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Coastal Scenery, Aura of Peacefulness Merge at this Welsh Abbey

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Situated on one of the British Holy Islands, the Abbey presides over the spectacular coast of South Wales

. The entire island belongs to the Abbey and was founded in the early phases of Celtic Monasticism. The Abbey maintains the austere lifestyle of contemplation typical of the early monastic rules. The quiet, peaceful atmosphere of the island, combined with its long monastic heritage, beautiful wooded environs rich with wildlife and extraordinary beaches imbue the Abbey with a special ambiance. The monks who inhabit the Abbey lead an austere life. They attend seven services a day, starting at 3:15 AM and ending at 7:30 PM. Simplicity is the main feature of the Abbey church. The refectory where the monks take their meals is an imposing, albeit austere structure, with oak paneled walls and a timbered roof. The cloister is covered and built around the central garden also called the “cloister garth.” The best-known products of the monks are their world famous range of monastic perfumes and toiletries that have captured the fragrance of the island’s flowers.

The Old Priory and church with its leaning spire are among the oldest and most interesting buildings on the island and represent the residence of the Benedictine Community that lived there until 1536. An ancient stone floor distinguishes the church. Built on an elevated position the priory is constructed from limestone and sandstone indigenous to the island.

Nearby Tenby’s name in Welsh means “The little fort of the fishes.” Fine Georgian houses backed by a well-preserved medieval cliff-top town overlook the handsome harbor. Surrounded by a 13th century wall that includes the Five Arches Barbican Gate, this unique Victorian town is a place of narrow, cobbled streets and lanes. The coastal path is an alluring route revealing many beaches and coves, habitat for a variety of sea birds and wildlife not generally found in such numbers elsewhere in the UK.

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Stay in Wales where literary pursuits meet architectural heritage at this unusual religious institution… about $40 per night with three meals.

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

This religious institution contains the second most important library in Wales. Over the years the library has accumulated over 250,000 books mainly including theology, philosophy, classics, art and literature.

This facility is also located close to Chester (in England) which was founded by the Romans almost 2,000 years ago and is the only city in England to have preserved its medieval walls in their entirety – they form part of the original Roman defenses. The town of today preserves grand buildings representing every period of Chester’s long, illustrious history. The handsome, sandstone cathedral dates from the 14th century and is noted for its intricate carved woodwork, its Lady Chapel and the Cloisters. Also nearby is Chirk Castle, the last of the great Welsh castles built by Edward I. Begun in the latter half of the 12th century by Roger Mortimer, one of Edward’s generals, the castle was completed in 1310. The exterior of the castle has changed little; the dungeon, portcullis gate and stone steps leading to the watchtower remain as originally built. The interior shows the remodeling carried out in the 19th century under the direction of renowned architect A.W.N. Pugin. Joseph Turner designed the staircase in 1777 and the first floor staterooms are from the same period. They are adorned with lavish Adam-style decorations.

Due west of the castle is the beautiful Vale of Clwyd. In a setting overlooked by the hills of the Clwydian Range and the Hiraethog Moors, the ancient market town of Ruthin is one of the most picturesque towns in northeast Wales. Ruthin began as a Welsh settlement and its name means “the red fortress,” as it was built on a red sandstone hill. Its 700-year old heritage is mirrored in splendid half-timbered medieval buildings including the Barclay Bank. According to legend, Maen Huail, a boulder outside Barclays is where King Arthur beheaded Huail, his rival in a love affair. The town has a rich architectural history making it an outstanding Conservariton Area. The 17th century Myddle Arms is a pub whose unusual Dutch-style dormer windows are known as the “Seven Eyes of Ruthin.”

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