Highclere Castle in Berkshire, home to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, was largely built by Sir Charles Barry while he worked on the Houses of Parliament. With grounds laid out by Capability Brown (of course), the house and family also have links with the history of planes through Sir Geoffrey de Havilland and with Tutankhamun’s Tomb, which was discovered by the 5th Earl. The name is also familiar to those who are fans of horseracing, with the current Earl’s father, the 7th Earl, the Queen’s racing manager until his death in 2001.
This particular angle of the house is instantly recognisable from Downton Abbey, the well-loved TV series and film made here. While the fictional Downton Abbey is in Yorkshire, the blue skies and sunshine make it obvious that we are in fact in Berkshire [less of that, thank you].
The gardens around the house are extensive, with some pretty wonderful tulip varieties in bloom in the spring.
We decided [somewhat foolishly] to drive from Leeds to Wales to Lincoln over the course of two days, to spend New Year’s Eve with friends in Cardiff and then visit other relatives on New Year’s Day – we covered a fair few miles, but of course found time to stop off at a National Trust house in Worcestershire on the way. Excited for this one, we got out of the car and showed our cards, only to be told that the house was closed. Slightly disappointed, we decided to go to the café anyway (obviously) and maybe to walk around the gardens. So, we wandered up the drive of Hanbury Hall, and as we approached a lovely tour guide called out of the front door to ask us if we wanted to join a tour. Naturally, we did – when he said that we couldn’t, as it was full. Somehow, though, we ended up in the hallway of this beautiful house, and on a tour. We weren’t complaining, if slightly confused…
Built in 1701, the house has a colourful history with many family stories and much scandal. We were taken through a number of the rooms on the ground floor and talked through the family history. The Christmas decorations were also pretty wonderful, with garlanding on the stunning stairs, which were painted by Sir John Thornhill, of St Paul’s Cathedral dome, the Painted Hall at Greenwich and Chatsworth fame. The legend has it that he and his painting team made a fair bit of mess, which resulted in him painting in the housekeeper’s face to one of the cherubs…
[Haven’t read part 1 yet? You can find it here!]
You know we love the National Trust. They don’t sponsor our blog (maybe they should!), but they just always seem to appear in the right place at the right time, even when you haven’t planned it…
What we did plan was a day of walking, exploring the beautiful coastline around the Fowey area. One trip to the tourist information centre later, and we found ourselves with an invaluable National Trust map of walks. It took us to secluded coves…
We made friends with some frankly hilarious-looking pigs…
It’s time for the second (and final, sob) summer holiday post of the year… After our rather more exotic trip to the Algarve, we decided to re-run last year’s brilliant camping holiday to our beloved Cornwall. However, this time we thought we’d try somewhere new – Padstow, Mevagissey, we love you, but this year we drove to Fowey, two days before the miserably forecast Bank Holiday weekend.
But fabulous as Cornwall nearly always is, we arrived to its own micro-climate of bright sunshine and barely a cloud in the sky… Fowey welcomed us with brightly-coloured houses and bunting all over the town, steep hills to the car park (ouch!) and picturesquely narrow streets.
To road-test my fancy new pay-monthly National Trust membership [previously you had to pay for the full year in one go, but now you can pay by monthly direct debit: currently £5/month], we paid a long-overdue visit to Avebury in Wiltshire. You may know Avebury for the prehistoric stones, in the manner of Stonehenge – some would say Avebury is far superior! Although less impressive as a photo-op because they are more widely spread, the stones at Avebury cover a [much] bigger area and are many more in number. It’s also a wonderfully cute village [partly encircled by the stones] and contains a manor house which is also worth a visit.
Avebury Manor was chosen in 2009 by the BBC for a restoration project (The Manor Reborn) with the NT. They restored each room from a different era of its life and ownership, making it the first ‘hands on’ house – everything is touchable, which makes it a great place for children (and adults! [it’s amazing, you can even try out the beds…]) to visit. The dining room (above) is a Georgian recreation, where it’s entirely possible to sit at the table as though you were taking part in that excellent cheese course… Featuring real port too, judging by the smell! [Real, yes, but I wouldn’t advise drinking it…]
Below is a detail from Alexander Keiller‘s sitting room, in rather garish 40’s style – he was the archaeologist who excavated and restored the stones, and made Avebury the site it is today. We may have played with this camera for a fair while…
So I grew up in the countryside. Next to a farm, in fact. But after a few years in London it’s a bit exciting to go to a farm park… Especially one where you can hold bunnies, since that just doesn’t happen on normal farms.
As a result, on day two of our Cotswold adventure, we visited the Cotswold Farm Park. Tickets were a little expensive, at £9.25 each, but there was plenty to see.
We [she] definitely didn’t elbow any children out of the way to cuddle these bunnies:
Or these chicks (their feathers were so soft!)
As a very welcome and exciting surprise, I was taken to the Cotswolds on 24 hours’ notice. Excitement! Our first stop was Bourton-on-the-Water, a town chosen mainly for its tandem-hiring ability but one which turned out to be picturesque and gorgeous.
You may remember us hiring a tandem bike in Cornwall. We now consider ourselves practically pros [that might be pushing it], although it turns out that Gloucestershire isn’t quite as flat as the Camel Trail near Padstow… Our tandem trail took us to Upper and Lower Slaughter (much nicer than they sound!) complete with beautiful little church to explore.
Be prepared for a bit of a bumper post today. We have no self-control when it comes to animals [I’ve been waiting ages for a chance to try my hand at some nature shots], especially with a zoom this good…
We spent the day at Longleat as part of our Bath/South West weekend. I’d been there a few times before, but couldn’t wait to see the variety of exotic wildlife at this world-famous safari park. [I’d never been before, but it had certainly had its praises sung.] And it didn’t disappoint.
First on the trail – the giraffes, of varying ages and sizes…
They were being kept company by some zebras, sporting their fashionable monochrome.
[Normally I’m the one behind the camera, but in our “guest photographer” posts, I take a back seat while my other half upstages me using my old camera… these are the results]
…And my shots of Bath, with some different topics this time; maybe I’m getting more of a photographer’s eye?!
The stunning Royal Crescent, blurred behind one of the last summer roses:
A typical Bath street.
Last weekend we wanted a fun time away, so we decided to head to Bath. Not too far from London, and with plenty to see, it was an ideal place to spend a lovely weekend. We arrived, and went for a wander around the city. So much beautiful Georgian architecture:
We then went to the Assembly Rooms; although they were closed for an event we managed to sneak a couple of photos… [I might have been ushered out soon afterwards]