The London Loop: Wales and England's Lowlands - Page 2
|Your Own Private Island: Isle of Man's Tower of Refuge (Getty)|
|More of the Medieval Stuff: Denbigh Castle in northern Wales (PhotoDisc)|
Day 5: Bath to Cardiff (55 Miles)
It only takes about an hour to get from Bath to Cardiff, so take your time. Along the way, you'll find Bristol, a colorful city that gave birth to luminaries from Blackbeard the Pirate to Cary Grant. It's known for its maritime history and the works of resident Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Don't miss Brunel's SS Great Britain (+184.108.40.2066.0680; www.ssgreatbritain.org), the first propellant-driven iron ship to cross the big blue, and his precarious Clifton Suspension Bridge over the Avon Gorge. At the end of the day, unwind by ambling the bay waterfront or take an evening cruise to see the port and the skyline from the other side. The next morning, don't depart before seeing Cardiff Castle (+44.0.292.087.8100; www.cardiffcastle.com), which holds 2,000 years of history in its Norman keep, Roman walls, medieval halls, and Victorian decor.
Day 6: Cardiff to Chester (150 Miles)
The three-hour drive between Cardiff on the south coast of Wales, and Chester, just across the border of North Wales, is highly distracting; its countryside is as perfect as postcards: castles, churches, tiny market villages, and gently billowing mountains. Our advice? Give in to the distractions. Stop to see the ruins of Monmouth Castle (www.castlewales.com/monmouth.html), where Henry V was born in 1387, or the slightly sturdier 15th-century Croft Castle (www.castlewales.com/croft.html), situated amid peaceful manicured gardens. You'll also find Brecon Beacons National Park (www.breconbeacons.org), a 520-square-mile swath of mountains, rivers, wetlands, and peat bogs. Choose between an afternoon of fishing, canoeing, cycling quiet country roads, or horseback riding some of the 600 miles of bridle paths. Tonight's home base, Chester, is known for its well-preserved medieval city walls and architecture.
Day 7: Chester to Douglas (25 Miles + 2.5-Hour Ferry Ride)
On your way from Chester to the Isle of Man, stop for a day in Liverpool. Beatles fanatic? Visit The Beatles Story museum (Britannia Vaults, Albert Dock; +220.127.116.119.1963; www.beatlesstory.com) or go over the top with a Magical Mystery Tour in a blue-and-yellow bus past landmarks like Penny Lane and Strawberry Field. Play city mouse by perusing the Walker (William Brown Street; +18.104.22.1688.4199; www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker) or Tate Liverpool (Albert Dock; +22.214.171.1242.7400; www.tate.org.uk/liverpool), well-reputed classic and contemporary art museums, or play country mouse by learning about poppies and heather at the National Wildflower Centre (Court Hey Park, Roby Road; +126.96.36.1998.1913; www.nwc.org.uk). In the afternoon, take the two-and-a-half-hour ferry ride from Liverpool to Douglas, Isle of Man. Circumnavigate the independent island's sand dunes, heather moorland, and heaths by car. Spot birds like ringed plovers and curlews at the Ayres Nature Reserve on the northwestern coast, or fish for rainbows, browns, and salmon in one of nearly a dozen fishable rivers. Come sunset, hit the hay in the countryside at one of the island's farm cottages.