A Trip Around the UK in 18 Days
For our non-UK readers, here is a pleasant peek into the UK’s countryside. I’ve never investigated the East coast of the UK, and I’ve wanted to go to the North coast of Scotland for a while now. This is a photo journal of the trip.
We drove to Colchester to get into position for the start of the actual tour. But we were turned away from our first accommodation booking because we had a dog :0( There was nothing to do but push on to a Travelodge next to a petrol station and a burger place. Not so glamorous but friendly, clean and comfortable. So we’re all set.
Day 1: the Norfolk Broads
The Norfolk Broads is a network of 7 rivers and 63 lakes covering 188 square miles, in the county of Norfolk. This place is for boating, but I’ve never seen it and it was good to take a little look at what its like. We bought a trip on a water taxi to a stopping point and back. Its great to be on the water, there is something special about that.
Day 2: Cley Beach & Morston Seals
Although Cley beach and the offshore areas are beautiful, the main aim of the day was to visit the seals from Morston. We boarded a small boat and made our way out to Blakeney Point. The boats came right in close to the seals, good for a visitor but not so good for the seals. They must be fairly used to the grinding engines and blaring tannoy as most of them stayed put. This is the first time I’ve seen a seal up close in a natural setting.
Day 3: Lincolnshire Coast
Lincolnshire was flat, rural and green.
Day 4: Beverley & Thornton-Le-Dale
There were white telephone boxes at Beverley, a very pleasant town. I don’t see telephone boxes very often these days, and never a white one. I thought there were rules about the colour that is used. They do match the white TSB building though.
Similarly attractive is Thornton-le-Dale. I found an unusual ornamental ant made out of metal, which is now on a shelf in my house. It was baking hot so we retreated to some shady, peaceful spots and found some ducks and a waterfall.
The T Shirt I had washed out in the previous evening had been drying out on the shelf at the back of the car all day. It had dried out to become a stiff sheet, ready to wear in the pub in the evening! I should be ok as long as I don’t need to move my arms too much.
Day 5: North York Moors
Today, a bird crapped on my head, and it was very wet.
I had a napkin handy as I was outside a cafe. I used the whole thing up trying to pull back some dignity. No chance. That was a lotta poop for a little bird. Must have been a grudge poop.
We had to stay in the York area in order to fix a newly cracked windscreen. It was difficult to organise a repair and the windscreen guy didn’t confirm my arrangements so I had to chase him down all over again.
We found a shady valley with dappled lighting in the moors, which became a peaceful haven once the massive group of school children left the area.
Day 6: York
We dropped the car off at the glass repair place, so we didn’t have to look for a car park in the city. The guy had a bit on an attitude. While I was making arrangements with them, it was interrupted by a complaint call for a similar repair they had made for someone else. Things didn’t look promising, but there weren’t many other options.
We began our visit to York by walking around the Southern half of the city wall. You’re not allowed to take dogs up onto the walkway so we had to split up and swap over halfway around. The city of York is probably the most attractive city I’ve seen in the UK. It was a great day and very sunny too. Its well worth a visit, and I wouldn’t mind coming back :0)
In the afternoon collected our car from the repair shop and we found that they didn’t do the job as the replacement screen was scratched. That was probably a good thing as I had a bad feeling about them from the start. We re-arranged the fix for a different shop in Edinburgh.
Day 7: Yorkshire Dales
Today we got ourselves a little map and set out for what was supposed to be a 2 hour route. I don’t know what happened, but we had to abandon the walk before we got to waypoint 2, which took an hour to do :0)
Some horned sheep started following us which was a bit unusual and quite unnerving. A couple more joined in and we had a small flock eyeing us up. I think they might have been concerned for their lambs that were scattered about. I’ve not been threatened by a sheep before! I reckon several head butts from them would be pretty painful, so we carefully skirted around the field and made our way back. And its still pretty hot.
Its nice here, but we have wandered a bit too far West, which we will visit on the way back down. We will have to go back to the East side and continue making our way to the windscreen repairers at Edinburgh.
Day 8: Durham & The Angel of the North
The main part of Durham town is in a large loop of a meander in the river. It is smaller and newer in parts than York, the central area is nicely laid out, with a large church on the hill, inside which was a huge vaulted ceiling.
We used two apps successfully today, one was Parkopedia. With that ,you can track down a parking place based on price and time using a map. That saved endless wandering around gnarly streets. We also used Toilet Finder, which does exactly that. Use the blue icon at lower left to set the map to rotate relative to your direction and off you go. …In this case to an occupied loo and two porta loos reserved for Air Cadets. Some cadets marched past without a care in the world (obviously), and with a bit of a spring in their step if you ask me. Also present was an ironically named Accessibility loo, which was locked, making it completely inaccessible. No matter; I vote for this app anyhoo.
We pressed on and found the Angel of the North (Anthony Gormley). We passed by it on the road, so a quick left turn took us into a little parking area where you can go right up to it. I didn’t take to this sculpture when I first saw it go up on the news years ago, but quickly changed my mind and then thought how impressive it was. Nice. Now I am on its turf, all I can say is: “thanks AG, it’s great!”.
Eventually we made it to Alnmouth where I reversed into what I thought was a tight parking space several hundred times. When I got out there was at least 4 feet of fresh air behind the car. I blame my wing mirrors.
More pleasant views of the harbour and fields around the estuary, another fine day. More wet t-shirts in the back of the car, drying like cardboard sheets.
Day 9: North Berwick Seals
Last night was spent at an inn at Cold Stream. It was icky. We decided not to compound the error by eating there, and down the road was another pub that didn’t mind dogs. The locals were very friendly, but puzzled why we’d choose to holiday there! It’s not a place that has much in the way of magnetism to be fair, but it did grow on me ?
The pub food was really tasty! The local guy who chatted with us was very pleasant company, warm and friendly, how nice. The nighttime was still too warm so the windows stayed open and the shouts and laughter of the local girls and lads boomed in and around the terraced houses and the pub squished into the centre of the town. You could imagine the male female posturing going on amid the laughter and hubbub. It was quite interesting really. Morning came early for me as lorries and vans hurtled loudly past the window.
Next day we left as early as possible and made our way to the coast for a trip out to some islands to see Seals, Guillemots and Puffins (very cute). It was so windy it gave me a headache. The trip was in a small stable catamaran, looking like a normal single hulled boat.
We moved onto Berwick where the castle walls were walk-able, but it started raining hard. We didn’t mind so much because we found a cafe that had tasty crab sandwiches, really nice coffee and a selection of odd ice creams. I had Turkish Delight, but it smelt and tasted like a bath bomb. Probably won’t be having that one again, but quite interesting!
Our final visit was at a National Trust seabird centre/shop, and a beach which had a walled off area that created a paddling pool at low tide (apparently these are called tidal swimming pools).
Now I’m all set to get my windscreen fixed ?
Day 10: Edinburgh
Today is windscreen fixing day. Unlike the York team, this team was perfectly friendly… no undercurrents here.
We took the number 37 bus into Edinburgh and started some serious mooching around. There were quite a few vagrants about, one was circulating about while shouting and swearing loudly to no-one in particular in the way you hope they won’t. A real loose cannon.
The new and old parts of Edinburgh had lots of ornamental architecture on mature buildings. Most of the old stone is blackened with soot, which is fairly attractive actually. A tram on rails went past with a whole load of carriages – the first time I’ve seen one of those in the UK.
There were queuing hordes outside the castle and we peeked inside for free. I had no patience to go inside. Outside is a bowl shaped stadium of seats for the military tattoo, currently empty, focusing on a point just outside the entrance gates.
It’s cooler now but our dog is tired after travelling a week so I’m carrying her from time to time, which makes climbing uphill a useful exercise.
We had a good look around then headed back on the 37 bus to pick up the car. I found a can of beer that I had hidden in a bush that morning so I din’t have to carry it, and we were set to move on.
Day 11: Pilochry
On to Pitlochry. It’s an interesting, small and tastefully touristic place with a salmon ladder bypass for its hydro-electric dam. There are a series of pools connected under the waterline leading step-wise from the dam top to the river below, folding back on itself in order to provide a staged descent for the fish.
Salmon heading upstream swim through the pipe work and can rest at any of the three pools where the water churns less vigorously. In fact, you can’t see anything in the dark water, though we spent a long time trying to spot something.
Before we left the next day, we had another try at spotting Salmon in the bypass ladder. That consisted of 20 minutes leaning against wet railings, but all we saw was a tail fin flick at the surface.
Not at all like the glossy, slo-mo beauty I was expecting.
Day 12: John O Groats
We decided to push on for John O Groats rather than take in views to the East. That meant pushing on through Inverness and up. We stopped at a lock to look for Salmon, and further round to look for Charlie the dolphin. Still nothing!
Now our booking apps have nothing to suit us (and our dog) in this region, so it’s become more a case of ‘drive up and ask’. Yesterday evening we found a superior b&b that way. It takes a bit of effort but works. We walked for ages to recommended dog pub which looked grand in the outside but disappointingly grubby on the inside.
Stopped off at a bay first then reached John O Groats. We are at the top of Scotland ?
That night we stayed at the Farr Bay Inn at Bettyhill on Scotland’s North. It deserves a special mention for its exceptional Japanese chicken curry! It was also positioned near to a large bay with very few visitors which was perfect for bracing walks with our dog.
Day 13: Ullapool
Today we drove along the top of Scotland to Ullapool. There was marvellous scenery and lighting all the way.
I stopped at a bend in the road and walked behind a crash barrier to get a photo of the beautiful view, then… Aaaargh! I banged my leg on a 4″ steel bolt projecting out of the back of the crash barrier. Ouch! ouch! ouch! ouch! ouch! I felt so sick, it was soooooo painful. I was ready to phone for an air ambulance or to get paramedics or hack it off on the roadside with a blunt pen knife and a dog-lead wedged between my teeth.
Day 14: Skye
Ullapool down to Skye was very good as is usual for Scotland ?
We drove over the bridge into Skye and along the main road to the North. All along the way, every single place we found was full up. We could see impressive hills in the distance, and I was hoping to see where Prometheus was filmed near the Old Man of Storr, but that’s was looking increasingly unlikely. When we got to Portree, we parked up and looked for a place on foot, but the only vacancy we could find didn’t want to take our dog. Soon after that, we returned the way we came, tried a few more locations off the main road and then left Skye altogether.
I don’t know if I would go back. I would like to see the Old Man of Storr, but I didn’t like the atmosphere of the main town or the scenery leading up to it. In the end we were happy to leave ?
Luckily, once we got back on the mainland again, we were able to find some accommodation and get some rest. We had been driving for a long time.
Day 15: Port William
Oh no! Another full day of driving, unable to find any accommodation that accepts a dog ?
All the way from Skye down past Glasgow and onto Galloway Forest Park. Past the grim Glasgow docks, the satnav took us over a 10 mile single track road raised above the surrounding ground by 12 inches and only a very few passing points. In short, an absolute satnav nightmare! I hate single track roads! I can’t find any settings that choose sensible roads, a lot of the shortcuts are small diversions off of main roads then back on again after 10 minutes struggling around tortuous bends on tiny roads etc. Maybe another satnav would do a better job. Maybe a coin toss would do a better job.
After another long day’s driving we made it to Port William. Tomorrow we should be able to find accommodation much more easily we hope, so we can enjoy the travelling more.
Tonight’s b&b owner looks a lot like Bruce Forsyth. I’ve never liked Bruce Forsyth.
Host: “How have you been doing?”
Us: “Well we’ve been driving a long time, it’s difficult to find accommodation in this area, especially when you have a dog”
Host: “Well you chose to do it! ha ha ha”
Us: “Ha ha ha”
Day 16: Kippford and Appleby
I woke up early, but with a shared loo and a full house, I’m not inclined to go to the bathroom. Patience is required.
Breakfast was a mixed bag. Our hosts seemed to have am-dram tendencies, and introduced all of us to each other flawlessly. When my partner got up for cereal, I sat down where she had put her coat and like a magician, slipped her coat one place left next to the woman with a gammy eye. ‘She likes to chat’ I reasoned, whereas I like to concentrate on the food.
The old lady had one fixed staring eye and one normal one, so the fixed one must have been false. Around the false eye were pads of NHS plastic flesh intended to blend in seamlessly with the patients own, rather than flap about like virus infected shiny meat. Having realised this, my poached egg on toast arrived, looking just like a template for a false eye with skin flaps around it. Nice.
The hosts were so specific and picky with lots of notices everywhere that, along with the am-dram overtones, I couldn’t help but think that we didn’t suit each other and that they chosen a pursuit (i.e. running a bed and breakfast house) that really pulls against the grain of their personalities.
On the plus side the rooms were very nice, it wasn’t so expensive and the breakfast was very tasty. Nice to see you, to see you, nice. Bye bye Brucie.
We moved on and visited Kippford. It was a quiet, peaceful estuary inlet. The one oddity that I’ve not seen before is that the entire narrow beach was made up of cockle shells, making a white crunchy surface. I’ve no idea how that came about.
A guy in the coffee and gift shop was selling Doggie Ice-creams. Just before I bought one I asked him what was in it, thinking it might have had some kind of dog-friendly ingredients. But no, he was literally selling normal ice-cream in small sizes. Oh dear! Milk and milk based products such as ice-cream causes diarrhoea and other digestive issues for dogs ?, So no thanks to that.
We moved onto our stay at Appleby where we were shown to our room by a guy who we both felt had issues in the general area of being inhospitable, with added undertones of anger and hostility. The complete opposite of what you’d expect.
I definitely felt we should minimise our contact with him. So we bought food and drink out, and ate in our room, which suited us both and solved a dilemma. The room was great, but the less we have to do with him I think the better and safer we would be! He gave off a really nasty feel!
Day 17: Birch Vale
This morning we figured out the male host we had so much distrust of the night before ran the bar and his partner ran the b&b part which explained why the rooms were so nice and welcoming, and the bar part wasn’t.
We took a walk up to High Nick Cup, but after a long while walking uphill, were stopped by ‘No Dog’ sign. That was a shame, but we were still able to take in some Pennine views.
Now I feel like we are making our way back home. We were stuck on a motorway section for ages, but eventually made it to a lovely rural spot suspended between Manchester and Sheffield.
The host of our accommodation at Birch Vale was completely pleasant and friendly! What a relief compared to last night’s nasty atmosphere. We could eat in comfort with our pooch and no hassles.
Day 18: New Mills & Shipton
The next day we visited a local Millennium Bridge made of a graceful long curved pathway dipping around and down to the far bank.
A TV documentary called ‘The Village’ was filmed close by, a rather neat little place with a shallow river and waterfall near its centre.
Visited Stow, which was built of stone all around the centre, so without the cars there it would have been very attractive. You have to view selectively, which human eyes do so much better than cameras. It’s a pretty place.
The ‘A’ road and motorway runs were clear this time and so we made it to near Oxford in good time, unlike yesterday’s fun filled traffic jams. Now we’re going back home. We stopped off at Burford to look around before making the final trek back home.
The North coast of Scotland had beautiful vistas; York is a very attractive city and the Yorkshire moors had idyllic sites and towns. Coverage for accommodation apps dries up as you cross into Scotland, and if you have a dog with you, you might as well just knock on doors. I thought the East coast was interesting and quirky and well worth a long visit. There are some great places to go, and I’d like to o back to some of them already.