I love castles and, for quite a while now, I have day-dreamed about the impossible challenge of walking to at least one in every county in United Kingdom…. in a continuous loop…..
It is clearly ridiculous but it kept my inner mind amused at a time when I started having to accept that, thanks to the temperature requirements of my tri-weekly injection for my Multiple Sclerosis, I would not be able to undertake anything longer than an overnight camp anymore.
I am not sure what I expected when I told Sarah (@PascallSarah) about it…. I certainly did not expect her to say ‘let’s do it’….. with those three words the ‘County Castle Caper’ went from dream to reality.
The finer details of such a quest are surprisingly challenging…..
The name for example…. in my opinion ‘caper’ suitably adds to the alliteration of ‘county’ and ‘castle’, whereas Sarah preferred ‘quest’. Thankfully the internet (well the three people who replied to my tweet) sided with me and Sarah gracefully conceded (although I am sure there is an expectation of my capitulation to some future disagreement!)
And what counts as a county? We bought a political map with the original aim of visiting every marked ‘county’, but that includes metropolitan counties (like Plymouth), all London boroughs and non-metropolitan counties (like South Northamptonshire, North Somerset etc). After some research (Wikipedia) we settled on ceremonial counties – this gives us entities we all recognise as counties like ‘Buckinghamshire’ and ‘Shropshire’, but also includes ‘West Midlands’, ‘Greater London’ and ‘City of Bristol’ without swamping us in little districts.
The definition of castle has also debated at length. In my mind castles are stone defensive structures usually built in the Middle Ages, whereas Sarah strongly argued the term also covers Iron Age forts and older defensive structures. Wikipedia, the fickle beast, was on my side but now seems to support Sarah’s argument – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle.
How is a county’s castle decided? To get us started, we have worked out our starting castle (Tintagel Castle – Cornwall) and our first destination (Castle Drogo – Devon (already bending the definition of a castle!)), but our hope is to make this a bit more interactive…. at the very least canvassing your opinions and perhaps even some kind of vote from a shortlist. Whether the castle chosen is the most impressive, the most famous, the most significant or just unmissable, I think will depend and change as we move across the country.
Part of Tintagel Castle, Cornwall
Moving, especially zig zagging on foot, across the country will take forever. We have jobs and other commitments, so the whole challenge will be done in stages anyway (over years) starting each stage where we finished previously. Being a keen cyclist as well as hiker, Sarah was quick to convince me that a bike may sometimes be the most appropriate form of transport. After discussion we decided that we would aim for the most interesting route (not the easiest or the quickest) between castles avoiding motorised transport (so horseback or canoe would be acceptable).
For the first leg, the plan will be to cycle from Tintagel to join Cycle Route 327, ending up at Lydford, Devon. We will then set out on foot following the Lich Way across North Dartmoor to Bellever, then joining the Two Moors Way to Castle Drogo. From there? Maybe continue following the Two Moors Way over Exmoor to the coast before turning towards Somerset. Who knows? Again this is where you come in – as each castle is decided, we would love to hear your suggestions on the best route to follow to get to the next one.
Your involvement does not stop there. If we happen to be travelling near your regular stomping ground or a leg of our journey sounds particularly interesting, then feel free to join us – the more the merrier! We will be posting our planned itinerary before each leg across social media, so whether you can join us for a few days, a few hours or even just enough time to give us a lift (the logistics will end up being the trickiest part of this challenge) or to have a beer with us, please just get in touch.
Like all good quests, we have a few sub-quests to keep us amused:
- to go for a wild swim in each county
- to visit a quirky museum in each county
- to visit as many other castles as we can on route through a county
The first leg starts from Tintagel Castle (after a swim in the sea) on Friday 25th March!
In case you were wondering about the issue of keeping my medication at the right temperature, the solution comes in the form of Frio cooling wallets. Designed originally for insulin, these pouches just need 5 minutes in cold water to keep cool for 45 hours even at fairly extreme temperatures. A simple solution to overcome a barrier that has stopped me since I was diagnosed!