castles, uk tour

U.K. Road Trip – Medieval Castles, Roman Baths, and a Little Surf.

I’m a self-professed weather snob. This means I like being warm and dry while I look at the sun. We all know the UK does not score top marks for warmth, dryness or sunshine,  so it was a bit of an odd choice for our midterm break. However, what Ole Blighty lacks in weather, she makes up for in rich history, dramatic landscapes, and elegant charm.

Warwick Castle

Our week began with a quick stop in London before heading to Warwick Castle. Warwick is an easy 1.5 hour train ride from Marylebone Station (central London), or a couple hour drive north of London.

Aside from being a top U.K. tourist attraction, we were lured to the castle for a little Halloween fun. No better place to spend Halloween then in a medieval castle which dates back nearly 11 centuries…and is rumored to be…. haunted.

Built in 1068 by William the Conqueror, the castle has survived attacks, besieges, and fire. It was rebuilt into stone in the Middle Ages and today stands as a regal testament of centuries past.

Highly recommend for families. We stayed in the Knights Village on the castle property in a cute cottage overlooking the River Avon. The boys loved it! Especially my 9-year-old. He couldn’t get enough of the spooky Halloween inspired attractions and the “plague infested” dungeons.

Things to Do

The castle takes a day to see so give yourself time. It is also a massive tourist attraction that is set up to keep you there and spending money. However, it’s well-organized and quite cool. The actors are fabulous and really true to character.

  • Birds of Prey Show
  • Horrible History Maze
  • Trebuchet – the most powerful working catapult shoots off twice a day
  • The Dungeon Tour – the castle’s bloody horrific past is recreated in a theatrical tour
  • Archery

Additional Halloween Activities

  • Thriller Dance Party
  • Doll House – super creepy
  • Outbreak – Plaque inspired…creepy.
  • Witches Tower.
  • Haunted Hollow.
  • Séance – too creepy for me.

Stratford-Upon-Avon

After our spooky night at Warwick, we took to the road and headed for Bath. En route we stopped at Stratford-upon-Avon for lunch.

Stratford-upon-Avon is a historic Elizabethan market town and the birthplace of William Shakespeare. I was there almost 20 years ago, and remembered it to be quainter than it is now. Aside from the well-preserved two-story, half-timbered home of Shakespeare, there is not much else to see. As a literary buff, I wanted to show the kids the house. Of course, they were less than impressed and we carried on.

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Shakespeare’s Birth place….Stratford-upon-avon

Bath

Now Bath on the other hand was totally what I was expecting. This beautiful town famous for its 18th Century Georgian Architecture is the embodiment of lovely. Named a UNESCO Heritage Site, it is home to 2000 year old Roman Baths which are remarkably well-preserved and still flowing.

We stayed at the Windsor Town House – a perfect B & B centrally located to all the highlights.

  • Pulteney Bridge – romantic shop lined bridge in the middle of the city.
  • Bath Abbey – gothic cathedral, steps from the bridge.
  • Roman baths– a museum that steps you back to the time of the Romans.
  • Jane Austen Centre – a taste of Bath through the eyes of Jane.
  • Thermae Bath Spa – meant to be lovely but you have to be 16….so not this trip.
  • Sally Lunn’s House – oldest home in Bath, known for Sally’s Buns….really good! It is also a museum.

Bath is a small walkable city with boutique shops and fun foodie places to eat. Bustling with University students, it is now a modern city with a charismatic vibe.  Surrounded by rolling countryside, Bath is a quintessential English town.

 

Cornwall

Just a few hours south of Bath found us in Cornwall. The former Celtic Kingdom in the south-west of England, has a rugged wild coastline and nice beaches.

We stayed at the Bedruthan Hotel and Spa and it was perfect. The staff and the facilities were great and the views were exceptional.

We mostly loitered around the hotel while enjoying the many amenities. The boys even braved the frigid Atlantic for a little surf in Mawgan Porth. Ran by a guy named Nick, The Surf Club Cornwall,  is a guaranteed way to enhance your time on the water regardless of your level.

Each day we took a side trip to explore one of the many scenic spots near us. Each Cornish town holds a distinct bit of charm. Be sure to try one of the local Cornish delights e.g. meat stuffed pasties, clotted cream, or one of the local micro brews.

Tintagel Castle

The remains of Tintagel Castle are atop a steep cliff about 45 minutes north of the Bedruthan Steps. The castle is linked to the Legend of King Arthur. Once there, scrounge your way down the cliff to the waterfall (there is a path). From there, you’re just a short jump to Merlin’s Cave.

* Be mindful of the tides.  

Padstow

What was once likely a sleepy fishing village is now a thriving tourist attraction. Probably mostly in part to Rick Stein’s many restaurants. Locals refer to it as “Padstein”. Padstow is still a working fishing village and has a picturesque little harbour. We went in search of Rick’s Fish and Chips, and found it closed for renovations. There were of course loads of alternatives.

It’s a quaint little place where you can catch a boat or ferry to other seaside attractions. Kids can even crab in the Padstow Harbour. If you’re looking for a little exercise, you can hire a bike and ride the Camel Trail.

Stonehenge

It only seemed fitting to visit Stonehenge before completing our southern England tour. I am conflicted on this one. One must see Stonehenge but one should not pay the exuberant amount of money charged to see Stonehenge. What a rip off and what the hell is it anyway?

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What the hell is it? Clock? Grave? Calendar?

All in all, it was a great road trip and memorable midterm. We were off-season as the UK Schools have an earlier half term break. This meant crowds were minimal and rates were low season. The weather mostly cooperated and held around 14 C. When we left Heathrow it was 2 C and cloudy. Definitely time to head back to southern Spain.

Hasta luego Inglaterra!

 


Did you enjoy this article? Something to add? And WTF is Stonehenge? Tell me more………….x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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