Twenty-one Days in Britain (Days1-7)

 

The national flag of the United Kingdom is the Union Jack, also known as the Union Flag. The current design of the Union Jack dates from the union of Ireland and Great Britain in 1801.

Stepping off the plane after ten flying hours out of Omaha, and four hours on the ground in Newark we arrived in Edinburgh Scotland in the morning.  No activities were planned this day as people joining the tour would be arriving all day.  The first thing that struck us was how easy it was to go through customs, and then onto immigration.  We did not get our passports stamped as this is the European Union.  This was a major disappointment as we like to have our passports stamped for each country we have visited.  We were met at the airport by our guide and brought this up to him.  He just shrugged it off as he travels Europe all the time and goes from country to country.  Fortunately this was our only disappointment for the trip. 

Arriving at our hotel by 9 a.m., our rooms were not ready, so we just walked down the street and found a step on and step off bus touring the city.  We climbed up to the top of the double decker bus and enjoyed the scenes, the city, and the fresh cool air.  The camera was left back at the hotel, but we would be touring the next day.  Pam and I are not usually big city fans, but Edinburgh was really interesting and inviting.  This was a great place to visit.  We were now ready for the next day.

The Scottish capital since the 15th century, Edinburgh boasts a rich architectural heritage centered on two distinct districts: 18th century Georgian “New Town” and the medieval “Old Town, featuring the Edinburgh Castle and the lively Royal Mile.  We explored both areas on the morning tour.  A masterpiece of urban planning, the New Town retains many of its original Georgian and neo-classical architecture dating from 1765.  Historic architectural highlights that we saw here included the National Gallery of Scotland, the Royal Scottish Academy, the Assembly Rooms, Waverley Station and the Scott Monument.  The New Town also boasts Edinburgh’s main shopping areas on Princes and George Streets.

This magnificent rock is called Arthur’s Seat.  It is an 800-foot hill on the edge of the city and provides a breathtaking view of greater Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth. The Firth of Forth is the estuary of several Scottish rivers including the River Forth. It meets the North Sea with Fife on the north coast and Lothian on the south.

 

Looking out over the city

 

Monument to Sir Walter Scott
 
 

This is typical Georgian architecture. 

This afternoon we toured the Old Town including the Royal Mile.  Tiny medieval streets and alleyways, the Old Town presents a contrast to the more orderly New Town.  The district stretches along the Royal Mile from the medieval fortress of Edinburgh Castle and is high above Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the Queen when in Scotland.  The Castle was one of the highlights of the day.

A tavern on the long walk up to the Castle. 

 

At the gate to the Castle, we are met by a statue of William Wallace.  We all remember the movie “Braveheart.”  This is a statue of him before he was hung in England and drawn and quartered

 

 

The final gate into the castle.  This is what summer time is like at major tourist spots.  Lots of people

The castle took most of the afternoon to tour as there were so many buildings, halls and living quarters.  I said to Pam,”What would our readers like to see?”  She said, “Your people are hunters and fishermen, and they want to see the armory.  So here goes. 

 

Everyone needs a suit of armor

 

 

Every home needs a sword and a pike.  

 

This is a cemetery for dogs that lived with the people who inhabited the castle. 

 

This is a wall in a prison, and it was a carving made by a prisoner after our war with England in 1776. A prisoner carved the American flag into the wall. 

Next we walked down the Royal Mile filled with shops and great restaurants.  Along the way there was plenty of street entertainment.  I thought we would never get through as the women on the tour wanted to stop and shop.

 

If you  like music made by Bagpipes, you can hear it everywhere.  The best part of Scottish music was the last day when we came back to Edinburgh for the Military Tattoo. 

Nest stop was Holyrood Palace. Holyrood has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century, and is a setting for state occasions and official entertaining.  Queen Elizabeth spends one week in residence at Holyrood at the beginning of each summer.

The tour was exciting as we visited the quarters of Mary Queen of Scots, and where the royals lived centuries ago.  Unfortunately, photos were not allowed but we felt fortunate to tour as much of the palace as we did.  When members of the Royal Family are there no tours are allowed. 

Our final view of the Castle on the hill.  Our guide told us that during the war Hitler did not want the castle bombed as he wanted for himself. 

The next morning we departed Edinburgh and headed for the beautiful and beloved Lake District of northwest England.  The most-visited national park in the United kingdom, the Lake District comprises a diverse landscape of lakes, rivers, ancient woodlands, and small towns and villages.  Some of England’s most celebrated literary figures call this corner of the country their home.  William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter lived in this region and we visited their homes. 

 

 

Traveling south we passed by a small bay holding  the Britannia.  This is the Royal yacht of the Queen and her family.  The Royals really know how to live

 

 

This is typical countryside that we saw as we sped down the highway heading into the Lake District.  It is a bit hard to see but at the top of the field is a stone wall.  These walls were everywhere dividing up the land between farms and fields. Also, we saw a lot of sheep.  Coming from Iowa this was a bit of a treat as we saw few cattle. 

 

We took this picture of the window where the group had lunch.  This was a typical small village restaurant. It was the name, “Four and Twenty,” that caught our eye and reminded us of an old poem. 

Arriving at William Wordsworth’s family home on Rydal Mount, we had the opportunity to tour the home and his gardens that he loved so well.  He lived at this hillside home from 1813 until his death in 1850.  He designed the gardens and a writing hut that sits overlooking the grounds and the nearby lakes of Grasmere and Windermere.  

 
 

Home of William Wordsworth

Example of the gardens

The only reason for taking this picture is because the cat would not move for anyone that came and went from the house.  This is his/her house and I am sure it was thinking, “I am not getting out of the way for any trespasser. It’s my house.”

Next morning our excursion began with a boat ride on picturesque Lake Windermere.  This is England’s largest lake at over 10 miles long.

Castles and summer homes for the rich and famous line the lake. 

 

Castle remains along the lake.  Notice the rock wall at the waterline. 

Next we visited the village of Hawkshead, home to less than 600 people.  This is home to Beatrix Potter Gallery and the Beatrix Potter’s home.  The town is tightly packed with white washed houses lined along cobble stone streets.  Beatrix is world renown for her famous work “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.” 

Hawkshead, home of Beatrix Potter

 

The original Peter Rabbit.  He made her rich and then the town famous. 

Next stop in Hawkshead was the Grammar School.  Founded in 1585 the school was most interesting, and was where the landed gentry sent their children to school.  You and I would not have attended this school unless your family was upper crust and wealthy from taxing the peasant farmers.  The little boys came from the surrounding areas and lived with local villagers.  What was interesting as explained, they did not bathe in those days, so the little boys were stinky little boys.  Now since you could not drink the water then, you drank beer that had a very low alcohol content, and the stinky little boys were given two quarts a day to meet their liquid needs.  There is more.  The stinky little boys were given a knife to sharpen their quill pens.  So, when they were not busy they would carve their names in their desks.  As we walked around the school room, we could see the names of the stinky little boys carved in the desks.  There is a lot more.  The stinky little boys all had a clay pipe they smoked and brought from home.  So, they were given tobacco to smoke.  So, now you have a bunch of stinky little boys who drank and smoked.  Oh there is a lot more.  The stinky little boys were given an allowance to gamble with.  They gambled every day on cock fighting. Picture that today.  There has to be some organization that is against that sport.  What you have is a bunch of stinky little boys who smoked, drank, and gambled.

Discipline was very strict and they were required to read Latin and Greek and around age 14 they graduated upstairs where they learned how to be gentlemen.  Fencing was part of the curriculum, along with going downstairs to help the stinky little boys.  It was never mentioned whether the boys upstairs were also stinky.

The majority of the stinky little boys went to Oxford College and the majority became leaders in the government or military.  That is what you get when you are a stinky little boy who gambles, smokes, and drinks.

If you haven’t read the narrative above, now is the time. 

Entrance to the school

The school classroom

Next day was a travel day as we made our way through the Welch countryside.  We have never heard anything about Wales, but it is truly a beautiful country and the landscape looks like something out of “The Hobbit.”  Stopping for lunch at a very busy tourist town, we had the opportunity to walk down cobblestone streets centuries old, lined with buildings of the same era.

Just as a quick note, whenever we travel overseas, our main meal is breakfast.  The hotels always have a European style breakfast and we torque up then.  You never know what is out there for lunch and dinner even though many of the meals are provided.

Now that is an old building.  We had lunch right across the street. 

Lunch

We were beat and when we hit the hotel, it was dinner, and then to bed.  Breakfast was at 7 the next day with the coach leaving at 8 a.m.  This is vacation.

Looking forward to my Elk hunt October 7th into northeast Idaho.  I have hunted this ranch before and there are a lot of big bulls.  going to try to make a fishing trip to Lake Elwood south of Lexington, Nebraska in September.  My good friend that I hunt ducks with has his spot all set to go and is turning on the pump for teal season.  Will I hit any?  Maybe, but I will put a lot of shot in the air.

For an entertaining read buy my book.  Makes a great gift. 

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck, Hank

 
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