04 November 2011

Isle of Wight--Carisbrooke Castle. . .

We weren't quite sure what we wanted to do during the girls' 2011 Fall Break.  We have a "bucket list" of places we would like to visit before we move back to the States that continues to grow each time someone says "You know where you should go?"; consequently, if possible, we feel the need to go somewhere anytime that the girls are out of school! 

I was online trying to figure out where we could go for a long weekend when I went to the English Heritage website.  They are a group that manages many historical properties throughout England, and we had gotten an annual membership that would get us in free to any of their sites.  It has more than paid for itself both because there are five of us and because even the most insignificant of their properties is intriguing to us!

I noticed a link on their site for booking a holiday cottage.  It sounded like a good place to look, and it turned out that they have apartments and cottages at some of their sites.  The only one available that would accommodate all of us for the weekend we needed was at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight.  I called to double check availability, found out I could get a great last-minute booking discount, talked to Keith. . and that was that!  We were off to the Isle of Wight!!

To get to the Isle of Wight, you take a ferry from the mainland; we drove to Southhampton to cross there.  This is the port that the Titanic sailed from.  The girls were pretty excited about the ferry. . so was I. . as you can see from the picture below, Keith. . not so much! :)

The trip across took about an hour. . it was dark, so the girls occupied themselves in other ways.

We had a laugh over that one. . .just wish that we could have had her voice saying it!!

We got to the castle around 10:30 Friday night, and the housekeeper met us at the gate with the keys.  It was difficult to see much of anything, but it was very cool to drive through the big wrought iron gate and stone arches.  We drove up to the building that housed the apartment and unloaded the girls--Charlotte was fast asleep.  The apartment was much more modern than the castle, and really nice with a full kitchen and two bedrooms.  The housekeeper, who was wonderful and had supplied us with some light groceries and wine, went through the specifics of things and then left.  Keith went with her to figure out how to lock up behind her and then had the spooky walk (no lights) back to the apartment. . glad it was him, not me!!

And then it was just us in a 900 year old castle!!  Hands down, one of the coolest things we will ever do! 

The girls' room.

Charlotte conked out on our bed.

The next morning we woke up to a beautiful day. . and a beautiful view!! (Maggie: "I can smell some donkeys!". . more on that below!!)

Carisbrooke Castle has been the key to defense of the Isle of Wight for than six centuries. . .and has been of "great significance in the defence of the realm." :)  The first castle built on the site was constructed just after the Norman Invasion in 1066, succeeded by one built in 1100.  Not only has it served as a defense, but also as a residence, a garrison, and also as a prison to King Charles the I.

Princess Beatrice, daughter of Queen Victoria, used the castle as a residence until 1938.  This garden was designed in 2009 via a bequest and is based on Beatrice's private (privy) garden.

Waiting for the donkeys. . .
Another picture? I just want to see the donkeys!!
Donkeys have "trodden the wheel well" at Carisbrooke for centuries, and the girls were thrilled that there are still some there each day.  Keith and I were thrilled that the donkeys are kept at a neighboring farm and brought in each morning; their stable was directly underneath our bedroom! 
All the donkeys names begin with the letter ‘J’. This tradition was started when Charles I was a prisoner at Carisbrooke. When Charles I wrote letters or was planning his escape route, he always signed his letters with a ‘J’. So for 150 years all the donkeys at the castle have had a name beginning with ‘J’.
I think this one is Jigsaw.

On the top of the keep.
This is why Charlotte and I were at the bottom of the stairs a few pictures back. . .all that was between them and falling off a castle! is that wire railing. When we visit these sites, it is very easy to realize that we aren't in the States. . no warning signs. . .no five-foot tall plexi-glass walls, etc.

Above and below: St.Peter's Chapel--added in 1270--acts as the war memorial for the island.

The Bowling Green--which "our" apartment was named after.

I am so glad that we decided to take this little weekend trip. . .I am pretty sure that this one is one that even Maggie will be able to remember years from now!!