A Warm Irish Welcome

September 22, 23, & 26, 2019 – Ireland

Written by Diana

We are back from our U.K. & Ireland adventure, but still catching up the blog.

Please note the dates.

September 22, 2019

My maternal grandfather was Howard O’Morrow. I have been able to trace this branch of my family tree to my 2nd Great Grandfather, Edward M. O’Morrow, who was born in Ireland in 1808. I’m not sure what town he was born in or what year he immigrated, but he died in Canada in 1880. Based on family stories and the fact that the years match up, I’m confident that he left Ireland due to the Potato Famine. Blight devastated the potato crop and during the seven years between September 1845 – 1852, one million people died, and one million people were forced to leave. 100,000 tenant farmers were exiled to Canada in 1847 alone. When we left Northern Ireland and drove to the Republic of Ireland, our first stop was Strokestown Park & The National Famine Museum.

This was the home of Denis Mahon, the first landlord to be assassinated during the height of the Great Famine of Ireland in 1840’s. The tenants and their families were starving and delivered this letter to him, but resorted to violence when their letter received no results.

The landowners were responsible for taking care of the starving tenants. They determined it was cheaper to assist in their emigration, rather than pay for their upkeep in the workhouse. The ships they provided were so crowded with already weak passengers, that the mortality rate was often as high as 40%. There is a memorial on Grosse Ile in Quebec, Canada to the 5,000 Irish who did not survive the voyage and are interred in mass graves on the island. The home of Denis Mahon, called Strokestown Park was musty and not well preserved. The National Famine Museum, on the same property, was well done. It took a sad, complicated tragedy, and presented it in a balanced and understandable way.

Edward M.’s son, Edward Dean O’Morrow (my Great Grandfather), was born in Canada in 1862, immigrated to the thumb area of Michigan as a young man in 1881, was a dairy farmer, and died there in 1944. The fact they were able to own their own land through homesteading and their own hard work, certainly shows they were successful in their new country. What pride they must have had in owning their own land and farm, when generations before them were at the mercy of the landowners as tenant farmers in Ireland.

September 23, 2019

Our second day in Ireland was an exciting one. It seemed like we fit three days worth of fun into one. The first thing we did was visit the Barack Obama Plaza. (If this makes you groan, just chalk it up to us needing diesel.😀) When Barack was President, researchers from Ireland determined that he had Irish heritage on his mom’s side. They decided to name a service plaza near his ancestral home after him. Michelle and Barack came in 2011 to the tiny village of Moneygall, where they met his closest living Irish relative. On the second floor of the plaza, there is a very nice museum that celebrates the many U.S. Presidents that have Irish roots.

Imagine how thrilled we were that Michelle and Barack O’Bama were back for a visit!

Next we visited the nearby town of Toomevara. Before computers and ancestry.com, one of my distant relatives researched the O’Morrow family. He put in a lot of effort, traveling, and even taking classes in Irish history. He still was unable to find much information. He determined that our Irish ancestors were not landowners. He also shared that his research showed that the O’Morrow name went back to either O’Mara, Mara, O’Meara, or Meara. Since Toomevara means “Tomb of the O’Mearas” we felt that this was a good place to start. Jim had a feeling that we should go to St. Joseph’s Parish and check out the cemetery. We were able to find O’Meara and Ryan (Edward M.’s wife’s maiden name), but they were too recent as we were looking for graves of their possible parents which would have been from the early to mid 1800’s.

We decided to go inside and check out the church, hoping the rain would let up some. A couple came in the vestibule and were putting out new bulletins, so I figured they were local. I asked if they knew how old the graves were in the cemetery and the man became very excited when he heard we were from America. He has a sister in California and he insisted that he help us. He wanted us to get in his car, so he could take us to the people in town that know about its history. We thanked him, but declined his offer. He said we could walk then and insisted we come with him. He was so determined to help us, that we took off for what we thought was to be a short walk with him. First we went to the post office, because the postmaster knows a lot of the area history. The post office was closed for lunch. So we continued on in the rain and wind several more blocks to the priest’s house who also knows the history of the parish. Unfortunately, the priest was not at home. Neither did he answer when our new friend called him on the phone. Next stop, back across the road, and down a ways to the gas station. Our friend William was greeted by the locals as we walked up in the rain and wind. While Jim and I were wearing our raincoats, he led this whole adventure in his sweater! Yes, we looked out of place.

William asked the young woman behind the counter if her parents were there. She called her father on the phone, and he came to the store to help us. We were overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity. Her father Richie suggested we needed to go to Nenagh Heritage Centre and see Nora who is the genealogist. Richie said once I got the details from Nora, to come back to him and he would find the graves for me! Unfortunately, the museum was closed that day. When we got back in the motor home I broke down and cried. I couldn’t believe how these people had gone out of their way to make us crazy Americans feel so welcome.

We topped off the day with a visit to the Cliffs of Moher. The weather cooperated so we could get in a short hike. Beautiful!

September 26, 2019

On our last day in Ireland we went to the Nenagh Heritage Centre to speak with Nora. After some initial confusion, Nora was able to explain that (O)Morrow and O’Meara/Mara are two different surnames. Morrow is Protestant (which fits with my heritage) and O’Meara/Mara is Catholic. Morrow is now more common in Ulster than in England where it originated. This is important information and will help my further research.

Next up, we meet up with some good friends who are off on an adventure of their own! We spent a fabulous day with them exploring a distillery and a ticket office. That will round out our time in Ireland before we return to England. Be sure to tune in for that post. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Northern Ireland’s Titans and Giants

September 20 & 21, 2019 – Northern Ireland

Written by Jim

When planning this trip, one place was a bit of a question mark in our minds: Northern Ireland. There were a couple of positives to crossing from Scotland to Belfast. One was the 2 hour ferry ride being a LOT cheaper than the 8 hour ride from Liverpool to Dublin. The other was that Northern Ireland is part of the UK, so there would not be an international border crossing at the port. The downside (in our minds) is the stigma that Northern Ireland carries from its past troubles. Just hearing the name Belfast conjured up past images of a war-torn country we had so often heard about on the evening news back home. Truth be told, there is still an underlying uneasiness in that part of the UK. But we also found the place filled with helpful and generous people, along with some beautiful landscapes. And the roads were some of the best we encountered our entire trip.

Our ferry service across from Cairnryan, Scotland to Belfast was Stena Lines. Once we drove our Scout onboard, we climbed the stairs to the Hygee recliner lounge we had booked ahead of time. At £6 a seat, it was a tremendous bargain.

That became even more evident when we left the lounges quiet surroundings for the main passenger area to use the restroom. The place was a zoo!

Upon our arrival in Belfast, we looped around the harbor to a place that has intrigued me since I was a kid: the Harland & Wolfe Shipyard, which is the birthplace of the Titanic.

Yes, they still are in business after all these years.

In the early 1900’s, a trio of large luxury liners were built by them for the White Star Line; the Olympic, Titanic and Britannic. Just ahead of where those ships were assembled. , a large, glistening museum now welcomes visitors. Having seen the artifact exhibit a number of years ago in Florida, my interest wasn’t in the museum…

…but rather to be able to stand within the great footprint of the ship. They have it laid out in the plaza from bow…

…to stern. They have the layouts for both the Titanic and the Olympic, which were built right next to each other.

They even detail where the ship’s funnels were. The museum sits in the background in this photo. What an amazing experience to be able to stand where the legendary liner was constructed.

The next day, we headed north to the town of Bushmills. Our first stop was Bushmills Distillery to sample their products.

The pours were huge! Unfortunately, we didn’t care for their whiskey, so we ended up not finishing the flights. I guess if we liked them all, it would be hard to pick a favorite! We may have liked their offerings better, if we would have chosen a more expensive tasting. We will remember this in the future.

We then parked the motorhome in a Park and Ride lot and took a bus to Giant’s Causeway.

This geological feature along the coast is reminiscent of the columns of Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. With it being a weekend and a beautiful day, it was packed with tourists. There is a mythological legend about how it was created, which details that it was created by a giant and that it once led to Scotland. The feature does indeed follow a fault under the sea all the way to the Scottish Isle of Staffa.

The columns rose up quite a ways along the shore, mostly in a hexagonal pattern.

It was a gorgeous day to spend along the Irish coast!

Next up, we cross the border and head to the Republic of Ireland in search of Diana’s maternal grandfather’s roots. That was quite a journey with some very helpful people joining in along the way. We even met up with another American with Irish roots who all of you will recognize. Be sure to check that one out in our next post. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Last Days in Scotland

September 18-20, 2019 – Southwest Scotland

Written by Jim

After leaving the Isle of Skye, we had a few other places we wanted to see before catching our ferry to Ireland. Our route had us going through some beautiful territory to the west of Fort William, our stop the first night. After fueling up and getting groceries, we went to check out Neptune’s Staircase.

That is a series of locks along the Caledonian Canal; a cross-country system of lakes and rivers that connects both coasts.

While we were there, we watched a boat head through. The captain piloted it through while his first mate walked the bow line along. It’s a time-lapse video, so the older gentleman with the cane moves like a teenager. 🙂

After that, we set up camp and went to dinner at a local pub.

The path from the campground to the eating establishment bordered the land where the movie Braveheart was filmed. To the left, shrouded in the clouds, is Ben Nevis…the highest peak in the United Kingdom.

The next morning, we pointed our Scout on a circuitous southward course towards Stirling.

The scenery only got better as we rolled along.

Every corner brought another “Wow!”

After visiting several of Diana’s genealogy sites detailed in her post MacGregor Despite Them, Shall Flourish Forever!, we found ourselves in Stirling. Our destination here was The Kelpies, the largest equestrian sculpture in the world.

What is a kelpie? It is a mythical Scottish water creature that can take on many forms, but is usually a horse. In a sense, the Loch Ness monster could be considered a kelpie. Legend has it that they possess great power and can lure a person to their death. These were very cool stainless steel renderings of those fabled beasts.

On our last stop of the day, we found a very different sort of canal lock system.

This is called the Falkirk Wheel. See the long canal boat at the top? It inches its way to the end of the elevated waterway where a partition rises up at each end. At the same time, a canal boat does the same thing at the bottom of the wheel. Once they are both in…

…they switch positions! Once they are flipped around…

…the gates are opened and away they go.

Looks like a fun way to go back and forth across Scotland! We really enjoyed seeing this beautiful land of many of Diana’s ancestors. Next up, we head across the Irish Sea to Belfast, Northern Ireland to explore the footprints of giants and titans. You won’t want to miss that one! Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Isle of Skye, Scotland

September 16 – 18, 2019

Written by Diana

My maternal grandfather’s mother was born Hughena McLeod. I have been able to trace this branch of my family tree back to my 5th great-grandfather, Alexander II MacLeod, who was born in 1689 on the Isle of Skye.

We visited the Dunvegan Castle and Gardens, which is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland. It is the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod (pronounced McCloud) for 800 years. We had heard how beautiful the Isle of Skye was, but it was a bonus when we learned that we could visit the MacLeod Castle. This was one of the highlights of our trip.

Inside there are lots of artifacts and displays to explain the history of Clan MacLeod. We enjoyed touring the castle, including this beautiful dining room.

The gardens were beautiful as well and even included this waterfall.

This was the sunset out the front window of our motorhome that evening.

The next morning we went to the Skye and Lochlash Archive Centre to learn more about my family history.

Two genealogists researched my ancestors, but weren’t able to find additional information. They thought it was good that I had already gotten so far back. They were able to fill in more about how my ancestors may have lived, and what may have led them to immigrate to Canada.

Of course my ancestors didn’t live in the castle. This is an example of the homes that were common over 100 years ago. They would gather drift wood to use for the roof. The agricultural system of Skye is crofting. Tenet farmers work land that is owned by other landlords, including the government. After the Highland Clans were defeated at Culloden in 1746, the government of Great Britain saw to it that all who fought for the Jacobite cause were punished. One result was that the rents were drastically raised for the crofters, which led to them being evicted. Many landowners began renting to sheep farmers instead. This led many crofters to emmigrate looking for a better life. Others stayed and have continued this life style. Laws have changed to protect the crofters and assure they are given fair treatment.

In the afternoon we drove the beautiful Trotternish Peninsula Loop.

We got out and enjoyed several walks just taking in this scenery.

It was truly breathtaking, and we were sad when we had to leave this beautiful island.

Next up, we head through some spectacular scenery to see some very unique Scottish sites. You will want to be sure to check that out. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Inverness and Loch Ness, Scotland

September 15, 2019 – Scottish Highlands

Written by Jim

Whenever I hear the name Inverness, I think of the sleepy little town in Florida, not far from our friends Rod and Mary’s house. The name actually comes from the Scottish Gaelic name Inbhir Nis, which means “mouth of the River Ness”. That location is not in Florida, but rather in Scotland…at the northeast end of Loch Ness. After moving north from Pitlochry, we camped above Inverness to visit the Culloden Battlefield.

Culloden was the last battle of the Jacobite Rising. The rising…or what Americans would call an uprising or movement…started in 1745 when Bonnie Prince Charles tried to regain the British throne for his father. It ended in a bloody skirmish on April 16, 1746 at Culloden.

The modern museum at the battlefield is well done in that it looks at the uprising from both the British government’s side and the Jacobite’s position. Being students of American history, it was a bit over our heads. But it is a huge deal to those who are interested in British and Scottish history.

One thing we found fascinating was a demonstration on how to put on a kilt. Our first thought was ‘just how hard can it be to put on a skirt?’ It turns out that it is quite an involved process!

The gentleman in the black agreed to be the volunteer who would wear it. The man on the right was the instructor. They folded pleats along the tartans until…

…most of it was pleated. They slid a belt halfway under the fabric.

The volunteer then laid on the fabric. It was wrapped over him and the belt was tightened.

When he got up, he had a double layer of kilt!

They then pulled the outer layer up over his shoulder and pinned it, put a hat, sword and shield on him and he was ready for battle!

After we finished up at Culloden, we headed down along the northern side of Loch Ness to see if we could find Nessie….the elusive Loch Ness Monster.

This 1934 photograph seems to show the mythical creature in the loch. It was later proven to be a hoax. I was determined to find Nessie and prove that she really does exist.

We looked off to the southwest, looking for a sign of the legendary creature. Nothing.

Looking back towards Inverness, we continued our search….still nothing.

Turning back to the southwest…wait….what was that????

There she is! Wow. Finally proof that she really does exist.

With all that excitement, we were toast. We set up camp near the midpoint of Loch Ness and called it a day. 🙂

Next up, we head to the Isle of Skye to discover another branch of Diana’s family. She will detail that beautiful area of Scotland and her ancestor’s role in its past. You won’t want to miss that one. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

MacGregor Despite Them, Shall Flourish Forever!

September 13-19, 2019 – Scotland

Written by Diana

My maternal great-grandmother was born a McGregor. That meant little to me, until I started researching my genealogy a year ago. Her father, William McGregor, was born in Scotland and immigrated with his parents to New York, NY in 1829 at 3 years old. Later they immigrated to Canada, and eventually William immigrated to the U.S. with his wife. I have been able to trace this family line back to my 5th great-grand father who was born in Scotland about 1745. The reason I am not able to go beyond this may be that the MacGregor name was banned for almost 200 years! Yes, you heard right, outlawed.

Clan Gregor is one of the oldest clans in Scotland. They are descended from Kenneth MacAlpin, the king who united Scotland back in the 13th century. Thus their motto was: Royal is my race. The MacGregors lost much of their land through the years for various reasons. Eventually they were set up to lose a battle with another clan, but won even though they were very outnumbered. This upset folks as they said they didn’t fight fair, so they became victims of proscription. From 1603-1775 MacGregors could not use the MacGregor name, were legally hunted down, tortured and/or beheaded. They could not own land, weapons, or even a knife. They were referred to as “Children of the Mist” because they escaped to the highlands to avoid capture. Many changed their names. As you can imagine, learning this story was very upsetting to me.

The good news is that after the punishment of proscription was lifted in 1775, many families went back to using their MacGregor name and have been successful both in Scotland as well as numerous countries around the world. So the Clan MacGregor motto is now, “MacGregor despite them, shall flourish forever!” We visited several sites while exploring Scotland that relate to my proud MacGregor heritage.

September 13, 2019

While enjoying the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, we made it a point to find the Heart of Midlothian Mosaic. This is the site of the former jail where the MacGregor chief was quartered then hung, and 30 warriors were hung in the spring of 1604. This was all done as the public gathered to view the spectacle. Scots spit on it. As we were approaching a tour guide was explaining the tradition to his group. I spit on it with gusto and he commented, “And there you have it.” I felt it was the least I could do to express my disgust at the treatment my ancestors received.

September 14, 2019

We visited Castle Menzies because they have been gracious enough to provide a room for the Clan Gregor Museum. It was wonderful to see the displays and to learn more about the history of the clan. I really appreciated the staff answering my many questions and helping me to understand more about my family tree. My 5th great-grandfather was married to Janet Fleming. She said that the name Fleming was used for Flemish weavers that were brought to the area to weave the sheep wool.

I was very excited, as you can see! So much planning, and we were finally here.

After leaving the castle we headed to the Pitlochry Highland Games. This has been an annual event since 1852. It was great fun! Many events were taking place at the same time; including races, bag pipes, Scottish dancers, and other traditional Highland games. There were all levels of participants, from local school children to professionals. They even had a tent for international visitors were they treated us to a plate of goodies and a glass of wine. I enjoyed wearing my new hat and scarf, made with MacGregor tartan. Below a contestant is competing in the hammer throw.

September 19, 2019

We visited the Glenorchy Parish Church where there are historic MacGregor graves from 600 years ago. These stones of the leaders of Clan Gregor were once inside the church, but were long ago placed out in the weather. The Dalmally Stones Project is an effort to protect and restore these stones, but unfortunately it may soon be too late.

The Kilchurn Castle is castle ruins in MacGregor territory. MacGregors were caretakers here, and possibly built the castle. It later was given to another clan. We really enjoyed exploring the many levels of the castle and enjoying the view out to Loch Awe.

We made a somber visit to the Glen Fruin Memorial, site of the battle that led to the proscription of the MacGregor Clan. It serves as a modern memorial whose wording was agreed to by the families of both of the clans involved. Both sides suffered in this glen on Feb. 7, 1603.

Thank you to my third cousin Robert Fay, who I’ve gotten to know through ancestry.com, for providing this photo of our 2nd great grandfather William McGregor.

Note for my Halstead side: My father’s mother was Ethel Glass. Her mother was Ellen Swift, and her mother was Sarah Athere Narrin. The Narrin’s seem to go back to Scotland, but I haven’t nailed down the details yet. The original Glass family name also goes back to Scotland, but I haven’t been able to trace my Glass roots across the pond. I have Glass ancestors being born in the U.S. in 1755.

Next up, we continue our tour of the Scottish Highlands and its beautiful scenery. Be sure to stay tuned for that. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Edinburgh, Scotland

Friday, September 13, 2019 – Edinburgh, Scotland

After leaving the town of Bamburgh on Thursday, we pointed our Scout northward towards Scotland. Rolling across the Scottish border, we immediately noticed an improvement in the quality of the roads over those in England. Our destination for that night was Prestopans, just east of the City of Edinburgh. Our campground was conveniently located near the bus line into the city, which allowed us to leave the motorhome parked at our pitch on Friday.

The next morning, we made our way to the bus stop.

This is the two-way road we had to traverse to get to that point. When we planned the trip earlier this year, we were concerned about this narrow stretch after viewing it on Google Maps. It turned out to be a nice stroll, with only a few cars passing us while we made our way along. Like in York, they use immaculately clean double-decker buses.

Edinburgh (pronounced EDdin-buh-ruh) is Scotland’s second largest city and is its capital. It’s a combination of some very old buildings and plenty of new ones. Tower cranes dominate the skyline as the city continues to grow.

We disembarked the bus just below the Royal Mile at the Scott Monument. This is a memorial to the Scottish author, Sir Walter Scott. It was completed in 1844 and, despite needing a good cleaning, looks pretty good for its age!

Heading up towards Edinburgh Castle, we passed Princes Street Gardens.

Interestingly enough, this expanse of green lawn and trees was once a lake known as Nor Loch…or North Lake. It was a man-made medieval moat of sorts to act as a defense towards the north side of the old town. Problem was, sewage flowed downhill, so the lake became more of a stinking cesspool. It was eventually drained and cleaned up, making a lovely park that vegetation grows exceptionally well in. 😉

Once on the Royal Mile, we headed straight up the hill to the western end to see Edinburgh Castle.

This massive stone structure sits high on a hill that overlooks the entire city. It is a very defendable location, to say the least. There has been a castle on this perch since the 12th century, and it is where the Crown Jewels of Scotland are displayed. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed of them, or of the Stone of Scone. If you’ve never heard of the latter, it is what Scottish kings and queens used to be coronated upon. England’s King Edward I took it to Westminster Abbey after the 1296 Battle of Dunbar. Since then, the kings and queens of Great Britain have been coronated upon it. British Prime Minister John Major returned it to Scotland in 1996, with the agreement that it be returned to Westminster for use during future British coronations. It’s a big, rectangular slab of rock that fits in a compartment underneath the coronation chair. A very important piece of rock, indeed.

Not much else impressed us on the interior of the castle, as most of the displays were modern. The exterior had some excellent firepower displayed though.

This large cannon had the Scott Monument in its crosshairs. Some of the many tower cranes we spoke of earlier can be seen in the photo.

And check out this bemouth! This gun is known as Mons Meg, the world’s first weapon of mass destruction. The 20″ barrel can deliver a 386 pound cannonball a distance of over 2 miles. It was manufactured in the 1400’s.

From the castle, we headed down the Royal Mile towards St Giles Cathedral.

There were shops of all sorts lining the street. People from all over the world were out enjoying the nice weather.

St, Giles has a complicated history. It started out a Roman Catholic church, and was the center of the Scottish Reformation in the mid 1500’s. It was here that John Knox preached, and this became known as the birthplace of Presbyterianism. He was buried in the churchyard, which was destroyed in the mid 1600’s. The location of his grave is unknown.

The interior was surprisingly light and airy, unlike the dark exterior. There were times that this space was partitioned into four separate churches, but it was restored to one large cathedral in the mid 1800’s.

An interesting side chapel we entered is home to The Order of the Thistle.

The thistle is the national flower of Scotland. The order is a collection of knights and ladies, selected by the monarch. The stall plates on the back of each stall serve as a record of the knights and ladies who have resided there.

That person is currently Queen Elizabeth II, who presides over a meeting of the order each summer. Her seat is in the middle of this wall.

The top of each member’s stall is decorated with adornments of their choosing. When a knight or lady dies, the adornments are replaced with ones from the new member. We found the one on the left interesting, in that it was so modern looking. The rainbow and the anchor are meant to represent hope.

We really enjoyed our visit to Edinburgh. Next up, we move further north into the Scottish Highlands, into some of the most beautiful places we have ever seen. Diana has deep roots there, so you will definitely want to stay tuned for that. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

A Heroine For the Ages

Thursday, September 12, 2019 – Bamburgh, UK

As is probably evident by now, we are easy hooks for a great lifesaving story. When Mike from A Bit About Britain published a story in June about a heroine lifesaver along the Northumberland coast, we knew we had to squeeze the stop into our itinerary.

Bamburgh is a quaint little town in northeast England that lies adjacent to the North Sea. That body of water is legendary for it’s ferocious storms and it’s deep history. Vikings sailed here, the Dutch built dikes to keep it out, and Germany tried to conquer the world through it in World War II, as the North Sea is their only connection to the ocean.

Towering high over the hamlet of Bamburgh is the villages’ namesake castle. The Normans…who I am a descendent of through my French Canadian ancestry…built the core of this massive edifice a thousand years ago. I’ll let you know if I’m able to ever trace back to this lovely piece of real estate. 😉

What would seem long ago to those of us visiting from America, an event took place within the castle’s view in its relatively recent history. On September 7, 1838, a gale forced the steamer Forfarshire onto a rocky island a few miles offshore from Bamburgh, breaking it in two. A 23 year old woman by the name of Grace Darling, daughter to the lighthouse keeper on nearby Longstone Island, spotted the wreck and saw that there were survivors scrambling onto the rocks. She and her father rowed a mile out to the wreck in a 21 foot coble, as time was of the essence. While her dad disembarked to help the eight men and one woman, Grace kept the boat steady in the heavy seas using only the oars and her will. They brought five of them back on the first trip, then Grace stayed behind at the lighthouse during the second trip out.

Thus, another legendary figure took her place in the annals of the North Sea. Newspaper accounts made her famous, but time was not on her side. A mere three years later, she died of tuberculosis.

Grace is buried in the churchyard next to St. Aidan’s Church.

Her effigy above her tomb is fittingly holding an oar.

After a visit to her grave, we stepped inside the church.

The present building dates from the twelfth century, but St. Aidan built the original structure here in 635. He passed away leaning against a wooden beam that survived two subsequent fires.

That Y-shaped beam supports the ceiling high above the baptismal font.

After visiting the church and Grace Darling’s grave, we headed to the beach to dip our fingers into the North Sea.

The pathway through the dunes was thick with beach grass.

The shoreline was wide open and calm, far different than the night Grace and her father rowed out to save those nine souls. We walked a half mile up the beach to the other end of the castle and back to our waiting motorhome. A nice way to top off a worthwhile visit to an English heroine’s hometown.

Next up, the first of several posts from Scotland! Be sure to stay tuned for that. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

To read A Bit About Britain’s eloquent post on Grace Darling, click HERE.

Y is for York, D is for…

A long departed family friend used to love to visit the Cabela’s store in Dundee, Michigan, Art…a big kid at heart…would delight in telling us, “I always park in Lot D, as D is for Dummies!” How does that relate to the UK, you say?

Well here, D is for Diesel! No sooner did I pull up to the station and start pumping fuel from the green handled nozzle than I realized that I was putting petrol…gasoline…into the motorhome. Seven liters went in before I got it stopped. My heart sank. Pumps in the UK have black handles on the diesel and green on the unleaded…opposite of what is back in the States. I should have remembered that from visiting the BP stations in the US, which buck that trend. Yes, the B in BP stands for British. Second mistake was driving across the road to a large parking lot. Just turning the key enough to have the dashboard lights engaged the fuel pump and introduced the gas into the engine. If this ever happens to you, only turn the key far enough to unlock the wheel. At this point, I’m thinking that I ruined the engine. I called Just Go and they asked if I was in a safe place. I told them I was. They then proceeded to call a mobile fuel repair truck. Diana walked to the grocery store around the corner and grabbed all she could carry.

Evidently, this is a ‘thing’ over here, as people have businesses that take care of this sort of issue! The repairman says that 200,000 people a year put the wrong fuel in their vehicles in the UK. My guess is the lion’s share of them are American tourists grabbing the green pump handle. The repairman drained the tank and fuel filter, added new diesel fuel and a can of additive. About two hours and £272 later, we were on our way. No muss, no fuss, no damage, no problem…other than a lighter wallet. Just Go called us back about an hour later to make sure we were OK, which we were. Onward and upward to York!

Our campground in York was situated on a bus line, so getting downtown was very easy. That meant we got our first ride ever on a double-decker bus! They were spotless going in both directions. We had wanted to see the interior of the York Minster, but our earlier fuel issues got us there too late.

Another masterpiece of stonework. The first church built here was a wooden structure hurriedly put up in 627. This one was completed in 1472 after hundreds of years worth of work. That was 20 years before Columbus sailed for America!

This window is the largest medieval stained glass portal in the UK. We will have to see the light coming through it on a future trip.

The other thing we wanted to see in York was The Shambles.

This is a fourteenth century collection of buildings that used to be the meat market in York.

Many people believe this street was the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter film series. It sure looks like it! It’s filled with tourist shops and…

…The Shop That Must Not Be Named. A perfect spot to pick up your wizard wear.

That wraps up our trip to York. Next up, we head north to a place that Mike from A Bit About Britain introduced us to earlier this year. It involves the North Sea, a castle, a maritime heroine, and a saint. Be sure to stay tuned for that. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Just Go Explore the UK

On Monday morning, we had set up a trip to pick up our motorhome with our first London Uber driver, Dhanashekar. He was so helpful to us the first trip, we knew he would be perfect for the trip up to Just Go motorhome hire on the north side of town. He even carted our luggage into the building for us upon arrival.

We were happy to find the people at Just Go to be wonderful and the facility to be spotless. Our motorhome appeared to be brand new, even though it had a full summer’s use and 16,000 miles on it. After a familiarization tour, we spent a half hour or so moving in. With that, I climbed into the drivers seat and we were off!

Driving on the opposite side of the vehicle was a bit strange at first, but a helpful post and video by the RV Geeks when planning the trip left us no surprises when we headed out. After a day or so, it became second nature. We stopped to get groceries and headed to our pitch, which is what they call a campsite over here.

Diana proceeded to make us a delicious spaghetti dinner. Pardon the pile of stuff on the bed, as we hadn’t totally settled in yet.

You can see the great layout we have: a full bed and bath in the back, huge fridge and freezer, kitchen with oven, sink and hob (range), a big table and front seats that swivel. Tons of storage too…all packed into 22 feet of length! Four huge skylights that open, plus one in the bathroom. It even has solar.

Our first full day on the road took us to Lincoln. Our goal there was to see the Lincoln Cathedral.

Our little Scout slid into this car park just fine. A word on the car parks: While researching for the trip, we found that most of these have a low clearance bar across their entrances. That most likely is to prevent people from using them as overnight facilities. We scoped out the ones that do allow motorhomes before we left the States (that’s what they call the U.S.) so we weren’t fighting that battle once we got here.

To get to the cathedral, we had to walk the northern perimeter of the Lincoln Castle, which was a nice stroll by some really quaint buildings.

It was on that stroll that we caught our first glimpse of our destination, Lincoln Cathedral. At that moment, to our delight, the bells started ringing. Construction on this beauty was begun in 1072. For 238 years, beginning in 1311, it was the tallest building in the world. Interestingly enough, the building it surpassed was the Great Pyramid of Giza.

At that time, it had a lead-clad wooden steeple nearly as tall as this central tower that gave it that title. That spire was lost to a windstorm in 1548.

The gargoyles are so amusing.

This one is leaning on a lead downspout. The building is covered with them, no two sculptures are the same. It is believed that they ward off evil spirits.

When we visited, Lincoln University was holding their commencement in the cathedral. Until that was over, we were only allowed to see the rear portion of the interior.

Believe it or not, this is the back….

…and this is the area where the choir sits. While we were in this area, we spied a woman dusting. When Diana mentioned to her how nice it was to see everything being so well cared for, she said “I just like to polish and shine.” Westminster Abbey could learn a thing or two from her. Lincoln Cathedral was spotless and smelled good too! Listening to the hoots and hollers from the graduation ceremony made it feel alive and current, not just a part of history.

While we were there, the pipe organ played at the end of the commencement. It reminded me so much of how my mom could lift the roof off a cathedral when she played the pipe organ. I think she was smiling down on us as we enjoyed the moment.

Once the organist was finished and applause faded, we were allowed into the front of the building.

The view looking straight up into the central tower.

Looking from the main entrance towards the center of the church. The organ sits directly under the central tower in the middle of the cathedral.

This baptismal font dates from the 12th century. It is one of seven surviving Tournai marble fonts in England. Can you even imagine the generations that shared the rite of baptism in this jewel? It is mind boggling.

Next up is a trip to York. Harry Potter fans might find that one interesting. We even had a slight hiccup on the way there, which you will definitely want to stay tuned for. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

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