Friday 5 May 2006, Canterbury
First stop was a garage to obtain a new MOT. This official vehicle check is required to register cars in the UK. Insurance is also required so we will have to organize that later. Then it was on to Canterbury. By this time it was already late so we stopped in a coach parking area for the night.
The ticket collector woke us in the morning to inform us we should not have stayed there during the night (10 pound), but he would charge us half price (5 pound) for one days parking and we could stay all day but NOT for the night. This was great as the cathedral was in walking distance.
The cathedral is hemmed in by buildings although both Pieter and I remember it being in a large open area many years ago in our youth. Perhaps our memory is at fault, I will however check my photos taken when I was young when I get back to SA. The cathedral was founded in 597 AD by St. Augustine as the mother church of the Anglican union. It is most famous for being the place where Thomas Becket was murdered. Like all cathedrals it has been added to and refurbished.
The only other attraction we visited was The Canterbury Tales. This is an enactment of 5 tales from Chaucer's famous Canterbury Tales. Just in case you are not familiar with these tales: Chaucer wrote about a pilgrimage from London to Canterbury by a disparate group of characters. This was one of the first books written in English. Each character had to tell a tale to the others while away the time. The tales could be saucy, adventurous, funny or moralistic. Thankfully it was told in modern not medieval English. Well worth the visit.
Saturday 6 to Sunday 7 May 2006, All Hallows
We spent Sunday catching up on washing and relaxing at the same campground we found on our last trip to the UK. It is now an official campsite and was fill of weekend visitors. Luckily there was a spot left. The ablutions are almost completed and are set up specifically for the disabled - lovely large shower rooms.
Monday 8 May, New Cross Gate 2006, London
Today it rained. We were lucky with the weather yesterday. Driving into London is chaotic. The 'main' road consists of normal suburban streets lined with terraced houses and many churches. It is usually well marked but not always. Our problem was solved by stopping at the first Tube station we came to, New Cross Gate, parking in Sainsburys and catching the train. We purchased a day pass that included buses. The sole purpose of going into London was to apply for a new passport for me at the Australian Embassy. This done we decided to walk around and do some touristy things. Trafalgar Square is smaller than I remember and larger than Pieter remembers, one of us (or both) have poor memories. There are still pigeons but Nelson's statue is being refurbished and is completely covered.
The number 11 bus goes past St. Paul's Cathedral so we hopped on. The bus stop has electronic notification of when the next 5 or so buses are coming and where they are going to, very snazzy. Once again we both remember much more open space around St. Paul's. The streets seem more crowded and much smaller than I remember. The work force is just as cosmopolitan though and wear dull or black clothes including pin striped suits, but the bowler hats seem to have vanished.
It was rag week and we were given the Rag Week book. The editor specifically said that no offence was intended but some of the jokes were very prejudiced, especially the shavs, teenage thugs who wear hooded tops. It was hilarious reading. Two shavs in the back of a car. Who's driving? ......A police officer.)
Tuesday 9 May 2006, Glouster
The Cotswolds called. It is said to be one of the most beautiful areas in England. We agree. The hills are green, the houses built of yellow stone, the roads narrow and there was very little traffic, a rambler's paradise. Stow-on-the-Wold is a small village in the heart of the Cotswolds. It is mentioned in the Doomsday Book from 1086 as Edwardstow because St. Edward the Martyr died in 978 here. The church was built in the 12th century. In 1476 King Edward lV gave permission for 2 fairs to be held on the feast of St Stephen and St James on 12th May and St Edward the confessor on 24th October . Horse trading now dominates and the fair was going to take place at the end of the week. Preparations were already underway in Very muddy conditions.
Once again stayed in a Sainsbury parking lot.
Wednesday 10 May 2006, Llandovery
This morning we walked through the Cathedral of St Peter and the Holy and Indivisible Trinity in Glouster. There is a different atmosphere here than in other cathedrals. There is quiet as it is not on the tourist route. Although it is large it is well proportioned and not over the top. There is also a lot of detail. Osric prince of Mercia founded the first monastic house on this site during 678 and 679 and it has been a place of worship ever since. The building has gone through many renovations and additions as have all other large cathedrals. A Harry Potter movie was filmed in the cloisters here.
The historic docks have little to show. The most interesting part was the car boot sale we found on the way. The variety of goods is amazing. There are parts of tea sets, old figurines, odd cutlery in fact just about anything some one may want to get rid of. There were customers so I assume this stuff does sell. There were only 2 or 3 professionals the rest were ordinary people with their odds and ends.
Thursday 11 May 2006, Oswestry
Wales is glorious. The hills are higher and go up more quickly but it is green, green, green. Trees surround the fields and sometimes the road as well. Everywhere there are memorials to the First World War. Welsh music with welsh speakers are on the radio .
We visited LEGS for a chat about the Landrover and stayed in a parking lot. Then busses started parking in the area in front of us and we realised we were parked behind the local bus depot. It turned out to be a lovely secluded spot.
Friday 12 May 2006, Colwyn
The drive today took us through Barmouth and Snowdonia National Park. Again the country side was glorious. Colwyn Bay on the promenade was our overnight stop. When we arrived the tide was out and there was miles of sand. Fishermen walked over the sand picking up clams to eat and Lug worms to fish with. Once the tide came in fishermen arrived to fish off the side of the promenade. The water came right up to the wall. The fishermen intended to stay until early in the morning when the tide would start to recede again. Either they didn't stay or they were unsuccessful because we didn't hear them all night. It rained pretty hard though.
Saturday 13 May to 31 May 2006, Ainsdale
A short journey over main roads and we arrived in Ainsdale to dog sit for Doreen and Alec. They left on Monday afternoon and we spent two weeks walking the dogs every day come sun come rain come cold. Tara and Cassie are Rhodesian Ridgebacks (without ridges) and very obedient loving dogs. They were a pleasure to look after. There are dunes in Ainsdale a short walk from the house. We usually went to a meadow where Cassie, still a young dog, ran after a ball and Tara, 11 years old, watched. Sometimes we walked through the pine forest up and down the sand hills. We had both picked up weight over the lull in Spain and went on a diet, what with walking and eating less we lost a few kilos, a good start.
Unfortunately the GPS was stolen from our van. Apparently many small crimes are
drug-related, a problem that's alive and well here according to the constable
Pieter reported the theft of our Garmin GPS to. It happened in brought daylight.
Our camper is parked right in front of the house in the front garden. Its nose
can be seen sticking out onto the wide pavement. While I had gone to buy
something and Pieter was walking the dogs, someone
bashed in the side-window and grabbed the GPS. Gone. To replace the side-window alone will cost us £50. And when Pieter got to the place where a new window would be fitted, the supplier had sent the left one instead of the right one. He is going through e-bay daily to see if there's one we can buy at a decent price. When checking the list again he noticed that the items marked "China" or "Ireland" which means the same, had reached the end of their offer time with few or no offers at all. It seems we have to do with a Nigerian trick here. Whatever. We will find something and meanwhile our stay here is almost over. We feel that it has been a pleasant interlude and may have prevented us from camping in bitterly cold weather for a while. It would be even better if the weather now changed for the better and we would have two weeks of nice weather in Scotland.
Thursday 1 June 2006, Browness
The Lake District is beautiful. Lakeside on the southern end of Lake Windemere was our first stop. Then onto Browness halfway up. There are moorings all along the lake side with plenty of boats and holiday makers as it was school half term. Rhododendrons and bluebells were growing wild everywhere.
Friday 2 June 2006, Crosscanonby
There are many, many opportunities to walk or hike in Britain. We walked along a stream near Ambleside to get at least some exercise. Even though the road was close by, the sound was muted and not intrusive. All the parking areas in the Lake District are 'Pay and Display' and they are expensive compared to the cities. However the money from parking fees goes to the National Trust for the upkeep of the parks and trails.
Our Renault is slow but more than capable on steep climbs. It managed gradients of 25% up and down over Honister Pass. The pass followed a river through hills which are mined for slate.
Saturday 3 June 2006, Glasgow
First stop today was Carlisle to find an adapter for a 9 point serial port to a 15 point serial port so we could download the tracks for displaying on the map at the start of this web page. The GPS has a 9 point female serial port connection, while the laptop has a 15 point female serial port. In the end we found an adapter to a USB port. This gave us some grief when setting up the connection as the laptop sees it as a COM port and not a USB port.
The GPS really came into its own though. The detailed maps make it easy to find shopping centres, musea, cities and routes. It makes navigation in strange cities a lot easier - and less time-consuming. When we arrived in Glasgow, we asked it to find the nearest shopping centre and show the route to the centre. It worked like a dream and we spent the night on the parking lot of the Forge Shopping Centre on the edge of Glasgow.
Sunday 4 June 2006, Lochgilphead
The cathedral church in Glasgow is dedicated to St Mungo (also known as St Kentigern) whose bones lie under the floor. It is over 600 years old, early 12th century. It is dark inside and the pollution mars the outside as, unlike London churches, it has not yet been cleaned. In fact most of Glasgow appeared run down and grubby, very disappointing. A statue in the main square in Glasgow even had a traffic cone and sweet papers stuck to it. A student lark, I believe.
The St. Mungo museum was very interesting. It is a collection of religious objects from Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and native religions brought together in an objective narrative.
We decided to spend the night in a campsite to have showers and do the washing. All campsites have driers, an absolute necessity in a wet climate. This also meant access to electricity so I spent the evening working on installing the MapSource (Garmin GPS)software and getting the interface between the GPS and laptop working. It had not worked properly since Wednesday when I first installed it. Spending half an hour on the Garmin website in an Internet Cafe in Glasgow helped enormously.
Monday 5 June 2006, Glenuig
The scenery in Scotland is magnificent. It is much more rugged than England with craggy hills, small streams and lakes, firths and lochs everywhere. Villages are set beside navigable water with fresh water streams in the vicinity. One magnificent view after the other.
Castle Stalker on Loch Lynne is from the early 14th century. The MacDougall clan built a small fort where the castle is today. They lost title of the Lordship of Lorn following defeat in battle with Robert the Bruce. The Stewarts of Appin (a close by town) became the Lords of Lorn in 1388. The castle was built in the early 15th century and fell into disuse in the 1800s. It was refurbished by new owners in the 1970s and is now habitable. It was used in the Monty Python movie 'Holy Grail'. Stalker comes from Gaelic 'Stalcaire' meaning hunter or falconer. The castle cannot be missed as you drive along and there is a coffee shop that uses its presence to bring in the tourists - good entrepreneurial spirit.
There are places on minor roads where bridges have not been built so ferries are used. The Corran Ferry from Ardgour to Nether Lochaber is very different to the ferries that are used to cross narrow waters in Africa. Many roads can also be narrow with signs up saying 'Caution oncoming vehicles in middle of the road'. The roads do have 'passing places' where the road is a little wider, enough for 2 trucks to pass each other, slowly and only going off the tar a little bit.
At sunset the midges came out. We had been warned but this was our first experience. They are small, numerous, annoying and biting. The insect repellant we had did not work well so eventually we closed all the doors and sprayed. The locals avoid the midges by staying indoors unless it is windy. They are so small they cannot land when the wind blows. But that initial attack resulted in itchy patches for many days to come. Not like mosquito bites the effect is far more serious and irritating.
Tuesday 6 June 2006, Portree, Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye has low lying vegetation without the high hills of the mainland. It is also very windy and more misty. We took the ferry from Mallaig to Armadail across Sound of Sleat. There was a lone piper there to welcome the tourists. There was plenty of yellow Broom on the hillsides as elsewhere in Wales and Scotland. It is called the Whyne Bush locally.
Wednesday 7 June 2006, Alness
Back on the mainland the scenery is as wonderful as ever with water everywhere. The mountains dribble water, everywhere there is water on rocks glinting in the sun as it heads for the local stream or loch. There is a photo without water but of course there is a stream that cannot be seen!
Loch Ness is not as beautiful as other parts of Scotland. In fact the drive along the loch is not very interesting as there are so many trees on either side of the road. There are also many tourist buses.
We drove over small byways to find a place to spend the night. We found a path that lead to a very quiet cemetery with just enough space outside the fence to park a few cars. Rabbits were everywhere, multitudes of them and a fox also made an appearance. It must have been a vegetarian because he ate something from a tree and ignored the meals-on-the-hop. Pieter could have used his air rifle to provide us with dinner but the idea of having to skin the bugger and leave it for a couple of days before it could be cooked, put him off.
Thursday 8 June 2006, Inverness
Today we went on a circular route from near Inverness, via Ullapool to Inverness. The scenery was again magnificent. At least we did some exercise by going down to Shin Falls. The protective fencing I am leaning on continues along the path right to the car park. No chance of anyone falling off the path! People just do not have to take care of themselves in Europe. The falls are not much to look at but in season if the tide and winds are right salmon swim up stream over the waterfall to spawn.
Friday 9 June 2006, Huntly
Near Brodie Castle there is a shop with absolutely everything a tourist could want - candles, woolen and tartan clothes, specialty food such as shortbread and honey, single malt whisky from all over Scotland and the usual kitsch souvenirs. It was a feast for the eyes.
Next stop was Burghead where there was the largest Pictish settlement in Scotland in 400 CE. The inner wall of the fort was 8m wide and 3m high with wall faces of carefully coursed sandstone riveting its beach pebble core. It had oak planks built onto its inner face. There is not much left, mainly part of the fort a mound where the walls had been and the old fresh water well.
We came across Elgin Cathedral purely because it was on our route. Founded in 1224 it was abandoned 4 centuries ago in 1560 due to reformation. It has had a turbulent history being burnt down twice. The worst fire occurred in 1390. Bishop Burr excommunicated the Earl of Buchanan, also known as the Wolf of Badenoch, unfortunately I could not find out why. In retaliation the Wolf burnt down the cathedral. The next century was spent repairing the damage. It is being maintained by replacing masonry that may fall or inserting metal rods to hold the delicate parts of the windows that remain together.
Then of course there is the drink for which Scotland is famous! Dufftown is the "world capital" of single malt whiskey. There are a number of distilleries nearby, one of which is the Glenfiddich Distillery, Pieter's favorite.
Saturday 10 June 2006, Guildtown
The day was spent driving, that is after Pieter fixed a flat tyre! We went past Balmoral Castle which is the Scottish retreat for the Royal family and is still used today. A railway was built between Aberdeen and Ballater, the nearest village, to shorten the journey for Queen Victoria. The country side is becoming flatter and less craggy as we head for the Lowlands.
After many days of scratching midge bites I have decided that the worst place to be bitten is on the earlobes.
Sunday 11 June 2006, Jedburgh
Edinburgh is clean and maintained a vast contrast to Glasgow. There are many building to admire and visit. We spent our time just looking around and having lunch. Normally we do not have a large lunch so I ordered a starter of mussels. It was as large as a full meal and delicious.
Rosslyn Chapel just south of Edinburgh is described in the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. It has magnificent, ornate carvings. The photos give some idea of this. Building of the chapel started in 1446 under the aegis of William St. Claire, 3rd Earl and Prince of Orkney. The plan was for a much larger church. The choir (the chapel that exists today) was completed two years after William's death in 1494. The west wall was plain and not completed to allow for the rest of the planned building to be added later. It never was. The chapel was dedicated to St. Matthew in 1523. In the 1950's the inside walls were painted with a wash that became very hard. This was the conservation practice at the time but unfortunately it meant that the moisture in the walls could not escape. Ten years ago a canopy was constructed over the whole building to prevent the walls absorbing more moisture from rain and snow and to allow the inside of the chapel to dry out. It will remain unless conservationists find a way of removing the wash.
I am writing this while looking out over a valley to green pastures and fields beyond. The birds are chirping merrily in the trees and the rabbits occasionally pop up their heads. Once again Pieter has found us a magic site to stay for the night.
Monday 12 to Tuesday 13 June 2006, Ainsdale
Chesters roman Cilurnum on Hadrian's wall was large enough to hold 500 cavalry, plus spacious commander's quarters, bathhouse and latrines, courts and other facilities. The wall itself was commissioned by the roman emperor Hadrian. It ran from coast to coast over 120 kilometers to defend roman Britain from the Picts. There was a milecastle every roman mile (1.46 kilometers) with two turrets spaced evenly between. The wall was probably 2.5 meters high. Chesters is one of 16 major forts along the wall.
Once we reached Carlisle we expected to be in Ainsdale within 3 hours. How wrong we were! A large truck had jackknifed on the highway just north of Lancaster closing all 3 lanes of southbound traffic and one lane of north bound traffic due to diesel spillage. We came to a dead stop on the highway 4 miles behind it. An hour later the traffic police started to organise the traffic to get off the highway. They first cleared the cars that could drive off at the exit, then moving forward asked the cars to turn around and drive back to the exit. Meanwhile the traffic to the north was also leaving by the exit. A long slow process. We heard on the news that there was a 10 mile queue an hour after the accident. The accident would only be cleared by 10pm that night. It took us 3 hours moving inch by inch to drive 10 miles to Lancaster where we could rejoin the highway. We have never been affected by such a jam before.
Wednesday 14 June 2006, Tynemouth
We drove to Newcastle in plenty of time and stayed the night on the Tynemouth parking area, overlooking the entrance to the Tyne River right where we could see the ferries leaving England for Norway and sailboats gently drifting in a slight breeze.
Thursday 15 June 2006, On the North Sea
The ferry trip was uneventful. It was difficult to sleep though because of the rolling of the ferry.
|Averages||Rand||Pound Sterling||Back to France|
|Cost per litre diesel||12.00||1.00|
|Kilometers per litre||7.8|
|Camping per night||156.00||13.00|
|Days in country||42|