WHO: Gracelaw Simmons and Michael Durney, both 52; and their children, William and Brinna Durney, ages 11 and 15
WHERE: England and Scotland
WHEN: Two and a half weeks in August
WHY: ''With Brinna almost 16, we figured it may be our last organized trip, so let's make it a good one," Simmons said. ''There's also a family connection in England."
PEAK EXPERIENCE: In London, ''we didn't do the walking we wanted to do because of the heat wave." Instead, they moved on to nearby Derbyshire, an area of mountains and valleys called the Peak District. ''There were incredible stone walls, and little windy roads. Everything is stone: walls, buildings, streets."
EARLY STONES: A visit to the prehistoric stone circle at Arbor Low with ''no one around. It's on a windswept hill. You walk through a farmyard and drop coins in a box and head off into field," Simmons said.
PASSING A LAW: A special stop was to a Law ancestral farm in the hills above the town of Todmorden in northern England, Simmons said. ''I'm named for Grace Law from Todmorden, and Brinna's middle name is Grace. I'd seen some family sites before and wanted to show the highlights. I've been asked all my life where the name Gracelaw came from, so to see it be so real was special."
FARM FUN: At www.cottagesforyou.com, they rented for a week ''Luke's House," a 1610 stone house in the middle of a working sheep and dairy farm in Askrigg, Wensleydale, inside Yorkshire Dales National Park. ''We were on a little narrow lane," Simmons said. ''Our house was like a little island in a farm. It was all modernized inside, just wonderful. There was a cute little back garden that looked out over a sheep pasture. Every morning I'd go out with my coffee and count that all nine sheep were there."
SAY CHEESE: ''Each morning and evening, the farm's 30 cows headed down the lane past our house for milking," she said. Ropes separated their car from the cow path, ''to keep cows from nuzzling the car." The milk was sold to the Wensleydale cheese factory in the nearby market town of Hawes, she said, cheese made famous by the animated duo Wallace and Gromit.
OVER DALES: With the farm as their base, they visited local rope-making factories, explored castles, hiked public footpaths, and checked out the ''butter tubs," a series of mysterious 150-foot deep holes in the ground.
TEA TIME: ''Our English cousins came to visit one day and we made tea for them," Simmons said. ''They said they'd been to the area hundreds of time, but never on one of these back lanes."
CITYSCAPES: Next stop, Edinburgh, for a couple of days that coincided with the Fringe Festival. ''There were living statues on every block: folk singers, jugglers, a lot of street life," she said.
HIGHLANDS HEAVEN: They next stayed in Arisaig, Scotland, ''just south of where 'Local Hero' was filmed," Simmons said. ''I wanted to do something coastal because it would be different. It was a lovely little town. We took a walk and it was just classic Scotland, a misty morning and there were sheep all through the hills." One day, ''it was absolutely pouring. My kids said, 'OK, this is the weather you had us prepared for. Now we've justified bringing all the warm clothes and slickers.' "
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