United Kingdom – 2023
London to Wick, Scotland
May 31 to June 5, 2023
Click on the photo for each day to view that day's photos
Day 16 - May 31, 2023
Let the tour begin! The next 23 days are on a bus traveling around England, then Scotland, Ireland, Wales and back to England. Today we left London and our first stop was Oxford. Yes, home of the oldest university in the English speaking world. Founded in 1263, it is actually 39 different colleges that are known as Oxford University. Some incredibly beautiful architecture (some incredibly ugly too)and the site of some of the sets and scenes for the Harry Potter movies.
Then it was off to Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of The Bard, William Shakespeare. After touring his birthplace and home and walking around the town some, a great dinner and a little break, I went out and got a few night shots of the Avon River.
Day 17- June 1, 2023
We arrived in York today about 1:00 which gave us the afternoon to explore this ancient city. There is evidence of people occupying this part of the world back as far as 3,000 BC. I has been an important hub of English life for many centuries. The remains of the Castle of York is called the Clifford Tower and it was the site of a massacre of Jewish people in 1170. The current structure was built around 1200 and the stone wall surrounding the old part of the city dates back to about 1250.
Very interesting walking around the very narrow street with the shops in the building that are a thousand years old. The York Minster (cathedral) is enormous. It is one of the largest in northern Europe and was completed in 1472 after several hundred years of construction.
I walked the wall around part of the city and up to the top of Clifford Tower to see the city from there. We were told there are no longer any bears in England. I would beg to differ however. After taking a few days off, Bud E. joined me on the walk today. See how many shots with him you can find.
Day 18 - June 2, 2023
Off today heading for Edinburgh, Scotland. First a stop in the Lakes District, another of the ten national parks of England. It contains the highest "mountains" and the largest bodies of water in England.
After a couple days of cool, cloudy weather, today was glorious! Sunny and warm. Mark, our tour director said he has been doing this tour for over 20 years and can count on one hand the times he has been to the Lake District with weather like this. May it continue!
Then across the border to Gretna Green. This started out as a blacksmith town in the mid 1700s but soon afterward it became a wedding destination. There was even one going on today when we were there. I managed to get a few shots of some bees in flight and a couple of some beautiful horses.
Then to Edinburgh where I spent the evening walking around the Old Town. Remains of civilization have been found here dating to 500 BC. This is a very old city. And an incredibly beautiful one.
Day 19 - June 3, 2023
Edinburgh Castle. Today was a walking tour of the castle and then a quick walking tour of some of Old Town (my walk yesterday was much larger, but without commentary). First the castle. It was constructed over several centuries but the oldest building is the smaller, plain building (photo #7) which is a chapel to this day and was constructed in 1130 AD. The views from up there are great!
Next on the walk we learned about too much stuff to put here (all about thieves and murderers and hangings and such) but one cool story is Greyfriars Bobby. Bobby was owned by a policeman for a few years and when the fellow died, Bobby showed up at the grave in the Greyfriars cemetery and guarded it for 14 years before passing on himself. People fed him but he wouldn’t leave the grave of his master. So, they buried Bobby beside the owner and there is a statue outside the cemetery.
Then tonight we went to a dinner where we were piped in and entertained with the piper, Scottish dancers and musicians. Interesting and good food.
One of the hardest things about doing this is the writing of these stories telling of the day’s events. I try to keep them short and hopefully interesting but then I forget stuff. One thing I have been meaning to comment on are the cars. Especially in London. First, there are waaay more makes here than at home. But, while I have seen Fords, not a single Chev or Dodge have I seen. Second, the luxury cars are everywhere. And I mean very high-end cars. Rolls Royce, Maybach (you may have never heard of that one), Austin Martin, Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and models that I have never seen. I am sure some of these cars are worth far more than my house. There are also Renault, Skoda, Vauxhall, MG, Mini, Citroen, and many more. Crazy.
Day 20 - June 4, 2023
The day started out cool and cloudy but it cleared up and warmed up as the day went along. First stop...a place I always thought it would be great to see but never thought it would happen. St. Andrews Golf Course. One of the oldest in the world and home of "The Open", one of the four major golf championships. There was even a tournament taking place, the St. Rule Trophy which is a ladies amateur tournament. It was early enough in the day that they had not yet reached the 18th hole so I was able to get a couple shots there, including Bud E. on the famous Swilcan Bridge.
Next stop was the small town of Pitlochry for lunch then off to the Blair Castle. The castle was started in 1269 but took several centuries and many changes to get to today. Full of beautiful artifacts (some of the tapestries have been hanging on the walls for over 400 years) and all sorts of weapons and paintings. In the ground of the castle we found some Hairy Highland Coos (cows). Strange looking beasts.
Then off to the site of a battle that changed the history of Scotland at the Battle of Culloden. I won't get into the story here but also very interesting if you want to ask Mrs. Google (she know everything.) A building with a thatched roof and a bird that I think is a Song Thrush. Finally on to Inverness for dinner and a couple shots of the River Ness. Tomorrow, a boat ride on Loch Ness.
Day 21 - June 5, 2023
Place you have heard about for years but never thought you would see? How about Loch Ness? Today we took a short boat cruise on Loch Ness. Fittingly, the weather is cool and cloudy but calm and Loch Ness is very beautiful. Of course we were on the lookout for Nessie but to no avail. Bud E. says he saw Nessie, but I think he's full of bear poop.
After driving for a while we stopped at a pretty little town (Helmsdale) for lunch. I walked along the river a bit for some shots and got a couple of a local crow, called a jackdaw. Then it was off to Wick where we toured an almost 200 year old Scotch Whiskey distillery. Interesting stuff. I won't bore you with the details, mainly because I can't remember them but suffice to say it is quite the process. They gave us a sample after the tour and I will say that it was much better than I remember from drinking Scotch many years ago.
Before our evening dinner we then went to The Old Smiddy Inn, a 180 year old building that was a blacksmith shop for 150 years before becoming a pub. There we attended a "cèilidh" which means kitchen party in Gaelic. The gentleman hosting was amazing. Raymond Bremner, a former world champion Gaelic singer, town councilor and extremely knowledgeable man entertained and enlightened us for two hours. We also had a couple young folk play the bagpipes for us (in a small room, my ears will ring for a while). All in all, a very interesting day.