Another ‘Most Beautiful Place in the World’. There seem to be a lot!


Skye

I thought Skye was the most beautiful place in the whole world. Perhaps it is. It was sunny while we were there, with a fresh breeze that blew away the midges, and we walked in the valley between mountains and watched an eagle (a real eagle for goodness sake!) swooping. I have shared my photo, but brace yourself—I’m not the photographer my sister is.

We stayed at Sligachan Hotel for one night, and we had a room in a tower, which was pretty exciting as I have never stayed in a tower before. We then drove to Portree, through more amazing countryside, and stayed for a few days in a little Airbnb on the hill. It wasn’t very fancy, though I was delighted to find it had a washing machine after 2 weeks on the road. It also had a view down to the harbour, and across the hills to the mountains we had walked through. Really, you cannot get enough of looking at those mountains.

The harbour at Portree is pretty, with painted houses and hills. There’s a lump of land, called The Lump, which today is a viewpoint and in the past was where they used to hang people. Nice place to die.

We drove to the Quiraing one day, which is an area of interesting geology because the earth has sort of slipped off the rocks. We didn’t really see any of that, as the weather was bad (or possibly ‘normal’ for Scotland) and it was misty. There were clouds of midges, but luckily we had bought some clever pop-up hats with midge nets. It was actually quite fun to wear them (and better than having my face covered in midges dying in the Avon oil I had bought). We also saw a dead sheep (but that’s probably not a great incentive to visit).

There were some lovely walks from Portree, with footpaths next to the coast, past fish farms. We looked across the water to islands, searched for otters (didn’t see any) and always those mountains, standing tall in the background. Too beautiful to describe.

There is a waterfall on Skye where the water falls into pools made by the rocks. The Fairy Pools. They are lovely, but when we visited there were so many people it was spoilt. We slogged up the hill feeling hot and avoiding people, then walked back to the car. Better to visit in the winter I expect.

Fairy Pools

Our best dinners were at Dulse and Brose. We shared a wonderful fish platter, complete with pickled herrings and heaps of crab meat. We ate so much good fish in Scotland—worth visiting for that alone.

When we left Skye I promised myself that one day I would return. It was such a beautiful place. I wondered where we were going next, and whether it could possibly be as lovely as Skye. Well actually yes, it was! I will tell you about it in my next blog.

Thank you for reading.

Take care.
Love, Anne x

Scotland has lots of Rowan Trees
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The Isle of Mull


The Isle of Mull

We caught the ferry from Oban to Mull. It was very efficient; these ferries cross the water regularly and so although August brings more tourists, the service ran to time. We arrived too early to check into the hotel, so we drove the long way round the island. Mull is beautiful. I had thought Glencoe was the most beautiful place in the world, now I wasn’t so sure.

The sun glinted from the sea at every corner, and tiny islands grew from the surface. Birds swooped, and sea otters dived in the lochs. Actually, we never saw a sea otter, but the rest is true. I spent many peaceful hours searching the waters and not seeing an otter.

The island has about three roads. Only three. They are single track, with passing places and signs telling tourists to use the passing places so the locals can pass. I wasn’t sure the locals especially like tourists. We paused in a passing place—a big one that fitted three cars—and a passing local stopped just so he could shout at us and tell us not to use the passing place to take photos. We hadn’t left the car, and there was plenty of room for several cars to pass—like I said, I’m not sure that locals like tourists.

We drove to Tobermory. If you ever watched the children’s show Balamory then you will recognise Tobermory. Same place, but the inhabitants are way less bouncy. We were staying at the Tobermory Hotel (though they wouldn’t let us check in until the correct time—like I said, I’m not sure that locals like tourists). We wandered around the town, with its painted houses and pretty harbour. There were a few gift shops, but everything was hideously expensive. When we were allowed to check in at the hotel, we were shown to a lovely little room, with a view over the harbour. The bathroom window had no blinds, and only the bottom half was frosted, so I hope none of the many people in the harbour ever looked up. Nice view for us though.

The best thing about the hotel (for me) was the breakfasts. Lots of fresh fruit, good coffee, a selection of hot food cooked to order. Husband ate the full Scottish breakfast, I had the porridge. This was very good porridge (I had eaten some pretty rough porridge so far on our trip). Probably not the reason most people visit the island for, but worth bearing in mind if you’re planning a trip.

One day we visited the little Tobermory distillery. The tours were all cancelled (due to Covid) but they offered us some whisky to taste (note: whiskey from Ireland, whisky from Scotland). One tasted much like other whiskies I have tasted, the other was like liquid charcoal. I am not a fan of whisky. Husband bought a bottle of the charcoal variety and raved about how lovely and smoky it was. (I was very pleased, as this unexpected extravagant purchase paved the way for me to buy all sorts of lovely things!)

Our best meal was at Cafe Fish, which is right on the harbour, with boats arriving to unload fresh seafood while we ate. Great place for a good fish dinner.

Another day we drove to Fionphort and caught a ferry to Iona Island. This was very small and peaceful and is where St. Columba arrived in 563 and founded an abbey. This was the first time Christianity arrived in the UK, and was not very long after the Christian Bible was compiled, so it is a significant place. It also has seagulls and grassy hills and ruins and a few cottages clustered near the water. The modern-day Abbey is used for ecumenical retreats, because the monks all left in the 1500’s. The island was nice, but I didn’t particularly rave over it. Maybe there were too many tourists. My favourite part was the Highland cattle that had wandered onto the beach.

We left Tobermory and caught the ferry to Skye. I thought the Isle of Mull was the most beautiful place in the world. I was wrong…

Thank you for reading about our road trip through Scotland. I will tell you more in my other blogs. We visited several islands, and even stayed in a castle. Such an adventure!

Take care.
Love, Anne x

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Onich


More stories from our Scottish road trip.

Lodge on the Loch

After staying in Crinan, we drove to an hotel in Onich, which overlooks Loch Linnhe. This was the first time (of many) that I asked: “Is this the sea?” because it was hard to know. It joins the sea, but is a lake (or loch, as it’s in Scotland).

We stayed at Lodge on the Loch. This is a hotel that has seen better days, but the rooms were large and clean, and the staff were friendly (there just weren’t enough of them). If they buy some beds that don’t sag in the middle, and employ a few more people, then it could be lovely again because the position is wonderful. Our room overlooked the loch, and we were a short drive from Glencoe (possibly the most beautiful place in the world) and Glen Etive (also beautiful and with fewer people).

In August, as well as beauty, Scotland has midges. Our first walk in Glencoe, once we had managed to find a parking place, we were beset with midges whenever we stopped walking. Tiny insects that float around—later in our travels we had one day when the air was thick with them. I had bought some ‘Skin-so-Soft’ from Avon, which was rumoured to protect against midges. In my experience, it didn’t keep them away, they simply died in the oil, so my skin was covered in oil and drowned midges. Not a highlight.

Not much could detract from the beauty of Glencoe though—not midges, nor the swarms of other tourists who were there. Mountains reaching the clouds, green valleys, waterfalls and rivers. Hard to think of a more beautiful place.

The following day we drove to Glen Etive. More beauty, with mountains, forests, waterfalls. We watched some canoes swooshing down the bubbling river, walked to a waterfall, enjoyed the peace.

Lodge on the Loch is near Ben Nevis, so I persuaded Husband (who had a headache) that we should stroll up the mountain for a short while. The day was sunny and hot, and we arrived as most people were leaving. The mountain is well-signed, with a clear path (if you choose the easy route) and a cafe at the base. We chatted to a man who had started the climb that morning, and it had taken about 8 hours to the peak and back. He was drinking his fifth can of lemonade.

We joined the flow of people on the path, and walked up for about an hour. It was easy walking, with no scary edges. But in the sunshine, it was very hot. I was wearing a thick dress, and switched it for Husband’s cotton shirt because it was simply too hot to walk. After an hour, we came to a point where the path grew steeper, and although going up would be fine, I knew it would terrify me coming down (plus it was only meant to be a stroll) so we turned back. Probably I cannot claim to have climbed Ben Nevis (not sure a quarter of it counts) but nice to have done it.

We ate in a lovely pub called Laroch in Ballachulish. Ballachulish was a tiny community that grew up around a slate mine. There were information signs, and we saw the flooded mines, and white worker-houses and imagined a time when their hobnailed boots would have rattled through the village on their way to the mine. The food in Laroch was brilliant—worth a visit if you’re in the area.

We left the hotel at 7 the next morning. My back was painful due to saggy bed, so I wasn’t sure the day would go well. We were due to catch a ferry from Oban to the Isle of Mull. I had thought Glencoe was the most beautiful place on earth, and that I had seen the best of Scotland. I was wrong, so very very wrong…

Thanks for reading. I will post more blogs of our travels through Scotland in the next few weeks. It was all planned as a surprise, and we stayed in some amazing places (including castles) so I hope you enjoy sharing the adventure with me.

Take care.
Love, Anne x

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Crinan


The Crinan Hotel

The Crinan Hotel is two hours north of Glasgow. There’s not much phone signal, so Google maps gets confused and places the hotel round the corner, whist it actually has prime position overlooking Loch Crinan off the sound of Jura (look at a map of Scotland, and it’s on the left, about half-way up).

We arrived early afternoon, and followed the winding lane past whitewashed cottages down to the canal, then up to the bend in the road—which is basically the whole of Crinan in a single sentence. There were signs on the hotel door requesting that guests wore facemasks in the hotel, and lots of other signs and photographs and paintings, all muddled together in a visual feast of nostalgia. You knew instantly that this hotel was personal to someone, and they loved it.

We checked in, and dragged our cases into the tiny lift (which closely resembled an upturned freezer). Our room was on the second floor, and the metal key was attached to a large, too-big-for-a-handbag wooden fish. The room was lovely, with a large window overlooking the loch. There was wooden furniture, and uneven floors, and a single vase with fresh flowers. In the wardrobe was a tray set with tea things and a tiny kettle, with a note telling us to ask reception for fresh milk. Everything looked clean, cosy, and slightly dated. I loved it. Very Miss Marple. All we needed was a body in the lobby and we would be in the quintessential English novel.

There was no safe in the room, but it all felt very secure so we left our stuff and wandered along the tow path. Husband loves canals, and enthused happily about how many locks would be needed for the boats to climb the hill behind the hotel, and why they had built the entrance to the 9-mile canal in Crinan, and not further round the coast (later investigations showed the water was a giant sandbank, so the canal needed to provide deep water from Crinan onwards). It was easily ignored as cheery background noise while I absorbed the water birds, and reflections on the loch, and the absolute peace of the area.

We ate dinner in Tayvallich (quite an adventure, but for another blog). Spent the evening trying to find Duntrune Castle, which the room information said was opposite the hotel, but all I could see through the binoculars was a big house. Went to bed. Slept well.

The following morning started at 6.30 when the people in the next room began to stomp across the creaky floorboards and turned on the noisy fan in their bathroom. The night had been silent though, so no complaints. We got up and ran along the towpath. Good shower (always excellent when an older hotel installs a decent bathroom) and then we went down for breakfast.

The dining room has bay windows overlooking the loch, and it was simply beautiful. Everything was very hushed, with thick carpets and heavy curtains, damask napkins and silver coffee pots. The waitress brought us juice and good strong coffee and took our order. I opted for porridge and fruit, Husband went the less healthy route—though neither of us were tempted by the kippers. There were a few other guests, but it all felt very proper, with tiny china bowls of butter and marmalade. It wasn’t a room for loud noises.

The hotel room had details of Duntrune Castle, which was fought over by various clans in the past. At one point, a piper from clan A remained after clan B had taken over, and when the way was clear, he played his pipes to alert clan A that they should attack. Clan B were somewhat miffed, so cut off his hands. He died (not unexpected). The ghost of the handless piper is said to haunt the grounds, or so the legend goes. Potentially not true. However, when recent owners were renovating the castle, the builders dug up a skeleton which had both hands cut off.

Now, I love a good story, so we had to visit. It’s privately owned, so we weren’t sure how near we could get, but we set off anyway. It was an adventure. Drove across moors, the only car on narrow roads. Wound our way to the castle, and the end of a private road. There are no footpaths in Scotland—instead they have a ‘right to roam’ law which we interpreted as anyone can walk wherever they want to. We parked on a verge, and walked down the road. No one stopped us. We walked right up to the gates of the castle. These gates were the inspiration for the Skyfall house in the James Bond film. The castle is still occupied, and we decided the ‘right to roam’ probably didn’t include walking actually into someone’s house. Was pretty cool though.

Beyond the castle is a garden, with an honesty box for donations to ActionAid and RNLI. We went inside, and they are very beautiful, a mix of wild and clever planting and pretty statues. Worth a visit (good Instagram-photo ops if you like that sort of thing!)

The hotel doesn’t have sandwiches, and even Hungry Husband felt that three cooked meals a day might be pushing it. There’s a little coffee shop (possibly linked to the hotel but in its own whitewashed old building). We wandered down and ordered filled rolls. My BLT was freshly cooked, with good fresh lettuce and tomato—but no mayo or butter. Perhaps you have to specify separately that you want those in Scotland. Or perhaps the coffee shop is linked to the hotel and they saw how much we ate for breakfast!

Thanks for reading. I will post further blogs (in a random order, because that is how I wrote them) so you can share our road trip through Scotland. Hope you enjoy them.

Take care, Love, Anne x

Scotland


Planning a Trip to Scotland

We went to Scotland. We had wanted to go back to the US, to hire a car and travel around for a month, the same as in 2019. But as we watched the governments changing their minds and making (illogical) decisions, we cancelled our flights while we could still get a refund, and changed our destination to Scotland. Husband planned it all, because it was his ‘thing’ and so when we set off, I had only the vaguest idea of where we were going and what we would see. It was quite an adventure!

First stop was Durham. Not a city that I know well, but we arrived in time for a wander around and I can tell you that it’s a lovely old city, surprisingly small, with a prison and a university (don’t get those in a muddle) and a very old cathedral. The cathedral is notable for its big knocker, which if criminals managed to touch in the Middle Ages, they could be granted sanctuary for 37 days. I’m guessing it didn’t work very well, as the modern prison is fairly large.

The other thing I should mention before we drive to Scotland, is the river. Durham has a lovely wide river, great for running next to in the morning.

We made it to Scotland the following day and drove to Seamill, which is fairly near Glasgow but on the coast. The scenery was pretty, Scotland has lots of bumpy land (not really hills, just bumps) and mountains and water.

We stayed at The Seamill Hydro Hotel, and they were hosting a wedding. We tried very hard to not be in all their photographs, but wherever we went there seemed to be a man with a video camera. The married couple will wonder forever who the strange couple were, looming in the background of every shot!

The Seamill Hydro Hotel and a slightly windswept Anne!

The hotel was on the coast, and we walked along the beach. Later, as we travelled through Scotland, my most asked question was: “Is this the sea?” because mostly it was impossible to know. There are so many interconnected lochs, and such rugged coastline, that you could never be sure if you could see the other side of a bay or an island. At Seamill we could see islands. We had booked to visit Arran (which I had thought was the home of the Aran jumper—because I cannot spell!) but our ferry was cancelled due to Covid. Instead we went to Cumbrae. Cumbrae is a small island, and ferries run regularly, like a bus, no need to book, just turn up and go.

We hired bikes and whizzed round the coast, then caught the ferry home. Pretty place, with boats bobbing in the harbour, a few shops, pretty hills.

We left Seamill, and drove north. Our first journey took us past a castle. I love castles, and Scotland has loads. Some are derelict, often the setting for battles between the clans or fights with the English in days gone by. Some are ‘modern,’ built in baronial style (like Balmoral where the royal family holiday) with pretty fairytale turrets.

Scotland also has lots of islands, and most of them have regular ferries pootling between them. Sometimes the distances are vast though, so we only ventured to a few islands off the West coast. Some were amazingly beautiful.

We spent some time driving North, up the Western side of Scotland, sometimes staying on islands, sometimes in glens nestling between mountains. Then we drove across country, through pine forests and over mountains to flatter, empty land. We stayed in posh hotels, and cheap Airbnbs, and hotels that had seen better days. And then, to my surprise, we stayed in an actual derelict/partly renovated castle full of stuffed animals and mice (and probably ghosts) and then a castle which was like a stately home, where I felt as if I was living in Downton Abbey. I will tell you all about it in my later blogs. It was such an adventure, and really fun for me to never know where we were going next.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy travelling through Scotland with me (there are less midges this way!)

Take care.
Love, Anne x

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Sheffield Cutlery


A Quick Visit to Sheffield

Our ‘cottage in the ‘Peak District’ was a house fairly near to Sheffield. As I have never visited the city, we decided to pop in for a quick look. The only thing I know about Sheffield is The Full Monty was set there, and all the cutlery in the world is made there. The last fact might be an exaggeration, though I did hope to buy some cutlery as a memento of my visit.

Lots of reminders of the steel industry in Sheffield.

We found a car park, and set off through the city centre. I was pretty desperate for the loo, and public toilets were hard to find. There was a large John Lewis department store, which looked a good bet, but it didn’t seem to have an entrance. We walked all around it, and eventually decided it was shut. This seemed to be a feature of Sheffield—a lot of large buildings were shut, and many were being demolished.

The city centre was not unpleasant, and there were a few holiday-related events happening—the main one being painted bears for children to find. I spotted a few family groups going round, hunting for bears as they followed a map. Nice idea.

I wanted to see the cathedral, and Son-who-knows-Sheffield confidently set off to show us. We arrived, and it was much smaller than expected. The inside was nice, not too ornate, and there were a few people praying, which is much nicer than the usual cathedral where there are more likely to be people taking photos. I wanted a photo, but it felt disrespectful to take one in the building, so I went and took one through the open doorway.

We wandered through the city, and saw a signpost to the cathedral, pointing away from where we had come. Followed it. Came to ‘another’ cathedral…or maybe Son-who-knows actually is Son-who-doesn’t-know! This cathedral was much bigger, with a slightly dodgy extension, lots of ornate stuff inside, and tourists taking photos. I didn’t spot anyone praying. I think I prefer the non-cathedral.

Slightly dodgy extension on cathedral. One of the bears is lurking outside, waiting to be found by the many bear-hunters in the city.

There was a notice board with a few Sheffield-related facts. Apparently Chaucer mentioned the city, so it’s been around for a while. I also read a little about the steel industry, and we decided to visit the museum, even though I don’t like museums.

We had a quick lunch, and I asked the waitress if she knew where was a good place to buy cutlery, as Sheffield is famous for cutlery. She looked at me blankly, and went to hide behind the counter. Maybe young people don’t realise that all our cutlery comes from Sheffield.

All the cutlery in the world is made in Sheffield. Probably.

Walked to the Winter Garden, but this just turned out to be a lot of plants in the lobby of a hotel (or maybe this was the equivalent of the non-cathedral and map-reading family were mistaken).

We found Kelham Island Museum, which disappointingly is no longer an island, though was well-signposted. It used to be a steel works, and shows the story of the steel industry through the ages. For a museum, it wasn’t too bad (it was fairly small, which helped). I learnt that the women used to tie brown paper over their clothes to protect them from oil, and that the term ‘cutlery’ applies only to knives (spoons and forks are ‘flatware’). They had a small giftshop, and I managed to buy an ‘antique’ sugar spoon (a small spoon with holes in, which I seem to recall one of my grandparents had, whereby you dribble sugar from the sugar bowl to your dish but it is then very useful for sprinkling on strawberries). Although I now know that I did not buy cutlery in Sheffield, at least I managed to buy some flatware.

Some pretty big machines were used in the steel industry.

Have a look at your cutlery next time you use it—I bet it was made in Sheffield.

Thanks for reading. Hope you have a good day. Take care.
Love, Anne x

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Chatsworth House


Holiday 2021 continues…

Chatsworth House

We were staying about half an hour from Chatsworth House, which we visited 10 years ago and enjoyed, so it was a good way to occupy a rainy afternoon in July. The house is now mainly famous for that scene with Colin Firth swimming in the lake in Pride and Prejudice, which is a little ironic considering the history of the house. It was also the home of Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, who entertained the aristocracy in the 1700’s, and was a sort of olden-days movie star—so perhaps the link to recent films is appropriate after all.

We set off after lunch, Emm stating that he didn’t much like old houses and deciding to stay at home. I don’t much like old houses either, but I dimly remembered that this one was worth seeing, and it made a change from long walks.

The house has the most impressive golden gates at the entrance (someone possibly had ideas above themselves) but we weren’t allowed to use them (hoping that isn’t a premonition) and we were directed through the park. We showed our tickets, which cost £24 each, and were timed. We were told not to arrive before our designated time, and the first available tickets were mid-afternoon, with no reduction in price despite the grounds closing at 5pm. I felt this was too expensive, but I wasn’t part of the planning committee, so tried to not complain (not very good at that).

The house is stuffed full of art. As you walk around, there are masterpieces by ancient masters, artifacts ‘stolen’ from ancient Egypt, and modern art, all jumbled together. I don’t like much modern art, but some of the older works were fabulous.

There was also a portrait of Georgiana, the Duchess whose life was in many ways like Princess Diana’s. The portrait is interesting because she has six toes. I don’t know why (I did ask, but the guides didn’t seem to know either). Maybe she really did have six toes, or maybe it was to represent her rather unusual life (she was forced to live with her husband and his mistress, and was pursued by the newspapers and was a great influencer of both fashion and politics in her day). She looked nothing like Kiera Knightly though, who plays her in the recent film of her life. I bought a copy of her biography in the gift shop (the Duchess, not Kiera). I’ll write about it in a later blog if it’s interesting.

The Duchess

We zoomed round the house fairly quickly, because old houses tend to all be quite similar (in my opinion). Too dim and crowded and full of tourists, so you never manage to get a sense of real people actually living there. They resemble museums. I don’t like most museums.

The gardens however, were lovely.  There was a big concrete block (it was actually granite) which was some kind of memorial to soldiers. It was called The Antithesis of Sarcophagi and I was busy saying what rubbish/not art/ugly it was, when Son 2 told me to peer through one of the little holes in the side. Inside was a jungle. Wow! It was brilliant, you felt as if you were peering at a whole rainforest, growing in a cube. Very clever. Sometimes modern art is brilliant (but mostly not).

Peering inside the granite block

The rest of the gardens were lovely too. There was a rock garden, with the biggest rocks you can imagine, and one very clever structure that was finely balanced and could be moved if you touched it. There was a walled garden, and long pathways, and a wild flower garden, and a lake and everything, really, that you might hope to find in the garden of a palace. I was tempted to pick myself a bunch of flowers (compensation for the £24 entrance fee even though we had limited time due to designated ticket system). But family told me they wouldn’t visit me if I was in prison, so I decided not to.

Rock Garden

It was an interesting afternoon (well, half-afternoon—I can’t quite get over the price of entry). If you know the present Duchess of Devonshire, perhaps you could mention the unfair pricing to her. The people who lived there in the past were good at changing things.

Hope you have a lovely day. Thanks for reading. Take care.
Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
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*****

Millthorpe is not The Peak District (though it tries).


Family Holiday 2021 continued.


We packed up the house in the Lake District and left. Everyone felt slightly dirty due to water shortage/lack of showering ability. Our next holiday home was in the Peak District, and we hoped they had more water. The drive was busy, as Saturdays in July are full of people leaving and arriving on holiday, but we didn’t meet any major hold-ups. Our journey took us through the outskirts of Sheffield, and we began to wonder how near the city our Airbnb would be. The details had described it as being in the grounds of Carpenter House, in an area of beautiful countryside, but we were beginning to worry.

At the last minute, the roads turned away from the city, we drove through a few fields, and arrived at the little hamlet of Millthorpe. It was not exactly the Peak District, but was far enough from the city to not feel crowded. There were several fields of horses, and lots of the houses had stables attached—clearly an area for the horsey people of Sheffield to live.

Went for a walk across the fields. More horses. I am very comfortable with all cows and sheep; horses make me nervous but we weren’t eaten or stampeded. Walked to the local Royal Oak for dinner. The pub was ancient, with low beams and a huge fireplace. The menu was limited unless you are a cheese-lover (everything had cheese, and fried cheeses made a very nice, if rather unhealthy, starter).


Sunday 25th July

The family voted to go paddle-boarding. They discovered you could hire boards and wet suits at Tittesworth Reservoir (with a name like that, I really hope they did a Google search for ‘paddle boarding’ and not something else!)

The drive took us through the Peak District, which is beautiful and very near to Millthorpe. The weather was less sunny than last week, but still warm. We arrived at the car park, and saw several families hiring wet suits, squeezing into the little changing cubicles, struggling to carry the unwieldy boards. I decided that paddle boarding was not something I wanted to do (I felt that complete lack of co-ordination, no ability to balance and not being a good swimmer would make it less fun). Went for a walk with Bea while the others pootled about on the water for an hour.

Paddle Boarding

Everyone seemed to have fun, and we discussed it (at length) in the pub afterwards. I had real trouble remembering that the term is ‘paddle-boarding’ and not ‘water-boarding’ so I kept asking them about their experience of torture.

Monday 26th July

We went for a walk to Lud’s Church. This is a cavern, tucked into the Peak District, and makes for a pretty walk. There are many stories and legends swirling around the cavern, and Emm assured me it was the spookiest place in the world.

We walked along a pretty footpath through the woods, the sun was shining, birds singing, ferns carpeted the floor. Hard to see why it was spooky. We arrived at the cavern, and the temperature dropped as we walked between the giant-sided rocks, taking care not to slip on the moss. It was easier to understand (slightly) why someone might think the cavern was haunted. It then transpired that he had visited at dusk, on Halloween, when all the trees were bare and everywhere was gloomy and cold—that would definitely be spooky.

Lud’s Church

We left the cavern and walked up to the Roaches, which are big rocks protruding from the hills. Great views of the valley.

The Roaches


Tuesday 27th July

Walked up Mam Tor, near Castleton. This is about as high as my knees can manage, but actually was very easy as there are paths all the way and no scary precipice to make me dizzy. It was a long walk, and I was pleased to reach the top. Asked Husband to take photo for blog. Family photo-bombed. I informed them the photo was for a blog, and I would  use it whatever they looked like. Posed for another photo. No better. Decided to use it anyway.

Unhelpful Family

In the afternoon, we visited Chatsworth House. But that will have to wait for another blog.

Thanks for reading. Take care.
Love, Anne x

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A Holiday in The Lake District


Tuesday 20th July
Our holiday in the Lake District continues—without us actually managing to visit a lake. The weather was boiling hot, so actually visiting a lake would have been a good idea, but instead we decided to go for lots of long walks. I was not part of the planning committee, though to be fair, the area is beautiful, even with sweat dripping into your eyes.

Our Airbnb is in Newlands Valley, and we found a lovely walk from the house that was relatively flat (even the planning committee decided big hills were a bad idea in the heat). There was a little ancient church with a school attached, and bubbling brooks, and sheep huddled in the shade of every tree.

An ancient church nestling in the valley.

We had dinner at The Royal Oak in Keswick (Husband likes booking Royal Oak pubs. It’s a thing.) The food was delicious, and despite being very crowded, the pub seemed clean. All the staff wore masks, which seems a polite thing to do at the moment.

Wednesday 21st July

We walked in the valley again, going a little further this time so we managed a loop. The valley stretches beyond the roads, and the path disappears into the fold of the hills. I would love to walk further, but the weather is too hot.

In the afternoon we decided to drive somewhere pretty (though everywhere is pretty, so not sure why) and go for another stroll. We drove to Honister Slate Mine, which is a working mine with tours and climbing lessons and a gift shop. It also has a lot of tourists in a Covid-world in July. I am not keen on climbing or mines or tourists, so it wasn’t my favourite place. Had a quick look at the gift shop, which was full of beautiful things that I couldn’t afford. Walked in a different area, where there were fewer tourists.

We ate at The Royal Oak in Keswick again. It was so good last time, several of us chose the same dishes. The food was tasteless—must have been a different chef.

Thursday 22nd July
We walked the same loop of the valley, past the old church. It was still beautiful, still very hot. I still didn’t manage to walk further into the hills.

In the afternoon we drove into the hills to Watendlath Tarn. The roads there were clearly built for horses rather than cars, and were so narrow that sometimes the hedge brushed both sides of the car. The lanes twisted up steep hills, and you hoped you wouldn’t meet a car coming in the opposite direction—but of course in July, it was inevitable and we would have to reverse back to a passing place. Occasionally the passing place was filled by a parked car, and we would have to reverse even further. Unfortunately Husband quite loudly stated his views of people who park in passing places, at a moment when his window was down, and so was the window of the parked car. We managed to pass without a punch-up!

The journey was slow, but so very beautiful. After winding up and up, we began to drive downhill, but not for very long when we rounded a last bend, and there was the car park. There were toilets (which were locked) and a tea room (which was closed) and the tarn, shimmering in the sunlight. It was much prettier than the photo. We strolled, and paddled, and enjoyed the beauty. There weren’t many other people there, which was nice—probably they were stranded somewhere due to all the parked cars in passing places along the route.

A tarn, high in the dip of the mountains.

We had a final dinner at the Royal Oak in Keswick. The food was tasty again, so the Tuesday chef must have returned. I did notice that no one was now wearing a mask. It’s weird how noticeable that has become.

In the evening we were contacted by a neighbour and asked to limit our water usage. The hamlet is fed from a stream, and it was getting low. Maybe we’ll have to visit another lake after all, to wash and do laundry.

Thanks for reading. Next week I’ll tell you about the second stage of our holiday, in the Peak District. One day we went paddle boarding, which I kept mistakenly calling ‘water-boarding!’ I promise there was no torture involved.

Take care.
Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
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If you enjoyed this, read a copy of The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary:

Running Away to Devon


We decided to run away for a week before Boris announced another lockdown, so we filled the car with warm clothes ready for wet weather, and with food so we could avoid eating out, and drove to Devon with the dog and a boy.

The Ship Aground Inn, Mortehoe
The Ship Aground, Mortehoe. Named after the ancient anchor retrieved from a wreck of a steamship that ran aground in 1914.

We’re staying in Mortehoe, a pretty stone village on the cliffs of North Devon. I brought all my Greek books and lists of words to learn, and the cottage promised internet, enabling me to continue my lessons whilst looking across a windy garden to the sea.

Trying to learn Greek vocab with a view of the sea from the window.

The cottage is fairly ugly on the outside, but the inside is warm and comfortable, and there are massive windows in every room, giving wonderful views of the outside. This includes in the ensuite bathroom, which I find slightly perturbing. There is a big bath in the centre of the room, next to a picture window. When I think of soaking in a warm tub whilst watching waves crash into the cove below, it’s rather lovely. When I think of soaking in a warm tub whilst on view to every unsuspecting walker on the North Devon coastal path, it’s less appealing! I checked from the garden, and the window is unfrosted, plain glass, giving anyone looking in a good view of the bathroom. A paradise for an exhibitionist.

The cottage garden joins the footpath, and is a sheltered spot with flower beds and a palm tree. It has an outside tap for washing dirty paws, but I forgot to bring a trowel for clearing up poop (when you keep animals, you can never completely avoid the poop aspect).

We took Kia for a walk along the cliffs. She saw the sea and set off along the footpath, straining on the lead. When we came to some steps, she suggested very strongly that we might like to visit the beach. But the steps had been washed away by a storm, and only the top and bottom steps remained, clinging onto the cliff in a futile attempt to look useful.

Cliff steps to beach.

There was no way to explain this to a persistent German Shepherd, so we dragged her back to the cottage.

Next stop was a trip to Tesco Superstores to stock up on supplies. The mist had crept up from the sea, and we drove through lanes towards the shop with Husband muttering about it being an unlikely place for a superstore, and was I directing him to a small garage Tescos? We turned into the carpark of a decent sized shop, grabbed a trolley, and started to collect things from the shopping list. I had hoped to live on Charlie Bigham ready-meals for a week, but there weren’t many, and we had to buy a few raw ingredients that I could shove into the oven without too much effort. Husband appeared at regular intervals with a selection of implements to use in place of a trowel for poop clearing. I didn’t think a wooden spatula or a plastic ice-scraper would work, despite their bargain prices.

Next challenge was trying to use the oven, which had unhelpfully been set to ‘automatic’ by the previous people, which meant that it was impossible to use until I had managed to turn it back to a manual setting (random pressing of pairs of buttons usually cures it—I have lots of experience in annoying church kitchens). We ate sausage beans and chips, which filled us up even if it wasn’t very healthy, and a Charlie Bigham’s sticky toffee sponge with custard.

Went to bed full and happy.


Saturday

Tried (in vain) to learn words in various declensions for my Greek lesson. I am writing them in different colours and making up silly sayings (“All the plural datives in the third declension like to sin —σιν”)—but to be honest, very little is staying in my brain.

Decided to take the dog on the beach for the afternoon and drove to Woolacombe Beach. Kia was ecstatic, and even forgot to snarl at all the other dogs in the carpark (anyone who owns a German Shepherd will understand this—the breed is not good with other dogs).

The carpark had lots of signs, saying that due to Covid there was distancing in place, and contactless paying, and certain restrictions. There was a queue waiting to go in (it was the final Saturday of half-term week). At the gate was a man, collecting money through the window of every car—sometimes having to lean across the car to reach the driver—in a very un-Covid-safe manner. I fumbled in my pocket for my crumpled mask (thank you Aunty Margaret) and put on gloves ready to receive the token given in return for the £3 fee. I don’t think it was possible to pay by card/phone. Cars were parked in every space, so I think the person putting up the signs had forgotten to explain them to the man at the gate (I did wonder if, in fact, he was simply a random man collecting £3 from every car and nothing to do with the carpark, but he did give everyone a token that lifted the barrier, so I am assuming he was legit!)

The tide was out, and there was a long expanse of wet sand and huge waves crashing onto the beach. We set off towards the water, the dog dancing next to us. We reached the rocks and Husband and son went closer to explore. I foolishly followed them, noticed a wave washing in, and ran back to the sand—but not in time. The sea lapped around me, filling my wellies and soaking my trousers while a family on the sand laughed. I turned to watch Husband wading through the water, even deeper than me, and son clambered onto the rocks. The dog looked bemused, surprised we were paddling with her. Emptied boots, tried to ignore soggy socks.

Happy afternoon striding through the wind, watching the surfers tackle the waves. Kia kept up for about 25 minutes, but then I noticed she was dragging one of her back legs—which is a sign she’s getting tired, so we turned round. I don’t mind her being old when I can see that she’s still happy and excited by things.

Rinsed out the wellies and filled the washing machine with soggy clothes, then sat down to write this before I put a ready-meal curry in the oven. Another happy day.

I hope you have some fun too this week—and manage to keep your feet dry.

Thanks for reading. Take care.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
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