University Rooms York

York can be an expensive city to visit. One alternative that is less expensive, but still within the old city walls is the Student Castle York University. I booked it through University Rooms website.

I have stayed at York University before booking through University Rooms. However, previously I stayed on their main campus, which was about a 20 minute bus ride from the walled in area of York. It was cheaper two years ago and worked out well as I stayed in York for a week. They had regular bus service from the main campus to the old section of York.

This time however, when I booked well in advance, the only dorm that came up in December- January was the more expensive apartment dorms that are Student Castle. It was more expensive much much closer to where I wanted to be.

Accommodations
Small kitchen with TV

The Student Castle is a group of of dorm apartments buildings. It is modern inside. It includes a small kitchen, shower/toilet room, double bed, TV, table, desk and plenty of outlets. They appear to have parking spots in the quad area. There is access to free wifi.

Room at Student Castle York
Private toilet/shower with towel warmer

I was told this facility rents out rooms throughout the year. There are grad students and some undergrads staying in the dorm, but the first floor is reserved for people visiting.

I found this was a nice alternative to hotel rooms in the area that can be quite expensive. The location is optimal. If you would like to stop by a grocery, you may be able to cook your own meals. If visiting York I highly recommend Student Castle York.

University Rooms Oxford

Are you looking for a cheaper option when traveling? Do you want to have your money stretch farther? Would you rather spend money on day tours and entry into museums than on the hotel you only sleep in? Other than hostels, there is another option during the summer- University Rooms.

University Rooms is a website that allows you book rooms at various universities around the world. Not all universities and colleges have joined this network, but some have in key places. I found out about them through an archivist at Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada. She recommended I stay at the university while doing research up there. Once I stayed I started getting emails from University Rooms on occasion.

Besides staying at Memorial University in Newfoundland, I have also stayed at York University and the University of Bath in England. This time I stayed at Oxford University in England. All locations have felt safe. I would have to say so far Oxford has surpassed the rest on accommodations.

Location

I stayed at the Keble College Oxford. Oxford University is an umbrella for over 30 college campuses spread throughout the town. It is not that far of a walk to the High Street and shops. It is also close to the museums on campus.

Accommodations

The dorm I stayed was large for one person. It had a single twin size bed, chair, desk and a private shower/toilet room. In a closet there was a refrigerator. They provided soap, lotion, shampoo, and even a toothbrush if needed. There were plenty of electrical outlets for your devices. Wifi is included. They also allow access to a laundry room.

Room at Keble College
View looking in the opposite direction. Toilet/shower is behind the wall the desk sits in front of.
Private toilet/shower
Dining Hall

The dining hall was fabulous. I am told by a friend who traveled with me that it is just like the one in Harry Potter. Some scenes from Harry Potter were filmed around Oxford including on some the university grounds. On our first day we felt privileged as they let us sit at the head tables up front.

View from the head tables. This is the dining hall within Keble College Oxford University.
Transportation

I went to Oxford by train. Taxis know where to drop you off at different colleges within Oxford. You usually do not have long to wait at the Oxford Train Station to get a taxi. When checking out of the dorm, Keble College had a button to directly reach the taxi company. On the screen it gave the time expected for arrival to pick up up, the make and model of the taxi and the license plate.

There are buses within Oxford that take you to other nearby locations.

I love Oxford. This dorm was a good location in respect to most of what you would want to see at Oxford. The accommodations were impressive for a university dorm. If you are traveling to Oxford during the summer months and want to save money this is a good option.

University Rooms Website

You can go to the University Rooms website at: https://www.universityrooms.com

Choose which area of the world you are interested in and see what is available.

Godrevy Lighthouse

Sometimes I like to tick off two boxes at once when I travel. When viewing wildlife it is also nice if the area you go to has a lovely view. If you are like me you may want to visit the area near Godrevy Lighthouse. Not only can you view seals, but you also have gorgeous views as well.

Godrevy Lighthouse is on Godrevy Island in the Atlantic Ocean off Cornwall, England, a stone reef stretches from Godrevy Island towards St. Ives. Many vessels shipwrecked it that area prior to the lighthouse being constructed in the 1850s.

Seal on Godrevy Island taken from the tour boat Little Mermaid.
Seals and Other Wildlife

There are a variety of animals to view in the area. Grey seals are around in the summer, however, the numbers increase in fall, and in winter you may see close to one hundred. The island and area boasts a variety of seabirds including pipits, oystercatchers, gulls, and cormorants. Occasionally a dolphin or basking shark may be viewed.

Seals swimming onto the rock. We were told the darker ones were young ones and the lighter ones were older ones.
Enjoying the sun
Godrevy Island and Lighthouse taken from the Little Mermaid tour boat.
Viewing

There is more than one way you can view the lighthouse. Godrevy Beach is run by the National Trust and they provide parking areas. Another way way you can view it is to board a tour boat from St. Ives. More than one company presently takes people around the island. I took the Little Mermaid from St. Ives and I also viewed the lighthouse from the National Trust property.

Close-up of the lighthouse from the tour boat.
A third way to get to Godrevy? We saw some paddle boarders make their way over to Godrevy. This paddle boarder took his dog. You can see a seal popping his head out of the water on the right. With the rocks around the island I am not sure I would recommend this.
Literary Ties
View of Godrevy Island and Lighthouse from St. Ives

It is said Godrevy Lighthouse was the inspiration for “To the Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf. Woolf spent many summers in St. Ives. You can see Godrevy Lighthouse from there.

Filming Location

Godrevy appears to have been used as a filming location or backdrop for TV and film. Blue Juice, a 1995 British surfer film staring Catherine Zeta Jones and Ewan McGregor was shot there. It also appears the lighthouse may have been used as a location for the TV show Doc Martin in series 9. Pictures of a boat in the Hayle area with the characters Doc and PC Penhale aboard appeared online in April 2019. My tour guide, a local, said the rumor was Martin Clunes was flown out by helicopter to the lighthouse island to shoot scenes.

The coast of Cornwall is stunning and you really can’t go wrong visiting its many seaside villages and hotspots. By boat or by land this area is worth a stop.

North Buckham Farm

Have you ever wanted to escape to some rural or remote area? Have you wanted to take in the sights and sounds of nature? During part of my stay in England I did just that and it was glorious.

I stayed at North Buckham Farm on the outskirts of Beaminster in Dorset. It is a working sheep farm with over 400 breeding ewes. They currently have two border collies, Scott and Naila. Scott works to move sheep between grazing areas and they are training Naila, still a pup, to do the same. They also have a few horses.

The accommodations were in a shepherd’s hut. This could have slept 2, but I was staying by myself. You have lovely views of the farm from the huts. The huts have electrical outlets, so I was able to work on my computer and charge my devices. You only hear the sounds of wildlife, horses, and occasional sheep from the shepherd’s huts. If you are a city clicker, no worries, most of the animals go silent after dark. Nearby is a building with a water closet, bath, and kitchen.

Shepherd’s Hut
Inside of shepherd’s hut
Inside of a shepherd’s hut looking at the other end.
Breakfast

You have the option of including breakfast during your stay. I decided to do just that and it set me up well for the day. Trish, the host, asks you what you prefer. I had eggs and smoked salmon the first day as well as yogurt with fresh berries. Trish even provided gluten-free bread upon request.

A badger as taken on my camera after dark from the hide.
Wildlife

Also on the property is a glass-fronted animal viewing hide. I arranged with Trish to venture out to the hide one night at eight. I waited quietly and my patience paid off. I saw two badgers one by one slowly peak out of their holes and return several times before they came out and foraged around on the grass in front of me. I also saw a fox run the perimeter waiting for the badgers to finish. I contemplated staying in the hide all night in order to catch the fox on my camera, but ended up heading back to my hut between 11:30 and midnight. If I return, I am determined to catch that fox. While waiting in the hide I believe I may also have heard an owl.

Nearby

There are two walking paths, that one can start not far from the end of North Buckham Farm’s driveway that lead you into Beaminster. This town has two pubs, a Co-Op grocery, and a few other restaurants. There are also other walking paths nearby that lead to other villages farther away.

Do you fancy a simple more rustic stay away from crowds? Do you want to get away from it all, but still have access to civilization? Then consider a stay at North Buckham Farm in Dorset. It may be the location you need to unplug and unwind.

You can look at North Buckham Farm’s website at: http://www.northbuckhamfarm.co.uk

Church Cats

If you have a cat, you know you don’t own the feline, they own you. Your house is not yours, it belongs to your cat. You are just the caretaker. In England some churches are a cat’s domain.

Unlike in the United States or some other places, many British churches are open or unlocked during the day. This is great for tourists who would like to enter and view the architecture or interior. It is also great for people who want to have a quiet moment to reflect. Propped open doors or constant visitors have enabled some local cats or strays to claim the building as their own. They may like to get out of the rain, enjoy the soft seat cushions on the pews, or even sun themselves where light filters in through the stained glass windows onto the floor.

Locals are so used to seeing particular cats lounging about that they know them by name. They may even be afforded the status of official church cat.

We were told by locals in Corsham that this was Cyril. He was owned by a local florist, but he liked to hang out at the church by day. We met him inside the church. He walked us out and walked right back to the florist shop around closing time.

Some church cats belong to a local and just like to hang out at the church. Others are strays that have shown up at a church and the staff end up adopting them and allow them to stay. The cats presence helps curb the mouse population.

Another cat I encountered inside a church in the Cotswolds. This one followed us outside the church as well. He tailed us around the churchyard.

Southwark Cathedral in London even elevated the status of their church cat by honoring her in stone with a grotesque. The named her Doorkins because she would be waiting by the door to be let into the church every morning before they adopted her.

The grotesque made in honor of Southwark Cathedral’s church cat-Doorkins.
Doorkins is older now. She is less social and sleeps a lot. Here she was in the Harvard chapel in the church. She was on a comfortable chair.
Doorkins enjoying a nap.

In her heyday Doorkins was more sociable. She met the queen when she visited Southwark Cathedral. She would join in church services and choir practices angling for a pet or a scratch behind the ear. Even though she is on in years and is less active, she still enjoyed a little attention.

They sell this book at the Southwark Cathedral store relating Doorkin’s story.
This is Jones of St. Paul’s in Covent Garden in London. Jones is getting on in years as well. He is named after Inigo Jones who designed the church. His sibling, who passed on was Inigo and he was named Jones.

I have been lucky enough to meet some of these cats. The ones I met were people friendly and enjoyed attention. In a country that obviously favors dogs, church cats in England can be considered an icon.

Bampton Area: Downton Abbey

If you are a fan of the British TV show Downton Abbey you are probably aware of what stands in for the big house on the show- Highclere Castle. But do you know where they actually filmed the outside village scenes for the show? The village that stands in for Downton is Bampton. There are also some filming locations in nearby villages.

Bampton

Bampton is a village located in Oxfordshire in England’s beautiful Cotswolds region. There are some filming locations to see that are all in one little area of the village.

St. Mary the Virgin was used for interior and exterior shots.

St. Mary the Virgin’s church in the village was renamed St. Michael’s and All Angels on the show. Both Crawley sister’s weddings were filmed inside the village church.

Inside of the church
Church gate House or the Old Bampton Rectory- Isobel Crawley’s house on Downton Abbey

Bordering the churchyard is a private house that is used for outside shots as Isobel Crawley’s house. It is known as Churchgate House or the Old Bampton Rectory.

This location was used as the exterior for the Cottage Hospital in Downton Abbey.

Adjacent to Churchgate House is the Bampton Library which stands in for The Cottage Hospital on the show in exterior shots. This building is where Dr. Clarkson worked treating villagers. You can buy Downton Abbey related books, postcards, etc. there.

Swinbrook
This photo is from a friend who was with me on the trip. She graciously allowed me to use it. The rest of the photos I took.

Very close to Bampton is the Swan Inn at Swinbrook. It is only two miles away from Burford. The Swan Inn was the exterior filming location of the pub where lady Sybil and Branson stayed while planning to elope.

The interior of one room in the Swan Inn. I don’t know the lady in this photo. There was always someone in this room so it was impossible to take a photo of it without including someone.

The Swan Inn has outstanding meals and desserts. I highly recommend including it as a meal stop. Everyone in our group was with very pleased with their meal and we all ended up ordering sticky toffee pudding or Eton Mess as a dessert.

Shilton
Shill Brook with the hump-back bridge in Shilton

Two miles south of Burford is Shilton. The Old Forge, next to Shill Brook was the public house in Downton Abbey. This is where Bates worked in season 2 for a stint. The 18th century hump-back bridge was also featured.

How to Get There

If traveling by car, the places I mentioned are not that far apart. Just a few miles from one place to the next. If you are comfortable driving in the U.K. this may be the option for you.

If you would rather someone else do the driving I can recommend another option. I did a van tour with 5 other friends through Cotswolds Adventures. You can pick the locations you would like to go or have him pick the spots. The guides are knowledgeable and professional. The owner of the company is fluent in Japanese, so if you are from Japan and a Downton Abbey Fan this may be the best tour for you. There are other guides this tour uses as well. You can view Cotswolds Adventures website here: https://www.cotswoldsadventures.co.uk

If you are a fan of Downton Abbey, it may be worth your while to stop in to Bampton and these other surrounding villages. Most tours do not stop at these villages so you won’t be dealing with crowds. They are just some of the many beautiful villages in the Cotwolds region.

Eagles: We Just Want to Play

Do eagles play? Do they try to have fun? I went down early to the Hudson River in New York to watch the young eagles this morning and it appears they do play and enjoy hanging out together.

When I first arrived, the two babies born this spring were on the playground. I think they wanted to enjoy the swings and other equipment to perch on before the children arrived. Maybe they were wondering what all the hype was about in regards to the equipment.

This one perched for a while on a wooden guard rail on the edge of a road. People walking a dog were startled to see it there. The young eagle was not phased by the large dog. He never moved.

Besides flying around they landed on different trees again. In addition, they many times joined each other in their perching spots. They also spent time chasing each other in the air. Unfortunately the lighting on the shots where they are chasing each other around was not very good, so I am leaving them out.

Them seem to join each other a lot. It looks like they are having a conversation.
Team effort- calling out for their parents to bring food most likely. This tree is closer to the river.

I would conclude they do like to play. What do you think? Regardless, I am enjoying the new spots they choose to perch on near the Hudson River.