Some of the best days of my life have been traveling around UK with Matt, exploring roads and villages that we haven't planned to come across. The countryside is so beautiful and surprisingly comforting. It reminds me of home I think, but is also very different. The small, old villages are made up of brick and stone houses with gardens in the front and pebble driveways. Each place we go to I fall in love with and decide that I don't want to live in London anymore I want to live in a small old village in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by green paddocks and trees. It's amazing how every city has a different focal point, whether it be a cathedral or a castle or a university, but each place is also so similar in the sense that they all have historical significance which is so interesting and inspiring.
Our road trip started when we hired a car for a week to explore the UK before becoming too comfortable with London and settling into a job - and before travelling across to Europe so easily. We hired a manual car, as its only been 5 weeks since Matt has
driven manual and as I'm not 25, only Matt was able to drive. I would have lost count of the number of stalls Matt managed, but I definitely remember three which happened in the space of a minute where we were sideways on the road (pulling out of a petrol station about an hour after picking it up) with a massive truck speeding towards us.. That wasn't a great a start. I'd like to say he improved as our road trip went on but I'm not sure I'd be telling the truth...
Our original plan was to go to Oxford, Bath, Bristol and Cornwall (where Tregoweth comes from), but our plans changed after visiting Oxford and turned into no plans. We decided we wanted to visit lots of places in the UK while we had the car so we thought we should head North a bit and maybe see the coast.
On the way to Oxford, we made our first brilliant decision which was to get off the highway and drive down a random road where we had views of the countryside. We chose the perfect exit - through an area called Ibstone. We drove down extremely narrow
roads hugged by bright green trees which curled into each other creating a tunnel to drive through. It made us both so happy that we were seeing this magical scenery instead of the back of someone's car and oncoming traffic. We made so many detours so as we could see more of the country and more cute cottages, and we ended up stopping at a bushwalk which lead to a nice view of a little town called Watlington.
Oxford centre was a great place to make our first stop on our little journey as it has the grand Oxford University which is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. The university therefore, is the focal point and main attraction of the studious town and also takes up a vast area of the town. Oxford was buzzing when we were there as it was the universities open day which was really cool for Matt and I to see so many excited and inspired minds. We first went up the historic 13th Century Carfax Tower which overlooks the town and represents the ancient heart of Oxford where the four roads from the North, South, East and West Gates of the city met.
We wandered through the uni observing it from the outside as we could not enter the buildings. It is an amazing piece of architecture and art which has so much history and so many genius creations and important historical figures who we learn about today. Oxford Uni has been around for about 1000 years - there is no exact date of when it was constructed but teaching has existed since 1096 and it boomed in 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris.
After exploring Oxford, we went across to a very small town called Faringdon where we had booked a room for a night in an old pub hotel. We had our first UK pub dinner there while watching Wimbledon which was great, although we felt a little bit out of place as everyone knew everyone - of course they did it was one of the only pubs in the town!
Bath was our next destination but we made a couple of stops on the way. We found ourselves stopping at Dyrham park - a large beautiful deer park that has 274 acres and held a lot of history. We explored the
park and the old mansion which was owned by William Blathwayt a civil servant and Secretary at War in 1710. Some areas of the interior have been left unaltered including his bed which is more than 300 years old! The gardens and lake at Dyrham park were beautiful and so nice to walk around in the sun, we also sat and had our first typical UK treat- tea and scones! We continued on to Bath where we drove to the highest point we could find to overlook the town. Such an old fashioned town with amazing architecture, cute houses by the river and cobble stone roads! We had a drink at a cute bar by the river and explored Bath Abbey - an incredible cathedral with outstanding detail in artwork and carvings on the interior - and the Roman Baths which are cool to see but not too exciting.
We booked a place to stay for the night in The Cotswolds so we started to make our way there, driving through the beautiful countryside. We came across the most picturesque, tranquil little village called Bibury which we had to stop at and walk around because it was just so
cute! There were even beautiful swans gliding through the river which ran through the middle of the village. All throughout the Cotswolds are cute villages like Bibury, with small cottages and large brick houses with colourful gardens, stone walls surrounding it and often rich cars sitting out the front. We stayed in one of these inviting villages called Blockley where it had one cafe, one store and a couple of churches. We explored this town by foot before making our way to our next unknown location.
We stopped through a number of little places: Chipping Campden, Evesham (the Avenue that the Varcoes live on in NZ), Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwick where we stopped for lunch in the gardens and to browse through the Saturday markets, and we ended up in Leeds just for the night as it was on our way to the East Coast. A lady we met in Faringdon told us to stop by Durham if we had a chance as its a lovely town near the coast, so that's what we did the next day! We loved Durham town so much, it was a beautiful, buzzing town - quite medieval- which had an outstanding cathedral and castle on the
rocky cliff top on the edge of River Wear. We walked along the peaceful river to the historical cathedral - which was built in 1093 - a fascinating building with incredible architecture. I really liked all of the doors in the cathedral, they are so tall and wide, with big bolted locks, and they have such detailed designs and art work sculpted into them and around them - not just an ordinary door!
For the next two nights we stayed in a caravan type thing in a field by the coast, in a place called Easington. Despite the fact that Easington is the most economically deprived town in the UK, it was our favourite accomodation. We could walk through the field which had horses grazing, and the mysterious forest, 15 minutes to the rocky beach and cliff tops to look out to the ocean and further along the coast which was wonderful! The first night that we were there we wandered down in the rain and we thought we were only gone about an hour and we were actually gone 2 and a half hours exploring the military bunkers and the fascinating colourful rocks! The sun was still setting
past 11pm so it's hard to keep track of time even at night!
We travelled up along the coast through Sunderland and Tynemouth where we explored the old moated-Tynemouth castle and priory ruins which date back to the 7th century. The Priory had been a burial place for three Kings, first being King of Deira in 651 who was murdered by another King, second was King of Northumbria in 792 who was also murdered, and the third King was Malcolm III, King of Scotland who died in battle in 1093. The castle was also used in the 20th century during WWII for defending the river Tyne. We thoroughly enjoyed visiting this castle - very interesting and educational site! On our way back to the caravan we swung through Newcastle just to check it out, where we had a drink at a lovely little pub on the river, but didn't end up staying too long in this town.
Making our way back down the coast, we spent the day in the North York Moors National Park which is a beautiful large area, to explore cute villages, beaches and cliff tops, or the countryside. So we did all of it
- in the unpredictable weather -pouring rain and the burning sunshine. First we took a couple of random little roads towards the coast and we eventually made it to this area which actually had a walk along the clifftop looking out to the vast ocean and the beach below and to a little coast village across the bay. The other side of this path on the edge of the cliff were hay fields and old barns which were so cool! We had to run through the pouring rain to this little cafe on the beach where we had soup and sandwiches to keep us going for the afternoons! Our favourite part of the National park was going to Robin Hoods Bay which is known for its smuggling back in the day. Such a nice area, would be perfect for a beach house!
Our last night was spent in a really random town called Skegness which was probably the least exciting place we stayed or had been to all together, so we really only slept there and then headed back to London. We got back yesterday around 4 after training from Heathrow airport. We wanted to explore a bit more
on the way back to London but because of the Underground strike that started last night and went for all of today, the tubes were going to be mental for people trying to catch the train home early before they all stopped.
Matt and I had the most amazing time together exploring all the different parts of England, learning about the incredible history and visiting so many cathedrals and castles and cute villages! My favourite places were the Cotswolds, Durham and the North York Moors as they were so peaceful and serene, and also very welcoming. So cool being able to experience such amazing places with my best friend and fiancé who I am always laughing with and having the most fun with - who makes me the happiest girl in the world!
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