Cosmos British Isles

Europe 2018 – Part 2 – Cosmos Tour

 

Thursday 9 August

Today we start our Cosmos Tour – British Isles in Depth. It will take us around England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Wales and then back to England. Finishing on 1 September.

Our first 2 days will be in London. Scroll down to see a day be day update of the tour.

We spent the day in Windsor today. Rainy day.  When we arrived the queue to go into the castle was enormous so we explored the town and went on a cruise on the river, past Windsor Racecourse, Eton College, some exclusive homes, past narrowboats an all in all lovely way to spend some time. By the time we come back we only had to queue for 10 minutes.  Interesting to see Harry and Meghan’s wedding venue.

Friday 10 August

Another great day in London.  We started the day by visiting Baker Street and saw the Sherlock Holmes Museum and the Beatles London Store and wandered a little in Regent’s Park.

It was then off to Harrods for a cuppa at the famous Tea Rooms.  Very posh.

The Royal Albert Hall tour was great and inspired us to buy some tickets (in the nose bleed seats) for tonight’s BBC Proms performance.  The photo with the curtains is the Queen’s box – they bring in better chairs for her!

Here we are at The Proms

Saturday 11 August

Our first day on the road for the tour.  We started at Hampton Court Palace home of King Henry VIII.

Then on to Oxford. We loved Oxford!  The buildings, the spires, the atmosphere, wow. The famous university comprises 102 libraries and 38 colleges.  The Bodleian Library holds over 13 million publications! The Ashmolean Museum is the oldest in the UK.  Oxford has been the scene of many TV shows and movies – Morse, Lewis, Endeavour, Harry Potter to name a few,

Then we travelled to Stratford on Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Another place of outstanding beauty and celebrating everything Shakespeare. We also visited Ann Hathaway’s cottage.

Sunday 12 August

We travelled to York today.  A medieval city complete with a defensive wall and the massive 13th century gothic church, York Minster.  York is also famous for the Shambles, the narrowest street in Europe. We also saw the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey, destroyed by Henry VIII because they couldn’t pay the taxes.

Monday 13 August

Today brought the highlight of the tour for us.  The Edinburgh Tattoo.  From early in our childhoods we had watched the Tattoo on TV each year and learnt to appreciate the precision, pageantry and grandeur of the event. To see it live was a great joy and was also a bit emotional for us. Lots of photos here but we loved it so much.

Earlier in the day we had travelled from Newcastle to Edinburgh via Berwick on Tweed and then crossed to border to Scotland where we had lunch at North Berwick.  North Berwick is a seaside town but it was raining and cold there today.  The North Sea looked bleak.

Tuesday 14 August

Today we had a full day in Edinburgh  In the morning we were had a guided tour around the city, learning about the Old Town and New Town, Holyrood Palace where the queen stays when she comes to Edinburgh.  We drove through Holyrood Park whcich gave great views over the city.

We went into Edinburgh Castle.

The Fringe Festival was on so there were street performers everywhere and heaps of uni students spruiking the various performances that were available from musicals, comedians and plays to satire and political commentary.  Very vibrant along The Royal Mile.

We saw tartans being made and then generally wandered the streets.

Wednesday 15 August

Big day today. Travelled from Edinburgh to Strathpeffer. We travelled over the Forth Road Bridge and on to St Andrews, where the rules of golf were created.  Saw the famous golf course, the ruins of St Andrews church, more of the North Sea and wandered the town.

We crossed the Firth of Tay and via Perth and and Dundee headed into the Highlands with a stop at Pitlochry.  This is a lovely town with shops and restaurants and a walk along the Tammel River – at the right time of year you would see salmon fishing.

We saw the battlefields of Culloden Moor then via Inverness we arrived at Strathpeffer, location of the Ben Wyvis Hotel, our home for two nights.  It is a lovely, old, quirky place.  Has lovely sitting rooms.  To get to our room we go up in the lift, down a little hall, through a door, down the hall, down four stairs, through another door and down another hall. So funny.  We were in stitches last night when we asked our Spanish waiter how the meat was cooked and he said ‘Si’.

Strathpeffer itself is a lovely little town.

Thursday 16 August

The Highlands of Scotland are glorious! Today we did a trip that took us from the mid to west highlands. From the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. Dornoch Firth, the Falls of Shin and Ullapool were all on the agenda.

Friday 17 August

Today we left Strathpeffer and headed towards Glasgow via the Lochalsh on the Isle of Skye, then the ferry across the Sound of Sleat to Mallaig, then Fort William beneath Ben Nevis and past Glen Coe where the Campbell Clan massacred the McDonald Clan in 1692.  After theat we stopped beside the Bonnie banks of Loch Lomond and then on to Glasgow.

Saturday 18 August

We spent the morning exploring Glasgow and admired the great architecture, art and local characters.  A very good morning. Then we said goodbye to Scotland and hello to Northern Ireland.

We then traveled to Alloway, birthplace of Robert Burns, poet and lyricist and probably the best known Scotsman. We also saw the Brigadoon Bridge (significant for those of you who remember the movie starring Gene Kelly, Van Johnson and Cyd Charisse).

We crossed the Irish Sea to Belfast and we had a walk about town and dinner out with friends from the tour.  Even though ‘the troubles’ are over, we were unable to tour all the city by our tour bus because it has English rego plates.  There is still two sides active in all of Northern Ireland, one happy to be part of the UK and the other wanting to have a united, independent Ireland. We saw the Titanic Memorial, many interesting buildings and a couple of classic Irish pubs.

Sunday 19 August

Early start from Belfast along the Atrium Coast to the Giant’s Causeway. It’s an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns created from a volcanic eruption in ancient times.

We travelled to Derry/Londonderry and walked the city wall, crossed the Peace Bridge and explored the Guild Hall.  Being Sunday mostly everything was closed.

Later we went to Belleek Pottery.  It was very interesting to see how they hand cast and embellish the pottery and the finished products were amazing.  Lucking we had no room in our bags or we may have purchased some!

After a quick visit to WB Yeats grave in Drumcliffe we arrived at tonight’s accommodation in Sligo

Monday 20 August

Today we had a great visit to Galway.  Very vibrant, lets of flags and bunting, street musicians, cafes and shops.

And then the Cliffs of Moher before heading to our overnight stay in Ennis.

And tonight we were guests at a banquet at Knappogue Castle.  Fun.

Tuesday 21 August

Today we travelled to Dingle, a cute little fishing village on the west coast of Ireland, The scenery on the way was amazing – so green!

The Dingle Peninsular has a dramatic landscape overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The narrow road was a andventure in a coach!

Dingle itself had lots of fish cafes, ice creameries and little shops as well as pleantly of colourful houses and a safe harbour.

On arrival in Killaney we day a jaunty ride to Ross Castle before going to our accommodation for the next two nights.

Wednesday 22 August

Today we drove around the Ring of Kerry to witness more stunning scenery.  Along the way we stopped at Kerry Bog Village the had a series of traditional homes that we could view. There was also a home that had to be abandoned during the Potato Famine of the mid 1800’s when over 1 million people died.

More scenery looking out over the Atlantic to Skellig Michael, past MacGillycuddy’s Reeks (mountain range) before having lunch at Sneem.

We then wandered around Killarney’s shops, pubs and colourful buildings.

Thursday 23 August

More scenic drives today.  First stop was the Blarney Castle with its famous Stone of Eloquence. Rod kissed the stone – no mean feat – one has to climb the 129 stone steps to the top of the castle, you then lay on you back, stretch backwards to hold on to some iron handrails and lower you head until you can kiss the stone. Very physical and very brave!

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More fabulous scenery including an old copper mine.

Then we arrived at our overnight destination, Tramore. It’s a classic seaside village – fun fair, ice cream shops, fish and chips and the Atlantic Ocean to enjoy.  With the water temperature of 11 degrees we decided to forego the swim!  Lovely to see lots of families enjoying themselves.

Tonight we went to to 300 year old pub to be entertained with laughter and song.

Friday 24 August

Today we visited the oldest business in Ireland – the 800 year old Avoca Woolen Mill.  It was great to see the tradition hand weaving methods alongside the new machines. Very informative! Beautiful finished goods!

The grounds and shop were lovely.

We stopped at Glendalough to view the ruins of monasteries set up by St Kevin, one of the pioneers of Irish Christianity.  Such a beautiful setting.

Saturday 25 August

A day in Dublin today shared with the thousands who had come to see the Pope.  Many landmark buildings, statues and shops and views of the Liffey River.  In the evening we had a tour of the Guinness Storehouse, including samples and a free pint, followed by dinner at the restaurant.  Fun night.

Sunday 26 August

Early start today to catch the ferrying from Dublin to Holyhead in Wales.  After the ferry our first stop was in Anglesea in the town Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

We drove the Snowdonia National Park – sorry no photos on account of the weather and the coach hurtling along to the next stop, Llangollen a lovely place, quaint shops, steam trains, churches, gorgeous houses and a great bridge over a fast flowing river.

We then took up the optional excursion of taking a narrow boat along the Llangollen Canal followed by a drink a a hotel at which the likes of Pavarotti had previously visited.

Monday 27 August

Our journey took us from Wrexham to Cardiff today, via a couple of smaller towns that had mostly closed for the Bank Holiday.

Cardiff itself was full of people enjoying the day – cafes, down by the dock, in the high street. We saw the BBC studios where Dr Who and Sherlock is filmed. Outside the opera house is a column dedicated to Dr Who.

Cardiff Castle is the main attraction in Cardiff.

Heaps of other things to see:

We went to a Welsh Cabernet in one of the rooms in the opera house.  Great food, excellent singers and instumentalists, a great night out.

Tuesday 28 August

Today was outstanding!  We started with a visit to Bath. As they say ‘Georgian above the ground, and Roman below the ground’.  The Roman Baths are 2000 years old and very impressive.

The buildings in the town are Georgian in style.  The three arched bridge has shops built over it and we had a coffee in cone of them with views down the river. Very nice.

After an exhilarating time in Bath we headed for Glastonbury – a very different place!  Hippie heaven really.  Market, crystals, bright colours and a ruined abbey.

You would think that was enough for one day, but wait, there’s more.  We drove through Dartmoor National Park with its stunning views, colourful gorse and Dartmoor Ponies.

And there is more before we reached our destination of Plymouth we stopped in Widecombe-on-the-Moor.

Wednesday 29 August

We ‘overnighted’ in Plymouth, famous for such things as the setting off point for The Mayflower in 1620 to sail for America and the defeat of the Spanish Armada by Admiral Nelson in 1805.  The city was extensively bombed in 1944 and so most of the buildings are modern.  The have left some of the bombed churches as they were as a reminder and memorial to that time.

We had a little cruise across the Tamar River to cross the border between Deven and Cornwell and then bussed to the cute beachside town of Looe.

 

Thursday 30 August

Today was a series of iconic stops starting with Stonehenge.  Nobody really know why it erected in the first place but over the years it has become one of the ‘must sees’ of the UK.  In the last 5 years the approach and viewing situation has changed to protect it.  You park about 2k from the site and you can either walk through the fields to get there or catch the minibus.  Although you can no longer stand amongst the stones, the view of them is great.

After Stonehenge we visited Arundel Castle with the Magna Carta was signed.  Impressive castle.

Our final stop today was Brighton so after dinner we wandered down to Brighton Pier.

Friday 31 August

This morning we explored Brighton then headed back to London. Our tour officially ends tomorrow with breakfast.  It has been amazing!

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