As part of our new weekly series, Professor Peter Gaunt from the University of Chester picks out his favourite historical places to visit
Q: What is your favourite historical place in Britain?
A: Despite my interest in castles and in the Cromwellian and civil war landscape, a medieval monastic site takes it by a short head. Haughmond Abbey, a few miles outside Shrewsbury, not too far from where I now live and work, wins for a number of reasons – because of the extensive ruins themselves, including the wonderful Chapter House, and not forgetting the detached well house nearby; because of the glorious views from the site over the surrounding countryside of Shropshire, the central Marches and the Breidden and Middletown hills; and because of happy, perhaps now rose-tinted memories, of three hot summers during the late 1970s, when I worked at Haughmond, helping to excavate the early church there.
Q: What is your favourite historical place overseas?
A: As an early modernist with an interest in military history, this choice is more obvious. The collection of structures comprising Prague Castle affords a fascinating array of buildings and building styles of several periods, as well as housing museums, galleries and collections. Above all, even if the defenestration of Prague was more catalyst than cause of the Thirty Years’ War, it was a very memorable and sobering experience to stand at the window from which the imperial representatives were ejected in 1618, and where such a huge European conflict was triggered.
Q: Where would you most like to visit?
A: Although I have visited several of the islands off the west coast of Scotland, I have never made it as far north as the Orkney and Shetland isles, so they would be high on my list of places to visit. For their wildlife and modern culture, the northern lights and fire festivals, as well as their historical and archaeological sites, with standing stones, chambered cairns and brochs aplenty, and above all, of course, Skara Brae.