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Discover the 14th century at Carnation’s medieval village

  • Written by Kirsten Abel, Features Writer

Where can you go to eat fenberry pie, learn calligraphy and listen to medieval minstrel music?

Camlann Medieval Village in Carnation offers all three in a living history display of the Middle Ages.

ShopSeveral shops throughout the village sell a variety of handmade goods. (All photos by Kirsten Abel)

According to Roger Shell, one of the founders and the president of the Camlann Medieval Association, some modern renaissance fairs have become less accurate and historical.

“There’s a lot of fantasy and misinformation about the period,” he said. Authenticity at Camlann Village is a top priority.

In 2006, the village switched from operating as more of a renaissance fair to operating as a museum-quality presentation. “We are interested in what people’s real lives were like,” Shell said.

Instead of portraying the extravagant lifestyles of kings and queens who made up only a tiny portion of the population at the time, Camlann paints a more ordinary picture of life in medieval England.

The village opened in 1981. Today, it employs three full-time workers and about 25 total volunteers. The property includes a tourney field where archery and other activities take place, a restaurant called the Bors Hede Inne, shops, a cider mill and a small cottage.

All of the structures are set on lush green forestland that makes the parking lot a few yards outside the gates feel miles away.

The model for Camlann Village is Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts, a living history museum that tells the 17th century story of the Plymouth Colony.

“We use the same kind of immersion approach,” Shell said.

Those who work and volunteer in the village stay in character while weaving, playing instruments, making pottery, pressing cider, timber framing and a number of other tasks common in the 14th century.

CottageThe cottage on site is equipped with ordinary medieval kitchenware.

At the Michelmasse Festival on September 25, a volunteer showed visitors her one-room cottage equipped with a twin-sized bed, a small table and a cooking fire in the middle of the dirt floor.

A candle made from rope and goose fat burned on the table. A dried cod hung from the ceiling. A pot for urine sat beneath the bed. Urine, the volunteer explained, is good for several tasks including dying fabric and tanning leather.

Camlann Village is open every weekend during the summers and provides workshops and feasts throughout the year.

The next workshops occur in November. One on November 13 teaches about castle architecture and one on November 20 teaches about what King Arthur was like as a person. Workshops cost $30 per person.

The Bors Hede Inne serves food made solely from hearty Middle English recipes. Guests can eat and experience medieval dinner-theater presentations at the restaurant year-round, Wednesdays through Sundays between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Reservations are requested.

Camlann’s All Hallows feast takes place on October 29. Included in the two courses are rose petal pudding, roasted tongue, fish and spinach tarts and roasted capon in dragon’s blood sauce. Costumes and reservations are required and the cost is $45 per person.

Even after over three decades in business, Camlann Village is still growing, said Shell. The next planned project is the construction of a new interpretive center. Building plans will be submitted to King County soon.

SheepOne sheep lives in the village next to the tourney field.

Visitors to Camlann Village attend for a variety of reasons. Some are simply fans of the Middle Ages. Others come to learn archery. Still others visit to better understand the way their own ancestors lived. Whatever the reason, Camlann offers a close-up, interactive glimpse of medieval culture.

For reservations and more information, call (425) 788-8624 or visit camlann.org.

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