Departing Edinburgh early to avoid traffic, the tour took us east and south to Gretna Green for a final stop in Scotland for shopping and a bathroom break. Gretna Green is a village on the Scottish border that is world-famous as a romantic wedding destination. Because of its proximity to the border, it became a haven for young lovers following the 1754 Marriage Act introduced in England and Wales. You were forbidden to marry without your parents’ permission if you were under 21. So the young and in love began eloping to Scotland, where it was much easier to marry.
Crossing into England, we entered the Lake District, best known as the home and inspiration of Beatrix Potter, famous author of children’s’ books, and for William Wordsworth and other Lake poets. Lakes, rolling farmland and pastures with their perfectly straight rock fences, grazing sheep and newborn lambs, and low colorful mountains comprised the picturesque countryside. Through the efforts of Beatrix Potter, the Lake District National Park was established in 1951 and covers an area of 912 square miles. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017. With 16 lakes and more than 150 high peaks—four over 3,000 feet—it is the most visited national park in the United Kingdom.
We stopped at the lovely village of Grasmere in Cumbria, England, in the centre of the Lake District, and named after its adjacent lake. It has links with the lake poets William and Dorothy Wordsworth; they lived in Grasmere for 14 years and called it “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.”
Although gingerbread was brought to Europe by an Armenian monk in 992, Victorian cook Sarah Nelson invented Grasmere Gingerbread in 1854 in the English Lake District village from where it gets its name. It is a unique, spicy-sweet cross between a biscuit (cookie) and cake. The shop remains open and we received a short history and a sample. The aromas wafting through the air were awesome.
Our overnight stop was in Liverpool. Liverpool is a maritime city in northwest England, where the River Mersey meets the Irish Sea. (Ferry Cross the Mersey, Gerry and the Pacemakers, 1965). A key trade and migration port from the 18th to the early 20th centuries, it’s also, famously, the hometown of The Beatles. A short walking tour of the docks followed our arrival (Kay went, I did not), and then the group headed off to the world-famous Cavern Club. The Beatles made their first appearance at the club on 9 February 1961. From 1961 to 1963 the Beatles made 292 appearances at the club, with their last occurring on 3 August 1963, a month after the band recorded “She Loves You” and just six months before the Beatles’ first trip to the U.S. The Cavern Club was the most publicized pop venue in the world. In the decades that followed the Beatles’ last appearance, a wide variety of popular acts appeared at the club, including, but not limited to The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Hollies, The Kinks, Elton John, Black Sabbath, Queen, The Who, and John Lee Hooker, Paul McCartney, Status Quo, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Oasis, Gerry & the Pacemakers, and more recently, Adele.