The holiday of a lifetime…

I think it’s about time that I made a post of what is going to be, “The Holiday of a Lifetime!”

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My husband visited Disney World when he was younger, but I have never been.

I can remember constantly asking my dad if we could go – I think it’s every childs’ dream – but it was never an interest of his.

However, it’s thanks to my mum & dad that we’re going now!

We have to take two planes (Manchester to Atlanta, then Atlanta to Orlando), and then we hop on the “Magical Express” to the resort.  I am SO excited!

13 days!

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The Pendle Witches

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It is the most famous witch trial of the 17th century, the case of the Pendle Witches. Twelve women were accused of witchcraft, and while one died, eleven went to trial. One was tried and found guilty at York while ten of the ‘witches’ were tried at Lancaster. Only one woman was found not guilty.

Six of the eleven ‘witches’ on trial came from two rival families in Pendle. Elizabeth Southerns (Old Demdike) and Anne Whittle (Mother Chattox) were the old, poverty stricken matriarchs of the Demdike and Chattox families respectively. For over fifty years, Old Demdike had been known as a witch and in the 17th century, it was an accepted part of village life that some village healers practised magic and dealt in herbs and medicines.

The 17th century was also a time when witchcraft was not only feared but also fascinated. King James I was greatly interested in witchcraft even before he became King of England in 1603. One of King James’s literary works, Daemonologie, instructed readers to condemn and prosecute both supporters and practitioners of witchcraft. As the scepticism of the King was heightened, the feelings of unrest and fear over witchcraft became familiar with his people.

The story of the Pendle Witches began with the altercation between one of the accused ‘witches’, Alizon Device, and John Law, a pedlar. While travelling, Alizon passed John Law on the road and asked for some pins though Law refused her request. It is said that Alizon cursed John Law and a short while after he suffered a stroke, for which he blamed Alizon and her mystical powers. When the incident was brought to trial, Alizon Device confessed that she had instructed the Devil to blame John Law. After further questioning, Alizon divulged that her grandmother, Old Demdike, and members of the rival Chattox family regularly practiced witchcraft. The two families had been feuding for years and for the Chattox family, Alizon’s accusations were just an act of revenge.

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The trials of the Pendle Witches were held at Lancaster Castle on 17th and 19th August 1612. The dark, damp and dirty dungeon where the ‘witches’ were held were too much for Old Demdike to bear and she died before she could be brought to trial. One of the most surprising things about the Pendle Witch trials was the principal supplier of evidence. Jennet Device was only nine years old and usually wouldn’t have been allowed to testify in a trial because of her age. Under King James I’s system, all standard rules were suspended when giving evidence in a witch trial. Jennet gave evidence against her mother, sister and brother. It was reported that when the young girl spoke against her mother, Elizabeth, the accused witch had to be dragged from court screaming and cursing her daughter.

Alizon Device, Elizabeth Device, James Device, Anne Whittle, Anne Redferne, Alice Nutter, Katherine Hewitt, John Bulcock and Jane Bulcock were all found guilty at Lancaster. They were hanged at Gallows Hill on 20th August 1612. Elizabeth Southern lost her life while awaiting trial, and Alice Grey was found not guilty.

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In the present day, Pendle Hill hosts a Halloween hilltop gathering every year and in the Borough of Pendle, the witches have become the inspiration for its tourism and heritage industries.

So this Halloween, why not pay a visit to Pendle Hill and relive the sorcery and paranormal goings-on that occurred there over 400 years ago. You’re sure to be in for a spooky surprise!

My 3 year old photographer – Pic heavy

At the beginning of the month, the hubby took Gning away for the night, in a lovely little country inn, just outside the town of Penrith.  Now, my little man absolutely loves technology.  Because of his interest, hubby gave him his old Olympus digital camera (14MP), with fully charged batteries, and a blank SD card.

The following pictures were all shot by the Gning himself…  Bear in mind that he is only 3 years old.

(For a clearer view of each picture, you can click on each image to make it larger.)

The classic "foot shot"

The classic “foot shot”

Croxteth Hall and Country Park – Liverpool

A beautiful park in the middle of a busy city isn’t very rare now-a-days.  In fact, it’s quite common place.  Take Central Park, for example.  In the middle of one of the worlds’ most busiest cities, lies 842 acres (1.32 miles²3.41 km²) of stunning greenland and waterways.  I’m talking about New York, of course.  

Now, if I was to say to you, that just on the outskirts of Liverpool city centre, there is 500 acres of greenery, with an historic hall dated around 1575 AD, a well-kept walled garden (bursting with rare roses and other flowers), and a home farm (full of rare breeds of horses, ponies, cows, pigs, sheep and goats (and more)), I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t really stare at me in amazement.  However, to see the beauty of this area is literally breath-taking.  Especially, as aforesaid, knowing that Liverpool city centre is a mere 5 miles away.

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This, ladies and gentlemen, is the ‘main entrance’ to Croxteth Hall.  To tour the house, you must enter through the shop, which is actually part of the servants quarters, around the left hand side of the house.

The Hall was owned, and lived in, by the Molyneux family from the 16th century until 1972, when the last Earl passed away.  His widow, Josephine – Countess of Sefton (1903-1980) continued to reside in the property until she died.  She was the last member of the Molyneux family to live in the hall.

When the last Earl died in 1972, a worldwide search was made for a legal heir to the title without success.  The property and estate is now owned and managed by Liverpool City Council.

You can learn more about the Earls of Sefton by visiting this Wiki page.

The farmstead shows you how a Victorian animal farm was run, and hosts so many animals, many of which are rare breeds.

My little man walked through a picket gate, and he got such a fright when the giant mother sow snorted right behind him…  We counted 8 piglets with this particular mother pig, and there was a big sign showing that throughout February and March, there were 34 piglets born!  We saw a lot of them, from little tiny pinky babies to quite large ‘Irn Bru’ (burnt orange) coloured piglets 🙂

Sheep and lambs, goats and kids…  Two beautiful shire horses (Clydesdale)…  Even an aviary full of cockerels, hens, peacocks, zebra finches (obviously, I was thrilled to see them), budgies, parrots…  It was such fun to see Gning run around looking at all of the animals.  Definitely a place for children 🙂

The country park hosts fields that seem to lead to the clouds, flowers of all different colours (from vibrant reds to subtle blues), trees of all different shapes and sizes (some good enough to climb), and ponds full of various waterfowl.  There is certainly so much more to do than to visit one of the main ‘attractions’ in the estate (the hall, farm or walled garden).  You could take a picnic blanket and a few outdoor games, and you’d be occupied all day.  Go for a walk in one of the surrounding woodlands…

You’d certainly not think that you were only a stones-throw away from the East Lancs Roas, and a bustling city.

The whole estate is actually free to visit, and parking is free too.  However, to actually go inside the hall, walled garden and farm, there are admission fees.

Hall:

Adults £3.50; children and OAP’s £2.70

Walled garden:

Adults £2.50; children and OAP’s £1.90

Farm:

Adults £3.50; children and OAP’s £2.70

Combined ticket for all three of the above:

Adult £7.00; children and OAP’s £5.40

For further info about the hall, click here to visit the official website.

To give you a basic run down, I would say that this is a family day out for all ages.  There’s plenty to see and do for the very young, to the older in life.  If you pay a visit to the hall for instance, and you are pushing a pram or a wheelchair, everywhere inside of the hall is accessible, as there are lifts and ramps 🙂  The farm, although cobbled, is also easy accessible…  And the majority of the pathways around the estate are suitable for all walks of life.

My final scoring for the whole of the property would be 9/10.  I’m sorry to say that they lost a point in all due to no fault of their own, but the smell of stagnant water is empowering, and the farm didn’t seem to help either 😉  Ha ha.

I’ll leave the post with a few photo’s of our little trip 🙂

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Here’s my little man taking a ride on ‘Toby’ the donkey 😀

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Inside the wine cellar

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This actually is a door from the original building, dated from 1575!!

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I would LOVE a kitchen this size!  Although, I don’t envy having to clean it…

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This was the Countess’ dressing room

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The stunning interior of the stairwell

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The Titanic stairwell was actually modeled from this stairwell in Croxteth hall

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My little man looking at a Shetland pony, and a rare shot of my arm!

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Mmmm…  Bacon…  Oops!  I mean, awww…  Look at the baby piggies ❤

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And finally, a beautiful shire horse

Our Scottish Holiday

I think I should warn you…  This video is rather long…  Ha ha ❤

Lochailort – A little slice of Heaven

I am 220 miles, and a little over 3 hours, passed the border of Scotland. I’ve been driving through the beautiful Highlands, steep roads, ancient culture and rain. I drive right through the town of Fort William (the “Capital” of the Highlands, and I’m heading towards Mallaig on the A830. I’ve been on the Road to the Isles (A830) for a little over 30 minutes and I know I’m just about to see the Lochailort Inn and the Polnish Chapel a little further ahead. The trees sweep over the Munros (mountains) to the side, and a drop down to a sea loch on the other side of the road. You can see why this area has been selected to feature in so many Hollywood films. Lochailort is a small village that lies on the edge of the Loch “Ailort” (pronounced Aisle-ort), which leads out to the Atlantic Ocean. All that is here is an Inn, railway station, a small church and a 19th Century house. A ring road (A861) heads down towards Strontian on Ardnamurchan, and back round a little closer to Fort William. Apart from the absolutely stunning scenery, Lochailort has one of the area’s most notable landmarks. “Our Lady of the Braes” Roman Catholic Church, affectionately known as the Polnish Chapel. The chapel was finished in 1874, but has been abandoned since 1964 except for being used in film. The classic 1983 film Local Hero, where an American oil company sends a representative to purchase an entire village where they want to build a refinery. Things don’t go as expected, and the American ends up staying and living on the beach in a little hut! 1378052_10153320200530790_2020628723_n Now-a-days, you can still walk right up to the church via the cattle gate, but you cannot enter the chapel due to safety reasons. You will see that the slate from the roof has started falling to the ground. The windows are still in immaculate condition, and if you look closely, you can see the details in the writing on the glass. If you do want to take a walk from the road and venture up to the church, I do recommend parking across the road in the pull-in view area. Please be careful when crossing the road, as this is an extremely fast and busy road. Luckily, you can hear traffic coming from a mile or two in distance! 1374745_10153320200850790_846690095_n The Lochailort Inn offers so much more than just a place for a break. The hotel is situated directly on the Road to the Isles, with great views, reasonable priced accommodation and great food. The inn was known to exist from the 1650’s, although there is only recorded information from the 1870’s, then rebuilt in the early 1990’s in the same manner as the original. In the 1890’s, there were several bothies (small houses) built to house the 2000 navvies who were building the West Highland Railway Line (designed and built by Sir Robert McAlpine). In 1901, construction was complete and the West Highland Railway was opened to the public to ease the travel of the 43 miles from Fort William to Mallaig. During the summer months (normally from April to September), there is a Steam Train which runs the 43 miles distance from Fort William to Mallaig. This is the famous Jacobite Steam Train. With pipers waiting at each station to “blow the tourists away” with their enchanting sounds. On the other side of the loch is Inverailort House. This started out as a farmhouse in the 1700’s, and in 1875 extended and refurbished to a shooting lodge. Further extensions took place in 1891 to bring the house to the beauty it is today. In the late 19th Century, Lady Cameron was a keen photographer. She took many photographs of the house and local area. It was unfortunate that most of the glass plates were lost or destroyed when the house was taken over by the military. During the second world war the military used the house as a base for training operations. With such a remote location, the military could move about the area freely and with little difficulty, using the surrounding mountains and waters as resistance training areas. The army moved out of the house on 20th August 1942 and it was then taken over by the Royal Navy when it became known as HMS Lochailort, and used for the training of naval cadets to be officers. The Royal Navy moved out in January 1945. Thankfully, a lot of the photographs from the late 19th Century were saved and published during this time. Today the area is as breath-taking as it has always been. Clear water, rustling trees, the inn, the chapel… I visit this area at least 3 times a year, whilst camping in a near-by village called Arisaig. Personally, if I had the money I would buy the old chapel and refurbish it into a holiday home. The views from the place are amazing, and I bet it would be so popular. The only problem is who to get in contact over it! Definitely a place to visit. Take your time – Stop and stare. How often will you get such clear air? 1382875_10153320201765790_941055221_n

Whiskey Galore – The Isle of Barra

Security was cleared, and we were sitting in one of the cafes in Glasgow International Airport when we hear over the tannoy, that we need to go to the gate as we were getting ready to board.

My parents had done the same trip a few months earlier, and although they had told us what to expect, it was still a shock to see.

There was no ‘walkway’ to get to the plane.  Instead, we had to walk from the building to the plane across the tarmac.  Instead of a usual 100 seater (or so) plane, the airplane was a small 12 seater, with two small propellers on view from the engines.  Now I’m not the best of flyers, so imagine my surprise.  My parents were not exaggerating.

Onboard, the seats were tiny.  My husband and I were sitting in one of the twin seats…  I swear that if we were 2 inches wider, we never would have been able to sit down.

The doorway to the cockpit was left open, and just before takeoff, the pilot turned around to give instruction on what should happen due to an emergency.  I was fortunate enough to have, if you can call it this, an aisle seat.  My husband was sitting next to the tiny window…  Which was part of the emergency exit door.  Instead of the usual, large, clumpy handle to release the door was a rusty, used looking car door release handle.  I looked around.  Apart from the door at the rear of the plane – the one with the steps to board – this was the one to be used as the emergency exit.

The flight was relatively smooth.  We were in the air only 6 seconds after acceleration.  Still, the door to the cockpit was left open, and I could see the tiny windscreen wipers swishing across the window quickly.  It was only 3/4 of an hour after we took off that I leaned across my husband to peer through the window.  I managed to look down…  The scenery was amazing.  The deep blue coloured sea against the beautiful pale blue sky.  The sea had small, rocky, inhabited isles.  I could tell we were nearing landing.  Just then, the co-pilot turned to say we were 10 minutes from landing.

This was the interesting part.  This was the reason why my parents had paid for this trip in the first place.  The airport on the Isle of Barra had no landing strip.  We were to land on the beach.  Still looking out of the window, I could see a beach that would make your heart melt.  So much golden sand, only a couple of puddles to show that the tide had not long receded…  You could see people waiting at the edge of the beach with buckets…

Touchdown.  The landing was so smooth.  I barely felt the wheels hit the sand.  The run up to the airport building was not as smooth…  Taxiing across the beach was bumpy.  We felt every ripple on the beach.  I think it was relief that we had landed (as aforesaid, I’m not the best flyer in the world), that I just started giggling like a chipmunk.

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Once off the plane, it was time to collect our luggage.  We only had one backpack between us, as we were only there for 2 nights.  My husband asked one of the security guards in the building (which actually resembled a large tourist information centre) where we collect our bag…  “You’ll find it in the shelter outside…” was the response.

And so we headed outside.  We followed the signs to the luggage collection point and, well…  Talk about another shock.  The ‘shelter’ that the guard had described was nothing more than a bus shelter.  My husband and I started laughing.

We arrived at the Craigard Hotel, 3/4 of an hour away from the airport by bus (cost about £1.20 each), early Saturday afternoon.  The check-in at the hotel was quick and easy, and Julian (the owner of the hotel) answered all of our questions. We were looking to hire a bike to see the island on the Sunday, and Julian told us exactly where we needed to go. He also told us that if the place was closed to come back to the hotel and he would sort something out to get the shop opened for us!

The owners, Julian and his partner (I didn’t get her name) are originally from Stafford, and emigrated to the Isle of Barra a couple of years earlier.

The room was a nice size, tastefully decorated with stunning views across Castlebay. The bed was more comfortable than our own at home, and there was always plenty of sachets available in the room to make drinks.

The restaurant was closed because it was too cold to sit in there, so we had our dinner in the lounge. The selection of food was fantastic, and the service incredible. The fish was so fresh, and served very quickly and with a smile. My husband and I both had a starter and a main course, and although we wanted it, we had no room for dessert.

The following morning we were in the breakfast room having porridge and a full Scottish cooked breakfast. The view from the breakfast room looking out to Kisimul Castle is amazing.

During the night, there was a storm that hit the Island. Torrential rain, winds, snow, hail and a thunder & lightning storm was holding out, and looked set in for the day.

Julian came over to see how we were getting on to which I replied “I don’t think we’ll be getting the bikes today”. His response was something that you will never hear anywhere else in the world – “Meet me in the reception about 11am and I’ll take you around the island so you can see what you came for”.

He was absolutely fantastic… He took us around in his Landrover, over to see Vatersay, he pointed out various beaches and sights which we would have missed on our own…  He even took us to the remains of the World War II plane that had crashed on the island due to bad weather.

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Barra is also famous for the author, Compton Mackenzie.  Whilst staying on the island (in a now, run-down house just over the road from the airport), he wrote the book “Whisky Galore” – The famous tale about how a group of Scottish islanders raided a shipwreck for its’ consignment of 24,000 cases of whisky.  Based on the true story of the SS Politician, one of the actual bottles that was washed up on shore can be seen in the lounge of the Craigard Hotel.  The book was made into a film, by the same name (Whisky Galore!) in 1949.  Featuring several famous actors; Basil Radford, Joan Greenwood, Gordon Jackson; the black and white film is a beautiful piece of history with some wonderful scenery and music.  If you’re lucky enough, bottles are still being found washed up ashore today…

All the staff in the hotel and bar were amazing people. They go out of their way to help you. The prices are very reasonable, and the food & drink divine.

Wherever you live in the world, if you ever intend on visiting Scotland one day, I highly recommend this trip.  Landing, and taking off the beach here is literally a once-in-a-lifetime trip.