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2 weeks in the UK- Cornwall, Wales, Midlands

Returned a couple weeks ago from a whirlwind 2 weeks in the UK. Traveled with my husband and our 9 year old son, as well as a couple of other families we know well- in total we were a group of 7 adults and 5 kids. It went shockingly well given the number of kids and our constant moving around. This trip was loosely inspired by The Dark is Rising book series, as well as Arthurian legends and whatever other mystical stories we could gather. I got some great tips from this forum (especially about how to get laundry done on this whirlwind tour!).

Day 1- Early morning arrival in Heathrow after a red-eye flight. Once we collected our rental car we set off to Lulworth Cove to see the Durdle Door. It was stunning, and a bit of sunshine and walk was just what we needed to get acclimated after the flight. We then drove up to Dorchester, which was chosen simply for its proximity to Lulworth and keeping the driving on our first day down to a minimum. Stayed at the Best Western Wessex Royale Hotel, which was unremarkable but fine. Went to the Dinosaur Museum for the kids, and enjoyed some beers at the Convivial Rabbit Micropub, and then a great dinner at the Brewhouse & Kitchen- Dorchester has a really interesting reclaimed industrial buildings area that looks very worthy of future exploration.

Day 2- Drove on to Exeter, where we stayed at the Queens Court Hotel, again unremarkable but fine for one night. Really enjoyed the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and St. Nicholas Priory (there was a historical reenactment event going on at the priory, lots of people in garb and some great docents explaining the history). Exeter has so many restaurant options, we landed at George's Meeting House for dinner, which was great for a big group. I really enjoyed our short time in Exeter and hope to make it back some day, it's a bustling little city!

Day 3- One of our must-see places was Wistman's Wood in Dartmoor, so we drove through moody Dartmoor to park at Two Bridges Hotel and walked over the moor to the wood. Absolutely loved the drive through Dartmoor, stopping for sheep and ponies to clear off the road, the lonely vistas stretching out before us. The roads were very narrow and a little stressful at times, but it was well worth it for the scenery. After our walk in Dartmoor we drove down to Mevagissey, which was perfect as a stop for a few hours. This was one of our Dark is Rising-inspired must-see locations, and it did not disappoint. Stopped into the James Dunn house tea room for a cream tea (which was excellent), walked along the quayside, and took the kids to the small aquarium. After Mevagissey we continued on to our stop for the night in Falmouth. We stayed at Lyonesse B&B, which was fantastic- very comfy room and fabulous breakfasts. Dined at The Shed for dinner, good pub grub and despite the rain, good outdoor seating.

TBC

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Day 4- Went on a day-long guided tour, booked with Tours of Cornwall. We visited the Geevor Tin Mine, Porthgwarra Beach, and Penberth Cove. It was a fantastic tour, our guide was very personable and informative. We were also super happy to see some sights without having to drive ourselves down the narrow Cornish roads. The roads to and from Porthgwarra and Penberth were terrifying! Back in Falmouth at the end of the day, we had dinner at the Chain Locker- the food was great and the staff were super helpful and friendly. Totally loved Falmouth, I'm dreaming of our next Cornwall vacation, would love to spend longer with Falmouth as a base.

Day 5- Went to St. Michael's Mount in the morning, which was fascinating and gorgeous. It is such a steep walk to get the castle, but it's so worth it. The views are amazing. It was raining when we got there, but the rain lifted by the time we finished touring the castle. We were too early for the causeway to be open, the tides were in, but the boat rides between the island and mainland were fast and easy. Ate a quick take-away lunch on the beach, then went back to Falmouth for a joust event at Pendennis Castle. English Heritage does such a good job putting on their joust events, with lots of kids' activities. We ended the day by driving up to Jamaica Inn, where we had dinner and stayed the night (stayed in one of the haunted rooms in the old wing of the inn, no sign of any ghosts!). Loved the atmosphere here!

Day 6- Since it was just a mile down the road from Jamaica Inn, we started the day with a brief jaunt to Dozmary Pool. Then moved on to St. Nectan's Glen, followed by the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic in Boscastle, and finally landing in Tintagel. Had lunch at the King Arthur's Arms pub. The Tintagel Castle site itself was closed (reopened several days after we left, unfortunate timing), but we were able to climb the cliff opposite it and got a fantastic view of Tintagel and the sea. It was truly spectacular. We were able to get onto the beach below the castle, and went into Merlin's cave. The kids really enjoyed romping around on the beach, and we adults thoroughly enjoyed the amazing scenery. We ended the day in Boscastle, in the Wellington Hotel. The hotel was superb, and Boscastle is beautiful. If you stay in Boscastle, I highly recommend walking all the way down to the end of the harbor at dusk, if you climb up on the hillside you get an amazing view of the sunset.

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Day 7- Long drive from Cornwall to Wales. Stopped at Caerphilly Castle, which was a ton of fun for the kids. The dragon lair is such a fun, creative addition to the castle, as is the maze. Continued up through the Brecon Beacons to Hay-on-Wye. Had dinner at Three Tuns in Hay, then stayed in a farmhouse B&B just outside of town. Absolutely beautiful scenery through the Brecons.

Day 8- Spent a few hours book shopping in Hay-on-Wye, that town is delightful. We then drove up to southern Snowdonia, to take the kids to King Arthur's Labyrinth, a fun family attraction. We had hoped to stop at Tal-y-llyn to take some pictures of the lake and Cader Idris, but it was raining buckets and it had been a long day, so we caught a quick glimpse of those sights as we drove through the epic scenery. Stayed at Plas Dolmelynllyn Hotel, a Tudor manor hall that is a gorgeous old pile in the middle of the woods. It was a lovely place to stay, very peaceful. We ventured into the nearby town, Dolgellau, for dinner- this was the only night we had trouble finding a place that could accommodate our big group. We ended up sending a couple of the men along to catch the first Liverpool game of the season at a pub, while the rest of us got take-out pizzas and brought them back to the hotel. Sometimes eating pizza in a hotel room is even better than eating out a restaurant.

Day 9- Continued up into northern Snowdonia to take a ride on the Snowden Mountain Railway. The weather was pretty terrible- high winds and rain, so we were lucky the train was running at all. It didn't run to the summit, but we got halfway up the mountain, which felt quite high up as it was. We were surrounded by fog by the time we stopped to head down the mountain. Amazingly, even in that weather there were plenty of people hiking up the mountain. The views from the train were beautiful. After the train ride we drove over to Caernarfon Castle, since it was only 15 minutes away. Spent some time wandering around that castle, until we were all getting tired. I think we were all definitely feeling the drag of so much driving all week by that point, would love to go back to Caernarfon and stay in the town, it looked quite fun. Drove up to Llandudno, where we stayed that night. Llandudno is an interesting place, it was a bit too run-down for me to understand why it's such a popular seaside get-away, but it's mostly hotels and restaurants, so it must be popular. We stayed at the Travelodge, which was simple and clean, and just fine for a night (there's some drama about a different hotel we had originally booked, nonrefundable, that gathered such bad reviews after we booked, we ended up booking Travelodge as a back-up, and whoa, after seeing the other place, were we glad we did!).

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Day 10- Drove to Liverpool. Enjoyed walking around the waterfront and getting lunch at The Pump House. The main attraction for the day was a tour of Anfield stadium, my husband is a huge Liverpool FC fan. The tour was interesting, between that, shopping at the fan store, and the cab rides to & fro, that took up the bulk of our day. We got back and grabbed a beer at Smugglers' Cove, then had dinner at Revolution de Cuba. Our hotel was spectacular- it was 30 James St, the building used to be the Titanic's office building, and the hotel is decorated in a Titanic theme. The hallways and rooms are impressively decked out, it really transports you to a different time.

Day 11- Left Liverpool to trek on to the Pendle Hill area. Being from Salem, Massachusetts, we have a particular interest in other places with histories of witch trials. We stopped at the Pendle Heritage Center and had a lovely chat with the man working at the center. After exploring the small museum we continued on to walk the Pendle Sculpture Trail, which is a pleasant hike from the town of Barley, in the shadow of Pendle Hill. The weather was gorgeous, and the sculpture trail is a fun way to keep kids interested in a hike. Finished the hike, then drove over to Samlesbury Hall, another place steeped in stories of ghosts and witches. We had a lovely time getting a late lunch there, exploring the hall, and letting our kid make new friends on the playground. We stayed the night at the gatehouse of the hall, which was a fun experience after so many hotels.

Day 12- Drove up to Lancaster for one last witch trial related stop. Went on a guided tour of Lancaster Castle, which was very interesting. After wandering around the castles in Wales on our own, it was a nice change of pace to have a guide for this castle. It's a working court, and court was in session that day, so there was a limit to the areas we were allowed in (and no pictures allowed inside, under penalty of jail time), but we felt like we saw plenty of the historic parts of the castle. After that we went on a canal boat cruise for a couple of hours, which was a nice and relaxing way to spend the afternoon. Finally, pushed on to our destination for the night, Alderley Edge. We stayed there purely because I found The Wizard's Thatch b&b online a few years ago and dreamed of staying there, so we thought "why not" and booked a room there. That b&b is magical and I highly recommend a stay there. The town itself is not much of a tourist destination, but we enjoyed some beers and a good dinner at a pub.

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Day 13- Started to feel the length of the trip by this day, and it didn't help that it was raining, at times a torrential downpour. We drove through the Peak District to Nottingham, our last overnight stop on our trip. My husband and son really wanted to go to Warhammer World, so that was our first stop. I can report that reading a book with a coffee and pastry in the restaurant there is a nice way to spend a couple of hours. It was pouring buckets by the time we left. We bought tickets to the City of Caves attraction, an underground tour of some of Nottingham's hundreds of caves, because we couldn't think what else to do in such rain. It was really fun and I recommend it, especially for families with older kids. After that, we checked into our hotel, Jury's Inn, and then headed into the rain one last time. We have wanted to go to Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem for years, and that was the primary reason we chose Nottingham for a stop on this trip. We had some beers and dinner there, had a great conversation with a local, and really enjoyed our last night in the UK.

Day 14- Left bright and early because we were worried about traffic heading toward the airport. We had plenty of time, and managed to get in two stops before getting to the rental car place. Stopped at the Hellfire Caves and did the walk through those caves. It was more fun than I anticipated, they have a kids' activity trail to keep the kids busy, and some dioramas set up in the caves. It's a pretty short walk looping through the caves, but it felt good to stretch our legs one last time before the flight. We drove a bit closer to the airport and realized we still had tons of time left, so we pulled off at Beaconsfield to get some lunch. After lunch, that was it, we dropped the car off and went to Heathrow for the longer-than-usual flight back home (delayed an hour and a half after boarding!).

Whew! That's it! I think our next trip will be a slow one, staying in one place and taking it easy, but this was packed full of fun, and we saw so many place that I've dreamed about visiting for so long.

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Thank you for this wonderful trip report, I really enjoyed it!

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Sounds like a great, busy trip. Thank you for the report, I really enjoyed it.