A short tour of mother England

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Europe » United Kingdom » England
August 9th 2011
Published: September 30th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

The train/bus trip from Glasgow to Keswick (in the Lakes District), our base for a few days, was pretty uneventful, except that the onset of rain just as we arrived was an ominous sign. We had basically been travelling for over 3 weeks without any more than the odd short shower, and when we arrive at one of the UK’s most picturesque locations, the odds decided to even up on us. And so it was for the duration of our stay, and while that didn’t stop us getting out and about between showers (including a lakes cruise during a heavy shower!), it did limit our planned longer walks into the countryside. So instead we probably got to know the township of Keswick far better than we otherwise might have, but found it a great place to hang out, with some interesting shops, pretty parks and some great pubs.

To try to maximise our touring time in the UK, and also to minimise hotel costs, we had decided to take a couple of overnight train trips. Our first was from Carlisle (at the top of the Lakes District) to London on the Caledonian Express. Unfortunately, in my planning I hadn’t noticed that this left Carlisle at 2am, which meant an awful lot of hanging around, so we eventually went up there mid-afternoon and booked for the evening into a hotel near the station (so much for saving accommodation costs!). But we were glad we did, as we were there at the peak of the English riots, and while we did not witness any riots or looting per se, we certainly didn’t feel overly comfortable wandering around Carlisle after dark, watching the various ‘gangs’ making their way from pub to pub, and by midnight very much showing the evidence of those visits. The train trip itself was pretty comfortable however, and managed to finally erase the memory of my last horrific overnight train trip in India last January (qv blog on Jaisalmer).

Our weekend in London was pretty routine, strolling around the city area, especially spending some time around the Covent Garden markets, and was specifically scheduled to allow us to catch the opening game of the EPL football season. Ironically, Chelsea, our preferred team, were playing away at Newcastle, which was less than an hour from Carlisle, but unfortunately, we had already booked and paid for the overnight train south. However, we were lucky enough to be given great tickets to Craven Cottage to watch Fulham play Aston Villa, although the scoreless draw result took a bit of the excitement away. So much for our great planning – we had pre-arranged to stay at a hotel next to Paddington station, since this is on 4 different Underground lines, so we felt this would give us maximum flexibility for our London travels, only to find that 3 of the lines were down for maintenance that weekend!

And so it was down to Cornwall, on another overnight train ex Paddington, this time leaving at a respectable hour and again it was a pretty good trip. We had arranged to stay a few days at a B&B in Penzance, and use this as a base to travel around, but in hindsight were sorry we didn’t use St Ives as a base as it seemed a much more attractive location. The most interesting day was that on which we took a ‘300 Explorer’ bus around the region, which allowed ‘hop-on/hop-off’, which we did at each of Land’s End, St Ives and Marazion. The weather forecast was a shocker, but after torrential rain on the hour’s trip to Land’s End, it cleared just before we arrived and was a clear sunny day from then on, so we got lucky. While it has become a bit touristy, Land’s End was enjoyable and had some great walks along some pretty sheer cliff top settings. We found that the beaches around Cornwall are incredibly tidal, and at low tide in St Ives, you’d swear someone had pulled the plug out. But we enjoyed the atmosphere of the town and it had some attractive (by English standards anyway!) beaches close to the town. Marazion is the location of the famed St Michael’s Mount (the poor man’s Mont Saint Michel?), which was similar in many ways in terms of its location just out at sea, and again very tidal such that you could walk out at low tide but maybe swim back if the tide comes in! Another very pretty town we visited, only about a 40 minute walk from Penzance, was called Mousehole (pronounced Mowzel for you dummies!), with its narrow streets and quaint houses, again above a very tidal beach.

All in all, it was a relaxed and enjoyable 3 week visit to the UK and we were able to keep ourselves well away from the rioting that occurred during this period.

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