Saturday, June 23, 2012

Romantic Ruins

Raglan Castle
I don’t know what it is about ruins that make them so romantic, but personally I find them irresistible.  There’s something incredibly atmospheric – if slightly sad and wistful – about a ruined castle or abbey and I love to just sit there and daydream about the past!

The Moat at Raglan
I’m lucky enough to live fairly close to a spectacular one - Raglan Castle.  Situated on top of a hill in the picturesque landscape of south-east Wales, it’s not far from the border to England and therefore in a very strategic place.  It was apparently one of the last medieval castles to be built in either of these countries and it must have been absolutely glorious in its hey-day!  Even now, when nothing remains except for some towers, walls, staircases and the lovely moat, it gives a sense of splendour and it’s not difficult to imagine what it was like.

The views from the top of the Great Tower are breathtaking, quite literally in my case since I’m not a fan of heights and find it a bit scary up there.  In contrast, there is a small and very dark basement room with no views at all apart from a glimpse of sky. I’m guessing this was used as a prison, but I didn’t like that much either and couldn’t wait to get back out!  And I when I visited it was fairly warm, so imagine being stuck in the cold, dark and damp of winter down there – horrible.  There are various other buildings inside the outer walls (some with their beautifully carved window frames still in place) and courtyards, all showing that it must have been a very large complex indeed.

The buildings currently on the site date from between the 15th and 17th centuries, and were owned by the Herbert and Somerset families respectively.  When they lived there, it was apparently a luxurious dwelling surrounded by parkland, water gardens and terraces, although still a proper, fortified castle.  It was held by the Cavaliers during the Civil War, but sadly the Parliamentarians took it in 1646 after a 90 day siege, and then deliberately sacked it so that it couldn’t be used again for military purposes.  A lot of the building materials were looted and reused elsewhere.  Particularly sad to note for us book-lovers is that Raglan Castle’s library, reputedly one of the finest in Europe, was also destroyed.  By the time Charles II ascended the throne, the Somerset family decided not to try and restore the place, which seems a great shame, but it is still beautiful.  If you haven’t been there, I would thoroughly recommend a visit as I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness
Some of my other favourite ruins include Tintagel Castle, perched so precariously up on a cliff overlooking the sea, and Urquhart Castle next to Loch Ness.  Do you have a favourite one and, if so, why do you like that one in particular?  I’d love to know.



Anonymous said...

Wonderful photos ... when I look at them I'm feeling melancholic ... a yearning for something I cannot describe but only feel ... it sounds crazy, go figure !

Christina Courtenay said...

Thank you - that's exactly how I feel too! :)

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

I love all the castles you mentioned - I'm a great castle fan. They are all so atmospheric but each in its own particular way.

May I recommend the quirky Stokesey Castle in Shropshire which was beseiged during the Civil War? As its walls are topped by a timber framed Elizabethan house, it would plainly not survive bombardment for more than half a minute.

The courtesies were preserved however. The attackers demanded surrender. The beseigers said 'Never'. There was a short stand-off, then, honour satisfied, the beseigers graciously gave in.

Fortunately, for us, no damage was done. It's a little gem.

Christina Courtenay said...

Lovely story, Elizabeth! If only they fought wars like that these days :) Thank you for the recommendation, I will definitely try to go to Stokesey, it sounds wonderful!

Nicola Cornick said...

Thank you for the post, Christina. I love a romantic ruin! Stokesay is a fabulous place. It belonged at one time to the Craven family hence the fervent support for the Royalist cause. One of my favourite ruins is Minster Lovell in Oxfordshire. Very beautiful and with a fascinating history.

Fenella J Miller said...

We used to live near Tintagel -stunning spot.

Christina Courtenay said...

Thanks, Nicola - I must check out Minster Lovell, sounds lovely!

Fenella - Tintagel is wonderful, but the steep climb up there nearly killed me :) (I'm a terrible couch potato). And I was there on a nice summer's day, but I imagine that in winter it was probably not quite as pleasant although perhaps the stunning views made up for the freezing conditions?

Birthday Gifts said...

amazing photos.... i really want to give this photographer a birthday gift on his\her birthday.

Birthday Gifts said...

amazing photos.... i really want to give this photographer a birthday gift on his\her birthday.