Visit the Tower of London, the ancient stones reverberate with dark secrets, priceless jewels glint in fortified vaults and ravens strut the grounds. Despite a grim reputation as a place of torture and death, this powerful and enduring fortress has been enjoyed as a royal palace, served as an armory and for a number of years even housed a zoo!
In the early 1080s, William the Conqueror began to build a massive stone tower at the centre of his London fortress. Nothing like it had ever been seen before. Immense, the Tower of London dominated the skyline for miles around. The Tower was protected by Roman walls on two sides, ditches to the north and west up to 25 ft wide and 11 ft deep and an earthwork topped by a wooden palisade. Although many later kings and queens stayed at the Tower, it was never intended as the main royal residence nor was it meant as the first line of defense against invading armies. The Tower’s primary function was as a fortress-stronghold, a role that remained unchanged right up until the late 19th century.
The Tower of London holds some of the most remarkable stories from across the centuries. Gaze up at the massive White Tower, tiptoe through a kings’ medieval bedchamber and marvel at the priceless Crown Jewels. The famous Yeoman Warders have bloody tales to tell; stand where heads rolled and prisoners wept. The Tower held many famous prisoners, from the highest levels of society; some in astonishing comfort and others less so… Visit the places of their confinement and read the graffiti left by prisoners from over 500 years ago.
As if straight from the pages of a fairytale, the Lost Gardens of Heligan lay in literal slumber for almost 75 years. A motto etched into the limestone walls in barely legible pencil still reads “Don’t come here to sleep or slumber”.
The gardens were originally created by members of the Cornish Tremayne family over a period from the mid-18th century to the 20th century and still form part of the Tremayne family Heligan estate. The gardens were neglected after the first world war, after the childless death of Jack Tremayne.
The Heligan estate came under the ownership of a trust to the benefit of several members of the extended Tremayne family. One of these, John Willis, lived in the area and was responsible for introducing record producer Tim Smit to the gardens. He and a group of fellow enthusiasts decided to restore the garden to its former glory, and eventually leased them from the Tremayne family. Discovered amongst brambles and ivy, the enthusiasts restored the gardens to their present day glory. Heligan offers 200 acres of Victorian Productive Gardens, romantic Pleasure Grounds, lush sub-tropical Jungle and more to explore.
The Jungle sits in a steep-sided valley, creating a microclimate at least five degrees warmer than the Northern Gardens. Here the exotic palette of plants brought back from across the world, both by the intrepid Victorian Plant Hunters and more recent collectors, flourish before your eyes.
The Giant’s Head, Mudmaid and Grey Lady wait to be discovered along Woodland Walk. This sheltered path comes to life as these woodland sculptures reveal themselves, emerging silently from the beautiful natural landscape.
Throughout the gardens and estate, which are actively managed to encourage wildlife populations, you may observe many fascinating creatures, from birds, insects and amphibians to moths, bats and even the famous barn owls.
Discover the Lost Gardens of Heligan on your Celtic Tours Corners of Cornwall tour of England.