Location, Location, Location
It was quite a few years ago when I first fell in love with the Lake District. I had just started at Lancaster University (incidentally this was where I met my husband) to study Linguistics. I was soon invited on a trip to the Lakes with some friends from church. I had never visited the Lake District before, but I was instantly bowled over by the huge stretch of Lake Windermere, with towering fells in the distance. I have gone to the Lakes several more times – my husband and I even had our honeymoon there.
So, when years later I began to write my story about a soldier called Daniel, I jumped at the chance to set it in one of my favourite places on Earth. I therefore thought I’d take this blog post to say what real places have inspired some of locations in my books.
The large Celtic Kingdom of Rheged really existed. It was a division of what was called ‘Hen OgledRhegedd (“Old North”), a post-Roman, Brittonic Celtic region of Northern England.
Rheged itself divided into two parts, North Rheged and South Rheged. To the north it extended into Cumbria the Lake District, whereas South Rheged went into Lancashire and possibly as far as Cheshire. Rheged also stretched as far east as the Pennines.
In my writing, I focused on North Rheged, roughly the equivalent of Cumbria/the Lake District today. The kingdoms of Gaeson, Klumeck and Caer Ligualid all take place within the larger realm of Rheged.
The fictional kingdom of Gaeson is the most prominent location. It’s where my main character Daniel and his friends grew up. There he serves King Reghan and his daughter Princess Evelyn. I describe Gaeson as being based on top of a tall hill that overlooks the ‘great lake’ meaning Lake Windermere.
After some searching, I decided to base Gaeson on the fell ‘Gummer’s How’. Gummer’s How is on the eastern side of Lake Windermere, near its start at the south. It seemed like a great place to imagine Daniel’s hometown, as it overlooks the lake and would have had forest surrounding it on almost every side.
Caer Ligualid is to the north of Gaeson and the northwest of Klumeck. Like Rheged, Caer Ligualid is a real place and is modern day Carlisle, at the north end of the Lake District. Caer Ligualid was the capital kingdom of Rheged and its ruler King Urien, the Supreme Ruler of Rheged. King Urien also really existed and his exploits are recorded in the poems of the Celtic bard Taliesin, the author of some of the oldest Welsh literature.
Although I’ve made Caer Ligualid into more of a dramatic place in the books, whereas it may have been more of an administrative capital, historical records suggest Caer Ligualid was a city in the early middle ages.
The fictional Kingdom of Klumeck is based to the northeast of Gaeson, on the west side of the Pennines, which was natural border to the east, marking the end of Rheged land. On the other side of the border lay the kingdom of Bernicia, originally a Celtic kingdom that was then conquered by the Angles in ‘The Boy from the Snow’, Klumeck is a fortress kingdom right on the border to the Bernicians, one of Rheged’s defences to the Bernicians invading. At the start of my first book, Klumeck is described as a kingdom of Rheged that has gone rogue with its ruler King Cedric as a sworn enemy of King Reghan, after a bitter feud of over twenty years.
After doing some research, I decided to base Klumeck on the mountain ‘Cross Fell’, the tallest mountain in the Pennines. It has a wide base and I could easily imagine wooden and stone structures cut into the peak, layered up to the top of the mountain. In my mind it’s almost a grid shape, with a large stone wall at the base of the hill. There are then several wooden platforms above, accessible by ladders.
There are a one or two other places that feature more briefly in the books, but I can’t say too much more without spoiling the story! I hope it’s given you a bit of an insight into what these places are based on (two of them – the wider kingdom of Rheged and its capital Caer Ligualid – really having existed). If you’re interested in more of the history, you can check out the links below – although fair warning that I do intertwine Daniel with historical events and battles, so you might come across a spoiler or two for what happens in the books!
See you next time,