Old Maps, a trip to Dolforwyn and our world view!

Published: Saturday 7th Nov 2015

Written by: Ginnie James

The National Library of Wales was in the news this week for making an image of a map available to the public online. I would imagine that a lot of people may not think this a news worthy item but the map is a 1586 woodcut copy of an original map of the British Isles drawn together by Ptolemy in the 2nd Century!

I find old maps simply fascinating as they document very clearly the way knowledge and our view of the world has developed over hundreds of years. When Ptolemy was establishing the use of longitude and latitude in cartography he seems well aware that his knowledge was incomplete and it seems a good lesson that we look back with interest and forward with open minds and not too many pre-conceived ideas.

Recently I found myself looking at one of my favourite castles through very different eyes. The theme this term in my daughter’s infant class is Castles and with a trip up to Dolforwyn Castle planned I offered my services as a ‘helping mum’ which were gladly accepted. Mainly it must be said because the school needed as many parents as possible for the ubiquitous ‘health & safety’, but also so I could act as a guide.

Now, I am in no way an expert but I have read an awful lot about the castle and I was really hoping to express how fascinating and important learning about history is. When I thought about how I would go about this however, a little bit of panic set in. After years of study (and reading far too many historical novels as well I’m sure!) I see far more than ruins when I look at the remains of a castle - but what do 5 year olds see? I’ve written before about my grandparents driving halfway along the North Wales Coast in order to find me a castle that fitted my view of what one should be and although some of the children would have been up to Dolforwyn before, would there be others expecting something far more than what they would find?

I needn’t have worried. With just a little bit of background history about Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Prince of Wales (Hurrah!) and Edward I of England (Boo!) the kids were well away, helped by some fantastic preparation by the teachers and a big box of dressing up clothes. We had a great time exploring the walls, imagining what the rooms may have looked like and most importantly finding what may have been the toilet and jumping into the remains of the well (which if it has been dug earlier may have changed history – a little bit at least)!

Back to maps and it seems that their use these days has fallen out of fashion due to our reliance on sat-nav devices. This is a shame, especially when unfortunately rural property postcodes often cover a large area and the ‘you have reached your destination’ rings out when there is nothing around but beautiful countryside views. But maybe we should try and look at this as an adventure and try travelling somewhere new with our eyes and hearts wide open. And don’t worry, when booking with Wales Cottage Holidays we always provide written directions to our cottages so you shouldn’t get lost – unless you want to!


Ginnie James
Ginnie James



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