(MAY 23, 1987 - JUNE 13, 1987)
The Bergs (Walter and Ann) and the Rays (J.W. and Betty Jean) departed on the afternoon of May 23, 1987, aboard Delta Flight 184, after being transported to the airport by Lamar and Frances Cockrell, who regretfully had to stay behind and mind the store. After a brief layover in Atlanta, where we had just enough time for our first Spades game on an ashtray in the terminal, we boarded Delta Flight 10 for London, England, landing about 8 hours later at Gatwick Airport. We caught a train in to Victoria Station, then a taxi to our hotel, the Mount Royal, near the Marble Arch.
We picked up our "Open to View" tickets at the airport, which would get us in to many of the castles and other tourist attractions in the United Kingdom.
There is a five hour time difference, so we actually arrived in London at 8:00 am, their time, or 3:00 am, Florida time. At Victoria Station, an enterprising fellow approached me and asked if we needed a taxi. A "yes" answer resulted in him scooping up our suitcases and heading at a run down several long corridors through crowds of people. It was then a chase to keep up with him. He did indeed hail a taxi and piled our suitcases in the front seat with the driver, asking £2 for his effort. The others did not let me forget how gullible I was. There were apparently signs on the walls warning people about just such as this.
The train ride into town cost £12, and the taxi ride £5. After a short nap, we went out on the streets, pinching ourselves to believe that we were really in London, England. The streets were busy, with unique black Austin taxis and double decker buses weaving in and out of traffic, all on the wrong side of the street.
That took a bit of getting used to, especially later when we rented our car. We walked from our hotel to the Big Ben clock and Westminster Abbey, and took a boat tour down the Thames River to the Tower of London and back. Getting round trip tickets on the boat tour was a waste. We should have gotten off at the Tower Bridge and caught the subway home. As it was, we had to listen to the narrative about the same things the second time. And it was cold!! The air was clear, but it was cold and windy. We caught a taxi back to the hotel, ate dinner at the Three Tuns pub in the next block, then played our 2d Spades game and crashed for the night.
On Monday, May 25th, we found our way to the subway, and managed to catch the right one to the Tower of London. It was a "bank" holiday, so relatively few people were traveling. This was to be our first use of our Open to View tickets. The Tower of London was first built in the year, 1078, 12 years after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror in 1066. That was the last successful invasion of the British Isles, and resulted in William being crowned King William the First. The Tower was built as a fortress to protect the royal family from reprisals by the native Saxon people, and served as the center of political life in Great Britain for 700 years. The Tower of London was strategically located in position to protect both the Thames River and the City of London. It took two hundred years to complete the construction. After Henry VIII's reign, in the early 1500's, the Tower gradually went out of use as a royal palace, and became an arsenal, a mint, and most notably a political prison. Many horror stories are told about the tortures and atrocities that occurred here. The Tower later became the London Zoo. It is now a tourist attraction and houses the Crown Jewels and a museum of weapons.
From the Tower of London, we took a taxi to Buckingham Palace in time to see the changing of the guard. Buckingham Palace is the official home now of the royal family. Queen Elizabeth was in Europe on this day, and not in residence, but the pomp and pageantry connected with the guard changing at 11:00am was impressive. There must have been a hundred or more uniformed guards, a marching band, a horse brigade, etc. It took about a half hour to complete the spectacle. The crowds of people made it impossible to get a really good view of the proceedings, but we captured a good bit of it on video, and on slides.
We then walked to Victoria Station and took a two hour tour on one of the double decker buses around the city. We then walked to Westminster Abbey and went in to see the tombs of the many dignitaries of the past. Afterward, we took a regular bus to Hyde Park, and the "Speaker's Corner."
"Speaker's Corner" is a small area at the edge of Hyde Park, which is set aside for anyone who wishes to mount their soap box and speak, preach or talk about any subject they wish. We heard about the problems of Israel, countered by an Arab heckler, and several scriptural sermons, one concentrating on arguing against evolution. There was a speech against trade unions, and another for Gay Rights - all very strange. We had never seen anything like that before. Nothing like that exists in the U.S. A policeman nearby pointed out that Speaker's Corner gives folks a platform to vent their frustrations far better than resorting to violence, and we had to agree.
By 6:30pm, we were exhausted. Back at the hotel, we had dinner in the Mount Royal coffee shop, and retired. Tuesday, May 26th- I discovered that my battery charger for the video camera would not work with the adaptor and converter on the 230V electricity of England. So, while the girls went to Herrods for shopping, the men found a camera store and purchased a new universal Sony charger. Don't understand why they sell anything else. That cost £100. Afterward, the men also found their way to the famous Herrod's for a few minutes of shopping.
London was an interesting city, with exceptionally friendly people. Store clerks, bank tellers, taxi drivers, bobbies and bobbettes, and just people on the street were all friendly and helpful. We encountered none of the pushing and shoving and indifference that characterizes such other large cities as New York. The weather was cool (45°F to 60°F) and clear. There was an early morning fog that cleared by noon. London has about 13 million residents, so there is some smog or haze in the air. Traffic and tourism is handled very efficiently. Everything is very expensive, however. Our hotel bill for two nights was £160 or $272.
After checking out of the hotel, we caught a taxi to Heathrow Airport, where we picked up the car that we had earlier reserved. We had booked a Ford station wagon with standard transmission, but when we went to get it, the only one available was a Volvo wagon with automatic transmission. This was a stroke of good fortune. Learning the left side of the road driving was enough without also having to get use to a left hand gearshift. The Volvo was really a luxury car, and would have cost four times the £200 per week that we paid if we had ordered it to begin with.
Our first stop after leaving Heathrow, was Windsor and the Windsor Castle. This is one of the Queen's residences, and houses some of the most elaborate furnishing we had ever seen. The main entrance is a gateway built by King Henry VIII in 1509, when the castle was already over 400 years old. The gateway leads into the parade ground, where another changing of the guard takes place with more pomp and pageantry. We did not see this, as it had been discontinued for the summer season. The Round Tower commands the entrance. It was built in the 12th century as the main stronghold of the castle. What used to be a moat is now a beautifully landscaped garden. Again, our Open to View tickets were used to gain entrance into Queen Mary's Dolls' House, an Exhibition of Artwork by Leonardo da Vinci, Holbein and others, the royal dining hall (called the Waterloo Chamber), the Throne Room, the Grand Reception Room, St. George's Hall, The Queen's Guard Chamber, Presence Chamber, and Audience Chamber, the Ball Room, Drawing Room, and Bed Chambers. None of these would have been open had the royal family been there. Windsor Castle is the oldest royal residence still in use.
Back to Motorway (M4) and east to Reading, with me driving. For the rest of the trip J.W. and I alternated driving days. The toughest part of this wrongway driving is staying in the center of the lane. With the driver's seat on the right side of the car, we had to overcome the tendency to hug the left side of the lane. On one occasion, I hugged to close and slapped rearview mirrors with a parked car. That resulted in a cracked mirror.
Our next stop was at the ancient ruins of Stonehenge. These huge boulders were transported to this location in a wide open plain about 5,000 years ago from at least 100 miles away. It is speculated that the stones were placed in their circular positions to form some sort of ceremonial area. On the date of the solstice each year (June 21st) the stones are so aligned that the sun's rays enter along a predesigned path, to fall on a certain spot. The effort required to move the stones into location and position boggles the mind. It would be a tremendous even today with our modern equipment.
From Stonehenge, we went north to Avebury, or rather Winterbourn Monkton, where we found our first Bed and Breakfast at the home of Desmond and Mary Jackson. They called their home Druidstone. They were warm and friendly hosts, making our first B&B experience a good one. The rooms were clean and nicely decorated. Each had a sink in one corner. A bathroom in the hall was shared with other guests. The cost was £10 per person, which included breakfast in the morning of scrambled eggs, bacon (more like thinly sliced ham), mushrooms, stewed tomatoes, toast, jelly, and tea. Another guest was a visitor from Los Angeles, who was a harpist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
After saying goodbye to the Jacksons, we drove the short distance to the little town of Avebury, where more ancient stones mark the site of another ceremonial complex. These stones were also placed in a circle, but a much larger one than those at Stonehenge. This circle enclosed about 28 acres of land, including the village of Avebury. In many ways this was more interesting than Stonehenge. While Stonehenge was isolated on an untreed plain, Avebury is an inhabited village, and the land around the stone is pastureland for sheep and cattle. Outside the circle of stones is a deep ditch, also circular, and a circular mound made from the soil dug out of the ditch. Again, it is hard to imagine how the stones, actually
60 ton boulders, were transported and placed in such a precise pattern. There is a small museum in Avebury which houses artifacts dug up from the ancient ruins, and tells the story of the stones.
We then drove through Calne, Sandy Lane, and some beautiful rolling countryside to the city of Bath. We couldn't help but compare this with the countryside we saw in Germany. This was not nearly so densely populated. Many farms were growing barley, wheat and rape. Everything is a plush green. Also, there are thousands of sheep, and some cattle. Bath is a city built around old mineral springs which were developed into public baths by the Romans in about 200 AD. There is much archealogical work being done, excavating old ruins. All building are the same color, a sandy brown stone. Tourists are everywhere. It was very difficult to find a place to park. We had to walk into town. We had tea in the famous Sally
Lunn tearoom, using £1 coins given us by Rose and Keith Howard. After walking around town a bit, we got back to the car and proceeded southwest along A38 and then A5 to Exeter and the Dartmoor National Park. Roads in the park were narrow and many were lined with high walls on each side, eliminating the chance to see much landscape. It also made driving hazardous. Toward the southwest end of the park the road led up into the mountains, where the landscape changed to what appeared to be a barren wasteland covered with a dark looking sage like bush. We later learned that this was heather and becomes very beautiful when it blooms in late summer - a deep blue. Again, we saw many sheep. Our goal for the night was Plymouth, on the southern coast.
Plymouth is a large seacoast city with a beautiful harbor. Water is exceptionally clear. When the weather warms, this must become a popular resort. Many facilities were present for enjoying the water. Plymouth was the port of debarcation for the Mayflower in 1620, which brought 102 pilgrims to found the new world colony of Massachusetts. A memorial stone and plaque are installed in the harbor wall commemorating the sailing of the Mayflower. The pilgrims originally left England from Gloucester in two vessels, the Mayflower and the Speedwell, but the Speedwell developed leaks and both vessels put in to port at Plymouth where the Speedwell was abandoned and all of the people were put on the Mayflower for the Atlantic crossing. The Mayflower was not the first English vessel to sail for America. Plymouth was also the point from which the vessel Sea Venture sailed eleven years earlier in 1609 with 150 persons aboard who eventually landed in Jamestown, Virginia. One of the Sea Venture passengers came home and was a passenger on the Mayflower for a second crossing to America. We spent the night in Plymouth at the Anchorage Hotel. We had an excellent view of the harbor from our 3rd floor room. Our evening meal was at the Platters restaurant where we had fish and chips for the first time. Plymouth is also a fishing port. Plymouth was bombed heavily during World War II, so most buildings there now are relatively new.
Thursday, May 28th- We left Plymouth about 9:00am for the drive to Lands End. Roads were excellent. Crossing from Devonshire to Cornwall was over a high suspension bridge overlooking a beautiful waterfront scene and harbor. Unfortunately, there was no place to stop for photographs. Cornwall is the home of the Cornish people. The language is noticeably different. The countryside is crisscrossed with rock wall fences which form the boundaries of farms. We stopped for a short time at Falmouth, known as the prettiest harbor in Europe. It was pretty. We toured another castle built to protect the harbor. As we got close to Lands End the countryside changed. There were much fewer trees, and those that were there, were windblown evidencing the fact that the wind blows off the Atlantic Ocean in a continuous fashion. We saw many potato farms. There are also a number of old abandoned tin mines, in various states of disrepair. At Lands End, it is just that. It is the westernmost spot in England. A high bluff of sheer rock (about 300 high) overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. The waves crashing against the bottom of the bluff make a fantastic picture. The rock bluff is an ideal rookery for many varieties of sea birds. The wind was strong and steady. On leaving Lands End we elected to follow a "C" road along the coast. The road turned out to be very narrow and again lined with stone walls. There were only occasional opportunities to see out. There was barely enough passing room. We followed this road to the quaint town of St. Ives, where we found a B&B called The Greystones, owned by the Parks, Tony and Jen. The view from our bedroom window was gorgeous, overlooking the ocean from atop a 300 foot bluff. At the base of the bluff was a sandy beach in an inlet bounded on both sides by rocky bluff. You could also see the BrittRail train tracks about halfway down. Again, we had fish and chips for dinner at a restaurant in town called John Berk's. Our hosts were cordial. Mr. Park stayed home in the morning to personally serve us our breakfast. After we left, he left also to go to work. Ann lost her watch here. A month later, after we had gotten home, she got a telephone call from Mr. Park advising that he had found the watch and was "popping it in the post" for her. St. Ives is a haven for artists in the summer. That is easy to understand with all the natural beauty in the area. The gulfstream keeps the place relatively warm. There were many beautiful gardens and wild flowers.
We decided to take the "A" road to Clovelly from St. Ives. Clovelly is back in Devonshire, and is a unique town in every sense of the word. It is located at the foot of the coastal bluff, and was originally an old time fishing village. The streets of the town are so steep and so narrow that it is impossible for motor traffic to descend into the town. So, we parked at the top of the bluff, and walked down. At the top, the wind was strong and cold. As we descended the cobblestone streets, the bluff blocked the wind and it no longer felt so cold. For anyone spending the night in the two inns in Clovelly, all luggage must be transported into town on the backs of donkeys. The lack of motor traffic makes for a quiet, clean environment. The city dates back at least to the 1500's, and there are claims that it was founded by the Romans in 70 BC. There is an ancient earthworks above the village that
definitely dates to Roman times. There is no other village in the British Isles like Clovelly. We were told about it by Carl and Harriet Wellons who had visited the town while they were living in Wales. We had a light lunch at a pub, and then ascended to the car.
Back to the M5 and north to Herefordshire. The Motorways of England are better than our Interstates in many respects. If only they knew which side of the road to drive on! On the Motorway, which they call a dual carriageway, the slowest traffic is driving 70 mph. There are three lanes each way. We stayed on the M5 to Worcester (pronounced Wooster), then headed west to Leominster (pronounced Limster), to find the Croft Castle. Just outside of Leominster, we found an 18th century farm house which was a B&B. Very little had been done to modernize the house. It was large and contained numerous antiques. It was located amid 150 acres of land. Chris Mungerfield was our hostess. She had two small children. Her husband never showed himself to us. This was not a bad experience, but it was probably the worst of all the B&B's that we stayed in. We ate dinner that evening at the Crown and Scepter Pub in Leominster. It was an excellent meal. We had steak and ham and drank a black current and lemonade beverage. The owner was very informative about local customs. He told of the dart tournaments that were held in the back room of the pub each year. His team had won the annual trophy, which he was proud to show off. I inquired as to how to get one of the dartboards and was told that they were only sold to the pubs.
Saturday, May 30th- All available evidence indicates that the Croft family in America stems from Herefordshire, in the area dominated by the Croft Castle. In England's old system of primogeniture, the family estate always passed to the eldest son. The effect of this was to leave the old estates pretty much in tact, but the younger sons were left with nothing. Many of these became immigrants to America. While we cannot prove conclusively that our Crofts (my mother's family) were from this group of younger sons, it appears to be the case. The earliest of our Crofts, of which we have record, were in South Carolina in the late 1700's. We know that many English immigrants settled in South Carolina at about that time or before. No Crofts have been found in Scotland or Ireland. Croft Castle was closed when we arrived on Saturday morning. But after a brief explanation of our family ties to the administrator, he agreed to let us in and gave us a very informative private tour. It seems that there were Crofts in Herefordshire even before the Norman invasion of England in 1066, the first on record being Bernard de Croft. There is a continuous record of Crofts from Sir Richard Croft who was made a Knight in 1487, and who died in 1509. Richard was an aide to the Queen stationed in the Tower of London. Sir Herbert Croft became the first Baronet in 1671, and the Baronetcy has descended continuously in the family since then to the present Baronet, who is the 14th and resides in Australia. The Castle and surrounding estate were in family hands from the earliest records of England until 1746, when the estate was sold to stem a tide of indebtedness. It was repurchased by Sir James Croft in 1923, although the size had diminished from an original 12,000 acres to 34 acres. The upkeep proved too costly, and the Castle was sold in 1957 to the National Trust which holds title at present. The National Trust has since bought up a considerable amount of surrounding land and has essentially restored the estate to its earlier size. There is a small church on the property (Church of England), which contains the tombs of many of the Croft family members. Part of the agreement when the property was sold to the National Trust was that certain family members would continue to have the right to remain in residence. There are, therefore, three Croft families still in residence at the Castle. The grounds are well maintained. It, in fact, was one of the best preserved castle estates that we saw on our trip. There is an especially nice row of trees along the entrance road. These are 350 year old Spanish chestnut oaks. There were over 23,000 visitors to the Castle in 1986. Unfortunately, there are no records of family members who may have left to go to America. After leaving the castle, we headed north to the Lake District. We ate lunch at Barbary Carver, an excellent buffet style meal.
The Lake District, without a doubt, contains the prettiest scenery in England. Lakes, mountains, rock walls, gorgeous flowers, etc. We found a B&B at Ambleside on a lake called Rydalwater. The house was an old parsonage that had been redecorated beautifully by the present owners, Peter and Susan Jackson. Next door was the former home of the poet, William Wordsworth. Our room was called the Rose Room, and overlooked a garden plush with rhododendrun of all colors.
Sunday, May 31st- Breakfast was not served until 8:30am, which gave time for a walk along the lake before eating. The weather had turned nice, the wind had calmed, and everything had a fresh look to it. Many sheep were grazing around. We spotted a newborn lamb that was taking its first steps. There were geese and ducks on the lake. The tops of the mountains were still shrouded in fog, but that just added to the beauty. Wish we could have stayed longer here. After breakfast, though, we loaded up and headed for Scotland.
The woolen mills at Kewick, Selkirk and Galashields were all closed, so we made a note to stop there on the way back, and continued on to Edenburgh (pronounced Edenborough). We went through the first rain of the trip, a light shower.
Edenburgh's outstanding feature is the castle which is perched on a 100 foot high rock dominating the city. The city has an old world charm about it, with many monuments to Scotland's past heroes. A particularly striking monument was the one to Sir Walter Scott. We found the hotel that was recommended to us by the Jacksons of Ambleside, the Piries Hotel, and checked in for a two night stay.
Monday, June 1st- We took a bus from our hotel to within walking distance of Holyrood Palace at the lower end of the "Royal Mile." Holyrood was once the home of Mary Queen of Scots, and now is the residence of Queen Elizabeth when she is in Edenburgh. There is much history connected with this place. We were told of intrigues and violence that occurred in the colorful history of the palace. An abbey, which is now a shambles, is adjacent to the palace. Both the palace and abbey were severely damaged by the sympathizers of Oliver Cromwell during the period they call the "Interregnum" in a time of civil war. King Charles II rebuilt the palace, but not the abbey. We met a lady in the courtyard who was raised in Tampa and attended the same schools in Seminole Heights as I did. Small World!! After the tour of the palace and abbey, we began walking up the "Royal Mile". It is a narrow busy street of the old town with many old buildings and shops along the way. It is a continuous climb to the castle, where the view out across the city
and surrounding countryside is grand. On the day we were there, the air was clear of all haze, and we could see for miles. The castle is such an dominating feature of Edenburgh it is easily overlooked by the visitor that Edenburgh is a major seaport city. From the castle itself, you can see the bay called the "Firth of Forth" and the North Sea beyond. The castle is a beehive of activity. Of course, there were many tourists, but there was also other routine activity going on with the kilted marching Scottish guardsmen, the firing of the signal gun, etc. At one o'clock everyday, a uniformed portly gentleman very meticulously loads the signal gun and exactly on the hour fires the cannon. We heard a bagpipe band, and got some pictures of Ann and Betty Jean standing with the kilted guardsmen. One of them put his headdress on Ann for pictures. All told, we spent about 5 hours on the "Royal Mile." Afterward, we walked over to St. Andrews Square and caught a bus to Penicuik to tour the Edenburgh Crystal plant. Here we took a tour and saw the glass being blown and formed into various shaped goblets, bowls, jars, etc., and then cut, etched and polished into the finished product. They have a refined system of grading. Only the top quality finished product is etched on the bottom with "Made in Scotland" trademark and is given a blue stickon label. They, however, still market the seconds under a green stickon label. These seconds were available in the factory store. We were told that Edenburgh crystal contains more lead (36%) than any of their competitors. Waterford crystal, made in Ireland, contains 33%. The cutting is done by craftsmen holding each piece by hand against a highspeed cutting wheel. Different shaped wheels are used for different patterns. Finer designs are done by artists using hand engraving techniques. Even the seconds are high priced. A drinking glass was £12 (or $20).
We ate at a Chinese restaurant near our hotel that evening. Egg rolls were called spring rolls.
As we went farther north, the days became increasingly long. It was still daylight at 10:30pm and light again before 4:30am.
In Scotland, they have rejected the one pound coin of England and use instead, one pound notes from individual banks. The £1 coin is slightly larger in diameter than our nickel, but considerably thicker, with engraving on the rim. It is easily confused with the other larger coins which are worth less.
Edenburgh is an obviously prosperous city, with many interesting things to see. I felt that we could have easily spent 3 or 4 days there and not seen all of the important things. Workmen were all about cleaning and maintaining the old buildings. The old buildings are mostly constructed of native stone which has become a dark brownish color. The facades are very elaborate.
The Scottish brogue is much harder to understand than any of the others that we heard. The people were very friendly and helpful. We found that to be true everywhere. At the hotel we asked how to get laundry done, and were told to just put it on the bed. That evening we found our clothes back on the bed, cleaned for no charge.
Tuesday, June 2d- Still in Edenburgh, we visited Pringles store, where they specialize in woolens and the traditional Scottish plaids of the clans. A unique feature was a computerized family clan search which identified the proper plaid to buy and gave other information about the origins of the particular clan. We entered all the family names that we could think of, and found histories for MacLeod, McClellan, Addy, Lindsey, Ray and several others. There was no clan history for Croft, Lewis, Tabor, Johns, Drew, Strickland, Berg, Hudgins, Schumaker, or Cockrell. Pringles has their own woolen mills. We asked about Cashmere, and learned that this is made from the chin hair of a certain breed of goats in Manchuria. It is cut once a year, and brought over from China. This explained the extremely high price for Cashmere products. A Cashmere sweater in Pringles was about £140 ($238). We let them stay on the shelf.
Somewhat reluctantly, we left Edenburgh, crossing the Firth on Forth over a modern suspension bridge. Our route took us northward along the coast and through some gorgeous contryside. The rape fields were more mature and beautiful here than any we had seen further south. These plants produce a bright yellow flower and appear as seas of yellow on a backdrop of green in the quiltwork scenery. We learned that rape is used in the production of a vegetable oil.
Our next stop was at St. Andrews, Scotland, where the game of golf was originated. We saw and photographed the Old Course at St. Andrews, and bought some souvenirs from the pro shop near the first tee. We ate lunch in the hotel there, and then proceeded north to the Scottish highlands. The fact that the air was so clear made the scenery along the way more beautiful. As we got to higher elevations, the landscape changed, and we again saw mountainsides covered with heather, brown now, but to become a blue, purple color when it blooms in late summer. The Scottish highlands are mountains, every bit as rugged as our Rockies, although they have a character and beauty all their own. There are many more and larger bodies of water than in the Rockies, and it is colder for longer periods of time. Sheep are everywhere. There is apparently no fence law, and the animals are all alongside the road. Surprisingly, we saw no evidence of any of them being hit, perhaps, because there is very little traffic. The roads were narrow, and in many instances, only wide enough for one car. Passing places, or layby's, are provided at intervals to wait for oncoming vehicles. The roads are smooth-surfaced. Road signs leave much to be desired. They are few and far between. There are no billboards anywhere in the British Isles. At many intersections, we just had to guess as to the right way to turn, and had to turn around several times because of a wrong guess. We made it to Inverness, the capitol of the Highlands Region, about 6:30pm, and found a B&B in the MacLeod home. Mr. MacLeod recommended the Glenmoor Hotel for dinner. We had fresh smoked salmon there, which was delicious. Inverness is on the River Ness, at the upper end of Loch Ness, famous for the legendary Loch Ness monster. The river is swift flowing and very clean. There was no evidence of any boating activity. Inverness has its castle also, although we did not take time to tour it. By now, castles were becoming a bit "old hat." I walked into town before breakfast and watched the city coming to life. It appears to be very clean and prosperous. We could have spent more time here.
Wednesday, June 3rd- After breakfast, we drove north along a route suggested by Mrs. Jackson, back in Ambleside, England. The mountain scenery was magnificent. Above the tree line, the mountainsides were covered with heather. It rained on us off and on all day, and was generally very cold. This was the northernmost part of our trip. At many places, the scenery was breathtaking. We arrived at Kyle of Loehalsh about 11:00am. This is where the ferry leaves to cross the half mile stretch of water to the Isle of Skye. We elected to save that for another trip. Here, the sea joins the mountains in a spectacular panorama. The water is crystal clear. We saw a few sailboats, but not much boating activity. The tourist season was just starting, but I think that even at the height of the season, there are not many people about. The entire Highlands Region is very sparsely settled. We circled back along a more southern return route with better roads and got as far south as Glasgow that evening. We found a B&B just south of Falkirk in the home of the Pitcairns. There, we met a young man from New Zealand who was on a 7 week holiday touring the Isles. This was a farmhouse, although the Pitcairn farm is now managed by Mr. Pitcairn's sons who live at another location. We ate dinner at the Coachman Hotel, and had an excellent meal with chicken, steak, scampi (small shrimp), onion rings, mushrooms, carrots, potatoes (whole, and frenchfried), brussel sprouts, asparagus, fried bananas, fried peaches, and fried pineapple. This was a real "pig- out"!! We learned from the Pitcairns that a yellow flowered bush
we had seen growing wild was called "Broom." Our breakfast with the Pitcairns was the best of the trip. Edith Pitcairn took great pains to have everything just right.
Thursday, June 4th- After saying goodbye to the Pitcairns and Bruce (NZ), we headed southeast to retrace our earlier route, this time finding the woolen mills at Galashields open. I found a Cashmere sweater that was priced at less than half of the prices we had been seeing. The clerk's explanation was that it was left over from earlier production. The quality was the same as current production, but it was not their practice to mark the price up. Remarkable, so, I bought. The price was £60. At one mill, they maintained a display of the different varieties of wool, and a live display of the sheep that the different varieties came from. One distinctly different variety was the Jacob sheep which can be traced to biblical times. It is a varigated brown and white color, and has two sets of horns, one set, straight and long, and the other curved, like the more conventional breeds. J.W. bought a poster showing the different varieties.
On south, we crossed the border and re-entered England near the town of Canonbie. We stayed on the M5 for about 50 miles, then turned east to enter Yorkshire for a trip through the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Before doing that, however, we stopped for the night at a farmhouse B&B, the home of the Harpers. This was a real working farm. Mr. Harper had about 500 sheep and about 100 beef cows. He gave us a tour of his farm buildings and explained in detail how he handled his cows in winter inside the barns. This was rolling hilly country, again, crisscrossed by the old rock walls which now separate his pastures. These rock walls were built by early settlers many hundreds or years ago. Creating a wall is thought to be only a secondary purpose, the primary reason being to clear the rocks that laid naturally on the land, to make it a more usable. Mr. Harper was a very proper gentleman. He wore a very proper tweed jacket and hat, while at the same time wore pants and boots that were soiled with manure and other farm dirt. He had over 400 acres to tend, but he was quick to point out that he did not own it. He had been a rent paying tenant for over 30 years. He was very knowledgeable about livestock handling. One of his more interesting stories was how he managed to get a ewe, who had lost her lamb, to accept an orphaned lamb from another ewe. He skinned out the dead lamb and used the skin for a jacket that he placed on the orphan. The ewe then would accept the orphan and allow it to nurse. He said that he used the same procedure on orphaned calves.
Friday, June 5th- After breakfast with the Harpers, we continued eastward into the Yorkshire Dales. This is James Herriot country, where the movies about his books were shot. We learned, however, that "James Herriot" is a pen name, and that the author's real name is Alf Wight. He lives and has his veterinarian practice in the small town of Thirsk on the edge of the North York Moors National Park. The Dales are being preserved in the same state as they have existed for hundreds of years. All buildings are constructed of a grey stone, and remain unpainted. This gives them all a lookalike appearance. Even in the small towns everything looks the same. We stopped in the small town of Hawes and mailed some things back
home, to make room for some purchases. Again, many sheep on the hillsides.
Only a short distance from the Dales, and to the east, we came to the "Moors." This is a more mountainous region, but the mountains have wide, flat tops that can and are farmed. The word, Moor, means high ground. In the wild, the mountain sides are covered with heather. The air is not as clear as it was in Scotland. This is closer to the industrial areas, and the air is a bit smoggy. Our eastward drive ended at Whitby, on the east coast. There, we found ourselves on a high bluff, overlooking the North Sea. It was so windy, that it was almost impossible to stand. The type of buildings now seen were different. There must be red clay available, as we saw a lot of red brick used in construction.
We followed the coast south for a ways and then turned westward again, bypassing York, and stopping for the night in a hotel in Leeds. We were told that York is a very interesting city, one of the few remaining in England with the old city wall still standing. But we had to leave a tour of York for another time. The only thing good about our hotel was the restaurant there. Served buffet style, we had our choice of all sorts of good things.
Saturday, June 6th- We left Leeds and drove the Motorway through Manchester, crossing into northern Wales at Chester. Weather was sunny, but very windy. Our first stop in Wales was at Ruthin, a quaint little town with many old buildings, a castle, craft center, many little antique shops and pubs. There were many things going on in the craft center. About 15 shops were open and working: Pottery, glass blowing, candlemaking, framing, etc. The most interesting was a wild life artist by the name of Thomas Gibbs. He was also very good at calligraphy and lettered some book markers for us. He was most interesting to talk to, and he chatted all the time he was painting. Wound up buying a set of four paintings. When he learned that I was a lawyer, he reached behind him and looked through several old documents, finally selecting one written in Latin, and gave it to me. I was flabbergasted, to say the least. It still had old wax seals attached to a closing ribbon. He painted a wildlife scene on a ceramic piece for J.W., and promised to paint anything that we would send him a picture of. He expressed a desire for some good lightleaf cigars, so we made a note to send him some from home. He is planning on creating a document with the Gettysburg address and a picture of a Union soldier. We promised, also, to send him a picture of a Confederate soldier to include. He had earlier done a document reproducing a letter written by Chief Seattle to the President in the 1850's which very articulately expressed the Indian attitude about land and environment. After leaving Mr. Gibbs, we shopped around some, found a B&B for the night, booked passage on the ferry to Ireland, and made arrangements to attend a medieval banquet at the Ruthin Castle that evening. The banquet at the castle was a thing to remember. They served a three course meal with dessert. Only a dagger was provided for eating. First course was soup, then bread, then capon, salad and a creamy dessert. The only thing that gave real trouble eating was the cole slaw salad. We drank the soup. After the meal, which was accompanied by a beaker of Mead and a glass of wine, we were entertained by the waitresses who sang traditional Welsh songs to the music of a harpist. The master of ceremonies did a good job of creating the medieval atmosphere. We, of course, ate by candlelight.
Ann gave instructions to our host regarding breakfast, ordering scrambled eggs for four. The next morning we were puzzled when they brought out two fried eggs for each of except Ann. When her turn came to be served, out came four scrambled eggs. We thought when she gave the order that he got a strange look on his face, but we thought that he just didn't understand "scrambled." As it was, I can imagine what he thought about that American woman who wanted four eggs for breakfast. She had no choice but to eat them all. As it turned out, our host, Mr. King, was a poultry expert with the government, and raised his own chickens. The eggs were freshly laid that morning and were delicious. Mr. King told us to watch for special markings on the local sheep. A turquoise dye on the sheep's shoulder meant that it had been exposed to radiation via fallout from the Chernobyl accident. An apricot dye meant that the sheep was first generation offspring from the exposed sheep. None of these can be slaughtered until more time has elapsed.
Sunday, June 7th- After breakfast, we drove to Betwys-y-Coed, a village on the outskirts of the Snowdonia National Park. It was raining or we could have gotten some beautiful pictures there. We did some shopping and resumed the journey into Snowdonia. The mountains there are massive. In good weather, this would be a good place to revisit. There were slate mines in many places. At the coast we went in another castle, this time it was Caernarfon, the official residence of the Prince of Wales. Prince Charles, however, is seldom there. This castle along with many others was built in Wales in the 1200's following the war which established English rule over the Welsh. The Welsh have never fully accepted English rule and refuse yet to be called Englishmen. We were told that it is a fighting matter, if a Welshman is referred to as English. They still cling to their old Welsh language. All road signs are printed in both English and Welsh. We were told that the Welsh language is still a "pure" language, whereas English is a conglomeration of several languages. We heard several conversations in Welsh and had no idea what was being said.
Then on to Conwy. Conwy, Wales is one of the few cities in the British Isles with its town wall still in tact. York, England is another. As a result, much of the inner city is very old. The streets are very narrow, yet all traffic from the east must come right through town. The western gate is just barely wide enough to permit a semi-truck through with an inch to spare. This was another place where we could have spent more time. We stayed in a B&B right outside the wall of the city, and walked into town for dinner. In the morning before breakfast, I walked into town, climbed atop the wall, and walked the length of the wall around the city. Conwy has a harbor, with many boats tied up. Many of the boats are recreational vessels, but many are also commercial fishing boats.
Monday, June 8th- After breakfast, we drove over to Llandudno (pronounced Klandidno) to check in our car. There we made arrangements to drive the car to the ferry landing at Holyhead and leave the keys with the stationmaster. We had driven the Volvo 2322 miles. We really hated to leave that Volvo wagon. It had served us well. At Holyhead, we boarded the ferry boat for a 3 1/2 hour crossing to Ireland. Apprehension about rough water in the Irish Sea was ill-founded. The crossing was smooth and uneventful. We played several games of Spades aboard before reaching the Irish coast just south of Dublin, landing at the port of Dunleary. We had made arrangements in Llandudno to be met in Dunleary at the
Visitor's Center with another car. This time, however, we had a Ford with manual transmission. Getting used to the lefthanded gearshift was not too bad, now that we had already mastered the leftside driving. We had to change our way of packing, since we did not have as much space in the back. The backseaters had to straddle a suitcase or two.
From Dunleary, we drove south and found a B&B at Blessington, at the home of Mrs. Gives. We had heard that Ireland was a poor nation with a lot of unemployment. This may be true, and in fact we heard on the TV that 60% of Ireland's population draw some form of welfare, but it was not apparent in the condition of the homes. Everywhere we went the homes were exceptionally nice and well maintained. Mrs. Gives' was probably the most modern B&B we had stayed in up to that time. Ireland's reputation of being green is somewhat questionable. The countryside was green, but no more so that what we had seen in England, Scotland and Wales.
Gasoline in Ireland cost the equivalent of over $4 per gallon, most of which was taxes. Heating fuel is as expensive. The result is that there is no central heating in the homes. Each room has a separate radiator, and they are very careful not to turn any heat on that is not necessary. As a result the rooms were cold most of the time. The weather outside was in the high 30's, but clear.
Tuesday, May 9th- The Irish breakfasts were much like English breakfasts. No one could understand why we Americans did not like their sausages. But the four of us were all in agreement that the sausage was unappetizing. We said goodbye to Mrs. Gives and set a course for Waterford, where we ate lunch, shopped and looked for Irish crystal. Having toured the Edenburgh crystal plant, we elected not to do that again in Waterford. Our next stop was in the County Cork, in the harbor village of Kinsale. We had been told of this place by Miss Neal, the Los Angeles harpist, back at our first B&B in Avebury, England. She had given us the name of some folks from Miami, Florida who had moved to Kinsale and bought
a home that they operated as a B&B. We found the place, but they were filled for the night. They immediately got on the phone, however, and found us a place called Hillside. We had dinner at a gourmet restaurant called The Vintage which served delicious smoked salmon.
Wednesday, June 10th- After a drive to Old Head of Kinsale, a point of land on the coast, about 5 miles from Kinsale itself, we walked out to the lighthouse atop a high bluff overlooking the Celtic Sea. It was at a spot just five miles out from here, that the Lusitania was sunk in 1915. Th Lusitania was a British luxury liner sunk by a German submarine on May 7, 1915, one of the events that led to the entry of the U.S. into World War I.
Leaving the coast, we then visited Blarney Castle and kissed the Blarney Stone! At the top of the castle, underneath a parapet wall lies the legendary Blarney stone. It is a part of the wall. To get into position to kiss it, you have to lie on the stone floor and extend backwards through a hole in the floor, then reach up and kiss the bottom of the wall. The locals must think the tourists are crazy doing this. According to Irish legend, anyone who kisses the Blarney Stone will be given the gift of eloquent speech, or a glib tongue. I've seen no evidence that it works.
We then drove on to Killarney for a two night stay. Our B&B in Killarney was called Beauty's House, and was the nicest of all the B&B's we had stayed in. The home was new, and had obviously been designed for that purpose. They had seven rooms for guests, and several of the rooms had private baths. Our reason for going to Killarney was to catch the tour bus which makes the 118 mile trip around the Ring of Kerry. Arrangements were made for us to be picked up and dropped off right at Beauty's. We were picked up in the morning by a small van which carried us to town to meet the large tour bus at the Visitor Center. The ride around the Ring of Kerry took most of the day. Killarney is located at the inland side of the Kerry peninsula. The Ring of Kerry is a road that circles the peninsula. We saw some small industry, peat farmers who were cutting peat from the soil for sale to a local power plant, several grand views of the Atlantic Ocean, some rugged mountains and mountain passes, more sheep, some goats and cows, etc. The southern coast of Ireland is very rugged. Mountains meet the ocean in sheer cliffs. There are many islands off the coast which appear as massive rocks sticking up from the water. It is out in the countryside that Ireland really appears to be poor. The roads are very bad. It was next to impossible to take a picture out the window of the bus because of the rough ride. We stopped several times at particularly pretty spots, and again at a few villages for a few minutes of shopping. The last half of the trip was in the rain. The scenery in this last half was probably the prettiest if we could have gotten a good look at it. Several times we caught a glimpse of mountainsides covered with rhododendron. There are many religious symbols implanted on the Irish landscape- huge crosses, statues of the Virgin Mary, etc.
Friday, June 12th- Before leaving Killarney, we took a tour of an estate just outside of town called the Muckross Estate. This was built as a private home in the late 1800's, and was turned over to the government about 50 years ago. For about 30 of those years it lay abandoned and decaying. Then someone decided it was worth preserving and put a tremendous effort into landscaping and restoring the house. It was probably the prettiest spot that we visited in Ireland. Rhododendron and azaleas were still blooming against a backdrop of mountains and lakes and immaculately manicured green lawns.
In the afternoon, we drove the short distance to Shannon, where we were scheduled to leave the next day. We did some shopping at the duty free store at the airport and at a shopping mall nearby, then found a B&B for the night. This house looked good from the outside, but inside, it showed a lack of craftsmanship. It must have been done by an amateur. The floors sloped, the windows were not square, the fireplace was crooked, countertops were unfinished. Plumbing led outdoors and dumped grey water on the ground. Only the front of the house was painted. It was another reflection of the hard times most of the Irish people are having. It was a place to stay, however. We completed our Spades tournament there, with the final score: J.W. & Ann - 23; Walter & Betty Jean - 20.
Saturday, June 13th- One more tour. We stopped by the Bunratty Castle on the way to the airport. Here, we learned that they also served a medieval banquet of the style we had experienced in Wales. On the castle grounds, a community had been built to depict Irish life 100 years ago. Many of the buildings had thatched roofs. Fireplaces burned peat. Animals were about the streets.
We drove back to the airport, checked in our car (we had driven 445 miles in Ireland), and began the long journey home. When you check into the Shannon airport, you enter through metal detectors like in other airports, but instead of being in a corridor to go to the plane, you are in a large duty free store. Once in, the only way out is to board a plane. Needless to say, the store was a beehive of activity---last minute purchases and the like. It did not appear, however, that there were many bargain prices. At 1:50pm we boarded our flight and took off for home. It was an extra good feeling to land in the good old U.S.A., and to find the Cockrells waiting for us at airside. By the time we arrived home, we had been up about 19 hours, and the bed felt especially good. Now comes the getting back to a normal, down-to-earth routine.