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UP NORTH AND BACK AGAIN

The drive from Wincanton to Newcastle-on-Tyne was in driving rain the whole way. With many large trucks on the roads, we soon discovered how hazardous it could be overtaking them! The curtain of spray thrown up by their many wheels reduced visibility to zero for a few seconds while on the wrong side of the road!

It was great to spend some time with dear friends, Sue and Kev and their fine lads, Michael and Matthew who were both busy with final exams.
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We had fun browsing through charity shops in the city centre, stocked up for the basic kitchen equipment van at Ikea, visited a car boot sale, and a Sunday market on the Newcastle quayside. We had quite a giggle en route to Ikea in Newcastle. To get to the store we keyed the name into Molly, our GPS, and set off in faith that she knew the way. We were soon heading south, which got Dave a bit worried. We checked Molly's destination again and found that she was leading us to Ikea, Holland! Motto of the story: never trust your GPS completely.

Sue is very proud of the magnificent poppies she grows in her front garden!
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We spent an afternoon visiting Hadrian's Wall, a colossal feat of engineering, extending 80 miles across North England.
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It was built in 122AD by 3 legions of Hadrian's soldiers, in 6 years, to keep the Barbarians out of Roman England. There were 30 forts and a mini fort every mile along the wall, with a great ditch to the north. We visited one of the best preserved forts called Housesteads. It was amazing to see the intricate layout of the facilities, including elevated, ventilated flooring. Standing in the ruins you can see the wall running over the beautiful rural hills to the horizons on either side.
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After a week in Newcastle we drove to Livingston [1/2 hour the other side of Edinburgh] to spend a few cozy days with our friends Bernie and Estrelita. Livingston is a very spread out town with wide roads, appearing to have more trees than houses. We spent the next day meandering up and down the old part of Edinburgh City. looking at some touristy things.
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This board related the interesting tale of the origin of Jeckyll and Hyde
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At the one end of High street is Edinburgh Castle, high on its rock; down the other end is the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the Queen's official residence.
St Giles Church in the city centre is a beautiful church with a very ornate ceiling,
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but the tiny Thistle Chapel tucked away in the corner is spectacular. Although built only 100 years ago, it is bedecked in the most ornate wood carving in the style of the 15thC. There is a seat for each of the 16 Knights of the Thistle, with a different creature carved onto each of the armrests, and a throne for the Queen when she visits to induct a new knight.
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On the Sunday Estrelita drove us up into the Highlands, promising us an excellent cream tea at a place she knew on Loch Tay. After a long, but beautiful drive, we arrived at the isolated Ardeonaig Hotel, in the rain.
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To our surprise, the staff were all South African [the hotel is owned by a SA man], and we could place our orders in Afrikaans! We had pots of tea and warm scones with clotted cream, but at a very fancy price: £7 pp! Not only did it bruise my pocket, but I nearly knocked myself out on a low beam as well!

On the way back we stopped to admire banks of bluebells
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and a very fine specimen of a hairy Highland cow [pronounced koo]. He was but one of many of these gorgeous, ginger-coloured beasts, with long floppy fringes over their eyes, spotted in the lush fields along the way.
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The next day saw us start on the long drive back to London, stopping overnight with Sue and Kev, en route to picking up the campervan. Marty, its previous owner, was nearly 2 hours late, as he could not get away from work, so by the time we had got through a whistle-stop lowdown on how the van works, we hit the peak rush hour of London traffic. It was no fun for each of us now driving unfamiliar vehicles, surrounded by impatient drivers. Again we were glad to put London behind us, as we headed down towards Wincanton in the rapidly fading light.

After a overnight stopover with Ebu and Jeremy in Holton [near Wincanton] we drove the van down to cousin Judy and Rob's where we left it for the 5 days that we spent in Bulgaria.
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On our return from Bulgaria we spent the week making new curtains [luvvvverly brown flecked with orange, very 60s, to go with our even more stunning rose-pink velour seating/upholstery], cleaning, sorting and packing the van. 7 of the 9 curtains work perfectly, but unfortunately "someone" was too economical with measurements, so the ones over the back doors cover only half the windows!
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Bit of a privacy issue there, considering there's no ablution cubicle on board - so we have to buy more material and redo!

Posted by davidsandi 04:48 Archived in Scotland

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