Monday, July 27, 2009

Time to move out

This is the last entry before our return to Australia arriving at home on Thursday. I do have some more photographs of Dublin to put up to the albums but I will do that from home. See most of you soon.

Ireland - Friday 24 July

Friday was actually the last day of our tour and on the way to Dublin, we visited the site of the ancient St Kevin's Monastry at Glendalough. It's quite a large tract of land and contained many monastries. The first photograph shows one of the very tall monastry towers which were first belled and used as tolling landmarks for pilgrims and later as a persons and treasure refuge against the vikings who used to row up the nearby building. The towers were accessed by rope ladders to high entrances and these would be pulled up after the monks. The building in the foreground is very unusual as its roof is fully of mortared stones rather than tiles, thatch or timber. The second photo is of a grove of trees on the grounds.
We also visited the village of Avoca which has achieved fame as "Ballykissangel" in the TV series about three priests. They have a woollen weaving mill there which still does some hand-loom weaving bot as a tourist attraction and for goods to sell to the visiting tourists.

Ireland - Thursday 23 July

Ah, suure the Blarney was flowing freely this day for we visited Blarney Castle and some of us (not we two) went through the assisted routine to kiss the famed Blarney stone. Vija reckoned that she did not need to do so. It is situated in a fairly large estate with attractions and the nearby shops are supposed to be some of the less expensive in Ireland (still expensive relative to Australia, of course). Side view of castle shown here

The rain came and went again as usual and the other photgraph gives some idea as to how dark it can get.

Ireland - Wednesday 22 July

The major activity this day was a trip around the "Ring of Kerry" (previously the Great Atlantic Road) which begins and ends in Killarney. The road mainly travels around a mountain range known as the MacGillicuddy Reeks. Most of the countryside is very rugged but the population has been increasing because of weekenders cottages and those with a lust for a rugged rural home. Sheep farming and fishing from some of the small villages constitutes most of the miniscule economic activity. It was wonderful scenary somewhat spoilt by continuing rain but there were some successful photographs so please check the albums.
The roads is fairly narrow so tourist buses have an unwritten rule that the ring is always driven counter-clockwise but really, the roads are wider than many we drove on in England. These two photos were taken towards the end of the range of mountains as we were nearing Killarney again.
On return to Killarney, we went with the Jarvies and their 'jaunting cars' and you can meet Charlie, the Irish draught horse, who took us on a great tour of the large local park.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ireland - Tuesday 21 July

We left Galway travelling south along the west coast of Ireland with this farmland picture taken not far south of Galway. Then on through part of the Burren which is quite rugged in parts and with lots of varied vegetation in some areas. Very different but with all the rain there, many areas had plenty of grass for livestock. We did an unplanned side trip to the Cliffs of Moher (part pictured). The weather was windy and rainy at both areas so photography was usually difficult.
Then it was on to the Bunratty folk park which features Bunratty Castle and many buildings re-erected or built in the older traditional styles e.g. farmhouses, water-driven mills, workers cottages, stables, shops, doctor's home and surgery and a manor house etc. Very interesting even if a bit too forced. Had a few farm animals and deers too.
Then we did a far-too-quick flit through Limerick and Adare finally stopping in Killarney.

Ireland - Monday 20 July

We set out on the tour early in the morning with a full busload of tourists (39) mainly from USA and Australia but also including a couple from Wales. a mother and daughter from Singapore, a widow from Sri Lanka, a couple from New Zealand and an Englishwoman. On the first day we crossed Ireland from east (Dublin) to west (Galway) stopping at the picturesque village of Moate in central Ireland for a break; later crossing the Shannon River at Athlone. We saw lots of farms and bog country. There was some peat mining in central Ireland and turf mining nearer to Galway (both used for heating). At Galway we wandered the old town to do some shopping and to have lunch. That evening most of us attended at Dungaire Castle (actually a fully restored tower)(pictured) south of Galway where we had a good meal and were very well entertained by two singer/actors accompanied by an excellent harpist (pictured).

Ireland - Sunday 19 July

After having a bit of a wander in Dublin in the morning, we met up with the Insight Tour Guide and fellow travellers and went for a bit of a tour of Dublin highlights in the mid-afternoon. We were a bit disappointed because we understood that this drive included a visit to the Guinness Brewery and Trinity College but we simply went past them. Stops included St Patricks Cathedral (pictured) and Phoenix Park, a huge enclosed park of over 1700 acres featuring a zoo, cricket, rugby, soccer, hurling, polo and gaelic football grounds. There are also lots of grassland and parks which support a considerable herd of wild red deer.
This second photograph is from the park looking over Dublin to the Wicklow Mountains.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Now in Ireland

We have made it to Ireland and have had a couple of drinks (Guiness for me, of course) and a great meal. The hotel put us on the only floor that did not have internet connections so we elected for another room. We have not taken any photos the last couple of days (probably much to our readers' relief) but we are alive, happy and well. We are no longer using the English mobile number so, if you must contact us, use our Australian mobile numbers.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Lavender Garden - Thursday 16 July

We and the Greens then did a flying visit to a lavender farm at Snowshill, Gloucestershire. There was a lovely aroma pervading the area until a diesel-fuelled tourist bus pulled up beside us and shared its fumes. The lavenders to the front here form a display of various varieties of lavender for we tourists. In the background you can see some of the actual commercially farmed lavender.

Hidcote Manor Gardens - Thursday 16 July

Again we met up with Peter and Lyndall Green; this time at the extensive gardens known as Hidcote Manor Gardens at Hidcote Bartrim, near Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire. Much of the garden is made up of adjoining "rooms" with hedges being the "walls". Some of the rooms are formal but the dominant theme is 'cottage garden'. Most plants are of the British Isles with a few exotics here and there. There are also further flower and vegetable gardens and also orchards on other parts of the estate. There are lots of photos in the album but here are three samples. I finally managed to get a photograph of those big bumblebees (on the thistle along with a honey bee). The avenue of beech trees was probably once the formal entryway to the Manor House.

Stoke Bruerne - Canal Museum - Wed 15 July

Wednesday we went to Stoke Bruerne near Towcester (sounds a bit like Toaster) in Northamtonshire to meet up with Gonzo. Here a canal museum has been built on the old, but still used canal; part of the Midlands canal system. Nearby is the the Blisworth Canal Tunnel which is over 2km long (photos in album).
In the other direction, a flight of locks progressively takes the canal boats down the hill on which Stoke Bruerne is situated.
Most of the boats we saw on the day were operated privately by live-in owners or on charter. There are no lock-keepers at this point so those on the boats are primarily responsible for operating the locks. Vija had a wonderful time chatting with some of the people on the boats. It is a very slow way to travel especially when faced with a flight of locks.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Canberra meets in Warwick - Tuesday 14 Jul

We met up with the Greens today in the Warwick area and wandered around Warwick, Leamington Spa and the village of Berkswill. Peter and Lyndall know the area well and took us to some marvelous places that we would have missed otherwise. The highlight of the day was the Mill Pond Garden adjacent to the Warwick Castle. Here are two photos of the mill pond on the River Avon. The first is of a now disused bridge that was once the main river crossing for Warwick. The second is a view from the garden to where the pond and the river passes Warwick Castle. The third is of Lyndall, Peter and Vija at our table at The Bear Inn at Berkswell. This is a 14th century building and I was taller than the ceiling and some of the major beam were at about my mouth level. Good food and ales though.
There are many more photos in the albums.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Warwick Castle and Stratford - Sun 12 July

Our British Heritage passes were about to run out so we decided that w'd better do Warwick Castle today situated in Warwick, Warwickshire. It's advertised as a working castle but in reality it is a walled hall (or mansion). Mind you, the walls are massively impressive featuring gigantic turrets. The Hall is very impressive and features lots of armour and weaponry. It is very touristy with lots of demonstrations, e.g. falconry and archery, and lots of exhibits and models. It's great fun and we enjoyed the visit but it really is more of a tourist treat than historically educational. Do have a look at the photos in album. Here we have a damsel, not in any distress, trying to entice a knight in shining armour.
Then it was back to Stratford upon Avon to catch the last three of the Shakespeare related buidings including his birthplace (another of those places that do not allow photographs). We also went for a walk along the Avon just to obtain this photo especially for our readers.

To Stratford upon Avon - Sat 11 July

It was off to Stratford upon Avon. It was a fairly easy drive down the motorways mainly and we arrived early enough to take in two visits. First was Ann Hathaway's Cottage and gardens. The cottage features additions and alterations made since it was built in the 1500s including furniture from all periods up unto the mid 1800s. It was originally part of a 100 acre farm/woodland and the gardens are relatively modern. Then it was on to Mary Arden's Farm (W Shakespeare's mum) and the adjacent Palmer Farm both of which have a strong historical workng-farm theme. Here we were also treated to a little falconry.

Friday, July 10, 2009

North Riding Buildings - Fri 10 July

Today being our last day in the Yorkshire area we just had to see Castle Howard. It's not, in any way, a castle but a magnificent mansion still occupied, and being restored, by the Howard family. Many readers will know it as the setting for the two BBC Brideshead productions. Vija really enjoyed this one! The photo here is of the front of the mansion and we have several photo of the mansion and the grounds in our album postings on Picasa. (In case any of you have lost the links, the general one is and the one for today with other pictures is
We also fitted in a visit to the ruins of the Kirkham Abbey. There is not much left but the photograph here is of the hand washing station area used by the monks. There was a weir built across the Derwent at this point during WWII to raise the water level enough for secret testing of amphibious equipment for use of D-Day. Just across the river is a manned railway gatehouse - how surprising in this day and age.
We also visited Nunnington Hall nearby but it was a big disappointment after the grandness of Howard Castle but we took a lovely photo (shown here) of a nearby bridge over the River Rye.

West Riding Excursion - Thurs 9 Jul

After a little research, we went of a retail centre north of York and spent about $150 on a compact camera to use on the rest of the trip - a Fujifilm A100 - 10Mps but otherwise very ordinary - only X3 optical zoom amongst other deficiencies. I would have liked to do much better but cameras are just so expensive here in the UK compared to Australia and as I am likely to get a as-good-as or better replacement for my Canon, we decided this little one would make a reasonable stop gap. It's major problem is that often it is hard to see what s on the screen. Still, I have uploaded some albums from it already and the three here were taken using it.
From where we ended up getting the camera, we opted to go to Knaresborough where my Kirby great grandparents were married and we were pleasantly surprised by this lovely village. We did eat at the World's End Inn (no, I did not ask if the HH guide to the Galaxy was the inspiration). You can even see our meal here. We visited the Knaresborough Castle which, sadly, was mostly demolished following the Civil War but it retains a poorly kept bowling green. The views from the castle grounds are magnificent as the photo of the viaduct over the River Nidd amply displays.
We returned via Newby Hall which is a magnificent estate and mansion which largely retains its orginal decor and nature. It was used as the setting for the BBC's production of Jane Austen's "Mansfield Park". Enjoy the photo of the two water nymphs.

Touring to Kingston on Hull (Hull) - Wed 8 July

We headed south-east today to Hull where we had a good look around in the old town area especially the maritime museum (no photos allowed though) and had a very nice meal and a pint of the amber. One of these photos is of Vija standing outside a Hull white telephone box. Apparently the local municipality put in its own phone system in 1902 and used white phone boxes and now the tradition continues.
We noticed that the village of Walkington was just off the road so we dropped in for a look at the church where one of my GG Grandmothers was baptised in 1824. Wde ran into a very informative gentleman there. The main stained glass behind the altar is very new as the old was beyond restoration (photo here).
We dropped off at the BeverleyMinster on the way back. It is nowhere as large and magnificant as Yorkminster but is still very impressive. Again we found a verger who was very informative. St John of Yorkshire is buried in the minster. We are showing a photograph of the very elaborate and huge font cap in the minister.
As we were leaving the minister, I changed the batteries in my Canon camera and when I went to restart it, it developed a lens error. Looks fairly fatal to me but luckily it is only 6 weeks old so I will be promptly seeking a replacement on my return.

York - Tuesday 7 Jul

We drove into York this morning which was a bit of a mistake as we should have done "park and ride". Parking in inner York was expensive and rare. Still, we got to spend a couple of hours doing a bit of shopping and walking the streets of the old walled town of York. It is very tourist oriented and there were lots of us. We thought about doing the tour of Yorkminster but took one look at the line-up and opted out. We still got to see a fair bit of the minster though and took a walk along a section of the River Ouse. Photos are of Clifford Castle and the Yorkminster.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Another Wolds Day - Mon 6 July

Once again spent the day wandering in the Yorkshire Wolds visiting Huggate, Wharram le Street, North Grimston, Wetwang, Driffield, Pocklington, Yapham and other localities. The first photo is a long distance view towards the village of Huggate. Our major activity of the day was a long walk up and down hill to the 'deserted' village of Wharram Percy (not that far from Kirby Underdale). The last occupants in the village were evicted in the early 1500s and a lot of research has been conducted in respect of this village including the recovery of about 700 burials.
The poppies are growing in a crop of Canola near the deserted village. They look very pretty when they grow thickly but must be a menace for the farmers.
The damaged church is that of Wharram Percy as it continued to be used by nearby localities up until the late 1800s.
The final photo is from our accommodation outside of Bishop Wilton. It was taken about 7:30pm (the sun is still relatively high in the sky then) and the sky was fairly cloudy then allowing a direct photograph of the sun.

Wandering the western part of the Wolds - Sun 5 Jul

We went for the traditional Sunday roast at the Three Cups Inn at Stamford Bridge (place of the other 1066 battle) having to brave a downpour. We then travelled through a number of nearby villages and hamlets mostly associated with he Kirby Ancestors. They included Skirpenbeck, Scrayingham, Leppington, Thixendale, Acklam, Leavening, Uncleby, Kirby Underdale, and Painsthorp. We took masses of photos but here are three.
Vija took the one of the steep slope where the two cows are backed by an unusual cloud formation (near Thixendale).
The photo of the road with the canopy of trees was also taken near Thixendale. We have been running into portions of road like this all over the UK but this time it was a nice road with very little traffic so we were able to stop. This one is fairly thinly wooded and some have such a thick canopy that they are like darkened narrow tunnels - love them!
The other photo is of the Hanging Grimston Road looking towards Kirby Underdale. My ancestors farmed this spot.

Yorkshire or bust - Sat 4 Jul

We made such good time heading for Yorkshire that we deviated through the North Yorkshire Moors and Dales and ended up at Scarborough where we visited Scarborough Castle. It was built on a high but large headland which dominates the surrounding sea and land. The headland could only be reasonably reached via a narrow, sloping track covered by battlements and the castle keep. The keep (see picture) was bombarded in the Civil War and the defenders were starved out. The headland has apparently been occupied even prior to the Romans who built a big beacon tower there and a small chapel was erected on the Roman foundations in about 1000AD. (As usual see our photo albums at the site previously advised on this blog)
We then went up to Whitby - what a mistake - there were thousands of weekend drivers attempting to fill a couple of hundred parking spots. Obviouslyit is a very popular place to visit. In the end we just gave up trying to park near the harbour and headed off to the village of Goathland which was the village given the fictitious name of Aidensfield in the BBC series "Heartland" so much loved by Vija. Lots of visitors again, mostly by coaches, but parking was relatively easy. It's an astonishing village which is part of the Duchy of Lancaster which tends to ensure that very little change occurs. Sheep wander through the streets and lean against houses to rest. Vija just had to drape herself over a "police car". It's a great little village even with its catering to its TV image.

Hadrians Wall - Friday 3 Jul

We left Edinburgh early this day to avoid expected traffic congestion because of a Regimental March down High Street. We were on our way nice;y whenour GPSA announced a recalculation because of traffic conditions. It then sent us around in a large triangle returning to where we started the deviation and was wanting to send us around again. It was most definitely time to simply follow the highway numbers.
Anyway we soon made it to Hadrians Wall ardea where we saw some great scenary and visited the remains of three Roman settlements. The first of these was Chesters Fort which was, originally at least, a cavalry fort built beside a roman bridge which was both a span across the Tyne River and part of Hadrians Wall. The are claims that the fort was built to protect the bridge but cavalry would not be used for such a purpose. The photo here is of the remains of the bath house next to the Tyne.
The next was the Housesteads Fort, an infantry fort, perched on top of a hill which, with towers, must have provided great 360 degree views of the locality. It was a big climb for each of us to get up there and, once we made it, the rain started. Still, we got to see everything and got back to the car getting just a little damp before the rain got to be too heavy. It too is built on Hadrians Wall. The photo here is of one of the granaries in the fort.
It was then onto Vindolanda. This settlement actually predated Hadrians Wall but came to form part of it. It is very large and includes a succession of forts including early wooden ones and civilian premises outside the forts. Much excavation has been done but there remains even more archaeological work to be undertaken. The photo here is of a roadway paved with very large flat stones.
We spent the night at a converted "gun lodge" and their were four other guests there all training their retriever dogs for competitions.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Edinburgh Thursday 3 Jul

Our main activity today was visiting Edinburgh Castle. It is astonishing just how much they have managed to fit on top of the rock. In addition to all the battlements there are also lots of buildings. We enjoyed the regimental museums and, Vija tried her luck with a piper. Lots of cannons on the walls but pride of place goes to the pictured Big Mons built in the 1450s and presented as a gift to King James II. It fired the rock cannonballs pictured with the cannon. It weighed over 6 tons and needed a crew of 100 men. Most of its life was spent firing the occasional salute but eventually the barrel blew.
We also captured the image of the Scottish Unicorn atop a memorial in High Street. We did the long walk down to Holyrood Palace but the Queen was there this week so no entry. One look at the exterior of the very recent (in Edinburgh terms) Scottish House of Parliament and we did not bother to seek entry. It looks awful but I suppose someone must love the design.