Monday, November 28, 2016


Trip Date: November 2016

The final leg of our trip was through the English countryside. We flew from Ireland to Birmingham where we rented a car and headed for the Cotswolds. It was hard to believe that we were finally on the home stretch of our trip, but there was still lots to see so we were definitely excited about that. 

The Union Jack is the flag for the United Kingdom
England is the largest country in the United Kingdom and has a population of almost 55 million people. The capital and largest city is London, where we started our vacation, and the official language is English. The land that is now England has been inhabited since the Upper Palaeolithic period or as far back as 50,000 years ago. Not wanting to state the obvious, but the island of Great Britain is filled with a rich and colourful history.

England (dark green) as part of the United Kingdom (light green)
Our first destination was Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare's birthplace, but we needed to make a quick stop in the town of Warwick to see Warwick Castle. Warwick Castle is what I picture when I think of a medieval fortress. We arrived too late to tour the inside, but were treated to some great views from around town. The castle was originally built by William the Conqueror back in 1068, but was redone in stone sometime during the 12th century.

Warwick Castle along the River Avon
One of the towers in Warwick Castle
As previously mentioned we were headed for Stratford-Upon-Avon which is the birthplace of arguably the most famous writer in the English language; William Shakespeare. We arrived after dark and wandered around the town, ultimately arriving at the Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare's grave is located. The church was closed and his tomb was inside so we just toured around the outside before moving on.

The Holy Trinity Church
Christine standing next to our Citroen Cactus!
A Jester Statue in Stratford-Upon-Avon
This is the home where Shakespeare grew up
We were on the road again early the next morning as we wanted to make several stops along the route to Burford. First up was the mysterious Rollright Stones near the village of Long Compton. The Rollright Stones are a collection of three monuments; the Whispering Knights, the King's Men, and the King Stone. The three monuments range in date from about 3,500 to 1,500 BC and each had it's own purpose. 

According to legend the names of the Rollright monuments are derived from a King who met a witch who challenged him:
"Seven long strides shalt thou take and if Long Compton thou canst see, King of Englad thou shalt be." 
Off went the King, shouting, "Stick, stock, stone as King of England I shall be known!" 
On his seventh stride the ground rose up before him in a long mound. The witch laughed and cackled, "As Long Compton thou canst not see, King of Englad thou shalt not be. Rise up stick and stand still stone, King of England though shalt be none. Thou and thy men hoar stones shall be and I myself an eldern tree." 
The King became the King Stone and his men the King's Men stone circle. The Whispering Knights were members of the King's army that were behind the rest of the group secretly plotting against the King before happening upon the scene and being turned to stone themselves.
The King's Men stone circle was a gathering place for Neolithic People approximately 4,500 years ago and is built from natural limestone boulders that were found within 500m of the circle. It was built in the Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age and archaeologists assume there were about 105 stones standing in a circle that would form a complete barrier. Today there are only 77 stones remaining.

The King's Men
The King's Men Stone Circle
The Whispering Knights are believed to be the remains of an ancient burial chamber
It's believed that the King Stone was erected to mark a Bronze Age cemetery
We made a brief stop at Stow-on-the-Wold, a picturesque English town with a lot of character. We even caught the Remembrance Day procession as they made their way from the centre of town to the church for the ceremony.

Market Square in Stow-on-the-Wold
We stopped for lunch in Bourton-on-the-Water, which is known for it's stone bridges over the River Windrush. The sun was shining and the fall colours were still present, making for a beautiful afternoon in town.

The River Windrush flowing through town
One of many stone bridges
Sometimes domestic ducks like to hangout with wild ducks. This domestic duck was looking for handouts with all of his wild cousins!
Christine and I have a pretty big adventure planned for 2017!!
Me, Christine, and Sarah enjoying the day
Our final night in the Cotswolds was spent in the small town of Burford. It was very small so there wasn't much to see other than St. John the Baptist Church. We did manage to find a few pubs that evening though!

St. John the Baptist Church
It's always a little creepy to me when the cemetery is in the front yard of the church
After one night in Burford we were on the road again and headed for Bath, a city known for its Roman-built baths. The entire city became a World Heritage Site in 1987. We spent most of the day exploring the city and touring the ancient baths.

The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, or more commonly known as Bath Abbey, was founded in the 7th century
Pulteney Bridge crosses the River Avon and is famous for having shops built across its full span on both sides 
Over 2,000 years ago the Romans built the finest religious spa in norther Europe around Britain's only hot spring. Originally built in 70AD, the Roman Bath complex was used for public bathing and religious ceremonies for hundreds of years. Today the entire area is an important historical site and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United Kingdom. The steaming hot water still fills the Great Bath everyday as it did all those years ago.

Entrance to the Roman Baths
The Great Bath with Bath Abbey in the background
This is the Sacred Spring and was off-limits to bathers
Our last attraction of the trip was one I was most looking forward to; Stonehenge. No other historical site carries as much mystery and intrigue as Stonehenge. This prehistoric monument is believed to have been built between 3,000 and 2,000 BC, but no one knows for sure what its true purpose was. The entire site is set within the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.

Sarah and Christine walking towards Stonehenge
The Heel Stone
Prehistoric stone monument
Sarsen Stones and Blue Stones
Me with Stonehenge in the background
The final selfie of the trip!
I think it's pretty evident that we had a great time on this vacation. Christine and I had always wanted to see the United Kingdom, but it wasn't very high on either of our lists (for whatever reason), so we were more than pleasantly surprised with how much there was to see and do. We were there for two weeks and covered plenty of ground, but I feel as though we just barely scratched the surface considering how much history there is. I enjoyed my time in all three countries (England, Northern Ireland, and Ireland) and would gladly return to any of them for some additional exploration.

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