Ironbridge, (United Kingdom)

“Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution”, “First bridge in the world made of cast iron”

Ironbridge, United Kingdom, May 2019

For a long time now I was keen to come and visit this place. Double famous in which it was the area commonly referred as “the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution” since it was at the nearby village of Coalbrookdale where Abraham Darby developed the technique of smelting iron with coke resulting in an infinite cheaper production of iron. And with cheaper iron came railways, factories, infrastructures and unstoppable construction. And secondly, the construction of the first ever cast iron bridge in the world opened in 1782; quite an achievement back in the days, yet gifting the world with a new method of cheap construction of bridges and structures.

This trip happened all in a perfect bank holiday weekend. A long due return to Liverpool and Chester the previous days, while as for the return towards London taking the road into the County of Shropshire, passing through beautiful scenery and villages before reaching Coalbrookdale and the Ironbridge Gorge, all of which listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

While there is not that much over here to keep you busy for a day, nor half a day, it is true that should you be wishing to enter the plenty of museums in the area and considering their opening hours, then you should consider and plan this ahead. Our main aim was to visit the Abraham Darby’s blast furnace and surrounding buildings, and of course, the slender and elegant Iron Bridge. Giving us enough time to walk around the nature and side by side of the canal, and a copious lunch at one of the many beautiful pubs available along the main street in Ironbridge parallel to the River Severn.

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Chester, (United Kingdom)

“Roman Castrum Deva Victrix”, “Best preserved walled city in Britain”, “Black and White City”

Chester, United Kingdom, May 2019

Continuing our trip during this bank holiday long weekend, we move south from Liverpool to Chester, the “black and white city”. One of the most beautiful and unique in the country, and so one of the most perfectly complete from the Victorian era when majority of its buildings date from among some medieval structures and the best preserved walls in the country; first built by the Romans, extended and strengthened thereafter to how we see these today.

Although not much remain from the Roman era bearing what was the largest amphitheatre in Britannia, partly uncovered, and other smaller structures in the walls and gardens around it, columns and some statues; what really makes this city special is the large amount of Tudor revival architecture literally covering the entire city centre core. The characteristics of such style are self-described in one of the city’s nickname, “black and white”. Combining black timber frames and bricks and walls in white. Built during the Victorian era, it is without doubt the largest and finest collection of such houses within a same place.

Another peculiar fact you might realise are the “Rows”, these are covered walkways on the first floor of the buildings where access to shops are. Above these, the residential homes itself, and below the walkway accessed via steps from the street level, more shops. It is a direct legacy from the medieval times put back in practice during the 19th century revival period. (more…)

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Liverpool, (United Kingdom)

“The Pool”, “The World in One City”, “City of Talent”, “City of World’s Firsts”

Liverpool, United Kingdom, May 2019

For a very, very long time now I was keen to have a travel guide for this beautiful and vibrant city, but it was also many years since the last time I was there, long before I even started to create my travel blog hence I knew I had to return one day to get and compile the most up to date information and news, and experience it all once more to finally be able to share with you all what I consider as one of the most fascinating and impressive cities in the United Kingdom. A city that has given the entire world not just its name as such, but an entire institution of what its name means in the world of industry, transport, finances, arts, crafts and yes; music. The Merseybeat era (also known as Beat music or British Beat, with The Beatles the most prestigious band ever in history at the time.

A city not of Roman origin, celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2007. Ever since, the rapid transformation and consciousness in the incredible heritage, rich history from every building’s walls and its magnificent harbour and old docks transformed a decaying and quite dilapidated city into a modern thriving 21st century destination. Project after project, the change became unstoppable and continues to be so, to the point in which the prestigious listing of being an UNESCO World Heritage Site is nowadays in danger to retain. See it for good or for the bad, the organization claims that the continuous rise of taller and taller towers, striking museums and a blend with such post-modern style next to the most celebrated architectural classical icons is distorting the integrity and identity.

Many sites and entire ares in the city are UNESCO designated, notably what refers to its most direct past with the sea as a mercantile city. These are the magnificent Albert Dock and the Pier Head among others. Liverpool was once thriving in trade and transatlantic passengers; and there is another part of the city’s history, home to the Cunard Line and White Star Line, with some of the world’s most famous ocean liners registered in its port such as the Titanic, Olympic or Queen Mary. (more…)

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Isle of Skye, (United Kingdom)

“Gaelic An t-Eilean Sgitheanach”, “Largest of the Inner Hebrides”

Isle of Skye, United Kingdom, June 2017

Onto another of the great islands within the islands that are the united Kingdom itself. This is the time for the largest of the Inner Hebrides, the Isle of Skye. Coming from such an exuberant green, mountainous nature and incredible landscapes in the highlands region of Scotland, to this rather eerie landscapes, with such a variety of green and brown colours of the ground, almost no trees and so empty. A very beautiful place, fascinating scenery truly unique and worth every kilometre we did, enhanced by its characteristic coastline of peninsulas and bays radiating out from the mountainous core dominated by the Cuillin Hills.

The nearest “major” city to Skye is Inverness, where we did our base in the nearby and drove for a full day tour of the island. Driving to Skye was part of this great trip, passing through some of the most spectacular landscapes in Scotland and the world famous castle of Eilean Donan, our second time here by the way. The island size might not look big, however the longest distance is around 100 kilometres from edge to edge. I could not imagine any other way for really enjoying the island than by having your own transport because of the many places and spots to admire such as dramatic mountain landscapes, nature, views, villages, harbours, coastline and ancient prehistoric Iron and Bronze Age settlements.

A day is well more than enough for completing the entire circle without any rush giving you plenty of that extra time you will appreciate for stopping everywhere out of your original plans. Believe me when I tell you this will happen much often than you though. At every turn of the road a different landscape, a different view, and every time getting better and better. The good side in coming here during the summer months is the extra long hours of daylight you will have. Being that north, towards the end of June having sun at 23.00pm is normal, therefore that we could enjoy of an over-extended day! (more…)

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Inverness, (United Kingdom)

“The capital of the Highlands”, “Northernmost city in the United Kingdom”

Inverness, United Kingdom, June 2017

It’s been many years like to try and make memory, but it’s always a good idea to return to places we can not hardly remember! Back then, perhaps year 2010, reaching Inverness was the farthest city in a huge Scotland road trip we did: Glasgow, The Forth, Edinburgh, Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen, Huntly, Dufftown, Elgin, Inverness, Fort Augustus, Fort William, Glencoe, Oban, Loch Lomond and who knows how many more in between. That was an incredible trip, the most beautiful ever anywhere withing the United Kingdom. But ever since, we’ve kept returning to Glasgow as a base for visiting other places, or just simply for revisiting the city itself as was the case only 2 weeks before this trip to Inverness.

Our plan was very different in any case: a road trip through the Isle of Skye. But, where’s the nearest airport? You’ve guessed it, Inverness. I will take nevertheless this chance for creating a nice travel guide for what is becoming at giant steps such an important tourist destination in Scotland. After all, who does not want to tick the checkbox in their travel bucket list, the Loch Ness? Well, while most of the people’s desires is this, let me tell you that Loch Ness, while being beautiful, cannot be compared to the most secluded and off-the-beaten path anywhere else through Scotland. Believe me when I tell you there are incredible places out of this world much more worth than Loch Ness itself, and what’s best in all this? Your main gateway to such incredible landscapes is right here! Inverness: The capital of the Highlands.

As for the city itself, it is really small when compared to the great Scotland cities such as Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen to name the biggest, but it’s nothing more beyond the riverside, its castle and a charming yet tiny medieval old town. (more…)

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Glasgow, (United Kingdom)

“Gaelic Glaschu”, “Cumbric Glas Cau (Green Hollow)”, “Second City of the British Empire”

Glasgow, United Kingdom, June 2017

A very long pending city for returning. With this, it’s the third time and once more I have to say how much I loved it. How beautiful and elegant, and so much to see and do that a weekend comes even short. It was also about time for a proper revisit and therefore, creating this well deserved guide for the city in the blog. Still, don’t blame me for not having created the London guide yet! (face-palm)… Keep checking in the near future as I promise you it is due to come and will be fully packed as are the guides for Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Naples or Brussels just to name a few of the ones I keep returning very frequently.

Now onto what really matter here for now: Glasgow. To start understanding a little bit of the city and its incredible importance back in its heydays, we have to return few centuries ago, and not to the Roman times because over here, all that was built back then was the Antonine Wall which together with the Hadrian’s Wall farther south, were the northernmost frontiers of the Roman Empire, keeping it separate from the Celtic and Pictish Caledonia. It’s from the 17th century where the city started benefiting from the international trade, manufacturing and invention. At the turn of the 18th century the city was described to be only second to London for its beauty, cleanliness and planning; a city at the time of only 12000 inhabitants. Soon after with the Scottish Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution the city’s expansion was unparalleled. Take a map, and see the city’s urban planning, then you have the answer right away: the perfect city with the perfect orthogonal urbanism filled with the finest architecture of the era. Georgian, Victorian and then art-nouveu. To this last style, I will soon return to explain.

The 18th century also saw Glasgow’s port, created on the nearby Firth of Clyde expanded to become what is still today the largest and most important in the United Kingdom. Back in the time it was a major hub for the transatlantic routes and international trade especially tobacco, sugar, cotton and goods. Over half of the British tobacco was traded in Glasgow alone. (more…)

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Manchester, (United Kingdom)

“Roman Mamucium”, “Cottonopolis”, “Warehouse City”, “World’s first industrialised city”

Manchester, United Kingdom, July 2016

Returning to the city where I lived for some months 11 years ago, and to this date, the best city I’ve ever been in the UK; Manchester. Living in London is just for a reason, work. Unfortunately a position as I have in London would be much harder to get in Manchester that’s a fact, otherwise I would not hesitate in coming back to live here. Not only the cost of living is much lower, it is also much lower the housing prices where you can at least afford a very nice house instead of a microscopic apartment in London. People also is way friendlier and nicer in every sense, and they do know how to party! The huge amount of beautiful large pubs, clubs and discos still fascinates me when comparing to tiny, tasteless, and ever crowded places in London.

Manchester although not the next largest city after London, title that goes to Birmingham, it is the second city in importance after London. Both Manchester and Birmingham have a never ending fight in which is the most important, but it is publicly and official for the UK it remains Manchester.

So what makes the city different or from where such importance? Taking a brief look at some of its facts then it comes self-explained: Nicknamed as Cottonopolis back in the industrial era, over 70% of the world’s cotton was produced here. No other city in the world had as many factories as Manchester, and truly became the world’s first industrialised city, where the world’s first industrial estate was created at Trafford Park. Back in its heyday, another unprecedented achievement occurred; the city became one end of the world’s first intercity passenger railway, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Another event at the Midland Hotel saw Mr Rolls and Mr Royce meeting for the first time before the formation of the famous car company Rolls Royce. Pioneering in many aspects, but also a melting pot where great artists and musicians have born. There is a phrase that somewhat in certain aspects, still described itself on the spot: What Manchester does today, the rest of the world does tomorrow. (more…)

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Isle of Man, (British Isles)

“Latin: Mona”, “Manx: Ellan Vannin”, “Mann”, “Self-governing Crown Dependency”

Isle of Man, British Isles, June 2016

Glad to finally manage great flight tickets to Isle of Man, long time in the bucket list of the “nearby” destinations to go. And with the ongoing shortage of new destinations across Europe still pending to go, it was once more, a perfect choice and a great weekend. Landscapes, nature, city and culture road trip through the entire island which surprisingly has a lot to see and do, and an incredible history and past behind through the millennia. An entire weekend is just perfect time, enough to enjoy every corner of the island which is really pleasant to drive all around. Easy roads and short distances, with many sights along the way: megalithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age monuments; castles, beaches, idyllic villages and impressive Victorian engineering at its purest with the largest water wheel in the world, horse trams in Douglas, a mountain railway, steam train and electric tramways from the past century, just to name a few of the places we would visit.

Starting at Castletown and Douglas, we split between north and south, one area for Saturday, the other for Sunday. Our hotel however, was in Douglas since it’s the capital and largest city in the island and with majority of facilities, entertainment and nightlife. We did not want to be “stranded” in the middle of nowhere and having to depend on the car to even go and find dinner.

The island, on the Irish Sea, is one of the self-governing Crown Dependency of the British Isles where the head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, but not part of the United Kingdom. It is an independent country on it’s own, and the people of the island are happy about this. Sometimes people are mistaken in thinking they are part of the United Kingdom but is not. The other such self-governing islands are the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey in the La Mancha Canal. (more…)

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