The Tweed Valley Travellers and a Beefeater guard at the Tower of London.
The Tweed Valley Travellers and a Beefeater guard at the Tower of London. Supplied

Travellers take UK history lesson

THIS week we start a trip to the UK with the Tweed Valley Travellers courtesy of Jill and Denis Hallworth of Murwillumbah.

Unfortunately space does not allow publication of the comprehensive full account, but I assure you Jill’s memories of the tour were most interesting and the accompanying photographs excellent.

The group of 28 locals travelled to the UK during August-September this year.

“After arriving in London, first stop was the city of Oxford, our first experience of many cobblestone streets.

Then on to Stow-on-the-Wold to see the Royalist, the oldest inn in England built in 974AD and operating for 1000 years. It was on through the Cotswold among the drystone walls and hedges to Stratford upon Avon.

Exploring Shakespeare’s father’s home and business where Shakespeare worked as a young man making gloves, we understood why the life of a bard was so much more attractive.

At Warwick Castle, Britain’s ultimate castle, we climbed the turrets, explored the dungeons, immersed ourselves in centuries of jaw-dropping history and saw maids and knights at a jousting match.

At the Wedgwood factory we saw an exquisite display of products from Wedgewood, Royal Doulton and Waterford.

All these iconic brands are in trouble with the financial world problems.

At York, an old walled town, the famous York Minster dates back to the Romans in AD71, and three churches are built on the one location with the foundations of each visible in the undercroft and crypt.

It is the largest medieval gothic cathedral in Northern Europe”.

The Travellers went to the Yorkshire dales and on to the beautiful Lakes District and Edinburgh for the first special feature of the trip, a performance of the Edinburgh Mili- tary Tattoo.

In conjunction there is a Fringe Festival with performances from worldwide.

The Tattoo is wonderful, precise timing, excellent entertainment, huge crowds; an amazing experience.

At Edinburgh Castle we felt the waves of history washing over us.

The castle was the first meeting place of the Scottish Parliament in 1140, the birthplace of the son of Queen Mary of Scots, James, who grew up to be the king of both Scotland and England.

The Crown Jewels are among the oldest in Europe, and the Stone of Destiny the ancient coronation seat of Scotland’s kings was taken to London in 1296 and returned in 1996, 700 years later.

The Royal Yacht Britannia which is kept in immaculate condition.

A dinner and show in a local pub was a highlight; plenty of haggis, tatties and neeps for those brave epicureans.

We travelled through the Scottish lowlands to Bannockburn south of Stirling to view the popular statue of Robert The Bruce, which commemorates the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, a significant Scottish victory in the wars of Scottish Independence.

A visit to Ben Nevis Distillery to educate ourselves on the mysteries of Scotch Whisky was illuminating.

We ferried across to the Isle of Skye where the scenery on the island is awe-inspiring, with a wide variety ranging from barren craggy mountains to pretty colourful dales.

The main industry is tourism, and a rugged coastline and pretty fishing villages litter the route. Rebuilt settlement shows early island life.

Through the highlands of Scotland we saw Scotland’s Eilean Donan Castle sitting where the three Lochs meet, Scotland’s most romantic castle. At the northern end of Scotland we expected cold weather but were pleasantly surprised at the mild evenings.

We ferried to Orkney Islands where we saw Scapa Flow, a natural harbour used over many centuries, from the Viking fleets in the 13th century until now.

The impressive Skara Brae is a Neolithic settlement dating form 3100BC, fascinating and mysterious.

There was evidence of the life at the time of pyramids.

We visited the Ring of Brodgar, a ring of standing stones, the finest known truly circular late Neolithic or early Bronze Age stone ring.

Heading south we saw pretty villages, ruined castles and Moray Firth, with oil rigs and wind-farm generators offshore.

At the Falls of Shin near Laird we saw salmon leap the falls before going on to Loch Ness and Inverness, the capital of Scottish highlands and then through Perth, Dundee and St Andrews to Glasgow .

One of the highlights was a visit to Dunoon.

The Cowal Highland Gathering is an annual highland games event, the largest highland gathering in the world featuring pipe bands, and we saw the finals of the world highland dancing championships which included competitors from Australia. Lovers of bagpipe music were in heaven.

In contrast there were feats of strength tossing the hammer, the Scottish hammer and Cowal stone weighing 13.2kg, the winner achieving 8.8 metres.

• Next week it is on to Ireland.

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