THE BATTLES OF ARTHUR

An attack on the Tower of London

Because the most ungodly Saxones disdaine to keeping promise with me, I keeping faith with my God, endevoure to be avenged of them for the bloude and slaughter of my Citizens: let us therefore manfully set upon those Traytours who by the Meditation of Christ out of all doubt we shall overcome with a wished triumphe. -spoken by Arthure in Leland's Assertion of King Arthure, page 23

We used the texts of Nennius, the Easter Annals, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to help determine the sites of Arthur's major battles. We saw the hillfort of Yeavering Bell, near Northumberland's River Glen, and visited the Linconlshire River Glen in 2001. We have visited the town of Drumelzier in the Celidon Wood, as well as the Roman forts of Caerleon and High Rochester. In 2001, we also visited the River Douglas near Loch Lomond, a candidate for the site of the second through fifth battles related by Nennius. We visited Liddington Castle as a candidate for Badon Hill. In 2001, we broadened our search for this important battlesite and saw Badbury Rings, Little Solsbury Hill, and Bowden Hill.

We also sought the battlefield of Camlann, where Arthur met his death. Slaughter Bridge in Cornwall, the Roman fort of Camboglanna on Hadrian's Wall, and the Welsh area around Cader Idris all claim to be where Arthur was dealt his deadly blow. We visited several other Camlann sites in 2001, including the Camlan area and the Gamlan River in Wales and the River Allen in Scotland. There were also battles at Portchester Castle, in southern England, and Dumbarton, in western Scotland. We also drove by Loch Lomond, where, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Arthur sent the Picts fleeing.


THE FIRST BATTLE IN WHICH HE WAS ENGAGED WAS AT THE MOUTH OF THE RIVER GLENI --Nennius

Yeavering Bell

Yeavering BellLegendary and Literary Background

Yeavering Bell is a hillfort in Northumbria overlooking the flatlands where the River Glen flows into the River Till. This Glen-Till confluence has been identified by some as "the mouth of the River Glen." Excavations of the fort have proven occupation in the Arthurian time frame, and this could have been a stronghold from which he commanded the battle below, though the actual confluence is approximately three miles away. This area as Arthur's first battle, then, is supported by being near a river called Glen and the nearby hillfort, which indicates some degree of a military presence.

Location and Description

The River Glen near Yeavering BellYeavering Bell is a large hill in Northumberland near the River Glen. From the town of Wooler, take the A697 west, then fork off onto the B6351 after about 2 miles. The hill will be on your left after about another two miles, before the town of Kirknewton. There is a small sign labeled "Yeavering Bell" on the left by a farmhouse that leads to a hiking trail to the top, a length of about two miles.

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around Yeavering Bell, click here.

We didn't get to spend much time in this area; it became a rest stop on our way from Bamburgh to High Rochester. The hill loomed large on our left, and we could see the Glen out running through the flat plains on our right. We regret not having time to climb this hill and explore its ramparts, but we were able to drive up to Kirknewton where there was a bridge over the Glen. We parked right before a one-lane bridge and got out to take some pictures looking down the river.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.

 

River Glen in Lincolnshire

Legendary and Literary Background

Britain's other River Glen is in Lincolnshire, and many consider this the better candidate for the battlesite. There were known Angle settlements in the area, and Nennius says that Arthur's next four battles were fought in the region of Linnuis, which many scholars contend is Lincolnshire. The Glen in Lincolnshire seems more logical than Yeavering Bell, and fits with the rest of Nennius's account. John Leland, in his Assertion of King Arthure, seems to locate the Battle of the Glen in this area:

Going unto the cittie of Lincolne beseeged of the Saxones, having fought ye battle, there were six thousand of 
Saxones which eyther being drowned or wounded with weapons, dyed.
                                         -page 23
Location and DescriptionThe River Glen

The River Glen runs through southern Lincolnshire. We saw the river at a town called Surfleet, near Spalding. The "mouth of the River Glen" of which Nennius speaks could be construed to be the confluence of this river with the river Welland, to the east of Surfleet.

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around the River Glen, click here.

The River Glen in this area is very canal-like, contained inside what look to be man-made levees when it runs through the towns of Pinchbeck and Surfleet. We also noticed that it was attractive to area fishermen, especially on the Sunday afternoon when we drove through. Most of the land in the area was farmland, broad and flat and some of the best in all of Britain, according to our host at the Riverside Hotel. He also told us of a local legend that Arthur buried some treasure while on a campaign in this area. This claim is supported and perhaps inflated by ancient gold coins found on a nearby farm.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.


THE SECOND, THIRD, FOURTH, AND FIFTH, WERE ON ANOTHER RIVER, BY THE BRITONS CALLED DUGLAS, IN THE REGION LINnUIS --Nennius

The site of the River Duglas is unknown, though there are several hypotheses. According to Ashe's Travel Guide, the name itself means "blue-black," or black stream. There were probably many rivers in Britain by this name, which makes it tough to locate a specific one. This could be why Nennius included the qualifier about the specific region.

The "region Linnuis" could be Lincolnshire, using clues from etymology. Linnuis could be descended from the Latin Lindenses, which would refer to those that inhabited the region of Lindum. Lindum is probably Lindsey, which is in Lincolnshire. So far, so good. The only problem is that Lincolnshire does not have a river named Duglas or any Duglas derivative. Therefore, other claims, such as the areas around Loch Lomond and Ilchester, cannot be dismissed.

 

River Douglas

Legendary and Literary Background

River DouglasSome Arthurian researchers claim that Loch Lomond's River Douglas is Nennius' Dubglas. This goes against the more popularly held notion that the region Linnuis is in Lincolnshire, but there is evidence, according to Ashe, that Ptolemy referred to a place in the Loch Lomond area named Lindum. The problem with this Scottish location, then, for those that hold for a more southern Arthur, is not only to explain why Arthur was fighting so far north, but also what matter required four battles to resolve.

Geoffrey of Monmouth speaks of Arthur besieging the Picts at Loch Lomond, yet he seems to place the River Douglas near York. Geoffrey does say, though, that Arthur had fought the Picts three times before in this area, which would make the siege a fourth confrontation--the same number of times Nennius says Arthur fought a battle at the River Douglas. Maybe this is an instance of confusion or manipulation of older sources.

Location and Description

The River Douglas comes down from the mountains from Loch Long, through Glen Douglas, and flows into Loch Lomond at the town of Inverbeg. There's not much more to it than that.

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around River Douglas, click here.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.


THE SIXTH, ON THE RIVER BASSAS --Nennius

The location of the River Bassas has puzzled historians even up to the present. No strong claims have been made, but a couple of proposals have been put forth. Some say it is a rock called "The Bass" in the Firth of Forth outside the town of North Berwick. Or perhaps it is in Hampshire, near the River Lusas?

Phillips and Keatman suggest that the battlesite may have been outside the town of Baschurch in Shropshire. They reference the Canu Heledd of The Red Book of Hergest, which notes that modern day Baschurch was known to the early British as "Bassa." This complements their theory regarding Owain Ddantgwyn, as the site is in Powys near where they claim this "Arthur" was buried (see The Berth).


THE SEVENTH IN THE WOOD CELIDON, WHICH THE BRITONS CALL CAT COIT CELIDON --Nennius

Drumelzier

Legendary and Literary Background

The Celidon Wood is the same as the region of Caledonia, which is an old name for Scotland. This wood covers a rather large and ill-defined area; it begins just north of the border and stretches across the land up to the mouths of the Clyde and Tweed. John Leland expands on Nennius' account and offers more drama behind the battles:

But the others flying away unto the wood of Caledon, being 
besseged by the Brittaines, were constrayned to yeeld 
The Celidon Wood seen from Drumelzierthemselves: and pledges being taken for tribute yearely to 
be paied, he gave them leave with their shippes onely to
return into their Countrie.
                          -Assertion of King Arthure, page 23

Geoffrey of Monmouth gives even more details of this battle:

Arthur pursued the Saxons relentlessly until they reached 
the Caledon Wood . . . [The Saxons] used the shelter of the 
trees to protect themselves from the Briton's weapons. As 
soon as Arthur saw this, he ordered the trees round that 
part of the wood to be cut down and their trunks to be 
placed in a circle, so that every way out was barred to 
the enemy.
                           -History of the Kings of Britain, page 215

The Battle in the Celidon Wood, then, could have taken place in any number of places, but our travels took us through the small town of Drumelzier on the River Tweed.

Location and Description

Drumelzier is a small town in the Borders area of Scotland. From Biggar, take the B7106 to Broughton, then turn right onto the A701 heading south. After about a mile, turn onto the B712. The Celidon Wood seen from DrumelzierThis is the main road through town. When you get into the town, turn left towards the church. We parked out in front of it. All around you will be the Celidon Wood. Drumelzier has also been claimed as Merlin's Grave.

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around Drumelzier, click here.

Most of our efforts in this area were concentrated on Merlin's Grave, but we did take note of the surrounding forests and the River Tweed running through it. There were sections of farmland in this area, and wild hares ran all through these fields like Arthur's troops pursuing the Saxon dogs.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.


THE EIGHTH WAS NEAR GURNION CASTLE, WHERE ARTHUR BORE THE IMAGE OF THE HOLY VIRGIN, MOTHER OF GOD, UPON HIS SHOULDERS, AND THROUGH THE POWER OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, AND THE HOLY MARY, PUT THE SAXONS TO FLIGHT, AND PURSUED THEM THE WHOLE DAY WITH GREAT SLAUGHTER --Nennius

Gurnion Castle is another battle site that remains anonymous, though many think it was a Roman fort, perhaps one near Stow in Selkirkshire, or Garionenum in Norfolk.

The interesting part of Nennius's description is in the "image of the Holy Virgin" passage. Some claim that the region was not completely Christianized during Arthur's time and that he would not have worn such an image. This is probably not anachronistic, though, since there was a church at Glastonbury that had been dedicated to Mary for some time.

Another curiosity is that Arthur carries the image on his shoulder instead of on the more likely place, his shield. This is probably due to a simple transcription error. Scuid in old Welsh means shoulder, while scuit in Latin means shield. The Welsh term was probably given to Nennius and he wrote it as shoulder when it should have been shield. This note is also similar to the one in the Annals of Wales regarding the Battle of Badon.


THE NINTH WAS AT THE CITY OF LEIGION, WHICH IS CALLED CAIR LION --Nennius

The Roman city of Caerleon has a strong claim to this battlesite, but the city of Chester has its supporters as well.

Caerleon

Legendary and Literary Background

A reconsruction of the Roman barracks at CaerleonThe argument for Caerleon (the Roman fort of Isca) as a battle site stems from its association with the Round Table and Camelot, or perhaps vice versa. The town was a Roman military base, which would give the area a history of the presence of an army. There were Roman military barracks outside the city walls, but no one can be sure of the state these were in around the time of Arthur. They are the only visible remains of Roman legionary barracks in all of Europe, which gives them a certain uniqueness.

These barracks were built in 75 AD and each individual buildings could hold 80-100 men, about one century of men. Six centuries made up a cohort, and ten cohorts composed a legion. A legion such as the Second Augustan Legion at Caerleon would have therefore had about 6,000 men.

Location and Description

Finding Caerleon is relatively easy. It is a town only a few miles north of Newport in southern Wales. From the M4, there are signs to the town; one exit you can take is number 25. There are brown roadsigns that guide you through the Roman sites of interest in the town, and the Roman amphitheater just outside the old Roman city walls is what has been called Arthur's Round Table. It is perhaps for this reason that Caerleon is also known as Arthur's Camelot.

Click here to see aStreetmap.co.uk map of the area around the Roman fort at Caerleon.

The Roman barracks as they appear todayThe barracks are right across the street from the amphitheater, and we explored them while waiting for the sun to get higher in the sky to keep it from glaring in our panorama of the Round Table. There were several people out walking their dogs in the grassy areas around the ruins. The grassy area immediately across the street used to be a ditch that was in front of the wall to the barracks, which was probably five or six feet higher. The barracks were arranged in a regular Roman fashion, all equidistant and equally spaced; individual rooms were recognizable and we could even tell where the doorways between the rooms were. It would have been very cramped living quarters from what we could tell.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.


THE TENTH WAS ON THE BANKS OF THE RIVER TRAT TREUROIT --Nennius

The location of this river is unknown today. It is known that another name for this river is Tribruit, which would have been Tryfrwyd in old Welsh. This river is mentioned in Pa Gur yv y Portaur?, an old Welsh poem usually dated to the 11th century:

By the hundreds they fell
To Bedwyr's four-pronged spear,
On the shores of Tryfrwyd

Some say that this river was in Scotland, which would make Arthur's enemies the same ones he fought in the Celidon Wood. Others say that it could be the Ribble, in Lancashire. Another interesting identification is with the River Brue in Somersetshire, where Sir Bedivere is said to have cast away Excalibur after the Battle of Camlann.


THE ELEVENTH WAS ON THE MOUNTAIN BREGUOIN, WHICH WE CALL CAT BREGION --Nennius

High Rochester

The Walls of High RochesterLegendary and Literary Background

The primary basis for locating Breguoin at the Roman Fort of High Rochester (Bremenium) is the name. The unlatinized, old Welsh name of Bremenium is Brewyn, and these names are similar enough to possibly be one in the same. The fort's position is strategic as well, lying along one of the best routes through the hills of this area. Arthur could have fought to halt an enemy advance through these hills.

An alternative site has been proposed, in Herefordshire. This is another Roman fort with a similar name, Bravonium. Name is really all that researchers have to use since Nennius's descriptions lack details of location.

The fort was the most northerly garrisoned by the Roman Army and commanded the river valley below. It is known to have been used during the later sixth century, but whether or not it was occupied in Arthur's time remains to be seen.

Location and DescriptionThe Walls of High Rochester

The Roman fort of High Rochester, aka Bremenium, is in Northumbria. This is not to be confused with the roadside tourist trap Bregonium, which is along the A68 near the town of Rochester, near where Bremenium is located. Turn left off the A68 if you're coming from the north, onto a road with a WWI monument at the intersection. There is also a sign that says "No Access to Military Vehicles or Troops." Go 1/2 mile up this road and you will come to two houses; this road runs through the fort. A little sign on the right of the entrance to this farm identifies it as Bremenium. You can get over the stone walls on little wooden ladders and walk around the perimeter.

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around High Rochester, click here.

The fort of High Rochester is set back behind the small, small town of Rochester. We stopped first at Bregonium accidentally and paid three pounds to see something we had no need or desire to see. It was a reconstructed Dark Age homestead, and pretty touristy. We soon realized that this wasn't the place and drove off up a little side road towards Redesdale camp military base. Several of the other sites we visited were near military bases, like St. Govan's Head, were only open when there was no "tank or helicopter firing" in the area. So this was nothing new.

The Walls of High RochesterThis Roman fort is so small that if you blink you may miss it. It is disguised as a modern-day homestead and the only Roman remains are of the wall built into the side of the hill. Once you find the fort and look at it from the field, its identity is much more clear. As we already said, segments of the walls are all that remain, but even these can give hints as to what the compound may have looked like in Roman times. This position also offers commanding views of the low areas that surround it and would have been valuable to anyone on the lookout for encroaching enemies. The fort itself was unlike any of the other Roman forts we saw, Caerleon and Camboglanna, for example, both of which had been fully excavated and had an obvious methodical, planned layout.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.


THE TWELFTH WAS A MOST SEVERE CONTEST, WHEN ARTHUR PENETRATED TO THE HILL OF BADON. IN THIS ENGAGEMENT, NINE HUNDRED AND FORTY FELL BY HIS HAND ALONE, NO ONE BUT THE LORD AFFORDING HIM ASSISTANCE. IN ALL THESE ENGAGEMENTS THE BRITONS WERE SUCCESSFUL. FOR NO STRENGTH CAN AVAIL AGAINST THE WILL OF THE ALMIGHTY --Nennius

The Battle of Badon Hill is perhaps Arthur's most famous battle; it was his greatest triumph over the Saxons. The victory signified a near total defeat of the invaders, and resulted in a welcomed period of peace. Gildas is the first to mention this battle. He notes that it took place in the year of his birth and tells that it was a seige. Few other details are given; most importantly, he does not name the leader of the British, i.e. Arthur. It is both frustrating and odd that the only near contemporary of Arthur does not so much as mention his name. Nennius, writing some two centuries later, does identify the British leader as Arthur, as do the Annales Cambriae (The Annals of Wales), written in the 900s:

516  The Battle of Badon, in which Arthur carried the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ for three days and three nights
        on his shoulders and the Britons were the victors.
Liddington Castle Badbury Rings Little Solsbury Hill Bowden Hill

 

Liddington Castle

Legendary and Literary BackgroundThe view from the top of Liddington Castle

Liddington Castle is just one of the several strong candidates for Badon Hill. Its name and surroundings give it plausibility; there is a nearby town called Badbury, and the fort itself used to be known as Badbury Castle. This location seems to make sense from a practical perspective as well. Invading Saxons might have used the nearby network of Roman roads to attack the large population of British living in the area of modern day Somerset. Excavations have shown that the hill was refortified on a small scale in Arthur's time, but to no extreme that would either support or refute the hill's claim to Badon.

Badon almost certainly was not farther north than Liddington because there was not a larger concentration of British and Saxon forces anywhere else, not enough where one battle could halt the entire Saxon invasion. There are other claims to this battlesite, though. One of these is Badbury Rings farther south, in Dorset. The basis for this is name, much like with Liddington. The hill also shows the same small-scale refortification that Liddington does, but there is no evidence of large Saxon forces in the area; Dorset was a good distance from the major Saxon settlements. This weakens the hill's claim to Badon.

Location and Description

The banks and ditches at Liddington CastleLiddington Castle is in the southern county of Wiltshire. It is about 7 miles north of Marlborough on the A346. Just before you hit the M4, there is a road off to the right in the town of Badbury. The road is narrow and leads into farmland. Liddington Castle will be on your right, but it just looks like a regular hill, albeit a fairly large one. There castle is not marked, and the only parking is on the side of the road. The way up takes you through a barbed wire fence and a sheep pasture.

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around Liddington Castle, click here.

Liddington Castle was the first hillfort we ever visited. We had a small challenge finding it, but we weren't ever lost. We parked by what we thought was the hill and got out. There was a barbed wire fence enclosing a sheep ranch. We began to have second thoughts. Just at the right time, though, an old English gent rode by on his bicycle and we asked him if this was Liddington Castle. He confirmed our guess, and told us we were welcome to hop the fence but to stay to the side of the field as we hiked up.

It wasn't a hard climb, but we were both winded when we got to the top. The first thing we noticed was a magnificent system of steep banks and deep ditches encircling the entire summit. We walked around the circumference of the hill in the ditches and took plenty of pictures. When we got to the top of the hill, we were greeted by a flock of sheep. We kept our distance and they kept theirs. The view from the top is spectacular; you can see over the whole countryside. We would see better later in theThe sign on the pillar on top of Liddington Castle trip, but it was a good reward from the first hill we climbed. Most of the area was just grass, dirt, and sheep, but there was a concrete pillar on the north side that had a plaque on it that said, "Liddington Hill. The Hill Beloved of Richard Jeffries and Alfred Williams." Both were late 19th century writers, and both frequented and found inspiration in the rolling English countryside seen from the summit of Liddington. Jeffries, at the young age of 18, drafted his The Story of My Heart, an essay praising the beauty of nature. Williams painted the landscape both on canvas and in words--his poem "Liddington Hill" appears in the collection Songs in Wiltshire.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.

 

Badbury Rings

Legendary and Literary Background

The case for Badbury Rings being identified with the Battle of Badon hinges primarily on a name association; little archeology has been done at the site and other historical evidence is scant. Supporters say that the Dorset area would have been a likely The Pot of Gold at Badbury Ringsspot for a battle between Arthur and the Saxons. Others argue that the hill is too far away from known Saxon concentrations to have been the site of such a major battle, one where a British victory could have quelled Saxon aggression for so long a time.

Edwin Guest, in his 1883 work Origines Celticae, makes a case for Badbury Rings (Vol. II, pages186-193). He notes that the site is elevated and well defended, making it a desirable position, and he claims that it was on the border of Saxon territory. There is evidence of Roman occupation at the site (it is even at the intersection of four Roman roads), and there were known conflicts between the Welsh and the invading Saxons in this area at this time period. Guest also uses linguistic evidence and reinterprets the dating of this battle to further his case.

Badbury Hill has been inhabited since the 3rd millennium BC, and improved upon both Bronze Age and Iron Age peoples. The rings, for example, were built between the sixth century BC and the first AD. The Romans captured the fort around 43 AD and ousted the native occupants. It would have been a strategic site in the tumult of post-Roman Britain, which has helped its candidacy for Badon.

Location and Description

Badbury Rings is a rather large hillfort in Dorset, on the east side of the B3082 between the towns of Blandford Forum and Wimborne Minster. The B3082 in this area is canopied by large, aged trees and the parking area is very well signposted.The Western Ramparts of Badbury Rings

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around Badbury Rings, click here.

We visited Badbury Rings the afternoon after we flew into a rainy London, and we were worried about our expedition getting rained out. By the time we had turned into the rather crowded car park, though, we were greeted by a full rainbow; it began in a field to the west and ended in the very center of the imposing hillfort. It was probably the most impressive one we've visited, actually. The earthwork ramparts were high and defined, making the fort stand out above the surrounding pastures. The tops of these have been worn over the years by dog-walkers, kite flyers, and recreational hikers, many of whom joined us that day.

Into these ramparts are cut two entrances, one due east and one due west. The eastern one is nondescript, but the western one is more complex. Three rings circle the hilltop encampment, and are relatively packed together on the north, south, and east. On the west, however, these rings separate and spread out to form compartments or bastions within. The western entrance path weaves through these ramparts and would have been easier to defend than the eastern one, which makes a straight shot to The wooded top of Badbury Ringsthe center.

The center, unlike most hillforts we've seen, is wooded instead of cleared. The National Trust, who owns the site, has recently cleared walking paths to the center through the trees that look like a starfish in aerial views. In the center, where the paths converge, there is a concrete pedestal with a metal plate on top engraved with a sort of "You Are Here" compass of the surrounding area. It will tell you, for example, how far away you are from Cadbury Castle and what direction you could look to see it if Britain wasn't foggy all of the time. There is also a small pond on the northwest end of the top, shaded by the trees and now surrounded by a fence.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.

 

Bath (Little Solsbury Hill)

Legendary and Literary Background

The most popular place to locate Badon Hill in post-Galfridian texts is the modern day city of Bath. But the association existed earlier than such legendary traditions. Nennius, writing in the 800s, seems to say in his list of "Wonders of Britain" (chapters 67-74 at the end of his Historia Brittonum) that Bath and Badon are one in the same:

The third wonder is the Hot Lake, where the Baths of Badon are, in the country of Hwicce. It is surrounded by a wall,
made of brick and stone, and men may go there to bathe at any time, and every man can have the kind of bath he likes.
If he wants, it will be a cold bath; and if he wants a hot bath, it will be hot.
                    --Nennius, British History, page 40

Even though there are remains of other Roman baths in Britain, the "Baths of Badon" (In Nennius' original Latin balnea sunt Badonis) are unique in that no others are known to be fed by a natural hot spring. Furthermore, Phillips and Keatman cite evidence that the Hwicce lived in "the Worcester and Gloucestershire areas,...including the city of Bath" (88). The authors also support Bath's claim linguistically. The Romans named the city Aquae Sulis--the waters of Sul--but it is possible that the post-Romans knew it as Badon. The syllable th in early British was indicated by a dd, just as today Gwynedd is pronouced Gwyneth. Because of a lack of standardization, though, a single d (or ð) was sometimes used. Thus Badon may have been pronouced Bathon. Interestingly, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions the capture of Bath in 577, under the name Baðanceaster. If Nennius is indeed using legitimate tradition in saying that Bath was known to the post-Romans as Badon, then it is perhaps this same tradition that Geoffrey of Monmouth calls The ramparts of Little Solsbury Hillon to relate his account of the battle:

Then [the Saxons] proceeded by a forced march to the neighbourhood 
of Bath and besieged the town. When this was announced to King Arthur, 
he was greatly astonished at their extraordinary duplicity. He ordered
summary justice to be inflicted upon their hostages, who were all hanged 
without more ado.
                -History of the Kings of Britain, page 216

Several centuries later, John Leland reaffirms this association in his Assertion of King Arthure:

Afterwardes within a short time the Saxones were ashamed of the league made: 
and having recovered their strength, they made their league as voyde, and 
beseeged the Cittie Badon rounde aboute, which is now called Bathe...
               -page 23

Placing Badon at Bath also seems credible apart from legend. In the eyes of the post-Roman Britains, the city lay in a desirable position and would have been a probable target of the Saxons. The place held religious significance for the British as well. It is also known that in 577, not quite a century after Badon, the Saxons attacked Bath. Was the area so valuable that history repeated itself? But even if Bath and Badon refer to the same place, this does not explain why the battle is often referred to as that of Badon Hill. To resolve this discrepancy, it has been suggested that Mount Badon is actually one of the hills on the outskirts of Bath, and Little Solsbury Hill is the most popular suggestion. This fort, now owned by the National Trust, was occupied prior to the Roman invasion, but not in Arthurian times. Some scholars discount Bath's case because of this, but others hold that it was perfectly possible to besiege the enemy on an Iron Age hillfort, whether it had been refortified or not.

Location and DescriptionThe Ramparts of Little Solsbury Hill

Little Solsbury Hill is just to the east of Bath on the A4, above the small town of Batheaston. From the High Street of Batheaston, turn up the hill onto Penthouse Hill road. After a very short distance, turn left up narrow Solsbury Lane. You will go uphill through a wooded canopy for about half a mile before taking the first right up a steeper hill. The hill is at the top, directly in front of you, and there is a house on your left that has a "No Parking " sign by it. You can park on the road.

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around Little Solsbury Hill, click here.

For one of Britain's most famous Roman cities, there weren't many visible Roman ruins. Except, of course, for the baths. The baths, near the equally impressive cathedral, were buried for centuries under the city streets before their rediscovery in the 1800s. These Victorians opened up the street to reveal the bath that was naturally heated by the hot spring, and built a neoclassical collonade at street level, topped with statues of Roman emperors and British kings. Though this section, with its blue-green waters, is the most well known part of the baths, the complex has also been excavated under many of the surrounding buildings.

Little Solsbury Hill is visible from Bath, but access to the fort is up a maze of roads behind Batheaston. There was no official parking at the top, only a one lane, muddy track near a farmhouse. This was on the south side of the hill, at about the level of the lowest fortifications. The ramparts weren't very well defined on this side, so the short walk up to the summit was easy but Bath from Little Solsbury Hillslippery with mud. The defences became stronger on the northern parts of the hill, including that looking towards the city of Bath. The banks in this area were arranged in a steps, with a flat area around this part of the hill under the summit. On this flat area we saw the remains of several recent campfires, probably, we conjectured, from recent New Year's festivities. We had heard that the hill was frequented by spiritualists, which could explain the fires and a small maze carved into the hill.

The summit of the hill is broad and relatively flat, with no visible remains. It was only occupied from about 500-100 BC, and held several impressive timber and wattle buildings. Twelve foot high stone walls surrounded the hill. Archeology has shown that the fort's defences were destroyed and settlement burned. The site was never reoccupied again. Thus today there is not much to see at the hill, especially compared to Bath, but it does offer commanding views of the surrounding countryside and the city below.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.

 

Bowden HillBowden Hill

Legendary and Literary Background

Bowden Hill's claim to Badon Hill relies mostly on its name and is favored as the battlesite among those who advance a northern Arthur in what is present day Scotland. Its case is helped by D.F. Carroll's theory of Arthur, which claims that Aidan's son Artorius had his principle stronghold at the Roman fort of Ad Vallum, modern day Camelon near Falkirk.

Fairbairn notes another possible piece of evidence. Layamon, in his Roman de Brut, has this to say regarding the aftermath of Badon:

And Arthur approached to him, as if it were a lion, and drove them to the flood; there were many slain; they sunk to
the bottom five-and-twenty hundred, so that all Avon's stream was bridged with steel!
           --Brut, Layamon, 196

There is a River Avon that flows near Bowden Hill, but there are plenty of other Avons in Britain , including one in Bath. Our Wallace's Bed (left) on top of Bowden Hilltranslation of Brut even sets the battle in Bath.

Location and Description

Bowden Hill is south of the Scottish town of Linlithgow on the A706. From the roundabout just south of town, follow the A706 to the south towards Lanark for 1.3 miles until you come to a long straight dirt road going off to the left. There will be a white house with yellow trim on your right. Park here and continue on foot up the dirt road, over a gate, then through a muddy pasture. Bowden Hill will appear in front of you, towering behind some ruined buildings. It is easiest to reach the hilltop on the farm tracks that go up it.

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around Bowden Hill, click here.

In the field below Bowden Hill are the tumbling walls of what used to be shepherds' huts. Built into the base of the hill is some strange stone structure, perhaps related somehow to the huts. There were two walls, each about 20 feet high and holding caved in arched stone tunnels about 7 feet high. Its purpose baffled us. The best we could come up with was some sort of granary.

There was a dirt road that circled to the top of the hill, but we got impatient and decided to head straight up. This way took us through a knee deep plot of ferns and up a slope guarded with thornbushes. We reached the top a little scratched up. This summit was one of the more engaging ones we've seen. The grassLooking to the west from Bowden Hill covered peaks and valleys of the hilltop mimicked the surrounding landscape. A sharp, rocky outcropping known as Wallace's Bed honors a more recent Scottish hero. A circular outline of stones in the center of the hill suggested the foundations of an ancient building. All of this was enclosed by the barely noticable remains of once larger stone walls. The top slopes upward from west to east, and this eastern end affords magnificent views of the countryside. We could even see part of the Forth Bridge near Edinburgh.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.


537. THE STRIFE OF CAMLANN IN WHICH ARTHUR AND MEDRAUT PERISHED; AND THERE WAS PLAGUE IN BRITAIN AND IN IRELAND--The Welsh Annals

The Battle of Camlann is the one in which Arthur was mortally wounded, according to many sources by the hand of his nephew Mordred. The general story is that while Arthur and his forces were away fighting Emperor Lucius (according to earlier sources) or Lancelot (later sources) on the continent, Mordred usurped the throne of Britain and formed treaties with other tribes to strengthen his numbers. When Arthur landed in England, a series of battles ensued that climaxed with the Battle of Camlann. In this battle, Arthur and Mordred both were dealt death blows, but Arthur's forces triumphed in the end.

Sources differ on the immediate events that precipitated this battle. Geoffrey of Monmouth's account is straightforward--both sides lined up and then charged into battle quite deliberately. In many other sources, though, the battle is set of accidentally or by misunderstanding. Iddawc Cordd Prydain, a character in The Dream of Rhonabwy, a story in the Welsh Mabinogion, gives one account:

I was one of the messengers between Arthur and Medrawd his nephew, at the Battle of Camlan; and I was then a 
reckless youth . . . I kindled strife between them . . . when I was sent by Arthur . . . to seek for peace . . . And 
whereas Arthur charged me with the fairest sayings he could think of, I uttered unto Medrawd the harshest I could 
devise . . . From this did the battle of Camlan ensue.
                    -qtd. in Guest, page 138

Malory makes the beginning of the battle a complete misunderstanding:

Right so came out an adder of a little heath bush, and it stung a knight in the foot. And so when the knight felt him 
so stung, he looked down and saw the adder; and anon he drew his sword to slay the adder, and thought no other 
harm. And when the host on both parties saw that sword drawn, then they blew beams, trumpets, and horns, and 
shouted grimly; and so both hosts dressed them together. And King Arthur took his horse and said, 'Alas, this
unhappy day!' and so rode to his party; and Sir Mordred in the likewise.
                    -Malory, Le Morte Darthur, page 512

The River Camel near Slaughter BridgeNo one seems to be able to agree on a location for the battle, either. It is often said to have taken place by a river, and the Cam prefix means crooked. The battle probably took place, then, near a crooked river.

Slaughter Bridge

Legendary and Literary Background

Slaughter Bridge in Cornwall fits with Geoffrey's account of Camlann. It is near the river Camel, which is the basis of the site's claim. Wace, like Geoffrey, speaks of this site in Cornwall:

Mordred had no desire to shrink from battle. He preferred to stake all on the cast. Yea, though the throw meant 
death--rather than be harried from place to place. The battle was a raid on the Camel, over the entrance to Cornwall.
A bitter hatred had drawn the hosts together, so that they strove to do each other sore mischeif. Their malice was 
wonderous great and the murder passing grim. I cannot say who had the better part. I neither know who lost, or who 
gained that day. No man wists the name of overthrower or of overthrown. All are alike forgotten, the victor with him 
who died.                       
               -Wace, Roman de Brut, 113

The Camlann battlefield near Slaughter BridgeThe purported battlefield is on the grounds of Worthyvale Manor, the former house of the Lord of Falmouth. There are plenty of reports of armor and other battlements being unearthed at the site, but these are most likely due to a separate battle fought near here in the 800s. Despite these things that weaken the site's claim, Slaughter Bridge still has the strongest legendary and folk association. This is due in part to a "tomb" of King Arthur that lies on the banks of the River Cam, called King Arthur's Stone. It has a Latin inscription and is obviously intended as a monument. Alfred, Lord Tennyson described Arthur's Stone after a visit there on June 7, 1848:

Camelford, Slaughterbridge, clear brook among elders. 
Sought for King Arthur's Stone, found it at last by a rock under two or three sycamores. The Stone a nine foot pillar
 lies in a dank and picturesque setting by a stream. It is an inscribed memorial stone of the sixth century. . .   
            -qtd. from a sign at the site

It has since been seen that the stone does not mention Arthur in any way. The confusion was due to the illegibility of the inscription. The last five letters, AGARI, are written in a way that could be construed to be ATRY, which was seen as a form of Arthur's name. Today, it is recognized that this stone has no relation to the historical Arthur.

The Inscription on the Arthur Stone
LATINI [H]IC IACIT FILIUS MAGARI LATINUS HERE LIES SON OF MAGARUS
Location and Description

Slaughter Bridge is a town immediately north of the Cornish town of Camelford on the B3263. The site is on the grounds of Worthyvale Manor. There is a gateway on the right that marks the entrance. Take this road up and you will come to a building with a small parking lot on the right. Here there is the visitor's center, the supposed battlefield of Camlann, and "Arthur's Tomb" The Arthur Stone on the banks of the River Camelcan be seen from a boardwalk around the property.

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around Slaughter Bridge, click here.

We parked in a lot on the side of the road and walked through a meadow and crossed a bridge over a small stream to get to the visitor's center. It wasn't until we were leaving that we found the main entrance to Worthyvale Manor. But we found the center anyway and not long afterwards we decided it was closed. There was nothing to stop us, so we made ourselves at home and began to explore the area. Adjacent to the center is the Camlann battlefield; it is marked with a sign but is nondescript otherwise.

We followed the trail to a boardwalk that overlooked Arthur's Stone, and there were signs posted that told its history. It is a burial monument from the sixth century, but it is definitely not Arthur's. We got a little more curious and followed the trail down to the river to get a closer look. We had to climb down a dirt wall to get all the way to the bank. The letters on the stone are well defined but can be understood only by one who knows Latin.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.

 

Camboglanna

A ruined gate at CamboglannaLegendary and Literary Background

Judging strictly by name, the Roman fort at Camboglanna on Hadrian's Wall is perhaps the best candidate for Camlann. The name in Old Welsh would have been Camglann, and futher modernized could have become Camlann.

The rest of the story, though, doesn't seem to fit. Mordred plays an integral role in the battle, and he is earliest mentioned with Arthur in Welsh Texts, which place the struggle in Cornwall. Since then, the tradition built by Geoffrey, Wace, and others has kept this location at least in the south of England, if not in Cornwall.

Location and Description

The Roman fort of Camboglanna, also known as Birdoswald, is on Hadrian's wall about 30 minutes from the city of Carlisle. From Carlisle, take the A69 east and follow the signs to Birdoswald. You can go until you reach the B6318, head towards Gilsland, and then take a side road to the fort. Coming from this direction, the fort will be on your left. There is a visitor's center that is open only during the peak season, not during January. Admission in the off season is free.

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around Camboglanna, click here.

The thing we remember most about Camboglanna is the fog. Driving there was scary; the roads were very curvy and narrow and we couldn't see very far. We followed the signs to Birdoswald and parked on a small shoulder near the ruins of Hadrian's Wall. We soon discovered that the site was officially closed, but there was a sign that welcomed visitors in the off season, and there were a few other people there as well.

The timber hall ruins at CamboglannaThe most developed area was near the main gateway. The ruins were filled with different colored gravel to differentiate between structures of the Roman and Dark Age time periods. The Romans built an imposing granary on the site, and there is evidence that the Dark Age people used this building as a timber hall. There were outlines of plenty of other buildings on the site as well.

The rest of the fort was a large open area enclosed by stone walls. There were several gateways along this enclosure, and most had the ruins of adjacent small side rooms. The south side of the fort was above the River Irthing, which was down a steep drop. This could be the "crooked river" implied by the name.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.

 

Camlan

Legendary and Literary Background

Phillips and Keatman put forth this area as a candidate for Arthur's final battle, claiming that there is no other place in the UK "known to have been called Camlan" (159). Furthermore, this area is located on what would have been the sixth century border of Gwynedd and Powys, and it is shown historically that, after the time of Owain Ddantgwyn (their "Arthur") the two The area known as Camlankindoms split. It would make sense then, they say, for a major battle near the end of Arthur's reign to be fought in this border area.

Location and Description

One portion of the area known as Camlan is near the Welsh town of Mallwyd. Approaching the town on the A458, you will come to a roundabout where the left route goes towards Machynlleth and the right route goes towards Dolgellau. What is in front of you is Camlan. At this roundabout, there is also a small road that goes straight and runs down by the River Dovey, an especially attractive place to walk around and explore.

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around the area known as Camlan, click here.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.

 

Gamlan River Valley

Legendary and Literary BackgroundThe River Gamlan

The Gamlan valley is one other Camlann possibility whose argument relies on name alone. It is not, however, completely unfounded in that it is very near the Camlan valley and Cader Idris, also in mid Wales.

Castleden discusses this site, saying that it lay near a Roman road that would have been used to move troops. If the area was as wooded then as it is today, the ford of the river would have been an excellent place for an ambush.

Location and Description

The Gamlan river crosses the A470 at the town of Ganllwyd. It is a mountain stream that tumbles down the hill to flow into a river in the valley below.

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around the Gamlan river, click here.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.

 

Cader Idris

Legendary and Literary Background

Translated from Welsh, Cader Idris means the Chair of Idris (a legendary giant). The mountain ridge lies in Wales near the town of Dolgellau, but its only connection to the Battle of Camlann are the nearby Camlan and Gamlan rivers.

Cader IdrisLocation and Description

Cader Idris is a Snowdonian mountain in northern Wales, about 10 miles north of the town of Machynlleth. The A487 runs right by it.

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around Cader Idris, click here.

We didn't stay long in the shadow of Cader Idris; we had a long drive that day from Pembroke to Betws-y-Coed. We needed a pit stop to stretch and figured we might as well stop somewhere where we could take a few Arthur-related pictures.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.

 

The River Allan, Dumyat, and the Pictish Stone

Legendary and Literary Background

D.F. Carroll, in his 1996 book Arturius: A Quest for Camelot, locates the Battle of Camlann in the Stirling area. Carroll contends that the Arthur of legend is based on Arturius, the son of King DumyatAidan of Scotland who lived during the late 500s. The backbone of his Camlann evidence is the 582 AD entry in the Annals of Ulster. It states that in this year the Scots defeated the Picts at the Battle of Mannan. Adomnan, in his Life of St. Columba, notes and that Arturius and his brother were killed in this same battle.

A large Pictish stronghold in this area was on a hill known as Dumyat (du-my-yat'), in the Ochill Hills outside of Stirling. As such, it would have been a likely target for the Scots. Coming from Camelon, Arturius would have to cross the River Allen to get to the fort. The river would have been the perfect place for a Pictish ambush of the advancing Scots. It is known that the prefix cam translates to crooked, so it is logical that Camlann could refer to a river known as the crooked Allen, or Camallen. Carroll claims that Allen is derived from the pre-Roman form Alauna, so Arturius would have known the place by a similar name.

There is a Pictish Standing Stone in a field between the River Allen and Dumyat, and is said to commemorate a great battle. Tradition holds that this is where Kenneth Mac Alpine defeated the Picts in 843, but Carroll maintains that there is no evidence to substantiate this claim and is better suited to marking the battlefield of Camallen.

D.F. Carroll will pay $50,000 to the first person who can refute his theory using genuine historical evidence. Good luck!

Location and DescriptionThe Crooked Allen

The River Allen runs through the town of Bridge of Allen, just north of Stirling. The river flows into the town from the north, and flows along the B8033 from Braco to Kinbuck. Boy, is it crooked.

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around the River Allen, click here.

Dumyat is a small mountain in the Ochill Hills outside of Stirling along the A91. It is a quite popular hiking area, and trails start up Sherrifmuir Road from Bridge of Allen and from Blairlogie. It is about a 1-2 hour hike one way, but it is most often considered an easy hike. We, however, chose to see the mount on horseback. The icy grass and mud made the final ascent too slippery for the horses, so we didn't get up to the summit to see what remains of the fort. The view was incredible. We could see the Gothic spire of the Wallace Monument, Castle Rock jutting up abruptly from the otherwise level valley, and the River Forth snaking its way towards the Firth.

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around Dumyat, click here.

This Standing Stone is on the outskirts of Stirling, near the Wallace Monument.From the A9 near Causewayhead, get on the B998; signs to the Wallace Monment point down this road.Go Standing Stone with Dumyat in the distancepast the monument and the road will turn to the left. You will pass a road on your left that is posted as restricted access, and immediately past this road is a small dirt road, also on the left. Turn down this and you will go through what looks like an old stone gatehouse, though it seemed abandoned. Follow this road and there will be some apartment type buildings on your right and Airthrey Castle in the distance. The stone, which is about eight feet tall, is in the field across the road from the apartments. There are no visible inscriptions (that we could tell), but there were candles and feathers from a recent rite.

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around this Standing Stone, click here.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.


HE DARED TARRY NO LONGER IN SCOTLAND, BUT HASTENED SOUTH, LEAVING HOEL OF BRITTANY LYING SICK AT DUMBARTON, I KNOW NOT OF WHAT INFIRMITY.--Wace, Roman de Brut

Dumbarton Rock

Dumbarton RockLegendary and Literary Background

Dumbarton Rock is mentioned by Monmouth as the area of one of Arthur's northern campaigns against the Picts and Scots.

The Rock has a long history of occupation. This site, though, begins in the early parts of the first century, during the late Roman and post-Roman eras, though Roman influence never reached this far west in Scotland. This region controlled the whole west of Scotland. It was a stronghold in the 5th and 6th centuries, the time of Arthur. The name "Dumbarton" comes from the Gaelic Dun Breatann, Fort of the Britons.

Excavation has revealed that earthwork ramparts defended the site, and several shards of Mediterranean amphorae pottery have been found. A section of these ramparts had been torched and razed, possibly in the Viking invasion of the Rock in 870. It was known by the name Alcluith, and was more of a town than a fortress. In fact, the rock was settled before the town of Dumbarton itself.

The association with Arthur is less certain, though the place is mentioned in passing in several of the legends. There is one that associates it with Merlin, though, who stayed for a time in the court of Rhydderych Hael, a ruler of Dumbarton.

Location and Description

Dumbarton Rock is in the town of Dumbarton, west of Glasgow. From Glasgow, take the M8 west towards Erskine. Take the Erskine Toll Bridge over the Clyde. This will put you on the A82; head west towards Dumbarton. Once you enter the town of Dumbarton, the rock is hard to miss. It is on the river side of the A82, and there are signs. There is an admission fee.Dumbarton Rock

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around Dumbarton, click here.

We worked Dumbarton into our itinerary because the pictures we saw were simply incredible. We knew that there was some slight connection to King Arthur, and rationalized the visit. We got lucky in that we chose to go there in the morning, not knowing that it would have been closed that afternoon.

The castle is fantastic. It is a large, isolated rocky peninsula with two distinct peaks. The smaller peak was the one occupied in the Dark Ages, but the other peak has larger and more recent ruins. That side is definitely the more interesting. There is a jail and a powder magazine, and several towers and batteries dot the outer defenses. The site overlooks the wide River Clyde, and you can almost see all the way to its mouth.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.


501-- PORT CAME TO BRITAIN WITH HIS TWO SONS, BEIDA AND MAEGLA, AND TWO SHIPS, TO THE PLACE CALLED PORTSMOUTH, AND KILLED A YOUNG BRITISH MAN, A VERY NOBLE MAN --The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Portchester Castle

Legendary and Literary Background
In Llongborth I saw Arthur's
Brave men who cut with steel,
The Emperor, ruler in toil of battle.
           -from The Black Book of Carmarthen, qtd. in Ashe, Discovery, page 121

A bayside view of Portchester CastleThis poem is a Welsh elegy about a prince named Geraint, who was the late 5th century ruler of a region called Dumnonnia, which included all of Cornwall as well as much of Southern England. Using this with the fact that the name Llongborth translates to warship port, it is reasonable to locate Llongborth in Portsmouth Harbor. The logical stronghold then becomes Portchester Castle, which is an impressive fortress immediately against the harbor and originally built by the Romans. Eventually, the Saxons conquered the fort and used it for themselves. The Normans would take it later. Remarkably, the Roman portion of the castle on the front wall is still in relatively good condition and is best seen from the water.

Location and Description

Portchester Castle is in the southern county of Hampshire on the banks of Portsmouth Harbor. Approaching from the east on the A27, it is easiest to get on the M27 and get off on the first exit you come to, 12. Do not get on the M275, as this will take you to the city of Portsmouth. Exit 12 will put you back on the A27, and after about 2 miles, follow the signs and turn right down a narrow residential street. The Castle is at the end of the road. There is no charge to walk around most of the castle, but there is a charge to see the keep.

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around Portchester Castle, click here.

This was the very first Arthurian site we visited on our trip. We were hopelessly jet-lagged but excited. We even found the place without much trouble. The main tourist entrance is from the east side of the castle and enters into a large, open field with a well preserved keep in the northeast corner and a small church and graveyard with several large Celtic crosses in the southwest one. We walked all around the perimeter and went out the large entryway to the harbor near the church. Therw was a little path that went all the way around the castle, but we headed towards a dock that went out into the water. We figured this would The view from the keep of Portchester Castlemake for a great picture. Only a "No Trespassing" sign stood in our way. Joe got brave and climbed over the gate and walked out to the end, where he succeeded in getting some excellent frontal pictures of the castle. Of course some English men came up and yelled something at Joe. We weren't quite used to the accent yet and didn't know exactly what they were saying, but we just played "dumb American tourist" and went on our way.

We went back inside to explore the keep. This is the part that cost us money to see, but it was worth it. There was a drawbridge around a small moat that enclosed only the keep that led into the inner area. There were small towers and rooms all around this small area, but there was a multistory tower in the extreme northeast corner of the castle that was four or five stories high. There was an exhibit/timeline type thing about the castle's history on the bottom floor and big, empty halls on the other ones. You could also climb the stairs to the top and look out over the whole castle, an incredible view. The stairways were the classic narrow spiral stone ones and there was a rope hanging down the middle to use as a handrail.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.

 

Loch Lomond

Legendary and Literary Background

Geoffrey of Monmouth relates an offensive of Arthur against the Picts and Scots at this famous loch:

[Arthur] now led his army to Moray, where the Scots and the Picts were under siege. They had fought three times against
the King and his nephew, suffering defeat at Arthur's hands and then seeking refuge in this particular district. When they 
reached Loch Lomond, they took possession of the islands in the lake, hoping to find a safe refuge on them . . . Arthur collected
together a fleet of boats and sailed round the rivers. By besieging his enemies for fifteen days, he reduced them to such as state
of famine that they died in their thousands.
              --History of the Kings of Britain, 218-219.

It is interesting that Geoffrey has Arthur fighting a battle at Loch Lomond, since one of the candidates for the River Douglas that Nennius mentions is a mountain river that flows into Loch Lomond at the town of Inverbeg.

Islands in Loch LomondNennius also mentions Loch Lomond (which he calls Loch Leven) in his list of "The Wonders of Britain" (chapter 67) near the end of his work. Geoffrey's description of the loch is almost identical to that of the more ancient Nennius. In both accounts, the loch is fed by sixty rivers and has sixty islands, each with sixty eagle's nests.

Location and Description

Loch Lomond is the largest lake in Britain and lies about twenty miles northwest of Glasgow. There are many loch tours offered from the town of Alexandria at the southern end, and the A82 runs the length of it. We stopped at Luss and sang the famous song while taking our pictures, but would rather have taken them from a ferry. Even though Geoffrey and Nennius exaggerate the characteristics of the loch, the thirty-something islands that are there augment the beauty of the place.

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around Loch Lomond, click here.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.


All photographs by Joe Boyles and Jake Livingston. Top picture from King Arthur, page 6.
The Arthur Stone inscription is from Alcock, page 164. The Reconstruction of the Barracks at Caerleon was taken from a sign at the site.