Iwan2Go went....to Edinburgh and England

Aug 4th, 2019, 06:25 PM
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Iwan2Go went....to Edinburgh and England

I’ve been a little slow in writing up my Trip Reports (this one was a year ago), but now - it’s time! It won’t be quite as detailed as usual, given the time lapse (and age, haha) but I’ll do my best and hopefully it will help someone else. Thanks to all of you who gave me such wonderful, useful advice, and a particular shout-out to Tuscanlifeedit for sending me a lovely and useful book on the Peak District!

My husband and I left for this two week trip last April 24th, and returned on June 8th. We spent five nights in Edinburgh, three each in the Lake District and the Peak District, and two nights in Oxford. We flew British Airways from LAX - LHR, connecting to Edinburgh. Outbound we splurged for Premium Economy, which we really enjoyed (though I badly missed the flip-down foot support that I have on the Air France 380). We took a cab to our home in Edinburgh for five nights, 14 Hart Street, which we absolutely loved. 14 Hart Street The entry and dining room are on the upper floor, with bedrooms on the ground floor. We had a large room facing the front, with a monster tub I particularly enjoyed. The owners could not have been nicer, and the location, in the New Town, was fantastic. Side note: My brother and sister-in-law had gone to Scotland two years prior, and by coincidence had stayed at the same B&B. We were celebrating our 49th anniversary on this trip, and they surprised us with a huge floral arrangement and bottle of champagne, bought on their behalf by James and Angela. What a lovely way to start a vacation! We walked a block for dinner at the Olive Branch Bistro, which was fabulous!!! We had this delicious bread with pesto, grilled asparagus (a standout), salmon with a panzanella salad, ice cream with caramel sauce. Cost $100 including cider. We ended up going back several times. https://www.theolivebranchscotland.co.uk Then, collapse.

The first morning we took it slow, walking to the National Museum of Scotland, which we very much enjoyed (great gift shop). Lunch at the museum was forgettable - go somewhere else. Walked around some more, took a long nap, walked two blocks to Le Roi Fou for a three hour dinner (I think it was very good, can’t remember though). Chatted with the chef, who is from Geneva, and called it a night.

Day two, a walking tour with Gareth of Edinburgh Expert Walking tours. Fantastic! and highly recommended. We walked with him from our hotel up the back way to the top of Calton Hill for a view of the city, down past Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament Building, and through the wynds and closes of Edinburgh. Gareth explained how, because they would need to pay a toll, impoverished people never left the area around the castle’s defenses - it was truly The World’s End for them, and there’s now a pub of that name on the corner where the Netherbow Port gate once stood. It was absolutely a fascinating tour - we never would have known what we were seeing without it, and we think it’s a must-do in Edinburgh. And if you like dogs, Gareth will bring his along. https://www.edinburghexpert.com Lunch at The Honours (good but a bit stuffy waiters, wouldn’t go back), dinner again at the Olive Branch (same asparagus, pasta, wine), bed.

We’d wanted to easily see at least a little bit of Scotland beyond Edinburgh, and splurged on a private car tour with Andrew Sharp. mysite Kilted Andrew picked us up at 8:00, and off we went, past the Forth Bridge, to Blackness castle, the home of Black Jack Randall in the Outlander series (kinda wild and spooky), to Stirling. We took part of the Stirling castle tour, then lunch (which Andrew had very efficiently reserved, making it very easy), to Callendar, seeing some harry coos (basically, hairy cows...), so many sheep!, and a lovely winding way back to Edinburgh. It was worth the cost to us ($500+), because we got some idea of the outskirts of the city looked like, but might not be worth it for someone else. Just IMO. A nice dinner at (close-by) L’Escargot Bleu, which was good.

Our last day in Edinburgh, we went to see Edinburgh Castle and St. Gilles cathedral, had lunch, and went to see Holyrood Palace. Walking around on the grounds, I apparently missed a “keep off the grass you clod” sign while trying to get a better angle on Arthur’s Seat and was chastised by a guard. Oops, sorry - but I got a fab shot! Local dinner (Olive Branch once again), and unfortunately.... then the wheels on the vacation bus started to go off the rails. (Or is that the vacation train? Never mind, I digress). My husband got the, ahem, stomach flu. Along with its attendant symptoms. To bed, to rest, then - to The Lake District!
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Aug 4th, 2019, 07:23 PM
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We left Edinburgh and took the train, connecting at Oxenholme (very easy to do) to Windermere, and took a short taxi ride to the Grasmere Hotel. We stayed in the Walpole room, a cozy (but not too small, just right) room with bathtub and a beautiful view to the back gardens. I’d been watching the website and saw that rooms were filling fast, so we were fortunate to get a room at all - turned out that people book the following year upon departure. What a lovely family-run place to stay, with delicious meals (we booked all dinners and were glad we did) and a good position in the village and in the area for us. My husband went up to the room to rest, and I was offered a cup of tea and some cookies to enjoy on the back lawn. It was a beautiful warm spring day, and I read and relaxed. I’d go back in a heartbeat. Grasmere Hotel :: Home

The next morning we’d booked a tour of the area, which I took while my husband recovered. The small bus took us up and over the Kirkstone Pass through the mountains, stopping at Castlerigg stone circle and briefly in Keswick. It was a good way to see more of the area, and worth the small price. https://www.mountain-goat.com/Lake-District Later, he and I walked around a little, had a light dinner, and relaxed. The next day we walked to Dove Cottage, home of William Wordsworth, around town, a very good lunch at the Grand Hotel, and then, unfortunately, I got the same bug my husband did, and, oh well, whatareyagoonado? Just deal with it.

The Grasmere presented, if you had a dinner reservation, such a refined way do so. You went down to the lounge ahead of time, to have a drink. People were very gracious, and we had an interesting conversation the first night with a couple from Yorkshire, continued the two following evenings. The host would present you with the menu in the lounge, and you would indicate your order. After fifteen minutes or so, the host would come and take you to your table. Now, the majority of our fellow guests were English. I was looking around the quiet dining room, trying to make some eye contact with some of the same people I’d said hello to in the lounge, but everyone was very focused on their partner. It was really interesting - no American leaning across to the other table, making a comment or joke - it was very private. Then, when pudding and coffee was over, the same subdued couple would stand, turn to their (what turned out to be Friend They’d Met Here Last Year) at the next table, and start chatting. For, like, ten minutes, while standing there. It was fascinating!!! Perhaps some Brit can address whether this was an isolated or common phenomenon. I really was interested in it, nosy person I am.

The next day, on to The Peak District.
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Aug 4th, 2019, 07:30 PM
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Welcoming tea in the Grasmere Hotel gardens
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Aug 5th, 2019, 12:37 AM
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A Brit. For me it is more normal to greet people on entry and chat after the meal (either take a chair and join or stand up), leaning around on a chair would be what small children do. Joining a table is a bit risky but standing up to talk is pretty normal. But you are talking a middle to high-end restaurant here.
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Aug 5th, 2019, 06:10 AM
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Thanks, Bilbo, for your reply. I think the thing that surprised me was that these were people who were together for several days in the same small and relaxing bed and breakfast, seeing each other at breakfast, in the lounge or in the garden, and at dinner; and several of them were repeat guests who knew each other from years before. I in NO way am criticizing, because all of them were such lovely people. I was just surprised that none of them gestured between tables (“isn’t this a delicious dish?,) and little things like that.

Yikes, hope I did’t offend anyone. I loved the trip, and my fellow travelers, who were having such a relaxing and obviously wonderful time!
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Aug 5th, 2019, 07:36 AM
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iwan, I was in a B&B two weeks ago for 3 nights, the place had two other couples, vague friends of ours and an unknown couple. Each breakfast we exchanged light food orientated banter with our distant friends while the other couple stayed aloof not even saying good morning. Odd but true. Generally, most Brits understand that Americans are a bit noisy (not nosy, though that too) and just take that in their stride.
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Aug 5th, 2019, 10:18 AM
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Stage three: The Peak District, where we were staying near Chatsworth, in Baslow. I’d looked into the train routing, and realized that we would need to change in Oxenholme, again in Manchester, then to Chesterfield, and then a cab. Rather than that convoluted routing, we decided to have a transfer company pick us up in Manchester and drive us to our hotel, Fischer’s Baslow Hall. That turned out to be a really good idea. The cost of a half day tour the following day and the transfer was 150 GBP.

Fischer’s Barlow Hall is a beautiful manor house that appears to date to the 17th century, with leaded glass windows and gabled wings, but was in fact built in 1907. It is simply stunning - the gardens, the rooms, the location. The hilarious thing is that Chatsworth house is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Devonshire, and we’re from the city of Chatsworth near Los Angeles and live a few blocks from Devonshire Blvd. (Not sure what “they” are thinking when they named it that - we basically live in a desert). Anyway! It’s a relatively small hotel, and I would say, after staying, that the focus is more of a restaurant (with one Michelin star) with rooms than a hotel. We booked one of the larger rooms, Vernon, with a view out to the front gardens; a beautiful room, and good thing, because I kinda saw a lot of it. I think we walked for a bite to eat, then relaxed in our room. The staff, realizing that I was not well, expressed their concerns frequently, which was very sweet. https://www.fischers-baslowhall.co.uk

The following day we had booked a tour of the Peak District with our guide (who also did our two transfers), Mark. https://www.liveforthehills.com He was WONDERFUL. He knew the area like the back of his hand, was so low-key yet engaging, and had a comfortable SUV to take us around. We began in Edensor, a part of the Chatsworth estate, with a little chapel and the burial place of Kathleen Kennedy, JFK’s younger sister who had married the son of the Duke of Devonshire, William Cavendish. We went to Eyam, the plague village, where a poignant window in the church tells the story: The tailor, in heating the cloth, unknowingly releasing infected fleas; the rector convincing the people to quarantine themselves (his wife, ministering alongside him, died); a local woman, in love with a man from a neighboring village, speaking to him across the river until she succumbed and did not appear again. It made me reflect: would anyone now make that heroic decision to isolate themselves to save nearby communities the same fate? What a sacrifice, what honor and homage I pay these people, so long ago, for doing what they did. We also drove to see Stanish Edge, with its cliffs, busy with hikers; Hathersage, where Charlotte Bronte wrote “Jane Eyre”, with a lovely chapel with medieval brasses; Ashford-in-the-Water, where we stopped for lunch and to enjoy the views; and finally, Bakewell, for a quick shopping stop. What an absolutely beautiful area. We loved it, and cannot recommend Mark and Live for the Hills more highly.

I was still under the weather, so although we’d chosen Fischer’s for its easy walking proximity to Chatsworth, today we needed to take a cab there. We both had loved the new film version of Pride and Prejudice, and the dream when Keira Knightly walked through the hall to see the sculpture of veiled vestal virgin. In person, it is simply breathtaking. How the sculptor, Raffaele Monti, reveals the eyes below the veil of marble is - beyond my comprehension. We walked around the house, through the gardens, had a light lunch, and took a cab back to the hotel.

We had booked the Kitchen Tasting Bench at the hotel that night. We chatted with Max Fischer, who was very amiable, and the other chefs. While the food was amazing, the experience would be mostly appreciated by someone who wished to observe the kitchen at work, not to interact with them during a busy service. Just my opinion; if I’d been more aware of that, I think we would have opted to eat in the dining room, but hey, every experience has value, so it was fun to do that once.

Again, I had looked at the train schedule for the transfer to our final destination, Oxford (at that time, involved two cabs and two train transfers), and we decided to pay more to have Mark drive us there (220 GBP for that transfer - maybe $100 more?). In light of my continued illness, it was a very good idea - so we bid goodbye to Fischer’s the next morning and drove in great comfort to Oxford.

The window in Eyam’s church, telling the story of the plague.

The vestal virgin at Chatsworth.

Fischer’s Baslow Hall.
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Aug 5th, 2019, 04:02 PM
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I am really enjoying this trip report! Great pictures as well!
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Aug 5th, 2019, 04:42 PM
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Our last two nights were in Oxford, where we were delighted to stay in great luxury at the Old Bank Hotel on High Street. https://www.oldbankhotel.co.uk The location was excellent, the decor, in keeping with the “old bank” (which it was, in a previous incarnation) used menswear fabrics: tweed, herringbone, wool. They also have a very good restaurant, Quod, with indoor and outdoor seating. We took a long walk, discovering Christ Church College (photo below) and along the river, poking around the town until dinner and bed.




The following morning we had a private tour (unfortunately Felicity was unable to do it, but her substitute, also a Blue Badge Guide, was great), at the reasonable cost of 80 GBP. https://www.hiddenoxford.co.uk She took us to Balliol; New College; and the Divinity School. There, we marveled at the lacy ceiling, where the centers of the vaults hold the coats of arms and initials of those who contributed to the building of the school.


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Aug 5th, 2019, 04:52 PM
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The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around the town. We returned to the gift shop at Balliol, where I purchased several felted and embroidered Christmas ornaments for our children and grandchildren: Hamlet holding Yorick’s skull, a knight, Shakespeare, a lovely beaded owl. It was a great place to find some interesting, place-specific things.

We had chosen Oxford as our last stop in lieu of London for several reasons: we’d been a week in London a few years back, and I discovered that there is a really convenient bus that takes you directly to Heathrow! We got the tickets online and wheeled our suitcases a block down the street to catch the bus. Here’s the website, if you’re interested, and note that you do not need to pick it up at Gloucester Green - there are several stops right in town. https://airline.oxfordbus.co.uk/heathrow/

What a lovely two weeks! All of the people we’d met were so kind, the places so beautiful (the food so good!). We look forward to visiting the UK again, and hope some of this is helpful in planning someone else’s trip.
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Aug 6th, 2019, 12:05 AM
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nice report
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Aug 6th, 2019, 12:55 PM
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I’ve been enjoying your TR and lovely pictures, thank you. Quite a few ideas for trips I’m planning for next year, Oxford and Cotswolds early May and Edinburgh and a bit of the Highlands end June/early July...
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Aug 6th, 2019, 01:43 PM
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14 Hart St., Edinburgh

I also stayed at this lovely B&B. Glad to see it's still in operation!
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Aug 6th, 2019, 02:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Iwan2go View Post
Thanks, Bilbo, for your reply. I think the thing that surprised me was that these were people who were together for several days in the same small and relaxing bed and breakfast, seeing each other at breakfast, in the lounge or in the garden, and at dinner; and several of them were repeat guests who knew each other from years before. I in NO way am criticizing, because all of them were such lovely people. I was just surprised that none of them gestured between tables (“isn’t this a delicious dish?,) and little things like that.

Yikes, hope I did’t offend anyone. I loved the trip, and my fellow travelers, who were having such a relaxing and obviously wonderful time!
Don't worry about any of this. Just be yourself. Sober Brits generally are not expressive like other Europeans - e.g. Italians and Spanish. Although this is changing due to globalisation and younger Brits don't worry as much about things like "leaning around on a chair would be what small children do". If they want to know how TannerUK or TannerUSA likes his sliders or curly fries, they just lean over to the other table and ask. "Hey Tanner, aren't these curly fries awesome?" No worrying about "rules" like how you should greet people before the meal and then query them about the meal after dinner. If you wanna know about the sliders, just lean over and ask. That builds relationships and trust. It's about being a genuine person vs. living by silly protocols.
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Aug 6th, 2019, 03:46 PM
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Lovely trip report, Iwan2go. Reading about the village of Eyam was especially interesting -- pretty amazing what they did.
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Aug 7th, 2019, 07:38 AM
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Such an interesting report ~ thanks for taking us along!

Here’s more on the Eyam village (I had not known of it)
https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-35064071
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Aug 7th, 2019, 02:48 PM
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VonVan, thank you for that link. I cannot imagine what some of those families went through. What courage.
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Aug 17th, 2019, 09:19 AM
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We will be in Edinburgh for 4 nights in late May. 14 Hart seems interesting - but I could not tell much about the rooms. How large was the room you stayed in??? Did the monster tub also have a shower??? Did you have the best room in the house (did you get a glimpse of the others)?

Stu Dudley
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Aug 17th, 2019, 09:34 AM
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Somehow I missed your thread -- really nice report.

You stayed in some lovely places for sure.
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Aug 18th, 2019, 10:00 AM
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Hi Stu,

I asked for that room because it was the only one with a tub, and yes, it had a shower as well. It may have been the largest room. I did get a glimpse of one of the others, and don’t recall thinking it was larger. The one we had faced the street, and I was concerned beforehand that I wouldn’t like the view of the exterior staircase, but it didn’t bother me at all. The other rooms face the garden. There is a large dining room with one sofa in it, but no other gathering space. We did visit quite a bit with our fellow guests at breakfast. Angela and James, the owners, are really friendly and helpful, and the breakfast was good. Here are some photos of the room we had.



Tub/ shower, heated towel rack





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