South Yorkshire – Horrible Histories, Ruins and Robin Hood!

South Yorkshire is stepped in history and we’ve had a look around at some of the best-known historical ruins that are well worth packing up a picnic and heading out for a day of exploration and discovery.

Rotherham lies in the coal-mining district of South Yorkshire and has its roots as an iron, steel and brass producing centre. Its main historical features are a very large fifteenth century church and a chapel dating from 1483 located on an old bridge across the River Don.

A few miles to the east of Rotherham is Maltby, a Viking place-name and close by the ruins of Roche Abbey. Roche was a Cistercian foundation established in 1147 by Richard de Busli of Tickhill Castle and Richard Fitzurgis and the abbey fell into ruin in the reign of King Henry VIII after the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Conisborough Castle is in a town halfway between Rotherham and Doncaster. The National Trust owned castle overlooks the River Don close to where it is joined by the River Dearne and is thought to be located on the site of Anglo-Saxon earthworks. The castle is thought to have been built by Hameline Warrenne in the reign of Richard I and he also built the neighbouring chapel that was featured in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe.

North of Sheffield is Barnsley which is a Victorian town although its history goes back much further. In Anglo-Saxon times it was the ley or clearing belonging to someone called Beorn – ‘Beorn’s ley’ and the place is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1089. In the following century a Cluniac priory called Monk Bretton Priory was established in the Dearne valley in 1154, but the abbey is now a ruin.

Historic features in Barnsley include a May Day Green market established in 1249 and a Grammar School established in 1660.

Barnsley is best known as the heart of the old South Yorkshire coalfield and there are many mining towns and villages in the area like Darfield where a monument at the parish church commemorates the 189 men and boys buried alive at Ludhill Colliery in 1857. Sadly, it was not the only pit disaster to affect the Barnsley area. In 1866, 361 men and boys were killed at Barnsley’s Old Oaks Colliery.

Hailing from Barnsley are it’s famous sons including a Victorian railway engineer called Joseph Locke, the missionary and James Hudson Taylor who tried to convert the Chinese to Christianity. From a more recent age the TV personality Michael Parkinson, cricket umpire Dickie Bird, cricketer Darren Gough, actor Brian Glover and former miners’ leader Arthur Scargill all hail from the town.

Doncaster is known to have been the site of a Roman fort that was probably called Danum. The fort was located somewhere near the River Don and traces of a Roman iron and pottery industry have been found in the neighbourhood. In Anglo-Saxon times the Kings of Northumbria are thought to have established a palace at Doncaster but it was attacked and destroyed by the Danes in a later century.

Doncaster was granted a charter by Richard I and became the site of a medieval Friary, but Doncaster’s real heyday was in the eighteenth century. Horse racing began at Doncaster in this period and races have been held in the town since at least 1703.

Adwick-le-Street to the north of Doncaster was for two centuries the home of the Washingtons, ancestors of George Washington who originally came from Washington in County Durham (now Tyne and Wear).

Burghwallis and neighbouring Campsall are situated in Barnsdale Forest and both places are associated with the legendary Robin Hood who is supposed to have been active in the area.

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Take a walk on wild side in South Yorkshire

Situated right at the heart of the Dearne Valley, Old Moor is a wonderful place to explore and watch wildlife. The birds and wildlife are active all year round. In the summer the grasslands are ablaze with butterflies and orchids, and you’ll be able to see newly hatched ducklings. In winter the reserve is an important stopping-off point for ducks, geese and swans.

You can head off on your own to explore or join a guided walk. Theres also plenty of events and family activities and it’s a great day out for people of all ages. Potteric Carr Reserve is ran by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and you need a permit to visit that you can purchase on the reserve (about £8.00 for a family a year). If you don’t have a permit, you keep to the blue nature trail, you won’t get to see as much wildlife but will see enjoy a day out.

Potteric Carr consists of a number of reed-fringed lagoons and there’s at least one hide per lagoon where you can stop and observe the wildlife.

If you fancy observing the wilds of the city there are organised walks that you can join with. They are easy going and last around 45 minutes and go through parks and green spaces.

If you fancy a more challenging trek, look at the Sheffield Ramblers and the Peak District for organised walks in the national park.

We found the following website useful for finding out more information and planning walking routes and places to visit Click here

Here’s some of the Best Yorkshire Golf Courses

There is some astonishingly good golf to be had in Yorkshire, the course quality in the area is fantastic and there is everything a professional or amateur golfer could want. We’ve had a look at our favourite flagship courses in Sheffield and further afield, but it very much depends on what you are looking for. If you want a challenge, something more scenic or just a potter around, there’s a course for you.

Moor Allerton’s 27 hole course is pretty unique and is set in 220 acres of countryside and set north of Leeds, this is known for its shallow bunkers, large tees and contoured greens. The club’s 3 loops of 9 holes all start and finish at the clubhouse.

The Ganton’s course is an experience, with its characterful clubhouse with fine views. The course can be unforgiving as it is on rough ground with heathland and rugged features but is a great challenge. Keep an eye out for the wind though as the holes are in every direction!

Beauchief Golf Course over looks picturesque parkland and is in the South West of Sheffield. The views over the Peak District are an easy distraction from a game here as you need your full attention on the course. Set in the grounds of Beauchief Abby that provides a backdrop to the 4th hole.

Birley Wood Golf Course is an ideal ground for golfers of all abilities. Beginnings and young players will feel at ease on the ups and downs of the course and experienced players will relish the charming putting surfaces and exceptional short game of the Fairways Course. Based on a plateau at the top of one of Sheffield’s seven hills, the course is excellent even during bad weather that attracts players all year round.

Dating back to 1934, Tapton Park Golf Course is on the outskirts of Chesterfield and has something for everyone, attracting beginners and scratch golfers alike. It has a full 18 hole demanding golf course and a testing 9 hole academy golf course together with 9-hole chip and putt challenge.

And there’s Tinsley Park Golf Course has a history dating from 1920 and has several memorable holes but you need to concentrate fully throughout play. This is an 18-hole par 70 course over 5746 yards and offers a challenge for golfers at all levels.

Drumlanrig Castle

Drumlanrig Castle constantly remains one of the most popular destinations for tourism in Dumfries & Galloway. Originally built between 1679 and 1689 Drumlanrig Castle is better known by some as the ‘Pink Castle’ thanks to the distinctive pink sandstone that was used during its creation.

Home to the internationally renowned ‘Buccleuch Art Collection’ Drumlanrig is a prime attraction for those with a passion for art. The collection features such treasures as Rembrant’s ‘The Old Woman Reading’ and other masterpieces from artists such as Thomas Gainsborough & Caspar Netscher. The art gallery hit national news a few years ago when two art thieves stole a Leonardo Da Vinci painting believed to be worth millions of pounds.

The surrounding 40 acres of gardens deserve a special mention. A prime example of one of the best-kept estates in Scotland, many of the designs in the Formal Garden date back to the early 17th & 18th Centuries. Restoration work is routinely carried out on the grounds ensuring that the gardens evolve more and more with each visit.

For more information on the history of Drumlanrig and available attractions, please visit here.

Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock Castle is one of Scotland’s great medieval fortresses. For 400 years it stood on the very edge of the kingdom. To the south across the Solway Firth, lay England. For most of its history Caerlaverock played an important role in the defence of the realm.

Long before the castle was built, the Romans built a fort on the summit of Ward Law Hill, overlooking the castle from the north. By about 950, the British lords of ‘Karlauerock’ (the name may mean ‘fort of the skylark’) had built a fort on the site. Around 1220, Alexander II of Scotland, needing trusted men to secure the Scottish West March, granted the estate to his chamberlain, Sir John de Maccuswell (Maxwell). Sir John built the ‘old’ castle. Within 50 years, his nephew, Sir Herbert, had moved to a new castle just 200m away to the north. There the Maxwell lords remained for the next 400 years.

Caerlaverock’s triangular shape is unique among British castles. Why it was built this way is not known. A walk around the castle gives a sense of its strength, its economy of form and its pleasing geometry. Three lengths of defensive curtain wall are linked at their three angles by high corner towers. The north tower, facing into Scotland, is a mightily impressive twin-towered gatehouse, where the Maxwells had their private suite of rooms.

Down the years the Maxwells repaired and upgraded their ancestral castle. The formidably impressive slotted defences (machicolations) at the tops of the three towers date from the late 14th/early 15th century, after the ravages of the Wars of Independence with England had taken their toll. Inside the castle walls stands the remarkable Nithsdale Lodging, built in the 1630s by Robert Maxwell, 1st Earl of Nithsdale. Its attractive façade, embellished with ornate Renaissance stone carvings, contrasts wonderfully with the severity of the ancient castle walls.

The Legacy of the Crichton Estate, Dumfries

In 1834, following a bequest from the late Dr James Crichton, who had made a fortune trading with the East India Company, his wife Elizabeth, set about building a legacy. Elizabeth built Crichton Hall in the magnificent 100-acre estate, to serve as a psychiatric hospital. Elizabeth had intended to build a university also but this failed due to lack of support from the establishment at the time. Though ironically, there is a flourishing educational hub on the estate today.

Crichton Royal Hospital, as it became known, developed over the next 100 years into the outstanding conservation estate we see today. The visible phases of development tell the story of the development of care of psychiatric patients from a walled asylum to smaller pavilion buildings providing a more homely feel.

The magnificent, gothic cathedral style Crichton Memorial Church, built to commemorate its founders was completed in 1897. The last major development of the original hospital was the imposing art deco Easterbrook Hall, completed in 1938. This was conceived as the main therapeutic and recreational building with a wide range of facilities ranging from operating theatre through to library, refectory, auditorium, gym, cinema, swimming pool and squash courts.

Throughout the development of the hospital, it was renowned for the quality and forwarding looking nature of its healthcare, the quality of the buildings and the100 acre landscaped parkland and gardens in which it is set. The hospital is a shining example of Victorian /Edwardian philanthropic approach to wellbeing.

By the 1980s, advances in medicine and care meant that patient numbers dwindled and the hospital gradually closed, marking the end of large Victorian hospitals not just in Dumfries but all over the country.

In 1995, Dumfries and Galloway Council bought most of the estate with a view to protecting it for the nation and turning it to productive new uses to benefit the local community.

Today, the estate thrives and offers a whole mix of community and business uses from weddings at The Crichton Church, Easterbrook Hall, the University Campus, Business Park, conference and events centre and the Aston Hotel.

The Aston Hotel Dumfries is located 14 miles from Lockebie, Gretna Green 26 miles, Carlisle 34 miles, Penrith 34 miles, Glasgow Airport 87 miles, Glasgow City 78 miles, Stranraer 68 miles and 90 miles from Newcastle Upon Tyne.

On Your Bike in Dumfries & Galloway

Enjoy The Freedom of The Road

Whether you’re a motorbike devotee or an outdoor activist mountain biker, there’s everything you could wish to explore on wheels in Dumfries & Galloway from thrilling mountain bike trails to quad biking and scenery just waiting for a wheel-bound journey.

Bike along country roads with the refreshing west coast breeze as you journey through Dumfries and Galloway. Explore the stretch between Moffat and Portpatrick where good back roads transport you through wonderful forests to the beautiful coastal fishing village and stop off at the attractions and gardens along the way to really experience what Dumfries and Galloway has to offer.

Theres local flavours that foodies can discover on special menus designed for bikers including The Selkirk, The Buccleuch and our own Aston Dumfries Hotel on the Crichton Estate.

Pass through where Robert the Bruce camped in 1307 to the centre of the Galloway Forest and in Glentrool you can enjoy astonishing views from Bruce’s Stone, overlooking the scene where his battle with the English took place near Loch Trool. Moffat Woollen Mill is another worthwhile stop on this route with excellent facilities for bikers and a variety of local products on sale.

Put wheels in motion and enjoy the freedom of the open road beside the coastline in southern Scotland and if you’re game there’s a 308-mile route that takes in coastal views or if you want a shorter ride, there are beautiful lochs within the area.

Test Your Technical Skill on Mountain Bikes. This region is a haven for cyclists with its mixture of challenging and simple routes whether you are thrill seeking or biking with the family in the peaceful forest trails. The area boasts five of the seven stanes centres and this area has long been a cyclists haven.

At Dalbeattie by the coast you can test your abilities on some of the red and black graded trails and if this is you’re thing, attempt the Slab, an almost vertical granite rock where the descent is truly exhilarating. Enthusiasts will also enjoy the Hardrock Trail, great even during wet weather as the surface offers grip no matter what the season, while beginners can take a leisurely ride on gentle paths.

North of Dumfries is Ae set within a beautiful forest and which has steep climbs and wild descents making for some exhilarating mountain biking and free ride biking on the Ae Line.

Mabie to the south has wonderful views across the Solway Firth and the Nith Estuary and you can practice in the dedicated skills area. The Kona Dark Side is an orange bike park for experts only and it is definitely not for the fainthearted since most attempt it on foot before venturing there by bike.

Some of the best single-track in the country can be found at Kirroughtree and at the blue Larg Hill run you will also find occasional small rock drops. Classic cross-country trails come with technical features on a red run known as the Twister or families will love the mix of easier routes and the children’s play area.

Whether you want to follow the Big Country Route at Glentrool or you’re after an adrenaline kick, this area is unrivalled for mountain bikers.

These Boots are made for Walking

Put a spring in your step and think about taking a walking short break in the beautiful Dumfries & Galloway region. We are blessed with the most amazing scenery for to choose from whether you prefer coastal or countryside walks, we have a lot on offer.

As soon as you cross the ancient border with England, you can choose from rugged coast-to-coast, or rolling hills and through the rich green countryside. There are well marked path networks and many more amazing walks to be discovered from maps and books. Some areas have ranger-led walks which are great for families with children and there are a number of town trails that provide fascinating historical strolls.

The rugged Galloway Hills offer great walking among forests, lochs and moors. The Galloway Hills take in 24 peaks above 2,000 ft and among them are ranges such as the Rhins of Kells, the Minnigaff Hills, the Awful Hand and the Dungeon Hills. The Merrick, rising up above Loch Trool and is Dumfries & Galloway’s highest hill at 2,765 ft and forms the ‘forefinger of the Awful Hand range. The views from the top are superb and well worth the climb.

If you are feeling adventurous, take on the 212-mile challenge of Britain’s first official coast-to-coast long-distance footpath or sample the route with some short walks along the way. The Southern Upland Way is Scotland’s longest, and possibly its most challenging walking route. It stretches coast to coast across the south of Scotland from Portpatrick in the far west of Dumfries & Galloway to Cockburnspath on the North Sea coast of the Scottish Borders, taking in some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country.

Then there’s the mysterious and marvelous sights of Merlin’s Cave, the Devil’s Beeftub, the Grey Mare’s Tail –in the Moffat Hills. The town of Moffat is the perfect base for some breathtaking walks and there is something to attract walkers of all levels. The highest of the peak here is White Coomb at a mighty 2,696 ft with the popular Hartfell close behind, both boasting views that stretch for many miles on a clear day.

For serious walking, take to the hills in the east of Dumfries & Galloway and a visit to Scotland’s highest village.

The Lowther Hills lie north of Sanquhar and Thornhill in the east of Dumfries & Galloway. The gentle inclines of these hills disguise their difficulty and if you make the climb, you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view at the summit – but make no mistake that this is serious walking country!

Dumfries & Galloway’s coastline offers over 200 miles of walking, from the sandy beaches of the beautiful Solway Coast to the cliffs of the rugged southwest. With gentle wooded shores and pretty yacht-dotted estuaries, crashing waves and magnificent sunsets, the coastline of Dumfries & Galloway offers scenic splendor and a variety of lovely walks.

For maps, brochures and guides visit here.

Visit to Drumlanrig and Threave Castle

Brimming with centuries-old heritage and culture, period furnishings, fine art and antiques; Drumlanrig Castle is the ancient Douglas stronghold and Dumfriesshire home of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch and Queensberry. It is set on the amazing 90,000 acre Queensberry Estate complete with Country Park, Victorian Gardens and Championship mountain bike trails.

Constructed from distinctive pink sandstone, the castle was commissioned in 1691 by William Douglas, the first Duke of Queensberry and represents one of the first and most important Renaissance buildings in the Scotland.

The country estate has dedicated waymarked paths and woodland trails for walkers, wildlife enthusiasts and mountain bikers of all abilities. Theres plenty of other outdoor activities of note from fishing and field sports to Land Rover tours and there’s a Ranger Service to ensure you see everything there is.

If horticulture is your thing, you can’t help but be impressed by the 40-acre inspirational gardens. There are the formal gardens such as the Long Terrace Walk, the Shawl and East Parterre dating back to the early 17th and 18th centuries. And a visit to the Cascade and imposing Victorian Glasshouse and historic Heather Houses are a must.

Next on our visit is Threave Castle located on an island in the middle of the River Dee. It’s exciting getting there as you have a short walk ten minute walk through fields and past woods to reach the River Dee where you will find a small jetty and brass bell with a rope. Ring the bell loudly and the boatman will come across from the island to take you to the castle!

Legend relays that Threave Island was the home of the ancient rulers of Galloway a thousand years ago. The tall, forbidding tower that now dominates the island was built for Sir Archibald Douglas in 1369. Or better known as Archibald ‘The Grim’ and by the time he died at Threave in 1400 he had become the most powerful magnate in Southern Scotland.

Half a century later, when James II took steps to overthrow the over-mighty Black Douglases, it was Threave that staged the final act in the drama. After a two-month-long siege, the island stronghold reverted to the Crown and thereafter played only a relatively minor part in Scotland’s history.

Tibetan Buddhist Temple in D&G

Nestling along the banks of the River Esk and amidst the rolling hills of the Scottish borders is the Kagyu Samye Ling Buddhist Monastery and Tibetan Centre. It was the first Tibetan Buddhist centre in the West and was established in 1967 and follows Buddhist teachings and preserves the culture of Tibetan Buddhism, arts and medicine.

Everyone is welcome to visit and you can simply have a look around the temple and grounds at Samye Ling and visit the café or take part in any of the many courses available throughout the year. Courses range from retreats to drawing and painting to Tai Chi. Arrangements can be made for guided tours for groups also and there is no admission charge but donations are welcome.

The Tibetan Tea Rooms are a charming place to visit and serve snacks and pastries and a range of speciality teas and coffees. There is also a shop with an extensive range of books and objects imported from shops and workshops in Nepal. For a peaceful experience, the Kagyu Samye Ling Buddhist Monastery and Tibetan Centre is interesting and well worth a visit.

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