VK4ION Visits Scotland

vk4ion

2022

It's 2022 and I'm off

This trip was originally booked for March 2020 but then a plague closed our borders.
The minute they opened, I was off!
Thanks to wonderful QANTAS my flight credit was secure and even my accommodation in Edinburgh was covered.

And that just about sums it up.
I was watching the UK border restrictions change and lift and then AU followed so we could leave (and more importantly return home) without quarantine.
The paperwork was excessive and I won't lie, it was stressful. So many people at the check in counter didn't have the right paperwork, and were turned over to officials to sort it out. It made things very slow as I clutched my digital device & paper backups while inching my way to the front, just hoping I hadn't missed anything.

Basically the UK just wanted an incoming digital form (plus proof of Vacc of course) and once it was linked to my passport, UK entry should have been a breeze.... more on that later.

My fabulous hotel in Edinburgh, The House of Gods honoured a credit from 2 years ago and that was so impressive when you consider how much they'd suffered over the past 2 years.

The short story is, I went, I traversed Scotland (visited York, returned to London) and got home safely, without a sniffle or a Corona in sight.

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Edinburgh

Wheels Down Heathrow - Train Trip London to Edinburgh, what's an extra 4.5hours

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It seems strange to be so excited about an overseas trip

After 2 years of differing lockdowns I had felt the stress of my lost freedom and I wanted to go... somewhere... anywhere.

I travel light, just that small roller bag which I checked in at 11kg and my onboard backpack.
Remember I said landing at Heathrow should be a breeze... well there were a couple of bumps... like sitting out on the runway for over an hour, because there wasn't an available terminal gate... hmmm perhaps they didn't know we were coming.. **surprise**
Then the luggage carousel broke down halfway thru the unload... almost another hour standing with very tired, hot and smelly people.

Finally made good my escape, took a swift Heathrow Express train from Terminal 3 into Paddington Station, then an underground train over to Kings Cross Station.
Got a seat on an LNER express train to Edinburgh and I'm away.
That's 40 hours travel if I factor in the drive time to get to Brisbane international airport.
Now I remember why I love to travel hahaha.

My Edinburgh hotel House of Gods and I feel like I'm in a pirates den

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The House of Gods on Cowgate in the Old City is a must-stay destination!

The room was strewn with golden balloons and gold leaf.
The bed, a curtained 4-poster, and simply the best I've ever experienced at a hotel, and my breakfast arrived in a wicker basket.

They give you free wine, delivered to your room by your butler as well as a bar voucher for cocktails... you must try the champagne & mint, so delicious.
You text them or press a button in your room and the butler magically arrives with whatever you want... yes, it's only room service but they do it in style and it's fun.

But I can't lay about here, I have sights to see and things to explore, as old Edinburgh awaits.

Edinburgh is old but doesn't seem very Scottish

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Cosmopolitan is the word, I'm surrounded by old buildings, serendated by bagpipes while I eat great Indian food from Treacle on High Street.

It's all a bit trippy with so many tourists and foreign speakers, it was hard to hear a Scottish accent.
Edinburgh was a walled city and the plaque on the World's End Pub explains that in the 1500's people rarely left the walled enclosure and to pass out the gates was to leave their known world.

It was only early Spring but already the city was filling up with tourists which I set out to avoid by poking my head into alley ways and odd places.
Lots of bars and cocktails seem to be 'the thing' at most places. The food is very good food and seems to have a spicy Indian influence, just what I like.

Look what you find when you poke your head into alleyways

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Looking for the quieter parts of the City

The alleyways go under buildings through to the next street and they are very old, some with rough hewn steps.

You might wonder why the image of cobblestones... the roads are almost all cobblestones and difficult to walk on. Barely two stones are the same size or height and I could not imagine anyone in heels being able to walk a city block.
It's rugged boots for me, so it's all fine, but just another heads-up for trendy travellers.

The city is 'dirty' and I say that because it seems everyone smokes, and the streets are heavilly littered with cigarette butts & paper, which nobody seems to clean up.

Some of the narrow alleyways smell pretty bad, especially the ones that have pokey pubs/bars. I'm guessing it's their patrons who pee n puke in the alley... So be aware and walk faster to avoid some stained and smelly alcoves.
Come to think of it, I never saw a street cleaner anywhere, except back in London.

I did take one tour as I wanted to see what lay beneath the streets. It was The Real Mary Kins Close Tour (not the street hawkers on the royal mile). They have access to the old streets dating back to the 1500's & 1700's that still exist under the current buildings.

That is one thing I noticed, throughout Scotland and York they kept the solid foundations from what went before, so the buildings are an historical record as they rise up on older foundations. Pretty cool to see.

Edinburgh Castle is big & built on a rock

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Look up and it is a beautiful city where they have preserved the ancient architecture

The old city is preserved and you can see how all the streets and alleyways would have served the big castle on the hill.
History is also preserved in some of the Close (an alley is called a Close), with descriptive plaques outlining who lived there or what happened over time. The dates go so far back my mind was boggled.

Edinburgh Castle is the big attraction of course, with lines of coaches arriving all the time and the Royal Mile - a long cobblestone street is congested with tourist shopping.

Not for me, I'm off to hire a car from and hit the road to see the rest of Scotland.

I grabbed a rental car and I'm on my way

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Away from the crowds, I found my first castle

I got a nice Audi from Sixt Rental, oh and I must mention the price of fuel... not complaining... just something that I noticed.
It can be dificult to know how expensive things are once you've 'exchanged' money but the ONE hour labour rule can help.
The UK minimum wage is about 5.50 pounds per hour, the price of fuel was 1.70 per litre, so they can buy about 3 litres for every hour they work.
In Australia the min wage is $20 and our fuel costs $1.50 (if it hits $2 we're outraged!). So we can buy over 10 litres for every hour we work.
The cost of living, fuel, electricity, gas was constantly in the news and by calculating with my dumb method I could sympathise.
Here endeth the economics lesson but sometimes it helps to know how things are for the places you visit.
Back to my trip

I'm heading South-ish from Edinburgh, wandering along where the roads take me, and sort of following the River Tyne.

Chrichton Castle is 14th century tower, now a ruin overlooking a beautiful rolling valley, and not a tourist in sight.
Sadly the castle is crumbling away and you can envisage the ravages of wind and rain over the centuries.

Historical dates that amaze me

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Glenbuck, worked for more than 200 years

The luck of finding coal, iron and limestone in the same area led to founding of the Glenbuck ironworks in 1795, and the old blast furnace footings are still visible.

The ironworks failed but the Glenbuck miners took over the site as a coal mine. It continued though, slowly declining in production and importance over the years. The site remembers those who worked in these mines right up to 2013.

The stone altar is preserving a bit of history from the old Glenbuck village church. The stone has a low relief carving of 'the burning bush' and a modern inscription explaining the history. The Latin text translates as 'Yet it was not burnt'.

Wandering around the site I also found a shrine to the footballer Bill Shanky, who was born in the village of Glenbuck, and played for Liverpool.
People have left simply hundreds of items at this memorial and it's obviously a place of pilgrimage for Liverpool supporters.

Love an old Church me

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Did I take a wrong turn?

Was funny to come around a corner and see the sign 'Welcome to Moscow' with the hostilities going on over that way I do hope it's a typo hahaha.
On to Kilmarnock for the night and got a room at a great pub, the Portland. Cheap and Cheerful with fabulous food.
Don't believe the myth about bad food in Scotland, it is tremendous.

Reason 1 for coming to Scotland - The Falkirk Wheel

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It was everything I imagined

I started to track the Union canal and found my way to the village of Falkirk and there was the wheel.
It's 20 years old now and has been a dream of mine to see it carry the canal boats from one canal to the other.
The wheel does away with the need for locks, as it moves through gravity and a big wheel that only takes the energy of about 8 kitchen kettles to cycle the heaviest boat up or down.
If you've never seen this wheel in action check out some YouTube videos and prepare to be amazed.

Reason 2 for coming to Scotland - The Kelpies

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Few things in life take your breath away - the Kelpies took mine

Even from the carpark they towered above the landscape.

Standing 30m high they were magnificant and stand proudly out of the water, allowing me to imagine the rest of them below the waterline.
Well done Scotland, this really measured up to my dreams as well.

Saint Andrews was a surprise

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I had no intention of going there but.... took a road less travelled.

I have no interest in Golf and I hadn't thought about Saint Andrews but it was a delightful surprise.
A very old walled town which has really kept it's heritage alive.

There are the remnants of the old priory in the main street and recognition of the site being used as a Madras School, something I knew nothing about. Saint Andrews born, Dr Andrew Bell, developed the Monitorial school system based on the Indian Madras system even bringing it to Australia.

Found a great pub & room, The Saint, and once again, the food was outstanding.

Olde worlde commercial centre and quite a laid back feel about the town.
I'm sure it hums with Uni students from the prestigious colleges at weekends!

Still in Saint Andrews

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More cobbled streets and narrow walkways under buildings.

The Cathedral and Castle are mostly ruins and quite fenced off as they are hazards, so not much to see of them but the main arched entrance into the old town is still there and a real focal point.

And yes, another image of the cobblestones and alleyways, I can't help myself.

I keep travelling, North-ish, I have no idea where I am

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Found an old Dovecot circa 1595 and another castle.

If you cruise along slowly and keep an eye out for small 'scottish heritage' signs you can find some fabulous things.
This dovecot was a building to house pigeons and doves! Private citizens weren't allowed to keep bird but nobility were and they built the birds nice places to live. (and presumably they then ate them.)

This building dates from 1595 and has the coat of arms of Sir David Maxwell of Tealing over the door lintel.

The pinkish castle is Glamis Castle and it really is like something out of a medieval fairytale.
It's been in the Lyon family since 14th century, but my imediate thought was, what a mowing nightmare. How crass am I hahaha

Driving on, all the while keeping a sharp eye out for Deer!

Abadeen, the Granite City

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When I say Granite, I'm not joiking.

And I don't mean small bricks I mean the building are made of large granite blocks.
The post office, churches, commercial buildings and even private houses.

Granite is the local stone, so they quarry it on the spot and have no freight costs, they just build with it everywhere.

It is such a beautiful city and I found a great BnB, the Royal Crown Guest House in Queen Street.
The owner was fantastic and allowed me to park in his car park to get the car off the street.
It was just a short walk up to the the city centre on Union Street which is called 'the Granite Mile'.

Driving in Scotland

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I avoided the highways and took back roads.

Farms are walled with stone fences, the roads are narrow with the occasional wider passing areas.

Polite drivers reverse back to the nearest passing point and everyone is so nice about it. The rule is to flash your lights to indicate you will wait, while they may come ahead. It works well and people always wave.

And once again I note that I'm alone in the wilderness without many cars so I can dawdle along and enjoy things on the side of the road.

Alford West Church and Graveyard

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Don't you just love old graveyards?

I'm not morbid nor religious but I stop at old churhes even if they're ruins and I spend hours wandering in the graveyards.

They say that prior to photography people used the gravestone to paint a picture of their beloved and I can believe it. Some of the stories engraved in stone are amazing.

In the image above there's a rather grand rectangular gravestone, which records a message around the edge. It says;
Here.lys.master.george.melvile.minister.of.alfvird.departed.thes.lyef.vpon.the.14thdayofNov (and the year is 1678)

The primitive artwork in the sheltering alcove, top right, is the Balfluig Monument, dated 1725, a memorial to Mary Forbes (the Forbes family owned Balfluig castle). It's an ornate grave marker to the vault below and shows squat figures, a skeleton and skulls.

That tree was probably planted when the Brits were colonising Australia... time stands still here.

While on Gravestones

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Care for a sing-song into eternity?

This family, the Wrights, wanted to sing each other into paradise and carved the music score into the stone along with the words to their song... "A few short years of evil past, we reach the happy shore. Where death divided friends at last, shall meet to part no more."

The castle is Fraser castle on the right was built in early 1600's as a symbol of the wealth of the Fraser family.
Everything you imagine a castle to be, round towers with spiral staircases & spyholes.

As it's early Spring the castles aren't open to the public yet and many will only open for a short window in high summer.
I don't mind as I'm more interested in architecture and the passage of time on the buildings.

Kildrummy Castle

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Wow, now this one has some history

So, built in 1200s it was the imposing powerbase of the earls of Mar.
In 1335 Robert the Bruce's sister the Lady Christian, defended Kildrummy with only 300 men, from an army of 3000 pro-English troops.
Christian held out until her husband, Sir Andrew Murray, could arrive with 800 soldiers.
David Earl of Atholl withdrew his troops but Christian and Andrew pursued and defeated him.

Further surviving record describe an extraordinary marriage from 1404 when Isobel Countess of Mar, who ruled the estate, wanted to marry Alexander Stewart (illegitimate son of the notorious noble 'Wolf of Badenoch').

First she granted her earldom to Alexander, then on the 4th December outside the castle gates, Alexander handed Isobel the keys to Kildrummy in front of the assembled clergy & nobles, formallly giving her back everything she had bestowed on him.
She, holding the keys, then publicly chose him as husband & they married on the spot.... how to marry an Earl but keep your real estate ladies!

A timeline at the site shows; 1250 work begins ordered by William, Earl of Mar. 1296 Edward 1 of England visits the castle after invading Scotland.
1306 Robert the Bruce sends his family to Kildrummy for safety. 1404 Isobel marries Alexander in front of the castle gates.
1715 John Erskine 6th Earl of Mar leads an attempt to restore the Stuarts to British throne. The rising fails and Kildrummy is abandoned.

The Highlands, snow still around, so desolate

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I had no plan and just took lefts and rights as things took my fancy

I ended up crossing through the northern part of the Cairngorms National Park. It was pretty desolate high country, deserted and windswept with snow still evident in places.

When I came to a pretty place called Grantown on Spey I decided on an early stop, with a couple of Pints and a room at the Garth Hotel.
It was so nice to just relax and enjoy the afternoon sunshine with the owner.

Goes without saying, the pub food was excellent! I seem to be saying this a lot.

Following the Spey River

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Magic scenery and about a million pheasants!

At first I took lots of photos of these amazing pheasants wandering all over the country road, then I realised they were probably vermin.

Decided to look for very old bridges and rivers and streams instead.

The rivers are fenced off quite a bit and signs say you can't fish as the river belongs to the landowners? There are a lot of hunting & fishing 'lodges' dotted along the way so they must have the rivers sewn up.
I did see one public place with signs to say it was OK and it was packed with fishermen.

An interesting difference to Australia I guess.

Duffus Castle near the Northern coast above Elgin

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Originally timber, built in 1150

Duffus was the seat of the De Moravia family (really a Flemish mercenary Freskin family who changed their name when granted the land).
They built a timber castle on a large artifical mound in 1151. The stone castle and defences were addded around 1305.

It was a mistake to build the stone tower on unstable earthworks and the north wall of the tower slid down the hill.

The site is encircled by a wet ditch and the ancient bridge still stands.

That image of the narrow space with 2 windows is one of my favourite and a real treasure from the trip.

Piggies and Picts

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Free range pigs, and unusual sight

I'd never thought about it before but being used to intense farming, seeing so many farms with low huts had me wondering... then I saw the piggies roaming free.
They seem happy, making mud puddles and pottering about.

In the grounds of Brodie Castle was the Pictish Rodney's Stone, carved about 1200 years ago.
History of the stone is obscure it could be a beacon for the community and may have maked a place of baptism, marriage or the Mass.
It is wearing away and of the inscription in Ogham (early medieval alphabet) only the word Ethernan is decipherable - maybe the 7th century saint?
The stone is carved with imaginary beasts but the meaning is unknown.
The stone was named Rodney's Stone celebrating Admiral George Rodney's victory over French in 1782 (strange! a Scottish stone named for Englishman fighting the French in the American war of independence).

It's been moved several times over the centruries even being used as a gravestone in 16th century, with letters AC and KB added.
It was returned here to the grounds of Brodie Castle in 1840.

Loch Ness

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Viaduct & Loch Ness

I love bridges and can't help stopping and taking photos. This is a railway viaduct south of Inverness.

I wended my way south and west until I hit Loch Ness at Inverfangaig.

It certainly is a grand waterscape, long and deep, the wilderness reminded me a bit of New Zealand around Milford Sound.
Being my usual antisocial self I avoided the Loch Ness gift shops and tour boat *shudder*.

I decided to just follow the water and see where it led me.... and I found one loch after another.

The roads were a bit rough and windy with little traffic, but picturesque little villages popped up every now and then.

A Bridge, A Memorial & Ben Nevis

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Bridge of Oich & a WWII memorial to Commandos

Bridge of Oich over the River Oich, is a 46metre suspension bridge, designed by James Dredge in 1854.

Continuing my southward trek I stopped at a lookout to view the mountain Ben Nevis (highest in UK).

As part of the parking area I found a statue of soldiers and realised it was the Commando memorial.
Apparently during WWII the British trained in these rugged mountains.
I need to watch some old British B&W war movies now learn more about these officers and men of the Commandos who are commemorated here.

Fort William

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In the western Scottish Highlands, following along the shores of the lochs

I followed Loch Ness, then Loch Lochy and now I'm at the top of Loch Linnhe at Fort William.

Originally built in mid 1600's to try and keep the peace in the highlands it's had a turbulent history.
It was destroyed but rebuilt, and named for British monarch William III, then it was dismantled so they could build a railway!

The town is old and quaint.

I stayed at the Muthu West End hotel, and had a lovely view out over the Loch.

On a walk about I had a pint at the Black Isle Bar, very hipster craft brewery... It tries hard but the beer was just so-so, and the staff quite young and aloof, more interested in selling goumet pizza than running a pub so I wandered off.
Found the Grog and Gruel... English Pub at its best.
Spent my time chatting to locals and hearing what they think of Australia.
You'd be amazed what they think of us... very little of it true hahaha

Castle Stalker what a sight

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You come around a corner and there, in the mist, is a castle, floating in the lake

It's Castle Stalker, which was originally a fort built in 1320 by Clan MacDougall. When the Stewarts took over the Lordship of Lorn they built the stone castle on the site around 1440s.

It sits on a the edge of Loch Linnhe on a tiny island, only accessible at low tide. The name "Stalker" comes from the Gaelic Stalcaire, meaning "hunter" or "falconer".
King James IV of Scotland (a relative of the Stewarts) visited the castle in 1620, and in a drunken bet lost the castle to Clan Campbell! *bummer*

Remember Culloden

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The battle of Culloden, Memorial Stone to the Stewarts

Ok first some history. There was a Jacobite Rising (1689-1746) wherein some Scots wanted Bonnie Prince Charlie to return to the throne of Scotland.
There was a decisive battle at Culloden 16th April 1746. Charles lost, and many who fought were buried there.

Just down the road from the site of the battle is the old Appin Parish Church which has a memorial describing how the Stewarts of Appin took part in the memorable charge of the Right Wing of the Prince's Army.
It lists each famiy name and how many died or were wounded from the Appin families who answered the call to form up a regiment to fight for the Stewart Clan.
It directs you to look below to the head stone which formerly stood over the Stewart of Appin grave at Culloden, commemorating those who fell in the battle.
You can still see the engraving on the old stone.

The old Appin Parish Church

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Ruins but so powerful

The old church was built in 1749 on the site of an earlier 1641 church and has an external staircase. Now in a state of disrepair, work crews are trying to shore up what they can to preserve these ruins.

The burial ground shows the site was used for hundreds of years but now it is the arched recess with the Clan Stewart Stone, which is of most historical value.

I found this amusing reference to an old bureaucratic exchange
"Appin Church 1776 Proposed enlargement of the Church. Letter from Duncan Campbell of Barcaldine. He objects to the proposal on the grounds that enlargement would be ostentation and all that is necessary is to keep the buildings wind and watertight."

Hmm I guess Duncan wasn't into bling hahaha.

A Castle in the Mist reminds me of Turner

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Following Loch Etive and to Loch Awe

Nestled at the top of Loch Awe is Kilchurn Castle, built in the mid-1400s, it was the base of the Campbells of Glenorchy for 150 years.
It is a ruin now but as I came around a corner I couldn't believe what was in the mist. It appears to be in the water but is actually on a rocky peninsula.
It is another castle with a story of a family torn apart in difficult times.
The Campbells owed their wealth and titles to the British but their hearts to the Scottish legends and desire for Bonnie Prince Charlie's return.
First they served the British, then went off to fight with the Jacobites and lost the lot.

I didn't know why I was so drawn to this castle, and then I read that JMW Turner (my favourite artist) came and painted the castle in the early 19th Century. I was there on a day of mists, just a Turner saw and painted it.

More Bridges

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Viaduct rail line and Lanercost Bridge

In the mist I would come across the magnificant arches where railways ran through the rugged countryside.

The Lanercost Bridge is a quaint story where 4 masons paid 493 Pounds to replace a washed away bridge in 1724.
It's a beautiful 3m wide solid masony arched bridge.

Lanercost Priory, Church of St Mary Magdalene

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Place of worship for 800 years and an old tapestry

I'm in Cumbria, England, looking for Hadrian's Wall.
The Priory was founded by Robert de Vaux in 1169 (fresh in from the Norman Conquest), and nothing says status and bling,like having your own priory. He chose the Augustinians to form the community.
It was built over a few years and stones were taken from nearby Hardian's wall. Some of the stones embedded into the priory still bear the Roman Names and numbers.

Today the priory ruins stand behind the portion of the church still in use as St Mary Magdalene.
Being so close to the border it had a turbulent history of being taken by the Scots and was ransacked several times.
Henry VIII disolved the Priory in 1538 stripping the building and roof, only leaving a small section as the Parish Church which is still in use today.
So Catholic God left and Church of England God moved in.

Behind glass is a graphic representation of all I just said above, made so the common people could understand the history of their church. The images show the Lord giving a charter to the Monks. Then soldiers storming the place, then the lord dying and then that nuisance Henry burning the place down!

Reason 3 for coming to Scotland

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Hadrian's Wall (ok, it's in England) and the Daffodils

When the Romans realised they couldn't hold what they were conquering they built some walls to say, "This is the boundry of our Roman Empire".
These were a wooden wall on the Rhine in Germany, a bit of a ditch in North Africa and then a magnificent stone wall 117km long and 4.5m high from coast to coast in Britain. That's Hadrian's Wall.

Having walked on the Great Wall of China and looked out into Mongolia, this was my next challenge to look back into the ancient past.

As I mentioned, the Priory had stripped what they wanted from this wall in the 12th century and I'm guessing any farmer who needed a new cottage took his share... the result is little bits of wall are scattered along the 117km trail.
Find a piece that you like, and enjoy.

As an aside, I got the BEST fish and chips I've ever had at a small chippie in Brampton. I kid you not, and I know my FishnChips.

York York it's a hell of a town

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I took a train Edinburgh to York

Did I mention that I love railways hahaha well the Railway station at York was just beaufiful. The detail in the metalwork, although it looks decorative I'm betting it was to reduce the weight of those arched beams. And the detail at the column tops must have given the engineer/artist of the day such joy to make and see displayed.

York is an ancient walled city full of tales of the Romans and the Vikings. The wall surrounding the old city has been well preserved for us to walk on and recall the turbulent history of the place.

The Romans built the original wall around their fort on the site, in 71AD, and they ruled from there for over three hundred years, calling it Eboracum (Roman York).

The Roman empire declined & they left York to a succession of ethnic groups and eventually popes and bishops ruled and churches were built.
By the 800's, the Anglo-Saxons renamed the area Northumbria and called York their capital.
Then along came the Vikings, beseiging York and taking the city in 867. They called it Jorvik and ruled for a hundred years.
Interesting thought; there wasn't one viking nation, they were 25,000 Irish, Frisian, Danish and Norwegian Vikings. Can you imagine controlling that force, what a nightmare for their respective leaders.

York suffered again when England decended into Civil War in 1600's. York was a Royalist city, supporting King Charles, believing the King should not have been removed.
Three armies came to disuade them of this notion and after a 4 month siege, and losing the battle of Marston Moor in 1644, York surrended after insisting the city and in particular the Cathedral wouldn't be damaged - and so the Minster of York exists today.

River City and Ancient Wall

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A city with layers of history

The river dominates the city and has done for over 2000 years with each layer built upon the last.
There is a bakery on the river bank which has been in business in the same spot for 800 years! You can imagine a boat worker stopping to buy a bun before heading out to ply their trade.

On one side of the river is Barker Tower, it was linked to Lendal Tower on the opposite side of the river by a great iron chain which stretched across the water to prevent boatmen from entering the city without paying tolls.

The Lendal water tower has its own unique history too. Used to draw water for the townsfolk since 1300 it was some enterprising fellows who took it over in 1677 with a 500 year lease, at 1 Peppercorn rent per year, to keep providing water - and it's still under the original lease today.

Taking a stroll around the old city

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Walls, archways and niches filled with history

The Cathedral dominates the landscape and I was there on a Sunday so the bells tolled for me.

I noticed it was sometimes hard to pinpoint what part of history I was looking at. Sturdy construction was never torn down, it was just bricked up, fortified or built upon.
Some of the ancient Roman wall is still evident, having been built around 100AD and added to over the centuries.
Even houses and city buildings showed the signs of this eclectic layering which I'm guessing the Brits take for granted but to an Aussie it's something special from our shared past.

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Back in London

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Train York to Kings Cross, underground to Paddingtion

I have a tale for new travellers, beware taking UK trains on the weekend! They are packed and it's difficult to get a ticket.
I never had bookings as I never knew where I'd be so I just rocked up and tried for a ticket, York to London, should have been a 2 hour trip and cost about $50 aussie dollars.
No economy tix, OK, I'll go first class.. purchased my ticket which cost $300 aussie!!! and then the pop up screen advised that this gets me into their luxury waiting room (cool)... but it does NOT provide a reserved seat and I may have to stand for the entire journey (now being 4.5 hours due to re-routing with all the railworks going on)... oh goodie.

The trick is, know approximately where the carriages will pull in, and be first to jump on and look for any seats with a green light above. The green light means 'this leg' of the journey is not booked and you may sit here. However if the patron who booked that seat gets on at a subsequent station, you must give up that seat to them.

Felt strange but I managed, and travelling light I can stow my bag anywhere and sat in green light seats and got my first class free food and drink hahaha.

The long distrance trains get you into Kings Cross so you need to get underground and find local trains.

From Paddington station it's a short walk to my hotel in Norfolk Square.
The street is a row of terraced houses and most are private hotels. Very discreet and no advertising allowed.
You better know the 'house number' you're heading for.
They are relatively cheap rooms actually and I wanted a short walk from Paddington as my base.
Right beside Paddington station is St Mary's Hospital, very old and a small blue plaque tells you that Alexander Fleming discovered penicillen right on that spot in the hospital.
Blue plaques abound in all the older cities and it pays to walk and read this stuff as you find the most amazing things.
Not earth shattering things but interesting facts about people and places. So make sure you 'walk' around London!

The Tate, Globe & St Pauls

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I'm just wandering in London

I crossed the Thames, intrigued by the old red columns still in the water. It was originally the London Chatham and Dover Railwy line and the large, ornate decoration is dated 1864.
Of course the rail line is gone now but still remembered.

Wandered on to the Tate Modern gallery for a look at some art from 1900 onwards, then off to the Globe theatre.
I crossed the Thames again, this time over the Southwark bridge and trundled my way to St Pauls and found some other Christopher Wren buildings.
It was time to head home so after a couple of nights in London it was off to Heathrow for another Covid test before I could board my flight home.
About 7 hours to Dubai, then 13 hours on to Brisbane, then a 5 hour drive home.
Stayed indoors and took a couple of RAT's over the coming week - still all clear.
Was it worth doing, Oh yes, it was another amazing trip which has filled my brain with memories.

Best Memory

My Top Three

More Travels

To New Zealand

Driving both islands in search of beer

project8 Link to NZ Beer Tour

Trip to Wales

In search of castles & galleries 2016

welsh Link to Wales travels

To the USA

Still in search of good craft beeers

proj9 Link to USA travels

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