The most mentions about England are probably the city of London, its world-prestigious universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge and the coldness and arrogance of English people. However, this trip made me realize that the authentic uniqueness of the country not only reflected in the noble splendor of the ancient castles, the sophisticated architecture of the British royal in major cities, but also in the rustic and quaint charm of fairy-tale villages.
An England is very different from what I have heard. I was truly fascinated by the beauty of the charming villages, as if I had lost in a different world, the world of fairy-tale stories. And it was surprising to realize that the British were not as cold and rude as the stereotypes that people enforced on them for ages. Only such real experiences enlightened me with the unexpected interesting learning.
- Day 7-8 : Lake District area, stay in Windermere (238km)
- Day 9 : Kirkby Lonsdale, Skipton, York (151km)
- Day 10-11 : Cotswold and fairy-tale villages (65km)
- Day 12-14 : Oxford, then back to London (139km)
- Day 15: Flight back home
(Distance is measured by google map. Click to the links to move to that day)
Read more about the entire “2 weeks fascinating road trip through England and Scotland” here
Good bye Scotland, we started driving to England. The route from Glasgow to Lake District located in North West of England was the most spectacular mountainous roads that I had ever driven on. Narrow pavement, sometime just enough for one car, in addition of continuous twisted curves was a tough challenge to me. I was sweating several times when I had to reverse my car for couples of dozen meters on a steep hill to give way to others. We really admired bike racing teams on those roads where it was not at all easy to manage a car.
As the name of Lake District, this region has 16 lakes, big and small clustered among charming towns. It was relaxing when driving on up and downhill roads shadowed by high trees, connecting towns like Windermere, Bowness, Ambleside with villages where famous English writers and poets used to live such as Buttermere, Hawkshead, Grasmere. We wandered around narrow alleys, were fascinated by the vintage houses with mossy rocky fences and well cared flower gardens in front of them. The scenery was enhanced by small streams and old rocky bridges.
Windermere lake is the largest natural lake of England with a surface area of almost 15 km2 . The road behind the lake was empty and beautiful with leaves changing colors in autumn. The pathway to the lake fully covered by green moss, next to a small stream looked amazingly mystical, like a scene in a secret fairy tale forest.
The way to Coniston lake was amazing with a view of a waterfall from the mountain. Bowness lake in the edge of Windermere town is home of luxurious yachts in the region.
Castlerigg Stone Circle located in the east of Keswick is among the earliest British circles, raised in about 3000 BC. It perhaps the most atmospheric and impressive prehistoric stone circle, with big stones in different sizes circling on a low green grass hill, commanding a superb panoramic view over the surrounding mountains.
Driving toward the east to reach York city, we passed by Kirkby Lonsdale, a historic quaint market town. Flanking the three counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire as it does the town is famous for high quality independent shopping, as well as excellent restaurants, cafés and bars and superb accommodation. The way leading to the town in was impressive with high steep roads and old rocky wall houses.
The more we got in the town, the more excited we were when seeing many charming houses. The walls were fully covered by reddish maple leaves changing color during autumn, the windows were decorated elegantly with white daisies. Small church in the center of the town was a quiet and vintage remark.
Skipton has a different look. The roads there are very challenging with extremely high slopes and sharp turns. Blocks of stone mansions appear boringly along roadsides since they don’t have beautiful terraces filled with lots of flowers and plants as other pretty towns
The beauty of Skipton probably lines on the canal running through its center. Walking alongside and admiring the freshness and tranquility of the town is enjoyable. The restaurants with colorful tables and chairs brighten the atmosphere of the town.
Arriving York in an drizzly afternoon, the city looked somewhat gloomy and quiet. We wandered around the famous Shamble market with plenty of shops and restaurants in vintage European architecture style.
The Cathedral of Saint Peter in York, commonly known as York Minster, is one of the largest Gothic style Medieval churches in Northern Europe. It is also an imperial and noble icon of York City.
Located in the York Museum Garden is the ruin of St Mary’s abbey. It was once the richest abbey in the north of England, now a contemporary gallery exhibiting art.
A trip to England without visiting Cotswold renowned for its heart-melting fairy-tale villages is not considered completed. A quaint countryside landscape with idyllic stone cottages gradually appeared in front of us when our car was approaching the region. Narrow roads covered by fallen yellow leaves during autumn, harmonizing with winding streams led us to a different world, poetic and majestic.
Each village in Cotswold has its own uniqueness. Lower Slaughter village is charming thanks to glamorous houses fully covered by leaves. Their reflection on the small stream run along the village creates a tranquil atmosphere.
Bourton on the water is the most famous village in Cotswold, hence attracts much more tourists. As the result, the village can’t maintain its inherent serenity, but noisy and crowded.
Snowhill on the other hand, is very quiet with almost no tourist. Its peacefulness was well demonstrated by the green lawn in front of a small church and the willow trees. Stow on the wold is lively with plenty of well-known restaurants in the region. We were attracted by block of individual nicely decorated shops on small streets which lead to the main square of the village.
Bibury is a truly fairy-tale village with a majestically green atmosphere. The way to the village looked mysterious since we had to pass an old stone bridge with a huge tree spreading its foliage all over the places. The scenery appeared to us like a painting of a fabulous fairyland.
Old stone cottages with mossy roofs laid along a gravel path, in the backdrop of layered lush greenery of high trees looked harmonious and poetic. The roses which are high above the head with faintly elegant aroma caress the windows of stone cottages, enhancing the charming of Bibury village.
Our original intend was driving to Bath and Stonehenge before reaching London. However, since Cotswold was more charming than we had expected, we decided to stay there one more morning, wandering around and relaxing, instead of hurriedly departing. From noon, we drove back to London, passed by Oxford.
Known as the city of universities, the center of Oxford was full of students, creating a vibrant and energetic atmosphere, in the contrast of historic but somewhat boring of traditional rural villages with old people.
Wandering around medieval streets in downtown was interesting as many major attractions are located there with short distance from each other. Magdalen College of Oxford University looks more like a castle than a school with green yard surrounding by vintage golden stone buildings in a royal noble appearance.
Radcliffe Camera can only be described as Oxford’s most iconic building with English Palladian architecture style built in the 18th century. It is now the reading place and library housing mainly English, History and Theology books.
Covered market Oxford is a historic market, nowadays home of a fantastic mix of permanent stalls and shops selling all kinds of things.
Arriving London, we didn’t have any itinerary, but spontaneous agenda. As a capital city, as well as the home of Royal British family, London still features the vintage beauty dating back to Roman time. The buildings, churches and abbey in the city center bring out an a noble look with classical sophisticated architectures.
The iconic ‘Big Ben’ clock tower stood majestically in downtown, though it was in restoration.
Across the Thames River, the massive London Eye observation wheel provides panoramic views of the entire city. The Trafalgar Square is always a gathering place for tourists and local youth. Its name commemorates the naval battle of Trafalgar in the Napoleonic Wars with France and Spain in early of the 19th century.
The huge Hype park with big high trees is well-known as a lung of London center. We leisurely crossed the park heading to Buckingham palace for guard changing.
The changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace happens in the morning of Mon, Wed, Fri and Sun at 11am (please check the exact time/date at official website). When we arrived there at 10:30, the area outside the palace was packed with people.
Polices on their bike or horses were everywhere to ensure the security. The whole event took place only in 15 mins, but it was awesome with the parade of a trumpet school, a military team in royal uniform and a cavalry.
Traveled in Sep, 2017