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 Insights – Kevin Murray’s Diary: Week 1, London

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.

Kevin and wife Glenys spent the first week of their trip in London. In this first installment they explore every corner of the capital as well as finding time to spend a day in the coastal town of Brighton.

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After spending a total of 22 hours on a plane, an overnight in hot and hazy Dubai and half a lifetime standing in airport queues, we finally arrived in London. We really lucked out with the hotel in Bayswater and quickly learnt how to successfully navigate the fabulous London Tube. Apart from just wandering around absorbing the myriad sights and sounds of London, we did a hop-on-hop-off boat trip on the Thames, climbed the hill to the historic Greenwich Observatory, toured the insides of the majestic Westminster Abbey and spent a whole day exploring the grounds of the fabulous Kew Gardens. Unexpectedly, all of this activity was completed beneath blue and sunny, albeit still somewhat chilly, skies… with not a drop of rain in sight for two whole days – oddly, we felt slightly “dudded”!

London - Tower Bridge (2)I spoke a little too soon about the rain, but at least it only fell overnight, leaving our third day fine for a little more sightseeing. This time to the iconic Tower of London and the adjacent Tower Bridge – “the most famous bridge in the World”, according to the Brits – with its imposing views of the impressive London cityscape…

Our fourth day in London was also surprisingly rain-free, allowing us to walk through Kensington Gardens, past Kensington Palace and the extravagant Prince Albert memorial, and to spend the rest of the day attempting to absorb the wealth of information contained within London’s superb Science Museum.

Brighton - Brighton PavilionThis has to be some sort of record… our fifth day in London and our umbrellas are yet to be used! We took advantage of the fine day and caught the train to Brighton where we visited the unbelievably opulent Royal Pavilion – marveling at the unflinching narcissism of King George IV in conceiving of and building such a monument to one man’s vision of unreality.

We knew it couldn’t last. Our sixth day in London and we finally had to deploy the brollies against the chilly drizzle. Just the type of day to spend in another museum, this time the fabulous Museum of London. We circled the ginormous St Paul’s cathedral on our way there and visited Selfridge’s department store on our way home. But the Museum itself was totally engrossing. We spent over 5 hours wandering its chronologically organized galleries but barely scratched the surface of the thousands of years of history upon which this incredible city is built.

London - St Pauls…And so we end our first week of travels. Boy, has that time flown. In a couple of days we hire a car and venture beyond London. Stay tuned…

Inspired by Kevin and Glenys? How about spending a week in London on our London and Beyond tour?

Eyes of the World on Wales

For those of you that love Soccer, you will be aware of the emotional rollercoaster that us Welsh fans have been on during the last month.

The Welsh Boys Defying the Odds
The Welsh Boys Defying the Odds

Euro 2016 kicked off on the 10 June and was the first major competition that Wales had competed in for 58 years!

 

Surpassing all expectations, Wales reached the semi-finals, topping their group and beating star-studded teams such as Belgium on their way.

Unfortunately, the journey ended last night as Wales were defeated by Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, but what a journey it was!

The eyes of the world were truly on Wales and we as a nation did not disappoint – the future is looking bright for Welsh football once again.

It’s not just football that makes Wales a truly unique and spectacular nation (if we do say so ourselves!)

Here are a few reasons why you might want to visit us here in Wales in the future:

 

Castles

The 'Ball in the Wall'
The ‘Ball in the Wall’

Wales is often referred to as the castle capital of the world – with over 400 castles, there are more per head than any other country on the planet! Castles are so common in Wales that we even have one standing prominently in our capital city centre. Cardiff Castle often pays tribute to events around the world such as the ‘ball in the wall’ during the Rugby World Cup.

 

Heritage

The Welsh language has recently been revived and is over 1400 years old! Take a Welsh language lesson on one of our small group tours and see if you can master the pronunciation of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

 

Coastline

Wales Coast Path
Wales Coast Path

The Wales Coast Path starts in Chepstow and ends in Queensferry (that’s 870 miles!). Follow the footpath from North to South as you pass through eleven national nature reserves and many offshore islands that you can travel to by boat such as Caldey, Grassholme and Skomer.

 

Nature

If soccer doesn’t interest you, take a hike through the Brecon Beacons or Snowdonia National Park and experience the stunning views and unique picturesque scenery that will be sure to take your breath away.

The People

As Wales fans showed throughout Euro 2016, we are a friendly and welcoming people that will be sure to make you feel right at home once you step foot in the green, green grass of home (as Tom Jones would say!)

 

With the popularity of Wales increasing and the pound sterling being at an unusually weak value, our trips have never been cheaper – what better time is there to visit?!

 

Our Top Five Sites – Edinburgh

The team and I recently traded the capital of Wales for the capital of bonnie Scotland, Edinburgh!

As we alighted the plane, we were blessed to be greeted by such warm sunlight accompanied by that famous fresh and welcoming Scottish air.

The primary purpose of this trip was to get a real feel for Edinburgh as a city, we visited our most frequently used accommodations and checked out sites that make Edinburgh the spectacular city it is.

Below are a list of our top five sites that we loved and that you may choose to visit when you venture to the Scottish capital city.

Edinburgh Castle

Of course, we couldn’t visit Edinburgh without seeing the castle that sits spectacularly high in the skyline.

Edinburgh Castle View
Edinburgh Castle View

A brisk uphill walk led us to the front of the castle, where we bought our tickets and headed inside.

Atop the castle were breath-taking views of the city itself and excellent photo opportunity for all.

History enthusiasts should not miss this as there is a lot of historical information to be absorbed about the old Kings and Queens that resided here, along with accessible real life dungeons where prisoners were kept.

Admission to the Castle is only £16.50 and £13.20 for those of you over 60.

Edinburgh Old Town

After the castle we took a stroll down into Edinburgh’s Old Town, a visually stunning area of the city that features various Scottish artists, performers, shopping opportunities, bagpipes and food.

The food we had was exquisite and afterwards we ventured into a pub for a recreational taste of one of Scotland’s finest qualities – alcohol!

Arthur’s Seat

Arthur's Seat
Arthur’s Seat

A short walk from Edinburgh’s Old Town is the famous Arthur’s Seat, which isn’t just for fitness freaks – the walk only takes about 15 minutes and is a fairly leisurely pace despite the incline.

Once atop the hill, this is another unmissable opportunity for photos and different view of Edinburgh than that of from the castle.

For the budget conscious this sight does not cost a penny – oh and don’t forget to touch the stone of Arthur’s Seat once you reach the top!

Royal Mile

Before we retired back to our hotel rooms, we decided to take a proper look into Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.

Here we were greeted by shops, museums, historic churches, gardens and more! There is something for everyone on the Royal Mile and a perfect place to pick up those much coveted souvenirs for loved ones back home!

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Despite the fact we did not actually see this on our trip, we could not miss putting the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo on our list!

This event takes places every year in August, in 2016 the dates are August 5th – August 27th, so if you are travelling Scotland in the summer, don’t forget to pick up tickets from approximately £40 and upwards.

Often described by our guests as a ‘once in a lifetime event’, the Tattoo consists of musicians, dancers and army drill teams from around the world and is embedded in Scottish culture with Edinburgh Castle lit up at night as a stunning back-drop.

To sum up, Edinburgh is a must-see city for anyone wishing to visit Britain, don’t miss out!