Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Family Vacation in the U.K., 11th October 2016, Day 12: Edinburgh to Loch Ness

We woke up early and reached the place from where we would board a bus to travel to Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. This trip, which I had booked through TripAdvisor, was conducted by the Highland Explorer Tours company. The office of this company is located on the Royal Mile road. Their bus arrived a little after eight a.m. In the meantime, we meandered into a nearby cafe to partake of some coffee and cakes. A small crowd collected as the time to start the tour neared. Inside the office, we exchanged our trip vouchers for actual tickets. Each ticket would cost around 45 pounds. For this price, we would ride the bus for over 12 hours, visiting many of the highlands areas including Stirling, Callender, Loch Lomond, Fort Augustus and, finally, Loch Ness, before returning in the evening via a route that would cover the Commando Memorial. En route, we would pass the famous Ben Nevis mountain. At Fort Augustus, we were served a dry lunch consisting of sandwiches and shortbread. 

The entire trip was a memorable one indeed. The sights of Scotland were marvellous. We spent a lot of time at Loch Ness, also having our lunch here, and a bit of local shopping. We also took many photos, both along the way, at the Loch itself, and at the Commando memorial. Here are some memories: 

At Loch Ness

Loch Ness replica made from steel wires

The Commandos' statue at the Commando Memorial

Tributes to deceased soldiers

Monday, October 02, 2017

Family Vacation in the U.K., 10th October 2016, Day 11: Durham to Edinburgh via Hadrian's wall and Vindolanda

I write this post after nearly a year of the events, so readers may please excuse if there are inconsistencies. Today, we checked out of the hotel in Durham and proceeded to drive to Edinburgh. A little after we had left, Hannah and I began to discuss what might happen if we veered a little off-course to explore Hadrian's Wall - a definite tourist attraction this side. We saw only portions of this wall as we drove parallel to it on the route that would start east of us near Newcastle and goes west to Carlisle. However, we did drive to the ancient Roman artifacts of Vindolanda - where we spent nearly two hours seeing the ruins of an ancient Roman settlement - houses, fort, and all. 

These are some of the memories we stored in the camera. 

A reconstruction of a reinforcement along the Hadrian's wall

The Hadrian wall in the distance

The most dramatic find at Vindolanda was the museum that had completely well-preserved Roman artifacts dating back to the dawn of the modern age around the 1st to the 3rd century AD. The Wikipedia article gives credit to the ANOXIC soil conditions here that have prevented oxidative damage in the form of decay and rusting. The above photographs will bear me out. The last photo shows a portion of the intact Hadrian's wall running parallel to the motorway.

From here, we then proceeded on the journey to Edinburgh. We arrived in Edinburgh around sunset. Here, we had booked a flat on AirBnB. It was a lavish 2 BHK flat in a quiet area of the metropolitan city. However, it was on a higher floor and it took us some effort to get our luggage up into the flat. There was a well-appointed kitchen and large, spacious rooms. The property was well-maintained. The only issue we had over the next few nights was that the bath-tub was too smooth and we slipped while standing and taking a shower. Other than that, the property was great. 

For dinner, we went and picked up food from an Indian restaurant located less than a few roads away. We retired for the night. Tomorrow would be a busy day as we were all set to travel further north to Loch Ness. 

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Family Vacation in the U.K., 9th October 2016, Day 10: York to Durham

We checked out of Bootham Crescent and drove to Durham today. The drive was unexciting, but we were aware we were now proceeding to visit a castle that was part of the shooting of Harry Potter movies. Hannah was excited as well. Imagine our disappointment when we reached Durham to see that the castle visits were not on for the day as the castle was hosting a college cultural event! 

We had plenty of other things to do - so we made the best of the day with visits to the Durham Cathedral and an outdoor visit to the Angel of the North. Here are some pictures from the day. I would consider that this was among the most unexciting days we had on this otherwise glorious trip.

This photo was of a plant arrangement in the outer area of the cathedral. I think that the cathedral edifice here was really grand. They did not allow us to take photos inside, but we did manage a few of the structure from outside. 

Within, there was a section of the cathedral devoted to ex-soldiers, policemen and other public servants that was quite interesting. 

A model of the cathedral in the gift shop

From the cathedral, we decided to first have lunch. We went to the Bistro Italiano, which we found accidentally while searching for an appropriate location to have our food. This place is located on Claypath road. This place is on the first floor of a building but is easy to find as they have posted a sufficient number of signposts. The restaurant was delightful. They found us a table near the glass front of the restaurant. A young man called ?Tony served us. 

After lunch, we decided to visit the Angel of the North, which is a huge public edifice located outside Durham at Gateshead of the Newcastle upon Tyne area. One can read a lot about this place on either Wikipedia or on TripAdvisor as well, but the best thing to do is to actually go there and experience the sheer size and beauty of this structure. It has the wingspan of a large jumbo jet and is nearly seven to eight stories high. It is believed to be the largest sculpture of an angel in the world and it was planned under the supervision of Antony Gormley. It stands here since 1998 and welcomes over 150000 visitors each year. We spent over two hours here, taking photos and enjoying ourselves. Around the sculpture are gardens where people have traditionally created places of worship for their pets and children who have passed away. We saw a great many such memorials here. Some pictures follow:

Having visited this place, we went to the Gilesgate Moor Hotel. where we spent the night.