UK 2017: Cheddar Gorge & Caerphilly
This is the third part in a series about my second trip to the UK. After six days in London, we rented a car and hit the motorways with the goal of seeing as much of the countryside as we could manage in just six days.
The rental car: We checked out of our hotel and got the rental car. As expected, it was smaller than we Americans are used to, and our luggage barely all fit in the back. I was worried about my own seat, given the problems with the airplane, but it was big enough and with a seatbelt extender, the only issues I had was having to be the bearer of snacks while juggling my camera and my phone to take pictures as we go. And we only once had a petrol scare, and only got lost on a roundabout once or twice (but found it stressful for the first day or two). Roundabouts were pretty much everywhere we went outside the major cities, and they worked wonderfully if you knew where you were going. GPS only failed us once, when we encountered a brand new road that was not on the map yet.
Avebury: We went to Stonehenge last time, but had heard about this town closer to London that was lesser-known but nonetheless had a more complete Druidic structure of stone circles. So this was our first stop on our journey. In typical fashion, Ann went the full-length of the circle and ended up on the wrong side of the town, leaving me to sit in the cool wind wondering where she had gone. That said, it was just as interesting a site as the more famous one several towns over.
Cheddar Gorge Knowing my parent’s love of nature and Ann’s own love of decorative sheep, we decided to check out Cheddar Gorge, a site south of Bristol. The cliffs in this area are quite a site to behold, and definitely worth a trip if you are visiting the UK. Ann got to see some mountain goats and we both watched as two pedestrians nearly slid down one of the hills after hiking their way up. It was a nice diversion after an afternoon on the back roads of Wiltshire and Somerset.
River Severn: We finally got into Wales after crossing a long, long, long bridge over the River Severn and the Bristol Channel, just north and west of Bristol.
Crosskeys: Just in time for a late dinner, we arrived in the village of Crosskeys in south Wales. The tiny hotel where we were staying the night connected to a pub and lacked air conditioning but after a while we managed to open a window or two. We talked to one of the pub’s owners for a fair bit; she was a lovely lady with a beautiful accent that I think was appropriately Welsh.
Caerphilly: In the morning, we packed our bags and made our way to Caerphilly Castle, a medieval ruin that I think turned out to be the most picturesque of the castles we visited on this trip. Caerphilly itself is a small town and suburb of Cardiff. I got some souvenirs that showed the Welsh dragon on their flag on it, some Welsh liquor. I also got a Lovespoon, which is a traditional Welsh wedding present, for a certain engaged couple I know. After a morning of being chased by ducks and laughing at a leaning tower in Caerphilly Castle (it leans more than the Tower of Pisa, and a statue was added of a man holding it up with his bare hands, and yet it still stands), we headed on out.
Tinturn Abbey: As usual, our itinerary was more ambitious than we can manage, but that didn’t stop Ann from making unscheduled stops at Abbeys and other ruins along the way. One of the most notable was Tinturn Abbey, in Monmouthshire, on the Welsh bank of the River Wye (a river that serves as the border between England and Wales). It was a hauntingly beautiful sight that even I fell in love with at first sight. Unfortunately, we had a long drive ahead of us, and I spent much of the time at the Abbey fretting about the rain and about our chances at getting to our destination in time.