September/October, 2016, in England, Scotland, and Ireland

We traveled to the British Isles in late September and early October. The trip was in three parts:

  1. London, where we toured ourselves (no professional tour);
  2. Scotland, where we joined a tour by CIE (more later);
  3. Ireland, continuing on the tour, both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Descriptions of each follow.

1. London, on our own

We flew into London via Heathrow and stayed at the glorious The Savoy on the Strand, which is right in the heart of things. We chose that hotel for several reasons:

All in all a very wonderful place.

Below: The entrance to The Savoy; and the entrance to the dining area:
Savoy Entrance Savoy Dining

Of course we visited many of the tourist places that we have all seen and/or heard of, and many of which Karen and/or I have visited previously, but not together. We walked to almost everything from the Savoy (one of its features). We visited the British Museum, saw the Rosetta Stone and many sarcophagus, and a ton of asian tourists seemingly more interesting in taking selfies than their surroundings. We visited the Tower of London, saw the Crown Jewels, many suits of armor and weapons, and a great sense of history. We visited Westmister Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and 10 Downing Street. We saw a changing of the guard, the mounted guards, and more.

The Rosetta Stone at the British Museum and the entrance to Westminster Abbey:
British Museum Westminster Abbey

The Changing of the Guard; and Chuck at Big Ben:

Guard Big Ben

Ali and Matty on the Thames; and Karen and Chuck in a selfie:

Ali and Matty Selfie

We had fabulous meals in London. We had a some meals alone, and were joined by Ali and her school-mate Matty for the rest. They were great company and we thoroughly enjoyed their energy and their surprisingly excellent knowledge of London. Together, we walked to the museums, cathedrals, government houses, historic site, and a tour boat ride on the River Thames. From the boat, we got to view The London Eye, the 443 foot tall Ferris Wheel with air conditioned capsules (coaches) that hold up to 25 people and that take a half hour to rotate once. No, we didn’t ride it.

And the dinners were wonderful. We had Indian cuisine with Ali at a top-end restaurant called Chutney Mary. If in London, you must try Indian, and this would be as good an Indian option as you can find. We also dined at the historic Simpsons on the Strand, next to The Savoy. I've dined at Simpsons previously, and we thought the girls might like the experience of something they were otherwise unlikely to experience. We all loved it. Karen and I found a great pub The Wellington, for an outstanding pub dinner.

Karen and Ali at Chutney Mary for Indian; The girls at The Coal Hole pub:
Karen and Ali Cole Hole
A view of the The Wellington, a pub where Karen and I dined:
The pub

2. Scotland, where we joined a tour

We took the SGL train from London to Glasgow Central, and then walked up a few blocks to our hotel, the Glasgow City Hotel. There was some confusion in finding it, because that week it changed its ownership and the signs were down to be replaced. We walked past it back and forth a couple of times. Our tour was to start in the morning.

A view from the train to Glasgow:
Train to Scotland

The tour was called “A Taste of Scotland & Ireland”, by CIE Tours. We toured in a very nice tour bus with about 25 other people, so there were plenty of seats. They moved us around throughout the 11 days of the tour for some variety. We toured Glasgow, seeing St. George Square and visited Provand’s Lordship, Glasgow’s oldest house. We got to meet our outstanding tour director - for the Scotish part of the trip.

We then traveled to Loch Lomond and Loch Ness, and spent a good part of the afternoon cruising on Loch Ness. The drive along Loch Lomand and through the valley of Glen Coe is beautiful. Glen Coe is notorius for the Campbell massacre of the Clan Macdonald in 1692. Hmm, do you think the clans have reconciled yet? Later, we stopped at the Spean Bridge Woolen Mill to peruse Scotish goods. That night we dined and stayed the night at the Newton Hotel in Nairn.

From Inveruglas on Loch Lomand; and beautiful Loch Ness nearing sunset:
Loch Lomand Loch Ness at Sunset

The Scottish Highlands are stunning, very steep, rocky, and green. Everywhere there is livestock, mostly sheep, and everywhere there is yet another magnificent view.

A view of the Scottish Highlands; and a Scottish Highlands cow:
Highlands Cow

The next morning we stopped at the Blair Athol Distillery in Pitochry and saw whisky being distilled. Of course we sampled some. The distillery guide confirmed, much to my delight, that the way that I drink whisky is correct: no ice, room temp, with a splach of water. And, by the way, the Scots spell it “whisky“ and the Irish spell it “whiskey”. Now you are an expert! We drove on to St. Andrews, home of golf and of Scotland’s oldest university. We got to walk around St. Andrews and explore. Karen walked over the famous Swilcan Bridge leading to the 18th hole of the Old Course. The only problem was that there was a tournament underway and she wasn’t supposed to be there. We made a break for it and had lunch in town on a most charming street.

The Blair Athol Distillery, and Karen on the Swilcan Bridge on the Old Course of St. Andrews:
Blair Athol Swilkan Bridge

That evening we stayed at the Marriott Dulmahoy Hotel in Edinburgh, and we were taken to a delightful Scottish dinner and an evening of entertainment of songs, stories, and Scottish dance. I tried Haggis for the first time and found that I liked it.In the morning we went on a tour of Edinburgh with a local guide. We visited the dominant Edinburgh Castle, which contains the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Scone. We had the afternoon free to tour the city, which we did. The next morning we drove south through Ayrshire along the coast to Cairnryan. There we took a ferry about thirty miles across the Irish Sea to Belfast, Northern Ireland.

3. Ireland, continuing on the tour, both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

The tour took a ferry from Scotland to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Interestingly, Northern Ireland, being a part of the United Kingdom, uses the Pound Sterlling as its currency, The Republic of Ireland is not UK, and uses the Euro as its currency. Gotta know where you are, right? We toured Titanic Belfast, which was a spectacular building partly in the shape and size of the Titanic and which holds a vast array of exhibits. It is at the place where the ship was built and launched. After bit of Belfast, we were bussed to Dublin the the Royal Marine Hotel, overlooking Dublin Bay. That evening, a group of us walked to a pub for a traditional pub experience of beer and more beer, followed by a pub dinner and maybe some more beer. Good Irish beer, that is.

After breakfast the next morning, we toured central Dublin’s fashionable shopping areas, charming squares, the Central Post Office where the 1916 Irish uprising began, and then Trinity College. At the college we had a Don guide us through the campus, were we viewed the famous Book of Kells, created in the 8th century by monks. We boarded a former Guinness barge for a canal dinner cruise through Dublin on the Grand Canal, complete with very personable Irish entertainment. We had a Guinness to start, then a starter of smoked salmon tartar with Dublin Bay prawns (or black pudding & bacon salad), with main courses including beef and Guinness stew or Atlantic fish pie, and ending with Irish cheese cake with Baileys Irish Cream and a chocolate brownie. Urp!

Trinity College; and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin:
Trinity College St. Pat

Karen at The Bank, a Dublin pub in what was a bank:
The Bank

We are jusk getting started in Ireland. The following morning we travelled through Ireland to the Rock of Cashal, which was the historic seat of power of many Munster kings prior to the Norman invasion in the last half of the 12th century. We toured the castle, an impressive adventure - especially if you climb the 90 ft. Round Tower. For a break in our journey, we stopped at a farmhouse for tea and scones, and were treated to a demonstration of the sheep-hearding dogs. Then on to the famed Blarney Castle, where some of our adventurers kissed the “Stone of Eloguence”. Karen climbed up to the top of the castle (and didn’t kiss the stone -yech!), while I toured the beautiful gardens. As we did in Scotland, we had to stop at an Irish woolen mill, the Blarney Woolen Mill, to check out the goods. Then we drove to Killarney, and checked into the Killarney Avenue Hotel, one of the O’Donoghue Ring hotels. That evening a group of us walked around town to find the best Irish pub for dinner. We settled in at Murphy’s Bar for, of course, a pint or two of Guinness and a fine dinner of Irish cuisine. Many of the pubs featured the patrons singing Irish ballads.

Murphy’s Bar in Killarney:

We next stopped at Ross Castle on Lough Leane, as we travelled through the Ring of Kerry. That drive is an ever-winding ride through beautiful mountains and views of the coast. We crossed to Valentia Island by bridge to visit the Skellig Experience, which describes the austerity of the early monks lived on the nearby islands. This was followed by a stop on an overlook of Moll’s Gap. During our travels in the Ring of Kerry, we stopped for a carriage ride, manned by a local and his little boy. The horse drawn carriage stopped for some absolutely stunning photo ops (see below).

A scene of the Ring of Kerry; and the Skellig Experience:
Ring of Kerry The Skellig Experience

Karen at the Ring of Kerry:
Karen at Ring of Kerry

Stunning scene of islands in a lake:
Ireland as we saw it Ireland

The following day we took a ferry ride across the River Shannon to reach the Cliffs of Moher, a spectacular 700 ft. sandstone wall above the Atlantic Ocean. We climbed to the viewing tower, O’Briens Tower, on top of the wall, and then Karen ventured beyond the fence to the very peak of the cliffs. One of the views is of an island where monks built a spectacular monestary. How they even began it is impossible for me to comprehend. The ocean rages around the rock of an island that had no beach, and rises straight up. It is a true wonder that they build a monestary, let alone were able to create a self-sustaining life there. Later, we checked into the Bunratty Castle Hotel, close to Bunratty Castle (of course). We visited centuries old Durty Nelly’s Pub for a pre-dinner drink, and then headed to Bunratty Castle for a medieval feast. The hosts and all the personnel were fully outfitted in medieval garb and played their roles without exception. We had a feast and we were serenades by the lords and ladies, all evoking the Middle Ages theme.

The Cliffs of Moher:
Cliffs of Moher

Finally, we drove back to Dublin and checked into the Clayten Hotel Cardiff on Cardiff Lane. The next morning we were taken to the airport for our United flight back home. All in all, a wonderful trip.

Return to top of England, Scotland, & Ireland, 2016

Return to top of Travel
Return to Personal Interests
Return to Home page