The bitch is back! I took 15 days driving around the UK, from London to Edinburgh. Sure, there were more direct routes, but why drive 414 miles when you can do 2256? Sure, you could do the drive in 7 or 8 hours, but 15 days is better!
Where I went:
- Started out by driving to Stonehenge.
- Drove west to Cornwall, looped around it and up to Bristol.
- Crossed the Severn Bridge into Wales (£6.50 toll to get into Wales…worth every penny).
- Drove along the Welsh coast, meandering through Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, spending a few days in some beautiful places and collecting a bad sunburn.
- Headed north to Blackpool, then crossed east to Scarborough, and north to Whitby.
- Through North York Moors National Park (more on why in a moment).
- All around the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
- Drove to Bowness-on-Windermere, Windermere, and Ambleside in the Lake District.
- North to Carlisle and through Glasgow.
- Up into the Scottish Highlands to Loch Ness and to Inverness.
- To Aberdeen via the “Highlands Tourist Route”.
- South to Edinburgh through Dundee and Perth, crossing the Firth of Forth at the Forth Bridge.
A few of my favourite things:
- While attempting to drive to Land’s End (most western part of Great Britain), I took the wrong exit on the traffic circle and ended up driving down past some sort of armed forces base. The GPS was telling me I had gone astray, but I couldn’t find anywhere to turn around. When I finally did, I discovered I was at The Lizard. The Lizard is the most southern point, and the tiny town there is badass awesome. Hard to explain it, but if you get a chance, go there.
- A stop at Port Isaac in Cornwall was required, as it is the real-world Port Wenn from the TV show “Doc Martin” that my dad and I like. It was totally awesome, I had a pot of lovely tea (I have developed a tea addiction) at the pub and watched fishermen mending nets. Great morning.
- I spent 2 nights and nearly 3 whole days in Newgale in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in Wales. It is a wildly windy surfing outpost with mounds of stones and long, flat sands. Stunningly beautiful. I can’t recommend the Newgale Camp Ground enough (£7 per night), the couple who run it are the bomb, and the guy who does the hot food truck is funny as hell and tells good stories. He also has a badass Welsh dragon tattoo, ask him to pull up his sleeve and show you.
- My sunburn came from the afternoon I spent in Fishguard. I spent several hours along the Harbor Walk, reading my book and watching the ocean. Then I got in my car and…found LOWER FISHGUARD! Oh my goodness. I liked Fishguard enough, but I could live in Lower Fishguard forever. I bought a double cone from a sweet Welsh girl in an ice cream truck (she loved my accent and I loved hers) and sat with my feet over the edge of the wall and watched seagulls duck one another under the water. I spent about 4 hours there, so blissfully happy. I loved the multi-colour row houses, the boats in the harbor, the smell of seaweed and salt in the air.
- Scarborough was explained to me as “Blackpool, but smaller”, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, given my reaction to Blackpool (see below). Scarborough was much smaller, and looked like someone at least tried to keep it looking decent. The shops were open and things worked, there was less trash, and I quite enjoyed watching kids on the beach while I ate my full English breakfast and drank tea. You can still get a donkey ride on the beach for your kid for £2 (on the most depressed-looking donkeys I have ever seen). That was…not so awesome. But I liked Scarborough, even though when I went into their amusements (like an arcade, a casino for kids) I ended up finishing with less money than when I started and no My Little Pony stuffed animal (I did win a plastic Mario though).
- I’m a huge animal-lover, and I grew up wanting to be a vet, so I loved the James Herriot books. A stop in Thirsk and The World of James Herriot were definite requirements. I really enjoyed the museum, it was a total dork-out moment for me, and it was super awesome.
- The Yorkshire Dales are so beautiful. I love farmland, and the walls, the hills, the cows, the sheep…just so amazing. The only scary thing on my whole trip happened in the Dales. I was sleeping in the backseat of the car in a layby, and it turns out that Yorkshire teens party in the layby I had chosen. I went to sleep around 10pm, and at 11:30 I was woken up by lots of headlights and pumping music. About 12 people (I would say 14-18 years old) were in the layby, smoking pot and drinking. I decided to keep my head down and hope they just ignored my car and would go away. Then one came up and peered in, saying “dude, we could jack this…HOLY FUCK there’s a person!” then him and another guy started pounding on my windows telling me to come out. I crawled into the front seat, turned the car on, and pulled away. The teens piled into 3 cars (keep in mind they had all been drinking and smoking for about 45 minutes at this point) and chased me down the road, cutting me off and pulling u-turns and generally scaring the crap out of me. After 20 minutes they turned back. I drove for another 15 minutes, totally lost, found a new layby and went to (restless) sleep. This was the only sketchy thing that happened in 10 nights of sleeping in laybys, so that’s not bad.
A few of my less favourite things:
- I found Stonehenge hella underwhelming, to be honest. It was big rocks. Yeah, really big rocks. But…I don’t know what I expected. Big rocks, I guess, so I suppose it met expectations. You can’t go anywhere near them because of people vandalizing them and taking souvenir chunks, so it was all a bit too museum for me, even though it was in the middle of a field.
- Land’s End in Cornwall was pretty lame and over-commercialized, especially in comparison to how wicked The Lizard was. I was there in the evening (after getting lost and discovering the awesomeness of the Lizard) and the shops were closed, so it was sort of a creepy ghost-town vibe.
- For falling-down, past-its-prime, fading pleasure, you can’t beat Blackpool. Things were broken down, rusted, peeling, burned out, boarded up. It was depressing as hell.
- Loch Ness, like Stonehenge, was underwhelming. It was a pretty lake, and the Highlands were lovely, but I guess I just expected it to be a bit more…spooky or something. Of course, there was lots of tourist-trap stuff around, I skipped the exhibits on Nessie, and didn’t buy any stuffed Nessies. I can get the same ones cheaper in Edinburgh (practical to the end).
- PARKING. Goodness parking at every minor or major attraction was insanely expensive. I caught myself thinking “wow, £3.20 for an hour, good deal!” at one point. And none of the machines do change, so if you are in the middle of nowhere (Land’s End, I’m looking at you), you have to overpay and just suck it. Because the shops are closed but there is still a dude walking around giving tickets. Priorities, y’all. I didn’t go to tons of the tourist attractions, fortunately, so I mostly just had to pay for parking in town centers. Still…it was a substantial budget line.
Want pictures? I’ll throw some up later this week once I go through what I have. I never take enough pics, but I’ll share what I have!