Saturday 30 April 2016

Merlin's Cave and Idylls of the King

“Wave after wave, each mightier than the last,
Till last, a ninth one, gathering half the deep
And full of voices, slowly rose and plunged
Roaring, and all the wave was in a flame:
And down the wave and in the flame was borne
A naked babe, and rode to Merlin's feet,
Who stoopt and caught the babe, and cried "The King!
Here is an heir for Uther!"

Idylls of the King Alfred, Lord Tennyson 

There is a cave – a mystical magical place - that is situated in the South-West of Britain, underneath the famous Tintagel Castle.

The sea has carved this cave, in a way only the sea can, slowly, but with persistence. Unlike us mere mortals, the sea is in no hurry, she has no concept of time.The floor of the cave is covered in sand, a place of refuge, perhaps?…Or perhaps not, for at every high-tide, the sea returns and floods the cave. There is something about this cave though, something magical and it is very easy to imagine Merlin, waiting there…waiting for Arthur.

Tennyson, like Monmouth before him, caught the imagination of the populace. This cave became woven into the Arthurian Legend and has been drawing people there ever since.

This cave was Merlin’s cave – hence the name.

The cave is accessible, although the climb down is steep and please, make sure you check the tide times before you embark on your adventure. Remember, even King Canute could not hold back the tide, so do not trust your magical powers to save you from the wildness of the sea!

Merlin's Cave makes the news!
English Heritage was recently accused of vandalism when they commissioned Merlin’s ‘face’ to be carved into the bedrock below Tintagel Castle.

"This official vandalism has been condemned by people who love Cornwall, both at home and as far away as Australia.” A spokesman from Kernow Matters To Us stated.

English Heritage stand accused of creating a tourist attraction around the whole King Arthur Legend, when there really is a terrible lack of proof that this place, this castle, had anything to do with the legend at all.  Are we to trust Monmouth’s version of history? Maybe - because let's face it- he could weave a really good yarn!

Like it or not, Arthur is, and probably always will be, a huge tourist attraction. I can understand English Heritage’s thinking, and it isn't like they are the first ones to use the legend in such a way - I believe those monks at Glastonbury Abbey had similar ideas once!

Now, I am not condemning or condoning them, I think that is up to each and every one of us to decide.

You can check out the full article from the Telegraph, where it goes in to the subject about Merlin's Cave and English Heritage's said 'vandalism', in a lot more detail. There are also some fantastic pictures of the said sculpture as well - just click on the link below...


Merlin's Cave and The Pitchfork Rebellion

Regardless as to whether this cave is Merlin’s or not, it a certainly a beautiful place to visit and it definitely inspired me when I wrote The Pitchfork Rebellion. I talk of a cave in 'Pitchfork' – a cave with a sandy floor that is inaccessible at high-tide, for the sea floods the chamber and - more often than not, - with devastating consequences for those chained inside.

If you even find yourself at Tintagel Castle, be sure to check out Merlin's Cave as well.

Thursday 28 April 2016

The Holy Grail and Arthurian legend

“Four Hundred and Fifty Years Have Passed Since The Passion Of Our Lord Jesus Christ: And On The Day Of Pentecost This Seat Shall Find Its Master.”

Without a doubt the most famous, and probably one of most endearing story that comes from Arthurian literature is the quest for the Holy Grail.

I have to admit, I have been a little bit cautious about posting about the Grail, as it is generally, a very delicate and thought provoking subject - which encourages very strong opinions and emotions. I am going to approach this post by explaining how The Holy Grail came to be connected with Arthurian Legend.

Firstly...what is The Holy Grail?

The Holy Grail is said to have been the cup that Jesus used during the Last Supper - which, incidentally, was the last meal Jesus ever had with his disciples before he was crucified. The Grail, it is said, was also used to catch the blood of Jesus when he was stabbed in the side while hanging from the cross. But no one knows what happened to it after that.

There is a story that Joseph of Arimathea bought the Grail cup to Briton and hid it. It's hiding place remained a secret for centuries. The hunt for the Grail became the principle quest for Arthur and his knights. Yes, they rescued maidens from villeins, battle dragons and Green Knights, and rode around the country doing great deeds, but it was the Grail that was at the forefront of the the knights minds. 

Who would be the one to find it?

Many of the stories we take as truth can be linked back to a French poet, Chrétien de Troyes.
Troyes's work was incredibly influential - it is Troyes that introduced us to Lancelot and the love triangle. It is Troyes that first introduced the idea of the knights quest for the Holy Grail and the knight that would find it - Percival.


If nothing else, Troyes certainly sparked the imagination of the populace, for what could be more romantic than these chivalrous, heroic knights, searching for the sacred cup of their religion?

Robert de Boron goes into even more detail when he takes up the story. He explains that the Grail was this holy cup - or Chalice - used by Jesus at the last supper and at the crucifixion.

But it was Vulgate Cycle (Lancelot-Grail), which was written in the 13th Century by an unknown author that really cemented the Grail quest with Arthur and his knights.

The central character of the story is Lancelot. And instead of Percival being the ultimate Grail hunting knight, it is Lancelot's son, Galahad.

Let me tell you the very abridged version of events.

Whitsunday (the eve of Pentecost), Camelot.

 When a beautiful woman comes to Arthur's castle and asks Lancelot to take a walk with her into the woods, who was he to say no? She leads Lancelot to a nunnery - I guess that wasn't quite how he thought this date was going to go, but there you are. Waiting for him, at the convent is his two cousins, Sir Bors and Sir Lionel. The nuns then present a young, handsome man and ask if Lancelot would be so kind as to knight him. Goodness knows what was going on in Lancelot's head as these strange events unfolded, but who was he to disagree with the nuns? He knights the youth. Bors, remarks that the young man look remarkably similar to Lancelot. Lancelot takes a closer look and concludes that this is his child.


Arthur summons all of his knights to the Round Table. There is a chair at the table that is not to be sat on (the Siege Perilous), for it is waiting for that one special knight who would find the Holy Grail.  The chair was waiting for Galahad and now Galahad is here, he can take his place among these chosen few.

An image of the Grail appears and floats above the table. It was time for Arthur's knights to find the Grail. It is the greatest of quests and many knights die along the way. At all times Galahad is hailed as the purest of best knight of them all.

Galahad spends much of his time alone, hunting for the Grail, but he does finally meet up with Bors and Percival. Percival's sister shows them where the Grail ship is, but unfortunately she dies and Bors offers to take her body back home.

Galahad has a vision and he sees things that no mere mortal man could ever imagine. He now knows where the Grail is and what he has do with it. He explains that the Grail is in Britain, but despite the code of chivalry, Camelot is unworthy of it. The Grail has to be taken to Sarras in the Middle East - this is a command from God and must be obeyed.

The Grail is on the ship, waiting for them, and they take it to Sarra's. They watch in amazement as the cup is lifted to the heavens.

Galahad, after seeing the Grail, makes a rather odd request that he may be allowed to die at a time of his choosing. After a visit with Joseph of Arimathea which is truly glorious, he makes his request to die. He says goodbye to Percival and Bors and the angels take him to heaven.

The Grail has never been seen on earth, from that day to this. 

What did the church think of this story?

The idea of a magic cup - cauldron - was a very common theme in Celtic myths, not so much the Bible.

It was, in short, a pagan tale that was rewritten by a French poet.

So over to you...what do you make of it?

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Author's Inspiration - Lesley Wilson @OmlaLesley

Today author Lesley Wilson is talking about the inspirations behind
 Oric And The Alchemist's Key.

Fourteen-year-old orphaned boy, Oric, inherits a key from alchemist Deveril. Moments before the old man dies he hints that the key will unlock the secret to great wealth. He also warns of terrible danger should the key fall into wrong hands. 

Evil moneylender Esica Figg determines to steal the key from Oric, even if it means killing the boy in the process. 

Ichtheus the apothecary and kitchen maid Dian team up with Oric to help solve the mystery behind Deveril’s key. They experience many adventures, some hilarious, some life threatening. The trio is helped, but more often hindered by comical wolfhound Parzifal, and a donkey named Braccus.

What was your inspirations behind Oric? 

As a young girl I read a book with a medieval slant and was immediately hooked on the genre. Handsome knights and their ladies, squires, villeins and serfs fired my imagination. Historical sites in North Yorkshire, where I grew up, are varied and plentiful and, long before I began writing my own books, I explored towns and villages, ruined castles, abbeys, and museums. Memories from my early youth were topped up when I returned to the country of my birth from Australia in 2014. I spent three months indulging myself in medieval history. The following places provided me with the skeleton on which to construct my first book.

Kilton Castle in Cleveland is not particularly notable in the annals of history but, surrounded by bluebells as it was at the time of my visit, it proved heady stuff for a romantic teenage girl. The ruin sits on top of a substantial mound and is surrounded by deep, wide ditches - sure deterrents for the most tenacious of medieval marauders. I was able to pick out the outline of the Great Hall and dreamed of the banquets that must once have been held there. Small iron-barred windows and narrow slits built for the use of archers were visible in the Norman watch tower. On my first visit to Kilton Castle over 50 years ago, the ruin was open to anyone that wanted to climb the hill. I understand that a permit must now be obtained to visit the site.

Guisborough, mentioned in The Doomsday Book, provided me with a home for a several years and I enjoyed wandering about the ancient wynds and lanes that lead off the cobbled high street. The town’s original Augustinian priory, founded in 1119, burned down during the 13th century and was replaced with another building in Gothic style. Only the east end of the priory church now remains, and its iconic arch forms an impressive landmark for twenty-first century Guisborough. A twice-weekly market, originally attended by farmers and country folk who sold and bartered their animals and home-grown products, dates back many years, though I have been unable to detect exactly how far.  The hustle and bustle of this delightful market town was mana from heaven to a budding author, and I imagined the busy high street as it might have looked almost 1000 years before.  

 Helmsley Castle built in the early 1100s was originally constructed from timber. In 1186 Robert de Ros began converting the castle into stone. Between 1258 and 1285 the east tower was raised and a new hall and kitchen were added. This castle inspired me to write about a grand manor house and its new beginning after fire razed the building to the ground. 

St Hilda, Abbess of Whitby Abbey (c680), whilst journeying home became thirsty. She stopped in a churchyard and prayed for water. Legend has it that a well immediately appeared beside her. The village was named Hinderwell in the Saint’s honour. The water is said to have beneficial healing properties and a clear spring is still visible today. For a short time I lived in an old farmhouse on the cliff top at Port Mulgrave, Hinderwell.  Walking home from a dance in the next village one dark night, I took a short cut through the St Hilda’s churchyard. What appeared to be a ghost frightened me half to death. I recall the adventure as if it were only yesterday, and used the experience to write about a fictitious, medieval church with a haunted graveyard.
The ancient town of Whitby, famous for Captain Cook and HM Bark Endeavour in which he sailed to Australia, is the home of a Benedictine abbey. The abbey, founded in 657 AD by an Anglo-Saxon King of Northumbria, disestablished during the Dissolution of Monasteries, sits on the clifftop overlooking the fishing port of Whitby and the North Sea. 199 steps lead from the harbour up to the abbey, but a road suitable for motor vehicles is available for the faint hearted. My husband’s family owned and ran a wood yard in the older part of the town and were amazed to discover a false wall at the back of the workshop. The partition was removed to reveal several carved-oak, ship’s figureheads dating back several hundred years. To this day not much has changed in that old part of town. I close my eyes and listen to the gulls haunting cries and I am transported back in time. Such intense feelings for the past are grist to my writer’s mill and I hope the passion I feel manifests in my writing.  My characters experience many adventures in a place very similar to Whitby, and the wild Yorkshire moors and windswept beaches provide more colour and drama for the period in which my books are set. When running a small maritime museum in Australia, I researched the history that surrounds Whitby and put in a display depicting the old town, its history and the part Cpt Cook played in claiming Australia for king and country. My dream is to share that wonderful past and bring to life the all fascinating places and people that fired my imagination.
 The catalyst that finally inspired me to write about medieval times? Retirement, and a small figure of an apothecary I made on a wire armature. I named him Ichtheus and gave him an apprentice called Oric. Thus my medieval adventure began.

Where can I buy this fabulous book?

About the author. 
Lesley Wilson was born in North Yorkshire, UK and educated at St Martin’s preparatory School Grimsby, Lincolnshire, Mill Hill School, Middlesbrough, and Pickering’s Commercial College, Middlesbrough, Yorkshire. She completed a course in Journalism with the London School of Writing, and has been an active member of a writers’ group in Australia.
   During1957, she met a young man on holiday in Italy. A whirlwind courtship followed before he joined the British Army. Fifteen months and hundreds of letters later, Lesley, aged seventeen, boarded a troop ship bound for Singapore, where she married the love of her life. She worked as a fashion model in Singapore for two years before returning to the UK. A three year posting to Germany with her husband followed.
Returned to the UK after her husband left the army, Lesly worked as Girl Friday for a well-known racing driver/motor dealer. She underwent training in London at Helena Rubinstein’s London Salon, and worked thereafter as a consultant for five years. Her other careers have included ownership of a sauna and health studio, and market research, which involved many miles of driving throughout N. Yorkshire in all kinds of weather.
In 1982 she migrated to Australia with her husband and small son. She ran a craft shop for several years in which she manufactured all the items for sale. During this time she was also a volunteer in a Maritime Museum. Hunting wrecks off the coast of North Queensland became an absorbing a hobby, and she helped to rescue an ancient, decommissioned lighthouse for the city in which she lives.
Today she is retired and enjoys spending time with her grandchildren. She is also a member of an active quilting group who involve themselves in charitable endeavours from time to time. She reads and reviews books for other authors but writing is her major passion. When she isn’t glued to the computer keyboard she loves to travel, entertain friends, and work in her large garden in N. Queensland.

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Guest Post - Up Close And Personal With Jasper Tudor. @tonyriches

 Please give a warm welcome to historical fiction author, Tony Riches.  Tony writes the most spell-binding stories set in the Middle Ages. His latest work focuses on one of the most complex and fascinating families of that time - The Tudors.
His first book in The Tudor Trilogy series, takes a look at the lesser known, Owen Tudor. I had the pleasure of reviewing "Owen" last year and it was truly captivating.
 His latest release is about the man who was pivotal in helping to place Henry Tudor on to the throne of  England. His name was Jasper Tudor.
Before I had the blog over to Tony, let's take a quick look at...
Jasper - Book Two Of The Tudor Trilogy.
 'Without the heroic Jasper Tudor there could have been no Tudor dynasty.' 
Terry Breverton, author, historian and Television Presenter. 

'Jasper Tudor was the greatest survivor of the Wars of the Roses. Whilst almost all his contemporaries suffered often brutal and bloody deaths, Jasper persevered against all the odds. That's not to say it was easy, as you will discover...'

   Nathen Amin, Author of Tudor Wales.

Following the best-selling historical fiction novel  OWEN – Book One of The Tudor Trilogy, this is the incredible story, based on actual events, of Owen’s son Jasper Tudor, who changes the history of England forever. 
England 1461: The young King Edward of York takes the country by force from King Henry VI of Lancaster. Sir Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, flees the massacre of his Welsh army at the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross and plans a rebellion to return his half-brother King Henry to the throne.
When King Henry is imprisoned by Edward in the Tower of London and murdered, Jasper escapes to Brittany with his young nephew, Henry Tudor. After the sudden death of King Edward and the mysterious disappearance of his sons, a new king, Edward’s brother Richard III takes the English Throne. With nothing but his wits and charm, Jasper sees his chance to make young Henry Tudor king with a daring and reckless invasion of England.

Set in the often brutal world of fifteenth century England, Wales, Scotland, France, Burgundy and Brittany, during the Wars of the Roses, this fast-paced story is one of courage and adventure, love and belief in the destiny of the Tudors.
Following in the footsteps of Jasper Tudor.

The skyline of the picturesque seaside town of Tenby in Pembrokeshire, Wales, close to where I live, is dominated by the towering spire of the medieval church of St Mary. Inside, close to the altar, lie the effigy tombs of Thomas White and his son John, both Mayors of Tenby, who in 1471 helped Sir Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, and the young Henry Tudor escape from the soldiers of King Edward IV. After hiding in his cellar, Jasper and Henry used secret tunnels under Thomas White’s house to reach a ship in Tenby harbour and fled to exile in Brittany. Fourteen years later they returned to seize the English throne, so there might never have been a Tudor dynasty without Thomas White.
As part of the research for JASPER I was shown the cellar and tunnels by the manager of Boots the Chemist in Tenby, which now occupies the site of Thomas White’s house. Reassured to learn there are no rats living down there, we started in the extensive basement cellars, now used as store-rooms by Boots, and it’s easy to see how Jasper and Henry could have remained out of sight for as long as they needed to.
We entered the tunnels, deep under the street, and were plunged into darkness, having to rely on torches. I saw how the roof of the tunnel closest to the entrance had been rebuilt with bricks, and discovered the remains of a fireplace, complete with chimney. This seemed an odd luxury to have in a tunnel and could be further evidence for its use to hide people who might need a fire for warmth.
Further down the tunnel the roof was roughly hewn through bedrock, with several other exits bricked up. This looked to have been done centuries ago, as there was calcification of the surface, which takes a long time to form. After emerging back into the Tenby sunshine I went to pay my respects to Thomas White. Visiting the church and looking into his sculpted face reminds me he was a real person, who left his mark on the town and helped change the history of Britain.
Jasper Tudor doesn’t seem more than five centuries away as I walk in his footsteps from the church in the high street, down the same narrow lane with uneven stone steps. I pass the timber-framed Tudor merchant’s house, now a Tudor museum, and see men preparing their boats in the sheltered harbour. It is easy to imagine Jasper and Henry sailing to safety from here, on their way to change history.
Two years of research led into this book, so the names, dates and locations are based on the best sources I could find. I was particularly impressed with Terry Breverton’s book Jasper Tudor: Dynasty Maker, and am also grateful for the support and advice of Nathan Amin, founder of the Henry Tudor Society who travelled in the footsteps of Jasper and Henry in Brittany. I am now planning a trip to Josselin myself – and looking forward to seeing the Chateau at Suscinio which has been well preserved for over five hundred years since Henry and Jasper Tudor stayed there.
I have also become involved in the campaign to erect a statue of King Henry VII outside Pembroke Castle (last summer they had a Dalek where the statue is planned to be sited!) as well as the development of a Tudor Heritage Centre to provide a focus for understanding the history of the area.
Tony Riches
Pembrokeshire, Wales UK

Where can I purchase The Tudor Trilogy?

Owen - Book 1 

Jasper - Book 2

About the author 
Tony Riches is a full time author of best-selling historical fiction and non-fiction books. He lives by the sea in Pembrokeshire, West Wales with his wife and enjoys sailing and kayaking in his spare time. His latest novel, JASPER – Boo Two of The Tudor Trilogy, can be found on Amazon UK  Amazon US and Amazon AU. For more information about Tony’s other books please visit his popular blog, The Writing Desk and his WordPress website and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches.

Monday 25 April 2016

Book Spotlight - Voyage Of The Dragon @Madog1170

Voyage of the Dragon: Into the unknown... 

(The Madog Trilogy Book 2)

Let's give a warm welcome to historical fiction author, David Pryce. David will be back on the blog, later in the year, to talk about his inspirations behind his book. But in the meantime, let's take a look at his new book...
 It's 1170 and seeking to turn their backs on bitter sibling rivalry and infighting, Prince Madog and his companions head out into the unknown, looking for a new life and a ‘New World’.

On the way they will encounter an arrogant and dangerous lord, an ambitious bishop, a future king, an Irish hating giant psychopath, and a vindictive Icelandic chieftain, whilst all the while being trailed by a deadly Welsh mercenary.

Will Prince Madog and his fellow travelers make it to the mystical land far to the west? Can they even make it out of Europe? 
Where can I buy this fabulous book? 

About the author
David Pryce was born and bred in North Wales; after graduating from The University of Leeds with a Mining Engineering degree, he spent the next seven years living and working in Southern Africa, which gave him ample opportunity to indulge in another of his passions – wildlife photography ( After living in California for a couple of years, he moved back to the UK working for a specialist Africa travel company in London. He currently resides in Colorado, but returns to North Wales on a regular basis to visit family and rediscover his intrinsic ‘Welshness’ This also affords him the opportunity to get some proper fish and chips and a decent cup of tea! You can visit David online at and connect with him on twitter @Madog1170  

  Book 1 in 'The Madog Trilogy' is also available on Amazon