A Week in The North

Our long planned trip to The North was to be our longest roadtrip so far. The main plan was to go along Hadrian's wall and learn about it's history and see some roman forts and places nearby. Tollef went up to Newcastle on Friday already, to attend the Maker Faire 2010. It's a festival for, you've guessed right, making things. Anything, from old fashion hand crafts to modern technology and things that seem more like science ficton. I had to work the weekend, so on Sunday I got in the car with Odin and drove up to Newcastle to meet up with Tollef.

It's been an incredible week where we've gotten to see a lot of both past and present England. The weather was all over very nice, and apart from quite windy parts it's been warm and dry. The landscape and views of the North is impressive and beautiful, so different from what we are used to from Norway, except from the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales, which felt more like home than anything else. The trip feels very complete, and full of experiences and new impressions.

Day 1

After checking in on the hotel in Newcastle, we had just enough time to have a walk through the Discovery centre, where a part of the Maker Faire was held. There was an old-fashioned steam wagon outside, and inside there were lego-building, tablet weaving, robots and other things. We also had a walk through the permanent Story of Newcastle-exhibition. In the evening we walked in Quayside along the river, to look at the bridges of Tyne that connects Newcastle together over the river. All the bridges are very different and from different times, a very special view.

Day 2

On Monday morning we went to Prudhoe castle, just outside Newcastle. It appeared to be closed, so we just walked around it outside and in the courtyard (that was open because they were doing some mainentance there), and gave Odin a run in the nearby field. Since the steel furnace not far away was also closed, we decided to go to Durham, a small city just south of Newcastle. They have a nice cathedral that we visited. There's also a castle which is now partly student accomodation(!), and a nice covered market.

Day 3

As we had planned to go to Durham on Tuesday, we decided to take the time and go to Lindisfarne instead, despite the somewhat long detour in the wrong direction. Lindisfarne, the Holy Island, is said to be where the first Christians in England lived. Also the saint Cuthbert was buried here, until vikings raided the island, and the inhabitant monks had to flee the island with his body. Later on, a castle was built on the outer edge of the island, wathing out over the North Sea. It's been used both as a fortress, residence and museum during its time. Today the castle is available for wedding seremonies, and for tourists to visit. Also ruins of the old monastery remains, not far from the castle. It is a very pretty and peaceful place.

What is a bit special about the island is that it is reachable only when the tide is low. The tide covers the road to the island, so by then we had to be back on the mainland - or stay on the island for another 6 hours. The island is inhabited by about a hundred people, and does have a couple of cafes, shops and several bed and breakfasts, so it is definitely not deserted, but maybe a bit boring to be stuck on anyway. After visiting the Holy Island, we drove the coastal route back down towards Newcastle and then to Hexham, some miles west of Newcastle along Hadrian's wall. There we had a walk through the city centre, before we checked in at the Boatside inn, a very nice and friendly inn just a bit outside the city centre.

Day 4

Due to our luck and bad planning, the roman town we were going to visit was open in weekends only, until April. That left us heading towards Chesters Roman fort, which was a cavalry fort just along the wall, with the rest of a bathhouse, barracks and turrets showing. There was also a museum with findings from different places, fractures and bits of stone monuments, sculptures, tools and everyday things from the Roman era. We went further on to Housestead forts, where we could actually see a part of the wall itself connected to the remains of the fort. To get to the fort we had to pass through a field with sheep, and Odin had to be kept on a lead to not chase them.

In the afternoon, we had lunch in Hexham, and had another walk through the city centre. They have an old gaol, which was England's first purpose-build prison, through the Jaccobean uprisings. We also went via Tesco for Tollef to by a Nintento DS XL, so we could play together, as he's been borrowing mine quite a lot. From Hexham we decided to go to try and find the Allendale village, which also has a brewery. I thought it was also a pub, but after a while of searching, we found the brewery, being "only" just that. The guy there was very friendly and gave us a short tour through the brewery, before we bought a decent selection of his beers. Very nice! He also recommended a local pub who had their beers, and we ended up going there for a nice dinner in the evening.

Day 5

Thursday morning we checked out of the Boatside Inn and headed off to Carlisle. We had very good time, so we kept a lot to the sideways along Hadrian's wall. It was very pleasant, and also the sheep had started getting their lambs, so we saw a lot of them running in the close fields alongside the road. Some of them was not more than a few hours old! We stopped in a village called Halfwhistle and gave Odin a nice walk along a gorge there, before continuing towards our goal of the day. In Carlisle we walked through the city centre, and then visited the cathedral. It was very small for a cathedral, a part of the original building being gone. Carlisle also have "the Lanes", which is roofed lanes with shops and booths, where we had a milkshake.

Day 6

One thing that is very good with English Heritage, is that they allow dogs on many of their properties. Friday morning we took Odin and went to Carlisle castle. First we saw the "Wardens rooms" in the first tower, which was very nice. The castle was also very nice, and a lot of original building even though it has had some reconstruction work done. The castle had a long military history, and there are still military headquarters within the walls of the castle. The tower where Mary, Queen of Scots, were held prisoner by her sister Elizabeth, was unfortunately not there any more.

After seeing the castle, Odin was left in the hotel, while we went for lunch and more sightseing. We first visited the Guildhall Museum. It's one of the oldest guildhalls in England, and it told the story of how guilds worked in the city in old times. The exhibition was very interesting, and even today there are members of three of the guilds. Then we walked through Carlisle's own covered market, and back through the lanes again. In the evening we saw Alice in Wonderland in the cinema right by the hotel, in 2d. The movie was very good, though I was a bit disappointed about the mad hatter, I thought he ought to be a lot madder.

Day 7

For the last full day of our trip, we had decided to go some of the way south, to shorten down the last strech home on Sunday. Having all day to get to Manchester, we decided to go through the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, which are supposed to be very beautyful scenic areas of England. Having been quite lucky with the weather all week, it was pouring down when we left Carlisle. Fortunately it cleared up, and Odin and Tollef had a nice walk to a small mountain top in the Lake District. The surroundings was very much like Norwegian hills and valleys, and low mountains with white and grey sheep dotting the hillsides. On parts of the mountains it was even some snow left. The roads all the way was quite narrow and somewhat rough, and we were well shaken on the way. In the evening we met a couple of friends for dinner in a pub, before we went to some other friends to stay the night. They already had some guests, and we ended up sitting up quite late talking, very nice. The hostess is Mexican, so in the morning next day we had corn bread with chorizo and mexican sauces, before we sat off on our last stretch towards home.

Home, sweet home.