23 Apr Update #2: Across The United Kingdom
Sounds of laughter, shades of life are ringing through my open ears
Inciting and inviting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns
It calls me on and on, across the universe
–Across the Universe by The Beatles
I initially chose to quote this (obligatory Beatles) verse above due to its whimsical and gorgeous metaphor to our trip and quickly realized while trying to figure out how to start this post that perhaps the better line would have been, “Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box; They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe.”
I’ve been so wrapped up in our day-to-day that I’ve lost a fair amount of motivation with my blog, and for that, I apologize. However, in this vast emptiness of a page before me I will endeavor to share a few of my humble meandering thoughts about our travels since my last update:
We traveled across in the United Kingdom (and Ireland) for 65 days between January to April, covering over 4900 miles while exploring much of Wales, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Fortunately, this pace and breadth of travel gave us a great opportunity to experience and perceive the differences between each of these countries’ accents, landscapes, cultures, and histories. Overall, it has been a fascinating journey and unbelievably beautiful.
We stayed mostly warm and dry, which feels much like an accomplishment in its own right… The weather hovered around freezing every day, and although we only experienced light snowfall a time or two (despite seeing it clinging majestically to the rocks atop each mountain peak), it rained almost every day off and on. This got our spirits down on some days, but I think it also made some of our pictures more interesting and provided some wild stories, too (I’ve coined, “The more fierce the gale, the more stinging the rain, and the more violent the waves, the mightier the smile). Needless-to-say, we dream of the time we’ll spend basking in the sun on Mediterranean more and more frequently these days…
Our journey through Wales was perhaps the most unexpectedly awesome part of our trip thus far. As I wrote about here, I had an incredible experience that really set the tone for the rest of our time in Wales. From there, we drove north where we ended up in Aberystwyth for one of the wildest nights we’ve seen. Perhaps due to the somewhat incredibly unplugged nature of our trip, we had not heard the news of “Storm Imogen” bearing down on the U.K., and proceeded to park for the night at a harbor in this beachside town. That night the winds finally made landfall and La Tortue Blanche took the brunt of the 100-mph winds broadside all night long. Oops… We quickly turned and drove inland towards Snowdonia National Park. That was an awesome decision. Snowdonia was a land of wild landscapes, unlike anything we’ve ever seen. The rocks and trees were so rugged and untamed, and we found ourselves amazed at the beauty and complete solitude we enjoyed on nearly every hike through this land. After Snowdonia, we ventured to Penrhyn Castle, as we learned from Jaimie’s mom that their ancestors lived there. They denied our request for ownership by familial inheritance but did give us free admission to the garden and grounds, which we deemed reasonably sufficient.
Next was the obligatory stop in Liverpool to visit the childhood homes of The Beatles. Alas, we found that parking lot we intended to park in for the night is frequented by kids who like to smash windows and steal things, and thus, we skipped on out of that seedy city towards the Lake District. Much like Snowdonia, we climbed mountains, ran across fields, marveled at waterfalls, and basked in the beauty. It is easy to see why these places pop up in all the Jane Austen books as places of vacations and retreats.
The majority of our time, however, was spent in Scotland. This was a country we’ve both dreamed about for this trip, and while Jaimie had visited as a kid, this was my first visit. I can say that we were blown away by this place! We initially explored Edinburgh for a few days while camping along the rugged coast near North Berwick, which was such a wonderful week! We visited the childhood home of a dear friend, Hilda, who lived there during WWII and met up with an old friend from New Zealand, Phil. It was good to have some connections to friends after so much solitude! Even better, we were invited to spend a few days with Hilda’s cousins on a farm in Scotland. We spent a week with Jenn and Jonathan on their working Scottish farm, where we witnessed calf birthing season and enjoyed an afternoon whiskey tasting with a former national rugby star friend of theirs (we don’t remember much else from that afternoon…). Following this, we searched for Nessie on Loch Ness, took a stunning drive through the Scottish Highlands (evidenced here), and spent a week on the Isle of Skye. This was an incredible leg of our journey. We visited the Old Man of Storrs, the Quiring, Kilt Rock, and the Fairy Pools. If you ever get a chance to visit, we cannot recommend it enough! There is something so mysterious and otherworldly about this isle that really takes your breath away.
Following the Isle of Skye, we took a ferry across to Northern Ireland. We knew we’d only have a couple days here, so we made it count. We drove along the northern coast, which has been compared to the drive along the Carmel Coast of California toward Big Sur, which we now see why. All along the coastline road is amazing cliffs, villages, and attractions. We spent time crossing the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, walking beneath the Dark Hedges, and paid a couple visits to Giant’s Causeway, a natural formation of basalt columns at the edge of the sea. The natural beauty of this place completely caught us by surprise, and was a major highlight of the trip. We then went south to Belfast, where we spent the night and explored the Titanic museum. Little did we know, but the Titanic was built in Belfast, and they have built an incredible monument and museum here. We spent a day touring the museum and loved it! Highly recommended to anyone visiting the area. After driving past many of the peace walls in Belfast, we booked it south to Dublin and the Republic of Ireland!
Missing human interaction, we found a meetup at a Dublin pub through Couchsurfing.com and showed up. It wasn’t really our scene, but we had some great Guinness and enjoyed the live traditional Irish music. We also met an Irish guy that gave us a “must-visit” list of places across Ireland — the cliffs of Moher, the Ring of Kerry, the Rock of Cashel, and the Wicklow Mountains. So off we set, checking off each. We have to admit, the Cliffs of Moher were the most impressive of places we visited in Ireland and found the rest a bit subpar to its neighbors of Scotland and Northern Ireland, but did enjoy the main reason we visited Ireland the week that we did: St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin. UNREAL! There was such a spirit of joy and happiness filling the city, and we LOVED our time celebrating a patron saint in the St. Patrick’s cathedral for a special service that evening.
After leaving Ireland, we spent Easter in Oxford, saw a Shakespeare show at the Globe in London, and then headed for France.
Overall, we loved Wales and Scotland, liked Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and were lukewarm towards England. However, we are SO glad we saw so much of this small piece of our beautiful Earth. We learned so much about the history of each region and loved meeting people in each country that really gave us a feel for the place. We have a ton more stories from each place and can’t wait to share them in more detail. This is one of those cases where the experience may take some time to sink in and we hope to share it in another format later after we can process a bit more.
We’ve spent the past three weeks since the U.K in France… Can’t wait to share more soon! Thanks for following along, everyone. Sorry for the inconsistent writings! Onward…