Welcome to the Wyre Forest & District U3A Travel Group.

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Ros James Group Leader 

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The Travel Group goes north of the border.

As a change from their normal seaside destinations the Travel group decided to head north and experience the pageantry of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Leaving early on a Sunday morning in August we met our driver John who throughout our trip entertained us with his singing. Besides the normal service station stop we also had a break at Tebay sevices which are more like a farm shop than a service station. They are the sister station to Gloucester services and if you have been watching the TV series will know what a great variety of food is on offer.

Late afternoon we arrived at our destination, the Rob Roy hotel Aberfoyle. The hotel is situated in the middle of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park. A Trossach being a narrow wooded valley in central Scotland and situated between Loch Achray and Loch Katrine (more of that later).

After settling in, enjoying a fine evening meal and a good night’s sleep we departed the next morning for the historical part of our journey with visits to the Palace of Scone and Glamis castle. The present Palace was rebuilt in the early part of the 19th century but the history of the site goes back to Roman times. In 843 AD Kenneth MacAlpin, King of the Scots, is thought to have brought the Stone of Destiny to this site. Although the stone later disappeared it did not stop the site being used to crown the kings of Scotland including in 1306 Robert the Bruce. Glamis castle is a more traditional building with ramparts, turrets, winding stone staircases and ghosts galore. The present castle dates back to the 1400s and is said to have inspired Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. In more recent times it was the childhood home of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and in August 1930 the birthplace of Princess Margaret.

The next day brought us more up to date with visits to the Kelpies and the Falkirk wheel. The Kelpies are two gigantic steel statues situated next to the M9. They are two horse heads, 30mtr tall, weigh 300 tonnes each and are constructed from 900 stainless steel scales. Whilst Kelpies are mythical beast said to haunt rivers and streams, these two heads also represent the horses used in agriculture and towing the canal barges.

The Falkirk wheel connects the Forth and Clyde canal to the Union Canal and is an ingenious way to reconnect these two canals for the first time since the 1930s. As its name suggests this is a rotating boat lift and raises boats some 24 mtrs. On the way back to the hotel we travelled through typical Trossach countryside before coming to Loch Katrine, where some of us had a very pleasant hour long cruise on the loch. This loch is supposed to have inspired Sir Walter Scott to write his poem Lady of the Lake.

That evening we were entertained by a Scottish folk singer who treated us to a variety of ‘traditional’ songs. Also staying at the Rob Roy were a party of Swedish students who were soon singing along with rest of us, although I am not sure if they understood all the lyrics.       

Then comes the big day, leaving the hotel at mid-day we arrived in Edinburgh in plenty of time to explore the city prior to seeing the tattoo. Some of us walked whilst others took the hop-on hop-off bus tour. The tattoo is held on the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade and we had been warned that it can get very cold and rain is always a possibility in Scotland. However this was not the case and the audience of some 8,800 enjoyed a pleasant summers evening.  Throughout the evening we were treated to the rousing sound of the Massed Pipes and Drums and the Massed Military Bands supported by the Tattoo dancers and Fiddlers. In addition there were performances from the US Air Force Band, limbo dancing and fire eating from Trinidad and Tobago, together with performers from Australia, Norway and Switzerland. This year the Royal Air Force were the lead service and gave a tremendous display of precision marching. All in all a great evening and well worth the long trip to north of the border                                                                                                                           

Our last day soon arrived and with it being the drivers rest day meant that it was spent around the village of Aberfoyle. At the back of the hotel was a disused railway line that was now a country path providing a very pleasant short walk into the village.  In the evening the Swedish youngsters gave an impromptu band concert and dance sequence in the grounds of the hotel and looked very smart in their outfits. Later that evening we were entertained by a singer who not only got our party rocking and rolling but the whole room including the youngsters doing the okie coky. Some of our party even got some of the Swedish youngsters on the floor to teach them how to jive.        

Friday arrived and home we went, stopping at Gretna Green to buy any last minute presents or keepsakes.

It was a long way to Aberfoyle but the countryside views and visits to places we had only heard about made it all worthwhile.

John Plant

11 September 2023

                                                                                                                   

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LLANDUDNO

5th to 11th OCTOBER 2023

                                                                                                                 The Travel Group visited LLandudno
5th - 9th October
Having enjoyed our visit to north of the border our next trip was to what some amongst us call ‘the land of our fathers’ ie Wales. Well, LLandudno to be more precise, a town that was very popular with the Victorians and still retains a seafront along which it is easy to imagine people from that era promenading in all their finery.


Leaving Kidderminster slightly later than normal we made our way to Chester where we stopped for a couple of hours to admire the tudor buildings. Although the weather was a little wet, the covered walkways and tiered buildings allowed one to browse without getting too damp. We then made our way to the Somerset Hotel at LLandudno to be met with better weather and the chance for a walk along the prom before tea. Next day we journeyed over to the isle of Angelsey and the obligatory visit to `Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwrobwlllllantysiliogogochndr’and if you are still unsure how to pronounce this rather long title it is ‘Lan-vire-pooll-guin-gill-go-ger-u-gueern-drob-ooll-llandus-ilio-gogo-goch. Yes I know they look very different but that is what it says on the station sign. I could also tell you what the english translation is but I think that is enough for another day. In the emporium next to the station they had a fine display of Royal Worcester china unfortunately all stamped ‘made in China’. Enough said. Back to the mainland via a viewpoint which allowed us to look over the Menai Strait and see the old Menai bridge on the one hand and the newer Britannia bridge on the other hand, An
impressive sight. Our next stop was Penrhyn castle just outside Bangor. Again built in the Victorian era to a neo-Norman design this castle was as many were at that time, built with money from the slave trade but also from the Welsh slate mines. Nowaday the castle is owned by the National Trust and provides an interesting insight into how the ‘gentry’ lived in days gone by. The views from the castle were of Snowdon, the north Wales coast and Puffin Island. Back to the hotel and after dinner a short game of bingo resulted in one of our lucky ladies winning the ‘line’ game.

Next day we journeyed to Caernarfon Castle, The castle was built as a result of the bitter wars with the Welsh princes. Construction started in 1283 by Edward 1st and his architect Master James of St. George and it took another 47 years to build the castle, town walls and the quay at a cost of £25,000. In 1301 Edward made his 16 year old the first English Prince of Wales with the investiture at Caernarfon. The last investiture was of Prince Charles in 1969 and although the title is a non hereditary it has been bestowed on Prince William by his father King Charles 111, There are no plans for William to have an investiture. Walking around the castle it is easy to see how difficult it must have been to storm and overrun. Thick walls, tiny slits to fire arrows from, imposing towers, ramparts to scale and walk along, Caernarfon has it all, It also houses the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum and before you point out a spelling error up until 1702 welch was in common use. It then became welsh but the regiment stuck with welch and in 1920 the war office agreed to the use of welch. A walk around the old town set within the town walls gave an impression of how protected the town was even though it was not within the castle itself. On the day we were there the ‘modern’ part of Caernarfon had some unusual activities taking place with replica batmobiles and a dinosaurs being led around on a lead,
Our last was a rest day for the driver and along with many others from our party we took a tram ride to the top of the Great Orme. Open in 1902 the trams initially only ran through the streets of Llandudno up to the half way station with the upper stage being opened the following year. The two trams are connected by a wire cable and as one tram goes down it helps to pull the other tram up. For those wishing for a more exciting way to get to the top you can take a ride in a cable car. The Great Orme is some 207 mtr above sea level ( or those among us who still think in imperial it is 679 feet) and the views from the top are spectacular. We were lucky as the weather was bright and sunny and the town of Llandudno was spread out below us. Back down from the summit and a walk through the town ended in the local ice cream parlour ( or una gelateria as it likes to be called). It should be noted that one of our ladies was not satisfied with an ordinary ice cream but enjoyed waffles and fresh cream and ice cream. A final walk along the prom included a short break at the bandstand to listen to a very talented quartet playing easy listening songs in aid of a national charity. In the evening a number of ladies took the opportunity to visit the local theatre and see The Hollies. The band together with the Rolling Stones are one of the few groups to have never disbanded. Not sure how many of the original group are still playing but by all accounts everybody had a great time. The journey home was broken up by a shortstop at Betws-y-coed, a place which seems a
lot smarter than when I first travelled through it a good number of years ago. (Also a lot pricier).


Everybody seemed to enjoy the break in Wales and we all look forward to our next trip which is over the seas to the IOW

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Next Trip

Isle of Wight

14th to 18th MARCH 2024

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