Durdle Door

Day 143: Weymouth England, Saturday September 9th

Nicely rested after our rain day, we set out for a big hike (about 17 km) on the “South West Coast Path”.  It started on the beach, heading north around Weymouth Bay where it becomes the “Jurassic Coast”.

At one point we had to walk through a little amusement park called “Fantasy Island”. After that we passed the beautiful, old Riviera Hotel.

It was mostly sunny, and as we climbed up onto the cliffs we were treated to great views.

When a bit of rain caught us we ducked into a nice pub called the “Smuggler’s Inn”. We thumbed through a book of movie trivia.

We were about a mile farther down the path when Deb noticed that I didn’t have my backpack. Sigh. After retrieving it, and finally getting that mile back, it started to spit again. We waited this shower out under a tree. The sun returned and we walked on, stopping for little tubs of ice cream at just the right time, for a real downpour hit and we were able to hide in the little shop. Again, it didn’t last, but the ground did get pretty muddy.

It also started to get a lot rougher. In places the trail was just a muddy track. Still, those views!

I think it was just after we passed a little pebble beach called, ahem, Scratch Bottom, that things got a bit crazy. We had three or four tricky hills. One of which was so steep that we did part of it crab-style. If there had been any other option other than a long hike backwards, we might have bailed.

When we finally reached Durdle Door, a natural arch at a beautiful sandy cove, we felt that we had truly earned all that sunny splendour, unlike all those people who drove there and walked a paltry 1 km.

We took lots of pictures and enjoyed the view, but decided against going down to the actual beach. Our legs were tired! Instead we hiked up to the car park, and then on to the campground. We stopped to buy a postcard and to confirm that there was a bus stop at the main road. When we found the stop we realized we had only seven minutes to wait for the last bus to Weymouth. We were very, very happy we’d decided not to go down to the beach.

The bus driver looked about fifteen, and he drove like a teenager (fast). It was an entertaining, bumpy ride back to town.

We felt we had earned a pub meal, but all the places near the beach seemed overpriced or a little fancy for our muddy selves. We started back, thinking we’d have a Tesco pie, but we chanced upon a small pub with its menu in the window: homemade pies for less than six pounds. We had to sit at the bar, as the place was full of locals, but we didn’t mind and the bartender was a nice, chatty gentleman. The pies were slow to arrive, as they really are homemade, but they were definitely worth the wait. A perfect end to a memorable day.

Distance: 0 (23 km hike)

$152

Roman around Dorchester

Day 140: Dorchester England, Wednesday September 6th

Dorchester has a set of walks around town. We did all four of them.

Thomas Hardy is their most famous son, and there’s a statue of him, and many buildings connected to his life and writings.

There is also a really interesting Roman Townhouse, that has been partially reconstructed and covered in glass. We spent awhile checking out the mosaics and marvelling at Roman ingenuity.

Where the Roman town walls would’ve been (there’s only a small section remaining) there are pretty tree-lined walking trails, and we sat on top of what is left of their amphitheater and watched a dog fetch a frisbee for awhile (almost as good as a chariot race).

The amphitheatre was actually built on a pre-existing neolithic henge site known as the Maumbury Rings. Another significant neolithic site was found just down the road and excavated in the 1980s. I wonder how many people using this underground grocery store car park realize that the big red circles mark the locations of timber post holes from a massive neolithic enclosure?

As we are nearing the cruise home, Deb has started eyeing things in charity shop windows. Here she found a very pretty dress, and later she went back to try it on while I browsed in a comic shop. Success! We celebrated her find in the Convivial Rabbit a “micro pub” which had no taps, just cask beers and bottles. It was tiny, and had no music. We chatted with a local enjoying a cider at the table next to ours.

We finished the walking tours and stopped at a more traditional pub. Finally we made our way back to Poundbury.

Distance: 0

$116 + dress

Avalon

Day 137: Glastonbury England, Sunday September 3rd

After our success with the Jane Austen audio tour in Bath we decided to follow an online walking tour of Glastonbury. It wasn’t great, but it did take us all around this strange little town.

The sacred Chalice Well, the freaky Tor, and a long association with Avalon and all things King Arthur has attracted a lot of mystics to the area. There are dozens of shops selling every New Age gewgaw you can imagine, and most of them have really excellent names, like Star Child, Elestial, and Cat and Cauldron. 

There’s some good street art too.

After our tour, we stopped at the King Arthur Pub for a pint, and there was a pretty good guitar playing singer performing.

Then we were ready to climb the Tor.

We walked up the steeper of the two paths, and it was a little harrowing, with a gusty wind blowing. The views were truncated, but the mists added to the magical atmosphere of the place. We saw one couple furiously scratching lottery tickets in the tower, but I don’t think the gods smiled on them.

The hike down was a bit easier and we finished off with a final ale at the Rifleman’s arms, where a guy was stuffing coins into the e-jukebox and playing a selection of really good songs from the 80s and 90s.

Distance: 0

$105

Wisely and Slow

Day 130: Long Itchington to Stratford-upon-Avon England, Sunday August 27th

When we woke up sunlight was streaming into the tent andwe were starting to cook. I’m not complaining; it was fantastic. We ate breakfast at our picnic table in short sleeves. We had found summer at last.

It was a short ride west on cycle route 41 to Royal Leamington Spa, which is a posh little place. We stopped and took a break in a big park full of picnickers and families out for walks.

A little farther west we hit Warwick, which has a strange break in the cycle route. We discovered that it was likely because the streets are narrow, busy, and steep. I think the Sustrans people responsible for UK’s cycle routes just threw up their hands and said, “There is no good way through this town, we’ll just let the cyclists figure it out for themselves”.  We pushed our bikes on the narrow sidewalks for several blocks. Even then, there were places where crossing the street was tricky. We also popped into a pub.

Deb found us the 41 on the other side of town, and we were now headed pretty much south to our destination: Shakespeareville.

Our Airbnb in Stratford-upon-Avon was pretty fancy, with a big, bright room and washroom all to ourselves. No kitchen access though, and though our hosts seemed nice, we didn’t really see much of them.

We walked into town, stopping at a Tesco to buy sweet potato pies and a discount sandwich for dinner. The city was full of people out enjoying the weather.

They don’t have food trucks here, just food boats

We toured the streets, and took pictures of Shakespeare’s birthplace. At the Garrick Inn, a pub which claims to be both the oldest in Stratford, and haunted, we had a cask ale before walking back to the B&B.

Distance: 

$

Duke and Baron

Day 115: Brightons, Scotland, Saturday August 12th

Our hosts kindly gave us a lift in the morning, dropping us off in Falkirk at a big park called the Helix. The showpiece of this big green space is the Kelpies. These are massive, yet somehow delicate, stainless steel horse head sculptures. It was a nice day, so we were able to take nice pictures of this stunning art.

It was a long, but good walk back. The guest labrador, Charlie, was there waiting for his owner to pick him up. He kept us company while we blogged and planned.

Later, Charlie went home, but we had puppy Campbell and friendly Evie to keep us company.

Distance: 0

$78

Drummed out of Town

Day 114: Glasgow to Brightons, Scotland, Friday August 11th

We took the scenic route, riding backwards along the River Clyde, then all the way back up the Kelvin to pick up the canal route towards Edinburgh. The weather was a bit spitty, but the wind was from the southwest, pushing us along.

All the way out of the city we could hear bagpipes and drums, drumming us out of town, I suppose.

We rode beside the water, practically coasting, for hours. Deb kept waiting for it to get less pretty, but it didn’t.

We stopped at an old Inn called the Stables for a hobbit-style pint, and again at the Falkirk Wheel for pictures. Unfortunately the wheel wasn’t doing anything while we were there, and it’s likely much more impressive when you can see it in operation, lifting or lowering boats from one canal to another.

I was enjoying the canal ride so much I led us astray, and we had to rely on Google Maps to get us to our Airbnb. Google seemed to want to have some fun with us, sending us on a long climb up a gravel path in the woods, then under a rail bridge with a ledge barely wide enough for our fat, loaded bicycles.

When we did finally arrive, we were warmly welcomed by Justine and three very excited dogs. My crabby mood was obliterated by Campbell, a five-month-old spaniel.

Distance: 54 km

$120

Pipes and Pints

Day 113: Glasgow, Scotland, Thursday August 10th

It was a short walk from our Airbnb to the Glasgow Green. We stopped to admire the terra cotta celebration of colonialism that is the Doulton Fountain. I love that the “Canada” figures include a trapper holding a moose head with a beaver at his feet.

Behind the fountain is the equally ornate People’s Palace, with a museum of Glasgow inside. We spent some time in there, and then walked beside the Clyde and up into Kelvingrove Park. A big bagpipe festival and competition was almost set to begin, and pipes and drums could be heard practicing everywhere. In the park we stopped to watch a couple of troops rehearsing.

We went to the Kelvingrove gallery and museum, picking out a few exhibits we were most interested in seeing.

On our way back across the city, we stopped at the very nice Shilling Brewing Company where we sampled and enjoyed their pizza and a pint special. We capped our tour with a stop Drygate Brewery, just down the street from our room.

Distance: 0

$136

Stumpy

Day 108: Pitlochry, Scotland, Saturday August 5th

We walked out and around the big dam in Pitlochry and spent some time in the visitor’s centre looking at the displays and watching a movie about Hydro power in the Highlands.

Later we walked up to the Moulin Inn, which happens to also be a brewery. It was very busy, so we had to take stools at an occupied table. At first we kept to ourselves, but when I got up to get another round, Deb got social. It was an English couple and their friend, all out for a long-weekend motorbike tour. The friend, “Stumpy”, was former military; he and I connected because he was a big Rush fan. We talked about bikes and Brexit, about our tour and where they thought we should go; we talked about differences between the English and the Scottish, and between the new world and old.

 

Distance: 0

$147

Skara Brae, Skull Splitter, and Brodgar

Day 100: Stromness (tour of West Mainland), Friday July 28th

We enjoyed an unencumbered ride, heading north from Stromness to Skaill, visiting Skara Brae, the remains of a neolithic village that has been called the “Scottish Pompeii”.

Re-creation of a neolithic house

The real thing

Included in the price of admission to the neolithic exhibit and village was a self-guided tour of Skaill House, an impressive 17th century manor with an 1950’s interior.

Just a little farther north we found the Orkney Brewery, where we both purchased samples. They make some very good beer, including Skull Splitter.

Next we hit the Ring of Brodgar, with menacing clouds adding to the moody atmosphere.

Perhaps we lingered just a little too long at stones, because just as we were completing our circuit, riding back into Stromness, the rain hit. We got drenched.

In the evening, when we were dry again, we went back to the Ferry Inn for a pint. We wore rather bizarre footwear, as our shoes were still wet.

Distance: 38 km

$

No Sleep ’til Breukelen

Day 80: July 7th, Gouda to Fort Spion (Loosdrecht), The Netherlands

Deb found an interesting campsite about halfway between Gouda and Amsterdam, located at an old fort. You had to have a special nature camping membership to tent there, but it also had a small “depot” you could rent without that added cost. We booked this mysterious depot, and Google Mapped our way north.

On the way we rode along a beautiful canal and then ended up riding along the Vecht river, past giant mansions, most built in the 17th century. We also rode through Breukelen, which the Americans decided to spell a little more simply when they named their borough.

When we got to the campsite, we found a nice little farmhouse and some ‘silky’ chickens. We weren’t sure where the fort actually was. Then the proprietor (groundskeeper?) arrived, and took us over a small bridge, across what turned out to be an actual moat.

He showed us the fort, which consists of several buildings on this small ‘island’. Our depot turned out to be a barrel-vaulted brick chamber right in the fort itself. It was formerly a machine shop and it still had a massive hook in the ceiling. Despite the heat of the day, it was cool inside. It very much reminded me of Fort Henry in Kingston, except brick instead of limestone. Both forts are from about the same era.

Fort Spion also has an Officers room, telegraph room, and gunpowder room, etc. which are now all part of an apartment available for rent (it looked great). Another chamber has been converted into a nice lounge for the tenters. When we thought it couldn’t get better, Martijn offered us fresh eggs from his chickens.

Deb and I were so happy with the place we were practically bursting. We showered, explored (meeting the sheep that are the Fort’s only permanent residents), and had a meal on the little patio in front of our super-cool fort Hobbit Hole. There was even a fridge where we were able to chill our grocery store beer.

We read our books and watched as the cycle tourers showed up and went to the tenting area on the other side of the fort. It would be a great place for that too, but we were very happy to have electric elements for cooking, plus plugs for all our gadgets.

Distance: 45 km

$77