Chapter 7 - Lake District to Edinburgh

Aqueduct over the River Dee

Monday 28th July - Tuesday 29th July

After rather a late start, waiting for our hire car to be delivered, we set off towards the Lake District in Cumbria via Shrewsbury, Bishops Castle and Llangollen where we took photos of the Aqueduct, (which we had travelled over previously in the narrowboat), from below and had a wander through the village that we had missed when doing the canal trip.

We drove on up the A6 to the Lake District where we found a nice little B & B, The Meadowcroft Country Guesthouse, at the tiny village of Ings. We walked down a lane to a nearby pub for dinner and back to the guesthouse for a good night's sleep.

Next morning at breakfast we discovered that the waitress at the B & B was from the Gold Coast - she had booked in to the B & B some months earlier as a guest, was offered a job, and stayed on.

It must be hard to beat B & B's for top presentation of breakfast, hospitality and comfort. They all seem to specialize in cosy breakfast rooms, friendly service and nicely prepared and presented food. The 'English Breakfast' is renowned as a really great start to the day. The Meadowcroft Country Guesthouse was no exception. A 'full English breakfast' consists ot bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomato, beans, and egg - and of course, toast, as well as a variety of cereals, fruit, yogurt etc.. In Scotland, the beans were replaced by 'black pudding', neither of which we tackled.

After breakfast we drove to Windermere, a delightful town with some excellent little shops. We then drove right around Lake Windermere before stopping at Hawkeshead for directions to Hill Top Farm, and of course did some more shopping while we were there. This is the heart of the Lakes District, and certainly lives up to it's reputation as one of the prettiest parts of Britain.

Hill Top Farm, once the home of Beatrix Potter, is where she wrote the stories of Peter Rabbit and all the other little characters that have delighted generations of children, young and old. For some odd reason the National Trust which now manages the property, is not allowed to have road signs showing the way to the property so it took a bit of finding. It seems the local authority believes everyone knows where it is! Everyone except wandering Australians, that is.

The farm has something like 600 visitors a day, so even after finding the place we had to wait an hour and a half for our turn to visit the house. We spent the time enjoying a light lunch at Mrs Tiggywinkle's Tearoom, which overlooks the lake, served by a busy but charming waitress, who might have been Mrs Tiggywinkle herself in another life.

We enjoyed our visit to Hill Top Farm very much and found some more gifts to buy at the National Trust Giftshop.

A delightful drive through the sometimes breathtaking scenery of the Lakes countryside took us to Cockermouth, where we were just too late to visit Wordsworth House, the birthplace of the poet William Wordsworth. We were able, however, to wander through the pretty gardens for a few minutes.

We finished our day at Carlisle, where we soon found a suitable B & B Guest House for our night's accommodation. We had dinner at an Indian restaurant, The Stanwick Tandori, just around the corner from our guesthouse. Very good food and service.

Wednesday 30th July

We left the 'No.1 Guest House' at Carlisle after getting instructions from our obliging hosts on how to find 'Hadrian's Wall' and the best route to take for Edinburgh. We like to avoid the Motorway and main highways where possible so have been along some interesting little byways.

We had no difficulty finding a part of the ancient Roman wall, separating England from Scotland, which was built by the Emperor Hadrian in the days of the Roman Empire. The wall, stretching from coast to coast, must have been very impressive as it was 73 miles (117km) long and 15 ft (4.3m) high. Hadrian visited Britain in AD122 - apparently powerful leaders believed that Romans had the right to conquer neighbouring countries because they were bringing civilisation to the barbarians. The beliefs of powerful leaders don't seem to have changed much over the years.

We took some photos of sections of the wall and the nearby Lanercost Priory which was built, along with the Parish Church, in the 12th century with sandstone pillaged from Hadrian's Wall.

We next visited Gretna Green, just over the border in Scotland, where the blacksmith used to perform marriages for eloping couples. Gretna Green has become very commercialised with many shops, tourist and otherwise, catering for the many visitors. We drove on to Moffat, where we left the main A74 to take the scenic route to Edinburgh. We stopped for a cup of tea at 'The Laurel Bank Tea Room' at the pretty little village of Broughton on the way, then set Tom Tom to find our hotel in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is very interesting and steeped in history but it is also the dirtiest city we've seen. (Mind you, we do tend to avoid the cities). There are so many very beautiful old buildings with the skyline dominated by the marvellous castle and lots of modern buildings and shops also and it is such a shame to see the streets littered with cigarette butts, the pavements dotted with chewing gum and empty food containers, paper scraps etc scattered everywhere. It quite spoilt our impression of this exciting city. We did, however, meet some very friendly and helpful people, especially when we deviated from the beaten track a little.

We had prebooked our accommodation via wotif.com at The Royal Terrace Hotel. We didn't fancy heading in to Edinburgh at such a busy time - the big Festival is just starting and everything is very busy- without having accommodation organised. The Royal Terrace is quite close to the city but, we thought, overpriced and not our usual style. The hotel did not have parking available which was a nuisance. We were able to park in the street outside during the night but had to plug the meter or go to a parking station for the day (cost us £17 pounds for the day, about $37).
Our room was very comfortable even though it was below ground level. It was rather strange to get in the lift and press floor No. -1.

As it was getting quite late, we walked in to the city and bought a 24 hour bus tour ticket (on and off as often as you like during the day) and did the round 55 min trip to get a general idea of Edinburgh before having a very nice meal at an Italian Restaurant.

We did not eat at the Royal Terrace Hotel at all. Its meals were very much overpriced. Breakfast for example, free with accommodation at every other place we stayed, and advertised at less than £4 for a 'Full Scottish' at a nearby restaurant, cost £14 at the hotel. They also charged to view any of the movie channels and for Internet access which, when available, was free elsewhere. We were not impressed.