Sunday, August 15, 2010

Trip to United Kingdom - September 2001

After the completion of my week long workshop at Geneva and official engagements with some of  my company's banker-clients at Frankfurt and London, I reached Sale, a suburb of Greater Manchester to spend a week or so with my son who was posted here on a project assignment. I had two week-ends here which enabled my son to accompany me for sight-seeing trips around Lake District and Cumbria for first week-end-trip and Scotland for the second week-end. During week-days, I travelled by trains on my own, separately to York and Chester for sightseeing.

I reached London's Heathrow Airport from Frankfurt in the evening. A light showers greeted me as I came out of the airport waiting for my turn for a cab. There was heavy traffic on the expressway and vehicles were moving in a snail's pace. Luckily, after few minutes, my cab got into the exclusive lane for public transport and thereafter it was a smooth ride to my hotel at central London.  After two days of work in London, I boarded an evening flight to Manchester and from the airport, a cab dropped me at my son's apartment in Sale.

Apartment at Sale, outskirt of Manchester where I stayed for a week.

A Week-end Visits to Windermere Lake and Hadrian's Wall

Next day, we took an early morning train from Manchester Piccadilly for  Oxenholme from where we were to board another train to Windermere. The train was, however, terminated at Bolton for some technical reason. We got into another train from Bolton for Oxenholme and then to Windermere. In this process, we reached Windermere late by an hour. 

From Windermere railway station, Bowness pier was about 2 kms of a pleasant walk for taking Windermere Lake cruise. The grassy slopes in front of the pier in an autumn sun  was  too inviting for relaxation for a while and watch the activities around the lake. But being already late by one hour and the need to complete the lake cruise round in time to catch the bus for our further journey, we were keen to get the first available lake cruise boat.
After a brief round of the Lakeside and  a tea break at the cafe, we boarded the heritage train for  for a 5.5 kms journey to Haverthwaite - the only preserved track from the original 12 kms of track, thanks to the efforts by the Lakeside Railway Society. The steam engine driven train runs up to Haverthwaite and drops you back to Lakeside. It was interesting to learn from the steam loco driver that the heritage train was being run by the steam enthusiasts on voluntary basis after undergoing necessary training.  

Being week-end, the boat was full of tourists most of them holding binoculars looking for birds for which the lake is famous for. Sometimes, swans can be seen flying over the lake during their nesting time. There were some nice mansions on the shores of the lake, most of which now converted into holiday flats. After about 45 minutes of the cruise, we reached Lakeside pier. There was an aquarium on the Lakeside but we had to drop the idea of what is called as 'journey through aquarium'  due to paucity of time.
We returned to Bowness by one of the boats at Lakeside. What we had seen was only a small part of  Windermere Lake. For doing full justice to this trip, one needs to spend at least two days to really enjoy the visit to Windermere lake areas. There are a couple of more boat cruise covering the larger areas of lake. Then, there are historical walking trails and exotic houses around the lake having their own history.   

Ferry House for boat cruise in Windermere lake at Bowness. We took the boat cruise from here to Lakeside for  Haverthwaite railway journey.

Windermere lake. It is said to be the England's largest lake.

This and below picture : Beautiful houses on the banks of Windermere lake.

A steam engine driven train arrives at Lakeside railway station.

This heritage railway is run by steam enthusiasts who volunteer to run the railway.

Return boat cruise from Lakeside to Bowness. 

A street scene in Bowness.

Carlisle was our next destination to stay overnight for our next day's trip to Hadrian's Wall. There was no direct buses to Carlisle from Windermere in the afternoon and we were required  to change the buses at Kendal and Penrith. (I think the buses on these routes were run by Stagecoach). There was a long gap for getting the connecting bus at Kendal for Penrith and this gave us an opportunity to roam around Kendal's high street where we had a tea break with some snacks in one of the restaurants. The time gap for the second bus change over at Penrith for Carlisle was short and we reached our destination in the late evening. We stayed in one of B & B located within the walking distance from the city centre. 

Next day, after breakfast, we walked down to the city centre for taking a bus to Birdswald which is the nearest place from Carlisle for visiting  Hadrian Wall's most popular sites like Housestead Fort, Vindolanda excavations.  Hadrian's Wall is a stone fortification of about 80 miles in length from west coast to east coast in Northern England’s Cumbria and Northumberland counties, to ward off small bands of raiders from Scotland. It was constructed during the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian. The wall was originally of 12 feet height but at most places including the places we visited, the wall has been reduced to almost ground level. It is stated that many locals have taken stones from the wall as souvenirs and  used  the same in their house constructions. We walked few steps on the wall but soon noticed that there were track on the side of the walls for walking and may be for cycling too. We saw the remains of two-three watch towers at around every one miles along the Wall. 

As mentioned earlier, the Vindolanda is one of the most popular tourist spot in Hadrian's Wall. The remains of the bases of houses seen after excavations in this site indicate that at one time  there were many roman houses in this area with large bathing places. It was apparent that, over a period of time, these places must have been used as military garrisons of the Roman Empire.
Apparently, what we had seen during our 7 hours of visit  was but a small patch of the vast areas covered under Hadrian's Wall. Hardcore enthusiasts of this archaeological and world heritage site undertake 5-day trek of about 80 miles from one end of the wall to other end.  We returned to Carlisle by late afternoon.  After moving around the main city centre for an hour or so, we boarded the late evening train to Manchester. We just managed to get into the last tram to Altrincham and alighted at Sale.

Carlisle railway station Gothic style building.

Carlisle high street.

Carlisle cathedral.

Carlisle citadel.

Entrance from Birdoswald Fort and Visitor Centre.

Both sides of the Hadrian's Wall are grazing ground for cows. Due to a major 'mad cow' disease prevalent  at the time of  my visit, grazing was allowed at isolated places which were out of bound for  tourists and locals.

A nice  view from Housesteads excavation.

Hadrian's Wall. Much of the wall got dismantled over a period of time.

A view of Vidolanda excavation.

A close view of Vidolanda  excavation. There were remains of few houses with bathrooms.

A close up view of the excavations.

Visit to York

During one of the week days, on the recommendations of my son,  I decided to visit York. Knowing that there were frequent trains from Manchester Piccadilly for York, I took it a  little easy in starting from the house. Later on, I realised that there was so much to see in York that my late start from Sale deprived me to spend more time in York.

A 90 minutes train journey from Manchester Piccadilly took me to York station. Judging by the number of platforms at the station, York must be an important railway junction.  After rambling through the city centre  for some time just to get a feel of the city, I visited the National Railway Museum which housed the many locos - from the historical steam locos to the modern diesel and electric locos and from the royal carriages to modern day carriages. Though I took a lot of pictures of historical locos and carriages, unfortunately, the pictures did not come out right; may be that in my zeal to take pictures, my setting must have gone terribly wrong. The museum is located very close to York railway station.

Next in my 'must see' place in York was York Minster Cathedral. It is located within the walking distance from the York railway station. The cathedral was a huge medieval Gothic structure and stated to be the second largest cathedral in north Europe. Everything - sculptures, domes, stained glasses, rooms were extremely beautiful to watch. In fact, one would need to spend at least half-a-day to really get to know the details about the cathedral.

After somehow reluctantly leaving the cathedral, I visited Clifford Tower with its rich circular grassy area. The tower was constructed sometime in 13th century probably for reconnaissance. The roof and the floors were lost in a fire some time during 17th century. The tower was still in depleted condition especially its round walls inside and was roofless.   After climbing up the stairs inside the tower, I reached the top to see a spectacular view of York city.  
I could have visited more interesting places in York located away from the city centre had I taken 'Hop in Hop out'  bus. In any case, one day was not enough to explore York city and its neighbourhoods.

York Minster Cathedral.

Another side view of  York Minster Cathedral.

The choir in York Minster Cathedral.

One of the many stain-glass windows of  York Minster Cathedral.

Inside York Minster Cathedral.

One of alleys inside York Minster Cathedral.

National Railway Museum, York.

Clifftord Tower, York. The stairs in the right through grassy hill  lead to the gate.

Inside view of Clifford Tower.

A street scene from the base of Clifford Tower.

Visit to Chester 

The next day, I visited Chester which was about one hour train journey from Manchester Piccadilly. The weather was cloudy with rains threatening any moment. After walking through the city centre, my first visit was to the arch located on the high street. There was a well decorated clock which was placed on the top of the arch in honour of Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee. The arch with clock tower is regarded as an important landmark in Chester.  

I accessed the Walls from the Clock Tower. The circular Walls is of about 2 miles in length covering the historical places in Chester. At some part of the routes, metal frames installed on the Walls giving the information about the place facilitated identification of the places without the help of a guide. It took me about one hour to complete the circuit by getting down at Roman Castle. If I had gone to each and every historical places around the Walls ( there are stairs to get down to such places from Walls), it would have taken at least half-a day to complete the circuit. Walking tours on the Walls were also available with guide. 

My next visit was to the Chester Cathedral. All I remembered now was that it was a massive cathedral with lots of woodcarvings and stone works. There were big windows with stained glasses some of which were modern. An architecture student may spend the whole day studying the intricate designs of the cathedral. I spent about an hour inside the cathedral which was too less a time to spend in the cathedral to really appreciate the works. 

Chester high street near the Arch.

The arch with decorative clock tower in the main city centre, Chester.

View of East Gate Street from the Clock Tower.

View from the Walls - On the right is a part of the Roman Amphitheater excavations.

River Dee on the right of theWall walkway.

A part of walkway on the Walls.

Roman Castle from Chester Wall.

On way to Chester Cathedral.

The nave interior in Chester Cathedral.

Stained glass window of the cathedral.

Week-end Visit to Edinburgh and around

On the eve of my second week-end at Sale, we boarded a Friday evening train from Manchester Piccadilly for Edinburgh. Most of the commuters  looked to be office-goers who were making week-end  visits to their home towns. The train journey took about 5 hours to reach Edinburgh. We checked into B & B home which was already booked in advance.  

Next day we boarded. at 8.00 a.m. at Royal Mile, a Minibus of a conducted tour operator to Scottish highlands covering Glen Coe, Loch (Lake) Tulla, Fort William, Ben Nevis ( Nevis Range) and Loch (Lake) Ness. It was to be a long day trip of around 14 hours with many stops on the way to enjoy the Scottish Highlands and country sides. After passing through Stirling Castle and Doune Castle and a cogffe break at a  village, we reached a highland near Loch Tulla where we were welcomed by a kilted Scot playing bagpiper for us. We walked around the place towards Loch Tulla. We did not venture into the shore of the lake as weather was cloudy with high wind blowing across the road. 

Our next stop was at Glencoe, again a place on the Highlands. It was the most scenic place in our entire visit to Scottish Highlands. The narrow but longish grassy valley surrounded by mountains from almost all sides was  a treat to watch. This is the place where there are many options for a day out - rambling miles and miles through forests and mountains, sailing and kayaking in the lake. 
Lunch break was taken at Fort William which is one of the important base  for arranging hikes and mountain climbings as all peaks including Ben Nevis, the highest peak (1335m) of Britain are located around this place. Of course, these peaks are in the ranges of 1200-1300m but what makes them the challenging hikes as I understand is some of the peaks are highly technical in terms of hiking and climbing. 

The drive from Fort William to Nevis Range, our next destination was very scenic with  Caledonian Canal flowing alongside the road.  A 15 minutes gondola rides from Nevis Range took us to the base of Mt. Aonach Mor. After brunching at the only restaurant at the base, we  just took a small walk around the last gondola station as the weather had turned foggy. We could not see any peak around as they were completely covered with thick mist and fog. 

Next in the schedule was a boat cruise in Loch Ness. We took the cruise from Fort Augustus side. I had no great expectations from  one hour boat cruise having already done that in Windermere Lake a week back.  The return journey was via Glen Spean, Dunkeld and Perth – again  beautiful sceneries all along the drive . At Dunkeld, we had tea break (supper break for Englishman). The rest of the journey to Edinburgh was done in the night. We reached our B & B home at around 11.00 p.m.  

Edinburgh railway station. 

The kilted driver cum guide of our tour operator for Scottish Highlands.

A kilted scot welcomed us by playing his bag piper. Loch (Lake) Tulla.

Lake Tulla in the background.

At Glencoe highlands on way to Fort William.

The Gondola starting point for Nevis Range.

On Nevis Range.

Loch (Lake) Ness.

Sun making a brief appearance over Loch Ness in the evening.

Next day, we visited Edinburgh Castle, the landmark place in Edinburgh City. It was drizzling when we started from our B & B home and that probably made the less crowd  at the ticket window. The Castle is strategically perched on a high rocky hill overlooking the Edinburgh city. 

The Castle houses among other things, St. Margret Chapel, the Palace, a museum where  items relating to the history of Scottish Regiment, Crown Jewels and many regalia were on display.  Since we reached just at the opening hours of the Castle, there was a moderate crowd. Although fixed time guided tours were available inside the Castle, we chose to cover the Castle in our own. It took about 3 hours for us to cover the entire Castle. But there are lot more to see inside the Castle and for history buff, it may take the whole day to completely cover the Castle.

Entrance to Edinburgh Castle.

A line of guns atop the castle.

View of Edinburgh city from the hole of the castle wall. 

View from Castle.

View from Castle.

View from Castle.

Inside view of the Castle.

Whiskey Heritage Centre at Royal Mail not far away from the Castle.

We completed the Castle tour by 1.00 p.m. and  after lunch we walked around the Royal Mile and the parks around city centre before catching an evening train to Manchester.