Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Great Adventure 2017 Part Eight

We left Bamburgh Castle and headed for our next destination, a town called Barnard Castle in the County of Durham.  This drive took us again through Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, which would be the second time we were in this vicinity.  (Further proof of our circuitous route of travel.)  The drive was pretty easy as drives in Britain go and we approached our destination in the late afternoon.  We saw signs for Raby Castle, which was a place we intended to visit during our stay in this area.  Since we were going right by and it was still open, we stopped.  It was another very enjoyable visit. We were just in time as it closes for the winter in October.

Raby Castle is another privately owned place and was built in the 12th century by the Nevills.  They owned it until the 1600s when ownership reverted to the crown.  In 1626, the castle was purchased by the Vanes.  The family still maintains ownership of the castle.  It sits on a large piece of land, including a 200 acre deer park, and deer can be seen grazing on the grounds.  Many rooms in the castle have been opened to the public and are furnished beautifully.

The great kitchen was built in 1360 and in daily use until 1954.  It is immense.

This looks just like your dining room, right?

This room was where the servants ate and reminded me of the downstairs dining room on "Downton Abbey."

Imagine having an entry hall big enough to drive a carriage into.

Other rooms:

After admiring the castle and having a cup of tea and a scone in the tearoom, we drove on to our next B&B.  This was a charming town again, and again had ruins of another castle.  You can't seem to go anywhere in the UK without running into a castle!

Our room, again, was cozy but nice and the location was great.

We spent a lot of the next day touring the Bowes Art Museum, which we enjoyed immensely.The Bowes Museum was built as a public art gallery for John Bowes and his wife Josephine, Countess of Montalbo, who both died before it opened in 1892.  

They spent a lifetime collecting art for the museum and much, of course, has been added since.  A highlight is the Silver Swan, a mechanical piece built in the 18th century.  It does its moving "show" just once a day now so as to preserve the mechanics.  It is gorgeous.

There is art of every kind in here and so much history that it's impossible to take it all in.  Ceramics, stained glass, furniture, paintings, sculpture, textiles and clothing, toys, and on and on.  This little town is exceedingly fortunate to have such a resource nearby.  

And the food in the cafe was excellent!

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Great Adventure 2017 Part Seven

I know this will ruin the suspense, but we made it home!  Nevertheless, I will continue the posts so I will have a record of what we did and where we went and it will be here for whoever else is interested.  It was hard to update the blog from the road, as it's more difficult to post from the iPad that I had and also the WiFi wasn't the best always.  Now that the excuses are out of way, onward!

While we were planning, I happened to notice the little town of Berwick-Upon-Tweed on the map.  It rang a bell because my book club had read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce some time ago.  It's about a man who sets out to visit an old friend and ends up walking the length of England, ultimately arriving in Berwick.  I also read the companion book, The Love Song of Miss Queen Hennessy, also set to a large degree in the same charming town.  Since we were "in the neighborhood," I decided we should visit.  This is where our route got a little circuitous.  Berwick is the northernmost town in England and when we had taken the train from Edinburgh, we had probably gone right by it.  Our B and B host told us that Berwick has actually changed hands between England and Scotland several times.  We got into the car and drove north, actually crossing the border into Scotland for a time.

Berwick turned out to be a lovely walled city right on the north sea. We took a little walk on top of the wall to see the views and then found our accommodations.

We had a nice size room but the bed wasn't terribly comfortable. We were right near the water, atop one of the stone quays and looking out on the River Tweed.

We only stayed here one night and were charmed by the atmosphere and area.

Everything would have been perfect except for the coughing man at the restaurant.  Have to watch those germs!

The next day we drove south to County Durham and the town of Barnard Castle.  On the way, we stopped to see Bamburgh Castle, which turned out to be one of our favorite stops.  We had heard about this castle when we were waiting for our tour in Iceland and were chatting with a couple from Australia.  The wife was from Scotland originally, and told us if we were in the north of England, we had to see Bamburgh and so I wrote it down.  It turned out to be on our way to Barnard Castle, so we stopped by.

Bamburgh sits on a rocky plateau high above the Northumberland coastline and is one of the largest inhabited castles in the world.  Like most castles in this part of the world, it has been destroyed and rebuilt over the hundreds of years of its existence.  Now owned by the Armstrong family, descendants of the first Lord Armstrong, it was opened to visitors in the mid 1900s.  I think they had 14 furnished rooms to visit and the views (although windy) were spectacular here.  The castle sits right above a beautiful beach and looks out to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.

The fireplaces in these old kitchens are huge, and there was a spinning wheel in here!

The furnishings were beautiful.

 A little bit of driving excitement:  Just imagine that this car is coming around the corner at 60 mph and you have to remember to dive for the ditch on the left side.  Keeps you on your toes!  And this was actually a much wider road than many we encountered.

I will stop this part of the adventure here, since we ended up visiting another nice castle before the day was over and that will keep for next time.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Great Adventure 2017 Part Six

Now we start our rather convoluted path through the northern part of England. I had found a really nice looking bed and breakfast near Hadrian's Wall early in our planning and reserved for two nights that were available. At that point, we weren't sure where else we wanted to go, so as we added destinations, we ended up doing a bit of backtracking, but it's worked out fine. 

From Edinburgh, we took the train to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, where we encountered our first rental car. The plan was for me to drive most of the time, but after the first day, that plan went out the window. 😜 Pat turned out to drive very well but it still required vigilance from both of us at all times to ensure that we turned into the correct lane, kept to the left, and made it out of the roundabouts as we travelled clockwise. Whew!  Anyway, we made it out of Newcastle, even though the two Sat-Navs we had were giving us opposite directions for awhile. We ditched one and got on better. We arrived at Lanercost successfully and found it to be as charming as we'd hoped, being an old farmhouse next to a Priory. There were chickens in the yard and sheep over the fence. 

Our room was fairly spacious for ancient house standards and the food and company here were excellent. 

We set off in search of a Roman fort built on a section of Hadrian's Wall the next morning. It is called Housesteads, known as Vercovicium to the Romans. The fort is the best preserved of all 16 forts on the Roman frontier of Hadrian's Wall. The fort was begun around AD 124 and was occupied for about 280 years by up to 800 soldiers.  We joined up with a free tour and learned some fascinating information about life in Roman times. There are just outlines of rooms and gates, so having an explanation of what we were seeing was very helpful. 

After the tour and a look at the museum, we walked up to the wall itself. It's not very high any more, having been taken apart by locals who used the stone to build walls and houses throughout the centuries. The wall remains are protected from this now. Where we walked is the only place you can actually walk on the top of the wall; it's under trees and over the years mud and leaves have strengthened the wall section. Otherwise, there are two sides of the wall and the inside area was filled     with rubble so it isn't strong enough to bear weight.  There were some great views from along the wall. 

Pat proved to be an intrepid driver but we had our share of adrenaline going most of the time!

The river near our B&B was lovely. 

We moved on from here and went back north, getting into our convoluted but very enjoyable route.