Great Britain 2009
September 13th - October 3rd It is difficult to put into words the enormity of this trip. I went with my brother
Dave (another history buff) and for a person who loves Medieval history and English history, I can't imagine a
better place to be. We spent 12 days in London, 2 days in Cardiff, 4 days in York (1 day was a road trip) and 4
days in Edinburgh. Below is the itinerary by day. I copied the pictures to another page.
Click here to see the pics ==>
First day in London. Took the train and the tube into the Kensington area for our hotel - Base2Stay.
We left right after checking to Victorian Station. From there we took the hop-on, hop-off tour of London
run by The Original Tour company. Great way to start the trip and see London. We took the red and
The Magic of London Tour. The tour included a private tour of the Tower of London with a Yeoman
Warder, a visit to the crown jewels, view the changing of the guards at Buckingham, a Thames River
cruise, lunch at a traditional English pub, a tour of St. Paul's cathedral, and tea at Harrod's department
store. My opinion - best part was the Tower of London, but not enough time.
Essential London Morning Tour. The tour was not what was advertised when we signed up. It was
supposed to include a visit to Westminster Abbey, instead we drove by Royal Albert Hall, drove by
Westminster Abbey, stopped for the changing of the guards - instead we saw the Royal Horseguards.
Dave and I dropped out of the tour - it was wasting our time. Instead we walked back to St. Paul's.
With the extra time we went up to the whispering gallery, then walked up 376 steps to the Stone Gallery
and another 528 steps to the Golden Gallery, took pictures from the dome, and then walked all the way
to the crypt (Nelson and Wellington). We then walked in the pouring rain to Temple Church - Temple
Square was awesome but I couldn't take pictures because it was raining really heavy (and my pants
were falling down). Next was London Eye which was not so great in the pouring rain. Ended the day
with the tour of Parliament. My opinion - loved Parliament (I want to be a Lord not a Common) and the
Temple Church was a find - I want to go back and take pictures and see if I can find William Marshall
- September 16th - Wednesday
All day tour from Victoria Coach Station - Warwick Castle, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Oxford. For a War
of the Roses fan - Warwick Castle was amazing, although the Kingmaker exhibit was just OK.
Stratford-upon-Avon was a beautiful little town and the birthplace of William Shakespeare was great.
Oxford was amazing. The drive through the Cotswold was interesting - we passed Blenheim Palace -
I have to try to get there one of these days
- September 17th - Thursday
Non- tour day, but I had tickets to Buckingham Palace, the Royal Mews, and the Queen's Gallery. The
gallery was mostly china and tea cups. The mews had all of the coaches included the Golden coach
used for coronations. Buckingham palace was really big. We saw the throne room and some of the
rooms not open to the public except during summer holiday. We left and walked The Mall to Trafalgar
Square, After lunch (at the Sherlock Holmes pub) we went to St. Martin in the Fields and the National
Gallery. They had a couple unfinished Michelangelo drawings. I can hardly wait to take a trip to the
Non- tour day. We started by visiting Westminster Abbey. We decided to take the Verger Guided Tour
which I highly recommend - because 1) we could sit in the choir and 2) we could see the Shrine of
Edward the Confessor which is where all the most of the tombs are (Edward I. Edward II -
Longshanks, Edward III, Richard II, and Henry V) and the coronation chair. The rest of the abbey
included the Lady's Chapel (Henry VII and Elizabeth of York), Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Mary, Queen
Mary of Scots, etc. I would love to see it as a Benedictine monastery. Next we went to Whitehall, which
was basically one room with paintings by Reubens. Then back to the Tower of London. With more
time we got to see all of the towers and walked the walls. Then we walked to Royal Albert Hall for
dinner and the Michael Ball concert. It was cool to be inside Royal Albert Hall having seen it on PBS
- September 19th - Saturday
Day tour to Leeds Castle, Dover, Canterbury, and Greenwich. Best tour in London! Steve Evans was
the best tour guide we had in London as well. Started at Leeds Castle prior to opening. The castle is
set in a man made lake. The castle is in good shape, it was last owned by an American widow who in
tour gave it in trust to the country. The grounds were beautiful - we walked around the lake and they
were starting a Medieval jousting tournament. Dover was nice but since it was overcast we couldn't
see France. Because we missed this Steve made an extra stop so we could walk on the beach and
see the cliffs even better. Next was Canterbury - site of St. Thomas Beckett's murder and also the
resting place of Black Prince Edward. Because of services we could take pictures and walk through
part of the cathedral. Next we drove to Greenwich and again Steve gave an extra treat - we walked
through the town, stood on the Prime Meridian, and then took a boat from Greenwich back to London.
As a said - the best tour and guide we had for the London trips!
Non-tour day. We took a Thames Riverboat from Westminster Peer to Hampton court. The trip took
over three hours and we got to run through 3 locks. It was a great way to spend a Sunday morning
and we passed beautiful scenery - Kew Palace and gardens and Richmond. The park in Richmond
looked beautiful. I need to make a trip there one day. Arrived in Hampton Court, I have to say it wasn't
what I expected. It was less Tudor and more William & Mary. The palace is huge and the grounds
were nice. The maze wasn't as good as I expected. I thought the one at Leeds Castle was better
Day tour to Bath, Salisbury, and Stonehenge. If Saturday was the best tour, this was the worst tour.
We didn't have any time at all in Bath. All we did was tour the Roman Bath and we barely had enough
time for that. I would have loved to walk in the city and site see - see Jane Austen's residence.
Salisbury has the tallest spire in Great Britain, but after Canterbury and Westminster it was a let down.
Stonehenge was exactly what you expect. I would have rather had more time in Bath - which I guess
means I'd have been better off taking a bus / train to Bath and looking about myself.
Non tour day but I had tickets to tour Wimbeldon! Of course there was a fire on the tube line, so we
had to get off a station early and then figure out a bus to Wimbeldon. Luckily someone helped us out.
It was a good year to go, because Roger Federer just won. Took the tube back to Westminster,
crossed the Wobbly (Millenium) bridge, and rode the London Eye and a sunny day. It was much
better in sun than rain! Went to see "As You Like It" at the Globe Theatre. Amazing! This was one of
my favorite things. Loved the play and loved the Globe! We sat for the play - I can't imagine standing
through the play.
- September 23rd - Wednesday
Free morning and afternoon tour to Runnymeade and Windsor. Spent the morning in Kensington
Palace - home to Queen Victoria before she was queen. Then off to Runnymeade where the Magna
Carta was signed - it's a field. Next to Windsor castle. It's a working castle so many of the towers are
not accessible. St. George's chapel was worth the trip along with the ferris wheel outside the castle -
which I got great pictures of the Castle and Eton
- September 24th - Thursday
Bus from London to Cardiff. After checking in did a sightseeing Bus tour of the city. Have to say it is
small. I think the visit to Wales would have been better with a car and driving outside the city. First day
we went to the National Museum - which is small, I mean really small. We went to Cardiff Bay and
walked around. It's wonderful how they developed the bay area.
Second day in Cardiff - visited Cardiff Castle. Took the premium tour of the castle - the private rooms
of the Bute family, then we toured the grounds and walked up the Norman keep. That was really about
all - just hopped on the tour bus again and walked around the Bay again.
- September 26th - Saturday
Took train from Cardiff to York. Staying at the York Priory. First day in York we decided to walk the
Medieval walls instead of wasting a day on the York pass. The walls are encompass almost the
Took the York Sightseeing tour armed with my York pass - worth every penny. Stops included: Monk
Bar & the Richard III museum (OK), York boat cruise of the Ouse River (pretty but obviously less to see
then the Thames River), Museum Garden and Yorkshire Museum (OK - Roman artifacts were
interesting), and Clifford's Tower (nice views of the city). Ghost tour in the evening.
Another day with the York Pass. Stops at York Minster (best part of York although the large stain
glass window was under repair unfortunately), York Minster Crypt (best museum), York Tower (269
steps with great views), Jorvik Viking Center (really bad Disney park), Fairfax house (nice paintings
and furniture), Regimental Museum (really cool but a lot of reading), Castle Museum (worst of the
museums in York), York Dungeon (interactive tour which remarkable I was on trial for witchcraft!),
Roman Baths (terrible), Monk Bar (needed a book so went back to buy one on Richard III and vote that
Henry VII killed the two princess), and finally Mickelgate Bar museum (OK but the guy was really nice).
Evening was a tour with the Ghost Detective.
Chatsworth House! Took the train to Sheffield and then the bus to Chatsworth. All I can say is that I
love this house! I love the outside, the grand staircase, the library, the sculpture gallery, the grounds,
the maze, the ponds! I have to pinch myself that I was there. It helps that Pride & Prejudice is one of
my favorite movies.
- September 30th - Wednesday
Travelled by train from York to Edinburgh. Checked into hotel (Premier Inn). First stop Edinburgh
Castle. Unbelievably huge - the castle is an all day visit with museums and all sorts of things to see.
I particularly liked St. Margaret's Chapel. Next another city and another hop-on/hop-off sightseeing
tour. First stop we hopped off was St. Giles Cathedral - the Thistle Chapel was very nice. Next stop
was the Mary Close tour - interesting because you ca see the old Edinburgh, they just cut the tops off
the buildings and built the new city on top! Next stop Holyroodhouse Palace, the official home of QEII
in Scotland. This was a great find which I didn't know existed. Walked up the crag behind the palace
and had great views of the city.
Tour of St. Andrews and the fishing villages of Fife. Saw the Forth Rail bridge and we stopped at a
little town (Anstruther). St. Andrews had a lot of ruins (ruined castle, ruined abbey) and a really nice
golf course. Last stop of the tour was Falkland Palace (another not so kept up palace) where Mary
Queen of Scots lived. I had haggis for dinner and loved it!
Quest for the Grail Tour (or the Robert the Bruce tour as I prefer to think of it!) First stop Dunfermline
Abbey to see the resting place of Robert the Bruce. Next Stirling Castle which had a big statue of
Robert the Bruce who razed the castle. The castle was OK, great views of Stirling Bridge - site of the
great victory - and the William Wallace monument. Next stop Bannockburn and another statue of
Robert the Bruce. Too bad Braveheart ever got the story right. Last stop Rosslyn Chapel which I
guess is the Quest part. Could have skipped this. It was all construction inside and outside. You
couldn't see anything and they made us pay. The fact that I don't buy into the da Vinci code probably
makes this even less important to me.
Highland Experience, Monsters, Mountains and Massacres tour - the monster of all tours and a
strange way to end the trip. An extremely windy and rainy day. The bus couldn't cross the Forth so it
had to drive around. While we were driving through Rob Roy country, the windshield wiper blew off.
When the driver stopped to fix it, someone on the bus pulled the emergency handle and then the door
wouldn't close. We waited three hours for another bus. Half of us continued the tour and half went
back to Edinburgh. We did get to the Glencoe area site of the MacDonald massacre and then to Loch
Ness. We couldn't take the boat out on the Lach because of the weather. Instead our new guide
(Steve) drove us around the Lach. We stopped at Inverness for dinner, but it was late Saturday so it
was confusing. We did get a free drive to the airport!