Friday, February 12, 2010

Travels to England: The North Yorkshire Dales and our “Magical Mystery Tour” - January 2010


“There’s no place like home” Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz

We love to travel and do so as frequently as we can.  But it is so nice to come home. Yes we are finally home. Its been a whirlwind of travel for the last several months, and to be truthful I need a break.

Now for our travel pictures. At least you’re not a captive audience, where your stuck looking at an endless array of boring pictures. I do have to warn you though it is a rather large post. But I did have fun putting it together.


As most of you know John/JD is English and has family in the dales of North Yorkshire. Our latest trip was essentially a late Christmas visit since our holiday travel was to my family in California. So here we go…

The top picture is the view from the cottage that we rented in Embsay – North Yorkshire near Skipton (an old market town centered around a castle with parts of it dating back to Norman times.)


There were a few chickens and loads of sheep – they are everywhere dotting the green country side amongst the handmade stone walls.

Needless to say we were very pleased with the location, the temperature, the little bit of sun, and the view. Our tiny cottage was located 2 doors down from our oldest (step) daughter and her family. Very nice and convenient.

And yes we had a huge blast…eating and drinking a lot, so diets are in order for us both from the wonderful faire.

During the first part of our trip for business we traveled down to Exeter (Southern and Coastal England) and stayed in a lovely old hotel located in the center of town, inside a closed off to vehicles area which is centered around  an ancient church. I love it when you can walk everywhere, to little cafes, book stores, and the best of all - the pubs.

When inside the church you can see remnants of the original Norman part with the newer built around it. There are also a number of old Tudor homes converted into businesses and cobblestone streets dotted around. Which in case you haven’t ever experienced take some practice to walk on… unless you are used to them, which I am not.


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Inside this old hotel which is modernized as much as possible considering the age of the building they had this tub, isn’t it wonderful… remember this for a future post coming soon… The hotel we stayed at was The Royal Clarence, pictured on the top left in the above section.

Now for the really fun part. On our return back to Embsay and as part of our “magical mystery tour” of some of the mythical and archeological sites south of the North Yorkshire Dales, we stopped at Glastonbury Abbey, a little village called Nunney, Stonehenge, Avebury (which included the West Kennet Long Barrow), and a creek side town called Bourton on the Water in Cotswolds.

Here is Glastonbury Abbey (links to the park’s website.) It is reportedly 2000 years old and very well maintained and accredited by It has an informative indoor area which describes the history of the abbey. It is also reportedly where King Arthur and Guinevere were buried and the setting for the mythical Camelot.

The town surrounding the area is also cute and has what looks like wonderful little shops, places to stay, as well as to eat. We have decided that at some time it would be nice to stay here and explore a bit more.

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The arches are so beautiful as are these old abbeys which were centers of relative cleanliness and religious education in a very dark time. Can you imagine a world only lit by fire?

Here is a wonderful ancient carved face found at the site. I would love to have this for a door stop or sitting on my front porch -perhaps it would scare away unwanted visitors?

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Above right is the marker where they believed King Arthur and Guinevere were buried originally. In 1191 local monks reported they found the bones of Arthur and Guinevere here. Since no one knows for sure it is thought that perhaps the monks created this ingenious hoax to bring in money for the struggling Abbey. The truth will never be known since the abbey was ransacked by King Henry the Eighth during his destruction of the English Church. So the remains are gone. How sad that one man could reap such destruction.

Moving on towards our main destination – Stonehenge, we had to make a stop at this little tiny village called Nunney. The reason being that it contains my last name - Nunn. It was apparently named after a Saxon who terrorized and then settled in the area named Nunna/Nonna. At some time I would like to research this to see if has any ancestral relationship to my family. That could be very interesting perhaps I have evil Saxon blood in my family tree which could be one explanation for my ornery and feisty nature.

Here is a picture of the the town’s sign pointing the direction to the castle and then the remains of the castle itself.


Finally and just in time we reached Stonehenge. The weather was becoming colder and the site was almost ready to close at 4 PM. We made the quick and cold rounds walking quickly around the stones and exited through the store where we purchased an information guide. There I found several fiction books one in particular is Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwall. I was particularly interested in this book because John has just devoured two of his historical fiction and says they are very well researched and accurate. So it has been put on my to be read list.


Book picture links to Amazon US information and purchasing for the book. (UK/Canada)


Here are some pictures that we quickly took so we could be off to what John describes as a better and less well known henge. It is located about 30 miles north east of Stonehenge – Avebury. Although I loved Stonehenge and it is spectacular, I do have to agree – Avebury is special as you will see below. Isn’t wonderful having a native guide?

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Avebury - This little town boasts a huge stone circle surrounding it. It is reportedly the largest stone circle in Britain and is believed to be 500 or more years older than Stonehenge, estimated at 5000 plus years old.

What was so exceptional for us about Avebury is that we slept inside the circle. Since the area is steeped in myth, the owner of the Bed and Breakfast we stayed at stated that her clientele is of quirky nature… those tending toward supernatural beliefs about the circle. There are multiple unexplained occurrences of crop circles in the area and all the local shops have loads of memorabilia some of which tend toward the hokey and ridiculous.

So to add to the intrigue and a bit of the ridiculous when sleeping inside the circle I did have my own little paranormal experience. I woke up in the middle of the night not realizing where I was, which is to be expected traveling all over and staying at different unfamiliar locations. The weird thing was, that when I woke up in the middle of the night it took me a few seconds to realize who I was – perhaps and ancient Saxon?

Below are pictures of the Bed and Breakfast and the old bed with its hand made velvet bedding. The Breakfast was lovely and an English vegetarian with sausage, eggs, beans, and tomato was served. Click  to visit website for The Lodge.

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The photos below do not give this wonderful stone circle justice. The circle is huge and there is also a huge ditch that has been dug around the circle itself which can only truly be visualize in aerial form. It is an almost perfect circle around this tiny village on top of the Salisbury Plain. It makes you wonder how they accomplished this 5000 years ago.

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When leaving Avebury JD took me on a hike up to what is is called West Kennet Long Barrow. It is considered to be one of the largest Neolithic burial mounds in Britain. It is believed to have begun to be constructed as early as 3500 BC. After being opened sometime in the 1700s around 50 bodies where found within the barrow.

We love this sort of ancient stuff. Can you imagine what life was like back then? It is truly hard to imagine even for the experts who can only guess.

This to me was the highlight of the trip although it was “bloody freezing” – 1 degree centigrade. The weather had began to become very cold and we were not dressedDSCN0999 for windy and drizzly weather. Here I am very excited about reaching the barrow since my toes where almost froze. You can see the barrow there along the back part of the picture.


Here is the beginning of the entrance to the barrow.


The entrance…with me going inside… and


the interior and exit for the chamber.


It was amazingly cool - literally and figuratively.

Finally after a good thaw as we drove back to civilization and back the year 2010 we visited the lovely little town of Bourton on the Water located in the Cotswolds. It was gorgeous and very cold. It is apparently a tourist town but since it is generally off season in January it was not very crowded. We stopped and had a bit to eat right along the water way.

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Back in North Yorkshire here are a few more interesting pictures. The ducks in the picture are actually standing on the ice. Apparently when feeding them they slip and slide around in a very funny way – when they land on the ice when flying it is truly amazing. The grand kids loved this teasing the birds with little pieces of stale bread.

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To the right is an example of the one day of snow fall we had on our visit. It warmed up the next day and melted so it was beautiful and fleetingly perfect. I am not accustomed to snow so it was exciting for me.

Beyond this long post, I cannot bear to leave without the prerequisite book purchases. Although I had planned not to purchase any due to the weight restrictions airlines are now imposing on flyers (I already had brought 6 to read with me from the US.) I could not resist, since Skipton has a bunch of “charity shops” which have books for sale at very low prices. I found three in my attempt to find some mud boots to leave with family there for future trips. Here is where my resolve broke. I purchased – Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, Grass by Sheri Tepper, and The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom, all costing a total of 4 pounds a little less than 7 dollars. All book pics link to Amazon US for information and purchase.

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Waters –(UK/Canada); Tepper - (UK/Canada); Ransom - (UK/Canada)

And here is the best for last. These two wonderful people are John’s mum and dad. I just adore them – Margaret and George. I know why JD is such a wonderful guy and he takes such nice pictures too, an added bonus. All the pictures taken here are attributed to him except the one I took of him at Stonehenge.


I hope you enjoyed this tale of travel – our English “magical mystery tour” and can live for a moment vicariously through our pictures. Perhaps this post will persuade you to take your own tour of England or beyond. If you have any questions about the locations or need referrals let us know in the comments section – although not an expert, JD is full of information about his native country.

So for our next trip to England I am pushing to visit the Isle of Skye. Who knows where the wind will blow, but isn’t life grand? I understand the area is starkly beautiful and remote.

Coming up soon two Valentines Day posts, a bunch of overdue book reviews, a number of previews, a giveaway or two, several challenges, and who knows what we will come up with next.

Thanks for reading Layers of Thought.


logankstewart said...

That sounds awesome. I'm glad you all had a great time and took some beautiful pictures. One day, I, too, hope to visit England, and the rest of the UK, too, while I'm at it.

Unknown said...

Logan -
We had a blast now to!

You'll get there one day. I did not go to Europe until my 40's... you have loads of time.

Aarti said...

Wow, great post, Shellie! I went to the Isle of Skye about 1.5 years ago. It was August, but it was VERY cold and gusty there. Not sure what the ideal time to visit is, but I loved all of Scotland when I visited :-)

I wish I had known about Avebury when I studied in England. The one picture you have above that shows multiple stones standing is really gorgeous. And the town sounds so fun, too! Maybe you had a whole out of body experience where you remembered, in your drowsy state, a past life that you had! That would be so fun :-)

Thanks so much for sharing your travels with us.

Unknown said...

Aarti -
Thanks... yes the UK is cold and Scotland colder. Those Scots are a tough lot because of it...but they are generally good hearted.

I had never heard of Avebury either. A native guide always helps.

Perhaps I was having some sort of past life thing...maybe the ale with dinner... who knows? It was one of the weirdest feelings. Yes past life regression can be interesting. :)

It was my pleasure to share. Thanks for your comment it means a lot.

Tea said...

Wow! This is too wonderful. Thank you for sharing. I love so much including the chickens. Didn't see all, I will return. Love it. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Those are awesome photos! It's mind-blowing to think that many buildings in the UK and Europe have been around for milennia. Over here in the US, we think if it's been standing since 1830, it's way old!

Glad you're back -- it was lonely without you :-)

Unknown said...

Leola -
Thanks for stopping by... chickens are amazing and delicious. I was wondering what they peck at all day long?

The post will be here....

BTW - your blog looks very nice and fresh... love it!

Nicole -
Its amazing to think how long humans have been on this planet. You know I think we are still the same just with better plumbing and computers...and thank goodness for showers.

I missed everyone as well. No more twitter for you I see. You know sometime something has to give when your beyond busy.

I did get to read a bit of stuff here and there on a crummy internet connection... but I'm all up to date now.

Its good to be home.

Anonymous said...

Welcome home, intrepid travelers and explorers! You've been missed, but I'm glad you had such a good time.

JD's folks look very ... English. If they spoke Yorkshire to you, Shellie, I would be surprised if you understood any of what they said.

Thanks so much for the photos and the travelogue.

Unknown said...

Charlie -
Thanks its good to be home. Missed everyone as well...

The Yorkshire accent is difficult - very working class. Not as bad as some though.

I have been traveling with John to Yorkshire for 7 years now. I am doing very well with the accent now.

When I first visited I could not understand a word they said, especially when they had been drinking. Also John's accent got thicker it was very difficult.

John and I translated to each other often for the first several year...because even though we both speak English.. the language is very different.

If you heard me talk now I am sure you would hear a bit of the English/Yorkshire accent... I have been told I have a slight accent now.

Funny isn't it?

Cathy said...

I've been to Skye twice. It's one of my favorite spots on earth.

Unknown said...

Cathy -
Yes I remember... perhaps you can give us some tips. :)

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