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Our trip to the British Isles

12 September to 14 September

Cornwall to Ireland 

For a full description of towns and sites visited see Towns Visited

Thursday 12 September

Left the hotel at 8:34, back across the Tamar Bridge, but not before witnessing an accident with the truck in front of the bus who ran a stop sign and got smucked by a car, which just so happened was in front of a police car, so there was no need for us to stop as witnesses!  After crossing the Tamar we headed north on A388.  The road seemed to be a bit rough, and the countryside not quite as neat and well farmed as what we had seen up to this point.  On to B3257, a single laner with bushes brushing the bus on both sides!  Had to back up once to let a lorry pass.  Then on A30 and the Bodmin Moor.  Caroline warned us of the Beast of Bodwin Moor, believed to be a puma released or escaped from somewhere.  Apparently kills sheep.  From intersection with A30 we went west 3 or 4 miles to the Jamaica Inn, the setting for The Inn on the Moor by Daphne du Maurier.  From there we backtracked to A395 and some lesser roads to Tintagel.  It was in a castle in Tintagel that King Arthur is reputed to have been born, with Merlin living in a cave under the castle so as to be able to protect him.  A very beautiful area, just begging for one to spent hours walking the trails to and through the old ruins and along the sea cliffs.   

However, we did not have time for this, so back in the bus and on to the village of Tintagel for a stop to visit the old post office building, built in the 13th century.  A sagging roof but still structurally sound.  An open market in the parking lot provided a shopping time for some.  At 12:00 we headed out of Tintagel and on to Boscastle, 3 miles up the coast, for lunch and loo stop.  Boscastle was a fishing village but it seems that tourism would be the main industry now.  The narrow fiord from the Atlantic has a couple of right-angle turns in it, making it difficult for a boat to maneuver to shelter, but when in behind the breakwater and the headland, it has little to fear from the worst of storms.  Again, a great place for hiking, and this time Lois and I walked up to the headland, a ½ mile or so from the parking area.  Several others from the group did likewise.   Back on bus at 1:30 and reached the Visitors’ Centre at Clovelly at 2:25.  Clovelly is unique in several ways: it was mentioned in the Doomsday book (1086 AD), the village is owned by the Rous family, it has been owned by only three families since the time of William the Conqueror, supplies are taken to the 80 some houses in the village by donkeys hauling sledges, there is no vehicular traffic on the main street, and no wheeled carts either!  The street is cobbled as is – for the most part - the path from the Visitor Centre to the village.  It is the most photographed village in England, and one must pay a fee to enter the village!  £3.50 in 2002.  Quite an experience! 

On our way to A39 we met a tractor trimming the hedge alongside the road.  Hedges get quite bushy if unattended and this reduces visibility for traffic.  Apparently the government has recently passed a law making the owner of the property responsible for trimming.  Many hedges were trimmed but this was the first we saw a trimmer up close.  Got to our hotel in Barnstaple, the Royal & Fortescue, at 5:00 PM.  A very enjoyable hotel both for room comfort and supper and breakfast.   

Friday 13 September

Leave at 8:26.  Started on A361 through Exmoor – Lorna Doone country.  The book Lorna Doone was written by R D Blackmore and is set in this moorland with Tiverton being the main town in the story.  We passed through Tiverton at 9:20.  Meanwhile our guide Caroline read us a short synopsis of Lorna Doone.  From Barnstaple to Tiverton the land was hilly and steep, though the hills were not very high.  There were sheep and cattle and lots of trees.   

Just beyond Tiverton we got on M5 for several miles, skirting the Blackdown Hills, until we reached A39, the road to Glastonbury.  A diversion (detour) meant several back roads but eventually Gary got us to the location of the ruined Glastonbury Abbey.  Since I have heard of the legends associated with Glastonbury, I felt that I must tour it, and it was an excellent place to spend 45 minutes.  Even though the abbey is in Ruins, there was enough of it standing to easily give the impression of immensity and grandeur.  The ruins sit on several acres of lawn, and the surrounding walls keep out most of the traffic noise, giving a true sense of peace and tranquility.  All too soon my time there was up and I went back to reality and the bus.  Caroline had said that St Patrick and his very good friend St Bridget were buried here but I saw no reference to them on the abbey grounds.

 The town of Wells is 6 miles northeast and has a cathedral dedicated to St Andrew.  Population of Wells is 10,000.  In this vicinity was the only vineyard I saw on the whole trip.  We soon came to Bath, staying from 12:55 to 4:00 – a bit too long.  Had a brief bus tour then dropped off at the Abbey.  This town has been important since Roman times, and has some interesting architecture.  One amusing incident happened as we were walking down Henry St.  There was a statue of a lady which I looked at as we walked past, and I was amazed at the detail of it, when suddenly someone gasped as the statue moved: it was a busker tinted in the same colour as the surrounding stone of the niche in which she was standing!  We lunched on bread and liverwurst in the square between the abbey and the Roman Baths, entertained by a busker playing a guitar and singing.  Later I bought some Euros at Thomas Cook.  I gave them £50 and got €50 plus £14.05.  The exchange rate was 1.517500, and there was a £3 transaction fee.   

It is evident that if you have read this epistle that Lois and I often have lunches of bread and cheese or liverwurst or some other thing.  It is not just because we are miserly.  After the huge breakfast we had every morning we found that a restaurant lunch was not necessary, that we required only the bread and …. plus an apple or a cookie or other treat.  It also meant we could sit in a park or a square or grounds of a cathedral or castle and enjoy the fresh air and beauty of the surroundings.  We did not have to line up at lunch counter or wait for a waiter/waitress to serve us while we studied the cracks in the walls.  And, of course, there is the cost factor.  For example, lunch in Dublin at the Kilkenny Café on Nassau St we had two small bowls of soup @ €2.85, two slabs of semi-stale bread @ €0.50 and two pads of butter @ €0.15, a total of €7.00.  In Canadian funds this is $10.60.  The next day at Dunne’s Store food section we bought salads, rolls and a pint of milk each for a euro or two less than that price, and had lunch in St Stephen’s Green, a lovely setting.

 From Bath we went on to M4 west, which took us over the Severn River on the new bridge and into Wales at 4:49 PM.  This 3 mile long bridge was completed in 1996 at a cost of £330,000,000.  The old bridge is just upriver from it and was completed 1966, but was no longer able to handle the increased traffic.  I was surprised at the shallowness of the Severn.  All the way across the bridge it was possible to see sand banks and mud flats.  There were channels of greater depth, but many of the mud areas.   The road signs in Wales are in both Welsh and English, with Welsh being first.  We continued in Wales on M4 on quite a wide river plain which ended several miles inland at a ridge hundreds of feet high.  At Newport there was mountain to the north with a wind farm on it.  Just before getting to our hotel in Cardiff we got a glimpse of the Third Earl of Bute’s summer palace, a beautiful place with several candle-snuffer towers.  Our regular hotel was unable to accommodate us so we were upgraded to the Copthorne, a Four Star, and quite lovely to say the least.  A free drink at the bar was also provided before the buffet supper.  All of us agreed that more hotels should offer this same upgrade!

 Saturday 14 September

After a great buffet breakfast we went to Cardiff Castle and had a guided tour of the Third Marquis of Bute’s upgrading.  He was the richest man in the world in the last half of the 19th century and certainly spent a lot of his fortune renovating and decorating the castle.  Time ran out before we got to see everything within the castle grounds. 

The Welsh name for Cardiff is Caerdydd.  Caer means fort or fortress; Dydd was the Welsh emperor when the Romans came.  The Welsh language is Gaelic closely related to Cornish and Breton.  It has a 28 letter alphabet – most of our ABC’s plus digraphs such as double l’s, d’s and f’s, and th and gh.  About 1 in 5 speak Welsh, with Carmarthen being the town of greatest density of Welsh speakers.  Coal and slate for roofs were the two main industries for years, but cheaper foreign coal imports put a halt to coal mining, and the slate tiles have been replaced by cheaper clay tiles.  There are iron and steel mills in Port Talbot, and signs of lumbering on the distant hills, though this would not be a major industry as there are so few forests.  Farming is carried on all along the route we followed. 

From Cardiff we passed through or bypassed Port Talbot, Swansea (in Welsh: Abertawe.  Aber means at the mouth of a river and the river is the Tawe), Carmarthen (which means Fortress of Merlin.  Merlin is buried in a cave under Merlin’s Hill, whereabouts unknown), and stopped at Tenby on Carmarthen Bay for lunch.  Tenby means little fort of the fishes and was a walled town offering protection from the French and Spaniards in bygone days.  From Tenby it is only 11 miles to Pembroke where we caught the ferry to Rosslare, Ireland.  We arrived at the dock in Rosslare at 6:50 and went directly to our hotel in Tramore, arriving at 8:20.

Page 2 - Cornwall to Ireland
Page 3 - Ireland
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