Craft the Travel, Worldschooling

England: The City of London

For the start and finish of our UK journey, LONDON!

I always forget how much I enjoy a direct, international flight on American Airlines. Crazy!?! No! Board, stow your items, set-up your footrest and complimentary pillow/blanket. Next start scrolling through the many, new release movies they offer and don’t forget your standard-jack headphones or they will offer you a free pair. Next, await your first meal. If you want veg/vegan, you do need to pre-request it by calling. Over an 8-hr flight they serve at least two full meals, plus endless drinks and free beer/wine. Between two full movies, two meals and a good nap, my flight is over! I actually look forward to the flights as they set me up for a little ‘me-time’ before and after the trip. No groceries to buy, no meals to prepare for my family, no one asking for help with anything…just hours of movies and being served! Bliss! My experience was in the main cabin, so fair warning if you book only basic cabin class and some of these features are not offered.

Lightning in a cloud during our flight to Heathrow

After landing with about 3 hours of sleep under my belt (darn movies!), I had been pre-trip administering and for about the next 48 hours a ‘jet-lag’ homeopathy to my family. I think it really helped us bounce back faster. My husband and I managed the adjustment well while my son took an extra day. He also complained of a sore throat, so I grabbed items from my Family Wellness Homeopathy kit and started up with ‘Immune Support’ and ‘Upper Respiratory Support’. 36-hours later he was fine, no more complaints.

While in London we stayed at the Crowne Plaza London – The City which was lovely. Next time I would prefer to stay in Kensington because it’s near Harrod’s and Whole Foods! But the Crowne was a good central location and literally across the street from a Underground station.

Bit of advice when planning to sight-see in London is to purchase a London Pass WITH Travelcard. This is going to get you setup to see all the main tourist destinations, one-day on a hop-on-off bus, river cruise and oyster card to travel around town on the underground tube. They mail this to you ahead of time, so plan accordingly and order at least a month out to allow time for mail. We opted to get the ‘dining book/card’ too, but it was difficult finding places to eat in the book there were where we happen to be when ready to eat. One restaurant didn’t even know about the card and it took a manager’s intervention to honor the discount. So hindsight, more hassle that the discount was worth. The only big tourist item NOT on the pass was the London Eye. Personally, I didn’t feel like we missed anything after taking in the views from St. Paul’s but that’s your decision. More photography of my ‘Views of London‘ from atop St. Paul’s.

St. Paul’s Cathedral is free on the London Pass and was very close to our hotel, so one of our first stops. Stunning architecture! You can tour the crypt, the main floor and climb to the The Stone and Golden Galleries to take in London’s views. Be ready to climb all the way to the top is 528 steps, but so, so worth it!

Inside the main floor is everything you would image it to be in an Anglican cathedral. To view more of this beautiful church, visit my photography site and page dedicated to St. Paul’s LoveCameraEarth.com.

Sebastian and I visited The Museum of London and specifically the exhibit, The Beasts of London. It was about the role animals played in London during different periods in time. Very visually entertaining for children and adults! More photography from the Beasts of London.

We had great weather for our Big Bus Tour that took us all around the sights of London. I love to do these types of bus tours anytime I visit a new city. You really get the ‘lay of the land’ this way. Using the map or the app made it easy to switch tours to make sure you covered all your areas of interest. This was free for 24-hours on The London Pass. More photography of ‘the Streets of London‘.

In case you have been under a rock your entire life, visit Harrods!! It is an amazing shopping center with my favorite floor being the food hall! There are rooms of options, so go with a enormous appetite! There are floors of shopping. You have to walk the floors just to see all the interesting clothes, jewelry and people! There was even an area to purchase a luxury yacht by Sunseeker! Just a few more photos of Harrods.

Just one of your many eating options.

No visit to London would be complete without a stop at Buckingham Palace. The royal palace is only open to the public July-September/October, so plan accordingly and buy your timed-entrance tickets ahead of time. These are not included on the London Pass. Sadly, photos are not allowed inside. Enjoy more of my shots of the grounds.

Buckingham Palace in the distance.

With my husband being a history and Churchill fan, The War Rooms was a ‘must see’ for us. While we enjoyed it, it was such a lovely day outside being down in the museum and bunker was a bit dreary so we made it a fairly quick visit. This stop is on your London Pass and we did not pre-book an entrance time. We waited maybe 10-15 minutes at the door, so pre-book for no wait. More of my photography from Churchill’s War Rooms.

One of my favorite afternoons was having Afternoon Tea at the beautiful Milestone Hotel. We did make a reservation in advance and dressed for the afternoon. We enjoyed the MOST exquisite sandwiches, desserts and hot scones PLUS a variety of teas! More of the Milestone Hotel.

Tea in the sun lite lounge.

One of the most iconic sites in London, Tower Bridge which is next door to the Tower of London are both excellent stops in a great walk-around area. We toured both and they were on the London Pass. Excellent history, Crown Jewels, views, architecture and more! This stop must be on your list. More photography of the Tower Bridge and inside the Tower of London.

Conveniently located near the entrance to the Tower of London is the river terminal for boarding the Thames River Cruise included on your London pass. We enjoyed the tour operator very much. His accent, narration and comedy were on point! Don’t pass up this chance to sit and relax for a bit while they drive up and down the Thames. The boat trip takes you down to Greenwich and back. Where you can see the GMT clock! We see GMT (time) all the time, but it was so interesting to see the clock that started it all! Just a few more photos of our trip down the Thames.

For more of our UK road trip. Visit: Scotland: The Lochs, Moray Coast & Edinburgh and England: Castles to Manors to Ruins.

Craft the Travel, Worldschooling

England: Castles to Manors to Ruins

We had the privilege of staying in the UK for four weeks. During that time we made our way by car from London South all the way around to the Moray Coast in Scotland and back down to London. You will find our experiences in London and Scotland in separate posts, as this one takes time to focus on our stops at Bed & Breakfasts particularly in or very near castles. This map gives you an overview of all the stops we make throughout the UK!

This entry is going to start on the South side of London at a castle B&B on the grounds of the 13th century, Hever Castle located in Hever England, marked #1 on the map.

Hever Castle

The castle is famous for being the childhood home of Anne Boleyn and later in the early 1900’s purchased by the Astor (of Waldorf-Astoria) family. We entered the grounds through a private entrance for ‘residents’ of the castle. Our reservations were for a bed-n-breakfast room.

Courtyard for the ‘B&B’ Rooms

The grounds hold the main castle with private herb and flower gardens, an off-shot for the B&B and dining, a private cottage with pool, Italian gardens, water maze and tower, adventure playground and sand-pit playground, a lunch restaurant, a gift shop, an amphitheater, and a green lawn for public events. The public has paid access from 10a to 5p, but residents can walk the grounds (except for the Italian gardens and castle interior) after and before hours.

Inside the Italian Gardens

We stayed in the ‘Willow’ room with a large comfortable bed and made-up couch for Sebastian. The updated walk-in shower and heated tile floor was a hit with the whole family. Parking was simple, close and secure. We checked-in early enough to take a quick peak at the Italian gardens and visit the castle before the 5pm closing. Enjoy these photos from the castle. For dinner we left through the private gate and walked maybe 3 minutes down the street to King Henry the VIII’s restaurant.

We enjoyed dinner and the lovely candle lit tables before making our way back to our room and turning in early for the night.

After a great night’s sleep we were up bright and early for our 8am reservation at breakfast.

One section of the breakfast buffet.

The spread of cold items, beverages and off-the-menu hot items was to die for. After breakfast, we headed back over to the Italian gardens and walked them for about 30 minutes before opening to the public.

The Rose Garden

We were the only ones there and it was magical! After returning to our room, and packing up we were out the door and on the road to our next destination.

Next stop takes us along the southern coast of England thru Brighton into Salisbury. Salisbury is one of the closest towns you can stay near to Stonehenge.

Our stay at Rollestone Manor was sweet and restful and put us in a perfect position to have breakfast and arrive comfortably early for a 9am visit to Stonehenge. When planning your visit to Stonehenge, you need to book a timed visit. These days there is a rope so you can only get ‘so close’ to the stones and you are restricted from actually going into the stone circle. You can request a ‘stone experience visit’, but they are only requests….so start asking and planning well in advance. You can purchase single entry tickets to Stonehenge but for just a little more, you can purchase Overseas ‘English Heritage’ Visitors passes. If during your visit you intend on seeing more castles and castle ruins, this maybe a great option for you as it was for us! A bit of advice….after you purchase the passes online, then visit this page to book your timed entrance to Stonehenge. I know it says ‘BUY TICKETS’ but after you select the day/time you want to visit, then below select the ‘English Heritage Member’ line for $0 and complete the booking. That is how you redeem your ‘Overseas Visitor Pass’ to book a timed entry. Upon your arrival to Stonehenge you DON’T need to wait in the line at the box office, instead walk towards the box office, but take a sharp right to the office door near the rest rooms. This is where you pick up you ‘Overseas Visitor Passes’. They will give you your passes and a map to other English Heritage locations.

Stonehenge

Next you board a bus for a short 5 minute ride up to the hilltop where the stones are. You can walk if you prefer. I do recommend making an early visit since as the day wears on it only gets more crowded. We were fortunate to arrive with just a few people, but when we left an hour later it was a different story! To view all my photography from Stonehenge, visit here.

Number three on the map was our visit to Warwick Castle. I like to call this a cross between a ‘Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament’ and ‘Great Wolf Lodge’ all staged at a Renaissance Fair. It was one of the most touristy and crowded places we visited. It was also my least favorite place we ate. I could totally see its appeal for those with knight-princess-loving, young children wanting more of the ‘scheduled experience’ and the convenience of kid-food buffets, but with our son being a bit older, it was just about the history of the castle for us. Our mistake may have been that our night here fell on a family-packed, weekend night and may have been a less-crowded experience if we could have coordinated it on a weekday. All-in-all the castle is a site to see, and we loved the bird-of-prey show. More photography of Warwick Castle.

You can book either a ‘knight’s tent’ or a ‘cabin’. While the tents were very chic, they share a common restroom/shower and that’s an immediate no-go for me, so the cabin it was. Very fresh and new with a small side room for up to three children. My son did and still does LOVE getting to sleep in a bunk bed, so there’s that!

Near Warwick Castle is a stop on the English Heritage Pass of ‘Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Gardens’. It is in ruins now, but we enjoyed touring and climbing the ruins and a little lunch at the cafe. More photography from Kenilworth Castle.

Another great stop on the English Heritage Pass is Bolsover Castle. This one is still complete with rooms, closets and fireplaces to ooooh-and-ahhhhh over! More photography of Bolsover Castle.

Number six takes us to The Devonshire Arms at Beely owned by the Chatsworth Estate in Peak District National Park. I didn’t think the road could get any narrower, than when we entered the Peak District! Since I rode on the left side of the car, it felt like any moment we would scrap the 1000 year old wall of stones down the length of our rental car. Thanks to the excellent driving skills of my husband, not a scratch! The journey through the Peak district is windy and beautiful! Then you arrive to Devonshire Square and it could not be more quaint and precious. Babbling books, stone manors, an old church/cemetery, matching teal accents on all the buildings and THE BEST meals!

Visit number seven found us in Slaidburn at a private residence/b&b called Merrybent Hill Luxury B&B. Our hostess and her partner are walkers. They have WALKED over hundreds of miles all over the UK. She is also a photographer and has published a few books about their journeys, which I will list here:

The Forest of Bowland” by Helen Shaw and Andrew Stachulski

Land’s End to John O’Groats: Walking the Length of Britain in 7 Stages” by Helen Shaw and Bob Shelmerdine

The Pennines: Backbone of England” by Helen Shaw published

Beyond these amazing and admirable accomplishments, they run the MOST wonderful B&B. We were very remote out in Slaidburn and it was BEAUTIFUL! They offered us tea and hot, fresh scones upon our arrival. We made ourselves comfortable in the large master suite and enjoyed a home cooked meal of lasagna and sides. More photography of Merrybent Hill. If you want to exist in peace, tranquility and tender care – stay here forever! HA! or AT-LEAST one night!

As we drove out of Slaidburn North into the Lake District, we saw beautiful scenes of rolling countryside, rivers, waterfalls and lots of SHEEP! More photography from Slaidburn, England.

In the lake district, we stayed at a lovely place on Lake Windermere called Beech Hill Hotel & Spa with the most gorgeous outdoor hot tub and lake views. We enjoyed wandering around the town of Bowness-on-Windermere. I had visited Grasmere in my 20’s and found it so charming, that I had to bring my family back to the Lake District and it was every bit as enchanting as I remember!

The streets of Bowness-on-Windermere

Now we jump over to number thirteen on the map to end this post on our English, countryside stops and finish with Langley Castle. Of all the places we stayed, this was the only one where we were able to stay in the actual castle! Anytime you can book the castle room, do it! We loved our stay here and the complimentary tour to the top. The history and stories from this one location are amazing. The food and service were outstanding. It was just as regal and unique as you might imagine. More photography from Langley Castle.

Overall driving all over the UK was fantastic! It is the only way to see all the little villages and towns along the way. One thing I loved about England is their LACK of advertising and signage in the country side. There are no mega-shopping center, billboards or stores that line the streets and highways. You have to look very carefully for a sign that says ‘Services’ and THAT is where you can exit off the highway to an area specially tucked away for a few eateries and gas. Otherwise while driving through towns it is predominately pubs, inns and local shops. What a breath of fresh air NOT to be inundated with advertising, giant retailers and chain restaurants!