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Discovering Aberdeen’s history: Start at the Tolbooth!

As I mentioned in my previous post, we did not originally plan to spend much time in Aberdeen and did not really know much about the city or it’s history.  Our  intent was just to fly into Aberdeen and then quickly head out towards Inverness.  Naturally, most people want to see Inverness or Edinburgh but really, how often do people list Aberdeen on their list of places of must visits for history or anything else?  I will be the first to admit that we were initially quite disappointed when we had to alter our plans and eliminate Inverness from our tour. Our first depressing and foreboding thought was one of, “Well this is just great, now we’re stuck in Aberdeen for three days. What are we going to do with three days in Aberdeen?”  At the time, we really had no other choice but to rather petulantly and grudgingly accept our fate and try to make the best of it.  At the end of three days however, we were complaining because we did not have enough time to see everything.  My personal thought as I left was of how and when I could make another visit!

Aberdeen city of history

The disaster that led to our longer stay in Aberdeen was actually one of  fate or the powers above intervening on our behalf. It provided us an opportunity to explore, discover and appreciate a city that in my personal opinion does not get nearly enough credit for it’s historical importance or it’s present day contributions. What I want to do is share some of what we discovered and maybe change your mind about Aberdeen.  Hopefully by the time I’ve finished, you will be interested and inspired to look at this city not just as a stopping or transfer point on your way to those other places, but as a destination in itself.

First, let’s look at why we even decided on Aberdeen as our starting point for our trip rather than one of the other flight options. Our original plan was to do a driving tour. We knew we wanted to visit Inverness as well as Edinburgh so when we looked at the map, we saw that Aberdeen would be a good option. It is located on the coast a few hours north of Edinburgh and also only a few hours from Inverness. The drive from Aberdeen to Inverness would take you along the Castle trail. The Aberdeenshire area of Scotland is most famous for the number of Castles located there (My main reason for wanting to back)! 

This is a map showing various sites of interest close to the Aberdeen area. Yes, there are even Standing Stones nearby- I will be doing more research on them!

castles near Aberdeen

This map shows Aberdeen in relation to Inverness and Edinburgh. I do want to add here that because of the way our plans were altered, we were unable to fit Inverness into our schedule.  It is very easily doable to take the train from Aberdeen to Inverness, then train from Inverness to Edinburgh. When I checked the train time, it states about a 2 1/2 hour trip from Aberdeen to Inverness. That is not the purpose or focus here though so I am not going to go further into it here other than to say that our experiences with the train and bus systems were great. I will definitely go that option in any future trips!

map showing Aberdeen

Now you understand our main reason for choosing Aberdeen as starting point and why we were looking at it as just a quick stop over. Fortunately, we were inadvertently rewarded with that unexpected longer stay to get to know Aberdeen better!

What we found in Aberdeen was a fascinating history that stretches back at least 8000 years. Besides that history, we discovered a city that is friendly and welcoming but  not a kitschy, over done or over crowded tourist magnet.  There is a wealth of history to be explored here but that is not it’s truest wealth, asset or value.

1969 considerable deposits of crude oil were discovered in the North Sea. Since then, North Sea Oil has come to eclipse Aberdeen’s traditional industries, employing an estimated half a million people living in and around the city. Aberdeen’s port has been improved and developed to serve the off shore oil rigs with the result that most of the fishing fleets have been moved along the shore to Peterhead. Economically this so called “European Oil Capital” has left other Scottish cities behind – indeed, by some accounts it is the wealthiest area in the UK outside the southeast of England.

Aberdeen is a Scottish success story. Any visitor to the city will be impressed by the lively bustle of its streets and the ceaseless activity in the port. The impact of the petroleum industry is undeniable, but in some senses it should not be seen as a development which entirely breaks with the past: Aberdeen has always been a successful port city and has always had an internationally minded economy. Today this  University City is home to around a quarter of a million people and provides cultural diversions for all ages. For the visitor its grand granite buildings, which shimmer like polished silver, its distinctive neighborhoods, its harbour and sandy beach, provide other, more natural, attractions.

Throughout our stay, we observed that the city seems to be undergoing  massive renovation and construction in just about every area from the outskirts of the airport to the city center and all points surrounding it. Do not let that deter or sway you from visiting the area! Our taxi driver pointed out that this work is all much needed and deserved by the city that has contributed so much financially to the UK and it’s about time they got something back! He took all of the construction in stride and gave us a pleasant and much amusing trip from the airport to our hotel near the city center.  I have to say that everyone we encountered during our stay was friendly and helpful with suggestions and commentary about their city.  One other added bonus- everything was less expensive than in Edinburgh! 

As I’ve pointed out, we didn’t know much about the city so one of our first stops was the Tourist information center located near the city center. They went out of their way to help us with everything from free maps to writing notes and directions on the map for us, to giving advice and directions on using the bus system along with which bus to take to different areas. They also offer a variety of day tours to activities and sites outside the city making it very easy to many of those sites if you’re not driving.  One added suggestion on the bus system that they pointed out- besides the city buses, there are buses going to many of the outlying villages and sites you might want to visit. We did not have extra time for those options but the staff will happily fill you in on how to get to certain sites- such as which bus to take, where you can catch the bus and what times they run.  Because we knew so little about the city or it’s history, they suggested we start with a quick tour of the Tolbooth museum which happens to be right across the street from them. I did mention that there is a great deal of renovation and construction going on throughout the city- the Tolbooth block/building is no exception but do not let that deter you from your visit!

Tollbooth tower renovations

Tolbooth block and buildings undergoing renovations

tollbooth and townhouse plaque

plaque on building next door to Tolbooth

Tolbooth Museum

The Tolbooth Museum is one of Aberdeen’s oldest buildings and one of the best-preserved 17th century gaols in Scotland. It features displays on local history and the development of crime and punishment through the centuries. It  provides a unique experience in the form of its atmospheric 17th and 18th century cells, original doors and barred windows. Displays include the Maiden and the blade of Aberdeen’s 17th century guillotine as well as some animated cell inhabitants. Regarding the animations-they were not scary. This is not a spooky type tour. I have heard a few people comment that they were a bit disappointed or let down as they were led to believe it would be more of a ghost, haunting or scarier type experience with more visual effects. If that is what you are looking for, this does not fit that category. It was a bit eerie and haunting but in a realistic way of getting a feeling of what it was like to be incarcerated here back then. 

banner-ackobites-cell

tolbooth museum

 

While the supposed main focus or purpose of the museum is it’s history as gaol or jail, it does provide an excellent introduction to the history of Aberdeen. It is a free tour and probably takes less than hour to do…  we spent a bit longer in there because we had an excellent tour guide who was very informative and gave much additional insight to the overall history. The first half of the tour is about the history of Aberdeen with displays and dioramas of the earliest beginnings of the area that originally consisted of two separate villages. Once our guide realized we were very much interested in the history, he probably went into more depth on it than usual. He seemed rather excited to share the added history with us and we enjoyed all of it! During the first portion of the tour, we learned about some of the early  events and people that had connections to Aberdeen. These important connections go back as far as the Picts and much of the history can be found around Aberdeen yet today.  The legend of Saint Machar tells that Machar was  a companion of St Columba on his journey to Iona.  God (or St Columba) told Machar to establish a church where a river bends into the shape of a bishop’s crosier before flowing into the sea. The River Don bends in this way just below where the Cathedral now stands. According to legend, St Machar founded a site of worship in Old Aberdeen in about 580. He ministered to the Picts around Aberdeen. For this reason he was described anachronistically as the first Bishop of the see of Aberdeen.  The church was also the site for another legend surrounding William Wallace. After the execution of William Wallace in 1305, his body was cut up and sent to different corners of the country to warn other dissenters. His left quarter ended up in Aberdeen and is buried in the walls of the cathedral. 

 

Robert the Bruce also had a connection to Aberdeen. In 1136, David I began the development of New Aberdeen north of the River Dee, and the earliest charter was granted by King William the Lion about 1179, confirming the corporate rights granted by David I, which gave trade privileges to the burgesses. This charter is the oldest surviving charter. The city received other royal charters later. In 1319, the Great Charter of Robert the Bruce transformed Aberdeen into a property owning and financially independent community. Bruce had a high regard for the citizens of Aberdeen who had sheltered him in his days of outlawry, helped him win the Battle of Barra and slew the English garrison at Aberdeen Castle. He granted Aberdeen with the nearby Forest of Stocket. The income from this land has formed the basis for the city’s Common Good Fund, which is used to this day for the benefit of all Aberdonians.

Aberdeen is also home to King’s College, one of the oldest universities in the British Isles.  In 1495, William Elphinstone, the relatively newly appointedBishop of Aberdeen, petitioned Pope Alexander VI on behalf of King James IV to create the facility to cure the ignorance he had witnessed within his parish and in the north generally. A papal bull was issued in February 1495 (1491 in the calendar of the day) founding the university; a royal charter later that year recognised Aberdeen’s status as equal to that of Scotland’s two existing universities at Glasgow and St Andrews. As a former professor at the University of Paris, Elphinstone modelled the university very much on the continental European tradition. Hector Boece, a fellow professor at Paris, was awarded the status of first principal of the new institution. It would not be until 1509, with the issuance of a charter by Elphinstone, that university life at King’s truly began. Construction of the chapel began in 1498; it was consecrated in 1509 and dedicated to St Mary. By 1514, the university had some forty-two members in the form of both staff and students.

Once you finish your tour of the Tolbooth, you can easily find monuments to William Wallace and Robert the Bruce on a walk around the city. You can take a city bus to Old Aberdeen to tour St. Machar’s Cathedral and King’s College. You can also easily take a bus to another site, the Gordon Highlanders Regimental museum which I will talk about later. 

William Wallace monument in Aberdeen

William Wallace monument in Aberdeen

William Wallace monument inscription 1

William Wallace monument inscription 1

William Wallace inscription 2

William Wallace inscription 2

Robert the Bruce monument in front of Marichal College building in Aberdeen

Robert the Bruce monument in front of Marichal College building in Aberdeen

Marichal College building in Aberdeen, now used as offices

Marichal College building in Aberdeen, now used as offices

St Machar's Cathedral in Old Aberdeen

St Machar’s Cathedral in Old Aberdeen

King's College entrance in Old Aberdeen

King’s College entrance in Old Aberdeen

gordon highlander museum2 gordon highlanders museum

 

The only thing you won’t be able to find is Aberdeen Castle! The Castle was situated on Castle Hill, a site today known as the Castlegate, near the City center.  

Castlegate area today

Castlegate area today

Mercat cross at city center

Mercat Cross at Castlegate area near Tolbooth Musuem in Aberdeen

You will see the unicorn throughout Aberdeen and other places in Scotland as it is Scotland’s national animal! You will also find mercat crosses in various cities of Scotland. A mercat cross is the Scots name for the market cross found frequently in Scottish cities, towns and villages where historically the right to hold a regular market or fairwas granted by the monarch, a bishop or a baron. It therefore served a secular purpose as a symbol of authority, and was an indication of a burgh‘s relative prosperity. Historically, the term dates from the period before 1707 when Scotland was an independent kingdom, but it has been applied loosely to later structures built in the traditional architectural style of crosses or structures fulfilling the function of marking a settlement’s focal point. Historical documents often refer simply to “the cross” of whichever town or village is mentioned. Today, there are around 126 known examples of extant crosses in Scotland,  though the number rises if later imitations are added.

Aberdeen’s mercat cross history would go back to that earlier history when it received  Royal Burgh status from David I of Scotland (1124–53). 

The cross was the place around which market stalls would be arranged, and where ‘merchants’ (Scots for shopkeepers as well as wholesale traders) would gather to discuss business. It was also the spot where state and civic proclamations would be publicly read by the “bellman” (town crier). The cross was also the communal focal point of public events such as civic ceremonials, official rejoicings, and public shamings and punishments, including executions. Some crosses still incorporate the iron staples to which jougs and branks were once attached. This would be the reason for it’s close proximity to the Tolbooth, which would often hold public executions right outside their door.

Despite the name, the typical mercat cross is not usually cruciform, or at least has not been since the iconoclasm of the Scottish Reformation. The cross atop the shaft may have been replaced with a small statue, such as a royal unicorn or lion, symbols of the Scottish monarchy, or a carved stone displaying the arms of the royal burgh, or, in the cases of ecclesiastical burghs or burghs of barony, the bishop’s or feudal superior‘s coat-of-arms. Thus the reason for the Unicorn at top of Aberdeen’s mercat cross.

Five crosses: at Edinburgh, Dundee, Perth, Aberdeen and Preston (modern Prestonpans) were supported by a drum-shaped understructure, known as a cross-house, with a platform reached by internal steps or ladder. In the case of Aberdeen‘s late 17th-century cross the platform is supported by a series of open semi-circular arcades. 

 

close up of unicorn at top of mercat cross

Close up of unicorn at top of mercat cross

 

views of city center city center view of black friars pub

The castle was surrendered to the English in 1295 and on 14 April 1296, the English King, Edward I arrived in Aberdeen and stayed in the castle as part of his tour of the east coast of Scotland having defeated the Scots.  However the next year, after defeating the English at Dunnottar Castle in 1297, William Wallace marched his men to Aberdeen during their campaign to retake the east-coast for the Scots.

They found the English hastily preparing to leave in an armada of one hundred ships. The speed of Wallace’s arrival from Dunottar caught the English unawares and at low tide the stranded ships were attacked in the harbour, the crew and soldiers slaughtered, the cargo taken and the ships burnt. The English Sheriff of Aberdeen, Sir Henry de Lazom had been left in charge of the Castle, but during the chaos of the attack he defected, declaring it in the name of the Scottish King, John de Balliol.  This account of William Wallace’s actions and victory in Aberdeen would certainly explain or justify why the English may have sent a portion of his executed body back to Aberdeen! 

It is thought the castle and fortifications were burned down  by King Robert the Bruce in June 1308, during the Wars of Scottish Independence immediately following the Harrying of Buchan. Bruce and his men laid siege to the castle before massacring the English Garrison to prevent its use by the English troops of Edward II. It is said the Scots showed no mercy but “slew every man who fell into their hands. Edward I, indeed, had already set the example of executing his prisoners, and it was not to be expected that the other side would fail to follow the same course”. On 10 July 1308, English ships left Hartlepool to help the English garrison.  However, by August 1308, Gilbert Pecche and the last troops had all been forced out of the city. Following the destruction of Aberdeen Castle, Bruce marched his men to capture Forfar Castle.  Legend tells that the city’s motto, Bon Accord came from the password used to initiate Bruce’s final push and destruction of the castle.  Bon Accord translates to Good Agreement. 

In the first part of the Tolbooth’s history tour, you will find a diorama display of the earliest days of Aberdeen.  At that early time, it was still two separate villages and there were three hills. The city began as two separate burghs: Old Aberdeen at the mouth of the river Don; and New Aberdeen, a fishing and trading settlement, where the Denburn waterway entered the river Dee estuary.  The city was burned by Edward III of England in 1336, but was rebuilt and extended, and called New Aberdeen. The city was strongly fortified to prevent attacks by neighbouring lords, but the gates were removed by 1770. 

Aberdeen was in Pictish territory and became Gaelic-speaking at some time in the medieval period. Old Aberdeen is the approximate location of Aberdon, the first settlement of Aberdeen; this literally means “the mouth of the Don”. The Celtic wordaber means “river mouth”, as in modern Welsh (Aberystwyth, Aberdare, Aberbeeg etc.). The Gaelic name is Obar Dheathain (variation: Obairreadhain) (obar presumably being a loan from the earlier Pictish; the Gaelic term is “inbhir”), and in Latin, the Romans referred to the river as Devana. Mediaeval (or ecclesiastical) Latin has it as Aberdonia. You can see a remnant of the Pictish history on a tour of St Machar’s Cathedral.

Pictish carving at Machar's Cathedral

Pictish carving at Machar’s Cathedral

pictish cross stone information at Machar's Cathedral

pictish cross stone information at Machar’s Cathedral

Over the centuries, the rivers were diverted at various times and two of the three original hills disappeared. Aberdeen Castle sat on Castle hill (Castlegate). This is the only remaining hill. The other two hills were Port hill where the early City Gate was, and St. Catherine’s hill which has been completely leveled. Those three hills are represented on the city’s shield of arms and on the city’s banner flag by three towers.  

coat of arms for Aberdeen

coat of arms for Aberdeen

City Banner flag of Aberdeen

City Banner flag of Aberdeen

 

tolbooth2

 

The second half of the Tolbooth tour went further up the stairs to the cells with history of the jail and it’s various inhabitants from some early witches, a pirate, a lot of debtors, and some Jacobites after the rebellion of 1745. As he talked about the Jacobites, our guide gave us some insight from the standpoint and perspective of ones who were not Jacobites but suffered consequences and affects of the various rebellions. His comments and thoughts gave me pause for thought and inspired me to learn more about all of the sides, the reasons and complexities of so many events taking place over the years,  which combined and culminated in the last Jacobite rebellion.  Most of the tour history on the cells and inhabitants dealt with the period of that last rebellion and later. If you look at Aberdeen’s earlier history and the date the prison was built, it most likely played a part in the rebellions and civil wars during the 1600s. 

The Tolbooth was built between 1616 and 1629 by Thomas Watson, a master mason from Old Rayne. The Wardhouse of the Tolbooth was the prison for both the Royal Burgh of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire until the 19th century.

Over the centuries The Tolbooth has witnessed, and often played a part in, some of the key events in Aberdeen’s and Scotland’s history. During the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, when the Duke of Cumberland stayed in Aberdeen in order to put down the rebellion here before leaving for Culloden, he posted troops on the steeple of The Tolbooth to watch out for rebels and very visibly display the reasserting of royal authority. After the rebels had been defeated at Culloden hundreds of rebel prisoners were brought back to The Tolbooth where they were interrogated. In the mid-18th century The Tolbooth was one of the many places associated with one of the darkest episodes of Aberdeen’s history. A number of Aberdeen’s merchants and magistrates organised the kidnapping of hundreds of children from both the town and countryside. These children were then stored in various places, including The Tolbooth, before being transported to the Americas and sold as indentured servants.

Regarding the Tolbooth’s involvement in that darker part of Aberdeen history- the child slavery mentioned above, the Tolbooth museum was more recently involved in opening the curtains of that shrouded more secret history. On 11-06-07 the city of Aberdeen pulled back the curtain on a dark part of the cities history. At the Tolbooth Museum “Open to the Public” they had re-enactments of a very dark part of Aberdeen’s past history and helped to tell the stories of those children.  You can read the story of one of those abducted children here:

The Tale of Peter Williamson   http://unknownscottishhistory.com/articleseventeen.php

The Tolbooth stopped being used as a prison in the 19th century and was replaced by Aberdeen’s first ‘modern’ prison, the Bridewell, built on what we now call Rose Street. The Tolbooth remained in use during the time the Bridewell was opened and after, when the Bridewell was replaced by the East Prison on Lodge Walk, as a holding prison. The Tolbooth survived when the new Townhouse was laid out. The front of The Tolbooth was encased in granite, but the rear of the building still shows its original sandstone with its 17th century battlements. 

For anyone interested in history, this museum is an excellent introduction to the history of Aberdeen. It was my first stop on the way to learning about Aberdeen’s long, turbulent past and how it fit in with the rest of the many events that shaped and forged what Scotland has become today.  My only caution to those visiting the museum- it is not suitable for anyone with mobility difficulties as the only way to reach the museum is by way of very narrow medieval type spiral type steps up to the different levels. Because of the building, there is no way to provide any assistance or other option to reach the upper levels- my meaning in this- there is no way for them to say install a lift or elevator.  It is also probably not suitable or appropriate for young children who would not really understand much of the history presented. 

You can plan your visit to the Tolbooth for early in the morning and then head out to all of the other sites of interest within the city. After our visit to the Tolbooth, we went to the Maritime museum which was fairly short walk from city center. This museum gives you a great history of Aberdeen’s long connection to the sea as a port city from it’s earliest beginnings to it’s present day importance in the oil industry. There are a number of hands on activities for children and it also currently has a toy history exhibit which everyone will find interesting and fun!

Aberdeen maritime museum early diving suit at maritime museum robot diver at maritime museum

After the Maritime museum, we went back up to city center and embarked on a self guided walking tour of the city. The maps provided by the tourism office were excellent and we found it easy to find our way around the city. We stopped at St Nicholas Kirk which is easy to spot due the Arches. It is close to city center and you really can’t miss it!

St Nicholas Arch

St Nicholas Arch

St Nicholas kirkyard information

St Nicholas kirkyard information

walkway to St Nicholas Kirk

walkway to St Nicholas Kirk

graves and tombstone in St Nicholas kirkyard

graves and tombstone in St Nicholas kirkyard

St Nicholas Kirk

St Nicholas Kirk

We continued our walking tour and eventually found the William Wallace monument. It was a long walk but we had a beautiful day for it and the city was full of sites and scenery to view.

views of the city

Later in the afternoon, we returned to city center and headed out in the opposite direction with a trek down to the harbor, the old fishing village neighborhood of Footdee or Fittie. The guidebooks and tourist info are a little misleading about this area… it is not a living history village but is an actual residential neighborhood with it’s buildings still being those old stone cottages from the days of the original fishing village. It was a nice walk down to the harbor and beach though. You can walk along the seawall walk behind the cottages towards the beach area. 

footdee seawall walk footdee-fittie

north sea coast3 North sea coast at Aberdeen north sea 2

On our walk back up from the beach we found a great little pub called Fittiebar. You won’t find this pub/bar on the tour guides. It is not one of those trendy touristy type places, it is in the working neighborhood of the docks. There is nothing fancy about it. It is a casual comfortable working class place to grab a pint, a plate, relax and probably enjoy the company of regulars and friends. The menu is on the board listing the specials for the day, though the Bartender/server did laugh and mention that one of these days they get posh and order some real menus… My personal advice- don’t change a thing! Possibly the best part of the experience was seeing her mix up the batter for our fish with an addition of beer from the tap! 

fittie bar2

Fittiebar in Aberdeen

IMG_7531 fittie bar menu

That was our first day in Aberdeen! In my next post, I will share more of our stay in Aberdeen along with more of it’s history. This awesome Granite city so full of  interesting history that I am intrigued and fascinated with all of it! As I mentioned in the beginning, everyone is so interested in the other cities and places such as the Highlands and Edinburgh that Aberdeen and the area around it does not get the attention it deserves!  I look forward to returning and exploring more of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing Race adventure from Aberdeen to Dublin!

Before I share our adventure, I just want to apologize for my lack of posting for the past month or so. Much of that time was spent preparing for this journey and then embarking upon it. I also want to let my Vikings Saga followers know that I will eventually catch up with my show thoughts and reviews but it will probably be after this first half of the extended season has ended! I am behind in my viewing but have kept up with what is going on so far… my one thought right now is, who is going to be left at the end of this half?  Most of the adult older generation seem to be falling quickly- not that some of those falls all are such a bad thing! Also for Vikings fans, much of my tour included Viking related history in the various cities along with more ancient Roman history. One example of the Scandinavian history and influence was found on ceilings in Edinburgh! A number of tours pointed out the ceilings that showed the earliest Scandinavian motifs and designs.

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For Outlander fans and followers, I did just catch the season 2 premier and am looking forward to the rest of the season. I loved the way they’ve presented Frank’s side of the situation… but then again, I am a Frank fan anyway so I was thrilled with this scenario. I will be attempting to add more Outlander related posts throughout this upcoming season!  Some of my tour did include Scotland and Scottish history pertaining to the time period of the Jacobites and the rebellions but I will also be sharing some additional insights provided by various tour guides. One of the most insightful guides was at the Tolbooth museum in Aberdeen who shared some of the Jacobite history and how it affected others who were not Jacobites but suffered just as much through the various rebellions.  We also visited the Gordon Highlanders Regiment museum which gave us insight into years after the rebellion and how those regiments held onto their highland heritage. I will go into more of that insight and history in a separate post about Aberdeen.

banner-ackobites-cell tolbooth museum tolbooth2 gordon highlanders museum dirks with accessories gordon highlander museum2

 

In other miscellaneous news updates, I just want to share some recent comments about one of my favorite book series. I read this a while ago but didn’t have a chance to post it until now… author Elizabeth Chadwick shared a bit of  interesting and hopeful news about her William Marshal series! She has mentioned that the rights to it have been purchased for possible eventual filming! “my Marshal novels have had the rights bought by a film company recently – hooray!!. I have historical consultancy rights on board and they are looking at making a two hour pilot. There is still a long way to go and it still might not happen, but the spark is there.”  She posted this on her Goodreads page recently and I was thrilled to hear of this possibility. 

One last important update and forewarning… In order to accommodate all of the pictures involved with this vacation, I have had to begin culling older pictures from my media library! I am trying to cull only the unattached photos but I know from previous experience that sometimes those photos are attached to a post. If you are browsing through older archived posts and notice missing pictures, I do apologize for that but there is little I can do about it at the moment. I am running close to my media limits and after the expenses of this vacation, I can’t quite afford to upgrade yet to a higher limit!

 

Amazing Race adventure!

From Aberdeen to Dublin

Now, on to the main focus of this post, our Amazing Race adventure that began in Aberdeen, Scotland and ended in Dublin, Ireland. I have say that while this was truly an epic and awesome tour, it really did feel like Amazing Race with all of it’s challenges, roadblocks and detours. After spending so much time pre-planning this trip, we ended up scrapping the well laid plans and truly winging it. From the very beginning  hurdle/challenge in Aberdeen, I felt like Phil Keoghan was going to show up in front of us and tell us “I’m sorry but you’ve been eliminated” before we even started the race.  

Now that we have survived and won our personal race, I can look back on all of it and admit that some of the challenges and difficulties were caused by our own miscalculations and mistakes. The first massive setback was our ordeal with the third party rental agency that we had booked our car rental from. The car rental plan turned out be a disaster that ended with us losing the money we had pre-paid on the car rental as well as now having to completely alter our original plan of driving… In retrospect, that did turn out to be a huge hidden favor or blessing because realistically the driving idea was not so great as we originally thought.  At the time, however, this roadblock did create some initial moments of panic for us- as in, “Now what the hell do we do?”  Luckily, we are resilient and adaptable, and the panic quickly subsided. Our panic eased but our continued and still lingering irritation with said car rental agency has not disappeared. They cost us a lot of cash and time that could have been used to much better purpose than having to continue to wait on them! To make a long story short, we arrived in Aberdeen on Monday morning and our ordeal with car company dragged out till Wednesday. On Monday, they assured us that all of the problems could be taken care of and we could pick up a car on Wednesday with no extra charges… When we returned there on Wednesday, a different agent told us there was an enormous additional charge, that she did not know anything about any previous promises or assurances made to us and that she could not honor any such promise. The most frustrating part of that experience was that we had wasted much time on waiting around for the rental car company. If we had not been assured a resolution to the situation, we would have planned our time in Aberdeen differently! There were some excellent day tours available through the local tourism office that we could have taken advantage of had we not had to bother with waiting on that damnable car rental agency. One good thing to come from that horrific beginning was that we did get spend more time exploring the city of Aberdeen and it’s history!

william wallace monument1

Initial panic and frustrations aside, we opted for plan B… yes, we did have to quickly devise plan B but it actually worked out far better than the driving plan. Plan B was to check out the train system and alter our entire trip around it.  We should have just planned that route from the beginning, but as we all know, hindsight is 20/20.  This new much altered plan meant we had to eliminate some previously planned sites but it did allow for more time in the places we did visit. It also eliminated the stress of trying to drive, which my daughter admitted later was a good thing!

Our new plan gave us three and a half days in Aberdeen, three days in Edinburgh, two days in Cardiff, two days in London and one final day spent in Dublin.  

Overall, this all worked out so much better than our original plan and most of the hotels and booking agencies were very helpful with the changes we had to make to all of our reservations. I say most because there was one agency and hotel that turned out to be even worse than the car rental… I need to voice my still very seething frustration and outright disgust with Booking.com and with the Abbey Court Hotel in London! We had no problems what so ever with Hotels.com or with any other hotel during our trip but my personal advice, based our experience,  to other travelers would be to avoid booking.com and Abbey Court Hotel! Perhaps my view of Abbey Court was biased because of our experience with them in conjunction with booking.com and the fact that each party insisted on blaming each other for the problems. Perhaps my disgust and ill temper with them was due to sheer exhaustion by then and I am being overly harsh with them, expecting too much from them based on my experiences with the hotels in the other places we stayed. I did try to tell myself that.  I also made serious attempt to rationalize that this was London after all, and for the price we were paying, we should not really complain too much about the room condition… that being somewhat rationalized, I was still left with the fact that the staff was rude and passed off the issue on to others rather than trying to admit any blame or even appease us in any way.  I was also left with the overheard complaints of other guests about various aspects of the accommodations and service. That all being vented, the only plus for them was the fact that they were located close to Paddington Train Station as well as close walking distance to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Then again, so are a vast number of other hotels in that area- you should look into any one of those other hotels rather than Abbey Court!

Do not let the exterior facade of Abbey Court deceive you,  it looks so lovely on the outside…

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We’ve already discussed the attitude and general behavior of the staff, so no need to rehash that. We’ve already accepted that it’s London, should we really expect much more from an inexpensive hotel in a crowded city providing desperately needed rooms for the massive numbers of tourists. But, lets just look at exactly what you find once you’ve taken your chance on that ohh so lovely facade of Abbey Court.  First of all, you get no key card- nope, you get an old fashioned key which you have to turn into the front desk each and every time you leave the building. Ummm, one other thing to go along with that key and the door to your room… You get no door knob!

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You get a door latch that sticks, and once inside you kind of get the feeling you’ve been locked into your room/cell. 

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I understand that space is at a high premium in London, but really this room gave me a severe case of claustrophobia along with nightmares! If you feel you can deal with it, then by all means go for it- after all, you are in London and may not plan to spend much time in the room anyway…

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That’s it, that’s what you get for a room as opposed to say, what we got for the same approximate price at a Travel Lodge in Dublin? Actually, I think the room in Dublin cost much less than the one in London, but that is not really unexpected.

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My final observations on Abbey Court Hotel… WiFi is extremely limited free time and not very reliable- I suppose they want you to use it up quickly so you will pay for any additional required use. There is also no attached restaurant, well there is one connected to them but it is a separate entity and there is no room service available at all. They do offer some sort of breakfast downstairs in their basement but I was not up braving the cost or the quality of that experience. They do also offer some shuttle services to airports but when I checked on the price of shuttle to Gatwick, I realized it was far cheaper to just take the train from Paddington Station. 

Ok, I feel better now for having done what I feel is my traveler’s civic duty in forewarning you about my personal experiences with some fails. I did not give the name of the car rental agency because I will admit that part the issue with them was a serious lack of communication or understanding on all sides. We could have made better choices about that situation so we do take some partial responsibility for that failure.

This was just a brief overview of the tour. In upcoming posts, I will share our experiences and thoughts on each individual city that we visited as well as some additional information on dealing with the trains and buses in each area. 

Upcoming city posts: Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Cardiff, London, Dublin

 

 

 

 

 

 

TimeSlips makes travel plans, real ones!

TimeSlips travels

I just want to re-post this with a quick update. Yes, after many months of planning and a few glitches along the way, everything has now finally come together and I can breathe easier now and begin my official countdown to this much anticipated vacation! Tickets are bought, lodging is paid for, rental car is pre-paid, vacation is approved and my passport is finally on it’s way to my impatient nervous little hands! Five more weeks until our adventure begins. There have been a few minor changes but overall the general plan is still the same. The one major change will come at the end of the trip. We have managed to add a few days and adjust our schedule a bit so we will be making a stop in Dublin as well! It ended up being cheaper for us to fly home from Dublin than from London, even with adding in the cost of flights from London to Dublin. 

  It has always been a dream or wishful thought of mine to make one more trip across the pond to see places I never got to see the first time I visited the other side of that wide ocean. I never really thought it might happen and thus set the wish aside into that realm of not in this life time. Many years ago I had the opportunity to fulfill most of my travel dreams with a two year stay in Germany. I did as much as I could to enjoy and appreciate that chance of a lifetime. I visited much of Germany, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, I went to Austria and even to Spain during that time. I also managed a trip to England but that trip was limited by the fact that I was pregnant at the time. And, one other pesky event interfered with my short trip then… I happened to choose the most difficult time to attempt anything in England. I made the mistake of visiting England at the time Princess Diana and Prince Charles were about to celebrate their wedding with an untold throng of everyone and anyone who could find their way to London and any point within the country just to perhaps say they were at least in the country for the Wedding, if not the city or the church! Needless to say, that event put something of a damper on any of my plans even if they didn’t include wanting to visit London!  I did enjoy my brief visit and saw a wee bit of the country but I always regretted that I didn’t see more. I also always had a thought of regret at never getting to Scotland. Over the years, I can honestly say that it is one of the few regrets I have over my travel experiences. I have been blessed to see and experience as much as I have in this life and have accepted that one can not have everything they wish for!

Just because I have accepted the reality does not mean that there aren’t times late at night when I softly speak of those regrets and heart wishes to the universe… to the spirits that guide us and perhaps listen to our dreams even when we think they may not be paying attention to us. Recently, my daughter announced a plan she has been thinking of for some time. I knew that she had been thinking for quite a while of taking her own trip back across that ocean. She went to Germany when she was in high school and has always wanted to go to England and Scotland. It’s one of her personal bucket list things to do so when she mentioned that she was thinking of doing it this spring, that did not really surprise me… I would be thrilled for her to take such a trip and  happy with her sharing the whole experience with me on her return home. What did surprise and completely overwhelm me was her announcement that she was planning to include me in this trip of a life time. I am still overwhelmed that she would make such a choice and give me such an incredible heartfelt gift as this. Just the thought that she wants to do this for me and with me touches my heart and soul in a most indescribable way.  I do not have words to adequately explain how much this means to me!

My one thought right now is that those ancient ones, those wise ones, those spirits that guide me through life and destiny have indeed been listening to my whispered wishes and thoughts and have decided to possibly grant my wish. My other thought is that of my Father’s admonishments to be careful of what you wish for, you just might get it? When I was young, of course this never made much sense to me. As I grew older however, I began to understand his warning quite well! Sometimes those things we so fervently wish for and desire turn out to be difficult life lessons with our receiving of that gift. I  understand  how those spirits and guides choose to teach us hard lessons by giving us what we think we want and then showing us the high cost or  consequences . Hopefully they are not preparing one of these lessons for us!

So, because the universe appears to be listening, it seems that my daughter and I will be embarking on the journey of a life time next spring… if the prankster spirits do not create havoc and decide to foil our plans in some way.  I only mention this because we all know how the fates love to interfere with the best of plans just because they can! With all that being thought of and mentioned, we shall move on to how we hope to accomplish this trip of a life time.

We have chosen a daunting journey that may seem impossible. Who knows, it may well prove to be that- but we are determined to attempt the voyage anyway and hopefully we will survive the trip in one piece, still sane enough to recall or remember it and still on speaking terms with each other. When I get to the details of our plan you will understand the daunting nature of our plan.  We have a few things in our favor, the most important being our sense of humor and our ability to find said humor in even the worst  and most difficult situations. When I was left without words to express myself at this gift from her, my daughter’s reason was, “I am doing this for you so you will have something to talk about when I stick you in a home and this way you won’t feel bad when I commit you!”  My response to that is “If that is how I have to repay this trip, I’ll be quite happy in what ever home she chooses for me!”  Humor will get us through just about anything we might have to encounter on this trip or in life.

Another thing in our favor… we have what I think is some sort of unique genetic trait imprinted on us. I would describe this as a benefit of growing up in Northern Minnesota… the term road trip is essentially an every day life skill challenge and just some quirky fun idea that pops into our head! We are born with some sort of “Road Trip” trait imprinted in our genetic makeup! It allows us to think nothing of traveling long distances over nasty and barely driveable roads for many hours just to indulge something as mundane as an ice cream cone and think nothing of it! I believe this inherent trait will enable us to survive our future trip… Others who do not have this gene should probably not attempt the type of trip we are planning! Along with this unique Road Trip gene, we have also been blessed or cursed (depending how you look at it) with a wanderlust spirit that craves that adventure for adventure’s sake. This means we are flexible, adaptable and not so concerned with the final destination or outcome as much as the experience of getting to said destination. Of course, when destination involves set times for necessary transportation, then we must keep that end point in mind. As much as we would love to wander aimlessly throughout the world without a care, we are realistic and practical. We must return home to real life and jobs to pay for further excursions!

Now we can talk about this trip, how we came about our plan and what that plan entails so far.  My daughter and I are unabashedly proud history geeks- if you’re visiting this blog, you’re obviously aware of this fact! My interests run more towards the  medieval and earlier time frames while my daughter is more interested in the later time periods. We both are avid Outlander fans, but not the truly obsessive sorts so this will not be turning into an Outlander themed tour. We will be including a few Outlander type stops during our stay in Scotland but we will not be focused on the Outlander connection.  This trip is more about absorbing as much varied history and culture of the entire UK as possible within a very limited amount of time. When we started making decisions, we first took into account our time constraint of 10 days. We have 10 days to accomplish what some might perceive to be a rather impossible challenge- to tour Scotland and England in a road trip type driving tour. We knew from the start that we would prefer to do this on our own and not have to be at mercy of set transportation or tour schedules. Our road trip gene, wanderlust spirit, varied interests and curiosity do not mix all that well with rigid set schedules. We already know this and took that as our first consideration in planning this trip. We are willing to suffer the pitfalls and setbacks of traveling in this way in order to experience the journey in a way that suits us best. This may indeed be a crazed idea that we will at times regret but overall, we think it will be the far better option for us. Due to our road trip gene, we are well used to spending vast amounts of time in a car on unpredictable and sometimes treacherous roads in order to reach some unknown or undecided destination. For us, it is ultimately all about the journey, the surprises and the discoveries along the way. We enjoy the driving, the scenery and the ability to stop when ever we see something that inspires or interest us… not to mention being able to stop on our own schedule for such needs as eating and peeing.

For us, the driving experience was the first and most important decision to be made before anything else. Once that decision was made, we had to figure out the rest of the details in relation to the idea of a driving tour, set time limit and budget. While we are flexible, adaptable and willing to compromise, we do have a few non-negotiable goals or criteria for the trip that had to be worked into the plan from the beginning. Fortunately for us, we share many  of the same interests so the compromises have not really been that difficult. Our first criteria was that we see both Scotland and England. This was a priority for both of us and would shape the rest of our plans. My daughter’s non-negotiable items were and are that we visit Cardiff Wales and that we have some time for London.  My original non-negotiable was a visit to Isle of Skye. During the initial planning stage, I began to realize that visit might be stretching us a bit and would involve  a great deal of additional time that would thereby take away from time spent at other important places. Although I would still dearly love to see it, I just could not realistically fit into the plan without giving up some other equally important places.  My daughter did say that if it was important to me, we should find a way to fit it into the plan- she has been open and flexible, leaving much of the itinerary up to me other than her requirements of Cardiff and London. For my part, I just can not justify the added trip to Skye that she may not be as interested in. It would add to our time crunch and as I mentioned, it would potentially limit us as far as visiting other places that we both want to see. After mapping it all out and looking at the time required, I eliminated it from our plan.

Using our criteria of  driving tour and of seeing both Scotland in the allotted time limit of 10 days, we set about coming up with a travel plan that we think, hope will work out for us. Keep in mind, this plan is definitely not for the faint of heart or anyone daunted by the idea of  an epic road trip experience that involves learning to drive on the other side of unpredictable, unknown roads in a foreign country! We are now referring to this trip as our own personal version of Amazing Race. Our intent is to absorb as much as possible and arrive at our final destination on time in one piece with sanity intact. Our reward will be the accomplishment of completing this trip together, memories to last a life time and a fulfillment of life long dreams.  We have six months to plan and prepare for this very real trip through time and I will attempt to share the planning process as well as the actual trip when we finally get to that point.

For now, I will share the initial planning stage with you so you can see how and why we’ve come up with our travel plan. As I’ve already mentioned, we began with some basic specific requirements that have set the parameters and guideline for our planning. We have set the time frame for six months from now because it allows us to set up vacation time well in advance and it also provides us with enough time to make necessary reservations for air travel and hotel bookings. I should advise here that this advance planning is crucial when trying to find the best and most affordable options for lodging. Many of the places we looked at were already booked full even this far ahead of time. The airfare seems to be an opposite issue- by  booking so far in advance, you lock yourself into a price and miss out on any possible last minute deals that may show up at a later time. My daughter’s intent with this trip is to pay for as much as possible in advance and arrange it so she make purchases in chunks over the next six months. She has done this successfully in the past with other major trips so she is planning for this trip in the same way. We have set up an initial travel plan, set our time frame and booked lodging according to this plan in order to have the lodging accommodations available and not have to search last minute for places to sleep! So, our basic plan is set to include our most important requirements but everything else in between is subject to our own modifications once we arrive.

A major chunk of our budget will of course be the airfare costs. Because of that cost and my daughter’s budget planning, she has chosen the option of  doing the airfare in two separate arrangements of planning for one way tickets to and from rather than round trip tickets. This may cost more in the long run but it does enable her to pay for the two portions separately at different intervals. This is a compromise that she is willing to make- others with enough ready cash on hand will probably choose the round trip option. In our search for most affordable fares that will work with our plans, we found that Icelandair offers us the best price and the best overall travel option for both the trips.

When we took our desire to see both Scotland and England into consideration, we decided to start in Scotland and work our way down through England with a stop at Cardiff Wales and end up in London as our final destination and departure point for home.  Originally, we had planned to fly into Glasgow and start our tour with Isle of  Skye but as I previously mentioned, this would involve a great deal of additional time. If you look at the driving map from Glasgow to Isle of Skye, it is at least a 4 hour drive probably more like 5 hours at least for us in the beginning stages of adjusting to the travel. Then you would have to add the time to actually visit the Isle… this would end up being at least one entire day or more of our trip being spent on this excursion. If we were not working on such a tight schedule, I would certainly include Isle of Skye on our list. Due to our time constraints, I chose to change our arrival point in Scotland to one that will fit better with our time plus  offer us more benefit in sights and interest.

glasgow to isle of skye

Instead of Glasgow, we will be flying into Aberdeen. Our flight plan is as follows:

flight schedule to Aberdeen

On Saturday, April 2 our plan is embark on this ultimate adventure by boarding a flight from San Francisco that will eventually land us in Aberdeen, Scotland. Along the way we will stop for layovers at Seattle and then at Reykjavik Iceland. We will leave San Francisco at 1pm Saturday and arrive in Aberdeen at noon on Sunday.  I chose Aberdeen for a couple of reasons. First is it’s close proximity to Inverness, which was on our list of places to see. It is about a 3 hour drive from Aberdeen to Inverness and I am thinking that the drive will probably include points of interest along the way.

map and directions from aberdeen to Inverness

The second reason for Aberdeen as our starting point is that it is an area full of history and Castles…We all know I have a love of Castles! Aberdeenshire is known as ‘Scotland’s Castle Country.’  There are more castles per acre here than anywhere else in the UK. Scotland’s only dedicated Castle Trail lets you discover 18 of Aberdeenshire’s most famous and dramatic castles with our suggested 4-day itinerary and downloadable map. Simply follow the distinctive brown and white road signs through the heart of Aberdeenshire.

http://www.visitscotland.com/en-us/see-do/itineraries/castles/scotlands-castle-trail

There is so much to see that one could probably devote the entire 10 days just to this area. It includes everything from ancient ruins to more recent manor houses and it’s history stretches from the Picts , Robert the Bruce, wars of 1600s through the Victorian era when Queen Victoria made one of it’s area Castles, Balmoral her royal residence. Balmoral has been one of the residences for members of the British Royal Family since 1852, when the estate and its original castle were purchased privately by Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria. They remain as the private property of the royal family and are not the property of the Crown.

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Balmoral Castle

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Haddo House

National Trust for Scotland

National Trust for Scotland Castle Fraser

We will spend two nights in Aberdeen with lodging booked at the Caledonian hotel. We will attempt to see as much as possible before heading towards Inverness sometime on Tuesday.

Caledonian hotel in Aberdeen

In Inverness, we will stay at a Bed and Breakfast, Ardmeanach House for two nights- Tuesday and Wednesday. This will give us a few days to tour the Inverness area.

http://www.ardmeanach.co.uk/

Ardmeanach house inverness2 Ardmeanach house inverness

The Ardmeanach website is excellent and provides a great list of the numerous points of interest in the Inverness area. One of our priorities for this area is Culloden Battlefield. Culloden Battlefield is situated about 5 miles from the City centre and is a must for anyone visiting Inverness. The site of the last Battle to be fought on British soil. There is a large Exhibition Centre and a walk around the battlefield is a must to soak up the history and atmosphere.

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http://www.visitscotland.com/en-us/info/see-do/culloden-battlefield-and-visitor-centre-p247471

In honor of Outlander, we will also search out some standing stones. There a number of sites in the Inverness area so we should be able to accomplish our search for Standing Stones!  Situated in Glen Urquhart (8 miles west of Drumnadrochit) is the Corrimony chambered cairn surrounded by a circle of 11 standing stones. Robert Pollock has a guide to this site.

Six miles east of Inverness are the Clava Cairns (also known as Balnuaran of Clava). These Bronze Age chambered cairns are each surrounded by a stone circle in a wooded field. A most unusual place. Robert Pollock has a guide to this site. Photos online by Phil Wright and Undiscovered Scotland.

In the grounds of Brodie Castle there is a Pictish stone which was found in 1781 during excavations for a local church. It was moved here around 1840 and is sculptured with Ogham inscriptions including fish monsters and an elephant. This cross-slab of grey sandstone is known as Rodney’s Stone with varying stories as to the origin of the name. Photo reproduced by kind permission of Paul Warrener.

After Inverness, we will head toward Edinburgh where we have lodging booked at the Parliament House Hotel for Thursday and Friday.

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Right in the heart of a city renowned for its heritage, the Parliament House Hotel has its own extensive history. Jacobean and Georgian buildings have been carefully brought together to form an elegant fifty-three bedroom hotel. We’ve retained many period features and introduced a little local character to all our rooms. However, we have also moved with the times and have incorporated all the latest in-room features today’s travellers expect.

Sitting in quiet seclusion at the foot of Calton Hill down a short cobbled lane, the hotel enjoys a tranquillity that belies its city centre location. Edinburgh’s main attractions like the Castle and Scottish Parliament, as well as its top shopping streets, are all tantalisingly close. Our central position makes us a popular choice for more than stylish accommodation and a good night’s sleep. We also appeal to business travellers with important meetings; family and friends attending a city wedding; theatre goers catching a quick bite in our bistro before the show; or couples making the most of all that Edinburgh and Scotland has to offer on a weekend break.

http://parliamenthouse-hotel.co.uk/about/

On our trip from Inverness to Edinburgh, we’re hoping to include a detour trip to Antonine’s wall, which was one of the attempts by the Romans at building a defensive wall border.

The Antonine Wall was a turf fortification on stone foundations, built by the Romans across what is now the Central Belt of Scotland, between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde. Representing the northernmost frontier barrier of the Roman Empire, it spanned approximately 63 kilometres (39 miles) and was about 3 metres (10 feet) high and 5 metres (16 feet) wide. Security was bolstered by a deep ditch on the northern side. It is thought that there was a wooden palisade on top of the turf. The barrier was the second of two “great walls” created by the Romans in Northern Britain. Its ruins are less evident than the better-known Hadrian’s Wall to the south, primarily because the turf and wood wall has largely weathered away, unlike its stone-built southern predecessor. Construction began in CE 142 at the order of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, and took about 12 years to complete. It may be noted in passing that Antoninus Pius never visited the British Isles, whereas his predecessor Hadrian did, and may well have visited the site of his Wall, though this has not yet been proved. You can find more information about wall on the official website:  http://www.antoninewall.org/

Antonine's wall

Although the Antonine Wall was not built of stone, its impact on the landscape was immense.

This is the route from Inverness to Edinburgh, which is approximately a three hour drive.  Seeing Antonine’s wall would require a detour from this route, or a trip to it from Edinburgh. To me it makes more sense to do the detour on our way from Inverness rather than plan for an added trip from Edinburgh.

map and directions from inverness to edinburgh

This detour would entail a three hour drive to the wall area from Inverness, then about an hour drive from Antonine’s wall to Edinburgh.

from inverness to antonine's wall

from antonine's wall to edinburgh

Our plan is to spend two days in Edinburgh… yes, we know that is barely enough time and we could also spend an entire two weeks soaking up Edinburgh! Never the less we will try to accomplish at least a few highlights of the city- the two priorities being Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace!

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Edinburgh Castle

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Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edinburgh_Castle

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holyrood_Palace

Are you dazed and exhausted yet just thinking about this plan? Yes, you probably are… I admit that it seems like a daunting challenge even to me!  I do have some doubts about it but, as I’ve said, we are determined to try and we are willing to make modifications mid trip if we realize that we are fighting a losing battle! Much of the trip will be spent in Scotland because we simply could not make a choice on what to leave out!

On Saturday we will head south towards England with a planned destination of Leeds. The route from Edinburgh to Leeds affords us a bit of much needed leeway depending on when we leave Edinburgh.  This map of the trip from Edinburgh to York and Leeds area shows about a 4-5 hour drive. The only reason I say it affords us some leeway is that there is only one current detour or sight along the way.

from edinburgh to York

We’re hoping to include a stop at Hadrian’s wall, which is along the route. This would break up the trip yet still put us on a continued path towards our Saturday destination of Leeds. It would be about a 3 hour trip from Edinburgh to Hadrian’s wall.

from edinburgh to hadrian's wall

http://www.visithadrianswall.co.uk/

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From Hadrian’s wall area to Leeds is about a 2-3 hour drive so this would put us at arriving in Leeds late afternoon on Saturday depending on how much time we would spend at the wall area. If we limit our time there, we could get into Leeds earlier and have more time for Leeds and Yorkshire area. There is a great deal to see in this area and we may end up finding a way to do a quick stop at a portion of the wall so we can get to Leeds sooner.

hadrian's wall to leeds

Another possible option besides the wall visit is a stop at Durham, which is on the route to Leeds. Durham is another city filled with history. Archeological evidence suggests a history of settlement in the area since roughly 2000 BC.  The present city can clearly be traced back to AD 995, when a group of monks from Lindisfarne chose the strategic high peninsula as a place to settle with the body of Saint Cuthbert, that had previously lain in Chester-le-Street, founding a church there. Durham’s geographical position has always given it an important place in the defence of England against the Scots.  The city played an important part in the defence of the north, and Durham Castle is the only Norman castle keep never to have suffered a breach.  The Battle of Neville’s Cross, which took place near the city on 17 October 1346 between the English and Scots, is the most famous battle of the age.

800px-Durham_Millburngate_Bridge durham castle

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham,_England

durham england

Durham England on the map

durham to leeds

route from Durham to Leeds

 

 

In Leeds, we will be staying at the Bridge Farm Hotel, a  family-run, 18th-century coaching house, Bridge Farm Hotel offers a small bar, a separate TV lounge, free parking and free Wi-Fi in public areas. In the morning, a full English breakfast is served in the dining room.Each bedroom is individually decorated and comes with an en suite bathroom and tea/coffee making facilities. A 15-minute drive from Leeds city centre and Wakefield city centre, Bridge Farm is only 10 minutes away by car from Temple Newsam Golf Club.

bridge farm2 bridge farm hotel in leeds

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g186411-d3396409-Reviews-Bridge_Farm_Hotel-Leeds_West_Yorkshire_England.html

We will be staying only one night in Leeds and if you think the previous portion of this whirlwind trip is a crunch, the remainder of it will be even more so! On Sunday, we will need to make our way from Leeds area down to Bristol and Cardiff Wales where we have planned to stay on Sunday night. It is about a 4-6 hour trip from Leeds/York area to our destination of Cardiff, Wales. This will that anything we want to see in the Leeds/York area will have to be done in the morning so we can head out at a reasonable time to make Cardiff by late afternoon. We may end up not seeing much of the York area in order to have some time for Cardiff, which is a priority on our list. In order to accomplish this, we may be better off heading from Leeds straight off in the morning. We really do want some time in Cardiff and this would be the compromise needed to get that time.

york area to bristol and cardiff

Once in Cardiff, we have reservations at Innkeeper’s Lodge.

inkeeper's lodge cardiff

A Cardiff hotel with the whole package

If you’re looking for hotels in Cardiff, our lodge offers budget accommodation close to the heart of the city. So whether you’re here for business or pleasure, you’ll be near enough to all the action, yet happily away from the hustle and bustle. The Millennium Stadium is just a 15-minute walk away, as is Cardiff Arms Park, and attractions such as Cardiff Castle and Cardiff Bay are also within easy reach. While you’re sightseeing, how about stepping into the future – or the past – by visiting the Dr Who Experience?

Of course, you won’t need a Tardis to get to us because the M4 is on the doorstep, and excellent rail and plane connections are just a taxi-ride away.  As for the lodge itself, our classic Victorian building was once a rich man’s townhouse. Today it’s anything but expensive to stay here. With a comfy bed and a cool pint or plate of hearty pub-food available in the pub downstairs, you’ll find it offers a great-value base for exploring the Welsh capital.

http://www.innkeeperslodge.com/cardiff/#about

Now, I must remind everyone that my daughter is in charge of the hotel reservations. I am quite certain that it was the specific mention of Dr. Who and the Tardis that swayed her decision to book at this hotel. She happens to be a devoted Dr. Who fan and I have a feeling that played a part in her insistence on visiting Cardiff. This is also the reason I am trying to give us some additional time in Cardiff on Sunday and Monday morning. I am trying too to make time in Cardiff to hopefully meet up with some friends who live in the area!

From Cardiff, we will need to make our way to London, our final pit stop of this race! It will probably be about a 6 or possibly 7 hour drive from Cardiff to London. I know the map says about 3 but I am adding time in as a buffer to include any stop we might decide to make along the way…such as a quick stop at any rest area that might give a view of Stonehenge. We’re not planning a stop there because you can’t actually visit the site anyway so why include it on our priority list at all. If it happens that we can get a view of it along our way, that’s fine- if not, we’re not concerned about it! I have a feeling that by this point we will not be concerned about much of anything other than getting to London.

cardiff to london

We have reservations made for two nights- Monday and Tuesday in London at Airways Hotel Victoria.  It is nothing fancy or interesting, just reasonably priced and in a convenient location- that was all we were concerned about for this final part of the trip.

Airways-Hotel-4

Looking for cheap budget hotels in London? The Airways Hotel, a cheap hotel in Central London, may be the answer to your search. We are a family run budget hotels in Central London offering affordable accommodation with quality service. En suite rooms in this budget hotel are clean and comfortably furnished, and our staff are well trained to ensure they can help you with whatever you may need and are eager to help. Although we are a low priced B&B Hotel still we have not compromised our quality of service. 

We are one of the most conveniently located Central London hotels.
The bed and breakfast hotel in Central London is 7-10 minutes’ walk from Victoria Station, which has links by Underground, Bus, Train and Coach to all parts of London, including tourist sites, and places as far as mainland Europe. Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, London Eye and Harrods are all within 20-30 minutes walk of the Hotel and if you use public transport you are within 40 minutes of all of London’s tourist attractions, including Tower of London, and airports (Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton).

Our budget hotel is housed in a mid Victorian building in a well conserved residential part of London. The Airways Hotel is the answer for tourist and business travellers looking for a cheap hotel in central London in a quiet and safe residential setting. We are one of the leading bed and breakfast hotels in London.

http://www.airways-hotel.com/

Our flight from London to home will depart on Wednesday afternoon, 1pm so we will really not have time to see much of London. As it looks right now, we will basically have one day- Tuesday to see anything we want to see in London. I know my daughter is still trying to figure out some way of making more time for London sights, but realistically I think by this point we will be so toured out that it may not be such a pressing desire. Add to that fact, it is at the end of our trip, extremely expensive and we will at the end limit of our tight budget besides our patience and our endurance!

This is our initial plan… we may come to our senses at some point during the process and make modifications to it, but modifications will most likely be in what we are willing to compromise on as far as sights or stops along the way. Our plan is to stick with the driving tour and the pre-planned hotel stays if at possible. If it becomes a seriously rocky trip, we may adjust some of the time spent in Scotland and compromise on that portion to give us added time in England. I will continue to keep everyone updated on our plans and the progress. Consider this as our real life trip through history!