Written from Hastings of 1066 Fame. South coast of England.
27th of August 1959
I was delighted to get your last letter, so it is your turn to cop the details of my next travelling adventure exploring Great Britain.
It was great to be back in London for a few days. I feel very at home here.
Uncle George arrived at much the same time and kept me very busy, once I caught up with him. He was staying at the Bishop’s house.
I discovered that although he has been making round- the- world trips on behalf of refugees for quite a few years now, he is very conscientious about expenses and use of time.
So far has not allowed himself while travelling the luxury of exploring any of the many cities that have part of his work to visit even though I am sure that the bishops on the Australian Catholic commission for refugees committee wouldn’t begrudge him some personal pleasure, –
so I decided to take the matter in hand, showing him the sights, starting with the big ones — Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, Parliament House, the Tower, Buckingham Palace and so on.
We had a lot of fun and luckily, as you know, he loves to walk. I even took him twice into Soho, London’s famous shady bohemian district, where I knew we would find a genuine Italian cafe, and he was most impressed when I ordered the meal in quite passable Italian.He enjoyed the food so much we returned the next day as well.
Accepted wisdom says that young women
shouldn’t go wandering through Soho alone, but there certainly was nothing to worry about when accompanied by a very dignified Monsignor!
We also went down to stay overnight at Patricia and Bill’s at Petersfield in Hampshire , and that is always a treat getting out into the English countryside and relaxing a little and they made us both feel very welcome. Patty especially loves catching up with family.
I certainly needed the break after the marathon journey through Europe!
On returning to London we visited Uncle Jim’s Haigh whiskey colleagues at their splendid St. James Street headquarters near St James Palace, which is quite close to Buckingham Palace.
They invited us to a delicious lunch. (I resisted the oysters this time around having startled my hosts by ordering them the first time they took me to lunch! ( I have since realized that they are very scarce and outrageously expensive here.)
By the way, they call uncle James Patrick Pat over here – not Jim! A bit classier!
George is leaving for Paris in the morning, and I am making last-minute preparations to set out in the next couple of days to spend a month seeing what I can of the British Isles.
Later, when I return to Italy, uncle has suggested meeting him up north in Trieste in late September. This way, I could fit in a visit to Venice before going on to Perugia in time to arrange accommodation for next term, attend the first few days of lectures, and then join him in Rome the following weekend. It all sounds very exciting – and good not doing it all on my own!
He will be leaving there for the Middle East on October 4th on his way back to Australia.
As I mentioned in my last letter home, my travelling companion on the next trip is Lucia Russo, my American friend who has come across from Italy to share the journey.
We met in Perugia. She had come there to study Italian in the summer term, and before I left, she and another Dutch friend and I had some good times together, usually with the help of Peppino and some of his friends.
We have been checking out the possibility of hitch-hiking and we have plenty of assurances that in Great Britain this is regarded as quite a safe and acceptable way of travelling.
We are both a bit nervous about this so we have decided to test it out over the weekend before we travel north.
We set off from London yesterday, going south to spend three days having a look at Kent County, returning to London on Friday night, and then leaving early Saturday morning to travel north with Laurie and Barbara Oliver.
They want to spend a week having a last look around parts of Britain that they haven’t visited before, including the Cotswolds and Wales, as they are about to set sail for Australia, having made the big decision to make it their future home.
I am very lucky that they have invited me to travel by car with them, and having met Lucia, they are very happy to have her come too.
They will drop us off at the end of the week, and we will then resume hitch-hiking, as long as all is still going well.
We decided to leave London on our hiking weekend by bus to start with so as to give us a good start, and we arrived at Tunbridge Wells an hour later. We enjoyed stretching our legs and having a stroll through the picturesque streets before taking the plunge and setting out on the road.
Tunbridge Wells had been a large spa town, it was a very popular resort in the olden days for the upper classes who came to ‘take the waters’. There are lots of elegant Georgian houses, and you are bound to have heard it mentioned in many of the early English novels.
We then ventured out, taking up a position on the edge of the road heading south for Rye. After very little waiting, a station wagon stopped for us. It was driven by a gutsy private school type of Englishwoman who was travelling with her kids to have a weekend at the coast at their little holiday cottage.
They were all very friendly, and after some introductory conversation, she asked us if we had ever been hitch-hiking before. We wanted to know why she asked this, and she said that the give-away was the delicate way in which we were attempting to hail down the passing cars. Lucia’s wave especially was more gentile, and reminded me of Queen Elizabeth waving to the crowds. Our newly appointed mentor said that it would go better for us if we used the thumbs up method!
They offered to take just a little way off course to their home by the sea just a couple of miles
from Rye. We all had a lovely swim together, and they then filled us up with fruitcake and lemon squash and returned us to Rye.
We spent the next couple of hours wandering through the cobbled streets of this quaint little village with its rows of half-timber framed cottages with names like Curfew Cottage, Bell Cottage etc., These lined the streets that had names like Barley lane and Mermaid Street.
We learned that, further back in time, Rye had been an ancient mediaeval port town, but somehow the coastline changed and it is now 2 miles inland.
At about 8 PM we set off by bus for the nearest youth hostel about 10 miles away, settled in for the night, and slept well. This morning after breakfast we were asked to clean up the kitchen — it is a part of the hostel system to spring a job on you every now and then, and that way they can maintain the hostels while only charging about three shillings a night for a bed.
We then set off on the road for Hastings, and this time we travelled in a friendly baker’s van! We asked the baker where the Norman castle was in Hastings. He said that he had been travelling around these parts for years and had never seen a castle, so when we arrived in the city he pulled up in the middle of a busy roundabout and asked the Bobbie who was directing traffic if there was such a castle, and how best to get there.
He then offered to drive us there — it was a little way out of town — and when we arrived, he decided that he would interrupt his run and have a look for himself.
He was very intrigued and not a little excited, as he knew nothing of William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings and 1066 and all that! It proved a big history lesson for him!
The castle is really nothing more than old ruins these days, standing on the top of a cliff looking over the Old Town and across the Channel. This is said to be where King William waited to face King Harold’s army.
When we arrived our new-found friend Fred bought us each a guidebook and asked us to read it to him.
The three of us then spent another hour or two roaming around the ruins.
It is a rather grim place and has a reputation for having a few ghosts still in residence. I can believe it.
There is a seam of metal running along the length of one side of the rocky construction, and we had fun using it as a telephone line as the guide book suggested, shouting into the wall at one end to Fred, who talked back to us from the other end!
Hitch-hiking was proving to be a great success so far!
Next, we waited outside Hastings on the road to Dover, and a man pulled over in a jazzy little open- top sports car. After the introductions, we learned that he was a retired R.A.F. pilot, single, of course, he assured us.
It was like stepping into the movies! He was completely in character, with the jaunty moustache and receding hairline and well lived in face with ruddy cheeks and a brightly coloured cravat! – Not to mention a healthy belief in his attractiveness to women!
He was harmless enough and we enjoyed encouraging him to tell some of his stories as we sped along the ocean road, with the stunning White cliffs of Dover in sight most of the way.
This area is the closest point across the Channel between England and France and because the cliffs are so chalky, our friend told us, they are honeycombed with caves where many a smuggler has found shelter and done business over the centuries.
We passed through the town of Folkstone and then on to Dover, and there we went our separate ways.
We were amazed to find the city very busy, with cars and people everywhere.
It turned out that we had arrived just as the Cross channel swimming race had completed, so normal sightseeing here was now out of the question.
– a pity because up above us on the cliff front we could see an enormous mediaeval castle, said to be the largest fortress in England. It was known as ‘the Key to England’, providing an important point of defence from the south through many centuries of threatened invasion.
To escape the crowds we decided to set off straight away up north towards Canterbury, and then on to London – and luckily this turned out to be where our next lift was heading!
They were two friendly chaps, probably in their early 30s.
One told us that he was a journalist from the Daily Telegraph, and his big plump companion, by now in the back seat, told us that he was a swimmer and had just completed crossing the Channel!
Lucia and I exchanged glances of disbelief, and had a little chuckle.
We hadn’t been going far when they stopped the car outside a telephone box so that the reporter could relay his description of the race to his newspaper.
So they were really fair dinkum after all! – and that included the story of the channel swim. This left us feeling just a little embarrassed!
We ended up learning more about the crossing than most of the spectators. It was really interesting.
One thing I certainly had n’t been aware of was that the swimmers needed plenty of fat on them to protect them from the freezing water!
We asked them for some information about the background of the race. They said that the first one had occurred in 1875, and that the inspiration for It had come from a seaman who
had managed to make the crossing floating on a bundle of straw.
As we neared Canterbury, the boys asked us if we wanted to go on ahead with them to a celebration party at Billy Butlin’s famous holiday camp outside London.
We were tempted — they seemed like decent fellows — we were a bit nervous about it and finally decided to opt for visiting the cathedral.
Canterbury Cathedral is a truly massive and magnificent Gothic structure, imposing itself
over the whole city.
It’s fairly took my breath away, but the vast interior felt so somehow too big and somewhat empty and strange, and a shell of its former self.
We learned that Its history goes back as far as the sixth century, when St Augustine was sent there by Pope Gregory the Great.
You might remember that it was here in the 12th century that Henry II was responsible for the notorious murder of Thomas Beckett while he prayed before the altar.(I was already beginning to regret missing the party!)
From then on it became a pilgrimage site for millions of Christians. I read in my notes that in
the 16th century Henry VIII ordered St.Thomas’ shrine to be destroyed, accusing him of treason in absentia.
It occurred to me that it was a very strange thing as Henry VIII had also had his cardinal and friend Thomas More beheaded!
It was getting too late to see more of the city, so we set off back to London, feeling very weary, but at the same time very contented with the first stage of our trip especially our choice of transport.
Lucia was feeling a bit anxious about recounting all the details accurately because her parents would have worried about the hitch-hiking, so she was wondering how she could convey the impression that we were actually travelling by bus and train.
I think that doing that would have been spoiling some of the best parts of the story!
We were back in London by night-time and then had to begin to clean up and repack so that we would be ready to set out with the Olivers early the next morning.
I loved getting your delightful letter when I got back to London — all of that Wagga gossip and wonderful jokes.
It’s a long time since I have ever had anyone to tell me some good Aussie jokes.
Your social life is sounding very healthy, and I love the sound of your new red ball gown. I am also very happy for you that you have finally landed a rewarding job. Mortimer and Griffin had a pretty good reputation as a legal firm.
Oh, and I did pass on your love to uncle G. – And your message that you would be happy to accompany him as his private secretary during his next trip around the world!
Letters from home mean such a lot to me and help to keep me feeling connected to everyone and all the things that I love about Australia. – So please keep them coming.
In the meantime, a big hug to you and lots of love
On the road up north. September ’59,- Cambridge, Avon, the Cotswolds
This letter will pick up where I left off in the one I wrote to Jan, when we had just arrived back in London from our first hitch-hiking jaunt down south.
Without so much as a pause, we set out together with Laurie and Barbara in their little Morris station wagon at 7.30 in the morning, and we had already arrived in Cambridge by lunchtime.
I have never quite managed to get used to all the places we want to visit being so close to one another.
If I had realised, for example, that Oxford and Cambridge were so easy to get to, I would certainly have visited them when I first arrived in London.
I must say that I was often discouraged by the locals when I spoke of venturing outside of London. The idea of what constitutes ‘quite a distance’ for them is just a stone’s throw for an Australian.
For the Olivers, this little holiday together was their way of saying goodbye to England before setting out again for Australia in a week or two, to finally settle in Sydney for a second time.
Luckily for us, the places they wanted to explore when new to all four of us.
Cambridge was such a delight. We spent the afternoon wandering in and out amongst all the famous colleges, beautiful buildings, all of them set back in spacious grounds and courtyards, with lots of students bustling around from one building to another, or just lounging in the sunshine.
Having read novels which feature English university life had helped to make it all seem very familiar. The King’s College Chapel with its famous stained-glass windows is absolutely breathtaking.
The River Cam wanders through the town and passes some of the university buildings, and there is plenty of rowing and gentle punting happening to complete the picture.
From there, we went across country the next day to Stratford-upon-Avon where the
Shakespeare season is in full swing. We were determined to get to a performance, only to find that to obtain even standing room required having your sleeping bag with you, which we didn’t have, and then spending the night in a queue to buy tickets.
The tragedy is that the play was Othello with Paul Robeson in the leading role — just fancy missing that!
It is a production that has attracted a lot of acclaim ,especially because he is so well known for his magnificent deep baritone singing voice rather than as an actor..
We had to content ourselves with looking through Ann Hathaway’s cottage, with its white timber framed walls and contrasting thick browny-grey thatched roofing all in the Tudor style.
We strolled around taking in stories of the various other picturesque cottages supposedly connected with the life of Shakespeare.
Stratford is of course on the Avon River, and its history goes a long way back to when it served as a mediaeval market town. The original Royal Shakespeare Theatre had burned down in 1926, and a new one had to be built and was opened in 1932.
From there, we travelled south west to the Cotswold country. It certainly deserves its reputation as one of the most beautiful inhabited areas of England.
It was so good to be in a car, with the ability just to drive slowly through the lovely rolling hills, with the dozens of tiny little villages tucked away and popping up unexpectedly at practically each bend of the road.
They seem to just grow up out of the landscape — they have wonderful names — Stow in the Wold, Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter, Bourton on the Water, Upper Swell and Lower Swell, and lots of others. The buildings and stone walls are all constructed from a lovely honey coloured limestone taken from the surrounding hills, and this adds a rich, warm tone to the scene.
It would be a wonderful area to linger in for a while. It attracts many creative people.
It is basically a rural area with lots of walking paths, dotted as well with Castle estates and charming little churches.
After stopping the night at Stow–on–the–Wold we drove on towards South Wales, coming first to Wye in a beautiful protected valley between England and Wales on the River Wye.
This was a much more spectacular countryside, higher hills and deeper valleys and beautiful forests in between the rural areas. The Wye River is a very long one going all the way down to Chepstow.
The area is famous for the number of poets, writers and artists that it has attracted and inspired over the centuries.
We meandered down along the river for a long way, and we were thrilled to find ourselves going past Tintern Abbey. It is such a spectacular sight and the best viewing spot was from a vantage point above it called Devil’s Pulpit. It had been built by the Cistercian monks in the 12th century — another great Gothic masterpiece that later fell foul of Henry VIII’s rampaging.
Although it is now just a ruin, it is still a very spectacular and compelling sight, with beautiful surrounding scenery to set it off.
We went as far down the river to the town of Chepstow, which lies in a protected valley on the border between Wales and England, at the junction where the Wye joins the Servern River.
A very handsome bridge built at this point connects Monmouthshire in Wales to Gloucestershire in England. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty.
There is a very imposing castle built up on the cliffs of the town overlooking the river. Its history goes back as far as post-Roman times when it was built as a massive stone fortification which continued to grow and adapt over the centuries into whatever sort of defence construction was needed as the methods of war evolved. Now it simply looks rather romantic and picturesque!
From there, we then set off up in a north westerly direction along the upper Wye and across halfway up the western coast of Wales to a seaside town called Aberystwyth. I wouldn’t try pronouncing that after a drink or two!
Although it is a rather isolated city from the rest of Wales, it is quite an important cultural centre for the Welsh-speaking people. It has a major university and it is the home of the National library of Wales, which is said to be one of the greatest libraries in the world.
It is predominantly a national legal depository where all the literature is present in both the Celtic and the English languages, and the Welsh people are very proud of it as they struggle to keep their language alive. The building itself is a very handsome long white
building on the hillside looking towards the coast.
It was fun to have a break there beside the sea before we continued further up the coast to Carnarvon which is an important city dominated by yet another castle that you have no doubt heard about.
It turns out that good old William the Conqueror from Normandy had a big hand in this one as well, once he had become King of England and set out to make Wales another of his conquests in the 12th century.
It was about a century later that Edward I was responsible for building the magnificent castle and creating the walled city as we see it much as it is today; and it became not just a fortress but the seat of governance of Wales as well.
Way back in history it had always been the centre of power when the early Celtic chieftains ruled from there, and later Edward made sure that his son became the first English Prince of Wales.
It seems that Caernarvon has long regarded itself with all its royal connections as the most important city in Wales, though I discovered that Cardiff in the south was voted to be the capital only four or five years ago.
Back in 1911, in the days when David Lloyd George was the member for Carnarvon, the Royal family wanted the city to be the site of the investiture of the Prince of Wales, and apparently Lloyd George agreed on behalf of the people.
After having a great time exploring the castle and the city streets, we set out to cross the country and make for the city of Chester, which is just over the Welsh border in England, more or less in a direct line west from Carnarvon.
We were treated to more magnificent scenery as soon as we set out, as we crossed through Snowdonia, which is the huge national park of Wales.
This is a very different country again from what we had travelled through – quite wild and rugged with its rich share of mountains, rivers, forests and lakes.
Mount Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales, standing at about 3,500 thousand feet in the heart of a huge group of encircling mountains. In a certain light can look quite dark and foreboding. It is a very popular challenge for mountain climbers worldwide.
As we were approaching the English city of Chester, we began to feel quite sad that we were coming to the end
of what had been a wonderful week together.
Barbara and Laurie both have a great sense of fun, and got on very well with Lucia. It was a treat for me to be continuing my travels in such good company.
When I write next, it will be to let you know how the next stage of the hitch-hiking adventure for Lucia and me eventuates.
Till then, lots of loving good wishes to everybody.
The youth hostel, Oban. Scotland. 13 September 59
Dear Mum and dad,
Finally we have arrived on the West Coast of Scotland and are about to head for Northern Ireland. I’m trying to put my thoughts together to recollect just where I left off in my last letter.
Sites and events are beginning to run together in my brain. – such a lot to catch up with.
After Chester Lucia and I made our way up towards the beautiful Lake District, then further north till we reached Edinburgh , a short exploration of the lower part of Scotland and finally here at Oban.
To put you in the picture I will go back to when Barbara and Laurie left us at Chester last Thursday week. How time flies!
and we spent the night there after exploring the central part of the city.
It is very picturesque, with a very long history going back at least 2000 years.
The Romans settled there and began building in 700 A.D.
As well as other evidence of their presence recent excavations have even brought the remains of an ancient amphitheatre to light.
Much of the original wall surrounding the settlement is still intact, and was improved upon in the 12th century.
It is possible to take a 2-mile walk around the Chester Wall to take in the best views of the city so we did just that.
There is a splendid East gate to which a huge clock has been added. They like to point out that it is almost as famous as London’s Big Ben. It was installed there to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
Then of course there is yet another beautiful mediaeval cathedral complex. It was originally a Benedictine Abbey, which was shut down and looted like so many others by orders from Henry VIII, but fortunately was later restored as a cathedral.
Another picturesque feature of the city is The Rows. These consist of two levels of arcades, if you can picture them, built in a mixture of Tudor and Victorian architecture, I loved the intricate wood-work.
The Rows fan out in the four directions along streets which come together in the centre like an equal armed cross.
They are full of a fantastic variety of beautiful little shops, and we spent quite a time wandering through them before returning tired and happy to our hostel.
The next day we set out for the Lake District after briefly reviewing our agreed-upon rules for safe hitch-hiking. Number one was never to be separated from one another, even to go to the toilet.
We also agreed to take turns to keep the conversation alive with our drivers even when we were tired. We have found that this can be an entertaining exchange for them as well as us, and helps to pass the time for everyone.
This certainly worked well for our next lift. It was our first semi trailer ride, and our driver was quite a character.
He was a big man with a glint in his eye and one of those big bushy British moustaches that had strained many a tankard of ale. He claimed to be an ex-Grenadier Guard, with continued allusions to having had a rather wild history!
When the conversation started to get a bit edgy, we took him in hand and asked for his advice about the best way for us to travel safely on the roads.
He leapt at the chance to take on the role of protector and had lots of helpful hints. One was to make sure that we never accepted a lift by boat.
He reminded us of a famous saying, delivered in a wicked- pirate- like accent, full of menace and dark intent ” Once upon thurr luggerr, und the maiden ‘s mine!”
We could hardly stop ourselves from laughing.
When we arrived at the next busy truck stop and it was time to part, he insisted on checking the other trucks that had pulled up there to find us another driver that he felt would be suitable to take us safely on our way!
As it turned out, he really did us proud. Our next chauffeur was also a truck driver, a friendly, courteous man who was returning home to Kendall, which was also where we were heading.
He told us that he had been a chauffeur in the past for an American millionaire who had settled in a large English manor, – as many of them do.
While he was working there he met and married the parlourmaid in true upstairs — downstairs tradition.
This time, it was he who kept us entertained. He had some delightful stories to tell and we were quite sorry to see him go.
We found a good hostel at Kendall on the edge of the magnificent lakes district and next day we hired bikes and set out to peddle them up and down and around the hilly countryside.
We had hardly started out when a smartly dressed man jumped from his car and started waving at us. To our amazement, it turned out to be our transport driver from yesterday with his ex-parlourmaid wife and their daughter, who was about our age.
We shook hands all around and had a good chat to them, and marvelled at the coincidence of meeting again.
We managed to cover about 17 miles over two days on the bikes, and I didn’t really pay for the effort till the next night when I started to develop really strong cramps in my legs.
I could hardly complain — we had been riding through one of the most breathtaking natural landscapes I had ever seen, quite mountainous, with deep long lakes and forested areas.
The hills are known as fells, and at their very highest point on a fine day it is apparently possible to see as far as Snowdonia in Wales and across the ocean to the Mountains of Mourne in Ireland.
This is the district where Beatrix Potter lived for a time and wrote many of her children’s stories, and it was William Wordsworth more than any other poet who helped to make the area famous with his evocative descriptions of the landscape.
We had a very special time there, and would have happily stayed longer.
At the end of the second day we made for another hostel in the district, only to find it full, so we then headed for the nearest town by bus in the hope of finding some accommodation there.
We asked the bus driver for advice. As it happened, his wife was also on board. We chatted for a while, and then they offered to take us home to their place, where they said they had a room to spare for the night.
They were a very kind and friendly old pair, and we spent the evening very comfortably sitting around the fire discussing politics and watching television.
The next day we set off heading northwards again, planning to reach Edinburgh that evening.
On the way, when I changed a film in my camera, I discovered that the shutter had been jammed, so I am now very anxious to see the results of the last film when I get back to London.
It will be a while before I know if any of the shots of England and Wales will come out.
At least I was very lucky to get the camera mended in Edinburgh and could resume filming.
This is a delightful city — very much alive at the moment because the Edinburgh Festival is on.
When we arrived in the city centre, I was completely stopped in my tracks at the scene in front of me. It was a sight something like a fairytale.
On one side of Princes Street, there was the customary row of very elegant shops and lots of Victorian buildings, which have been part of the Old town.
On the other side there stood a magnificent castle spread out on top of the crest of a great rocky crag dominating the city!
From there, the Royal Mile runs down to Holyrood Palace and an adjacent abbey.
Queen Elizabeth comes up here each year from London at the beginning of summer to attend to official business before taking the family on further to Balmoral Castle for the summer holidays.
Parts of the palace are open to visitors and it is possible to explore the historic 16th century apartments of Mary Queen of Scots and other features of historic moment.
We didn’t realise beforehand that we would be coming to the Edinburgh Festival.
It is becoming famous the world over. It began in 1947 and is held every August in conjunction with what is known as the Edinburgh Festival fringe which also apparently evolved from the start, when lots of entertainers and events that were
not a part of the official programme spread out through the city, simultaneous to what had already been planned.
One of Edinburgh’s most popular events each year is the Military Tattoo held in the open on the Esplanade on top of the castle.
Military bands come from all over Britain, and from the Commonwealth as well and this is has been happening ever since 1950.
Much of the Festival fringe is spread out along the Royal Mile and we had a great time watching some of the acts.
On the afternoon of the first day I sat and rested in the park below the castle and listened to an open-air band concert while Lucia went off on a conducted bus tour.
That evening we watched Scottish country dancing and showed such an interest that the people sitting next to us invited us to their weekly dance out in the suburbs, so the next night we found ourselves struggling through reels of eight and other dances with great gusto.
Our friends were very patient with us and we had a wonderful evening.
The festival had most of our attention while we were there, so we didn’t end up doing much of the usual sightseeing – just wandering amongst the people who had come from near and far was very exciting, at the same time getting glimpses of what the city might feel like at much quieter times.
All told, our whole experience of Edinburgh turned out to be a very memorable one without our even planning it..
The next day we went about 50 miles north over the Firth of Forth which is a massive estuary
of the Forth River.
We crossed over the spectacular North Bridge;
This is a cantilevered railway bridge built in 1890 – (the road bridge came later) and it connects the north-east of Scotland to the south-east. — a masterpiece of engineering and a landmark that is now recognised all over the world.
We were heading for the little town of Markinch to meet up with Graham Leddie, Uncle Pat’s colleague with the Haig Co. whom I already knew in Sydney, and fortunately for us, he was back home in Scotland while we were there.
This is where Haig whiskey originates. You would find it very interesting Dad!
Graham showed us over the whole factory. It is where all the whiskey is brought from the distilleries throughout the country, blended, bottled and then distributed.
We decided to stay in the area for the night to have the chance to meet his wife Jenny, and they then persuaded us to spend the weekend with them, which we were very happy to do.
On Friday we spent the day just resting, washing and ironing — something I never believed that I would enjoy until I had the chance to do it there — hostels are never equipped with irons and not always with hot water!
On Saturday we all drove up to Braemar and Balmoral.
We were only able to see the castle at a distance as the Royal family was in residence and naturally very protective of their privacy..
Queen Victoria purchased Balmoral in 1852 and it is still a private residence of the family — not part of the Royal estate.
It is a handsome building set back in spacious grounds and the guidebook tells us that it is an example of Scottish baronial architecture.
It is described as a working estate, equipped with grouse, deer, highland cattle and ponies, and carries on general farming.
It certainly was an impressive looking rural property – not just acres of manicured parkland.
We also stopped for a look at Crathie Church nearby, which the Queen attends when she is
The countryside around these parts is very pretty but not nearly as spectacular as the Western Highlands, which we travelled through the next day when they kindly drove us across to the port of Oban on the West Coast.
Our plan was to catch a ferry there and sail across to Belfast – a very welcome change from hiking and our first chance to travel by sea..
The hills are more rugged and fairly treeless and I was disappointed that the heather was not in flower now, and looked more brown than purple but it was very scenic all the same.
There hadn’t been any rain since we set out – a very strange thing for the British Isles – though very lucky for us – but people were starting to worry about drought!
I love the sight of the highland cattle and sheep, both with their long hairy coats.
I would have loved to linger in the area longer.
However it is now time to press on and cross to Ireland – otherwise it will hardly be worthwhile going there, as I am due in Trieste in Italy on the 26th on my way down to Perugia.
I will send a report of our Ireland adventure from the Continent, and
Meantime, do look after yourselves.
A big hug to everybody.
Join me for the next instalment after leaving England – ,autumn and Winter in Perugia, Italy