We designed this holiday to see specific things. Lots of what we wanted to do was obscure, off the beaten track, less touristy. The only way fo adventures like find the source of the River Tees or get to the Heights of Abraham is to have a car. We have driven a long way and there is more to come.
With a car comes the concern of hotels. We remembered to ask,
“Does the accomodation include parking?” for every stop.
We did not ask,
“How easy is it to get to this hotel in a car?”
Now we know better.
Stirling hotel we chose in a business park, away from the city centre. It worked really well.
Inverness was similar but there were a couple of nasty roundabouts to learn. Today we long for the nasty roundabouts of Inverness.
Penrith was a guest house and we had street parking which worked fine. Penrith proved the perfect place for what we wanted to do in our little Skoda.
Then it got tough.
Getting to the hotel in Derby was nasty. The day of arrival it literally took us three attempts to get off the motorway at the right exit and find the hotel. 20 minutes extra at the end of a 3 hour drive.
The second time was in a rain storm the like of which I still don't believe. Again it was three attempts to get to a bed for the night. After a few more attempts and one of my long evening walks to suss out all the corners, we did eventually get there in one run.
That was after the tram museum, perhaps poor little Skoda felt threatened with redundancy.
London was everything we expected it to be. Not easy but we were prepared. Only one wrong turn which sent us up the drive of a very imposing residence. I think we escaped OK.
Then we went to Wales.
Newport is a tiny town next to Cardiff. Few roundabouts, it ought to be easy.
Aghhh take me back to Derby!
South Wales is under a massive restructure of its roads. We were in it.
Many years ago they only needed a cross road. Two tracks meet, they cross each other. You know everyone so you wave and your mates pass.
Soon things grow and probably in the 40s they need better traffic management. Introducing the roundabout. Everyone slows down, everyone takes stock and the traffic flows again. Everyone is happy.
I am guessing the by the 60s and 70s traffic is more crazy so traffic lights are needed at the roundabouts. No one knows anyone any more. No one waves any more. But it settles down as a way to pass each other.
For the next years motorways arrive. ‘A’ roads get 2 lanes and more. Cars get faster and there are more of them. Poor old South Wales is clogged again.
Lets put cross roads in the middle of the roundabouts.
This is how we entered Newport.
There is a roundabout with 6 exits. They are creating a new road through the middle of the roundabout. Some of it is working some of it not. Maybe you go through the middle, maybe not. We tried both and still got lost. I am sure Siri had her hair change colour with the modification to her expectations. We drove 20 miles extra to get to our hotel. And the hotel is still in a business park miles from town.
Newport went to the top of the list of scary things.
Cardiff was closed. Just closed. There was minimal traffic. Seemed like no one was driving there. Then we discovered why. There is a big competition for search and rescue teams from across Europe. Access to anything Cardiff was just too hard.
So we left.
This looked like the perfect hotel. Close by all the things we wanted to do.
What could possibly go wrong?
On the third attempt to access the hotel Julie said,
“Can you just stop somewhere and let me figure this out?”
I could only answer,
“err - actually - no!”
I pulled into a tiny laneway. Surely I would be OK there. It was only one lane wide. There were cars all down one side. I stopped. Not 60 seconds before another car needed to use this narrow lane.
I backed up to make room. Driver smiled as I reversed into a driveway.
Aghhh it is a Police Access Road!
“DO NOT ENTER - THE BOOM WILL CLOSE - YOU WILL BE TRAPPED”
Wriggle past tiny spaces. Pull up on the foot path… Shattered… Shattered.
“Nothing looks like the map.”
So we try again. So slowly. Everyone in Bristol hating me for existing in their traffic.
Third try we found the problem.
The Hotel is renamed,
The Street is renamed,
The road we need to drive down is now a cycle path. But hotel guests can use it.
It is still a cycle track.
Bristol is at the top of the list.
So how do you do a British holiday the best way?
A tour bus is fine if you wanna see they things they wanna show you. They will get you in and out of hotels with no drama to you at all. And you will see the main stuff.
If you wanna see weird and obscure stuff and take advantage of happenstance as it occurs, you need a car.
Today we stumbled on the biggest castle in Wales. Never on the plan but it was amazing. Can’t do that on a tour bus.
Trains are great to get in and out of major centres. Just drag your bag to a nearby hotel.
I don't know the best solution.
If you are gonna drive, I think hotels in business parks are a good idea. Lots of easy parking. Good wifi included. Breakfast included. Then when you need city centre look to the local transport. Or just hit the highway and forget those big cities. Like I said three years back… much of UK is full. There is no room to move. But get out of the centres, it is amazing.
Few days here for the big Bristol features. Then back to the Welsh outback for the final destination.