Monthly Archives: August 2014

A Literary Legacy

Our itinerary allowed 2 full days in Dublin so we knew that we would need to choose wisely and plan our days if we were to see the things that were of interest to us.

Three of the most poular attractions in Dublin are the Book of Kells at Trinity College, the Guiness Storehouse and Kilmainham Gaol.  The Guiness Storehouse missed the cut on our must do list but the other two were definitely on our ‘to do’ list.  Since there can be lengthy queues for both the Book of Kells and Kilmainham Gaol we decided to dedicate one morning to each in the hope of minimising the waiting time.

We started with the Book of Kells but we did not have any firm plans for the rest of the day.

Like many similar attractions, there was no photography allowed, however, there was an opportunity to photograph the magnificent interior of the Old Library with its barrel-vaulted ceiling and 2 levels of thousands of antique manuscripts.



We did not have to queue for long but by the time we came out there was a longer waiting time.  However, the surroundings are rather pleasant.

IMG_0976Meandering through the city soon brought us to St Stephen’s Green and numerous statues, including one of Dublin’s favourite literary sons, James Joyce.

The National Library had an extensive exhibition on W B Yeats which had largely been donated by his family over a period of nearly 50 years.

We found a statue of ‘Molly Malone’ who was immortalised in the song “Cockles and Mussels” in one of the city streets.

Then it was off to the north side of the river to the GPO in O’Connell Street where there was an exhibition titled, “Letters, Lives and Liberty” which happened to have free admission because it is “National Heritage Week” this week.  The actual building is impressive, although the facade is all that remains of the original Georgian building as the rest was destroyed during the Easter Uprising of 1916.  It was repaired some years later.  Here is a photo of the interior.


The day was not entierely devoted to literature.  We also visited ‘The Little Museum of Dublin’ which is opposite St Stephen’s Green and saw this haunting sculpture near the River Liffey.


It pays tribute to those who died during the Great Famine in the mid 1800’s and those who emigrated on ships such as the “Jeannie Johnston”, a replica moored nearby.  Many of the people emigrating did not reach their destination as they were already desperately ill before boarding the vessels.

The next day was a change of pace but more about that in the next post.


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Across the Irish Sea

Although there were not huge distances involved, it took us all day to get from Porthmadog, where we had been staying, in Wales to our next destination which was Dublin.

First, we drove to Caernarfon to drop off the car.  The drop off point was about 2.5km from the bus stop so one of the staff kindly offered to drop us off.  I innocently asked if you can see Caernarfon Castle from the town (you cannot) so he volunteered to drive us past the castle and we also were treated to a 5 minute potted history.

We then caught a bus from Caernarfon to Bangor and finally a train to the ferry terminal at Holyhead.  After leaving Bangor and crossing the Menai Strait to Anglesey we stopped at this railway station.

I knew there was a place in Wales with a long name (58 characters, I think) but had no idea where it was and I had certainly not gone out of my way to find it.  So, imagine my surprise when I looked up and saw this sign directly outside the window where we were sitting.  I quickly grabbed my camera to take the photo and apologise for the poor quality.

The train terminates at Holyhead and it is a simple matter to walk to the end of the platform and into the ferry terminal.

I was really pleased that I had paid extra for a cabin even though the crossing is only about 3.5 hours.  It meant that we had a private space and this was particularly welcome as the ferry was full because the two ‘fast’ catamaran crossings had been cancelled due to the rough weather and passengers rescheduled on the ferry.  At this point, I was very glad that I had bought and taken my medication to prevent seasickness as I am not a good sailor!  However, the weather had moderated since the morning, the crossing was relatively smooth and I was not sick.

We were able to have a nap and arrive refreshed.
The weather was fine and the sun breaking through the clouds made an attractive scene as we approached the harbour.

Before long we had a view of the port.

Once we had disembarked we caught a taxi to our accommodation and after a good night’s sleep we were ready to start the Irish leg of our adventure.

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Popular Culture at Portmeirion

I had never heard of Portmeirion until we were planning this trip and The Duke was adamant that one place he definitely wanted to see was Portmeirion.  Apparently it is where scenes from a 1960’s television series called, “The Prisoner” were filmed.

The village is actually an architectural extravaganza created by one man, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis.  If you want to know more

Otherwise, scroll down and be amazed by the pictures.





This is just a small selection of the photos I took of the buildings.  However, the gardens and woodlands are also significant.





Like the previous day, the weather did not look particularly promising so we set out so that we were there when the gates opened at 9.30am.  We were able to get 1.5 hours of sightseeing in before the rain set in.  We could have spent longer there, studying the quirky architecture more closely and wandering more of the woodland paths but we very glad that we were able to enjoy some time at Potmeirion.  The Duke is very happy that he was able to visit and he also bought a souvenir – a pair of socks with a logo from “The Prisoner”.

It was just after 11am by the time we left and since we were rather limited by the weather we drove down to Aberystwyth where we had a mostly dry day and we just looked around the town and picked up a few essential groceries.

We would have liked to see more of Snowdonia and the old slate mines in the area and perhaps even taken a ride on the Blaenau Ffestiniog railway but that was not be due to the weather.  We will have to save those for another trip!

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Changing Countries

In Australia we tend to think nothing of driving long distances and of course it can be more than a hundred kilometres between towns.

England is quite a different story with villages often only 5 miles apart, narrow roads and much higher volumes of traffic.

Because of the places we wanted to visit we ended up with one day of a substantial drive.  We drove from Thirsk in north Yorkshire to Porthmadog in Wales.  It took about 8 hours which included a break of about an hour for lunch.  We could have covered the distance much more quickly if we had sped along the motorways, however, we chose to avoid them and stick to lesser roads, and in some cases, thoroughfares that were little more than a country lane.

We enjoyed seeing place names that we were familiar with such as Macclesfield, Ashbourne and Glossop which was where we had lunch.  We drove through another small town called Holmfirth about 25 km south-west of Leeds.  We know that this is the general vicinity of where some of The Duke’s ancestors came from so it was interesting to see it.

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This is view as we climbed the hills above Holmfirth.

Once we were approaching Chester we made our way onto the North Wales expressway which took us along the coast until we turned off at Conwy and headed south through Snowdonia National Park.

Unfortunately, by this time the weather was not terribly favourable and most of the mountain peaks of Snowdonia were shrouded in low cloud.  I did take this photo of some of the landscape.

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We came to Porthmadog for a very specific reason – The Duke wanted to visit nearby Portmeirion.

This post is almost devoid of photos, however, I will make up for that with the next post from Portmeirion.


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A History Lesson

Since we have come from a country with a European history of a little more than 200 years it can be daunting to comprehend the lengthy and convoluted history of Britain.

We decided to catch the train to York and immerse ourselves in some of that city’s long history.  First, we had to compete for space on the train with all of the race-goers as Saturday was the final day of race week in York.  The train was packed with many who had already started on the Moet and Bollinger by 10am.  I am not too sure of how much of the races they would actually see!

After leaving the railway station, our first view was of the ancient city walls.  These were originally built by the Romans almost 2000 years ago but have been largely rebuilt and restored during the Middle Ages.  York has the most intact walls of any city in Britain.

We walked along a section of the wall and then headed for York Minister, one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in Europe.  Although it is easy to gaze around a building as magnificent as this, we found that joining a guided tour reveals so much more and enables a deeper appreciation.

We also climbed the tower and marvelled at the view across the city of York.

The Undercroft  was amazing and had a magnificent display of the history of the Minster.  We could even see a remnant of the original Roman church which was unearthed during excavations to underpin foundations of Minster in the 20th century.

We left the tranquil and contemplative atmosphere of the cathedral and headed through ‘The Shambles’ where we met this character promoting ghost tours of the city.

Our next stop was the Jorvik Viking Centre which is located on the site of the archaeological dig which uncovered an incredible amount of detail of the Viking occupation of this area from the 7th century.  Here are a couple of characters who escaped onto the street.

All in all we had a fantastic day of glimpses into the history of York.

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Seaside & Setting Sail

After our drive across the Yorkshire Dales we reached Thirsk where we spent 3 nights.  Thirsk is a relatively unremarkable town but we chose to stay there as it is well positioned to visit several places in the area.  It also happens to be where Alf Wight (the real name of James Herriot) had his home and veterinary practice.

On our first day we headed east across the North York moors towards Robin Hood’s Bay.

This charming seaside village is probably much the same as many of the others that dot the English coastline but it had been recommended by 2 friends so we decided to visit.

As we walked down the steep roadway to the lower bay we noticed that almost everyone else had young children in tow with their bucket and spades.  Once we reached the bottom it became obvious – the tide was out and they were all headed to the sand and rockpools.

Our next destination was Whitby.  We parked near the Abbey which clings to the headland overlooking the town.

I was drawn to visit Whitby as it is inextricably linked to Australia through Captain James Cook.  We went to the Captain Cook Memorial Museum which is in the 17th century cottage where Cook lodged during his apprenticeship as a seaman.

This is the view he would have had from his room.

The last stop for the day was back in Thirsk where we visited the ‘World of Herriot’ which is located in the building where Alf Wight lived and ran his veterinary practice.

I particularly enjoyed this model of Mrs Pumphrey and Tricki-Woo in the dining room!

We were able to see much of the interior of the house which is still set up as it was in the 1940’s.

There is also a video narrated by Christopher Timothy, the sets and  restored car from the television series, “All Creatures Great and Small”.

We enjoyed another diverse and interesting day.

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Herriot Country

Just as Beatrix Potter is synonomous with the Lake District so is James Herriot of ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ fame forever entwined with his beloved Yorkshire Dales.  If there was one thing I wanted to see in England, this was it.

W drove from Kendal to Thirsk and took in a good portion of the Dales and the magnificent scenery.

Wide valleys, isolated farms and meandering stone walls.

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Desolate heather-clad tops.

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Tiny villages, still draped in their finery from when the Tour de France came to Yorkshire a few months ago.  The Tour is finished but the legacy lives on for the villages that reaped the benefits and the thousands of cyclists who seem to be everywhere on the roads in north Yorkshire.

10 05 blogWe stopped and spent some time in Hawes, the highest market town in England.  The Museum of Dales Country Life showcased life in the the Yorkshire Dales in years gone by and then we braved the cold and drizzling rain to head up to the other end of town to visit the Wensleydale Cheese factory.  This was well set up with a tour through the factory, a small museum showing the history of the factory (with its ups and downs) and finally an opportunity to taste a wide selection of the cheeses produced here.  We really did not need lunch after the cheese tasting!


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Pottering & Potter

We had one full day to explore some of the Lake District.  It is certainly not possible to see everything but we pottered around in our hire car and saw quite a bit.

After settling in to our accommodation in Kendal on the first evening, we found a Thai restaurant for dinner and had an excellent meal.  We got chatting to another Aussie couple at the next table to us and swapped stories.  They were the first Australians we had met since we arrived.

The next day we drove to Windermere/Bowness which was quite busy with holidaymakers as we were blessed with fine but cool (for us) weather.  No matter which way you turned there was stunning scenery.

Lakeside architecture

We took a cruise on Windermere and disembarked at Ambleside at the northern end and walked around for a while before catching a later ferry back.

Back in the car and we drove around to the western side of Windermere to visit Hill Top, the home of Beatrix Potter which is managed by the National Trust.

Can’t you just imagine Peter Rabbit in here?

The roads around here were amazing and we are convinced that we are now well-prepared for some of the narrow lanes we expect to encounter in Ireland.

Here are a couple of other views just near Hill Top.


IMG_0741We then drove further north to Keswick before returning via Kirkstone Pass which offered stunning views over the valley below.


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Jedburgh is a neat little town and like many others at this time of year is looking very pretty with lots of brightly coloured flowers.


The Abbey is a magnificent ruin which is definitely worth a look so we visited it before we departed from Jedburgh.  The audio tour was really worthwhile.


This was the view from the gallery above the west door.

From Jedburgh we headed south to the border with England.

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It was then on to visit Housesteads Fort built by the Romans.

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It is adjacent to Hadrian’s Wall which you can see in this photo.

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After leaving the fort we drove about 60km on the A686 which crosses the Penines and offers some spectacular views along the way.  It has been rated as one of the best drives in Britain.

Looking east before reaching the highest point.

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This is the view from Hartside Pass looking west over Cumbria.

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The drive ends at Penrith where we turned south towards Kendal, on the eastern edge of the Lake District, where we will be spending the next 2 nights.

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A Change of Pace

The trip has taken a new turn as we picked up our rental car when we left Edinburgh.

We had booked online and hired a ‘small’ car.  This neat little Peugot 208 is what we ended up with.

Our luggage fits in the boot easily.


The car is simple to drive apart from the fact that the indicators and windscreen wipers are on the opposite sides of the steering column to what we are used to in our own cars.  It is a bonus that we do not have to adjust to driving on the opposite side of the road as we did in the USA.

We headed east from Edinburgh to a whisky distillery, Glenkinchie.  Even though I do not drink whisky, the tour was really interesting and informative. This was part of a model of a distillery and the various process.

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At the end of the tour there was sampling and since I did not wish to sample the whisky, I was offered a small glass of soft drink. I took one sip and discovered it was creaming soda – definitely not my favourite soft drink!  When I asked the hostess what the drink was, she confirmed that is was ‘Irn Bru’ a peculiarly Scottish drink!  I did not enlighten her that although the name may be unique to Scotland, the flavour is not.

We continued south through the agricultural land of East Lothian and crossed the Lammemuir Hills.  This was the view north to the sea.

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The exposed tops must be fairly windy.

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We then made our way south through the countryside of the Scottish Borders to Kelso and on to Jedburgh where we spent the night.  We were spoilt in a lovely farmstay B & B about 5 minutes from town.  The scrambled eggs with smoked salmon was a treat for breakfast the next morning.


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