Wednesday saw us leaving the Isle of Man (IOM) and embarking on a driving tour of the Heart of England across numerous counties. Our itinerary was based partly on recommended destinations, some on guidebooks and others on mere whim and wrong turns when Bruce (TomTom, who you have met before) was difficult to understand at some intersections and roundabouts.
Before leaving the Isle of Man we had met some English holiday-makers in our hotel lounge and one older gentleman, with a noticeable limp, reminisced with us about his own TT riding experience (maybe the cause of the limp) when he used to ride at over 90 mph (although today of course they reach speeds of 200 mph). He was very proud, and I daresay justifiably so, of his racing history. While hubby discussed the TT his wife gave us some recommendations of places to visit on tour towards London.
We took heed of her suggestions and the following morning set off for Nantwick in Cheshire. This proved to be another quaint town with many half-timbered buildings including The Crown pub where we stayed.
The town is known for the battle of Nantwich in 1644 when the Parliamentarians defeated the Royalists. Thursday saw us walking the town and the nearby canal with its long narrow boats before driving to Anderton and the world’s oldest operating boat lift.
Not being able to resist a boat trip we joined a bus load of tourists from Stratford-on-Avon on the River Weaver. We were the youngest on board and only got seats because two of the oldies had pulled out.
We had booked online to stay at The Crown pub, which looked like the best option in town, but believe me buildings dating back to 1585 are not always the most comfortable. Despite sleeping uphill because the floors sloped every which way and hitting our heads on low doorways and the wall next to the bed we did enjoy our stay, but two nights were enough.
Friday, and we were on our way to our next arranged destination at Yatton in North Somerset to meet up with a distant cousin. On the way we visited the market town of Ludlow in Shropshire, another of the recommendations from our IOM friends, before bedding down at the poshest digs of our tour in the Hilton near Yatton. We really needed a little bit of comfort to revitalise.
On Saturday we headed for nearby Weston-super-Mare, a favourite tourist centre in that part of the country. It was low tide and we had trouble seeing out to where the sea started.
The Grand Pier was very grand, with the biggest assortment of arcade games for kids of all ages that I have seen. Our return trip took us up through the scenic Cheddar Gorge but poor weather did not permit stopping to walk and see more of the views. The Old Inn where we had our family reunion dinner at night had the lowest ceilings and doorways to-date but was very cosy.
The Sunday drive to our next B&B at Lacock in Wiltshire was not meant to take long. We enjoyed a morning tea in Bradford-on-Avon and then took a few diversions, mainly thanks to Bruce and inputting conflicting instructions. The result was a circuitous trip through a range of typical English countryside including where over-hanging trees formed continuous tunnels, past rolling fields, through villages with their stone houses adjacent to the roadway and parked cars where waiting for a gap in oncoming traffic is necessary, and narrow one-lane roads between hedgerows and regular passing points, if you are lucky, or squeezing past with both vehicles touching the vegetation. It was fun.
The destination, Lacock, is only a small village, but has a large parking area at one end and this was completely full of visitors who had come to see the abbey and buildings that are said not to have changed much in two hundred years. The village is used for many movies and TV series because it has retained that character.
We are now in the Cotswolds and have two days to investigate this charming village and others nearby. Here, we are staying at The Old Rectory, which it once was, a large house perched on a hill in spacious grounds just five minutes walk from the village (and the George Inn). Our room, The Vestry, is spacious with ten feet high ceilings.
We already feel that we will be able to have a relaxing time before heading to our penultimate stop (before London) at Oxford.