Bedfordshire (England)

The geographical county of Bedfordshire lies in eastern England, and is represented by the local government areas of Luton, Beford and Central Bedfordshire. The county’s origins are in antiquity, the earliest recording of its name is from C12th. Bedfordshire is home to around 617,000 people, and covers an area of 477 miles (1235 sq km). The nickname for a native of Bedfordshire is a “clanger”; named after a pastry-and-suet snack, filled with meat and jam, peculiar to the area.

In terms of landscape, Bedfordshire can be divided into three. The southernmost flank of the country is bounded the chalk scarp of the Chilterns, running east-southeast to east-northeast. This gives the county’s highest point at Dunstable Downs, rising to 797ft (243m) above sea-level.  The central portion of the county sits on lower-lying clay, with the northern tip of the county slightly more elevated on a ridge greensand rock.



Whipsnade Zoo


Hippopotamus and rhinoceros at Whipsnade Zoo


Performing seals at Whipsnade Zoo

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The steam train at Whipsnade Zoo– the Jumbo Express

The main tourist attraction of Bedfordshire is Whipsnade Zoo , which is both a safari park and a conservation park. The 600 acre (just over 2.6 sq km) site is home to almost 3,000 species of animals. Some of the animals are free to roam are the park, such as peafowl, maras and red-necked wallabies– though most of the species are in kept in large enclosures.

The zoo is known for its collection of large mammals, notably rhinos and hippos. It is also home to some entertaining seals, who perform a variety of choreographed tricks on a daily basis.

The site may be driven around– there is also a steam railway that runs around the park, known as the Jumbo Express.



Whipsnade Tree Cathedral


Whipsnade Tree Cathedral and layout map

Near to Whipsnade Zoo is Whipsnade Tree Cathedral. It is owned by the National Trust; it was constructed in 1930s by Edmond K Blyth, a serviceman who was inspired by his memories of World War One. The plantation takes the form of a cathedral; the nave and cloisters being formed from grass avenues, and trees forming the “walls”.


Anglesey (Wales)

The county of Anglesey, or Ynys Môn in Welsh, covers the namesake island to the north-west of Wales, separated from the mainland by the Menai Strait.

As well as the 276 square mile (715 sq km) island, Anglesey also covers nearby islets, most notably the Holy Island. It is one of the historic counties of Wales; it briefly was part of the county of Gwynedd from 1974, before regaining its county status in 1996.

The county’s population is around 70,000. The chief town on Anglesey is the ferry-port of Holyhead; other towns include Beaumaris, Llangefni and Almwch. The island is low lying, its highest point being the ambitiously-named Holyhead Mountain standing at 720ft (220m).


aberffraw_04052014 (2)Tywyn Aberffraw

This village lies to the south of the island; it is known for Tywyn Aberffraw, an extensive area of sand dunes that sit by the Ffraw Estuary.


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Beaumaris Castle

The dominant feature of this town is Beaumaris Castle– built in C13th at the behest of King Edward I. It was later captured by Welsh forces in C14th. In C17th it was briefly held by Royalist forces in the the Civil War, before falling to Parliamentarian Forces; the end of the century the castle had been abandoned, becoming a country park by the C19th.



Borthwen is a public beach set around a bay, next to the village of Rhoscolyn, on the Holy Island islet.

Cemlyn Bay
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Cemlyn Bay

Cemlyn Bay is one of the northernmost bays in Anglesey. The interior of the bay has a shingle beach: This has created a small lagoon, which has become an important site for birdwatching. It has attracted numerous vagrant birds, such as isabelline shrike and Terek sandpiper. Cemlyn is best known for its terns, including sandwich terns and roseate terns.

Llanfair PG

llanfair PG_pronunciation_13092009 (1)The famous station sign at Llainfair PG

The full name for Llanfair PG: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch
… at 58 characters, this makes it the longest place-name in the UK, and the second-longest official place-name in the world. The village’s website uses the name in full, reputedly making it the longest URL in existence, as you can see here

The railway station displays the name in full, with an accompanying pronunciation guide on the row below. In 2015, Channel 4 weatherman Liam Dutton gave an exemplary demonstration of how to pronounce the village during this broadcast

The village was originally known as Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll, but was elongated in the C19th, to attract more visitors after the opening of the railway. In English the town means: “St Mary’s church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the fierce whirlpool and the church of St Tysilio of the red cave”.

Britannia Bridge

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ia Bridge at dusk

This one of two bridges connecting Anglesey with mainland Wales. The bridge was originally built in the C19th to carry a railway over to Anglesey– it was given an iron box-girder design by feted engineer Robert Stephenson. This original version of the bridge was gutted by fire in the early 1970s; during its re-construction during that decade, it decide to make it a double-decker crossing. In 1980 the top was opened to traffic as the A55 route, with the railway occupying the bottom.

Menai Strait

beaumaris beach__04052014Menai Strait seen from Beaumaris

Statue of Admiral Nelson overlooking Menai Strait

The Menai Strait is a narrow channel of water, that separates Anglesey from the mainland, it is around 16 miles (25km) long. The channel is narrow and tidal; its often contrasting tides at either end of the strait can cause ferocious whirpools and currents, extremely hazardous to small vessels using the strait.

Newborough Warren

newborough warren_04052014Newborough Warren dunes at dusk

The warren is a large dune and woodland system sitting at the southernmost tip of the island; along with mudflats, saltwater lakes and freshwater pools. About half of the area is coniferous woodland; which has recently seen once-native red squirrels returned to the area, after grey squirrels were eradicated from the island.

Pili Palas

Pilas Palas butterflies

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Inside one of the greenhouses

Pili Palas  is a large tropical greenhouse situated near Beaumaris. It is best known for its collection of colourful butterflies, however it also houses a number of exotic birds, snakes and lizzards—plus a four meerkats named after The Beatles.

Porth Swtan

porth swtan__04052014Port Swtain

This is a cove that sits underneath the village of Church Bay, to the north-west of Anglesey. Its beach can be reached from concrete drive down to it.


Puffin Island

puffin island_04052014Puffin Island

This islet lies to the east of Anglesey. It can viewed by a short toll road from the hamlet of Penmon. The islet is uninhabited by humans, and is a roosting site for a variety of sea-birds: Guillemot, kittiwake and gannet all nest there—though puffin numbers have dwindled.

Red Wharf Bay

red wharf bay beach_04052014 (15)red wharf bay beach_04052014 (20)Sandflats over Red Wharf Bay

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Vista of Red Wharf Bay

This is Anglesey’s largest beach, and is situated on the eastern side of the island. When the tide is out, the beach covers around 10 square miles (16 sq km) across the bay and takes its name from reddish tinge of the sand. The beach is known as Traeth Coch in Welsh, and sits between the villages of Pentraeth and Bellech.

South Stack

south stack__04052014 (3)South Stack Lighthouse

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South Stack cliffs

This pillar of rock sits beneath Holyhead Mountain, and is topped by a lighthouse accessible by a metal bridge. The cliffs hereabouts have become an RPSB reserve, and they are the nesting site for around 4,000 birds. A visitor centre can be found Elin’s Tower, which sits atop the cliffs. South Stock is called Ynys Lawd in Welsh


Aberdeenshire (Scotland)

Aberdeenshire sits in the north-east corner of mainland Scotland. The present council area takes its name from the historic county of Aberdeenshire, which covered a smaller area than the current version. Modern Aberdeenshire covers 2,437 square miles (6,313 km2), and has a population of around 253,000.

The landscape of the area is diverse, ranging from the desolate and mountainous terrain of the Grampians in the south-west, to the low-lying coastal plains to the north and east. The area is largely rural, its largest settlements being the small towns of Peterhead and Fraserburgh. The city of Aberdeen itself has its own council area.

Cairnwell Pass

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Cairnwell Pass, southern approach

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Cairnwell Pass, northern approach, Glenshee Ski Area

The Cairnwell Pass is situated on the A93 between Braemar and Glen Shee. Its summit is 2199ft (670m) above sea-level, making it the highest public road in the UK. The route takes its name from The Cairnwell, a mountain situated immediately west of the pass.

Just to the north of the summit, is the Glen Shee Ski Centre, which is the largest winter sports complex in the UK. It provides ski-lifts and tows to the nearby mountains.



Balmoral Castle is a royal residency, with a large game estate and farmland covering some 50,000 acres (20,000 ha) of land along the Dee Valley. The castle became a royal residency in C19th, when purchase by Queen Victoria; as such they remain private property of the monarchy, as opposed to crown property.


British Postcards– Layout

Blog posts will be appear by area; if I have new material for an existing area, it will simply be added on to the relevant blog-post for that area. The areas I have existing material for, will be posted in alphabetical order; other areas afterwards, may not be.

Each Crown Dependency and British Oversea Territory will gets its own blog post. Given that the constituent four nations of the United Kingdom are much larger than those territories, I shall subdivide England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as follows:

# England

The counties Greater London and the City of London will be combined into one post– simply entitled “London”. Posts about the rest of England, will sorted by the other 46 geographical English counties (the “ceremonial counties” as of 1998 onwards)

# Scotland

Scottish posts will sorted under the current 32 council areas.

# Wales

Welsh posts will be sorted under the current 22 principal areas (‘counties’)

# Northern Ireland

Posts regarding Northern Ireland will be sorted under the six geographical counties of the nation.

Phew. That’s all the technical stuff out the way– postcards will follow soon!


The British—What’s In A Name?

The name Britain derives from a tribe of Celts, the Britons: The name was first recorded by the Greeks in C4th, as Prettanoi, which has been traditionally explained as meaning “figured folk”, or “tattooed people”, from the Britons’ habit of decorating their bodies (as some still do!). The modern version of the name comes from Norman French– this in turn deriving from the Latin rendering of the Greek name—Britannia.

This root also led to the Brittany area of France (Bretagne in French), where many Britons fled when the Anglo-Saxons invaded England. The Latin name for Brittany was Britannia Minor (‘Little Britain’), as distinct from Britannia Major (Great Britain).

Thence the Britons gave their name to the islands off the north-west coast of mainland Europe, the British Isles, with the largest of those islands being termed “Great Britain”. The island of Great Britain provides the mainland for the three nations of England, Scotland and Wales; so when political union was formed between these three nations in 1707, Great Britain was the natural name for it (Britain for short).

In the following couple of centuries, the British expanded its territory to westerly neighbours Ireland; in 1801 Great Britain formally annexed Ireland, and the United Kingdom was formed. Soon the sea-faring British (by then having the most powerful navy in the world) had an empire, based on the English language and Common Law.

At its height, the British Empire covered almost a quarter of the world: However, as with all empires, it started to crumble; some territories were eager to assert independence early on, notably the USA. Most the British Empire’s dissolution happened during the C20th.

Closer to home, Ireland was growing restless under United Kingdom rule, in the wake of mass emigration and the potato feminine of the 1840s. After much deliberation in the 1910s, the Anglo-Irish Treaty was enacted in 1922, which saw the partition of Ireland. The northern-most six counties of Ireland stayed with the UK, and formed a new nation of the UK called Northern Ireland.

The rest of Ireland became a completely independent state, and denounced the British crown. Officially this new sovereign state was (and is) simply called Ireland; however to avoid confusion with this and the island of Ireland, the former is typically referred to as the “Republic of Ireland” or by the Irish-Gaelic name “Eire”. Although the Republic of Ireland geologically forms what is termed the British Isles– it is not British– and citizens of the country have the demonym of “Irish”.

After World War 2, the sovereignty of Northern Ireland became a contentious issue. The 1960s saw the start of what became known as The Troubles: Meiosis to describe prolonged and violent hostilities between Republican factions (those, typically with Catholic sympathies, who want Northern Ireland be united with the Republic of Ireland), and Unionist factions (those, typically Protestant, who wish for NI to remain with the UK). In 1973 a referendum was held to establish whether residents of the nation wished to remain in the UK, or join the rest of Ireland. Despite overwhelming support for Northern Ireland to stay with the UK, belligerence continued.

Towards the end of the 1990s, numerous peace-talks were held to reconcile the two sides, resulting in the largely successful Good Friday Agreement. Since then, amongst other matters, citizens of Northern Ireland may now choose to identify as either Irish or British.

As a side-note, the term “Ulster” is occasionally used as a synonym for Northern Ireland: Ulster is one of the ancient provinces of Ireland, six of its nine counties form Northern Ireland; however three of the counties form part of the Republic of Ireland. As such, its use is contentious, and is advisable to avoid in careful speech/writing.

Eighty-nine years after most of Ireland separated from the UK, the Scottish National Party won a majority in the Scottish Parliament. The party advocates Scotland’s withdrawal from the UK, and pledged a referendum on Scotland remaining part of the UK: In autumn 2014 this referendum was held; the majority voted for Scotland to remain part of the UK, and thus to stay British.

Elsewhere in the world, the latter half of the C20th saw the British Empire dissolve: Especially through the 1950s and 1960s; where many colonies sought, and were granted, independence—thereby ceasing to become British. Whilst those countries have severed political ties, many of those countries have retained the British monarch as head of state.

Whether those former British possessions have become republics or not, most those of the former-empire countries have become members of the Commonwealth, with a few exceptions (notably Republic of Ireland and the USA). The Commonwealth was initiated in the 1940s, and is an intergovernmental organisation of 53 countries: The Commonwealth’s objectives were first outlined in the 1971 Singapore Declaration, which “committed the Commonwealth to the institution of world peace; promotion of representative democracy and individual liberty; the pursuit of equality and opposition to racism; the fight against poverty, ignorance, and disease– and free trade”.

The 53 countries have no legal obligation to one another via the Commonwealth, they are united simply by shared language, history, culture and rule of Common Law. Although most of Commonwealth countries were formerly part of the British Empire, not all were (Mozambique, for instance).

Although the British Empire has ceased to be, there are still 14 “British Overseas Territories” dotted across the world: These territories are self-governing; however the UK government is still responsible for their “good governance”, as well as representation in selected international fora. Furthermore citizens of the BOT, have British nationality.

In addition there are some territories that are situated near the UK, which are possessions of the British crown, but were not absorbed by the UK. These are the called the Crown Dependencies: Between England and France are the Channel Islands, the jurisdictions of which fall under either the crown dependency of either Jersey or Guernsey. Lying in the Irish Sea twixt the four nations of the UK is the Isle of Man, the third crown dependency. Again the Crown Dependencies are self-governing, the UK government is responsible for good governance of those islands; they are associated with, but not part of, the UK. Citizens of these areas are British citizens.

Therefore at present the British (legally speaking at least) can be described as those and that which are from the UK, the Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories.

Union flag< The flag of the British, the UK or Great Britain, is the Union Flag. It is comprised of English flag (St George, the red plus on white background), the Scottish flag (the Saltire, white cross on a blue background) and the red X cross represents Northern Ireland. At the time of the flag’s creation, Wales had been annexed by England, thus Wales was implicitly represented by the English flag. Wales does have its own flag, a red dragon on a white and green background.

The Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories have their own flags, but may be also represented by the Union Flag (as well as the British national anthem—God Save The Queen). A widespread, but apocryphal, belief is the Union Flag may only be called the Union Jack, when it is flown on a ship. Although the Union Jack is a nautical term, there is no official decree stating it only be called that, when flown on a boat or ship.

On a final note, with regards to terminology:

As it stands, the UK now comprises of four nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Although England is the dominant nation of the four in terms of size and population, England is not a synonym for the UK, as occasionally happens. It is worth bearing in mind that England only accounts for 84% of the UK’s population, and just under 54% of the UK’s total land area.

England is one nation of the sovereign state of the United Kingdom: So for instance the “Queen of England”, a commonly used epithet overseas, is actually incorrect, as Her Majesty is the Head of State for the United Kingdom (IE UK is the sovereign state, not England)– thus Queen of The United Kingdom– or better still the British Queen. In other words England/English should only be used when describing the England alone, and not the UK or the other British territories.

In a similar vein, Great Britain is not a synonym for the UK either. Geographically the term describes the largest island of the British Ilses; thus the terminology in this sense excludes islands belonging to England, Wales and Scotland, as well as Northern Ireland. Politically GB refers to England, Scotland and Wales, but this only three-quarters of the UK: Indeed the full name of the UK is—“United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland”.

To help alleviate the confusion, a Venn diagram follows:

British Isles

Let the postcards can begin!


Welcome all

Greetings, and thank you for visiting my blog. Over the coming months I’ll be sharing the best of British panoramas and vistas, as well as a few hidden gems.

The legal and political definition of “British”, is anything or anyone from the United Kingdom, UK Crown Dependencies or British Overseas Territories; so to avoid any fevered brows or major diplomatic incidents, only said areas will be in the remit of my blog.

My next post will explain the origins of the term “British”– and geographical clarification (which may even involve a Venn diagram, ooh)– then the fun can begin!