The alternatives for our summer holiday this year was either a) road trip to Switzerland through Germany and joining Debconf (Linux conference) at some point or b) road trip to the UK and joining the LinuxBeerWanderung there. The Debconf organising was slightly unorganised, and the LBW being more dog-friendly, we took the dogs, car and spent two weeks driving to and in the UK.
Friday, August 9th
We started out by going to Larvik Friday the 10th of August, spending a few hours walking in the famous Beech tree forest with an irc-friend and his dog before we headed down to the ferry. Arriving in Hirtshals in the evening, we went straight to the nearby camping park where we had booked a room for the night.
We spent long 14 hours in the car on Saturday, going from Hirtshals, through Denmark, Germany (with an hour queue north of Kiel), Netherlands and Belgium, before we decided to find somewhere to stay for the night. Surfing booking.com and calling up hotels that allowed dogs, we called Holiday Inn, and was answered that they only had executive rooms left, for the price of €160, but dogs were allowed there. The receptionist answering the phone claimed that the booking.com saying rooms were available was wrong. We booked there anyway, and checked in 20 minutes later, with no comments from the receptionist.
Except for the return trip, it will be a long time before I decide to go the long way around again...
On the Sunday morning we made the short trip to Calais, and was put on an earlier ferry, and arrived before schedule in Cambridge. We settled in at the Stationroomz hostel before going off to a large green to give the dogs a run. There were free walking cows that made the walk a bit interesting, but the dogs got to run and play for a bit. Odin rolled himself in cow droppings, and when Tollef turned to look at him, Kovu ran off towards another dog, and Tollef got his hand badly burned from the long leash trying to stop him. We went back to wash off Odin and Tollef, feed the dogs, and then headed back to the green and the nearby pub where we had agreed to meet friends. We had a very nice evening in the pub garden with friends, dogs and dinner.
We arrived at Denton in Oxford short time before lunch, and was greeted by my previous employers. Nothing had changed, and everything was just as lovely as ever, and very green from the warm summer and som recent rain. We walked the dogs to a field where they got to run, and had a nice lunch at the house. Afterwards we drove into the city centre for some shopping and the important fudge and milkshake. In the evening, we met friends in Banbury and ordered curry, before we stayed the night at one of the best inns during the trip, Fairlawns.
Tuesday was our first day roaming the Welsh countryside. We had lunch in St. Fagans and then went to the open air museum. The museum was really great, the only regret was that we were a bit late so we did not have time to really enjoy the village and some of the exhibitions there. They had buildings, gardens and exhibitons from various times, a castle, woolmill, cider workshop and a lot of good information. It was also very accessible and the dogs enjoyed coming with us.
After the museum we drove up to Aberdare and Dare Valley camping park, which also was really great. The tent area was nice, flat and clean, there were riding stables nearby, and the park was just at the edge of the national park. We could probably have enjoyed staying there for several days, if we did not have other plans.
On Wednesday we started out driving to Penderyn and visiting Wales' only whisky distillery and had a tour there. The tour was short, but interesting. We continued on to the Brecon Beacon Waterfalls visitor centre, which is supposed to be a good starting point for walking to any of the many waterfalls in the national park. We had lunch at the ancient inn across the road before we went off. According to the guy in the reception there was a nice 5 km walk (there and back again) where we could see 5 of the nearest waterfalls. We headed off in rainy weather, during nice green forests, along a quite large river. We found the first (very nice) and second (somewhat boring) waterfalls, and then we had already walked 3,6 km of the supposedly 5 km walk. The path was quite uneven and I was tired, so we decided to turn around. Still, it was a very nice walk, and the dogs enjoyed it, if not so much having to be cleaned for all the mud afterwards!
From the waterfall centre we drove down to the southern coast of Wales, and camped near Pendine Sands, one of the longest beaches in Wales.
In the morning we took the dogs to the beach and let them run, particularly Kovu enjoyed running around on the beach, in the water and in the sand. We continued driving up to St. Davids, visited the cathedral and saw the castle ruins. St. Davids is Britains smallest city, and sits on a quite hilly spot on the western coast of Wales. There was a lot of old, small shops and steep roads. After lunch, we headed up to Castell Henlleys, an iron age fort, which appeared to be a very pleasant experience. We could bring the dogs, and walked through a nice nature park, before coming to the top of the hill. There were several round houses with exhibitions and showing of practical crafts, storytelling, woodworks, weaving, how to build a house, and much more. I could have used a lot more time there, even if we got to see a bit of everything!
We continued on our way up north, and when we started to get hungry for lunch, there were no pubs or eating places along the road. After a bit we found a lonely hotel with quite expensive, plain food. While we had dinner it started to rain outside, and before we were leaving it really poured down. We considered whether to camp for the night or find a B&B, but ended up finding a quite nice camp site. The rain even eased for a bit when we put up our tent, so we weren't quite soaked before going to bed, but the wind and rain picked up again, and it was a restless, noisy night.
Friday was spent mostly in Conwy. We parked on the wrong side of the city, and walked to the castle. Conwy castle is very old and quite nice, but the visit was not really worth the money. There could have been so much more information about the history and layout of the castle. Also, the guide could have made some more effort, or at least left his plastic sword and fabric chain mail at home. To anyone coming after us, just do the town wall walk instead!
After the castle we had ice cream and I visited the smallest house in Britain. A nice little place, where actually a whole family lived at some point!
From Conwy we drove to York, and tried to find an open camping park that answered the phone and also had available tent pitches. After some tries we ended up at some farm camping by the marina that also had free walking chicks. Exciting! In the evening we took both dogs to the pub where we met another friend of Tollef. Apart from when the dogs discovered the cat on the roof, it was a nice evening.
We packed up on Saturday and headed to Newcastle to visit my cousin. Underway we called some camping parks but all were full, so we ended up booking an inn for the night. At my cousin's place we first inspected his new apartement, which was really nice, and then went to a nearby pub and had lunch. The guys went off afterwards to walk the dogs in a park, and I went to the city center to do some shopping. A few hours later we met up and were all happy with the day. We found a nearby Indian restaurant where we had dinner, before we said goodbye.
The inn we booked was nearby the airport, and quite busy with partying people on a Saturday night. We were in the quiet corner of the building, according to the landlady, so the surprise was quite big then police woke us in the middle of the night. Someone at the inn had noticed the door of our car being open, and called them. Nothing was gone, so we probably had forgotten the door in the hurry to check in and get to bed...
Finally, we arrived in Castleton to stay there for the next four nights. All my doubts about the cottage that we had booked were gone when we found the owned in the next door cottage, got the key, and entered. Beech croft cottage was really beautiful, apparently recently refurbished, and quite large.
After getting settled and grabbing some lunch, we ended up spontaneously joining the LBW people for an afternoon walk. It was longer than we were told beforehand, so we turned back after a while, but at least started to let the dogs become used to the other dog that was there.
The landscape around was beautiful, and the village was really busy with all the people that came there to walk in the area. It did quieten after the weekend, but was still a lot more busy than I expected.
The experience of sleeping in a lovely bed with nice, clean linen, knowing that I would stay in the same bed for the next few nights, was just lovely. On Monday morning we started doing some shopping for the organised dinner in the evening. Then we joined our first long walk, about 10 km long, to a nearby top. We walked through fields and hills that were crowded with sheep, so the dogs had to stay on leads, but were mostly ok with passing the sheep peacefully.
In the afternoon (after a long, nice showed in the very nice bathroom in the cottage) there was an organised dinner where everybody brought some food. Tollef made pancakes, and we brought some Norwegian sweets and drink. We got to taste a lot of nice and special food from many places.
After dinner there were movies, and I saw Monthy Python and the Holy Grail while beating some others in Carcassonne with some new, special rules (I did not like them much, though).
On Tuesday my feet were really sore from the day before. Odin, Kovu and I hung out at the village hall with the other lazy people while Tollef joined another long walk. Before lunch, one of the other participants joined me and we took the dogs for a walk to Peveril Castle, a 15 minute walk away. It was quite expensive, even if nice. There was some information on the history and layout of the castle, and it was fun to imagine how it would have been.
After lunch (Milkshake from a local bar, not impressed) the dogs and I hung around the Village Hall, awaiting Tollef's return. About seven in the evening he arrived, and we had a quick dinner and a short evening at the Hall before falling into bed.
The last full day in England. Both ready to start for home, but sad to leave too. Tollef and I took a walk on our own around the back of the castle and across some of the fields we walked on Monday. At one point we met a bunch of full-grown but very curious calves that wanted to say hi to Kovu. I knew Odin would trigger on them, so we stayed a bit behind while Tollef took the opportunity to work som contact and calm with Kovu. One of the calves was as close as one meter away, Kovu went down in a play-bow, the calf jumped back a few metres but came back shortly. We stayed there for a while before we chased them off and walked back to the village.
Back in the village hall I just played computer games, while Tollef attended the beer tasting. In the evening we had our last dinner on a pizza place that was recommended, and appeared to be very nice.
On Thursday morning we packed the car, and headed off just at the same time as the days hike left the village hall. We headed down towards and through London, doing not too bad from what we expected might be a long queue on the M25. We made a last stop to do some shopping for dog-stuff, and were just in time for the Dunkirk ferry. The ferry was a bit late in crossing, and we arrived at the hotel quite late in the evening. The dogs, having spent most of the day in the car, got a nice run on the nearby beach before we went to bed.
Tollef took the dogs down to the beach again and let them run, before we had breakfast and headed north. The day was mostly like the trip out, long and boring, with a few pit stops. We found a very idyllic camping site in the evening, where we had booked beforehand. The staff had left for the night, with a note on the door for us to find the key and linens in cabin number 5.
We had a not very exciting breakfast before driving the last two hours to the ferry. There was some roadworks and queues, and I was a bit nervous even though we had left in good time. Of course there were no problems, we made the ferry, and then arrived at home not too late after the last couple of hours drive from Larvik. Happy to be home, but looking forward to our next trip to the UK!