We liked you UK, and though you were a bit rainy, we’ll (eventually) be back for more
What: We spent a month in the UK (if you didn’t guess that already)
Where: We flew in and out of Manchester, spent a week in the Lake District in the small town of Milnthorpe, a week in the Peak District in the town of Glossop, and then about 10 days in Cardiff, Wales, before another night in Manchester.
When: July 27th – August 22nd 2018
Why: To spend some time in Europe in a place we’d never been before, outside the Schengen Zone so that month didn’t count against our 90 days out of 180, and for Matt’s running training leading up to CCC 100k in Chamonix, France.
- It rains a lot. When we got there people said there had been a drought, which we found hard to believe because it rained for at least 75% of our time there. We thought we’d chosen a great time of year, late July and August, but we were a little surprised at how wet it was wherever we went. Kinda made it harder with a toddler.
- The parks and trails are different from the US. The paths aren’t necessarily marked and they often go through private land and sheep pastures. You have to pay attention to markers up ahead to find your way and to your feet on the ground (or you just give up and step in the sheep poop all over).
- Vegan is easy in the UK – Loved Tesco, the major grocery store there, and Booth’s, a smaller one, as both had plenty of vegan options for us, and some towns are more vegan friendly than others. Manchester had great options, as did Glossop (a vegan pub will all vegan pub food and a gluten-free bakery with tons of vegan options).
- Super nice people, at least in England – Really nice people wherever we met them, especially in the town of Glossop. Most people were curious why the hell we chose to stay in Glossop, though they were tickled that we were enjoying it there. People in Wales were less friendly in the sense that rarely did strangers open up and talk to us in places like playgrounds, where there’s usually tons of small talk and bonding among parents. We also could barely understand the Welsh English accent!
- The running races are different too – A fair amount of route-finding since you’re running on public pathways through private land, running by houses and dogs, and farm animals like cattle and sheep.
- Toddler activities were good, not amazing, but I’d like to go back with a kid that’s at least 8ish and can appreciate the fantasy worlds like Beatrix Potter and Harry Potter. We went to a small aquarium, a small zoo (like, really small), a science museum, and tons of playgrounds (Cardiff’s were pretty darn good, actually), and as much other toddler-friendly stuff that we could find. I think once Paavo can be excited about hiking in parks and walking around cities, and can read stories and get into visiting places in those stories, it will be a lot more fun.
- I’d like to see more big cities next time. I don’t necessarily need to hit up London, but I’d love to see Liverpool, York, and a few other bigger cities compared to the smaller towns were were in. We chose the towns we did because of proximity to running trails for Matt, so next time we’d likely have different criteria when choosing a city.
- While I think the buildings and architecture of a lot of the places we saw in England were beautiful, there seemed to be a lot of litter! I went for a run in Manchester and ran by tons of litter, there was always garbage on the playgrounds that we went to in England and Wales, and it seemed to be along any sidewalks we walked on. I don’t really get it though, why so much litter? We saw a ton of teenagers in the late afternoons hanging out in parks and near playgrounds and they’d just toss garbage on the ground, which I’m guessing isn’t just a UK teenager thing, but still, it sucks to see people litter and to walk all over town with dirty sidewalks and playgrounds. Every time Matt and I got to a playground, one of us would start cleaning up and throwing trash away (because there were definitely trash cans!).
- You pay for parking everywhere. Like, everywhere. This kinda surprised us – we paid for parking at grocery stores (the smaller ones like Booth’s, great stores by the way, but not at Tesco), at parks, trailheads, castles, and any other thing we visited. We even opted to not visit a castle after we saw that parking would cost more than actually visiting the castle itself.
- We should have visited Scotland. We waited too long to look for lodging and were completely priced out of Edinburgh, and it seemed fairly intimidating to even choose where to go in Scotland. Next time I’d like a few weeks just to explore Scotland. Cardiff was a fine alternative, especially because it was near the Brecon Beacons for Matt’s training, but I think we would have enjoyed Scotland or even another area in Wales more (Snowdonia maybe?)
- We ate enough fried food for a year. In Glossop we enjoyed the hell out of the vegan pub. It was cheap, a close walk to our Airbnb, and all vegan, including ice cream!!! But I ate my weight in fried food in the few days we visited the pub, and that along with the V-Rev Vegan Diner in Manchester just about tipped the scales for me and I haven’t wanted fried food since!
I definitely want to go back and see more of the UK, if only because I’m a sucker for accents. I think the older Paavo gets, the more he can do of stuff like hiking and the more he’d appreciate kids attractions like the Beatrix Potter and Harry Potter stuff. We’ll do more research and try and go at a better weather window, and likely move around more to see more cities. Granted, we’re talking years away, as there’s lots of other places to visit in the meantime, and Paavo still has years to grow, but I’ll see you again some day, UK!
All our pictures: