A few months ago, I asked you all for your help and advice as we started planning our three week trip to England and Scotland this October. I was overwhelmed and delighted with the response (you should see my spreadsheet incorporating it all!—no, actually you shouldn't, because even considering all the obsessiveness you see from me on this blog, you might still be amazed at the untested depths of my obsessiveness about this trip). I also promised that I would update you as the trip approached to let you know how it all came together.
As I progressed with my obsessive planning, I quickly determined that in order to see all the sights on my initial, brainstorming Wish List, we would need—to see it all properly and not just sprint wildly from place to place snapping the occasional photo—at least eight years in England and Scotland. Now, I am completely fine with that, but I am told that I don't have quite enough vacation time accrued to take eight years off. Funding might also be an issue. I realized, as a result, that I would have to make some heartbreaking decisions.
For a few weeks, I did little but map out (literally, on a giant National Geographic map of the UK) where everything was (and I can't tell you how much my geographical knowledge has improved as a result). I looked up distances, trains, and proximities. And the terrible, painful excisions began, including—just to torture myself a bit more—Cornwall, Oxford, Coventry, the Scottish Isles, Glasgow, and the Lake District. I know, I know! I shall pause here for suitable gasps and exclamations of horror.
(And I can add that I was particularly upset by losing out on the southwest of England, because I had so badly wanted to walk dramatically out onto the jetty at Lyme Regis like Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant's Woman, though perhaps not to emulate Louisa in Jane Austen's Persuasion.)
|Sadly, this will not be me in October|
On the other hand, if I approach things from the other direction, and mention the things we are planning to do, it doesn't sound quite so dire, and indeed, some of you may be shaking your heads skeptically, wondering (as I do at times) if we won't collapse from exhaustion halfway through. So, here goes (I'm including some pics from the internet, while I'll hopefully replace with our own pictures in a couple of months):
First, two nights in London. An unavoidable layover, despite our hopes of avoiding big cities for most of the trip. A priority of this trip is to finally get to Windsor, and our attempts at a workable plan to spend a night or two in Windsor instead of in London and then progress to the south were stymied by the fact that apparently every single train in the southern half of the UK passes through London come-what-may, and usually involves not only a change of trains but also a change of train stations, which is always fun with three weeks' worth of luggage. We decided it was better to have a convenient hotel near the train station in London.
|Windsor Castle (is it wrong of me that I see this picture|
and think, "My, what a lot of walking"?)
Oh, and we'll have a glimpse of Eton as well, and pay homage to its fictional graduates, which, a Google search reveals, include Bertie Wooster, Peter Wimsey, James Bond, Sebastian Flyte, Poirot's oft sidekick Captain Hastings, and Lord Grantham from Downton Abbey.
Next, a day in Canterbury. Suitable quotations from Chaucer and Eliot to be recited along the way. (Cathedral #1)
Then, four days with a car, the only time we'll have one during this trip. Much of the four days will likely be spent freaking out over driving on the left side of the road, but in between we hope to hit Dover and Rye (spending a night in the Mermaid Inn, no less), possibly Hastings and Battle, Lewes, and Winchester, with the necessary Bloomsbury stops at Knole, Sissinghurst, Monk's House, and Charleston, as well as Ightham Mote, a whistlestop in Chichester (the cathedral being, if I'm not mistaken, the real life version of Antonia Forest's Wade Minster?), and of course a foray to Chawton. Readings from Mrs. Dalloway and Sense and Sensibility while I have Andy as a captive audience in the car—he'll love that! (Cathedrals 2 & 3)
|The Mermaid Inn, Rye, where we'll spend one night|
On to Bath, with a stop at Avebury on the way (we saw Stonehenge and Salisbury on our last visit, so will reluctantly bypass them this time). A couple of days in Bath, during which we were supposed to do an all-day tour of Cotswold villages, but it booked up ridiculously early (perhaps they should schedule more or larger tours?), so we may have to skip the villages, spend more time imagining ourselves in a Georgette Heyer novel, and perhaps make a half-day jaunt to Gloucester Cathedral—a high priority that I had reluctantly concluded we hadn't enough time to see. (In all fairness, since cathedrals are more my thing than Andy's, I felt we were seeing a sufficient number of them anyway, but if the opportunity falls into our lap, how can I resist seeing the Harry Potter locations at Gloucester—not to mention what looks to be one of the most awesome of all the cathedrals?) (Cathedral #4—and Bath Abbey isn't technically a cathedral, but surely deserves an honorable mention)
|The Roman Baths with Bath Abbey in the background|
After Bath, a painfully short two days in Cambridge, imagining all of its impressive fictional graduates—from Mr. Darcy and Gulliver to Albert Campion and the heroine of Mary Stewart's Stormy Petrel—not to mention a few impressive real life ones. I might also have to imagine where exactly St. Agatha's College, where Jill Paton Walsh's Imogen Quy works as a nurse, would be located if it in fact existed. Hopefully we can catch the Wren Library when it's actually open (2 hours a day, I think?), and see King's Chapel in all its glory. Depending on our energy, we're thinking, on our second day, of either a river walk to Grantchester (to imagine ourselves solving murders in the 1950s) or a jaunt to Peterborough and/or Lincoln for more cathedral storming. (I don't anticipate an attempt at the Great Court Run from Chariots of Fire—especially after all the walking—but you never know!) (1-2 more cathedrals, depending on time)
Next, on to York, where we'll stay for four nights, in part because there are some excellent day tours to be taken from there. I'm sure my first stop will be York Minster, one of the greatest cathedrals (I may find myself imagining the sculptures coming to life as they did in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.) Our first tour is of Haworth, Harrogate, and Skipton. Quotations from Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre should abound on this day, but I may have to bring in some Agatha Christie if I can veer quickly off of the tour's path to see the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate, where—as you who are fans surely know—Christie was discovered following her famous disappearance in 1926 (registered under a name strikingly similar to her husband's mistress, no less—and I should note that the hotel went by another name in those days too, the Swan Hydropathic Hotel). (1 more BIG cathedral)
Then, our other day tour takes us to the Moors and Whitby (morbid quotations from Dracula a must). If there's time after wandering around York and seeing all its other historic sites, a day trip to Durham should be in the offing, for yet another brilliant cathedral.
|Royal Mile, Edinburgh|
Then on to Edinburgh. Now, I know we're giving Scotland short shrift. We're spending five nights in Edinburgh, but as a co-worker (who was raised in Scotland, not coincidentally) pointed out a bit huffily, two of our days are to be spent on tours back into Northern England. But what can I say? How can I miss the opportunity to get to Hadrian's Wall, Alnwick Castle, Rosslyn Chapel (I would quote from The Da Vinci Code, but I'm not sure there are any quotable lines…), and Lindisfarne, among other places, without having to plan the logistics, ask directions, and, of course, freak out about driving on the left? We will, however, have all of the day we arrive in Edinburgh—late morning, I think, just coming from York—plus one other full day later on, and another full day on which we're considering another tour to Loch Ness and Inverness—and at least that tour would actually keep us in Scotland. We're debating about that tour, because I know that Loch Ness is basically a cheesy tourist trap, but on the other hand, I'm sure Nessie won't pass up the chance to surface for a photo op with the one and only Furrowed Middlebrow, right? Ahem.
By the way, Edinburgh gives me one final historic cathedral, which gives me a minimum total of 7 cathedrals on this visit, with the potential for up to 9. Poor Andy. But on the other hand, he gets to see Holyroodhouse Palace in Edinburgh, and he always loves seeing how the other half lives.
And that's "all". How do you think that balances out all the crushing omissions?
Good grief, you'll be shattered, what a lot you are packing in. Good Luck with visit, I hope everyone you meet is very welcoming. ( I can just about forgive you for not visiting our eastern counties of Suffolk and Norfolk!)ReplyDelete
I really tried to work in Norwich, Sue, based on some recommendations, but it just didn't work out. Next time!Delete
You will be so tired.And i live in Norfolk .ReplyDelete
You guys are going to need at least three weeks back home to recover. BUT it does sound wonderful, and so many places I have loved, or want to love! You don't mention book buying? Must be an oversight!ReplyDelete
Our philosophy seems to be that vacations are for wearing ourselves out! Ooh, I meant to mention that Hay-on-Wye was one of the painful cuts. Sad but true. But I think there might be good bookshops in some of the places we are going, so I'm sure I'll accumulate a few new books to weigh down my suitcase!Delete
I would drop 'a jaunt to Peterborough and/or Lincoln for more cathedral storming' and if time consider visit Ely Cathedral http://www.elycathedral.orgReplyDelete
Drop taking 3 weeks worth of luggage and research getting your laundry done. Worth the $$ to not have to lug all that luggage.
Enjoy your trip.
Thanks, Sandy. What with all the other comments saying the same thing, I think I will have to accept the advice abut Ely!Delete
I count that as 35 places to visit in 21 days! That's over 1 1/2 places per day, and the days will be getting short. Remember the cities like Edinburgh and Cambridge need several days each just to see the main sights, and although places may appear to look close together, no Brit would dream of visiting Lincoln on a day trip from Cambridge, for example. You would spend most of your time travelling.ReplyDelete
Anyway, whatever your final itinerary, I hope you will both have a great time.
Thanks, Michelle Ann. We do have some flexibility built in, and we like to see a lot when we travel. I wish we had several days to spend in each place, but alas!Delete
You're going to run on adrenaline and stimulation, and be in a coma every night...but I want to pack a bag and join you! Many is the time I've heard my travel itineraries are too full but I like to be busy and you can rest while riding trains. You made me laugh out loud with your comment about reading from Mrs Dalloway while Andy's trapped in the car...too funny, Scott.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Darlene! Yes, we're always told the same thing, too, and I'm sure we'll be exhausted, but we can always scale back a bit here and there if fatigue gets the best of us. We like to aim high though!Delete
England is full of traffic queues and holdups.I think you have packed in too much.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Jim. Well, we're only driving for four of the days--after that, it will be trains and we won't care what the traffic is like!Delete
I would recommend Ely rather than Peterborough and would sacrifice a Nessie sighting for an extra day in Edinburgh particularly if the weather is dreich.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Deb. See all the other comments in agreement with your recommendation. I can see I'll have to bow to consensus!Delete
Do not waste your time in Peterborough,it can best be described as an armpit of a place and awash with immigrants. It has nothing to recommend it and you'll regret wasting your time there. I would also suggest giving Avebury a miss.............you can see it in 20 minutes and the national Trust run the only car park and will charge you £8.ReplyDelete
What I would encourage is Loch Ness. Avebury is more of a " tourist trap " than Loch Ness. The Scottish countryside is not to be missed and is stunning. Sadly I think you have missed out on a lot of better options when planning your route......going to the Lake district and the Peak district would be a better option than the Whitby area from a tourist point of view. Good luck but please take my advice re Peterborough !!!!
Well, neither Andy nor I are first and foremost about scenery, but perhaps on our next trip. And since I'm married to an immigrant and live in a city that's only 40% caucasian, I don't think I'd mind a place with a large immigrant community!Delete
Well, you can't do everything, and every specific plan will suit some and not others. I wish you both a safe and enjoyable trip.ReplyDelete
On the vote of "to Loch Ness or not Loch Ness", if considering a day trip that direction it isn't just to "see Loch Ness", there will be other stops and the drive through some delightful scenery. If the mini-tour gives you any choice, I would take the castle down the road rather than The Loch Nexx Experience or whatever they call the museum/tourist trip in the village, but even if they stop at the "Experience" you can walk about the village and the loch side, etc, you don't HAVE to go inside or stay there as long as you are ready when it is time to go.
Of course, I would want to do both, in fact several days in Edinburgh and the three day Highlands and Islands mini-tour that included Loch Ness and much more, but you can't do it all.
Have fun and best wishes,
Thanks, Jerri! I hope we'll have some flexibility on the Loch Ness tour, if we do it, and we should certainly see lots of scenery in the course of the day. I think you've read Bill Bryson's book about England, and I'm reminded of the opening, where he notes that anything over a few miles away seems impossibly far to the locals, while Americans will cheerfully drive an hour for a taco!Delete
Oh mon dieu. Well, whatever you see, you'll have a wonderful time. Have you left any time for a spur of the moment sidetrip, when someone at the B&B says, oh, you MUST see X, and it's just a short drive from here. Sorry, just adding to the madness, I know.ReplyDelete
If you feel you're short shrifting Scotland, just remind yourself you can make that the destination of choice next time. And do it. And never leave its borders.
Bonnest of Bon Voyages to you both.
Thanks, Susan! We do have a little flexibility, Susan, and we could always decide to do something we've just come across instead of something we've planned. I'm sure we'll insert a bit of spontaneity here and there as we have in previous trips--even when folks said we were trying to do too much!Delete
Fantastic, 1 big ommision, Hay on Wye, book capital of Britain and the place of a real life 1920s murder, a consideration perhaps?ReplyDelete
I did try to work it in, but the logistics just didn't work out. Next time!Delete
Agree that Ely is a better cathedral to do from Cambridge than Peterborough or Lincoln - much shorter trip and a wonderful cathedral - if you can get to do the 'angels tour' up into the lantern it will be even better.ReplyDelete
If you want a guide to Winchester, I'd be happy to meet you if you're coming after I'm back from France - but in any case I recommend the Great Hall as well as the Cathedral - The Round Table there is *not* Arthur's but has an interesting history, and 'Queen Eleanor's Garden' is lovely.
So many votes for Ely, how can I resist? We do have the Great Hall on our list for Winchester--I know Andy will want a pic of the round table, even if it's not the real thing! And thanks so much for your suggestion of meeting up--I'll get the exact date and email you to see if it works out.Delete
Look forward to hearing from you!Delete
I vote for ELY CATHEDRAL!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Elizabeth. You and everyone else! And that will give us more time in Cambridge as well.Delete
Steve ~ I stayed for a night at the Mermaid Inn in Rye three weeks or so ago while I was re-reading 'A Footman for a Peacock' in order to write the Rachel Ferguson Introduction for Dean St Press - so perhaps some spooky vibes will still reverberate among its timbered beams. Have a wonderful tour. ElizabethReplyDelete
Thanks, Elizabeth. I'm Scott, actually, though I have a co-worker named Steve and people are always mixing the names up for some reason, so I'm used to answering to Steve! :-)Delete
We're very excited to stay at the Mermaid Inn. Wish it could be more than one night, but we're quite hoping for a ghostly visitation while we're there!
And I have to say, folks have a real treat in store with your intros to our Ferguson and Peck editions. Love them both, and love to think that you were reading Ferguson while at the Mermaid!
Scott ~ so sorry for muddling name ..my typing fingers obviously were not thinking. And I love the covers for the new books - thrilled to be associated in even this nebulous way with Ravilious who has long been an utter favourite. ElizabethDelete
If your visit to Edinburgh coincides with the 2nd Sunday of the month, you MUST pay a visit to the Mansfield Traquair Church to see the fabulous murals. Scotland's Sistine Chapel, they call it, and it's all the work of one woman, the amazing Phoebe Traquair. Only open to the public 1-4pm, 2nd Sunday of every month. https://greatscottishart.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/traquair3.jpgReplyDelete
I am sorry to learn you will not doing your best French Lieutenant's Woman/Meryl Streep impression - I would have lent you my black cape from my old Dracula storytime days! TomReplyDelete