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 3, Cornwall and Bath

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 Cornwall, the beautiful South Western tip of England before travelling back East towards Bath.

lands endOur next stop was Redruth. From here we ventured to other locations in Cornwall, including the quaint harbour town of St Ives, with its confusion of cobbled lanes and its tiny fishing boats bobbing defiantly in the Atlantic swells. Under increasingly threatening skies we drove on to the southernmost tip of England – Land’s End – where we managed to catch glimpses of the storm-battered basaltic cliffs through the rain squalls. We sought refuge in a warm clifftop cafe where we devoured, as you would expect, Cornish Pasties.

 

Our next stop was the beautiful little coastal village of Marazion. We were here to walk to St Michael’s Mount, an 11th century Benedectine priory-turned-castle set imposingly atop a craggy island located just offshore and reached only at low tide via a rocky causeway.

St Michael's MountHeading northwards now and we hugged the Cornish west coast for as far as we could. We stopped in at Tintagel, home to many of the Arthurian legends but with an even more fascinating real history revealed by its ancient ruins. We were early arrivers, so had the whole headland to ourselves. The views up and down the wild coast, framed by decaying siltstone castle walls and bathed in early morning sunlight were, like the climb, literally breathtaking!

 

And so, on to the fabulous city of Bath, a place literally dripping with ancient history, especially Roman. Naturally we toured the meticulously excavated old Roman Bath complex where the very professional and highly evocative audio and visual presentation really brought the ruins to life. We especially liked the emphasis on recreating the lives of “ordinary” people rather than the usual preoccupation with the lives of the “ruling classes”. The digital simulations and 3D models enhanced the real sense of traveling back in time.

 

Bath - Bath Abbey 2We also visited the beautiful Bath Abbey where we were almost brought to tears by a young soprano, Maria Brown, filling the vast space with her enchanting voice. A walking tour of the nearby attractions, including the Royal Crescent and Victoria Gardens and we were replete with the splendour of this most wonderful of cities.

Visit Cornwall and Bath on adeo Travel’s very popular West Country Legends self-drive tour, or perhaps our Corners of Cornwall small group tour.

Top Ten Visitor Destinations in Britain – Traveller’s Choice.

We’re often asked what Britain’s best visitor destinations are – but with three countries, dozens of bustling cities and expansive and contrasting areas of natural beauty to choose from, it’s not a question easily answered! So on this occasion we can dodge the question and look to you, the visitor, to answer it…

A major online review site has recently released their 2016 traveller’s choice awards – using a complex algorithm based both quality and quantity of local destination and attraction reviews by visitors over the last twelve months, Trip Advisor have compiled a top-ten list of UK destinations.  The list throws up some obvious choices, but also some real gems; so, as local travel experts, do we agree…?  Here’s the list, and our thoughts:

10. Manchester

Often overlooked by the international visitor, Manchester has so much to offer! Home to England’s leading soccer team (ManchesterUnited), the national soap opera (Coronation Street) and internationally renowned museums, shopping and nightlife, Manchester has something for everyone.

scotland_glasgow_george_square

  1. 9. Glasgow

Scotland’s second city was recently named as a top international destination for 2016, and with good reason.  A hub for modern Scottish culture, Glasgow also boasts grand Georgian architecture, world-class museums and hallmarks of Scotland’s industrial heritage.

8. Bath

One of our favourite spots in Britain and arguably England’s prettiest town, Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage city.  With elegant Regency architecture and a history which dates back to the Roman Empire, Bath is simply a must-visit for travellers exploring England.

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7. York

Another of adeo Travel’s choice destinations, set amidst the scenic Yorkshire Dales and Moors, York is simply packed with history – discover how the Vikings invaded, explore the cobbled Shambles, walk the medieval town walls & gates and visit Europe’s largest gothic cathedral at the masterpiece of York Minster.

6. Torquay

Possibly best known as the home of Basil Fawlty’s less-than hospitable hotel in John Cleese’s seventies sitcom, Torquay has experienced a resurgence in recent years; this pretty Devonshire harbour-town is at the heart of the “English Riviera” coastline and has the wild landscapes of the Dartmoor National Park on its doorstep.

5. Blackpool

Not one often requested by our international guests, Blackpool is a seaside resort on Northern England’s Lancashire coast. Home to an annual coloured lights festival, donkey-rides on the beach, traditional games arcades and the famous tower ballroom there’s no doubt the town holds a certain nostalgia for Briton’s and their childhood seaside holidays.wales_llandudno

4. Llandudno

A picturesque Victorian seaside resort on the North Wales coast, Llandudno boasts a beautiful sweeping bay, historic pier and elegant promenade not to mention Britain’s only cable-hauled tramway (which dates back to 1902) and the Great Orme headland and nature reserve.  And just a stone’s throw from Conwy Castle and the Snowdonia National Park, Llandudno is definitely one we’d recommend.

3. Liverpool

The home-town of the World’s best known pop group, the wealth of Beatles’ related cultural sites is enough to put Liverpool on the map; but the city has much more besides including two magnificent cathedrals, dozens of listed historic buildings, the famous Albert Docks and a rich maritime heritage.

2. Edinburgh

Scotland’s enchanting capital, Edinburgh offers architectural beauty, an ancient history, major Scottish political and heritage sites and a leading international cultural festival. The must-see Scotland destination and gateway to the renowned Scottish Highlands, Edinburgh deservedly holds the second spot of this top-ten.

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  1. 1. London

Britain’s top-rating location, incidentally, London also tops the list of international destinations.  A thriving metropolis, the English capital leads in terms of sport, politics, commerce and culture. Playing host to a wealth of historical and heritage landmarks, recognisable the world-over, London is truly a global destination and unsurprisingly features at the premier position of Britain’s top-ten visitor destinations.

Discover any of the above Britain destinations on one of adeo Travel’s self-drive tours or rail tours which can be entirely customised to suit your travel requirements and preferences.

Roman baths, historic hotels and a very British pub #AdeoOnTheRoad

A bright and crisp February morning was the perfect opportunity to get out of the office and pop over the Severn Bridge to explore Bath and Somerset. I was excited to get back into my home country of England to see the sights.

The Art Bar at the Abbey Hotel in Bath
The Art Bar at the Abbey Hotel in Bath

Our first stop was the quirky Abbey Hotel in Bath. This characterful hotel is right in the Centre of Bath, just a couple of minutes’ walk away from the train station. The owners, Ian and Christa Taylor, are art enthusiasts and the public rooms feature a range of unique pieces of artwork ranging from gigantic, vibrant oil paintings and distinctive installations, to a magnificent, abstract glass chandelier in the bathroom. I love art and the quirky style of the hotel was right up my street so this is definitely somewhere I would stay.

The only other time I’d been to Bath was an incredibly wet and miserable day a few years ago, guiding a school group. Back then a soak in the Roman Baths might have been in order to relieve the stress of keeping 40 13-year-olds under control! Since it was a completely grown-up trip this time though we had some time to enjoy a wander through Bath’s cute little alleyways filled with independent boutiques, traditional sweetshops and ‘ye olde’ tea rooms. It would be easy to fill a day just strolling round this quintessentially English city, walking in the footsteps of Jane Austen and taking in the distinctive Georgian architecture; for more ideas of what to do in Bath check out our website here.

The Limpley Stoke Hotel
The Limpley Stoke Hotel

A ten-minute drive out of the city took us through the picturesque Somerset countryside to the tranquil village of Limpley Stoke to visit another hotel: The Limpley Stoke Hotel. The Limpley Stoke is a Best Western but don’t let that fool you. As well as boasting spectacular views over the Somerset hills, this 18th Century country house is full of character and the location in the quaint village of Limpley Stoke gives you a real feel for the traditional English countryside. Inside, visitors will love the enormous lounge area and the traditional bar with access onto a lovely terrace; the perfect place to enjoy a drink and enjoy the scenery on a warm summer’s evening.

We finished off our morning with another quintessentially English experience – lunch at Wetherspoons*! After all, you just can’t beat an all-day breakfast!

Patriotic Wetherspoons pub
Patriotic Wetherspoons pub

If you fancy a visit to Bath you can explore on your own with our Cotswolds and Historic cities self drive tour or join one of our many coach and small group tours such as the Elegance of Great Britain tour and the Heart of England Or simply contact us direct and we’ll put together a bespoke holiday just for you!

*You may not know what a ‘Wetherspoons’ is now but after a couple of days in Britain you’ll realise they’re an unavoidable feature of British life! It is rare to find a town in Britain that doesn’t boast a Wetherspoons pub famous for traditional pub grub, cheap booze and hideous carpets

When in England, do as the Romans do…!? Our Top Five Roman Sites of England.

Late last year during the building of a new hotel in the heart of the city of London, workmen discovered the statue of an eagle clutching a writhing snake.  So well preserved, it was unimaginable that the statue could have been of Roman origin however specialists later confirmed that it did indeed date back to the 1st or 2nd century AD when the World’s greatest Empire had spread throughout England.  Today, the statue is on full display to the public in the Museum of London but if you want to get more in touch with Roman Britain why not walk in the footsteps of the Roman people themselves and visit some of the country’s most stunning excavated Roman sites.

Below is adeo Travel’s countdown of our Top Five Roman sites of England:

5. Roman York

Minories Roman Eagle Statue - Museum of London
Minories Roman Eagle Statue – Museum of London

The Romans had an excellent eye for identifying strategic locations for their settlements and this was never truer than when they inhabited what was previously an unsettled area in Yorkshire, but which would soon become the undisputed capital of the North of England.  The city of York was born in AD71 when the Romans pushed their empire North from Lincoln and gave them a strategic base at the point where the River Fosse meets the River Ouse and from whence they could continue to push north.  Today the Yorkshire Museum in York houses some of Britain’s most impressive Roman artefacts including mosaics, sculptures and tombstones whilst existing Roman remains can be spotted in situ at Multangular Tower and in excavations in the under croft beneath the magnificent York Minster itself.

4. Roman Amphitheatre in Chester

Roman Amphitheatre dig in Chester
Roman Amphitheatre dig in Chester

Chester, or Castra Devana as it was known by the Romans, was once England‘s largest Roman settlements covering some 60 acres.  It is thought the site was used for legionary training and as a strategic naval base on the River Dee as far back as 75AD.  With parts of the area having been carefully excavated since the 1960s it was not until 2004/2005 that archaeological investigations uncovered (literally) parts of England’s largest Roman amphitheatre which at its peak could have seated 7000 spectators and included a shrine to the Goddess Nemesis.

3. Cirencester, Capital of the Cotswolds

Roman Mozaic Corinium Museum, Cirencester, Cotswolds
Roman Mozaic Corinium Museum, Cirencester, Cotswolds

As a result of Roman settlement, the charming town of Cirencester became capital of the region which would later become known as the Cotswolds located in the heart of England.  Constructed in the 2nd Century AD, the Roman amphitheatre in the town would once have seated more than 8000 people; today it remains largely unexcavated but offers excellent walks for views of the town. In the heart of Cirencester however you’ll find its true gem at the Corinium Museum, a treasure-trove of local Roman heritage which houses arguably the best collection of Roman artefacts outside of London.  Also well-worth a visit are the nearby excavations of the Chedworth Roman Villa.

2. Roman Baths in Bath

Roman Baths in Bath City
Roman Baths in Bath City

Possibly England’s most visually spectacular Roman remain, the Roman Baths in the city of Bath were constructed as far back as the 1st century AD.  After discovery of hot water springs from the nearby Mendip Hills, with magnificently advanced engineering the Romans constructed their Temple of Sulis Minerva which was soon regarded as one of the best bathing stations throughout the entire Roman Empire and drew visitors from across Europe, even in those times!  Since its rediscovery in the 18th century, when workmen uncovered the bronze head of the goddess Minerva, the magnificent temple has been fully excavated and restored and today you can walk the worn slabs that the Romans themselves strolled along and even sample the mineral-rich water which drew them here in the first place all those centuries ago.

1. Hadrian’ Wall

Hadrian's Wall, North of England
Hadrian’s Wall, North of England

Undoubtedly one of the greatest achievements of the Roman Empire in Britain, Hadrian’s Wall stretches from coast to coast across the North of England for almost 80 miles.  Constructed by Emperor Hadrian as a barrier to keep out the “uncivilised” Scottish Pictish people the wall was an early form of border control with deep ditches, tangled undergrowth and frequent forts and watch-towers defending the wall itself which in places reached 15 feet tall.  Long stretches of the wall remain in-tact today and provide excellent hiking routes whilst the Roman heritage comes to life at excavations and the best of the remaining wall-forts including those at Housesteads Fort, Chesters Fort and Birdoswald Fort not to mention at the Roman Army and Vindolanda Museums at Hexham.

For more information on experiencing first-hand any of the above locations as part of your tailor-made tour of England, simply ask your adeo Travel Britain vacation expert.