45 Britain & Ireland
UK (UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND) June 2012
We arrived at Heathrow with a 6 month British visa (which had required 20 pages of paperwork, for each of us.) With hire car we drove to Risely, Bedfordshire where Dipli had been parked for 6 months. Evidence of the cold winter was a burst pipe in the gas geyser.
Jan had changed the steering from left to right after shipping from Canada to the UK.
We were appalled by the cost of diesel ($2,35/l vs. $1,05/l in the US). We collected a T-mobile dongle for our pc so that we could use the internet in our vehicle. We also acquired a Lebara sim card for our South African mobile phone.
After reuniting in Sharnbrook with Land Rover Club friends from years ago, we travelled south. On the M1, occupants of a car frantically gestured us to a rest area. He had recognised us because we had met him (in a Land Rover) in Cambodia, Singapore and Australia; each time completely by chance! We later visited them at their home on the Yorkshire Moors.
In London we parked in the street and could enjoy our niece’s company and home comforts and commute to see the sights of London.
One very early Sunday morning we drove in to photograph Dipli in front of Big Ben. The bobby warned: “it is going to cost you a lot of money to stop here”; but we got the shot!
We went to Surrey to visit the home of 2 of the four vets we had met in Cairo in 1998. From Egypt they had shipped to Djibouti and drove south through Africa in 2 Land Rovers. The first 3 months had been with a one-year old toddler. We later reunited with that family in Essex.
At Brighton’s Royal Pavilion, built in 1823, as the later obese King George IV’s ornate pleasure palace, we saw the menu of a banquet that listed 46 entrees!
In stormy weather we donned our layers to explore the harbour cities of Portsmouth and Plymouth where the likes of Lord Nelson, Cook, Darwin, Scott and the ships Mary Rose and Mayflower had sailed from.
On a rare sunny afternoon we stood in awe of the 2500BC Stonehenge monoliths.
We joined “English Heritage” to enter free there and at many other sights.
While it was raining the wipers stopped working! We could buy a wiper motor at Blackwell’s in Devon. Their slogan: “If it fits on a Land Rover, we’ve got it!”
To rectify Dipli’s wobble, Jan had to disregard the icy wind, and replace the track rod ball joints.
We often went along narrow country ways, sometimes only single lane. One such road with high hedges took us to Lizard Point, Cornwall – furthest South in Britain. Then Land’s End which is the most Westerly point of mainland Britain. We walked along the coal-black cliffs above the pounding Atlantic surf. Cosy cafe’s offered Cornish pasties and scones with clotted cream and jam.
When Leone wanted to see the new gallery Tate St Ives, the GPS led us into a jumble of cobbled alleyways until we could go no further; blocking the traffic. The only option was low range reverse uphill past porticos of small shops and cafe’s, and startled faces.
At Solihull we had an extensive tour of the Land Rover factory. The parts for each process are delivered to each unit by DHL. Most impressive was the huge plant which presses the panels of the vehicles from steel sheets and also to watch the nifty mechanical welding ‘creatures’. We learned that from 2007 there is no longer any aluminium in Land Rover bodies! We watched how the different Defenders are assembled. The shock was a picture of the new Defender prototype...
We drove next to the misty Snowdonia mountains of Wales, through villages of grey stone to Port Meirion; a seaside fairy tale. Italianate buildings in pastel shades with arches, towers and statues are terraced to the sea. This masterpiece was dreamed up, designed and perfected over 50 years by architect William-Ellis.
Having researched on the internet, we found FES Company near Caernarfon Castle, North Wales, where we bought the fitting which enabled us to get cooking propane at an autogas filling station. They directed us to a secluded beach on the Welsh coast.
We were enjoying the scenery of The Lake District. Then it became a 3-day long weekend with awful traffic congestion and parking restrictions. In Ambleside we were saved when a young woman invited us to stay at their place with a private approach to a lake. That evening they had a barbecue and we sat around a log fire until midnight.
On the way to Hadrian’s Roman Wall and Fort. (123AD) we came upon the Centre of Britain at Haltwhistle, Hexham.
We parked at the port the night before taking the ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast.
The Titanic was built in Belfast. On the site is now an amazing ship-like complex. The exhibitions depict the construction of the ill-fated ship and the sinking on 15 April 1912. The display technique is mostly digital with projections up to 3 stories high.
It was so late when we came out that we remained right there. The police came by and said we could stay the night.
The Lisburn Linen museum has exhibits on the blue-flowered flax plant which created such a huge textile industry. The exhibits show how the stalks were pulled, combed, pounded, soaked, bleached and woven.
The Titanic had 6000 linen damask tablecloths and 45 000 napkins on board.
Giant’s Causeway on the north coast of Ireland is truly magnificent. Where lava had cooled slowly, shrinking and cracking evenly, hexagonal columns of rock had formed, reaching high up from the sea.
Between Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland there is no border control. Then the road signs were in English and Gaelic. We had to be reminded to use Euros and were happy to see “kilometres” again. Jan thinks the English should be the butt of Irish jokes, because after 40 years they have been incapable of metricating correctly, while the Irish got it right!
Emerald-green fields laced by endless stone walls create pastures for cows and sheep with lambs. “Gorse” shrubs with bright yellow blooms edged the road. We travelled along narrow lanes through traditional villages where central shops and pubs (with Guinness signs) are painted in vivid colours.
In sharp contrast were numerous large new homes, evidence of the construction boom in Ireland in 2006.
The spectacular Cliffs of Moher lie in a series of high limestone cliffs falling away into a churning sea.
At the furthest edge of the scenic windswept Dingle peninsula, we photographed Dipli at the furthest West of Europe.
Jan had to toil to fill the steering relay boxes with oil. Leone went to explore the Dublin sights like the castle and the 1st public library from 1701 and still functioning.
Next was the Chester Beatty library with the most exquisite old illustrated oriental books and manuscripts.
In southern Scotland we visited towns where Robert Burns had lived, including the house where he wrote “Auld lang syne”.
Mount Stuart, on the Isle of Bute is one of the most spectacular stately homes.
The entrance is a 3-story high extravaganza of marble. At the top there are 12 tall stained glass windows which have crystal stars and were casting rainbow hued highlights on the floor.
Blantyre, Scotland is where David Livingstone had worked in a cotton mill from the age of 10. The museum is in the building where his family had occupied one room. The missionary and explorer spent 30 years in Africa and mapped 2.5 million square km.
At Stirling Castle near Glasgow, we saw the newly restored great hall and the inner hall with a ceiling of 40 hand carved heads –brightly painted..
Through wonderful Scottish Highland scenery of mountains, rivers, via the lakes Loch Lomond and Loch Ness, we continued north.
We reached John O’Groats (1350km from Land’s End).
However, Furthest North in Britain was actually 23km west at Dunnet Head.
On the north coast we stayed at Sango Sands, a spectacularly situated campsite above sandy beaches. Upon departure when Leone did not lift the rear steps, Dipli drove over it! We could not find a suitable ladder in a shop. Friends in a pretty Scottish village have a chocolate factory – and also an empty garage (it was raining), where Jan repaired the ladder, using some aluminium angle and 119 rivets!
We chose Aberfeldy’s Dewar’s distillery (White Label) to learn about Scottish whisky making. It was started by John Dewar in 1846 and expanded by his 2 sons.
After Edinburgh castle, we visited the moored Royal Yacht Britannia, built in 1953 and decommissioned 1997. The Queen used it for 968 official visits. Charles and Diana had their honeymoon on the vessel.
Next to the marvellous York Minster was a traditional Tea House. Opposite was a delightful alley shop where Leone learned all about “Soft pot gardening”.
Near Leeds, we shared travel tales with friends who had journeyed through 24 African countries in a 101 Land Rover FC camper. We had met them in Botswana in 2003. Their large garden was a good spot to replace Dipli’s left and right front wheel bearings.
We managed to find Ness point, near Lowestoft, Suffolk, which is the furthest East in Britain. The weather was good (At last!) and Jan could change the steering from right hand drive to left – for Europe. We took the ferry from Dover to Calais.
This journey up to June 2012:
Time on the road (excluding home visits): 6 years, 7months
Kilometres driven: 265 000 Countries visited: 89 (with Dipli). US States: 49