Let’s just imagine you have an unlimited summer holiday budget and could visit five top Templar destinations – where should you go? Well – here are my Templar tips for 2013:
Carcassone in France
A hilltop medieval city owned by the Trenceval family in the Middle Ages that subsequently became a flashpoint during the crusade against the Cathar heresy. It’s incredibly beautiful and though heavily restored, looks like one of those walled towns you see in illuminated manuscripts. I went there on a stag weekend but remained sober long enough to appreciate the sights!
Tomar in Portugal
I’ve been to Tomar every year since 2009 though I’m taking this year off to give the town a rest from me. Overlooking Tomar is a great hulk of a Templar fortress with its walls intact and a fortified, octagonal chapel with exquisitely painted walls. Bolted on to this chapel are the very well preserved ruins of a 16th century convent. The town is quite sleepy but this makes it all worthwhile. My advice – make it part of a wider visit to Lisbon.
Acre in Israel
The modern town of Akko in Israel is home to a castle built by the Templars and Hospitallers. The whole structure is pretty much intact and underneath is a very odd, long tunnel. Quite what it was for still has archaeologists guessing. Base yourself in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem and make this an obligatory day visit.
Kerak in Jordan
A sprawling Templar built castle with a vertiginous drop to the town below. It held out for years against the armies of Saladin but then eventually succumbed and there are various Ayyubid additions. Again, as with Acre, there is evidence of more Templar tunneling. In fact, the hill is riddled with tunnels.
Royston cave in England
This place really has historians flummoxed – a seventeen foot high cave re-discovered in 1790 and covered in the most bizarre carvings of what we think are saints and biblical representations. There are any number of theories about what the Templar builders were depicting here.