Nicholas Family visit the UK and Ireland travel blog

Listening to audio tour at Stonehenge

Roman Baths

St Briavels Hostel - full of atmosphere

We are now on day three of our road trip of the UK.

We left London on a wet cold Sunday morning, concerned that we would be late to pick up the car due to daylight saving commencing, but it seems the fellow who was to meet us with the car must have forgotten to reset his clock, as he was about 45 minutes late. The car was interesting as it didnt have a key, just a card, and the signals and wipers were on opposite sides of the steering wheel. Driving out of london was interesting and could have been very confusing, but thank fully we had the Navman, which made it a little easier, although if we had taken the toll road it might have been more easier.

Our first stop of the day was stonehenge - our first glimpse of it was from the road. I couldnt believe we were actually looking at "Stonehenge"! It was huge! As we crested the hill on the motorway, we could see a large knoll in the distance with what looked childrens blocks lying around on the top. I got shivers down my spine and couldnt stop looking at it. Such an icon of Britain, and here we were!

We parked and made our way into the ticket entrance - it was about £6.50 each to go inside the fenced off area, but so worth it. The "free" audio guides were a good idea as they gave plenty of information about the construction and facts of the stones. Both Zac and Russ learned lots about the stones, and even days later, Zac would recite something he remembered from the audio guides.

I dont know if it was due to Sarkozy visit of London, but we noted that there were lots of french everywhere, and here we met several large groups of french school children. They were like kids everywhere, loud rude and obviously not interested in the stones.

I kept looking back as we drove away, until we couldnt see the stones any longer. Just incredible.

Our next stop was Bath. As the town came into view, we could see tiers and tiers of Georgian terrace houses up the hills surrounding the town centre. The odd manor house stood by itself surrounded by manicured lawns and gardens. Elegance and opulence oozed from this place.

The Roman Baths was VERY expensive, and Russ was reluctant to go into the exhibit, but I talked him into it, and he enjoyed it. Particularly the information about how they built the sauna rooms and utilised the water from the spring and built huge furnace rooms to provide the heat and the raised floors, so that the steam kept the floors warm. The audio guides were aimed at adults and children, so Zac again learned lots about the romans and how they lived.

Russ bought zac an icecream, and we then entered a pub off the square for a drink. We were told quite abruptly, that children and ice creams were not welcome.

After this we drove to St Briavels, which took an additional 40 miles, as we avoided the toll roads, a big mistake, and one we plan not to do again! We should have gone over the river, but instead followed the route around the inlet.

Driving to St Briavels was through single lane, hedged roads. Just like on british television shows. When we finally made it to the where we were staying we were not disapointed. It was exactly as the photos had depicted, a partially ruined castle with the keep and main hall intact. This 12th century castle had been turned into a youth hostel with two main lounges with fireplaces - neither were fired up as it was relatively balmy at 11 degrees celsius. The floor boards creaked, and the doorways were very low and narrow. Our bedroom overlooked the Wye valley and woodlands. Absolutely superb views.

We cooked up a storm in the self catering kitchen, making a cabonara - but I think we should have made a mutton stew or something more suited to the surroundings.

After dinner we walked around the castle walls, and then put Zac in the stocks...we finished off the evening with an ale and a couple of games of UNO in the main lounge. The beds were bunks, but not uncomfortable. Zac had earlier stated several times that castles "Creeped him out"....and sometime during the night, I was awakened by someone screaming in my ear. I woke in a bit of a state, and didnt go back to sleep again, as I was sure I could see shapes moving out of the corners of my eyes. I didnt want to wake Russ, or say anything to the guys, especially as Zac was already concerned about the castle.

The next morning we walked around the accompanying cemetery and I asked Russ if he had noticed anything about ghosts or anything in any of the paraphenalia about the castle. He said he had read something about the society of paranormal behaviour visiting several months earlier.....Glad we are not staying for another night!

Our next stop is North Wales for two nights.

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