Friday 5th May 2006
A relatively early start for our trip to Bath where we were to stay for a couple of nights. Partly because of an important local Rugby Union match accommodation was hard to find. However as the result of a late cancellation, we were lucky to get a bed at “The Kennard Hotel” a B&B in Henrietta Street within easy walking distance of the centre of the city.
On the way we called into another National Trust property, Lacock, a little over 10 miles from Bath itself. The site comprises the Abbey, the village and the Fox Talbot Museum, all of which was given to the National Trust by Fox Talbot’s daughter, Matilda. And who, you ask, was Fox Talbot? Apart from being a “gentleman scholar” of considerable means, his main claim to fame was the discovery in 1835 of the negative/positive photographic process, which is still in use today – hence the museum covering his photographic endeavours.
The Abbey, founded in 1232, is scarcely recognisable as such having been transformed into a family home in the 16th century and further remodelled by Fox Talbot in the mid 19th century.
For us the most attractive part of the Abbey was the surviving cloister court, although the village itself is not without appeal. The village was used as a location in the TV and film productions of Pride and Prejudice, Moll Flanders, Emma and The Mayor of Casterbridge. The Abbey also featured in the recent Harry Potter films.
Saturday 6th May 2006
Knowing how popular the Roman Baths were, we were at the door waiting for them to open. Those of you privy to earlier updates will know that I was there in December and my recollection of them was such that I was determined that Carol should see them too. I think I’d be correct in suggesting that she was as reluctant to leave as I had been on my earlier visit. I failed to persuade her to sample “the water”, though we did indulge ourselves with an over-priced cappuccino each in the Pump Room.
Then to Bath Abbey where I had as much difficulty persuading Carol to leave as I’d had at the Baths. In an earlier Update I had said that “I’d forgotten what an attractive church it is. To what extent that’s because as a parish church it communicates a greater intimacy, or because of its beautiful vaulted ceiling – the view of which is helped by an unbroken line of sight from West to East, I really don’t know. What I do know, is that I like it.” Now I can say with confidence that Carol does too!
Sunday 7th May 2006
This morning we joined an extended Bath City Sightseeing tour on one of the “Hop On-Hop Off” coaches which after a circuit of the centre took us further afield with stops which included Prior Park Landscape Garden. Here, we “hopped off” to explore what this National Trust property had to offer and as you’ll see from the photos we were not disappointed with the views – or for that matter (though not shown in any of the photos) the benefits of the exercise that the hour plus long “walk” provided.
Our final jaunt for the day was an hour long boat ride from the centre of Bath on the River Avon. Helped just a hint by a Pimm’s Fruit Cocktail, it was a relaxing end to a very pleasant day.
Monday 8th May 2006
The 250-mile drive from Bath to Bowness in the Lake District was made even longer by torrential rain for at least the first 150 miles – improved not at all by LRC’s developing a nastily expensive-sounding squeak, squeal and scrunch. Given the conditions, there was nothing for it but to soldier on and hope! Fortunately, the sound effects got no worse and we arrived – only marginally stressed – at our hotel. The accommodation was excellent – a lovely view from our first-floor balcony over the garden and another four-poster! But these positive features were somewhat coloured – or rather discoloured – at dinner by what seemed to us an inappropriate degree of formality which wasn’t as relaxing as we then needed.
Tuesday 9th May 2006
Partly as a break from driving which meant we could both enjoy the scenery the Lake District offered we took a full day “Ten Lakes” tour. We were picked up from our hotel in “The Mountain Goat” – appropriately named because being a mini-bus it was able to negotiate some of the narrow roads and passes that larger coaches could not. The driver/guide was excellent and provided sufficient informed commentary to maintain our interest in what we were seeing. Highlights were the cruise on the steamer “Raven” from Ullswater to Pooley Bridge, the Castlerigg Stone Circle and the Ashness Bridge.
Alfresco dinner in the sunshine at the “Spinnery” – much more enjoyable than the previous night in terms of both food and informality.
Wednesday 10th May 2006
Picked up long-standing friends, Faye and John Heggie (who were staying with friends near Kendall as part of their overseas tour) and drove to a pretty nearby village, Kirby Lonsdale. We enjoyed a lovely walk along the banks of the river Lune, up some “steep” steps into the village itself and, after a brief visit to the church, lunched pleasantly and well, again outdoors, at the “Avanti” restaurant. It was just great to be able to meet up, to introduce Carol to them and share some time together – and the fact that it was just brilliantly fine added to our enjoyment.
Thursday 11th May 2006
Today we drove to Lockerbie, the nearest place I could get accommodation to Dumfries where LRC was booked on Monday for a long overdue service and some attention to that “squeak, squeal and scrunch”. More by good luck than good management we had booked into what turned out to be one of the best hotels I’ve stayed in since being in the UK – “The Dryfesdale Country House Hotel”.
In addition to a spacious bedroom with, yet another four-poster, the view from the restaurant over the surrounding countryside was spectacular. Oh, and it has an AA Rosette!
On the way north we took a break to stretch our legs, walking the half-mile or so into Aira Force – a beautifully sited waterfall managed by the National Trust. The view was as good for our spirits as the walk was for our circulation.
Sunday 14th May 2006
Huge full Scottish breakfast – bacon, two types of sausage, haggis, black pudding, tomato, mushroom, and fried eggs – need I say more?
In overcast, drizzly and cold weather, we visited one of my long-time favourites, “Sweetheart Abbey”, in the village of New Abbey just south of Dumfries. The Abbey was founded in 1273 by Lady Devorgilla of Galloway in memory of her husband, John Balliol. On her death, she was laid to rest next to her husband’s embalmed heart and the monks named the abbey after her. Given its name, it will come as no surprise to you why I wanted to take Carol there – and my only regret is that the sun failed to come out to make the rose-coloured stone of which it is built glow as it had done on my last visit.
And, yes, she loved it!
Monday 15th May 2006
Up early this morning to get LRC to the Renault dealer so that she’d be first in the queue. The dealer shuttled us into Dumfries where we spent the morning dividing our time between very good cappuccinos and getting some photos printed off which we posted snail-mail.
Tuesday 16th May 2006
Today we drove to Creebridge in Galloway to be near Cairnryan for our “voyage” to Ireland later in the week. On the way we visited “Robert the Bruce’s Resting Stone” by Loch Clatteringshaws which despite its name was an absolutely beautiful lake. Tradition has it that Bruce rested against the stone after the Battle of Trool in 1307. This is fact commemorated by a long inscription which seems to take up most of the boulder’s surface.
As, unusually, we had some time on our hands, we backtracked to visit Kirkcudbright and, in particular, “Dundrennan Abbey” and “MacLellan’s Castle”. Of the two, Dundrennan Abbey was far and away the more attractive, helped not a little by a very atmospheric fog that rolled in whilst we there. Constructed in the second half of the 12rth century, it reflects the progressive shift of style from the Romanesque to Gothic. Mary Queen of Scots spent her last night on Scottish soil here on 15th May 1568, by which time the religious life of the abbey was all but over. Few records of the history of Dundrennan Abbey survive, but no one could fail to be charmed, as we were, by the peaceful beauty of its ruins.
By contrast, MacLellan’s Castle – the remains of a 16th-century noble residence – demonstrated how architecture evolved from the heavily defended tower house to a grand residence, which we found quite ugly by comparison.