Pierced to the heart with desire for something tangible to remember our latest trip to Britain, I started collecting pin badges. I'm a little late to the game as one of my Welsh Professors has a whole room dedicated to collectible pins. He even has "his guy in Shanghai" who can produce custom pins in bulk. Pin collecting is also big at Disneyland (my Disney collection is very meager). And it was a big thing around here back in '02 for the SLC Winter Olympics (and I even have one of those!).
My wife gave me this excess piece of Welsh wool weave. It's a little busy, but I like the crosses. The white on black are a perfect complement to the Cornish Flag which you will see in the first row of national symbols. And my photo cut off the American Flag pin in the upper right which I have so as not to disqualify myself from ever becoming President of the US of A.
I'll focus in on the castle pins with maybe later installments to follow.
The first is Raglan Castle. Oh, that's another cool thing. The Cadw pins are all in Welsh! Raglan is between Abergavenny and Monmouth with a famous roundabout just east of the Abergavenny Vortex (a double roundabout that shoots you out who-knows-where each time). It's an ancestral castle as the Herberts and the Star of Abergavenny, the Lady Gwladys, lived there. This castle was built by the Herberts who had strong Welsh connections.
The pin does not do Chepstow "Cas-gwent" Castle justice. It is an amazing site perched on cliffs above the River Wye on the Welsh Border. Our connection there is a bit tragic as it where Jasper Tudor had our Roger Vaughan ap Rhosier Fychan beheaded. Yeah, we're Yorkists, not Lancastrian, and with a bit of a grudge against the Tudors.
The next isn't a castle but Tintern Abbey, the inspiration of many a romantic poet, painter, and photographer. The vines are off since last century and the beautiful stonework is open to the sky, the leaded roof taken for its value at Henry VIII's devolution of the monasteries (another dang Tudor!).
Caerphilly is a heart-breaker! So beautifully set in the center of town circled by green hills and a lake! The ducks, geese, and swans were entertaining and the castle is huge! The famous leaning tower (thanks to Oliver Cromwell, not a Tudor, but a real spoil-sport) makes it a site to behold and the rest of its massiveness is just incredible! It's a South Wales Castle linking to the industrialized valleys.
Which brings us to Castle Coch, or "Red" Castle, not one of my favorites as it is a Victorian recreation of a medieval castle but in amazing excess of wealth! The Bute family married into much of the coal-containing real estate of South Wales and while they did a lot of good with their wealth, not directly oppressing the workers, still -- it is a beautiful fantasy land. The exuberant tour guide at Carfiff Castle, seemingly a loyal retainer of the Butes, about had us convinced of their "goodness" for all the infrastructure, schools, and hospitals with which they built "their" Cardiff.
Caernarvon is a castle of the North. One of Edward I's iron (stone) fortresses to repress the Welsh (as were Caerphilly, Chepstow and most of the others). It is on the water with a medieval town wall while originally to keep the Welsh out, now is incorporated by them. The current pretender Prince of Wales was invested here by his Mum, QEII.
Conwy was another of our favorites. like Caernavon on a river opening to the sea, it is more amazing for its town wall that climbs the hill for fantastic views of the castle, town, and surrounding mountains. The Conwy Valley is the opening to the Welsh heartland of the Princes Llewellyn, the Great, and the Last. And you can see the peak of Snowdon from there! We loved this place! And it was sunny and warm, so uncharacteristic for the Welsh who were all eating ice cream in the shade!
Not a Cadw site but given to the City of Cardiff by the Butes, Caradiff Castle is amazing! From Roman walls to medieval castle on its high motte surrounded by the moat, to the Victorian excess of the Butes, and even a recreation of a WWII bomb shelter, it can entertain! In fact, that tour guide was anxious to note with some pride that our President Obama had dined in the Great Hall and he encouraged us to rent it out for our 40th anniversary. We may pass on that.
Edinburgh Castle is Scotland, not Wales, and still a royal property. They seemed very attached to their Queens Mary and now Elizabeth II up there on that rock with amazing views of the city, the firth, and Celtic lands of the far North.
The next is also not a castle, but it seems to match up here with a bit of St. George red at the base for England's Globe Theatre. Actually, an American built this wonderful re-creation where we have seen two plays now and a couple more on DVD.
And finally, and also red-based, Westminster Abbey which is an amazing place piled high with the tombs of Kings, Queens and other notables. This time, we skipped paying the entrance fee and went in to the free Evensong to sit right in the choir seats among the choir boys! We were right across from the special guests, a delegation from Malawi. It was beautiful and spiritual and even scientific sitting close by the tomb of Sir Isaac Newton. The pin was a must!
Not every castle we visited had a pin and we failed to visit many a castle in Wales. It will take us several more trips! And then there's England and Scotland, too!
These are mostly collectors items. I intend a later installment with the city pins I collected for towns visited especially those from where my family has roots. I will switch those out of my lapel or tie tack as I do my Family History Consultant work.