Saturday, October 24, 2020

England and Scotland - Part 3

Touring Scotland

This will be my final entry on our 2019 trip to the UK.  I'm not going to bore you with details of all that we did and what we ate (though I unexpectedly find I like Haggis!).  When you go yourself, you'll find and have your own adventures, but I hope I can offer a framework to make that easier by describing what worked for us.

After checking into our Edinburgh hotel, we spent a day touring the city.  One highlight was walking around the old ruins of the 1128 Holyrood Abbey behind the Palace of Holyroodhouse (The Queen's official residence in Edinburgh).  Here are a few photos from that enchanting and thought-provoking place.

Iona, Mull and the Isle of Skye

After our day touring around Edinburgh, we boarded our 15-passenger bus for a 5-day tour of Iona, Mull and the Isle of Skye conducted by Rabbi's Tours.  I'm not a fan of tour busses, but Rabbi's is "special" in that their tours are conducted in small coaches that don't overwhelm the places they visit and, because the coaches are small, they can go to some out-of-the-way locations that other tours can't.

Neist Point

One such place is the end of the world.  

Well, not really, but it is a location accessed by traversing multiple roads over which only one vehicle can travel at a time - and good luck if you meet someone coming the other way!  

That place is the Neist Point Lighthouse; spectacular in its beauty and isolation. 

Here are a few of photos from there.

And a short panoramic video

The West Highland Way

One stop on the tour was Fort William, which was interesting in its own right.  What piqued my interest about Fort William, though, is that it an endpoint on the Scottish West Highland Way.  

The West Highland Way is a 96-mile hiking route that takes you through beautiful, isolated areas, but which has villages along the way that are spaced such that, if you can pace your hike, you can sleep in a bed every night. 

Below is an abbreviated map of the West Highland Way, adapted from the one on that organizes the route into several segments, each of which is do-able in a single day.

There are even multiple services that will ferry your luggage from one stop to the next every day!  

Definitely something that Señor Trail wants to do!

Follow the link to and you'll find all kinds of resources.

Iona and Staffa

The other major highlight of this tour was the small island of Iona.  But the highlight was not so much Iona, but what you can do from Iona.  Specifically, we were able to board a small skiff and go to the even smaller island of Staffa!  Staffa is the location of "Fingal's Cave" which which inspired Mendelssohn to compose his Hebrides Overture.  Here is a photo of Fingal's cave.

Staffa is also home to a tribe of friendly Puffins!  Around the corner from the cave is a dock from which you can climb to the top of the island and hike to a location where these Puffins have learned that humans scare away their natural predators.  The result is that the Puffins "appreciate" the presence of we humans and don't immediately vacate the area when we approach.  Here are some photos of the climb from the dock, the hike on the top of the island, some of the Puffins we saw and other images of Staffa.

Hadrian's Wall

The last thing we did was go to Hadrian's Wall - again via an enjoyable Rabbi's Tours offering.  Some of the commentary at one of the sites along the wall gave me pause to consider that history is made by humans and we haven't really changed in a looooong time.  In particular, in history books we are told that the wall was constructed to provide a barrier between the Roman Empire and the marauding Pict and other tribes to the North.  However, one theory that I can certainly believe is that Hadrian's Wall was a "make work" project to keep otherwise idle Roman soldier hands busy during their long, lonely posting in this remote and desolate part of the Roman Empire; "Idle hands are the devil's workshop", you know.

Here are some photos from our short time traveling to and hiking along a short section of Hadrian's Wall.

We saw and enjoyed many other things in Scotland, but I recommend you go there yourself and see what you can find!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

England and Scotland - Part 2

 North to Scotland

After spending a few days exploring Kingston upon Thames and then London, it was time to head to Scotland.

When I first thought of expanding my business trip to a full-fledged vacation that included both London and Scotland, I wondered how to get from London to Scotland (and once in Scotland, where should we go?).  

Of the travel options, flying seemed like a waste and driving on the left side of the road was out of my comfort zone. That left the third option - take the train.

A google search of trains from London to Scotland quickly led me to this superb website:

Which is run by an ex-BritRail employee who loves traveling by train (and not just in the UK).  I have used that site, now, not just for information about train travel in the UK, but also in China!

We decided to take the high-speed "Flying Scotsman" from Kings Cross station in London to Edinburgh - 4 hours at 125+ miles/hour.  I used the information from to reserve first-class seats (on the right-side of the train) and book tickets on the LNER website,

At the Kings Cross train station, if you're a Harry Potter fan, you'll find Platform 9¾ for a photo op

Once on the train, my lovely wife and travel-companion and I were able to sit back, relax and leave the driving to LNER!

A view of some sheep and the sea from the right-side of the train...

Passing through one of the picturesque cities along the way...

Once in Edinburgh, we walked from the train station up a short hill to our hotel on the "Royal Mile", the Radisson Blu.  Definitely use a roller-bag for this hike!

Friday, October 9, 2020

England and Scotland - Part 1

England - Kingston upon Thames

In early-Summer 2019, I had the opportunity to go to Kingston upon Thames for a short conference related to my work.  I suggested to my lovely wife that if we could get her some airline tickets that corresponded to mine, we could make this a low-cost vacation to both England and then, expand it into Scotland.

We arrived at Kingstone on Thames on June 2, staying at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel there.  

First, you need to understand that my wonderful wife is a history teacher and she has made me into something of a history buff as well. Also, we have enjoyed the Netflix historical fiction series  titled “The Last Kingdom”. The Last Kingdom is a fictional history of the Kingdom of Wessex and King Alfred, beginning around the year 866 AD. The story is told around a fictional character "Uhtred", who was kidnapped by Dane invaders as a child.

Imagine our joy as we discovered that “Kingston” might be rendered as King-Stone and that the stone upon which some of the direct descendants of King Alfred sat in their coronation ceremonies is located in a nondescript park in Kingston upon Thames.  

After following several rabbit-trails, we tracked down the coronation stone and this is it:

Here is the plaque that is nearby:

 Which says, in part:

According to tradition, this stone was used during coronation ceremony by seven Saxon kings of England who were crowned at Kingston-upon-Thames.  Their names are as follows:

·      Edward the Elder   900

·      Athelstan  925

·      Edmund  940

·      Elred  946

·      Edwy  956

·      Edward the Martyr  975

·      Ethelred the Unready  979

The earliest known reference to the coronation stone in print occurs in John Speed's England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, published in 1627.  The passage reads "... at Kingston likewise stood the chair of majesty whereon Athelstan, Edwin and Ethelred sate at their coronations and first received their scepter of imperial power.


The point to all this is, wherever you are, get out and see what's there!

Introducing Senior Trails

Why This?

As I’ve grown older, I’ve found myself wanting more to get outside and travel, hike, and bike.  However, I also find that I don’t really care so much for sleeping on the ground, cooking over a gas stove, or cleaning pots and pans in a plastic tub full of cold or tepid water.

I want, instead, to enjoy the outdoors in an active, not passive, way but to be able to retire to the pub for dinner at the end of the day and subsequently to a warm bed in a hotel. 

Hence this blog.  I intend it first as a chronicle of some of my excursions and with that, perhaps to provide an inspiration for other “senior” adults who still fancy themselves to have a lot of activity left in them.

Secondarily, I also intend this blog to be a growing information resource, containing information on places I’ve been or to which I want to go, as well as what equipment and routines I’ve found useful to plan, prepare and execute and then communicate and re-live these adventures.

The above image is of me at Scotland's Loch Lomond in 2019.  That adventure is chronicled here: England-and-Scotland.