Lanercost Priory Pilgrimage.

Lanercost Priory: Burtholme, Nr Brampton, Cumbria – CA8 2HQ

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One of the unexpected pleasures of our recent holiday, was finding that we were camping not far from a place I’d heard about, but never visited – Lanercost Priory.

Why I should want to go there, apart from the usual enjoyment of all things ruined, is because it has a link with Edward I. Now I know he’s not everybody’s favourite king. If your only knowledge of him comes from watching Braveheart, then I’d understand, and a nickname like The Hammer of the Scots, isn’t likely to endear him to anyone of Scottish descent, I accept. And then there are the castles in Wales that he had built as a tangible means of domination – OK, so there’s a bit of a theme running here.

But this is also the king, who was loyal and faithful to his wife, Eleanor of Castile for over thirty years, and when she died, had monumental crosses erected at all the places where her coffin rested on the journey to London. His second marriage was also a success, despite an enormous age difference – so whatever his other characteristics, he seems to have been a good husband.

Well, anyway, this complicated and fascinating king, stayed at Lanercost Priory for five months in 1306-7, during the Anglo-Scottish wars. His stay was prolonged due to his ill-health – he was getting on a bit by this time – and in fact he died not long after at Burgh Sands.

But I have always been enthralled by the idea of standing in the same place as historic characters. I just love to look out at the view and imagine what was going through the mind of the man or woman who stood in the same spot, hundreds of years earlier. I’ve visited most of his Welsh castles and was keen to see the place he’d spent so much time in at the end of his life.

So we headed off to Lanercost Priory, so I could have my little Edward pilgrimage.

It was a desperately wet day, but the lovely lady at the ticket office made us very welcome. She gave us a very interesting briefing from the safety and warmth of the ticket office, and told us all the things that we should look out for – even the daughters were interested and managed to find the things she’d told us about, including Roman stonework and medieval board games.

She also talked to us about the Border Reivers  – not something I knew much about, but how fascinating. She stirred my historical juices, so I’m currently reading a book all about them, The Steel Bonnets, by George MacDonald Fraser. It made our visit to the area richer and I’m very grateful to her for opening up another aspect of history for me to get my teeth into – what a horrible collection of similes and metaphors – sorry.

We had a really good look around, even though it was tipping down the whole time and felt more like November than August, but eventually we retreated to the cafe next door, peeled off our waterproofs and indulged in excellent cake and coffee.

I’d like to go again sometime, but preferably when the sun is out.

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