Reflecting back, I’m continually amazed we managed to fit in so much travelling and sightseeing with Barry’s elder brother Ray in just over three weeks. This post only covers five days as we head up to Scotland via the east of the country, and back down the west.
From Worcester, where we left the last post, we headed northwards on the idyllic Droitwich Canal. Once again, Ray worked the locks alone as I beavered away inside building a Google Ads account. We moored in the secure basin in the town, hoping to find a way to stay for five days. Sadly they’re only 48 hour moorings, and a call to CRT confirmed no leeway on this apart from emergencies. We were so grateful to CRT for supporting us remaining at Tarleton for a week or so, after mum died unexpectedly in May, so knew it was possible in such cases. We didn’t wish to blot our copybook by overstaying ‘illegally’.
As I’ve said previously, Ray had a number of ‘bucket list’ experiences he hoped to achieve whilst in the northern hemisphere, and we wanted to do all we could to make them happen. However, having not traded at any festivals in 2018 thus far (early August), we’d been surviving on savings and the small income I was building up from Ad-Extra. We’d also left the boat for five days a few times already for various excursions, and our batteries were complaining loudly! I hear some of you saying “Get some Solar Panels“, and we heartily agree. It’s just that we don’t have the spare cash to invest in them just now.
Being mindful of all of this, we decided only one of us would accompany Ray on his journey around the country. Actually, Barry decided at the last minute – which to be honest was a little disconcerting for me. I’d hoped the two blokes would go on the road trip together. Then I could’ve had a few days of chilling alone on the boat (a rare occurrence for me, unlike Barry who regularly gets this luxury!). But when Barry investigated hiring a car, he discovered he wouldn’t be insured on his NZ license. Having lived in UK for five and a half years, he needed to have applied for a UK licence after 12 months. Now I don’t like to say “I told you so”, but I really did! Many times. This time he believed me – and has even got the application form now. Better late than never aye?
An added advantage of Barry staying on board Areandare, was that he can solo-cruise, whereas I’m too scared to! I’m in awe and avid admiration of women who live alone of their boats, moving around the cut seemingly fearlessly. Barry was able to move the boat from Droitwich to Birmingham, doing an astounding 50 locks, while we went on our jolly around England and Scotland.
Listening in to Space
Our route initially took us in a northeasterly direction, with the first stop on Wednesday 8th August at Jodrell Bank. I knew little about this attraction. Ray sounded like an authority on the subject, and in his element. If you don’t know what it is either – it’s basically a massive telescope (the Lovell Telescope), pointing into space, picking up sound waves. Consequently there’s a radius around the area with a ban on mobile phones or anything similar switched on. In actual fact, I found it rather interesting. I’m a bit of a star gazer. So the experience sparked an interest in me.
I also realised when we were there, that my eldest daughter, Lisa had been here for the BlueDot festival just a couple of weeks before, when I had Leon for the weekend. What a small world it is.
Beatrix Potter Country
Next on the route was the Lake District. On a friend’s recommendation, I’d booked overnight accommodation for us at a YHA on the shore of Windermere. I desperately want to say ‘Lake’ Windermere, but Ray rightly corrected me. It’s a mere, not a lake. A mere I’ve discovered, is generally described as a lake that is fairly shallow compared to its relative size.
The building and location was superb; staggering to believe it’s a ‘Youth Hostel’. To be fair the YHA have come a long way since they initially began in 1929, when my dad was nine years old. I know both my parents frequented such hostelries in their youth, especially those in the Lakes and Yorkshire. As children they took us too. So I have many fond memories. One was at Carbisdale Castle in Invershin in the Scottish Highlands, when I was almost 13 years old. It remained a YHA until 2011, when it was sold privately.
“YHA is a child of the Great Depression. The welfare of Britain’s growing urban population was a serious concern in the early 20th century. YHA’s offer of affordable accommodation was an antidote to the poor air quality, cramped housing and harsh conditions of inner city life. It gave young working people an unprecedented opportunity to spend leisure time in fresh air and open countryside, on a scale only previously possible for the wealthy.” https://www.yha.org.uk/about-yha/history
Sadly we had only one night in this spectacular part of the country. We’d stayed nearby in March 2013, when we first arrived back, for mum’s 80th. It was beautiful in a different way then, as the ground was blanketed in snow. Barry, of course, took some stunning shots …
Two stops en route to Oban
We chose to take a slightly longer route northwards, on Thursday, to relish a little more of the scenery. A stop in Keswick for coffee, and our monthly Ad-Extra team Skype call in the car park! It would’ve been unimaginable not so long ago to be able to have a business meeting wherever you may be at the time.
Then a longer drive up to Paisley, to the new home of Margaret and Graham. These gorgeous people are blog readers, who visit us at Huddlesford when we’re trading there. I’d chatted a number of times via email to Graham, as we planned Ray’s itinerary, and he provided an abundance of helpful advice for our short foray into the Highlands.
Graham shared invaluable advice about routes to take to our next port of call, Oban, as well as most scenic ways eastwards a couple of days later. Oh, and Margaret made a delicious lunch for the not yet weary travellers. Thank you so much both, it was a very special couple of hours that I shall treasure, and I know Ray was enormously grateful for your wealth and breadth of knowledge.
The drive from Paisley to Oban was breathtaking. Graham had advised a route which cut out much of the heavy holidaymaker traffic, and we were both mesmerised. The photos, especially those from the car (!), certainly don’t do it justice.
And then there was Oban. Oh. My. Goodness. What an incredibly beautiful place.
Once again there was sparse time to do justice to the magnificence of this seaside settlement. Having booked accommodation very late in the day, we were extremely fortunate to get anywhere. Scotland was heaving with visitors. The place I chose was ‘Backpackers Plus in the old Church‘. Amazing! Although Ray and I were in shared dormitories, as that was all that was left, we loved the ambience of the lounge area. And for £24 per person per night, it included a buffet breakfast. Cereal and toast, nothing outrageous, but more than enough. There was an array of spices to share in the kitchen, and, similar to YHA Windermere, there was a wide age-range of guests, so no matter how old you could feel ‘at ease’ here.
Ray’s main reason for visiting Oban was their distillery. Sadly I never took a photo of the building as it’s not likely to ever feature in a bucket list of mine! Neither Barry nor I like whisky. However the distillery it seems is the reason there’s a town here at all. Two brothers began distilling here in 1794, not long after Captain Cook landed in Gisborne, New Zealand (1769 to be accurate). If you’re keen to know more, go to the website (https://www.malts.com/en-row/single-malt-whisky-history/oban/) and fill your boots as Barry would say!
The Friday of our break was the only day I didn’t drive. In the five days we were off the boat, we traversed an incredible distance of 1,200 miles. Blimey. A bit of a whistle stop sightseeing tour!
North, east, and south
The following day, having relished fish and chips AND haggis by the sea, we chose a circuitous route north through Glencoe (apparently with volcanic origins) and the Highlands, and some of the most spectacular scenery imaginable. It was a tragedy that there was hardly any chance of stopping anywhere to gaze in wonderment, or take photos, as everywhere was packed with cars and people also enjoying the views. I intend to return here with time to leisurely sit and embrace the beauty.
Ray wanted to visit another distillery, recommended by Graham – Glengoyne Distillery near Killearn, north of Glasgow. No photos once again! It’s not difficult to tell who was more interested in all things whisky …
Our aim for the day, including the stops, was to make it as far as Whitley Bay near Sunderland, as we’d booked overnight accommodation there. We’d attempted to book somewhere closer to no avail. Scotland was full.
After a while I spotted a sign for Falkirk. Knowing what wonders lay in this place, there was no way I could drive past without giving Ray the opportunity to see two of the wonders of the waterways. So we did. Only a slight detour off the route. Once we’d seen the Falkirk Wheel in action, nestled equidistant 23 miles from Edinburgh and Glasgow, it was a just short jaunt to the Kelpies.
Barry and I had been here in July 2017, when our friend Sandra Willis hired three narrowboats for a six-day cruise. Sadly, due to a number of challenges around that time, we never did write a blog post or publish any of Barry’s fabulous photos. Mine pale into insignificance …
Such a shame the sky was so grey when we visited.
However. I’ve found a few of Barry’s photos with a blue sky from July 2017. Rather a dramatic difference I think you’d agree?!
Next stop Whitby
We finally arrived in Whitley Bay after 8pm on Saturday 11th August. My parents had grown up hereabouts, and it’s always nostalgic for me to return. Not that we saw much of the area apart from a walk along the seafront and an Indian meal.
The following morning we rose fairly early and headed off, stopping for breakfast on the way. Our mission was Whitby, another connection to Gisborne, as Captain Cook sailed from here on his voyage to New Zealand. In recognition of all his accomplishments, there’s a Captain Cook Museum in the town.
I wasn’t prepared for the brilliance of this place either. It too was teeming with tourists enjoying the sights and smells of the quaint seaside town.
Anyone from the southern hemisphere would find this Cook tribute of interest. The letter below shares James’s first impressions of the country in the late 18th century …
Another thing Whitby is famous for of course is its seafood – I treated myself to some crayfish tails. Tiny in comparison to those I got used to in Gisborne, but tasty nonetheless.
There’s some spectacular views of Whitby following a walk of 198 steps to the Abbey, and another YHA adjacent to it! A place to stay in future maybe?
Last but not least a quick peak at York
I still can’t quite comprehend how we squeezed so much into such a short space of time. After a full day by the sea we drove across the Yorkshire moors (another feast for the eye!) and down to York. We’d booked a rather plusher hotel for the final night of the trip, a short drive out of the city.
On the Monday we took the park and ride bus for more of an explore and a walk of some of the wall still surrounding much of the city.
Barry and I had been here in 2009, on our inaugural live-aboard six-month journey in the north of the system.
The astute among you will spot a famous face in the stone – one I’d noticed in 2009 that Barry had photographed and turned into an unusual picture. I was ecstatic to find it again. Am I the only person to see this resemblance? I’m not sure who ‘owns’ Barry’s framed photo design now, it was one of the ones we sold at auction before leaving in 2013. If anyone reading knows please comment – it’d be amazing to get a photo of the face in the wall on someone’s wall!
On the way back to Barry and the boat, we took another turn and welcomed the chance to see Helen and Gav again in Guiesley, near Leeds. They’re following our footsteps a little returning to England after living for a number of years in Gisborne, and doing their best to step off the hamster wheel that most people find themselves stuck on until ‘retirement’. We shared our Calendar Club experiences with them, that the Leeds store was looking for Operators, and they’ve applied and been accepted. We know they’ll be outstanding Operators and sell oodles of calendars, diaries, mugs and anything else that’s sent their way. Good luck guys!
We got back on board Areandare and Barry the evening of Monday 13th August, across the road from the Arena Birmingham (I do find it strange they’ve chosen to call it that rather than Birmingham Arena?).
You’d think that’d be the end of travelling around with Ray now? Well almost. But not quite …