Traveling Tuesdays is going to the UK this week.
UK stands for United Kingdom and consists of four countries located in the British Isles. Each country has a capital city. London is the capital of England, Cardiff is the capital of Whales, Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is a separate country and is not part of the UK.
I have been to the UK many times often just stopping at Heathrow or Gatwick on my way to some other country in Europe. But I have also visited many places in each of these four countries that make up the UK.
In a former Traveling Tuesdays episode I told you about my trip to Whales. For this week’s episode I want to tell you about three places – one in Northern Ireland, one in Scotland and one in England.
Let’s start in Northern Ireland at a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We are going to visit the Giant’s Causeway.
The Scientific Explanation of the Giant’s Causeway is that the area with about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns is the result of a volcanic eruption that took place 60 million years ago. As a math teacher I was fascinated by the hexagonal shapes of these columns.
The locals will tell a different story. It involves a giant known as Finn McCool also known as Fionn mac Cumhaill.
Finn is having trouble with some one from across the water in Scotland. The Scottish giant named Benandonner is threatening Ireland, so an enraged Finn grabs chunks of the Antrim coast and throws them into the sea. The rock forms a path for Finn to follow and teach Benandonner a lesson. But this is a bad idea.
Benandonner is terrifyingly massive and Finn makes a hasty retreat. When the Scottish giant arrives at Finn’s house he finds Finn disguised as a baby thanks to our hero’s quick-thinking wife. When the angry Scot saw the baby, he decided if the child was that big, the daddy must be really huge. So he goes away and Finn is safe!
The next place I want to tell you about is Stirling Castle, located in Stirling, Scotland. I have been to Stirling Castle a couple of times. When my parents came for a visit we took Dad to Stirling Castle and told him this was his castle. My grandmother had researched the Graham history and found out that some distant relative had been here I believe during the time of Robert the Bruce.
The castle has guarded the lowest crossing point of the River Forth for many centuries. It sits high on a volcanic outcrop and today it remains as a great symbol of Scottish independence and national pride.
The castle’s history features William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, Mary Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie. Stirling Castle was first mentioned around 1110. Almost every Scottish monarch had either lived in the castle, or had been crowned or died here.
For my story in England I am going to share a bit about Coventry Cathedral.
The original St Michael’s Cathedral was built between the late 14th century and early 15th century. Today it stands ruined. It was bombed almost to destruction during the massive attack on the city of Coventry by German bombers on the night of November 14th, 1940.
The tower, spire, and outer wall of the church survived the bombing, but the rest of this historic building was destroyed. After the war, the cathedral was not rebuilt on site but left in ruins as a testament to the futility of war. The surviving spire of St Michael’s is 245 feet high and is the tallest structure in the city.
The modern building that was built next to the remains of the old church was designed by architect Basil Spence, and it was his idea to keep the ruins symbolically intact next to the the new building. Both old and new buildings are constructed from the same type of sandstone. The foundation stone of the new cathedral was laid by Queen Elizabeth II in 1956. The interior is notable for the multicolored, abstract design of the Baptistry window that floods the interior with color.
All three places that we have visited on this trip to the UK were places we had the joy of sharing with our parents. It was special to be able to share this time with them and to hear of their memories of what happened during World War II when Dad was stationed in England with the RCAF and Mom was home in Nova Scotia praying that Dad would return safely.
Be sure and return next week as we head to a country starting with the letter ‘V’.