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October 22, 2004

How far do you think we can get without paying?


After 3 weeks of hard Spankin' we catch a train to Derby to hire a car with my cuz Cita, to do a quick tour of the U.K, not realising that we hard barely enough money to drive the thing, let alone eat and sleep as well (reality bites). Despite the fact that we were broke we managed to see heaps and have a lot of laughs (most of them cheap).

First stop, the Birmingham Chocolate Factory where we gorge ourselves silly while learning the history of chocolate (Cadbury was a Quaker), before heading to Manchester to meet up some friends (of friends). After another boozy night (we're not as bad as it sounds honest) we head towards the Lakes District, one of the most scenic areas in England and the source of inspiration for Wordsworth and Beatrice Potter. We spend a day driving around soaking up gorgeous scenery (and the rain) that this area has to offer, passing Castlerigg, our first Stone Circle on the way. The ancient mystery and majesty of the pre-historic monument is lost on the girls who head back to the car complaining of the cold and cow poo (philistines). The next morning we begin the journey north to Scotland stopping at Carlisle Castle, for centuries the last defence against the marauding Scots. The Castle itself is not that photogenic having a rather functional feel to it, but it is loaded with history. Carlisle was "home" to Mary Queens of Scots for a brief period (she was imprisoned there), as well as being the setting for numerous memorable battles including the Jacobite rebellion led by Bonnie Prince Charles and quashed by Oliver Cromwell. We head for Edinburgh (city of fashion), find ourselves a place to stay and have our first group discussion of the trip. We're broke (we hadn't realised till now). Because Asia was so cheap we've fallen out of the budgeting habit and in a country that costs $30AUD a night each to sleep in the cheapest hostel, that can be an expensive mistake. We flirt with the idea of calling the trip off but since we've paid up front for the car for 2 1/2 weeks we decided to press on with a new budget that is barely enough for the "slumpy bunk and sandwichs in the car" experience. Now begins the "lets see how far we can get without paying" tour, for the next 3 or 4 days we drive around Scotland, parking up near a castle and walking around till someone asks us to pay. We also find another inexpensive source of fun, asking for directions (ya joost teak a lift at the great beg rooondaboot, ya caana muss ut), which considering that we get lost on average at least twice a day was quite lucky. Our trip takes us from Edinburgh to Stirling where we stay in an old church next to an old jail (oh look, a graveyard under our window). We wander around Stirling the next morning into the old graveyard (complete with scary old tombs) and are given a free tour of The Church of Holy Rood (nice windows) where James VI of Scotland (Later James I of Britain), son of Mary Queen of Scots was crowned. We do the tight-ass tour of Stirling Castle and decide not to go into the William Wallace memorial (where you can see his mighty broadsword *titter titter*). Aberdeen is next, (via a distillery stop, mmmm free 12 year old single malt) the greyest town in the world. In the morning we go to a nice little petting zoo and go awww at the cute widdle bunnies, before heading around the coast to Carbisdale Castle north of Inverness.


By now we've seen the outside of about 6 or 7 castles (all ruined by the rampaging Oliver Cromwell) but this is our first chance to stay in one..... and it has slumpy bunks so we can afford to stay. Hooray! The Castle was bequeathed to the Scottish Youth Hostel Association by the last private owner and has been receiving smelly young men and women even since. It has an amazing collection of art and is dead spooky (till we hear kids playing table tennis and laughing that is). We wander around the castle humming the theme from "Phantom of the Opera" and giggling, but no-one is that keen on being in the rooms by themselves and when I walk into the deserted downstairs kitchen the exhaust fan comes on by itself scaring the out of me. Emily manages to catch a ghost on camera (see the shadow in the corner?), but we all sleep fine and wake in the morning for Cita's Birthday. I ask what she wants to do today, she replies she's not fussed as long as we're not in the car all day. We're not far for the top of Scotland and I suggest a quick drive to the North and around the West coast, taking in scenery that's described by the Lonely Planet as "breathtaking". They were right, unfortunately after half an hour it starts bucketing down and we may as well be anywhere because we can't see more than 10 feet. Another consequence of the heavy rain is that it forces me to drive very slowly meaning (you guessed it) we're in the car all day. We finish the day at Inverness and meet a guy who's walking from Lands End to John o Groats (one end of Britain to the other) for charity (and cause he didn't feel like getting a summer job). He's been camping out for 3 months (the poor crazy fool) and we promise to point and laugh if we see him on the road walking in the rain in the morning. The next day we drive half the length of Scotland, pass Loch Ness (hello nessie) and some of the most scenic parts of Scotland (in the pouring rain of course) to catch the ferry to Ireland at 5:30 the next morning. We had seen Scotland but we were starting to get tired of sitting in the car all day eating sandwiches and laughing at funny place names (Cockermouth *snicker snicker*). Well it's not like we could afford expensive laughs.

Posted by Zach & Emily on October 22, 2004 09:42 PM
Category: The U.K
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