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Just back from month in England, Scotland and North Wales

Just back from month in England, Scotland and North Wales

Jul 3rd, 2001, 04:46 PM
  #21  
Tony
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Hi Folks
Appreciate all the kind comments. Sorry I haven't posted sooner but have been busy since our return.
I do want to comment on one topic raised by the so called experts. They refer to our trip as being rushed. We certainly didn't see it that way. One of the reasons that we took almost a month to do our tour was to allow ourselves a leisurely pace. Except for Oxford and Inverness, we always stayed at least two and generally three days at each location, with seven nights at the end for London. We never felt rushed, saw everything we wanted to see, and still had plenty of time to stop and smell the roses. In our case, this trip really had two purposes. First, we wanted to acquaint ourselves with as much of the UK as reasonably possible. We did have some prior familiarity with the country as my wife lived in Edinburgh for a year as a teenager and I have been to London before, but there was a lot we knew nothing about. Second, we wanted to give our children an opportunity to see as much as possible. Who know when you will get another chance to take a trip like this with teenagers. IMHO we learned a lot. We certainly know the places we would like to go back to someday and the places we wouldn't bother to visit again. Anyway, I'll continue my description of our trip in a later post.
 
Jul 3rd, 2001, 05:09 PM
  #22  
Tony
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Before I continue our report, I thought I should try to answer a few of the questions that were asked. As regards the hoof and mouth outbreak, it had no effect whatsover on our trip. In a couple of places we had to drive and/or walk over disenfectant mats or straw, but that was about it. Everything we wanted to see was open. However, our agenda did not include hiking in the countryside. I don't know what kind of restrictions might have been in force regarding that type of activity. As far as eating beef goes, I have to confess that we ate everything with no concerns. Thank goodness we were doing a lot of walking or we might have put on a lot of weight. The food was delicious. From everything that I could ascertain, Mad Cow disease is considered a thing of the past in England. While there may still be some people who come down with it because of tainted meat they ate years ago(prior to 1996), it is no longer considered a problem by the health authorities or the British Public. Apparently, starting in 1996, they imposed strict regulations regarding animal feed that was the source of the problem. In any event, if we had restricted ourselves, we would have missed lots of things like the wonderful British bacon (nothing like it in the US), sausages, bangers and mash, meat pies, shephards pie, lamb, etc. We really enjoyed the food wherever we went, whether it was a fancy restauant or a pub. Even had the fish and chips twice. There is so much fatty food and sweets that it is a wonder the average Briton is able to stay so slim. It must be all the walking they do. As far as beer goes, I'm not normally a beer drinker, but I sure enjoyed having a pint the couple of times I ordered it in the pubs. Generally, I ordered a lager, which is a lighter beer and found it to be delicious. Its also not warm as I had been led to believe. If they had beer like that in the US, I might start drinking beer regularly, which neither my wife nor my waistline would approve of. More on our trip in a later post.
 
Jul 3rd, 2001, 08:38 PM
  #23  
janis
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Hey everybody - I did not do it! This is the second time in three weeks someoone has posted a rude entry from "me". I do (and have) advised people to take it easy and not visit too many places on a SHORT trip. But I would never have said anything to Tony - it is a GREAT trip report.

I have only been posting to Fodor's for about 4+ weeks and apparently teed someone off (probably a pre-pubescent nit wit) enough that he has a vendetta against me.

So I really appologize - not for what I did but for what you thought I did. I was going to change my posting name but have gotten several e-mails thanking me for help so I am going to leave well enough alone.

Tony - taking a month is the way to see all the things you did -- good for you. And to Richard - get a life.
 
Jul 4th, 2001, 01:59 AM
  #24  
sylvia
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As a Chester citizen, I have to make a mild protest. The city is not just a quaint tourist attraction but is a busy centre in the industrial part of England and is the main shopping centre for much of the surrounding area including Wales. Also Chester is the only town in the UK with its complete walls. I like the way in which old buildings have been adapted for modern purposes. For example the cathedral refectory still serves food albeit to modern residents and visitors. There are several mediaeval crypts used in one case as part of a bookshop, in another as a restaurant and in yet another as a wine cellar.
In several of the shops, you can still still Roman remains, e.g. in Miss Selfridge there is a Roman hypocaust (cental heating).
I would advise any visitor to go on one of the official walking tours. The guides are very knowedgeable.
That said, I'm glad you enjoyed the rest of your trip and had good weather.
BTW, I am no expert in beer, but am told that lager and keg beer are served cold, but that "real ale" is still alive and should be served cool from the cellar, not warm but not ice cold either.
 
Jul 4th, 2001, 03:42 AM
  #25  
Oaktown Traveler
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TONY:

Thank you! Thank You! Thank You!

What a treat to read what you added. I await more as you can. How refreshing!

Janis: What a mess. Someone posted under my moniker but I sincerely complimented them for sounding so much like me. If the opposite happened I only hope that I would have the grace that you had in addressing the situation.

Happy Travels
Oaktown
 
Jul 4th, 2001, 03:19 PM
  #26  
Tony
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Hello Folks
Continuing with our report, the next part of our trip took us to the Lake Country. I have to tell you that it fully lived up to our expectations. Both the lakes and the countryside are beautiful. Our first stop was at Windermere. This is a lovely town on a lovely lake by the same name. Unfortunately, it is a very popular tourist destination, which meant that it was very crowded with tourist and tour buses. Lots of people stop here to take boat trips on the lake. For our lodging in the Lake Country we had decided to stay at the Leeming House Hotel on Ullswater Lake. It was much more than we had expected. It is a beautiful old hotel located in a rural area right on the lake. It is very peaceful and quiet there. The kind of place you go to collect your thoughts. I heartily recommend it. Both the Leeming House and the Bath Spa Hotel that we stayed at in Bath are Heritage Hotels which are part of the Forte Hotel Chain. They have a special Heritage Explorer program that provides discounted rates, plus other extras is you stay at one or more of their hotels for a total of three nights or more. Anyone interested should check out their web site. While in the Lake Country, we generally drove around, and, in addition to Windermere visted the towns of Ambleside and Grasmere. The latter is the location of Dove Cottage, which was the home of William Wordsworth. There is also a Beatrix Potter (Peter and the Rabbit) exhibit in the Lake Country, but the teenagers nixed that as "too childish". I certainly recommend taking the time to see the Lake Country. Next up on our trip was Scotland. More about that in a later post.
 
Jul 5th, 2001, 05:27 AM
  #27  
Ess
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Thanks for continuing your trip post, Tony! I look forward to reading the rest of it when you get time to post it.
 
Jul 5th, 2001, 03:04 PM
  #28  
kess
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Sounds like you had a wonderful time in North Wales, Tony. Glad to hear it. My husband is from Prestatyn, North Wales and I went and lived there for a year as well to find out what it was like. Betws-y-Coed was definitely our favorite place to go.

We travelled around the world a little over a year ago and Wales was our last stop before coming back home to Canada. It never loses its charm for us, especially after all the countries we had been too! We hope to go back again this fall to visit the family.
 
Jul 5th, 2001, 05:46 PM
  #29  
Tony
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Continuing with our trip report, after driving around a little more in the Lake Country, we finally headed for Scotland. We bypassed Glasgow and headed for Loch Lommond. We stayed at a great little B&B there called the Bonnie Bank Guesthouse. It is beautifully furnished and is located right on the Loch near Tarbet. We had a great room with a balcony and view of the Loch. We ate dinner at the Village Inn in a nearby town. The bartender was particularly friendly and finding out I was interested in Single Malt Whiskeys gave me several tastes. The next day we drove to Oban, a delightful seaport town, with a famous distillery by the same name. We took the tour and bought a bottle to take home. Scotland is not the bright green color like
Wales, but it is very green with a lot of pine trees. It is a rugged land with stone walls and sheep everywhere you look. We loved it. My mother's ancestors were from Scotland, but as best as I can figure out, the Clan (MacIvers) was disbanded or run out of the country after taking the wrong side in some dispute. Perhaps some Scottish expert knows the answer.
Leaving Loch Lommond the next day we leisurely drove to Glencoe and Fort William where we spent a little time. Our agenda did not allow for a trip out to the Isle of Skye, but I would definitely go there when we go back to Scotland. We stopped at another distillery, Ben Nevis. Since I generally drink blended whiskey, I'm no expert on single malts but I actually liked the taste of their 10 year old single malt better than any other I tried while in Scotland. Our next stop was Urquart Castle. Unfortunately, they are constructing a visitors center and parking facility there which made access a little difficult. After that we reach Loch Ness. We stopped at the official Loch Ness Monster exhibit, which we all thought was rather boring unless you're really interested in all the efforts to determine whether or not the monster exists. After that we headed for Inverness for our night's hotel. Inverness is a pretty large city. We drove around a little bit, but it is not what you would call a tourist town. The next day we headed for Edinburgh. We took the A9 south. This is a much busier road than the A82 we had taken north. The landscape is also totally different. It was beautiful in a rugged sense. It was kind of a boring drive for the kids. We finally stopped at Blair Castle, which is well worth seeing. Very nice grounds and the home has some exceptional rooms and exhibits. After Blair Castle, we drove over to Stirling, stopped for awhile at the William Wallace Monument and then toured Stirling Castle. The castle itself is impressive but the interiors are not that well furnished. After Stirling, we took the drive to Edinburgh and the Grand Sheraton, which was to be our headquarters for the next three nights. A couple of side notes here. When we rented our car, it was through AutoEurope, which in turn used Europcar. We got a brand new car at Heathrow. We were supposed to be able to turn it in at their location in downtown Edinburgh. Turns out that location was closed for the evening and wasn't opened the next day, Sunday. We ended up having to take it out to the airport, a minor inconvenience. The Grand Sheraton was great. It is a rather new hotel. We had a large room with a view of the castle. Our only objection was that it was not the nonsmoking room I had requested and had a bit of an odor. Unfortunately, no other castle view rooms were available and we decided to keep it. On the subject of hotels, the oldest and grandest hotel in Edinburgh is the Caledonia, built some time in the 1800s. It is now part of the Hilton chain. If I were to stay in Edinburgh again, I think I would like to try to get a room there as we both love old hotels with a lot of character. I will describe our time in Edinburgh in my next post.
 
Jul 6th, 2001, 02:30 PM
  #30  
frances
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Thanks for your response. Enjoy reading your posts. Our trip with 3 teens is 17 days long. We want to see London and then rent a car to visit Oxford, Bath, stonehenge, salisbury, glastonbury (my daughter is very interested in Avalon sites), possibly York, Hadrian's wall and on to Edinburgh leaving the car in Scotland to fly home. How long should we allow for London? Would you advise prebooking accomodation outside of London & Edinburgh? How expensive were gas prices?
 
Jul 6th, 2001, 02:59 PM
  #31  
lisa
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Geez, Tony, thanks a lot -- now I have to add Wales to my "must see" list!

Great report. You are lucky to have had a whole month. I'm envious.
 
Jul 6th, 2001, 03:30 PM
  #32  
Thyra
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Tony.... terrific... I marvel at your concise and patient retelling of what must have been a very wonderful trip... makes me wish I liked whiskey! Anyway I am on the edge of my seat for Edinburgh as my husband proposed to me at a Chapel on the Royal Mile.. so it is very near and dear to my heart.
 
Jul 7th, 2001, 05:06 AM
  #33  
Kerryanne
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Hi Tony,
Fabulous information thanks. My husband and I are in the throes of planning our 'big trip' for May/June next year. We will have 40 days in Britain and are hoping to also fit in Ireland for at least 7 days and flying home to Sydney,Australia from Dublin. We are hoping to see as much as possible during our trip as it could be a long time before we can go again. (Its such a long way and so very expensive coming from Australia).
We are intending to drive ourselves and do B&B's also. I notice you don't seem to have travelled to Dover, Brighton or down to Penzance etc. Any reason for deciding against those areas other than time constraints? I notice most itineraries seem to go straight out from London to Salisbury and on to Bath, but Im a bit concerned we may miss out on some lovely things in these other areas if we don't visit them. We also want to travel through the Peak District, Cotswolds, Yorkshire Dales and the Scottish Highlands. Do you feel we are trying to see just too much?
I would appreciate your comments or any other British travellers with experience of a trip of this kind.
 
Jul 7th, 2001, 07:02 AM
  #34  
janis
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First a little housekeeping. This board doesn't need anything about me but because of the hard feelings caused by Richard and "janis" - just to let you know. I have discovered both posters were the same person - someone formerly very close trying to hurt and embarras me. So once again, sorry.

Kerryanne: With forty days you could certainly go south and southwest. Most visitors don't have that much time and in order to have much time in Scotland they need to concentrate their touring north of London.

But two of my favorite parts are Kent and Wessex. Kent includes Dover, Canterbury, the most beautiful gardens and castles in the country. Wessex is west - Dorset, Somerset, etc. That area has all the Hardy, Austin connections plus beautiful scenery.

With forty days you could do a nice loop starting in Kent - through sussex Hampshire (the New Forest is wonderful), Dorset, then up through Avon (Bath), the Cotswolds and/or Wales, the Peak Dist, the Lake District, Ayrshire, Argyll, Skye, then across through Speyside, the Dee, down the east coast Crathes, Dunnottar) to Fife, into Edinburgh. Then either fly to London, or continue on south through the Borders, Northumberland (Hadrians Wall), Durham, York and finish in London. With almost 6 weeks you could easily see all this and not be rushed.
 
Jul 7th, 2001, 05:29 PM
  #35  
Tony
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Before continuing our trip report, thought I would answer a couple of questions.
Frances: Gas is very expensive by US standards - about $5.00 US per gallon. As to how long to stay in London, that is entirely up to what you want to do. With all the museums, historical sites, palaces, theatres, etc., you could easily spend a couple of weeks. We stayed a week, saw a lot, took in a couple of plays, but still didn't see everything there was to see. However, a week is a good amount of time, and we did see an awful lot. Its really an individual decision. As far as prebooking outside of the larger cities, the advantage is that you are assured of staying where you want to stay. On the other hand, I have friends who have traveled all over the UK with no reservations, just a B&B guide. Again, it is individual type of thing.
KerryAnne: The reason we didn't go to southern England was simply because of time constraints. We had looked into it but given the amount of time we had, we finally decided we would be better off touring that area on another trip. As far as whether you are trying to do too much on your trip, I think that is also an individual thing. Some people like to rush from one place to another, other prefer a more sedate place. Most are somewhere in between. In my opinion, I think there are a couple of things that make a tour more enjoyable. First, allow yourself at least the first day to get over your jet lag. Pick some easy activity for that day. Second, it is best if you can stay in the same place at least 2 or even three nights before you move on to the next area. It is a lot more fun and easier on everyone than trying to pack up and move on every day. Pick the kind of places you can use as a base to tour an area. Anyway, Good luck to both of you.
 
Jul 7th, 2001, 06:14 PM
  #36  
Tony
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Before I describe our stay in Edinburgh, my daughter has pointed out to me that I forgot to mention our visit to the Battlefield at Culloden. This site is located just outside of Inverness and has particular meaning to the Scottish people. It is the location of the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites. The battle basically involved the Catholic versus Protestant claims to the British throne. It was a terrible battle made worse by the forging of an order which resulted in no quarter being given to the defeated Jacobites. It ended up being a slaughter of men, women and children. As a result of the defeat, the Clans were supposed to disband, and the wearing of tartans and playing of bagpipes were outlawed. The battlefield has a new visitor's center that shows a short film providing the background and describing the battle. However, it is the battlefield itself that has quite an effect on a person. There are stone cairns at the locations of the burial of each of the clans. You can almost feel the history. The only light moment (depending on your point of view) came when someone asked where the british were buried. A nice looking Scottish women said, "over there where we let people walk their dogs."
Arriving in Edinburgh, we stayed at the Grand Sheraton. It is a fairly new hotel. We had a large room with a castle view. Edinburgh itself had different effects on us. The kids and I loved it. My wife was disappointed and a little depressed. She had lived for a year in Edinburgh in the late 60s. She had these wonderful memories of walking down Princess Street (a main thoroughfare) with her mother, which had all of these old stone buildings filled with little shops and tea rooms. Unfortunately, as happened in so many places (including the US) before historical preservation took over, most of these old stone buildings had been torn down and replaced with the typical concrete, steel and glass buildings. All the little shops were gone replaced by large department stores. She thought it was really sad. In any event, the rest of us didn't know the difference, and we had a great time touring the city. We walked everywhere. Of course, we visited the castle and walked down the Royal Mile to the Palace of Holyrood. At the castle, my daughter was watching the guards on duty in kilts. When one of them took a few high steps, she discovered the answer to the question as to what Scotsmen wear under their kilts. Don't ask me, you'll have to find out for yourself. At the castle, they were also putting up grandstands getting ready for the Tattoo Festival held in August. We spent some time in the Scotland Museum, which was quite interesting and we learned a lot about the history of Scotland. While on the Royal Mile, we went to the Whiskey Heritage Center, which is real touristy, but kind of fun. Besides, I got to try a couple of more tastes of single malts. Its amazing how many there are. The Holyrood Palace is definitely worth seeing assuming the queen is not in residence. We also ate in several different pubs and restaurants getting our fill of Scottish food. It was all good, but then again, none of us ordered haggis. After Edinburgh, we next went to York, which I will describe in my next report.
 
Jul 8th, 2001, 12:12 PM
  #37  
Tony
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Leaving Edinburgh, we took the train to York. Its a two hour train ride. You arrive in a train station that was built in the late 1800s. We were staying at the Royal York Hotel, which is located right next to the train station. You simply roll your luggage from the train platform into the hotel. The hotel was also built by the railroad in the late 1800s. Its old fashioned, brick, and looks like it was built by a railroad. Despite its age, its still a 4 star hotel. We loved it. We have an extremely large room on the front of the hotel from which we could see York Minster over the top of the trees. The town of York is right there so we just walked into town. IMHO York is a must see place. It has retained all of its old buildings (albeit that they are filled with tourist shops and restaurants). The Shambles is a particularly photographic street. There is a river that runs right through the town. There are three large portions of the stone wall that once surrounded the town remaining, which make for enjoyable walks. Of course, the York Minster is very impressive. Another great thing about York is that there is a height limitation on its buildings. It makes the whole town more enjoyable. We ate at several different restaurants and pubs and always had great meals. There is an absolutely fabulous railway museum in York, providing a real history of railroading in England, including many of the old Royal trains. It is well worth the time. Another stop was the Jorvik Viking Museum. We had mixed reviews on that one. Personally, I didn't think it lived up to its hype or the cost. Another place we all really enjoyed was the Castle Museum. This is definitely worth spending several hours at. It is really well done and definitely has something to interest everyone. There is a Castle Tower nearby that you can climb up on and get a view of the whole town. Anyway, we all loved York and were sorry to leave. For anyone traveling to England, if you have the time, take a couple of days in York. The next part of our trip takes us to London. I will cover that in our next report.
 
Jul 10th, 2001, 12:22 PM
  #38  
Jo
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Tony,

Can you provide contact information on the places you stayed at. It sounds wonderful and I would like to put on my list the hotels so that I can have them for when I start planning my trip.

thanks
 
Jul 11th, 2001, 12:51 AM
  #39  
Oaktown Traveler
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Tony:

Exquisite!!!!!!!!!!!!

I love your way of making me feel as if I was right in step with you. I like the absence of your finding something to complain about. This is wonderful bedtime reading...Wonderful!

My Very Best and Thank You SO much for continuing. I look forward to "Your London".

Oaktown
 
Jul 11th, 2001, 12:13 PM
  #40  
Alma
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Tony, your travel report is just great. I just came back from 3 weeks in England, Scotland,North & South Wales, Ireland and then 10 days in Paris. We saw the drama/musical,"Blood Brothers". It was one of the highlights of my trip. The Kensington Palace was very lovely too. Of course, Harrods was a major event! I tried to stay away from beef and had no problem. Tried a tuna sandwich with sweet corn kernels across from Harrods in a small place called Bangs. Very good!
I didn't stay too long in London because I was on a Collette Tour and we were touring the countyside the next day. I did see the Changing of the Guards, took a picture with a Beefeater at the Tower of London and had the only AirConditioned Hotel on the whole trip.
We went to Stonehenge and Bath the next day. Loved both. Bath is a very lovely little town that I wouldn't mind going back to.
We went to Southern Wales to catch a ferry to Ireland. Didn't see too much of Southern Wales. Loved Ireland totally! Did the Ring of Kerry, Killarny, and Dublin. The people couldn't be nicer.
From there, we took a catamaran to Wales. We stayed in Ruthin Castle. It was a highlight of my trip. The Castle was just the most delightful hotel. We had peacocks and sheep right out our window. Had a mediaeval Banquet there and they just gave us a small dagger to eat with. What fun!
Went to Scotland, and had a lovely time in Edinbough. Saw the same Guard at the Castle and I think he loves to kick up his heels! I do know what's under his kilt and I'm not talking! We had a grand time and I'd love to go back. We stayed across from The Hard Rock Cafe.
Then we drove across Hadrian's Wall. We weren't allowed to wander because of the hoof & mouth scare, but we stopped at The Swan pub. Had fish & chips and enjoyed the visit.
Went to York and yes, Tony, I think it was the very nicest place. I think more people should take the time to visit York.The Shambles was fun to shop in. Went to Straford on Avon, saw Ann Hathaway's cottage, it was lovely. Shakespears Museum was very interesting, too.
Each Castle has something unique but after awhile, it was a bit much! They were afterall, really built for defense, not for beauty.
In London, we didn't get a chance to do too much sightseeing, other from our coach, because we only had 2 days there.
Tony, your trip sounds wonderful and brings back fond memories to me. Thanks.
 

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