England and Wales

Our trip was grand. As I mentioned in my last post, after Scotland, we headed to Wales, and we stayed in a Medieval castle. We even had a medieval dinner at the castle. The castle was haunted. I know this because the story teller (bard?) at dinner told us it was haunted. Pam and I were on the first floor. Well, not exactly the first floor since we had to take the stairs down to get to our room. It was way in the back of the castle — the most remote room possible. It was room number 113. So here we were staying in a haunted castle, in the 13th room of the basement (dungeon?), in the most remote part of the depths of the castle, with a ghost! Ooooh… Scary stuff.

Well we survived the haunted castle, but the next day we lost half our party. You see, not everyone could take an extra week off, so some folks headed back early. So back to Manchester to drop off the folks who couldn’t continue, and then we would resume the tour.

There was no included dinner in Manchester. So Ester arranged transport and a dinner at a pub just a few miles from the hotel. The hotel wanted an absurd fee for a buffet dinner. The pub was great, and quite a bit cheaper. We had the best fish and chips yet, and the beer was good too. No whiskey that night!

At some point we had a boat tour of Windermere. Actually, I think it was before we got to the castle. It is in the lakes region of Britain, but whether it is in Wales or England, I couldn’t tell you. Lots of ducks, swans and funny little gulls too. The gulls were small birds with black heads: maybe Black Headed Gulls or Little Gulls. it was a lot of fun. Look for the pictures when I get them up.

After Manchester, we visited a castle in Cardiff and then we went to Bath. Bath was great. One of the highlights of the whole trip. I spent hours wandering through the museum, exploring all the Roman ruins and artifacts. Afterward we had tea in the very fancy dining room.

Stonehenge was interesting. We spent an hour there, and later we stopped at Woodhenge. The weather was fantastic. It was crowded at Stonehenge. It was the day before the solstice. It is closed on the solstice because of the druids. I bought a book, but Stonehenge is a prehistoric mystery, so the book could only tell me so much. Wikipedia probably has as much information.

After Stonehenge we moved on to London where we spent three days, much of it free time. But I will save London and Stratford-upon-Avon for my next post.

Scotland

So we have been almost a week in Scotland. Well North Umberland and the Lakes Region of England as well Scotland. We have stayed in York, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and on the Isle of Mull. We have seen cathedrals, castles, abbeys, and sheep. Lots of sheep. We have seen cows and birds and flowers, and lots of beautiful scenery. And we have done research. We have been researching Ales, and when we ran out of ales, we started researching malt whiskey. (Scotch whisky is also known as the water of life in Scotland.)

We have discovered that Oban Scotch is the best. A little of the islands, and a little of the highlands. We bought some in Oban, and some more at Gretna Green. Gretna Green… Ah Gretna Green. We spent a lot of money at Gretna Green. We found kilts in a family tartan. We found jewelry. We found wool and cashmere. And whiskey — don’t forget the whiskey. Then we went to Grassmere, and spent almost as much again. We are doing Christmas shopping. At least that is the story.

Yesterday and the day before, we stayed on the Isle of Mull. It a beautiful Island. The hotel was right on the water. Our group stayed in two different hotels, so instead of the large coach, we took little mini-buses to the Island of Iona. The road was a narrow track that was only wide enough for one car. There we pullouts so vehicles could pass, either head on or over taking. Rushing down this narrow track in the woods and hills, and screeching to a stop so someone could whizz by, was a little exciting. The scenery was as awesome. We took the long way back for a different and even more incredible scenery.

The Isle of Iona is the site of a ancient monastery and nunnery. The monastery has been converted and is being used for ecumenical religious purposes. The Island has a spirituality to it. After lunch the others went on a guided tour of the Island, but I broke off, took a walk on the beach, and did some meditation. It was really nice. I finished my notes on the OSL conference in a pub by the beach.

In Edinburgh, we saw a castle and a palace. The castle of Edinburgh was the best castle we have seen so far. It was just like Lord of the Rings: reminded me of Minas Tirith. We also went to church in the cathedral of St. Giles. A Presbyterian cathedral: go figure! No pictures permitted on Sunday, however. I think I sneaked a few in anyway.

On Monday, we went to Lindisfarne, aka “the Holy Island”. It also had a castle and a ruined monastery. It also has mead. I almost bought some, but (except for samplers at the winery), it isn’t cheap. It wasn’t bad mead. It was pretty good. I, of course, make mead (with Jon and Sherman), and I think mine is better. Not possitive. I am still not sure I won’t buy some before I leave Britain.

The tide isolates the island. This isolated and may have protected the monks who lived there in the 7th century. There is no bridge and no ferry, so you can only access the island via a causeway when the tide is low. We had a nice walk to the castle, and of course took lots of pictures. We researched ale, and found some good choices.

From York, we saw York Minster cathedral. Minster means cathedral in Anglo Saxon. Very grand. I felt the power more than the sacred, but Barbara could feel the Spirit in York Minster. Then we walked through the Shambles and peered down snickelways. A snickelway is a small windy alley that is only for walking. The Shambles is a crooked street where all the houses lean over the road. There used to be butcher shops here where the shade kept the meat cool. The Shambles is home to the most haunted alley in Britain, or at least that is what the advert claims.

Well that’s my story so far. Soon there will be pictures. Soon. I have to edit down the 1600 plus I have taken to something more manageable. Tonight we have medieval diner in a castle in Ruthin. I, unfortunately did not bring my sword. Perhaps a dagger would be O.K.? 🙂