Having had a wonderful night at Fletchers Farm, we hit the road north, Ruby’s wheels heading for Edinburgh. Unfortunately it seemed the rest of the world were also heading north and our 3 hour journey turned into a 5 hour journey. We did however manage to stop off at Carter Bar for lunch and we found the journey along the A66 very picturesque- we normally are on this stretch at midnight!
We arrived at Keith’s cousin Simon’s house in Leith late afternoon and embarked on a lovely couple of days in the sunshine enjoying one of our favourite cities.
We like Leith and as the Proclaimers sang, the sun really DID shine on Leith during our stay. The shore
area is particularly lovely and dotted with bars with outside seating. It felt very continental.
We stocked up on Haggis too- enjoying a full Scottish breakfast and also some Haggis Scotch eggs from the market.
Despite the Fringe festival and the Tattoo being cancelled due to Covid, the centre of Edinburgh was busier than I expected- I mean not as busy as a normal August by far, but still plenty out and about.
We had a nice meal on Grassmarket and did a great 10+ mile walk taking in the sites.
It was lovely to see Simon again too.
Tomorrow we venture further north again; heading for the Cairngorms.
Keith is a huge history enthusiast and has expressed a desire to visit Colditz Castle for as long as I’ve known him. In fact, we almost made it there in Bluebell the Motorhome in 2016, however decided to stay in Austria and revisit another time when we were a little more prepared. The opportunity finally arose this year as I decided to book tickets for Keith’s Christmas present – the man who has every gadget under the sun – and it went down brilliantly! Due to work commitments, I decided that rather than drive, we would grab a quick weekend return flight from Stansted to Berlin, however I’ve included motorhome/campervan stopovers too on this blog.
We stayed overnight prior to flying at the Holiday Inn Express Stansted, which was convenient as it offers onsite parking and evening meals – we wouldn’t arrive until gone 8pm following work so would need dinner. Free breakfast was also offered, and was actually very pleasant despite it being 5am! A shuttle bus took us to the departures terminal in just 7 minutes at a cost of £3pp.
10.30am local time on Friday saw us touchdown at Berlin Schönefeld airport and by 11am we had picked up our wheels for the weekend – a VW Golf hired from Sixt.com. They did manage to sneak some added extras on which meant we ended up spending over €100 extra to the hire charge which was a bit of an irritating beginning.
Although we had flown to Berlin, due to the regularity of flights available to ensure we got the most time possible from our limited time away, our destination was 2 hours south – Leipzig. It is possible to fly direct to Leipzig however they only fly twice a week from Stansted and it didn’t work timing wise for us.
Leipzig is a very exciting place to visit as a musician, and I can’t help but feel that it’s massively overlooked on the tourist trail. Leipzig was home to J.S.Bach, who worked at Thomaskirche as the Kapellmeister for many years.
His family, many of whom were also musicians, also were based in Leipzig, and although their family home no longer exists because of WW2 Damage, the cathedral does and their neighbours and friends house is now The Bach Museum and Archives.
Inside the church you can see Bach’s grave along with many very rare and historical musical instruments from the Baroque Period.
We were lucky enough to hear the organist perform some Bach’s Organ Pieces which was incredibly moving and really very exciting.
Our visit to the Bach Museum also didn’t disappoint, we got to see some very rare, handwritten by Bach manuscript, which was ridiculously neat and just completely awesome to see. (No pics allowed)
We did some of the Music Trail although time was not on our side – you could easily enjoy 2 days + here. Other famous musicians who are linked to Leipzig are Felix Mendelssohn’s who died here- his house is now a museum which we’d have liked to have visited but we ran out of time, and Richard Wagner.
During the walking tour we enjoyed looking at some of the beautiful buildings which have survived the war including the opera house.
We also stumbled across a traditional winter fayre, which was a great chance to warm up with some Gluwein.
We had three delicious meals in Leipzig – lunch at Ratskeller, a really atmospheric beerhouse which serves local Saxon Fayre, a bratwurst at the winter fayre, and finally our evening meal at the historic and atmospheric Auerbachs Keller and tried loads of absolutely delicious local beer and even a Leipzig gin!
Our home for the night was the Mercure Hotel which as just down the road from Mendelssohn’s house and had an underground carpark for us to leave the car whilst we explored on foot.
On Saturday we were up fairly early and checked out at 9am. Keith was very excited as today was our trip to Colditz Castle. His reaction as we caught our first sight of the beautiful looking castle was priceless.
I’d booked us the extended tour (€18 pp payable in cash on arrival) and we were surprised to learn that we were the only one booked on the tour – so it was to be a private tour – an unexpected perk of being out of season. Our guide Steffi, began leading us around the vast corridors, cellars, and grounds, giving us brilliant commentary throughout.
Colditz Castle is a striking Renaissance Castle, sat perched on a large rocky outcrop, high above the River Mulde and became best known during WW2 – it was used as a High Security Prisoner of War camp for allied officers who had repeatedly tried to escape from other POW camps. Despite being considered as a high security camp, it had the highest number of successful escape attempts and only one assassination, and that was, according to Steffi, an accident. Prisoners here were treated with respect and a little more dignity than elsewhere and had huge libraries to peruse, a fully functional theatre in which they used to put on full scale productions and also the dorms were less crammed in and some officers even had their own rooms which were bigger than you may expect.
During the tour we got to see the famous gap in which Pat Reid managed to escape from – he later went on to develop the famous boardgame “Escape from Colditz”;
The French tunnel which ran 44m in length right underneath the chapel
The end of the British tunnel
the attic room where the famous glider was built in secret and found when the Americans liberated the castle
and much more. We saw the theatre, complete with secret trap door under the stage,
the officers rooms, the British Dorms, and heard story after story of escape efforts – some successful and some not. Despite the nature of the history here it was hard not to feel inspired here, the sheer determination of those who were held here almost lives on in the walls, its just truly fascinating – even for someone who isn’t such a history buff as her husband!
Our tour was supposed to last 2 hours, but Steffi, encouraged by our enthusiasm and interest I think, showed us some extra places and we actually ended up being there for over 3 hours!
There is a Campsite within walking distance if you go in your campervan/motorhome and also a Stellplatz (overnight parking area) in the next town – although Colditz is very small and I’m not sure I’d fancy driving our old motorhome up to the castle.
Our final stop of the trip was 1.5 hours down the road on the border of Czech Republic, at Bastei. This addition to our itinerary was last minute after reading about it in the Lonely Planet Germany Book and my goodness are we pleased we discovered it.
Bastei is a large area of rock formations which tower 194m high above the River Elbe. There is a fabulous bridge nestled amongst the rocks and lots of viewing platforms dotted around – some of which aren’t for the faint hearted, especially when they are covered in ice and snow as they were for our visit!
I managed to put my big girl pants on and conquered them all, despite a few deep controlling breathes and jelly legs as you can just about see from this pic!
We managed an hour of exploring the paths before we lost the sunlight
and enjoyed a bratwurst sausage and beer (alcohol free for me being Des, but it was fab!!) at the kiosk just as they shut, before returning to our car and discovering a car parking ticket -whoops!
Our journey back to Berlin Schönefeld Airport took just under 2 hours, where we stayed in an airport hotel (which was grim but served its purpose) ready for our extremely early 06.30 flight back home. We had a lovely traditional meal of Schnitzel at the local Gasthaus – which we needed to drive to as there was nowhere within walking distance of the hotel and no restaurant at the hotel. Check out the size of those Schnitzel’s!
We had a brilliant time – and can’t believe we were actually only in Germany for a day and a half. We covered 582km/361m and found German roads brilliant. A note to myself, next time the car hire kiosk asks me if I would prefer automatic or manual – get automatic! I kept going for an invisible gear stick!
Until Next Time (which won’t be long as this time next week we will be in the Lake District for half term in Ruby- woo)
Sometimes the best laid plans are those that are conceived after a few too many sherbets in the village local. That’s certainly how this little weekend’s escape came about; an unplanned pub session on Halloween saw us chatting to a local about all things Pagan. Keith was explaining to anyone who would listen about the end of harvest festival Samhain, and a local farmer went on to tell us that if we liked that sort of thing then we should check out Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival. A few days later and after a Google and Instagram reccy, we were booking a campsite and blocking the January weekend out of our new diary.
Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival has been happening longer than records exist. It begins on the Tuesday following Plough Monday (the 1st Monday after Twelfth Night), when it became customary to dress one of the confraternity of the plough in straw and call him a Straw Bear. The Bear then is led around the town to entertain in a clumsy and frantic manner whilst the townsfolk provide great spreads of beer, beef and tobacco. The straw for the bear was carefully selected and the whole point of the exercise was to hope for good fertility and a good harvest in the year ahead.
We originally booked to stay at nearby Northey Lodge campsite due to its close proximity to Whittlesey- an easy walk apparently. However, on arrival on Friday we had one of the most bizarre arrival and check in procedures that we’ve ever encountered, leaving us both rather creeped out to be perfectly honest, and so as the site itself was an absolute dump and the electrics were hanging off with loose wires on show, the shower covered in plastic and the next door caravan sporting a large “no valuables left inside” we made a sharp exit and went elsewhere.
Thankfully The Camping and Motorhome Club have a Club Site, Ferry Meadows Peterborough fairly close by and they could accommodate us for the weekend. Phew.
Friday night was spent downing a few beers and a homemade turkey balti whilst mulling over our day; it had started with us playing a gig and accompanying the State Secretary for Health in a dance with a resident at a celebration lunch and finished with this bizarre encounter at Northey Lodge.
Saturday arrived and it was time to figure out how we would get to Whittlesey. There was a bus stop nearby to the Campsite which we could have used along with a connecting bus in Peterborough, and also a train service from Peterborough but to get to the station was around a 4 mile walk. We needed up grabbing a local cab for just £14 each way for ease, speed and laziness. Once in Whittlesey we soon found the heart of the festival, on Market Street, and it wasn’t long until the Straw Bear had been located for a selfie! 🤳
There were loads of different Morris dancing teams, all with their own individual style and costume. Some had black face paint, others had multicoloured.
We found a souvenir programme and found the history of the Morris dancers really interesting. We also learnt that this is the biggest Morris dancing event in the UK and teams come from across the country to participate.
We followed the Straw Bear and his team of minders and musicians along the high street towards the Ivy Leaf where he was to have his lunch.
We made use of the hour and half gap to enjoy Morris Dancing displays outside the Wetherspoons, and of course sampling a few beers whilst we did. We particularly enjoyed the Straw Bear Ale. it was amazing to see some of the teams using really traditional instruments- we saw two hurdy-gurdy’s which was amazing!
After his lunch, the Straw Bear came back along the high street and weaved round the small streets and alleys, stopping at each pub for a dance with whichever Morris dancing team was already dancing in the car park or beer garden.
I don’t know if it were a coincidence or not, but as time ticked on and more pubs were visited, the Bear’s dancing became more and more lively. 😜
By 3pm, we’d found ourselves right in the heart of the Parade, humming along the tune of the March thoroughly captivated into the spirit of the event. It seemed like the entire town, young and older were out enjoying themselves- it’s obviously a real tradition here.
By 3.30 the finale had taken place, the Straw Bear had been joined by another and also a smaller bear and a mass dance along with the Morris dancers took place to mark the end of the day.
It had been a really unique experience for us “outsiders’ but we were made to feel welcome and we really enjoyed ourselves. What really surprised us was how many younger people were part of the Morris Dancers- it’s obviously still a very popular pastime.
Back at the campsite we settled in for the night and enjoyed a homemade carbonara and a bottle of wine. Ferry Meadows campsite is lovely and we will definitely return with our bikes next time as there are loads of off road paths.
Sunday dawned a beautiful winters morning, however it was chilly! It dropped to -4 last night as whilst we were snug as a bug in bed, the doors and windows had frozen up so we had to spend a few extra minutes in bed whilst we defrosted with the heater and kettle on. What a shame!
We decided to make the most of the beautiful day and do a walk so after a hearty breakfast, we waved goodbye to the site and drove 5 miles to nearby Elton.
Our 7.5 mile walk took in some really beautiful scenery along the Nene Way. The weather couldn’t have been any better – I just love this crisp winter sunshine on a frosty ground.
Half way into the walk we stumbled across the birthplace of Richard III and also the place where Mary Queen of Scots got beheaded in the small quaint village of Fotheringhay. The motte and bailey is really well preserved and although the castle remains are no longer there the views from the motte are spectacular. The church at Fotheringhay is also really interesting as it has a octagonal tower.
We stopped for lunch at the Falcon Inn and made a note of the Certified Location Campsite right next to the Motte and Bailey- right on the river banks it looked a definite for us to return to someday.
What a varied but lovely weekend. Have a great week,
Ruby the VW campervan is parked up almost directly underneath the Crystal Palace transmitter mast and she’s experiencing a sense of deja vu. It been just over 6 months since we last visited this campsite, and we booked this mini break almost as we departed back in June.
Since June, the Camping and Motorhome’s Crystal Palace club site has some good news. Developers have the lease on the land and when we last visited it was set to close this very weekend in fact, hence our booking. Happily, the developers are not ready to build yet, so the campsite has been given another year of being able to be open.
End of the Christmas term is our busiest and this year has been no exception. We actually started Christmas music engagements over 4 weeks ago, and have been flat out with Christmas concerts and performing at Christmas parties etc. This year we decided to book the last two weekends off so we could have some downtime so here we are in London for treat number 1. My mum is Jazz sitting so we can embrace London in all its splendour.
We arrived at a Crystal Palace club site around 7pm on Thursday and was greeted by the very cheerful warden Matt, otherwise known as one half of Walter’s Wardens on Twitter. That afternoon we had learnt of the sudden death of a friend of ours so it was nice to have a friendly face greet us, thanks Matt. W had a quick and simple dinner of spag Bol which I’d made a couple of weeks ago and frozen, then wandered to the local, the Weston House, for a couple of drinks and a dram each.
Despite it being almost zero outside, we were once again amazed at Ruby’s fabulous insulation, with the help of our little plug in heater we remained snug as a bug all night.
Friday dawned a beautiful crisp winters morning, so we wasted no time in heading into London on the very conveniently located number 3 bus to Trafalgar square. We had some time to mooch so we walked along the Strand to Fleet Street, for a pint in The Old Bank of England (Fullers) pub. This really is a stunning pub, as the name suggests it’s housed in the old bank and the decor as such is brand and wonderful. We’ve eaten here before, the pies are tasty.
Next up we wandered down the road 200 metres or so to our next watering hole, Ye Old Cheshire Cheese, a phenomenal old character pub which dates from the 1600s- it’s interior looks like it’s straight out of A Christmas Carol. Their sausage rolls and pork pie bar snacks are just delicious by the way. Research obviously- we knew you’d ask us how they were 😉
It was now time for a longer walk to Soho which took us around 45 minutes without stops. We love wandering the streets of London and rarely take the tube. We wandered through Covent Garden and Leicester Square, before heading across Piccadilly Circus into Soho. We met up with Keith’s dad and Valerie as we had a reservation at Cahoots bar at 3pm. Cahoots is a brilliant little hidden gem found just off Carnaby Street. It’s an underground bar set out as it would have been underground on the tube during the 1940s. It’s atmospheric and quirky, and they serve lovely cocktails. You need to prebook your table in advance and the tables are timed with a strict entrance time. During the evenings you can expect to hear live swing music, but during the day they place atmospheric jazz. We really loved our visit.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and left slightly merry! We wandered down the beautiful Carnaby Street towards Regents Street for our dinner reservation at John , Yes; John Lewis. During the winter months the roof of John Lewis turns into a winter wonderland, with a pop up restaurant, bar and this year ice rink (albeit slightly small ice rink). Nestled high above the chaos of Oxford Street a little of a week before Christmas, we were transported to a haven, an oasis of calm and festive ness. This years pop up is MYPIE- as the name suggests a pie and mash pop up. Keith, Valerie and I went for chicken leek and brie pies and Barry went for shepherds pie. Honestly they were completely and utterly scrumptious.
We waved Barry and Valerie off in an Uber- they were heading to Festival Hall for a carol concert. We chose to take in more of the street life, and enjoyed a walk down Regents street to enjoy those iconic and beautiful Xmas lights.
We went back for another look at Carnby Street as the lights there were linked with Bohemian Rhapsody and were fun, before walking back to Trafalgar Square for our bus back to Ruby.
We’d had a jolly good day but don’t want to burn ourselves out as we had more planned for tomorrow.
Ruby the VW Campervan is parked up across the Border – we’re in deepest North Essex at Brit Stop number 221/18. It’s a lovely historical pub that we are nestled behind, and we have a private glade on hardstanding in the very quiet staff carpark. The pub has some links to a very famous Norfolk Boy so we are feeling right at home, and across the road we have a wonderful traditional Village Green – which if you carry on reading, you will see, comes in verrrrry useful later on!
We’ve had a busy one today doing heaps of admin – but admin of the pleasant kind – booking trips including NYE and February Half Term amongst other things. Since downsizing to Ruby and loosing our on board shower, we are enjoying C&MC and C&CC Club sites lots more than we used too, as the facilities tend to be immaculate and plentiful in hot water supply. Perfect for winter touring when you’ve had a long muddy walk and need a long hot shower – some of the non club sites we visited earlier this year were quite frankly gross, so we’ve kind of gravitated to Club sites which have so far done what they said on the tin for a reasonable enough price.
Having said that, we’re not quite ready to throw in our spontaneous souls just yet, so after filling the diary and part of next years, we made the most of a free Saturday night and travelled to North Essex for a few drinks, meal and more importantly, a head start on a journey that could have meant setting the alarm for 7am on a Sunday – a unheard of occurrence in the O’Gorman household.
On arrival at Britstop number 221 (in the 2018) book, Kevin, the landlord gave us a friendly welcome, and we spent an hour or so dribbling over the DELICIOUS looking menu whilst having a pint of Broadside and Aspall. We then took ourselves for a leg stretch around the paths of the village – admiring some of the pleasant properties on the green and a tasty looking farm shop. Luckily for the bank balance this was closed – next time however…
We enjoyed a really delicious meal in the restaurant – I had breaded Brie and Keith had homemade garlic mushrooms in a stilton sauce to start, which quite frankly was one of the best pub starters I’ve ever tasted. Next up was beef with chinese spices sizzler – on a bed of noodles. It was GORGEOUS. However the portions were huge! So for the first time I think in the 9 years of knowing Keefy – neither one of us could finish our meals! Luckily the pub was adequately prepared and we got the remains boxed up – which we finished for dinner tonight! Prices were really reasonable – the starters were £6 each and the sizzler £13.95 each.
We got so full that we had to do 3 laps of the village green to make ourselves comfortable! That along with an emergency cup of peppermint tea, and then a good ol singsong along to the Last Night of the Proms, ensured we got a great nights sleep.
This morning Keefy woke up bright and early – he was like a kid on Christmas Day – the reason for our night away was he was booked onto an Owl Encounter morning at nearby Lavenham Falconry (belated birthday present) Keith adores Owls. Eagle eyed of you may have noticed in pictures, in Ruby’s side window we have an owl cuddly toy. In our house we have owls everywhere! He’s obsessed with them.
So today – he got to handle and fly 4 different species, The Barn Owl, The Dark Breasted Barn Owl, The Great Grey and the Eagle Owl. We also saw the Eurasian Eagle Owl – which is huge and way too big for us to handle with normal falconry gloves. For an extra £15 I booked myself in to be his guest – which meant I could be paparazzi and snap away to my hearts content.
The 2 hour Owl experience cost £60 and was 100% worth every penny. It was fantastic value for money, and I can honesty say I have never seen Keith smile for such a long period of time (I don’t mean that horribly by the way!)- he’s still beaming away now 12 hours later.
If you have any interest in Owls or Birds of Prey including Falcons and Hawks, you need to check out Lavenham Falconry. Turn it into a mini break – stay at the BritStop and have a day in historic and wonderful Lavenham whilst you’re at it. We popped in on our way home, but we had a mound of stuff to do still at home plus it was packed being a Sunday afternoon so we just revisited the National Trust Guildhall before making our way back home.
Back to school tomorrow after a wonderful summer break. But lots of winter adventures planned – next up, is a weekend trip to Duxford in two weeks time for the Battle of Britain airshow.
After a fairly stressful week this week trying to source not one, but two sets of new wheels for Ruby (thanks Yodel for loosing a wheel!) it was looking uncertain whether we’d actually manage to get to London for our pre booked weekend of Birthday celebrations for Keefy. Thankfully whilst I slaved away at school on Friday morning, K managed to sort it all out and after our gig on Friday afternoon, we set off towards London, via Bury St Edmunds to pick up a wheel then carried on towards to home for the next three nights, the Caravan and Motorhome Club Crystal Palace Club Site.
Our route from the M11 took us through London on the North Circular- a risky manoeuvre for rush hour on a Friday, however Google maps was insisting the M25 was a car park, so we obliged and sure enough 3 hours later we had arrived at the leafy Crystal Palace Site. Before pitching up, we had the small matter of taking off the spare and replacing it with the new wheel we’d just picked up. Keith managed it, with some help from the warden who had a brilliant winch- ours was next to useless.
The pitch was lovely- we were on a grass one with electric but it was surrounded by trees and shrubs, and nicely landscaped. It was also really large! Whilst K showered, I got on with dinner, burgers and salad and we enjoyed a gin together toasting the terrible week turning out ok.
We had an after dinner stroll to the pub; just ten minutes walk and you’re right in the hub of Crystal Palace where just about every type of restaurant and takeaway is available if you don’t fancy cooking.
Saturday dawned bright and fresh; we knew as the alarm was set for 7:30am, a very rare occurrence for weekends and camping trips! 🤣 The reason for our early start was that we had pre booked tickets to visit the Cabinet War Rooms, for 10am. The transport link into London from the site is excellent. Almost outside the gate is the number 3 bus stop which takes you directly to Trafalgar Square, the journey takes an hour and costs just £1.50 (or free if you’re over a certain age and have a bus pass!)
The Queen had kindly laid on a birthday celebrations for Keith- our arrival at the CWR coincided with the gates opening for Trooping of The Colour. We felt very underdressed in our jeans and flip flops!
The Cabinet War Rooms were fantastic. We spent almost 3 hours exploring the endless underground corridors and rooms- the hub of the British War Logistics and where Churchill lead us to victory.
After the war ended, the underground war office was closed- with everything left inside, maps, office items and everything else, and not found until about twenty years later- with everything as it was on the day we won the war. The map room you can see above is completely original and how to was left/ found.
There is an extensive Churchill museum which has many of Churchill’s clothes and personal items. It was an absolutely brilliant way to spend the morning and we highly recommend it- but advise you to prebook.
We managed to time our exit so that we enjoyed the Battle of Britain fly past which was lovely!
Having lived in London for many years we’ve done most of the normal tourist sites many times before so after lunch at Bubba Gumps, we spent the afternoon having a wander around Soho taking in the atmosphere and having a drink stop here and there.
Keith had no idea, but I’d arranged for his friends to meet us at 5pm at Covent Garden for the evening, his face was a picture!
We enjoyed a curry at the Strand Tandoori and then a drink on the river Thames, at the Tattershall Castle- right opposite the London Eye, before catching our night bus back to the campsite.
Sunday morning arrived and we had a little bit of a woolly head. Obviously dehydrated.. Ahem 😜. Nothing that a eggs and bacon bap and a cold can of coke didn’t fix! We were back into London, this time in or “above average” camping clothes. We were being treated to Brunch at AquaShard (up the Shard) by Keith’s Dad and stepmom.
It was the first time we have eaten there and it was excellent. It’s not cheap, but the quality of the food was great and the views are marvellous. Definitely the best restaurant view in London.
After a long leisurely Brunch we bid farewell to Barry and Valerie and as the sunshine was glorious had a stroll down Southbank, stopping at a couple of bars on route before making our way back to Ruby on the number 3 from Trafalgar Square.
We just scratched the surface of London activities as we’ve done many of them before. What we can’t understand is why we’ve never stayed at this campsite before!
At just £25 pn we highly recommend it for a London trip- but, be quick – sadly it’s closing at the end of this year! Sad face.
Ruby the VW Campervan is parked at Combe Caravan Park on the outskirts of Salisbury. We woke to glorious sunshine and the plan today was to visit Salisbury. The campsite was about 4 miles walk or cycle to the city centre and our original plan was to have a non driving day and visit the medieval city.
However, unfortunately whilst my shower last night was nearly warm, Keith’s was cold, and we were disappointed with the cleanliness of the shower and toilet blocks. I’m sure during peak season these would be immaculate as the owners were nice enough and seemed to really care about the site. However with only us and one other motorhome on site it was unacceptable for Keith to have to clean the shower out and then have a cold shower. There were also some pretty nasty skiddies🤢 in the ladies loo that hadn’t been cleaned (the cleaning hours were apparently 05:30-06:00) and they definitely weren’t cleaned Friday.
We would have made do but actually our location wasn’t quite right for visiting Castle Combe on our return home the next day so we packed up Ruby again and drove into Salisbury for our day visit.
Salisbury was a lovely city to visit. The Cathedral was worth a visit- there is a very well preserved Magna Carta to see in the chapter house. Keith and I took it in turns to doggie sit whilst we went for a look inside the cathedral.
The city is also home to a very old historic pub, called The Haunch of Venison which is well worth a visit. It’s said that Eisenhower and Churchill met here to discuss the planning of the D Day landings in 1944. The pubs dates back over 700 years which is just amazing. We really enjoyed our drink here and had a nice chat with a couple of local ladies who were interesting and knowledgeable about the history of the pub.
During our walk back to Ruby, who was parked on the outskirts, we stopped at another lovely pub called The Mill- which aptly looked out over the water mill. The weather was great so we enjoyed a quick “one for the road”.
is time we had managed to book back on to our original campsite, the C&CC Devizes Site, which was better located for our trip the tomorrow. So with the stress of where we were going to stay gone, we popped into he nearby English Heritage site of Old Sarum. This was where the old cathedral and Abby of Salisbury was located before the new town and cathedral were built a couple of miles away. There was a great example of a Motte and Bailey.
enjoyed our look around the site before heading back to Devizes for our first piping hot showers since Monday! Stinky O'Gorman's 🤭
We enjoyed lamb steaks and veg and potatoes for dinner and some more of that lovely local ice cream. We received another very warm welcome at the club site- it’s a great place to stay.
Saturday Saturday dawned sunny again and we made a fairly early getaway as we were looking forward to visiting Castle Combe, a pretty English Village. Parking is provided for free which is generous, on the outskirts of the village.
It was a short walk down to the village. As soon as we arrived Keith squealed in excitement- “this is where they filmed War Horse”!
He is such a film fan, he couldn’t believe he’d forgotten this was where they filmed it! It is just beautiful at Castle Combe. The houses are typically British, and there are two old pubs. A river and a pretty stream cross the village at the end. It’s just gorgeous.
There is a 5 mile AA walk that takes int he village but we gave this a miss as we had or journey back to Norfolk to consider.
As we’d managed a whole week self catering, Keith decided to treat me to a pub lunch before we made our way back east. We had a lovely lunch at The White Hart. Keith said the sausage doorstep sandwich was the best he’d had!
Before we knew it our week had drawn to a close. Despite some campsite disappointments, we have had a fantastic week- this area is just so typically English and beautiful- we fell in love with area and are sure to be back sometime.
Tuesday dawned wet and wild as forecasted, so we didn’t rush off our site at Dezizes. I’d woken with a stinking cold but was determined not to be held back. After a hearty porridge for breakfast, we packed up and waved bye to the C&CC site. We made a brief stop for groceries at Morrison’s in Devizes before carrying on to Stonehenge.
We arrived at 1:00, bang on our ticket time. As members of the National Trust we were able to visit for free, despite being run by English Heritage, the land is owned by National Trust therefore members are allowed in for free- however this isn’t too well advertised and you are encouraged to pre book before arriving. Our National Trust membership saved us £21 each!
We were told conflicting things about dogs being allowed in/ or rather not as it turned out to be. It didn’t bother us, we appreciate how historically important Stonehenge is, but the misinformation resulted in us wasting half an hour in the rain.
There is a brand new visitors centre that has opened in the last 3 years. You have to get a bus from the visitor centre to the actual site (or walk over a mile each way on a road!). As it was pouring with rain we opted for the bus. The stones were fabulous and well worth the visit – I’d never seen them, Keith had.
However, I couldn’t help but feel slightly of the opinion that English Heritage are overcharging people though. I also was completely hacked off about the fact that our National Trust entry didn’t allow us an audio guide and we were expected to pay a further £3 for this. I didn’t feel the visitor centre added much to the experience. But as I say, the stones were fabulous to see.
Our pitch for the night was actually closer to the Stones than the EH visitor centre. I’m sure EH hate it, but there is a bylaw that allows wild camping on the old Stonehenge Drove road which overlooks the Stones! So therefore it is a rather popular spot for Campervan and motorhomes to overnight park. We decided this would be very cool so had a night next to the stones!
We managed to pick the coldest night of the year, -4 outside! And we have NO heating! 😂 We tackled this minor setback by having a really long drawn out dinner- spaghetti carbonara first followed by pancakes for pudding. By not rushing and washing up between courses, dinner time lasted over 2 hours and we were snug as a bug during this time. We also sank nearly a bottle of mead which definitely assisted with my cold and also warming us up!
The sky was phenomenal and we couldn’t resist some star gazing despite it being a bit chilly. We had nearly every item of clothing on us by this time! We decided to head to bed just after 9pm, and our fleecy duvet set and our 13.5 tog duvet meant we were very cosy and warm- I didn’t even need a hot water bottle!
Wednesday morning dawned cold – so cold that our inside condensation had frozen! As had our sliding door! By the time Keith had made me a cuppa and showered me with Valentines Day choccies and sweets, we’d defrosted enough to enjoy the reason we’d put ourselves brought this indulgence test- it was so awesome to have our sliding door open and lay in bed looking at Stonehenge!!
The heavens opened – and they stayed open ALL DAY! So we made no rush to leave, enjoying a fry up and some crumpets for breakfast and gallons of tea.
eisurely morning, we setoff in the direction of Shaftesbury, our next stop, but decided to have a stop at National Trust’s Stourhead en route as we were passing by. I was feeling ropey but didn’t want to ruin the day so we got our waterproofs and boots on and went for a little explore around Stourhead estate. I’m so glad we did.
Stourhead Estate is absolutely breathtaking- and that’s coming from us in the depths of winter on a wet and wild day! Seriously beautiful, it’s a huge landscapes garden estate, with a lovely walk of about 3 miles in length weaving up and round past countless different trees and bushes. Every now and again you get a glimpse of the lake, which is the head of the river Stour that has been dammed off into a landscaped lake. There are picture perfect bridges, a pantheon, a grotto, a waterwheel. It’s just fabulous and despite the cold wet and frankly miserable weather, it was a holiday highlight. We met a NT volunteer in the Pantheon who showed us an original statue of Augusta, and is over 2000 years old.
He said he thought Stourhead was the best garden in UK and we wholeheartedly agree.
There is also a fabulous farm shop, and regular readers will know we have a weakness for these. Armed with our credit card we took battle with the farm shop, stocking up on numerous cheeses, all of which are from less than 30 mins of Stourhead, ice cream, sausages, venison, pork pies, ale. We were in heaven.
After restocking the fridge, we got the road again, this time heading for our campsite, Blackmore Vale Campsite on the outskirts of Shaftesbury. Sadly right from arrival we had a vibe this wasn’t going to be quite as we’d expected. It took over 40 mins to “check in” – there was no reception, no answer to the mobile number that was pinned to the gate. After 30 mins traipsing through the holiday park looking for someone, in the rain, I was getting a little fed up. Eventually after being directed to the eighth place (via 2 incorrect places!) id found someone, who preceded to tell me that we weren’t expected – I had an email and had paid £20 deposit- but not to worry, there were a few places available so just drove down and find one. So we drove down and of course there was only one, and it had a reserved sign on. Keith went back to the man and he said don’t worry about it, take it and he’d send the other people elsewhere. Glad we weren’t the other people! 😳
In the meantime I gave Ruby a good clean- she was FILTHY inside from our wild camping excursion in the rain! Keith did the water and loo and went for a shower. When he came back he was less than impressed- the water kept cutting out throughout his shower and the shower block was gross. Off I went for mine and mine was stone cold- so I left my shower. I went to brush my feet and nearly fainted- look at the sink! 🤢😲
Not impressed but of course we couldn’t find anyone to inform. Keith went to the loo and came back pale- instead of urinals it was a tile wall to pee up! 🤢 it also was clear by now that it wasn’t a holiday site it was more of a “permanent site” – all the other caravans had workmen in trade vans on.
The rest of the afternoon went smoothly but we made the decision to cancel our second night and move on tomorrow.
We had a fabulous deli board from our farm shop goodies followed by steak and homemade chips for main and the local ice cream AND a Gu desert for pudding. Well it was Valentines Day!
Thursday arrived and thank goodness, there was no rain! Infact it was a picture perfect winters day, and the sun actually held a bit of warmth. We packed up, I went to inform the site that we would be leaving and highlighted our concerns. Not that the manager seemed at all bothered.
Next stop was our day visit to Shaftesbury. We were both exited- Shaftesbury is home to the famous Gold Hill, or rather Hovis Hill as it’s nicknamed as it’s the location of the Hovis advert that Ridley Scott directed.
Well, as they would say in Yorkshire, By Heck, what a view. Our first impression of the view from the top of Gold Hill absolutely knocked me for six. It was absolutely breathtaking.
Thankfully there was a perfectly located coffee shop with a table right at the peak of the view for us to grab a coffee and gather our thoughts. We decided what made the view quite so special was the combination of the view of the countryside behind the old fashioned houses, cobbled street and NO cars!
We were also lucky that the light was absolutely perfect- however when we visited later on it had clouded over and was still magical.
We popped into the dog friendly Gold Hill Museum and enjoyed our visit, before joining the Shaftesbury Snowdrop Festival trail. This wasn’t quite as impressive as I’d imagined but I think I was still bowled over by “that” view so perhaps it never stood a chance.
We had a packed lunch on the pretty park terrace which had similarly great views before a pint on the terrace at the Mitre Inn. One last look at our special view on Gold Hill before heading back to Ruby.
We’d managed to book onto a site on the outskirts of Salisbury, Coombe Caravan Park for the next two nights. Fingers crossed for a better time here!
Mid November, and we were having a lazy morning on a campsite in Norfolk. Keith was reading the paper and I was writing the blog. “Have we got any weekends free in December” he asks? “Errr no way” I reply – “what about any free days?” he counteracts. I look up and can almost see the cogs working overtime. “Whhyyyy?” I query.
Half an hour later, and we’ve managed to cram a mini break to Prague in on our only 3 days off in the entire month! He’s on Easyjet, I’m on AirBnB. What spurred this on? An article in the paper about the best Christmas Markets in Europe. Advertising at it’s best!
A few weeks later and we are frantically packing our cabin bags, between Christmas Concerts, Music Exam days, packing Ruby for our trip to Dad and Jenny’s in France for Christmas – leaving 12 hours after our flight from Prague gets in to Stansted. We’re both stressed to the eyeballs, absolutely SHATTERED and wondering, is this one trip too far?
In true Keith and Lydia style though, we manage to get to the bottom of our lists and before we know it we are taxi-ing down the runway at Gatwick. We land in Prague on time, despite some snow on the ground. No disruptions here though, life moves on despite a covering of snow on the ground.
On arrival, we order an UBER cab – so useful to avoid being scammed by local drivers, and half an hour later we are checking into our Prague City Centre Air BnB apartment. The apartment is fabulous, a really cool space, and a steal at only £60 a night. We love the convenience of Air BnB’s for city breaks. If you want to give one a go, use this link for £25 off your first stay.
After a quick shower, we head on down into the city centre, a short walk away.
As we get close to the centre, we start noticing little pop up Markets, all serving Mulled wine and litres of local beer. It would be rude not to try a sample, so just over an hour after touch down, there we are enjoying our first taste of Prague. We noticed a stall selling the most mouth watering pork on a spit – we could not resist a plate of this to go with our drinks.
We wandered down to the main square and got blown away by the level of cute christmas-ness. The Christmas Tree was magnificent. This was where the main market was, so we browsed some of the stalls, intermittently stopping to be refreshed of course!
As the weather was clear, but it had gone dark, we decided to ascend the town hall tower, for an arial view of the market square. There was an interesting museum to wander round too, and we got to see the insides of the unusual clock figures of the astronomical clock.
We decided to enjoy a rooftop cocktail just off the square, which felt magical, before having a traditional Czech meal of Beef Goulash, served within the bread roll. That was right up my street!