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England, Scotland & Wales

Grand Circle Travel

July 30 ~ August 13, 2014

Our next travel adventure took us to England, Scotland and Wales.  It would prove to be a very busy travel time in these travel venues. Schools were on vacation and visitors to England were plentiful.  Most all of the sights that we visited were crowded.

Our trip started with the usual drive to Binghamton's airport.  We flew from Binghamton

to Newark and then on to London's Heathrow.  As luck would have it our Grand Circle greeter

was not at the airport to greet us.  After an hour wait we were picked by the tour company driver

and were off to the Tower Hotel.

The Tower Hotel was a great location on the banks of the Thames River.

Our neighbor was the famous Tower Bridge spanning the river. 

It was a very busy area and the river and the bridge

were busy all the time.

Just the other side of the Tower Bridge highway was the famous Tower

of London.  That is the location where the Crown Jewels of England are displayed. 

The tour of the Tower of London was led by one of their traditional

Beefeater Guards pictured above.  It was a very interesting tour.

The red area in the moat are porcelain poppies created and placed in memory of those

English soldiers who died during World War One.  August 5 was the anniversary

of the beginning of World War One.  Volunteers placed the individual

poppies in and around the Castle moat.

On a walking tour around the area of the Tower Hotel we explored

shops and restaurants nearby.  We happened upon the mooring place

for  the Queen's  barge.  It was quite impressive!

On day two we had an included panoramic our tour of London.  I we

must note here that to see all to the sights of London in one day is

 impossible.  The pictures that follow are but a small sample of all the sights

we saw on our morning long bus ride.  Fortunately we did have several

opportunities to leave the bus for photo opts.  Above is a statue of

Queen Victoria located at Trafalgar Square.

Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square

The Victoria Memorial was created by sculptor Sir Thomas Brock

in 1911 and erected in front of the main gates at Buckingham Palace

on a surround constructed by architect Sir Aston Webb.

Buckingham Palace.  The house was originally intended as a private

retreat, and in particular for Queen Charlotte, and was known as The Queen's

House.  Fourteen of their 15 children were born there. St. James's Palace remained

the official and ceremonial royal residence.  The house which forms the architectural

 core of the present palace was built for the first Duke of Buckingham and

Normandy in 1703 to the design of William Winde.

The style chosen was of a large, three-floored central block with two

smaller flanking service wings. Buckingham House was eventually

sold by Buckingham's descendant, Sir Charles Sheffield, in 1761 to

George III for £21,000 (£2,820,000 as of 2014).

The Queen was at her summer palace in Scotland, but the Buckingham

guards still changed with fewer guards participating.

Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of St Peter at

Westminster, is a large, mainly Gothic, church in the City of Westminster,

London, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is one

of the most notable religious buildings in the United Kingdom and has been

the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English and, later, British monarchs.

The abbey is a Royal Peculiar and between 1540 and 1556 had the status

of a cathedral; however, the church is no longer an abbey nor cathedral.

Parliament of Great Britain Building.  An English Parliament was first

constituted as the result of Magna Carta, although it did not begin to

meet regularly until the reign of Edward III.  Its power gradually increased

until, during the mid-1600s, it effectively ruled all of Britain and Ireland.

It was wound up in 1707 as part of the Union between Scotland

and England and replaced by the Parliament of Great Britain.

A statue of Winston Churchill near Parliament building.

Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the

north end of the Palace of Westminster in London, and is often extended

to refer to the clock and the clock tower. The tower is officially known

as the Elizabeth Tower (prior to being renamed in 2012 it was known as

simply "Clock Tower") to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. The

tower holds the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world and is the

third-tallest free-standing clock tower. The tower was completed in 1858 and had

its 150th anniversary on 31 May 2009, during which celebratory events took place.

The tower has become one of the most prominent symbols of the

United Kingdom and is often in the establishing shot of films set in London.

Since its opening by Queen Victoria in 1871, the world's leading

artists from several performance genres have appeared on its stage.

It has become one of the UK's most treasured and distinctive buildings.

Each year it hosts more than 350 events including classical concerts, rock and pop,

ballet and opera, sports, award ceremonies, school and

community events, charity performances and banquets.

The Albert Memorial is situated in Kensington Gardens, London,

England, directly to the north of the Royal Albert Hall. It was commissioned

by Queen Victoria in memory of her beloved husband,

Prince Albert, who died of typhoid in 1861.

A last view of the Tower Bridge.  Note that the bridge road way is open

to allow river traffic to move up and down the Thames River.

On our last night of the brief stay in London, Carol and I walked

across the Tower Bridge.  It was a wonderful evening  to cap off our

short stay on the Thames.  It was stay that was not long

enough to enjoy the sights of this beautiful city.

On the fourth day of our tour, we headed to Oxford, England.  Oxford is the oldest

university city in the United Kingdom, situated some 50 miles (80 km) to the

west of the capital London in its own county of Oxfordshire, and located on the rivers

Thames (the section of the Thames in Oxford is known as "The Isis") and Cherwell. Together with

Cambridge (the second oldest university city and Oxford's great rival), Oxford has

long represented the English academic establishment

and élite ("Oxbridge"), a haven of tradition.

The Ashmolean Museum (in full the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology)

on Beaumont Street, Oxford, England, is the world's first university museum. Its first

building was built in 1678–1683 to house the cabinet of curiosities that Elias Ashmole

gave to the University of Oxford in 1677. The museum reopened in 2009 after a major

redevelopment. In November 2011 new galleries focusing on

Egypt and Nubia were also unveiled.

The Radcliffe Camera (Camera, meaning "room" in Latin; colloquially, "Rad Cam")

is a building of Oxford University, England, designed by James Gibbs in

neo-classical style and built in 1737–1749 to house the Radcliffe Science Library.


One of the several colleges that make up Oxford, University.

It was Graduation Day in Oxford on this rainy day of our visit.

It is a rainy lunch time so we head for the nearest local tavern.

This sign outlines the theme for attending this tavern in Oxford.

The spectacular Christ Church Cathedral is actually one of the smallest

cathedrals in the country, although it should be said that this is still a very

grand and imposing building. Dating back to the early 16th century, the

cathedral has been renovated and updated many times over the years,

creating tremendous character.  Attractions here include a tall spire, large

circular columns, rounded Norman arches, Gothic pointed arches, a fine

vaulted ceiling, stained-glass windows and detailed stone carvings.

Hertford Bridge (Bridge of Sighs), (Hertford College). A quaint pedestrian

bridge for the students of Hertford College which has popularly become

known as the "Bridge of Sighs" of Oxford.

The third stop of the day is at Stratford-Upon-Avon. 

We were greeted by this statue of the jester.

A visit Stratford-upon-Avon introduces you to a market town with

more than 800 years of history, containing not only many buildings

that survive today and would have been familiar to Shakespeare,

but also a thriving community offering a wide variety of leisure,

accommodation and shopping experiences.

Shakespeare's birthplace is a restored 16th-century half-timbered 

house situated in Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England,

where it is believed that William Shakespeare was born in 1564

and spent his childhood years.

Street mime plying this magic.

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST) is a 1,040+ seat thrust stage theatre

owned by the Royal Shakespeare Company dedicated to the British

playwright and poet William Shakespeare. It is located in the town of

Stratford-upon-Avon – Shakespeare's birthplace – in the English Midlands,

beside the River Avon. The Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres re-opened

in November 2010 after undergoing a major renovation

known as the Transformation Project.

Boating on the River Avon.

Boats & Swans on the River Avon.

On our tour we had two staff members from Grand Circle,  they were

taking photos of our group and the scenery of the tour. 

They are pictured here with two of our tour group.

Thus ended our day.  We stayed at Cheltenham Park Hotel after our day of

touring.  We stayed at the Celtic Royal Hotel for two evenings.

Bright floral gardens greeted us when we arrived in Bath.

The Royal Crescent is a row of 30 terraced houses laid out in a

sweeping crescent in the city of Bath, England. Designed by the architect

John Wood the Younger and built between 1767 and 1774, it is among the

greatest examples of Georgian architecture to be found in the United Kingdom

and is a Grade I listed building.  Although some changes have been made to the

various interiors over the years, the Georgian stone façade

remains much as it was when it was first built.

We passed by Sally Lunn's restaurant as we toured during the morning. 

We returned there for our lunch break.  Quaint atmosphere and good food.

Bath Abbey.  This has been a place of Christian worship  for well over a thousand years.

However, the Abbey has undergone many transformations and changes during this time,

and much like the city of Bath has experienced rise and falls in fortune,

survived a number of major conflicts, architectural and religious reforms,

and two World Wars, but still stands proudly today

as an essential place for both worshippers and visitors.

The Roman Baths complex is a site of historical interest in the English

city of Bath. The house is a well-preserved Roman site for public bathing.

The Roman Baths themselves are below the modern street level. There

are four main features: the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman

Bath House and the Museum holding finds from Roman Bath.

The buildings above street level date from the 19th century.

Roman Baths

Water source for the Roman baths.

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, about 2 miles

(3 km) west of Amesbury and 8 miles (13 km) north of Salisbury. One of the

most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is the remains of a ring of standing

stones set within earthworks. It is in the middle of the most dense complex

of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England,

including several hundred burial mounds.

Our dinner stop was to enjoy a pint and a meal in a local Pub. 

Good beer and food at The Plough Inn.

We have finally arrived in Wales.  Llangollen is a small town and

community in Denbighshire, north-east Wales, situated on the

River Dee and on the edge of the Berwyn mountains. It has a population

of 3,412.  Note the Jones Traditional Family Butchers store.

The River Dee

An old stone corn mill still working today.

The Ellesmere Canal was intended to connect the coal mines and

ironworks at Ruabon and Wrexham to the canal network and thence

to the sea via the River Mersey and the River Severn.

Today it has horses drawing canal boats as an tourist attraction in the summer.

We are on the road early driving through the Welsh countryside. 

Note the sharp rocks on the top of the stone wall

We are spending the night at the Celtic Royal in Caernarfon.

Caernarfon's Medieval Castle. 

While in Caernarfon we had a home hosted dinner with a local Welsh family. 

It was a terrific experience with great food, beverages and conversation.

Today's optional tour started with a steam train ride on the famous

Ffestiniog Railway.  Our first stop on this cloudy, rainy day was at

Porthmadog where we boarded our narrow gauge steam

train for a 40 mile ride.

A steam locomotive awaits the challenge of the Welsh countryside.

This locomotive will haul our passenger cars on our journey this morning.

Our train ride was super and ended at the Welsh village of

Blaenau Ffestiniog.  These slate towers greeted us to the village.

After the train ride we were bussed to Portmeirion for lunch.  Portmeirion

is a popular tourist village in Gwynedd, North Wales.  It was designed and built

by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 in the style of an Italian village,

and is now owned by a charitable trust.    The unique, privately-owned Italianate

village of PORTMEIRION is set on a small rocky peninsula in

Tremadog Bay. Perhaps best known as "The Village" in the 1960s cult British TV series,

"The Prisoner", Portmeirion was the brainchild of eccentric

architect Clough Williams-Ellis, and his dream to build an ideal village

using a "gay, light-opera sort of approach".  

Portmeirion is also know world-wide for its exclusive china.

The Welsh flag flies high with the north sea in the background.

Welsh scenery was we drive along to our after lunch stop.

Two sheep were caught along the road side as we drove by.

Our next stop was at the National Slate Museum Llamberis.  After some

sightseeing around the museum grounds we went to the one of the

buildings for a slate splitting demonstration.  The National Slate Museum

(previously known as the Welsh Slate Museum) is located at Gilfach Ddu

in the 19th-century workshops of the now disused Dinorwic slate quarry,

within the Padarn Country Park, Llanberis, Gwynedd.

I was asked by the craftsman who presented the demonstration

to help him split a slate block.  Here goes nothing!

Success, I must admit that my first attempt was a split piece! 

The museum is now connected to the nearby village of Llanberis by the

Llanberis Lake Railway, which uses part of the building as its workshops.

The train stop in Wales with the worlds' longest name. 

Auto dealership in the town with that longest name.

Chester, England

Chester Town Hall

Chester Cathedral is a Church of England cathedral and the mother

church of the Diocese of Chester. It is located in the city of Chester,

Cheshire, England. The cathedral (formerly the abbey church of a Benedictine

monastery, dedicated to Saint Werburgh) is dedicated to Christ and the Blessed

Virgin Mary.  Since 1541 it has been the seat of the Bishop of Chester.

Chester Amphitheatre is a Roman amphitheatre in Chester, Cheshire.

We continued on to York.

Our hotel in York.  Very modern and somewhat minimalistic

in layout and room furnishings.

York Castle in the city of York, England, is a fortified complex comprising,

over the last nine centuries, a sequence of castles, prisons, law courts and other

buildings on the south side of the River Foss. The now-ruinous keep of the

medieval Norman castle is commonly referred to as Clifford's Tower. Built originally on

the orders of William I to dominate the former Viking city of York, the castle suffered

a tumultuous early history before developing into a major fortification with extensive water defenses.

After a major explosion in 1684 rendered the remaining military defenses uninhabitable,

York Castle continued to be used as a jail and prison until 1929.

Another Jones establishment in York.  No time to visit the store!

York Minster is a cathedral in York, England, and is one of the largest of

its kind in Northern Europe. The minster is the seat of the Archbishop of York,

the second-highest office of the Church of England,

and is the cathedral for the Diocese of York.

Note the bicycle on the wall.  York was host to one leg of the famous

Tour de France bicycle race.  Yellow bicycles were everywhere

in celebration of the race.

The National Railway Museum (NRM) is a museum in York forming part of the

British Science Museum Group of National Museums and telling

the story of rail transport in Britain and its impact on society.

Visitors were greeted by this display of an early steam locomotive.  It has long

been a personal goal to visit this museum.  I was not disappointed!   The exhibits

were excellent and the variety of locomotives and other railway cars was superb.

The Rocket

Modern Locomotive.

Vintage Steam Locomotive

Vintage Carriages

After our visit to the Railway Museum a boat ride on the River

Ouse was the last activity of the day in York.

On day 10 of our tour we had an optional tour starting at Whitby. 

Above is a view of Whitby volunteers setting up for a community

event.  Note the North Sea in the background.

A statue honoring Bram Stoker, author of the novel Dracula.  Part of Bram

Stoker's novel Dracula was set in Whitby, incorporating pieces of local

folklore, including the beaching of the Russian ship Dmitri. Stoker

discovered the name "Dracula" at the old public library. One scholar has

suggested that Stoker chose Whitby as the site of Dracula's first appearance in

England because of the Synod of Whitby, given the novel's preoccupation

with timekeeping and calendar disputes.

The hotel where Bram Stoker stayed when writing Dracula.

Captain James Cook lived in Whitby and first set out to sea, during

the 19th century from Whitby.  Captain James Cook, FRS, RN

(7 November 1728– 14 February 1779) was a British explorer, navigator,

cartographer, and captain in the Royal Navy. Cook made detailed maps of

Newfoundland prior to making three voyages to the Pacific Ocean, during which

he achieved the first recorded European contact with the eastern coastline of

Australia and the Hawaiian Islands, and the first recorded

circumnavigation of New Zealand.

Whitby Abbey is a ruined Benedictine abbey overlooking the North Sea

on the East Cliff above Whitby in North Yorkshire, England. It was disestablished

during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under the auspices of Henry VIII.

After lunch in down town Whitby we traveled to the Castle Howard. 

Above is the entrance to the castle complex.  In 1952, the house was opened

to the public by then owner, George Howard, Baron Howard of Henderskelfe. It is

currently owned by his son, the Honourable Simon Howard, who grew up at the castle.

Castle Howard is a stately home in North Yorkshire, England, 15 miles (24 km)

north of York.  It is a private residence, the home of the Howard family for more

than 300 years.  Castle Howard is not a true castle, but this term is also used for

English country houses erected on the site of a former military castle.  It is

familiar to television and film audiences as the fictional "Brideshead", both in

Granada Television's 1981 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's

Brideshead Revisited and a two-hour 2008 remake for cinema.

This is one of the more intriguing found in the Castle.  There were many,

many pieces of art displayed through out the castle.

The Castle's fountain.  Castle Howard was built between 1699 and 1712 to a

design by Sir John Vanbrugh for the 3rd Earl of Carlisle. The site was that of

the ruined Henderskelfe Castle, which had come into the Howard family in

1566 through the marriage to Lord Dacre's widow of Thomas, 4th Duke of Norfolk. 

The next morning we were off across the Scottish country side. 

Sheep were out all over the countryside.


As part of Grand Circle Travels program, we had a "Learning and Discovery"

experience by visiting a modern-day Scottish farm for lunch. 

This was a former home of author Beatrix Potter.

Beautiful Scottish scenery as we bus along.

We had a travel break with an afternoon stop at the Scottish village of Grasmere.  

Grasmere is a village, and popular tourist destination, in the centre of the English

Lake District. It takes its name from the adjacent lake, and is associated with the Lake Poets.

The poet William Wordsworth, who lived in Grasmere for fourteen years,

described it as "the loveliest spot that man hath ever found".

Grasmere is the resting place of Wordsworth.

MacDonald Swan Hotel in Grasmere.  Quaint and definitely not modern.

After breakfast were back on the bus heading to Edinburgh.  One stop was

at an area where we could visit a section of Hadrian's Wall picture above. 

This section of the Wall is the longest continuous stretch still to be visited. It was originally 15 feet high. 

The readily available stone was used for other building over the years.

Lanercost Priory was founded about 1166 by Henry II. When completed

in 1220, canons came from the priory in Norfolk, and remained for some

370 years until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536, by Henry VIII.

For our lunch break we stopped in Moffat, Scotland.  Moffat is a historic spa

town in the Annandale Valley, 21 miles from Dumfries.  Moffat’s wide,

tree-lined high street retains many of its original characteristics and the

town has strong connections with both the Moffat and Johnstone clans. 

A sheep farming town in years gone by, this history

is depicted by the Ram Statue on the high street.

Moffat was a notable market in the wool trade, and this is commemorated

with a statue of a ram by William Brodie in the town's marketplace. The ram

was presented to the town by William Colvin, a local businessman, in 1875.

The ram is missing its ears, and has been since it was first presented.

The Star Hotel, a mere 20 ft (6 m) wide, boasted a record in the Guinness

Book of Records as the narrowest hotel in the world.

On Day 13 we arrived in Edinburgh.  Our hotel is located downtown around the corner from the Royal Mile. 

Edinburgh is full of tourists in town for the Festival, the Fringe and the Military Tattoo. 

The sidewalks are crowded and the capital city bustles.  Above is a photo of Edinburgh

Castle.  The Royal Mile  is the name given to a succession of streets forming the

main thoroughfare of the Old Town of the city of Edinburgh.

Arthur's Seat is the main peak of the group of hills in Scotland which

form most of Holyrood Park, described by Robert Louis Stevenson as "a hill

for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design". It is situated in the

centre of the city of Edinburgh, about a mile to the east of Edinburgh Castle.

The hill itself rises above the city to a height of 250.5 m (822 ft), provides

excellent panoramic views of the city, is relatively easy to climb,

and is popular for hillwalking.

Greyfriars Bobby was a Skye Terrier who became known in 19th-century

Edinburgh for supposedly spending 14 years guarding the grave of his owner

until he died himself on 14 January 1872. The story continues to be well known

as active oral history in Edinburgh, through several books and films, and

became a prominent commemorative statue.

The bar where J.K.Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, did her writing.

Walking up to Edinburgh Castle for our tour.

The Castle entrance.  There were long lines to buy tickets to the Castle all day.

Edinburgh Castle is a formidable fort that was built by David I on an extinct

volcano is Scotland's capital. Originally built in 1130 the Castle represents over 800

years of Scottish history and is a World Heritage site. St Margaret's chapel

was also built in 1130 and survives as the oldest building in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Castle was home to the Kings and Queens of Scotland when

staying in the city. It was not as comfortable as Holyrood

Abbey but offered far greater protection.

Edinburgh Castle is a historic fortress which dominates the skyline of the

city of Edinburgh, Scotland from its position on the Castle Rock.  

There are several building located within the Castle. 

They are all of stone construction.

Cannons guard the Castle

Lang's Stairway

The Royal  Palace in Crown Square inside the Castle.

A lone bagpipe player playing for change donations

on the Royal Mile near the Castle.


After a day full of sightseeing it is time for some real entertainment! 

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a spectular show held in the esplanade of

Edinburgh Castle.  Carol and I along with Fred Gerszewski

made this our evening entertainment.


The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is an annual series of Military tattoos

performed by British Armed Forces, Commonwealth and International military bands and

display teams on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle in the Scottish capital,

Edinburgh. The event takes place annually throughout August.

Cannons fired as part of the opening of the Tattoo! 

Check out the smoke from the Castle ports.

The show is beginning!

Band marchers entering the Castle esplanade.


 The marching was done with great precision!

Another view of the pipe and drum corps.

Closing performance by the massed performers.  This was a fantastic show!

All Aboard the Britannica

Ring that bell!

The formal Dining Room aboard the Royal Britannica.

The next stop of our tour on this optional sightseeing day was at Holyrood  the

Queen's Scottish Castle.  Above is the view of the front of the Castle.



The inner courtyard of the Holyrood Castle.

The last event of the tour was the usual Farewell Dinner. 

Elaine Sloan our Tour Director, par excellence, arranged for this

Scotch gentleman to come to our dinner to perform the traditional Haggis ritual. 

He was a character and performed his duties with a good sense of humor.


This was a very good tour.  There is so much to see in England that a two

week venture will leave you wanting to go back to visit other venues. 

I took over 1600 photos and it was difficult to pare them down.

  I have tried to present a brief selection that captures the

sights of England, Scotland and Wales that we visited.

Please note that I used Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia as source

for some of the background information used in this web page.

Happy Travels!