We spent less time travelling around the UK than originally expected, and didn’t get anywhere near as far around the country as we thought we would.
We set off at the beginning of April and the weather finally beat us at the end of October. We arrived home on 23rd October, a few weeks before we were hoping.
Instead of making our way around the whole of the UK and spending a couple of months in Scotland, we explored the east coast fully, and just made it into Scotland (the furthest north we got was Dunbar, just east of Edinburgh) before we started making our way home via the Lake District and Blackpool. In this time we also had a week in Ibiza for a family wedding (and what a wonderful week it was too!), and a couple of weeks, in total, staying near home to catch up with family and friends. Meaning that our actual time on the road in the UK was 25 weeks (including a diversion to Cornwall).
Obviously we already knew rather more about the UK than about France, Spain or Portugal, but we did learn new things on our way around the country 🙂
First off, my apologies for most of the photos appearing here at the start – I’m having a spot of bother again getting them where I want them!
Apart from visiting Hadrian’s Wall sites when in inland Northumberland we also went a little further afield, visiting the Angel of the North, Beamish Museum and a Sunday afternoon in Newcastle.
Beamish museum was somewhere that I was aware of and keen to visit. I love ‘living’ museums like this where the exhibits represent how we used to live, often with buildings saved from different areas and rebuilt in the museum. Similar museums around the country include the Weald and Downland near Chichester, St Fagans Folk Museum in Cardiff, Blists Hill Victorian Town near Telford and the Black Country Museum in Dudley. I have been to each of these museums (except the Black Country Museum) at least twice, and as a result often shout excitedly at the telly when I see a location I recognise (as they’re often used for filming!)
We actually visited Beamish twice. There were 2 reasons for this, the 1st being that they are one of these, really pretty annoying, attractions where your entry fee allows you to visit for a full year. This is all very well if you live in the area and are likely to visit more than once – but how about a cheaper price for those of us who are just visiting? We missed out on Leeds Castle because of this policy (and saw many others turning round and leaving), and need to visit Chatham Docks again before May in order to use our tickets again before they run out…
Anyway, the main reason we had to return was that a couple of days after our first visit there was a big classic car show being held. So that was reason enough to go back….
Beamish is a living history museum located in the village of Beamish, near to Consett. There is an awful lot of walking available as you make your way around the site, between the pit village (and a quick tour down a real pit shaft – not far but very interesting), the town, the hall and the farm.
Entrance to the pit at Beamish
On the way down the pit
Where the miners worked (only without the light…)
The Pit Village at Beamish
Don’t despair however there are plenty of transport options; old trams and buses run frequently and there is no extra charge for these. There are several houses that have been rebuilt and dressed in the style of the day, both in the pit village, the town and also the hall. Don’t miss the tower as you exit the hall – this is the most interesting part of the building!
Over the 2 visits that we made we managed to see every part of the museum and were suitably impressed (at £19 each though that’s a good thing!)
On the way to the museum we had visited the Angel of the North , the iconic sculpture designed by Anthony Gormley which you cannot miss as you drive by! There is free parking and an information board at the bottom of the hill that the angel is sited on, and she is really an awesome sight!
We returned to the van via Consett as we needed to get fuel.
After our 2nd visit on the Sunday we headed in to Newcastle to have a look. We ended up having some lunch – I found out that Weatherspoons now operate a system where you’re able to order online, including your drinks! Brilliant! (However, I also think this is old news, just like when I got all excited about the automatic ordering in McDonalds…)
After lunch we headed off to have a look around Newcastle. I’m not sure how far we walked, but it was a far way. We were impressed with the city – it wasn’t what we were expecting at all. Added to the grand old buildings there was a definite vibe about the place even on a Sunday afternoon in September.
Finally in this area, on the Saturday between these 2 visits to the museum we decided to have a lazy day but ended up heading out for a drive, visiting Heddon on the Wall and then Prudhoe Castle. We also found where the British Masters was being held (we’d seen signs for parking as we’d been driving around the area for the previous week) at Close House, which was busy preparing for the tournament that was being held the following week.
Prudhoe Castle is an English Heritage property, but whilst a pleasant enough way to spend, maybe, half an hour, it wasn’t one of the better properties we’d visited. Put it this way, it’s one of the properties that we would have been fed up to have paid out £12 between us if we hadn’t been members…. However, if you do go make sure to visit the room above the gatehouse 🙂
So our time in Hadrian’s Wall country came to an end, but not our time in Northumberland. We had 11 more nights and 2 more sites on the coast to visit before moving on to Scotland!
When we first arrived in the North York Moors we drove past Roseberry Topping a few times on our way out for the day. Each time we both said we’ll go up that while we’re here 🙂
On our 1st day back we had taken a wrong turning and found somewhere to park for free from where we could walk up the peak; Gribdale Gate. From here we could also go in the opposite direction to visit Captain Cook’s monument. This was perfect as the car park sited on the main road has a cost attached – although I think the path is more straightforward and definitely looked easier in hindsight!
We thought that we were being clever but from our direction we actually had to cope with 3 ascents and descents. There are ‘steps’ provided in places but these are not particularly easy to negotiate – we were in awe of the young couple who were walking this in the pouring rain with their young baby on the dad’s back 🙂
So, yes, we had a rainstorm on the way up, but by the time we got to the top the sun was back out – very changeable.
The last bit up to the summit was particularly taxing for me, so I thought I’d have a little sit down – until I spotted the lizard that I was about to sit on! (I thought it was a snake at first..) I carried on 🙂
We did a lot of walking in the North York Moors – even when we were ‘going’ somewhere! So this post will deal with 1 of the days that we were, sort of at least, heading somewhere and I will do a separate post for the days we actually set out just to walk (to the top of Roseberry Topping and to see Captain Cook’s Monument to be precise).
On day 2 in the Moors we headed to the nearest decent sized town, Stokesley, which turned out to be extremely pleasant. The parking system was disc parking and, not having a disc, we drove through and parked as soon as we could, giving us a short walk back into town. There are an awful lot of old buildings in Stokesley and the centre has a really nice feel about it, with lots of independent shops and several butchers, bakers and greengrocers.
We also found a dedicated running shop here (I needed a new water bottle). The 1st bottle they showed me was £35 – I politely explained I wasn’t actually THAT much of a runner! I did get what I wanted though, and then realised that I recognised the couple from my previous morning’s ‘run’ – I had stopped to wait for them to pass me with their 4 dogs as I was embarrassed by my shambling and didn’t want them to observe it! These 2 are proper runners – he went up the hill like it was a Sunday afternoon stroll, whereas I had to bully myself up this hill (all 20m or so of it…). The shop is called Let’s Run, and they are very involved in coaching and getting beginners out with groups.
Packhorse Bridge in Stokesley
Looking toward the Packhorse Bridge in Stokesley
From here we headed towards Middlesborough as we both wanted to see the Transporter Bridge that crosses the Tees there.
We found it, and we went across the river on it (£1.30!), a very quick crossing after which we found ourselves in an area called Port Clarence, which used to be very busy, but which is now less so.
We had a quick drive around Middlesborough and were impressed by the evidence of past grandeur, and also the clear evidence of ongoing regeneration.
Making our way back the, slightly long way, we saw another bridge that appears to lift. I have since discovered this to be the Newport Vertical Lift Bridge which is no longer in use, so no chance of seeing it in action unfortunately 😦
Time is precious. We all know that. We also know that life’s too short. This is why we embarked on this adventure – taking a year out and travelling.
We are struggling to believe that we are already nearing the end of this year (I know we still have 4 months of the year remaining, but remember we ARE in the UK and we WILL lose the weather sooner rather than later. We are however desperately wishing for a prolonged Indian Summer so that we can keep travelling through to later November. We understand that we have a maximum, therefore, of 3 months travelling in the UK.
Being at the end of August we were expecting to be in Scotland by now… Actually, we expected to have almost finished Scotland by now! The furthest north we have got, however, is Whitby in North Yorkshire – there is so much to see and do in this wonderful country of ours.
Back to the point of this post though. Time is indeed flying by, but what I have found is that when we spend time with family and friends it flies even quicker. The last 2 weeks have seen us spending a week in Cornwall (my favourite spot in the whole world – keep an eye out for my post on this) to celebrate my friend’s 40th birthday, followed by a return ‘home’ to catch up with family (in particular to make sure that Calv’s grandchildren still recognise him!), and to celebrate my friend’s birthday again (on the actual day this time 🙂 ).
This time is going by so quickly that it simply emphasises the point of our travels, of our year off, of doing this before we run out of the energy or the desire to do anything.
Everyone tells themselves that this is something that they would love to do in some capacity (i.e. not necessarily in a motorhome!), but there is always a reason not to take the plunge. They don’t have enough money, they need to keep an eye on the kids (adult kids even), they just need to see through this big project at work, they couldn’t possibly give up work…
All valid reasons of course, and, don’t forget, we all have different motivations and desires.
However (and it is a big however), we truly believe that we have changed our lives for the better. Despite the fact that there have been a few bumps along the way (I shan’t go into that now!) which meant we had less money available than we initially thought, this hasn’t detracted from our enjoyment of our time on the road together. We have found that we want for a lot less, we have become far less materialistic if you like.
I didn’t actually consider myself overly so to begin with to be fair, but even I have noticed that I want for less – apart from reading material and the occasional new (but useful) gadget for the van! Even our grocery shops have declined (although they’re still more expensive when we’re meeting up with people. Alcohol. Of course…!)
Even with all the time in the world that we have gifted ourselves we still never seem to have time to do everything. We have learned to relax (even Calv, it might surprise some of you to learn), although it doesn’t seem that we actually do that very often. We only realised this yesterday when we did actually relax for the whole day. We sat reading (well, I did – he hasn’t changed that much!), drinking tea (yes, tea), enjoying the sunshine and then went on a lovely walk in the countryside to a local country pub (The Old House at Home in Chidham, well worth a visit, and actually much older than it appears from the outside).
We have loved spending time with friends and family, apart from the fact that we also put weight back on when we see them – so in 2 1/2 weeks our waistlines have taken a definite hit!
But we are also looking forward to getting back on the road. On Tuesday we will be heading north again, taking in the Yorkshire Dales and the top of the North York Moors via York itself, before heading into Northumberland – which we believe (and hope) will be the highlight of our trip so far. We suspect that by the time Northumberland has finished with us, and us with it, it may be time to cross over a little to the west coast and start making our way home.
We are sad that we won’t make Scotland this year but, if all our plans come together, we would like to think that we’ll head straight there for some time next year. We have lots of plans going forward – another by-product of this time is that we really talk to each other. A lot!
Please stay with us as we tell you about our adventures yet to come over the next few months, as we visit yet more places that we have never been to before and create more wonderful memories – trust me, we will always have something to talk to each other about!! Please feel free to comment with your own thoughts and experiences – we love to hear from you!
I will aim to tell you about Cornwall as soon as possible – but we are busy seeing people over the next few days before we head off again!
I was really surprised to feel so at home when we stepped back into the van after flying in from Ibiza. It just goes to show how comfortable we are in the van. This is something that we don’t think people understand – we constantly have, very kind, offers of a room when we’re in home territory, as everyone seems to think we might like a break from the van. It’s very sweet of you to offer but we really are very happy and comfortable thank you (and we’ll soon ask if we want a room!!)
We were quite busy over the weekend, including helping our friends out so that they could stay on the same site as us on Saturday night. They had a courtesy car without a towbar so we towed their caravan for them…
Yes – we did get some looks!! (We didn’t, of course, use the little car on the road – that would be illegal..)
After a night out on Saturday we had a long lie-in which was desperately needed due to our self-inflicted ‘tiredness’.
On Tuesday we set off again for Herne Bay. However, the beauty of having no particular plans (i.e. bookings) is that you can change your mind whenever you want. In this case it was when we saw that Steve & Denise, who we had met in Spain, had finally returned to the UK and were staying overnight at a Caravan Club site on our route.