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Trip Report - our 4 week home exchange in Edinburgh & 5 weeks in England

Trip Report - our 4 week home exchange in Edinburgh & 5 weeks in England

Jun 15th, 2012, 04:50 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 415
Trip Report - our 4 week home exchange in Edinburgh & 5 weeks in England

We have been fortunate to travel quite a bit over the past couple of years and I have posted several trip reports on Fodors, based on email updates that I write for family & friends. In this latest trip we spent 4 weeks in Edinburgh, on a home exchange, and then followed up with 5 weeks in England. We had lived in Scotland before over two periods of 10 and 6 months, and have also spent some time touring in England, so we were revisiting several regions. As a result my report may be of limited interest to some people as we did not spend a lot of time on some places that could be high on the priority list of a first time visitor. Anyway, here it is.

We had a very smooth flight from Melbourne, Australia, with Malaysia Airlines, and arrived at Heathrow pretty much on time, then had a wait of almost 4 hours for our British Airways connection to Edinburgh. We had no problems with the Edinburgh flight and took a cab to our exchange flat in Leith, arriving about lunchtime.

This was our first home exchange and we were somewhat nervous about what we would find. The flat was spacious and comfortable although furnished in a radically different style to our place (which is basically beige-on-beige). It had 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms over the 5th & 6th (top) floors of a large development overlooking the Leith docks. The large living-dining room had a full length balcony with views of the docks, the Firth of Forth, and the hills in the distance. It would have been a nice place to sit out if it was ever warm enough to go out.

Leith was Edinburgh’s port and is still in use but only in a limited way. There has been an attempt to revive the area with a Docklands type development but it has not been spectacularly successful. There is quite a nice area behind the flats – The Shore - with a hotel and various cafés, pubs, and restaurants but no real shopping strip and there is still a lot of undeveloped land and un-renovated buildings that give the area a forlorn look. Having said that, there was a shopping centre development just 10 minutes’ walk away with a mini-supermarket, cinemas, and a range of shops – including Costa’s which has become our preferred café (mainly because it opens at 8:30).

Sunday was quite a nice day and, after waking ridiculously early, we walked from the flat to central Edinburgh to get a feel for how far it was. It is a bit over 2 miles and needless to say we took the bus back and used the bus thereafter. Dinner at The Ship restaurant on the Shore was excellent with lovely seafood.

Another early start on Monday, courtesy of jetlag, to find the nice weather had been replaced by grey skies and drizzle . We spent the morning with some basic tasks; I had to visit the bank to pick up some new debit cards, a visit to O2 to set up an internet data allowance on my phone, and off to the supermarket to stock up. In the afternoon we took the bus into Edinburgh and used our Australian National Trust membership to obtain free entry to the Georgian House, a 200 year old family home furnished as it would have been in the 19th century.

We woke Tuesday to find that the weather had changed with a vengeance. The wind was whipping up big waves on the Firth and rain & sleet were blowing horizontally across the balcony . . . . the temperature was 4 degrees, wind chill effect equivalent to –2 degrees, . . . and snow on the hills over the Firth.

Strangely we were not highly motivated to go out touring and spent most of the day inside, driving down to the shopping centre for our morning coffee and then back again in the afternoon to go to the movies. We saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which was quite enjoyable.

On Wednesday we had lunch at Amarone in Edinburgh with friends. Good food and good company was very enjoyable, followed by a short stroll around town.

It has always amused me to see road signs pointing to “Scotland’s Secret Bunker” but we had never been to see it and Thursday was the day. This bunker, not far from St Andrews, was built during the Cold War and was to be a control centre in the event of a nuclear attack. While its place in history is interesting there was not a lot to see. The state of the art computer and communications equipment from the 60’s were quite interesting – lots of big boxes.

Next stop was Kellie castle, a few miles away, and another NT property. This castle dates from the 14th century and was quite impressive with nice gardens and views over the Firth of Forth.

We then continued to St Andrews. We’d been there before and seen the remains of the cathedral but this time we visited the University Museum, which was interesting and then the ruins of the castle, also very good. At the castle it is possible to enter 2 tunnels built during a time of siege; one dug from the outside by the attackers, and another from inside the castle to cut off the first one.

On Friday we stayed local and took the bus in to town, firstly to visit the Museum of Scotland, and then to see Gladstone’s land. The Museum of Scotland has recently re-opened after a major refurbishment and is greatly improved – although the sections dealing with Scotland have always been very good and are largely unchanged. Being Good Friday and in the middle of school holidays the museum was packed and we didn’t stay long, planning to revisit during our stay. Gladstone’s Land was the home of a 17th century merchant and has been furnished & decorated as it may have looked at that time. Very interesting – it is located in the Royal Mile, and it was hard to see how we missed it on previous visits to Edinburgh.

The next day we made a visit to Hopetoun House, just a few miles out of Edinburgh, overlooking the Firth and the road & rail bridges. This was a very grand building, started as a substantial family home, but extended in the 18th century with a new facade and the addition of new wings at either side. It was a very impressive property with lovely interiors and extensive grounds – well worth a visit.

On Sunday we visited another NT property just a few miles from Leith, Newhailes at Musselburgh. Owned by the Dalrymple family for almost 300 years the house was passed to the NT in 1997 and furnishing and decoration from that time have been retained to preserve the ‘lived in’ feel of the property. Some lovely features inside but I was taken by the “service tunnel”, an enclosed pathway, rather than an actual tunnel, running about 50 or so metres from the house so that servants could enter and exit the building without being seen.

The next day we decided to visit Stirling castle, about an hour from Edinburgh. We had been to Stirling before and enjoyed the visit but a lot of work has been done since then and it was well worth coming back. When we were there in 2003 a team was working on replica tapestries for the castle walls – each one was to take about 2 years – and now 5 of 7 are completed and have been hung in the Queen’s antechamber. I particularly liked the “Stirling heads”; these were ceiling decorations that have been replaced by replicas and the originals displayed so they can be seen close up.

Heather had arranged a coffee with a friend in Glasgow on Tuesday and we decided to drive over and spend the rest of the day looking around old haunts. Weather was ordinary in Edinburgh and it deteriorated as we drove, with rain & sleet and an external temperature of 1 degree. We weren’t feeling optimistic about strolling around town but conditions eased as we approached Glasgow and by the time we left in the mid-afternoon the sun was actually visible.

We started with a coffee at Tinderbox, in the West End (This was our favourite café when we lived in Glasgow) and then, while Heather met up with her friend, I parked the car and walked through Kelvingrove Park and into town for a look around. We met up again in town and took the underground back to the West End for a superb lunch at the Wee Curry Shop, then back to Leith.

On Wednesday morning we headed south into England to visit Lindisfarne (The Holy Isle), Bamburgh castle, and Dunstanburgh Castle and, as it happens, to find some nicer weather. We had tentatively planned to stay overnight in Alnwick to see Alnwick Castle and to take a boat trip to the Farne Islands but after 2 castles and quite a bit of walking we decided to just make it a day trip.

Access to Lindisfarne is via a causeway that is only open a few hours each day, depending on the tide so we visited Bamburgh castle first and then backtracked a few miles for the island crossing. Bamburgh was very impressive, dominating its strategically important headland, and in a good state of preservation. In one of the outbuildings was an aviation museum which didn’t seem big enough to have much in the way of exhibits but actually had many bits and pieces of aircraft from WW2 and was very interesting.

By this time the crossing to Lindisfarne was open and we drove across, parked just outside the village, and then a 1.5 mile walk out to the castle. This was a great visit; the castle has a commanding position and was originally defensive but was renovated as a holiday house in the 19th century. Really interesting to see how the rooms had been remodelled for residential use.

We then left the island and headed south again to Craster, a small fishing village, and took the coastal walking route about 1.5 miles to Dunstanburgh castle. The castle is now a ruin but was obviously once a substantial fortress. We were rather tired by the end of the return walk so were quite happy to head back to Edinburgh after a very enjoyable day.

Thursday was a quiet day at the flat with just one excursion, to Edinburgh’s Portrait Gallery for a free concert by Sax Ecosse, a saxophone quartet. I didn’t really know what to expect but this was very good – music from the post-Reformation period. We had dinner at Mya, a combined Indian-Thai restaurant not far from the flat. We chose Thai dishes which were very good – a nice meal spoiled at the end by an ordinary dessert and a long wait to pay.
GregY2 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2012, 05:18 AM
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Thank you.Most interesting.Look forward to more!
KERRYAJS1 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2012, 05:36 AM
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I enjoyed the first part immensely. Please don't slack off!
irishface is offline  
Jun 15th, 2012, 05:52 AM
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Good report, thanks for posting.
Judyrem is offline  
Jun 15th, 2012, 05:56 AM
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After a couple of quiet days we headed north-west on Sunday to Wester Ross.

After 2 weeks based in Edinburgh we had seen a number of stately homes & castles but had little chance to do what we really enjoy, getting out into the Scottish countryside and the Highlands. We left early, stopping for a coffee in Pitlochry, lunch in Inverness, and then heading west to the Highlands, arriving at Gairloch mid-afternoon.

We had booked one night at the Myrtle Bank Hotel right on the water and were given a spacious sea view room. This was a very nice hotel; the room was comfortable and in spotless condition, the staff was friendly and helpful and food at the bar/restaurant was quite OK.

After a break we took a drive around the area, firstly out the single track road to Melvaig then a short walk towards lighthouse for some nice coastal views and snow-capped mountains to the inland. This was a recommended walk but we decided 4 miles each way was a bit too long so just went a little way then returned to the car and did another short drive to Badachro.

Our plan had been to visit Inverewe gardens, at nearby Poolewe, the next morning but we were up early and they didn’t open until 10:00 so we decided to continue to Ullapool. We would have liked to visit the gardens but the weather was looking quite good and we were keen to get in a hill walk.

After a visit to the tourist office, we continued through town a few miles to Stac Pollaidh which had been recommended. At a little over 2000ft it was not a Munro but is well known for its extensive views.

The path was well marked and angled up and around the peak so that the grade was quite manageable although there were some quite steep sections. Once we got to a certain height, the views emerging as we rounded the flank of the mountain drew us on. There is a central saddle with a lower summit to the east and a higher one to the west. The eastern peak was quite enough for us and the views in all directions were just superb. We were incredibly lucky with the weather, as it was calm and sunny and the visibility was about as good as it gets; we could clearly see the Western Isles out to sea and a surrounding landscape quite unlike any we’d seen before.

After the climb we returned to Ullapool and booked a B&B, Birch Grove, which was perfectly OK, but we’re not really B&B fans and this one really felt as though we were living in the middle of someone’s home.

Dinner at the Ferry Inn on the main street was enjoyable

After much debate and analysis of the likely weather we decided the next morning to return to Edinburgh rather than stay another night. We headed back through intermittent snow showers in the direction of Inverness but then turned south to join the Great Glen & Loch Ness at Drumnadrochit. The drive along the Great Glen is always beautiful and we enjoyed that apart for several lengthy traffic hold ups; there must have been some severe storms as there were a lot of trees down and rock falls through the cuttings.

We stopped for lunch at the Glencoe visitor centre and then stopped again, just out of the Glen, and went for a walk up the Devil’s Staircase, part of the West Highland Way.

It stayed reasonably clear for the walk, with some rain and snow showers, but we did get some nice views from the ridge where we could look down towards Glencoe and back to Rannoch Moor. We returned to the car and continued our route to Edinburgh, arriving early evening.

We had a quiet day on Wednesday, although we did visit the Royal Yacht Britannia, which is just a 10 minute walk from the apartment. This was very interesting with a comprehensive audio guide taking us through all the key areas of the ship. I was a little surprised at its relatively modest size although it did have a crew of more than 200 people.

The next day we enjoyed a return to the Museum of Scotland – much quieter out of school holidays. We had booked lunch at The Dome grill room which has an extremely ornate interior, a former banking chamber maybe, but the food was fairly average. A nice experience though. After lunch we returned to the Portrait Gallery for a proper look at the displays and really enjoyed that, more for the historical photographs than for the actual portrait paintings.

We followed with a couple more quiet days, with a visit to Dunfermline Friday afternoon to see the Abbey ruins, and had friends over for lunch on Saturday; the fact that we started at 12:00 and finished around 6:00 confirms that we had a very enjoyable time.

After several days close to home we thought that Sunday was the day for some more hill walking and decided to tackle Schiehallion, a Munro, although we were not confident that we would make the top.

The track was good early but gets quite difficult as you go higher, firstly with steep stepped sections and then a boulder field towards the top. The peak was snow covered which made it tricky to find the barely defined path and also to choose where to put your feet. Heather’s feet were giving her a bit of trouble and we agreed that when we reached the first ‘false’ summit, we would call it a day, as we had quite good views from there and it had been a good walk.

I then turned around after taking some photos to find Heather about 30 metres up the path heading for the summit; some people just don’t like to be beaten.

Needless to say we then continued to the top and were rewarded with some glorious views, but we had worked quite hard on this climb and the descent was slow, with the weather threatening to close in . . . over 6 hours for this one and we both felt the effects for a few days. Drove to Pitlochry for dinner and then back to Leith.

The next day we both felt like a rest day but we had lined up a trip to Glasgow so headed off mid-morning. Heather had lunch with a friend while I parked the car and had a walk around the West End. We both spent some time in town during the afternoon and then met up with friends at Stravaigin 2 for a lovely meal; I even tried the haggis as an entree.

Tuesday and Wednesday were quiet days, with the icy wind & rain returning, although we did drive to the Borders for a visit to Traquair House, a lovely building with parts dating from the 11th century. We had previously visited this house, but had obviously forgotten the name, because we did not realise that we had been there before until we actually saw the house. Well worth revisiting though for its many interesting features and artefacts.

On Thursday, our last full day in Leith, we took the bus back into town for a walk down the Royal Mile and visited the Children’s Museum, St Giles Cathedral, and the Edinburgh People’s Museum. We then returned to the apartment for packing, cleaning, and general preparation for our departure.

We went back to The Ship restaurant for our last night dinner and again enjoyed the meal.

At the end of our 4 weeks in Leith we thought that the home exchange was well worth doing, and we would probably have been more enthusiastic if we had had a bit more luck with the weather. We could not have spent 4 weeks in Scotland if we had been paying for the accommodation and it gave us a real chance to catch up with friends more than once, as well as choose our days to tackle weather dependent outings.

On Friday morning we went to Ocean Terminal for our coffee and then returned for last minute cleaning, packing etc. before our cab came at 11:30.

Our transfer had no disasters but a series of minor problems made the day seem difficult; our plane was late leaving, then had to circle Heathrow for 20 minutes before landing, the luggage conveyor belt malfunctioned and we waited 1/2 hour for our bags, Hertz wanted to give us a car which wouldn’t take our bags in the boot and we spent 20 minutes sorting that out, and then with all the delays, we hit the M25 at 5:00 pm on a Friday. Fortunately, once we left the M25 the traffic cleared and we had a straightforward drive to the Premier Inn at Yeovil.
GregY2 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2012, 12:18 PM
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Great TR, thanks a ton, we'll be in Edinburgh in 2 weeks, so read it with even greater interest
geetika is online now  
Jun 15th, 2012, 12:54 PM
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and then with all the delays, we hit the M25 at 5:00 pm on a Friday. >>

greg - you are clearly a stoic, to survive this without meltdown.

very much enjoying this and waiting for more.
annhig is offline  
Jun 15th, 2012, 04:56 PM
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Glad your first home exchange went well.

I am enjoying your report and look forward to more.

SandyBrit is offline  
Jun 16th, 2012, 12:12 AM
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Thanks for your encouragement. annhig, yes, the M25 was a bit of test of our patience - I must be mellowing as I get older as I did stay quite calm.

On Saturday morning we drove about an hour to Exeter, where we stopped for a coffee and a walk around a very pleasant town. We visited the cathedral, which was spectacular, before returning to the car for the drive to Falmouth.

We found our cottage easily, following the owners intructions. It was in a great location in a very pretty town – bigger than we had expected. Our cottage was very comfortable, up a very steep hill from the town, and with lovely views across the estuary filled with small craft and crisscrossed by little ferries. No internet though.

Sunday, our first full day, was bitterly cold with a very strong wind and it rained all day; we had a brief look around town but basically did not go anywhere.

Monday dawned dry and we set off to start exploring, firstly to Truro to see the cathedral & take a look around the town. While we were there the returned – and stayed most of the day - and we continued to Trerice, not far from Newquay on the east Cornwall coast. This was a lovely Elizabethan property in a nice garden – although we did not spend much time outside due to the rain.

Based on a guide book recommendation we continued to St Agnes, a small village on the coast; not much to the village but some nice views of the rugged coastline from the cove. On the way back to Falmouth we stopped at the East Poole mine site. Actually 2 sites, the first featured a working beam engine and a number of interesting historic photos. We then drove a few hundred metres to see a pumping engine and a video presentation on tin mining in Cornwall.

A little more improvement in the weather on Tuesday and we started with a drive towards Land's End to another mining site, the Levant Mine. Nice coastal scenery but not much to see at the mine site, just a few scattered ruins and a pumping station. One interesting thing about this mine was that it was built right on the coastline and its deep shafts extended more than 2 miles out under the sea.

On to St Ives, a delightful town with maybe 45% of its shops selling Cornish pasties, 45% being galleries & gift shops, and 10% for everything else. We enjoyed exploring the town and then finished with a visit to the Leach Pottery & Museum on the outskirts of town. This business was established in 1920 by Bernard Leach and members of his family continued the business. There was a very interesting video showing archival footage of the production processes and many of the display pieces were very nice. Their production pieces were less appealing to me and were very expensive.

For dinner we enjoyed a meal at Rick Stein’s . . . . no, not the Michelin starred restaurant at Padstow but Rick Stein’s Fish & Chips at Falmouth. Just battered fish & chips but very tasty.

Wednesday's weather had been forecast to be the best of the week so we planned a visit to the Lizard Peninsula, the most southerly point of the English mainland, to try a walk in that area. We parked just out of Cadgewith, above the village, and walked through fields to the very small village of St Ruan, then on towards the coast where we joined the main coast path back to the actual fishing village of Cadgewith. The walk was very pleasant, firstly through fields & woods, and then good views of the rocky coastline and very clear blue green water . . . all under a blue sky.

From Cadgewith village we took a steep path back up to the carpark and headed for Lizard Point itself, just a few miles away. There were some nice views there but it was really just a car park and a couple of cafés/souvenir shops.

We then drove a few miles further to Kynance Cove which we really enjoyed. This featured a walk down to the cove, crossing a pebble beach which was just about to become impassable as the tide came in, and then up a short steep climb to a little café on a grassy patch overlooking the coast. We enjoyed an excellent coffee there, sheltered from the wind and enjoying the sunshine, before climbing further up to the coast path for some magnificent views.

On the way back called in at Trecarne Pottery and saw some lovely things – we bought 2 mugs (for me to try and copy when I get home).

On Thursday we drove to the Roseland peninsula, which is across the main estuary from Falmouth, crossing the inlet at a narrow point via a chain ferry.

Our first stop was St Mawes where we had an interesting visit to the castle before driving into the charming town itself for a look around.

We parked in a 30 minute spot and I wasn’t sure whether we were supposed to have/display a disc that showed our arrival time so I asked a passing parking officer. He said that he was really just walking around to get in practice for the busy season and didn’t plan to issue any tickets so we could basically stay as long as we liked. I don’t think that attitude would go down too well in Melbourne.

We then left St Mawes and stopped briefly at St Just to see the church. The church itself was quite plain – apart from some coloured roof bosses – but the setting was delightful amid a rambling cemetery and right on the water.

On our way back we stopped at Trelissick garden which has a spectacular site on a headland overlooking the estuary. This was a pleasant walk but not as much colour as we had expected from its azaleas & rhododendrons.

For our last day in Falmouth we started with a bit of a tidy up and then split up & each spent an hour or so in Falmouth.

We then caught the ferry to Flushing, just across the water from our flat, and did a nice walk from the AA guidebook. This took us up a steep hill through fields and then quiet woodland, over the peninsula to Mylor, a very small village on the water. After a brief stop there we continued along a coast path around the headland, with views across to Falmouth, and back to Flushing to catch the ferry back. The weather remained kind to us on this walk and we enjoyed it although we were both flagging a bit by the time we reached the ferry.

For our last night in Falmouth we had a superb dinner at Samphire in Falmouth – highly recommended.

We woke early on Saturday and decided to have our morning coffee & papers in town before we left. It was to be a 3-4 hour drive to Glastonbury and we had decided to break the journey with a visit to Cotehele House a NT property just a little out of our way and about an hour and a half from Falmouth. It didn’t open until 11:00 so there was no point in leaving too early.

Cotehele House turned out to be a real gem. Well off the main roads and down narrow lanes, it was a Tudor property that was effectively dormant for 200 years from the late 1700’s and then passed to the NT in a very original state. It was a very interesting house but also lovely gardens including a terraced garden with views to the Tamar estuary.

We then drove straight through to Glastonbury and located our cottage without too much trouble
GregY2 is offline  
Jun 16th, 2012, 02:13 AM
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Thanks for the report, Greg. I love reading about people taking the path less travelled.
sheila is offline  
Jun 16th, 2012, 02:16 AM
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I asked a passing parking officer. He said that he was really just walking around to get in practice for the busy season and didn’t plan to issue any tickets so we could basically stay as long as we liked.>>

FYI, we don't have parking discs, what happens is that you park, and at some undefinable point later, the parking warden comes round and notes your registration no. [or not, in your case]. S/he then comes back round at least 30 mins later and if you're still there, you get a ticket. so 30 mins can mean 30, 45, or even 60 mins. or in your case - the whole day!

welcome to Cornwall!

sounds as if you had a really good trip. I always recommend using Falmouth as a base because as well as being an interesting a picturesque place in its own right [and i can think of several things you missed out in Falmouth itself, like Pendennis Castle, the Art Gallery/
museum, the Maritime Museum, Gyllinvase gardens, etc .etc] it's a really good place for making excursions to the rest of Cornwall.

you even found your way to our current fave restaurant, Samphire!

roll on Glastonbury.
annhig is offline  
Jun 16th, 2012, 03:40 AM
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Our cottage in Glastonbury was roomy & very comfortable but traffic noise from the road out front was surprisingly evident, given that the narrow road didn’t seem to go anywhere particular.

We were a bit disappointed with Glastonbury as a base; it was smaller than I expected and there was a limited range of cafés, restaurants etc. The town is noted as a New Age centre and the High street was heavily populated with shops offering psychic readings, crystals, alternative therapies etc. That wasn’t a surprise, I knew there would be lots of mystical stuff, just thought that there would be more other things as well. Nevertheless we chose Glastonbury as it seemed well located for visiting the region and it worked well for that.

We arrived Saturday late afternoon and just had a quick look around town before settling into the cottage then tried Gigi’s Italian restaurant for dinner and that was OK, without being anything special.

The next day dawned dry & even sunny, so we decided to start with a walk up Glastonbury Tor. We headed up our street, which became a narrow lane as it left the town and after some discussion as to which direction to take we soon found the Tor in view and commenced the short but steep climb to the top for lovely views of the surrounding districts. Interesting to see a lot of flooded fields across the downs as a result of all the rain they have had this year. We continued the path over the peak and directly down into the town, pleased to have picked one of our few clear days so far to do the climb.

In the afternoon we took a drive to nearby Wells, about 6 miles away. We’d been there before and would have happily used it as our base but had not been able to find accommodation there within our budget. The highlight at Wells is the cathedral and we were keen to revisit it.

When we arrived something was clearly going on - people all around the green, many in uniform, TV cameras, and a service was in progress in the cathedral. It turned out to be a commemorative service for Harry Patch, a resident of Wells and the UK’s last surviving WW1 veteran until he died aged 111 a couple of years ago. There was to be a short parade and unveiling of a plaque.

The service was almost over so we waited to see the parade and then to visit the cathedral which is spectacular. It was built in only 80 years from 1175. After about 200 years, cracks started to develop as a result of unstable foundations. The problem was solved by building ‘scissor arches’ which strengthened the structure and shared the load over a wider area. We had limited time and had not taken our cameras so we resolved to return later in the week.

On Monday we drove to Bristol to see the SS Great Britain, the first propeller driven ocean liner, built by Brunel, and launched in 1843.

After a long sailing life the ship was scuttled in the Falkland Islands in 1937 and eventually raised and towed on a barge back to Bristol for restoration and display. The ship sits in a dry dock and has been restored above the waterline only; there is a glass partition, covered in a thin layer of water, where the waterline would be and visitors can walk around the hull below the “water”. Very effective. The cabins etc. above the waterline have been restored and it is possible to see the accommodation for first, second, and steerage class passengers as well as for the crew.

The SS Great Britain had made several voyages to Australia carrying emigrants and the onsite museum had a lot of information, extracts from journals etc. which were particularly interesting to us. This was a really good visit – highly recommended!

After leaving Bristol we called at Tyntesfield Court, just a few miles away. This was the home of the Gibbs family – who made a lot of money importing guano from America – and it was an ornate home with some lovely features, particularly some of the wooden ceilings and the chapel. The grounds were extensive and very attractive but we didn’t spend a lot of time outside because of the rain.

On Tuesday we headed west to Dunster to see the castle and village. The castle has a magnificent elevated site, with wide views across the estate, surrounding fields, the coast and across the Severn estuary to Wales.

The visit was a good mix of interesting building, carved wooden interior, landscape views, and a nice walk through the riverside gardens. The attractive little village of Dunster adjoins the castle and we had a stroll around, after spending a while in the church which had some lovely features. There were some medieval ceramic tiles that I particularly liked and an intricately carved wooden altar screen which extended almost right across the church and with a flat top on which choir singers used to sit in medieval times.

We then took a drive to the coast and did a short walk near Selworthy Beacon. Some nice coastal views but it was basically just a flattish walk though scrubby countryside and the weather was deteriorating so we returned, taking a quick look around Minehead before we drove home.

The next day we drove south to see two NT properties, Montacute House and Barrington Court. Montacute House was impressive, a very large house with very grand rooms. I was quite taken with the top floor ‘long gallery’ which was currently being used to display paintings from the National Portrait Gallery. The original purpose of the long gallery was to provide an exercise space when weather did not allow strolling in the grounds. The one at Montacute is 172 feet long. We took a short walk around the grounds and then the adjoining village, which was very attractive, but did not stay long due to the rain.

Then on to nearby Barrington Court, built in Tudor times and the first historic house purchased by the NT; in 1923. The house is impressive enough but is unfurnished which makes it harder to get a feel for it as it was lived in. Several of the rooms were filled with the tiny clay figures that make up Anthony Gormley’s “Field” – didn’t excite me too much.

We then continued to Muchelney and had a walk around what was a very small village. The ruins of Muchelney Abbey were open but there didn’t seem to be much there and we’d had our fill of historic property for the day so didn’t go in. Muchelney pottery, just down the road was the studio of John Leach, grandson of the famous potter from Cornwall.

Dinner at Anton’s in Wells was to be a celebratory meal for Heather’s birthday but it was a bit disappointing. There don’t seem to be many restaurants in the area that cater for a bit more special occasion – at least we never found them.

We had visited Bath once before and really enjoyed it, so on Thursday we returned for a stroll around the town and a visit to the abbey church, another spectacular building; we love the fan-vaulted ceiling.

We took the tower tour which provided good views of the city but the guide also took us through the bell ringing process and the bells – possibly more information on bells & bell ringing than we needed - and gave us an opportunity to take a quick look through a small hole in the vaulted ceiling into the nave. We had intended to revisit the Roman Baths but we spent longer than expected in the cathedral so gave that a miss.

From Bath we drove to Lacock Abbey, not far away. Another NT property and a really good visit. Lacock Abbey started out as a religious building but was converted to a residence in 1540. The cloister was retained during the conversion and is an attractive space, overlooked by many of the residential rooms.

The house was owned by the Talbot family for around 500 years and W.H.F. Talbot made significant contributions to the development of photography there. There is a museum on site covering the history of photography and that was very interesting. Also on site was an exhibition of photographs by Basil Pao who accompanied Michael Palin around the world for his TV show – some excellent photographs and a real bonus.

We spent Friday morning in Glastonbury, returning to the cottage to start packing and to have lunch. In the afternoon we returned to Wells for a more relaxed look at the town , the cathedral, and the Bishop’s Palace. The Bishop’s Palace was new to us and didn’t have a lot to see, only 2-3 rooms being open (although the chapel was impressive), but the gardens were very nice and views of the town and cathedral from the ramparts walk were good.

Saturday we finished packing and brought the car down to the High street while we had coffee then we headed for our next cottage in Ross-on Wye. As usual, the cottage was not available until mid-afternoon, so we planned a visit to Tredegar House in Wales on the way.

Tredegar House has only recently been taken over by the NT and the guides in every room were very keen to tell us all their facts & anecdotes and that became a little distracting as we explored the house. Different parts of the house were furnished as they may have looked in different periods – Victorian kitchens, living rooms from the 1930’s etc. An enjoyable visit and an effective break of journey which had us arriving in Ross-on-Wye only about an hour before we could get access to the cottage.
GregY2 is offline  
Jun 16th, 2012, 03:53 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 415
Hi again annhig, we only found Samphire after we failed to get a booking at Oliver's which was much closer to our cottage and seemed to have a good menu. We were very happy with our choice - I can still taste those scallops.

Pendennis Castle & the Maritime Museum were on our list but somehow we never got there - a reason to return maybe?
GregY2 is offline  
Jun 16th, 2012, 05:20 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,317
Pendennis Castle & the Maritime Museum were on our list but somehow we never got there - a reason to return maybe?>>

definitely - and to try some more restaurants. if you hadn't found Samphire there are at least another 1/2 dozen where you could have had as good a meal.

we're still working our way round them!
annhig is offline  
Jun 16th, 2012, 05:35 AM
Join Date: Aug 2007
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I am still enjoying your TR, Greg. More things to add to my want to do list and bringing back many memories ofpast trips. Thanks for sharing!
irishface is offline  
Jun 16th, 2012, 07:50 AM
Join Date: Jan 2012
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Thank you for that. Brings back all sorts of memories of my time in Edinburgh. Leith walk connecting Edinburgh and Leith is a quite a walk. The Scots when describing somebody miserable or glum would often say '-had a face as long as Leith walk'.
FlyingFortune is offline  
Jun 16th, 2012, 06:23 PM
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When we arrived in Ross-on-Wye there were cars everywhere and streets blocked off – we had arrived right in the middle of their May Fayre and had to find our cottage right in the centre of town. We found a park and walked to the tourist office for advice on how to get around the road closures and then found our cottage easily – I only had to drive the wrong way down a one-way street for about 50 metres.

Our cottage/apartment in Ross-on-Wye was very comfortable and quiet despite being in the centre of town. It was built as in-fill behind the High Street shops and faced a small open space reached by a narrow lane. Great location though and RoW was an attractive town – with an early-opening Costa’s which made good coffee!

We had a late-afternoon stroll around the town, taking in some of the Fayre entertainment including a very good blues band playing in the main street. Our week at RoW was a little warmer with daily temperatures consistently into double figures but still quite a few showers about.

On Sunday, after a trip to the supermarket to top up provisions, we drove to the tiny village of Brockhampton – with a thatched roofed church - to do a walk we picked from a leaflet in the apartment. It was about 2 miles and initially followed the Wye river then went up a very steep road to a lookout point with nice views across the valley before returning to the car park along the road.

We stopped at Ledbury on our way back and had a walk around the town. It has a number of historic buildings and in particular one narrow street leading up to the church was largely intact.

The next day we headed for Gloucester. We started with the cathedral which was very impressive, supported by enormous pillars down the nave, and with a lot of ornate wood carving in the quire as well as some remnant medieval ceramic tiles.
We paid to visit the ‘whispering gallery’ above the quire for a close view of the main stained glass window and an informative display on its history, how it was constructed and how to interpret some of the panels.

Apparently during WW2 the window was dismantled and stored with all the pieces identified with labels. After the war they found that the glue hadn’t worked and all the labels had come loose – allegedly they had to use a postcard photo to put it back the right way. Not sure that I believed that story, I suspect they would have taken photos when taking it down but who knows.

The fan-vaulted cloister was very nice and we also took the tour of the crypt which was interesting without being anything special. We spent a lot longer at the cathedral than we had expected and were running out of time on our parking so had a walk around the town and then paid a quick visit to the port – some nice restored narrow boats but really just a modern redevelopment.

On Tuesday we drove north through lovely countryside to Great Malvern, nestled under the Malvern Hills.

We called at the tourist office for directions then drove to the Beacon car park to start the walk to the Worcester Beacon. The walk was along a sealed path most of the way and not difficult, although quite steep near the top. Beautiful views in all directions across a patchwork of fields. The air was very clear and we could see rain showers moving across the landscape while all around was still bathed in sunshine. We completed the walk mainly in the sunshine but we did have a couple of showers – including sleet & hail.

We then returned to our car, drove a short way along the ridge to the British Camp car park, and then followed the shorter but very steep path up to the old iron age fort site. This was interesting as the remains of the earthworks could be seen quite clearly in the shape of the hill top.

Dinner at Indian Summer Indian restaurant in RoW was very nice.

On Wednesday, another town, another cathedral . . . Hereford cathedral was less ornate in the nave than many we have visited but made up for it with ornately carved choir stalls and misericords – Heather’s speciality! The cathedral has a chained library which was interesting – books were so valuable that each was attached to its shelf with a chain and could only be read on the spot – but the highlight was the mappa mundi, a map of the known world made around 1300. The map contains a surprising amount of geographical & religious detail and is richly decorated – really interesting.

After a look around the town we drove to Croft Castle, an attractive NT property in a lovely rural setting. We then headed back to RoW stopping briefly at Weobly to see its many ‘black & white’ houses, and again at Kilpeck church to see its 900 year old stone carvings.

We celebrated my birthday over dinner at the Mulberry restaurant at Wilton Court, just out of RoW. Nice food and a pleasant setting but the manager had just a touch of Basil Fawlty, initially insisting that we should relax for a while in the lounge before entering the restaurant, even though we had declined pre-dinner drinks. After a glance from his wife he showed us to our seats.

On Thursday we drove to Cardiff to see the castle and we really enjoyed that visit. The castle sits within a large walled compound right in the centre of town. The current walls were built outside the original roman walls creating a long covered corridor – the tunnel was used as an air raid shelter in WW2 and could hold nearly 2000 people.

The ruins of the original defensive castle remain but the current castle was built as a residence around 1770 and then flamboyantly redone in Victorian times, with ornate decoration in all the rooms we could visit.

We had lunch in Cardiff and had a walk around the extensive shopping area. It was still reasonably early so we elected to take a less direct route back to RoW and headed to Caerphilly. When we saw the castle we were not sure whether it would be worth paying to see as it appeared to be just some ruins within a large stone wall. We did go in and were surprised to find another moated wall within the outer one and a quite extensive set of buildings within that wall. We ended up spending quite a while there and enjoyed the visit.

We then drove back to RoW along some more-or-less randomly chosen minor roads through very nice Welsh countryside.

While we were in Great Malvern earlier in the week we had booked a tour of the Morgan sports car factory for Friday morning so we headed off in good time to have our morning coffee in Malvern and to visit the Priory church before our tour. The Priory church was well worth seeing; misericords for Heather, medieval tiles for me.

I’m sure that the Morgan factory was more interesting to me than to Heather – in any case I really enjoyed it. They really do make cars the old-fashioned way with a team of craftsmen in each section hand-building a lot of the components – wooden frames, aluminium body parts, interior trims etc. larger components such as engines, gearboxes, brakes etc are bought in from outside suppliers. We saw the 3 current models in all stages of build – the classic Morgans that would be my favourite, including the new Plus 8, the high performance Aero Supersport/Coupé, and the new 3-wheeler. The 3-wheeler pays homage to the original Morgan 3-wheeler sold between 1910 and 1946. It is an odd looking machine, powered by a V2 motor cycle engine mounted right at the front, but apparently they go really well and orders are well in excess of expectations.

Dinner at Harry’s restaurant at the Chase Hotel in RoW was quite good.

Our base for the next 5 days was to be Broadway, in the Cotswolds, only about 50 miles away, so we had no need to rush away and we had a walk around RoW to get some photos before heading off.

Heather had bought a book on Misericords a few days back and had read about a church in a village called Ripple, not far off our route to Broadway, so we called in there. Ripple turned out to be a tiny village but the church was built when it was a more important centre and was quite imposing. Even I had to admit that the misericords were excellent.

We then continued just a few miles to Tewkesbury which was a very pleasant town on the river Avon with a lot of historical buildings and a very impressive abbey. We had thought that we might spend an hour or so in the town but in the end we were a full three hours there – in the abbey, following the suggested historical walk, and taking a stroll along the river path.

Then on to Broadway . . .
GregY2 is offline  
Jun 17th, 2012, 12:31 AM
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We arrived at Broadway little ahead of the entry time for our apartment but we had a key code for entry and we knew it had not been booked the week prior so we were able to get in immediately. We’ve been to Broadway before but only as a day visitor – it will be interesting to see it as a ‘resident’ as it can get swamped with visitors during the day.

Our apartment in Broadway was very comfortable and in a good location; right in the village but not on the main street. It was a modern development, so not a charming cottage, but on the other hand all the electricals, plumbing etc worked really well.

We had a walk around the village – really just the extended main street – to see what cafés/restaurants there were as well as to admire the lovely stone buildings and the carefully tended gardens.

We tried The Swan for dinner, based on comments in the Visitor’s Book, and were not disappointed; very good food, a charming pub with beamed ceilings, and friendly staff. We returned later in the week for another very enjoyable meak.

On Sunday we started with a quiet morning and then did some exploring of the nearby area. We started with a visit to Winchcombe pottery which had some very nice pieces on display.

We then visited Snowshill manor, a NT property, not far away but surprisingly hard to find down narrow lanes. When we did find it, it was incredibly busy with both the main and overflow car parks full and we had to park some way away. Lovely tiered gardens and an attractive house, filled with thousands of ‘things’. The owner had collected objects from all over the world, with no apparent theme and filled the house with them, living in the adjacent ‘Priest’s House’ to make more room in the house.

We visited Stratford-upon-Avon on Monday. There are 5 main Shakespearean sites, 3 in the town and 2 on the outskirts, and we bought a combined ticket for them all.

The first visit was to Shakespeare’s birthplace which adjoins the Shakespeare Trust offices in the centre of town and is furnished according to their best guess of how it may have looked in Shakespeare’s time. There were quite a few “probably’s” and “may have’s” in all the Shakespeare properties.

We then walked to Nash’s house, which is located next to a vacant block where Shakespeare once had a house – Nash’s house was quite nice and the garden was pleasant but a bit of a tenuous link in our opinion. Then on to Hall’s Croft, once home to Shakespeare’s daughter and a lovely black & white property with a spacious garden.

We had lunch in town before driving to Mary Arden’s – Shakespeare’s mother – farm which is maintained as a working Tudor era farm. A very nice farmhouse and associated buildings, a number of rare breeds of livestock (we even caught a glimpse of the very rare species – the Short Sleeved Shirt – as the day warmed up), and information about how the farm would have operated in Tudor times.

We were also fortunate to come across the falconry keeper between demonstrations and he was happy to chat to a small group of visitors and to let us handle a barn owl.

Finally to Anne Hathaway’s (Shakespeare’s wife) cottage which was just delightful – a classic thatched roof property in a beautiful garden.

We had enjoyed Oxford on our previous visit and decided to return on Tuesday. We timed our arrival to miss the peak hour traffic and headed for one of the Park & Ride car parks along the ring road. Unfortunately a stalled car was blocking a lane and causing mayhem and also several roads were closed for a bike race so our trip into town on the bus took a lot longer than we expected.

We visited the tourist office and then had a look at the exterior of the Bodleian Library before visiting the Radcliffe and climbing the cupola for a view of the town. We then walked to the Ashmolean museum which we had missed last time as it was closed for renovations. We enjoyed the visit very much; a lot of quite interesting collections, many left to the museum by scholars associated with the University. We called at Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the Wold on our way back to Broadway.

On Wednesday we started early – to beat the heat(!) - with a 3.5 mile walk not far from Broadway. We parked at the lovely little village of Stanton and then followed the walk across fields firstly to Laverton, and then on to another nice village Buckland, before returning, again through fields but higher up the hill so that we had some nice longer views of the countryside. A really enjoyable walk on a lovely morning. We returned to Broadway for a coffee and then had lunch at the apartment.

In the afternoon we drove to Conderton, just a few miles away, to see another pottery studio, then had a leisurely drive around the Bredon Hill area through lovely countryside to Evesham, then back to Broadway.

We had dinner at the Grapevine pub in Stow-in-the-Wold. We ate there on our last UK trip and really enjoyed the food so made a point of going back. Unfortunatelyit didn’t seem as good this time with a much more limited menu in the bar and quite expensive in the restaurant.

This was a short stay at Broadway, just 5 nights, so on Thursday we tidied up, packed the car and headed for London.
GregY2 is offline  
Jun 17th, 2012, 04:03 AM
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Not sure that I believed that story, I suspect they would have taken photos when taking it down but who knows. >>

thinking back to the photographs i remember from growing up in the UK in the 60s, anything from the 1930s and 40s [and lots from the 50s and 60s come to that] was in black and white which might not have been so helpful when it came to stained glass! and in the panic of the outbreak of war, they really might not have thought of photographing it anyway.

great report Greg - I love looking at the UK through the eyes of those who don't live here - you see so much more than we do!
annhig is offline  
Jun 17th, 2012, 10:09 AM
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Still enjoying your report with nostalgia and with planning in view. thanks!
irishface is offline  

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