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Medieval Road Trips

By Anne Beggs
April 24, 2023

Welcome to my travel blog. As I write adventure romance set in thirteenth century Ireland, I will share my research and insights in that time.

Travel in the Middle Ages was usually for trade, religious pilgrimages, or warfare; though surely there were refugees and the displaced, the seekers and wanderers. People are always moving about, seeking greener pastures.

Walking was far and away the most used, and over huge distances. Horseback would be second, and only available to the wealthy. Until better roads were maintained, carts and wagons were slow and tedious, and used for transport of goods primarily. Maritime travel was also in full use from the Nordic seafarers, Europeans, in the Mediterranean, and Asia.

Desejo getting shoes on a rainy day.

Much of my first book, Archer’s Grace, is on horseback as my protagonists run for their lives, and perhaps Ireland itself. Their survival is dependent upon their mounts. As they flee their pursuers, with every moment dire, they must find adequate grazing and water. They can ill afford to run the horses to death, only to be killed themselves.

The roadways are not labeled. There is no map. Even in summer, rain and flooding are possible. Wrong turns and unsavory culprits plague their steps just as any traveler or pilgrim of the day—just like today.

Quell domage! What if your horse throws a shoe? You cannot ride a long distance on an unbalanced horse without creating a problem. A large army would have a blacksmith along, but a small group would have to find one.

An interesting fun fact I learned – most of you have heard the term “posting a trot”. Riding trotting horses only developed once there were post roads (you paid a toll to use them). With this established road system, carriages and wagons became the preferred method to get around, with a rider often on one of the horses. He had to ride that bouncy, uncomfortable trot. Prior to that, most horses gaited or ambled. The ideal was a comfy riding palfrey, but even the destriers, coursers and rouncys gaited.

Desejo getting shoes on a rainy day.

In my WIP, Book Four, Ordained Folly, my characters are forced to make a pilgrimage to Canterbury. Not only will they be riding, but I must also put them on a boat to England’s shores. More research starting here:

Medieval ships

Shipping Wonders of the World

The Development of the Rudder, 100-1600 AD

My husband loves to drive horses. It is a pleasure to take friends and family for carriage rides, and that means including them in the process of getting a horse from the paddock, grooming, and tacking, checking the hooves, legs, and health of the horse, checking the tack for weakness or damage. Once tacked, we are off, in the weather, bugs, limited shocks, while contemplating the old days of going into town for supplies, praying the supplies were even there. No drive-through Starbucks. And sometimes the horse doesn’t want to leave his herd mates. Going to town is our idea, not his. There is so much to horsemanship, bond, mutual respect, and care.

You can find my book here.

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Anne Beggs

Written by Anne Beggs

Anne M. Beggs writes adventure romance and family saga set in Medieval Ireland. She is a member of Paper Lantern Writers and Historical Novel Society. For about her books, mounted archery, and horses, please contact her on Facebook or Instagram @annitbella72

View Anne’s PLW Profile

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