The Retirees go Abroad – Home for a Few Days then off to the Tattoo – Edinburgh’s Tattoo

With so much happening in Edinburgh, we decided to take the train from Dunfermline Queen Margaret Station to Edinburgh Waverley Bridge Station. This was a great decision given the traffic nightmares we had already endured.

We arrived at the station and made our way to the Royal Mile found a coffee shop beside the Jolly Judge bar down a lane after battling the crowds through the Fringe.

Photos of Edinburgh and the Royal Mile

We thought we were making great time until we got to within 100 metres of the Tattoo entrance. Here the officials Military Police and local Police were marshalling the ticket holders and corralling us until the gates opened. So there we stood for about ½ an hour before going through security then the ticket check then the ushers. Whew, nobody tells you about that.

Inside our seats were great except that we looked directly into the western sun. The set up was continuing and whilst people were straggling in the show began.

Photos of the set up the ceremonial introductions, the flyover and the massed pipers.

Somewhere in the massed pipers were the Manly Warringah Pipers but how to distinguish them I don’t know. We did pick out the Ghurkhas though. Then came the US Air Forces Special Command drill team with their bayonet fixed drill.

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There were fiddlers from the Falklands, dancers from Dun somewhere Bollywood presentations and Lotus Eaters and dragons.

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Even the PRC (Peoples Republic of China) sent the band from the PLA (Peoples Liberation Army). Not to be out done the Citadel Military College from South Carolina joined in.

Then the best act of the night – Switzerland’s Top Secret Drum Corps from of all places Basel. Finishing was left to the Queen’s Colour Squadron to show us “Marching up and down”. Followed by the Queen’s Own colours regiment.

The finale saw everyone massed on the parade ground whilst fireworks burst above in a twilight sky. Great show.

Then came the walk back to the train to find the next train came 90 minutes later. Oh well at least we got to sit down as we had to stand up on the train to Perth to get home.

The Retirees go Abroad – Home for a Few Days then off to the Tattoo – Culross and North Queensport in the Kingdom of Fife

We left Harrogate relaxed and prepared for rain wind hail and a long trip to Dunfermline. Due to the Edinburgh Festival the Edinburgh Fringe and the Tattoo accommodation was at a premium in Edinburgh. Dunfermline is in the Kingdom of Fife and just north of Edinburgh across the Firth of Forth Bridge.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express but the trip to get there was very tiring. Traffic snarls and Tommy leading us up the garden path meant when we arrived we just needed a drink. Fortunately the predicted bad weather did not eventuate. After some dreadful takeaway and the subsequent indigestion, we slept soundly awaking to a bright sunshiny day with little cloud in the sky. A great day for the Tattoo and our planned visit to the ancient village of Culross and the old ferry port of North Queensport.

Culross is a village and former royal burgh in Fife, Scotland. Originally Culross served as a port city on the Firth of Forth and is believed to have been founded by Saint Serf during the 6th century. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the town was a centre of the coal mining industry. Sir George Bruce of Carnock, who built the splendid ‘Palace’ of Culross and whose elaborate family monument stands in the north transept of the Abbey church, established at Culross, the first coal mine in the world to extend under the sea, in 1575. The mine worked the coal seam under the Firth, with ingenious contrivances to drain the constant leakage from above. This mine was considered one of the marvels of the British Isles in the early 17th century, until it was destroyed in a storm, in 1625.

Photos of the palace and the family monument in the Abbey church.

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Culross’ secondary industry was salt panning. There was a considerable export trade by sea in the produce of these industries and the prevalence of red roof tiles in Culross and other villages in Fife is thought to be a direct result of collier ships returning to Culross with Dutch roof tiles as ballast. The town was also known for its monopoly on the manufacture of ‘girdles’, i.e. flat iron plates for baking over an open fire. The town’s role as a port declined from the 18th century, and by Victorian times it had become something of a ‘ghost town’. The harbour was filled in and the sea cut off by the coastal railway line in the second half of the 19th century. The village has some unusual street names also.

Photos of the town buildings, streets and the sea wall

The other notable building is the remains of the Cistercian house of Culross Abbey, founded 1217. The tower, transepts and choir of the Abbey Church remain in use as the parish church, while the ruined claustral buildings are cared for by Historic Scotland.

There is a bust in honour of Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald outside the Culross Town House. He was the first Vice Admiral of Chile.

Photos of the bust Town House and Cistercian Abbey ruins.

We also visited North Queensport the home of the world’s smallest light house. Primarily we went there to view the rail bridge the road bridge and the new bridge under construction. The village was also a snapshot of history losing its importance as a ferry port when the road bridge terminated a need for a ferry service.

Photos of the rail bridge, the road bridge the stanchions of the new road bridge the modern Liner terminal, the smallest lighthouse and someone’s lounge room we mistook for the lighthouse.

I would have to say that Culross was one of the prettiest villages we have visited. We had arrived early and we seemed to be following the postie or vice versa. We chatted to him few times and noted he was wearing shorts and a short sleeve cotton shirt whilst we were dressed much more warmly. He pointed out a few things particularly that the television series Outlander and several motion pictures have used Culross as a location.

We returned to the hotel just in time to rug up for the Tattoo as the clear skies had brought the cold and the wind.

The Retirees go Abroad – Home for a Few Days then off to the Tattoo – Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey is one of the largest and best preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England. It is located approximately three miles south-west of Ripon in North Yorkshire, near to the village of Aldfield. Founded in 1132, the abbey operated for over 400 years, until 1539, when Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The abbey is a Grade I listed building owned by the National Trust and part of the designated Studley Royal Park including the Ruins of Fountains Abbey UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more of the history of the site go to:

Nerida Bishop had been telling us for ages that this was one place we had to visit and she was right. For our experience we walked through a forest along a cliff edge to reach the abbey ruins. Along the way we stopped at a bird hide to see what creatures were in the forest. The groundsmen set up a feeding site for the birds and one squirrel must have thought he was a bird. Not content with scavenging on the ground he climbed up on to one of the feeders – well see for yourself.

Then we made our way down to the ruins and met the volunteer guide showing tourists through the site and giving us the history. It seems that a number of Benedictine monks decided that life was too easy around York and they had lost their religious way. They formed their own group and were given some lands in this valley where they nearly froze to death but having survived went on to prosper join the Cistercians and suffer the same fate of the Benedictines – victims of their own earthly success, until Henry VIII took all that earthly success for himself.

Well in 400 years they developed this Abbey to the point where it was more palace like than abbey. The ruins tell you that but the giveaway is the last of the Abbotts built a tower for no other reason than to have a tower and show off the wealth of the abbey. Anyway enjoy the photos, they include the water mill which believe it or not was still working until 1936 and then became a generator for Fountains Hall for another 20 years.

Despite the ruins being at the bottom of a cliff the imposing tower was evident from far away. As we climbed down the cliff we could see the body of the church with the large set of storage rooms running across the face of the Abbey. The Abbey is located beside a creek which once ran straight but has been diverted to one side and used to carry waste and sewerage from the Abbey. The roof and windows have been gone for a long time but it is obvious that the weight of the roof and enormous windows caused stresses on the building frame with buttresses built to re-enforce walls and window cracks cover with clever masonry figures.



The watermill although not as impressive has proved to be the most resilient building and it still generates power for the Hall today.



As we departed we made a quick call to the Hall where a wedding was occurring. There was not much to see really but it was interesting to learn that the Lord of the Manor had supported Charles I in the Civil War and lost his fortune for choosing the loosing side.

The Retirees go Abroad – Home for a Few Days then off to the Tattoo

Since we returned from Buckingham Palace we have continued our routine as members of the community in Long Eaton. Part of that routine is to assist at St Mary the Virgin Church at Attenborough. On our last working bee we were not sur e whether we may fit in another working bee so I took a photo of the Clean – up Crew. It has always been enjoyable working with this group of dedicated volunteers. As we work amongst the graves most days, we can probably include a few of the spirits around the place but of course they were absent for the photo.

Photo of the crew in the Vestry at morning tea


The other group we routinely meet with and work with is the Rotary Club of Nottingham. The same thing applies here. We enjoy the company of all the members (despite their gentle ribbing when Australia shows its glass jaw in the cricket) and they seem to genuinely enjoy our irregular appearance and assistance. George, one of the senior members of the Club has held an annual Summers Garden Party and has done so for years. He always seems to pick the summer day and then the weather returns to usual UK weather and this year was the same. Though I was not confident that it was warm enough for swimming and stayed dry.

Photos of our host George, the new President John and Geoff, Past President Roy and David Kerry and the girls

The UK is a small place when compared with Australia but despite this it is always taking us longer than planned to travel anywhere by car because of the infernal delays on the motorways and slow trek when forced onto country roads even though the scenery is often stunning. So we planned our trek to Edinburgh (some 5 hours north) into two days – Harrogate and Fountains Abbey on day 1 and Edinburgh day two.

Harrogate is north west of York and famous as a spa town in Georgian times. Our hotel – the Majestic – although a relic of the Victorian age, is a good example of the idle pursuits that the town became famous for. Built in 1900 in 12 acres of parkland and only 5 minutes walk from the centre of Harrogate the hotel must have been the 7 star hotel of the Victorian era but today it suffers from its glorious past belonging to an era that is not to everyone’s taste today. Sad opulence I would describe it as. But it provided a wonderful backdrop for our wedding anniversary and staging point for Fountains Abbey and Edinburgh.

Dinner in the dining room that night and breakfast the next morning before we took to the treatment rooms for a massage and then a relaxing swim and spa. The way it should be always.

The town itself was easy to navigate but seemed to have become stuck in the same era as the Majestic. However we found a park with a photo frame and when others saw us a number wanted to copy us and we became unofficial photographers for three or four families.

Photos – Harrogate park and the Majestic Hotel


Nearby to Harrogate is the ruins of Fountains Abbey and its gardens and it is a story in its self for another day.

The Retirees go Abroad – London in July – Audrey Hepburn Exhibition

The National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square held an exhibition of photographs on the life of Audrey Hepburn and we visited the exhibition before heading home. As you would expect no photos permitted.

The website for the gallery carries this statement about the exhibition;

“This fascinating photographic exhibition will illustrate the life of actress and fashion icon Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993). From her early years as a chorus girl in London’s West End through to her philanthropic work in later life, Portraits of an Icon will celebrate one of the world’s most photographed and recognisable stars.

A selection of more than seventy images will define Hepburn’s iconography, including classic and rarely seen prints from leading twentieth-century photographers such as Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Terry O’Neill, Norman Parkinson and Irving Penn. Alongside these, an array of vintage magazine covers, film stills, and extraordinary archival material will complete her captivating story.”

I have taken some of the photos off the web site and these are below.

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After viewing the exhibition we went to the top floor restaurant for tea and discovered a great vantage point to view parts of London.

It was time to go home. So back to the hotel then the tube station to Moorgate station and collect Thistle for the drive to Long Eaton.

The Retirees go Abroad – London in July – Tower Bridge and Globe Theatre

We had attempted a visit last time we were in London with David and Veronica and missed the opportunity by being diverted. Not this time.

From Tower Hill tube station we walked past the Tower of London down to Tower Bridge. Built 1886–1894 it is a combined bascule and suspension bridge crossing the River Thames The bridge consists of two bridge towers tied together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways, designed to withstand the horizontal tension forces exerted by the suspended sections of the bridge on the landward sides of the towers. The vertical components of the forces in the suspended sections and the vertical reactions of the two walkways are carried by the two robust towers. The bascule pivots and operating machinery are housed in the base of each tower. The bridge deck is freely accessible to both vehicles and pedestrians, whilst the bridge’s twin towers, high-level walkways and Victorian engine rooms form part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition.

Entering upon the bridge from the north bank we proceeded to the first tower and after paying our fee we entered an elevator taking us to the top of the tower and a video presentation on the creation of the design for the bridge. From there we walked on the eastern gangway to the other tower stopping to view the river from the glass floor and to take pictures of London high above from the middle of the Thames. From the south tower we circuit back across the western walk way and then down the stairs and onto the engine rooms. As we do a boat travels through the open bridge. Quite a remarkable structure.

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It is then quite an easy walk along the south bank past Hayes wharf where there is a metal work sculpture of something that looks like it is out of a Jules Verne novel onto Shakespeare’s Globe theatre. Here we did a guided tour after visiting the museum. Unfortunately I could not take photos as they were doing a rehearsal for that night so we got to watch the last three scenes of the play.

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Now completely exhausted we dragged ourselves across the Millennium Bridge over to Blackfriars tube station and home

The Retirees go Abroad – London in July – Buckingham Palace

Today we go to see the Queen. Well at least her London home. Our tour takes in the Queen’s Gallery, the Royal Mews where her coaches and coach horses are housed and the State Rooms of the Palace.

The Queen’s Gallery is a public art gallery at the west front of the Palace on the site of a chapel bombed during the Second World War. It exhibits works of art from the Royal Collection (those works owned by the King or Queen “in trust for the nation” rather than privately) on a rotating basis; about 450 works are on display at any one time.

We arrived early to beat the crowds but lined up for the State rooms instead of the gallery. Oh well we were not the only ones in the queue that day.


With directions we soon found the gallery but we were still early so we browsed the Royal gift shop. One thing about the Royal family is that they are good for tourism and they produce plenty of memorabilia to satisfy the tourist throngs.

This exhibition was entitled “Painting Paradise” and presented paintings of gardens down through the ages. The entry fee provided you with an audio guide which provided information on some of the more important paintings. As with all art there is the pretty picture that satisfies the eye and then there is the art with a story such as the picture of Henry VIII with Jane Seymour and their son or the Rembrandt portraying the resurrection of Christ as a gardener. To read about it in detail go to;

You will not be disappointed.

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The Royal Mews is a combined stables, carriage house and in recent times motor garage of the Royal Family. In London the Royal Mews has occupied two main sites, formerly at Charing Cross, and since the 1820s at Buckingham Palace. I have always wondered where the word Mews comes from so after visiting the Royal Mews I consulted Wikipedia which says “The first set of stables to be referred to as a mews was at Charing Cross at the western end of The Strand. The royal hawks were kept at this site from 1377 and the name derives from the fact that they were confined there at moulting (or “mew”) time. The building was destroyed by fire in 1534 and rebuilt as a stables, keeping its former name when it acquired this new function.”

At the time of our visit there were half a dozen coaches including the Diamond Jubilee coach and the Gold State Coach, which was built for George III in 1762. Weighing almost four tonnes and requiring eight horses to pull it, it has carried every monarch to their coronation since 1821.

The Diamond Jubilee State Coach was built to celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. The coach was conceived and designed by Mr J. Frecklington, who was also responsible for the construction of the Australian State Coach. The State Coach was on display outside of the State Rooms in the Palace.

Among the vehicles on display are the Irish State Coach, and the 1902 State Landau, used for recent royal weddings including that of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.

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Buckingham Palace was originally known as Buckingham House. The building which forms the core of today’s palace was a large townhouse built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703. It was subsequently acquired by King George III in 1761 as a private residence for Queen Charlotte and was known as “The Queen’s House”. During the 19th century it was enlarged, and became Buckingham Palace the official royal palace of the British monarch on the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. The palace chapel was destroyed by a German bomb during World War II; and the Queen’s Gallery was built on the site.

The original early 19th-century interior designs, many of which still survive, included widespread use of brightly coloured scagliola and blue and pink lapis, on the advice of Sir Charles Long. King Edward VII oversaw a partial redecoration in a Belle Époque cream and gold colour scheme. Many smaller reception rooms are furnished in the Chinese regency style with furniture and fittings brought from the Royal Pavilion at Brighton and from Carlton House. The Buckingham Palace Garden at approx. 37 acres is the largest private garden in London. The state rooms, used for official and state entertaining, are open to the public each year for most of August and September, as part of the Palace’s Summer Opening.

Again our entry fee included an audio tour with a considerable amount of information and sub directories on different aspects. You need every minute of 4 hours to complete this tour. We finished in the gardens where we had a light lunch along with hundreds of other visitors. We then exited through the garden which included another gift shop. On to Victoria Tube station and Tower Hill to visit Tower Bridge.

The Retirees go Abroad – London in July – Paddington Canal and Little Venice

Buckingham Palace only opens to the public two months of the year and we can hardly say we have been to London unless we have been to see the Queen. We have timed our visit so that it is after Greg’s visit and before we go to Edinburgh which means we are in the early period of the summer school holidays. Expecting that traffic will be hectic, we have planned to leave Thistle at Potters Bar Rail Station and travel into London by train.

The traffic on the M1 was as expected and we made Potters Bar within 3 hours instead of the two hours determined by Tommy. Fortunately we got a train to London almost immediately but where we thought we were going to Kings Cross St Pancras Station we ended up at Moorgate. No worries it is on the Circle Tube Line so we make our way over to Bayswater, but all this adds another hour to our travel. Next time we will look for parking at Cockfosters Tube Station and cut out one change.

Our hotel is “close to the Tube”. It is if you can walk through walls. Due to the road layout a two minute walk turns into a 7 minute walk. Oh well, that life!


All this “travel” and a very delayed lunch through our order being lost leads Kerry to want to rest before doing any exploring so I go off on my own. Up Inverness Tce to Porchester Sq to Westbourne Green across country to Delamere Tce and I find myself in Little Venice on the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal. Here is evidence of London’s industrial past and the continued use of canals even in this big city for recreation. So I walk the canal through Paddinton to St. Mary’s Hospital where it ends in a new high rise development.

On the way I met a family of ducks so used to pedestrians that they pose for my photo.Then I meet a 2nd family followed by a coot family with its nest on the rudder of a canal boat.

Along the tow path I also encounter a variety of canal boats some obviously well used and some obviously abused. At Paddington rail station there is a new development incorporating the canal and around by St Mary’s there is that new high rise development I mentioned. By the way note the footbridge across the canal that is in segments raising up for water borne traffic.

I then walk back along Praed St into Bishopsgate Bridge St and finally into Inverness Tce where I encounter a beehive in a backyard and a bust of George Kastriot Skanderbeg (1405 – 17 January 1468), a 15th-century Albanian nobleman on a street corner.

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Very strange so I did some research as to why he is important and why his bust is here. My research discovered that because of Skanderbeg’s military skills he and his little Kingdom presented a major obstacle to Ottoman expansion, and he was considered by many in Western Europe to be a model of Christian resistance against the Ottoman Muslims.

He was admired for defending the region of Albania against the Ottoman Empire for 25 years, however he did not gain support in the Ottoman-controlled south of Albania or Venetian-controlled north of Albania

The London Evening Standard reported that “The bust (of Skanderbeg) was inaugurated at Inverness Terrace in Bayswater to mark the 100th anniversary of Albanian independence as police halted traffic and Albanians gathered to cheer.” There you go.

By the time I got back Kerry was rearing to go and I was weary from a long walk but off we went to see what I had found.

The Retirees go Abroad – Greg’s Visit to Nottingham – 18 holes at the Belfry Golf Club

Friday comes and the forecast is rain and gale force winds up and down the country. So Greg rings and is able to book Monday and cancel Friday. Monday comes and the forecast is not much better but maybe just maybe the weather is north of the midlands and as we are going to Warwickshire we should be safe.

Our hunch proves correct and we have a great day of golf at a premier resort with no rain. I surprised myself to find that I had not forgotten everything that I had learned of golf and that I had lost something – my high expectation of my ability.

The Belfry is a golf resort in Wishaw, Warwickshire, close to Birmingham. The resort has three golf courses. The Brabazon Course is the main tournament course, and the others are the PGA National and The Derby. The headquarters of The Professional Golfers’ Association are also located there, as are a hotel, tennis courts and a leisure spa. The Belfry has hosted the Ryder Cup on four occasions, three and has also staged numerous European Tour events.

We played the PGA National course. On arrival we determined that a cart would be needed. Greg thought that he did not play as well as at Sherwood Forest but he did some great shots in my view. He also caught my action on one hole – fair but my finish needs some work.

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At the fifth hole the course crosses a road and returns on the fourteenth hole. As we returned we found the drinks cart having a siesta – not up to par.


No records were broken but it gave me interest to look at blowing the dust off my clubs when I get home.

After driving home it was time to prepare for Greg’s next leg – a train trip to Poitiers which would take him all day and require three changes of train starting with my driving him to Nottingham rail station the following morning. It is a good thing we left a half hour early as a major intersection was closed causing a diversion for about half an hour which meant Greg got to the station in time but later than expected.

You cannot trust the traffic over here – whether it is the M25 blocked at Heathrow or the M1 blocked because an air ambulance has had to land on the highway to evacuate injured drivers or Nottingham Rd closed off because of the bloody tram works

The Retirees go Abroad – Greg’s Visit to Nottingham – Wet and Cold in Chester and Llangollen

Sunday and Greg has put his washing on early. We will get away again today after hanging out the washing. Very domestic.

Kerry wants to show us the aqueduct over in Llangollen and to fill in the day plans we visit Chester. Chester is a city in Cheshire, lying on the River Dee, close to the border with Wales, Chester was founded as a Roman fort with the name Deva Victrix, during the reign of the Emperor Vespasian in AD79. One of the three main army camps in the Roman province of Britannia, Deva later became a major civilian settlement. In 689, King Æthelred of Mercia founded the Minster Church of West Mercia, which later became Chester’s first cathedral, and the Saxons extended and strengthened the walls, much of which remain, to protect the city against the Danes. Chester was one of the last cities in England to fall to the Normans. William the Conqueror ordered the construction of a castle, to dominate the town and the nearby Welsh border.

On arriving in Chester I again scored a hit with the parking. A short walk brought us to the Information office just as the rain started. A good day to take the hop on hop off bus, so we walked around to the bus terminus and waited for the bus. It finally showed – delayed by road closures because of a fun run through the city. We can pick them!

Boarding the bus we found we were the only passengers. The tour guide seemed to take a shine to us straight away and joined us under cover on the upper deck to give us a personalised presentation.

The more unusual landmarks in the city are the city walls, the Rows and the black-and-white architecture. The walls encircle the bounds of the medieval city and constitute the most complete city walls in Britain. A footpath runs along the top of the walls, crossing roads by bridges, and passing a series of structures, particularly Phoenix Tower (or King Charles’ Tower), so named because Charles was supposed to watch his army be defeated by the Parliamentary army in 1645. On Eastgate is Eastgate Clock which is said to be the most photographed clock in England after Big Ben. Unfortunately it was being repaired and we could not view it.

The Rows consist of buildings with shops or dwellings on the lowest two storeys. The shops or dwellings on the ground floor are often lower than the street and are entered by steps, which sometimes lead to a crypt-like vault. Those on the first floor are entered behind a continuous walkway, often with a sloping shelf between the walkway and the railings overlooking the street.

The most prominent buildings in the city centre are the town hall and the cathedral.

Another notable building is the preserved shot tower, the highest structure in Chester. This is where lead shot was made before cartridge shot replaced lead shot. The most important Roman feature is the amphitheatre just outside the walls which is undergoing archaeological investigation. To the south of the city runs the River Dee, with its 11th century weir. According to our guide the River Dee had a basin on which the Romans built a large inland port and that Chester retained its commercial importance as a port until the weir was built and caused the basin to silt up. This area between the river and the city walls is known as the Roodee, and contains Chester Racecourse

With the rain still falling we found a pub had lunch and hoped the rain would stop. As we farewelled Chester the rain did stop until we arrived at The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. It is a navigable aqueduct that carries the Llangollen Canal over the valley of the River Dee in Wrexham County Borough in north east Wales. Completed in 1805, it is the longest and highest aqueduct in Britain, and a World Heritage Site.

Arriving at the aqueduct, it started to rain and the wind picked up to the point that it became miserable but still we walked the aqueduct clutching our umbrellas against the wind. Unbelievable views and scenic vistas only spoiled by wind, rain and close to freezing temperatures. It is summer you know.