On my boyfriend’s birthday we decided to go for a day trip to the Tower of London as neither of us had been since we were little kids and were keen to go whilst theBlood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation was being built to mark the centenary of the First World War. We had a really great day and as today is Armistice Day I thought I’d share it all with you too.
The Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red is so beautiful and such a moving tribute to those who gave their lives fighting in the Great War. 888,246 ceramic poppies were planted throughout the summer, the final one being laid today, each one representing a member of the British Forces who died during their service. It really is staggering to see them all together and it’s a really poignant memorial. These photos are from our trip to the Tower on 21st September – the installation isn’t even the finished here and look how spectacular it is!
After having a good look at the poppies and watching some of the volunteers plant them, we bought our tickets (inwardly cursing that we hadn’t bothered to look for any discount codes as everyone around us seemed to have 241 deals!) and made our way across the moat and into the fortress. We decided to join a Yeoman Warder tour which was just about to start and I’m so glad we did as it was the highlight of our trip once inside!
Yeoman Warder tours run every half an hour and are included in your entry price. Our Beefeater took us all around the main areas of the Tower and told us so many tales of the Royal family and the Tower’s bloody history. I never really studied history at school and loved hearing about Henry VIII and his wives and the many monarchs who have lived at the Tower. There were also lots of excellent facts thrown in (I love a good fact me!) for example did you know that Yeoman Warders are nicknamed Beefeaters as they used to be paid in meat back when it was a scarce commodity? Cool eh?! Our guide was brilliant and made so many funny jokes and interacted with the crowd as he took us to see the White Tower, Traitor’s Gate, the Tower Green and Execution Site and finally to the Chapel.
As we came out the Chapel we happened to find the ravens being fed chicken legs in the Tower Green, which was pretty cool but pretty grim! It was quite funny however to see a huge seagull swoop in and swipe a chicken leg right under the raven’s nose (beak?!), and then swallow it whole! Never mess with a seagull, people!
One of my favourite parts of the day was looking around the Royal Beast exhibition – who knew there was once a zoo at the Tower of London, complete with a polar bear that used to go fishing in the Thames?! The exhibit is quite simple – a small tower room filled with information plaques and the odd interactive display aimed at children (all of which I had a go on, obvs!) but I really enjoyed reading all the crazy facts about the exotic animals which were once housed at the Tower. There are also huge wire statues of some of the animals mentioned dotted around the Tower grounds too, which were really fun to spot.
No trip to the Tower is compete with a peek at the Crown Jewels and this was definitely worth the queue we had to join to get involved. Diamonds are a girls best friend and it’s seems that rubies, sapphires and emeralds are also faves of our Royals! Everything was so beautiful and my inner magpie was having a whale of a time checking out all those sparkles! Unfortunately you couldn’t take pictures inside the exhibition but it was such a treat to see the famous crowns and artefacts I’ve seen worn by Kate, the Queen and Queens Mum on television up close, and my favourite had to be the lovely little circlet of Queen Victoria’s.
We also got to see the Changing of the Guard whilst we were queuing to see the Crown Jewels which was very cool, and amazing to see the troop of soldiers marching in unison.
One exhibit which did slightly disappoint was the Torture at the Tower. There was consistently quite a long, slow moving queue for this but we didn’t want to miss out on learning more about the Tower’s famous bloody history so went along towards the end of our visit. Once we finally reached the underground exhibit we saw some of the torture methods and instruments typically used on the Tower’s many prisoners, including The Manacles, The Rack and the The Scavenger’s Daughter (suitably horrible names for some terrible torture devices!) It was good (in a gory way!) but I think they could have made a lot more of it, or perhaps even housed it across a couple of dungeon rooms to spread the crowd out a little bit, make the queue move quicker and allow people to see more once they finally get in.