Buckle up, dear reader. This is a long one.
I had been a well-behaved, meek host for days. I was enthusiastic in London, though I’m not generally a fan of big cities. I took care of the kids while Julie and Kate got their Downton fix. But enough is enough. It was time to do some exciting and interesting things with Molly and Kate. It was time to go to Wales.
We woke with (my) ambitious plans for the day. After a breakfast of scones and lots of jam, we were off. Our first destination was Castle Gwyn, which is more commonly known as the White Castle.
We had only been driving for about 30 minutes when we passed a sign for the Rollright Stones, some Bronze Age stones in our local neck of the woods. Neolithic suckers that we are, we had to stop. Legend has it that if you can count the stones three times and get the same number each time, you get a wish. The chickadees counted until they could get their wishes. I asked them what they wished for, but they were tight lipped.
Wishes are great, but the most entertaining part of the stones might have been the two elderly women walking around waiving divining rods and rings on strings over the stones. We could hear them excitedly talking about energy coming off of one stone in particular, and with the stones under the supervision of a pair of witches we decided not to engage in our usual climbing shenanigans.
Soon we were back on the road headed toward the White Castle. Our journey took us through the heart of the Cotswolds, but when we got to Wales the roads became progressively smaller. It was on one particularly small road that we gave our GPS, which we have named “Greta,” a new honorary title: Goat Path Seeker.
After quite a few twists and turns we made it to the White Castle. Built in the 12th and 13th Centuries, the castle earned its nickname from the whitewash that once covered its walls. (The castle was owned by Edward “Longshanks” I before he became king. It really does seem like you can’t find a castle that isn’t somehow associated with him.). The castle is in a remote part of Wales, and when we arrived it appeared that local parents had brought their young children to the castle for an Easter Egg hunt. They soon left and the girls were off.
This was the first castle for Molly, and Lydie and Cassie had a ball showing her how to climb all over the ruined walls and towers.
Clearly, Molly needed little encouragement. Soon, we found an even more treacherous part of the wall that we could scale.
Meanwhile, Julie showed Kate how she has learned that the best way to manage her concern for the physical safety of her children is to look the other way.
On top of the wall, we had magnificent views of the rest of the castle and the surrounding countryside. I for one had a great time walking on the narrow walkway that soldiers would have used 800 years ago to patrol.
On some parts of the wall, small patches of whitewash still clung to the walls. When the entire castle was white, it must have been an amazing and intimidating sight.
Walking around the curved towers was particularly exciting.
We soon climbed back down, and ended our time at the White Castle with a stroll around the outside of the walls.
Next, we headed to a small town nearby called Raglan, where we had lunch in a lovely pub. You know what goes great with lunch? Another castle! It just so happened that Raglan has a great castle (which was why I took everyone there for lunch of course).
Once again, the little chictators were off. I did my best to keep up with them so that I could take photos and tell them not to do things that were too dangerous. (I might have instigated a bit, too.)
The girls ran, climbed, and jumped their way through another fantastic castle. Raglan Castle was built in the 1400s with substantial changes in the 1600s. It was more of a manor home than a military facility, but it was still great fun to explore.
The girls insisted on investigating every inch of the grounds. From inside the fireplaces…
To the tops of the walls outside.
By the time they were done, they were exhausted (and so was I from trying to keep up).
But we were not done with our day yet! From Raglan we drove about to the small village of Trelleck, which was about ten miles away. The name “Trelleck” is Welsh and roughly translates to mean “stone town.” The reason for the name is the standing stones next to the village, which date back thousands of years. After parking in the village we walked toward the stones, and along the way met two of the friendliest horses I have ever seen. I’m pretty sure that one of them thought he was a dog.
With great reluctance, the girls left the horses and soon reached the stones. For the next thirty minutes, we tried to scale the stones. Eventually we succeeded, though all of the girls were in precarious and uncomfortable positions.
From the stones, we continued our walk to reach the Virtuous Well, a local spring that is reputed to have curative and restorative properties. It has been visited for hundreds of years by people seeking relief from various ailments. Evidently, it was particularly popular in the 1600s.
You should know that about a week before this, Julie fell down the stairs in our house in Woodstock. No pints were involved. The stairs are steep and slippery, and she was in a hurry. We think she might have broken her big toe. No problem! Virtuous Well to the rescue!
I put both my feet in the well in the hopes it would help with some annoying plantar fasciitis. Lydie and Cassie also dipped their feet in the well, and Molly opted for a hand.
It was at this point that we had another idea. You should know that Lydie and Cassie sometimes — brace yourself — fight with each other. We figured that this was another ailment that could be cured. Being a peacemaker is a virtue, right?
Then we had the great idea to use the pagan powers of the well to make Cassie, Molly, and Lydie into a full-blown coven of Welsh witches. We started our day with some very happy and friendly old witches. Maybe that could be Lydie, Cassie, and Molly one day. Hands together, they dipped them in the well.
We left Trelleck healed and happy. An epic, unforgettable day. All’s well that ends well!