adeo Insights – Kevin Murray’s Diary, Week 7: End of the Road(trip)

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.

We continued travelling north, following the picturesque lochs and valleys to Mallaig. Here we boarded a car ferry for a somewhat “bumpy” voyage to the Isle of Skye where we drove across the bare, windswept, mountainous spine to reach the blue waters and sheltered bays of Skye’s beautiful north coast.

img_1191The Isle of Skye has a reputation for wild, wet and windy weather and it well and truly lived up to this reputation for our journey around its coasts. However, we saw enough through the horizontal rain and obscuring mist to enjoy Skye’s rugged beauty, to appreciate her volcanic geology, and to admire those hardy, tenacious individuals that were able to make their livings here.

 

We crossed back to the mainland via the gracefully arching Skye Bridge… with an icy cold south-westerly gale doing its best to get us airborne. We visited two castles on our way to Inverness, both of which revealed the usual stories of invasions, medieval arms races, ever-changing alliances, inevitable betrayals, and power-seeking, war-mongering, egomaniacal despots – with brief periods of peace between the senseless, wasteful, bloody battles. But the views were superb.

img_1192Scottish highlanders have never forgotten “the 45s”, those clans who rallied to the cause of installing Bonnie Prince Charlie to the throne in 1745. Charlie’s ill-conceived plans, however, came to a terrible, bloody end a year later at Culloden, an otherwise unremarkable field just outside Inverness.  Standing where 1,500 “rebel” highlanders were cut down in less than an hour, and listening to real stories from the perspectives of the routed Jacobites and the victorious government troops, sent awful chills down our spines.

img_1194Heading east from Inverness, we explored the Moray Coast, surprised to find long sandy beaches on parts of it. Not so surprised to find ruined forts, ruined palaces and even a ruined cathedral (at Elgin). We also stumbled upon the remains of a very ancient Pict fort at Burghead, and a tiny 17th century man-made harbour at Portsoy that was still partly operational. We passed through several very neat little fishing villages trying to survive after the collapse of their traditional fisheries.

On our last day with the car in Scotland we felt that we just had to visit Dunnottar Castle. It was as if we had been saving the best ’til last. Dunnottar was breathtaking – slowly revealing itself as the whisps of morning mist rolled away, perched on an island of sheer-sided basalt, tenuously tethered to the mainland by a single steep, sinuous path. The defenders of this imposing fort were able to withstand the onslaught of Cromwell’s army for eight months, thus saving the Scottish Crown Jewels!

img_1195We left the coast and drove on to Edinburgh via the tortuous roads that wind through the majestic Cairngorms National Park, following the River Dee for much of its path through the deep glacial valleys where, in its quieter moments, it reflected the snow still clinging to the looming mountains above. Wow!

img_1196Edinburgh presents a harmonious mix of the very old and the very new, and tangibly buzzes with the melting pot of humanity coursing through its labyrinthine, cobbled streets. Naturally we explored its iconic Castle, perched atop those dark, dolorite cliffs, ominously dominating the city below. But we also investigated the pokey 17th Century alleys and houses hidden beneath the streetscape of today, providing us with a fascinating insight into those smelly, unhygenic, crowded and generally impoverished times.

What would a visit to Edinburgh be without paying homage to Grayfriars Bobby? Or spending time in the not-quite-as-austere-as-it-should-be St. Giles Cathedral? Or climbing Calton Hill to view the unfinished “Acropolis” at its summit and to take in the view over this magical city

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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!

Llangollen – North Wales’ Hidden Gem

As part of our #AdeoOnTheRoad programme, we recently headed north from our native Cardiff up to the largely undiscovered area of North Wales.

Our base in North Wales was the stunningly beautiful and historic Ruthin Castle. Despite its rich history and atmospheric castle setting, our rooms were very modern and comfortable; typical of 4* quality British accommodation. The hotel also boasts excellent leisure facilities.

While up in North Wales, the team and I decided to take advantage of our picturesque surroundings and ventured up to the mountains of Snowdonia National Park where we were greeted by a thick blanket of snow – atypical of April but a stunning view nonetheless.

IMG_20160416_100106635_HDR
Thomas in all his glory

After taking our snaps, we travelled to Llangollen – a quintessential and quaint Welsh market town in the heart of North Wales. To our surprise there was a special guest waiting for us at Llangollen Station – Thomas the Tank Engine himself!

After recovering from being star-struck, we became rather peckish and had food in a charming café named ‘Higgeldy Piggeldy’ where the service was fantastic and the food really hit the spot.

Next up on our itinerary for the day was to visit Plas Newydd – a beautiful gothic house fit with manicured gardens preserved since the 1800s; once home to two aristocratic women who received a stream of famous visitors over the years to their unpretentious home. The inside of the house was mostly untouched, except for insightful information documents that gave observers an idea of 17th century life in Llangollen and an insight in to the intriguing lives of the eccentric residents.

After a lovely day in Llangollen we retired back to Ruthin Castle and treated ourselves in the exceptional spa before a delicious 3-course meal at Manor Haus’ 5-star restaurant with rooms just a short walk away

Plas Newydd
Plas Newydd

(we also work with this property if you’re looking for something equally luxurious but a little more low-key than the castle accommodation) – after that it was safe to say we were ready for bed!

If you would like to experience Llangollen in all its glory, then be sure to enquire about one of our self-drive or coach tours featuring North Wales.

We hope to hear your very own North Wales stories soon!

Discover North Wales on the following tours:

Mountains and Medieval Fortresses (self-drive)

Wonders of Wales (small-group tour)

Castles, Coast and Celts (small-group tour)

Heart of Wales and England Tour (escorted coach tour)

Stones, Spires & Sunshine – #AdeoOnTheRoad

As part of our #AdeoOnTheRoad programme, we recently headed for Wiltshire to explore Stonehenge, a World Heritage Site and the nearby medieval city of Salisbury.

Upon arriving in Wiltshire by car, we were greeted by encaptivating views of luscious green fields basking radiantly in the famous early morning English sunlight.

As our car approached the site of Stonehenge, the first thing to catch the eye was the recently renovated tourist centre, a fine example of modern architecture which had new and improved facilities to cater for every guest. If you have been to Stonehenge before 2014, the new tourist centre is a vast improvement and enhances the experience greatly.

We then strolled up to the coach, which would transport us a short distance to the site itself. Despite being a short journey, it was one filled with history as the burial mounds created by humans all those years ago were both visible and intact.

Upon alighting the coach, I felt surrounded by an aura of history and took in my immediate surroundings as my ancestors would have done.

As well as visual stimulants, we were also accompanied by a fascinating audio guide which informed us of various facts about Stonehenge. One interesting fact that stood out was that the site and surrounding areas were estimated to be constructed from 3000BC to 2000BC.

Team Adeo at Stonehenge
Team Adeo at Stonehenge

After we were done exploring Stonehenge, the coach promptly picked us up and took us back to the tourist centre, where we explored the gift shop and learned more about the history of Stonehenge in the spectacular brand new exhibition centre.

A short journey followed thereafter as we entered the closely located and picturesque city of Salisbury.

The skyline of Salisbury is certainly one to behold, as it prominently features Salisbury Cathedral, which has the tallest church spire in Britain, standing at an impressive 404ft.

The Cathedral is a top tourist attraction well-known for containing the world’s oldest working clock and housing the original copies of the Magna Carta – a must see for every visitor.

It was in Salisbury that we would visit two of the accommodations we offer to our guests here at Adeo Travel.

The first hotel we visited in Salisbury city-centre was called The Red Lion Hotel, which is famous for being the oldest purpose-built hotel in Europe, built for the Stone Masons working on the nearby cathedral in the 13th century.

The Red Lion Hotel

Along with having a fantastic location in the middle of Salisbury, the hotel had a soothing and welcoming feel to it, with each room sympathetic to its vast history yet fitted with modern facilities.

We also had a tour of the Seamstress Room, a classic-contemporary master suite which was extremely spacious, modern and drenched in history.

We then travelled out from the city centre into the outskirts of Salisbury where we visited the delightful Grasmere House Hotel.

Grasmere House Hotel

We were taken aback by the stunning views of the nearby grasslands which featured the River Avon meandering through.

Overlooking this stunning view is the conservatory of the hotel, which was just as delightful in the crisp Winter sun as it would be in the middle of July – the only difference being our multiple layers of clothing!

The rooms in the hotel were pleasant and charming and fitting to house any guest looking to have countryside views within walking distance of the city.

Soon after we decided to head home after a satisfying day exploring Wiltshire, an experience we at Adeo Travel will never forget and would recommend to all guests.

Experience Salisbury and Stonehenge with us on tours such as England Explorer & Heart of England.

New Adventure for Wales as its named in Top 10 Destinations Worldwide!

In December we blogged that the Scottish city of Glasgow had been named a top twenty destinations worldwide for 2016; well now we can add the wonderful nation of Wales  to this years’ top international visitor destinations!

Wales - Rough Guide
Wales – Rough Guide

The leading global guide-book producers “Rough Guides” have named Wales amongst their top ten worldwide destinations for 2016. Amongst company including the nations of Kenya, Sri Lanka and El Salvador, Wales made number eight in the top ten and was described as “one of the finest natural playgrounds in Europe”. In fact, Wales was the only country in Western Europe to feature on the list and gained its nomination owing to its “fascinating history, incredible landscapes and unique culture”.

Based here in the Welsh capital city of Cardiff, adeo Travel are slightly biased when it comes to this particular destination (we might even have placed it at number one!) however there is no doubting that this year will be a big one for Wales. In 2016 Wales celebrates the “Year of Adventure”, an initiative launched to showcase Wales on the world stage – and it appears to be working. The year of adventure sets out primarily to exhibit Wales’ breath-taking natural landscapes, which in a country where 80% of the land is considered to be of outstanding natural beauty, is not too difficult a task. Stunning panoramas found here in Wales include those of its three national parks in the towering mountain ranges of Snowdonia, the barren moorlands of the Brecon Beacons and the rugged coastlines of Pembrokeshire.

Harlech Castle, Wales
Harlech Castle, Wales

However in 2016 Wales also celebrates the centenary of renowned author Roald Dahl who grew up in Llandaff in Cardiff and penned dozens of stories which have become loved by adults and children alike. Dahl’s books have spawned multiple film and musical adaptations; stage shows of Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory have had runs in both the West End of London and New York’s Broadway, whilst The BFG is set to become a cinematic blockbuster with its Spielberg directed movie release coming later this year. To mark his centenary Wales is set to host a series of events and exhibitions dedicated to the Dahl and his works throughout the year and right across the country as well as in Cardiff.

So ranking in the top ten destinations throughout the world, why not enjoy your own adventure and add Wales to your 2016 vacation bucket list.

Discover Wales by car, coach or luxury mini-coach on one of our recommended itineraries:
Wales Explorer
Heart of Wales and England
Wonders of Wales
Castles, Coasts and Celts