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Trip Report-The South of England

The trip wasn’t without it’s hiccups, with driving challenges and itinerary changes thanks to the Royal funeral, but as usual, the latest trip I’ve taken ends up being the best ever. Once again, I was with my wife and favourite travel buddy, Carla. We went as far west as Salisbury and as far east as Canterbury with the inspiration for planning coming from a couple of Historical Fiction novels and one of my favourite movies. The books were The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett and The Last Kingdom book series by Bernard Cornwell-which is also a TV show on Netflix. Pillars of the Earth is a soap opera(ish) story about the fictional town of Kingsbridge and its building of a cathedral. Ken Follett used the Salisbury Cathedral as one of his inspirations for the story. The Last Kingdom is a 13-book series set in the late 9th and early 10th centuries with the Anglo Saxons fighting the Vikings under King Alfred’s rule with vision for a united England. I’ll throw in tidbits of experience and conversations with people as I write this report. I’ve also provided links for sites, and hotels at the end of each day’s report. I typically don’t talk about hotels or restaurants in my reports unless I feel something exceptional needs to be told. Feel free to ask questions.

Here’s a link to some photos I’ve posted on the Rick Steves Europe group site. https://www.facebook.com/groups/RickStevesEurope/posts/1107654776616811/

A daily report is below in the comments section.

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Day 1.
From Gatwick we started in Lewes which is about a 30-minute train ride south of the airport. I’d never heard of it, but we needed somewhere to stay for the night because I had no intention of renting a car after an overnight flight. Our first pick was Brighton and then pick up a car from there, however we couldn’t find a place in Brighton that I could rent from and then return the car on a Saturday afternoon. Next choice was heading back to Gatwick for the car the next day, but the best price I was quoted was about $1200 for an automatic. It certainly wasn’t the price I was hoping for, but I booked the car, and planned a stay in Brighton until I stumbled on an independent car rental place in Lewes called Chailey Car Rental for £285. The price was too good to pass up, and in the end, everything worked out, but I can’t say there weren’t some nerves in the few months prior to picking up the car as they weren’t a nationally recognized company and had just a few cars. I’d describe correspondence with them as small-town loosey-goosey. I get the sense he was patiently shrugging his shoulders every time I had a question such as my concern for returning a car when the office was closed. He told me to drop the keys in the mailbox like that was standard procedure. It was definitely more laid-back than I’m typically comfortable with.

Since we took a chance with an unknown rental company, we decided we’d spend our first couple of days in Lewes. One thing to know about Lewes, is that it has hills that can give San Francisco a run for its money. From the train station to Town Centre with our luggage was a steep climb. We also came across a historical interest sign at the bottom of one hill that when he was still Prince Regent; George the IVth “drove a coach and four down the street on a wager.” My guess: if the story is true, and looking at the steepness of the road, that a young prince was among friends with plenty of beer.

https://www.premierinn.com/gb/en/hotels/england/east-sussex/lewes/lewes-town-centre.html
https://www.leweschaileycarrental.co.uk/

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Day 2
We wouldn’t be picking up the car until day 3 so we had a full day to explore Lewes and I’ll recommend it as a good overnight stop to explore while recovering from jetlag. What I didn’t know and was excited about because of my love for the Last Kingdom books is that King Alfred had established it as one of his ‘burhs’ to be defended in case of Viking raids. Now I need to go back through the books to check if it is mentioned in any of them. I knew before the trip started that finding actual physical evidence of the time period wasn’t going to happen and so I was going to have to be happy when finding little tidbits of information like this. In fact, it was up to me the entire trip to root out the stories that go along with the time period and be satisfied with that.

We started the day with a quiet walk through the park to look at the ruins of St Pancras Priory which was destroyed during Henry the VIII’s fit of anger. There isn’t much left to see, but it was an interesting walk. The Anne of Cleves house is nearby. She got it in the divorce with Henry but never lived there. It’s a Tudor style house with a few pieces of furniture inside. Most people just do a quick walkthrough and leave, but if you spend some time reading some of the information lying around in booklet form, it’s an interesting treasure trove of home life of the time. The bed was noticeably short, and it explained that it was because people slept upright because it was believed at the time to be unhealthy to sleep lying down. It also talked about clothing of the time and it being a status symbol. Our friend Henry was upset that some of the merchants could dress better than him and so he passed a law setting up a class system of what people could wear so nobody could dress finer than the king. Also, in an attempt to prop up the wool trade, he passed ‘wool laws’ requiring people to wear English wool. Elizabeth I also passed wool laws, including the requirement for anybody over six years old to wear a wool cap on Sundays.

The visit to the house was well worth it, but we had only stopped because it was included in our ticket to the Lewes Castle. It’s a ruin as well with an intact gatehouse that is very picturesque. It’s an interesting stop with a small museum, but if I had to choose between the two, I’d take the Cleves House and be happy standing outside the castle for some photo-ops.

https://lewespriory.org.uk/

https://sussexpast.co.uk/attraction/anne-of-cleves-house/

https://sussexpast.co.uk/attraction/lewes-castle/

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Day 3
Picked up the car this morning. All went well, except the car only had and 1/8 of a tank of gas. He made note of it and told me no need to return full. Part of that loosey-goosey thing again. Luckily, Lewes is not that big, and it was easy to find a gas station. Overall, my experience with the car was fine, and the fine details you’d expect with a national company can be overlooked based on the price paid. You will need to ask yourself about your comfort levels though when dealing with a small, independent company like this.

First stop of the day was Fishbourne Palace. It is a museum displaying Roman floor mosaics uncovered from the remains of a buried villa that was found in 1963 when the land was being developed for housing. A structure was built overtop of the mosaics which consist of one wing of the original villa. There are no walls, just the floors. The museum leading up to the remains is quite interesting and talks about the building and Roman life in Britannia. The palace was huge and outside the museum building it is staked out to show how it sat on the land. This is likely all that will ever be uncovered though as there is housing overtop of the east wing of the house. Loved this stop.

I didn’t mention that day 3 is the Wednesday before the Queen’s funeral and so you couldn’t swing a dog by the tail without hitting someone who wasn’t talking about it. We encountered a woman who appeared to be about my mom’s age-so about 90. Physically, she was beginning to act her age and needed help walking, but her mind was as sharp as a tack. She noticed our accents and started a conversation, and of course, any current conversation eventually gets to the Queen. She was a walking encyclopedia of royal trivia. When we told her where we were from, she brightened up and said she’d never been, but rattled off the dates the Queen had visited Calgary starting with her first visit in 1951 (when she was still the Princess). I looked it up later that day and she had all the dates right.

Next stop was a backtrack to Arundel Castle. It is one of the most visually stunning castles that I’ve ever seen from the outside, but like our trip to Scotland in June, it reconfirmed that we like castles better from the outside than the inside. We spent about an hour outside wandering the grounds and getting views from different angles, but the inside was just a bunch of old rooms with old furniture. Easily can be missed in my opinion, just take your photo and go. Fishbourne Palace and the conversation with the woman won the day. By the way, the Duke of Norfolk lives at Arundel castle, and he was a busy guy. By tradition, the Duke of Norfolk oversees organizing royal funerals and coronations.

https://sussexpast.co.uk/attraction/fishbourne-roman-palace/

https://www.arundelcastle.org/

https://white-swan-arundel.co.uk/

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Day 4
The first change to our itinerary due to the funeral. We were scheduled to arrive in Winchester on Sunday evening and had booked a town tour for the next day, but we received a message that all tours were cancelled for that day. We were heading to Salisbury from Arundel this morning and decided to make a detour to Winchester to get that tour in. This trip was my first experience using Google Maps offline. I’ve got a Tom Tom GPS that I bought many years ago that comes with free lifetime map updates-but only for North America. A map of the UK was going to cost me $80, and since I still don’t like shelling out small change for pay toilets, I certainly wasn’t going to pay for a map that would expire in 1 year. Mistake. Things I learned or need to learn; while on data, you usually get 2 or 3 route options, but on offline maps I was given one route option and I couldn’t figure out how to override it. I wanted to override it because instead of taking me along a couple of motorways and higher profile highways, it gave me a route through heavily forested, twisty, narrow secondary roads with plenty of blind corners, all in an effort to save me 5 minutes. I’m used to driving on the left, but not used to roads this twisty and narrow. If that wasn’t enough, while in the middle of nowhere, we come upon a barrier saying that the road was closed. No detour suggested and offline maps wouldn’t update my route. We eventually made it to Winchester by using the offline map like a regular paper map with Carla navigating.

I’ll talk more about Winchester on our regularly scheduled days there, but we took our tour and found it extremely interesting and well worth the £10 per person. We also went into the cathedral and lined up to sign one of the Queen’s memorial books the church had out for visitors to sign. Lots of flowers outside the cathedral, not on the scale of flowers that we saw on TV at Westminster and Buckingham Palace, but still a lot.

We spent about 4 hours in Winchester and then off to Salisbury for the next few days. With the route plugged into Google Maps and 11 miles from Salisbury…another highway is closed, this time due to a major accident. Luckily, this time we were on a busier highway and just followed a line of cars to a secondary road that all seemed to be heading in the same direction and we found our way until we could plug in new directions that my phone accepted.

We stayed in a hotel in the city centre, but with no parking. We were advised that there was an overnight lot a couple of blocks away. So, we park there and try to use the pay machine but it doesn’t take credit cards. QR Code or coins only. I wasn’t using data on my phone, so the QR code wasn’t an option. I plugged in the change but it wouldn’t accept some of my £1 coins. Apparently, they were too old. The newer £1 coins are gold and silver while the older ones are one-colour and the machine doesn’t like them. Luckily a local was nearby and traded me some new coins for my old coins. More on parking later.

https://www.visitwinchester.co.uk/listing/guided-walking-tours-winchester/

https://www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk/

http://www.qudossalisbury.co.uk/

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Day 5
Up at 5am to get ready for our inner stone ticket at Stonehenge at 6:45. The standard ticket during regular hours only gets you to a roped off area about 20-30 yards from the stones. With our ticket we got to wander inside the stones in a small group with a guide for £48/pp. Our group was 15 people but if I understand the website correctly, the group size can be up to 30. We got there in time for sunrise, and it made for some fantastic photo-ops, but I’m also a firm believer that being able to see the stones close-up enhances the experience even without the photography. I’ve been reading some of the reviews on Trip Advisor and the recent negative opinions seem to focus on two things: cost and the no-dogs policy. Even though I’d have been perfectly happy if my group consisted of me and 14 dogs, I sadly understand the policy and got my dog-fix on this trip at the pubs. As for the cost, paying double the usual entrance fee was well worth it. From that roped off area we wouldn’t have experienced the immense size of the stones or seen the detail of how they were chiseled to the proper shape and size including the Lego-like hollows and protrusions that kept the top rocks in place.

Tip: the grass was very dewy, wear waterproof shoes. I did and was fine, Carla’s feet were soaked for the rest of the morning.

On the way back to Salisbury, we made a stop at Old Sarum. If you like ruins and outlines of where buildings used to be, then you may love it. We did. Old Sarum is where the original inhabitants built a fort about 400BC, the Romans, Saxons and Normans also left their mark. You can see the remains of an old stone palace and the outline where the original cathedral was. When the new Salisbury Cathedral was built in its current location, Old Sarum was deserted and New Sarum was born. You can see the spire of the new cathedral from Old Sarum.

Back to New Salisbury for a day of wandering and laundry. We found a small laundry place a block from our hotel that charged us £10 for one load of socks, underwear and a couple of shirts.

Parking. The overnight lot where we were parked is good until 8:00 the next morning, and then it’s another £9.90 for the day plus overnight again. I came armed with change this time, only to find out that the pay station was broken and wouldn’t accept change. I solved the issue by scanning the QR code, copying it and then walked back to the hotel where I had wifi and pasted it into my browser to access the website to pay via credit card.
Tip. If driving, take a photo of your licences plate. The plate number was required for many of the parking lots we used on this trip, and I couldn’t always see my car from the pay station.

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/stonehenge/

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/search?searchTerm=old%20sarum

http://www.salisburylaunderette.co.uk/

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Day 6
This was the day that we were most looking forward to. When Ken Follett wrote Pillars of the Earth, Salisbury Cathedral was one of two that he was basing it on. We had a tower tour reserved well in advance that would take us up into the spire and discuss how the cathedral was built. But then the Queen died and soon after we got an email that effective immediately, the cathedral was closed to tourists until after the funeral. I’ll note that the closure did not extend to the gift shop where I could still buy a Queen Elizabeth bobble head….
Of the 3 cathedrals we did visit on this trip; Salisbury, Winchester, and Canterbury, we thought the exterior views of Salisbury were the most spectacular. The north and west views allowed unobstructed views.

In it’s place we booked a town tour which was well done. Our guide didn’t help us feel better though when he told us that he thought that the tower tour was the best tour in the UK. But his tour did paint a picture of Salisbury that we wouldn’t have got from wandering the town on our own. He pointed out that many of the buildings dated from the 13th and 14th centuries even though they had ‘modern’ facades dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. Our guide was one of the people who had made the trek to London for a viewing of the queen’s coffin. He said from the time he left his house and came back was 17 hours, which included a 12 hour wait in line which he said was worth it. He said he remembers being with his father when he was 7 years old standing outside of Buckingham Palace at the Queen’s coronation. He thought he should be there for both ends of her career.

At the end of the tour, he recommended the Haunch of Venison to us for a pint. The building is from 1320 with massive oak beams used that they believe came from an old ship. It’s current claim to fame is that Churchill, Montgomery and Eisenhower occasionally came here for a pint after a hard day of strategy sessions for D-day. The story can’t be confirmed but it’s one of those fun stories that have become legend. It was far from the most comfortable place to sit and have a pint, but the age and atmosphere made it worthwhile.

https://salisburycityguides.co.uk/walks/

http://haunchpub.co.uk/

https://www.salisburycathedral.org.uk/

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Day 7
Leaving Salisbury and heading for Portsmouth Historic Dockyards, but our final destination today will be Winchester for a couple of nights. Easy highway driving today. I’m much more comfortable driving on the motorways and in big cities than I have been on the narrower secondary highways that have dominated the trip so far.

First stop was to the Mary Rose Museum. It may be the most uniquely designed museum that I’ve ever been to. The Mary Rose is a warship built in Portsmouth in 1511 for Henry VIII’s navy. It sunk it 1545 in a battle just off the Portsmouth coast and the wreckage pulled from the water in 1982. The current museum it’s housed in opened in 2016 and one side of the hull was recovered and is on display As you walk along the multiple levels; on your right side you see the hull with videos and some artifacts and then on your left side you’re able to see more of artifacts from the ship and how they were placed and used onboard. It’s kind of a recreated mirror image of the ship. I couldn’t get enough and spent about 2 ½ hours wandering back and forth among the levels checking out all the details. A warship and cannons might be a guy thing, because while Carla was interested, she wasn’t nearly as enthralled as me.

I had thought the HMS Victory was going to be the highlight of the day, but for us it turned out to be just ok. The biggest disappointment was that most of the exterior of the ship couldn’t be seen because it was covered in tarps for maintenance. All that could be seen was a small part of the front and the back. The audio tour that describes life on the ship leading up to the Battle of Trafalgar was well done, but I could only look at so many cannons before I’d had enough. I likely felt that way because I was having to constantly duck while below deck, which I did unsuccessfully and banged my head about a dozen times. Note that the ship is not friendly for mobility challenged people and has lots of steep stairways.

There’s a large shopping mall a short walk away from the dockyards with plenty of food selections and also a heritage walk with a trail laid out in the sidewalk that begins nearby that takes you into Old Town. It’s scenic and worth an hour of your time. If we ever make it back to Portsmouth we may stay in this area.
We headed to Winchester in the later afternoon.

https://www.historicdockyard.co.uk/

https://maryrose.org/

https://www.nmrn.org.uk/visit-us/portsmouth-historic-dockyard/hms-victory

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Day 8

I’ve already posted a trip report for this day because it was the day of the Queen’s funeral. I thought it was a unique day and deserved a timely report. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/a-royal-trip-report

Winchester was on my list because of the Last Kingdom books even though I knew before I came that there wasn’t a lot to see regarding the time period of King Alfred, but to see the statue of him was satisfying for me as was a sign at our hotel that stated it is on the grounds of the nunnery started by Alfred’s wife Eahlswith.

The King Alfred Inn was probably our favourite hotel of the trip. I was taken to task by a couple of people in my royal trip report for calling my experiences strange because we literally had the place to ourselves all day Monday and Tuesday morning with not an employee or other guest in site. However, that didn’t stop the enjoyment. It was only about £100/night and the wifi was awful in our room, but that may have been a good thing. We spent Sunday evening in the pub which may be the coziest pub I’ve ever been in. I suspect this is the type of pub that people are talking about when they describe English pubs a gathering and socializing space. Plus, a lot of dogs to greet. I was busy patting a chocolate lab while Carla waited for me nearby when she and a woman with a dog struck up a conversation. The woman was wondering if Carla was here alone, and Carla pointed me out and said I’d be over shortly once I discovered she had a dog as well. She was right, I came over and greeted the dog and the woman mentioned that she was told by Carla to expect me. :)

The King Alfred also has a very nice outdoor space that also had better Wi-Fi than our room and so we spent quite a bit of time out there when we weren’t wandering the town.

There isn’t as much to see or do in Winchester as compared to Salisbury, but we loved it here. It was a pretty and relaxing place to be. We visited the Great Hall which is famous for the round table from King Arthur fame. Our guide told us that the Tudors loved the Arthur tales and likely had the table made. She pointed out that the image of Arthur on the table looks suspiciously like Henry VIII. A highlight for me in the Hall was the stained glass with the coats of arms for much of the English Royalty over history including my Last Kingdom references such as Alfred and Athelstan.

The river walk is also pretty. Apparently, the river isn’t in its original spot. The Romans thought it was in the way and moved it. It brought up a good topic of conversation between Carla and I on this trip that the Romans brought all this technology with them, but when they left, it didn’t stick the Dark Ages began. Why? It may be my next bit of research.

https://the.littlepubgroup.co.uk/the-king-alfred

https://www.visitwinchester.co.uk/listing/the-great-hall/

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Day 9
Backtracking today to the west end of England. Heading toward Eastbourne to walk along the 7-Sisters Cliffs, but first, more highway issues. We got as far as Lewes to find the highway closed due to a major accident. Once again, we can’t figure out how to get offline google maps to offer a different option, so we use my phone like a paper map again.

Carla had read in a blog that the best views of the 7-Sisters is a short walk from the South Hill Barn carpark in Seaford. The blog was right, and the views were outstanding. We spent about 45 minutes here wandering and looking at the cliffs from various angles, then over to Birling Gap for another walk. You can’t really see the 7 -sisters from here as you’re walking right on top of them, but there is a short hike to Beachy Head with a great view of a lighthouse in the ocean at the base of the cliff. Another hour and then back in the car for a very short drive to the Beachy Head Pub. I believe this is mentioned in the RS guide. I was expecting some small hole-in-the-wall in the middle of nowhere, but it’s quite nice. It’s also a stopping point for a lot of tour buses with people spilling out for a short walk to see the views of the lighthouse that we had just hiked to.

After a drink, I wanted to walk over to the cliffs again to search for a WW2 memorial I’d read about. It’s to commemorate the bombers who would fly over the cliffs on the way to bombing raids on the continent and the 56,000 that didn’t make it home. While here we decided to walk back to the lighthouse to see it from this angle, unfortunately 2 tour buses loaded with German high school students had arrived at the same time as us. Near the Beachy Head pub is an office for the Mobile Crisis Unit that operates in the area. The cliffs are apparently one of the 3 top destinations in the world to commit suicides, and it’s not just locals, as we discovered that suicide tourism is a thing. On average, 80 people die at the cliffs each year and some come from around the world to do it. However, only about 25% of the deaths are suicides. While we were here, we watched high school students being high school students without a care in the world including one pair of boys taking turns doing back flips near the edge while the other videoed it. Meanwhile, the two teachers/adult supervisors had their noses buried in their phones and didn’t notice. So, of the 80 deaths, 25% are suicide and the other 75% are stupidity?

Stayed overnight in Eastbourne. Kind of a blah town, no need to come back, but I do highly recommend a hike along the cliffs. Backflips at your own risk.

https://www.sevensisters.org.uk/

https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/68934

https://www.theviewhoteleastbourne.com/

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Day 10

Bodiam Castle. Wow. Maybe it’s because I’m like a 10-year-old boy around castles, but wow. It’s a ruin, so not much to see inside, but the bridge over the moat to the castle, wow. Imagine yourself as a 10-year-old and your teacher tells you to draw a castle, I wouldn’t be surprised if you drew Bodiam Castle. As soon as we were back in our hotel at the end of the day, I went to this site to search for references of the castle on this forum. Not one wow on the Forum. I’m giving it a well-deserved wow. As mentioned, it’s a ruin, but the structure is fine, and it is one of the most spectacular photo moments that I’ve had so far in the UK. There is a guided tour every hour that takes about 45 minutes and is well done. Perhaps the castle isn’t popular because it’s not easy to get to without a car. We thought that Google Maps had let us down again and sent us through the narrowest, curviest highways available, but after checking later that day it appears that is the only way to get to it.

Next stop about 20 minutes away was the Battle Abbey and the Battle of Hastings Battlefield where English history changed in 1066 as William the Conqueror sailed over from Normandy to defeat the Saxons to begin Norman rule in England. The Visitors Centre has a small museum that gives an overview of the battle and then with the help of the free audio guide you can walk the battlefield that helps recreate the battle in your imagination. I can’t help but be reminded of Culloden while I was here. Different circumstances but the site is set up in a similar way to help you understand the significance. There are also Abbey ruins here, and they’re worth seeing, but I wouldn’t have gone out of my way if it wasn’t for the Battle of Hastings part. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it yet, but we had bought Historic Scotland passes for our trip to Scotland in June and it has an agreement with English Heritage in England and so we were able to use our passes from free admission. We used the passes at Stonehenge, Battle Abbey and Dover Castle.

We stayed overnight in Rye, mainly because of one photo of Mermaid Street that makes its way into all travel literature. Google it and you’ll see various angles of the same street. Rye is very pretty but we were wondering if it was worth an overnight stay. The famous Mermaid Inn is here and it’s not cheap at £188/night, but because of all of the history that we read about the hotel we decided it would be our expensive hotel of the trip. The current building is from 1420 and the cellars from 1120 and the building holds onto its medieval charm. It’s a nice hotel and we have no regrets, but I think we built it up too much in our minds for it to have ever met expectations. Bring a road map or breadcrumbs to find your hotel room. Here’s a description of how to get to our room from the lobby: 12 steps up, hallway, 1 step down, continue in the hallway, duck under 600-year-old beam, turn left and 6 steps down. Through door, turn right, 4 steps down. Through door and down hallway, sharp 90 degree right and 13 steps up, our door is on the right at the top of the steps.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodiam-castle

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/1066-battle-of-hastings-abbey-and-battlefield/

https://www.mermaidinn.com/

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Day 11

Left Rye and drove to Dover Castle. Another English Heritage site and so no cost for us. A good thing because we left unimpressed. Maybe because it’s the last few days of holiday and we’re tiring out, but whatever it was, we were there at 10am and gone by 12:30 and that included lunch. The person at the gate suggested we head to the castle first and then backtrack to the tunnels for a tour starting at 11:15. The castle could have been interesting but there was almost no signage to describe what we were seeing. It had been set up how it may have been lived in by the original tenant, but with no signage, it was a lot of looking and no learning. We headed back down the hill to the tunnels for the 11:15 Dunkirk tour. We got there at 11:00 and was told there was no 11:15 tour, but there was one at 11:30. The guy suggested we head around the corner to the info centre to look at some displays and then come back. We did and were back at 11:15 and were told by the same guy that 11:30 was full and the next tour was 12:30. We went for lunch at the cafeteria and were back at noon to be confronted by a long line. The same guy told us that the 12:30 was full and come back at 1:30. With steam coming out of our ears we left and headed for Canterbury. No stars for Dover Castle.

Our day got better as we were immediately impressed by our hotel-The Hampton by Hilton which is a three-minute walk to the Cathedral. It had a plexiglass section of floor in the lobby showing off a piece off a Roman ruin of a theatre that was discovered after a bombing raid during WW2. After dropping off our bags we made a beeline to the cathedral but couldn’t find it even though we could see the spire. Unlike the cathedrals at Winchester and Salisbury, Canterbury is hidden behind a wall. We missed the poorly marked ticketing area and walked the entire perimeter without actually seeing the cathedral. More on it later.

At the beginning of this trip report I mentioned the motivation to see Canterbury was one of my favourite movies. The movie is A Knight’s Tale. It has nothing to do with anything we saw on our trip, except that one of my favourite characters in the movie was Geoffrey Chaucer played by Paul Bettany. I loved his character so much that I started researching Chaucer, and then the Canterbury Tales and then the history of Canterbury and Thomas Beckett…It’s a stretch, but my interest in Canterbury started with a movie that has nothing to do with Canterbury. In our wanderings today I found the statue of Chaucer, but it looks nothing like Paul Bettany, the whole movie may be a lie.

We did do a river tour, which was 45-minutes long and briefly touched on key points in Canterbury history. The only fact that stuck with me was that when Tudor style homes were built, the timber wouldn’t have been painted. That trend started in Victorian Times with the invention of photography and the timbers were painted black to contrast with the rest of the home.

https://www.canterburyrivertours.co.uk/

https://www.hilton.com/en/hotels/rcshxhx-hampton-canterbury/?SEO_id=GMB-EMEA-HX-RCSHXHX

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Day 12

We managed to get a peak of the cathedral after 5pm last night when the gates are opened for the public to walk the grounds. During the day, when there is money to be made, the gates remain locked. The cathedral gave me a Disney-like vibe in it’s quest to lighten my wallet with a no-pay no-see mindset. Even today after buying our tickets and £5 each extra for the tour, we had to exit through the gift shop to get to the cathedral. We were also given the opportunity to pay even more to get a guidebook, and then within the cathedral there were plenty of donation stations in case we wanted to pay more. Coincidentally, in one section they had a pair of brilliant stained-glass windows from the 1950’s. They had a very Disney-like animation appearance to them, and according to our guide, a couple of people who worked on them were later hired by Disney.

But the tour was fabulous and the highlight for us was an exhibition in the crypt with some outstanding artifacts. One display shows lead broaches/buttons that would have been sold as souvenirs outside of the cathedral by hawkers. Tacky tourism circa 1300’s. What really blew me away was an actual shield and shirt worn by another Knight’s Tale character, Edward-The Black Prince, not the movie prop, the real thing. Replicas of these items are on display in the cathedral, hanging above Edward’s tomb. Edward was Edward III son, he died before he could succeed to King, instead his son, Richard II would become King and gain infamy thanks to Shakespeare.

The last stop of the day was to the Roman Museum. It’s probably nothing you haven’t seen somewhere else before with old clay pots, utensils and a few floor mosaics but with a local Canterbury story. It takes about an hour, is interesting and only costs £9.60.

https://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/

https://canterburymuseums.co.uk/canterbury-roman-museum/

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3261 posts

Day 13

Last day and we’ll end it at the airport at another Hampton by Hilton which exits right into the ticketing area for WestJet. It’s a bit pricey but very convenient. But before that we needed to go back to Lewes to drop off our car and it was a perfect opportunity to make a stop to honour my Mom. I thank Nigel’s A-Z post that is 2500+ comments strong at this writing. The post was back to ‘A’ and so I was looking for something about England to write about for my upcoming trip, and I came across Ashdown Forest. I wrote about it in Nigel’s post that you may know Ashdown better as The Hundred Acre Wood from Winnie the Pooh fame. I have strong memories of learning to read with the help of Pooh and my Mom who took me to the library every couple of weeks. Often, I’d get a Pooh book and she’d read to me, and I’d try to read back to her. After visiting Ashdown, I posted this story on Facebook and I guess my Mom was beaming about it. Her comments to me when I got home was that she was so happy to know that she mattered, that she had made an impact and will be remembered. Yes Mom, you matter, and this day was for you. A perfect ending for the trip.

“So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.” A.A. Milne.

https://ashdownforest.org/explore/winnie-the-pooh/

Posted by
372 posts

Thanks Allan - I really enjoyed your report - and as I live not too far from Winchester, this is very much my home area.

Because most building in Alfred's time was wood, very little survives in Winchester (or anywhere really). I'm glad you enjoyed the Mary Rose museum - probably one of my favourites anywhere - I love the split design.

Posted by
1299 posts

I'll have to bookmark this so I can really read this. It looks interesting. Edit: Just finished reading your report. I really enjoyed this; because we had visited many of the same places. We also drove...so many people are afraid to do this. I think we are brave because we are from the real West where you have to drive long distances in all kinds of weather! We are also "thrifty". We stayed in B&Bs, Farmhouses, and Business Class Hotels and one time above a Pub! We often ate picnic style on the road. We had the advantage of traveling when it was less crowded both in April-May and Sept-Oct. I also traveled solo by train when I was summer break from University of Washington in Seattle.

Posted by
876 posts

Allan,
Very interesting and detailed report. I am glad to see you got off the beaten path and explored. I agree about the car rental, I ended up this year going with a local company with much trepidation but all went well and it cost $300 dollars for the week compared to the big companies that wanted over 1300 for the week. We were also in Canterbury this past June, staying at Leeds Castle, which was incredible by the way. I did feel the Cathedral was overpriced and a little more commercialized than I would have liked. I remember going as a child, so I was a little disappointed in the entry experience and the way they have built up "shields" around it. However, the inside is still magnificent. I preferred Ely Cathedral so if you are ever near Cambridge that would be one to put on your list.

I returned to England this September just for the Queen's funeral. It was that important to me. I too got in the line for 11 hours. I also stood on the rails in Whitehall for the funeral arriving at 4:00 am in the morning. It was totally worth it and something I will always remember. I am glad you had a great trip even though there was some disappointment, you made memories for sure.

Margaret

Posted by
8826 posts

Thank you for your report, i’m only part way done 😉

I was at Arundel Castle 10 days ago, my second visit. I love the inside, thoroughly enjoyed seeing it all again. We’re all different…

Posted by
8826 posts

Wow Allan, i kept reading… we went to Bodiam Castle too, 11 days ago! We really enjoyed it.

And we went to Rye as well, stayed at the Mermaid Inn too! We did not like it at all though, absolutely not worth the money in my opinion. Maybe one of the worst hotels we’ve ever stayed at. Cool though that it was built in 1420…

Ok, reading more now… : )

Posted by
547 posts

Hi, Allan--Interesting to see you've stayed in Lewes. I have stayed there 2x. Once in a B&B that is no longer in business, and last year in a B&B in a lady's home where I rented a room. This year I plan to do an Airbnb on the Cliffe High Street. I noticed the Premiere Inn last year on my walks and I thought it looked bleak from the outside. Curious to know if it is very nice inside.
I haven't been inside the Castle or in Anne of Cleaves House but may do so this year.
Thanks for sharing your trip!

Posted by
449 posts

Your trip reports are always so entertaining! Thanks for another great one.

Posted by
3261 posts

I noticed the Premiere Inn last year on my walks and I thought it
looked bleak from the outside. Curious to know if it is very nice
inside.

It's definitely better on the inside than that drab building on the outside. This is my first time at a Premiere Inn so I can't speak from experience if they're all alike, but it was modern and clean on the inside.

Posted by
3261 posts

I was at Arundel Castle 10 days ago, my second visit. I love the
inside, thoroughly enjoyed seeing it all again. We’re all different…

One thing I enjoy about reading Trip Reports, and the comments on mine is that someone can see the same thing as me but have a completely different view of what they saw. It sounds like we missed each other by a couple of days at a couple of locations. If I'd known, I would have waved as we passed you on the highway.

Posted by
602 posts

I really enjoyed reading this, and your photos are beautiful (Bodiam Castle across the water -- wow!).

A trip like this to England is on our short list for upcoming vacations. Frankly, driving on the left terrifies me, but my husband has done so well at this -- in Ireland and the Caribbean -- that I'm willing to try another adventure. I think it's because he's left-handed and used to doing everything in his life "wrong" :-)

Thank you for all the great tips and insights; I'm bookmarking for future research!

Posted by
1021 posts

Allan, this was a nice trip report. One of these days, I will explore England. Four days in London was not enough and under unusual circumstances. Next up for me is probably a second trip to Portugal.

Posted by
2250 posts

I add to the 'Great Report!' compliments!

The Haunch of Venison pub looks like a real find and the King Alfred cocktail menu includes an amaretto sour, which makes a good impression on me.

I'll have more compliments and questions as I make my way through your posts.

Posted by
1464 posts

Terrific report, Allan!

You might enjoy Edward Rutherfurd's book Sarum. I think it would be right up your alley.

Consider Keswick and the Lake District, if you need a doggie fix on your travels!

Posted by
2482 posts

I thoroughly enjoyed your report, Allan. Thanks for sharing it. This is just the kind of trip my husband and I like best, although preferably without the car.

Posted by
3261 posts

Frankly, driving on the left terrifies me,

This was my third time driving in the UK and I found driving on the left to be the least of the challenges and I caught on quickly. For me it was the unfamiliarity of some of the rules or etiquettes that could be a challenge. I mentioned this in my Scotland report in June that unlike here, the UK doesn't have a yellow line dividing traffic going in different directions, it's just a white line. Because of this I had to be on my toes in some places like Lewes where one-way streets were common. Just one example of many of the differences to get used to.

*For the record I never was in the wrong lane or going the wrong way on a one-way street.

Posted by
3261 posts

You might enjoy Edward Rutherfurd's book Sarum. I think it would be
right up your alley.

I have read and it is up my alley. In fact, I re-read it just before this trip, plus his other book about the area, The Forest. Without Sarum, I likely never would have bothered visiting Old Sarum which we enjoyed.

.

Posted by
3261 posts

And we went to Rye as well, stayed at the Mermaid Inn too! We did not
like it at all though, absolutely not worth the money in my opinion.
Maybe one of the worst hotels we’ve ever stayed at.

Susan, I'm curious as to what it was about the hotel that turned you off?

Posted by
8636 posts

Allan, you've written a lovely, lovely trip report. It tickles me that you ended up in Lewes because you found such a great deal on a rental car -- and then found so much to see and enjoy there .

I really enjoyed all your descriptions and perspective of what you saw and how it ties into your interests. My favorite HAS to be how you reached out and touched your mom that way. Very sweet.

I have been wanting to do a long weekend in Rye for a long time (but the darned Eurostar hasn't stopped nearby as it used to before the pandemic) but at least now thanks to you and Susan, I know not to splash out on the Mermaid Inn!

Posted by
285 posts

Thank you for a wonderful trip report, loved the tribute to your mom!

Posted by
3331 posts

Allan, thanks for taking the time to write your excellent trip report!
You certainly did a fabulous job of planning your trip, studying the history of your destinations.

Thanks for all the details. I enjoyed details of your hotels, your journey, museums, and more. I especially enjoyed your mention of Edward The Black Prince. I do love English history, and you certainly made that the focus of your trip.
Your ending with Winnie the Pooh and a tribute to your mother was wonderful....made me shed a tear.

"Winchester--We visited the Great Hall which is famous for the round table from King Arthur fame. Our guide told us that the Tudors loved the Arthur tales and likely had the table made. She pointed out that the image of Arthur on the table looks suspiciously like Henry VIII."

I don't know if your guide told you this, but the Tudors (Henry VII and his wife Queen Elizabeth) had a first son whom they named Arthur. He was supposed to be the king after Henry VII. However, Arthur died very young, age 15, and never became king. Henry VIII was the younger brother of Arthur. So if Arthur had lived, his brother Henry would have never been king (possibly). Those many people who were sent to the Tower of London by Henry VIII would have never been killed. Much of English history would have been changed. Elizabeth I would have never been queen (possibly not have been born), nor would have her older sister Mary.

Arthur was born in Winchester in 1486. His parents went there for him to be born because they considered it to be a fitting birthplace for a king that they hoped would achieve greatness.

Posted by
3261 posts

So if Arthur had lived, his brother Henry would have never been king
(possibly). Those many people who were sent to the Tower of London by
Henry VIII would have never been killed. Much of English history would
have been changed. Elizabeth I would have never been queen (possibly
not have been born), nor would have her older sister Mary.

So many what-ifs and always fun to speculate, we'd actually thought of the what-ifs when we visited the Battle of Hastings site and wondered what if Harold had won the battle.

Posted by
3331 posts

"So many what-ifs and always fun to speculate, we'd actually thought of the what-ifs when we visited the Battle of Hastings site and wondered what if Harold had won the battle. "

Absolutely fun to speculate about "what if"!
"If Harold had won the battle" there would have been no Norman/French kings on the English throne, possibly.
Norman architecture is what they brought with them, so no Norman architecture on cathedrals, castles and homes of ancient knights in England. William the Conqueror built the Tower of London and a very early version of Windsor Castle. So would those exist now if William had never been king?

I'm glad you had a chance to visit the Battle of Hastings site.
If you would like to see a copy of the Bayeux Tapestry without traveling to France, there is an exact replica in the Reading Museum, Reading, England. Reading is not far from London, not far from Windsor, and can be reached by train.

If you are interested in the Tudors, another interesting battle site for your next trip is the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field, where Henry Tudor (from Wales) and his forces killed the famous King Richard III. (1485)
On the battlefield, the crown was lifted from the head of the dead Richard III, and placed on the head of Henry Tudor, making him King Henry the 7th. (VII).
Bosworth Field has a museum with a walking trail out to the field. Information signage is located along the trail, telling about different phases of the battle. Information here:
https://www.bosworthbattlefield.org.uk/

This battle was significant in English history because it marked the end of the long line of Plantagenet kings of England, and began the line of the Tudor kings and queens.

The Battle of Bosworth Field was the last battle of the Wars of the Roses which had lasted many years.

"A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse"........Shakespeare's Richard III, Act V.

Posted by
8826 posts

Rebecca, I love all your fun facts. Richard III… how he ended up under a parking lot is intriguing. Any fun facts about that?

Posted by
3331 posts

Hi Susan. Yes.
After the battle, the body of Richard III was taken to Greyfriars Friary in Leicester and buried in the churchyard. After the friary was dissolved in 1538 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries (destruction of many monasteries and abbeys in England) by Henry VIII, the friary and its church were torn down. Many years later the land was paved over to make a car parking lot for nearby Leicester Cathedral.
In 2012, there was an archaeological dig by the University of Leicester and the Richard III Society. They found a grave and identified King Richard by noting that the skeleton had scoliosis of the spine (which Richard was known to have had) and by a DNA match to a descendant of Richard's sister Anne. Reburial of Richard was in Leicester Cathedral in the spring of 2015.

Posted by
3331 posts

Nick, thanks for your comment.

At the time of the controversy, I thought Westminster Abbey would be the place. I was shocked that they lost out.

If there was any doubt as to where King Richard himself expected to be buried, look at the fact that he had buried his wife Anne Neville at Westminster Abbey.

I am sure it was his intention to someday take his place beside her.

Posted by
3261 posts

Reason #166 on reasons to love this Forum. We can start with a report regrading the South of England and we can veer into other topics to keep the conversation going. Now I have to wonder, will some major events happen in the next 600 years, Windsor Castle is torn down and we'll find ourselves reading about QEII's remains found under a parking lot??

Posted by
3331 posts

Allan, oh no, let's hope that does not happen! I can't imagine QE II buried under a car park! But you are right; who knows what will happen within the next 600 years!

Back to commenting about your most excellent trip report......
Kudos to you for including Bodiam Castle in your trip! This is such a lovely castle, yet it's never mentioned on this forum and no one ever says they want to see it. The area south of London to the coast is "Castle Country", with lots to see.

Allan, any ideas about where you and your wife will go on your next trip?

Posted by
8826 posts

Thank you Rebecca, really enjoyed all your good info, it’s all so fascinating to me.

Posted by
1820 posts

we'll find ourselves reading about QEII's remains found under a parking lot??

Hitler's Secret Bunker was located under what is now a non-descript parking lot in Berlin - yet it is a must see location for many visitors to Berlin.

Posted by
3261 posts

Allan, any ideas about where you and your wife will go on your next
trip?

We've been throwing around the idea of the Amalfi Coast, but airfare to Rome is really high right now, also considering Paris or Mexico City. I think we'll let a seat sale decide for us.

We may fly back to London in the Fall. My Mother in Law is turning 80 and we want her to get back there with us while she's still able.

Posted by
2739 posts

Do you realize that Canterbury Cathedral is over 1,000 years old? It costs £18,000.00 a day to keep it up. With something that old it will always need some repairs, they started charging an entrance fee a little over 20 years ago to help the cost. I have never heard anyone say it’s has a Disney feel. We love seeing the beautiful cathedrals in England and feel very blessed to be able to and don’t mind paying the entrance fee so future generations can enjoy them.

Posted by
3261 posts

I wasn't complaining about an admittance fee, I was merely stating my observations in comparison to Salisbury and Winchester Cathedrals. While both also have gift shops, neither herds you through them after buying a ticket and before you can get to the cathedral, and neither tried multiple times to upsell me with add-ons either.

Posted by
5710 posts

Allan, I'm late to the party, but I just now got back to finish your trip report and the fascinating comments added by fellow Forum members. Thanks for a great report and wonderful photos. I love the details, and appreciate the links you included.