Scotland is a hard country to leave, but leave we must if we are to see everything we want to over coming weeks so we are galloping across that beautiful country on our way to Wales, with short stops at Glasgow, Manchester and Chester. We’ll travel by train through three different countries today so it seems a good place to talk about train travel in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Train travel here can be summed up in three points:
➡️ You can go by train pretty much everywhere you want to in the UK and Ireland, and in most cases you won’t have to wait much longer than 45 minutes for the next train.
➡️ Everyplace you want to go is about three hours away – usually less and occasionally more.
➡️ Paying as you go – especially on a seniors discount card – is less expensive and allows more flexibility than buying a rail pass, which is often limited to a certain number of trips or consecutive days of travel.
I’m mad about trains anyway, but I cannot think of a better way to see a place and it was certainly easy here to get to even the tiniest village. Train travel, especially with such frequent scheduled stops, also makes it easy to break up a trip with short stops along the way.
This trip included a train change at Glasgow – the perfect opportunity to ‘hop off’ and get a look at the city before moving on. Like most major cities, Glasgow developed along a natural shipping route, in this case the beautiful River Clyde. My brief walkabout of the neighborhood around the train station in no way does justice to Scotland’s largest city, but it gave me a taste and a desire to come back for a longer visit.
There are allegedly 72 bridges across the Clyde. The delightful South Portland Street Suspension Bridge is a favorite with Glaswegians. The arched bridge just upstream is the Victoria Bridge, named for Queen Victoria and one of the oldest bridges still in use.
I was immediately struck by the gorgeous and elaborate architecture of many of the buildings on Glasgow’s trendy Buchanan Street.
I was also struck by the significant amount of construction going on in the busy center of the city. Many of the buildings and open plazas that I would have liked to photograph were walled off with hoarding or obstructed with equipment and materials. It might also explain the strange headgear on this statue in front of Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art.
There was a very brief stop in the great city of Manchester en route to Wales but only to have a too-quick visit with friends, and with not enough time to see the city. Not that a city grand enough to have not one, but two major league football teams isn’t appealing. This one will just have to wait for another trip – perhaps with my football crazy grandson.
We had heard much about Chester from other travelers so we decided to ‘hop off’ here with just enough time to ‘hop on’ a tour bus for a one hour primer on the history of this small, walled city. Chester’s claim to fame, in addition to having the most complete and intact city walls in Britain, is it’s black and white architecture. Most of the Victorian-era, elaborate and distinctive Tudor-style buildings are listed to preserve the city’s unique attraction.
Chester sits along the River Dee, nudged right up against Wales, and from time to time there have been bad feelings between the Cestrians and the Welsh just across the way. When the Chester town hall was built in 1869 it was topped with a decorative clock but the clock face on the west side – facing toward Wales – was left with no hands and remains so to this day. I guess that’ll really keep them in their place.
And then we are in Wales. We can tell by the seemingly unpronounceable place names on the signs of the stations we pass. Apparently you can spell things any way you want to in Wales and in most cases the spelling has little to do with how you actually say the word. But no matter how you spell it, Wales is a wild and beautiful place. We will eventually catch the ferry from Holyhead, Wales to Dublin, Ireland but for now we will linger near Holyhead at Trearddurr Bay. It’s pronounced ‘Tre-der’ which reinforced my initial impression that most letters in the Welsh language are redundant and are only put there to identify the word as distinctively Welsh.
We had a restful day and a half here walking the peaceful beach and lush green hills around Trearddurr, chatting up the locals and losing miserably at Trivia Night at the local pub.
Holyhead is the jumping off point for most ferry traffic to Ireland. There is another route from South Wales that we’ll take on our return journey. Holyhead Mountain is the tallest mountain in Wales and the site of a Roman settlement dating back to 500 BC. The imposing Admiralty Arch was built in 1822 to commemorate a visit by King George IV. Later it marked the terminus of the highway into the Port of Holyhead. Today it looks oddly like it’s been abandoned in the middle of a parking lot.
This is our last sight of Wales for awhile. We’ll be back for more of this wonderful country but for now we are off to the Green Isle and the Guinness ‘museum’ (really!) in Dublin. Stay tuned!