Before leaving for the United Kingdom, I was terrified. Questions rattled through my mind like the lumbering trains I’d be travelling on through Britain. Would I catch my plane? Would I get on the right train? Would I end up on the wrong plane, heading for Saskatchewan?
Luckily, none of those things happened. I have traveled with my family before but my trip to the United Kingdom would be my first outside Canada on my own. For both avid travellers and those newly bitten by the travel bug, it is no secret. Travelling alone can cause some jitters.
My adventure began earlier than expected when our plane landed for a stopover in Glasgow Scotland. Sitting around a Scottish airport listening to a funny security guard was a great way to start my trip across Great Britain.
When I arrived in England, I was so worried. I stood in the wrong line at customs. Then the arrivals area caused me untold difficulty. It wasn’t boding well for my trip. Finally, I had to face my first nemesis. The train boards.
After standing around and gawking at the train boards, I found my first platform. A special thank you must go out to a helpful English lady who assisted me by telling me the correct train and carriage as well.
In addition, thank you to the conductor who told me that the station I was going to get off at was not the safest. This would probably be my only blog entry if I went there.
The train stopped with a clang in Bath Spa train station, which was 200 years young. The 18th century architecture was stained black with Industrial Revolution soot.
Bath Spa is the first English city on my tour and easily one of the most beautiful as well. Within the first hour of me being at Bath, I sat under the abbey’s gaze, watched the pigeons and immersed myself in unbelievable history.
My first night in Bath Spa was spent alone in the hostel room. I was worried about hostel living. Before I left Canada I had hoped to meet travellers and to not spend so much time alone. Indeed, it is one of the pratfalls of travelling solo.
The next day, I woke up to find two other Canadian travellers who had arrived late the previous evening. We made plans to visit the Roman Baths together, but those plans fell apart when they misheard the place we were supposed to meet.
The Roman Baths are the premiere attraction of Bath and for good reason. The ancient bath complex is housed within an ornate Georgian building. By looking down into the courtyard, travellers step backwards through the centuries.
The upper floor was once covered by an ornate Roman dome. Statues of Roman Emperors gaze down upon travellers below. Even today, the bubbles still boil up from deep beneath the earth.
In the year 43 AD, the Romans of Aquae Sulis created the bathing complex at what is now Bath. Long before Ceasar arrived in Britain, the hot pools were a Celtic sacred site, which was subsequently used by the Romans.
Today, tourists can visit the amazing museum which surrounds the bath complex. Walk amongst the hot rooms and steam rooms. Wonder at the majestic beauty of the cold pool and think of the ancient divers who were unperturbed by the frigid waters.
I left the bath complex and soon found myself lost during my walking tour of the city. In fact, I walked right off my map and ended up in New Bath. New Bath had been rebuilt after extreme fire bombing during World War II. After Allied bombing runs decimated Dresden, the Germans used a tourist guide to select Bath Spa for revenge bombings.
After a long day, I called it quits and headed to bed in the early evening. The next morning I woke up to the driving rain. It was the day I was to take a guided tour to Stonehenge, Avebury and Lacock Village. I never thought about missing the Neolithic site for a moment. With my rain gear fastened over myself and my backpack, I stepped out into the gloom.
As I stood under an awning, Bath Abbey loomed out from the low fog that had settled in over the valley. Tim, our Mad Max Guide for the day, welcomed me into the van where we waited for the rest of the guests. It was hard to see the town through the driving rain. After a two hour drive, the storms left for another part of England leaving ashen, yet rain free skies over Stonhenge.
Stonehenge was unlike anything I could ever imagine. Construction on Stonehenge began 5,000 years ago and the stones were dragged 80 miles from Wales among other sites. While some people think of Stonehenge as just another sight to check off the bucket list, others know the site for its importance in Neolithic history.
I was entranced with the mystery of the stone circle. What was it used for? Who were those people who built it? I should have bought one of the t-shirts from the gift shop that said Stonehenge Rocks. There’s always another time.
Our next stop on the bus was Silbury Hill, a 4,600 year old Neolithic stepped and spiraled pyramid nearly 180 feet tall. Nobody knows why it was built or what it was for. Why would they cover a chalk pyramid with earth?
Avebury Stone circle was the next sight on the tour; the circle is 16 times larger than Stonehenge and the stones themselves are unmolded. Many of these stones are massive, some weighing nearly 67 tons. Throughout the centuries, many sacked the site and some of the stones have been brought to their original upright positions.
Our next two stops were the towns of Lacock and Castle Combe. The village of Lacock was made prosperous in the twelfth century and utterly devastated by declining rivers and wool production.
Today, it is a National Trust Village where residents pay rent to the government. There are to be no satellites and barely any modern amenities. If it weren’t for the vehicles, the village would be right out of the 12th century. Many movies, including the Harry Potter series were filmed in beautiful Lacock.
I wondered about the history that had occurred throughout the centuries while I lunched at the King George Pub. Who would have been king of England? King John hunted in the fields behind Lacock and Oliver Cromwell stayed at the inn. I even photographed myself in front of James and Lily Potters’ house. Yes, I know; they aren’t real.
The final stop was Castle Combe, another picturesque medieval village. We stepped inside the village’s Normal cathedral to see the tomb of the Crusading knight who died in the Holy Land in 1270.
Our trip to Stonehenge, Avebury, Lacock and Castle Combe winded down and our bus trundled along an old Roman road on our way back to Bath Spa. Enjoy my posts from Bath Spa, Bath Abbey, Stonehenge, Avebury Henge, Lacock