McKinney Gypsy Caravan

One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

Category: UK (page 2 of 4)

Day 18 – Cornwall

We started out this morning by visiting Clovelly. A cute weird little seaside village that doesn’t have cars. The cobblestone streets are only like 6-7ft wide in most spots and it was so amazing to imagine living someplace seaside like that with no car alarms, no tires, squeally brakes…. I think they’re doing something right here! Except that the entire town is owned by one person who rents spaces for houses and businesses. I’m not sure how exactly a single person ends up owning an entire town and charging visitors admission to enter the town… But never the less, it was cool. Would have been infinitely cooler if it wasn’t pouring down rain making the stone path so slippery we were all worried we were going to end up rolling down into town.







 After Clovelly, we drove through Morwenstow…there was a 3 mile hike here along the jagged coastline but again….rain, cold and self-diagnosed bronchitis…I decided I’d better not. Although from what I’ve read- so many ships used to get wrecked on these rocks and the rocks were so jagged that the townspeople would find pieces of limbs among the rocks. There was an old graveyard here though and good view of the coast from afar.



 Our next stop was St. Nectin’s Glen. A remote waterfall that flows through a rock. It was over a mile hike each way in the freezing rain so we nominated the geologist. 🙂 I kinda wish I wasn’t so sick because the pictures looked so cool… And there as a money tree along the trail! I’ve been searching for a money tree all week! The local legend is that if you hammer a coin into the tree, it will cure illness and anyone who removes a coin will be struck with the illness. (You know these trees could never exist in the US, some methhead would pull every coin out and try to scrap the metal or something haha)





 Next was the town of Tintagel, the home of King Arthur’s castle. But when we got to town, it was so touristy we decided it wasn’t worth it. Lol we did spot the Castle Hotel that said that you had to try the “Cornish Cappucino Delux” so we stopped to try it. Turns out it was a fancy tea room and we have a not so fancy two year old 🙂 they didn’t have “take away” cups, so no Delux Cappucino. lol however, there were beautiful views around the back and you could see the castle ruins without paying the admission and without dealing with steps or tourists. Yay!



We then headed all the way out to the southern most tip of England to Penzance. If I didn’t have to drive in it, I would think these little seaside towns were amazing but they were all built before cars and not redesigned since. 



This was not a one way street, by the way


 We visited the Minack Theatre- an open air theatre sitting right on the edge of the island. I can’t imagine seeing a Shakespeare play or something here…

The water was so turquoise…unexpected with the climate they were having. 




The plants at the theatre were very unique too











As we left on our way to St Ives (we did NOT meet a man with 7 wives) we could see St Michael’s mount off in the distance and the fog. We will be closer tomorrow, I hope to get better pictures.


St Ives from the top of the hill  


We then made our way to our hotel for the night. It was 5 floors up (no elevator) but we have an amazing view!






Day 17 – Liverpool, Birmingham and Wales

It has been brought to my attention that my sleepy typing has tons of grammatical and spelling errors. Lol I apologize. I always see how bad it is the next morning, too. If Kegan is still awake, he proofreads for me… But since he’s usually a loser, you get stuck deciphering my sleepy ramblings that look slightly like a drunk person. Haha

So.. I’m still pretty awake- let’s see how well I can do this evening. Haha 

We had a 2 floor penthouse apartment last night! Which sounds fancy but I swear was a cheap option. We stayed in downtown Liverpool in the Docklands. Lots of history here.

You can see the ‘Radio City 96.7’ tower in the distance. There used to be a Buck Rogers Space themed restaurant at the top in the 70s (I would have loved the cheesiness of that! Haha) but now is just an observation deck over the city.    

Our building last night  

We stayed in Wapping Quay

We walked past this coffee place this morning and Kegan thought it said “Cafe Nerd” – he said “hey! It’s your place!” Haha    

The docks in Liverpool were really important during their time. The design was revolutionary. Opened around 1850- This was the first time a ship could pull up right to the wharehouse and load/unload. Warehouse fires were always a huge risk because of the construction materials of the day using timbers. These warehouses were the first to use a stone construction. Also, before refrigeration, a lot of parishables like sugar or tea were hard to store and didn’t keep fresh very long due to the heat or humidity of warehouses. The open design and waterfront location made these warehouses perfect for storing parishables and basically all of the Far East trade items were stored and shipped from here.






  My new favorite vehicle ever. Lol


Even the coffee house inside of Albert Dock had the old warehouse elements preserved.   


  One of the oldest tall ships in the world. 



  The Beatles are from Liverpool so there is a big museum and attraction at the docks. We did think we had time to go because of a cool war museum but turns out we would have had time…


The candy store next door had a picture of The Beatles made out of jellybeans  

We drove across town and parked at the war museum. Under this building was a secret war bunker where the Atlantic defenses were planned during World War Two. They have a big map room (think life-sized game of Battleship) with giant open signs. And nothing on their website…and nothing visible from the $9 car park. Only to see a little note on the glass that they are closed for “circumstances outside their control”. I rang the buzzer and talked to some electrician who I couldn’t sweet talk into letting me in. Lol bummer.   

So, anyway- I pirated a picture of the map room from their website- I’ll pretend I paid for the rights to use it since I did pay them $9 to park in their parking lot for no reason 🙂 

On the road again. Next stop: Birmingham. And not Alabama. This Birmingham is old. Like, they’ve found 8000 year old tools sort of old.. But in present day, it was England’s 2nd city and its trade center. The canal network ran goods all across England. It was a gorgeous downtown city.


  We were looking for lunch when we arrived and found a street food market has just opened up that day in the square for Easter holiday festivities.








  A coffee shop on a boat. Brilliant!






“Enjoy Bank’s Fine Ales at the Merchant Stores completely unspoilt by progress”




We saw the first bit of stereotypical English countryside as we left Birmingham.   







We sat in traffic on the interstate for over an hour and therefore we were late getting to Tinturn Abbey by 15 minutes and they were closed. Still think I got a few good photos but I REALLY wanted to go inside…









We picked up a few groceries in South Wales on our way to the hotel at an ASDA. (Which it says is “part of the WalMart family”) 

I heard once and always remembered for some reason that the Welsh were like the inbred hillbillies of England- and after going in the ASDA I might have to agree! It was like we walked straight into Alabama. Fat people in wheelchairs, Mohawks and mullets, cut off shirts…I’m not sure if I can stereotype Wales based on a trip to WalMart though… I mean.. Would you want to be stereotyped based on WalMart here? 😉

But…they did have a McDonalds- so Norah got a little slice of America tonight for dinner….and sometimes a little familiarity is all you need. 



Day 16 – Glasgow, Traquair House and Hadrian’s Wall

Well, the weather just isn’t giving us a break this week! It’s almost freezing and raining non stop. Only a 20% chance tomorrow with a temp of 45… So here’s hoping we can get out and explore without being miserable and cold!

We started this morning is Glasgow. Meh. I didn’t really feel like there was anything major I had to see or do. It’s a decent city…but sort of like Belfast- a little gritty, a little dirty, a little working-class… Lol (you know I can’t be around the working class! Haha)

There was some great old buildings, we took some pictures from the car. Because it was freezing. Lol



We were on a mission as we headed out of town. Destination: Traquair House. 

The oldest inhabited house in Scotland…and just so happens to brew my favorite beer on the planet in their cellar using tuns that are over 200 years old from when the original brewery on the grounds was shut down. The tuns and the equipment sat behind centuries of collected items in the cellar until the owner (the 20th in a line of family succession) decided to try brewing “real” cask ales using the old process in 1965. His daughter now owns the place and the brewing continues. 

Originally their website said “open April to October to the public”. Well, hot dog- what luck! We will be there on April 1! Then yesterday, while getting better directions on their website I noticed it now said “open April 3-October”. Damn.

I panicked a little. I mean, I’m in Scotland…in the middle of nowhere where this brewery is and I won’t be able to taste a fresh draft version of my favorite beer?? So I did what any normal beer lover would do- I gravelled and begged in an email to please take pity on us. Lol

And thinking all hope was lost, but heading there anyway- we received a response. “Sorry Erin, the house will still be closed but of you’re headed through feel free to come and explore the grounds and stop by the office- we have some ales here and we’ll see what we can come up with for you.”

Jackpot! 🙂

So, we were able to get 2 gift sets (Sorry- ain’t none of you getting a gift set. One is for my belly- the other is for Kegan’s) lol

The sets had 1 of the house ales, 1 Bear Ale and 1 Jacobite Rebellion. I’ll report later on Jacobite. The nice lady there told us if we headed to town we could go to the Traquair Arms pub and they had it on draft so we could get the full experience. 

They also found us some little “trickets” as they called them since we made the trip out and couldn’t tour the brewery. Then as we are piling back in the van, a lady comes out with a souvenir glass from a festival last year that she found for us. Very nice people! They thought it was so funny that this American girl was so into their little brewery. Lol



  The house is beautiful and has some amazing history. There is a set of gates with bears that have been locked since Bonnie Prices Charles went through them in 1745 during the Jacobite Rebellion. The owner of Traquair House locked the gates and vowed no one else would come through them until a Stuart was crowned King of England again.

(If you don’t know about the Jacobite rebellion and want to- comment and I’ll write up a synopsis. But it’s late tonight haha) I’d be happy to nerd out if anyone actually wants the info 😉




We then headed to the Traquair Arms pub to try a draft- turns out they only had the Bear Ale. But Kegan ordered one at noon anyway 🙂




 Lunch was on the go, but we did find the strangest chips. I have to say- not bad! Haha



Next stop was my history highlight of the trip: Hadrian’s Wall.  The year is 122AD. The Roamn emporor, Hadrian, is visiting the northernmost reaches of the Roman Empire, Britannia. The Picts and other barbaric clans keep attacking the Romans and now there is war in other areas as well. He needs to pull men from the area but needs it secured so he commissions his troops to build a 20 ft high wall from sea to sea across Britannia. They put a fort every Roman mile and finished it in under 6 years. It’s amazing. And even more amazing that so much of the stone of the wall remains two thousand years later. Some historians say it was just a show of power or a way to control commerce or taxation for entry/exit… I bet it was a combo of all of those reasons 🙂


The rest of our day was pretty rainy and boring as we drove the 3 hours to Liverpool. 



Beatles museum in the morning and maybe an old  World War Two bunker! 🙂

Day 15 – Oban to Glasgow

Today we unknowingly went to the Rockies! Haha Not really but I was quite surprised to find myself in the snowy caps of the Arrochar Alps. When we were there I kept saying “it looks JUST the alps!” Having no clue the name of the mountains at the time.

We were supposed to spend today on the Isle of Mull but the ferries weren’t running due to the terrible weather around here today… (Apparantly its the coldest day of the year here today. Of course! Lol) Here is the ferry sitting in the bay. Sad.


We drove up to the top of the hill in Oban to check out McCaig’s Tower. John Stuart McCaig was a wealthy banker in the late 1800s in Oban and he was obsessed with Roman architecture so he designed this large monument with the intention of having a museum at the center and statues of him and his family inside the outer walls. Now, as narcissistic as this is, I find it hard to speak totally I’ll of him since he employed local stonemasons during the winters to complete it, therefore keeping them working. He had a grand vision for the project…it just included him at the center of it 🙂 unfortunately he died a few years in to the project and only the outer walls were completed.





   View of the city from the top




Since we basically had a whole day we hadn’t planned, we just did a “choose your adventure” day where we just shouted out things we’d like to see along the way from signs or google. 

Norah wanted to see a castle. So we saw a castle:)



Next was the Bonawe Furnace. An old iron furnace in the middle of nowhere. (Apparently I had circled it on a map a few months ago and had no recollection. Go trip-planning me! Ha)

Back in the mid 1700s this would have been a happenin’ place. They were smelting almost all of Englands iron for over 50 years. Some men from the north came and established this furnace here…which at first glance makes you scratch your head because there is hardly any iron ore in the area. They had to bring it in by ship and then out to the furnace site. But what the site did have was tons of trees and in those days they used charcoal to power the furnaces.  It took the equivalent of 2 acres of trees to create enough charcoal and energy to run the furnaces for a full day. There were about 15 men who ran the furnace operation but closer to 600 that ran the fuel operation.



     They used gravity to run the finished iron “pigs” and cannonballs down the hill on tracks that are now covered by grass


Our trip was cut a little short due to a random hailstorm out of nowhere and me falling/skiing/sliding down a muddy hill and getting totally soaked. Lol No bruised bones, only bruised pride! I saved the camera but then bonked myself in the face with it when I didn’t stick the landing Lol


Hail accumulating within just a minute or two. 


Muddy and soaking wet pants! Haha


Next we drove through a little harbor town of Inverary. Cute little town.



And then started our trek into the Rockies lol

The road was called “Rest and Be Thankful” road. No idea of the story behind that one.

Amazing views. I forgot I was in the UK for a bit! Who knew…





But with the good comes the bad, we pulled over to eat our lunch and realized we were on “trash” beach. Why would the town leave it like this??





Ended tonight in downtown Glasgow eating carry out fish and chips from the same block because both Kegan and I both managed to catch colds yesterday. Hoping it goes quick and that Norah doesn’t get it. Damn you cold and snow and rain! This is why I live in Florida. Lol

Day 14 – Skye to Oban, Scotland

Well, the travel gods shined on us a little more today…but only slightly 🙂

We have wifi tonight obviously, because I’m posting this! And after basically 3 days of no internet, I need a 12 step program. I know I have an obsession with technology, I embrace it. Lol

We had breakfast this morning at our little hotel from The Shining. Lol our waitress, if I can call her that, since she said “coffee or tea?” And we said coffee, and she pointed and said “it’s on the counter” … Said she was “born, bred, buttered and toasted in Portree.” That it was a family tradition to work at the Tongadale Hotel… Her mother worked there. Even stopped in for a couple shots of vodka before she headed to the hospital to have her. She said “in,out and home in time for Dr Who” lol She was a witty one.

We backtracked first thing- trying to see the Old Man of Storr rock formation and dinosaur footprints and were successful on both!

The fog had lifted just enough to catch the formation…and it looked really cool with the fog behind it.   


We drove on up to Staffin beach. It took us 45 minutes but then Kegan found the footprint 🙂

More than likely, a Megalosaurus from the middle Jurassic period. A baby T-Rex looking thing…note the three toed print.


Low tide meant we could walk out over the planes covered yesterday


A carved replica on a rock at the beach  

The real deal.  


It had been sleeting and raining all morning so we needed this victory! 🙂

We then went back to Talisker Distillery so Kegan could get his special Scotchy Scotch.


Kegan saw his dream vehicle there in the parking lot. If we ever move to Europe, I can almost guarantee you that’s the vehicle he would drive lol a Land Rover Defender.




Finally we headed back towards real civilization, open coffee houses and wifi. 😉

Great views on the way back to the mainland








Most of our drive was pouring rain… So not many good pictures today



Because of that- its a good slow day to put in a couple random things I’ve forgotten around Scotland before we leave 🙂

Random animals- we keep seeing “stags” which we can only assume are Elk. Also, grouse and pheasants. Kegan managed to catch a pheasant on camera the other day. we’ve probably seen a dozen so far.


 Saw a swan on a little lake yesterday. That was cool.


Also, a couple days ago we found a little antique shop where we bought a couple small  things. 

I found an early 1900s copy of The Pilgim’s Progress by John Bunyan. It’s actually sort of a sacrilege to buy this in Scotland since John Bunyan was one of Oliver Cromwell’s Puritan followers in the mid 1600s. Puritan Britains were burning and bombing Scotland at that time. Lol

Mark Twain’s book that I based this blog on is “The Innocents Abroad or The New Pilgrim’s Progress” – referencing this book.

The book is an early fiction book of Christian allegory. Using symbolism to tell a story of religious pilgrimage and a deepening of faith through voyage and understanding. What makes it cool to me is that he wrote this while in prison for preaching without a license (yeah…that was a thing) and he had never read any other work of fiction supposedly- only the Bible. This story came to him in a dream/vision…and he wrote it as the dream of an anonymous main character. 



The inside front cover says:

St Thomas — Parrish Church  Prize Awarded to William A Melvin (?) for regular attendance 1914.


Kegan found a Highland horn whiskey glass set. I don’t think they’re very old…maybe 1960s… But still a pretty cool souvenir 🙂



Also, at a gift shop today, I bought Norah a junior bagpipes LOL Kegan is glaring at me like, you can’t be serious….” But have you seen this kid around music and instruments? It’s what makes her world go around… So bagpipes it is! 🙂 I cannot wait to watch her flip when she finds out we bought them and the sound they make! (After we get back to Florida of course…we would not be good hotel guests with a toddler playing bagpipes. Haha)

We were staying in the town of Oban tonight in what could be my great-grandmother’s house….complete with old ratty pink flower towels. (I mean, really? How expensive would a set of towels be??) Bed and breakfasts- hit or miss. This one has a bright turquoise blue toilet seat… I’m not sure if that’s a strike or a check in its favor…its gotta be almost as rare as the dinosaur footprints, right? 🙂


We are here because this is where the ferry over to the Isle of Mull leaves from…however we called the guy who runs the ferry out to the island of Staffa to Fingal’s cave and he said he wouldn’t be running the boat tomorrow because the weather was supposed to be terrible. 

Here’s what we are missing 🙁 sadly…




Oh well…you can’t win them all. Gives me a reason to come back 🙂

So instead we’re just going to head on to Glasgow and see what trouble we can get into there. G’night!

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