Sandringham – Pods Royal Appointment

On the conservatory wall we have a fair old sized map stuck to a cork notice board and this wonderful map is slowly filling up with a multitude of colourful pins, all depicting where we’ve been with Pod since we bought her 3 years ago.   It’s hard to go a day without passing it, we can’t help but stop momentarily to remember our past adventures, plus make plans and dreams of future ones.

During these pauses are eyes are always drawn to certain areas which are void of  these colourful little flags and the time had come to address it.

The east coast looked particularly barren so with 4 nights away we decided to head to Sandringham Caravan and Motorhome Club site.

The day arrived and with a 3 1/2hr drive ahead we set off just after 9am.  Roads were dry all the way and no delays or road works, so we arrived a few minutes after 1pm, perfect. 

Booked in easily enough and once through the gate we were amazed at how busy it was, there couldn’t have been more than half an dozen pitches left, but not to worry, we found one to our liking and soon had Pod and the awning up and looking very cosy.

All looked good so far and as the weather was with us, we jumped back into the car for a drive round the estate and to hunt down any local pubs and small shops.  The surrounding area was beautiful, lots of dense woodland with small secluded roads running off in all directions.  Most had large ‘do not enter’ signs and we could only presume they lead in some way back to Sandringham itself.  Didn’t take long for us to find the shops and pubs in a car, but we wouldn’t recommend walking to any of them as they turned out to be around 2 miles away in any direction.

Back at Pod the temperature was starting to drop so our little electric fan heater went on and within minutes our little bubble was impervious to the outside, we reckoned we were in for a cold one as there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and cold air was starting to bite.  Temperature may have been 2 Deg outside, but inside we were a toasty 20.

Dinner was cooked in the ‘one-pot’ and consisted of prawn chilli/tomato tagliatelle and a glass or two of what tickled our fancy, once demolished and showers had we settled into Pods awning and set about planning the following days outing.

The weather forecast looked promising so the coastline was decided upon, we decided to start at Hunstanton and work our way round.   Who said summer months were best for holidays? Not us.

Woke to a sunny but very frosty morning and once we stuck our heads up at the window, we discovered neighbours across the way were scraping the ice off car windows.  We weren’t in any rush so settled back into bed with a nice hot cup of tea.  Breakfast eaten and dishes done, we jumped into the car and headed off towards Hunstanton.

Paid £3.50 for 3 hours parking and headed towards the beach.  Here we saw in the region of 20  kite surfers, most were already out on the sea but there were a few still setting up.  Amazed us, mainly because the majority had nothing on their feet and what seemed to be thin wetsuits covering the rest of their bodies.

Up and down the shore line they went, the wind lifted the odd one up but not before they came crashing back down again.  Must have been freezing, they were all wearing harnesses but goodness knows how they maintained their grip.

As  we walked further along the cliff edge came into view, its colour was beautiful and you could see the multiple layers created over the centuries.  It had crumbled in many places and its chalk compound was scattered along the beach.  We passed the odd person hammering away on small chunks of rock, they looked  very engrossed and we presumed they were endeavouring to find a fossil of some sort.

Lunch time arrived and once back on the sea front we walked along the front to find the ‘Salad Bowl Café’.  If you managed to grab a  table next to the windows the views from inside spanned the length of the sea front and beyond.    Fish finger butties were ordered with a side order of chips and followed by two pieces of delicious cake.  The sandwiches were awesome, big pieces of fresh chunky bread filled with fish goujons, delicious.

The sun was still out so once back in the car we headed off to Wells-next-the-Sea, only half an hour up the road and parking was easy enough, just outside the village.  Another £3. Was handed over for parking, but on  this occasion it was for 2 hours.

Very picturesque seaside village. The sea front itself wasn’t particularly large but well stocked with shops on one side and boats the other. We saw a steady queue of people coming and going from the sea wall and decided to follow suite, this seemed to take you up through the bay and towards what looked like open sea.

The sea was out and the sun was starting to drop behind us, this gave some wonderful light, which fell very dramatically onto the stranded boats and low cloud ahead of us.  Once we reached the end of the wall we could see the sea through a small walkway down through the dunes, this we followed and crossed a small wooden bridge.

Once past the dunes we turned left towards the beach and were met with the most spectacular site.  An extremely long row of wooden beach huts, all set back against the dunes and of every different conceivable shape, colour and size you could image, all were numbered, most were on stilts and some were quirkily named, which only seemed to add to their glamour.

The sand was also amazing, so soft, fine and extremely clean.  People were still around, many with children at the waters edge and some with dogs, the huts were all closed up and no one appeared to be in residency, but we could just imagine in the summer what it must look like and would have loved a peek inside one but that wasn’t going to be happening today.

The sun was beginning to dip behind the dunes and we hadn’t even reached the end of the beach huts, we made the decision to turn back and once back at the entrance to the beach we turned for one last look to see a seal bobbing up, just at the water’s edge.  The sea was on its way in and he/she must have been enjoying the current which was now whipping its way into the bay.

The drive back to Pod took us through the countryside, winding roads past villages in darkness but managed to spot the odd Christmas decoration and village fairs in the process of being constructed.

Dinner was eaten snuggled in the awning, another clear night was ahead so the temperature again dropped, but all was good as we climbed into bed which was now warm, as a hot water bottle had been secreted to keep bottoms warm.

Beautiful blue sky again greeted us as we woke and as the Christmas Market was on at Sandringham we decided to head off on foot in its direction, but not before a bit of a  fry-up on the multi cooker.

No footpaths were to be had, luckily the deep, overgrown grass verge was dry enough for us to walk on most of the time, but on the odd occasion we had to walk part way along the road, have to say some drivers were not the most forgiving and many didn’t even slow as they passed, even when cars were coming in the opposite direction and road space was at its minimal.

Needless to say we made it to the market in one piece and joined the very long but fast moving queue to get into the event.  £7 each was handed over and our trawl of the many stalls and displays began.

There was a huge variety of craft goods, the obvious Christmas ones and many others from clothing, soft furnishings, bags, toys and ornaments for both house and garden.  Roast hog was on offer, as well as the usual burgers and of course we had to partake of  a couple of cups of mulled wine, this we sat and enjoyed whilst listening ‘Bill Baileys Band’.

The sun had been out all day and we couldn’t have picked a better day, considering the amount of people, children and dogs that had passed through the grass  field remained pretty firm, dread to think what it would have been like if the weather had taken a turn for the worse.  People were beginning to leave and as there weren’t any street lights we also thought the time had come for us to do so too, so the perilous walk back to Pod along the grass took place and within half an hour we had our feet up with a nice cup of tea, bliss.

After dinner the weather was checked for the following day, wasn’t as good as we’d had so far but we decided to head off to Cromer to see what it had to offer.

Rained in the night, not  that we noticed much as we’d slept pretty soundly, only evidence of it was the wet awning and surrounding ground.  Nothing too major though, the site grounds seemed to have coped wonderfully.

Once in the car it was a 45 minute drive to Cromer, parking wasn’t an issue, plenty of ‘pay and display’ and all offered the same prices as those we’d visited the day before.   A short walk along the streets, passed tall terraced houses brought us to the sea  front.

Wasn’t particularly warm, but wouldn’t expect any different for November and the rain decided to make an appearance.  The pier stretched out from the shore line and we could see all the restorative work that had taken place since the big storms of recent years.

We walked over the stone concourse area at the front of the pier, this was decorated with many metal strips detailing  the history of the lifeboats  and in some cases of lives lost.  Up the steps we went and onto  the pier itself.

A grand wooden structure supported my huge iron beams, we were extremely impressed with its condition and could imagine it in the height of summer; people with ice-creams, children with buckets in hand to get stuck into the crabbing which would have been on offer.    Today though, it was just us and one loan surfer who was doing his best to glide along any quiver in the water that remotely looked like a wave.  Brave man, it looked freezing.

At the end of the pier we found the RNLI boat housed in a purpose built structure, immaculately clean and poised to enter the cold seas should she and her crew, whoever they were, be called to do so.  It always amazes us that a service such as this is funded from donations and the generosity of the public, awesome, but we do wonder why. But that’s a debate for another day, and not on here.

Time came again to hunt down a café or bar that would delight us with its offerings as lunch time had arrived.  We struggled with this one, many had closed down for the season and we didn’t want to end up at McDonalds, not  that there’s anything wrong with it, we’ve eaten plenty, just not today.

After walking in and out of a few places we fell across a little gem, hidden on a side street and partially blocked by a huge delivery van.  ‘Hot Rocks’, from the outside the menu looked promising so in we went.  We were warmly welcomed by the staff and told to pick a table that suited, we like to spread out so headed for one that was really for 4.  The menu didn’t disappoint and we found out that the restaurant’s name referred to  the cooking method of its steak.

Needless to say one had the steak and the other a huge Portobello mushroom/cheese burger, the steak arrived, slightly

seared on a hot slab of stone, the heat emanating from it was fierce and you didn’t want any fingers to get in the way.

Compliments were given to the staff and the chef bobbed out for a bit of a chat too, we discovered the restaurant was in its infancy but doing really well and all produce was local, always good in our books.

Feeling very satisfied we ventured outside to discover the rain had disappeared but there was still a bit of a chill blowing in from the sea.  Once wrapped up we strolled along the front and noted that our lone surfer had left, do hope he managed to get the wave he had been after.

Darkness was starting to fill the sky so back to the car we went, traffic was pretty light and it wasn’t long before we were back at Pod, our last evening had arrived and we spent it going through our pictures from our stay at Sandringham, we’d crammed quite a bit in on our trip away.

Woke to a wet awning, not  the best thing to have to pack away as many will testify, but better this than 4 days of rain, has to be a payoff somewhere doesn’t there.

Didn’t take long for us to be packed up and on the road as we’d made the decision to leave the bed made up, never done it before but we thought we’d give it a go and see how we go between trips.  Done mainly as a trial for May 2018, our 16 night adventure of 9 sites round Scotland, 2 nights at each site and neither of us fancied remaking the bed every two days.

We digress.. Back on the road we went and were soon home, Pod was cleaned and put back in ‘Pods Place’ and the awning made an appearance in the conservatory, not ideal, but it needed to dry off properly and be ready for our next adventure.. but where ?

Posted in Accessories, Architecture, Awning, Beaches, Bridges, Caravan, Caravanning, Coast, Conservation, Forest, Glamping, Photography, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Travel, Traveling, Walking | 2 Comments

Yorkshire Cheese and Castle Bolton

Few days away were needed to charge the old batteries, but to be honest if we get more than two days free we are duty bound to take Pod out for a trip, shame not to, don’t you think.

After spending a few days with other Pod owners we made the decision to extend our break by two nights and head off to Lower Wensleydale which is nestled in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside.

Caravan and Motorhome Club site at Leyburn was the perfect location for us, nice walk into the village and lots to see in the area, so it was booked for two nights.

Easy enough journey there but the approach to the site was a little different. First off, the satnav tried to take us down roads that didn’t exist and and when we did get the right one we found ourselves winding down a fairly steep and narrow road, not dissimilar to the one that took us down to Hill of Oakes at Lake Windermere.

Thankful that we didn’t meet someone coming up the road we reached the bottom and swung round the toilet block to come to a stop outside reception.

Booked in easily enough and we were given the choice of any pitch that took our fancy as the site was only a 3rd full.

We did a quick circuit and eventually decided upon one that backed onto the railway and not too far from either the toilet block or the footpath into town. Setting up was done and the thermal wrap went on too, it definitely made a difference to the temperature inside Pod.

It was still quite light so we set off on a walk into Leyburn, no street lights most of the way, so we went prepared with a torch. We’d learnt our lesson the hard way, well, one of us had.

Before getting to the main road, we had to cross the railway line, not something either of us likes, but it’s a necessary act. What did catch our eye was the very large sign with some very interesting instructions on how do so, can you spot it ?

Soon came to a junction which once crossed opened up into an odd shaped village square. The outside was lined with shops, pubs and the like, in the centre there was a large carpark with an interesting payment method; by donation, brilliant idea we thought, if it worked.

We did pass an antique shop too, caught LB’s eye as there was a very small white rocking chair all on its lonesome sat outside the shop.

Our original mission was to buy a late lunch and a pint or two in one of the pubs, but after trying a few we discovered all seemed to stop serving food through the afternoon, so a pasty and pie were bought from the local bakery and this was eaten on a wooden bench just off centre from the square.

Once demolished we needed to fulfil the second part of our mission and we chose the Golden Lion as a first stop.

After one pint of Wensleydale Brewery Gamekeeper and Semer Water, we made the decision to stay put and have a few more.

Pub was welcoming and seemed to be one occupied by the locals, so that for us was a good sign. Besides, we were very cozy sat in one of the windows watching the world go by.

We eventually left our little snug and took the walk back to Pod, torches are a must.

Dinner was eaten using the multi-cooker, great device and a delicious spicy prawn and tagliatelle dish was soon demolished.

Utility block was very close, but you would still need a torch, just to be safe. These were Caravan club standard fare, there was loads of room and the showers were hot, can always do with a few more hooks but really couldn’t ask for anything more.

Weather was checked, just to make sure we didn’t have another Storm Brian heading our way and plans were made for the next day. Forecast was rain, so a visit Wensleydale’s Creamery was on the cards and we’d hopefully get to taste some of their fabulous cheese.

Woke to rain dancing on Pods roof so we knew what kind of a day we were starting with. Once breakfast was out of the way and dishes washed up at the block we were soon on our way to the Creamery.

Carpark was very busy, people coming and going at a great rate, but there were still a few spaces available. First stop was reception and we bought tickets for the centre and the cheese demonstration. The demonstration wasn’t due for 45 minutes so we used this time to walk around the centre. Very interesting and full of information, specially the kitchen set in early 20th Century and would you believe it, they had a small rocking chair, very similar to the one we’d seen outside the Antique shop in Leyburn.

The centre is a great place for adults and kids, lots to get your hands on and we even got to see the cheese making in action, all through the very large display window.

Time came to take our seat for a more personal look into cheese making. This was excellent and well worth the extra few pounds. We were taken on witty, knowledgable journey through the life of cheese, from milk to its solid form.

The shop and cheese tasting was next on the list. It was again very busy, but the queue moved along at a steady pace and we’ve must of tasted over 20 different cheeses. We were stuck for choice but bought Blue 16, Fountain Gold and Sheeps Cheese. All very different, but equally as tasty and we thought we would never say that about Sheeps Cheese.

Rain seemed to be abating so we decided to head over to Hardraw Force and take our chance with the weather. Hardraw is England’s largest single drop waterfall with a reputed 100ft drop.

Access to the waterfall is gained through the back of the Green Dragon Pub and as we were there, lunch seemed a very good idea. Very atmospheric pub, very oldy worldly, without any modifications you could easily image it being used in a period drama of some sort.

Lunch went down very well and we crossed the rear carpark to the waterfall entrance. After speaking to the landlady we discovered both businesses were now run separately and she had only a few months earlier taken on the tenancy of the Pub.

We paid just under 5.00 to enter and took the path up to the waterfall, due to all the heavy rain it was very impressive indeed, camera came out in short bursts as the spray from the ‘fall was in danger of drenching us and the camera and we were stood some distance away.

After a half hour walk round the grounds we eventually returned to the car and began our journey back through Hawes.

With a little bit of googling on the way we noticed Outhwaites Ropemakers was open for business and this was free to walk around, not an opportunity to be missed we thought, so off we went.

Large carpark at the rear, but be mindful it’s a pay and display. We nearly fell fowl of it as the signs are limited and very small.

Interesting entrance area where you had the chance of attempting a various selection of knots, there was also a small room which had information footage playing on a loop.

The walk through the factory was interesting and showed various types of cord and rope being made. At the end of the walk the shop had a variety of dog leads on offer, plus a few others items made from rope. As it was a free experience we can’t really knock it.

After such as busy day we eventually made it back through Leyburn and to Pod, but not before passing the Antique shop, which still had that little rocking chair outside. Once dinner was eaten and showers had we collapsed on Pods bed and were soon asleep.

Woke to the sun peeping through the gap in Pods blind and over breakfast we decided to head off to Bolton Castle, it just so happened we had to pass the Antique shop to get there.

Once on the road and with a little persuasion we stopped and LB went in to the shop to ‘enquire’ on the chairs price, within the space of 10 minutes she was the proud owner of 1 rocking chair. Now we had to think how we would get it home, luckily the Duster was more than capable of doing this, thank goodness. Money was handed over and the shopkeeper kindly agreed to hang onto it until we returned from our day out.

Bolton Castle appeared through the trees and along a narrow road which lead more or less to its door. The carpark was at the rear and easily accessible, this was a pay and display, but the parking fee was reimbursed on entry to the castle.

Through the entrance we went and to get to the ticket desk we passed through the café. Delicious smells surrounded us and we knew we would have to pay it a visit on the way out.

Tickets were bought and a map obtained of the castles layout, we took the advice of the receptionist and began our tour at ground level. This was most definitely the best way to see it, the footprint of the castle is immense and the story told as you wound your way through the rooms was extremely well done.

From the kitchens to the rooms where the archers lived, then onto the court yard with the blacksmiths anvil you had a real feel of how things used to be. Then up the stairs to the chapel with the monks living quarters and onto the rooms Mary Queen of Scots occupied, all superbly set with storyboards depicting events from times gone by.

Eventually we found ourselves in the gardens where the Falconry display was to take place, but due to high winds this wouldn’t be happening today. Wild boars were also to be seen, two adults with their young were happily mooching away in their enclosure.

The Maze was great fun too, we could both see over the top but only one of us found the middle, we shall leave you with that one, don’t want to cause any embarrassment.

Lunch was eaten in the café, and as we reflected on our visit we thought it was an excellent example of how, as a child, you expected a castle to be. A brilliant day for any family.

Time came to leave and on our way through Leyburn we stopped to collect the rocking chair, whilst causing a mini traffic jam.. very sorry, we eventually managed to rearrange the rear of the Duster and lodged the chair securely in the back.

Back at Pod the chair was extricated from the car and LB promptly sat on it and gave it a bit of a test drive, it was a lovely little thing and once stripped and waxed it would have pride of place at home.

It was our last night in Leyburn and cooking was decided against, so we took the walk into the village and again paid the Golden Lion a visit.

The pub was much busier than our previous visit and we were lucky enough to time it just right as a table became free. Huge burger and chips for one and the most delicious macaroni cheese for the other were ordered, both eaten with two more pints of Wensleydale local ale.

Fellow diners soon began to leave and we took the opportunity to move to a window seat, much cosier than sitting at one of the more rigid dinning tables. Here we sat and spent our time looking back on our visit to Lower Wensleydale, we’d had a brilliant time and we still had so much to see. We hadn’t even set foot into the countryside, which was a little unusual for us.

This only meant a return visit was on the cards and we new we had a long list of things to see and do prepared.

The walk back to Pod was done under a cloudless sky, no light pollution meant we were treated to a spectacular star lit night. As we walked past the farmers fields we sneaked a peek at the sheep with the torch, just to see what they were up to and the majority were curled up asleep. Those still awake left us wondering what they counted to nod off.

Back at the site Pod was waiting and within a short space of time she was soon warm and cozy, nothing nicer than getting under the duvet and catching up on the days news on the TV.

Rain stayed off over night and we were lucky enough to get the awning down just in time. Nothing worse than having to unpack a wet awning once home.

We said our goodbyes and thankfully made our way to the top of the road without meeting anyone on the way down.

Such a lovely site and with one last look out of the car window we were soon on the motorway and on our way home.

Next stop in two weeks, Sandringham, our furthest point east with Pod.

Posted in Accessories, Architecture, Awning, Birds of prey, Caravan, Caravanning, Castles, Cheese, Church, Conservation, Forest, Glamping, Modifications, Photography, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Travel, Traveling, Uncategorized, Walking, Waterfall, Waterways, Yorkshire | 4 Comments

Wildlife, Science and Innovations Tested

 Calendar watching can be dangerous, you know, when you see those huge gaps between holidays and you realise it’s a full 6 weeks till your next trip away in your wobble box aka ‘Pod’. So, what’s better than looking for a two night trip, one that’s not too far from home which means, hopefully, less travelling, less gear and no cooking.

Our next 7 day trip to York and Wensleydale was just too far away so the search began for something on our doorstep. Research began on the trusty ipad and within half an hour we found one that was no more than 45 minutes away, you may think us mad, but it was great to be able to hook Pod up, go on a mini adventure and hopefully discover a hidden gem somewhere along the way.

Royal Vale Caravan Site was the chosen site, reviews seemed great, a little bit more than we usually pay but claimed to have good facilities, wifi included and was an adult only site, all very positive. Straight on the phone and a 2 night mid week break in the Cheshire countryside was booked, during the telephone call we were told we could arrive anytime from 9am which was brilliant and meant we would have two full days to explore.

Not living a million miles away from the site we knew the area and had visited a few of the attractions in the past. Within half an hour of the site we earmarked Tatton Park a National Trust property and Jodrell Bank. Tatton Park because we’re members of the Trust and it seemed foolish not to avail ourselves of it, plus there was a possibility of seeing the deer during the rutting season. Jodrell Bank for the Lovell telescope and to calm the child in one of us who just loves to touch anything and everything on sight.

The day arrived, the sun was shining and with a bit of a giggle, off we went. Quite funny really, once we were on the road with Pod attached and following us quite faithfully, we were soon in holiday mode.

Roads were empty and by 10.30am we rolled up outside the site office. Access into and out of the site was gained with a pass card, deposit of £5.00 was required and money would be returned when handed back in at the end of our stay. Pitches were a little strange, well spaced but split in half, one half concrete and the other stones, only one car could be next to the ‘van, but had to go on the well manicured grass, seemed a shame, especially if it rained, but that was the set up.

Luckily the concrete wasn’t too wide so it would have been possible to peg the awing down, but we decided to go with the tarp on this trip and it worked out well, still possible to peg out in the stones and we managed to get 2/3rds of the car onto the stones. Thermal wrap went on too, great little invention of ours and it works so well, plus the folding chairs when not used would slide nicely under Pod whilst protected in their home made Khyam fabric covers, explanation of which is at the end.Facilities were also very nice, a row of showers with push button controls set along the back wall, toilets along another and a full size disabled toilet along the third side with open sinks along there too. Well lit and very clean.

Quick weather check was done and today seemed to be the better of our two away, so back into the car and off to Tatton Park we went. Only gripe with Tatton Park is the parking is managed by the council so £6.00 was paid to park. Not grumbling though, as its been £6.00 for as long as we can remember and that’s saying something.

Once on the estate we followed the road up to the house and the main car park, there were a few cars, but not too many, we decided it was one of the advantages of a mid-week break.

A short walk through the stables and past the shop brought us to the main entrance of the house. Membership cards were shown and we were given the obligatory information sheet and informed in which direction to go.

We slowly wound our way through the rooms, the card room, music room, dining room and library. Eventually we went up the wide portrait lined staircase and passed National Trust staff conducting restoration work on clothing which looked like elaborately decorated military uniforms.

Through the nursery and bedrooms we went, all the while taking in the grandeur of all the rooms, especially the linen lined walls which gave each room the feeling of opulence.

From here we went down a stone staircase to the kitchen and cellars. Here we discovered the Housekeepers rooms, the kitchen and pantry. The corridor connecting them all was lined with a rail track which ran from the coal cellar to the end and had a very small turn-table for its return journey, really incredible, labour saving invention.

Weather was now a little overcast, but still dry, so we walked off in the direction of the open estate grounds in the hope of finding the deer and maybe a sighting of rutting in action, big ask for the latter but it was a good day for a stroll either way.

Didn’t take us long to find the deer, bit hard to miss if we’re honest as they were all grouped together with the odd stag hovering round the outskirts. With this in mind we decided to approach them from down wind, stealth mode was operated and with camera in hand off we went.

We got within 20 metres of them all and stood glued to the spot, within 10 minutes we found the grand daddy of them all, huge fella with a very impressive set of antlers. We watched as he cruised between the ladies of his harem and when they were approached by one of the younger males he made his presence known by his loud guttural roar and charging in the direction of the presumptuous youth. Once the upstart was seen off he returned to patrolling his ladies in waiting whilst a few of the very young stags had a bash at clobbering each other with their very small but prominent set of antlers.

It was all so mesmerising, we could of stayed until we were thrown off the estate but after a good hour of watching them we decided to head back to Pod before it got too dark.

Back to Pod we went and the time came to look for somewhere for dinner. Thanks to our Facebook page, kind people had left recommendations on local eateries and one which seemed most popular was The Bells of Peover, only a mile or so down the road so it was ideal. If we’d have gone earlier in the day we could probably of walked it, but as there wasn’t any street lighting or pavement it seemed a little perilous so we opted for the car.   

Satnav came into play and within 10 minutes we arrived, a narrow cobbled road took us to the car park and within a few steps we were walking along a fairy light lined path to the front door.

We hadn’t booked but this didn’t seem to be an issue and we were shown to a table in the window, once seated drinks were ordered and we began to peruse the menu. Very select menu which always gave us good vibes, for us it meant food was all freshly prepared and cooked when needed.

All read very well and we decided on Vegetable Soup and Chorizo and black pudding/Pork Scotch Egg for starters to be followed with the Chateaubriand and Pan Fried Hake. Starters were excellent, the scotch egg was delicious as the egg inside was still runny, we saw this as an achievement in itself, the soup was equally scrummy, chunky and filling and more akin to a vegetable chowder.

Main courses arrived soon after, Steak cooked to perfection as was the Hake, both courses were of fair sized portions so we both felt very satisfied but we couldn’t resist a peek at the desert menu and fell for the Chocolate Fondant, who wouldn’t.

There were a few other couples dinning, with a steady flow of people coming and going, we didn’t feel rushed so relaxed over our drinks before leaving.

We were really pleased with this recommendation and would ourselves highly recommend it, service was great and the staff were knowledgeable and helpful, prices were reasonable too.

Back at the site Pod sat waiting, all lit up with the light under the tarp casting a lovely glow around her Once in, we collected our toiletries and went to test out the showers, we weren’t disappointed, spacious cubicles and hot.

After a good day out in lots of fresh air it didn’t take us long to fall asleep, all cosy inside our little Pod.

Slept well as expected and woke to what looked like a dry day, although the weather forecast said something different.

We weren’t in any kind of a rush so while still snuggled up in bed we had a huge mug of hot tea and caught up on the news on our little tv. The thermal wrap had worked well too and condensation wasn’t even an issue.

Today we were off to Jodrell Bank, home of the Lovell Telescope and all things space and science, so after a very late breakfast off we went.

En route we passed signs for even more local attractions; Imagination Tree and the Falconry Centre caught our attention, 20 minutes later we rolled into the carpark where huge signs were on display instructing all who enter to turn off their mobile devises as it could interfere with on going tests and experiments, awesome, normally not something we like to do but on this occasion we complied without any grumbling. The car park was fairly empty but there were quite a few coaches so we expected a big influx of children.

We paid our £8.00 each and in we went. Lots to see and read, but the best thing was being allowed to touch and play with many of the things on display. The thermal imager and the parabolic dishes were two of our faves, great time to be a kid again.

All played out we headed for the cafe, and once satisfied with a delicious meat pie, quiche and cream cakes we headed back in the direction of Pod and decided to hunt down the Imagination tree and we were so glad we did, got to play at being a kid.. again.

First off we spotted what looked like a home made large white sign, with its obligatory huge black arrow pointing in one direction off the main road and onto a narrow lane. This we followed as it wound its way along the hedge line road.

After what seemed like an age we considered turning round but on we went, bends and turns continued and on what appeared to be another twist in the road we came face to face with the trunk of a 12ft tree.

Fabulous, our faces lit up with big smiles at what on first sight was an elaborately decorated large tree stump on a small grassed area next to a small junction.

We pulled over and once out of the car we were all over the tree like ants at a food fair. Lots of little windows to peer in to which displayed tiny rooms with different settings. From tables and chairs to candles and books, shawls and shoes and tiny portraits.

Windows were also on stairways with similar displays and led all the way to the top. Tiny doors could be opened and windows with shutters, all with brass fittings and spotlessly clean.

Small hand written notes had been pushed in holes, along with silver coins rammed into the smallest of gaps and a wonderful wooden tiled roof was placed on top.

We scoured the tree from top to bottom and there wasn’t a mark on it, no cobwebs or creepy crawlies hiding anywhere, someone clearly tended to it on a regular basis, either that or the resident fairies took charge themselves.

Back in the car we went and headed back to Pod, the wind was picking up and rain was threatening us with the presence of dark clouds but Pod was as we’d left it and the tarp was doing a sterling job.

Research then began on somewhere to eat, there were quite a few to pick from but we decided on The Whipping Stocks, less than a mile away so perfect.

Looked impressive on the outside, almost like a new build dark brick, as we rolled onto the car park the heavens opened so we made a dash for the door.

The pub opened up into a large central bar area with smaller rooms leading off in different directions, we chose one at the front of the pub, mainly because it had a lovely log fire roaring away in the centre.

Food ordered and within minutes the starters arrived, soup and bread coated prawns with a dip. This was followed by a mixed grill and a vegetable wellington. All very good but missed something, maybe it was the presentation of the food or we’d just been spoilt by our previous night at the Bells of Peover.

We decided against staying for another drink or two and opted for a drink back at Pod. Tarp was still in situ but the wind was becoming a wee bit gusty and along with the near horizontal rain we decided to bunker down in Pod.

Bed called after showers, we soon fell asleep listening to the wind howling around us and on the odd occasion feeling Pod give a shudder as it protected us from the appalling weather outside.

Through the night the wind picked up, the flapping of the tarp had gotten worse but when checked on at 4am it was still stood where it was tethered. Decision was made to take it down then at least we wouldn’t have to worry about it for the rest of the night.

MrB decided on doing it there and then, in nothing but his undies. So, out the door he went, LB’s only thought was, well, if he gets spotted at least he has his Calvin Klein’s on.

LB decided to get dressed to assist, but on sticking her head out of the door she was told it was all done at which point MrB turned and chased the now unprotected bin across the path.

Once in Pod the inside of the pop up roof was checked and it was bone dry, brilliant, all thanks to the thermal wrap. Back into bed we both went and soon fell asleep, didn’t wake till well past 8 but as we didn’t have to be off the site till 3pm we weren’t in any rush. Calm winds and blue sky greeted us as we opened Pods door, just as well, because we wanted to test out our home made, newly designed fly screen.

Now slightly off kilter here, but it needs to be explained. Our old Khyam awning was still loitering in the garden shed but neither of us could bare to just throw it away. True, its knuckles had gone but the fabric and all its fasteners must have a second life, so a week before this trip we set about up-cycling the awning.

First off, we de-boned it so to speak, then we made the decision to make chair/stool covers. These turned out well so next came covers for the water filler upper tubes, of which Mr.B had made 6 for those that wanted them at the Powwow (GoPod get together for those not in the know).

What next we thought, well, that was easily decided upon and that was a fly screen for the door. Pods design wasn’t going to make it easy, due to its curve it would take some crafty workwoman ship, but it was worth a go.

For this we used the fly netting from the one and only window in the awning and added the split zip as the edging down the both sides. Next came small tabs at the top for the poppers to be attached to and some black edging along the bottom which had a section of the awning bead slotted in to give it weight.

A small section near the bottom had to be cut out for the electrical cable than ran through the door but that was easily done and edged with black webbing. This, of course, also needed its own bag so one of them was whipped up too.

One part of the popper had been stuck to Pod prior to leaving home and the other had been sewn onto the fly net, all we had to do now was check that all the hard work sewing and trips back and forth from Pod to the sewing machine had paid off and it had.

Bringing you back to Royal Vale and the testing of the fly screen; we fastened it to Pod at the top of the door frame with the poppers and it slotted perfectly within the frame. It held its shape as it curved with the door, down to the bottom where the weighted edge kept it perfectly in place and the small insert for the cable slipped in nicely to be fasted back in place with a bit of Velcro. Perfect and just what we would need for our May 2018 trip along the NC 500. Grant you, it could only be used when Pods door was open, but when else would we need it.

Feeling very chuffed with ourselves, this along with everything else was soon packed away in their respective bags and all then tidied away inside Pod.

We hit the road an hour later and within the same time frame we had landed at home. Turned out to be a great two day trip away and a site we would consider again should we feel the need to escape from our brick four walls.

Just a small addendum, the Khyam awning still had some life in it, the clear plastic windows came in very handy and worked perfectly as an addition to our designer Tea-cosy.




Posted in Accessories, Awning, Caravan, Caravanning, Cheshire, Conservation, Glamping, Modifications, Photography, Science, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Travel, Traveling, Walking | 1 Comment

Edinburgh; The Tattoo, its Fringe and a dog called Bobby

Edinburgh here we come ! First time for both of us and all planned around the Edinburgh Tattoo, plus a few days before setting off we’d found out The Fringe was on, so it looked like a fun packed four nights away. In addition to all this we had a new awning to try out so all exciting stuff, but first off we had to get there.

Up at 6 and on the road for 7.30. The site itself took new arrivals from 9am but after a quick chat the day before with one of the site staff we decided to try and arrive around lunch time, we were told there may not be many pitches to pick from as not many people are up and off the site by noon, never mind 9am.

 As you’d expect the roads were clear and the M61 soon became the M6 and M74. Before we knew it we were driving through Coulter and Bigger, followed by the scenic route of West Linton and Easter Howgate which took us right to the site.  

A pretty uneventful and smooth journey, it’s always nice to arrive anywhere feeling a little less frazzled and a bit more ‘with it’ to set up Pod.  

Booked in easily enough and we were told there weren’t many pitches available as they were at capacity but it didn’t take us long to find a pitch to our liking. Not far from the entrance and toilet block and south facing, great as the sun was out and we hoped it would stay that way for the next few days.

Once Pod was levelled off out came the new awning a SunnCamp Silhouette Motor Air 225 Plus, a big name for such a small awning.

Now, a new awning you may ask as Pod is only just over two years old, as is the Khyam XL awning, but we’ve fallen out of love with it and despite all the modifications we’d done; sewing in the beading, adding sucker hooks and re-waterproofing, it still didn’t quite have that snug fit we were after, our Irish trip kind of made all this clear.

The Wild Atlantic Way had given it a right battering and with hindsight, we would of bought the Khyam regular and not the XL as the tunnel consists of less fabric providing that sought after fit, plus the knuckles in the legs now no longer gave sufficient support and we were in fear of them popping out all together.

All that said, it’s served us well and after 2 years of constant all year round use it’s protected us well from all the elements, sunshine to snow, but in truth we did expect it to last a little longer.

We considered replacing the knuckles but knew within 2 years we would end up in the same boat again, plus we fancied having windows we could see out of whilst sat inside the awning. The Khyam only offered 2 small windows in the tunnel and one in the main section which could only be seen out of if you stood up, we felt very shut off from the outside world, not a bad thing some days but wanted an option at least.

Research for a new one then began, we didn’t want anything bigger, in fact smaller would suit us as we’ve opted for the minimalist approach which leant to the idea of being able to set up within the shortest amount of time. It just needed to be big enough for a couple of chairs, foot stools, bin and multi-cooker, but due to Pod being a little bit of an individual it wasn’t easy to find an awning that would hug the rear without needing an awning rail and beading down the sides, one for future development maybe.

Air or pole was another question and after viewing and walking round numerous types we opted for the air as the fabric was thicker, 300 denier and 6000mm HH, almost canvas like and therefore less likely to waft around at the slightest mention of breeze.

Only thing we weren’t too keen on was the sewn in groundsheet but weighing this up overall, we really liked it, so we bought it.

Once we had it out on the pitch it didn’t take long to slide the beading onto Pod and pump up the two main arch beams, plus the small central support column. All it needed then was for it to be positioned and pegged out, really loved the windows, so clear and plenty of light flooding in.

One thing we did notice though, the ground sheet looked like it may need a little more protection as the hardstanding could do some damage if we weren’t careful, a possible one-off modification to be done before our next trip.

Once we’d finished faffing around we settled into the new awning and as we’d driven far enough for today our limit was a stroll round the site and to the information desk to check on the bus route for the following day and collect a few maps and leaflets to aid our exploring. It would be a big day for us, our chance to see the Tattoo, excited was an understatement, we’d both seen it many times on the TV but now it would be for real.

Back at Pod we sat outside enjoying the much missed sunshine and set about planning our full day of sightseeing in the city. ‘vans continued to arrive in a steady stream plus a few did more than one circuit looking for their perfect pitch.

Dinner was eaten al fresco and showers were had in the typical Caravan Club block, spotlessly clean and hot, perfect end to a great first day, although we could have done without planes flying over after 11pm and starting up again soon after 5am.

Up, out and walking to the bus for 9.30, it was only a short walk round the back of the site and onto the main road. We weren’t waiting long and spent the time chatting to other caravaners who had seen the Tattoo the night before, it sounded wonderful and we couldn’t wait to experience it ourselves.

£1.60 each was handed over to the driver and within 20 minutes we were slap bang in the middle of Edinburgh city.

First off, we were amazed at the architecture, the city was bursting with history, from the structures to the road names, all seemed to have a story to tell.

Our problem was where to start, so after a look at a small map taken from the information room we began by walking up and down main roads and side streets in an attempt to get our bearings. We eventually decided the best way to do this was to go up Scott’s Monument for a birds eye view.

The building of the memorial to Sir Walter Scott began in 1840 and was completed in 1844 and it stands at 61.1 metres high (200ft 6inches) with 287 steps to the top viewing point.

Interestingly, as well as his well known books his fame was guaranteed in 1818 when he re-discovered Scotland’s lost crown jewels within Edinburgh Castle.

We paid the £6.00 entry fee and began our climb up the narrow stone spiral staircase, only problem being it was the only way up and down, so on the odd occasion we met someone on the way down one of us had to hug the wall why the passing party squeezed past perilously close to the centre column and if not careful a slippy slide downwards.

First viewpoint was as expected, spectacular and when walking all the way round views of the castle down to the coastline could be seen. But not to be daunted we continued onwards and up. The next level gave and even better view over to Nelsons monument and beyond, but this wasn’t the end, there was one more level to go.

This was even narrower, MrB had to take the rucksack off as it was impossible for him to reach the top without going up shoulders turned at an angle, there was certainly no squeezing past anyone, it was a one-way only trip.

Once we knew the way up was clear upwards we went onto a very small and narrow platform and the climb was well worth the view. As we’d been blessed with a clear sky the skyline went on forever, past the castle, the monuments and out all the way to the Forth Rail Bridge, amazing.

Time came for us to begin the walk back down but this could only be done by shouting down to those below, we didn’t want to meet anyone half way up as it really was impossible to squeeze past anyone. The way was clear so off we set and once the stairway became a little wider it became slightly more possible for others to pass us, certainly not for those who aren’t keen on tight spaces and their personal space being well and truly invaded..

Back at ground level we walked towards the Scottish National Gallery, market stalls and some of the street performers. We passed bagpipers, jugglers and lone musicians, all doing their best to fill their pots and hats with money from passing pedestrians.

The Gallery was free to enter and whilst passing many wonderful works of art the highlight for us was the works by Wainwright, fantastic to actually see the real thing.

Out on the streets again we wondered through the busy walkways, again surrounded by food stalls and performers. A bit more sightseeing was on the cards and we headed in the direction of Holyrood Palace, we walked round the outside of the city, past Nelson’s Monument and through the graveyard to find the entrance to the palace in front of us.

Very impressive building and the official residence in Scotland of Her Majesty The Queen. Entry to the public and a tour was on offer but we had more to see and had other plans whilst the sun continued to shine, besides, tummies were rumbling for a bite to eat.

Royal Mile lead from the palace up to the castle so we decided to walk up and find somewhere with food on offer, we passed a few and eventually decided upon The Tolbooth Tavern and we weren’t disappointed.

The biggest burger ever was placed in front of one and a delicious cheese macaroni in front of the other, followed by Mars Bar cheesecake with cream and ice-cream, we were going to walk it off so no guilt here on this occasion.

Service was great and food portions were not for the faint hearted, well worth every penny.

Feeling rested and well fed we continued our walk up the Royal Mile, bobbing in and out of boutique shops and watching the street performers from the Fringe.

We eventually found ourselves at Grassmarket Square, brilliant little place, with plenty of eateries to choose from and lots more Fringe performances dotted around, from a young American bashing his way musically through empty paint cans, to a bubble maker entertaining the very young.

Best one that gave us a giggle was the moveable silent disco, about 30 people with headphones on were merrily jigging away, singing and following the leader in his bright yellow jumpsuit as he wound his way along the streets and off up the road into the distance. A true pied piper.

The Tattoo was getting nearer but still a couple of hours away, neither of us had room for dinner so nibbles were eaten whilst people watching, especially those trying desperately to give give out leaflets for Fringe performances, most people were polite in their refusal but there was the odd one who wasn’t.

The Tattoo was due to start at 9pm and the clock was now heading for 8, so we began the climb up the steps to the waiting area and joined a few hundred other people who were all wrapped up for the drop in temperature and waiting patiently to be told they could move forward to the bag searches.

We hadn’t been there more than 10 minutes when the loudhailer was heard dishing out instructions to those with bags.

The queue moved along nicely and once through the bag checking area we walked the short distance up to the castle entrance where our tickets were scanned and we were in. Yay!

It was quite surreal as we walked onto the parade ground, seating all the way round but it didn’t seem as big as on the TV, the wonders of a wide screen.

Seats were found as more people poured through the entrance onto the parade ground, all were soon seated and we waited with baited breath as the announcer did his best to warm the crowd up with a bit of audience participation. It wasn’t really necessary as everyone was just so excited to be there, but his explanation of proceedings was very welcome.

9pm on the dot the fun began, bagpipes emerged from the castle gate and one of us did their best to keep it together, a very emotional experience, just love the bagpipes.

The story of Tartan unfolded intertwined with Indian history, awesome display by all. At the end the lone piper held us spellbound leaving us wishing it could go on longer, but end it did, 100 minutes, spectacular.

People reluctantly left their seats and we all moved along nicely back the way we had arrived. We even managed to make it to the bus stop in plenty of time and were back at the site just after midnight, not long after we were tucked up in bed reliving our first incredibly busy day in Edinburgh. 

Wednesday arrived and even the planes didn’t disturb us as we had a very welcome lie-in. Sun was out again so we lounged around the awning and Pod making the most of the glorious weather, but once lunch was out of the way we were back on the bus and into the city centre for some more sightseeing and Fringe watching.

First stop was Nelson’s Monument on top of Carlton Hill, built in 1807 in honour of Lord Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar. Many Scots served during this battle and sixty where known to have fought along side Nelson himself.

From here we walked round the National Monument of Scotland which is Scotlands memorial to soldiers and sailors who died fighting in the Napoleonic Wars. Construction started in 1826 but ran out of money so it was left unfinished, great shame but it gives it more of a natural aura, as if it’s been through a battle too.

Lunch was calling so we walked back through the city and the Fringe entertainment, one of the unusual performances we passed were what appeared to American native Indians on panpipes doing a rendition of Lady in Red, very surreal.

We found ourselves back at Grassmarket Square and as the sun was out we decided to eat at Oliviero Italian Restaurant, mainly because they had a large outdoor dinning area which would allow us to watch the world go by.

Pizza and a few beers were ordered and all went down extremely well, freshly made and delicious. Whilst enjoying this we were saddened to see one of the waiters slightly distressed as a large party of people had walked off without paying, why ? who could do such a low thing, especially during Tattoo and Fringe season.

Entertainers surrounded the square, from jugglers to musicians and many people trying patiently to dish out flyers in the most unusual ways.

Feeling very happy and relaxed we strolled down the Royal Mile and found ourselves in a whisky shop were a bottle of 8yr old GlenDronach single malt whisky was bought for LB, a new one to try once back at Pod.

As we had another big day ahead of us on Thursday and we were meeting friends for lunch we decided to head back to Pod for dinner.  Once off the bus we walked along the coast path, brilliant walkway and great views over the sea towards the railway bridge, we eventually found ourselves back at the site and after a little whisky tasting we had an early night curled up in Pod.

Woke to another glorious day and we were back on the bus for 9.30, we were that early there didn’t appear to be any other caravaners joining us. The bus was busy with its regular daily commuters and we ended up chatting with one who reminded us of Greyfriers Bobby and told us of her fathers involvement, his appearance in the film and the statue of him in the city. 

 We were so pleased to have run into her and thanked her repeatedly for the reminder and once off the bus made it our mission to find the statue of him. Just wished we’d asked her what role her father had played in the film, because that was also on our ‘to do’ list once home and would love to have identified him in the film.

Phone came out and it didn’t take long to find him, another emotional moment when his nose was given a good rub, as this little dog was so loyal and true to his owner, then taken in and looked after by those around him in what was a very different era.

Apparently the statue is a life image, created shortly before his death.

Across the road from here appeared another museum, The National Museum of Scotland, so off we wandered and in we went.

Absolutely incredible place, we didn’t know where to start and could easily of spent the whole day in there. From ancient history to modern works of art, the power of electronics and space travel to prehistoric animals, just amazing.

Lunch time was fast approaching and we needed to find Fishers on Thistle Street.

As we now had quite a good walking knowledge of the centre it didn’t take us long to find it and make ourselves comfortable at the table to await our Podding friends.

Dee and Ian were the first to arrive and it was so nice to see them as it had been months since we had laid eyes on them, in fact October Powwow in Oban the year before.

Minutes later Laurence and his good lady Liz arrived, Laurence we’d spent a few days with at Coniston but Liz was about to be engulfed into the Podding world although we all did our best to vary the topic of conversation.. occasionally.

Fabulous time was had, reliving our travels and planning many more, time went by way too fast and before we knew it we were all saying our goodbyes till next time, October 2017 and Powwow 2 in York.

The castle was next on our list so off we went and paid £17.00 each for the privilege of entry. We’d missed the 1 o’clock gun but moving from one exhibition to another kept us very interested, from dungeons to the history of war through military artefacts and various treasures, plus a very moving experience in the Scottish National War Memorial which honours those who gave their lives in past wars, including those in Afghanistan and the Gulf.

We eventually joined the small queue to see the Crown Jewels and loved the display and story shown en route to the viewing room.

No cameras were allowed inside, pity, as they were amazing to see, even though it was a fleeting glimpse as the viewing line had to keep on moving.

Time was moving way to fast and doors were beginning to close and lock behind us, the castle was slowly closing down which meant it was our time to leave it and the city of Edinburgh.

The bus returned us to the caravan site and once dinner were eaten and showers had we reminisced over the wonder few days we’d had in Edinburgh. The weather had been with us, the new awning worked like a dream and we’d seen what we felt was a small part of the city. We would definitely be back as there was still so much we just hadn’t had time to see, beautiful place and could well be one of our favourite cities.

Friday arrived and it had rained in the night, not a problem though as the day looked dry up till noon and we planned on being well on our way home by that time.

Didn’t take much effort to deflate the awning and as we don’t take half as much stuff with us as we used it wasn’t long before we hit the road.

We both hate this bit, but it just means we had to plan the next trip away. Doesn’t stop us wishing we could just be on the outskirts of home and say ‘Nah.. lets just keep driving’. Maybe one day….


Posted in Accessories, Architecture, Awning, Bridges, Caravan, Caravanning, Castles, Coast, Conservation, Edinburgh, Glamping, Highlands, Modifications, Photography, Scotland, Sight seeing, Stately home, Travel, Traveling, Walking, Whisky | 13 Comments

Trains, Planes, Automobiles .. and a Kayak.

Looked like a glorious beginning to a few days away in Pod, sun was actually out and promised to be so during our 5 nights away at Glanllyn Lakeside Caravan and Camping Site, Lake Bala, Wales.

Pod was loaded with clothes and the fridge stocked the night before, all that was let to do was hook up and set the satnav up, by 9.30am we were ready to go, only problem was we weren’t allowed on site till 12 so we had sit and twiddle our thumbs for half an hour, like two kids waiting to be told it’s okay to go downstairs on Christmas Day.

10 o’clock finally arrived and after saying our goodbyes we set off, roads were pretty quiet, apart from the usual mob who like to sit in the middle lane oblivious to what’s going on around them and refusing to move over so others can overtake, most people don’t seem to realise caravans aren’t allowed in the outside lane and not over 60mph, very frustrating !

Rolled into the site a couple of minutes before 12, all looked good from the main office and the site looked pretty empty, one of the joys of mid-week breaks. The lady behind the desk was very helpful and even though we’d booked a hardstanding pitch she told us to go anywhere we liked.

The grassed area looked in really good condition so made the decision to go for a grass pitch, not something we would normally ever do but it all looked so open, green, lush and inviting as one of the wardens was busily going up and down the huge open lawned area on his ride-on mower.

Slow drive round the site and we discovered the hardstanding pitches were near the office, grass caravan pitches were in the middle and tents had the best pitches nearest the lake. Some motorhomes seemed to be set up on the carpark which was on the shore line.

We eventually chose one of the last grass pitches nearest the lake as we planned on getting the kayak out on the water.

Once set up, whilst dodging the warden on his mower, we went for a drive into Bala to see what was on offer, parking along the main road was free for the first hour but no return within an hour and then free after 6pm, as it was early afternoon we opted for the large carpark at the end of the village, near the bridge. £3.00 for 4 hours so seemed reasonable enough.

A walk up and down the main street took us past a few cafe’s, craft and antique shops, plus some pubs who seemed to have a good variety of food on offer.

Back at the car with ice creams in hand we decided to go for a drive and just follow our noses, this took us left out of the carpark and towards the steam railway. Once passed this we continued on, it turned out to be a circular route that encompassed the lake. Dodging on coming cars this took us down some very narrow hedge lined roads and past another lakeside campsite which if we had time would warrant further investigation, eventually the road returned us back to the site.

The warden was still going up and down on his mower and dinner was eaten outside with the awning giving us a little protection from the glare of the sun.

Shower time arrived, there were two blocks but only one was open as the site wasn’t very busy. They were clean, no privacy cubicles but adequate for the job in hand. We did notice signs that clearly stated hot water for showers was only available between 7am and 10pm, through our stay we never tested it by turning up at 10.05 as we much prefer a hot shower to a cold but we were curious as to how they turned the hot water off.

The evening was still very humid and windows had to be left slightly open for a good nights sleep, although this was never really a problem in Pod.

Tuesday morning we woke to the sun sneaking in through the half open blinds and it looked like another good day ahead, slight breeze but nothing too heavy. Took our time over breakfast and watched the world go by with a few ‘hello’s’ and ‘good morning’s’ to those who passed and stopped for a few minutes to chat. Plus the grass cutter made another appearance.

Perfect day for the kayak so once it was pumped up a packed lunch of sorts was mashed together and we carried it the short distance to the water line.

As we slid out from the shore we could hear kids screeching and splashing away somewhere behind us, once we left the shore and followed it round to the left we came across a group of kids in their early teens having a fine old time in the water having left their canoes beached on the side.

We continued on and once on the main body of water the breeze became stronger and the poor kayak bounced along on top of the water, eventually it broke over the sides and into the kayak, neither of us minded getting wet, added to the experience but it was getting harder to paddle against the wind.

Looking across to the other side of the lake it looked slightly calmer as it was sheltered from the wind so we paddled like fury to cross to the other side where we then glided on up the lake side.

We passed people walking dogs, some were having BBQs and picnics, others were having a paddle and we could hear the ‘toot toot’ of the stream train in the distance. The lake its self wasn’t particularly busy, save for the kids who must of been out on the water as part of a school or club activity we were passed by only 2 sail boats and those were only small dinghies. The sky seemed busier as Tornados, Typhoons and a Hercules passed over, camera was never at the ready but the sight of them always made us stop and stare, before we realised it they were over our heads and gone.

We continued on up the lake and came to the caravan site we had seen on our circular route, it looked perfect from the water as many units had set up literally on the waters edge and one gentleman was using the lake as a cooler for his milk, very enterprising.

At this point the wind had dropped totally and we just sat in the kayak in the middle of the lake and allowed the very gentle current to take us back towards the site, at this point it was the perfect opportunity to do a Facebook live, whilst MrB turned us 360 deg, LB filmed and did her usual bit of commentary.

Paddling began again and we had our eyes peeled fora suitable place to stop for our not so healthy picnic of crisps, chocolate bars and biscuits. This we found easily enough and it was directly across the lake from the site, sun was beating down from a cloudless sky and a breeze made its presence known every now and then. 

It was very deceiving, sun cream had been applied before we left, but the cool wind took the heat off what was later discovered to be slightly tender skin.

As our lunch came to an end we could quite easily of dozed on our little piece of shingle beach but stirred enough to take a couple of snaps of the steam train that went by, even managed to generate a few waves from the passengers onboard.

Back into the kayak we went and continued on round the lower part of the lake, when it came time to crossing back over to the site side the battle against the wind began and muscles were found that had been dormant for some time, good upper body work out we thought.

Once back on land the kayak was carried back to Pod and tipped on its side so it could dry in the still glorious weather. Great piece of kit but had the wind been any stronger it would of been a real battle to move anywhere but backwards, time maybe to look at a more solid structure of which there were many to drool over on the site.

Feet were then up and we did our best to relax in the sunshine whilst ignoring the mower man who was still going round the site doing what must be done.. we guessed.

Dinner was eaten, a very tasty veggie sausage paella which had been made in our multi-cooker and as the weather looked good for the following morning plans were then made to go for a walk in the hills of Snowdonia, a starting point of Ogwen Cottage was decided upon and then head in the direction of the Glyders.

Alarm woke us at 6am and a quick weather check during breakfast told us we had till 1pm before the heavens opened, well and truly.

Rucksacks were packed up smartish, we were on the road and at the hostel for 7.30 and just as we rolled into the carpark heavy rain joined us, we stayed put in the car as it bounced off the roof making it hard to hear what each other was saying, needless to say body language was enough to say neither of us was moving until it passed… hopefully.

It did. Within 10 minutes we were out of the car, kitted up and on our way up towards the Glyders.

Path was well marked and once we’d had a bit of a scramble up we reached Llyn Bochlwyd and bore to its right, we then went long the ridge and planned to go down towards Llyn Idwal.

We didn’t see many people on the way up but passed quite a few school groups on the way across and down, one in particular made us giggle as a group of teenage girls in their matching long plaits were in deep conversation, all were discussing the merits of revising for a recent English exam on Romeo and Juliet, one in particular was amazed at anothers ability to recite more than half a dozen quotes.

The sun had been with us most of the time but the clock was slowly moving towards midday and that 1pm down pour was on the horizon, so after a hill top picnic with amazing views across and down the valley to Penrhyn Quarry we began the decent and were soon on the footpath back to the car. We passed quite a few people dressed in just t-shirts and shorts and they didn’t seem to have coats of any sort, we just hoped they didn’t plan on going too far as the bad weather was due to be set for the afternoon.  

Back at the carpark rucksacks were dumped in the car and we crossed back over the road to the cafe, food was bought and we sat on the cafe wall eating piping hot pasties and ice-cream, no sooner had we began when we felt droplets of rain.

Food was eaten smartish and just as we got into the car the deluge began, again it was bouncing off the roof but this time it had thunder and lightening for company. Driving back to the site wipers were going ten to the dozen whilst we thought of those half way up or down who had been caught by the down pour.

Back at Pod the rain continued for the day and into the evening, we were so glad we’d made the effort earlier in the day, we felt less guilty about chilling in Pod with a little snooze thrown in.

Thursday was a very mixed day to start with, if the sun was out it was lovely and warm and shorts and t-shirts were adequate even with the wind blowing through, but once the sun dipped behind a cloud goosebumps were very closely followed by the thick long sleeve tops and long trousers.

The plan had been to get the kayak out again but we just needed the wind to drop a little, so we spent the day waiting for this to happen and sat most of the time outside watching various planes go over plus doing the odd impromptu viewing of Pod. We don’t do a bad job at it either, maybe the manufacturer should pay us commission 😉

Sadly the wind didn’t drop but we’d had a good day watching the world go by and the site was now slowly starting to fill up with tents, caravans and motorhomes, including an entire family of 2 caravans a motorhome and 3 tents who set up right next to us. The 6 metre rule was just about in existence.

Rain returned late into the evening, continued through the night and into Friday morning. 

We needed to find something to keep us out of the bad weather so decided on a train ride through the countryside and drove to Blaenau Ffestiniog to try and catch the steam train.

We parked the car across the road from the railway and made a dash for the platform and office. 

 A special treat was needed so 1st class tickets were bought and once on board the views from the observation carriage were spectacular, even with the rain slowly running down the windows obscuring the view some what.

The train set off on time and we moved along at a decent pace with the familiar rock from side to side a train gives. The tunnels were brilliant, we trundled on in near darkness, the only light being given off was by some very decorative wall lights which lined the inside of the carriage. On we went, past woodland and waterfalls, then along rock lined tracks that were barely wide enough for the train go through, very relaxing experience.

The staff on the train were brilliant, knowledgeable, very good at the sales patter and looked great in their colourful uniforms. Just wish for that added touch of 1st class specialness the drinks and food ordered had arrived in proper cups, and on proper plates, wasn’t expecting china, just a plain white cheap pot plate from Asda (or any other well known high street shop) and not the paper cup and plastic wrapped packaging they arrived in.

After stopping a few times to allow others on and off we eventually rolled into Porthmadog and it was still raining, so after a walk along the high street and jumping in and out of a few gift and souvenir shops we stopped at the Grapevine for a spot of lunch, looked like a popular cafe and the selection of food on offer looked very appetising.

Mozzarella, onions, olives and tomato toasty for one and a huge all day breakfast for the other, all went down extremely well, especially the bacon which was thickly cut and good quality, not that stuff that leaves a pool of water behind it.

Lunch eaten, we continued our walk in the rain along the high street and eventually found ourselves on the waterfront, no one else was around and we blamed the weather for the lack of holiday makers, it really wasn’t the best day for sightseeing.

Time came to catch our train back to Ffestiniog and whilst sat on the wooden bench on the platform an old gentleman with a long white beard wearing a black woollen rail uniform slowly walked in our direction. He stopped to say hello and whilst leaning on his walking stick he told us tales of his early years on the railway and how health and safety didn’t come into some of the things they did, it just got done. Very interesting man, with fiery blue laughing eyes, full of life and pride for the job he was still part of.

Our train hooted away on the platform and once again we made ourselves comfy in the observation lounge in 1st Class, the rain was very persistent but it didn’t ruin our view as it trundled down the tracks along the same route we had arrived on.

Once back at Ffestiniog we made a mad dash back to the car and and back to Pod whilst the rain continued to do its worst.

It was our last evening so we decided to treat ourselves to a meal out, only thing was we would have to drive, the centre of Bala wasn’t really in walking distance as it was at the far end of the lake and just over 3 miles away.

Parking was free after 6pm so found a spot on the main road and began to walk along looking for something that took our fancy, it’s not always easy this because we have been fooled before, the outside doesn’t always depict what is on the inside.

Plas Yn Dre, a pub in the centre caught our eye, so in we went. Looked very fresh, modern and new, we were shown a table through the back and given a menu to peruse. The waiter was very friendly and well informed on the contents of the menu. Duck and soup were the chosen starters followed by ribeye steak and mushroom, pepper stroganoff. Fabulous food, well presented and delicious to-boot.

Back at Pod we discovered the site was somewhat fuller, and Pod was now encircled with vans of all shapes and sizes, someone who had either come for a nosey at Pod or just not looked where they were going had snapped one of our guy-lines, very annoying and just a little inconsiderate, don’t you think.

There was no point repairing it as we off home the next day but this wasn’t helped by kids from surrounding vans using Pod as a target, needless to say this didn’t go down well with either of us.

Such a shame, not the way we wanted to end our stay as we’d had a fabulous time. The site is obviously very popular but a little consideration for others goes along way.

Saturday arrived and we woke to a dry awning, always a blessing and makes packing up so much easier. We eventually rolled off the site and took the 2 hour journey home where talk was taken up about our next trip in August, Edinburgh and the Tattoo.

Posted in Accessories, Awning, Caravan, Caravanning, Conservation, Glamping, Kayak, Lakes, Lochs, Mountains, Photography, Railway, Sight seeing, Snowdonia, Trains, Travel, Traveling, Wales, Walking, Waterways | Leave a comment

Ireland Part 4 : Giant’s Causeway and Coastal Castles

Wednesday morning we woke before the alarm and it didn’t take long packing up as we now had it down to a fine art. It did help that it was dry so the awning and all the outside water containers didn’t need much of a wipe down.

With just under a four hour journey ahead we were off the site by 9.30am the roads were pretty much clear and with what was now a regular occurrence, they were trouble free and smooth and we were on our way to Drumaheglis Marina and Caravan Park.

We crossed from Eire to N.I. and the road markings and signs changed back to what we had at home. We’d got used to the European feel of the roads and travelling in kilometres but now we were back to miles.

The site appeared to our left and once through the electronic gate we drove down the long driveway towards the marina, a waterside view had been booked, it looked good so far so we were really looking forward to it.

Pulling up outside the main office we could see the rivers edge to our left and caravans directly in front of us. Once booked in we found out we had pitch no.4 which apparently had the promised waterside view. No, no way, not at all.. unless we stood on top of Pod and that wasn’t happening. As if this wasn’t upsetting enough it was directly opposite the small row of shops and the cafe and when we say directly opposite, it was no more than 8 – 10 metres away.

Now, some may say we might enjoy the attention, close proximity to the shops and the attention to Pod but no, even we have our limits, so after a little discussion with the staff and a bit of jiggling around we were given a wonderful pitch further into the site which was surrounded by woodland.

Once settled we made ourselves aware of the facilities and during the walk round we discovered holiday Pods named after characters from The Lord of the Rings, plus an outside gym which had a good view down to the marina and waters edge.

We also discovered the washing/toilet facilities were free along with the wifi, all good news, plus the weather had brightened and the next 24 hours looked promising.

The thought of a dry, bright, windless day ahead couldn’t be missed so plans were made for the next day and we were going to try and get to a few of the prime visitors sites, on the cards we had Giant’s Causeway and The Dark Hedges, with the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in reserve, if the weather held out.

1pm was to be the next reported downpour so we would need to get a wriggle on and it started with an early night.

Woke at 6.30 and were out the door and off the site by 7.30. First port of call was only half an hour away, The Dark Hedges, well known as an ancient beech tree lined road but now more famous for its scenes in The Game of Thrones. Only thing we needed to do was get there before the daily traffic hit, pictures taken would need to be people and car-less, unless strategically placed, but there wasn’t going to be time for staging so it would be the case of being dropped off with camera at the ready and shoot away.

Eventually found it after taking a wrong turn, blinking satnav again. LB jumped out and MrB drove off out of sight, there didn’t appear to be any other people with cameras so all looked good. LB then spent the next 15 minutes running up and down the road like a loon looking for that special shot, a few involved dodging early morning locals who by the look on their faces were used to this spectacle.

Mr.B in his Dacia appeared through the trees and as he pulled up to let LB in both noticed others arriving with cameras, tripods and families in tow. We couldn’t have timed it better.

Next stop Giant’s Causeway, well known to all for its uniquely formed columns from a volcanic eruption and its myth connected to the Irish warrior Finn McCool and the Scottish giant Benandonner.

Wasn’t more than half an hour away and another thing that worked to our advantage was being members of the National Trust, the Causeway was covered by it and it wasn’t going to cost us another penny, brilliant.

We arrived at 8.30 and drove straight into a very large but empty carpark, took a while to find a member of staff but eventually found one putting out signs, membership cards were flashed and entry was gained.

Once passed the visitors centre we walked the single track road down towards the sea and as it wound round the coastline the incredible sight of the causeway came into view.

Fingers had been crossed for it to be people free and it didn’t look too bad at all, there were about half a dozen people and these were slowly leaving and walking back up the road to the visitors centre, it really looked like we would have the place to ourselves, awesome.

The sun came out as we clambered up the rocks, it was slightly surreal as its one of those places we’ve seen many times on the tv and is on everybody’s wish list, it was hard to believe we were actually there.

Once up on the main section that tapered out to sea we turned a full 360 deg and low and behold there wasn’t anybody to be seen, the sun was still out with a heavy breeze blowing inland and the sea was pounding against the world famous hexagonal rock columns.

Camera came out as well as a live piece to Facebook, truly spectacular place and one of those special moments in time which will be remembered for ever.

We finished taking pictures and sat for a few minutes revelling in the scenery when we spied a large green bus slowly making its way down the road towards us, our five minutes of solitude was coming to an end and the causeway would soon be under siege.

Few more snaps were taken and we left the columns and began a walk up to the Amphitheatre, quite steep but the views once up there were wonderful, no sooner had we began our walk down we were met with hordes of people on the way up, the path was a little narrow in places so some careful passing took place.

As we passed the causeway on our way back up to the exhibition centre more and more people were arriving, we were so pleased we’d made the effort to visit earlier, it made such a difference to the whole experience.

On the way up we passed a rock formation known as the camel, can you spot it in the picture? We didn’t, but now we know its there that’s all we could see.

Once at the top of the hill we entered the centre and were incredibly impressed with the layout and the information on offer, very interesting and educational for all.

Entry to this was also covered by National Trust membership and had we had to pay the £10.50 each (£9.00 on line) it would have been worth it but believe access to the causeway can be gained for free via the Red Path but there would be no entry into the exhibition.

The sun was still out and as the weather was in our favour we decided to make a dash to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, if we were lucky we could get there and across the bridge without getting drenched.

Following the coast road round we soon found the entrance to the bridge and drove down a very narrow, steep road to the carpark, this was free and once directed to the lower carpark we began the short walk back up to the main carpark and the information kiosk.

At this point we again discovered National Trust membership covered entry and meant we didn’t have to hand over £7.00 each, more pennies for lunch we thought.

Tickets were obtained and we discovered that we had a 1 hour window to use the bridge and as our allotted time was running out we decided to forgo the leisurely stroll to the bridge taking in the sights and save it for the return trip.

The path twisted its way along the coastline and once down some steep but wide steps we joined the queue for the bridge, from here we could see the rope bridge and the island to which it was connected.

We waited as people came off the island and then it was our turn to go on, it didn’t take long for it to move along and once on there a few snaps were taken with one hand whilst precariously hanging on with the other, we were so pleased it wasn’t any windier, but guess if it had been, it would have been closed.

As we were not under the protection of the coastline the wind was a little stronger and unlike some we didn’t step too near the edge, one big gust and we didn’t like to think where we’d end up. On looking back to the mainland we were taken aback by the colours along the coast, from the deep blue of the sky, the emerald green of the hills and the almost mediterranean aqua blue of the sea, it was glorious.

Soon came time for our return trip across the bridge and we duly queued till it was our turn, no more than 6 were allowed on it at any one time so taking pictures was done with a bit of craftiness in mind, that being.. the last of the six ;).

Back up the steps we went and called into the craft shop and cafe, we couldn’t resist the salmon with scrambled egg and lemon drizzle cake, good job we did too because as we sat down the heavens opened and rain was lashing against the windows and side of the café. We sat munching away merrily as people ran past us in t-shirts doing there best to shelter in the doorway of the shop.

It eventually passed and by the time we left it had died away completely, after a short walk along the coastal path we returned to the car and were soon on our way back to Pod, it had been a great day with lots achieved in the few hours of dryness we had been blessed with.

Friday arrived and we decided on a drive further along the coast, once breakfast was out of the way we set off to Glenarm Castle and Walled Garden, love castles and like the idea of a walled garden, always reminds one of us of The Secret Garden, a fabulous book read as a child and a wonderfully adapted version watched as an adult. Never too old for a classic.

Satnav did its usual trick of taking us to the wrong entrance but with a little forward thinking we found the main entrance and parked. The gravel path took us to the garden and once we paid our £6.00 each we entered a world dripping in copious amounts of colour. The flower beds were flourishing, all the trees were in leaf and the lawn was in the process of being cut.

As we walked along a slight breeze was cutting through each section, bringing with it the smell of flowers in bloom and freshly cut grass.

Not many people were in the grounds and we found a wooden bench to settle on, it would of been so easy to doze in the warming sun with the sound of the lawn mower whizzing away in the background but we managed to pull ourselves away for a walk around the grounds of the castle.

This meant leaving the walled garden, we were reluctant to do so but eventually we followed a small group towards the castle which is lived in by the Viscount and Viscountess Dunluce and their family. The path circled the castle, which looked more like a house depending on which view you had and evidence of a young family living there was visible as slides and climbing frames were easily seen. Ancient trees which had in their prime been a canopy over the driveway had been cut back and gardeners were busily at work tending to the surrounding borders.

We eventually returned to the walled garden and felt ourselves being pulled again to one of the benches, it was so peaceful, sitting with eyes closed, listening to the wind through the trees as the sun gently bathed us in its warmth, it was bliss. Ultimately the time came to move on as tummies were rumbling so with one last walk round we left and returned to the car, it was the best £6.00 we’d spent and had it been at home we would of returned gladly, many times.

Carnlough wasn’t far up the coast and once there after a drive round we decided on The Londonderry Arms, mainly because there was parking outside. It looked ok from the outside, didn’t bowl us over but decided nothing lost if we didn’t at least have a look inside and we were so pleased we did.

Wood panelled walls with cloth laden tables and smart waitered service, all looked good and once the food arrived it continued to get better. Vegetable spring rolls and a chilli dip for one and chicken and chill wrap with chips for the other, very good and nice size portions.

Drive back to Pod took us through some beautiful countryside and along the way we past many a turf farm with their goods all neatly stacked and drying out. Interesting fact we discovered is that Ireland contains more bog than any country in Europe, except Finland.

Back at Pod dinner was eaten and the dreaded fact that our penultimate day would soon be upon us was discussed and a decision was made to visit Dunluce Castle and Portrush. It would be our last full day and we didn’t want to travel too far as upon departure from the site there was a lot of driving ahead of us.

Woke on Saturday to patchy clouds which the sun was doing its best to tear through and a lazy breakfast was had sat in the awning watching the world go by. After our usual ‘mornings’ and chats a couple informed us they’d done a tour of the site and they had decided we had the snazziest outfit, amidst laughs thanks were given and a suitable compliment was returned, stating they were the most friendly couple on site, we eventually said our goodbyes wishing them well on their adventures.

Dunluce castle was found on the coast and we paid £5.00 to enter the grounds of the castle. Once in we called into the visitors centre, very educational and would appeal mostly to the young. From here we began our tour of the outer castle ruins, the video shown in the centre had provided us with some great information and we took great delight in identifying certain features that ordinarily we would never have been able to. 

Crossing the bridge onto the outcrop we were surrounded by the high brick wall and in the centre was living accommodation and a beautiful pebbled courtyard, all were in excellent condition considering it has been in existence since the 15th century.

Once we’d done a circuit of the castle and been up spiral staircases to small windowless rooms and sat in the bay window looking out to the coastline we left the castle itself and took steps down to the beach, here we found a cave that went under the castle and out to sea, all very mysterious and we wondered what its purpose was, other than letting our imagination run away with itself with smugglers and the like.

Next stop was Portrush and en route we came across a triathlon in progress, so some swift manoeuvring was required between cyclists one way and runners in another.

Car park was found on the sea front and it was also the transition stage for the triathlon, cycles were racked up in a sectioned off area and runners were on the beach in the final stage of the competition, how that must of felt, running on sand as it surely must have zapped them of any remaining energy.

Ice creams were bought and we watched and clapped the remaining runners as they crossed the finish line, most looked very fresh and crossed with a final 20 meter sprint.

Lunch time was calling so after a walk along the front we stopped at Cafe 55 Bistro, Prawn salad and a club sandwich was ordered and eaten whilst watching a wedding take place in slightly surreal circumstances.

It was a fairly busy day, kids were playing on the beach, running in and out of the water and families were around enjoying the sun. Others were passing by, walking along the prom in different directions and two cafes were full, supplying visitors with refreshments of all kinds. There was also a little old man with his electric guitar and amplifier blasting out music from Cliff Richard and the Shadows, all this going on whilst the bride and her ‘maids arrived in a VW Beetle and Campervan, who then promptly disappeared through the crowds and up the stairs of the sea view cafe.

By the time we had finished lunch they were on their way out again, the children from the beach had disappeared and were replaced by the happy couple having photographs taken, the guy with the guitar was still strumming his stuff and on a rerun of his repertoire whilst the wedding guests in their finery mingled with the public who had stopped to watch.

We had a last walk along the front and lingered a little longer, knowing it was our last evening we didn’t want to return to the car and head back to Pod, but ultimately the time had come and the drive back was a little quieter than normal.

Dinner was eaten and showers had, plans were then made for the next day, our departure. Everything would have to be put back properly for the journey home and hopefully a dry awning too. Bed then called for the last time on our Irish trip.

Sunday arrived all to early and we set about packing Pod up, awning was dry so the whole experience was a little less painful.

 The slow ferry was booked for 8pm so we weren’t in any particular rush and we were on the road for 10.30. Traffic was light and we arrived at the port a good 6 hours early, we took the chance and queued up in the hope there would be spaces on the next available ferry and thankfully there were. Cost us an extra £47.00 but it was worth it and it was the Superfast X.

Once we were on board and secure in the bowels of the ferry we waved goodbye and departed the beautiful isle of Ireland at 3.10pm. The journey was spent having lunch and finding a comfy enough chair to relax in, most had been taken up and people were fast asleep, hidden under coats and bags of all different shapes and sizes.

The Welsh coast soon appeared and by 7pm we had docked at Hollyhead, once all passengers had been given the green light to return to cars we joined the throng and were soon off the ferry and on our way home.

16 nights had been spent on Irish soil, South and North and we had had a ball, met some lovely people, travelled some wonderful roads with incredible scenery, stayed at immaculate caravan sites and eaten some delicious food, go raibh maith agat Ireland, love to you all and we will be back.

Posted in Abbey, Accessories, Architecture, Awning, Beaches, Bridges, Caravan, Caravanning, Castles, Church, Coast, Conservation, Glamping, Ireland, Lakes, Lochs, Modifications, Mountains, Photography, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Travel, Traveling, Uncategorized, Walking, Waterways | Leave a comment

Ireland Part 3 : Eagles Flying and Pigs on a Mission

Saturday, up with the alarm at 7 and breakfast devoured whilst listening to what was left of the wind, it was still hanging around and would make taking the awning down a little tricky but not impossible, this was eventually done by unhooking the awning from Pod and bringing the awning down to its knees ‘so to speak’ before taking the guy lines off fully. 

Everything was packed up and away in Pod and our four hour drive to Knock began. Again, great roads all the way but the satnav let us down miserably, we were slightly more prepared this time but still managed to miss the entrance and ended up at where the satnav was determined to take us.. a school carpark. 

Not too far from this error was a Garda and he kindly directed us back the way we had come and were told to look for an entrance near the bus stop. 

This we duly did and found it blocked by an electronic barrier, a conversation was had through the intercom and once we’d confirmed our name and booking the barrier went up and in we rolled. The large open carpark area was a little deceiving and we guessed this wasn’t it so followed our noses round to the back and found the entrance to the site. 

Booked in easily enough and the facilities were explained, free wifi and free showers so all looked good so far. We drove round and finally decided on a pitch in the middle of the upper area and as this was also a rock hard concrete pitch we decided to pitch as we had at River Valley, Co. Wicklow, that is the awning on the grass, the grass looked in really good condition and it didn’t look like drainage would be an issue, besides a soggy ground was preferable to spending another evening grappling with a flyaway awning. 


Once set up we walked into the village, the shrine for which Knock is primarily famous was only a few 100m away, it is said that this was where an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a group of villagers. As we strolled down the main road it became apparent that something else was occurring in the grounds of the church because there was a very large group of people congregating around a bench in the carpark. The road was also lined with motorhomes and vans which appeared to have been abandoned in any space available, even those completely blocking any right of way.

We had to go and see what all the commotion was about and went into the grounds of the church through an open iron gate.

As we walked nearer we could see a very tight group of people of different ages who were all stood at different levels and using anything at their means to do this, from small walls to park benches and a lamppost stand in the centre. 

All were straining with their arms extended high and holding mobile phones in their hand. The buzz of conversation was inaudible and after a few minutes observing this extraordinary event we walked around the grounds then continued with our walk up the main road. 

Once back on the main path we again passed the group who were now turned in our direction, looking up to the sky. We of course looked to see what they were looking at but couldn’t see anything as we were blinded by the sun breaking through the clouds.

We continued on and made a mental note to google the event later, there were at least a few hundred people here and with them and the number of mobile homes in the area it must have caught a local news papers attention if nothing else. 

A few groceries were bought and after passing lots of outside stalls and small shops selling water containers and small religious figurines we arrived back at Pod and set about making our version of an Irish stew. 

 Now, a lot of research went into doing this properly but there were many versions around, from the very basic that were cooked twice, strained and then eaten, to more complicated ingredients which took half the time of the former. For us, as long as the ingredients were all Irish grown, including the meat, then it was an Irish stew and boy did it go down well. 

Those free hot showers were very welcoming and then spent an hour on the free wifi before climbing into bed with the rain and wind still battering the side of Pod, we doubted this would bother us this evening as we were both ready for a well deserved good nights sleep. 

Sunday arrived and we could hear the church bells calling people to Mass, they weren’t particularly loud but we knew they were there. Weather wasn’t looking good for the day so took the moment to scour the internet for information about the incident in the church grounds yesterday, after checking the local papers we found a few articles which reported a young traveller whilst in Portugal at another shrine had been told he should go to Knock where he would see the Virgin Mary, this had obviously spread through their community and resulted in the mass visit to Knock yesterday, as to whether it all came true it didn’t say, but suppose that is down to a persons own prospective on the incident. 

Our attention turned to looking for something to do, so after a little research on what was available in the area we opted for a drive out to Sligo and on the way back call into Eagles Flying, a preservation society for birds of prey and anything else of an animal nature that needed protection or nurturing of some kind. This would work out well as EF were only open for 2 hours in the mornig and two hours in the afternoon, we just needed it to stop raining so the birds could be seen flying outside and not in the indoor arena that was mentioned.

Off we went and after just over an hours drive we arrived in Sligo in the pouring rain. Parking was paid for and as we walked through the town centre it appeared that most of the shops were closed, we presumed Sunday trading laws were in place and after a walk to the sea inlet we turned and went on the hunt for somewhere to have lunch and dry off a little. 
We found The Belfry, looked like a gastro type pub from the outside, so in we went. On opening the inner door we found ourselves in a dimly lit bar area with a few locals sat at the bar who were in deep conversation of a colourful nature whilst watching the horse racing on the TV, that in itself was unusual because any pub we normally walk into has either the news on or football. 

A table was found not far from the bar and a chicken club sandwich was ordered along with a seafood chowder. Both arrived whilst we were doing our best to understand parts of the conversation taking place at the bar, not to be nosey, just to be able to identify a few words being exchanged. 

Sandwich went down a treat and the chowder was exceptional, the mussels, fish and prawns were nice and chunky and left you tasting the saltiness of the sea.

Didn’t take long to dry off and once the bill was paid we made a dash through the rain and back to the car. Back on the road we hoped the rain would just stay off for an hour, that’s all.. one little hour, long enough to see the display on offer at Eagles Flying.

We loyally followed the satnav and found ourselves down winding hedge lined roads and nearly passed the entrance on the way, once in we turned right onto an area of rough ground and decided it must be the carpark as there was a sign clearly saying leave your car and walk up to the entrance, only disabled owners were allowed any further in their cars.
It was pouring it down and as we were the only ones there with minutes to go to the start time of 2.30pm we came very close to driving away and thinking about it for another day, but then another car drove into the carpark and stopped a little further onto the waste land. A quick look and nod at each other and we made the decision to wrap up and make it as fast as possible to the gate, we had no idea how far it was but thought we were already wet so a little more couldn’t make much difference. 

A small wooden shed came into view and once there we stuck our heads in through the hatch, our eyes eventually adjusted to the dark and we saw its male occupant jump up from a desk and take the few steps to the hatch. Both arms were placed on the counter and a huge grin with smiling eyes greeted us with a ‘how are ya in this lovely weather’. At a guess we’d of said he was in his fifties, tanned with greying hair and didn’t have a particularly strong Irish accent, giving the impression he’d travelled. 

We paid our fee not sure what to expect and as we crossed the threshold the heavy rain became drizzle and the fun began. We love remembering this bit, it was fantastic, like entering another world.

Within 10 metres we were stood outside a row of huts all displaying birds of prey of various sizes, all were sat majestically on a perch and either giving us they eye or preening themselves oblivious of our arrival. 

 From there we turned to move further into the park when we heard ponies neighing, as we looked across a large open field we saw two miniature ponies trotting over at full speed. They were oblivious to another group of birds on perches to their right and a flock of chickens who were directly in their path, they seemed to have one mission in mind and that was to reach us.

Once they did they greeted us with a muzzle in our hands and a nudge for a pat on the head, this was gladly given as who could refuse something so small and loveable, as we walked on more people were coming through the gate and they moved their attention towards them.
The staff were very informative and passed on vast amounts of information about the birds, such as how they came to be at the centre and where they would originally be found, they were able to answer any questions thrown at them and their passion for preservation was very evident. 

From entering we’d passed eagles, sparrow hawks, vultures and owls plus many other breeds and eventually wound round to a large open wooden seating area, there were bins strategically placed with a few large umbrellas placed inside, if the heavens opened we would be making a grab for one of these.

Once sat a talk was given which was both very educational but fun at the same time and appealed to the very young in the audience as well as the older, it started to rain so umbrellas were grabbed and we all huddled beneath them whilst the talk continued and an explanation of the display was given, with a slight caveat attached, that if it rained too heavy the birds wouldn’t fly and we would have to go indoors, think we can safely say we all had our fingers crossed it would be outside, much better in an outside arena. 

Out they came, one by one and through the expert handling of the staff each bird had a story to tell and gave an incredible display which wasn’t just around us but involved audience interaction on a major scale. Each bird flew between us, round us and landed amongst us. 

During all this, much to our amusement, not more than 4 metres away chickens were roaming around and were occasionally chased and squawked at by what looked like a very angry cockerel, slightly surreal experience. 

It was awesome, the knowledge and passion displayed was incredible, conservation and understanding of these incredible birds was clearly the main aim of the talk and the display, the children within the audience will hopefully have gained a love for them and not a fear which sadly many people have and destroyed them without a care. Hopefully this will apply to adults too, as they can be the harder to convince as have set views. 


The air display eventually came to an end and we were reminded of the petting zoo, we were undecided about going as these are usually best attended by children, but hey, we were here, so why not. Turned out to be a great decision. Just wish I’d recorded it.

The ponies from before had arrived in the arena and after saying hello again they began to walk off in the direction of the petting zoo and we all followed, you had to be there to see the funny side. 

They took us to what looked like a large metal cattle shed and we all walked in through the open double doors, on the right were pens with goats and pigs of all shapes and sizes, along the back were chinchillas and down the left side we had foxes, rabbits and an albino hedgehog, in the middle were rows of wooden benches with the ponies and a dog mingling in between. 

All good we thought, very noisy too, as they all wanted attention and food if there was any on offer, then the unexpected happened, someone let all the pigs out, from tiny potbellied ones to a huge 12 year old saddleback.  

Well, it looked like bedlam, pigs, ponies and a dog going in and out of the pews, some attempting to going under the benches and a few succeeding, others were nearly walking off with them and others were making a run for the door, many pottered around the children and adults, obviously on the look out for a nibble or two.

We did our best to stay out of their chosen route but no matter where we turned we were either shoved out the way by a pig on a mission or we bumped into a pony strutting their stuff through the shed.

It was at this point we saw a member of staff in the middle of it all, he didn’t look panicked and was in the process of showing the hedgehog to anyone who was interested, we then realised this was a petting zoo with a difference and we loved it. 

It was brilliant, fantastic interaction yet again between all the animals and visitors, it was so funny to watch the pigs charging all over the place, the ponies nudging the pigs out of the way and kids and adults alike having a ball in the middle of it all, whilst the fox was being cuddled and the hedgehog stroked and fed.

We eventually had to leave and slowly but surely forced ourselves out of the shed and along the road out and back to the car, it truly was a memorable experience and we didn’t shut up talking about it for the next few days, we couldn’t recommend a visit highly enough.

Monday arrived and we were a wee but shattered, we’d done a lot of driving and just as much sightseeing so we decided to have an ‘admin day’, this for us was a food shop at Tesco where the necessary and a few treats were bought and then once back at Pod the laundry was done yet again. 

 This time it was 4€ each for the washing machine and the dryer. Once that was done the day was spent listening to golden oldies from Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash to name just a few, all this whilst enjoying a few beers followed by a good old snooze in the chair in the fresh air and sun, when it made an appearance. Batteries were recharged and we were ready for the next day. 

Breakfast was eaten whilst we made plans for the day, we felt like a walk along a beach and decided on Bertra Beach in Westport. It had good reviews and was a Blue Flag beach as were most, if not all the beaches in Ireland. 

It was just over an hour away so off we set and it was easy enough to find, we passed Croagh Patrick on our right and if we’d of thought about it we should have left earlier and done the walk up there too, but this was about a relaxing walk along a beach as it was our last day in Southern Ireland before heading up to Drumaheglis in Northern Ireland.

Car park was free and the sun was out, there were only two other cars there and the beach was empty, perfect. Once out of the car we walked on up the beach which was a mix of sand and pebble, the sea was on its way in and the wind was picking up as it came in off the sea, we were still on the Atlantic coastline but it was no where near as strong as down south.

We turned to walk along the dunes and then back onto beach and as we walked along the shoreline a very wet looking retriever came bounding over, at this point we made the bad decision to throw stones for it, unaware that this meant he would be our companion for the next half hour as we continued our walk around the peninsular. 

He was great fun and very grateful for every stone thrown and we were extremely grateful when unbeknown to him, whilst he was cavorting in the water a curious seal popped its head out of the water not 3 metres behind him. 

All this whilst his owner who was some 100 metres or so away shouted his name ‘Charlie’ in vain. The poor woman in the end had to walk all the way back up the beach to collect her wayward dog, she reached us full of apologies and eventually managed to entice Charlie away as she disappeared from sight, still shouting his name. 

 Lunch was calling so we continued round the beach keeping an eye out for more seals and eventually reached the car without seeing anymore, it was a beautiful bay and beach and in the height of summer we could imagine how busy it would be.

Driving along the road we searched good old google for a place to eat and we found The Tavern Bar and a Restaurant, reviews were good and as we arrived it looked ok. In we went, staff were friendly enough so we sat and ordered food. Lamb shank for one and fish for the other. 

 Within minutes the meals arrived and to one of us this didn’t seem right, takes more than a few minutes to cook chips, never mind the fish and lamb. But we tucked in and the lamb went down very well, can’t say the same for the fish and chips, so much so they weren’t eaten. Chips were oven chips and the fish was greasy, not what we’d come to expect of the eateries we’ve tried. 

Once back at Knock we sat in the awning with a view down the site and planned our route for the next day, our trip to Ireland was slowly coming to an end and the following day we would be up early, packed and off to Drumaheglis Marina and Caravan Park.. check it out in Part 4.

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