In early 2018, I attended a writer’s conference just outside London. As that was our first to the UK, we decided to take the chance to visit some iconic locations across England for research and personal edification. Naturally, London itself came first, with its awe-striking architecture, from the Palace of Westminster (cover photo) to the soaring cathedrals. The winter chill meant we didn’t have to contend with too many other tourists as we walked all day for several days in a row, catching everything we could. A few runs in the underground allowed us to visit a handful of locations we couldn’t get to be foot, or return when our daughter got too tired. And while London certainly presented a highlight of our trip, I had several other destinations in mind too.
Canterbury, Dover, and Leeds Castle made up our first excursion. My wife and I agreed—we should have allotted more time to beautiful Canterbury. We loved the cathedral, but wished we had more time to see the city itself than we allowed.
Leeds Castle offered a memorable experience because my daughter kept chasing peacocks. Following a stopover back in London, we headed for Bath by way the the beatific Cotswolds (perhaps the most relaxing-vibe villages I’ve ever passed through).
Because of my keen interest in Roman history, Bath and the Roman baths therein held special interest for me.
The structures were built in the first century AD around a thermal spring when the Romans realized the regenerative properties of the waters. In fact, modern Bath has springs you can still luxuriate in (having a small child, we didn’t do so that time). Of course, the pre-Roman Britons used these springs long before the Romans arrived, having dedicated the waters to the goddess Sulis.
Stonehenge and Glastonbury Tor
On our return from Bath, we passed through the striking St Cuthbert cathedral, Stonehenge (wow!), and most importantly, Glastonbury. Why most importantly? Glastonbury Tor is irrevocably tied to Arthurian legend. Like any scholar of myth and folklore (and fantasy nerd) I’ve been obsessed with Arthurian lore pretty much forever. The tor (hill) itself is actually getting steeper as the years pass, due to erosion, meaning it proved more difficult to climb than it would have in ancient times. I felt compelled to do so anyway, which was a bit of a challenge. According to local legend, Glastonbury abbey also houses (or housed) the graves of Arthur and Guinevere. Given I have always had a plan to include Arthurian lore in the Eschaton Cycle, I spent quite some time exploring the area.
York and the Yorkshire Dales
After a brief return to London, in the Whitechapel area, we headed north to York. Though founded by Romans, York’s history remains closely tied to Viking invaders who conquered the city, calling it Jorvik. A fascinating museum of Viking history is a must-visit for any trip there. We also took our last side adventure out of York: a day trip through the scenic Yorkshire Dales, including a visit to the same falls depicted in the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (yeah, you know the scene).
We absolutely loved our trip through England.