We left Bath early on Monday morning (May 22) and headed for the Cotswolds which we understood to be very scenic. The hedgerows had to some degree been replaced by stone fences in this area, although not completely. The countryside was very green and pretty with the rolling hills and green colours of the woods and grassy hills.
Our first stop was at the tiny village of Castle Combe. Stone houses lined the road and the slate on the roofs was a bit more coarse and rough as compared to the smooth slate we had seen on the roofs in Bath. This was a very pretty little village and at the top of the main street, we could still see the medieval market shelter in the original market square. It was drizzling with rain although that did not deter me from walking through the village to take some photos. It reminded me of some of those little English villages that you see as miniatures in some of the tourist attractions.
From there we drove to Painswick (written up in the Lonely Planet Guide as the ‘Queen of the Cotswalds’) and by the time we stopped for a cup of coffee, the rain had cleared. We walked around the churchyard and then over the road to a pub for morning coffee. The local map showed a lookout half way up the hill on Stepping Stone Lane so we drove to it along this narrow lane which was just wider than the car and with head-high hedges along each side. We couldn’t find any stepping stones however. There was a place where we could get a view of the village throuigh a farm gateway about half way up the hill. It was worth the drive much to Jill’s angst – she expected a head on collision at each and every moment from unseen onccoming traffic.
Although it took us a little to far to the east, we then drove to one of the tourist highlights in the Cotswalds – the town of Bournemouth on the Water. This quaint little town is established along a little river and has a number of low stone bridges as crossings. It is very scenic, although full of tourists. The car park was well up the road and a long way to walk back, so we decided that as the place was so busy we would leave. But as luck would have it, we found a place to park right in the main street, so we took a short walk around town and took a couple of phiotos.
From there we went through the little towns of Lower and Upper Slaughter which were also very pretty places. By now it was nearly lunch time and we decided that we had been captivated by the Cotswalds for long enough so we made a beeline for the M6 and headed to our overnight destination at Chester.
For all the right or wrong reasons, we had booked a couple of nights at the Best Western Hotel. It saved us from having to worry about finding accommodation late in the day and it placed us right in the middle of town although it was a bit of a dump. It was raining again by the time we arrived but I did manage to fit in a walk around the city centre for a bit over an hour and was interested to see some of the original Roman walls and a part of the Roman amphitheatre that still exist. The centre of the city is based around a pedestrian mall and a lot of the buildings are styled around the half-frame tudor style of archtecture.
On Tuesday, we drove across northern Wales with the intention of seeing some of the historical sights. We started by driving along the coast road to Rhyl. It seems that these seaside towns are popular beach resotrts as there is a holiday park every half mile or so along the beach. So much for any expectation of a view along the beach. It seems the English leave their side-by-side terrace houses to go to the beach to live in side-by-side cabins for their holidays!
Our first major stop was in the city of Conwy where we visited the castle. This dates back to the 1300’s and was where King Edward I was crowned. It only exists as a ruin today, but the main walls and structure of the tower is well maintained.
We stopped for lunch in Bangor and had another meal accompanied by chips. No wonder Jamie Oliver has caused a sensation with his call for modern and healthy foods in England – it is almost impossible to find anything (including a lamb sandwhich with mint sauce) that isn’t served with chips.
By early afternoon we had reached Caernarfon (now spelt in its Welsh form) and visited the castle where Charles was invested as Prince of Wales. I think that once upon a time, I might have been a bit more reverant about the Royal ‘doings’, but now they just seem quant and activities in which the Royals become involved because they have nothing else to do. I find myslef feeling quite uncomfortabel about a society where people are still evaluated by their rank. In any caase, the castle, was very grand and majestic. There was a very interesting museum for the Welsh Fusiliers. Now that’s a military unit that has fought in almost every skirmish that you could possibly think of since the 1600’s! A very impressive story!
By late afternoon we began our return trip via the town of Betws-Y-Coed which was in some ruged hills in Snowdonia. The weather was cold and bleak and we couldn’t quite see the top of Mount Snowdon although we had heard that it had received some snow over the last few days. The surrounding country was quite rugged with gnarly flint hills and rock outcrops. At one place we passed a significantly large slate quarry.
We were back in Chester by dinner time to find that my socks and jocks that I had washed on the previous night were still wet. Oh the trials of traveller when the washing doesn’t dry.