When we arrived at Manor Cottage yesterday, I didn’t photograph our room so got some pictures this morning before breakfast. We’d spent the night in their daughter’s room on the top floor of the house.
The small window in the background is the one in the picture I took last night from the driveway. If you look really closely, Robbie Raven is peeking out of the smaller jute bag in the chair.
It had rained overnight, and quite hard from what we heard over breakfast this morning. A train derailed because of a landslip, and many reports of localized flooding.
We hoped none of the roads we’d be travelling to get to Catton Old Hall would be submerged under flood waters.
About 4:00 pm, we arrived at our destination without encountering floods. The downside to driving in the rain is it makes you have to go to the bathroom a lot more.
Stopping at services to use the bathrooms, the ones in the petrol station/convenience store were out of order. However, a Little Chef was located in the same complex. Their toilets worked but a huge sign on the door stated they were for restaurant customers only. Two small tins of Pringles purchased, we used the facilities and carried on.
The Wi-fi up in our room was terrible. I connected with my phone and it dropped out seconds later. Neither my laptop nor iPad could connect at all. Frustrating to say the least.
The Woodman Pub opened for supper at 6:00 pm. We’d eaten there on a previous trip to this area. The food was good then so we assumed it would be this time. Being a Friday night, we should have booked a table.
When we walked in the door, one of the barmen informed us it would be 7:30-8:00 before our food was served, but we were more than welcome to pick a table and have a drink.
While we sipped our first beer, we perused the menus and decided what we’d like for supper. They took our order, again telling us it could be a long wait. At least now, our meals were in the queue. And we received them long before the estimated time!
After a delicious meal (every bit as good, if not better than the first time we’d eaten here), we walked back to Catton Old Hall. It stopped raining while we were in the pub.
Before going inside, I snapped this picture with my phone of the hotel illuminated by floodlights.
Tomorrow, we’re having supper with hubby’s cousins at a country pub called The Fur and Feathers. It should be fun. There are some castles and other historic things I’d like to see while we’re in the area so we’ll do them earlier in the day.
After yet another hearty breakfast, we set out for our first stop of the day – Caerphilly Castle – a CADW property in Wales, who also honour Historic Scotland memberships.
Quite the wee bomb parked next to us in the castle car park. Monty looks like a tank compared to this sleek little number. Look at his arse end hanging out over the end of the spot! I could have pulled in further but what dangers lurked behind the greenery? This girl didn’t want to find out.
Paid and displayed, we walked through the park to the castle. Geese, ducks and seagulls all vied for the bread a little girl and her father fed them.
The south-east tower leans due to subsidence but people reckon it to Cromwell knocking it about.
Should you desire, you can rent out the Great Hall here at Caerphilly Castle for weddings and other celebrations.
Time to leave for our next stop along the way to our final destination for the night. But first, I wanted to take some pictures in the park. I’d glimpsed the ‘stone circle’ and the tree-trunk dragon en route to the castle.
I marvel at the architecture of the ancient ruins in the UK every time I visit. Nothing compares to them back home. The fact they’re preserved amazes and pleases me. On this side of the pond, we’d tear it down rather than restore it.
By now, we’d spent enough time at these two CADW sites. We needed to get on the road to Middleton Cheney.
Driving through Banbury, we experienced a diversion for a street fair. The rides and other amusements were set up on the driving surface and the vehicles funneled onto the pedestrianized section of the street.
Manor Cottage, on Main Street, in Middleton Cheney proved difficult to find. I ended up phoning and getting directions as I drove.
Given a room on the top floor, only the necessities would come into the house.
Our hosts were going out for the evening so left us a key to the back door so we could get in when we returned from a meal.
I’d creeped Middleton Cheney on google maps and discovered a pub just up the road. They displayed their menus on the website and the food sounded good and was reasonably priced.
Unfortunately, I made the mistake of ordering our pints before asking for menus only to find out the kitchen was closed.
Our host had mentioned a chippy up the road, which also had some seating. We finished our pints and walked on. Never finding the chippy, we did find the Dolphin Inn. Another pub. Walked in and asked for menus. They didn’t do meals but a Chinese Takeaway did and we could bring the food into the pub to eat.
We brought our electronic devices downstairs so we could catch up online and use the wonderful lounge. The aroma of wood fires smelled delightful.
Another travel day tomorrow so we made it an early(ier) night.
Not a lot of pictures taken today. Despite the map saying the driving time would be a little less than four and a half hours, it took much longer to get to the Travelodge at Pencoed in South Wales than that. At least it felt that way. Lots of roadworks, reduced speed limits.
We arrived at the hotel shortly before 3:00 pm – just before check-in time. The desk clerk suggested we walk over to the Harvester Restaurant for a drink while we waited.
Since we were bursting in need of the loo, we took him up on the offer. Best of all, the toilets were just inside the restaurant doors so we could get relief before getting a drink.
We were meeting our friend, Anne, here at the restaurant for supper at 6:00 so we got a menu so we could look it over while we drank and take it back to the room. Make it easier to decide what we wanted for supper.
Checked in to the hotel. The room was upstairs (the first floor) but we’d climbed stairs every place else so far on our trip. Unfortunately, the room didn’t have electrical outlets near the bed so we hauled out the North American extension cord we brought from home and pressed it into service. Hubby’s CPAP machine isn’t much good without electricity.
We headed back over to the restaurant shortly before 6:00 as we wanted to be there when Anne arrived.
While we waited in the bar side of the restaurant for her arrival, another patron struck up a conversation with us. I found him very hard to understand so his companion had to translate a lot for us.
We brought bottles of real maple syrup in maple leaf shaped bottles with us to give as gifts to our UK friends and family, so once settled at the table, we gave Anne’s to her. Thrilled to receive a bottle of the sticky treat, she presented us with a Welsh Lovespoon in return.
All too soon, our wonderful evening ended. We waited with Anne until her taxi arrived, said our goodbyes again, and returned to our hotel room.
Most of today’s adventures were via steam train or on foot. The only driving took place between our accommodations and the steam railway station at Embsay.
We arrived in plenty of time for me to wander around the platform and take lots of photos.
The number of people with dogs on the platform surprised me. You don’t get out there without buying a train ticket first. Seeing my camera, these two posed for me. How could I resist taking their picture? Look at the faces.
The platform bridge afforded the best views of the station building and the train.
The early morning train we rode was busy due to a bus tour making the journey. Still, we settled into a pair of ‘unreserved’ seats and waited for the train to leave. We ended up opening the small upper window for air because with the sun beating in, it turned the carriage into an oven!
The gentle swaying of the carriage almost lulled me to sleep so it was good that the train ride only took half an hour.
After de-training at the Bolton Abbey Station, we watched them bring the engine to the other end of the train, readying it for the return journey to Embsay.
After that, we took the footpath to Bolton Priory.
Walking under the main road was the safer alternative.
We visited the Priory in 2013. They charge a fee to park your vehicle there but if you’re on foot, it’s free.
While my husband tackled the stepping stones, I opted for the footbridge over the river.
We walked back to the train station with an older couple who rode the same outbound train we did. Once again, I took advantage of the extra time to take photos.
I think I’m glowing… I know I was definitely HOT! By now the wisps of hair I’d hoped to control had escaped the confines of the headband, but overall, it worked well.
When we arrived back at the guest house in Skipton later that afternoon, a black VW filled our space in the car park. I spied a couple of places out on the same side of the street as the guest house so turned around so I could snag one. I ended up further down the block than I wanted, but that spot was much easier to get in to. Drive in and back up closer to the vehicle behind. I don’t parallel park at home, so I’m not doing it on the opposite side of the road from the opposite side of the car.
I spotted this treadle sewing machine from our window and took a picture with my phone but I took a photo of it with my DSLR when we left for supper.
We ate at the Devonshire Inn again. Afterwards, we walked along the canal, stopping to chat with a local sitting on the deck of his narrow boat reading a crime novel.
Later in the evening, we got a thunderstorm. A real fire and brimstone one. Not wanting to miss the light show outside, we turned out the lights in our room and opened the blinds.
Tomorrow will be another driving day. We’re headed to South Wales.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be again – no place to park in their small car park. Not knowing Eastriggs that well, and the location of other places to leave the car, we didn’t stay. Disappointed, especially since my friend, Chris Longmuir recently released her latest historical crime novel Devil’s Porridge set at the large munitions factory located between Eastriggs and Gretna during WWI.
We saw this castle from the main A66 road on last year’s trip and with it’s proximity to the motorway decided we would visit it this year. Remember my earlier post when I mentioned perks to being an Historic Scotland renewal member? Not only do we get into Historic Scotland sites free of charge, but also English Heritage ones. And Brougham Castle is one of their properties.
Severe flooding in Cumbria in the latter part of 2015 and early 2016 took out a huge section of the Brougham Old Bridge. Signposted from the main road, when we got to the right turn onto Moor Lane, we had to navigate around the road closed sign. Just before the bridge on the right, is a small parking area.
It’s rare I get to feel tall, but I did today. Even I had to ‘mind my head’ to pass through this doorway.
No visit to a ‘manned’ property is complete without a trip into the gift shop for a memento or two. I always buy a guidebook of the property so I can look back at it later. Well, I even found this little guy… Isn’t he cute?
For those of you who have read The Secret of Hillcrest House you’ll know that a crow figures in the storyline. So, I figured being the wacky eccentric author that I am, I needed a crow… raven.
Guidebook, raven, a few other goodies, and a jute bag to put everything in bought and we headed further south to Skipton.
Today was the first chance I had to take a photo of our second rental car.
When we arrived at Highfield, the car park (2 vehicles only) was full. Follow on around the corner to a pay and display one. Of course, we got there too early for overnight parking.
Checked into our room, we walked back for the car having been told the one vehicle would be moved by the time we got back. The white Fiat now parked on the street, Monty had ‘off-street’ parking. You can see his left front wheel and fender in the photo below.
I researched a few places where we could eat supper once I connected to the Wi-fi, but in the end, decided on The Devonshire Inn (a Wetherspoon Pub).
After fish and chips with mushy peas, washed down with a couple of pints of 1664, we wandered back to the guest house by way of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
Tomorrow we’re taking the Steam Train from Embsay to Bolton Abbey. Should be fun.
Sept 11 – Bankend to Gretna to Glencaple and back to Bankend
Things didn’t quite go to plan today. Because we booked in to Hutton Lodge for two nights, I wanted to use today to visit the Devil’s Porridge Museum in Eastriggs. It didn’t happen.
Driving around on an inflate-a-spare, limited to 50 miles and 50 mph, didn’t allow much leeway. We’d already driven the day before and would be again later to go for supper, although we hoped for a resolution long before then.
We didn’t dare leave the B&B either because that would be the time the tyre fitter would arrive.
The phone calls started again about 10:00 am. Phone the rental company, they say phone roadside assistance. Call roadside assistance, they say call the rental company. Send an email to the girl who rented us the car. Out of office message.
Things continued this way. The last words the recovery guy said the previous day “tyre fitter will be out by noon”. According to their computer system, he made the repair on the side of the road near Shawhead. Nope. Didn’t happen.
Finally, the ‘ace in the hole’ was played. American Express says no resolution – no payment. That got things moving. They were sending someone out with a new car.
About 4:30, I heard the rumble of a diesel lorry outside the B&B. Sure enough it was the ‘real’ recovery vehicle. He shook his head over the entire situation, but loaded Iain Insignia onto the rollback ready to drive us to Glasgow Airport to get us a replacement vehicle.
While all this happened, a phone call came in from an associate with the rental company branch in Carlisle. He was bringing us a new car and would an automatic be all right.
Recovery driver took the call and the two agreed that rather than float the car all the way back to the airport, we’d rendezvous at the Gretna Gateway Outlet Village.
Resolution closer but not there yet. When we rendezvoused, guy from Carlisle wanted a credit card# to pay for the full tank of fuel in the replacement vehicle. Nope. We paid for a full tank on the first car and only drove it 130 miles. He, too, shook his head over replacing the car over a flat tyre.
Once all the paperwork was completed, and I signed on the dotted line(s), we took possession of a black Ford Mondeo, which in North America is a Ford Fusion. I drove the exact same car to my book launch for A Shadow in the Past in Kansas back in 2012, but that’s another story.
Iain Insignia – starting mileage 3490 miles (almost brand spanking new!)
Iain Insignia – ending mileage 3620 miles
The Ford Mondeo – starting mileage 51403 miles (been around the block a few times)
It was late and we were hungry, so we drove straight to the Nith Hotel for supper. Rather than risk setting off another car alarm, we drove in the same direction the car faced and drove past Caerlaverock Castle and through the hamlet of Shearington on our way back to Hutton Lodge.
The day wasn’t a total waste. I had haggis (award winning no less) with my bacon and eggs at breakfast, got some blog work completed, and some manuscript formatting done, but it wasn’t the way I wanted to spend the second day in Scotland.
The wait to clear customs hasn’t changed. It still takes forever. And that’s because of the queue to talk to a person. Through there and on to the car rental desk. Another long wait but that was the paperwork. Pre-pay for the tank of fuel because it’s cheaper, roadside assistance, etc. Our little car wasn’t quite so little. We took possession of a Vauxhall Insignia, 6-speed turbo diesel. We headed off to the ASDA store in The Phoenix Retail Park for at least one bottle of distilled/demineralized water for hubby’s CPAP machine.
When in the UK and driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, whilst sitting on the ‘wrong’ side of the car, and shifting gears with the ‘wrong’ hand, I am the designated driver. So no drinkies for me if we have to drive to a place for a meal. Besides, my husband hates driving over there. Did it once and that was enough.
I had brought my unlocked Samsung phone with me so I picked up a pay as you go SIM card. Figured, I could use it if we needed a second phone (purchased a plan through Rogers for hubby’s BlackBerry before we left home). After last year’s paying £10 for a SIM card that wouldn’t work, I wasn’t going to spend that much again. So this time I opted for ASDA’s own SIM card which only set me back 50p.
When we were over in 2000 we had seen Dunure Castle from the main A77 road. I had pretty much forgotten about it until seeing one of the BBC Scotland photo galleries in the weeks leading up to the trip. So, we put the location into Satnav Sally and off we went.
Dunure Castle is free but you have to pay to park in their car park because it’s all part of a larger complex with playing fields, playground equipment and public toilets. It cost us £2.50 to be able to wander in the remains of the castle and use the toilets before moving on.
Here’s our pretty blue car, that I named Iain. He’s the same size as a Buick Regal, which is bigger than my Chevy Cobalt that I drive every day.
Despite the beautiful blue sky, the wind blowing in off the water made it cool. Not quite jacket weather but I had a long-sleeved, black (soak in the sun’s rays) top on and even with that, I felt the chill a few times.
Not quite the way we drove from Dunure Castle but you get the idea. We went across the A719, the B7023, B741, A713, A712 to meet up with the A75 near Crocketford. Got my fix of narrow roads with passing places the first day. Add some cattle grids and narrow gates and it made for quite the adventure.
I mentioned earlier our ‘first’ rental car… well, there was a reason for that. Whilst driving across the aforementioned series of roads, we had a flat tyre. Meeting a car on a narrower road and getting over to make room for both of us to pass, some mud sucked me off the edge and into a cleverly disguised pothole. And pothole is being kind. It was a bloody crater! It made for a bump but didn’t give it much thought at the time.
A bit further along the road, the tyre pressure indicator light came on. I pulled off the road but we couldn’t see anything amiss. At least now we were on the main A75. I limped into a lay-by, thanking our lucky stars that we decided to add the roadside assistance package (fix your car or bring you a new one) to our rental package.
I made the first of many phone calls at 3:00 pm. We were still stuck on the side of the road waiting at 6:00 pm! Eventually, the guy came and put the spare tyre on. They wouldn’t authorize us to do that (my husband is a recently retired mechanic) because we could jack the car up in the wrong place, damage the car, it could fall off the jack… yadda, yadda, yadda. They farted around long enough that the tyre company the rental and roadside assistance people use had closed for the day.
Two of the many phone calls were to the B&B where we were staying. The first call, I left a message on the answering machine explaining the situation. Then when 6:00 came and we were still sat there, I called back and spoke to them. At least we had one less worry… our room would be waiting for us no matter the hour we arrived.
See Shawhead on the map above? That’s how close to Dumfries we were. We sat there for 3 hours while the guy sent out to find us and get us mobile again looked for us on the other side of Dumfries!
He assured us that a tyre fitter would be at our B&B before noon to finish the job. He took down the address of where we were staying, and sent us off on our not-so-merry way.
After checking in at Hutton Lodge, getting the same room as we had last year, and our membership material from Historic Scotland waiting for us, we drove over to the Nith Hotel in Glencaple for a late supper. By then, I could have used a stiff drink but since I was driving (and limping around with a wounded car), I couldn’t.
After leaving the restaurant, while turning the car around on one of the narrow streets, I set off someone’s car alarm. I didn’t touch the car but there wasn’t any more than an inch of space on either side of the wing mirrors between the cars parked on both sides of this wee lane.
Not the nicest way to start a trip but with any luck, everything will get fixed in the morning.
#SEWES2016 ~ Scotland, England, Wales, England, and Scotland
September 9, 2016
Like my hashtag for the trip? #SEWES2016? We’re SEW-ing – and looking forward to our time in these countries.
Things right from the beginning have been weird. I renewed our membership in Historic Scotland back in early May to ensure I remained a ‘renewal’ member. There are more perks to that status. Well, the cards didn’t come. I contacted them in June as they sent out replacements cards. They didn’t come. I get the magazines quarterly so our mailing address is correct. Emailed them again, this time we decided to have them mailed to our first destination. They arrived there but only a few days before us.
Originally, the flight was supposed to be non-stop from Glasgow to Toronto but a stop over in Montreal was added after we booked.
As is the norm when we travel anywhere, I don’t pack until the day we’re leaving. Why do it sooner? It only gives you the opportunity to unpack, repack and do it all over again many times. And if your forget to pack something, there are stores in other countries. We have to buy distilled/demineralized water for hubby’s CPAP machine. Since water is heavy, we don’t want to cart a bottle of it in our checked bags anyway. Not to mention, if the plastic bottle broke in the suitcase, everything would be a soggy mess.
We booked a park and stay at the Quality Inn and Suites on Ambler Drive in Mississauga so we could leave the car there and take advantage of their shuttle bus to get us to and from the airport.
Here we are ready to embark on our adventure. Do we look happy? Excited? Nervous? Any or all of the above?
It’s rare when we’re on vacation that we get photos of both of us together. Usually, it’s just one or the other. But, with my BlackBerry Z10 having front and rear cameras (so does my unlocked Samsung Galaxy Prime), it makes it easy to get pictures of us both together.
I don’t wear headbands a lot but decided to give them a go for this trip. I tie my hair in a ponytail for taking photos but there are always a few wisps of the mop that are too short to stay in (or even reach the elastic). And I can be guaranteed that the wind will blow these bits of hair in front of the camera lens. So it will be ponytail plus headband and we’ll see how that works. If it doesn’t then the tried and true method is to have hubby hold the blowing stragglers in place.
After flying Club Class with Air Transat in 2014 when we went to Paris, we decided never again to fly economy. I mean if you’re going to be stuck in that cigar tube for 7+ hours, you might as well be comfortable. Wider seats, fewer passengers to have to share the loo with, blanket, neck pillow, slippers, and earbuds – this year all packaged up in a reusable cloth bag. And the other part of the comfort kit (designed to look like blue jeans) had a toothbrush and toothpaste, earplugs, lotion and lip balm, sleep mask and socks.
And did I mention champagne? Plus you get real glasses, real cutlery and real plates!
I did take a ‘champagne on the plane’ selfie but by then the excitement had got the better of me and I couldn’t hold the phone steady. It certainly wouldn’t have had anything to do with the three glasses of red wine I drank before boarding… 😉
Go figure, google maps can’t calculate the driving directions from Toronto to Glasgow…
Come back again tomorrow for the next installment of our #SEWES2016 adventure.
My Scottish roots and writing by Melanie Robertson-King