AMAZING! Is really all I have to say to that! Okay, let’s start from the beginning. My wonderful hubby and I decided it is time to spend some TLC together. Barry and I have our own swag, so instead of booking an all-inclusive vacation to some tropical resort, we did it our way. We hired the world’s smallest SUV, packed a little pink suitcase and went on a road trip for 25 AMAZING DAYS!
With 25 days, 32 towns in 4.5 countries, 3100 miles and 2200 pictures later, we had the best escapade EVER! We didn’t plan, we just went! Now, that’s what I call a honeymoon!
Thinking of doing a United Kingdom & Ireland tour, here’s what we did:
- Oxford: Check out Turf Tavern (if you can find it). It is a tiny bar that accommodates people under 5 feet. This is where Clinton supposedly “did not inhale” during his school days at Oxford. After leaving Oxford, try to catch the Hellfire Caves in West Wycombe. Make sure you check their opening times; we were a week too early.
- Cambridge: Try to catch a choir practicing anywhere! We caught a youth choir at Great St Mary’s Church. Their voices would bring a tear to your eye. Check out Kings College that has the largest fan vaulted ceiling in the world. Have lunch outside at Cambridge Chop House. I recommend the salmon, Barry recommends the steak.
- York: The energy from this city was so vibrant, my favorite city in England. The free National Railway Museum, York Wall, St Mary’s Abbey were all great places to see. Not as interesting as York Minster, drinking tea and enjoying clotted cream and jam on scones, then doing the 275 step hike up the tower. After the views take your breath away, head back down and off to the Shambles to see some interesting 14th century buildings. If you have time at night, get freaked out by going on one of many ghost tours. Needless to say, I didn’t have energy to go on a ghost tour as York Minster killed me, so plan accordingly.
- Durham: Durham Cathedral is gorgeous. Unfortunately, you can’t take photos while inside, but you can take in the beauty of the oldest vaulted ceilings in the world. Durham Castle was closed for a wedding the day we went, I think that would have been amazing as well.
- Alnwick: Pronounced ‘ann-nick’ has a stunning castle with beautiful gardens. We did not pay to go in the castle, and choose to check out the surrounding grounds instead.
- Lindisfarne – The Holy Island: Beautiful island to see when the tide is not out (as you will not be able to get to it if its high tide). A gorgeous castle, a Priory and Lime Kilns. Worth checking out.
- Berwick upon Tweed: England’s most northern town. You want the grand customer service? You need to stay at the Black Bull Inn in Lowick. The host and his team make you feel very comfortable at this guest house. Food was great, and atmosphere was welcoming. We did Bamburgh Castle, which was beautiful, but not spectacular.
- Carlisle: Nothing here to see, it was just somewhere to lay our heads between travels.
- Axbridge: The Oak House to stay and dine. Hands down, amazing food, friendly staff, and great atmosphere. Make sure you check out the Tudor House opposite to it.
- Cheddar: Yes, must go here and see where cheese gets its name. The Cheddar Caves are unbelievable, and you will feel like you have been tele-ported to the Flintstones era. Make sure you take time to try the cheeses, and check out the wild mountain goats.
- Wells: Wells Cathedral is another stunning masterpiece (not as stunning as Salisbury Cathedral tho). Unlike other places that just say “No Photos”, Wells Cathedral gets you to purchase a “Photo Permit” which entitles you to take photos on this site. It is definitely worth the small fee.
- Longleat: Lions, and Tigers, and Hares – OH MY! Longleat is an outdoor safari that allows monkeys to rip off your antenna, deer to kick your car while feeding them, bats to hover around you, sea lions to ‘bark’ at you, and Canadian Wolves to amaze you. A little pricey, but worth a full day.
- Melrose: Another quiet town you could check out. It boasts that the Abbey has Robert the Bruce’s heart buried supposedly.
- Edinburgh: This was our biggest disappointment city. It may had to do with the fact that it was snowing sideways when we got there after having 2 full weeks of gorgeous sunshine. Or it could be the fact that we stayed at a horrible guest house which didn’t seem to be a licensed guest house. Or the fact that we got free tickets to ride the Big Bus Heritage Tour of the city and fell asleep out of boredom. I’m not sure. What I do know is that I had the best Chicken Bacon Cesar Salad ever at the Meadows Hotel.
- Kinross; Great place to rest between places :D
- Inverness: One of our favorite guest houses was the Ivanhoe Guest House in Inverness. A quite town, but worth the drive. A 20 minute drive away to Chanonry Point will bless you with the largest spots to see Bottlenose dolphins in the UK. Bring an extra battery pack for your camera; between us we took over 400 photos trying to capture these beautiful creatures.
- Isle of Skye: Do the full island drive, seeing Kilt Rock, the Museum, and Lealt Falls to name a few. Stop and have a waffle in Portree, and enjoy a delicious risotto at the Broadford Hotel.
- Fort William: Another quaint town with a number of pubs and stores like the Edinburgh Woolen Mill. All I can suggest is getting coffee at a pub is much cheaper than going to a cafe (if you can find one).
- Glasgow: We did some shopping here, but were really turned off by the city driving. It was probably the most confusing traffic pattern we have ever encountered. With four green traffic lights staring at you and it’s still not your turn. The best thing to do is to wait for someone to honk at you then proceed with caution. I wanted to get a deep fried Mars bar, but no one knew where I could find one. It may be invented there, but it definitely wasn’t popular to find. Stayed at a hotel (that allows dogs) on Sauchiehall Street. You should ask someone how this street name is pronounced, it made me giggle.
IRELAND (and Northern Ireland for argument sake)
- Belfast: Head north to the Giant’s Causeway (on the way stop at Superbites in Ballymoney for £3 breakfast – so worth it). Make sure you have comfortable shoes whilst at the Causeway, as this is not a place for stilettos. It’s another mystery that will make you go ‘hmmm’.
- Dublin: Now here is a city not to miss. Hang out on a Saturday night to see some live action in Temple Bar. Best Italian cuisine at Il Baccaro. Just outside of Dublin you MUST go to my favorite place on this entire trip – Brú na Bóinne. Now, I have sat on the Egyptian Pyramids, I have gazed at the mysteries of Stonehenge in England and explored the Prehistoric Temples in Malta. Nothing was as amazing as Newgrange at Brú na Bóinne. I had to sit and just stare at it for a few minutes. Astonishing what man could do thousands of years ago. I can’t stress enough how exciting it is to see this place, sorry Giza.
- Cork: Corky place. Sorry I had to say that. We did the tourist thing and kissed the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle. It was a great ruin, but I think they should provide you with antiseptic Chap Stick after that kiss. Our lips were tingling from the possible contaminants or by getting the gift of gab.
- Cobh: Pronounced ‘cove’, is a quaint place to check out. We recommend not taking a Fiat Panda on this epic journey there. I think I lost 3 stones, and saw my life flash before me on that roller coaster drive to Cobh.
- Shannon: Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, and Doolin Cave (we didn’t go in it, but looked cool) were pretty spectacular to see. A definite must do is the Medieval Dinner at the Bunratty Castle. And if you can swing staying at the Bunratty Hotel – even better.
- Galway: As much this place was pretty, it was the least most welcoming place for me. Perhaps these lyrics I came up with could explain how I felt: “I walk in the pub and this is what I see, everyone stops and staring at me, I got a fro on my head and I’m not afraid to show it – I’m black and I know it!” Besides that, Fish n’ Chips at McDonagh’s was great. Followed by a walk to Salthill Pier.
- Westport: This is a gorgeous place to just sit back and relax. It is the kind of place I pictured where retirees would settle. – beautiful. We decided to check it out after our three course meal at Asgard. Bailey’s Cheesecake -Yum, Yum!
- Athenry: We went to check out the Abby and Castle, but as soon as we got there the people decided to close up shop early and slammed the gate on us. Most people would get upset, we didn’t. We just took photos outside the castle and Abby. Saved us some Euros.
- Conwy: Must see the Conwy Castle. Now here is a ruin that has more to offer than intact castles. You get mesmerized when you stand at the watch tower and look across to see the surrounding enclosed wall. It is amazing, and definitely our most favorite castle we have seen yet.
- Caernarfon: We were advised to check out the Caernarfon Castle as we were staying nearby. We vetoed that idea after Conwy Castle.
- Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch: Yes, this does in fact exist and is the longest named village in Europe. Head down to the train station, and stamp your own passport (if you wish). Make time to have a meal at the coffee shop (think it is called the Caffs) across the street. Very quaint, and lovely.
- Llanberry: Stunning views here. Would be nice to catch the Mountainview steam train, if you can find the ticket booth. Make sure you verify what train you want as there is also a Lakeview train.
- Cardiff: Have a pint at the best pub in Wales – the City Arms, and then have an exquisite dinner at Casanova. Drive up to St Fagans, the free national open air museum. We didn’t spend too much time here as it was a wet and gloomy day, but you can learn lots about the Welsh history here. Make the time to check out the Big Pitt – Coal Museum. You get taken 300 feet below with a miner to explore what life was like working in that coal mine.
Cheers to The best unplanned holidays ever!