The third stop of our trip was in Kirkwall, capitol of the Orkney Islands in the northern part of Scotland. In addition to the Renaissance-style Earl’s and Bishop’s Palaces, the town featured St Magnus’s cathedral, which was equally stunning inside and out. The cross-shaped cathedral was built with red stones which glowed against the green grass of the surrounding cemetery. The interior was dominated by two large stained glass windows on either side, with multiple stories of smaller glass pieces lining all the walls. The region’s Celtic and Nordic inheritance were evident in the cathedral’s architecture, including the details of the crosses, ironwork curls on the door, and even viking ships in the stained glass.
Our second stop was another city of enduring military importance, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and the gate and castle keep there guarding the bridge over the Tyne river. Excavations had revealed a Roman establishment to guard the same location centuries prior, which was marked on the pathways in stone. We spent a long time at St Nicholas Cathedral, admiring the storytelling in the stained glass windows, wood and marble carvings, and hanging battle flags.
The first of many posts from an absolutely stunning trip around Europe. Every place we went I wished for more time, including our starting point at Dover. The old city was adorable and full of small surprises, the cliffs were indeed white, and the castle reigned over it all.
The core is a castle established by Henry II, a stunning rock fortress with feet-thick walls, winding circular staircases, and narrow galley passages. Layers of history wrap around and under it, from a 1st century AD Roman lighthouse, to barracks for troops in the Napoleonic wars, to underground tunnels used for storage in WWII. Perimeter walls have been added and expanded, gates have been added, fortified, and sealed up, rocks upon rocks standing testament to the enduring military significance of the castle on the hill.