My favourite historical places: Professor Richard Alston

As part of our new weekly series, Professor Richard Alston from Royal Holloway, University of London, picks out his favourite historical places to visit

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Q: What is your favourite historical place in Britain?

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A: Din Lligwy, Anglesey. It is tiny, half a dozen houses and barns.

The village was built in the third century AD, above a spectacular beach. But, like many places on Anglesey, it was hidden away so that sea raiders could not see it.

We lived close by when I was a kid and used to walk through the fields to visit, and I could imagine this little community hiding on the wooded hillside scratching a living from the soil as the Roman Empire receded from the shores of Britain. Incredibly atmospheric.

Q: What is your favourite historical place overseas?

A: I could choose lots of places in Greece, but I am going for Nafplio, in the Argolid.

It has a perfect Venetian square in which the whole city comes to play at night. Old mosques and Islamic bath-houses (all converted now) dot the medieval streets.

The town is dominated by two castles, one of which had a Mycenaean settlement. Mycenae is just a short drive away.

In the summer, one can swim under the ruins of the Mycenaean port of Asini. It is a peaceful place, where you feel the complexity and richness of Greek history. 

Q: Where would you most like to visit?

A: Sicily. I’ve never been to Sicily. I’ve recently been writing about the battles of the Roman civil wars around the fringes of Mount Etna, and I have no mental picture of the landscape.

There are marvellous Greek cities, perfect late antique villas with stunning mosaics, medieval cities from the Norman period, and an interesting – if disturbing – modern history.

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It has always been a cultural crossroads, between Africa and Europe and between east and west.