Secret Guide to Hidden, Magical Places in Britain
Britain is a very popular tourist destination. From the beautiful beaches in Cornwall, England, to the majestic Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland. But most tourists don't realise that there are many hidden gems scattered around the UK. From caverns to ghostly pubs, secret gardens and ancient mazes. And if you prefer hill walking, or discovering ancient forests then there are many that are not on the typical tourist map. Even people that live in Britain may not know about some of the well kept secrets that the locals prefer to keep to themselves.
There are many villages dotted about the countryside, and even in these times of modern technology there are in fact many who still keep up the old traditions. Whether it be Pagan festivals or local dialects, farming or secret rituals, each generation will keep to themselves the ways and means of each tradition. For centuries many of the hidden secret places have stayed that way. Mainly for two reasons.
One being the fact that they don't want it to become a tourist trap. And another being that it belongs to their local folklore, and they guard it jealously. Lud's church is one of those places. Tourists may explore the area while on vacation, but many have passed by the entrance to this ancient Chasm in the hillside. The Shell Grotto is another interesting and mysterious find. When visiting Margate, on the East Coast of England, most families head straight for the coast, where there is lots of things to see and do. But by going off the main track, they will find this treasure. Along with Exbury Gardens and a beautiful Scottish Castle, it makes sense to plan your vacation with time for a diversion from the most popular and well known sites.
Lud's Church also known as Ludchurch, is situated on the hillside above Gradbach, in Staffordshire England. It is a deep Chasm caused by a massive landslide. In a wood known as Back Forest, it lies deep within the countryside. It is a 100 metres long and 18 metres deep. Approx 400 hundred feet by 60 ft. As it is mossy and overgrown, it is always damp and cool. Considered by Pagans to be a holy place, it has also been used by Christians, hence the name Church.
Throughout history, many people have escaped persecution by running away and hiding there. Robin Hood, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Friar Tuck are all reputed to have stayed there. It's very possible that Bonnie Prince Charlie could well have taken refuge here, as well as many other famous people in History. But probably not Robin Hood. As we all know, he is just a legend. Or is he? Lud's Church has a haunting aura about it. Walking down the path, it would be easy to believe that you had stepped back millions of years. Being part of the Peak District, there are many tourists, but strangely enough not many actually know how to find Lud's Church.
Following directions to get there, it is still hard to actually see where the little path leads. After climbing a rather steep hill, the trail leads to the left. After pushing through the undergrowth you suddenly step into the open and see the magnificence of the place. The height of the rocks, and the narrow width of the setting produces a feeling of awe. It is like an open air Church. The grey rocks underfoot are covered in a green algae, making it an amazing sight. The Greene Chapel in the famous poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was inspired by the glow caused by the algae. It makes a great story for the locals to boast about, and the Legend lends itself to the mystery and beauty of Lud's Church.
The Shell Grotto Margate Kent
The beautiful Shell Grotto in Margate England, was discovered in 1835 by a Mr James Newlove. He lowered his young son Joshua into a hole while he was digging out a duck pond. The hole was deeper than they thought and the boy scrambled down, only to discover a series of tunnels covered in shells. On investigation, they found that the tunnels were 70ft in length, ending in an oblong chamber. The walls were decorated with strange symbols and mosaic-ed in millions of shells.
To this day no one knows whether it was used as an ancient Pagan temple or a Secret Cult. Some believe it to be either thousands of years old, and others, just a few hundred. The trouble being that the scientists cannot carbon date the shells, owing to the fact that a hundred years ago, the gas lamps that they used produced to much soot, therefore making it impossible to test.
But scientists tend to believe that it is very old. Their argument is that even though back in the 17th and 18th Century, a lot of land owners made similar secret chambers, this Grotto was found in a field that was nowhere near a large house, or owned by a wealthy land owner.There is a small hole that aligns with the Sun at the spring equinox in the roof of the Grotto, and the walls are full of Gods and Goddesses portrayed within the shells. Along with an Altar, this seems to point to an earlier age. With science reaching new boundaries, carbon dating or something similar will one day find out the age of the Grotto. Until then we can just stand in awe at the sight of the beautiful shells. I have visited it many times, and still feel a sense of amazement at the work that was put into making it.
Exbury Gardens in the New Forest Hampshire
Exbury Gardens were the idea of Lionel Nathan de Rothschild, and thanks to him we have one of the most spectacular gardens in the UK. This is a garden for the young and old. With its masses of amazing colours and exotic plants, it was once described by a visitor as ' Heaven with the gates open'. Rothschild loved all plants and was a keen collector. Little did he realise that his love of plants would make such a spectacular visitors delight. Along with an abundance of colorful plants, it also has the Hydrangea Walk, the Sundial Walk and the Rock Garden.
There is also a lovely Steam Railway that will take you around the gardens while sitting in comfort. This is a wonderful day out, there are many exhibitions and things for children to do. I chose this garden because it has been described as one of the most beautiful in the whole of Britain, and after taking a look at the photos of the wonderful flowers and view, I have to agree. So whether you prefer walking, going by Steam Train or even taking a chauffeur driven buggy, I think you will love this little gem situated in Hampshire, England.
Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle isn't very secret. Unless of course you don't live in the UK. Most people here do know of it, but foreign tourists tend to visit Edinburgh Castle or the surrounding countryside. Eilean Donan is situated between three of the great Lochs in Scotland and is one of the most important attractions in the Scottish Highlands. The area has been inhabited ever since the 6th Century, and the Castle was built in the 13th. Standing guard over the lands of Kintail, it has been rebuilt four times. It was partially destroyed in 1719 by the Jacobite uprising and was left in ruins for the next 200 years.
In 1911 it was bought by Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae Gilstrap, who then restored it to its former beauty. Since then it has been open to visitors. You can explore the wonderful history, take time out for a coffee and buy souvenirs from the gift shop. Eilean Donan is situated near the quaint village of Dornie on the main route to the Isle of Skye. The area is a wonderful place of discovery. After visiting the Castle you can wander through the Lochalsh Woodland Gardens at Balmacara, or climb to the top of the Falls of Glomach. Surrounded by such wonderful countryside and ancient hills, it feels as though you have stepped back in time. Wonderful.
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© 2011 Nell Rose