Mom Camp Day 4: This was one of those days when things just seem to go sideways on you. We spent the night at a rather odd hotel in New Ross (a town founded by the Marshal) and we overslept. We had a full day’s agenda that had to be majorly altered. We skipped the Dunbrody Famine Ship as well as Waterford and made our way to the Irish Tintern Abbey.
We made a trip the parent Abbey in Wales last year, (for those interested in the original Abbey). For those of you who don’t know, the Irish Tintern Abbey was founded by the Marshal. He had a pretty rough sea crossing to Ireland. He pledged to found a new Abbey if he made it to shore. Thankfully he made it and he was as good as his word and founded the Abbey.
Personally, having been to both, I prefer the Irish Abbey. The grounds at the Irish Tintern are far more lush and evocative of the past. Unlike it’s parent abbey in Wales, the Irish Tintern is surrounded by lovely forests and walking paths. It also features a lovely bridge that crosses over a small river near the abbey. It is very picturesque! My only complaint was that we didn’t have more time to spend there!
inside the abbey
Next, it was off to Kilkenny another Anglo-Norman city. In Kilkenny we stayed in the castle’s old carriage house that has been converted to a hotel. Very nice. It had an English style garden between the carriage house and the castle across the way.
Kilkenny also prides itself on maintaining a lot of its medieval history. They have the medieval mile you can walk and imagine what the city might have looked it. In town there is also a pub that date backs to the 1300s. Back in the day it was run by a witch! Of course it’s a tourist trap. But with two kids, who could skip it? We were treated to an Irish drum circle lesson.
The Captain also discovered Kilkenny is where Smithwick’s Beer is brewed. So we stopped into the shop for a t-shirt.
Day 3: By day 3 it was time to leave Dublin. We drove down the old military road and the Sally Gap on the way to Glendalough.
We stopped road side to explore a stream and the poor Princess fell in! We had to do a roadside outfit change… It was horribly cold for a Vegas kid with soaked pants and all… Then it was get back in the car for another bit of driving.
At Glendalough we walked the grounds and forests. It’s easy to see how the Irish folk tales started about various bad fairies. The woods were far more lush than our trip to the 100 acre woods in England. Darker and certainty more mysterious!
There we also a high number of ferns!!! This of course was very exciting for us because we love the Incorrigible books (See our reviews: book #2, book #3, book #4. We are still reading #5. But, look for a review of it soon!) In the books, there are A LOT of side bars on the different types of ferns. The desert kids loved seeing them in their natural environment.
And speaking of ferns leaving Glendalough it was time to rush to Ferns! Okay, why Ferns you might ask? Well, it was the seat of power for the kingdom of Leinster. The castle there was built by none other than William Marshal (Shameless plug for my book here!).
Ferns Castle built by William Marshal
Two fire places at Ferns. The lower more primative fireplace may have been built by Strongbow
We made it to the castle just in time for the last tour of the day. Our guide was a delightful young man who was pleased to see we were interested in the Marshal, Strongbow and Diarmait Mac Murchada (Modern Irish: Diarmaid Mac Murchadha), anglicised as Dermot MacMurrough or Dermod MacMurrough. He spent a long time with us discussing the castle history and the history of those men.
Dry moat at Ferns
We also made our way to the Abbey founded by Strongbow as well as the place thought be be Dermot MacMurrough’s grave site. After visiting the grave a small lady bug and we took it as sign from the warlord himself.
The William Marshal tour continued as we went to Pembroke Castle. This was a Marshal castle–he had a lot of castles. But, it was also the birth place of Henry Tudor, known after the Battle of Bosworth as Henry VII (father to his more famous son, Henry VIII). But, back to William Marshal. The Marshal was named the Earl of Pembroke and this was an important castle for him. Again, he added many improvements to the structure. Prior to becoming Earl, he journeyed to the Holy Land (although, he did not participate in any of the crusades). While in the Holy Land, he had the chance to see the defensive improvements crusaders were making to their castles. He brought back those ideas to Wales and revamped many of the castles in his possession. One of the biggest improvements borrowed from the crusaders was the round tower. Traditional Norman towers were squares which made them more vunerable to attack.
Touring Pembroke Castle was lot of fun. It lends itself to lots exploration. There many hallways leading off in different directions and tons of nooks and defensive arrow positions to explore. I even came across medieval graffiti… What’s more fun than that? We had a limited time at the castle, but I could have spent a full exploring the various passages and towers. As noted above, the castle was in use for many years and there were many modifications made during the Tudor period. This makes it a little more difficult to envision the castle as it was under The Marshal. But, it also added a layer of history to explore with the kids, which was great! The castle is built into the side of a cliff and under the castle is a natural cave. Many people thought the cave was a former dungeon. This is NOT the case. It was used as a food and beverage storage area. You see the cave from a walking path outside the castle and access the interior of the cave from inside the castle itself. In case you don’t know, Cinco is the more cautious of the two kids. He was less than thrilled to go into the cave. But, with a little sweet talking, I managed to get him down there! I also got him to climb to the top of the Great Tower. It wasn’t actually, that high. However the stairs seemed rather treacherous! He did a great job at Pembroke Castle overcoming his fears! Hip-hip-hooray! Next to the castle was a brass rubbing center. Sadly, it was closed when were at the castle. However, a very sweet woman in the gift shop allowed us to pop in and purchase a few brass rubbing kits to take home. (I’ll cover our brass rubbing experience in a later mom camp blog, don’t worry!) Then it was time for our drive up the Welsh coast. Again, its really not that many miles up the coast, but it takes forever: slow and rural. So rural in fact we had a nice little run-in with some sheep! No, they were not in the middle of the road, but I wouldn’t have been surprised me. There was lot construction along the road and we were stopped for quite sometime waiting in traffic. A dead stop. I had my window down to enjoy some of the fresh air and Cinco was in the back of the car whining. He let out a very cranky nasally, “Mom…” and not two seconds later we heard a sheep answer back! No joke! So I started making braying (I know you use the term bray for horses but this sheep really made a noise more like a bray) noises and the sheep kept answering back. Sadly, we couldn’t see the sheep because he/she was behind a large hedge. I quickly whipped out the camera phone and started filming the experience. I mean, who would believe that?
Yes, our weather was that good!
We decided to stop along the Welsh coast for a little picnic. The beach was lovely and again, the weather co-operated! We played along the beach for awhile and the kids made a few bench-henge structures!!
We woke up in Salisbury and made straight for the cathedral. It came recommended by a facebook friend and boy was she right! Salisbury Cathedral turned out to be one of The Captain’s favorite places on the trip.
If you are worried the cathedral doesn’t have a William Marshal contention, fear not it’s got plenty:
In addition to such wonderful history related to The Marshal, the building itself is truly a wonder. Unlike Winchester Cathedral, the spire at Salisbury seems to shoot straight into the sky and reach for the clouds. In the middle ages when most the buildings were wood, this amazing structure certainly proclaimed the wonder of god.
The inside is quite dramatic, as well.
After finishing with the cathedral and a glimpse of the Magna Carta, we drove on to Lacock Abbey.
Again, you may wonder what is the connection to William Marshal? His cousin founded the Abbey after her husband, William Longspee died. So again we have found a connection–its Medieval Kevin Bacon.
The village of Lacock was very cute and the kids had a nice time walking around. We stopped for lunch at a little pub and visited the town’s small church. The village was also used as a filming location for one of the Harry Potter movies–the kids liked that of course.
Then it was back in the car for the drive to Bath…
You may have guessed by now that with our trip to England coming up, we are spending a lot of time on all things British. In preparation for seeing Magna Carta we dedicated a mom camp day to learning ALL about it.
I decided to use the Disney movie as a means of teaching the kids about Magna Carta. It is a cute way to introduce the kids to King John and explain that he was taxing people too much.
I freely admit the movie is in no way factual. But, that’s when I stepped in and started explaining how the movie was different from real life. King John was over taxing his barons. Of course, Magna Carta is about more than just being over taxed. He was also dictating who rich widows married and turning too much of England into forest land, among other things.
Next we printed out some adorable and free Robin Hood masks from Sparklebox and put on our own Magna Carta play. The masks include the main characters from the Robin Hood story, but we improvised and used some of them for the barons and widows and other characters. The Princess insisted on playing evil King John and Cinco played the barons. Given our love of William Marshal we included him in the play as one of the negociators of Magna Carta.
Shameless plug for my William Marshal book:
With a little more help from Disney, I took what was supposed to be a Bambi craft and used it to talk more about the forestry laws before Magna Carta. After all, you could be killed or imprisoned for poaching the King’s deer!
Moving on to more serious matters, we also completed a 4-page lesson from the British Council on Magna Carta.
And, this is Cinco, The Princess and me looking at one of the four original copies of The Magna Carta in Salisbury Cathedral. It is supposed to be the best preserved of the existing copies. i must agree it looked brand new! Lucky for us, we had the chance to actually hover over the document. Although it was written in Latin, we did find The Marshal’s name on the document. He’s listed in a prominent place at the head of the nobles and after the bishops and king.
Chadwick does it again!
Time of Singing is another in a series of books that deals with life in the Angevin Empire. This time readers are treated to a snippet of the life of Ida and her husband Roger Bigod Earl of Norfolk.
Ida starts her life at Henry II’s court as his less-than-willing mistress. After giving birth to the king’s famous bastard, William Longespee, she marries Roger Bigod.
Elizabeth Chadwick does another great job of making the characters and time period come to life. Their complex stories and personal and political struggles create a quick moving and engaging story. Chadwick takes the historical narrative and adds personal character to the experience.
I really enjoyed this book after reading not only her books on William Marshal, but also her works on John Marshal and Empress Matilda. Over and over in Chadwick’s novels we see the same people appear interwoven into each others lives. I like seeing the same people through different lenses.
Finally, I LOVED the ending featuring the water joust. Awesome– who knew there was even such a thing.
This is one of Chadwick’s winners!
A Place Beyond Courage by Elizabeth Chadwick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Chadwick delivers another solid historical-fiction account of the period during the English Anarchy. This time she follows the life of John Marshal a strong-willed and clever supporter of the Emperess Matilda. John Marshal is best known for two rather striking historical incidents. First, in a heated battle, he retreats to a church. His enemies set it on fire and rather than be captured, John stays in the burning building and suffers the scaring loss of one eye. Second, he is known for offering up his son William Marshal to King Stephen as a hostage. John then breaks the truce and as a results, forfeits William’s life. The soft-hearted King Stephen does not allow his followers to kill the child (and William grows up to a power force at the court of King Henry).
These two episodes define John Marshal in the eyes of history. Modern followers of the Marshal family history can’t help but wonder at what John was thinking! But, Chadwick does an excellent job of painting a strong-willed, brave, and determined man. John Marshal deals in a world of realpolitik where difficult situations require him to make even harder choices for survival.
Chadwick attempts to flesh out the emotions behind the choices and offer one potential view of John Marshal. By adding emotion to the historical narrative of John’s life readers can TRY to imagine how and why he made his famous choices.
View all my reviews