Manchester is the starting point and also the last leg of the Northern UK (or Scotland) trip. We were fortunate to have sunny skies for this last leg, making the photos all look much better. As this was my first time being in Manchester, I found it to be a rather vibrant city (with lots of young folks and diverse nationalities). I found Trafford Centre to be a nice place for shopping as well. It didn't seem like there was an incoming recession, and everyone was out and about shopping and having fun!
Manchester also had its own out-and-proud Gay Village, and it was literally named "GAY VILLAGE" on the map, with signs all pointing to this small precinct. It's refreshing to see a city where diversity was truly celebrated.
Made a quick stop at Bradford and Huddersfield enroute towards Manchester (from Leeds). I was particularly impressed by the architecture of Huddersfield Train Station.
Designed by the architect James Pigott Pritchett and opened in 1850, Huddersfield station is near the town centre and the cultural hub of St George's Square, with the nearby retail centres, restaurants and Victorian architecture all within easy reach.
A Grade I-listed building, the station underwent a £1 million refurbishment in 2009, and as a result, it won the Europa Nostra, an award for outstanding European Architecture. Huddersfield was also one of poet John Betjeman's favourite early railway stations.
From Loch Ness, we arrived at Inverness and unfortunately, we had only one day to spend in this city. Interestingly, one of the key highlights was to go to the various grocery stores and supermarkets and marvel at the affordability of vegetables, salads, meats, eggs, milk, cheese, beer, cider, wine, toiletries... almost everything! I like to alternate between dining out and buying back food (either to cook or ordering takeaway to eat-in), and for Inverness, we found a large Aldi right opposite where we were staying. Hence the evening was microwaved food, cider and Disney+.
For the following day, we drove around Inverness and decided to take a walk around Ness Island. Because the weather was just right (ample sunshine + cool breeze), it turned out to be a nice stroll. Many people were also out and about, taking advantage of the sunshine, and there were many dogs running around and even going into the water around the small island.
From Inverness, it would be a drive along the northern coast, passing Nairn, Forres, Elgin and more, and making quick stops along the way. Elgin Cathedral was one of them. Due to the nature of the roads in this region, I couldn't drive at a higher speed, and by the time we reached Bow Fiddle Rock at Portknockie, we decided to drive straight towards Aberdeen instead to save some time. I was amazed by Bow Fiddle Rock though, which was this impressive sea arch resembling the tip of a fiddle bow.
From Carlisle, we made a detour to visit the Robert Burns House at Dumfries. Robert Burns wrote many poems and songs in his lifetime; with some of the famous ones being "Tam o'Shanter", but the song that everyone should know would be Auld Lang Syne. Unfortunately, we arrived too early and the house was not open. We loitered around a little bit and because it was getting chilly, we decided to continue onwards.
Since we were at Dumfries, we decided to stop by Dumfries House. The Dumfries House was currently maintained as part of the Prince's Foundation, and occupies over 2000 acres of land. We walked around the main house and the lovely garden. The weather was great and there wasn't really many people around, which certainly help to add points to my enjoying the walk around the area.
From Dumfries, we made a few other short stops, such as Cumnock, the coastal town of Ayr, Prestwick, Troon and Irvine before heading towards Glasgow in the late afternoon. The weather was turning rainy, so we quickly checked into our accommodation and settled down for the evening, since we had another few more days to explore Glasgow. I've been to Edinburgh before, and this was my first time to Glasgow. While the weather wasn't really kind during my stay in Glasgow, I do like Glasgow and find it a city that I would like to explore further. There were many interesting precincts to explore, and oh boy, there was so many large murals to see~
From Glasgow, we originally wanted to drive straight up to Inverness and move back southwards to Loch Ness, but our car host told us that it would be cool to drive towards Glencoe to see the scenery, landscape as well as to go to the "Skyfall Road". While this wasn't something I was planning to do, it sounded like a mini adventure. Also, after doing some map-plotting, it seemed that it was a more direct route towards Loch Ness via Glencoe. It turned out to be a right choice, as the drive in the Glencoe area was really nice. Because we drove up gradually into higher altitudes, we saw a change in the landscape. It kinda reminded me of a greener version of Iceland (expansive landscapes with no trees in sight). This ended up being the most picturesque drive for the entire trip.
On the other hand, Loch Ness was nothing to shout about. There were several lochs, with Ness being the most famous one. And nope, I didn't see any sea creatures (lol).
Thought I'll do a journal about my Scotland trip (July to Aug 2022 period). It takes time to organise the photos and write about the trip, so I will do it a bit at a time (and time's so hard to find as always). So we arrived at Manchester, got the car and then quickly got on our way. First quick stop was Preston. As the weather wasn't fantastic, we got out of the car and took a quick sweep of the city centre area centered around the Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library before driving off towards Carlisle.
Along the way, we made a visit to Lancaster Castle, which was a free-entry medieval castle in Lancaster, Lancashire. Again, the weather wasn't great, but it didn't stop a wedding couple and their entourage from celebrating and taking photos at the castle. In fact, during the 18th and 19th centuries, until the Bankruptcy Act of 1866, Lancaster Castle housed between 300 and 400 people in the debtors' prison at any one time. Apparently the prisoners had their last meal at the Three Mariners pub before heading towards the castle, so we decided to have our lunch there as well.
Another quick stop along the way was Brougham Castle. Founded in the early 13th century, it was used as a formidable barrier against the Scots invaders and welcome Edward I in 1300. Unfortunately, part of it is in ruins.
The first rest stop for the trip would be Carlisle. We walked around Carlisle and found ourselves in Carlisle Cathedral. Carlisle Cathedral is the second smallest of England's ancient cathedrals and has a long and turbulent history. It started life as a Norman Priory Church in 1122, becoming a cathedral in 1133. When we visited, there was music playing in the cathedral (tubular bells?) and was welcoming indeed.
The city of Carlisle is not too big and walkable by foot, and everything closed early by about 6pm. The early history of Carlisle is marked by its status as a Roman settlement, established to serve the forts on Hadrian's Wall. Carlisle Castle was built in 1092 by William Rufus, which explained the name of the Wetherspoons that we visited, aptly named "William Rufus" lol!