Tour of the British Isles
May 31 - June 16, 2015
Pictures at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/5pekxc4w2rks40r/AADU4BtIr6WrYiMHlBpzX8ata?dl=0
Descriptions of the picture locations are at the end of the page.
We took a two-week bus tour of the British Isles (England, Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland) through Globus. The tour started and ended in London.
Sunday, May 31
Our travel agent, Dr. Wayne Leong, drove us to San Francisco Airport for our United Airlines flight to London. We had an early dinner at Fung Lum in the airport food court before boarding the 777 for an overnight non-stop flight to Heathrow.
Monday, June 1
There was lots of cloud cover on our descent into Heathrow, but it broke over central London and I got some good still pictures and videos. At Heathrow we were met by a Globus representative and driven to our hotel, the Hilton London Metropole on Edgware Road. We had a good dinner at the hotel and met a very nice couple from the island of Jersey who were in London for medical/surgical treatment.
Tuesday, June 2
Cloudy with drizzle
This was our day to accommodate to the time change. We had an excellent English breakfast in the hotel restaurant. I went to Bletchley Park, center of British codebreaking during World War II, while Sandy caught up on sleep and reading. I took a bus to the Euston rail station, then a very comfortable ride of less than an hour to the Bletchley station and a short walk to the museum. I saw the original "Mansion," the various "huts," and the visitor center and museum in more permanent buildings. Again we had a good dinner in the hotel restaurant.
Tuesday night I got very little sleep, probably due to jet lag.
Wednesday, June 3
Clear to cloudy, no rain
Another excellent English breakfast and a whirlwind tour of London. In the morning, we went to St. Paul's and to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard. While stopped on the Embankment, the Queen's and Duke's limo passed in the opposite direction. We ate lunch at Marks & Spencer's across the street from the hotel. (Lesson learned: don't order a "hot dog" -- you will get a pork sausage.) We did not sign up for the afternoon tour of the Tower of London. We were signed up for dinner and a sunset cruise; Sandy was too tired to go. Dinner was at Fuller's Ale and Pie House in the Smithfield Market District, near the location where William Wallace was executed; then to a pier next to the Tower of London to board a boat to go up the Thames as far as Parliament and then back to the pier.
Thursday, June 4
We overslept! I had bought a new alarm watch that could be kept on local time, but its alarm was too quiet to wake us up. Sandy woke up about 20 minutes before the tour was to leave, so we threw on clothes, packed in a couple of minutes, and rushed downstairs to the bus, missing breakfast. Lesson learned: put in a wake-up call with the hotel even if we have an alarm.
The first stop on the tour was the gardens of Hampton Court palace, then to Stonehenge. The visitor center at Stonehenge is very poorly designed but I enjoyed walking around the stones. Then to Bath, where we drove around the city as possible (large vehicles are no longer allowed on some of the narrow streets such as the Crescent), toured the Roman baths and the abbey and had a drink at a lovely outdoor bar/tavern until our bus arrived. For some reason I don't seem to have taken any pictures at Bath, but we did buy a print of the abbey.
On the drive we saw many cows and sheep. This part of England had a "cow economy" but EU support has moved much of the dairy industry to Ireland.
Friday, June 5
Our first stop was Cardiff. We walked around the downtown district and the castle, including a statue of Welsh 20th century hero Aneurin Bevan, and an indoor mall. Driving to the ferry terminal, we stopped for lunch at a mall along the highway. This was the only place on the entire tour where I needed my umbrella and the hood on my jacket. We boarded the ferry to Ireland at Fishguard, disembarked at Rosslare, and drove to Waterford, where we stayed at the historic Granville Hotel. There was an excellent dinner at the hotel restaurant.
Saturday, June 6
We toured the city of Waterford and the crystal factory. Then we drove to Blarney. We did not go to the castle or up 85 stairs to the stone; we shopped for gifts at the revamped mills. Next to Killarney to check into the Killarney Avenue Hotel. Dinner was at Ballygarry, followed by a program at the Siamsa Tire National Folk Theater in Tralee.
Sunday, June 7
There was an all-day tour of the "Ring of Kerry", a 100-mile drive around a set of parks, the Lakes of Killarney, and other scenic attractions on the southwestern tip of Ireland. Sandy stayed at the hotel and shopped. After the tour, we stopped at a scenic meadow overlooking the lakes on the way to a pub evening of singing and dancing, then back to Killarney.
Monday, June 8
Travel from Killarney to Dublin by way of Limerick and Tipperary. We stopped at Adare, a village with thached cottages and a tourist center; Cashel, site of the "Rock of Cashel" castle; and the National Stud Farm with its Japanese gardens. In Dublin, our hotel, the Hilton Dublin City, was on a historic canal. We had a Cabaret Evening with dinner and a variety show including comedy and music.
Tuesday, June 9
Clear and warm
This was an easy day with a late start. We toured Dublin including O'Connell Street, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and lunch and shopping near Trinity College. Sandy had a wash and blow dry at a salon near the hotel. We skipped the evening tour of the Guinness Brewery and had dinner at The Barge, a restaurant near the hotel.
Wednesday, June 10
Clear and warm
We drove from Dublin to Belfast, with a stop at Malahide Castle. In Belfast, we went to the Titanic Museum. We checked in to the historic Europa Hotel and had dinner at the elegant Crown Liquor Saloon across Great Victoria Street from the hotel.
The "troubles" of Northern Ireland are well resolved, with help from George Mitchell, Bill Clinton, and Canadian General John de Chastelain, gratefully acknowledged by the people of Northern Ireland. But even at the height of the Troubles, Belfast was safer than New York City at the time.
Thursday, June 11
We toured Belfast, including Stormont, the seat of government. We saw Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods; some of the fences put in place during the Troubles are still there, though separation is not enforced. There are still some of the signs and murals expressing support for one side or the other, though many have been repainted as decorations.
We drove to the ferry terminal and boarded the ferry to Cairnryan, Scotland. We drove, during spectacularly clear weather, along the southwest coast of Scotland to Glasgow and then to Edinburgh. We checked into the George Hotel on George Street. That evening we went to a dinner show with a bagpiper, dancers, singing, and the Ceremony of the Haggis.
Friday, June 12
Clear and warm
I took the tour of Edinburgh while Sandy rested. We drove through the New Town, Old Town, and the Royal Mile, with stops at Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood House. In the evening we skipped the tour of the former royal yacht Britannia and had drinks and dinner with Sandy Chalmers, a Cisco colleague, and his wife. Drinks were at “The Dome,” a former bank building across George Street from the hotel; dinner was at a California-style restaurant near the hotel.
Saturday, June 13
Edinburgh to York today. We stopped at Alnwick ("Annick"); its castle was used for some Harry Potter exteriors and interiors. The town is quaint and rated as highly livable. In the city of York we went to the Minster (cathedral) and the Shambles (narrow streets in a centuries-old part of town)--too much walking for both of us. Our hotel was an unimpressive Holiday Inn.
Sunday, June 14
We stopped at the Coventry Cathedral, the old cathedral destroyed by a German air raid in World War II and the new, very modern cathedral that replaced it. Then on to Stratford where we saw Ann Hathaway's cottage (and had a group photo) and the Shakespeare Museum and Birthplace. The birthplace is a surprisingly large two-story building with beautiful gardens. We went to Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds for tea and scones. Our hotel in Stratford was a Holiday Inn right on the river, with many swans and ducks.
Monday, June 15
Clear to cloudy
From Stratford we went to Blenheim Palace, home of the Dukes of Marlborough and the birthplace of Winston Churchill. I tripped on the steps on the way in and threw my back out completely. The palace and gardens are very impressive. Then on to London, where we had a beautiful hotel, the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, right across the Thames from the Houses of Parliament and right next to Waterloo railroad station. We had dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant where we ran into the Nevins.
Tuesday, June 16
We were up very early for the ride to Heathrow. The Altmans were in the van with us but went to a different airline. We caught our United flight to San Francisco; the ground was obscured most of the way except for a few minutes over Baffin Island and Hudson Strait. The flight was uneventful as was the shuttle ride home.
It was a very worth while vacation, but the routine of up early, on the bus, off the bus (repeat several times during the day), check into hotel, get up early, etc., is hard on people our age. A cruise, where the hotel goes with us and we can stay in the room all day if we want to, is probably more age appropriate.
114-120: Central London on landing approach
127-135: Bletchley Park
156-257: London (Albert Memorial, Nelson Column, National Gallery, Buckingham Palace, William Wallace plaque, "London Eye," Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast at sunset, Tower of London at sunset)
291: Cardiff, Wales
364-382: Waterford Crystal factory
442 "King Puck," Kiloorglin
443: Killorglin (Ring of Kerry)
448-574: Ring of Kerry
587-590: Pub near Killarney
598: Near Limerick, between Killarney and Cashel
652: Cashel Heritage Center
664: Rock of Cashel
673-699: Irish National Stud Farm, Kildare
757: St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin
814: The Barge restaurant, Dublin
833-891: Malahide Castle & Gardens
958-1097: Belfast (960-1001: Titanic Museum; 1025: Stormont House
1106-1117: Ferry to Scotland
1142-1148: Southwest Scotland
1188-1365: Edinburgh (1281-1311: Castle; 1321-1350: Holyrood House
1387-1411: Coast of Scotland & England (Lindisfarne)
1515-1562 & 1625-1645: Stratford
1659-1711: Blenheim Palace
1720-1757: London (Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, hotel room, Houses of Parliament from St. Thomas Hospital, Thames River)
1775-1781: Baffin Island and Hudson Strait