Sunday was a big day for Team Hubbard. We went to Wales, which is one of my favorite places in the world.
Technically speaking, Wales is its own country, even though it’s part of the United Kingdom. I know. It doesn’t make a ton of sense. Just go with it. Wales has got its own language, its own government (sort of), and its own soccer team. But what I love – and Lydie, Cassie, and Julie are starting to love – about Wales are the cool things made of stone, including castles, standing stones, and churches.
The girls’ introduction to Wales started with Chepstow Castle, which is only about 90 minutes from our temporary home in Woodstock. Chepstow was built in stages, ending around 1300. It’s a massive fortress and great fun to explore.
Despite its age, the castle still has massive walls. If you look extremely carefully, you can see Cassie and Lydie up high on this wall to the left:
Inside we found an important warning sign.
It read: “It is dangerous to climb on the stonework.” I think Lydie and Cassie somehow interpreted this as an endorsement of climbing on the stonework.
Every once in a while I caught up to them in time to prevent them from climbing on something extremely dangerous.
They almost got stuck getting out of this one.
This was in the oldest part of the castle. The part dating back to around 1100 AD. The girls decided that they should climb some more. *gasp*
Legend has it that Chepstow Castle was destroyed by an invasion of Wellie-wearing 11-year-old monkey-girls.
“Dad, can I walk out on this ledge?”
Father closes eyes and rubs the bridge of his nose, shaking his head slowly. “No.”
The castle is perched high on a cliff, which is great both for military defense and for making your father worry.
The problem is that I can relate too strongly. I loved climbing on castles at their age. I’d do it now if I thought I could get away with it. If anyone at the castle were to tell us to stop, I was ready to quickly tell the girls to get down as if I had been about to do it anyway. Lydie climbed back into a chamber to find a medieval toilet. Awesome!
Cassie picked up a wooden dagger in France, and it turns out it fits nicely in her new boots. #welliehacks
We ended our time at Chepstow running around outside the castle. I’m not sure who Cassie ended up fighting with her dagger, but it made me feel safer having her with us and armed.
From Chepstow we headed Tintern Abbey, which is about 20 minutes north up the Wye River. Tintern is about the same age as Chepstow Castle. The Abbey was founded in 1131, with construction completing around 1300. The problem was that the Abbey was Catholic. When the Church of England split with the Catholic Church in the early 1500s, Henry VIII took all of the valuables from the Abbey and the valuable lead roof was sold off. An abbey doesn’t do too well without a roof, but the remaining ruins are amazing.
There weren’t as many places to climb, but the abbey once had some of the best plumbing in Wales. Lydie and Cassie had fun climbing through a medieval sewer.
The holes created a whole new danger. Julie was happy to demonstrate the accidents that could happen to the unwary.
There was a large trough that was part of the water system. It looked like a tub, but we had our doubts that people actually bathed in it. Abbey plumbing does not have hot water.
In fact, when the abbey was working, there were only two places where fires were allowed: the kitchen and a small warming room. I’m sure those monks were cold, but we had amazing, sunny weather.
The weather really was spectacularly un-British, casting cool shadows through the ruined church.
#albumcover. With fewer places to climb, we actually managed to catch up to Lydie and Cassie from time to time.
It was really interesting to see the church stripped down to its bones. We found places where there might have been sculptures before. Fortunately, we travel with our own sculptures.
We even travel with our own gargoyles.
The girls were desperate to find a place to climb. If you look carefully, you can see Cassie sizing up a climbing spot in the back of this photo.
It turned out to be a great climbing spot. Even Julie joined in!
We were all very tired by this point. Some of us started lounging about. (Our friend Kim from Maryland was visiting and was being run ragged by the Hubbards.)
Since everyone was tired we decided to … take a hike! One of our guide books said that a nearby hike would take us to a place called the Devil’s Pulpit, where legend has it the Devil tried to tempt the monks from the abbey. We didn’t expect to find the Devil, but the spot promised to provide great views of the ruined abbey. We set off, and it was an amazing hike. Parts of the hike had stretches covered with old stonework. It was very Middle Earth.
The trees along the way were also exceptional, almost primeval.
When we finally reached the top, we were rewarded with both the view of the abbey we had been hoping for … and some rocks to climb!
We decided to head back down to the abbey via a different path. We took some twists and turns and ended up on a path that hadn’t been used in a long time. Along the way, we found a cave!
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) the cave became narrow and turned into a vertical shaft about ten feet from the entrance, so that it was too dangerous to explore. The chances were good, someone would have gotten stuck. We headed back to town, found a pub, and had dinner.
It was a great day in Wales!