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

12.9.2018: Glasgow, Scotland

13th September 2018

As this is your real your birthday in England, Happy Birthday again Wok.

We had long day - Steve and I decided to do a guided bus tour to Loch Ness, and as Rona and Stephen had previously done this tour, they chose to stay in Edinburgh for the day. The bus left at 7am through Edinburgh's peak hour and the buildings gradually became newer, smaller and less brown as we went along. We had a morning tea stop at Pitlochrie - a cute little Berrima-like town on the way to the Western Highlands. As we passed the Grampians we watched the weather become mistier, foggier and damper until we finally reached Inverness and Loch Ness. This could be the most northerly place we will ever go to in our lives.

A boat trip to Urquart Castle, but sadly no Nessie, saw us again boarding the bus for the trip home.

Interesting fact No. 1: Loch Ness and Loch Lomond provide a sneaky little short cut to Ireland from Scandinavia, thanks to the Caledonia Canal, which joins the two.

Urquart Castle

On the way home we stopped at a swing bridge which opened to let a sail boat through on the canal. We passed through Fort William, Glencoe, the town of Callendar and The Trussocks Loch Lomond National Park. Glencoe presented us with a sad story: some disgusting English king ordained an invasion of Glencoe. The MacDonalds, who were the main occupants, warmly welcomed The Redcoat visitors with food, hospitality and cameraderie, however in the middle of the night, the visitors' real intensions were revealed when they turned on their hosts and burned Glencoe to the ground. Over 70 lives were lost that awful night.

Loch Leven, Glencoe

No one accepted responsibility for the despicable act, rulers blamed other rulers but as the Campbells Clan had co-operated with the invaders, they were as good as any to blame. Glencoe slowly got back on its feet, and eventually signs were put up around the town, "No hawkers, dogs or Campbells". Later the signs were taken down and replaced. They now read "No hawkers or Campbells". Dogs are now allowed in.

Interesting fact No. 2: As we returned to Edinburgh, we were shown big brown, multi story buildings with lots of windows, some of which were boarded up. Apparently, the Government of the day saw fit to impose a window tax on its residents. In response, the residents boarded up some of their windows - hence the term "daylight robbery".

We arrived back in Edinburgh at around 8.30pm having had a very interesting introduction to the broad and colourful spectrum that is Scotland. The soup Rona had prepared for us was most welcome.

- Debbie Hall

Edinburgh Castle

Debbie's Reflections on Scotland

On Edinburgh: It's brown. It's old.

On Scotland: It's cold.

They speak a different language in Scotland (but Stephen didn't have a problem understanding them).

The other language a very small number of people speak in Scotland is Gaelic (Scots say Gal-ic, The Irish say Gay-lik) and they are different, apparently.

Scottish people are very friendly and proud of their heritage.

They sell every kind of tartan and whisky everywhere. In spite of there being many Great Halls in Scotland - every castle had one - Steve couldn'd find the Hall tartan anywhere even though there apparently is one. How rude!

Scotland is fascinating and full of history, and the people have gone to great lengths to present it in an interesting and inspiring way to visitors.

Edinburgh Grassmarket

14th September 2018

Today was the 10th day of our trip and we had hardly had any time off from going here or there, so the opportunity to sit and look out of the window of the train that took us from Edinburgh to the City of Leeds was welcomed by all of us. We arrived in Leeds - a place that Stephen felt somewhat of an affinity with, as he was born there - and headed off to our hotel and a change in our accommodation.

In London and Edinburgh, we had stayed in 2-bedroom apartments, but as none were available in Leeds that suited our requirements, we ended up in a hotel, with each couple havng their own room. Rona and Stephen had stayed at that particular hotel before and knew the rooms weren't the biggest in the world, so Rona's description of us as cellmates seemed appropriate once we were in our rooms. We found a nice pub across the road called The Palace for an afternoon meal - really good service and nice food, and the waitress looked like Kate Winslet. Afterwards, we went for a walk around Leeds and then came home for an early night.

Stephen Yarrow and Debbie Hall

Walking the Wall at York

15th September 2018

Our day commenced with a classic English breakfast at The Palace Pub and finally a half decent coffee (according to Debbie) before we hot-footed it down to the railway station for the 20-minute journey to York. The crowds lining the platform as the train pulled in, then the mad rush to occupy the few remaining unbooked seats, illustrated what we had previously been told - that the British railway system is struggling to keep up with the number of people trying to use it, and needs to do something, and do it quickly, to avoid the whole thing grinding to a halt in gridlock. Three carriages was not enough, and throughout the day, watching trains come and go packed to the rafters, ours wasn't the only train that was too small to cater for the demand. We ended up having to sit where we could, rather than with each other.

The Shambles

York is one of Britain's oldest cities, having originated back in Roman times - there are numerous Roman relics around town. Steeped in history, and with buildings from a number of eras in its interesting history, it is a history buff's paradise and a great place to spend a day soaking up its alluring atmosphere. Its streets were full of people - some, locals out to do some Saturday shopping, others, to take in the sights, or to stay after dark to enjoy the nightlife. Then there were visitors like us who came to walk along the city's medieval walls; visit the National Railway Museum, York Minster and other places of interest around town like the medieval shopping street, The Shambles; the Nordic Centre which documents the influcence of Vikings on the city: the many historic buildings, castles and ruins.

York Minster

The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York, commonly known as York Minster, is one of the largest of its kind in Northern Europe. The minster is the seat of the Archbishop of York, the second-highest office of the Church of England. The present building was begun in about 1230 and completed in 1472. It has a cruciform plan with an octagonal chapter house attached to the north transept, a central tower and two towers at the west front. York as a whole, and particularly the minster, have a long tradition of creating beautiful stained glass. Some of the stained glass in York Minster dates back to the 12th century.

National Railway Museum

The National Railway Museum is situated just beyond the station, and is home to a vast range of transport material and the largest collection of railway locomotives in the world. Included in this collection are the world's fastest steam locomotive LNER Class A4 4468 Mallard and the world-famous LNER Class A3 4472 Flying Scotsman, which has been overhauled in the Museum.

National Railway Museum

The Museum displays a collection of over 100 locomotives and nearly 300 other items of rolling stock, virtually all of which either ran on the railways of Great Britain or were built there.

The Multi-angular Tower in the Museum Gardens is the most noticeable and intact structure remaining from the Roman walls. It was constructed as part of a series of eight similar defensive towers. A small stretch of wall on the west side of Tower Gardens terminates at Davy Tower, another brick tower located next to the River Ouse. This originally ran up to the castle walls, with a postern on Tower Street.

York Castle

York Castle, a complex of buildings ranging from the medieval Clifford's Tower to the 20th century entrance to the York Castle Museum (formerly a prison) has had a chequered history. The now-ruinous keep of the medieval Norman castle is commonly referred to as Clifford's Tower.

Stephen Yarrow

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