road trip

Travelling in the 90s: cool places like Sherwood Forest, York, moors

And now for more Travelling in the 90s — tripping back in time to 1994 and my road trip around the UK. Last installment from my travel journal saw us in Scotland and we’ve now come south again to hang out with family friends on a quaint little farm near Lincoln in northern England…

pigs[Monday 17 January, 1994] This morning I slept in and later went for a walk around the farm. It SNOWED overnight (not heavily but enough). We walked down some country lanes and came to a pig farm. I was fascinated, having never seen a pig farm before — the pigs are huge things. I also saw a large fox, a squirrel, horses, goats, and a rabbit. Add to these the menagerie of animals living or day-boarding at the farm… I guess no farm is the same without animals.

[Wednesday 19 January, 1994] Today H and I decided we had better get off our backsides and do something other than laze about the farm, so we went down to Sherwood Forest — only an hour away. It was amazingly a beautiful day (for England) and we walked through Birklands Forest, and then through Thieves Wood — both remaining clumps of the once-mighty Sherwood Forest.

Birklands consisted mainly of birch trees (surprise), and we were mildly disappointed that it wasn’t a dense forest. Not as we’d imagined. The trees weren’t very tall, were widely spaced with little undergrowth, and gave very little cover. How would Robin Hood’s Merry Men hide???

major oakNevertheless, it was very pretty, and we saw the Major Oak — according to legend the tree under which Robin Hood met his men. But the tree is only about 500 years old (only!) — not old enough for Robin Hood. We then went into Nottingham to get our mega-touristy Robin Hood fix at the Robin Hood Centre. It was overall an immensely enjoyable day.

[Saturday 22 January, 1994] Thursday saw us in York, the Roman/Viking city with a wall around it. We are still being singularly unsuccessful with getting up early, but were in York by about midday (disgraceful!). We went first to the old York keep, and admired the city from the top.

yorkWe then headed for the Jorvik Viking Centre (expensive!), similar in theory to the Robin Hood centre – i.e. we got to ride little carriages through a reconstructed Viking street (smell and sound included) and then through a reconstructed archaeological site. I actually bought a scratch and sniff postcard — Viking market and latrines!

After seeing York minster (yet another cathedral), and wandering along the York wall for a while, we had afternoon tea at a delightful old-fashioned coffee house — Thomas Gent’s is situated on a tiny little cobbled lane called Coffee Yard. In fact much of York is cobbled shopping malls, so the place has lots of atmosphere. It was lovely just to wander about and window shop.

Another cathedral awaited us yesterday in Lincoln — but with a difference. The Lincoln imp sits up at the top of one of the pillars grinning down at people. He’s cute. Lincoln castle was next (if there’s a castle I gotta go see it!).

A big bonus was that one of the four remaining original versions of the Magna Carta was there! It was incredible to see something of such historical significance. The castle itself consisted mainly of walls, with a rather spectacular observatory tower, and a keep shoved off to the side which reminded both of us of “The Secret Garden”. It had a lovely tall tree in the middle.

ilkley moor[Tuesday 25 January, 1994] Sunday was a lovely day, and we drove to the Yorkshire Dales and Ilkley Moor. I’m really glad I’ve seen a moor now! It was hilly and barren, with red bracken covering the ground. We parked the car and stumbled out into the FREEZING wind — amazing how cold it was up there, given the sunny weather.

We drove then to Haworth, the old home of the Brontes — Charlotte, Emily and Anne. Predictably, the parsonage where they lived was closed, but the village is extremely pretty, consisting of a main cobbled street that climbed a hill. We went for a wander, and found afternoon tea at Heather Cottage — hot chocolate fudge cake and cream. Yum!

cleethorpesYesterday we visited the beach. Specifically, Cleethorpes, a port town near the mouth of the Humber. We ate fish and chips (from Ye Olde Chippie) on the water front (at the edge of the muddy beach). And promenaded along the beach (well, along the asphalt pathway next to the mud). And so now we’ve seen an English beach.

Next we went to Gainsborough Old Hall — an English Heritage Property picked at random off the map. It turned out to be a real highlight. The Hall was mainly medieval, and really well set out — enhanced by an audio tour which lasted for about 50 minutes. In particular, the main hall was wonderful — with high wooden arches and a floor paved in terracotta.

Sadly, our road trip is almost over and it’s back to London next, then Paris! Looking forward to reliving that…

PS — the last couple of photos are even more crappy than ever, owing to the fact my camera broke and H temporarily LOST hers, leaving us at the mercy of a DISPOSABLE camera… remember those? (They are still all iPhone snaps of prints – apologies!)

Travelling in the 90s – Stratford, Bath, Stonehenge…

More Travelling in the 90s today… and we’ve arrived at one of the most thrilling weeks of the entire UK road trip. Warwick Castle… Stratford-upon-Avon… Bath… Salisbury… Stonehenge. It doesn’t get much better than this.


[Monday 3 January, 1994] Yesterday we went to Warwick Castle, which is supposed to be the “finest castle in England”. It certainly is rather impressive, and I’m extremely grateful to it for being open at this time of year.

warwick castle

Warwick Castle

It consists of a large square keep, one side of which is a manor house, set in the midst of vast green grounds on the banks of the River Avon. It is very geared to tourists, and we certainly saw enough of them. Part of the living areas have been made into an exhibition by Mme Tussauds, entitled a “Royal Weekend Party”. As the name suggests, it consisted of wax figures who might have visited the Earl of Warwick in 1898. It was extremely well done.

The other part of the “living” areas consisted of all the state rooms — great hall plus official drawing rooms, dining rooms etc, and even a room which is supposedly haunted by the first man to revive the ruins of the castle back in the seventeenth century.

There was also a rather impressive armoury. In fact some man on duty had a sword and some helmets that we could pick up, and indicated me towards a sheet that lists all the different types of swords which I have copied down. I just wish that samples accompanied. Someday I will enjoy my antique sword collection! The grounds of the castle were also very attractive.


Stratford-upon-Avon: Shakespeare’s birthplace

Today we went to Stratford-upon-Avon to visit the Shakespeare properties. We saw Shakespeare’s birthplace, Nash’s house incorporating the site of New Place, and Hall’s Croft. All were lovely Tudor cottages with smooth stone or polished wooden floorboards, and high V-shaped ceilings. I could live in one of these houses!

They were all furnished similarly, but each had a little exhibition to accompany the house: John Shakespeare’s life and times, William’s writing, a history of Stratford from Neolithic times, and medical practice in the time of doctor John Hall (who was the husband of Will’s daughter Elizabeth). Still to go are Ann Hatheway’s cottage, and Mary Arden’s house. We will probably go there on Saturday. Tonight we had our first traditional British Fish and Chips — YUM.

[Wednesday 5 January, 1994] Yesterday was fairly dreary and hardly worth commenting on, save for two things: the first is the Corinium museum — Corinium being the 4th largest city in Roman Britain. The museum was full of Roman mosaics and artifacts and was rather interesting. We were originally going to Goodrich Castle, but as it was raining (and Goodrich is a ruin) we found something indoors. It was ironic that by the time we reached Cirencester (Corinium) the sun was out! We also went to see the Roman ampitheatre in Cirencester, but this was only large grass-covered mounds where wooden seating had previously been.

The second thing worth mentioning was the RSC production of King Lear at Stratford-upon-Avon, which was brilliant, even if slightly long and melodramatic. I do love Shakespeare, and this was a classic. We had really good seats too. King Lear is a rather depressing play though — everyone ends up mad or dead or both!

Today, in contrast, has been wonderful. We went to Bath. We decided to make it a two day trip, planning to stay in the Bath youth hostel, so duly packed our belongings for one night and drove down the motorway. We put the car in a big shed for the day, and then went to explore on foot (the ONLY way to see Bath).

The main attraction is of course the Roman remains of the baths, but these are more complex than I had expected, and include the ruins of a temple to Sulis-Minerva. The whole setup is as follows: The natural hot spring (46.5C) wells up, heated geothermally. In Roman times the spring was considered sacred and served to heat the main “swimming pool” bath. Then a series of east and west baths developed, at first heated by water from the main bath, and later by a Roman hypercaust system (central heating by hot air).

When the baths and the temple fell into disuse, the ceilings etc fell in, until only the original hot spring remained in use by monks as a swimming pool. As time passed, buildings rose up around and on top of the old Roman baths.

The Pump Room, which drew water out of the hot spring, was built around 1790. During the Georgian era Bath became very fashionable as a health resort, so that most of the “city” is of Georgian style. However, Society was in complete ignorance of the Roman ruins, which were not re-discovered until around 1890! They were then excavated and added to, so that what we see now of the baths is partly Victorian. WOW!

We went to the Pump Room and tasted the waters for 35p. Very warm and very hard and very sulphurous — yuck yuck yuck!

We then sauntered off on a walking tour of the town, seeing Laura Place (as one does) before it started to rain and we took ourselves off to see the assembly rooms. These are wonderful! A big ball room, card room, tea room — the perfect setting for Georgette Heyer’s books! It was worth coming to England just to see these. The same building houses the Museum of Costume. This was fascinating, particularly learning how the change in fashion represents the changing thoughts and needs of women of the time. Magnificent!

We were originally planning to stay in Bath, but the hostel was full when we got there, so we went on to Salisbury (booking ahead first). It took us 45 minutes driving around the stupid city before I got a map from the train station — and even then the hostel was tricky to find.

[Thursday 6 January, 1994] Today has been great, even if freezing, and completed an excellent double day adventure. I am now exhausted.

Following breakfast at the hostel, we went to see Stonehenge. I was expecting to be disappointed, since everyone says it’s small and a let down because you can’t walk amongst the stones. This is all true, but it still possesses a mysterious, eerie quality which has to do with great age, and its position on the windswept Salisbury plain. We saw it in the mist of early morning, looking quite ethereal, and I can’t say that I was disappointed.

We had a tricky time finding angles for photography that avoided the ladder, tripod and two men amidst the stones (surveyors?), and all the other tourists. We joined English Heritage (EH) here, as at least we can be sure they’ll be open during winter!

After Stonehenge we set off to find the White Horse carved into the side of the hillside nearby. Just nearing it, we drove into a dense mist, and then the plain was covered in snow. Oh well. We then went to Old Sarum (EH) which is an old Royal fort and cathedral. It was an extremely cold day, and Old Sarum is on the top of a hill, so we FROZE. It mainly consisted of old walls which had been covered by slate and mortar for protection in ~1910 when found.

We then went into Salisbury again for lunch and to see the cathedral, the largest in England. It is certainly rather impressive — high vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, and an old medieval clock (the oldest still working in England).

We set off back to home base via Avebury, jumping out in the dark to see the standing stones by torchlight! An enormous ring runs right through the village — we actually touched these ones. With a bit of moon they would have looked spectacular — as it was they were barely visible. But, nevertheless!!


Hope you enjoyed this glimpse of some of England’s most iconic sites through my youthful eyes. I certainly look back upon those days with great pleasure.

The Travelling in the 90s series features lightly edited excerpts from my 1993-1994 travel journal. (Once again, please excuse the dodgy photos!)

Travelling in the 90s – road trip UK

Welcome to the next installment of Travelling in the 90s, which comprises extracts of my 1993-1994 first ever overseas travel journal. Many things have changed since then. Many things have not.

It’s Christmas Eve and we’re heading to St Paul’s cathedral…


[Sunday 26 December, 1993] Friday was a cold, windy day, and we were freezing and very upset to find the British Museum closed, being Christmas Eve. We then decided to check out St Paul’s Cathedral. It too was closed. However, things began to look brighter when we learned it was to reopen in an hour for a carol service at 4:00 pm.

We went back and ended up with pretty good seats. What would Christmas be without a carol service? It was a really lovely service — we sang every possible carol except for Silent Night, and heard all possible Christmas readings. The choir was lovely and sang some modern Christmas carols.

But the cathedral! It’s fairly magnificent. There are beautiful paintings on the domed ceilings, and the whole building has a majestic aura. To partake of a carol service at St Paul’s was something wonderful. What better place to spend Christmas Eve?

Today we went to Leeds Castle. This originates from Norman times with bits being added over the years. Henry VIII owned it at one time (I think Catherine Parr lived there after his death). We went all around the castle, and learned interesting things — such as that in Tudor times, the Queen received people on a huge bed which was never slept in, but used as a status symbol.

Leeds Castle, Kent

Leeds Castle, Kent

The parks and grounds were gorgeous, and we had a nice day for England — it didn’t rain, and we even saw the sun! There was a hedge maze (which we got lost in) and also a rather impressive aviary with many Australian and South American birds. It was a thoroughly wonderful day, topped off by scones and coffee in a barn-like hall.

[Thursday 30 December, 1993] Well. ENGLAND PHASE TWO begins now, as we arrived in Badsey (staying with family friends) in our snazzy car. We picked it up yesterday as planned — a brand new “diamond white” ROVER. It has power steering, sun roof, electronic windows, side window de-misters, 5 gears, central locking… and indicators on the wrong side of the steering wheel column.

This last made driving home from Croydon rather interesting. I drove — with the only mishap being a full circumnavigation of an enormous double round-about! We then took this glorious car out for a spin down in the direction of Hever castle — which was closed — but the scenery around this part of Kent is beautiful.

However, it is becoming a bit of a drag to find everything we want to see closed. The freezing weather I had anticipated, but not the winter hibernation of half the historical buildings in the UK.


A-Z Road Atlas: Christmas present from our hosts!

This morning we left Kent and hit the road for Badsey (near Evesham), intending to stop and do something on the way. I was driving, and found the motorways quite enjoyable (some might disagree). We stopped at Woodstock, which is just out of Oxford, for lunch — hoping that Blenheim Palace was open (no). This was one of the first lunches we had not packed, and we were quite surprised at how expensive things were. We found a little cafe and had toasted sandwiches and a danish pastry with coffee.

Unfortunately the local tourist office was also in hibernation, so we went straight to Badsey. That night we became acclimatised and made plans. We are all going walking in the Malvern Hills on New Years Day.

I can’t wait to see the English countryside: hills, lakes, rivers, and all the little villages in between. There is so much to see — including a town with THIRTY second-hand bookshops. We think a day would do for there! The next four weeks are going to be really hectic, but out little car should make it fun.

[Saturday 1 January, 1994] Well, 1994 — What will it bring? The stars say lots of money — Good! Yesterday we went into Evesham to do some shopping and visit the tourist office — which was of course closed. It will supposedly be reopening next week — hmmm. We then took our lovely car down to Wynchcombe. Sudeley castle was ALSO closed, but we walked down a public footpath which gave us a fairly good view — lovely — and it was a glorious day.

We then took our packed lunch to Belas Knap long barrow (which took a few U-turns and traversing private property to find) at the top of a lovely green grassy hill. We climbed it out of necessity to find the barrow and a fantastic view. It was a very nice barrow — a hump really. However, despite the sunshine, it was still very cold.

Hales Barrow

Top – Belas Knap Long Barrow; Bottom – Hales Abbey

Following the barrow we went to Hales Abbey, now very much a ruin, but we were guided around by a resident lay-brother who died of the plague, and then the senior choirmaster (via a tape recording). We were told all the history, and I could actually imagine what the abbey was like, and how the monks etc lived.

The abbey was previously a popular destination for pilgrims, as they supposedly had some of the blood from Christ’s body. At the end of our tour we were very cold and had very muddy boots.

New Year’s Eve we were taken to three pubs: The Vauxhall, the Norton Grange, and then the Queen’s Head. After wine with dinner, cider at the pub, and then Baileys both H and I were very merry by the end of the evening! But we weren’t driving. And despite the fact that we didn’t really know anybody, missed the countdown, and missed hearing Big Ben chime in the New Year, it was one of the best New Years I’ve had.

Today we slept in (surprise), but eventually the five of us packed up a lunch and went to the Malvern Hills for a walk. I totally overexerted myself on the way up, but once there it was lovely — devoid of trees entirely, with soft, spongy grass. We wandered about for a while, (among the crowds of overkeen walkers for the day after New Years Eve) before reluctantly descending (driven down by the biting wind) to a carpark lunch.

Apparently you HAVE to drink the Malvern Waters, so we drove around looking for, and eventually found, Holy Well, before heading home for a quiet evening.


Hiring a car and taking a road trip around the UK remains the best way to see this place. It was bold for us back then, given our budget, but this marked the beginning of a fabulous month of road touring. Even though so many sites were closed…

Has anyone else tried to tour the UK in the dead of winter?

When I was 12 – family road trip with dead kangaroos

I’ve been sorting through old storage boxes today, and I came across my first ever travel journal — it’s illustrated and everything. I was 12 years old, and our family was going on a camping road trip to South Australia’s Flinders Ranges in our brand new 8-seater Mitsubishi van…


Sunday 15 August — Spent about an hour packing but at last we are on the road. We left the house at 9:53 and we stopped at a petrol station. When we left home the gauge was 1910km. Stopped at Ballarat for lunch two hours after we had left. We walked a little way and saw many birds. Arrived at camping ground at 3:25. We got a caravan with two bunks. We went to Little Desert for about an hour and I saw the first kangaroo hopping into the scrub. The camping ground was at Dimboola. S, M and I found a little cubby looking onto the river and we went there with torches to show daddy. It was my turn to dry the dishes tonight.


Monday 16 August — Before breakfast we went for an interesting walk. Then we had breakfast. After breakfast we packed, then we all went for a short walk before we went. We left Dimboola at 8:41. [ed: hahahaha] In the car we amused ourselves by giving each other squiggles but I got sick of that. We stopped to look at some funny looking melons in a sheep paddock. S and M got one; we smashed it open with a rock, it was awful. Another interesting thing was that we found hundreds of shells, some with animals in them! So our melon stop turned out to be a shell stop! We were miles away from the sea.

We had lunch at Menigie on the Prince Albert Lake. Then we looked at the Coorong, then we crossed the joining point between Lake Alexandrina and the Prince Albert Lake. We stopped at the Murray Bridge Cheese factory where we were shown around the factory. We had to wear funny hats and when we were finished we got lots of stickers and project things and we bought some cheese. At last we have arrived in Adelaide.

Thursday 19 August — We left [Adelaide] at 9:16. We stopped at a salt co. and dad took a bit of film. (The map nearly flew away.) Daddy went to ask at the office and we got some salt off the salt pile. We had lunch in Snowtown and we bought some lovely country bread, it was so nice mum bought some more for breakfast. Although it is winter, the day is lovely, just like spring and the town was dusty and dry. We stopped at Port Pirie where the main road was Ellen St. Mummy took a photo of me standing under a sign. We went to the museum which was really interesting. We have arrived at this camping ground in Quorn and we had a camp fire, and sausages and bread for tea.


Friday 20 August — We left the camping ground at 9:22 after a cold morning and a hot breakfast around the camp fire. We stopped to get some bread and mum went round to a Mother’s stall and bought some caramels and other sweets. We left Quorn at 9:35. We went to Warren Gorge and us girls climbed up one side. Then we went to Bukaringa Gorge and saw a dead kangaroo (Yuk!). Then we stopped to look at a windmill and for dad to change his socks [ed: ??!!] and we went fossil looking (we didn’t find any) and M got ant bites on her hand.

We stopped for lunch at one point where the creek met the road and we had a paddle as it is very hot. Then we stopped at an old ruin to look at it and saw a stumpy tailed lizard and a littler lizard. We stopped at the ruins of Kanyaka, an old town and there was one, if it had a roof, that would have been good enough to sleep in.

On the way to Hawker we saw 26 dead kangaroos, including the one I said before. We stopped at Hawker for a few minutes to get petrol. From Hawker we saw 18 dead kangaroos and that makes 44 all together. We arrived at the camping ground where we are going to stay for 9 nights at 3:00 and I let the grasshopper, which had travelled with us from Hawker, go. (he was quite a cutie.) We had tea around the open fire. S was bitten by the caretaker’s dog.



And so it goes on for 3 weeks. I find it very amusing to read now (and the illustrations are priceless), but won’t bore you with the rest of it. We became quite fixated with counting dead kangaroos, as I recall. (Mostly lying at the edge of the road after being hit by traffic.)

As it happens, this was the same trip from which I shared last week’s campfire memory — only (according to my newly discovered journal) it turns out it was Fellowship of the Ring we were listening to around the camp fire. The Hobbit must have come earlier. Not long after this, I wrestled LOTR off my father and read the rest for myself.

Today’s post is a response to this week’s wanafriday theme (yes, I know it’s Saturday — oops), which was to ‘write about a long drive you took’. Here are some of the other responses:

Kim Griffin — An unexpected trip

Liv Rancourt — The road trip from hell

Did anyone else keep a travel diary at aged 12? I must admit I had completely forgotten about this one! What’s the most memorable road trip or family holiday you ever took?