We’ve landed for our final night of the trip in Matlock, in Derbyshire, on the edge of Peak District. It’s within 3 hours of home too. We did a couple of other non-viable spins that didn’t turn up places in the right general direction or with a suitable place to stay, but Matlock has been great so far.
We’ve not been to every place the Triprandomiser suggested to us. Some had nowhere central to stay that night, some felt just too far out of our way generally South.
It’s intriguing to wonder what we’d have made of the golf centre of Dornoch, riverside Llangollen, suburban Stalybridge or Droylesden or the enigma of Stoke on Trent (another major city like Bradford that I’ve never been).
But then that’s one of the joys of random travel: there are lots of nice places to go in the UK, especially if you’re just there for a day or two.
After our climbing exertions, we spun again and were sent to Hawes, in the Yorkshire Dales. It’s a proper Holiday destination, but getting here on public transport took a combination of the scenic Settle to Carlisle train lines and the friendly Little White Bus community bus service.
It’s our first official Youth Hostel of the trip, … and our first playground zipwire action.
We’ve been telling people we’ve met on our journey about the trip, and they’ve pretty much all assumed we’re travelling by car. We’ve done car holidays before and I love driving, but there’s something genuinely fun about travelling pretty much exclusively on public transport on this trip. We’ve been on some great buses trundling between Orkney islands, or whisking us from seal-covered beaches to the heart of Aberdeen in minutes.
Ten years ago, this trip would have been a whole lot more difficult, needing paper timetables and a dose of good luck at the bus stop. But now, with decent 4G coverage even in good chunks of the Highlands, and apps like Google Maps and Bus Checker, there’s realtime info about buses and our location wherever we are. Trains are actually a bit trickier at least in terms of tickets, since travelling at short notice rules out the best value fares for us, and buying tickets from A to B often isn’t as a good a deal as split ticketing. But thankfully, there are apps for that too now.
We’re changing gear a bit in Carlisle from cultural and nature pursuits to altogether more energetic adventures. That said, I had a rather lovely morning coffee at the John Watt coffee shop in Carlisle while the junior Grays were bouncing at the trampoline park.
Day 5 of #triprandomiser: Ellon to Carlisle – we’re out of Scotland! We’re a bit sad to have left Scotland but also sort of relieved as it suggests we may make it home. We saw seals on the beach at Newburgh near Ellon, then got the train to Glasgow and then to Carlisle. I think we’re going to stay here for a bit now as there’s loads to do in Carlisle (think laser quest, trampoline park, climbing centre) so we won’t use the #triprandomiser till we’re totally ready. Already booked a 2nd night’s accommodation here. We’re in Carlisle City Hostel tonight which is great but no room for tomorrow so moving to an Airbnb.
We’ve been in Ellon, north of Aberdeen, overnight in an awesome apartment complete with washing machine, to help us deal with our Ellon musk.
This morning: breakfast at The Chocolate Bar (“Seven days without chocolate makes one weak”) and then a trip out to see the seals of Newburgh, before we try and do the longest leg of the trip so far: 250 miles to Carlisle
Another long journey: continuing on the same trainline from Invergordon to Inverness, then a train from Inverness to Aberdeen and then a bus to Ellon. At Invergordon we saw oil rigs and oystercatchers. At Aberdeen we stopped in the Maritime Museum which everyone enjoyed. Ellon is really all about the accommodation – we’re in a beautifully furnished self-catering apartment but most importantly with a washing machine! We packed very light for this trip so we needed to wash our clothes last night. Today the #triprandomiser has chosen Carlisle so we’ll be in England by tonight. We’re going to see some seals near here first though. The last two days have been sleety so we stayed indoors we focused on travel and museums but today is beautiful sunshine (still cold though!)
– the fact that it has request stops
– the frequent sight of deer looking nonchalantly up at the train
– the miles and miles of peat bogs (known locally and more romantically as the Flow Country) with almost no sign of human presence
– it’s not an island, but about 50 islands, the largest of which is called Mainland
– there are 61,000 puffins here, but (very sensibly) 59,000 of them live on a remote, uninhabited western island
– Scapa Flow, a sort of sheltered harbour between the southern islands is drumming up trade as an offloading/operations point for oil tankers (there’s a slightly
disturbing number of gruesome-looking shipwrecks in the waters, but presumably those aren’t too freshly sunk)
– All bus drivers we’ve encountered here seem to be Londoners, though admittedly it’s only a sample of three
Today, the weather’s turning and so we’re planning a day of travelling South. We need to get a move on if we’re going to get back to London! We did our first triprandomiser.com spin last night and it’s taking us to Invergordon. It will be a long journey on the bus, ferry, bus then train. Will we make it, through the sleet? Watch this space…
We’ve had a fantastic time in Orkney and don’t really want to leave. Yesterday we enjoyed an Easter egg hunt around all the Kirkwall shops and then visiting Skara Brae. Today, the weather’s turning and so we’re planning a day of travelling South. We need to get a move on if we’re going to get back to London!
We had a very long first day, having got up at 4:15am to catch our flight (thanks to Easyjet and kiwi.com who conspired to change the time of our flight from 9am to 7.35am and not tell us (we thwarted them by discovering the night before). But we made it to Kirkwall in Orkney which we came to because it was the furthest we could get by plane in the UK (apart from Shetland but Steph vetoed the ferry back from there). Kirkwall has turned out to be lovely, sunny and beautiful. I’m hoping to look round some of the shops today and we’re planning to visit Skara Brae, an ancient Neolithic site. We’re leaving open the possibility of staying another night but may leave this afternoon if we feel ready – in which case we’ll be doing our first triprandomiser search!