5th August, 2021
Home Sweet Home
‘Alreet’, ‘How’s about ye?’, ‘Ay’er’.
On Spirit of Adventure’s Inaugural sailing around the UK, portside welcomes were unforgettably warm after a 16-month pause in cruising.
The UK has really led the way, with the strictest protocols, and there was no hiding the delight of port officials and tour guides to see Spirit of Adventure with its shiny navy hull and bright yellow funnel sail into their cities.
Locals turned out to greet the ship, waving and taking photos. in and out of the ports. We soon realised our arrival stood for much more than fun times for passengers but the promise of better times ahead.
On Spirit of Adventure’s maiden call to the Port of Tyne, in Newcastle, we were welcomed with the brightest ‘alreet’ and it was uplifting to chat to the Geordies who are so proud of their city – and rightly so, with such colourful modern and ancient history.
We drove for an hour to the banks of the North Tyne, where a garrison of 500 cavalrymen were once stationed at Chesters Roman Fort.
It is now one of Britain’s most complete Roman cavalry forts where the regiment’s speed and skill on horseback was invaluable when defending the bridge where Hadrian’s Wall crossed the Tyne. We could see the remains of the 16 stable barracks, which each housed 32 men and their mounts, around 2,000 years ago.
We also walked around the well-preserved baths and steam rooms where weary soldiers could relax after long days on patrol. The Romans certainly knew how choose the best spots to settle and, here by the river at one of the Roman Empire's most northern outposts, the scene remains idyllic.
Our next stop was former Roman quarry Cawfields, a dramatic section of Hadrian’s Wall with land falling away in sheer crags. Here a small fort, probably built by the Second Legion, seems to hang on the edge of the quarry and many of our group nipped up to the top of the hill for great views across the rolling landscape.
Next stop Belfast, where in 2019 the port was breaking records with more than 140 ships sailing in during the year. It is now seeing ships gradually return and Spirit of Adventure’s guests were soon driving off on city tours, to the Giant’s Causeway, Titanic Belfast and Antrim’s Causeway Coastal Route.
It’s no wonder the Causeway Coastal Route was voted the number one region in the world by Lonely Planet in 2018. Our guide BB’s lyrical voice and turns of phrase sprinkled with stories of fairies and leprechauns added to the enchantment of passing Ballymena’s pretty seaside towns and villages including Carnlough, where the Londonderry Arms, once owned by Winston Churchill, is now a popular hotel
As we drove through the patchwork of hills and glens the Johnny Cash song ‘Forty shades of Green’ came to mind. This magical, mystical landscape draped with silver grey mist will always be a favourite cruise memory.
There was a full Cruise Liverpool team at the port to say ‘ay’er’ at the waterside where the Three Graces – the Liver Building, Cunard Building and Port of Liverpool building are a reminder of the city’s great maritime history. Walking tours took passengers along a route to remember everything from the cotton trade, insurance and World War Two through to the music of The Beatles, while a trip the ‘model village’ of Port Sunlight, in the Wirral, was a bucket list tour for many.
Here ‘Soap King’ William Hesketh Lever built pretty cottages for his Sunlight soap workers in 1888. There are still around 2,000 residents living in hundreds of Grade II listed buildings who keep the village so immaculate that it feels like walking in Toy Town.
Unfortunately, there was no time to explore the 130-acre parkland and gardens but our guide offered an insight in to past and present life in village, which also has a bowling green, pub, theatre, train station – and one of the most magnificent war memorials in the country. Hulme Hall, now a popular wedding venue, is where Ringo Starr first performed with The Beatles.
Returning to the ship, our guide played Gerry and The Pacemakers’ ‘Ferry Cross the Mersey’ as we did the opposite and went into the Mersey Tunnel – another touch of fun that had us all smiling and singing the iconic song for the rest of day.
These glimpses of the British Isles, laced with our country’s great humour, are a touching reminder of the rich tapestry of the place that we call home.
Soon we will all be sailing further and wider but I hope Saga Cruises will keep a British Isles itinerary so we can continue to celebrate and learn more about our green and pleasant land.
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