United Kingdom Things to Do Tips by Goner Top 5 Page for this destination
United Kingdom Things to Do: 1,051 reviews and 1,077 photos
National Express Bus
We took the National Express Bus into London to Victoria Station. Paid four pounds for a room reservation at the tourist counter at the station and splurged on a cab to take us to the Caswell Hotel - our legs weren't ready for walking.*
The National Express did charge $25 one way and $29 roundtrip from Heathrow to Victoria Station
City Hall and the Big Wheel
It had rained all the way from Derry so the sights outside Belfast were only sullen pictures of the seascapes and landscapes out the train window. Thankfully, we woke the next morning to sunshine at least for part of the day. In the afternoon we were very pleased to have taken an off-and-on bus which gave us some protection from the rain between stops to Belfast's interesting places. We didn't know what to expect from Belfast, so many years it was a city unsafe due to the Troubles. It was a wonderful surprise to find a city on the move, many new buildings have risen or are rising. The city streets are full of people bustling about with there everyday lives. The only evidence of troubles past were bullet holes in various buildings and rubble where there had been bombings. Murals remined us of an opinionated people who are now dedicated to making Belfast a place to be proud of.
Frommer's, the American travel guidebook series, listed Belfast as the only United Kingdom destination in its Top 12 Destinations to Visit in 2009.
Directions: Northern Ireland
The Cathedral Hotel
Got to Cardiff and the tourist bureau was closed - Sunday night you know. So tried a Frommer's choice. As we were wheeling our bags towards the hotel, we noticed the neighborhood was starting to deteriorate. A nice gentlemen with a fair-haired little girl in hand asked us if he could be of assistance - bless him. He told us that the hotel we were headed for was "seedy" (so much for Frommer) and sent us to a better area for a hotel about five minutes away (only if you were driving a Ferrari). Twenty minutes later or may be thirty, still wheeling our bags, we found the Cathedral Hotel which looked promising. It was, they took one look at us and gave us the best room in the house which was on the first floor. It was a large room with high ceilings and beautiful moldings. There was a tea table and chairs, the beds were comfortable and there was a big bathroom with a full-sized tub, yeees! We had to eat. Nothing was open, Sunday you know. We were given directions to a market that would be open at the end of the block; they didn't tell us the block was a 20-minute walk. We ended up with a nourishing dinner of "Brains" beer, crackers, and yogurt; we fell into bed and slept for 12 hours.
For information regarding this comfy hotel, check out my hotel tips.
My biggest interest in Plymouth was its historical past. My Devonshire ancestors sailed from here back in the 1600's to the New World. The Mayflower also sailed from here and became an icon of our American history. Not only is it notable for its historic past but it's a beautiful city to visit.
The History of Plymouth in Devon, England, goes back to the Bronze Age, where its first settlement at Mount Batten grew. It continued to grow as a trading post for the Roman Empire. Plymouth's historic port of Sutton Harbour, located in The Barbican, has seen the arrival and departure of many notable people such as Pocahontas who arrived here 1616.
Until World War II, the port at Millbay Docks was used for Transatlantic liner shipping, as it had been since the 1870s. Many of the surviving crew of the RMS Titanic disaster disembarked at Millbay docks on their return to England in 1912.
Due to its strategic proximity to the northern coast of France and its naval pre-eminence, the city was heavily bombed by the Germans during WWII, an event known as the Plymouth Blitz. Although the dockyards were the principal targets, the two main shopping centers, most of the civic buildings and over 3,700 houses were completely destroyed and more than 1,000 civilians lost their lives. War memorials on the Hoe commemorate the Royal Navy for their part int WW I and II.
Plymouth was one of the principal staging posts in June of 1944 for the Normandy landings. General Omar Bradley and the 1st US Army embarked here for the landings at Omaha Beach and Utah Beach and after the initial bombardments some of the American battleships came to the dockyard for repair.
The Mayflower left from here*
The Mayflower was the ship that transported the English Separatists, better known as the Pilgrims, from Plymouth, England, to now Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. There were 102 passengers and a crew of 25–30.
The vessel left England on around September 6, 1620 and was at sea for 66 days. Two lives were lost before landing around November 11th. The Mayflower went off course and instead of landing at the established Jamestown settlement (founded 1607) it landed in Cape Cod Bay. In March of 1621, surviving passengers, who had inhabited the ship during the winter, moved ashore at Plymouth, that April the Mayflower, a privately commissioned vessel, returned to England.
Directions: In Devonshire, Southwest United Kingdom
Interior of Cardiff Castle
Monday, September 27th
We woke up not realizing it was 10 a.m. and we had missed our free breakfast. We slowly got dressed and slowly walked downtown through a lovely park. We ate in the tea room at Cardiff's version of Harrods, called Howells, quite lovely and a little less expensive.
We strolled through their marketplace, much like our indoor swap meets. Cashed in some traveler's check at the Bank of Scotland.
We dragged our suitcases up to the second floor. The room had all the amenities, only in miniature. Only one of us could walk in the room at one time, we grew tired of saying excuse me. There was a teeny weeny desk, a teeny weeny bedside table with a teeny weeny bathroom approximately 4 foot by 4 foot and since Faye and I were not teeny weeny any more taking a shower was one of the most memorable experience of the trip. The shower had a detachable head, and so not to spray the entire bathroom, I detached the showerhead, but since humans do not have enough hands to hold a showerhead and soap themselves, I tucked the showerhead between my knees, faced down of course. Well the showerhead got away from me, gave me an involuntary douche and ended up on the floor spraying the entire bathroom. Faye wanted to know what all the laughing was about, I said, "just you wait until it's your turn".
We had time for a ride on the red bus, no rain in sight, and sweater warm. Ended our day at a neighborhood restaurant.*
To read what Frommer has to say about Caswell, check out my hotel tips.
Tower of London
Saturday, September 24th
Passed on a morning shower. Got back on the Red Bus to the Tower of London. We saw the new exhibition of the Crown Jewels, second time I had seen it, but still awesome. We visited the armory and strolled the grounds, ate a little, bought a little, then got back on the Red Bus and made the entire circuit of London.
The Tower is one of London's most famous landmarks, the historic Tower houses the Crown Jewels, the prison cell of Sir Walter Raleigh, known as the Bloody Tower, and the Chapel of St. John and the Royal Armories. People come from around the world to view this celebrated fortress and to see where Anne Boleyn was beheaded.
In the summer, the line for the crown jewels can get very long, so try to arrive early. Guided 1 hour walks are given by uniformed Beefeaters frequently.
Hours: March - October Monday - Saturday 9am - 5pm, Sunday 10am - 5pm, November - February Sunday, Monday 10am - 4pm, Tuesday - Satuday 9am - 4pm, Closed December 24-26, January 1
Address: Tower Hill London EC3 England
Directions: Tube: Tower Hill
General Area: Tower Hill, on the north bank of the Thames.
At Holyhead we signed for our Britrail passes and headed by train to Bangor, Wales where we left our luggage at the "left luggage". Then hopped a bus to Caernarfon Castle where Charles was crowed Prince of Wales. Now this was the most awesome castle we had seen. It was another chilly clear day, great for picture taking and climbing and crawling around in the castle. Reluctantly we left for Bangor to pick up our left luggage. Hopped the train to Conway Castle, wrong, the train doesn't stop at Conway Castle. We ended up at Llandudno Junction and only saw the Castle from the train window. Too late to get back to the castle before it closed. Saw an inviting restored hotel, time to splurge for grandiose, surprise only 10 pounds a piece, but up three flights of stairs and no lift.
We got gussied up and ate in the hotel pub. Faye was pleased to see a slot machine in the bar. I was surprised.
Caernarfon is an impressive castle. It was intended as a seat of power - and as a symbol of English dominance over the subdued Welsh.
Caernarfon is located at the southern end of the Menai Strait between north Wales and Anglesey, 8 miles south west of Bangor. During Edward I's invasions of Wales, this was strategically an excellent place to build a castle; Anglesey was referred to as the garden of Wales, providing agriculturally rich land close to the poorer land on north Wales. The Menai Strait also allowed speedy access between the north Welsh coast and the western coast, and was therefore important for Edward to control for supplying outposts. Edward also built a town, destroying the original Welsh settlement beforehand (the site had been a Roman fort and then a Norman fort). Material for the building of the castle, town, walls, and gates, were ferried in by sea. All of the initial building took place as a single operation which started in the summer of 1283.
Address: On the western end of town Gwynedd, north Wales
Tuesday, September 27 - Cardiff, Fishguard, Rosslare, Ireland
Up in time to catch a city bus to the train station, didn't have the right change for the bus driver, they frown on that.
One change of trains, a young Welsh engineering student helped us carry our bags to the next platform. He had a great interest in construction. I promised to write him and send some literature on construction in America.
The train was heading for Fishguard, Wales to catch our ride on the ferry across the Irish Sea.
Saturday, October 8 - Edinburgh - York, England
Cornflakes this morning. We walked to Holyrood Palace (this is when the inside of my shoes started shifting) where we continued the history of Queen of Scots. This palace is where the Queen Elizabeth parties in the garden with up to 9,000 people. Another short little tour guide continued the assault on the thriftiness of the Scottish people. He was informative and gave us an education on which rugs were expensive and which were cheap. We had too many clouds this day to get any great photos. It was an impressive manor But the ancient crumbling abbey fascinated me the most.
The Palace of Holyrood house was originally a monastery back in 1128. The most famous resident was Mary, Queen of Scots who lived there between 1561 and 1567, before she was taken to the Tower of London. The Palace is at the end of the Royal mile on the far side of Edinburgh castle. Many kings and queens have made it their residence. Today its’ where there are State ceremonies and official entertaining.
The Palace is normally open throughout the year.
Adult £7.50, Over 60 £6.00, Student £6.00 (with valid ID), Under 17 £4.00, Under 5 Free, Family (2 adults, 3 under 17s) £19.00
Directions: At the end of the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle
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