Tag Archives: sightseeing

Madame Tussauds, St Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben and the London Eye: Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne


It must be our second day in London by now. We’re leaving for York on a train around 2pm, so until then we’ll be squeezing in a few more sightseeing experiences.

Madame Tussauds


I’m undecided about this. We have one in Sydney now, although I haven’t been, and I’m still considering whether the original London wax museum really offers anything over and above the Sydney one. I’ll have to do more research. If you have an opinion, chime in!


St Paul’s Cathedral


We saw a few cathedrals in Rome, but St Paul’s seems to be offering a few features not available anywhere we’ve been previously! 


Climb the dome – you can climb up the dome to the Whispering Gallery, where a whisper can be heard clearly 100 feet away. Perhaps not the best location for clandestine meetings. A mere 271 steps will take you up to the Golden Gallery and views across London.

The crypt – once you’ve gone all the way to the top you can go down to the bottom, where lies the cathedral’s architect Sir Christopher Wren together with Admiral Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington in the cathedral’s crypts.


The cathedral also offers a touchscreen tour and an immersive film experience. Feeling peckish? You can eat at ‘The Restaurant at St Paul’s’.


The London Eye


This one’s probably considered totally touristy, but this was hubby’s pick and I can’t have it all my way. I concede you do get an excellent view across London, and since we’re not going to be in town long, this probably isn’t a bad idea.


Big Ben


When I think of Big Ben, I always think of the clock tower, and although the name is apparently applied to the tower, the clock and the bell, it properly only refers to the Great Bell.


It was also news to me to learn that the clock tower is actually attached to the UK houses of Parliament. Why didn’t I know this? It seems like something I should have known.


The tower in question is the Elizabeth Tower, and stands at the north end of the Houses of Parliament. You can tour the clock tower, but I’m unsure if we’ll want to go that far or just see it – it may well end up being a question of time. What do you think?


Fun fact: Big Ben first tolled on 11 July 1859.


About Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne


Ciara Ballintyne is visiting Scotland in 2016 – join her on a virtual tour of Scotland and other parts of Great Britain as she plans her trip. Where do you think she should visit?


If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter. Check out my May Newsletter if you missed it.


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Buckingham Palace: Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne



Let’s hit the Palace! Because you can’t pass through London and not see the Palace, right?

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what Buckingham Palace is, given that the official residence of the Queen of England is fairly well-known. While the palace isn’t the seat of government in the United Kingdom, it is the headquarters of the monarchy, and the location from which The Queen carries out her official and ceremonial duties as Head of State.


Buckingham Palace viewed from the gardens
The Queen also lives in private apartments on the north side of the Palace, with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Other members of the Royal Family have rooms on the upper floors of the north and east sides, and the ground floor and south wing is used by household staff. The State Rooms used for court ceremonies and official entertaining occupy the main west block.

Here’s some royal trivia:


  • If you are received privately by The Queen, you have been granted an Audience. The Prime Minister has a weekly Audience with The Queen, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer always has an Audience before presenting a Budget;
  • Over 50,000 people visit the Palace each year as invited guests;
  • The Queen’s Garden Parties are held three times each summer and are attended by roughly 30,000 guests;
  • The Diplomatic Reception is the main diplomatic social event of the year in London and the the largest reception held at the Palace, with over 1,500 invited guests from 130 countries;

You can’t visit all of the palace, but you can visit the State Rooms – although only at certain times of the year. As this is generally when The Queen departs the Palace to holiday at Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands, these dates vary from year to year, and are announced only a few months in advance. 

This year the State Rooms are open all through August and September, which is a long season. Some years it is as little as 6 weeks – and is likely to begin after we leave London, and possibly end before we return. Balmoral Castle will be closed to the public at the same time (this year it closes on 31 July), meaning we won’t be able to go there either while in Scotland.

We won’t know until 2016 if we can go to the State Rooms, but if we can’t we’ll be sure to see the changing of the guard and go to the 



The Royal Mews


A pair of Windsor Greys drawing The Queen’s carriage

As I mentioned in my first post in this series, I had some bizarre notion that a mews was where you keep falcons (you know, for hawking…) but it’s actually where you keep horses!

Yes, it’s a stable.

At least that’s how I interpreted it. The British government will tell you that the Royal Mews is an important branch of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office and provides road transport for The Queen and members of the Royal Family by horse-drawn carriage and car.

But that’s really just a fancy way of saying stable.

The Royal Mews are responsible for the training of the Windsor Greys and Cleveland Bays, the horses that pull the royal carriages – because if you’re a member of the Royal Family you can legitimately still travel by carriage without being laughed at.

The State vehicles are also housed at the Royal Mews, including the carriages used for Royal and State occasions. These carriages are used 50 times a year just to convey newly appointed High Commissioners and Ambassadors from their official residence to Buckingham Palace to present their credentials to The Queen – that number doesn’t even include royal usage


If you visit the Royal Mews, you can see the Gold State Coach used at every coronation since that of George IV in 1821.

The Gold State Coach

Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne


Ciara Ballintyne is visiting Scotland in 2016 – join her on a virtual tour of Scotland and other parts of Great Britain as she plans her trip.

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter. Check out my May Newsletter if you missed it.

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Thanks for stopping by and visiting!

Shakespeare’s Globe and the London Bridge Experience: Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne

Still Day One, and more sight-seeing around London!

Shakespeare’s Globe

 

My initial reaction to The Globe, venue for the original performances of Shakespeare’s plays, was surprise that it was still standing. Then I found out that in fact it has been rebuilt which, while disappointing, makes more sense. In any case, I have added The Globe to my list of must-sees.

The Globe is currently used for theatre performances! It also houses an exhibition exploring the life of Shakespeare and his contemporary London in addition to the theatre itself.


The London Bridge Experience


I read somewhere that this was one of the best tourist experiences in London, and so I thought we should definitely go, and now I find myself reconsidering…



The London Bridge Experience explores London’s ‘gruesome history’, and purports to take you back in time with the Romans, the Vikings and even an odd pickpocket or two. The bit about Queen Boudicca certainly sounds interesting, and while I’m absolutely interested in William Wallace I wonder how suitable his fate is for small children… Well, the London Bridge Experience looks a little creepy, but while they don’t allow children on the optional London Tours tour (which I am definitely not interested in) they don’t exclude or warn them off the London Bridge Experience, so maybe it will be OK…

The Experience also covers Viking King Olaf’s rule, the shops of old London Bridge, the Great Fire of London, Jack the Ripper and Hell’s Portal. It certainly looks like an action-packed 45 minutes!

About Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne


Ciara Ballintyne is visiting Scotland in 2016 – join her on a virtual tour Scotland and other parts of Great Britain as she plans her trip. Tell her where you think she should visit!


If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter. Check out my May Newsletter if you missed it. 


Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.  


Thanks for stopping by and visiting!

Landing in London: Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne



In 2016 I’m returning to Scotland, but I’m in planning phase right now, and I love it. So come along with me as we tour Scotland before I actually even leave the country!

Day One

We’ve arrived!

Kind of.

It’s a long way to anywhere from Sydney, Australia, and Scotland isn’t one of those places you can get a direct flight. In fact, you’d end up on three separate flights – two international and one domestic – if you try to fly there from Sydney.

Ever switched from an international flight to a domestic flight? If not, I don’t recommend trying it. There’s not usually much time between flights (especially if your last international leg runs late as ours from Venice to London did in 2008) and you’ll have to clear customs, collect your baggage and – wait for it – check back in to the domestic terminal. When we did it there were in excess of 100 numerical gates, each with sub-gates A through E, and we ran from one end of the terminal to the other. We had just enough time to stop at an ATM for some local currency, grab a muffin at the gate for a very late lunch, and for my husband to declare the British Starbucks coffee ‘undrinkable’ (bearing in mind that the Australian version is barely drinkable by Aussie standards).

Let’s not do that again…

So if we’re not flying to Scotland from London, our options are drive or train. You can get a train from London direct to Edinburgh, but there’s some places in the Scottish Borders I’d like to see, and we’d miss them if we went straight to Edinburgh. Escaping London by car is reportably nightmarish, and our travelling party consists of four adults and two children aged 6 and 3, which means two cars. So we’ve decided to catch the train to York, stay there overnight, and continue on by car to Scotland.

But not today.

Because can you really be in London and leave without seeing any of it? Plus, who wants to go and immediately board a train after coming off a 24 hour flight?

My husband was initially resistant to the idea of sightseeing in London, but as my enthusiasm grew, he realised there are places in London he’d like to see. Big Ben, he told me. The London Eye. Buckingham Palace, I insist. The Tower of London! Shakespeare’s Globe! Westminster Abbey, the Royal Mews, Madame Tussauds…

The list goes on.

But don’t forget we have just stepped off that 24 hour flight.

On the other hand it’s 7am in the morning, the hotel room isn’t ready, and we have to do something. We touched down in Rome at 7am in 2008 and then did a 5 hour walking tour of the forum in the afternoon! I am prepared! Possibly the kids won’t be though… OK, maybe less walking is better.

Hello hop on hop off bus. The one in Dublin was excellent, and I’m hoping London’s is as good. So here’s the places we’ll be hoping to see in our 2 days in London before embarking to York:

  • The Tower of London
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Shakespeare’s Globe theatre
  • The London Bridge Experience
  • The Royal Mews (I thought a mews was where you kept falcons for hawking, but apparently it’s a stable…)
  • Buckingham Palace (although it will probably still be closed to visitors when we are there)
  • Madame Tussauds
  • St Paul’s Cathedral
  • The London Eye
  • Big Ben

Windsor Castle turned out to be too far out of our way for a visit with small kids in tow, so we’ll be giving it a miss.

What we don’t see today we might see tomorrow before check-out – then it’s onwards to York on a train around lunch-time. 

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter. Check out my March Newsletter if you missed it. 

Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this. 

Thanks for stopping by and visiting!