Jim Hargan's Travel Articles for British Heritage Magazine


Early in 1998, British Heritage magazine's editor received a manuscript that intrigued him. In this travel article I described England's popular Dartmoor National Park — but based on Dr. Watson's account from Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles. The article led readers to landscapes as mysterious and evocative as those described by Doyle, unchanged in the century since Holmes and Watson visited. The editor commissioned two more articles to see if this one was a fluke; it wasn't. Since that first submission, British Heritage has assigned me more than six dozen articles, on subjects ranging from King Alfred the Great to the rabbits of Watership Down.

What does British Heritage like so much about my articles? I strive for clear and vivid descriptions, and supply on-topic photographs. However, it goes beyond this. Former editor Bruce Heydt said that he saved up "Jim Hargan articles" — articles on a tough topic requiring difficult research. It could be an obscure topic, such as Scotland's little-visited north coast. It could be a subject requiring quite a lot of research, such as Thomas Hardy's Dorset. Or it could be an area that is wrapped in legend and nonsense, requiring careful digging to get at the truth, such as the Scottish valley where Pontius Pilate was supposedly born. What links all of these articles is lively description, delightful surprises, and the immediacy of actual travel.

Here's a list of my articles for British Heritage.

  • Dartmoor of the Baskervilles. Visit the Dartmoor that Holmes and Watson knew, nearly unchanged from their day.
  • Dover Castle: The View from Hellfire Corner. No place in Europe has been in continuous military use longer, or has had a better view of one battle after another.
  • Wiltshire's Ridgeway: A Walk Through Time The worlds oldest road leads from a busy 19th century railroad town back to a megalithic Stone Age civilization.
  • Scotland's Bonny Black Isle. It's not an island, and it's not black; instead, it's an oasis of quiet beauty in the blasted heathlands of the Highlands, just five minutes from Inverness's busy port.
  • Glen Lyon: Tall Tales and Treachery. Was Pontius Pilate really born in this remote glen in the Scottish Highlands? Well, that's the yarn spun by the local postman, along with tales of saints, witches, curses, Roman bridges, and prodigious leaps. But the story about the local laird who led the Glen Coe Massacre is true.
  • Banbury. The famous nursury rhyme conceals old truths about this ancient market town, sitting among the golden stone villages of the northen Cotswolds.
  • Coventry: The City of Lady Godiva. England's oldest industrial center has been a study in contrasts during the thousand years since Lady Godiva promoted its interests in so original a manner.
  • John Bunyan's Progress. Bedford had been an unremarkable mid-England market town for centuries. Then, in the mid-1660's, the local worthies decided to lock up the village tinker for preaching without a licence. Big mistake.
  • Hardy's Wessex. Thomas Hardy set his 19th century novel among the real landscapes of a thinly-disguised Dorset. You can compare his vivid descriptions with modern reality and see how little, and how much, has changed.
  • Gone Fishin': Izaak Walton's Dovedale. Izaak, the kindly old owner of a Fleet Street hardware store, liked nothing better than to fish, and his favorite stream was the River Dove in the Peaks District National Park.
  • Wester Ross. The Destitution Road leads in a long circle through the most rugged and remote sections of the Scottish Highlands, to a land of neatly kept fishing villages beneath great peaks.
  • Iona: Columba's Isle of Exile. Expelled from Ireland for his bloody warring, St. Columba landed on this tiny pinhead of an island. From it, he started the nation of Scotland on its course.
  • The Sands of Dee. The Dee Estuary, separating Liverpool from Flint, Wales, may well be the least changeless place in all of Britain. However, you can still walk out to the spot where Mary tried without success to call the cattle home — if you're careful about the tides.
  • Windsor Castle. Europe's largest and oldest continuously occupied castle has been altered and improved by nearly every king and queen since Henry I. Yes, it's the worlds longest home-improvement project, and the work continues . . .
  • Scotland's Lonely North. Only one-lane roads reach up to Scotland's north coast, and many miles pass between houses. It's been this lonely for only two hundred years — since the Clearances.
  • Old Sarum and Salisbury. Of all the towns of England, Sarum and Salisbury may well have the deepest history, starting with a thriving Neolithc civilization and climaxing with a 13th century bishop's planned city.
  • The Other "Other Avon". Actually, there are seven rivers named "Avon" in England and Scotland — not surprising since "Avon" is simply the Celtic word for "river". The Salisbury Avon, third in size, is exeptionally pretty as it passes sites such as Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral.
  • Islay: Lords of the Isles. In medieval times, this island in Scotland's Hebrides was the seat of a powerful sea-based kingdom. Today it's ruled by a different type of lord — the lords of whisky, as Islay's seven distilleries produce Scotland's finest single malts.
  • Alfred the Great. The first true king of England did more than defeat the Vikings. He created the modern English state.
  • Leeds: Castle of Queens. The story of the most beautiful of castles is one of two ages, and two strong women. The story starts in the 13th century, only to begin again in the 20th.
  • The South Downs Way. The fastest way out of London is south. Drive only twenty miles from London's Gatwick Airport and enter a land where narrow lanes wind by thatched cottages. Behind looms tall chalk hills, wild and empty-looking — the South Downs, England's newest National Park.
  • Jane Austin's Hampshire. Jane Austin lived in several places scattered about southern England. However, she produced all of her novels in only two of them, tiny hamlets in central Hampshire. Neither have changed much in the two centuries between her and us.
  • The View from Watership Down. For the rabbit heros of the famous 1969 novel, the view is six inches off the ground — and a lifetime's experience is crowded into three years. But for us, the view from this Hampshire chalk down is wider, longer, and more disturbing.
  • Rutland: The Once and Future County. Once it was Britain's smallest county; then it wasn't; and now it's back, in all its tiny glory. Tucked inside a crescent of industrialized modernism, Rutland remains one of England's most traditional, eccentric, and beautiful corners.
  • Dr. Syn: The Romney Marsh of the Scarecrow! Kent's Romney Marsh looms in the imagination as the haunt of smugglers who pass like ghosts, bringing lagresse to to locals and doom to the King's Men — thanks to Russell Thorndyke's 1915 dime novel, Doctor Syn. The hard facts can be even stranger than Thorndyke's breathless fantasy.
  • Tennyson's Country: The Wolds of Lincolnshire. The rolling hill country east of Lincoln is Tennysonian in its beauty. And no wonder — it's the landscape that molded Alfred Tennyson the village rector's son, into Lord Tennyson, the Poet Laureate.
  • Eleanor's Crosses and the Roads Between. When Edward I "Longshanks" beloved Queen Eleanor died, he erected a monument at every place her funeral procession stopped for the night. Three of these "Eleanor Crosses" survive to shed light on this controversial king and his lifelong love affair with his wife.
  • Living the Village Life. [Part I of The Countryside Traveler] Renting a cottage (self-catering) is a great way to immerse yourself in village life — and save money to boot.
  • The Village Pub. [Part II of The Countryside Traveler] One of the countryside's greatest institutions is alive and well. Find out how the pub evolved, how to find a traditional village local — and what door to use.
  • The Village — An Investigation. [Part III of The Countryside Traveler] This uniquely English institution has mysterious origins. Could it have been a conspiracy?
  • Walking in the Countryside. [Part IV of The Countryside Traveler] There's something you can do in the British countryside that's illegal almost everyplace in America: You can walk in it.
  • London From the Countryside. [Part V of The Countryside Traveler] There's no need to give up London on your countryside vacation. Here are some tips on having your cake and eating it too.
  • The White Cliffs of Dover. England's most famous cliffs have been a weak barrier to attack, but a powerful symbol of independence.
  • England's (Un-)Natural Landscape. England's astonishingly beautiful countryside, with its striking views and rich ecologies, is almost without exception the product of human action.
  • The Coal Valleys of South Wales. Its intense industrialization lasted for two centuries, leaving behind a network of terraced villages that climb the sides of its deep valleys. A new era has started, and no one knows quite what to make of it.
  • Poundbury: Prince Charles' Village. The Prince of Wales has long espoused urban architecture based on small scale, mixed uses, and respect for traditional landscapes. Now, in the tiny county town of Dorchester, he is putting his ideas to work.
  • The Fens. The tidal marshlands that once stretched north from Cambridge have long since been drained. Large areas are below sea level, with the canalized rivers perched high above.
  • The Albert Dock. The bulk of England's 19th century emigration left from Liverpool's Albert Dock. Today, it's the largest Victorian restoration in Britain.
  • St. Fagans. Wale's national history museum has more than forty historic structures on its large, parklike campus.
  • Brownsea Island. This eccentricly historic island in Poole Harbour was the site of the first Boy Scout camp, ever.
  • Dorchester: A Step Back. Dorset's county town has the sort of scenery you read about in Agatha Christie -- a perfect place for a day's walk.
  • Duxford's Aerodrome. One of the largest museums dedicated to American air power is outside Cambridge, England.
  • Wigan Pier. A 19th century music hall joke, later immortalized by George Orwell, made this obscure canal dock famous. Now it's one of the Greater Manchester area's finest industrial museums.
  • Edward's Welsh Castles. The four great castles of Conwy, Caernarfon, Beaumaris, and Harlech were more than military bases; they were terror weapons.
  • Illuminating Blackpool. Just as Marx was proclaiming the Increasing Misery of the Proletariat, working people started taking vacations. They created Blackpool to suit themselves.
  • King Arthur Slept Here! Most historians are willing to concede that Arthur was a real person. But a Shropshire lad? Well, it's surprisingly credible.
  • Conwy: A Day to Visit. This small settlement on the north Wales coast may be the ultimate walled castle town.
  • Durham of the Prince-Bishops. One of England's most peaceful and picturesque towns got that way from centuries of continuous warfare.
  • Beamish Open Air Museum. A half-century ago, a few Durham residents decided that someone needed to save the county's disappearing industrial landscape. Now their museum is so big it has its own tram (historic, of course).
  • Cumbria In Amber. England's Lakes District went from being a desolate hinterland to a world-class beauty spot and tourist attraction, without changing the way it looked. And all because of a few poets.
  • Shrewsbury: A Day to Visit. Shropshire's county town, hemmed in by a horseshoe bend in the River Severn, is little changed from 200 years ago.
  • Windermere: A Day to Visit. At the center of the Lakes District, this tourist town offers the best of peaks and lakes.
  • Traveling by Britrail Pass
  • Ten Hidden Treasures of Britain
  • Wiltshire's Hidden Vale of Pewsey
  • Utopian New Lanark
  • The Wild Scottish Borders
  • A Day to Visit Dundee
  • The Kingdom of Fife
  • Dartmoor's Deep Time
  • Drogo: The Last Castle
  • A Day to Visit Penzance
  • The Cliffs of Penwith
  • A Day to Visit Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Five Best Attractions in Britain
  • On Bosworth Battlefield
  • Haworth and the Brontes
  • Lancashire's Panopticons
  • Whitby: Queen of North Yorkshire
  • The Great Beers of Burton
  • The Volcanos of Skye
  • Making Lemonade: When Travel Plans Go Awry
  • The Highland Road
Statue of Lady Godiva (by Reid Dick, 1949), on High Street, in front of the Cathedral Lanes Shopping Centre. Location: ENG, Coventry Borough, Old City, Central District. [ref. to #243.130] 

A historically imaginative statue of Lady Godiva graces the center of Coventry, the town she ruled in late Saxon times. Read about the good lady and her town in my on-line photo/text package, Coventry: The City of Lady Godiva.

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