A Travellerspoint blog

I bless the holy name of God with all my heart...

He fills my life with good things. Ps 103; 1, 5

rain 17 °C
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Touring the Ring of Kerry was our goal for today. Muckross House was our first stop; we explored some of the 25 acres of gardens before joining a guided tour of the house. The`house' is a Victorian mansion built in 1843. The rooms were decorated as they would have been and showed the amazing lifestyle of the upper class back then. The house contains 25 bedrooms each with it's own bell to summon a servant, each with a different ring! The servants had to bring dinner, hot water for baths, coal for fires, etc up two flights of stairs. The house has been lived in by three different familes.The last family to live there the `Vincents' were given the House and gardens as a wedding present by the wife's parents the `Bornes.' Sadly, Maude, the wife died unexpectedly after a voyage to America to visit her parents. Her husband, Arthur Rose Vincent and her parents donated the house and gardens to the Irish government as a memorial to Maud. Part of the rooms we visited were a suite for a visit by Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort Albert. The family prepared for the visit for 6 years and the royals stayed for 2 days!

Torc Waterfall ,our next stop, gave us some exercise and beautiful scenery. Today, has been the first day of steady rain so our North face wet weather jackets were quite wet by the time we got back to the car.

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We stopped at the `Lady's View' looking over lakes and mountains and decided it was time for a cuppa to warm up.

Next stop,Kenmare, a lovely little town full of craft shops, eating places and pubs. From there we toured around the ring, stopping for photos of the gorgeous views over green farmland sweeping down to the sea and islands. The sun appeared late in the day shining through the clouds and lighting up the water. We found our accommodation for the night at `Ferryview', Cahirsiveen without any problems. We are just delighted with it, a beautiful view looking out over the peninsula to Vallencia Island in the distance. We were greeted by `Misty' a long haired retriever and the owner's dog. Misty also accompanied us on our walk to the local seafood restaurant for tea!

Posted by thomastour 21:12 Archived in Ireland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

What do these things have in common?

.. Robinson Crusoe, Pirates of the Carribean, the Spanish Armada & America entering WW1

rain 16 °C
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To get the answer to the above, you need to visit Kinsale in Ireland. We did today and despite poor weather (intermittent rain and mist) found out a fair bit about one of the best natural safe ports in the world.

We had a short walk around Kinsale on the Irish SE coast before joining up with a walking tour that explained the history of the port and town. So to answer the question:

    Robinson Crusoe - the story was based on the real life marooning of a navigator who sailed with William Dampier and who had an argument with him resulting in being left to rot on a deserted island. He actually survived and was rescued 4 years later by the same man who left him there. On both voyages, Dampier had sailed from Kinsale.
    Pirates of the Carribean - apparently part of the Jack Sparrow persona was based on a pirate who had a chequered connection with the daughter of a well-off Kinsale resident. That daughter's life was also partly portrayed by the character Elizabeth Swan in that the daughter acted like a man so she could sail on the pirate ship with her lover.
    Spanish Armada - they set out to use Kinsale as a launching place for an attack on England but were besieged in the port by English soldiers (who in turn were besieged and sandwiched by Irish warlords) - but the Irish made a tactical mistake and tried to attack the British and lost and then allowed the British to chase the Armada away. It was the last time a Spanish Armada challenged England.
    America entering WW1 - a German U-boat sunk the Lusitania (a neutral American passenger liner) only about 30 miles from Kinsale and the subsequent inquiry which was held in Kinsale with a magistrate and local jury found that the Kaiser was guilty of murder. This was the trigger that caused America to officially enter the war.

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Kinsale covered we then hit the road again and headed for Killarney. On the way Cathy read about trips from the town to the National Park by 'jaunty cars' and when we got there we found that these were not automobiles, but were horse and carts. There were lots of them doing the tourist transport thing.

We went to Ross Castle just outside of town and had a tour through it. This was a typical Irish Chieftains tower castle and it's main purpose was protection agains other chieftains. Apparently back in 1400's the chieftains proved how good they were by going around attacking each other and stealing their cattle. We also walked into the national park an saw an area that was mined for tin from some time before Christ right through to the 1820's.

We found our accommodation easily, but surprisingly there was no one there to let us in - so we wandered into town for tea and finally got into our accommodation sometime after 7pm.

Posted by thomastour 12:44 Archived in Ireland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Here's Céad Míle Fáilte to friend and to rover

... That's a greeting that's Irish as Irish can be It means you are welcome A thousand times over Wherever you come from, Whosoever you be

semi-overcast 17 °C
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Well the UK part of the trip is finished - we flew out at 9am this morning, but not without someone (me) leaving our breakfast sitting on a chair at the hotel.

It was only a short flight over to Cork - done in 2 stages with a 12 minute flight to Newquay and then after picking up some more passengers another hour to Cork. Picked up our hire car & again we have been upgraded, we had chosen one of the smallest cars and ended up being given a Ford Focus - around the size of my Golf. Had some fun picking it up as they needed the voucher that had been sent to me when I booked it - but I hadn't been able to print it out. So had to fire up the laptop on the Budget Rent-a-car counter and send it via email to the fellow who was serving us.

We drove into Cork and parked, commenting how quiet it was at 11am on a Sunday - but then we saw most of the shops were closed and weren't due to open until midday (and close at 6pm). So we wandered through the centre of town then saw a sign to the Old City Goal and Cathy wanted to see it. So we walked (& walked) quite a way to it. It was set up with an audio tour with headsets and took you to various parts of the goal. Wax dummies were positioned at various places to depict actual inmates and staff - it was very well done. The goal closed in 1923 and at various times housed men and women prisoners for criminal and political reasons.

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Then our wandering got us to the St. Annes Church of Ireland (Irish offshoot of the C of E) where we were able to climb the tower for some great views of Cork, but also we were able to ring the bells. They had it set up with the bell arrangements for lots of tunes, so I played 'Waltzing Matilda' and Cathy played 'When the Saints Come Marching In'. To get to the top of the tower you had to put on earmuffs and climb past the bells. The church was built in 1722 and is also known as the 'four faced liar' because the four clock faces on the tower are all on slightly different times.

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We then went to the Cork Butter Museum and Cathy and I were told that we were mature aged students and given a discount on entry. Apparently Cork was the centre of butter production and marketing for Ireland and it's butter was sent right around the world (even to Australia).

Wandering back around the main shopping are we discovered that this weekend is also the Cork Jazz Festival and we experienced street markets and several on street performances, including one New Orleans style jazz band walking the streets and playing as they went preceded by someone spinning a multi colored umbrella.

We did get a shock when we came to leave and found that 5 hours parking cost 12 euros (about $20) in a shopping centre car park. But based on a sign I saw, it was the 2nd most expensive street in Ireland.

Anyway from there we found our way to Blarney and had a quick visit to Blarney Castle. We climbed the castle tower and saw the blarney stone, but couldn't be bothered kissing it. The castle grounds were over 60 acres and we walked around a bit of it before the light started to give out and we headed off. We are actually staying right next door at the Blarney Woollen Mills Hotel (very classy looking place) but fortunately within our budget.

Weather wise, it has been slightly warmer than the UK. The people so far have been very nice, but the drivers can be a bit crazy.

Posted by thomastour 12:13 Archived in Ireland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Home of the Football World Cup 2018

...Plymouth (or at least that's what they want to be)!

semi-overcast 16 °C
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Well it's our last full day in the UK and started with a wet morning - but fined up as the morning progressed and ended up a very nice day.

We had a drive around St. Ives before we left this morning - these coastal towns where the streets are goat tracks up and down and around the contours of the waterfront (generally steep) are terrible to navigate around. Streets go every which way and are very narrow, giving the GPS a headache (and me too!). But the sights are fantastic and worth the effort of going into the villages.

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Anyway, we headed off from St. Ives and did a fairly quick trip to Plymouth. Leaving our bags at the hotel, we dropped off the hire car and set out to explore the town on foot.

Plymouth has heaps of history:
- think Francis Drake playing bowls just before he went out to defeat the Spanish Armada
- think of the pilgrim fathers boarding the Mayflower to head off to the new world (America)
- think of the Tolpuddle martyrs (look them up) returning from exile in Australia

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It is also Western Europes largest naval base and this weekend was the site of the World Offshore Rowing Championship.

There has been a lot of development of the city and right down the spine of the city is a modern pedestrian mall flanked by relatively new shops. This goes from the Railway Station to the coast (about 1km) and ends at the coast with a large open area and memorials to various players in the history of the city including sailors who gave their lives in WW1 & WW2).

It turned out that this weekend Plymouth was hosting the 'Respect Festival' featuring activities from various cultures. We watched and listened to some great drumming (very visual as well as auditory) and then Cathy joined in some Samba lessons (I've got the photographic evidence).

We climbed a lighthouse that had originally been positioned 14 miles away but was pulled down and repositioned so that it could be replaced by one on more secure foundations. And we wandered through the Barbican area which was the old port area. Imagine an area full of pubs and lots of sailing boats (but not today - more like 300 or so years ago) and a very active press-gang grabbing able bodied men and making them join the Navy to fight for the King. Today there are the pubs and the sails (but on yachts, not men-o-war) and lots of people, but thankfully no press gangs. We also went on a cruise from the harbour to the Tamar River and found out more about the history of the area.

After a relaxing afternoon we had tea and returned to our hotel to try and get the weight of our bags down to meet the weight limits for our flights tomorrow morning.

Ireland - watch out, we're on our way! And thankyou UK for a great 4 weeks.

Posted by thomastour 11:30 Archived in England Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

We're surprised Geoff's relatives ever left Redruth

... because the streets are so confusing they would never have found their way out!

all seasons in one day 16 °C
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After a delicious breakfast we set off for St Ives in Cornwall via several interesting stops. First up was Yeovil, listed as a market town. We had decided to send home some Christmas presents and some other items we had bought so most of our time was spent at the post office! The postal staff have been so helpful and friendly advising us to send several smaller parcels rather than one big one. This certainly proved valuable advice as it meant it all cost about half what we had originally been quoted.

Our journey then took us into Devon, beautiful rolling hills, so green and more pretty patchwork fields. We stopped at Exeter for lunch. We found Cathedral and Quay parking which was ideal. The quay has lots of lovely little eating places and great views over the inlet. White swans and Pacific gulls ( seagulls on steroids! ) float on the water under picturesue foot bridges. After lunch we walked over to the Cathedral. It is huge! It seems to be right in the middle of town with a large `church green' around it which is used by everyone for sitting and relaxing, chatting with friends or having a picnic lunch. I think that's how a church's grounds should be! While I was off trying to find a vantage point for a photo that was going to fit all of the church in one shot - Geoff watched all the Deans, the Town Mayor and college graduates ( all in special gowns , the mayor holding a ceremonial mace ) parade through the grounds and then into the cathedral for the Exeter College graduation. Exeter is another walled town and we certainly enjoyed our visit.

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Padstow on the North Cornish coast was our next stop.We travelled through more rolling hills and gorgeous countryside. My only complaint is that they don't have anywhere set up to stop and take a photo of the beautiful scenery. Padstow is a quaint little town on another inlet. Full of fishing boats, stone buildings (craft shops, cafes) line the curved street looking over the harbour. We relaxed over a cappucino and hot chocolate and watched the tide come in.

Geoff was keen to see Redruth where his ancestors the Cornish Thomas' had lived so we made our way there. Redruth had lots of miners cottages in rows and narrow winding streets. It looked lovely and the quintessential Cornish mining town.

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From there we headed to St Ives arriving just before dusk. Our plan is to walk around the town tomorrow before breakfast.......

Posted by thomastour 12:23 Archived in England Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

More than just Roman Baths

... even a home of English literature

all seasons in one day 13 °C
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Our day in Bath started with a visit to the Roman Baths and with the benefit of the audio guide they provided we found out a lot about the history and how it all worked. When you consider that they were originally constructed before 100AD and were in use by the Romans for several hundred of years, you realise just how advanced the Romans were. the baths are lead-lined so they don't leak (still the original lining in place) and had lead pipes where water needed to be controlled more effectively than open channels would. after the Romans it all fell into decay until the 18th century when it was all revived for the benefit of the upper class.

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Next on the agenda was a tour in the open topped bus with the benefit of a guide to tell us all about Bath - it was raining, but fortunately the top deck of the bus had cover for the first 4 rows, so we satill got the top deckview. Bath was virtually totally rebuilt in the 17th & 18th centuries and is now a world heritage listed town because of the excellence of the architecture from that time. It has a number of fine terraces (that were marketed to the rich as almost regal accommodation - but which were still 4 story terrace houses) designed by John Wood the elder & his son John Wood the younger.

We aso found our way to the Jane Austen Centre to go through the museum dedicated to her writing and found out that although she spent a fair bit of time she was not a very productive writer there and did most of her writing in Hampshire, but called on her experiences in Bath in writing her stories.

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Cathy enjoyed a trip through the Fashion Museum (I thought it was a waste of time). And we also went through one of the terraces (No.1 Royal Crescent) and saw it set up just as it would have for the gentry who would rent it for the season (winter) when all the well-to-do came to Bath (and got away from the dismal London winter).

We also fitted in a quick look at the oldest building in Bath - a bakery from the 1480's which has been a bakery all this time and was the home of a refugee from the French Revolution (Sally Lunn - not her original name) who became famous for the buns that she made theere & which are still made to her recipe.

After walking about the town enjoying the ambiance we finished with a walk through Bath Abbey which started off as a Norman Cathedral built over part of the site of the old Roman temple grounds. It was bombed during WW2 when Hitler wanted revenge for the Allies bombing some of the more historical towns in Germany, but was fully restored.

The day finished with tea in a pub in the town and then back to our accommodation for a night of catching up on a few administrative jobs ready for the next step in our journey.

Posted by thomastour 11:05 Archived in England Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Sheep encloures in rolling hillsides

... that really describes the Cotswalds

semi-overcast 14 °C
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After some busy days we decided to rejig the itinerary slightly and spend today traveling through the Cotswalds and then take an extra day to see Bath rather than trying to do both in one day.

To best see the Cotswalds we identified a number of towns/villages that seemed interesting and programmed them into the GPS and then told it to ignore the highways where possible. It gave us a route that zig zagged through the Cotswalds and resulted in some great views and interesting roads.

However the first waypoint gave us cause for concern, we headed for a village called Moreton-on-Marsh (side comment: this village seems to have lucked out on location, other villages were on water or on hill - but these poor guys scored a marsh) and the GPS took us down several small roads and in the middle of nowhere told us we had arrived. Fortunately we correctly guessed the real location and got there soon afterward. That was the only mistake the GPS made all day, so we can't complain.

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I won't describe each individual village - but the general description was narrow streets (even the main road) winding through the town and in a number of cases a central square (of various shapes) with the shops around it and radiating from it. We saw many more antique shops than we had all trip so far and enjoyed walking around a number of the villages. House styles varied within each village and you could tell that the houses had been built at different times, often filling a gap between buildings of a completely different vintage and architecture.

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At Bourton-on-the-Water we discovered a beautiful little town with a stream flowing through the middle of it with a number of low footbridges over it. It seems this town was also on the tourist trail as there was a bus load of Korean tourists there before us.

We also went to Upper and Lower Slaughter - names that don't sound great, but both very beautiful little villages. The interest with these 2 was that they feature in Cathy's family history with a collett family connection to them.

Our arrival in the village of Brinscombe was interesting - we came via a narrow back road and up a hill into the back streets of the village. After a bit of working around the maze of back streets, we emerged onto a main road next to a church with a large cemetery surrounding it and with manicured yew trees From the plaques - obviously of great age spread thoughout the cemetery.

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The village of Amberley was even more interesting as we found ourselves driving through a golf course - it was totally unmarked and unfenced and criss crossed public roads. Then as well as golfers, village there were cows walking everywhere including on the road.

After an interesting day's driving we got to Bath and found that our accommodation (B&B) was magnificent. We are in the Disraeli Room which is lavishly appointed and sooo comfortable.

Posted by thomastour 13:42 Archived in England Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

We will draw the curtain

... and show you the picture. (William Shakespeare - Twelfth Night, Act 1. Scene 5)

overcast 10 °C
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We awoke early and set off for a quick look at Wales. We got a bit lost on the way but managed to see some interesting small towns, rolling green hills and rugged looking mountain tops on our `Wales experience.' The signs in Welsh and English had us trying to figure out what each Welsh word meant!

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Our next stop was Wolverhampton , found their megastore and walked out with a few footie supporter items for Ben. We were surprised how quickly we got there and despite the carpark looking full were told we could just virtually pull up in front of the store.

Following the advice of family and friends we stopped at Warwick Castle and thoroughly enjoyed it. Each room is set up as it would have been complete with wax models looking very lifelike. In the lower castle medieval rooms I was taken aback when one of the figures winked at me when I walked in the room only to find that was a `real' one! I thoroughly enjoyed the falconer show and the grave diggers. The gardens, river and walk around the battlements made Warwick Castle one of the best we've seen.

Ann Hathaway's cottage in Stratford on Avon was our next destination. I enjoyed my tour with a group of Japanese tourists! The cottage has been kept as it was when Shakespeare courted Ann there. Apparently both families were quite well off but the rooms are so small....how blessed we are today! If a wife let the fire go out her husband would probably hit her with a stick! A chicken would be held upside down by it's feet down the chimney so it's flapping wings would clean the chimney and if it didn't survive they'd pluck it for dinner! Poor chickens and wives...

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To add to our Shakespeare experience I visited Shakespeare's birthplace; it's part period recreation and part exhibit of Shakespeare's life and works. Since we visited the Globe Theatre both Geoff and I wanted to actually see one of Shaespeare's plays. so we visited The Courtyard Theatre where The Royal Shakespeare company was putting on `The Twelfth Night'. We were so fortunate to get the last two tickets for that night's performance and were all set to get a bit culture!

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The play was so well done and funny.I loved it! Everything we have learnt about Shakespeare has made me appreciate how much he contributed to the language we have today and how amazing his work was, that it still stands today.

Posted by thomastour 12:28 Archived in England Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Sorry sir

... we don't seem to have a booking for Thomas!

rain 10 °C
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We headed off from Grange-over-Sands reasonably early and headed over to the Yorkshire Dales. We had seen the eastern side of these on our way up to Scotland, but it was the view from the west that fitted in more with what we had imagined (with the help watching James Herriot years ago). Hills and dales with mile after mile of stone fences. Each paddock was fenced - it is an amazing sight and makes you wonder how much effort was involved in making them. Apparently now the National Parks are paying a subsidy to farmers to encourage them to maintain the fences because they would otherwise tend to move toward cheaper options instead of repairing them. It's also fun driving down a narrow road between stone fences and then find a truck coming the other way - ad then having to reverse back to a passing point.

Unfortunately the weather was not great, with quite a bit of rain, so Cathy's photo's may not do the region justice.

We had a stop at Hawes, deep into dales territory and apparently the location where a lot of the James Herriot TV show was filmed.

From there we wound our way down to Chester. We had been a bit unsure whether to include Chester in our itinerary, but we saw that it had originally been a walled city. When we got there we found that a lot of the wall still existed and some parts had been rebuilt to fit in with the modern city (new main gate was a prime example) while some sections over roads and railway lines have been built, but in a style that fits in reasonably well with the original wall. Also they have made the wall a recognised public walkway and have connected other buildings/shopping centres to it to encourage it's use. The centre of town was a wonderful collection of old buildings, many in the Tudor style, but also with many other later architectural styles as well - with it alll fitting together.

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Also in the town were the remains of a Roman amphitheatre and a church that had parts of it dating back from around a 1000 years ago.

The only downside with Chester was that when we got to the hotel we had booked, they had no record of our booking (possibly the risk of using an online booking agent) - they were able to send us to a sister hotel where we got a small room at 50% more cost. Our booking agent is now trying to get an answer from the hotel as to why they had no record of our booking.

Tea was at a small restaurant nearby - excellent. Then we went on a tour of the city trying to find a Macca's (or other venue with free wifi) - we finally found one after Cathy asked the person behind the counter in Hungry Jack's if he knew where one was (they don't provide wifi).

Posted by thomastour 11:54 Archived in England Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

There is a strong chance of rain in the Lake District

The averages are: 200 wet days/year; 145 dry days/year; 20 snowy days/year

rain 8 °C
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Yesterday was dry (and beautifully sunny) - so based on the averages today should have been wet - and it was!

We woke up to a wet morning and it only got worse as the day went on - but it didn't stop us getting out and about.
From our hotel - in the hidden hills above Grange-over-Sands (hidden because we had trouble finding them 2 days in a row) we ventured up to Lake Windermere which is Englands largest lake. Our aim was to walk around a few of the villages and take a boat ride on the lake.

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Before our first stop I had the fun of having to back down a narrow road for over 100 metres so that a bus could get past us. Then we stopped in Bowness-on-Windermere and visited the 'World of Beatrix Potter' which was a really well presented set of diaramas based on her various stories, plus touch screens giving you the background to the story. It seems that virtually all that she wrote had some relationship back to characters she knew and the animals she had or observed. The obvious clever part being able to imbue the animals with human characteristics and to draw them acting as humans. She used her own pets as models for a lot of the original drawing. Also learnt that she want to be a botanical artist but was not accepted into that so put her energies into the characters that we all know (Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck et. al.)

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Next it was over to the lake and a boat trip to Ambleside at the north end of the lake. There we had a walk around (in the rain), stopped for a coffee (and it was the first decent Chai Latte that Cathy had been able to get all trip) and browsed the shops. Then back onto the boat for the return trip - but couldn't see much because of fogged up windows and low cloud.

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A drive around the lake took us to Near Sawley and Beatrix Potter's house - unfortunately we got there too late for Cathy to go through the house, but she did look through the gardens. Apparently everything is still very much as Beatrix Potter left it when she died inthe 1940's.

Finally we took a shortcut acros the lake (via car ferry) and returned to Grange-over-Sands for tea.

Important announcement:
We finally have got to the point of loading photo's from the earlier part of our trip - rather than going back and adding them to the various blogs, I'll put them in as several new blogs of just photo's.

Posted by thomastour 09:53 Archived in England Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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