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At Home He's A Tourist.

Gang of photos. Taken from all over the world.

Joan of Arc leading the French army to victories during the Hundred Years’ War, Christopher Columbus “discovering” the Americas, and Sir John Harrington inventing the flush toilet  the University of St Andrews, founded in 1413, has seen it all.

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A more recent event was Kate Middleton meeting William Windsor when they both used to be students in St Andrews.

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It is rather likely that they have gone for a stroll around St Andrews Castle

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…and St Andrews Cathedral back in their studenthood. For us, our journey ends where theirs has just begun. We really enjoyed our stay at “one of Europe’s finest towns” and the “world’s home of golf” (according to The official visitor gateway to St Andrews).

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On our route to the port of Newcastle-upon-Tyne we took a rest at Scott’s View, a viewpoint overlooking the valley of the River Tweed. It was Sir Walter Scott’s favourite view (hence the name) and he stopped there often on his way home. Legend has it that on his funeral procession his horses halted at this point without command to let their master have a last look.

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Altogether, we’ve spent more than 4,000 km on the left-hand side of the road before we set foot on German mainland again. Now that calls for a dram of Scotch!

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Odometer says: 04134 km

William Shakespeare says:

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. (King Richard the Second II.1)

(Source: Spotify)

The Keith and Dufftown railway, also known as “The Whisky Line,” is a nostalgia train plying between Keith (home of 3 distilleries) and Dufftown (home of so many distilleries that it claims to be Whisky Capital of the World).

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The train rattles so slowly through the Speyside it could easily kept pace with. On the 11 mile trip you’ll come across a picturesque scenery with lochs, glens, castles, and world-famous distilleries such as Glenfiddich. Even wildlife can be spotted right from your seat.

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Travelling by train sets you in the right mood for taking a tour at the prettiest and oldest operating distillery in the Highlands: Strathisla in Keith.

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Though the bulk of its output is used for the famous Chivas Regal (a blended Scotch Whisky), Strathisla also makes a decent Single Malt that can be tasted after the tour.

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Leaving the Speyside behind we stopped by right in the Heart of Scotland where the Highlands can be viewed best from Queen’s View near Pitlochry. Now there’s only one stage of our journey left: St Andrews. And after more than 3,500 km of driving our roadtrip slowly comes to an end.

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Odometer says: 03535 km

William Shakespeare says:

Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast. (Romeo and Juliet II.3)

(Source: Spotify)

After a tough ride from Edinburgh we’ve finally made it to our next destination: the picture-perfect village of Fordyce, an “epitome of refined country living” (according to a brochure by the Banffshire Coast tourist information). And we couldn’t have imagined a warmer welcome: the wood burning stove in our beautifully refurbished cottage was already prepared and a dram of Glenfiddich awaited the thirsty travellers.

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Our cottage is located at the Banffshire Coast in Scotland where even a Sunnyside Beach can be found. And sunny it is!

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Along the coast many old fishing villages are scattered. And the tiny hamlet called Sandend is problably the smallest among them. But it provides some infrastructure for windsurfers!

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Just to be sure that our satnav actually navigated us to Scotland and not to the South Seas (we hadn’t seen a cloud in days) we decided to spend a day at Duff House in Banff. Looks like Downton Abbey? Check. Provides an art gallery with paintings from the National Galleries? Check. Has a tearoom and a gift shop? Check. Okay, must be somewhere in the United Kingdom.

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And a tour through the Highlands finally convinced us that we actually were in Scotland.

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Driving through the rough landscape of Shakespeare’s Macbeth is unique.

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Our destination was Belmoral Castle where generations of Royal Families used to spend their summer vacations. Of course, the tradition is being continued by the Windsors. Hopefully the Duchess of Cambridge likes hunting, hiking, and horse-riding for there isn’t much else to do.

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Wait, one option I forgot is visiting a distillery. There are plenty of opportunities to learn about the fusing of earth, water, fire, air and man’s artistry.

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Along the River Spey you can throw a stone at any place and it will land on a distillery.

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Ours landed on Glenfarclas distillery in Ballindalloch.

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Glenfarclas, established in 1836, is one of the few independent family-owned distillers left. Consider yourself lucky if you own a bottle of their family cask reserve.

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After an informative distillery tour a few drams of their fine Single Malt whiskies are offered for tasting. (Notes end here.)

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Odometer says: 03011 km

William Shakespeare says:

Can one desire too much of a good thing? (As You Like It IV.1)

(Source: Spotify)

The beautiful town of Edinburgh has plenty to offer. The Scottish capital almost feels like an open-air museum, dominated by its massive castle.

Walking along the Royal Mile you’ll sooner or later stumble upon lovely stores like Cadenhead’s Whisky Shop which claims to be the oldest of Scotland’s numerous old-established bottlers.

In case you’re into Single Malt Scotch it can be hard to pull yourself together given the excess supply of excellent whisky dealers in Edinburgh (especially if you come across such neatly arranged window displays on the occasion of the upcoming father’s day).

Apart from whisky there are other popular Scottish icons, of course. When a bagpiper brings out his instrument to blare Scotland the Brave, for example, it surely takes only seconds until a busload of tourists congregates to take pictures.

The same goes for scenic spots from which you supposedly have an eminent and exclusive view of the city. Naïvely I climbed Calton Hill to take a shot of Edinburgh’s skyline at dusk. At the top of the hill it was so crowded with hobby photographers awaiting sunset I couldn’t even find a place to mount a tripod.

Therefore I just took a snapshot of the scenery they had in their viewfinders. Voilà, Edinburgh at dusk.

Finally I sticked to a more exclusive photo motif: our toddler staring at things. Or in this case: at creatures. Though not always they were looking back she pretty much enjoyed being at the Edinburgh zoo.

She was particularly fond of the giant panda bear, one out of only 50 that live outside China. The day at the zoo finishes our stay in Edinburgh: we now gonna hit the road to get to the Highlands (and to the Speyside, of course).

Odometer says: 02281 km

William Shakespeare says:

My salad days, when I was green in judgment. (Antony and Cleopatra I.5)

(Source: Spotify)

On the road again, taking the M6 North. Though it’s not 500 miles to Edinburgh it was quite a run till we got there. And I’m not sure if putting The Proclaimers (who are Scottish after all) on the playlist added much to our well-being.

If you feel obliged to walk 500 miles hiking the Hadrian’s Wall Path might be an idea. Roman emperor Hadrian once set up the wall to separate the Romans from the barbarians. The ancient remains are a UNESCO World Heritage Site now. So we made a little detour to see Hadrian’s Wall before leaving good old England behind and passing the border to Scotland.

Scotland welcomed us warmly: Just behind a service area at the A74 where we stretched our legs a scenic landscape appeared out of the blue. The impressive lighting conditions could even be registered with a simple smartphone camera without adding any image editing.

In Edinburgh we reside in a small but cosy apartment just at the Royal Mile. After buying the essentials at the local Tesco supermarket…

…we can now enjoy the fantastic view on Calton Hill. And again we are surprised at the incredible weather. We even felt the need to buy some sunscreen.

Odometer says: 02256 km

William Shakespeare says:

For you and I are past our dancing days. (Romeo and Juliet I.5)

(Source: Spotify)

Time flies! We’ve already reached our final destination in England, Manchester, before we’ll hit Scottish ground. And wisely we’ve saved another gem until last: Manchester is such a great place, it can easily match up to London. (Though the weather helps a bit, I admit.) Plus, it has a cool name whose Celtic-Latin origins (mamm- = breast, -ceaster = town) refer to breast-like hills adjacent to the the city.

Manchester once played a key-role in industrialisation. After the decline of heavy industries it transformed to a centre of creative industries (from working hard to hardly working, as detractors might say). Notably music, theatre, the media, and architecture are flourishing. When strolling through the city you encounter so many creative looking bright lads – it almost prompted me to outline a study I’d called “The Condition of the Creative Writing Class in England.”

Among the numerous great bands that emerged from Manchester’s music scene (such as Joy Division, New Order, The Fall, Oasis, The Bee Gees…) were also The Smiths. An inscription on the timeline story of the Haçienda music club remembers their legendary gig on February 4th 1983 (full story can be found on Dangerous Minds, full concert can be found on YouTube).

An evening walk through China town concludes our tour through England. Next stop will be Scotland.

P.S. Last time I forgot to take a picture of our housing and I wondered if the Roomzzz Aparthotel (where we’re staying at) is located in the red light district or in China town. Guess now I killed two birds with one stone.

Odometer says: 01825 km

William Shakespeare says:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? (Sonnet XVIII)

(Source: Spotify)

Sadly, we already had to leave Bath. We were so busy enjoying the beautiful city, our wonderful B&B in Bathford (called The Cedars) and the delicious scrambled eggs Damian and Gilly are serving there that we forgot to take pictures of England’s best Bed & Breakfast. If you’re planning to stay a few days in the Bath area, The Cedars B&B can only be recommended.

On our route to Manchester we made a slight detour to Stratford-upon-Avon, where even the boats are named after Shakespeare’s characters.

At first I was a little bit disappointed by not finding any traces of Robbie Williams there, but I might have confused it with Stoke-on-Trent. Apart from that a walk through Stratford was a welcome change from driving on the Motorway. Especially the area around the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre has plenty to offer.

A few yards away you’ll find the Holy Trinity church where Shakespeare was baptized and buried. An excerpt from the church register reveals that “Will Shakespeare, Gent.” was baptized there in April 1564.

He was buried aged 52 in the chancel of the church. The epitaph on his tombstone reads: “Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear, / To dig the dust enclosed here. / Blest be the man that spares these stones, / And cursed be he that moves my bones.”

During the next few days we reside in a very modern, award winning hotel in Manchester. I’m not sure yet whether it is located in China town, in the redlight district or both. Anyway, the interior is very stylish and each room has a Mac, which makes me feel like the Carrie Bradshaw of travel blogs!

Odometer says: 01791 km

William Shakespeare says:

Though this be madness, yet there is method in ’t. (Hamlet II.2)

(Source: Spotify)

According to our guidebook, the city of Bath is the most beautiful town in Great Britain. Agreed!

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The Romans already liked the place some 2,000 years ago. The existence of hot springs encouraged them to build a Roman bath in, well, Bath. It was a complete spa with a hot-water pool, a sauna and maybe water gymnastics.

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Since many of the old stones are still standing today, a walk through the ancient spa is very impressive. Seals and water pipes of the Great Bath (see below) are still working today! Apparently, the Romans knew their plumbing.

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After extensively appreciating this World Heritage Site we were worn out a bit. For the purpose of refreshment Bath offers a variety of restaurants. You’ll find upper class establishments such as the Pump Room, …

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… middle class vintage tea rooms, …

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… and the one we chose: Toni Bell, where all classes get the hottest ice cream in town.

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At the end of another sunny day we were chauffeured home to our B&B by our new driver (who already turns 8 months today).

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Odometer says: 01433 km

William Shakespeare says:

For Brutus is an honourable man; So are they all, all honourable men. (Julius Caesar III.2)

(Source: Spotify)

On our route we stopped by at the grand old lady of seaside resorts, Eastbourne in East Sussex.

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In pre-season it is a quiet, charming place where you can have your cream tea in one of the Victorian tea rooms overlooking the sea and do some bird watching.

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Hence we’re enjoying ourselves hanging out at the waterfront in jolly weather.

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A few miles west of Eastbourne is Beachy Head (derived from beautiful headland), the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain. It is so high that it obviously attracts poor souls contemplating suicide. At least we saw a crisis intervention team patrolling.

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Not far from Beachy Head there’s a series of chalk cliffs called The Seven Sisters. You have a beautiful view from Birling Gap, a former smugglers’ nest.

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The Seven Sisters are considered as the highlight of Britain’s south coast. Here’s a picture to prove it:

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So why on earth should you be elsewhere?

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Odometer says: 01400 km

William Shakespeare says:

This precious stone set in the silver sea. (King Richard the Second II.1)

(Source: Spotify)

Whenever in Kent, don’t miss to pay a visit to Leeds castle. Lord Conway (who probably knows what he’s talking about) once stated that it is “the loveliest castle in the world.” The history of Leeds castle dates back to 1119. Its last private owner, Lady Baillie (1899—1974), devised the estate to be maintained by a charity foundation after her decease.

Owing to Lady Baillie, black swans can be seen in Europe today. She once was the first person who brought black swans from their natural habitat Australia to the European continent.

But not only water birds enjoyed her hospitality. The castle welcomed famous guests such as Henry VIII and Winston Churchill in its long-standing history. Also conferences are held inside the castle’s walls (the 1978 peace talks between Egypt and Israel, for example).

Since Leeds castle was opened to the public, more than 10 million visitors came to see the buildings and surrounding parks. It is not known how many of them got lost in the maze.

The maze consists of 2,400 single yew trees. Obviously, the castle’s gardeners know how to keep their hedges happy.

For the non-floral beings among us watering is provided by one of the tea rooms and cafés.

Tickets for Leeds castle are valid for 12 months. We’ll keep them in a safe place to come back again.

Now it is time to say goodbye to Leeds castle. And it is time to say goodbye to our lovely Hollingbourne cottage in the county of Kent. Our next destination will be Bath, a world heritage site in Somerset.

Odometer says: 01118 km

William Shakespeare says:

I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it. (As You Like It II.4)

(Source: Spotify)