Saturday, December 31, 2016


Wow!  What a day! First, we had the perfect breakfast at Newton House in Knaresborough where we stayed two nights.  Everything our host, Denise, served was homemade.  Bread, granola, jams, all so good.  The mushroom and farmhouse cheddar cheese omelette was also delicious. I would return just for her yummy cooking--I actually wrote about this in my travel journal which is why I can write about it now 1 1/2 years later!

After breakfast we went straight to Fountains Abbey--a well-preserved 12th century Benedictine Monk Abbey.  Really spectacular.  We walked and walked staying three hours.

Church of St. Mary the Virgin on the grounds at Fountains Abbey

Next stop planned was Rievaulx Abbey.  On our way to Rievaulx we saw a sign for Castle Howard and made the decision to veer off our schedule and squeeze in a trip to that famous house. This is what I love about a flexible schedule and having a car.  We arrived at 3:30 and the last entrance into the house is 4:00.  We roamed around--no guide.  So fun!

You remember Castle Howard--Brideshead Revisited (both adaptations) and other films.  It is an 18th century grand house--Earl of Sandwich lived here at one point.

There were times we felt we had the whole place to ourselves.  It pays to stop by just before closing.

Hydrangeas tucked in the window of the stairwell

Afterwards we headed out to the back lawn and over to the Atlas fountain and then on to the rose garden and vegetable gardens.

Raced over to Rievaulx Abbey in the nick of time--last entrance was 5:30 and it was 5:25.  Rievaulx is a 14th century ruins of an abbey and it is another well-maintained beauty.

Dark clouds started rolling in and before we knew it the rain hit.  But that didn't stop us from scampering across the slick stones.

It was a beautiful and fun day--love changing the schedule to take advantage of what pops up.

Ended the day having dinner at Honey Bee's in Knaresborough--comfort food in a tiny little house where nothing matches.  Everything made from scratch and when we needed to take some dinner to my sister who wasn't up for dinner out, the owner sent along her dishes (no takeaway containers) and said, "Don't worry about it.  I'll stop by Denise's tomorrow and pick up the dishes."  Aren't small towns the best?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Raby Castle and Garden - Middleham Castle

Onward to the next castle--Raby Castle

This is another large estate where the owner, Lord Barnard, actually resides.  Or at least he did the summer of 2015--I just read where he passed away earlier this year, he was 92, and it seems he was well-liked.  The interior did not have the same lived-in feeling that Alnwick Castle had.

There is a deer park where we spotted loads of baby deer in a protected area and beautiful walled gardens.

                                                             Gorgeous zinc planter


Just over that wall are the old stables turned into a little tea room where we had a good lunch.  I love  the tea room lunches one finds on some of the grounds of castles and country houses.  We usually find that the food tastes as if made by the local church ladies--delicious.

         Drove down the road a bit and toured Middleham Castle--childhood home of Richard III.

View from Middleham Castle

These ruins were very well-preserved and the surrounding town so pretty.  After this stop, we drove on to Knaresborough to stay a couple of nights and tour a few more ruins and castles--will report on those beauties, next!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Alnwick Castle and Garden - Aydon Castle - Cragside House and Gardens

Happy Boxing Day!  I am trying to catch-up on my long neglected blog.  Here we go.
Loved visiting two spectacular castles and gardens in one day.  From Lindinsfarne (I reported about this visit back in May--I'm sure you weren't holding your breath for the next installment, right?) we drove straight to Alnwick Castle and the next day, on to Aydon Castle and Cragside House.

No pics allowed inside Alnwick Castle.  I would have loved to have a pic of the family living area of the castle state rooms.  The Duke and Duchess of Northumberland have found a way to make a few grand rooms feel very cozy.  One of the cozy touches included a few faux fur covered bean bag chairs in front of the large screen tv--perfect for kids watching movies.  We practically had the place to ourselves so I walked through the interior several times just to soak it all in.  Alnwick Castle is famous for several things including serving as the exterior and interior scenes for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films as well as a few Christmas scenes for Downton Abbey.

                                                       The famous Grand Cascade

The gardens have been restored by Jane Percy, the Duchess of Northumberland.  Really spectacular.

The above path curves around the backside of the famous fountain.  So peaceful.

       This is the Poison Garden.  Must be guided through--and no smelling the plants. Seriously.

If I lived in the area of Alnwick Castle and Gardens, I would definitely buy an annual pass.  So much to see here.  Loved every minute.  Kudos for Jane Percy--she has created very interesting gardens.

The next morning we drive to Aydon Castle which is a well-fortified, pretty much intact 13th century manor house.

       Being from the dry climate of Arizona, I absolutely love moss-covered stones.  Just look at that!

Cragside House and Gardens
On to Cragside House and Gardens.  I didn't love the house (Victorian) but the grounds were fantastic--after we toured we drove a six mile route through the grounds of the estate.  Yes, six miles.

                                                One of the views from the house.

                                                                  On to the gardens

     This is why I love English gardens.  Stunning colors, pebbled pathways, abundance of good design, sometimes a water feature, and usually an interesting written sign or two.  What's not to love?

Alnwick Gardens - the Grand Cascade
Well, after a long absence from my blog, I am hoping to catch-up on my posts for this trip from last summer! As in 2015 last summer.  Because I did take some pretty great trips in 2016, too.  I am way behind....xo

Sunday, May 22, 2016


Every few summers we travel to Oxford to take a class and live on campus--The Oxford Experience.  I've posted about our previous trips in the past--loved every one of them.  Our Oxford Experience trips are combined with a one week visit to a country we haven't traveled and then an additional five nights somewhere new to us in the English countryside.

Last summer we chose Northumberland England and loved every mile of it.  We flew from Bergen to Oslo to Edinburgh and then drove about 90 minutes south to Lindinsfarne Castle on Holy Island.  Apparently I did not take the classic picture of Lindinsfarne Castle but that is most likely because I was driving across the tidal causeway.  Kind of exciting checking safe crossing times before we scheduled our trip.

This is the view from the garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll.  Gertrude designed the gardens and area surrounding the castle while Edwin Lutyens renovated the interiors back in the early 1900's.  What a treat to see their work in person.

The above pic is one of my favorite rooms in the house and it just kills me I couldn't get a better shot--it was dark in the house and crowded--that is my sad little excuse.

Edward Hudson, founder and publisher of Country Life magazine, bought this property in 1901.  At the time, it was a crumbling castle built sometime around the mid-1500's.  Hudson commissioned Edwin Lutyens, a young architect, and Gertrude Jekyll, famous gardener, (otherwise known as Ned and Bumps!), to transform the place and make it Hudson's holiday retreat.

                                                                           The Study

                                    The walled garden with the North Sea on the other side

Gertrude Jekyll's work is impressive--cannot image having success growing flowers with all the wind, stony ground, and right on the coastline.  Of course, that's why it's inside a walled garden.

The classic Lutyens garden bench

                                                  Next stop: Alnwick Castle