Monday, 30th June

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Th final day of what has been a splendid vacation. We said goodbye until next time to Mike and Sue, and goodbye to Gelert, the dog. He is quite old and this will be the last time we seem him, and it made me sad, for he is a lovely fellow.

We decided to leave around 8:00 as it is at least a 90 minute drive to Manchester airport and we were afraid we*d be in the middle of the morning rush. As it happened traffic was good but we took a couple of passes to get to the car return place.After that it was easy with a shuttle bus to the terminal

I haven*t mentioned our car. It has been a VW Passat, 2.0TDI.  It has done us very well. Here is a picture at our B&B in Neary Sawrey in the lake district.

Our car at the B&B in Near Sawrey

Our car at the B&B in Near Sawrey

The flight was without event. There was some turbulence but I think less than on the flight over, two weeks ago. In Toronto it was 30∼C with the threat of thunderstorms so the approach was bumpy.

Now there is nothing to do but laundry, cut the lawn and weed the garden. At least tomorrow is Canada day so we have an extra day to recover before Jennifer returns to work.

And to reflect on a wonderful time of course. One of the first things we noticed was the weather. We had warm and sunny the first week, but not much humidity. The second was cooler and cloudy for the most part, with a little rain but nothing that got in the way. As soon a we got off the plane it was the usual hot and humid. The next thing to notice is how quickly the sun sets around here. In Scotland and even in Wales at this time of year the sky stays light after 11:00 pm and starts to lighten again a few hours later.

At no point did we feel realy rushed. We took each day as it came and saw what conditions would allow. There are always things you discover and want to see but can*t fit in. So they are for next time. There is always a reason to go back. Of course the people are reason to go back. We speent a bit of time with some relatives which was nice.

I have been to Scotland many time since I was 15 years old, and have been to Wales now three times. Each time the thing that strikes me is the landscape. I am sure you have noticed from the pictures how mountainous or hilly it is, depending on where we were. Three is not a lot of flat. I was at pains to try and include the landscape both in the blog and the gallery so I am sure you noticed. It defines the countries, their history and the people. It is what I think of when someone asks which part I like the best.

Sunday, 29th June

This was a light day as we wind the vacation down. Tomorrow early we will head to Manchester to fly back home.Conwy Castle from the nature preserve

About three decades ago there was a requirement to ※do something§ about the severe traffic congestion on the A55 at Conwy.  The first plan was a new bridge but it would have spoiled the views of Conwy Castle which is a World Heritage site, not to mention dwarfing the two existing bridges of historic value by Telford and Stephenson.  In the end they scraped a trench at the bottom of the river and sank a road tunnel in it to form a bypass. The three million tonnes of silt vacuumed out could not just be left to drift down river as it would have destroyed the mussel beds, an important fishery. So, it was piled up at one side of the estuary to form 47 hectares area of new land. This was given to the RSPB 每 Royal Society for the Protection of Birds 每 as a sanctuary.  (A brief aside 每 I have a habit of calling it the Royal Society for the Prevention of Birds because the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals thing is burned into my brain.)

British Robin

British Robin

So here we are at the RSPB site in Conwy. We spent several pleasant hours wandering around in the mostly sunny weather, observing and photographing birds. There are lots of British birds we never see in Canada, so even the ordinary is out of the ordinary for us. As well as birds we found a bunch of Bee Orchids and some moles rustling about under a bird feeder. The tall grass prevented pictures of the little beasties.

Bee Orchids at the RSPB preserve at Conwy

Bee Orchids at the RSPB preserve at Conwy

They also graze wild ponies to keep grass down. They did the same at Llanddwyn Island we were at yesterday and at other sensitive sites. Apparently the ponies do less harm than sheep.

Two of the ponies used for grass control

Two of the ponies used for grass control

After lunch at the cafe at the visitor*s centre we went back to Conwy to see the Pirate Day. This was essentialy a scheme to get hordes of people into the town on a Sunday and spend money. It seems to have worked. The children seemed happy and it appears mothers had been spending money all week buying the costumes and parphenalia we have seen in the shop windows since we arrived. We also stopped in at the Best Pub in Wales for 2013, or voted so by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). It is a cooperative effort by several craft breweries to provide themselves with an outlet. One of the selling points is that there are no televisions.

Oyster Catcher and babie

Oyster Catcher and babie

Saturday, 28th June

The morning began with heavy rain, which was in the forecast. Also in the forecast was better weather which is well as we were going over to the Isle of Anglesey for a hike that should take about two-and-a-half hours. In fact the Met Office turned out to be quite right.

Along the beach to Llanddwyn Island on the left

Along the beach to Llanddwyn Island on the left

We started the day at the National Nature Reserve of Newborough Warren. It is 23 km2 and contains a lengthy beach and extensive dune system. Our target was Llanddwyn Island, which can be reached via a strip of land submerged at high tide. It is home to many interesting coastal plants and a couple of light houses.

Older lighthouse on Llanddwyn Islands with Snowdonia across Menai Straits

Older lighthouse on Llanddwyn Islands with Snowdonia across Menai Straits

Also on the island is a small abbey devoted to St Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers.  Even this tiny place was sacked during Henry VIII*s purge of monasteries. The lead was stripped from the roof and the walls left to crumble. There is not a lot left. The views over the  Menai Straits towards Snowdonia was not as spectacular as it could be due to the low clouds over the mountains.

One of the lighthouses on Llanddwyn Island seen through remains of monastery

One of the lighthouses on Llanddwyn Island seen through remains of monastery

After a late lunch we went to Beaumaris Castle (pronounced bew-MAR-is)  This is one of the castles built by Edward I during his campaign to subdue the Welsh. It is the largest of the Royal Castles in Wales.  It has been called the most technically perfect in Britain due to the elaborate nature of the defenses. The castle could be held by only 30 men at arms.

Gate to Beaumaris Castle

Gate to Beaumaris Castle

Beaumaris Castle has two concentric walls

Beaumaris Castle has two concentric walls

Friday, 27th June

It was cloudy and there was a little rain in the forecast, but the gap between showers was expected to be more or less in our favour.  As a result we set out through the edge of the Snowdonia National Park, cutting  across the Lynn Penninsula to Portmeirion.

At Portmeirion

At Portmeirion

This is an village constructed to be like an Italian village by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, between 1925 and 1975. He denied it was based on Portofino in Italy, but admitted a special attraction to Portofino.  The site is now run by a charitable trust as a tourist destination.

It was Sir Clough*s goal to develop the site whilst respecting it. I ain*t so sure he got it right. It seems to me like a Hollywood version of an Italian village plunked down on the Welsh coast. We were in that part of Italy last September, in the Cinque Terre., so I get what he was attempting. Although it does have that feel in a way, the whole the thing isn*t quite right. Anyway, it was a very interesting day and the site is immensley popular.

View up-river from Portmeirion as tide goes out

View up-river from Portmeirion as tide goes out. No surprise we got a little rain.

We went along a beach walk and just near the turn point it started to rain a little. It was not heavy fortunately and the trees gave cover as we went back to the village, so we did not get more than a little damp.

I should mention a few interesting notes about Portmeirion. In the 1970∩s a four-part Dr Who episode was filmed there. I don*t expect too many readers are old enough to remember the British television show The Prisoner, from the 1960∩s.  It too was filmed there.

Loom at Trefriw Wollen Mills in operation

Loom at Trefriw Wollen Mills in operation

From there we went to the Trefriw wollen mills. This mill has been worked by the same family since 1859.  Most of the machinery is over 50 years old, so not dating from the 19th century. It was, nevertheless, another interesting stop, and an opportunity to see large power looms in operation, instead of the static displays up to now. The speed of the shuttle is really quite something.

Bobin Winding

Bobin Winding

We had a brief walk around Conwy and bought some wine for dinner at the Welsh Food Centre on the way home. That little bit of rain at Portmeirion was all we had.

Conwy is a walled town with a castle and some things are built into the walls

Conwy is a walled town with a castle and some things are built into the walls

 

Thursday, 26th June

It was another grey morning when we started for Wales by way of Sedbergh. The town is in Cumbria although historically it was in the West Riding of Yorkshire until the administrative counties were established in 1889. The area is the West Dales and like much of the north of England is quite hilly.

Typical view in West Dales

Typical view in West Dales

Farfield Mill is a disused woolen mill put to a new purpose as part museum, part crafts exhibition and for artists studios. Most of the work exhibited has to do with weaving or fabric.  Not so the artists renting studios who represent a wide range of the arts. It was a worthwhile stop.

Farfield Mill converted to museum, exhibition space and studios

Farfield Mill converted to museum, exhibition space and studios

Also in Sedbergh are many bookshops, including one of the top ten second-hand bookshops in the UK. It was on our way out of town and we found parking nearby. For me, second-hand bookshops are like a flame for a moth. We browsed through the 70,000 titles and I bought two of the many items I would have been happy to have before pointing the car south on the M6.

Loom in Farfield Mill, Sedbergh

Loom in Farfield Mill, Sedbergh

The drive down to Conwy was uneventful. We met Jennifer*s cousin and he guided us to the house in the hills. The satnav apparently goes to a different location. There are no street addresses on these farm lanes and the post code method only gets you in the vicinity. So here we are until we leave for Manchester Airport on Monday morning.

Wednesday, 25th June

It was a dull day with a light drizzle from time-to-time.  Our B&B is in Near Sawrey, not too distant from Far Sawrey. It is also only about 150 metres from the Beatrix Potter house at Hilltop House. You can see the upper part of the B&B from there. Here is our B&B.

Our B&B - Our room is on the long wall above the entry and under the peaked roof.

Our B&B 每 Our room is on the long wall above the entry and under the peaked roof.

We started the day with a 10 minute drive to the National Trust for England (NT) Beatrix Potter Gallery.  This contains the original artwork from her books, from her letters and from her scientific endeavors.  It did not open until 10:30 which was more than an hour away. We decided to go see the remains of Furness Abbey in the Furness Peninsula. The distance is not great, but as we have learnt, the time is indeterminate on the narrow roads. A good speed is in 30 mph and delays such this one are common. Fortunately he was nearly done and we waited less than five minutes.

You can't be in too much of a hurry on these roads.

You can*t be in too much of a hurry on these roads.

The abbey was the second most important Cistercian Abbey in England before dissolution, when Henry VIII closed the abbeys and took the church land into his own disposition. It must have been a very imposing site before it was pulled down by the King*s agents to make it unusable. At present part of the building is sinking into the soft ground on which it was built and there is important work to stabilize it. This view along what had been the nave has Jennifer to provide scale. She is under the central arch.

Nave of Furness Abbey

Nave of Furness Abbey

We went back to the Beatrix Potter Gallery and then to a bobbin factory museum.  The factory had been in operation from 1836 until the 1970s when plastic and aluminum bobbins destroyed the market.  This region was home to hundreds of small bobbin factories serving the woolen and cotton industries.  Each mill needed thousands of bobbins and about 10% were replaced each week.  Whilst this may seem an odd little place it is an important site if one is interested in social and in dustrial history.

Finally we raced back to our B&B and hurried over to Hilltop House where we got the last entry granted that day. This seventeenth century house was bought in 1905 with the earnings from Peter Rabbit and is where most of the other books were conceived and written.  It is exactly as she left it with all her furnishings and belongings.  She died in 1943 in nearby Castle Farm. Hilltop is rather dark as she never allowed the installation of electricity 每 she did not trust it. The place does have a lovely little garden.

Garden at Hilltop House

Garden at Hilltop House

That complete we went down the lane to the pub at which we ate last night for our evening meal.  It is the only place in Near Sawrey to eat.

Tuesday, 24th June

We left Sanquhar around 9:00 and set off for the Lake District under a mostly cloudy sky.  We did get some sun at various periods throughout the day.

View along Ullswater

View along Ullswater

The countryside is as spectacular as one has been lead to believe. Coming along Ullswater we stopped so I could climb down a wall to the beach and get a few pictures, such as this one above

Across Lake Windermere from Windermere

Across Lake Windermere from Windermere

We stopped in Windermere to see a location about Beatrice Potter.  The tourist information people told us this was a rubbish tourist trap and the proper Potter sites are across the lake, near where our B&B is. So, we walked down to the lake, then had some lunch and moved on to the next location.

Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts House near Windermere

Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts House near Windermere

Blackwell is a house designed in the Arts and Crafts style by Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott. The building really is quite lovely and it hosts a gallery which at present has a Moorcroft pottery show.

Dining room at Blackwell

Dining room at Blackwell

Like many of his contemporaries, Baillie Scott designed not only the house but the wall coverings and much of the furniture.  I saw a chair that in shape reminded me very much of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the Glasgow designer of the same period. Unfortunately, one of the most famous of the Mackintosh buildings, the Glasgow School of Art was badly damaged by fire a few weeks ago.

Countryside from south of Windermere

Countryside from south of Windermere

We took the ferry over the lake to our B&B. Sure enough, the WiFi here and for several neighbours is down and won*t be fixed until at least Thursday.  Providers here show a lack of concern that would not be tolerated in North America. I*m  going to try and post this from the pub. This seems to be working. Not sure what might happen tomorrow. Might have to wait until Thursday.

Monday, 23rd June

We left Edinburgh this morning under heavy skies.  The weather improved as we went south west through the border into Dumfriesshire. The sun actually came out for a bit. The drive down was through quite spectacular country as you can see.

A road throough the Scottish Borders

A road throough the Scottish Borders

We were going to be rather early for our arrival at a cousin of Jennifer*s father so we headed off into the Lead Hills near where they live. Again you can see how grand the countryside is. The ram is another one of those ※things you see§ moments. Was it waiting for the bus or just scratching?

Along the road through the Leadhills

Along the road through the Leadhills

Sheep waiting for a bus
Once we arrived it was lunch and a long blether and then dinner in Thornhill which is about 12 miles away (20 km). So there is not a lot to report today.
In the morning we will be off to the Lake District for two nights. I have learnt not to make too many assumptions about WiFi.  Whilst everone offers it, the reality is that it can be down for days and the providers are not in a rush to fix it.

Sunday, 22nd June

After yesterday we were still a little leg-weary so we thought we would go to the Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh, or ※The Botanics§ as it is called locally. The east gate is less than fifteen minutes walk away. We had a good day as the high early morning clouds mostly burned off and it was once again about 20 degrees. It clouded up again later.

A garden bed at RBGE

A garden bed at RBGE

We spent about three hours there.  The grounds are immaculate, the beds intelligently laid out and the collection wide ranging and spectacular.  The glass houses are also very well done with examples from tropical to desert.  There are ten houses but two were closed so the ticket price discounted 40%. Admission to the gardens is otherwise free.

Victoria Lily - A giant water lily from the Amazon.

Victoria Lily 每 A giant water lily from the Amazon.

I can*t write much more about it. Here are a few pictures and I will post more in the gallery.  We had a quite rest of the day reading until we met Devan to go to my cousin for dinner. Tomorrow we drive to the south west of Scotland.

One of many odd looking plants at the RBGE

One of many odd looking plants at the RBGE

Large yellow trumpet-shaped flower at RBGE.

Large yellow trumpet-shaped flower at RBGE.

Saturday, 21st June

Saturday is another cloudy day with a little sun from time to time, but still warm. We met Devan and walked the 45 minutes to the centre of town. We went to the Scotch Whiskey Experience as they also have a good restaurant for lunch. The have a collection of 3,384 bottles of Scotch, all unopened. The original collection was made over 35 years by Claive Vidiz from Brazil, but is now owned by Diageo, the drinks conglomerate. You start the experience by sitting in a barrel-shaped seat like at a theme park. The barrels are conducted through a long tunnel where all is explained. One of the guides referred to it as ※Malt Disney§, much to the amusement of his colleague who had never heard the term.

A small part of the Diageo (Vidiz) whiskey collection.

A small part of the Diageo (Vidiz) whiskey collection.

We wandered around the town and looked at a couple of NTS historic buildings from two periods in Edinburgh*s history. The first is in the Royal Mile and is called Gladstone*s Land. The seventeenth century property was owned by Thomas Gledstanes who was a merchant and landlord. In  the house you can see how various strata in society lived during this period. At that time the tenements  on the Royal Mile were built upwards and were the tallest buildings in the world. Everyone lived in one of these flats and the luxury and number of rooms differentiated the upper classes from those of lower station who might be in the same house.

At the end of the eighteenth century Edinburgh New Town was laid out on a carefully designed plan of streets and squares.  Strict controls were established over the design of the facades.  This NTS property is referred to as the Georgian House. It shows how a person whose wealth came from his country estates would have lived in town. With the help of seven or eight servants the family entertained other members of society in grand style.

Greyfria's Bobby, who stayed at his master's grave for fourteen years.

Greyfria*s Bobby, who stayed at his master*s grave for fourteen years.

After that we walked around a little more and then went back to our B&B. We had been on our feet for about six hours. Edinburgh is a very hilly place and you always seem to be walking up a long steep hill.  We were happy for a bit of rest before meeigt up again for dinner at a restaurant innovating with modern Scottish ingredients. It was very good.

Edinburgh Castle from Princess Street Gardens

Edinburgh Castle from Princess Street Gardens

The  WiFi at the B&B concked out this morning but seems now to work if I go down to the breakfast room. It does not work on either of the other two floors. I should perhaps add that we are once again on the top floor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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