Great Britain is a country that is easily traveled with a few choices available for its many travelers: train, bus, or hire car. And whether you visit England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales, there are a treasure trove of things just waiting for you to explore and discover them. But the best thing about travelling and going on holidays is not so much what you experience within a countries borders, but it is the fascinating tales that you can tell your family and friends when you arrive home.
As a solo traveler around Britain, I have had a mixed bag of delightful, humorous, awe-inspiring and terrifying experiences. But the good mixed in with the bad has helped me to a more savvy traveler and has enriched my life in ways that I had never expected. So I would like to share some of my travel tales with you in the hopes that you too will become a savvy traveler.
Image: Brecon Beacons National Park. Diana Jane Heath.
Tale no. 1. A chance to banish my horse-riding fears in Wales.
I have always loved horse-riding, but after an accident some years ago, I had developed a fear of horses. But during my visit to London, and after some cajoling from a travel buddy, I took a three day trip to Wales, which included a one-day horse-riding trek. The day we arrived in the Brecon Beacons National Park and drove to the horse-riding centre, I was beginning to feel apprehensive and my mind was so consumed with the thoughts of falling off or being thrown from a horse that I missed the stunning rich green mountainous Welsh countryside.
My fear began to intensify as we arrived at the Horse Riding and Pony Trekking Centre, and as we saw the horses or ponies being led out into the yard, I felt there was no way I could go through with this. My travel buddy smiled encouragingly at me, and the trek guide assured any nerve-racked beginners that the ponies were well-trained and that there was nothing to fear.
I tried to hide at the back of the group and was thinking of re-considering, but before I could head for the hills, the trek guide had selected a beautiful pony for me. She was called Niwl (Welsh for mist), and as I was given the reins, Niwl regarded me coolly with a gimlet eye. I knew that horses could sense fear so I tried to be as nonchalant as possible, but as took my place in the saddle, Niwl was no fool, and she shifted uneasily from foot to foot and turned her head towards me. I knew she could see though my false bravado. But my fear was unfounded. These Welsh ponies were indeed well trained and they plodded along calmly behind each other as we headed along the trail.
We rode along for about half an hour and breathed in the delightfully fresh mountain air. Then one of the trek guides took some of the more experienced riders for a canter ahead while the rest of us were content to just ride along single file and take in the scenery. After the trek was over, I was pleased. My trek has been incident-free, and as we arrived back at the centre, I dismounted from my pony like a well-trained equestrian. I said goodbye to Niwl and patted her on her dappled brown downy cheek, and I’m sure she winked back at me.
That night whilst having a drink at the bar, my travel buddy grinned at me and asked whether I had finally defeated my equine fear. I had to admit that my experience with Niwl had helped me to feel a little more relaxed about horse-riding, but my verdict for the future was to stay on solid ground.
Whether you are an experienced rider or a first time beginner and even though you may be like me and suffer from horse-related trauma, the amazing Welsh ponies will steal your heart and may also instill in you a passion for horse-riding.
If you are traveling to Wales, take a look at some of these horse-riding and pony trekking centres:
Tale no. 2. A wild and wonderful ride through Dartmoor.
While I was visiting the South of England, I took a Trafalgar tour through Devon and Cornwall. One night we were to have dinner at the Dartmoor Inn, which is nestled among the wild and ruggedly beautiful Dartmoor National Park.
Our accommodation was just a short drive to the inn, but it was ride that I would never forget.
Our bus driver, with a wide grin plastered on his face and an eerie light glimmering from his eyes, took us on a wild and wonderful crazy drive along a secluded country road with the dark and mysterious moors on either side. Our only illumination was the dim lighting inside the bus and the full moon that sailed in and out of the clouds. Occasionally, outside the window, tiny flickering lights danced along the moors in the distance, and I wondered whether they could be the fabled Will-o’-the-wisp–the ghostly lights that are rumoured to have lured many a hapless traveller to their certain death.
As we careened madly down the windy road with its sharp twists and turns, the manic bus driver entertained us with silly jokes and and bizarre tales such as the tale of the bus driver who had to fight off a pair of giant hairy hands that mysteriously appeared and wrestled with him for control of the vehicle. As I left the bus I couldn’t help but sneak a peek at the driver’s hands. Although this story was just for our tourist amusement, it fitted in perfectly with the surreal and nail biting drive through the spooky scenery.
Stay tuned for more travel tales…
Aircraft. The Pixelman
Houses of Parliament/Palace of Westminster/Big Ben. Photo by Unsplash.
Horses at Pen y Fan. James Woolley. Flickr.com (Creative Commons)