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This is one of those rare 'trip of a lifetime' type experiences that you should rush to take advantage of.

With an extraordinary itinerary spanning over 2000 miles of touring, you get to see more of Britain in a single tour than many people do in a lifetime.

Note that because the tour extends over 17+ days, the 2000 miles of touring is broken down into easy days.  It isn't just a solid boring slog on a coach!

Every day has you going out and about, seeing and doing an interesting variety of things with modest amounts of coach travel between stops.

Plenty of two night hotel stays, and a clever strategy to make single night stops easy, help to maximize your pleasure and your leisure.

 
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Detailed Day by Day Itinerary for the 2018
Great Britain Grand Expedition Page 1
 

Tour Leader David (left) and Coach Captain Jim (right) discussing the next treat in store for members of the 2017 Scotland tour.

Come along yourself and be part of the 2018 Grand Expedition.

This and the second linked intinerary page tells you all about where you'll go and what you'll do.

Tour Itinerary Part 1 - England/Wales

Because there's a lot to tell you about this tour and its great deal of inclusions, we have split the itinerary over two pages.

This first page details the section in England and Wales, the second page covers our time in Scotland. 


Wow - what an extensive tour around so much of England, Wales and Scotland.  Add a train journey from London to Salisbury, and back to London from Edinburgh, and you've done a complete circumnavigation!

Our tour combines major towns and cities with small unassuming villages, interspersed with often unspoiled pure nature in the raw.

You can read through the itinerary simply by scrolling down, or if you wish to jump to a particular part, here are links to each day.

Pre-tour options  In/around Salisbury

Day 1  Salisbury to Exeter via Glastonbury

Day 2  To Penzance via Plymouth

Day 3  Around Cornwall and Land's End

Day 4  To Bristol via Tintagel

Day 5  To the Cotswolds via Oxford

Day 6  Around the Cotswolds

Day 7  To Chester via Wales

Day 8  To the Lake District via Liverpool

The rest of the tour continues on the second page of the itinerary.

Day 9  To Glasgow via Hadrian's Wall

Day 10  To Beauly via Glencoe & Loch Ness

Day 11  Around Inverness

Day 12  To Thurso and Mey Castle

Day 13  To John O'Groats and the Orkneys

Day 14  Around the Orkneys

Day 15  To Elgin via Dunrobin Castle

Day 16  To Aberdeen via coastal towns

Day 17 to Edinburgh/Glasgow via Glamis Castle

Click here for the main details of this expedition and the booking form to confirm your interest.


Detailed Daily Itinerary

Friday/Saturday 8/9 June - or sooner :  Leave the US

Take an overnight flight from the US to Europe today.

Depending on if you wish to join the tour in Salisbury or Exeter on Sunday 10 June, you should leave the US no later than Friday or Saturday.

Most flights from the US to UK are overnight, meaning you arrive into the UK the day after you leave the US.

We suggest you arrive at least a day before the start of the tour.  This gives you some 'just in case' time, should something come up during your travels (and the travels of your bags too!) and also some time to decompress and un-jetlag after the journey.

You could come a day or two early and spend the time in London or elsewhere in Britain, or simply at a Salisbury hotel, and to turn the extra time into a positive, please consider our optional one or two night extensions, immediately below.

Note - If you're considering an optional pre-tour extension, please read the blue bordered option sections immediately below.  Otherwise, if you'll arrive on Sunday, skip on down to the green bordered section starting on Day 1, Sunday 10 June.

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Optional Pre-tour Extension 1 :  Two nights in Salisbury, Sunday touring

(Friday 8 June) - Arrive Salisbury

"Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Grounds" - the famous 1823 painting by John Constable.
 A more recent photo of the cathedral, and from a different angle than the painting.

If you decide to add two nights in Salisbury before the tour, you would arrive into Salisbury on Friday 8 June.

This gives you the balance of Friday and then all day Saturday in the Salisbury area.

You would probably fly from home on Thursday 7 June and take an overnight flight to the UK (maybe to London) and then a quick 1.5 hour train ride to Salisbury.

Most likely you would arrive into Salisbury some time in the afternoon.

You can make your way to our lovely hotel with a great location, close to the center of the medieval market town of Salisbury, and home of glorious Salisbury Cathedral, made famous in Constable's pictures.

Salisbury Cathedral has the tallest spire of any church in Britain and is home to the best preserved copy of the Magna Carta, and is set in lovely grounds.  Definitely a recommended place to visit while you're in Salisbury.

You have the rest of today to explore Salisbury as you wish.

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(Saturday 9 June) - Portsmouth and/or Isle of Wight Touring

Recently re-restored, Nelson's flagship HMS Victory, available to tour in Portsmouth, looks stunning inside and out. One of the few remaining hovercraft in the world operates between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. A view of some of Portsmouth harbor and the modern Spinnaker tower, with three levels of observation decks 330' above the ground.

After breakfast this morning we travel the short distance to Portsmouth (just over an hour's drive) where you have a choice of three activities.

You'll probably be able to fit at least two of the three into your day, maybe even all three.

The first choice is to go over to the Isle of Wight.  You can travel the short distance by fast hovercraft (a 10 minute journey) or slower regular ferry (20 - 40 mins), with both offering regular services throughout the day.

On the Isle of Wight, both Osborne House and Carisbrooke Castle would accept an English Heritage Pass - have us extend your pass to 16 days so you can save on admissions.

The second choice would be to immerse yourself in the splendid Royal Navy Museum in the Portsmouth Dockyard area.  See Lord Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory, the Tudor warship Mary Rose from the sixteenth century, the gripping special feature on the Battle of Jutland, a WW2 submarine, and so much more.

And the third choice?  To simply enjoy Portsmouth as you wish, strolling around, enjoying the harbor sights, smells and sounds, the views from Spinnaker Tower, and the museums, including Charles Dickens' Birthplace Museum.

However you spend the day, you're sure to have a wonderful time.

Included Meals: Breakfast

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(Sunday 10 June) - Main Tour starts today

The 15th century Poultry Market Cross in central Salisbury still has markets held adjacent to it.  There are so many 'old' things to discover as you roam around Salisbury.

Please now skip down to the green bordered section for the main tour.

Of course, if you realize now that you would like more than one day in Salisbury, please keep reading the next blue bordered section where we talk about how you could spend another day in and around Salisbury, too.

And, yes, there's even one more blue bordered section if you want to add still more days in Salisbury.  We've spent up to a week in and around Salisbury ourselves - it is very easy to fill in the time!

Included Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

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Optional Pre-tour Extension 2 :  A third day and night in Salisbury, Friday touring to Stonehenge and other (pre)historic mysteries.

(Thursday 7 June) - Arrive Salisbury

This Salisbury pub calls itself 'The New Inn' but is actually anything but new!

Maybe you decide to arrive into Salisbury three days before the tour starts, ie on Thursday 7 June.

That's a great idea, because it gives you more time to 'recharge' after your flight, and allows you to see and do considerably more.

In such a case, you'd fly from home to the UK on or before Wednesday 6 June.

You'd plan to arrive into Salisbury on Thursday, giving you the rest of Thursday free to walk around the city, perhaps spending time in an antique shop or two, or visiting the cathedral or one of the many museums and other places of interest around the town.

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(Friday 8 June) - Stonehenge, Avebury, White Horses, and More


This picture gives a good feeling for the enormous size of the stone circle at Avebury.
The Cherhill Downs White Horse - one of many in Wiltshire.
Not for the faint hearted.  Locks, stretching as far as the eye can see, and all needing to be worked by hand!
The ruins of Old Wardour Castle.

After breakfast this morning we will go touring around the Wiltshire countryside.

We plan to beat the crush of crowds by heading first to Stonehenge.

The site is very well managed with lots of explanatory material to help 'bring the stones to life'.  Admission is normally very expensive, but not for us, because we will have English Heritage passes.  Effectively free admission makes Stonehenge into a 'must see' activity.

Probably everyone knows Stonehenge.  But many fewer people know of the assorted other mysteries around Wiltshire, even though some of them, like the white horses, are clearly visible for miles around.

We'll go by at least two of the white horses on our travels.

From Stonehenge we continue north towards Avebury, stopping on the way to see three mysterious ancient things that are clustered close to each other - the West Kennet Long Barrow, Silbury Hill, and The Sanctuary.

We'll visit Avebury, which can be thought of as 'Stonehenge on steroids' - it has Europe's largest stone circle, plus assorted other mysterious stone arrangements.

We then go to the ancient market town of Devizes for lunch, and make a tiny detour to see an extraordinary flight of 16 locks on the Kennet and Avon Canal.

After lunch, we go to Old Wardour castle - mainly ruined, but perhaps even looking all the much better for it.  It also has a fascinating 'grotto' in the grounds.

Then one more strange thing - the Fovant Badges to complete a day of touring around the unusual, and its back to Salisbury mid/late afternoon.

Included Meals: Breakfast

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(Saturday 9 June) - Portsmouth/Isle of Wight - see Option 1, above


The exterior and part of the gardens at Osborne House, the palatial former home of Queen Victoria on the Isle of Wight.

On Saturday we will travel to Portsmouth and optionally on to the Isle of Wight with the people who chose only the Option 1 package, then spend Saturday night in Salisbury again.

Please see above for details of this in the blue box Option 1 section, above.

Included Meals: Breakfast

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Optional Pre-tour Extension 3 - More time in Salisbury
(Wednesday 6 June and earlier)


Not many people associate Salisbury with water, but there are actually five rivers running through Salisbury.  This shows an old mill, now a pub, alongside one of the them.

If you wish to spend still more time in and around Salisbury, then by all means arrive into the city earlier.

As you can see from the two blue panels above, you can definitely fill in two or three days in Salisbury - Friday touring around, and Saturday going to Portsmouth, so perhaps, if you have still more free time, arrive into Salisbury on Wednesday, giving you some of Wednesday and all of Thursday before the two days of organized touring.

Let us know if we can offer suggestions or assist in any way.

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Main Tour Itinerary

Day 1 (Sunday 10 June)  :  Tour starts in Salisbury, to Exeter via Glastonbury


A view of Wells Cathedral on the left, and part of the Bishop's Palace on the right.

In case you choose not to climb up, here's a close up of the Tor, with associations to the Holy Grail and Arthurian legends.

Those people who believe in 'ley lines' claim there is an astonishing concentration of them all focusing on Glastonbury in general and the Tor in particular.

Welcome to the start of the tour!

Most people will join us in Salisbury this morning (or the days previously).  We'll start off heading west, on our way to Exeter in Devon.

We go first to the lovely cathedral city of Wells, where we'll stop for lunch and a suggested walking tour around the ancient heart of the city.

A particular highlight would be the Bishop's Palace, surrounded by a moat in the heart of the city, and of course close to the cathedral.

From Wells, it is only a short distance to mysterious Glastonbury, where it is believed King Arthur and Queen Guinevere are buried in the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey.

If you're feeling energetic, you might also wish to walk up to the enigmatic Glastonbury Tor, a place where some people believe there's an unusual convergence of ley lines.

From Glastonbury, we then proceed on into Devon and to Exeter, the region's capital and another classic English cathedral city.

Some more people might possibly join us in Exeter this evening rather than in Salisbury this morning, it is of course entirely your choice.

We'll enjoy a welcome dinner tonight so we can get to know each other.

Included meals - Breakfast Dinner

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Day 2 (Monday 11 June) :  To Penzance via Plymouth


If you wish, you can descend down into the Exeter Underground Passages.

The steep track down for the cable cars on the Babbacombe Cliff Railway.

HMS Courageous when she was at sea.
 
Lanyon Quoit in Cornwall.  We'll visit this site tomorrow, but I'm showing it first because the mist and otherworldliness of this scene best sums up the essence of Cornwall.

After breakfast, we spend some time in Exeter.  There's a street market you might wish to visit, and the city's impressive cathedral, too.

We also include a tour of a fascinating series of medieval underground passages in which the water pipes were originally housed (optional if you don't like the thought of fairly narrow underground passageways!).

We then travel on to Torquay, a town located in the Devon region referred to as the 'English Riviera' due to its comparatively warm climate, and made famous as the supposed location of Fawlty Towers.

We'll ride the steep Babbacombe Cliff Railway down to the beach and back again, and stay long enough for lunch.  Maybe you might like to walk along some of the 'Agatha Christie Mile'.

Then we continue on to Plymouth, where there are many things to do, with a special option being a tour of Britain's HMS Courageous nuclear attack submarine, the only nuclear submarine in Britain open to the public.

Plymouth of course has an American significance, it being where the pilgrims set sail from, and there's the Mayflower museum in Plymouth telling the story of the English side of that great adventure that you could visit.

As soon as we leave Plymouth, we enter the magical world of Cornwall, a region of England quite unlike anywhere else, indeed, so different that it was formerly an independent country and has its own language, Cornish.

The region is currently seeking semi-independence, much like is experienced in Wales and Scotland.

The region has a different feel to it; we feel it is best experienced on a 'soft' day - perhaps with some distant mist and overcast skies, so as to accentuate its other-worldliness.

We arrive into Penzance late afternoon, where we'll stay two nights.

Included Meals: Breakfast

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Day 3 (Tuesday 12 June) :  Land's End, touring around Cornwall


Another classic Cornwall scene, with the ruin of a former tin mine on the horizon. 

The so called 'First and Last House' at Land's End. 
St Ives has a beautiful waterfront location.
Depending on the tide, we might be able to walk over to St Michael's Mount.

Now, for one of the two major bookend experiences of our Expedition - a visit to Land's End.

Land's End itself is often decried as a tourist trap, and that might be true, but it is unavoidably so because of all the people who go there to start or finish their journey between there and John O'Groats.

Similarly, we too go not so much to marvel at any sights (although the waters of the Atlantic crashing into the cliffs below and the out-at-sea lighthouse are both impressive) as to formally start our expedition.

Having done so, we continue touring through Cornwall.  We visit an old tin mine at Geevor, before continuing on to the seaside town of St Ives on the other side of the peninsular, fronting onto the Celtic Sea (rather than the English Channel on the Penzance side).

St Ives is known for its arts and culture, and regularly wins awards as being Britain's best sea-side town.  Whether that is true or not, it is certainly very popular, even though it is far removed from the country's main population centers.

We'll see the occasional stone circle and other prehistoric structure such as Lanyon Quoit, illustrated above under yesterday's entry, and the Merry Maidens.

There are some other possible stones and structures that may or may not be visible depending on vegetation/tree growth.

Then we head back across to the Penzance side of Cornwall again, to visit St Michael's Mount.  We might vary when we go there, so as to try and fit into the day to work with the tides.  It is fun to walk across the causeway from the mainland to the island, only a couple of hundred yards off-shore.

Included Meals: Breakfast

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Day 4 (Wednesday 13 June) :  To Bristol via Tintagel

Port Isaac is a lovely little fishing village.
Tintagel Castle, in the mist (I do like misty shots in Cornwall!).
 The leaning tower on Bristol's Temple Church. 

Our first stop this morning is the beautiful little fishing village of Port Isaac.  If you enjoy British tv comedy/drama shows, you'll recognize Port Isaac as the setting for the long running series Doc Martin.

After the (hopefully) sunny and lighthearted feeling of Port Isaac, we go somewhere much more brooding - Tintagel and the remains of its castle, and a place closely associated with the stories of Merlin, Camelot, and King Arthur - some say he was born here.

We include time for lunch in Tintagel (perhaps have a local specialty - a 'Cornish Pasty') and then continue our journey northeast, passing out of Cornwall not long after.

We proceed through and out of Devon, and end up in Bristol on the mouth of the River Avon (a common river name, for example, there are Avon rivers in Salisbury and Stratford too).

In Bristol you'll have a chance to see Britain's version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Bristol Temple Church.  The name 'Temple' records its reputed Knights Templar origins.

We also see the Clifton Suspension Bridge, originally designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who also designed the SS Great Britain, the longest passenger ship in the world when launched in 1845, and now preserved on display in Bristol.

Included Meals: Breakfast

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Day 5 (Thursday 14 June) :  To the Cotswolds via Oxford

I struggled to find a picture of Castle Combe that fairly encapsulated its look and feel.  So I gave up and instead chose a picture of the peaceful cemetery in its village church.
Arlington Row in Bibury.
A slice of Oxford.  Please click this link to see a full size picture of more of Oxford (this image is just a small part).
Uneven horizontals and verticals on the old buildings in Burford.

Now for a real problem in preparing this 'photo itinerary'.  Today we travel into an area of so many 'picture postcard' beautiful villages and gorgeous rural scenes it is hard to know which images to select to illustrate the next several days with.

In other words, we are going to the area known as the Cotswolds, where we'll spend the next two nights.

This morning we first head up to Castle Combe, often featured in movies and on television shows as varied as Dr Doolittle and War Horse, Poirot and Stardust.

We then continue to Bibury and one of England's most photographed scenes (the cottages on Arlington Row, dating back to 1380).  Some people (particularly those in Bibury, one suspects!) claims this to be the most beautiful village in the world.  Come see for yourself, and be the judge.

Next, we continue to Oxford, only an hour from London but in terms of 'feeling', truly a world away.

There's every chance you've been to Oxford before, but there's equally every chance there's still a lot more to this city you've yet to see and do.

We spend a full four hours in Oxford - time for you to do many different things (as well as have lunch).  Maybe visit one or two of the colleges.  Perhaps go to some of the museums.  If Oxford is less familiar, why not start off with one of the scenic sightseeing buses that take you on a circuit around the town.

Oxford is a regular star in many movies.  Perhaps you might want to do a themed walk around Oxford - an Inspector Morse/Lewis/Endeavour walk, for example.  Or a Harry Potter or an Alice in Wonderland walk.  Oh - there are also themed pub walks, too, if you'd prefer a more adult theme to your afternoon's pleasures!

Then we head to our Cotswolds hotel for the next two nights in the lovely town of Burford.

Included Meals: Breakfast

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Day 6 (Friday 15 June) :  Touring around the Cotswolds

The old mill (on the left) and houses in Lower Slaughter, on the River Eye.
The road into Bourton on the Water.  Just wide enough for our coach.  Hopefully!
Part of the Rollright Stones circle.

After breakfast this morning we give you a chance to 'walk it off' with an English 'ramble' - an easy walk through the fields between the two tiny villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter.

It is an unchallenging mainly level ground one mile walk, but of course, if you prefer, the coach will be pleased to take you instead.

We'll make our way around the Cotswolds today, taking it easy, and stopping in a few of my favorite villages.  They're all fairly close to each other.

The plan is to travel from Lower Slaughter to Bourton on the Water - indeed, if you wish, you could continue walking on to there from Lower Slaughter -  it is another easy and slightly downhilll walk.

Bourton on the Water is noted for its five bridges that cross the River Windrush that flows gently through the middle of this town, the oldest having been constructed in 1654.

Then we continue on to Stow on the Wold, and on to Broadway where we'll stop for lunch.

After lunch we visit the Rollright Stones and two other adjacent similar ancient things, and then head back to Burford after a lovely lazy day of touring around the beautiful Cotswolds.

You'll have some remaining time in Burford to stroll around town as you wish.  There are a number of interesting things to see.

Included Meals: Breakfast

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Day 7 (Saturday 16 June) :  To Chester via Wales

A local treasure hunter discovered the Shrewsbury Hoard, buried in a field near Shrewsbury, in 2009.  It contains over 9,000 Roman coins.
The 1008' long, 125' high, 18 arched Pontcysyllte Aqueduct was completed in 1805.  As well as boat traffic, it is possible to walk over it.
A section of the 'rows' in Chester - two level shopping dating to the middle ages.

We leave the Cotswolds this morning and continue making our way generally north.

Our first official stop is Stratford on Avon - famous for its association with Shakespeare and its half-timbered buildings.  We'll do a quick drive around Stratford, and discuss the controversy surrounding if Shakespeare really existed or not, then after a stop in the town, continue on.

We arrive into Shrewsbury in time for lunch.  If people wished, we could detour to Wroxeter and its Roman ruins on the way in to Shrewsbury, although like most Roman ruins in Britain, there is very little remaining today.

Shrewsbury itself, the county town of Shropshire, is a nice market town, with over 660 listed buildings (due to their historic/architectural importance) within it.  It has been the site of many conflicts between the Welsh and English, with the modern day border just nine miles to the west.

After lunch we hop over the border (no longer subject to armed dispute!) into Wales, where we travel through some towns with totally unpronounceable names and visit two of Thomas Telford's extraordinary engineering feats - the Chirk and Pontcysyllte Aqueducts, now a designated World Heritage Site.

We'll see Telford's work pretty much everywhere we travel in Britain, he truly was an extraordinary and prolific engineer.

From there, we head back into England.  It is not far to the walled city of Chester where we'll spend the night.

Included Meals: Breakfast

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Day 8 (Sunday 17 June) :  To the Lake District via Liverpool

A couple of narrow boats at the Waterways Museum; Liverpool barely visible on the horizon.
One of the different styles of elaborate housing in Port Sunlight, constructed from 1888 - 1914.
The 'Three Graces' on Liverpool's waterfront (the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building).
The small village of Lakeside at the south end of Lake Windermere.

We saw two amazing aqueducts yesterday.  This morning we will go to the National Waterways Museum, just out of Chester, to learn more about the history of canals in Britain.

Due to the largely flat nature of the country and its relatively small size, canals were common and a practical (essential) means of bulk haulage until superseded first by rail in the 1800s and then by road in the 1900s.

They are now enjoying a resurgence as a leisure resource, and there are about 2,200 miles of canals still navigable.

Next is a visit through Port Sunlight, the idealistic model town built by Lord Leverhulme in the Arts and Crafts style for workers at his nearby soap factory, and named after his famous Sunlight soap.  There are over 900 historically listed buildings in this township.

If you've been on our Scotland's Islands and Highlands tour you might remember his troubled association with Lewis (which he owned in its entirety) and Harris.

Then we take a tunnel under the River Mersey and emerge in Liverpool, another World Heritage area, and birthplace of the Beatles.

For some of the nineteenth century Liverpool was Britain's most important city, with a larger economy even than London, due primarily to its shipping and related industries.  Traces of Liverpool's former stately, imperial and Victorian glory can still be seen.

We'll spend some time in Liverpool, and have lunch there, before proceeding on north again.

We have another choice (well, we have choices every day and you're welcome to suggest itinerary changes) - would you like us to swing through Blackpool on the way up to the Lake District, or would you prefer we spend more time in the Lake District itself?

Either which way, we'll spend tonight in the Windermere part of the beautiful Lake District National Park.

Included Meals: Breakfast

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Day 9 : Please now go to the second page of the itinerary for the rest of the daily itinerary information.

 

Note - the schedule sometimes changes slightly to fit in with traffic, etc, and so this itinerary may slightly change between now and departure.

Click here for the main details of this expedition and the booking form to confirm your interest.

 

Originally published 5 July 2017, last update 08 Jul 2017

 
 
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