Kathryn and Ken's European Vacation

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Day 7: Chippenham
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Day 7: Chippenham


United Kingdom


Travelodge Chippenham


Sunny with a high of 25°C

Day 7: Monday, September 11, 2006     Chippenham, England

Stonehenge, Salisbury, Bath and Cardiff, Wales in One Day

We had lots to do today so we got an early start.  Ken went to fill up with gas and get his morning coffee.  Unfortunately he left the coffee on the roof of the car and drove off.  There was a nice coffee-coloured trail down the back window.  We again took the back roads as we headed south.  We passed several thatched-roofed houses. These roads were fun to navigate as they often became one-lane roads going through small villages and you had to be aware of vehicles coming from the other direction.  If they were two-lane roads, often people would just park on the street and there would now be only one lane again. 

Thatched-roofed houses in southwestern England

Our trip took us across the Salisbury Plain.  Salisbury Plain is a 300 sq mi (780 km2) chalk plateau in central southern England, part of the Southern England Chalk Formation. Most of the Plain lies within Wiltshire, with some in Berkshire. The Plain is famous for its rich archaeology, including Stonehenge, one of England's best known landmarks. The plain is sparsely populated and is the largest remaining area of calcareous grassland in northwest Europe. Additionally the plain has several military institutions, arable land, and a few small areas of beech and coniferous woodland. Salisbury Plain must be one of the few places in the world to warn motorists of Army tanks crossing. 

Our first stop was at Stonehenge.  We parked the car, paid our admission and also took the guided audio headsets which gave us some of the history. Stonehenge is a Neolithic and Bronze Age megalithic monument located near Amesbury in the English county of Wiltshire, about 8 miles (13 km) northwest of Salisbury. It is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones and is one of the most famous prehistoric sites in the world.  Archaeologists think the standing stones were erected between 2500


BC and 2000 BC although the surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC.  The larger stones of the outer circle, called Sarsen stones, were brought form Marlborough Downs, 30 km away, and the smaller inner stones, called Bluestones, came from the mystical Preseli Mountains in Wales, 385 km away.  When Kathryn came here 20 years ago, she could walk amongst the stones.  Now they are roped off.  This is probably a good thing because you will notice very few people in the photos that I took.  Most of our photos of famous places are full of those blasted tourists.

Our next stop was the city of Salisbury.  Salisbury, on the banks of the River Avon, is best known for its proximity to Stonehenge and for its glorious cathedral, which dates back to 1220 and has the tallest spire (121 m, 404 feet) in all of England.  We spent some time just walking the streets which were filled with Tudor inns and tearooms.  We stopped for lunch at Stuby’s fish and chip shop (see photo in slide show below).  This narrow restaurant was built in a lane between two existing buildings.  While we were eating, an elderly couple at the next table commented that they noticed our “charming accents” and wondered where we were from.

Salisbury Cathedral

From Salisbury we continued on to Bath.  Bath is a unique city; its hot springs, Roman Baths, splendid Abbey and Georgian stone crescents have attracted visitors for centuries. Set in rolling Somerset countryside, just over 100 miles west of London, it is a beautiful and unforgettable place to visit. The surrounding hills give Bath its steep streets and make its buildings appear to climb the slopes.  We bought tickets and did the tour of the Roman Baths which were cool – not temperature-wise but ‘cool’ cool.  Adjacent to the baths, in the Church Yard is Bath Abbey, with its imposing West Front. Dating from the 16th century, the Abbey was constructed to replace the ruinous Norman Cathedral.  The Abbey contains some particularly fine stained glass, and superb fan vaulting.  Leading off Bath’s main shopping streets are numerous side alleys

Roman Baths: that's Kathryn in the sleeveless blue top about to test the waters

(known locally as passages) crammed with yet more shops and restaurants.  We found a grocery superstore and loaded up buns, fruit, cheese, meats and vegetables – and ice – before heading out.

We left Bath and drove for about 2 hours to Cardiff, Wales.  It was late afternoon as we crossed the bridge over the Bristol Channel and it started to rain.  It continued raining until we pulled into Cardiff.  We really had no plan other than to see part of Wales but we thought we would try Cardiff Castle.  It closed just as we got there.  After a look around downtown Cardiff, we drove back to Chippenham for a nice, non-restaurant meal and a good night’s sleep.  Two weeks after we got home, we received a notice from the rental car company that we had been caught speeding on photo radar in Wales and the fine was £27.  Maybe we shouldn’t have gone to Wales after all.

Ken outside Cardiff Castle

Click here for a slide show of Day 7 photos.

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