My Top Five of England
I knew that we would be spending more time in England with my brother so I decided to postpone judging my favourite spots in England, and I’m glad I did. The three of us saw some spectacular places on our whirlwind tour of southern England, so I hope you all enjoy!
Bath is such a pretty city, full of beautiful Georgian-style buildings and wide promenades. The Romans built the original bath house and temple complex around the natural hot springs, though they were likely enjoyed in its natural state long before they came. The Roman Baths have been modified several times over the centuries, but you can still find some remnants of the Roman structure within the foundations. If the admission fee to the Roman Baths is a bit steep for you, The Mayor of Bath Honorary Guides offers a great free walking tour which (at least on our tour) takes you to see the Sacred Spring from above. It’s also worthwhile just wandering around and admiring all the beautiful buildings, including the Royal Crescent and The Circus.
There is a lot more to see in Glastonbury than you would expect. Starting with the obvious, there is the abbey. Probably the most striking one we had seen to date, even considering that it was a ruin. Besides the ruins, the sprawling grounds (36 acres!) owned by the abbey include a beautiful park, ponds, and an orchard. We spent the afternoon hunting around the grounds for Merlin (a hunt intended for kids, but hey, we’re young at heart, right?). Glastonbury is full of legend, the Holy Thorn tree is said to be descended from a staff planted by Joseph of Arimathea, and King Arthur and Guinevere are supposed to have been buried on the abbey grounds. The Tor is equally mysterious, given the name Ynys yr Afalon or “Isle of Avalon” by the Britons. It has been linked to the King Arthur legends, goddess worship, and Gwyn ap Nudd, Lord of the Underworld and King of the Fairies. The town itself is full of quirky bars and new-age shops, good for a fun look around.
Built by the Romans, Hadrian’s Wall spans 73 miles long from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Carlisle and is a really amazing glimpse at the extent of Roman occupation in Great Britain. Even though the weather was awful during our visit, we still had a great time visiting the wall. Probably in part because it has been declared a UNESCO site, a ton of work has gone into making the wall accessible, including building walking and cycling paths, restoring/rebuilding forts, and making plenty of information boards to tell you about what you’re seeing. The Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail is 84 miles long, and as much as Nathanael would have loved to hike it, we decided to save it for another time.
While Stone Henge is obviously the most famous stone circle in Great Britain, by no means is it the largest. That honour belongs to Avebury. With the larger, older Avebury circle you can actually go within the ring of stones and explore, checking out the huge boulders, and wonder how they ever managed to move them. Avebury has found a second life in religion through New Age movements. You can find offerings of crystals and coins tucked into holes in the great stones. We even stumbled across a drum circle beneath a big tree covered in coloured ribbons.
British people seem to react with surprise when I tell them how much I liked Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and I’m not sure why. The river Tyne is criss-crossed with an artistic clutter of bridges that look as though some mad genius wanted to try out all his grand ideas over one river, and it looks awesome! Seriously, the city looks like something out of a storybook, with stairways shrouded in ivy connecting the different layers people have built on and up. We only had a single day here, so maybe we just lucked out and saw everything in the rose-tinted light you see when you first arrive somewhere new, but I’d like to think this city is just a gem the Brits have forgotten about. Go ahead and see for yourself!