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Villages of South England - Part 4

The Magna Carta is in a smaller room adjacent to the Cathedral called the Chapter House. The room itself has beautiful stained glass windows. The document is magnificent, even though I couldn’t read a word of it.
After that, we had lunch at the on-site café, called the Refectory. The food was good but the view was unbelievable. The roof is glass and looks up at the spire of the cathedral. It was an absolutely clear day and it made the experience priceless. Another nice touch was the origami birds above our table.

After that we walked into town to get some blister medications. We also asked a local shopper for a recommendation on the best sunscreen. Everyone we talked with in England went out of their way to be helpful, especially the woman who told me not to bet on cars stopping for a pedestrian and that I should be very careful or I wouldn’t get a second chance at crossing the street.

Then we rushed back to the hotel to catch the bus to Stonehenge. At Stonehenge we left our bus and boarded a shuttle to the site. I have been to Stonehenge before but had never used the headsets Roy passed out for us. They added a lot to the experience, as did all those PBS shows I’d seen on recent Stonehenge discoveries. There were several park rangers who walked around and offered to answer any questions. They even explained that the big black birds were kept seeing were rooks, not crows.
We took a shuttle back to the visitor center, bought a t-shirt that read “Stonehenge, established 3,000BC,” and went to the re-created village to see thatched roof houses that show what life was like at the time Stonehenge was built. There was also a small museum. It was a nice experience, with a circular room that let you feel like you were inside the stones.

We returned to the Rose and Crown hotel for our second night in Salisbury. The hotel is old but we had a great room that had a back door out onto the river. There were picnic tables where you could sit and watch the swans, listen to nearby sheep baa-ing and see white horses in the distance. It was like something from a movie set. We, as well as all our neighbors, hung our freshly-laundered socks and shirts out to dry. As an aside, I had bought a dry sack for laundry before we left and it turned out to be one of the best investments I made for the trip.

Day 7: Had breakfast and boarded the bus to catch a train to Corfe Castle. We actually went past the castle to get to the train but the joy was in riding a steam train. The train station itself was charming. It had old posters on the walls and brightly-painted green benches. Everything you’d see in a 1940s movie. The trip was brief but pleasant and then we were at Corfe Castle. The castle itself was “slighted,” which means destroyed, in 1645 during the English Civil War. It was one of the last royalist’s strongholds before falling. Lady Mary Bankes, led the defense of the castle when it was twice besieged by Parliamentarian forces. When she was forced to surrender, she was allowed to keep the seals and keys of the castle in recognition of her courage. Admittedly, the keys to a ruined castle aren’t very useful but it’s the thought that counts.

The castle is a pretty taxing climb and some opted not to go. It was worth the climb. Climbs to the tops of castles are always worth it because castles are always situated in excellent vantage points and we could see the countryside for miles.
After we descended from the castle, we had tea and scones in a garden restaurant that looked up at the castle. Roy acted as our waiter and did an excellent job. Actually, Roy always did an excellent job. I’ve been on other tours where guides said, “Wait here while I go get the tickets,” and you could go get your car waxed before they come back again. He was prompt, patient, and knows how to make things run smoothly without looking like he’s putting any effort into it.

Posted by
5033 posts

I agree that Corfe Castle is worth the climb. And we had a bonus when we were there - a group of re-enactors set up in the meadow below the castle! It was wonderful. They were grinding wheat, making weapons, holding activities for kids... And all were eager to talk about what they were doing. That was a great day.

Posted by
27 posts

I would love to have seen that. On the other hand, I feel very lucky because the week after we were there they had a fire and the castle and the railway were closed.

Posted by
9717 posts

"the week after we were there they had a fire and the castle and the railway were closed."

Oh my word! I had not seen about the fire!

I love that Stonehenge VC gift shop. It is one of the best altho the lines can sometimes be really long.

Enjoying your report!

Posted by
2018 posts

I am really enjoying your very comprehensive and positive tour report. I was on this tour in the fall 2 (maybe 3?) years ago. We had nearly the same itinerary you had, with a few different stops, so it's really fun for me to re-visit all these wonderful places and read about the ones we missed! I really, really enjoyed this particular tour! Thank you for posting and I am so happy you enjoyed your time in Southern England.