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.
Instead of Glasgow, we will be flying into Aberdeen. Our flight plan is as follows:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/
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.
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.
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!
Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh
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.
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 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.
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.
Durham England on the map
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.
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.
Once in Cardiff, we have reservations at Innkeeper’s Lodge.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!