Lakes District, Day 5

The final day of my Lakes District tour was my favourite by far! We started the day in Richmond, a market town with a castle (two of my favourite things).

Next up was the Angel of the North, Britain’s largest sculpture and widely believe to the the world’s largest angel sculpture. According to the sculptor, Antony Gormley, it has three functions: firstly a historic one to remind us that below this site coal miners worked in the dark for two hundred years, secondly to grasp hold of the future expressing our transition from the industrial to the information age, and lastly to be a focus for our hopes and fears.

My favourite stop: Alnwick Castle! We only had time to see the inside or visit the gardens, so I decided to check out the gardens, figuring I’d seen enough insides of old castles.  And the grounds were amazing.  I could have spent all day there just relaxing by one of the many fountains.

While I was extremely hesitant to leave, our guide surprised us with this next destination.  Because we had missed out on some stops in the earlier days, due to inclement weather conditions, he took us to Lindisfarm. It’s a bit like Mont St Michel, in that you can only reach it when the tide is low. It’s known as the Holy Island, and has been in use since the 6th century.

We drove by Tweed, to check out the aqueduct.

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Then continued on our way to Dunbar Harbour.

All in all, it was a great tour, and a great transition for me from travelling with friends to going on my own.  It was a good mix of time alone and with the group, and it took me to beautiful places that I wouldn’t have been able to see in such a short period of time.

Guided tours aren’t for everyone, but this is one I’d do again.

Lakes District, Day 4

Day 4 was ours to spend in York.  I made a friend at the hostel the night before, and we decided to explore the city together that morning.

If you made it to the York Minister (Cathedral and Metropolitical Curch of Saint Peter) before 9 your entry was free, so that’s where we headed first! It’s the largest cathedral of its kind in Northern Europe.

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Next up was Clifford’s Tower.

Then back to the wall we went, to cover the area I didn’t get to yesterday! Every so often there’s a fort, all of which look different.  It was nice to see some variety.

I really like finding the history of old buildings, so my new friend and I parted ways as I went to check out the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall. It’s a medieval guidldhall, and one of the most important buildings in a medieval city.

According to the pamphlet, this group become a guild in 1430 (“The Mystery of the Mercers”) before changing its name in 1581 to the “Company of Merchant Adventurers of the City of York”.  A Merchant Adventurer was someone who risked or ‘adventured’ his or her own money in overseas trade bringing back goods and wealth to the city.  These traders became the most influential citizens of the city. There was originally a religious aspect to the Guild but they had to really underplay it during the reformation.

First built in 1357, it’s now a fully functioning museum, wedding and hospitality venue.

My next (and favourite) stop was the Treasurer’s House.  One rich guy bought this giant house and continuously redecorated it to make the building look as authentic as possible, decorating it as it would have looked in the past. It wasn’t all terrible either, which I wasn’t expecting.

In another historical building across town, Barley Hall, you could find original movie costumes from an arrange of movies including Hamlet, Elizabeth, The Duchess, Pride and Prejudice, The Portrait of a Lady, Sweeney Todd, and The King’s Speech:

My day ended with my most favourite activity: shopping!  It had been so long since I had real time in an actual city, so I spent a few hours perusing the shops and updating my very limited travel wardrobe.

All in all, I really enjoyed York! It’s a great city with a perfect mix of historical and modern elements.  I was very jealous when a university friend decided to go the University of York for her masters. Very very jealous.

Lakes District, Day 3

We left Keswick for good this morning, and travelled to the small town of Appleby, where we just missed a horse-pulled caravan. They had a lovely market where I found some old cross-stitching books (which I’ve never used, or have any intention to ever use). Still thought it was a cool find though 🙂

We headed back to the car, and made our through the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It was too beautiful not to stop and take pictures, but please note, we were just hanging out at the side of the highway.

Our next actual stop was in Hawes, home to Wensleydale Cheese and Bolton Castle. The Castle was Mary Queen of Scot’s prison in 1568, and open for visitors.

We would have stayed in Hawes longer but it started to pour and it didn’t look like it would be letting up anytime soon.  So we decided to continue on to our last destination of the day — York.

The plan was to spend the day in York tomorrow as well, so it was all free time for us to do as we please. By the time we arrived, I wasn’t prepared to go line up at any of the attractions, so I decided to walk around the city walls and get an overhead view of what I’d be seeing the following day.

Lakes District, Day 2

After a quick pick up in Keswick we took to the road to see one of the many standing stone circles across Northern England.  This one was called Castlerigg, and is roughly 4,000 years old! Unlike Stonehenge, you can get up close and personal with these stones.

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Next up was a nice forest walk at Ullswater, England’s mot beautiful lake, and walked to Aira Force waterfall. It’s said that this is where Wordsworth came across a long belt of daffodils, providing the inspiration for his most famous work.

Next up was Lake Windermere, which happened to be filled with huge hungry swans.

We decided to depart Windermere a bit early, and head to the town of Hawkeshead. This is where William Wordsworth went to Grammar School, and also features a beautiful old church on top of hill for optimum views.

The final stop of the day was in the charming town of Grasmere.  Continuing today’s theme, it’s where Wordsworth was buried.  But it also has lovely fields and a little river, and is the perfect spot to enjoy the English countryside.

And while we were in Grasmere, I took a quick pitstop to Dove Cottage (Wordsworth’s cottage).

We returned to Keswick that night, and I treated myself to my first nice dinner alone.

Lakes District, Day 1

My first tour was with Rabbie’s, an award winning small group tour company.  I was by far the youngest on this trip, but it turned out to be great fun.  The buses can fit 16 people but we only had 5 including myself so everyone got a window seat to themselves.  And this tour ran a bit differently from the ones that followed.  You chose what level of accommodation you wanted, and the bus would drop you off there and pick you up in the morning.  So evenings were all yours to explore as you wanted, and generally, or at least for me, you didn’t spend them with the rest of the group.

The tour I chose was a 5 day tourney to York, the Dales, Lake District & Hadrian’s Wall.  I’ve wanted to go to Hadrian’s Wall for as long as I can remember, so I figured why not now.

Our first stop, after being picked up in Edinburgh, was the world famous Scott’s View, overlooking the River Tweed and the Cheviot Hills. The story goes that Sir Walter Scott would ride his horse up here for inspiration.  At his funeral, they included his horse in the pack that pulled his coffin, and the horse came up here and refused to move for more than an house.

Next stop was the Jedburgh Abbey.  Built in 1196, this is where King David 1st died at age 24 (from fasting) and was also Mary Queen of Scots’ castle (and eventual jail).

We had a quick stop at the English/Scottish border:

Then carried on til we arrived at a part of Hadrian’s Wall. The Romans built the wall back in the first century.  They had intended to take over Scotland, but faced unexpected opposition by the Blue Picts.  Instead, they build a wall, which became the border point for the Roman Empire. It’s 80 roman miles (about 74 modern miles), with a tower at each mile and a fort every 10 miles. The wall is 4-6 feet high, but occasionally has an 11 foot ditch on either side, as it was built along a cliff (an added measure of defence).

I don’t know why I was so obsessed with Hadrian’s Wall as a kid, but I was.  I read non-fiction and fiction that took place around it, and just knew I needed to see it myself.  One day I’d love to walk it (apparently people do it each year!), but I’ll have to get into a little better shape first.

The views around here were just lovely, so I was happy to stop in Alston, on top of a 2,000 foot hill, to snap a few pics.

Also found this guy in the parking lot.  At least the people around here know who to call when they have problems…

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Our final stop on this very long day was in Keswick, which is where we stayed for two nights. It’s a lovely little town, with a beautiful lake and garden (conveniently located right beside my hostel).