In 1990, I set off for England for a month to research my Richard III novel, “Rings of Passage.” This is my travel journal.
Looking back from 2014: Richard’s childhood home was one of the places I most wanted to visit. Getting to Middleham Castle proved to be a challenge, testing my endurance. Once there, I had very little time. The universe granted favors in the form of earthly delights – a picnic lunch of delicious market cheese and bitters, with a gorgeous view of the Yorkshire Dales. I had longed for transcendence, but felt let down at the time. The photos tell a different story. Middleham had been a jewel in the crown of my Richard tour. The lesson: Let the expectations go, and experience what is offered.
Middleham Castle, Yorkshire
September 22, 1990
This day was a lot of work.
This morning, I got the train to Darlington, then a bus to Richmond.
Richmond was having its market day. Cobbled streets, buildings all of stone. I wished I could stay longer. Went to an antique fair. Then I got some cheese and a beer and packed them away to wait for the bus to Leyburn.
Oh, what a beautiful ride through the Dales. I’ve never seen a landscape like Yorkshire. Sort of Pennsylvania pushed up against Indiana farmland. Loads of sheep. Long-haired ones with long tails. We went over hills, through woods, past fields divided with dry stone walls. Leyburn was quite quaint, as well. But then I had towalk 2½ miles to get to Middleham Castle. And I didn’t have a whole lot of time because I had to catch the bus back.
No pleasant walk across the Dales, this.
I had to walk along a fairly busy two-lane highway with no shoulder, up and down steep hills in a cold wind. Not fun at all. I got there and was almost locked out – but the British Heritage lady let me in after all.
There I climbed up on the ruins overlooking the great hall, and ate my Leicester Whirl cheese with herbs and garlic, and my Huntsman’s cheese, and drank my Stones Bitter.
I talked to Richard, but it’s not like he was there like he was at Warwick and Kenilworth. Maybe I was just too tired to commune.
It actually did seem rather peaceful. If I felt anything, it was in what had been the chapel.
I explored it faster than I would have liked, but my time was short. The material about the castle was all about Richard, and I got some books. But then there was that walk back looming before me.
At last I set off – the wrong direction! Going probably ¼ to ½ mile the wrong way toward Coverdale. Turned around, back through the town of Middleham. The walk back was exhausting, colder, but without as many cars. Crossed the Ure River. Couldn’t enjoy the countryside. Too much against me.
Back in Leyburn, I caught the bus, changed in Richmond. The bus driver kindly dropped me at the rail station, saving me that walk. I blessed him over and over.
Once on the train, I was freezing. A woman brought a refreshment cart through, and I got a hot chocolate. A lifesaver! I felt like a guardian angel was looking after me – maybe Richard? – for making that long pilgrimage to his castle.
“Rings of Passage” is a time travel historical fantasy, with Richard III as the romantic hero. Wizards control the events of history, but a woman’s love transcends all. Available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com.