We took the ferry back from Dublin and drove onwards to Liverpool. We had booked a place by the water literally in the car on the way there. We checked in grabbed dinner and had to go and visit the historic home of the Beatles, the Cavern Club. Situated down a little alley way and then several flights of stairs. The club had actually been closed and completely buried, then re-excavated and restored to its former glory. The famous brick arches remain, every inch of them covered in signed photos from all the bands that have played there from the Beatles to the Arctic Monkeys, and every other inch covered in signatures of patrons (keep an eye out for “Backstreet Boys” written above the bar). We grabbed a drink and soaked up the live musical guest who was playing Paul McCartney and Beatles classic; appropriate for the atmosphere.
The weather didn’t favor us in Liverpool, so while we went exploring the Harbour district a little we didn’t get to really take it in. We finished our little visit with an amazing dinner at the very popular Japanese restaurant Etsu – great sake, sushi and the chocolate pudding was amazing.
Next on the list was the lakes district – known as the home of the writer Beatrix potter (think Peter rabbit) – a bucolic area of lakes, forests and farms which are frequented by many hikers. We decided to stay slightly to the south at a little place called Grange-over-Sands. Arriving to our bed and breakfast – we found we didn’t quite fit in. After being given a room with twin beds with a bible on each and hearing the choir practicing in the common room, and seeing everyone else enjoying the lack of technology while we blogged and watched Suits, we worked out we had accidentally booked into a Christian retreat. Oh well. For dinner we went to the nearby village of Carmel, little more than a few pubs surrounding a cobblestone square. We got chatting to one of the waitresses who had never been as far as Liverpool and was shocked and very jealous of our trip – I must admit I couldn’t imagine growing up in a small town like this and never escaping.
We wanted to go on a hike to really make the most of our time in the lakes district – so we headed to the local tourist centre and had one of the guides recommend us one for beginners which makes the most of the views. She told us her favourite – Loughrigg Fell – and said if we can make it up the first hill we can make the rest. Excited, we set out for our adventure – and it wasn’t until we had already started that we noticed that there was very few people, no signs and the directions were literally “turn right at the mossy tree stump and walk past the banana shaped rock …”
We made due with the directions and successfully conquered the first very steep hill – very proud of ourselves we thought the rest would be a cake walk. What the guide had neglected to mention – we had chosen to tackle a 6.5 mile round trip hike. And then we got lost.
We took the wrong bridge across a river and ended up finding the road and following that back to town rather than the promised field.
We got an ice cream to smooth our sore legs and egos and continued our journey north to Edinburgh.
Getting into Edinburgh, we had to take advantage of the free gym at our hotel, such a novelty after all this time working out in our room. We took the bus into town and were astounded by the view getting into Edinburgh. Precariously perched on a precipice of volcanic rock in the centre of town lies Edinburgh castle – an incredible fortress and symbol of medieval strength. We walked through the park surrounding the base of the volcanic rock, enjoying the view and stopping to admire the flowers lining the hillside.
The only approach to the castle is along the “royal mile” – a single cobblestone street running from Hoolyrood House all the way to huge parade ground and dry moat preceding the castle. The castle winds up the volcanic rock like a spiral – giving 360 degree views over the city.
A guided tour runs though the turbulent history and the main attractions of the castle – the solemn war memorial, war museum, the “Mons Meg” cannon, the Scottish Crown Jewels, the dungeon cells, St Margaret’s chapel, the palace, great hall and the barracks.
Such a great experience and the highlights for us were the incredible views, architecture and learning the history of the castle. The link between past and present conflict is brought to life by the Robert Wilson photography exhibition “Helmland Return” about the final tour of British soldiers in Afghanistan.
From Edinburgh we headed south to the historic city of York – established by the Romans, conquered by the Vikings and finally retaken by the English. On the drive to our hostel, we kept encountering patches of yellow flowers through the vast farm land. Such a vibrant yellow color, we couldn’t resist pulling off to the side of the road to snap some photos. The sun was setting and was well worth the pit stop.
We checked into our hostel and on the advice of locals decided to check out a bar named the “House of Trembling Madness.” A little apprehensive, we walked into town to check it out – with exposed wooden beams and bar, animal heads all over the walls and hearty meals the bar gives off a very authentic medieval feel.
The next day we walked into the town, on what was finally a bright and sunny morning in the UK. Treating ourselves to a brunch we indulged in sweet pancakes and coffee overlooking the river. After breakfast we were keen to learn more of the history of the town we decided to check out the Viking museum. I have to say – not one for adults. While they have tried to make it engaging and interesting (even to the point of recreating the smells) the “ride” through the village is geared more towards kids.
For the afternoon we walked along the city walls surrounding York Minster and checked out the narrow cobblestone streets and “the shambles” – where the houses of each side lean out and almost touch!
Our UK journey was almost over, hard to believe it! We drove back to Gatwick to drop off our car and take the train back to London. For my last two days I was lucky enough to schedule two shoots with London photographers – love working the with creatives from all over the world.
Very excited to start our next adventure in Europe, we boarded the Eurostar and descended beneath the Channel.
Next stop: Paris