A Travellerspoint blog

August 2015

Sheffield - Peak District - Bristol

Glorious countryside and a let-down farm


Peak District National Park

Wanting to make the journey home more than just a drive back, we take a road that cuts through the stunning scenery of Peak District National Park, which became the UK's first national park in 1951.



This time of year the moors are particularly beautiful, with the flowering heather making entire hillside glow in stunning hues of purple.





Sandwell Valley Country Park

While I am sure the working 'Victorian farm' is popular with children, as an adult I found it rather disappointing. I was expecting to see a working farm with tools and implements, maybe even workers dressed up in traditional costume. All we get is a small museum to the history of the area, and a few farm animals in a yard.





Hoping to be able to grab a snack or a nice cake, we head for the Tea Shop in the grounds, but the selection is extremely poor and we leave frustrated all round. The best thing about the café is the potted topiary shrubs.


Just another couple of hours – during which I slept like a baby in the back seat – and we're back home after yet another interesting trip.

Posted by Grete Howard 07:02 Archived in England Comments (1)

Glasgow - Ripon - Sheffield

Ancient abbeys, water gardens and a lovely dinner!


Leaving Scotland and entering back into England, we make a first stop at Ripon in Yorkshire.

Fountains Abbey

Dating back to 1132 when 13 monks who fled from unrest at St Mary's Abbey in York built their new lives here, the Abbey was once a powerful and wealthy Cistercian monastery. The abbey operated for over 400 years, until 1539, when Henry VIII came along and ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries.


The ruins of this once great abbey is now a 'listed monument' and a UNESCO Heritage sire.




Having been lucky enough to find a disabled parking space near the entrance in the extremely busy car park, we take my dad in his wheelchair and walk through the grounds of the abbey and onwards.


The grounds are very popular with families who bring their picnics to have on the extended lawns.



The Abbey buildings and over 500 acres of land were sold by the Crown in 1540 to Sir Richard Gresham, who immediately sold off lots of stone, timber and lead from the site.



Fountains Hall was built using stones from the monastery.


By 1767, the abbey and grounds were sold on to William Aisleaby who combined it with the Studley Royal Estate.



Studley Royal Water Gardens

The abbey grounds lead directly into the Studley estate water gardens, with a mile long path taking you right through the grounds.


When John Aisleaby (who has inherited the estate at a young age) was expelled from his political career in parliament, he diverted his energies into creating a water garden at Studley.


He created a romantic atmosphere and built viewing platforms for his visitors to admire the follies across the estate.



The walk is very pleasant, and despite the threatening clouds, we manage to stay dry for the duration.


At the other end is a small coffee shop, where we have some refreshments before making our way back. David, pushing my dad's wheelchair, hurries on back to the car as my dad was feeling the chill from the inclement weather; while I take my time strolling through the grounds.


I get chatting to one of the volunteers, and end up with a personal guide telling me all about the history of the gardens.



At to our hotel this evening, we check out the adjoining restaurant. We walk out again as quickly as we walked in. The restaurant is like a huge shopping mall food court, where you queue up to pay your entrance fee, queue up to get a plate, and then queue up to help yourself to buffet food from a multi-choice selection. The restaurant is noisy, busy, and not our thing at all!

Instead we drive towards the nearest big town – Sheffield. Near the out-of-town shopping centre I spot a Weatherspoon restaurant and we head for that. Oh, the irony: it's in a huge shopping mall food court! Next door is a Harvester restaurant, an even better choice! The service and food is excellent and we go home very satisfied!

Posted by Grete Howard 07:01 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Falkirk Wheel and Loch Lomond

Boat trip and road trip

View A wee trip to Bonnie Scotland with my Dad 2015 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Every day this last week we have been looking at the weather forecast for this area, and it has not been looking good: severe storms and lashings of rain. Oh dear. This morning, however, it is dry, albeit with some pretty threatening clouds.


Falkirk Wheel

Up until the 1930s, the Forth & Clyde and Union canals were linked by a series of 11 locks which took the best part of a day to travel through.

In the 1990s, after 60 years of the connection between the two canals being closed, planners decided to create a dramatic 21st-century landmark structure to reconnect the canals, instead of simply recreating the historic lock flight. A number of options were considered for re-opening the passage between the two canals, including rolling eggs, tilting tanks, a giant see-saw and overhead monorails! The final design is claimed to have been inspired by a Celtic double headed spear, a vast turning propeller of a Clydebank built ship, the ribcage of a whale and the spine of a fish.

Hence the rotating boat lift was born.


Construction started in 1998, with 1,200 tonnes of steel parts assembled in Derbyshire and transported to Falkirk where everything was bolted together (each and every one of the 45,000 bolts was tightened by hand) and placed in position via a huge crane. Over 1,000 construction staff worked on building the wheel.

In 2002 the world’s first and only rotating boat lift was opened by Her Majesty, The Queen.

Here's a few screen prints taken from the official website.





Once the boat navigates to sit inside the water-filled gondola, the lift takes a mere 4.5 minutes to lift the us to the top level.








This animation on Wikipedia best shows the wheel in motion:

Falkirk Wheel

When we reach the top, we can leave the gondola: a barrier which has kept the water inside the gondola as we rose, is lowered, sealing the gap and filling it with water.


From the wheel we travel across the aqueduct at the top, with amazing views of the site and the surrounding countryside.



The canal then goes through the Rough Castle Tunnel before we have to turn around as the boat is too large to navigate up the staircase locks that would take us to the Union Canal.



Instead, the skipper skilfully turns the boat around in the winding point and takes us through the tunnel again.



And back into the top gondola, where we have to wait for another boat to join us before going down, in order to conserve the (small amount) of energy the boat lift uses. Truly an environmentally friendly operation.


All the while we get a useful and fun commentary.


Back on dry land and it looks like it is not going to stay dry for much longer!


The rain does, however, stave off while we stay around and watch a complete circuit of the wheel.


We are not the only ones watching the show – although I think these juvenile swallows are more interested in food from their parents than the amazing piece of engineering at Falkirk Wheel!




Firth of Forth

The Firth of Forth is the estuary or firth of Scotland's River Forth, where it flows into the North Sea, between Fife to the north and Lothian to the south. Geologically, the Firth of Forth is a fjord, formed by the Forth Glacier in the last glacial period.


South Queensferry

We stop for a while at South Queensferry to take some photos of the estuary, bridges and the cobbled streets of the village itself.






Forth Bridge

The main draw for us to here is the Forth Bridge, recently brought to our attention by its inclusion in the UNESCO Heritage list earlier this summer. The bridge – which dates from 1882 - is considered an iconic structure and a symbol of Scotland. It was the longest single cantilever bridge span in the world until 1917 when the Quebec Bridge in Canada was completed. It continues to be the world's second-longest single cantilever span.




The rail bridge was the first major structure in Britain to be constructed of steel and currently carries up to 200 trains a day. I you look carefully at the photo below, you can see a train crossing the bridge.


Loch Lomond

Time for a road trip along the shores of Loch Lomond. But first a stop at a rustic little coffee shop in Balmaha for one of the best carrot cakes I have ever had. We meet a lady who is spending the entire summer travelling around the UK in a campervan, who gives us some very useful tips for a time in the future we would probably like to do that.


Just loved the café's door-stop!


Loch Lomond is the largest inland freshwater lake in Great Britain at 39 x 8 kilometres. The loch contains many island and is a well-loved leisure area, popular with walkers, water-sports enthusiasts, cyclists, picnickers and sightseers like us.





Back at the hotel, we go for dinner, but are all struggling to understand the waitress – the local dialect may as well be a foreign language!

Posted by Grete Howard 11:22 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Bolton - Castlerigg - Lockerbie - Cambuslang - Falkirk

An ancient stone circle, the Air Disaster Monument, lots of hot firemen and a couple of impressive horse statues

View A wee trip to Bonnie Scotland with my Dad 2015 on Grete Howard's travel map.

The restaurant is a different world this morning.: the friendly, chatty manager goes some way to make up for the disinterested staff last night. We leave in a better frame of mind, and head for Scotland.

But first:

Castlerigg Stone Circle

Down a narrow country lane, in the middle of nowhere, atop a small hill with far-reaching views of the Helvellyn mountains sits the 4,500-year old Castlerigg Stone Circle. Popular with walkers, sightseers and families who are picnicking on this beautiful site; we are unfortunately not alone. This is one of Britain's earliest Neolithic stone circles , from around 3000BC. That is an unfathomably long time ago.


With the misty valleys and the rolling hills in the background, the site is incredibly atmospheric despite all the other tourists.



However, with lots of patience (and a little bit of Photoshop to remove a man in a pink T shirt who didn't look as if he was about to move away any time soon) I finally manage to get a couple of tourist-free pictures of the stones.






Lockerbie Air Disaster Memorial

On 21st December 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed by a terrorist bomb on its scheduled flight between London and New York, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew on board, in what became known to the world as the Lockerbie bombing. Large sections of the aircraft crashed onto residential areas of Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 11 more people on the ground.

The lady in the Visitors Centre here is a mine of information and incredibly sweet, offering tissues and hugs to distraught visitors.

The Air Disaster Memorial is part of Dryfesdale cemetery and remembrance garden on the outskirts of town. Seeing the list of names on Memorial I am acutely reminded that these are people whose lives were cut short, long before their time, in a cruel and 'spectacular' way.


These are the names of the victims whose remains were not found following the crash – I feel so bad for the families who never got any closure.


The whole thing is even more poignant for us, as we had actually met one of the victims, Siv Ulla Engstrom, a couple of times. I remember hearing about the terrible crash in 1988, and reading that she had been working on that fateful Pan Am flight.


If the list of so many names isn't enough, the individual memorials are too much for me as it brings home to me how each and every one of those names was someone's wife / husband / daughter / brother / child …...


Thank goodness for tissues.

Hippie Cows

On our very first visit to Scotland in 1974, my mum was captivated by the Highland Cattle with their long wavy hair covering their eyes; and promptly named them 'hippy cows'. The name has stuck ever since.


Highland cattle are one of Britain's oldest and most distinctive breeds, raised primarily for their excellent meat. They are also seriously cute.



Our hotel in Cambuslang, near Glasgow, is a vast improvement on last night. The surroundings, the clientèle, the staff, the food – everything is far superior to yesterday's offering. In fact, I am delighted to discover that the hotel is in fact full.... of firemen who are here for a conference! Always nice to have a bit of eye candy with dinner.

Sorry, no photos.

The Kelpies
After dinner we drive off to see the Kelpies, said to be the largest equine statues in the world. They stand at 30 metres tall (100 ft) and are the brain-child of sculptor Andy Scott.


Modelled on heavy horses, the Kelpies are 'mystical water-borne equine creatures' (they stand on the Forth & Clyde Canal near Falkirk) and are a tribute to working horses, once the powerhouse of the canals. Falkirk is also said to have been home to the worlds biggest horse: in the 1930′s Carnera hauled wagons laden with soft drinks around the town. Soft drinks? Scotland? Surely not!


As the largest public artworks in Scotland, the Kelpies attract huge numbers of visitors. Coming at dusk seems to be a good idea, as although we are not alone, it certainly isn’t crowded.


As we wait for the sun to go down and the lights to come on inside the horse statues, we walk around the sculpture for different angles.




I also try out different White Balance settings on my camera, coupled with the changing colours inside the horses, to see how it affects the results.


This red one is my favourite:


Posted by Grete Howard 07:00 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Bristol - Sandbach - Bolton

A wee trip to bonnie Scotland

View A wee trip to Bonnie Scotland with my Dad 2015 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Inspired by a friend's recent Facebook posting, we are making a road trip 'Oop North' and into Scotland with my dad. We are taking it easy, using two days to get up there, stopping a couple of places along the way.

Sandbach Crosses

Our first stop is in Sandbach, Cheshire, where we find two massive Saxon stone crosses, elaborately carved with animals and Biblical scenes including the Nativity of Christ and the Crucifixion.



The crosses, which date from the 9th century, dominate the cobbled market square of Sandbach, a rather quaint looking town. Originally painted as well as carved, these are among the finest surviving examples of Anglo-Saxon high crosses in the country.


I always love the way history is such an everyday part of life in these places, surrounded by families having lunch in the local pub, shoppers and workers, none of whom are taking any notice of the ancient monument in their midst.



As we pull up at tonight's hotel outside Bolton, I can immediately see that that it is in a less-than-salubrious area. The drunk, tattoo-covered, shirtless lads on the benches outside the pub give it away; and the family in the courtyard confirms it. Those poor kids stand no chance with pot-smoking, vodka-swilling, foul-mouthed mothers like that. The clientèle inside are not much better. The food is OK, but the service unbelievably slow, despite there being more staff than customers. The entertainment of the evening is watching the staff running around placing buckets under cascades of water seeping through the ceiling from the flooding washing machine in the flat above; a waitress tripping as she approaches a table and emptying the entire contents of a pint glass into the lap of the customer; and another server taking a sip out of a customer's glass before taking it to their table. The only saving grace of this place is that the meal is cheap.

We retire to our room as soon as we have finished eating. The bedroom window, however, is immediately overlooking the courtyard where the loud, raucous, swearing, shouting drinkers and their screaming kids are sitting. Never before have I been so grateful for a sudden thunderstorm. Listening to the pouring rain is far preferable, and I fall into a peaceful sleep.

Posted by Grete Howard 01:46 Archived in England Comments (1)

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