Molly’s Adventures in the British Isles

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Molly Kavanaugh

Sunday, September 27th

Today, our tour group was led all around the city of London. We learned history, studied the beautiful architecture, ate delicious food, and visited notable attractions. Some of these attractions include Buckingham Palace, The Queen Victoria Memorial, The Prince Albert Memorial, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey, The London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and The River Thames. The juxtaposition of the incredibly old and extremely modern structures was very interesting. After driving around London learning about these places, a group of us went to Windsor Castle and explored its grand halls and grounds. Every single room was exceedingly impressive.

big ben
Big Ben is one of England’s most iconic landmarks. Photo by Molly Kavanaugh.

 

Monday, September 28th

This morning, our group woke up early, left London, and drove to Stonehenge. We circled the Henge, taking numerous pictures, while an audio guide taught us about the making, supposed purpose, and details of the incredible rocks. Nowadays, tourists are not allowed to approach and touch the Henge because of the stability of the ground and the fear of eroding the rocks. After Stonehenge, we make our way to Bath, England, where we toured a museum and ancient Roman bathhouse. We even drank some of the hot spring water that bubbled up from the earth. Bath was also beautiful; nearly every building was made of the same sort of stone, just like in Jerusalem. After Bath, we crossed the Severn river into Wales and spent the night in Cardiff.

stonehenge
Stonehenge is over 1,000 years old. Photo by Molly Kavanaugh.

 

Tuesday, September 29th

Early in the morning, my family left the hotel and explored Cardiff Castle. We walked through the centuries-old keep and visited the slightly newer manor. The manor was built in a medieval style, even though it was constructed after that era. Following Cardiff Castle, our group took a large ferry over the Irish Sea and stopped in the port of Rosslare on the southeast edge of Ireland. Then we drove to Waterford and stayed there for a night. Today was full of travelling.

5 languages
Inside Cardiff Castle is a dedication to the five ancient languages. Hebrew is in the center. Photo by Molly Kavanaugh.

 

Wednesday, September 30th

Today, our group walked from our hotel in Waterford to the Waterford Crystal Factory. We took a tour and learned how the craftsmen create such beautiful works of art. Afterwards, we browsed through their store full of crystal dishes, jewelry, trinkets, and more. From Waterford, the group drove to Blarney, Ireland. We visited Blarney Castle, climbed to the top of the fort, and kissed the Blarney Stone which is rumored to bestow the gift of eloquence. Then we looked around the various gardens on the grounds, one of which was comprised exclusively of poisonous plants. Once finished in Blarney, our group travelled to Killarney, Ireland, where we stayed the night.

 

Thursday, October 1st

Early this morning, our group went on a jaunting car ride. This is another name for a horse-drawn carriage. We rode around Killarney National Park while it was covered in a light fog. While in the carriage, we viewed magnificent landscapes and wildlife. Then we drove around the Ring of Kerry, a three-hour journey through some of the most beautiful scenery in southwest Ireland. To top it all off, the sky was clear and sunny. For lunch, we stopped at a restaurant perched on a cliff overlooking emerald pastures dotted with sheep, cows, and horses, and the Ballinskellig Bay. After that, we made our way to Dublin in time for dinner.

 

Friday, October 2nd

Today, we experienced typical Irish weather for the first time: cold mist and dense fog. In the morning, our tour travelled to the town of Cashel and climbed to the Rock of Cashel, a centuries old complex with relations to St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. After a delicious lunch to warm us up, we visited the Bungalow Farmhouse, an operating farm, where we were served homemade tea and scones, among other British snacks. The owners gave us an explanation of what they raised on their farm. The group had a break back in Dublin, then walked over to the Irish House Party for dinner and entertainment. A trio of performers played music, sang, and danced. The Celtic harp, Uilleann pipes, and Bodhrán were used at least once. These instruments all originated in Ireland. After the show, we retired to our hotel in Dublin.

Rock of Cashel used to be a castle; today, it is a church. Photo by Molly Kavanaugh.
Rock of Cashel used to be a castle; today, it is a church. Photo by Molly Kavanaugh.

 

Saturday, October 3rd

This morning, we took a tour around the city of Dublin. We passed Trinity College, which is like the Harvard of Ireland. Then we crossed the River Liffey and visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Dozens of important Irish figures are buried within its walls and they all had some connection with the church. The building was certainly grand with its massive size, sweeping arches, and intricate decor. Throughout the day, we drove by a number of embassies. We saw the United Arab Emirates embassy, the Spanish embassy, the Italian embassy, and the Israeli embassy. That night, my family enjoyed a lovely dinner with a friend who currently lives in Dublin.

 

Sunday, October 4th

Today started extremely early. Our group left Dublin before sunrise and took the ferry back across the Irish Sea. We landed in Holyhead, Wales, then made a stop the town with the longest name in the world to get our passports stamped.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

This means: Saint Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near the rapid whirlpool and the Church of Saint Tysilio of the red cave.”

After that, we proceeded to Caernarfon Castle in the city with the same name, to the site of Charles’ investiture as Prince of Wales. The massive battlements and towers yielded incredible views of the surrounding landscape. Then we crossed the border between Wales and England, and we stayed in the English town of Chester.

Caer
Caernarfon Castle is one of the most beautiful sights of Wales. Photo by Molly Kavanaugh.

 

Monday, October 5th

This morning we awoke to our first rainy day in the UK. Our group travelled through the countryside, which was made up of pastures brimming with sheep and horses. We stopped for lunch and sightseeing in the quaint village of Grasmere. This is part of England’s scenic Lake District, a place filled with quintessential English villages. Grasmere was the home of poet William Wordsworth. After crossing into Scotland, we continued on to Gretna Green, where generations of runaway couples eloped. In fact, while visiting a museum about the town’s history, we came across a wedding in progress. Surreptitiously, we listened in on the bride and groom’s vows. One in every six Scottish weddings takes place in Gretna Green. Our day ended in the majestic capital city of Edinburgh (not pronounced “burg”).

 

Tuesday, October 6th

Today, our group took a coach tour of the highlights of Edinburgh. We drove along the Royal Mile, a street leading from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The Palace was our first stop. It is the Queen’s official residence in Edinburgh, as well as the former home of Mary, Queen of Scots. The Palace had loads of intricate metalwork on the gates, a beautiful sandstone fountain in the courtyard, and gardens that were a lovely setting for a stroll, even in the rain. Our next stop was Edinburgh Castle, home of the Scottish crown jewels, a trio of Honours belonging to the royal family. These Honours are the crown, scepter, and sword. We finished visiting the Castle and made our way down a long cobblestone street to our final stop of the day: The Scotch Whiskey Experience. This was a guided tour explaining the production of Scotch Whiskey, otherwise known as “The Water of Life.” Though there was a tasting at the end and the group learned how to properly drink whiskey, I was treated to a non-alcoholic beverage.

 

Wednesday, October 7th

This morning we awoke to another day of sporadic drizzles and a bit of fog. We left Edinburgh, Scotland and began driving back to England. On the way, we visited one of the largest, intact portions of Hadrian’s Wall. The building of this ancient structure began all the way back in 122 C.E., nearly two thousand years ago. It served as the northern border of the Roman Empire. Although worn down, this stretch of wall measured approximately a hundred meters in length. Later today we stopped at the border between Scotland and England to take photos, even though they are still part of the same country. The day’s journey ended in York, England.

 

Thursday, October 8th

Today, we left York and set out for Coventry. Its original Cathedral was completely rebuilt after being destroyed in World War II, so we visited the grand, modern Cathedral and looked out upon the ruins of the old one. After that, we ventured to Stratford-upon-Avon. The hyphenated name means that it is the city Stratford next to the river Avon. This is the hometown of William Shakespeare. First, we went to Shakespeare’s birthplace and toured his home, seeing the unusually large residence. Once we walked outside, we watched famous scenes from Shakespeare’s plays being performed right in his very own garden. These included the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet’s soliloquy. Then we drove over to Anne Hathaway’s thatched-roof cottage, the childhood home of Shakespeare’s wife. It was there that we learned about one of the origins of the expression, “it’s raining cats and dogs.” In order to remove rodents, insects, and other pests from thatched roofs, people would let dogs and cats run around on the roof, eating said pests. So, when it would rain really hard, the dogs and cats would slip off the roof, hence the expression, “it’s raining cats and dogs.”

 

Friday, October 9th

Early this morning, we said goodbye to the rest of our tour group and returned to London via coach. Then we took the Heathrow Express into the heart of the city. After arriving in Paddington Station, my family took a taxi to the Grosvenor House where we are staying tonight. Next, we drove to the London Eye, a massive, 44 story tall ferris wheel located on the bank of the River Thames. One full revolution takes approximately thirty minutes. From our glass compartment, we could see absolutely stunning views of the city for miles in every direction. Once we got back to the Grosvenor House, we partook in high tea. For almost three hours we ate dozens of finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, plates of various desserts, and multicolored macaroons. On top of that, we drank cups and cups of delicious tea. To finish off a perfect final day in the UK, my family went to a theatre in the West End and saw a flawless performance of Beautiful, the story of singer Carole King. All in all, this has been the trip of a lifetime. I hope to come back, some day.

The Kavanaugh family enjoyed riding the 44-story ferris wheel. Photo by Molly Kavanaugh.
The Kavanaugh family enjoyed riding the 44-story ferris wheel. Photo by Molly Kavanaugh.