adeo Insights – Kevin Murray’s Diary: Week 2, Going West

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 head West, stopping at the historic town of Salisbury and the mysterious Avebury standing stones before continuing to the beautiful Devonshire coast.

Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury Cathedral

The next day found us heading southwest in our near-new, canary yellow Citroen DS3. We drove to Salisbury, checked in to the Grasmere House Hotel (in a room with a four-poster bed, no less) then checked out the spectacular 13th Century Cathedral that dominates the town. We were fortunate enough to hear a service with the harmonious voices of a full choir filling the cavernous interior. Walking back through ancient irrigated fields called “water meadows” we were reminded just how long this area has been occupied and farmed.

The next day saw us winding our way north through narrow, soggy roads to the little village of Avebury. Here we became utterly absorbed by the thousands of years of history that confronted us. From the Neolithic standing stones, mysterious circular trenches and huge conical hills, to the 600 years of continuous habitation of Avebury Manor, captured in the refurbishment of its rooms, with each room reflecting a particular era of occupation. On our way back to Salisbury we visited Old Sarum, another Neolithic site of mysterious meaning, later used as fortification or as a place of worship by various conquerors.

Avebury Stone Circle
Avebury Stone Circle

We left Salisbury under clear blue skies and headed for the coast. Our trusty satnav took us along narrow, windy, pot-holed tracks that pass for roads here, eliciting a large sigh of relief from us both when we eventually arrived at our first destination; the evocatively named Durdle Door. A heart stopping descent on foot down a slippery track, buffeted by an icy gale coming off the sea and we found ourselves on a beach of fine pebbles nestled beneath towering cliffs of chalk, with our eyes compellingly drawn towards the enigmatic stone arch that gives this part of the coast its unusual name. The climb back up to the carpark was literally breathtaking!

The Jurassic Coast
The Jurassic Coast

On to Exeter. What a fabulous, friendly place this is, surrounded by rich green pastures which start just minutes from town. We went on a guided walking tour of “Medieval Exeter” discovering snippets of its history, from the Roman walls and bridges to the gothic churches. We passed through 600-year-old doors and viewed twisted medieval houses, all with interesting stories to tell. We lunched in the Spring sunshine by the quayside before enjoying another tour, this time of the fabulous spire-less 12th to 14th Century Cathedral with its distinctive Norman towers, intricate vaulted ceiling and soaring stained glass windows.

Leaving Exeter, we headed west, right through the middle of the Dartmoor National Park. The weather couldn’t have been any kinder to us, brilliant sunshine, no wind, blue, cloud-flecked skies. Dartmoor is littered with the eroded remnants of a 300-million-year old granite intrusion, leaving huge boulders (called tors) atop steep hills of sodden peatmoss. Also littered across the landscape are quiet little villages sheltering in the deep, green valleys, beside fast flowing, ice-cold streams. The patchwork of fields is delineated by mile after mile of dry stone walls – many of them much older than the 14th century church we visited in Widecome in the Moor.

If you would like to visit the places described in this blog, we recommend our West Country Legends self-drive tour or the Best of Devon and Cornwall 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.

Stonehenge – New Look for an Ancient Site

Stonehenge is one of the most iconic and instantly recognizable sites in England; and with around a million visitors each year, it is also one of Britain‘s most popular tourist attractions.  Which is why, last week, English Heritage finally opened the long-awaited state-of-the-art visitor centre which aims to offer a guest experience fitting of such a magnificent slice of British pre-history.

Stonehenge
Stonehenge

For those who have visited Stonehenge, few can disagree that it is a truly enchanting site; huge monoliths standing eerily on the Salisbury Plain and shrouded in mystery.  Pre-dating the Egyptian Pyramids, why did an ancient people go to the effort of creating this ring of stones; a pre-historic calendar mapping the seasons? An ancient burial place? Or a site of worship to a pagan god?  There are theories but still no one really knows!  And more to the point how on earth did they do it?  The stones are estimated to be around 50 tonnes each and are believed to have come from the Preselli Hills of South West Wales, some 250 miles away!

New Stonehenge Visitor Centre
New Stonehenge Visitor Centre

So there is no denying the appeal of Stonehenge, however many of those who have already visited, also agree that the overall visitor experience has not, in the past, done it justice.  In 1989 a government committee called the visitor facilities a “national disgrace” – a tiny gift shop and snack bar, underground toilets which flooded and a narrow tunnel to reach the stones themselves.  And then whilst you were trying to immerse yourself in the enigma of the stones, your audio guide was competing with the traffic noise from the A334 route which ran to within less than a 100 yards away.  But fortunately, this is all now set to change so that guests can enjoy modern comforts on their exploration of this ancient site.

Stonehenge's New Exhibition
Stonehenge’s New Exhibition

The A334 was finally closed in June offering a more peaceful visitor experience and the new facilities of the long-awaited visitor centre, which opened last week, are a world apart from those previously offered.  Modern but elegant, the grey low-standing building blends in to the moorland landscape perfectly and, located 1.5miles from the main site, it is unimposing and does detract from the atmospheric surroundings of the stones themselves.  Within, guests can enjoy an enhanced gift-shop and cafe but also a stunning range of exhibitions; from a 360-degree projection which catapults you back through the millennia of the site’s history, to an array of genuine ancient and priceless artefacts dating back to the peoples who constructed it.  A highlight is the 5,500 year old skeleton, and subsequent facial reconstruction, of a man excavated from a nearby barrow burial mound – was this Stonehenge’s first ever visitor?  And all this before you even make your way via the shuttle transfer or a stroll through nearby woodland to reach the majesty of the Stonehenge itself.

The new centre means an increase in admission and that pre-booking a slot for your visit is essential but we think it’ll be worth it for the enhanced experience – it may have been several thousand years in the making but, it seems, visitors to Stonehenge are finally getting the treatment they deserve!