The British Isles are varied in culture, whether one is talking about the people, places or customs of nations such as Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. Tom and Char Ellig of Redwood Falls learned all about the islands on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean this past May when they made a trip to visit and discover more about them.

The Elligs then shared their experiences March 19 with an audience at the Redwood Falls Public Library as part of its winter travel series.

“This was our first time traveling across the pond,” said Char, adding they chose to travel as part of a tour group.

Both agreed traveling with a tour group was a great decision for a variety of reasons. 

The benefits they experienced included not having to worry about getting from one place to another, more efficient use of their time which also meant being able to see more during visits and having a guide share information with them at the places where they stopped.

Tom added just being on a bus was great, because as a rider you have the chance to look around instead of having to focus so much or your attention on driving. He also said with lots of vegetation throughout the British Isles being higher up in a bus allowed them to see more than one might have traveling in a car.

What the Elligs saw included a number of castles, as well as breathtaking scenery throughout the British Isles, adding in each country they visited, from Ireland to England, they saw how the nations were similar and how they differed from each other.

The tour group began its visit in Ireland, and there they visited places like Limerick and Dublin.

Char mentioned throughout the presentation how she often observed the commitment to preservation of older buildings that was evident in the towns and villages they visited, adding in many locations there were efforts to try and blend the historic with more of the modern architecture.

In Ireland they visited King John’s castle and had the chance to learn about some of the archeological work that is taking place there, with another stop at the Cliffs of Moher.

“We did a lot of hiking,” said Char, adding it was worth it when one was able to see so many incredible places.

Tom said the photos they were sharing truly do not do justice to what they saw firsthand, encouraging those listening to make a trip to the British Isles to see it all for themselves.

In Ireland they visited a farm, which Char said was operational but really was able to exist primarily due to tourism. The Elligs saw the traditional thatched roof buildings that are so famous in the United Kingdom.

Tom said in much of the British Isles signs are written in English and Gaelic, adding he had a chance in a park one day to hear some older men speaking in Gaelic.

The tour also traveled the Ring of Kerry and visited Killarney including Ross Castle, which Char said was the home of St. Patrick.

In Dublin they visited Trinity College where they saw the famous Book of Kells and learned about the long room, which has more than 200,000 books – considered one of the largest libraries in the world.

There were times when the Elligs were able to go off on their own, and they had chances to visit some of the smaller pubs and just take in the local color as part of their visit.

In Scotland, the tour group made a stop at Edinburgh, ate some haggis (both of them thought it tasted pretty good) and visited Edinburgh Castle, which is home of the crown jewels of Scotland.

Moving on to England, they visited York where they made a stop at Alnwick Castle, which is a functioning castle, but like the farm in Ireland, can be maintained because of tourism.

The castle was made famous as the backdrop for the Harry Potter movies as well as the TV series “Downton Abbey.”

York, said Tom, was originally a walled city, reiterating how interesting it was to see the combination in so many locations of the old architecture with the new.

Tom added the trip provided opportunities for them to see a lot of wildlife and to see that bright green landscape that he said is so famous in the British Isles.

They also saw many fields that had a beautiful yellow hue to them, which Tom said is canola. That, he added, is a very common crop in the British Isles.

Naturally, the trip to England meant a stop in London where they saw the Thames River during high tide and Big Ben.

Prior to arriving in London the group also visited Stonehenge.

“You can’t go to England without stopping there,” said Tom.

Throughout their time in the British Isles Char said they never had any trouble getting around, adding they really appreciated the chances they had to just go off by themselves.

“There is so much we didn’t even get to see,” said Char, adding she is ready to go back.

The Elligs and another couple they traveled with stayed for two days after their tour ended, which provided a chance to visit the Tower of London and see the British Crown Jewels and Piccadilly Circus.

Other stops included a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon, the home of William Shakespeare, as well as Belfast, Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace and they even rode The London Eye.

All in all, the Elligs said their experience was a positive one, providing them unique perspective about these locations they had heard so much about over the years.

Yet, they both agreed, while hearing the stories and seeing pictures is nice, there is nothing like being there and seeing it for yourself.