Traveling to northern England is truly a highlight every summer. This time, we really made an effot to travel to new places in the region, and the results were both very successful and very promising.
One of the best things about England is the public transportation system. I know that there is lots to complain about there, but, honestly, in the US, there is absolutely nothing comperable. When I studied in York, I was amazed how far I could go taking trains and busses–I never once rented a car. This time, we had to look into new, hitherto untried routes to get around, but we really didn’t have any trouble (fortunately).
Taking a rather long, somewhat infrequent bus route, we managed to get out to the town of Helmsley to visit Helmsley Castle. This is a great site–unlike many castles, it isn’t on a hill that requires a long climb. The remaining structures also clearly demonstrate changes over time on the site. For me, the modifications made to the 12th century complex in the 14th century were the most interesting. Tudor modifications are also in evidence, and, like Scarborough Castle, the keep was destroyed during the English Civil War.
The ruins of Byland Abbey are on the same bus line, and we did stop there, too. I don’t think I realized how amazing monastic ruins could be until I saw this site. Since I am proposing to study monasteries and life within them, actually seeing the physical remains of a living complex like that was really amazing. Unfortunately, the site was closed when we came by, but the short stop inspired us to consider visiting other, similar sites in the future.
We also spent a day in Lincoln. Lincoln, of course, is on a main train line, and when I think about it, I’m not sure why I never visited the city. Lincoln was very impressive; the cathedral was truly the highlight. It was actually quite busy when we did visit because we chose, inadvertently, to go during “Magna Carta Weekend” in celebration of the 800th anniversary of the signing of the document. Lincoln apparently has one of the original 1215 copies, which we did get a chance to see while we were there. And, the day was a reminder that an English summer day can be relatively warm and sunny, and it also can be 48 degrees out.
Toward the end of our visit, we traveled to Conisbrough Castle, which is also on a train line. Although the keep has been rebuilt, the site is still very interesting. In fact, the keep really does give any visitor an idea of what structures like that would have been like inside–there isn’t much to iimagine there, and I think that makes it a very useful teaching tool. The complex is far more compact than Helmsley, but I thought the exhibition in the visitors’ center was far more informative about the construction and history of the site.
Until next time, York.