Travel Jottings

Celebrating the best bits and bobs to be found while exploring Britain, Ireland and beyond. Much is inspired by real outings, whether they were walking, cycling or photographic in nature, while virtual blundering in the name of planning them has turned up some gems too. Regardless of how they were found, I hope that they keep coming so I can continue to share new things with you.

Towns & Cities That Merit More of My Attention

Merton College, University of Oxford, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England

When going anywhere, the temptation is to start with a town or city to get an initial measure of the place. The trouble can be that you never get beyond that staring point so that has to be kept in mind too. After all, how visitors to Ireland only ever see Dublin?

My first wanderings in the world were around where I lived. Summers at home in Ireland meant that they took me along country roads and being at university in Cork meant that I pottered around there too. A move to Edinburgh meant that the same approach followed me and it is one of those cities that is rated highly in anyone's wish list. Opportunities to go other places like and Aberdeen and Highland Perthshire as part of my studies also saw me explore those places too.

It was only later on that I began to fashion my own excursions rather than having them piggy bank off something else. Going to Fort William was the cause of my being awestruck by Glen Coe for the first time and luring me into nearby Glen Nevis. A visit to Inverness saw me head to Urquhart Castle of a dreich day while Oban was the staging post for a first visit to Mull. That makes it look as if going to Scottish towns and cities was the cause of drawing me into the countryside about them and the same could be said for a trip to Balloch near Loch Lomond and that preceded a round trip of Scotland with my brother.

All of that illustrates a sort of conflict between my motives for exploring the world. Fine architecture may be to my liking but the allure of more natural surroundings is strong too and its a conflict that continues until today for me. Much of the time, it is the countryside that wins and so it was when I first moved to England. The first month or so was spent in Skipton from where I wandered into Wharfedale by bike, encountering pretty villages as I did so. Skipton is not unpretty either but the need to get my career started forestalled going to see places like Harrogate or York so they needed to wait until later.

On settling in Macclesfield, I began to fan out to nearby towns and cities of renown. Chester justifiably was an early target with Buxton coming later even though it lay nearer at hand; both continue to see me from time to time so their appeal hasn't diminished. Maybe it was easier to find out about train times than when buses ran and I getting to know my then new home area.

A wet autumn in 2000 put a stop to any extensive wandering and my finances needed to improve anyway. A company Christmas do was the cause of drawing me to Harrogate and winter light again gave further exposure to the limitations of the compact camera in my possession. Surprisingly, it took a few years for me to make a return armed with an SLR and better what the photos from that first visit. Knaresborough featured too on that occasion and both places are worth revisiting.

There was one solitary Easter Sunday outing to Stratford-upon-Avon in 2001 that hasn't been followed up since then. Other distractions clearly took over and the memory of a day blighted by showers that frustrated compact camera photography cannot have helped either. There is much to savour there from a photographic point of view so that's yet another infrequently explored spot for me.

London has seen me too but it has been for work most of the time and it has been a while since I went down there for pleasure. Summertime walks across the city from Euston train station have taken in Hyde Park, the Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square and numerous other well know sights from what is a very international city and not just the capital of England and of the United Kingdom.

On out itinerary thus far, the places mentioned have as their only slight the fact that I haven't returned as over as might be just to them. Oxford happens to have become another of them in recent years when I spent a day around there in February 2011. Such were the shadows being cast by the low sun that another visit when it is higher in the sky is not an inappropriate consideration.

The limitations of the list collected up to now should suggest that there are many places deserving of a visit that scarcely have seen my footfall. Ones without any at all include Lincoln, Ely, Cambridge, Bath and Ripon to provide an eclectic mix. Travel to these may be a bit more involved but dealing with itineraries as illogical as going to London on the way to Cambridge from Macclesfield (this is the shortest journey time, believe it or not) is minor compared to many of life's troubles.

There's one more group that need mentioning before I finish: those places I unjustly rush through while en route to elsewhere. Lancaster is the classic example for me when I think of this for it was when I crossed from its train station to its bus station that I realised what it had. Shrewsbury was another until I deliberately spent an afternoon there earlier in the year and Oswestry is another candidate in Shropshire. You could add Carlisle and Berwick-upon-Tweed to the list too and I only addressed looking around Alnwick and Warkworth in May of 2012. With so many possibilities, it is impossible to sample all of them so there should be an exhaustible supply of towns and cities to see of a day of more. After all, is never running out of trip ideas ever a complaint?