Alcester, Warwickshire

I can hardly believe that it’s 12 years since we first visited the small town of Alcester in Warwickshire for the first time. We have a grandfather clock which was made there according to its face, and as we had never heard of the place we decided to go and have a look at it.

Alcester , Warwickshire, Tudor houses

We really liked the town, it had a lovely atmosphere so we weren’t surprised to discover that it had made it to the top of a survey of best places to live in in England. It’s full of chocolate box Tudor houses, which all seem to lean into each other as if they are holding each other up.

Alcester, Warwickshire, Tudor houses

Sadly on our recent visit the pub had obviously had a very serious fire in its roof space as you can see below, but it was being fixed, not pulled down as so many much more recent buildings have been. The building to the right of it looks much more modern but it might just have been modernised over the years, I suspect that originally most of the buildings in the centre of Alcester would have had thatched roofs.

Alcester , Warwickshire, Tudor houses

We had a look at St Nicholas Church. Some people had been hard at work creating this tapestry/needlepoint of some of the local buildings. I’m not sure what it had to do with religion but it’s very attractive anyway.

Alcester Church Tapestry

Alcester (pronounced Aulster) is quite close to Stratford-upon-Avon.

I have posted about it previously, here and here.

 

Dumbarton Castle and environs

Dumbarton Football Club ground

Back in September Jack wanted to go to Dumbarton to watch a football match there, he’s a loyal supporter of Dumbarton Football Club – through thick and thin and at the moment it’s quite thin! Anyway, I’m not a huge football fan so I opted to visit Dumbarton Castle which is situated right at the football ground. As you can see below the info board names it Dun Breatann, Fortress of the Britons. Over the years the town which grew around the fort became known as Dumbarton, it’s a bit easier to say I suppose.

Dumbarton Rock info board

Although it’s called a castle it isn’t anything like Stirling or Edinburgh, but in its day it was one of the most important fortresses in Scotland. Ships sailed from here to France and elsewhere. Mary Queen of Scots sailed for France from the castle, she was also imprisoned here, and of course escaped. There have been lots of drawings of the area over the centuries and in some of them the patch of grass in the photo below has a house on it, it was demolished long ago. Behind the wall to the right are steps, when I was wee they used to say there was a step for every day of the year but now they say there are over 400. As a wee girl I tried to count them, but I always got a different tally.

Dumbarton Castle, Dumbarton Rock

And here are some of the steps in the photo below, these ones are right at the beginning and are possibly some of the steepest. It’s not a good place to visit if you aren’t good with stairs! On the other hand it will keep you fit.

Dumbarton Castle stairs, Dumbarton Rock

The photo below is of a small part of the rock face. The whole thing is a volcanic plug.

Dumbarton Rock face, Dumbarton Castle

At the moment some areas are cordoned off. The building below is known as the French Prison because during the Napoleonic wars it was used to house French prisoners, it’s apparently going to be refurbished and will then be open to the public, it never has been in my lifetime.  The sunken area below with the metal bars in it is part of it too but is in much worse condition.

French prison, Dumbarton Castle

 

French Prison, Dunmbarton Castle

More rockiness!

Dumbarton Castle, Dumbarton Rock

There are still cannons in place. This has always been a very strategic place, at the confluence of the River Clyde and River Leven.  The Romans were here, and the Vikings and it’s amazing how often it’s mentioned in historical fiction.

Dumbarton Rock, Dumbarton Castle, cannons

It was low tide at the River Clyde when I was there.

Dumbarton Castle, Dumbarton Rock, River Clyde

 

Dumbarton Castle, River Clyde

Below is a photo of some of the stairs seen from above. The small white building is a guard house and that hadn’t been open to the public before. Looking at this photo it strikes me that you need a head for heights!

Dumbarton Castle, Rock

Below is the River Clyde again. It’s a pity it was such a grey day as the views are spectacular when it’s bright.

River Clyde, Dumbarton Rock

Looking to the other side of the river in the photo below is a small part of the town, Dumbarton. I lived close to this area and it was my playground when I was a wee girl, but all of these houses and flats are new, sometimes the rivers pay them a visit!  The Sunderland aircraft factory took up a lot of the land where these houses are now.

Dumbarton

If you cast your mind back to when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married you might remember thet the Queen bestowed the Scottish title on them of Earl and Countess of Dumbarton on them. It was supposed to be an honour for the town I’m sure but they were unimpressed. It was expected that they would pay a visit to Dumbarton soon after they married as that’s what normally happens, but apparently (if you can believe the tabloids) the couple took it as an insult instead of the honour it was meant to be – something to do with the word ‘dumb’ apparently. Honestly, how daft can you get!

 

Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

Bradford on Avon Street, Wiltshire

 

Swan Hotel, Bradford on Avon

Bradford on Avon is a small town, hilly and quaint, and it wasn’t until our last morning there that we actually found time to explore it as we had been so busy going elsewhere. It’s a good base for touring the area.

Bridge tea rooms , Bradford on Avon

While I was doing a bit of research into the place I discovered that The Bridge Tea Rooms have won a ‘best tea room’ competition this year – and not for the first time, obviously we had to check it out. As you can see it’s housed in a medieaval building, you have to stoop to get through the door, even if you are small. It’s steeped in mock Victoriana kitsch, which might be what had attracted the competition judges, but it didn’t come up to the standards of any of the tearooms that we frequent in Scotland, where it’s normal to be given a choice of flavours of home-made jam with your scone. I could go a lot further but I’ll leave it at that! Possibly it won a competition for Victorian style tea rooms.

Bridge Tea Rooms, Bradford on Avon

Bridge Tea Rooms , Bradford on Avon

If you are into books and you are near the town you will definitely enjoy visiting the shop Ex Libris. Within about seven minutes I had found seven or eight books that I just had to buy.

If you  love rivers and bridges as I do it’s almost worth visiting the town just for a look at this ancient bridge. We enjoyed our visit but it’s a ‘once in a lifetime’ visit for us as it’s a long drive from home.

Bridge, Bradford on Avon,

Kennet and Avon Canal at Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

On our recent trip down south we stayed for three nights at The Barge Inn at Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire. It’s a scenic small town and is well placed for exploring the area. As you would expect we were right by the canal which turned out to be interesting, although I am now absolutely sure that I never want to go on a canal holiday!

Barge Inn ,Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

 

Canal + Barge Inn, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshiree

 

Kennet and Avon Canal , Bradford on Avon

It’s far too much like hard work and it seems that it’s the women who have all the heavy stuff to do, such as getting the lock gates open – while the men just pose about on the back of the barge with their hand on the rudder, watching. It’s the Kennet and Avon canal.

I was surprised that these two barges could get through the canal lock at the same time, below.

Kennet and Avon Canal, Bradford on Avon

We went for a bit of a walk along the canal and saw this lovely family of swans, it’s amazes me that they can stay so white when the water is so mucky (the adults).

Swans, Kennet and Avon canal, Bradford on Avon

I was surprised to see the remains of a World War 2 pill box by the side of the canal, I don’t know why because they still have them by railway lines in Fife. No doubt during the war the Home Guard would have been in them, ready to defend the area if any Nazis managed to reach the place. Luckily there was no invasion but everyone at that time was terrified that there would be, but determined literally to fight them on the beaches.

WW2 Pill box , Kennet and Avon canal, Bradford on Avon

WW2 Pill Box , Kennet and Avon canal, Bradford on Avon

 

The Roman Baths at Bath – 2,000 years of history

Roman Bath, Bath

When we approached the entrance of The Roman Baths we thought there was an enormous queue to get into it, but as we got closer we realised that the queue was for something else, so we got in straight away. As I mentioned before it’s expensive, but the ticket price included the use of an audio guide which was informative.  As we had travelled all the way from Scotland we decided that we couldn’t NOT go in.

Below is a photo of Bath Abbey which we didn’t go into, we had been in several churches and cathedrals within a few days so we gave this one a miss, however you do get a good view of it from within the Roman baths, exactly from where I took the photo above.

Bath Abbey , Bath

The photo below is of the hot springs bath, you can see the water bubbling, it’s naturally hot and that amazed the Romans, they decided it must be a sacred place which is why they built the whole complex there. In Georgian times the water level was higher, right up to where you can see the orange sort of tide mark. People used to sit on the stone blocks within the arches with their heads just out of the water. This was not for the faint hearted as the water was not at all clean after so many people using them, many of them with skin problems. It must have caused more problems than it ever cured!

hot bath Bubbling Waters , Roman Bath

It was crazily busy in the baths, especially in the interior parts. There’s a lot more to see than I had imagined. Below is a gilt bronze  head of the godess Sulis Minerva which was discovered during excavations. She’s an amalgamation of the Celtic godess Sulis and Roman godess Minerva. The Romans liked to include parts of the local religions wherever they settled.

Minerva, Roman Baths, Bath

They’ve discovered lots of things which must have been lost in the baths over the centuries, including this lovely Celtic style brooch. Whoever lost it must have been really annoyed! You can read more about the history of the place here.

Celtic Brooch, Bath, Roman Baths

In places you can look down to what was the foundations of the baths.

Roman Bath foundation stones, Bath

Below is a big plunge pool with just a small amount of water in it but you can imagine people sitting around on the stone steps having a gossip, or maybe not, this was the Frigidarium, the cold pool.

Roman Bath Pool, Bath

There were various altars around the place and below is a reconstruction of one with just the corners showing the original Roman pieces. I imagine that they thought it was a good idea to be nice and clean if they were going to be praying to Minerva or anyone else.

Roman Stones  + Pediment, Bath

Below is the remains of a horse sculpture.

Horse Sculpture , Roman Baths, Bath

And there are more figures of horses in what remains of the mosaic below.

Roman Mosaic, Bath

We spent almost two hours there and by that time we were definitely ready for lunch before going on to the next places of interest in Bath. Although the entry price seemed steep it was worth it. The model below shows what the buildings would have looked like in their heyday. The baths were covered with arched roofs as you can see, it would have made it a lot cosier than being open to the elements as they are today. There were areas for massage and general pampering, all by slaves of course. For some reason the videos and photographs of pampering were all of scantily clad women!!

Roman Bath model, Bath

Southern UK road trip – Roman Baths, Bath

I’ve been away in England for over a week. We drove down as far as Glastonbury which we hadn’t planned to do but as ever when we see places on road signs we are tempted to visit them, at one point we were also just a few miles from Avebury so we couldn’t resist.

Before that though we visited Buxton, Bakewell, Bradford-on-Avon, Bath, Frome, Stow-on-the Wold, Devises, Bathford, Midsomer Norton, as well as Glastonbury, then on the way back up north we visited Avebury, Alcester, Wakefield, Sunderland and Tynemouth. By then we were mighty glad to get home and I immediately came down with a bad cold, I’m still sneezing my head off, but at least it isn’t Covid.

We packed so much into every day that I didn’t even manage to get one book finished while we were away, I was just too tired to read at night. As I bought a lot of books in various bookshops and charity shops my book piles have expanded more than somewhat! I’ll blog about them soon. Meanwhile, below is a couple of photos I took of the Roman Baths at Bath. It’s quite expensive to get in but we spent about two hours there, it was really busy so the price doesn’t put people off. It cost £45 for us both with £1 off each ticket because we’re old! It was worth it though and we’ll never be going down that way again. Bath is a strange combination of Glasgow and Edinburgh. It has the shops of Glasgow but the Georgian buildings of Edinburgh. I almost didn’t bother going to visit Bath because it said recently on TV that Edinburgh has the hughest number of Georgian buildings of any place in Europe, but we just take them for granted and don’t make a fuss of them as they do in Bath.

Bath, The Roman Baths

The Roman Baths, Bath

Knaresborough, Yorkshire

While we were in Knaresborough in May we did quite a bit of walking around the area, going down a steep hill we got to this antiques shop which had a lot of books in it. I managed to buy a few – as usual – Jack didn’t.

Antique Shop, Knaresborough, Yorkshire

From the shop we went down some stairs by the wall to  reach the river.

Knaresborough Low Bridge

I’m a fan of bridges and this is quite a nice one I think, the area is incredibly overgrown though and you can’t see much of the river from there. Below is the River Nidd as seen from the bridge

River Nidd , Knaresborough, Yorkshire

A riverside house sounds and looks lovely but I would be worried about flooding.

River Nidd, Knaresborough, Yorkshire

The Mother Shipton Inn is also nearby.

Mother Shipton Inn, Knaresborough, Yorkshire

Back up at the town the town crier was doing his thing (how English) but there was nothing dramatic for him to tell, it was just news about local societies and their next meetings. He seems to be standing by the market cross. It looks reasonably old but apparently it’s a replica made in the twentieth century.

Knaresborough, Town Crier, Yorkshire

So that was Knaresborough, a quaint Yorkshire town, definitely worth visiting if you’re in that area.

 

Falkland, Fife

Falkland, Pond, Fife

This year is going by in a flash and it’ll be September soon, but I’m casting my mind back to a sparkling day in March when we visited nearby Falkland. The photo above is of the lodge house at Falkland House. This used to be a favourite haunt of ours when we had wee ones in the family, before we even had our own kids to take there it was loved by our niece because at that time the pond was full of ducks and all sorts of water fowl. For some reason you never see any at all nowadays. The lodge house looks idyllic, but the water flows underneath it so that will be noisy and chilly I imagine. Below is a photo I took of crocuses but they’re dark purple so quite difficult to see.

Falkland Crocuses ,Fife

From Falkland Pond, Fife

To the left of the field above the ground slopes up to the Lomonds, I’ve never gone up that way, it looks too steep.

But walking over to the right from there you get onto a woodland path which leads eventually to Falkland Palace orchard. The wee waterfall below and the bridge are close to a popular children’s play park.

Falkland Waterfall , Fife

The view below is looking over towards the villages of Auchtermuchty and Dunshalt  from the footpath which leads to Falkland Palace orchard. Nowadays Falkland is probably best known for being used as a  location in the TV series Outlander.

Fife Hills, near Falkland, Fife

In this post that I did way back in 2016 you can see the village when the film people converted the shops to look like they were in the 1950s.

Knaresborough, Yorkshire

Knaresborough Castle , Yorkshire

It was way back in November 2022 when we visited Knarseborough in Yorkshire. I’m way behind with blogging about places we’ve visited. We had never been there before but I had read about it, probably in a magazine or The Guardian. Anyway, obviously quite a lot of people had also read about it, it’s a pretty destination, but was quite busy, even in November.

Knaresborough Castle , Yorkshire

As you can see Knaresborough Castle is still imposing despite being a bit of a ruin, it dates back to around 1100.

But the viaduct is probably more well known than the castle is, it’s very high.

River Nidd Viaduct, train, Knaresborough

Knaresborough is hilly and as you can see you get an even better view of the River Nidd from higher up. We had our lunch in the town, it’s a good place to stop off. We also visited Tadcaster, Thirsk and Harrogate on that trip, but for me this was the most scenic place.

Knaresborough, River Nidd Viaduct

 

Robert Burns Cottage Garden, Alloway, Ayrshire

It ‘s quite a while now since we visited Robert Burns’s birthplace and I meant to blog about the garden soon after blogging about the cottage here, but I’m just getting around to it now.

Burns’ father planned to have a smallholding and market garden here but the plan didn’t quite come to fruition. You can walk around the area now and admire the wicker structures.

Smallholding, Burns's Cottage, Alloway

Below is a different type of ‘wicker man’.

Garden at Burns cottage Alloway, Ayrshire

Below is a wicker Tam O’Shanter on his horse Meg. Really well done I think.

Tam O'Shanter

And there’s a more formal topiary garden that you can walk around too.

Robert Burns cottage garden, Alloway, Ayrshire1

It doesn’t take long to go around the cottage and gardens but the entrance price also includes entry into a very modern Robert Burns Museum and Centre not far away, and that is very interesting, and has a good cafe!

Robert Burns cottage garden, topiary, Alloway, Ayrshire