England, Wales & Scotland   8 comments

England, Wales & Scotland

July 3 – 26, 2016

London, Oxford, Bladon, Bampton, Cotswold, Cheltenham, Bath, and Stonehenge England; Llangollen,  Snowdonia, Llanfair…, Caernarfon, and Portmeirion Wales; Chester, York, Whitby, Grange, and Lake District England; Edinburgh, Inverness, Loch Ness, Isle of Skye, Scottish Highlands, Glencoe, Loch Lomond, Trossachs, and Glasgow Scotland. 


We booked “England,Scotland & Wales” with a pre-trip in London and a post-trip in Scotland with Grand Circle Travel. At that time Jim & I were happily going about our lives with never a thought but what we would just grow old together.  Jim went to his heavenly home on May 9, 2016 when he was killed in an accident on our farm.  He was the love of my life and we had 51 years wonderful years together.  {On my previous blog you will find a memorial tribute to him.}  I cannot say enough good comments about Grand Circle.  They so kindly changed everything over to my sweet daughter-in-law so she could go on the trip with me.  So here it is. 


This is our awesome tour director, Anita.  She made everything a fun adventure.   Yes, GCT has an itinerary that one can depend on seeing & doing everything that’s listed, but Anita added to that itinerary and we had lots & lots of learning & discovery.  It might be a snack, a wine, a liquor of a particular region that we were in or it might be some interesting thing or event in a town that only a local would know.  It was obvious that Anita loves being a tour director!  Thank you Anita. 


SmileSave MoneyMoney:  If you decide you’d like to go on this or any Grand Circle Travel or Overseas Adventure trip, and you are a first time traveler with them, they will give you $100 per person off any trip if you mention the name of my travel blog and my customer number #561413.  New travelers instantly receive $100 each off the cost of the trip, and I will receive $100 when you depart on your trip.

Grand Circle Travel provided us a splendid hotel in London.  The Tower Hotel was located right by the Tower Bridge and across the street from the Tower of London.  A wonderful area!  The second picture is the view out of our window.  We were in London for six nights and Grand Circle provided us “Tube” passes.  Riding the tube is very straight forward and easy to accomplish.  We were totally surprised and impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness of the people of London. 


Buckingham Palace:  Our first venture on the tube was to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.  Buckingham Palace has been the official residence of the monarch since 1837.  The changing of the guard takes place everyday at 11 a.m.  The replacement troops are led by a band and they all converge at Buckingham Palace in a perfect storm of pageantry.   


The Royal Mews:  We toured the palace’s working stable, which is located within a couple blocks of the palace.   We saw the royal horses, a bunch of old carriages, and the gold state coach. 


Kensington Palace:  From 1689 to 1837 it was the royal residence before Buckingham Palace.  It was built for the joint monarchs of William and Mary, Queen Victoria was born and raised here, Princess Diana lived here and now Prince William, Princess Kate & family live here.  These most recent apartments of course are never open to visitors. 



Grand Circle provided a tour of London which started out in a double decker London bus, and later we walked to numerous places.  Here is what we saw.


Westminster Abbey:  Since 1066, when Harold Godwinson and William the Conqueror were crowned, the coronations of English and British monarchs have been held there.  There have been at least 16 royal weddings at the abbey since 1100.


Chelsea & I rode back to the Tower Bridge area down the Thames River on a water taxi. 


Hampton Court Palace & Gardens:    It is located about 12 miles south of London.  It became a royal residence when it was turned over to Henry VIII in 1529.  Below is the entrance, the Great Hall and Queen Mary’s bedchamber 


British Museum:  Once again we journeyed on the tube and this time went to the British Museum.  Two of the splendid things we saw was the Colossal bust of Rameses II, from 1250 BC. and The famous version of the ‘Crouching Venus’ from the  1st century AD.  This amazing museum is free.


 Tower of London:  It was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 to keep the Londoners in line.  Over the centuries more walls and towers have been built around it and it now covers 16 acres.  The heavily fortified Tower served as a royal residence, the Royal Mint, the Royal Jewel House, and the prison and execution site of those who dared oppose the Crown. 


The Globe Theatre:  The original theatre was built in London by William Shakespeare in 1599.  Since then there is a newer version of it built in the same manner and it also has a thatched roof just as it did in 1599.  This was something Jim was all about doing while he & I were in London and I had purchased tickets on line.  Chelsea & I attended the Globe and saw “Taming of the Shrew.”  It was an enjoyable evening. 


Oxford, England:   We enjoyed London but were excited to head out to see more of England.  Our first stop was Oxford, whose university has educated some of the world’s most prominent scholars & statesmen.  Oxford University was established in the 11th century.  The University is a collection of more than 38 colleges & buildings spread throughout the city. 


Bladon, England:   Winston Churchill had requested to be buried in the family plot in the little town of Bladon, which is located about 5 miles west of Oxford.  So Winston Churchill was buried in the graveyard of St Martin’s after his state funeral on January 30, 1965.  We visited the very unassuming grave of this great man. 



 Bampton, England:  This charming village will seem oddly familiar to Downton Abbey fans.  This town has been used for filming the outdoor scenes and also some of Downton Abbey’s key events have been filmed in and around the church in Bampton.  


Cotswolds, England:  Our travel through the Cotswolds area of England was beautiful.  It was a constant landscape of rolling hills and charming country cottages.  I particularly enjoyed the thatched roofs. 


 Bath, England:  Bath was founded in the 1st century AD by the Romans who used the natural hot springs as a thermal spa.  The springs produce 500,000 gallons of 120 degrees Fahrenheit water everyday.  The lead-lined bath, steps, column bases, and edging stones all date from Roman times. 



Stonehenge, England:  Stonehenge is perhaps the world’s most famous prehistoric monument. It was built in several stages: the first monument was an early henge monument, built about 5,000 years ago, and the unique stone circle was erected in the late Neolithic period about 2500 BC.


Llangollen, Wales:  We left England and traveled to the Snowdonia region of Wales, stopping at a small pretty little town of Llangollen in Northern Wales for lunch. 


Snowdonia Region of Wales:  This scenic & mountainous section of Wales is part of the Cambrian Mountains and surrounds the region’s highest peak, Mount Snowdon.  It was a beautiful drive even in the rain.


Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Wales:  Oh yes, we visited the town in Wales with the longest name in the world.  I dare you to pronounce it correctly!  It is a Welsh word that translates to:  “St Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near a Rapid Whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio near the Red Cave”.  Here it is at the train station and of course at the gift store. 


 Caernarfon, Wales:  We stayed in this small historic town which is located right on the coast looking across to the Island of Anglesey.  A medieval castle was located near our hotel.  The castle was built by the English after their conquest of Wales.  It was here that Price Charles was formally inaugurated as Prince of Wales in 1969. 


 Ffestiniog Railway:  We did a fun ride on the steam train from the coast of Porthmadog into the mountains at Blaenau Ffestiniog.  The Ffestiniog Railway is the oldest independent narrow-gauge railway in the world.  It was built in 1832 to carry slate but has been carrying passengers since 1864.  (I copied the route map from the train web site and the 2nd one is from the brochure on the train.) 

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Scenes along the way though the Snowdonia Mountains. 


  National Slate Museum:  The quarry once employed 3,000 men, but the quarry was closed in 1969 & later made into a museum.  The workshops which served the needs of the quarry and its locomotives were built in 1870 on land created from the continuous tipping of spoil from the adjacent Vivian Quarry.  The quarry is located by towering slate mountains,  and the workshops once serviced and maintained the enormous Dinorwig slate quarry above it. 



Portmeirion:  it’s a tourist village in Gwyedd, North Wales.  It was designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 in the style of an Italian village, and is now owned by a charitable trust.  This unique coastal resort has hotels, cafes, shops, and holiday cottages. It’s open all year for family days out, short breaks, and weddings.  This happened to be one of Chelsea favorite places and she purchased a nice water color here.



  More of Snowdonia’s spectacular scenery.



Chester, England:  It’s located in northwest England.  Around 60 AD, the Romans expanded their empire to Britain and founded it as a Roman fortress.  The city today still displays the Roman layout, & it’s known for its extensive, well-preserved Roman walls made of local red sandstone. In the old city, the Rows is a shopping district distinguished by 2-level covered arcades and Tudor-style half-timbre buildings.


  York, England:  It’s a historic walled city at the confluence of the rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England.  It  was founded by the ancient Romans in 71 AD, and holds 1900 years’ worth of history in its ancient walls.  The narrow street pictured is known as the Shambles which was originally the meat-butchering area of York. 


 York Minster:   It is the largest medieval church in England.  A nun in the church gave us an extensive tour of the beautiful Minster.  That evening Chelsea & I came back to “evensong”  a choir concert which was held in this beautiful choir section of the Minster.  We got to sit in the ancient wooden seats, not the folding chairs.   


The Great East Window:  It is the size of a tennis court, and is the single largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world. It was created between 1405 and 1408.  For the next 3 years this masterpiece is under restoration.  The top of the window is now clear glass but the original stained glass will eventually be back in the window. 


The Quire Screen is one of the most intricately carved in all the UK, with depictions of famous churchmen set within niches facing the nave. 


One cannot be in England without going to a Tea Room and having scones, clotted cream & jam.  So we did!  While in York we also did the “Ghost Walk of York.”  Both events were a great deal of fun. 


 Whitby Abbey, England:  The haunting ruins of Whitby Abbey overlook the North Sea on the East Cliff above Whitby in North Yorkshire.  It is among the most celebrated sights of North Yorkshire. The first monastery here, founded in about 657, became one of the most important religious centers in the Anglo-Saxon world. The hightop is now dominated by the shell of the 13th-century church of the Benedictine abbey founded after the Norman Conquest.


We walked down the 199 steps into the seaside town of Whitby.  It’s a commercial & fishing port & the town is split down the middle by the River Esk.  Whitby is also a key setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  It is from this town that explorer James Cook first set out to sea.


Castle Howard. England:  Castle Howard is a baroque masterpiece, more palace than house, conceived by Charles Howard, 3rd Earl of Carlisle.  It is a private residence and has been home of the Howard family for more than 300 years.  Construction of this Baroque masterpiece began in 1699, it took 100 years to complete.  It contains lavish, treasure-filled rooms—including paintings by Rubens & Gainsborough.  It is familiar to television and film audiences as the fictional Brideshead and Brideshead Revisited.  Immediately behind the house is a large formal 1,000 acre garden.


We left York heading in the direction of the Lake District.  We drove west skirting Yorkshire Dales National Park.  We stopped at this pretty little town for a stroll about.


Grange-over-Sands, England:  We had a fun surprise in the little town of Grange-over-Sands.  We stopped at the Thyme Coffee House and Restaurant and Anita treated us to scones, clotted cream & jam.  Delicious! 



Lake District. England:  A delightful ride today through the Lake District, England’s largest national park and home to 16 major lakes.  Set amidst the most mountainous region of England, it has been the inspiration for countless writers, from Wordsworth and Keats to Beatrix Porter. 


We had lunch in this historic home in the countryside in England.  Beatrix Potter is best known for her beautifully illustrated children’s books of Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck and friends. She spent many childhood holidays in the Lake District and these times influenced her work.  She had something to do with this house, but I can’t remember what. haha


I just have to share how pretty this countryside in England was.  And…we saw thousands of sheep throughout Great Britain. 


Hadrian’s Wall, England:  It was a defensive fortification built by the order of Emperor Hadrian in 122 AD in the reign of the emperor Hadrian.  The wall separated England & Scotland.  The wall with its defensive ditches and large forts stretched from the North Sea to the Irish Sea, a distance of 75 miles.  It was a continuous wall with a milecastle every roman mile & two turrets equally spaced between. It formed the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire. 

A significant portion of the wall still stands and can be followed on foot along the adjoining “Hadrian’s Wall Path.”  We talked to some youngsters who were hiking the wall.  What great fun for the younger set. 


   Edinburgh, Scotland:  Recognized as the capital of Scotland since at least the 15th century, Edinburgh is home to the Scottish Parliament and the seat of the monarchy in Scotland.  it is Scotland’s second most populous city with almost half a million population and the seventh most populous in the United Kingdom.  Our hotel was located right along the “Royal Mile” so we were right in the middle of everything. 


Street vendors in Edinburgh except for the guy in the white Ferrari.  So we have the tiny truck at the snack stand & then the Ferrari….which would be more fun to go for a spin in? 


Edinburgh Castle:  This  historic fortress dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh from its position on the Castle Rock.  The castle stands at the head of the old town on the Royal Mile.  A royal dwelling has been located here since the 12th century, and the castle’s St. Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest surviving building in the city, dates to that time.   


St. Margaret’s Chapel:  The oldest building in the castle, and in Edinburgh, is the small St. Margaret’s Chapel.  It dates from the reign of King David I (1124-1153), and it is one of the few 12th-century structures surviving in any Scottish castle.  It was built as a private chapel for the royal family and dedicated it to King David’s mother,Saint Margaret of Scotland, who died in the castle in 1093.


Scottish Entertainment, Edinburgh:   So we decided we just had to do the expensive optional of the cheesy evening of Scottish entertainment.  And the evening wouldn’t have complete without a serving of Haggis.  The famous Scottish haggis is sheep’s pluck (heart, liver & lungs); minced with onion oatmeal, suet, spices & salt, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach.


 Royal Yacht Britannia, Edinburgh, Scotland:  It is the former royal yacht of the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, in service from 1954 until 1997.  She is the 83rd such vessel 1660.  During her 43-year career, the yacht travelled more than a million nautical miles around the globe.  The vessel was perhaps most famously used by Prince Charles & Lady Diana for their honeymoon cruise. 


 Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, Scotland:  It is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland.  It’s located at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburg, at the opposite end to Edinburgh Castle.  Holyrood Palace was completed in 1501 and has served as the principal residence of the Kings & Queens of Scots since the 16th century, and is a setting for state occasions and official entertaining.  (No photos allowed inside.)


Holyrood Abbey:  The abbey was founded in 1128 by King David I, and today we view the ruins.


We began our journey by coach through Edinburgh, Scotland in a northerly direction towards Inverness, Scotland.  Our first stop of the day was to see the famous golf course of St. Andrews.  The photo in the rain is of the 1st, 17th & 18th holes. 



Driving through the countryside of Scotland.


Inverness, Scotland:  It’s located on Scotland’s northeast coast, where the River Ness meets the Moray Firth.  It has a population of about 55,000 and a pleasant town.  Loved our historical hotel theBest Western Inverness Palace” located on the River Ness (building with the 2 turrets) and across from the Inverness Castle (the picture was taken looking out our window towards the castle).  We stayed at this hotel while to toured northern Scotland. 


 A delightful day in the Scottish Highlands.

Loch Ness, Scotland:  A beautifully awesome day of seeing the Scottish Highlands.  We saw Loch Ness, and no we didn’t spot the Loch Ness monster!  The area is serene. 


More Scottish Highlands


Eilean Donan: Next down the road came this castle.  It is located on a small tidal island where three lochs meet, Loch Duich, Loch Long & Loch Alsh, in the western Highland of Scotland. 


The Isle of Skye:   It’s connected to Scotland’s northwest coast by the Sky Bridge (opened in 1995).  It is known for its rugged landscapes, picturesque fishing villages and medieval castles.  The main industries are tourism, agriculture, fishing and forestry.  To fulfill the tourism spot, Chelsea bought Derick a pair of hand knitted wool socks.  He’s worn holes in his wool socks that he was given in Bulgaria when he lived there. 


After leaving The Isle of Skye we drove on tiny roads & saw more incredible scenery. 


Highland cattle are a Scottish cattle breed. They have long horns and long wavy coats that are colored black, brindle, red, yellow, white, silver or dun, and they are raised primarily for their meat.  These were free-range cattle & sheep  along the road.  I love the furry little calf.


The Scottish Highlands are absolutely beautiful!


We stopped for refreshments out in the country at this neat place.


Balnuaran of Clava:  The Clava cairn is a type of Bronze Age circular chamber tomb cairns which is located to the east of Inverness in Scotland.  At Balnuaran of Clava there is a group of three cairns which lie close together in a line running northeast to southwest.  The monuments were built between 3,000 & 4,000 years ago.  The oldest are a circular wall enclosure – the central ‘ring cairn’ and two ‘passage graves.’  The entrances to the graves are  oriented southwest towards midwinter sunset.


Our last day on the road we traveled from Inverness to Glasgow through the scenic landscapes of Glencoe, Loch Lomond, and Trossachs. 


 Our Grand Circle trip of “England, Scotland & Wales” ended in Glasgow, Scotland.  As I mentioned at the first of my blog, this was my first trip without Jim.  With the help of my daughter-in-law I think I have discovered that I should and can enjoy traveling.  It will never be the same because I will always forever love and miss Jim but I know he wants me to enjoy the remaining time that the good Lord grants me here on earth.  So…..keep on traveling!


Posted August 27, 2016 by marilynfarmer in Travel

8 responses to “England, Wales & Scotland

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  1. I was so sorry to hear about the tragic accident that took Jim’s life. It is good you were able to take the trip with your daughter in law. As usual, the pictures and captions were great.

    • Thank you Frank, I appreciate your condolence. I miss him so much. He was looking forward to seeing so many of the things we saw & did. But I know he would want me to keep traveling, especially since that was our passion.

  2. Just finished reading about your trip. I really enjoyed all your pictures and beautiful scenery. Very interesting reading. Certainly makes me want to go..

  3. Marilyn, i am shocked to hear about Jim and I know you miss him so. Some other ladies and I from Texas were on a trip with you guys and I so enjoyed meeting you both. I am glad you are going ahead and traveling, that is one thing I have enjoyed after my husband passed away.
    God bless you and family.
    Cherie Gibert, Carthage, TX

    • Thank you Cherie. I remember well our trip to Nova Scotia with you fun gals. Your husband having also passed you well know how much I miss Jim. I know Jim would absolutely want me to continue traveling. I figure I might as well travel and be here at home alone. Thank you for your note, I really appreciate it. God’s blessing to you also.

  4. I enjoyed your pictorial journal. What a fantastic job you’ve done. We are traveling this trip with Grand Circle in June. This will help us get ready & plan what we want to do. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you Betty. June should be a great time to see Great Britain. This trip really gives you a glimpse of so much of England, Wales & Scotland. Enjoy every minute of your adventure, and keep on traveling!

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