Leaving York this morning, I had a really nice talk with Al, one of the folks who runs the guesthouse where I was staying. He asked what it was that I liked about York. I thought for a bit, then said, “London is awesome. It has everything. But it’s kind of overwhelming – you know you’re never going to be able to see and do it all. Oxford is fantastic, full of cool history and architecture, but it’s all kind of one flavour – University. York has a little bit of everything, including stuff you can’t get anywhere else, but it’s a manageable size.” He liked that, and it kind of sums up how much I like York1.
It was shortly after 9:00 that I caught the train in York up to Edinburgh. It was a nice ride, past some lovely scenery2, especially after Newcastle, where the rails start to follow the coastline. I missed spotting Lindesfarne, which I was told to look for, but saw lots of other very cool stuff.
Also at Newcastle, a group of young people3 got on, heading to Edinburgh to celebrate a birthday by hitting some bars and music shows. One of them wound up sitting across from me, and was a very entertaining conversationalist, mainly talking about the difference between Canada and the US.
I had to race a bit at Edinburgh to catch the Glasgow train, but I managed to catch some glimpses of the city as the trains entered and left the station. It got me all excited for going back there on Monday.
By the time I got to Glasgow, it had cooled off a fair bit from the very nice morning weather, and had started to rain. While the Glasgow Station is very nice, it doesn’t offer enough amusement to fill the three hour wait I had there. But finally, I got on the three-hour, whistle-stop train to Oban.
The ride to Oban reminded me of my tour of Connemara in Ireland. Rugged hills, hidden lakes and inlets, very dramatic scenery. We stopped about every 15 minutes throughout the three-hour trip. On the bright side, I had been wondering if I should have bothered to bring the external battery to charge up my phone – today’s trip showed that it was, indeed, worthwhile.
The walk to the Old Manse guesthouse was up some very steep hills. I was met partway by Simon, one of the owners, who told me that there was a less lethal way to get to the place, and I will be very glad of that tomorrow.
I kind of missed the food options by getting to Oban late – most non-pubs were closed, and the open ones, I am told, stop serving food at 9:00. I debated running out for something to eat, but decided I am more tired than hungry, and am making do with one of my emergency Clif bars for dinner.
The breakfast menu for tomorrow looks great, though.
This morning, I had nothing planned, but I hadn’t done a post last night. So, I made my way into the city centre, found a Starbucks, and sorted my pictures and wrote a post for the blog. Then, I went for a wander to see some last bits of the city and get some final pictures, because I’m off to Oban tomorrow, fairly early.
I headed back to York Minster for a little while, then. Some of my pictures hadn’t turned out, so I wanted to retake them, and my ticket is good for a year, so I figured why not. There was a guided tour starting as I came in, but I was planning on catching a movie in about an hour, so I didn’t join it.
I walked down to a movie theatre, then, and saw Mad Max: Fury Road. I liked it a fair bit – it reminded me of how much I enjoy the other three. So, I’m going to have to rewatch those.
That was mainly because I had a few hours to kill before seeing King Lear tonight. I showed up at the Theatre Royal, where I thought the show was, only to be told it was actually at York University. The very helpful lady gave me directions to get there, involving walking back to the train station and catching a couple of buses, then crossing the York University campus. “You should just make it, if you hurry,” she told me.
I went back out to the street, and it started raining on my. At which point, I gave up and went back to the guesthouse.
Tomorrow, I leave York. I’ve had a great time here – I really like the city. London was overwhelming, and Oxford, though very cool, was kind of all one thing. York is small enough that I was able to see most of it, and varied enough that there was a lot to see.
So, I’m on the train early tomorrow, for a long ride. First to Edinburgh, then to Glasgo, and finally to Oban. There may not be many – or any – pictures, as I spend the day on the train.
Yesterday was a long day. I didn’t have anything booked until 1:00, so I decided to spend the morning seeing York Minster and walking the walls of the city.
After seeing the Minster, I climbed up the stairs at Bootham Bar1, and decided to walk that section of wall.
This gate also holds the Richard III museum, but I didn’t have time to head in there before my tour out to Castle Howard. I’m hoping to get back there today.
Castle Howard is the seat of the Earls of Carlisle, and they’ve lived there for over 300 years. It’s a wonderful example of a stately country home of the aristocracy.
We got back to York around 5:30, and wandered my way down to the King’s Arms2, had some dinner3, and caught my Original Ghost Walk at 8:00.
There are four or five ghost walks in York. The one I took was highly recommended on Tripadvisor, and by the folks at my guesthouse. I can see why. Good stories, a lot of ground covered, and the guide was wonderful, keeping conversation going between the stories, so that everyone had a good time the entire tour. Absolutely fantastic.
It was about 10:30 by the time I made it home, and went to bed. I’m still kind of tired today, so I’ve spent the morning in Starbucks sorting my pictures and writing this post.
This afternoon, I’m thinking about going to see Mad Max: Fury Road.
If I can find the theatre again.
In York, they have a saying that I have heard repeatedly from all the guides and several others. “The streets are gates, the gates are bars, and the bars are pubs.” This means that most streets are Somethinggate, like Gillygate or Monksgate, because gate is a corruption of the old Danish word for street. The gates are called bars, from the same root as barbican. And, of course, the drinking places are pubs. [↩]
I was feeling quite smug and self-congratulatory at how easily I was navigating the twisty streets of York. Then I realized that I had passed Betty’s Tea Room three times in the past fifteen minutes. I withdrew the self-congratulations. [↩]
At a restaurant next door – the King’s Arms doesn’t serve food. [↩]
Gorgeous morning today. Bright, clear, warm, just enough of a breeze on the top deck of the sightseeing bus to keep you cool and alert. The tour was good, and I got off about half-way through at Clifford’s Tower.
There were a couple wooden castles that stood on this spot. One was the site of a rather horrific episode in 1190, when about 150 Jews, pursued by mobs all het-up with antisemitism and Crusade fever, sought refuge. The Jewish population pushed their way into the castle, locking out the royal constable, and set about holding off the maddened, rioting mobs. They were offered their lives if they would be baptized, and promised death if they refused. In the end, they set fire to the castle, choosing to immolate themselves rather than renounce their faith and accept the dubious guarantees of the Christians.
Not something York is very proud of.
Clifford’s Tower is right next to the York Castle Museum. The rest of York Castle is long gone, and the remaining buildings are a former women’s prison and a former debtor’s prison. It’s a pretty great museum.
The other wing of the museum, which was once a debtor’s prison, featured an in-depth look at the impact of WWI on the UK, and York in particular.
After I finished up there, I went to find Jorvik, a special museum dedicated to showing off the Viking finds on the site in the 70s and 80s. Very cool stuff. A lot of it was in the form of a little car ride through a rebuilt Viking village full of animatronics1, but there was a lot of interest there, too.
At this point, I went and got back on the sightseeing bus, planning to go see the Richard III museum. Unfortunately, I missed the stop, and the day had clouded over and gotten chilly. So, I rode the bus around to the start of the tour, and got off to find some lunch.
I wandered down through the twisty, turny, medievally part of the city near the Minster, and found a neat pub called Ye Olde Starre Inne2. Now, the thing that caught my eye about the place was that it didn’t have any street fronting. The Starre Inne, like the House of Trembling Madness and a few other places I saw, had been cut off from the street by new buildings, so they made their own arrangements. The House of Trembling Madness had its entry through another store, while the Starre Inne had a large sign across the entire width of Stonegate Street3 and a little alley that led to the Inne’s gardens.
After that, I just wandered the streets for a while, trying to decide if I was going to call it a day or if I would try to squeeze in a visit to York Minster today. I made my way over to the Minster, and saw that it was going to close in half an hour, so I decided to save it for tomorrow morning.
So, that, and maybe a walk on the city walls, is slated for tomorrow morning. Tomorrow afternoon, I’ve booked a trip out to Castle Howard. That should be cool.
Not a lot of pictures today. I spent about six hours checking out of the Oxford hotel, walking to the train station, waiting for a train, traveling to York, and walking to my guesthouse. Not a difficult day, but traveling definitely cuts into sightseeing time.
I also got away from Oxford about an hour later than I had planned – my computer stopped working, and it took me a while this morning to sort that out. I wanted to have the computer working so that I could watch a movie1 the four-hour train trip.
After I got settled into my guesthouse, I went for a bit of a walk to a pub I had read about in the guesthouse. And I took a couple of pictures.
The pub I was looking for was called The House of Trembling Madness. Trembling madness is a reference to delirium tremens, the DTs. It’s through a Bottle Shop2, and up a narrow, twisty flight of stairs.
And now, I’m back in my room, and going to read for the rest of the evening. Tomorrow, a sightseeing bus tour.
I watched Taken 3. It was so full of dumb, I can’t even begin to describe it. Even more than the first two. [↩]
Things have been kind of quiet here as I’ve slowly been booking stuff for my trip. Now that I’ve got a significant portion of it fleshed out, I’ve updated the itinerary page, and am writing this post so the few people who follow the blog1 can see where things stand.
Now, on the trip, London and Edinburgh were pretty much no-brainers. I wanted to start with London2, and finish up with Edinburgh, winding my way north over the three weeks of my trip. I had originally intended to take in some stuff in Cornwall, but the research I did showed me that it would be pretty time-consuming and expensive, taking me well out of the way, and leaving me less time for a lot of other things.
Side note: the UK is significantly more expensive than Ireland. Like, 50-100% more expensive, at least for accommodations. I thought things would get cheaper outside of London, but that did not turn out to be the case. I’m paying for as much of the accommodations and tours as I can before the trip, so that I don’t need to worry about that part of the trip ON the trip. It’ll give me time to pay off the expense before the actual trip.
Anyway, the days between London and Edinburgh. I kind of wanted to see Oxford – it’s full of neat history3, amazing architecture, and is centrally located so that I can take a couple of day trips to interesting places like Bletchley Park and Stratford-upon-Avon. Maybe even Blenheim Palace.
A little more research convinced me that the next stage of the journey should be York. Again, a lot of very cool history and architecture4. I don’t have a lot of solid ideas of what I want to see there, yet – I need to do some more research. But I’m convinced that a few days there will be well-spent.
Now, the next stop is a little more problematic. I really want to see Fingal’s Cave, which is off the west coast of Scotland. It’s off the beaten path, and it’ll take me pretty much a whole day to get from York to Oban5. Then, the actual boat tour may not land on Staffa6 if the weather is not co-operative. So, I may be taking two days to go out of my way to see something that I may not, in fact, get to see. Sounds a little like my abortive attempt to see the Skelligs, doesn’t it?
But I really want to try and see Fingal’s Cave, and I’ve got a couple of days to spend. I figure it’s worth a try.
And from Oban, it looks like another full day of travel to bring me to Edinburgh. And from Edinburgh7, I take the train down to spend my last night in a hotel near Heathrow before flying home the next day.
I’ve booked a few tours, etc. already. Here’s what’s officially on the books:
I’m staying in Whitechapel while in London, so of course I need to take a Jack the Ripper tour. I’ve found one that looks pretty good and booked it.
I also booked a tour that takes me to Stonehenge, Bath, and Lacock. It’s a bit of a pricey tour, because it gets me8 a private viewing of Stonehenge at sunrise. Inside the inner ring of stones. I’m sure Bath and Lacock are cool and all, but INSIDE STONEHENGE!
I found that one of my favourite performers, Derren Brown, has a new show that will be playing in Edinburgh while I’m there. The morning the tickets went on sale, I went online and snagged on in the front centre of the stalls. I’m very excited about this!
There are a number of other things I want to see and do, but haven’t finalized yet9:
Avebury. There’s a massive stone circle and a long tomb there. It looks easy enough to get there from London on the train and bus. I should be able to pair it with the next item for a full day trip.
Salisbury. Lots of cool history here, including Salisbury Cathedral with it’s Magna Carta.
Shakespeare’s Globe. If they’ve got a Shakespearean production on, I pretty much need to get a ticket.
Bletchley Park. WWII codebreaking museum! Looks to be an easy day trip out from Oxford. And very, very cool to see.
Stratford-upon-Avon. This is all about the Shakespeare, of course. Another easy day trip from Oxford. Maybe I can even combine it with Bletchley Park into one full day.
Rosslyn Chapel. Okay. I’m gonna go all conspiracy hipster. I thought Rosslyn Chapel was weird and interesting long before Dan Brown got his mucky fingerprints all over it and Da Vinci Coded it up. So, I’m gonna take the bus out from Edinburgh to see it. Maybe I can even find a tour that will take in the chapel and some other interesting sites in Scotland.
The Highlands. I think it’ll be fun to take a bus tour for the day through the Scottish Highlands. Why wouldn’t I? If it stops at Loch Ness, bonus!
So. Many. CASTLES! They’re everywhere! And I wanna see them all.
Ghost tours. No, I’m not credulous enough to think I’m going to see a ghost10, but you get such cool stories and hidden history on the tours!
There’s probably other stuff. I’ve got more than six months to keep planning and researching. It’ll flesh out.