Travel Diary: Europe, 2018

Join Stephen and Rona Yarrow, and Steve and Debbie Hall, as they trek around England, Wales and Scotland during September 2018. In the first week of October they take the ferry to Amsterdam, then travel by train through Germany, Austria and Switzerland on their way to northern Italy. There's a lot to see in a very short time, but somebody has to do it!

Penny Lane will be "in our ears and in our eyes", though being "there beneath the blue suburban skies" is a bit of wishful thinking, knowing what the weather is like in Liverpool in September!

Previous posts

4.9.2018: Sydney to London
5.9.2018: London

6.9.2018: Canterbury, UK
7-9.2018: London City

8.9.2018: Greenwich, UK
9.9.2018: London

10.9.2018: Trip to Edinburgh
11.9.2018: Edinburgh

12th September 2018

When we got back to our unit today after a day of exploring, Stephen was suffering from sore feet, so we told him to relax, and put both his feet up. Unfortunately, he did this from a standing position. As it is difficult to write a travelogue whilst flat on your back, I (Debbie) stood up and wrote the diary of our travels today.


"Cold, sunny and sometimes windy" was the essence of today's weather forecast so we prepared ourselves for the worst - it actually never came, we enjoyed a very pleasant day with only a hint of wind and rain - by donning our all-weather gear and heading off to Stirling on the train. Stirling is a lovely little city about an hour north west of Edinburgh. Quaint and welcoming, it sits at the foot of a hill dominated by Stirling Castle. We made our way up the cobbled streets to the catle and what a treat!

View from the Castle walls

Unlike Edinburgh Castle where we found our own way around, this time we had a guided tour with a very friendly, informaive lady guide, who took us step by step through its history. Our first impressions was that it was just another collection of brown buildings, but there was a curious yellow/orange building in the centre. This turned out to be the Great Hall of the castle's royal buildings complex within the castle. It was built by James V, who reigned in the 1600s. The custodians of the Castle had decided to restore some of the buildings to their original colour - Royal Gold. It was a bit of a controversial decision at the time, but when you imagine what the whole middle section of the castle would have looked like in its day, shining from the top of the hill over the whole area, it would have been spectacular and quite mindblowing!

Inside the castle we saw intricate tapestries depicting both the Hunt of the Unicorn and the Passion of Christ, symbolically woven together. The unicorn is the animal symbol of Scotland, and there are statues and depictions of them everywhere, especially in Stirling. In the Middle Ages it was the symbol of purity and strength and its horn an instrument of healing. There were many other fascnating recreations, including palace rooms as they would have been with ornate ceilings; there were guides everywhere dressed as folk from an earlier era, who were keen to tell us their stories.

Riverside Museum, Glasgow

Following the tour and some exploring on our own we ate a delicious lunch in the Unicorn Cafe before proceeding to Glasgow, a 35 minute train journey. We did not have a lot of time for sightseeing so we made our way by underground railway to the Riverside Museum, depicting Glasgow's transport history. It was really well done - I loved the recreation of an old street, with each shop carefully constructed to reflect its authenticity. There was a subway with an old train and a horse and cart - a hearse with a coffin in it - on the street, showing the type of funerals they had. They even had sound effects - horses' hooves, thunder, lightning and rain.

McIntosh At The Willows

We then headed back into town to find a tea rooms we had been recommended to go and visit - "McIntosh At The Willows". It had recently been re-opened by Prince Charles and now operates as a social enterprise and community service, offering young people training, employment and development as part of an attempt to address a major unemployment problem among Glasgow's youth.

Afternoon tea at McIntosh At The Willows

Originally designed by leading architect Charles Rennie McIntosh for Miss Kate Cranston, a wealthy entrepreneur and tea importer - who opened and ran the Willow Tea Rooms at the premises. First opened in 1903, the building is now recognised as one of the finest examples of Art Nouveau architecture in the world. We had afternoon tea there.

Steve lines up a shot of St Mungo's Cathedral

We then walked to an older part of Glasgow, where we saw the Glasgow Infirmary, St Mungo's Cathedral, and avery beautiful, very spectacular/impressive Necropolis on top of a large hill overlooking the Cathedral. There were some huge monumental gravestones dating back as far as 500 years, among them was the grave of John Knox, who instigated the Reformation that led to the formation of the Presbytarian Church of Scotland.

Tired, hungry and with evening approaching, we then caught the train back to Eninburgh, having walked a total of 23,000 steps for the day according to my FitBit.

Happy birthday, Wok.

- Debbie Hall


The city of Stirling is clustered around the medieval old town, and home to many of Scotland's top attractions including Stirling Castle, Bannockburn and The National Wallace Monument. It has famously been said over the centuries "that to hold Stirling was to hold the key to Scotland", so important and significant was tStirling Castle in the history of Scotland. The Old Town Tour offers a hilarious mix of comedy, drama and storytelling with costumed local guides. It takes visitors on a journey through the curious nooks and crannies of the Burgh, revealing some of Stirling's strangest tales. While in Stirling you can also see the world's oldest football at the Smith Art Gallery and Museum.

Stirling's renowned landmark, the National Wallace Monument, commemorates the life of Sir William Wallace and overlooking the scene of his greatest victory, at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, in 1297. Inside the Monument you can visit the Hall of Arms.

Opened in 1896, the Glasgow Subway is the third-oldest underground metro system in the world after the London Underground and the Budapest Metro. It is the only heavy rail underground metro system in the United Kingdom outside London, and also the only one in the United Kingdom which operates completely underground. It is also one of the very few railways in the world with a track running gauge of 4 ft (1,219 mm). Formerly a cable railway, the Subway was later electrified, but its twin circular lines were never expanded.

- Stephen Yarrow

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