UK Roadtrip Week 1

After Ireland we spent three weeks back in the UK with a rental car. Having a car was a first for us on this trip; it gave us freedom to explore hard to reach places but also stressed us out way more than any bus, train, or plane we’ve been on. But all’s well that ends well.

Day 1: Canterbury, UK

Stepping out of our Airbnb, we were met by a balmy, sunny 80 degree afternoon. According to various Airbnb hosts that we had, both Ireland and the UK struggle with weather above 70 degrees. They considered 80 to be a heat wave. One of the contributing factors to their misery was the general absence of air conditioners. They would typically get very little use as the countries remain colder most of the year. Needless to say, our evening was restless, sweaty, and bereft of sleep but the daytime was great.

The downtown of Canterbury was quaint. A small historic Roman rampart lined a stone promenade beside a shallow river. Thin boats with pole-men made their way against the current with tourists lounging in the middle. The green algae and fauna beneath the water reflected a bright green, magnified by the sun.

Day 2 Jane Austen’s House

Hannah is a big fan of Jane Austen. We visited Chawton, the location of the Jane Austen House Museum. This was slightly less interesting for me, so I chose to read in the garden while Hannah took her sweet time exploring every crevice inside. Afterward, we walked along the walled English lane to the Chawton House.

With the warm sun beaming down, we climbed into the air-conditioned car and made our way to the Airbnb. That evening, I enjoyed a nice run in the neighborhood before grabbing some sleep.

Day 3 Winchester

Our first stop of the day was Winchester. Historically, it held the role of capital before London and boasted another historical significance as the location of “King Arthur’s Round Table”. Under the pressure of a 2 hour parking window, Hannah and I separated for the sights. She went to tour Winchester Cathedral and see Jane Austen’s tomb while I toured the Great Hall and remainder of the Winchester Castle.  Unfortunately, the Round Table was likely not Arthur’s but from several hundred years later, but historians believe that Winchester was the original location of “Camelot”. With our nerd needs satisfied, we moved on.


Occasionally there were tourist attractions on the trip that were over-hyped. Stonehenge, happily, was not one of those. We even had a VIP experience of our own. My intelligent wife is quite good at researching our itineraries and stops. She found a suggestion to park at Woodhenge, a neighboring historic site. We walked a 2 mile “trail” that led from Woodhenge through sheep filled pastures of golden grasses. Further along the trail, we encountered beautiful wooded tunnels.

In the distance, rolling hills developed and standing stones conspicuously stood out as almost misplaced among the fields. As we drew closer, it was a sight to behold. The stones were quite large. I imagined it would be small. Hannah and I marveled at how a primitive society could have achieved the movement of such stones and building of the structure. We were separated from the other (paying) tourists by about 10 feet by a wired pasture fence, but the experience was still the same, and it was free and perfectly allowed. The unique walk through the fields was a highlight. Our conversations were punctuated by the bleating of sheep and the warm sun was interrupted by a small rain shower which felt nice in the heat.

Thirsty and tired, we climbed into the car for our 3.5 hour drive to our Airbnb in the southwest of England. The road trip was absolutely beautiful. Country roads boxed in by old stone walls and canopied by green trees overhead. As the road rose and fell the further south we moved, pastures alternated from deep purple to light green like a checkerboard. The pieces were dots of black and white cows grazing. Unfortunately, Hannah was the driver and unable to take in as much of it as I did. But, she did an excellent job of keeping us safe.

Day 4 Cornwall

My heavy sleep was broken by the cock-a-doodle-doos of our host’s henhouse in the back garden. Surprisingly, it did not bother me to be woken by this natural alarm clock. I quietly tip-toed down the creaky stairs and grabbed myself a cup of coffee while my sleeping beauty wife slept longer before we headed to the coast.

Cornwall was unique and should be on a bucket list. Small seaside towns were connected by very narrow 1 and 2 lane roads. Above the hedge and rock wall lined roads, English countryside zoomed by between glimpses of the ocean. It was also very stressful, though. Locals careened down the one-way paths with reckless abandon. It felt quite dangerous. The difficulty of driving on the left side of the road, and on the right side of the vehicle added to it.

Nevertheless, we could not help but enjoy the day. Our first stop was Land’s End, a picturesque beach town gradually climbs to a cliff-side path overlooking the white foam of breaking waves. The path wound along the edge, stopping at a coast guard station and a shipwreck of a German cargo ship. At the furthest point of the hike, we pulled out our books for a quick reading break and then headed back to the car. Before moving to the next destination, we shared a piping hot steak and onion Cornish pasty and cod filet and chips.

After another 20 minutes of sphincter-puckering roads, we pulled down a one way gravel road, relieved to arrive at our destination. Beside us, an old stonework building rose half deconstructed. We had made our way to Wheal Owles, an old tin mine that was portrayed in the BBC show Poldark. The site was almost completely secluded. The cool ocean breeze and rhythmic sound of waves provided excellent background to exploring the building remnants. The dilapidated, historic buildings were easy to access and open to the public. Hannah and I speculated that such a thing in America would sadly and likely be vandalized and derelict if direct access was so available.

Our final stop of the day was St. Ives, a much bigger seaside town toward the southwestern end of England. Parking was a bit ridiculous there, we ended up at the top of several large hills with a long winding path to the beaches. Little shops, pubs, and tourist stores lined the small boulevards as we walked along. We chose a small sandy spot next to a tiny cove on the other side of the mooring harbor. Children frolicked in the cold water while dogs jumped in after balls. This little town was filled with dog lovers. The English make it a thing of taking their dogs with them to the beach which made the day even more enjoyable for yours truly.

On the way back north up the Cornwall peninsula, we stopped for a picnic lunch at Dozemary Pool, which was the alleged site where Arthur pulled Excalibur from the stone. We backed the car up onto the grass, opened the “boot”(trunk), and shared some fruit and sandwiches while the cows crossed the pastures and roads to drink from the pond and search for the sword.

Day 5 & 6 Bristol & Bath

We chose a convenient location between Bristol and Bath for lodging. Bristol had a few churches and items to see. The Christmas steps and St. Nicholas Market did not have much going on since it was Sunday. Bath was the better of the two cities, in my opinion. Historic charm was oozing from the old storefronts and streets. Hannah and I split up for part of the day and she went to see the Jane Austen Center while I toured the Roman Baths. The Baths were expansive and still functional. It was a great experience that highlighted the importance of the community aspect of the Baths. Servants, aristocrats, and soldiers all bathed together despite class differences. Hannah thoroughly enjoyed her time daydreaming about Darcy and playing dress up…with strangers.


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