Not Martha

Headed to the UK!

We are headed to the UK! We’ll be there for a month doing a live/work/travel/freaking out thing. I have a few goals for while I’m there:

  • Drink Scotch in Scotland. (Easy.)
  • Go through a hedge maze in England. (Pretty straightforward. Or twisty.)
  • Eat a Liege waffle in Belgium. (Only requires a train ticket.)
  • Find a four-leaf clover in Ireland. (Miiight be a challenge.)

If anybody reading this happens to live in Belfast and would be interested in meeting up please email me, I’m going to have a bit of free time while I’m in that city and I’d love to say hello.

We’ll be hitting all the tourist things as we do a loop from England up through Scotland and down to Ireland before heading to London but if anybody has any recommendations on extraordinary things going on that I should do my best not to miss or eat or buy or gawk at please let me know. I’m planning on going on lots of brewery tours, opening Kinder Eggs, staring at really old buildings and being that horrible American driver going too slow because I’m afraid of terrified on the other side of the road. Sorry about that last one.

I’m so excited!

· comments [36] · 10-1-2013 · categories:travel ·

36 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Di // Oct 1, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    How exciting! Sounds like a fab trip. If you want any tips for great places to visit in Scotland just let me know. I love telling people about my country.

  • 2 Di // Oct 1, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Oh and make sure as well as breweries you do some whisky distilleries. My favourite is Scotland’s smallest and I think most picturesque – Edradour, near Pitlochry. Glencoe is a stunning place to drive through, steeped in history and amazing scenery. Great restaurants and bars in Edinburgh – can give you some recommendations.

  • 3 stephanie // Oct 1, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Check out an old castle or stone circle.
    Don’t overlook Wales! It’s really beautiful!

  • 4 Kathy // Oct 1, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    As an American in the UK for 8 years, here are my tips:
    -Americans will often have one drink (or even 2) and then drive but here that is a BIG DEAL and you should factor that into your distillery/brewery trips, maybe there is a coach tour of the distillery so no one has to drive (pretty much all the Scottish distilleries are in the middle of nowhere)
    -Smaller places like Lancaster are really neat. You can visit Lancaster castle, which until 2012 was a working prison! (it is also on a train line)
    -York has Roman ruins, 11th century Norman Abbey ruins, has good shopping and is just gorgeous and worth a trip. It is on a train line.
    -Edinburgh has wonderful boutiques and many nice areas apart from the Royal Mile: walk from Princes Street through Dean village, along the Water of Leith pathway to Stockbridge for a lovely walk. Stockbridge is a nice place for a cup of tea too.
    -Take the train from Edinburgh to York to see some amazing coastal scenery
    -If you are in a car in Scotland I highly recommend Argyll. Drive through Rest and be Thankful (google it) to Tighnabruaich.
    -Have a great trip!

  • 5 megan // Oct 1, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    Di – Thanks! We are doing a distillery hike in Pitlochry and if Edradour isn’t one of those we’ll add it. I think we might be in Glencoe as well (too much planning means I cannot remember, yikes.) I’ll email you to get more recommendations, thank you!

  • 6 megan // Oct 1, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Stephanie – We won’t forget Wales, apparently I’m part Welsh so it’s a must see for me, though I think it’ll be a day trip from Bristol, where we’ll be for a few weeks. Also, the Doctor Who experience is in Cardiff and I will be going back to see that again.

  • 7 megan // Oct 1, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Kathy – Thanks for the tips. We have planned all our brewery and distillery tours for days when we won’t be driving, or so one of us will be staying sober.

    I’m hoping to get to York, though I’ll have to squeeze it in. But enough people have recommended it that I’m feeling like it’s worth a little overnight stay.

    And we are renting a car in Scotland, if we can go through Rest and be Thankful we will, I was reading about it in a guidebook and it looks great!

  • 8 Jess // Oct 1, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Norwich Market, Guildhall, Keep
    Edinburgh Castle & Old Town
    Bath’s … baths
    Covent Garden, Windsor Castle
    Cambridge (there’s a little hidden cemetery I only found once while wandering around. find it for me?)
    Evensong at Oxford

    Skip Stonehenge or just look at it from a layby on the motorway. Not worth paying to go in.

  • 9 Juliann // Oct 1, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    We did a similar trip 2 summers ago – best trip we’ve ever taken.

    Very tourista, but if you have time before you leave, request tickets for the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London.

    While in Northern Ireland, visit the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. We went on a very windy day…made it all that much more fun. Also very close is the Giant’s Causeway which I am sure you already have on your list.

    Will you be heading South at all? If so, the passage tombs of Knowth and Newgrange in the Boyne Valley are most definitely worth the stop. They are older than Stonehedge!

    Dublin is fantastic – we found many, many four leaf clovers in St. Stephen’s Green. We picked quite a few (gave them as gifts) but believe we may have left some. :)

    And of course, if in Dublin visit the Book of Kells at Trinity. The library alone is worth the trip. My oldest will be doing Jr. Year abroad there next year and I (ha!) cannot wait.

  • 10 alison // Oct 1, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    In London, go to the Soane museum and the Tate modern.
    Also in London, Camden Market is fun and quite the spectacle.
    I second going to Bath.
    In Edinburgh, if you feel like hiking, climb up to Arthur’s Seat.
    Also in Edinburgh, the weird unfinished national monument that’s modeled after the Parthenon.
    I second not skipping Wales if you’ve got time. Cardiff Castle is beautiful.
    Have fun! I love GB.

  • 11 megan // Oct 1, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Jess – We did try to get into the private early tours of Stonehenge but they don’t give them in the winter months! We will otherwise probably just look at it from the roadway.

  • 12 megan // Oct 1, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Juliann – I’m afraid we’re going to miss the Giant’s Causeway and the rope bridge, but it was a hard decision to make. Thank you SO MUCH on the tip on where to find four leaf clovers!

  • 13 megan // Oct 1, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Alison – Thanks! I think we’re going to be in most all those places. I don’t think I’d come across Arthur’s Seat yet but I think we’ve got a whole day in Edinburgh so it’s perfect.

  • 14 whitney // Oct 1, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    I’m in the middle of writing a post about London (that I hot to actually post soon), but one of our favorite things was the Royal Observatory (Greenwich mean time and the prime meridian)!

  • 15 Jess // Oct 1, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    In Wales, try to get to Portmerion and Caernarfon Castle. :)

    I lived in the UK for a year and did a lot of traveling. I’m sure I’ll think of more :)

  • 16 Rachel // Oct 1, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    I didn’t realize you’d be going to the Pitlochry area! We stayed in Comrie in Perthshire for Hogmanay (at New Year’s), so we hit up Edradour. I concur with Di above — that’s the best small distillery from our week of driving around from Perthshire all the way up through Loch Ness to Inverness. We stayed pretty close to the Famous Grouse, too, which was a slickly marketed kind of tour. But I hope you get John as your guide at Edradour:

    For the other isle, Newgrange near Dublin and Giant’s Causeway near Belfast really are worthwhile if you can find a way to fit them into your itinerary. I was even more impressed with Newgrange than Stonehenge. An easy day-trip from Dublin.

  • 17 Meredith // Oct 1, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    Just returned from a 10 day trip to Europe and we also had the goal of eating Liege waffles in Liege… I’d recommend Pollux, it was fantastic. They actually have two flavors – vanilla and cinnamon. We had one of each – still hot/fresh first thing in the morning, AMAZING! Have a wonderful trip!

  • 18 olya // Oct 1, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    Bummer re missing Giant’s Causeway. It’s SO pretty!

    Aruthur’s Seat is the top of the mountain in Edinburgh. It’s an easy and fun hike and is worth it for the view. Bundle up – it will get windy!

    Edinburgh has fab bars and a terrific atmosphere. Skip the ghost tours, I tried – it was moderately cheesy. (But not bad. But cheesy.)

    Will you have a chance to hike in Isle of Skye? Old Man of Storr is amazing and is an EASY hike from the parking lot. (On the way Edinburgh-Isle of Skye you can stop by Loch Ness!). If you want a sea food recommendation this place – – had insanely amazing seafood platter for something cheap. If you’re up in that area going to the Isle it’s a close drive (10 minutes) from the bridge.

    Nthing Tate Modern. My “pocket ace” of food recommendations in London (I worked/lived nearby for 2 years) is this: Reservation recommended. It’s the perfect mix of a quaint, nice atmospheric English pub with amazing fare. “Cow’s Pie” (sheppards pie with marrow) is just out of this world. Everyone I ever took here brings others back – it is the best example of Good British Cuisine that I can suggest trying in London.

    Don’t skip Primark shopping – it’s stupidly cheap and ridiculously overwhelming, but it is FUN. Ditto for Topshop, except it’s not cheap.

    For household stuff, Zara Home near Oxford Circus is lovely (if only to get inspired). BHS has interesting things.

    Wales: I lived in Swansea for a year. Cardiff is beautiful, the national parks in Wales are gorgeous. If you have a chance to get out to the Gower area on a sunny day (may be a trek from Bristol.. but… pretty:

    ENJOY. A month is a good amount of time!

  • 19 Susan E // Oct 2, 2013 at 4:20 am

    These guys will be right up your street. There are some interesting Halloween events to look out for:

  • 20 rakka // Oct 2, 2013 at 8:38 am

    for when you get to london. there’s always too much going on there.

    ian visits: (i advise signing up for his weekly email. it’s how we found out about the welsh cheese boat was in town over by the new guardian offices.)

    also londonist: (a no brainer link, really, but it tipped me to the anatomical bake sale at st bart’s last year.)

    have a great trip!

  • 21 Ashley // Oct 2, 2013 at 9:12 am

    A few of my favourite places to visit:

    The Isle of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Luskentyre Beach was one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. The lifestyle and history on Lewis and Harris was fascinating (and you can pick up authentic Harris tweed right from the source). Might be worth checking how much is open in the fall/winter, though.

    I’m also a southern baby, so I’m partial to the coast. I recommend the Jurassic coastline for beautiful views, walks, exploration. Dorset is my neck of the woods, but the devonshire coast is stunning as well. Lyme Regis in Dorset, and Sidmouth in Devon are both lovely and not too too far apart.

    Shaftesbury is another favourite of mine and only about an hr away from Bath. The views from the area and town are what I personally find to be the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Gold Hill in the town is not to be missed.

    The New Forest is also an amazing lovely place to explore. Either in a car or on foot it is pretty magical. Horses, donkeys, and even pigs have the right to roam free – and they do!! Either on the roads, or in the middle of the villages; beautiful! Burley is a personal favourite, wrapped in folklore and witchy tales.

    Can you tell I love the UK??

  • 22 Patr // Oct 2, 2013 at 10:02 am

    Oh – where will you be for halloween? Please post some Halloween stuff from Europe!!!

  • 23 gfrancie // Oct 2, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    There is loads of good theatre to see right now. Obviously Richard II in Stratford, and if you are in London, you should try and see Edward II. A number of my friends have seen that and have said it was great.

    Definitely worth driving through Glen Coe. (as you know we did the full on drive and it was epic.)

    I love York. It is so easy to wander around there.
    Further south I also like Tewkesbury. So many old buildings and interesting charity shops. (pretty much the Cotswolds are good for looking around in shops and car boot sales for interesting and odd items.)

    Brighton is fun and very arty. (it’s kind of like San Francisco.)

  • 24 Kerry // Oct 2, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    In Cambridge head to the eagle and child pub for lunch or dinner. Great food! Yummy cider and it was a meeting place for Tolkien and another famous author whose name escapes me right now. The menu will tell ya all about it.

  • 25 Carmit // Oct 3, 2013 at 4:36 am

    It sounds like you have things pretty much planned out, but I have a really good itinerary for circling Ireland, given to me by an Irish tour guide. We did it in 11 days and it was spot on. Let me know if it’ll be useful and I can email it.

  • 26 megan // Oct 3, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    I’m doing a terrible job at keeping up with all these (really really great) comments so let me give a blanket huge thank you!

    gfrancie – I completely overdosed on Shakespeare, and theater in general, in my past life. Scott and I met while working on a free outdoor Shakespeare festival! But your recommendation is making me think it’s time to go back into the fold.

    Patr – From what I’m told Halloween isn’t really a thing in the UK. We’ll be on the West coast of Ireland on that particular night and I’ll be sure to seek out anything Halloween-y the whole time I’ll be there. I’m curious to compare!

  • 27 Jane // Oct 3, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Make sure you are near a fireworks display on bonfire night, save a penny for the guy.

    If you are driving around, for pure prettiness go through the Cotswolds,

    if you are near Cirencester., in Gloucestershire, go to Brewery Arts – many craft workshops. With local makers – stained glass, jewelry , wire sculptures etc.

    In Oxford take a peek at the shrunken heads and the witch in a bottle at Pitt Rivers museum .

    In London – go to Pollocks Toy Mueseum in Coventry garden,

    or just walk around the city, Forbidden Planet is a fantastic toy/graphic novel/ sci-fi shop ….

    Also in West Country is Puzzle wood – they filmed some of Merlin, Doctor Who there

  • 28 Iz // Oct 4, 2013 at 6:11 am

    I also recommend York. You can walk around the old city walls, too.
    Halloween is more of a thing in Ireland. They also have fireworks around that date (but could be on the public holiday on Monday 28th). You will see evidence of it in the UK, decorations, costumes etc, and people do have parties, but trick-or-treating has more negative connotations.
    The Lake District (north west) is also beautiful

  • 29 Naomi // Oct 4, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Excellent! Hope you have a great trip. When you do the hedge maze, the trick is to always keep your left hand in contact with the hedge at all times, even if it means walking into a dead end and coming back out again.

    Depending on the timing, if you are here the weekend of 21 October, it is Apple Day and there will be loads of farms and orchards having celebrations.

  • 30 Vicki - Origami Girl // Oct 4, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Hello! I think you’ve been given some great tips on where to go. The only thing I would say is remember to wear layers as the weather is so changeable.

    I hope you love our beautiful little country! I lived in New Jersey for 3 years – best of my life!! I love America!

    have fun!

  • 31 Patr // Oct 4, 2013 at 11:29 am


    The Celts celebrated Halloween as Samhain, ‘All Hallowtide’ – the ‘Feast of the Dead’, when the dead revisited the mortal world. The celebration marked the end of Summer and the start of the Winter months.

    During the eighth century the Catholic Church designated the first day of November as ‘All Saints Day (‘All Hallows’) – a day of commemoration for those Saints that did not have a specific day of remembrance. The night before was known as ‘All Hallows Eve’ which, over time, became known as Halloween.

    Here are the most notable Irish Halloween Traditions:

    Colcannon for Dinner: Boiled Potato, Curly Kale (a cabbage) and raw Onions are provided as the traditional Irish Halloween dinner. Clean coins are wrapped in baking paper and placed in the potato for children to find and keep.

    The Barnbrack Cake: The traditional Halloween cake in Ireland is the barnbrack which is a fruit bread. Each member of the family gets a slice. Great interest is taken in the outcome as there is a piece of rag, a coin and a ring in each cake. If you get the rag then your financial future is doubtful. If you get the coin then you can look forward to a prosperous year. Getting the ring is a sure sign of impending romance or continued happiness.

    The Ivy Leaf: Each member of the family places a perfect ivy leaf into a cup of water and it is then left undisturbed overnight. If, in the morning, a leaf is still perfect and has not developed any spots then the person who placed the leaf in the cup can be sure of 12 months health until the following Halloween. If not…..

    The Pumpkin: Carving Pumpkins dates back to the eighteenth century and to an Irish blacksmith named Jack who colluded with the Devil and was denied entry to Heaven. He was condemned to wander the earth but asked the Devil for some light. He was given a burning coal ember which he placed inside a turnip that he had gouged out.

    The tradition of Jack O’Lanterns was born – the bearer being the wandering blacksmith – a damned soul. Villagers in Ireland hoped that the lantern in their window would keep the wanderer away. When the Irish emigrated in millions to America there was not a great supply of turnips so pumpkins were used instead.

    Halloween Costumes: On Halloween night children would dress up in scary costumes and go house to house. ‘Help the Halloween Party’ and ‘Trick or Treat’ were the cries to be heard at each door. This tradition of wearing costumes also dates back to Celtic times. On the special night when the living and the dead were at their closest the Celtic Druids would dress up in elaborate costumes to disguise themselves as spirits and devils in case they encountered other devils and spirits during the night. By disguising they hoped that they would be able to avoid being carried away at the end of the night. This explains why witches, goblins and ghosts remain the most popular choices for the costumes.

    Snap Apple: After the visits to the neighbours the Halloween games begin, the most popular of which is Snap Apple. An apple is suspended from a string and children are blindfolded. The first child to get a decent bite of the apple gets to keep their prize. The same game can be played by placing apples in a basin of water and trying to get a grip on the apple without too much mess!

    The Bonfire: The Halloween bonfire is a tradition to encourage dreams of who your future husband or wife is going to be. The idea was to drop a cutting of your hair into the burning embers and then dream of you future loved one. Halloween was one of the Celt ‘fire’ celebrations.

    Blind Date: Blindfolded local girls would go out into the fields and pull up the first cabbage they could find. If their cabbage had a substantial amount of earth attached to the roots then there future loved one would have money. Eating the cabbage would reveal the nature of their future husband – bitter or sweet!

    Another way of finding your future spouse is to peel an apple in one go. If done successfully the single apple peel could be dropped on the floor to reveal the initials of the future-intended.

    Anti-Fairy Measures: Fairies and goblins try to collect as many souls as they can at Halloween but if they met a person who threw the dust from under their feet at the Fairy then they would be obliged to release any souls that they held captive.

    Holy water was sometimes anointed on farm animals to keep them safe during the night. If the animals were showing signs of ill health on All Hallows Eve then they would be spat on to try to ward off any evil spirits.

    Happy Halloween from Ireland!

  • 32 Alie // Oct 5, 2013 at 6:31 am

    What a fantastic time! I lived in Brussels for 3 years, and here are my recommendations as far as the waffles go :)
    Eat at least 2, one plain and one fancy. And have the fancy one first or you will be disappointed!
    ~Whenever we had visitors we took them to the “Grande Place” at the center of the old town, and there is a great waffle place on the walk from the Gare Central (train station) to the square. It’s a 2 story yellow building. They have ALL the toppings. Nutella and strawberries are a favorite!
    ~BUT the best waffles in all of Brussels are at the train station vendors. We compare them to NYC or Chicago hot dog vendors. They are hot off the press (or waffle iron) and AMAZING. Basically any of the food carts that have waffles are great. We loved the ones at the Place Schuman metro, since we lived nearby.
    If you want a quick list of must-see places feel free to shoot me an email!

  • 33 mary // Oct 15, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    ~~ waving from Edinburgh if you are here during Hogmanay (new year) best view free is from Salisbury Crags which is part of Arthurs Seat. Also fab is the Portrait Gallery (free great cafe) and the Edinburgh Farmers Market Sat 9-1 at Castle Terrace.
    London fave things the museums free again Portrait Gallery (posh restuarant atthe top has fantastic views across rooftops), British Library, walking along the river. Walking tours and just generally walking about.

  • 34 mary // Oct 15, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    oh and if in Cambridge go to Evensong at Kings College free and if you can go and have tea at Grantchester do… Kettles Yard is an awesome gallery/museum where you can still sit on the chairs and I once had a nap on a sofa…

  • 35 Andy // Oct 20, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    Sounds like a great trip! As an Irishman living in the US for the past decade, edit that four-leaf-clover to a shamrock! We don’t think of four-leaf-clovers as particularly Irish and people might be a little confused; the shamrock has three leaves and there’s an oft-repeated religious allegory that St Patrick used it to make, that I’m sure any tour guide or local will remember.

    And, unlike the UK, Halloween is celebrated in Ireland, with many of the same traditions as in the US! Should be fun to compare.

  • 36 Von D // Nov 5, 2013 at 12:45 am

    When in London – eat in the Crypt Cafe under St Martin in the Fields church (Trafalgar Square). My favorite place when I live in London.

    When in Bath – free walking tour from Bath Abbey or nearby. Fabulous every time I’ve done it.

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