting to build and paint one – these ships act as tanks for the Necrons, as they can transport up to 15 models, so following that game, where I could see how useful transport vehicles can be, I decided to get one. It doesn’t look too bad to build, either.

This week hasn’t been without its painting endeavours, either, as I’ve been working on three Tomb Blades – the jetbikes of the Necron army!

What fiddly models. In order to paint them, I assembled the main bike and the rider separately, but that meant I couldn’t attach the arms or hands to the rider, in case I did so at a pose that would ultimately be impossible to fit him in there. The rider is also hooked up to the bike itself, with two very small, very thin tubing-bits, and even using tweezers to put them in, I had a hard time getting them in the right place. Urgh! But they’re all (reasonably) assembled now, with all of the base coats (and some highlighting of the buttons under the riders’ hands, for instance), so it’s time for phase two of this operation. Though I’m not sure when that’ll be… They look really great as models, however, and I’m looking forward to having them finished!

I particularly like the look of my Necron vehicles so far, I think the green and the silver looks quite effective as-is, and doubt I’ll be doing anything more to it. However, when I shared a picture of the Command Barge on facebook, someone made the comment about it looks like a Hasbro toy that way. I’m pretty sure it was meant to be insulting, though given how successful Hasbro are as a company, maybe there’s a complement in there? I don’t know. At any rate, I’m not really wanting to do anything to change it right now, so will just carry on!

While we’re on the topic of Warhammer, though…

Assassinorum Execution Force

This has got me pretty excited, I don’t mind telling you! I love co-op games, as I enjoy working together to overcome something horrible. While PvP games can be good, I get tired of the effort that can be involved at times. With co-op, there’s a camaraderie that I feel just can’t be beaten – I mean, I’m friends with people because I like them, not because I want to destroy them! However, the potential for solo play cannot be overlooked, either. So I’ve preordered this from the local shop, and will look forward to getting it put together – if anything like Space Hulk, it should only be seven or eight months before I think about painting it…

Assassinorum Execution Force

I went to Shrewsbury today

Hey everybody!

Here we are, at another weekend closer to Christmas! Of course, it seems lately like every other day is Christmas, what with the recent hauls I’ve been having! To kick things off, I’m pleased to say that Lagoon has arrived!

This game does look very beautiful, I have to say, though I’ve not managed to have a game with it yet. Hopefully soon, though!

Warhammer Glottkin

Today has seen a pretty impressive arrival though! You’ll remember the End Times of course? Round Two has been going off for the past few weeks, culminating in the release today of the enormous and disgusting Glottkin:

Warhammer Glottkin

I’m not a big fan of Nurgle, as I feel vaguely ill looking at some of these new models. Which I suppose is a good thing, as they’re meant to, but still… While I’m not a fan of the miniatures (if you can call something like the new Glottkin a “miniature”), I was keen to get hold of the new book for the history of the apocalypse. It looks fantastic, too! I feel quite lucky to have managed to get a copy, however, as it sold out in pre-order within something like two hours, which I find pretty hilarious, if I’m honest. Games Workshop continue to baffle all in their sales strategies, it seems.

I went to Shrewsbury this morning, where the GW store didn’t even have an allocation of the books, though they were stocking the model. So you could buy the model, but you won’t have the rules to use it in your games. Hm. From what I understand, this has been repeated across the world, pretty much. In this respect, I feel a bit awkward about having one when I don’t intend to use the miniature, but then I have nothing to do with retail merchandising for them, so I absolve myself. I did pick up the new End Times novel from the store, however, The Fall of Altdorf, along with a box of Lizardmen.

Shrewsbury, however, is one of my absolute favourite places in the country. I used to go there a few times a year as a child, but it was 2012 when I renewed my acquaintance with the town, and it has swiftly become one of my all-time favourites. The sense of history that you get when there is palpable, and it’s one of those places that I’m utterly content to just wander the streets with no particular destination.

Shropshire formed something of a project for me towards the end of 2012, actually, as I trawled the county visiting some new places and re-acquainting myself with places like the county-town itself. You can check out my wanderings in a series of blogs I wrote over on my blogger site:
Part One: Oswestry, Whittington, Ellesmere and Whitchurch
Part Two: Wroxeter
Part Three: Montgomery, Bishop’s Castle, Clun, Stokesay Castle
Part Four: Shrewsbury
Part Five: Market Drayton, Wem, Newport, Lilleshall Abbey, Shifnal, Much Wenlock, Bridgnorth
Part Six: Ludlow

Basically, I love history, and I love Shropshire! In doing the research for this mini series of blogs (which isn’t technically finished yet!), I discovered so much about a truly fascinating area that is basically on my doorstep. If you can, I highly recommend making a trip!

History is something that has always been something of a passion, of course, but it seems that lately it has begun to fall by the wayside in my life, as I’ve been embracing a whole tranche of other stuff, but I’m beginning to feel the need for a return to this lately…

I suppose this is the downside of being a geek: when you like something with an all-consuming passion, you tend to have energy only for a small number of things. It’s also one of the ironies, I find, of doing a degree in history: because I must look into certain things, I find myself disinterested until I no longer have to follow that syllabus. As a case in point, I was forever behind on the last module of my degree, as I would always want to look further into a part that we had just finished, and now that I’m doing the Classics side of things, I’ve been finding myself looking instead back to the middle ages. Not that I’m not enjoying the degree, of course! First world problems, and such.

Anyway, brushing all that aside, I’ve been enjoying a cup of Spiced Orange Mocha, which I can highly recommend to you all (though not as highly as the Millionaire Shortbread Mocha)

Exploring the Classical World

Hey folks!

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And so it begins again… #100happydays

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Yep, it’s that time again – I’m gearing up for the next module in my degree. I’m quite excited, as I’ve had a lifelong love of classics. So yeah, exciting times are on their way, make no mistake!

I’m kinda hopeful that this one will go well, anyway – thanks to my A level in Classics, I’ve already studied at least two of the set-books the course demands, and have already written an essay pretty similar to one of those for the module, so fingers crossed!

An interesting read

Morning everyone!
I shall apologise in advance for a quiet weekend from me, as I am still recovering from nearly two weeks of migraine and almost-migraine, so don’t want to spend too long staring at a screen. But I have taken delivery of a very interesting little book that I thought deserves some attention, so lo! Here it is:

The House of Wisdom is a look at the Arabic culture that really flourished in the traditional European ‘dark age’. That is a contentious issue, of course, and one that I don’t want to get into right now (because I’m still delicate, y’know). However, I have long been intrigued about this era, and especially since I studied it as part of my degree back in 2012. Focusing on the survival of medical knowledge from Ancient Greece and Rome through the Islamic lands, the degree course really whetted my appetite for more!

I’ve only started to read House of Wisdom, but it nevertheless appears to be a really interesting read, so I can definitely recommend it to folks who are interested, and also if you’re not entirely sure what I’m banging on about and want to know more!

1914 Live

Morning all!

As you no doubt know, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One. The conflict officially began next month, when Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and the power blocs fell as allies of each declared war on each other, but today marks the ‘cassus belli’ of World War One: the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austro-Hungary.

The assassination happened in just over half an hour’s time, around 10:45am, on 28 June 1914, and precipitated what wikipedia states is the seventh most-costly war, in terms of human life lost, in the history of the world.

The BBC have set up an excellent blog ‘1914 Live‘ where you can follow the events as they happened. Definitely worth investigating on this very significant day!

My trip to Conwy

Welcome back folks! What started as a day trip to Anglesey has turned into a trip around all four of Edward I’s castles in north Wales! For day three, let me take you around Conwy.

Conwy Castle

Perhaps the most arresting approach to any town in Britain, this is the sight that greets you on the way in to the town. Amazing stuff!

I’ve written two similar blogs already this week – Beaumaris and Caernarfon – but I don’t feel that I’ve done the subject of the Conquest of Wales much justice. Well, I won’t go into it here, but I will at least sketch in some info for you. Llywelyn the Great reigned as Prince of Gwynedd and Lord of Snowdonia from 1199 to 1240. He was married to the daughter of King John, but his expansionist foreign policy brought him into frequent conflict with England. However, he was recognised as Prince by Henry III, his brother-in-law.

Llywelyn left his kingdom in turmoil when he left his lands entirely to his youngest son Dafydd, disinheriting his illegitimate son Grufudd (under Welsh law at this time, land was inherited by all children as a partition). Dafydd immediately imprisoned Grufudd at Criccieth and consolidated his power from Llywelyn’s castle at Deganwy. Henry III then decided to intervene, however, and supported Grufudd. In 1246 Dafydd died, and the castle at Deganwy was captured by the English, who made it a mighty seat of power in the area, establishing a town in its shadow.

The castle at Deganwy was destroyed by Grufudd’s son, Llywelyn, in 1263, as he led a campaign to expel the English from his ancestral lands. In 1267, Henry III accepted Llywelyn as Prince of Gwynedd, in return for Llywelyn’s homage. Henry died in 1272, and was succeeded by his son Edward I. Llywelyn begged off attending the coronation, then repeatedly refused to pay homage to Edward. Things probably could have been handled better, of course, insofar as Henry had requested Llywelyn pay him homage, but Edward demanded it. In what can easily be imagined as a towering fury, Edward launched a concerted attack on Llywelyn, with forces coming from Chester, Montgomery, Carmarthen and by boat to Anglesey. It didn’t take long for Llywelyn to surrender at Aberconwy Abbey in 1277.

The terms of this surrender were to confine Llywelyn to Snowdonia, and to ensure they were kept, a massive programme of castle-building began, with fortresses being put up at Flint, Rhuddlan, Builth and Aberystwyth. Edward granted land to his lords across most of north wales, and further castles were built at Denbigh, Holt, Chirk, Ruthin and Hawarden. It was a misguided attack on the latter by Llywelyn’s younger brother Dafydd in 1282 that sparked the second campaign of Edward I, with an even larger army intent on ending the Welsh problem once and for all. Llywelyn was killed at Cilmeri, and Edward established his forward command post at Aberconwy Abbey in March 1283. It was from here that the capture of Dafydd was led, and evidence suggests that Edward had initially planned to make Conwy the administrative centre of his power in Wales, though ultimately it was Caernarfon that fulfilled this role.

Conwy was planned from the outset as a castle and town, and the initial planning stages began even before Dafydd’s capture and execution. Building work was incredibly swift, with the curtain walls being built within the first two years of construction. By 1287, both the castle and town walls were complete, at the cost of £15,000 (over £12.5m by today’s standards).

Conwy Castle

The castle has the most complete interior of any royal castle from medieval Britain, including the royal apartments in the inner ward, and the hall in the outer ward.

During the rebellion of 1294, Edward and his queen Eleanor of Castile stayed at Conwy while the English response was carried out. This is apparently the only known time that the king stayed at the castle. Of course, he was soon off fighting up in Scotland, anyway.

Conwy Castle

The town that sprang up around the castle was intended for English habitation only, and until the Tudor period, Welshmen were forbidden from entering any of the English towns in Wales, much less from trading with them. There are few surviving buildings in the town from this early period, though Aberconwy House is a typical medieval merchant’s house.

The town walls encircle an area of 22 acres and run for 1400 yards in a virtually unbroken circuit, with three fortified gates and twenty-one towers placed at regular intervals:

The Mill Gate
The Mill Gate

Not far from the massively-fortified Upper Gate is the site of ‘Llywelyn’s Hall’, a timber-framed structure that originally stood flush to the town walls, and is marked now by the only section of wall with windows built in. The hall was moved to Caernarfon in 1316 as a symbolic show of domination over the Welsh, but has long since vanished.

The entire project of building is really crazy when you think that, firstly, it was finished in four years, but also that it was being built at the same time as Caernarfon and Harlech Castles over on the west coast! An awesome amount of manpower and materiel was needed for this project, which really goes to show just how powerful the medieval monarchy was!

Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle was the first of the four royal castles of Edward I that I visited, nearly seven years ago now, and it is probably the one I’ve been to most since. It’s definitely worth a visit, with a stroll along the town walls to finish! Marvellous!

Conwy Castle

My trip to Caernarfon

Good afternoon everyone! Following on from yesterdays Anglesey antics, I spent the day today at Caernarfon, the centre of Edward I’s castles-of-Wales complex. And what a castle it is! I haven’t really visited this place in six years, so was quite overawed!

The modern town of Caernarfon sits directly on the banks of the Menai Strait in a location that is positively brimming with legend. Settle down, for I’m going to tell you a story…

Macsen Wledig – perhaps better known by his Latin name Magnus Maximus, a later Emperor of Rome – had a dream of a beautiful maiden in a distant land. When he awoke, he sent his men to scour the world for her, and she was eventually found in Segontium, just outside modern Caernarfon. Macsen is so overjoyed that the maiden, whose name is Elen, loved him in return that he made her father king of all Britain. However, in Macsen’s absence, a new Emperor seized power. Macsen, with an army led by Elen’s brother Conan, marched back to Rome and regained his throne, and in gratitude he gave Conan land in Gaul, modern-day Brittany. As for Elen, she became a Saint, often credited with road-building across Britain.

What a lovely tale! Well, at any rate, the story – together with the remains of the Roman fortress at Segontium – proved to be a very evocative symbol of the status associated with the site. While the Normans had built a motte-and-bailey castle here, it had been in Welsh control since the early twelfth century. There is some documentary evidence that the Princes of Wales, while more comfortable at their llys than a castle, also spent time here.

As mentioned in my Beaumaris blog, Edward I was very big on symbolism. Well, the whole medieval world was to a large extent – that’s why heraldry was invented. But anyway. A site associated with the Emperors of ancient Rome, as well as rich in the native Welsh tradition, he didn’t waste any time in making it the administrative and judicial centre of English Wales following the successful subjugation of the Welsh in 1283.

The whole history of the Edwardian Conquest is absolutely fascinating, and one that deserves its own blog, really. So for now I’ll just stick to Caernarfon. Work began around 24 June 1283, with the king and queen arriving the following month. By the following year, it is believed that the massive Eagle Tower had been completed to at least first-floor level.

Caernarfon Castle

The castle was planned and built alongside the neighbouring town, and by 1285 the town walls were largely complete.

Work on the castle continued throughout subsequent building seasons, and surviving documents indicate that expense was almost seen as no object. By 1288, however, expense dropped off noticeably, until 1292, where it ceased. The guidebook tells us that the entire project up to this time cost £12,000 – over £11m in today’s prices. However, by this time the town-facing side of the castle hadn’t really been built properly, largely because it was defended by the town itself.

However, in 1294, rebellion broke out. By the Statute of Rhuddlan issued a decade earlier, Caernarfon had been made the centre of English government. As such, it was the prime target for the rebellion of Madog ap Llywelyn. Records relate how the walls were ‘thrown down’ and the castle building site was torched. The English response was brutal, and work began immediately on re-fortifying the town – expense accounts suggest that half the town walls had indeed been demolished in the attack.

Building continued apace for the rest of the century, with the distinctive horizontal banding in the curtain walls that was a deliberate echo of the walls of Roman Constantinople. Edward turned his attention to Scotland as the fourteenth century dawned, and work on all of his Welsh projects stalled until the victory at Stirling in 1304.

In 1316, the timber hall from Conwy, known vaguely as the ‘Prince’s Hall’, was dismantled and brought here, where it was reassembled at the Great Hall within the castle (seen as foundations on the right, above). Another gesture pregnant with symbolism – the hall was the traditional centre of a stronghold and the place where the king dispensed his justice. By bringing Llywelyn’s hall to Caernarfon, Edward made his new castle the seat of justice for Wales as well as making it impossible for the Welsh to rule themselves anymore.

By 1330, it seems that the fabric of the castle and the town was largely complete, to the extent that it stands today. Total expenditure is given by Cadw as no more than £25,000 – over £23.5m in modern terms. For the next two hundred years, Caernarfon Castle continued to be the administrative centre for Wales, and the town was off-limits to the native Welsh.

According to legend, following the defeat of Llywelyn at Cilmeri in 1282, Edward I attempted to pacify the Welsh resistance that had continued by offering the natives a prince ‘borne in Wales and could speake never a word of English’, before showing his newborn son Edward to the assembled crowds at the castle in April 1284. Well, whether that scene actually happened or not, Edward did indeed bestow the title of Prince of Wales upon his son and heir in 1301, as well as the earldom of Chester.

Edward I confers the title of Prince of Wales upon his son
Edward I confers the title of Prince of Wales upon his son

Since then, the eldest son and heir of the reigning monarch has been declared Prince of Wales, though of course, with some exceptions. Edward II did not declare his son, the future Edward III, as Prince of Wales; when George II’s son Frederick died after a tennis injury he made Frederick’s son George the Prince. Also of note, Richard of York had himself made Prince of Wales in 1460 in order to secure his succession to the incapacitated Henry VI. It wasn’t until 1911, however, that a ceremony at Caernarfon was instituted, when George V made his son Edward the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII). Again in 1969, Elizabeth II invested her heir Charles as Prince of Wales, at the famous televised event for which the slate dais was installed in the upper ward. The castle has an exhibition of the Princes of Wales, including the specially-made throne and stool for the occasion:

Caernarfon Castle

So there you have it! Caernarfon Castle in all its imperial pomp and splendour! It really is a fantastic castle, the photos in this blog really don’t do justice to the scale of the place. I was particularly surprised at how easy it is to get lost within the wall passages, though that may say more about my sense of direction than anything else. Perhaps more than any other castle in Wales, it still gives the impression of might that it was originally designed for. Go on, go visit it!

My trip to Anglesey: Penmon

It’s a double feature! Part one of today’s Anglesey trip featured an excellent visit to Beaumaris Castle. I followed that by a trip further east along the coast, to Penmon.

Penmon Priory

Penmon lies to the east of Beaumaris, and is notable for the long history of its church, which stretches back to the sixth century AD. Founded by St Seiriol, a friend of St Cybi who founded Holyhead on the opposite end of the island at this time, the early monastery was attacked by the Vikings in the tenth century, before the current buildings were established in from the middle of the twelfth century. Shown above is the chancel, which is a significantly later addition, but the tower, transepts (one of which is on the right in the picture) and the nave are all dated from the original Augustinian house.

St Seiriol's Well St Seiriol's Well

No great saint would be complete without a holy well, of course! St Seiriol’s Well was used, as were most holy wells, for reputed healing properties until at least 1811.

Penmon Priory

The monastic buildings at Penmon Priory include the refectory, or dining hall, as shown above. The building to the right in the above photo is the dovecote, which post-dates the suppression of the monasteries. The Jacobean landowner Sir Richard Bulkeley, with a mansion just outside Beaumaris, had the dovecote built sometime after 1600. The Cadw guide tells us that, in the days before farming had advanced to keeping animals fattened all year, doves and pigeons provided an important source of meat in the winter months.

Penmon dovecote

The monuments at Penmon also include a number of crosses, now kept in the Priory itself, which date to the time of the Viking invasions:

Penmon Cross

Penmon Priory

I really like Penmon. The close-siting of the monuments of a small monastic community gives a really strong impression of what life must have been like in these early Christian foundations. The remote location serves to add to this feeling, too – much better than the St Cybi monuments, which are within the town centre of Holyhead.


Just a little farther on from the Priory, there is a fantastic reminder of Anglesey’s rich industrial past. The Flagstaff Limestone Quarry was originally operating from around the 1830s, though limestone had been quarried at Penmon much earlier, as Beaumaris Castle was made out of the stuff.

Flagstaff Quarry

A small confession, here: I love industrial archaeology. While I think I will always be a medievalist at heart, nevertheless I find the remnants of our industrial past simply irresistible. The remains of the Flagstaff Quarry buildings can be seen from the coastal road on the approach to Penmon, and I was ridiculously excited once they caught my eye:

Flagstaff Quarry

If I ever get round to writing travelogues of my previous trips to Anglesey, first on the list will be last year’s trip around Cemaes-Bull Bay, where I came across the ruins of Porth Wen brickworks and was almost faint with joy! Truly, truly magnificent!

Flagstaff Quarry

I think what excites me so much about industrial remains is the fact that everything we see had a working purpose to it. As much as one can say that every inch of a castle is intended to be a defensible structure, or an abbey is intended to glorify God, things like these massive banks of lime kilns here made things. People worked here, and they made stuff. It’s just really, really exciting to be among such buildings!

Flagstaff Quarry

I have spent a lot of time in quarries – there’s a massive limestone quarry not that far from where I live – but I can’t pretend to know a lot about what I’ve seen here today. The Royal Commission site tells me that there is a crusher house still standing, which could potentially be the structure above – that would certainly explain the chutes coming out of the walls, if not the chimney as a means of powering the rollers – but I don’t know.

Flagstaff Quarry

What I do know, however, is that this place was awesome! And so picturesque, too!

Flagstaff Quarry

Leaving our industrial past behind momentarily, however, we come to the final stop on this tour: Penmon Point.

Penmon Point

This is really what drove my trip today. I’d seen a lot of this view over on twitter for a while, and had been wanting to get up to the island to see what it’s like for myself. Pretty damn amazing, I think you’ll agree! The island to the right in the above pic is, of course, Puffin Island, once home to possibly the largest colony of puffins in Britain until a plague of rats reduced their numbers. The island was the site of another monastic foundation of St Seiriol, who is said to be buried here. There are apparently ruins of a church on the island, but it is strictly off-limits due to the bird-breeding programmes.

Penmon Point

So there you have it, an excellent tour along the eastern tip of Anglesey! It’s well worth a visit, and on an excellent day like today, you really ought to get out there and see the sights!

Penmon Point