Posts Tagged ‘castle’

AONBs

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

While visiting Northern Ireland, I had the absolute pleasure of staying with Sir Pubert’s aunt, Lady BonBon. One of the kindest and most generous people that I have ever met, we were treated like royalty during our three night stay. I wasn’t even told to write this – I honestly mean it.

Lady BonBon had collected a range of maps and tourist information for Pubert and I to use to plan our day trips out and about. One of the maps was of the Areas of Natural Beauty (AONBs) to the north of where we were staying. So on Friday, Pubert and I headed out in Lady BonBon’s automobile (a Skoda) to discover them for ourselves.

ANOB #1 – The Dark Hedges

The map was what I would call “diagrammatical” or “lacking detail” and so we took a few scenic detours before finally reaching our first destination. All we knew about the dark hedges was that they were a bunch of trees covering a road and that they were near a golf course. Thanks to perseverance, a bit of GPS Jess map reading, and a lot of good luck, we finally found what we were looking for. A road in the middle of no where with over hanging trees. Thanks to some good weather and a little bit of sunshine, we managed to see the road in great light. Definitely an ANOB.

Dark hedges

The Dark Hedges. WoooOOoooOOOooo….

ANOB #2 – The Giant’s Causeway

I had heard about and seen photographs of the Giant’s Causeway but didn’t know a lot about it. I was thrilled to discover that it was a short drive from where we were staying and that it was an official ANOB on our tourist map. After parking the car and slightly fraudulently getting into the National Trust visitor’s centre thanks to Ken and Katy’s membership, we walked down along the coastal road to the famous site.

Giant's causeway

Walking down to the Giant’s Causeway

Thanks to a volcano, the ice age and various other earthly movements, the Giant’s Causeway is a collection of rocks that have magically formed in hexagonal pillars. It is absolutely remarkable – as I walked across the rocks it became more and more phenomenal how these unique shapes formed. And on top of that, how they have lasted in this manner for hundreds/thousands/millions of years.

Giant's causeway

Giant’s Causeway

My favourite rocks were those that were speckled with what I presume is some sort of algae. The white specks reminded me of the pyrite encrusted ring Pubert bought me for my birthday.

Giant's causeway

Hexagons

After an overpriced and average tasting lunch at the National Trust cafe and having been chatted up by one of the elderly gentlemen volunteers in the visitor’s centre, we headed off towards our next stop on our ANOB discovery tour.

ANOB #3 – Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Once again, thanks to a slightly inappropriate use of a National Trust membership (“You don’t look old enough to be a senior…”) we made our way to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. My new boyfriend from the Giant’s Causeway visitor’s centre had said the walk to the bridge was at least 40 minutes, so imagine our surprise when we managed to do it in around 15. Clearly we were keen to get there.

Carrick-a-rede rope bridge

A long way down.

The rope bridge connects the mainland to a small island off the coast where fishermen used to go to check their salmon nets. They have improved the quality of the bridge, however it is still a hair-raising experience as you step out onto a wobbly bridge, the sea below your feet and a bunch of tourists watching, hoping you’ll slip and fall for the perfect photo opportunity. Unfortunately for them, we both made it across safely.

Carrick a Rede

Nice.

Once again, the views definitely rated high on the ANOB scale.

ANOB #4 – Dunluce Castle

The problem with being a tourist at this time of the year is the extreme lack of day light. The sun is going to bed before 4pm so we were restricted by how much we could fit into our day. We headed back along the coast to Dunluce Castle, old castle ruins sitting precariously on top of the cliffs. We discovered that the once free to enter attraction now had a £5 per person entry fee. We were running short on time, so decided to head down a path to the side of the castle that took you underneath the ruins.

Dunluce Castle

A castle with a view

Below the castle is a cave where boats would come to the shore after being out at sea. Despite signage recommending No Entry and some encouragement from a local man who happened to walk past, we ventured into the mouth of the cave to listen to the waves hitting the shore.

ANOB #5 – Bushmills Distillery

While not technically an ANOB, I am going to classify the Bushmills distillery as a natural beauty unto itself. Anyone who creates a drink as glorious as Irish whiskey deserves a classification like ANOB. We had hoped to do one of the tours and my Giant’s Causeway boyfriend had said that the last tour was at 4.30pm. Turns out his knowledge of tour hours is about as correct as his knowledge of length of walking times. We arrived at Bushmills at 3.49pm. The last tour had started at 3.30pm. Dang.

We went inside anyway, checking out the gift shop and then wandering into the cafe area. We were contemplating purchasing a whiskey to drink to help us get over our disappointment for missing the tour, and the lovely girl behind the bar offered us a free sample.

Thanks to this knowledgable wee lass, we managed to get a lot of the tour information and learnt a lot about the Bushmills range. We sampled four whiskeys, debating on which were our favourites. We managed to agree on our number one choice while the other three were a mixed bag.

We left without buying anything. So overall a very successful visit.

ANOB #6 – ASDA

Our final stop for the day was an ASDA supermarket where Pubert and I were given the task of purchasing ingredients for Lady BonBon to use for a funeral catering service she was preparing for the following day. We wandered around the supermarket looking for square bread, salad cream and crushed pineapple.

And then it was home for a delicious meal with Lady BonBon and an evening in front of the fire. Good times.

A Two Hour Drive for Lemon Ice Cream

Friday, October 10th, 2014

*Warning: The following blog post contains discussions of food regurgitation (aka vomiting.) If you don’t want to hear about it, don’t read further.

I will travel great distances for good food and when my cousin, Les, told me about a lemon ice cream that could only be described as “orgasmic,” I decided I needed to try it. I have never heard anyone describe a food as orgasmic as repeatedly as Les did about this ice cream. Clearly it was good and clearly I needed some.

The fact that the ice cream was located a two-or-so hour drive at the Inn at Brough in the Lake District didn’t really bother me. Thankfully Les was so keen on this ice cream that she was willing to drive me there as a “Birthday Adventure Treat.” So yesterday my birthday continued in the form of a drive through the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District and an amazing lunch at the Inn at Brough. I’m a lucky girl.

We arrived at the Inn for our booked time slot of 1pm and were greeted by the very friendly staff members who knew that Les was ‘that woman who keeps calling to check they will have the ice cream.’ The restaurant was empty, but it was a rainy Thursday and apparently the place is booked out on weekends. I could see why – Brough is a small village and the Inn sits proudly in the centre, offering a comfortable place to come and sit, drink and eat. We were looked after by a delightful lady who was friendly, welcoming and very, very polite. The Inn is attempting to be a little bit fancy and the service reflected this. I preferred when she kept looking out of the window and across the road to her house where a man was pruning her trees.

View from window

Our rainy view

We ordered some wine and then our food, our grumbling stomaches dictating that we should both splurge and try the lamb and redcurrant pies seeing as the lamb would be local and therefore delicious. This was Error #1. Our menu reading eyes and greedy stomaches were far too hungry for their own good. We were told the pies would take 25 minutes to cook during which time we just salivated more and more for tender baby sheep.

When our food arrived we both recoiled at the size of the serving and made “Gosh, I’ll never finish this” noises. But as we tucked in and tasted the tender lamb, buttery pastry, crisp potatoes, sweet carrots and some heavily buttered snow peas, we couldn’t stop. Soon we had both devoured the majority of our food, not quite finishing simply to ‘leave room for the ice cream.’ This was Error #2. Hindsight suggests I should have chosen a cheese and pickle sandwich but I know it wouldn’t have been as delicious as the pie.

Lamb pie and vegetables

Mmm… pie.

It was really good – the meat wasn’t fatty and the flavours were fantastic although I didn’t taste much redcurrant. The chips were seriously crispy – these giant potato chunks had obviously been doused in some sort of animal’s fat and deep fried. Too good to stop eating. The vegetables were alright but nothing special. The snow peas were limp and dripping butter and the ratatouille looked and tasted like it had been made a few days ago and reheated. But overall it was a top plate o’ food.

The lovely server knew we were wanting the lemon ice cream for dessert and said she would give us ten minutes to digest before bringing it out. Such a wise lady. She would have been even wiser to suggest that we have a cup of tea instead. But no, we were there for the ice cream and so we should have it. Error #3.

Three balls of soft yellow ice cream were served rolling around on a plate with a chocolate swirl biscuit as garnish. It didn’t look beautiful but who cares? If this ice cream is really orgasmic then does presentation really matter?

Lemon ice cream

It ain’t pretty but it sure tastes good.

Les dived in first as I took the necessary photographs and there was that silence that you only get when people are sitting enjoying food on the other side of the table. She was a happy lady. The ice cream was creamy but not overly sweet with the lemon tang biting through. It was really, really good, although I kept getting strong hints of egg which kind of put me off. After one and a half balls I was reaching my cream/fat/excess food limit but I struggled on for the sake of having driven two hours to eat this dessert.

Was it orgasmic? I’m not quite sure but I am not a citrus lover. I also have difficulty eating large amounts of cream-based items and would never normally have three scoops of ice cream. But the flavours were definitely delicious and it was very good homemade ice cream. Compliments to the chef.

Reclining back in our seats, our over stuffed bellies were now grumbling in disgust at our greed. I had a cup of peppermint tea to aid my digestive system and Les had a cup of coffee. Both were served with shortbread biscuits on the saucer. Perhaps these were the ‘waffer thin’ mints that broke Mr Creosote in the infamous Monty Python scene. We were both feeling a little unwell.

I would like to point out, highlight and emphasise the fact that neither Les nor I believe the Inn at Brough was to blame for the events that followed. The food was perfect, there was absolutely nothing wrong with it whatsoever and I think you should definitely eat at the Inn. It was our own personal greed and in ability to handle rich food that led to us both experiencing moments of nausea that may or may not have resulted in one of us revisiting her lunch near the roman ruins of Brough Castle. Let’s just say, I will do anything to avoid vomiting so you can add up the clues by yourself to work out who it was.

Brough Castle

Scene of many battles and at least one upset stomach.

And so, with our disgruntled bellies and our acceptance that it just served us right for being greedy pigs, we headed off on an exploratory journey of the Lakes and the Yorkshire Dales. Apart from intestinal explosions and the fairly insistent rain, it was a great day out and the meal at the Inn was definitely worth the drive. Perhaps not surprisingly, neither of us are in a huge rush to go back for more lemon ice cream, no matter how orgasmic it may be.

Trough of Bowland

A yellow beetle is the only way to roll on the Trough of Bowland

Brockholes and Clitheroe Castle

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

On Sunday Sir Pubert Gladstone and I went on an adventure driving north of Manchester to a nature reserve near Preston. A friend working in my office mentioned Brockholes as a place to visit so Pubert and I took a risk and ventured out in potentially rainy weather. Located on a junction just off one of England’s busiest roads (the M6), Brockholes is a newish development featuring some fantastic wood-panelled huts floating on a lake. Last weekend there was a vintage and craft fair with stalls selling handmade products and pre-loved items. Like most craft fairs, most of the stalls were a bit naff. But the buildings were fantastic with some very interesting roof angles, sun lights and paper-machê ceilings. 

Brockholes

Brockholes

Brockholes

Brockholes

We went for a wander around the nature reserve checking out the River Ribble and some small forested areas. Sadly the weather turned on us and we headed back to the car to escape the rain. We had contemplated eating lunch at a wood fired pizza stall but there was a long queue and they weren’t exactly producing pizzas at the speed of light. So we decided to head off on a random drive, seeing where the roads would take us. Hopefully to a nice pub.

We spotted a sign pointing to a town called Clitheroe – difficult to pronounce and sounding like a character’s name in a Jane Austin story it seemed like the perfect location for us to head to. Clitheroe was a pleasant surprise – winding streets leading to a castle on a hill. We found a café to eat some lunch at before we went for a walk to the top of the castle. From here we had a great view over the countryside until it started raining again.

Moody skies at Clitheroe Castle

Moody skies at Clitheroe Castle

View from Clitheroe Castle

View from Clitheroe Castle

It is great to be able to get out and explore England. It continues to amaze me how much there is to see in such a small space. So much history. Saying that, we drove past a sign for Botany Bay which turned out to be a shopping centre. Disappointing.

A Visit to Cheshire

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Last Friday I caught a train to a small town in Cheshire to visit some more of my numerous extended cousins. Jan and Bill live in a beautiful cottage home on a tiny lane in a cute little town in the middle of nowhere. While I love cities, I always enjoy escaping them and enjoy the quiet and solitude of country life. We sat in their garden relaxing and enjoying cups of coffee while watching the birds and insects dashing around. Glorious. I now have big plans to move to a small town in country England work in the local pub. Now there’s a book.

On Saturday we visited the ruins of Beeston Castle – built in the 1200s, it sits high on a sandstone hill allowing you to see eight counties (on a clear day.) We had great weather and the walk up the hill was surprisingly warm. I particularly enjoyed the fact that you can see Wales from the top. It isn’t every day that you climb a hill and see another country. We had a picnic lunch with views over Cheshire during which I was in a state of constant amazement that we were eating outside in mid-summer and not being bothered by flies. The British have got some things right.

Approaching Beeston Castle

Approaching Beeston Castle

Hello, Wales.

Hello, Wales.

Highlight #2

Monday, June 20th, 2011

I promised three highlights and so far have only delivered one. That’s shocking. Here’s your second:

Germany

Our trip to Germany involved staying at Tom’s Oma’s house in a suburb of Koblenz with his Oma (we didn’t kick her out) and his parents who are currently touring Europe. Koblenz is in a particularly nice location – Nero Claudius Drusus picked a good spot when he established Koblenz as a military base in 8BC (information stolen from Wikipedia.) It sits where the Rhine and Moselle rivers join so it is surrounded by water and green valleys full of castles. Hence my highlight of Germany was our daily drives along the rivers.

We hired a Hyundai I20 and everyday we’d pick a place to go and drive there, spending as much time as possible avoiding the autobahn and driving along the rivers. The views are just spectacular – driving along the curving river edge with green hills on either side, blue skies (generally) and then the odd castle scattered high up on the hills. One of the highlights of this highlight is when we went to a town called Boppard and took a chairlift to the top of one of the hills. The chairlift took 20-odd minutes to reach the top and you had plenty of time to take in the views.

chairlift
Check this out!

The rivers are very well used – the sun was shining so there were people out and about on bikes or walking, hundreds of boats were going up and down the river and every town has cafes and bars open for visitors. Plus there are castles on every side of the river that are open to tourists. Slightly different to the Swan river. One day we sat and had a beer at the top of a castle and watched the sun slowly going down. The castle was built sometime around 1300 and the beer was brewed locally. Now that’s good stuff.

Beer and castle

Ahhh...