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Contiki Great Britain: Edinburgh, Liverpool and quaint towns of Wales

A roadside church in the Scottish highlands

Two words come to mind as I re-read the travel journal I kept as a 21-year-old country girl travelling from one of the world’s youngest nations (Australia) to one of its most well-preserved continents (Europe): old and nonchalant. I was clearly blown away by the history of the United Kingdom and at the same time a little dismissive of some parts too.

These days, I like to think (and hope) I am much more observant and appreciative of the places I go and the people I meet. Reading my grandmother’s travel journal, I actually feel more closely aligned to her than I do my younger self, which is probably why, as I continue to recount my Contiki trip around Great Britain, the memories I have now are actually a little different to what I recorded back then… Such as Edinburgh being one of my favourite cities and hostels actually being a lot of fun!

Tuesday 20th May

Edinburgh

This is a stunning and powerful city, centuries old. Edinburgh Castle dates back to the 600s AD, sits upon an extinct volcano, and clearly dominates the city’s skyline. It has an imposing, almost autocratic feel. All the buildings here are so old and, I have to say, I feel a tad scared in my hotel room. It has such an eerie feel, and so much history. There are photos all around showing the state of the building before it was the hotel it is today – it’s old! The breakfast bar still looks like a dungeon.

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland. One of my favourite places in the world (so far!)

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland. One of my favourite places in the world (so far!)

I walked up Arthur’s Seat this morning. It’s a massive rock 251 metres above sea level. It’s got beautiful views. Tim nearly died. When we got to the top, huffing and puffing, we turned around and this old man with a walking stick came prancing up the steps like it was nothing! We laughed so hard.

I walked The Royal Mile from the Palace of Holyrood House right up to Edinburgh Castle and stopped for lunch at Deacon’s Tavern where I tried haggis. And yes, I like it! It was chicken breast stuffed with haggis with a whisky cream sauce. Beautiful.

I patted Greyfrier’s Bobby – a statue of a dog that was made a citizen of the city years ago. He was such a loyal dog that when his owner, Greyfrier, died on the street, Bobby did not move from that spot for 16 years.

Last night, we had a Scottish evening at a pub and a Scot came to entertain and play the bagpipes. He was funny and had some good calls.

Edinburgh is an amazing and ancient city, but it does scare me. I don’t think I could live here…

Sunday 25th May

Since Edinburgh, we’ve been to the Scottish highlands which had beautiful scenery: snow-capped mountains (in summer – it was 8 degrees!), flowing rivers and creeks, and fields dotted with highland coos (shaggy cows), sheep and horses. The people in rural Scotland are so friendly. We went to a distillery and tasted Scotch whisky. I didn’t go much on it but Tim loved it.

A roadside church in the Scottish highlands

A roadside church in the Scottish highlands

We went to Glasgow but there wasn’t much sightseeing there, bit of a disappointment. Good shopping and more city-like than Edinburgh. There was a major “football” match between two Glasgow teams that night and at 2am you could hear them from the sixth floor of our hotel, singing their war cries.

Liverpool next – the culture capital of Europe for 2008. Nothing much there but they spent millions on a major shopping centre and are beginning to build a huge canal through the city. We went on a Beatles bus tour and saw where all the band members lived and went to school. We also saw a lot of the sights featured in their songs such as Strawberry Fields (the orphanage of the town), Penny Lane and their old streets.

Penny Lane, Liverpool

Penny Lane, Liverpool

We went out that night to another “80s reflex disco tech” club, which had good cocktails but “Walkabout” was another club that we had the most fun dancing. Although, there were two Canadian girls on our tour that kind of made a spectacle of themselves and all the guys in the bar just looked like hyenas ready to jump in for a taste – eww…!

We passed through Chester, where it is still written in law that if a Welshman was out in the town after dark, one could kill him with a bow and arrow. Not sure how well that would go down if it were tested today. It was a nice little city though; could live there I think. Lots of Roman history, it used to be a major port until Liverpool took over as the major industrial port in the 1800s.

The streets of Chester, England

The streets of Chester, England

Conwy was a beautiful seaside Welsh town we passed through. There was a pretty big old castle there which was cool to walk through. Would like to live in a place like this.

Conwy, Wales. The port and  walled town is home to Conwy Castle

Conwy, Wales. The port and walled town is home to Conwy Castle

Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Wales - the longest place name in Europe and the second longest place name in the world.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Wales – the longest place name in Europe and the second longest place name in the world.

Remember, in my last post, I told you about Canadian-girl-who-never-shuts-up? It wasn't just me who thought it... By the end our trip, our Contiki tour guide bought her this!

Remember, in my last post, I told you about Canadian-girl-who-never-shuts-up? It wasn’t just me who thought it… By the end our trip, our Contiki tour guide bought her this!

We got back to London last night at about 8pm with nowhere to stay. We walked around for 2 hours before we found a place that wasn’t booked out, and it was £120 – for one night! That could have been 24 meals for me and Tim! It hurt…

Staying at a hostel now for the next eight days and it’s not too bad – we’ve got a twin room with ensuite, so it’s nice and private. It’s just like boarding school though; you can hear everything that’s going on in the building and people are coming and going and slamming doors all the time! And the kitchen is downstairs, so there’s not even a kettle in our room. But anyway, this is travelling, right?

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