Where Fancy Wanders, Feet Should Follow

 A Castle Old And Grey

by Alexander Anderson, Scottish Poet

I never see a castle 
    That is gaunt and grey and grim, 
But my thoughts at once go backward 
    To the past so misty and dim.

To the time when tower and turret, 
    Kept watch far over the vale; 
And along the sounding draw-bridge 
    Rode knights in their suits of mail.

I see the sunshine glancing 
    On helmet, pennon, and spear; 
And hear from the depth of the forest, 
    A bugle calling clear.

I fill the hall with visions 
    Of ladies rich in their bloom; 
And stately knights in armour, 
    And waving with feather and plume.

If I climb the broken stairway, 
    Where the stone is smooth and fine, 
I hear a rustle and whisper, 
    And footsteps in front of mine.

Whisper of youth and maiden, 
    As they met in the long ago; 
His deep and strong and manly, 
    Hers tender and sweet and low.

But maiden and youth have vanished, 
    Away from the scene and the light; 
Gone, too, the high-born lady, 
    And the plumed and armoured knight.

Only the grey old castle, 
    Of crumbling stone and lime, 
Still stands to speak of the ages, 
    And the iron footsteps of Time.

Where Fancy Wanders, Feet Should Follow

Tips for planning your UK vacation, Part 1

In the next several months I plan to do a lot of traveling, some with family and some on my own. Much of this traveling will be to one of my absolute favorite places: The United Kingdom. Scotland and England, in particular, seem almost to call to me. Maybe it’s my Scottish heritage My maiden name is Wallace. My father was John Walter Wallace, his father was John McClure Wallace, his father was Walter Betel Wallace, and Walter’s wife [my great-grandmother] was Marie McClure. That’s a long history of Scots!

Maybe I’m drawn to the UK because of the beauty. Or the long (long) history. I suspect, though, that it has as much to do with castles. I am absolutely, unnaturally enchanted by castles. Aren’t they romantic? Even a castle ruin can ignite my imagination and set my thoughts to the proverbial flights of fancy. Whatever the reason, I’ve spent several weeks in the UK over the past few years, and plan to make a couple more trips this year.

Alnwick Castle:Northumberland, England, Seat of the 12th Duke of Northumberland (Also the place where Harry Potter learned to fly a broom, and the castle Lady Edith’s husband inherits just before they marry in the last episode of Downtown Abbey).

Many people prefer to travel with organized groups or to book flights, lodging and rental cars through travel agents when touring overseas. I get that – making long distance plans can be daunting at best and nerve-racking at worst. But having someone else make your plans can also be restrictive and expensive. Really expensive.

Personally, I prefer to make my own travel plans. In fact, I tend to kind-of obsess about it. I can be certain I get the flights I want departing the airport I want. I can stay for a day or a week and I don’t have to stick to a prepaid itinerary. I get to choose where to stay, preferring small apartments and family-run inns over more prestigious hotels with well-known names but little character. I decide when I want to take a short flight from one place to another, and when I’d prefer to drive my own car or maybe catch a train.

I am not a travel agent nor a travel writer, and I’m not even a member of a frequent flier club, but I have had some amazing trips and—with the exception of that time when we set-up our GPS incorrectly and drove for over a hundred miles on a mountain strewn with dead sheep—I have never had a single plan go awry (more about the dead sheep some other time). Over the next few weeks, I will share with you my travel tips for touring the UK. I originally put these thoughts on paper for some friends who were planning their first trip to England. I hope they find my tips helpful, and I hope you will, too.