Holiday: Marlborough – Day 5 (of 5)

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7.00am: Morning! ๐Ÿ˜Š

Swindon Designer Outlet

The latest weather forecast suggests that it’s not going to be as bad as we thought, but we still need our weekly dose of ‘retail therapy’! So, we’re NOT packing the sun cream, instead, we’re heading for Swindon Designer Outlet. Last time we were here was back in March 2012 during Ann’s birthday break/Easter week when we were staying at the National Trust’s property on the Coleshill Estate.

It was only a short drive to the land of bargain-shops, and after topping up with electrons, courtesy of InstaVolt* in Swindon, for the journey home tomorrow, we were ready to splash some cash.

*InstaVolt was a new experience for us, and from our charging session today, they are the simplest, most straightforward Chargers to use. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Ten minutes later, we were parked at the Outlet, and warming up our plastic! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Opened in 1997, this particular Outlet has been built on the site of Swindon’s Great Western Railway Works. It’s easy to get to, and is located off junction 16 of the M4. As you might expect, there’s plenty of parking and quite a few places to eat (although given the current coronavirus, many had restricted eating arrangements).

11.05am: Everyone likes a bargain, but our experiences with ‘Outlets’ is that they can be a bit ‘hit or miss’. Sometimes there’s plenty to tempt the shopper, whilst at other times there’s hardly any bargains at all. Happily, today, it was the latter for us! ๐Ÿ˜ M&S did well from our patronage with prices so low they even surprised seasoned-shoppers like us! ๐Ÿ˜

The ‘new’…

Given the Outlet’s heritage, it’s great that they’ve respected the past and blended the old with the new. They also have a regular rotation of ‘chuff-chuffs’ in the entrance on long-term display. If you like your steam locomotives, there are more details HERE on past and present exhibits.

12.45pm: All that bargain-hunting sharpened our appetite, and just before 1, we looked for somewhere to eat. Not everywhere was open (or didn’t look like they were!) so we chose Wagamama, who seemed to be doing a reasonable trade…

There’s a lot of talk at the moment about how restaurants are suffering from the impact of lockdown – happily Waga’s business doesn’t appear to be one of them (looking at how full they were and the growing queue outside). Somewhat paradoxically, if you know Waga’s format you’ll also know that their standard seating arrangements doesn’t really lend itself to these socially-distanced times – they’re just too communal!

Ingeniously however, they’d installed table-mounted moveable partitions to create a degree of separation between neighbouring tables. They could be adjusted to accommodate different group sizes and from our time there, it seemed to be a good solution to every restaurant’s nightmare.

The place was really buzzing and our food and service was excellent – in fact, apart from the partitions, it all seemed very ‘old’ normal’. They were doing a healthy trade, and the staff seemed to be enjoying themselves. No waiting around to pay the bill either, instead, we paid by mobile during our Dessert! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

1.45pm: This hadn’t been the day for lots of serious walking (we only covered just over a mile) so we drove back to the Hotel to gloat over our bargains – and to begin the process of packing. We’re home tomorrow by about lunchtime.

Push the button to see all the photos (and none of my waffle) from this week’s adventure

Holiday: Marlborough – Day 4 (of 5)

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Picture of the Day: Heale Gardens


6.30am: A bit of a lie-in this morning! ๐Ÿ˜

According to the forecast, it’s another warm one today, so we plan to make the most of it. We’re heading out to Heale House and Gardens in nearby (ish) Middle Wooton and then onto NT’s Cherhill Downs – armed with a picnic of course! ๐Ÿ˜

Actually, the day would turn out to be one of those where we covered a lot of miles (75!), but didn’t feel we’d done that much! So, let the day begin…

9.05am: Breakfast without a hitch again today! That’s a good start! ๐Ÿ˜Š Yummy sausages too!

10.55am: An hour charging the car, and we were then 96% full and had an extra 100 miles in the tank – all for less than ยฃ9! Happy days! ๐Ÿ˜Š

Heale House & Gardens

11.45am: As planned, our first stop was Heale House and Gardens. It covers eight acres of beautiful gardens and lies beside the river Avon at Middle Woodford, just north of Salisbury. Those that know me, know that history is not my specialist subject but I’ve learned that much of the house is unchanged since King Charles II hid here in 1651 before taking a hovercraft to Calais riding to Shoreham and taking a ship to France. The House and Gardens are now privately owned and judging by how full the tea-room was (with plenty of socially-distancing outside) when we arrived, it’s a popular destination. I don’t think the loo will win any prizes though – shall we say functional rather than attractive? ๐Ÿค”

Heale Gardens

More about Heale House and Garden HERE

As pretty as it all was, we’re not sure where the advertised eight acres were! We’d covered it all in about 25 minutes. Visually, the flora was a bit past its best and in truth, we were disappointed with what was on show. The upper lawns were very neglected and the roses needed dead-heading – and that looked like a few days’ work in itself, given the quantity. It all felt a bit unloved and probably not worth the ยฃ6 each to get in. A real shame! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Maybe, seasonally, we just timed it badly…???

…and the fact that the House was closed (as expected) limited our options!

Heale House

Thus far, it was all a bit lack-lustre, but at least the kitchen garden had some colour and variety in it…

1.05pm: After being slightly underwhelmed, we reverted to something much more predictable – our picnic lunch – so we set up the chairs and table next to the car and enjoyed the food and the local sunshine!

Yummy!

1.35pm: Well, at least the picnic impressed us! ๐Ÿ˜‹ Whose turn for the washing-up?

Cherhill Downs

Next stop, the ‘biggy’ for the day – Cherhill Downs. It’s a vast area owned by The National Trust and features the Cherwill White Horse, Lansdowne Monument and Oldbury Castle.

More about Cherhill Downs HERE

With these on the to-do list, we knew we were in for a treat! I’ve never seen any sort of horse-on-a-hill before and we’d both commented how interesting the Lansdowne Monument looked when we saw it on the horizon earlier in the week.

2.40pm: As things turned out, all three were out of our reach (literally!). The first challenge was actually locating the three attractions (and they’re apparently all pretty close to each other). Why? A combination of inaccurate sat-nav co-ordinates online put us down a road that was definitely lacking in any horses of colour – instead, a row of houses and a guy clipping his hedge. A quick check online gave us another post-code to follow, some 12 miles away. WTF!!!! ๐Ÿ˜ฃ

We took off, hopefully in the right direction this time. 25 minutes later… and success!… as we got close, we could see the Monument in the distance. As we counted-down the miles to the sat-nav location, it became one of those times where it was ‘blink-and-you-miss-it’ – AND WE DID! Fortunately, the roads are pretty quiet down here at the moment, so we u-turned half-a-mile-or-so later and re-traced our steps. We just couldn’t figure out where we’d gone wrong. ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿค”

It turned out that the official stop-point was actually just a lay-by (capacity, three cars, with two already there). We parked-up and looked around us – and there were the two out of three! The Horse and the Monument, both in the distance, with a makeshift path that would have challenged the best of the SAS! As we didn’t have a rope, a walkie-talkie (mobiles don’t work down here!) and only enough food for two days, we (ahem) ‘declined the opportunity’.

…and before you say ‘they don’t look that far away in the photos’, the pics above were taken on 10x zoom! ๐Ÿ™„

2.55pm: So now all we needed to do was work out where the ‘Castle’ was – and based on our performance so far, we didn’t hold out much hope! Ten minutes later, we gave up, only then to see a single damaged (small!) sign on the same side of the road around 100 metres BEFORE the very same lay-by! But by then we were driving in the opposite direction!! ๐Ÿ˜ฃ๐Ÿ˜ฃ

3.05pm: We love the National Trust and everything they do, but this was a big disappointment for us. Apart from the sat-nav error, a bit of obvious signage on BOTH sides of the road would have made all the difference! And how about a decent footpath? We’re not all mountaineers! ๐Ÿค

We headed back to the Hotel feeling that today hadn’t been one of our most enjoyable ones. It’s all pretty desperate when the highlights are 1/ a successful car-charge and 2/ the sausages at breakfast. ๐Ÿ˜Ÿ๐Ÿ˜Ÿ

7.00pm: We took an evening stroll around the local area taking in the Stonebridge Wild River Reserve.

A perfect end to an imperfect day!

The weather forecast for tomorrow is atrocious, so we’re heading INSIDE and for the Shopping Outlet in Swindon to bag some bargains.

See you tomorrow! ๐Ÿ˜

Holiday: Marlborough – Day 3 (of 5)

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Picture of the Day: ‘Cathedral Close’ near to Salisbury Cathedral


6.10am: I certainly slept better than yesterday and if they can get the service right at Breakfast after yesterday’s fiasco, then all will be right in the world!

7.55am: It’s breakfast time and I’m happy to report that it all went very smoothly and there was no visible wounds showing on the staff from where the ‘pointy stick’ had been inserted! Amazing! ๐Ÿ˜ฃ๐Ÿ˜ฃ

Guilty as Charged!

All Shiny and New!

8.45am: We’re off to Salisbury and our first stop will be the iconic site – Stonehenge. But not before we’ve made a quick pit-stop at a whizzy new EV charger located on Solstice Park Industrial Park near the town of Amesbury. It all started very well – the bay was empty! We plugged in and were soon charging Robert courtesy of the unit’s CCS plug. Thirty-five minutes later we’d added another 40-60 miles to the tank and were ready to leave. Total cost? ยฃ3.33! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Then things got tricky! As all EV owners will know, you normally cannot remove the charging cable from your car until the charge is switched off. In our case, the instructions on the Charger said ‘present debit card to cancel the charging process’. I dutifully did this, but it made no difference – the car continued to charge and I therefore couldn’t remove the cable. I tried a few more times – no change! Drastic measures were called for and it was time to press that emergency red button located on the front of the machine. I did this, the charge stopped and I released the charging cable. Success! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Now ordinarily, that would have been the end of it, but this process was to return and ‘bite us on the bum’ later… ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Read on…

Stonehenge

10.15am: We arrived at Stonehenge in good time. You can see it from the road as you drive towards the Visitor Centre – and even at a distance, it looks impressive. Once we’d parked and had our tickets checked, there was a 1ยฝ+ mile walk to the actual stones. Not for the faint-hearted, and there is a courtesy bus both ways for the ‘less inclined’.

There’s really nothing to say about Stonehenge that hasn’t already been said, except to suggest that seeing it ‘up close and personal’ was impressive. Given that it was my first time and Ann hadn’t seen it since she was at Primary School, made it all the more jaw-dropping. More information about this fantastic piece of engineering can be found on Wiki HERE. Definitely worth a visit if you’re this way, but start saving, as for non-NT/English Heritage members it’s a mighty ยฃ21.50 each to get in!

How the heck did they build this???? ๐Ÿค”

Salisbury

12.02pm: We arrived in Salisbury with just under an hour to kill before our 1pm ‘ticket’ for the Cathedral. The sun was shining, it was lovely and warm and a walk around this old town was on the cards!

Cathedral Close

Neither of us had been here before and I think we both fell in love with the place immediately! But it was sad to see so many shops in the shopping area either closed or struggling and I guess at the moment that’s the new ‘normal’. Architecturally speaking, it certainly had a lot to offer – even ex-PM, Edward Heath had a house here (the white one above) and the NT have got Mompesson House – an old town-house dating back to 1701 (currently closed because of the virus). I’m sure we’ll be back for a more detailed look around sometime soon. ๐Ÿ˜

Salisbury Cathedral

12.25pm: The main purpose of the visit was, of course, the Cathedral, and it looked glorious in the sun, against the deep-blue sky. We’d arrived slightly early for our ‘1pm timed-ticket’ but it didn’t seem to be a problem and were soon looking around inside, 35 minutes ahead of schedule.

Sadly though, this was another location where it lacked a bit of atmosphere due to an absence of people. It was all lovely to look at, but somehow sad that it only had around 20-30 visitors inside.

What I WASN’T expecting to see was the world’s oldest working clock (above right) dating back to 1386! It was fully restored in 1956 and it’s amazing to see it working after so many years! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Ironically, it was good to have the space to look around and to be able to take photographs without having to wait for people to move!

The Poultry Cross

1.05pm: We finished our shortish visit to Salisbury with a look at Salisbury’s famous Poultry Cross (dating back to the 14th century). It did look somewhat out of place amongst the much newer retail units surrounding it though! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Bum Bitten!

Then things turned a bit weird! As we’d made such good progress today, we decided to revisit the EV charger that we’d used at the start of our day. Within an hour of arriving there, we wished we hadn’t! Remember that earlier I said it was going to “bite us on the bum” – this was that time! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

It all started so innocently…

We pulled up at the charger to see that there was a Tesla already plugged-in and another EV driver, cable in hand, next to the Tesla with a Kia Soul looking very perplexed. I did my ‘Good Samaritan’ bit and showed her what to do, but the problem was that none of us could charge anything until the Tesla had finished. Whilst we waited for Mr tesla to return, they got stuck into their lunch and so did we. Thirty minutes later, the Tesla driver returned to unplug.

So far, so normal… ๐Ÿ™„

You’ll recall earlier that I’d had trouble getting the EV charger to err, stop charging – so did our Tesla colleague. I advised him to do what I’d done during our first visit and hit the red emergency button. He was a bit reluctant to do so, but with ‘next door’ and us in the queue for charging, he felt a bit under pressure. He duly hit the button and the good news was that it released the cable. With a big grateful smile on his face, he said thanks and drove away…

Our ‘neighbour’s’ needs were greater than ours, so we let them charge next. Only at that point, we realised that hitting the red button had caused the Charger to completely crash – so NONE of us could use it. Our new neighbour jumped on their phone to ChargeMaster, who then reset the machine from their end (more waiting around). Success (eventually) and their car was put on charge. We waited for theirs to finish, but the combined impatience of Ann and me meant waiting 25 minutes was too long and we departed…

In the end, we ‘lost’ about 75 minutes faffing about. If only we HADN’T gone back to the Charger this afternoon! ๐Ÿ˜

Pewsey

Our next stop was the quaint town of Pewsey. We’d picked it because it sounded sweet and had a canal basin (Pewsey Wharf) to look round. On arrival, it was clear Pewsey was a ‘one-horse-town’ where the said ‘horse’ had left years ago. I’m sure it’s a very nice place to live, but there wasn’t much going on – but bizarrely it did have a railway station (Nearby larger Marlborough hasn’t!). We parked in the town’s Co-Op car-park and started to explore…

After a quick wander round the almost-deserted town, we discovered a pathway to a wood…

…and it turned out to be the high point of Pewsey (so far) – a gorgeous walk with some beautiful views of nature doing what it does best! ๐Ÿ˜

More about Pewsey…

From Country Life magazine: Although architecturally not award-winning, this large Wiltshire village, which lies to the south of Marlborough, comes up trumps in terms of amenities. โ€˜The reason is because it serves all the nearby hamlets,โ€™ says Gill Sharpe of Carter Jonas. It has a butcher, a baker, a post office, a large supermarket and a good florist (China Rose) plus other independent shops lining its small high street. The village also hosts a monthly farmerโ€™s market and the annual Pewsey Carnival. โ€˜Itโ€™s a popular location as house prices are lower than nearby Marlborough and itโ€™s a great alternative for those seeking a village rather than town life’.

4.05pm: Our final stop was the previously mentioned Pewsey Wharf. If the fullness of the car-park was an indication of popularity, we were onto a good thing as we got the final space!

It was no indication at all! I don’t know who owned all the cars, but hardly anyone was around. We started to walk along the canal tow-path but after nearly tripping over an abandoned sink and looking at the general state of the area, we turned around! ๐Ÿ˜• The whole area looked a bit unloved even though there were plenty of barges moored along the way.

4.40pm: We returned to the car and back to the hotel.

Phew!

Today felt like a busy day! Stonehenge was not to be missed, whilst the town of Salisbury was beautiful. Our double-dabble with the EV charger put a bit of a downer on it all (but as experienced EV drivers will already know, it’s all part of the EV-owner learning curve!). Pewsey was slightly disappointing, but at least it allowed us to keep up our daily walking routine where we covered FIVE MILES ๐Ÿ˜

Tomorrow we’re heading out to Heale Garden and the Cherhill Downs.

Holiday: Marlborough – Day 2 (of 5)

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Along the Kennet & Avon Canal…


6.45am: Morning all! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Strangely, I didn’t sleep too well, waking up at 2.30am (!!!) accompanied by a head that felt like I’d overdone it on the shandies! Disappointingly, I hadn’t!!! I popped a few pills and tried to get back to sleep. My pounding head (like my hairline) receded quickly, but I never really returned to the land of slumber – so that’s not a great start to the break! ๐Ÿ˜ฃ

I was up before 7am (why, I’m not sure; I guess I’m a creature of habit!) thinking about what we might do today. We don’t know the area too well, so a sense of wonderment awaits…

The weather is slightly improved on yesterday’s forecast for today – so that’s a plus! ๐ŸŒž๐ŸŒž

8.55am: Breakfast in the hotel was an unforgettable event – for all the wrong reasons! I’ll leave it at that and put it down to the effects of coronavirus and its impact on managing the process of getting food-to-table! โ˜น๏ธโ˜น๏ธ Hopefully, it’ll be better tomorrow (it could hardly be worse!!)

9.45am: Let our morning walk begin! First of all we took a wander down Marlborough’s very long and very wide high street – and it was very pretty in an ‘olde worlde’ sort of way…

…then a short walk down towards George Street attempting to find the town’s EV charging points for future reference. We’d located it on the map before we travelled – and it said it was broken – but we wanted to check. Drat!, it was still sporting a flashing red light (not a good sign) and its neighbour wasn’t sporting any lights at all! Good job we weren’t desperate! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Onwards and upwards (downwards actually, towards the River Kennet).

A room with a view…

10.45am: Next stop was the next charging point on the map – the local Tescos. Great news (at last) in that it was working AND it was FREE – just a short drive too from our hotel. It was only a 7-watter though!

11.10am: Then it was our turn for a ‘bit of posh’ and we headed to the local Waitrose in the town centre to stock-up for picnic later. There was strict queuing to get in and the Fascist guy on the door was taking his responsibilities VERY seriously! If he’d been 60 years younger, we think he would have been part of the Hitler Youth!

11.55am: With the car’s suspension suitably strained with our provisions, we took the short drive to West Kennet Long Barrow a 5,000-year-old burial chamber close to the famous Silbury Hill (I know, just call me an ol’ romantic!) ๐Ÿ˜‚. As we got closer, it all felt very familiar, but Ann’s normal forensic memory for these sort of things convinced me I was wrong. From parking in the nearby lay-by to the actual site itself, I just knew we’d seen it all before (but my long-term memory is normally appalling). ๐Ÿค”

Not bad for 3000BC!

Even after Ann had been inside, it was all still very unfamiliar to her, whilst I was getting an even stronger feeling of its familiarity! ๐Ÿ™„

“I’ve definitely been here before”

In fact, it wasn’t until we got home and I checked back through these blog-posts that I found it! We’d both been there in April 2012. If smugness was a colour, it would be the brightest of reds by now! ๐Ÿ˜Ž

12.35pm: Luckily, for marital harmony, we both remembered going to our next stop back in November 2011Avebury (jointly looked after by both The National Trust and English Heritage). It’s a sort of ‘Stonehenge Lite’ in terms of the stones’ size, but it trumps Stonehenge in terms of how many stones and how spread-out they are. There were originally around 100 stones built roughly between 2850 BC and 2200 BC and it’s an impressive location. As the notice in the entrance boasts ‘The largest stone circle in the world’. There is also the Manor House that has been renovated and was subject of a short documentary featuring Penelope Keith entitled To the Manor Reborn also back in November 2011.

1.45pm: You could tell that the sprogs were on holiday – it was packed… and noisy too! Thankfully, we found a shady spot free of screaming urchins for our picnic (sponsored by Waitrose) ๐Ÿ™‚

Sponsored by Waitrose!

Our final stop for the day was another shortish drive, this time into Devizes. Specifically, we were looking for the famous multiple lock-gate construction called Caen Hill Locks – a total of 29 locks with a rise of 237 feet over 2 miles with a 1 in 44 gradient! It promised a jaw-dropping site!
More information HERE.

I’ve got to say, its location was pretty well hidden (note to self: look on their website next time for a detailed map and parking arrangements). We drove through Devizes and almost out the other side before Ann spotted a small sign on the opposite side of the road. We were soon parked and took the walk alongside the canal with the famous locks in the distance.

Looking at it ‘for real’ rather than in a photograph really amplified the architectural genius of its construction and therefore seemed only right to stop off at the nearby Caen Hill Cafรฉ and enjoy an ice-cream in celebration! ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š

4.30pm: This place really wowed us. Brilliant engineering that took a real-world problem and solved it! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

5.15pm: Wow! what a day! The weather was on our side, and we saw a lot more than we thought we would. We did plenty of walking too and covered over 7 miles! ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜…

Stonehenge tomorrow! ๐Ÿ˜

Holiday: Marlborough – Day 1 (of 5)

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The Castle and Ball Hotel, Marlborough


10.00am: Well, here we are back in ‘holiday-mode’ where we’re spending six days in and around the beautiful town of Marlborough.

11.35am: Our first stop though was to drop in on our (recently-discovered-long-lost-cousins) Chris & Kate in Maidenhead for a quick hello and a cuppa! Then it was off to the nearest EV charging area to our destination – Chieveley Services just off the M4. A quick review of the options at this unglamorous (but necessary) location revealed a mix of plug options. The guy next to us in his eMini advised us to wait until he’d finished and we could use the one he was using. The benefit? It was a 50kW ‘CCS’ variant (rather than the 7kW ‘Type 2’ of the one we were parked in front of). And after his departure, we re-positioned the car, plugged in and put 31.2 kW in the tank. This gave us over 120 extra miles and at ‘just’ 30p per kW (totalling ยฃ9.36) we were ready to go within the rather unhelpful auto-disconnect time of 45 minutes! (just giving us time for a quick something to eat). Perfect! ๐Ÿ˜.

Stay awake at the back! ๐Ÿ˜ด๐Ÿ˜ด

Just be aware that parking is limited to just two hours here and after that, it’s an extortionate fee of ยฃ25 to stay any longer! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Ugly, but essential!

4.35pm: Next stop was our final stop – and temporary home for the duration – the Castle and Ball Hotel just off the town’s very wide thoroughfare.

Check-in was pretty straightforward and after some initial issues trying to connect to their wi-fi, we were soon in room 15, unpacking, and all set for what the area had to offer!

The weather forecast for the rest of the week here is dry, with the temperature in the low 20s. It therefore looks like the perfect conditions for a bit of walking and I’ll post more details about that over the coming days!

That’ll do nicely!

More news tomorrow… ๐Ÿ˜€

Brideshead Visited

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Castle Howard


It’s another cultural day-out with our friends, Dennis and Sandra, this being our eighth adventure.

Together, we’ve previously enjoyed:-

The Royal Armouries Museum (March 2019)
Bolsover Castle (October 2018)
Belton House (May 2018)
York (February 2018)
Burghley House (October 2017)
Hull (May 2017)
Leeds (February 2017)

Castle Howard is a private residence, north of York and has been the home of the Carlisle branch of the Howard family for more than 300 years. It’s probably best known though for Granada Television‘s 1981 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and 2008’s remake for the cinema. You can read more about this stunning home on Wiki HERE.

Getting there was pretty straightforward, with part of our journey by car, and part by train. It was an early start from home though, leaving just before 7am in the dark and the damp to join our York-bound train from Peterborough at 8.18. Gosh, it reminded us of our working days! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ …and maybe not in a good way!

As things turned out, our journey was about as good as it gets! In spite of joining the rest of mankind on the A14 heading east, we had a straightforward journey… no queues… no jams.. in fact, it was all perfectly normal! A text-book travel experience, with only the ‘car park full’ sign at Peterborough causing a momentary ‘wtf?!’ moment (before ignoring it altogether and finding plenty of spaces!).

All aboard from platform 4, and we were soon looking for our seat for the 80-minute journey. The rail-franchise was previously operated by Virgin Trains, but they’ve fallen from grace in recent months and LNER has picked up the baton.

A ‘Full English’ for Ann, whilst I wrestled with a big decision

Ann had bagged us a bargain and bought 1st Class seats for just a few extra shekels. Super-comfy seats, a ‘proper’ full English breakfast/Bacon Butty with attentive staff were all part of the deal – OK two-out-of-three isn’t bad I suppose! ๐Ÿ˜‹ where the most difficult decision for me was whether it’s ketchup or HP*???

*HP obviously! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Our train slipped into York just two-minutes late, and we headed for our pre-arranged meeting point, the rear car-park, where we met up with Dennis and Sandra and their new family member โ€” a BMW i3. Ahh, another experienced motorist joins the EV revolution! ๐Ÿ”Œ

Twenty-five minutes later, we were parked and heading for the entrance. It’s clearly a popular destination (based on how full the car-park was, even at 10.15!) and although this was my first visit Ann had been here some 40 years earlier! The extra attraction for the Christmas period in 2019 was that the House had been decorated using the theme ‘A Christmas Masquerade‘. It’s running from 16 November until 5 January 2020, and as we were to find out, it wasn’t to disappoint…

Wow! What an experience! If you like your colours, vibrant and varied (we do!) and complemented by the ‘olde worlde’ charm of an old House, this is THE place to spend time. Each room was drenched in colour either though the displays themselves or a range of cleverly positioned lighting.

Sunglasses should have been an optional extra, but it all worked beautifully! Take a look at the pics below…

It was real assault on the eyeballs (in a good way) where every successive room seemed to be bolder and brighter than the previous…

The old and the new working very well together…

…and no Christmas theme would be complete without err, a tree would it..?