adeo Insights – Kevin Murray’s Diary: Week 6, Heading North

It’s all very well us telling you what to see and do when you come to visit Britain but who can give you a better insight into what you can expect from an adeo tour than our guests themselves! Our guest Kevin Murray has been kind enough to allow us to publish his trip reports detailing his travels through England, Wales and Scotland this Spring.

This week Kevin and Glenys travel through England’s most northerly counties to cross the ancient border into Scotland.

Leaving Chester, we crossed the bleak, browned grasslands of the high Pennines into Yorkshire. York itself was like a living museum; the presence of the Romans was still palpable and the subsequent Viking and Anglo-Saxon influences are also obvious. One place which typified this was the huge Minster that dominates the town. Below its floors can be found whole Roman walls and roads. Above the floors one can read the chequered history in the many architectural changes to this magnificent structure.

York - Shambles
York – Shambles

From York we now headed northwest to the Lake District. But on the way we detoured first to the little town of Ripley where we explored the enchanting walled garden belonging to the local castle/mansion. We then stopped off at Fountains Abbey, another huge Cistercian abbey destroyed by Henry VIII’s mob. The beautiful 17th century water gardens here are now under the protective wing of the National Trust and are superbly and lovingly preserved.

On we drove towards the west passing through the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales under increasingly threatening skies which decided to unleash their bucket loads of snow just as we were entering the steep mountain passes leading to the Lakes. Around every corner was a Christmas-card scene of snow-covered ground and conifers bending under the weight with bewildered sheep wondering where their grass had gone. The steep, narrow, icy roads made for some treacherous driving but it was well worth it in the end – as we gazed with delight out the window of our Ambleside hotel at a spectacular view of towering snow-shrouded peaks!

IMG_1185With our intended cruise on Coniston Waters cancelled because of the “inclement” weather, we drove down the western side of Coniston Waters to Greenodd and back up along the eastern side of Windemere, with the snow-capped mountains providing a dramatic backdrop to the windswept lakes. We had 10 minutes of rare sunshine just as we left Windemere, allowing me to capture a few stunning reflections. Near Carlisle we stopped at Birdoswald, the site of an excavated Roman fort, built in the second century as part of Hadrian’s Wall, which marked the northernmost boundary of the vast Roman Empire, keeping those pesky marauding Scots at bay. We even got to walk a little of the famous Wall itself.

And so, on to Glasgow, which, like Cardiff, is another industrial city successfully re-invented as a cultural capital. The miserable weather encouraged us to explore Glasgow‘s museums, including the newly opened and very modern Riverside Transport Museum and the fabulous Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Each in their own way defining the considerable impact this city has had on the social, industrial and technological milieux not only of Britain, but on the rest of the world.

IMG_1188Northwards once more; but first we decided to climb the 400 steps to the remains of the historic Dunbarton Castle, perched strategically atop a massive volcanic plug, guarding the windswept River Clyde. We journeyed alongside the enigmatic Loch Lomond, experiencing brief periods of sunshine and rain in equal measure, following a waterlogged zig-zag path into the Scottish Highlands.

If you would like to explore the wild and beautiful North of England why not try our Yorkshire and the Lake District self-drive tour.

adeo Insights – Kevin Murray’s Diary: Week 5, North Wales

It’s all very well us telling you what to see and do when you come to visit Britain but who can give you a better insight into what you can expect from an adeo tour than our guests themselves! Our guest Kevin Murray has been kind enough to allow us to publish his trip reports detailing his travels through England, Wales and Scotland this Spring.

This week Kevin and Glenys explore the Snowdonia National Park and North Wales.

Northwards once more, through tiny fishing villages and coastal holiday destinations… past the iconic Cardigan Bay. We stopped at Aberystwyth to walk the Victorian-era promenade separating the multi-hued houses from the gravelly beach. Finally, on to our B&B in the little village of Pennal, our gateway to Snowdonia National Park.

IMG_1176We entered Snowdonia in style; by steam train, chugging up to the old slate mining town of Ffestiniog, a town clinging to the side of the steep, grey mountains that provided the huge volumes of slate that gave the town its proud boast that it has “roofed the world”!

After our train returned us down the mountain, we drove right through the middle of Snowdonia National Park, stopping wherever we could to take photos – not an easy task on these narrow, shoulderless roads. We took time out from driving to explore the extraordinary Bodnant Gardens, a National Trust-owned estate garden in the heart of the beautiful Conwy Valley. Wow! How refreshing it was to be walking among the colourful azaleas, magnolias and tulips, viewing the reflections of the magnificent estate house in the tranquil ponds, and exploring the labyrinth of paths, with picture-postcard views at every turn.

IMG_1178Our next stop was Llandudno – a popular seaside resort town on the north coast of Wales, still partly locked into the thirties with its promenade, fun-pier, cable-car rides and traditional hotels. From here we drove to Caernarfon where we explored its massive Castle, discovering that its eight centuries of history were so much more than the 1969 investiture of Prince Charles and how myth, legend and reality are so intertwined in Welsh history that it is difficult to tell where the truth of a tale really lies. If only these old stones could talk! Sequestered within the castle walls was a marvelous museum which attempted – quite successfully – to untangle some of this history for us.

Llandudno - Llandudno PierBack in Llandudno we ascended the massive monolith of limestone, The Great Orme, that dominates the end of the Llandudno peninsular. Half way up the steep road we stopped to explore a Bronze Age copper mine, a 3D labyrinth of tight, dark tunnels dug some 4,000 years ago with bone and stone, following the veins of copper ore. The vast complex of kilometres of tunnels had remained undiscovered until 1987 and is still being excavated. It was mind-blowing to contemplate the working conditions of these ancient miners who were making bronze tools and weapons 2,000 years before the Romans came to Britain.

Our next stop was to be at our friend Kate’s house in a little village near Chester. On our way there we detoured to inspect another ruined medieval fort but this one, at Flint, was special. It was featured in Shakespeare’s Richard the Second and we stood on the very spot where Richard was captured, listening to an audio of the very scene. Chilling stuff!

ChesterThe ancient city of Chester itself is quite unique. Nowhere else has the same combination of an extensive Roman history, the largest Roman Amphitheatre in Britain, the most intact Roman city wall, the stunning Tudor buildings in the town centre and the majestic 1,000-year-old Cathedral.

You can explore North Wales with adeo Travel on our Mountains and Medieval Fortresses self-drive tour or sit back and relax on our Castles, Coasts and Celts small group tour.

adeo Insights – Kevin Murray’s Diary: Week 4, South Wales

It’s all very well us telling you what to see and do when you come to visit Britain but who can give you a better insight into what you can expect from an adeo tour than our guests themselves! Our guest Kevin Murray has been kind enough to allow us to publish his trip reports detailing his travels through England, Wales and Scotland this Spring.

 

This week Kevin and Glenys cross the border to Wales, land of Dragons, and make their way along the beautiful South Wales Coast.

Next stop, Cardiff in South Wales, reached via the gigantic Severn Bridge. Here we visited Cardiff Castle, another spectacular site just oozing with history. The last family to own it undertook extensive (and expensive) renovations, restoring the ancient Roman walls and creating a sort of medieval dream world in the opulent residences.

Cardiff - Cardiff CastleWe spent another whole day exploring this surprising city, beginning with the extensive riverside parklands, then the Civic Centre and the National Museum with its comprehensive and informative display of the geological and paleontological history of Wales. Under unexpected blue skies we then wandered the streets, admiring the colorful low-rise buildings, the numerous pedestrian plazas and the attractive shopping arcades which make the centre of town very people-friendly. We also got to admire Cardiff‘s iconic Bay area, cleverly transformed from being the largest coal port in the world to a lively entertainment precinct dotted with some very impressive architecture, like the ginormous copper-sheathed Millennium Centre and the historic red-brick Pierhead building.

From Cardiff we ventured deeper into the mountainous Brecon Beacons area to the north, following the tortuous course of the Wye River through valleys painted with every shade of green. We explored the ruins of the surprisingly large Tintern Abbey, learning what life might have been like for a medieval Cistercian monk – not comfortable, that’s certain!

Brecon Beacons - Carreg Cennen CastleAfter overnighting at the lovely little village of Crickhowell, we caught a beautiful old steam train right into the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Expecting rugged mountains but finding green, rolling hills – albeit rather large hills! The scenery was spectacular, with the gleaming white new wool of this year’s Spring lambs dotting the bright green fields beyond mill-pond calm lakes and not a drop of rain in sight.

and so, on to Stackpole, our gateway to the glorious south coast of Wales, 200 miles of which is part of the Pembrokeshire National Park. We zigged and zagged along this rugged coast, exploring its windy headlands, sheltered coves and sandy beaches. We saw thousands of squabbling Guillemots vying for that crucial piece of ledge, high on pillars of rock thrusting above the crashing Atlantic waves. We wandered over headlands sculpted into magical shapes by sea and wind. We descended into a bleak stone hut wedged in a precipitous crevice where St Govan was supposed to have hidden from pirates. We explored the colourful town of Tenby whose pastel-shaded houses contrasted with the severity of the remnant castle ramparts.

Pembrokeshire - TenbyFrom Stackpole we continued northwards, hugging the Welsh coast. We followed the medieval pilgrim path to the smallest “city” in the world, St David’s. It achieves city status because of its cathedral, which is almost as big as the town. This beautiful cathedral with its impressive woodwork has been in more or less continuous use for over 700 years, even surviving the worst ravages of the Dissolution era. Next door to the cathedral was the Bishop’s Palace, which wasn’t so lucky. It is now in ruins but is intact enough to allow its English Heritage owners to use it as a background to cleverly convey what life must have been like in its heyday.

If you would like to explore South Wales, why not try our Cardiff, Castles and Coastlines self-drive tour or you could explore Wales on one of our popular small group tours!

adeo Guides: The Edinburgh Festival

Edinburgh is the world’s leading festival city with 12 major annual festivals but August is a particularly special time of year in the capital of Scotland! It’s a time where the whole city is transformed into a venue for the world’s largest annual cultural festival, playing host to a hundreds of artists from all disciplines including theatre, music, comedy, opera and dance.

Edinburgh - Castle TattooThe festival was first established in 1947 in order to create ‘a platform for the flowering of the human spirit’ and enriching the cultural life of Scotland and it has been inspiring artists and enthusiasts from around the globe ever since. Today the festival includes 3000+ events, 25,000+ performers and 4.2 million attendances from 70 countries worldwide. The event is outsold only by the Olympics and the World Cup.

Today the so-called ‘Edinburgh Festival’ consists of about 10 separate festivals which are all held in the city at around the same time each year. The most notable are the Edinburgh International Festival which is devoted to classical music, theatre, opera and dance and the Edinburgh Fringe which is an open access festival and includes a wide variety of shows including comedy, circus and cabaret. World famous comedians including Hugh Laurie, Mike Myers and Eddie Izzard can credit the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with their big breaks.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival - David Cheskin/PA Wire
Edinburgh Fringe Festival – David Cheskin/PA Wire

Also popular is the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo which is a series of Military Tattoos performed by British Armed Forces, Commonwealth and International Military Bands on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle. This extremely popular show has been seen by an average of 217,000 people each year since the 1970s and has sold out in advance for the last decade.

Other festivals taking place in August include the Edinburgh Art Festival, celebrating visual art, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh International Film Festival and Edinburgh Mela, celebrating world music and dance. There is well and truly something for everyone!

Edinburgh - TattooAlready a popular tourist destination, the population of Edinburgh quadruples during the Festival and touristy areas like the Royal Mile will be crowded with flyer pushing performers touting their shows. However, most visitors really enjoy the frenetic atmosphere, the buses crowded with performers in weird and wonderful costumes including Zulu dancers, Shetland fiddlers and Indian folkloric groups and the infinite choice of entertainment among the thousands of shows and events.

Want to visit Scotland during festival season? Why not try a adeo travel self-drive or rail tour? Pick one of the suggested itineraries from our website or contact us directly for a unique tailor-made itinerary.