Since the Overland Event was still a few of days away we decided to explore the area on the west side of London. Driving east from the Blue Hole across the scenic Coed y Brenin Forest Park, still in Wales, we happened upon the old resort town of Dinas Mawddwy and the old historic Inn, The Red Lion-Y Llew Coch. Having to stop to check this place out and have a pint, we entered and were greeted by a couple of locals and had a great afternoon talking about the area and exploring the pub.
Continuing, we found a place to stay on Booking.com for an incredible discount, the Maesmawr Hall Hotel. What a find! The beautiful Inn with an English Tudor style was almost empty the night we stayed and just recovering from a wedding and a full house over the weekend. We stayed in the newer section and relaxed in the rare afternoon sunshine while sipping a beer in their beautiful gardens. Supper was a bit pricey and out of our range, so we ordered a bowl of soup and fixed something from our supplies. It included a full welsh breakfast and enough food to last us until supper.
The next morning, we headed back to the west coast to the Harlech Castle which is a medieval fortification, constructed atop a spur of rock close to the Irish Sea. Harlech Castle was built by Edward I during his invasion of Wales between 1282 and 1289. UNESCO considers Harlech to be one of “the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe”, and it is classed as a World Heritage site. After touring the site, we wandered to the back of the castle overlooking the Irish Sea and ate a lunch we brought of assorted meats, cheeses, crackers, and fruit, and of course a smuggled pint of ale.
We continued down the coast a came across a great camping location on a bluff overlooking the Sea. Dinner was at the local bowling alley complete with fireplace and free Wi-Fi. Making it back to camp we were treated to a great sunset while sipping more of the local cask ales.
Not wanting to missed Stonehenge this time, and with it already paid for from the National Trust pass, we headed south. After searching on AirBnB we found a neat place to stay, the Appletree Cottage. More about this later.
After finding the cottage we beelined to Stonehenge so we could check this place out before closing.
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, 2 miles (3 km) west of Amesbury and 8 miles (13 km) north of Salisbury. It consists of a ring of standing stones, with each standing stone around 13 ft. (4.1 metres) high, 6 ft. 11 in (2.1 metres) wide and weighing around 25 tons. The stones are set within earthworks in the middle of the densest complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds. Archaeologists believe it was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the first bluestones were raised between 2400 and 2200 BC, although they may have been at the site as early as 3000 BC.
Wandering around the stones you are in a constant state of awe that this site was built for a reason, some 4500 years ago. Why? Why here? Why so precise? How did they have the knowledge? These questions all lead to other unanswered questions. On the far side of the circle we sit and look at the burial sited scattered around the hills, the sandstone entrance and the two-mile avenue leading from the river to the entrance.
After leaving Stonehenge we headed back to the place we would be staying for the next couple of nights, the Appletree Cottage. Our host for our stay was Jo, a friendly woman living in a 400-year-old thatched cottage. Our upstairs room was very comfortable with a HOBBIT sized door, about 4 feet high. Amazingly enough I only hit my head on the threshold once in two days. Several years ago, this house was given away through a lottery with the Daily Mail competition.
After a couple of days relaxing and catching up we headed over to Oxford and the Overland Event. What an enjoyable time we had over the next three days at this event hosted by ‘Overland Magazine.’ The venue was top notch but small enough to give you the feeling of total involvement with all the top motorcycle travelers in attendance. We were there with our book, “Two Up with a Pup” and also presenting on riding New Zealand. Most of the people in attendance camped on site and the facilities were convenient and clean. The onsite pub served a fantastic selection of beers and there was also a broad choice of on-site food vendors. Thanks Paddy Tyson for putting on this major event.
Leaving Sunday afternoon, we stopped by the ACE Café in London for a burger and a pint, something you just must do. A big thank-you to the bobbies of London for giving me a parking ticket for trying to park off the street, a side road, like everyone else was doing.
With the few days remaining of our stay, we circled to the south of London and to the town of Battle, and the site of a battle in 1066 that decided the fate of England. On this site the Normans and the Saxons, led by King Harold of England and William the Conqueror (William of Norman) clashed at the Battle of Hastings. The Battle Abbey was built in 1071 at the request of William to atone for the carnage and placed ‘on the very spot’ where Harold had been killed. The battlefield has full size carvings of some of the solders from the battle.
Running late we made reservations through AirBnB for a place on the southern shore in Eastbourne, only to find out when we arrived that the host was away in London for a soccer game and wasn’t returning until after midnight. Humm, that is not going to work. We did end up finding another place, just was over our budget.
The next day we headed over to Canterbury for another walk around town, a visit to the cathedral and a Chocolate Strawberry Crape and cappuccino from the Chocolate Café.
We also found an interesting family tree of Jesus.
The day before flying out we were invited to stay with Derek Mansfield, adventure traveler and author (Notes From the Road), whom we had the privilege of meeting at the Overland Event. He had graciously invited us to stay with him and his wonderful wife, Gabriel. We had a wonderful evening and were treated to a delicious meal at a local seafood restaurant, along with a tour of their town. Thanks guys, we had a brilliant time.
Time to fly back and collect our pup from the wonderful friend that took such loving care of her while we were off. Thanks, Carolann!