Hever Castle & Penshurst Place
One of the bed and breakfasts we were fortunate to see was Hever Castle. This...
Sissinghurst Castle & Gardens
Another castle in the Kent area is Sissinghurst Castle and its estate, which is part...
Hi, I'm Johnny Monsarrat.
I’ve always enjoyed traveling, ever since I was young. When I was a child my parents took me to a wide variety of European countries, but I had never visited the United Kingdom or Ireland. Residents of the UK and Ireland speak English. Those are the easiest countries for an American to visit! So when I planned a vacation for summer 1999, that was the destination I chose.
Planning the trip took some thought. I didn’t want to be stuck following a guide around and only seeing what someone else decided a tourist should see. My favorite way to travel is to rent a car and be free to go wherever I like. That leaves me open to serendipity and to going off the beaten path, avoiding tourist destinations when I feel like just exploring. I’m not locked into tour groups or schedules imposed by anyone else. I can just make my own way through the place I’m visiting and meet people who don’t make their living catering to tourists.
In my opinion, that's the best way to get a real experience, meeting "real people" outside the tourist industry and understanding a culture at its roots.
My girlfriend Amy and I went off to England, Scotland and Ireland for three weeks during the summer of 1999. It was my first real vacation in a while! Relaxing and idyllic, the UK trip was a good combination of cultural experience and pure leisure, from the bustling city of London to the remote Scottish mountains. I returned at the end of the trip glad I’d taken the time to visit this part of the world.
Our first stop was London, where we visited some of the spots most frequented by tourists, like the British Museum. While it was fascinating to see sights I’d only encountered before on TV, I wanted more of a taste of the real UK.
After a bit of time in the city and visiting some of the castles in the area, we drove up through York and past Hadrian's Wall to eastern Scotland. Full to the brim with visiting all the castles we’d seen, we decided to explore some of the the dozens of small stone circles in the area. We ended up hiking in the Scottish highlands. This was the high point for me, literally and figuratively. We also spent time in southwest Ireland, where the natural beauty was unfortunately obscured by mobs of tourists.
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