London Diary – Cornwall Never fails to Excite me !

Oct 20, 2016

A year ago today I arrived in London.
Today I am taking a road trip to Cornwall. Yes Cornwall again!

Oct 20-23, 2016

After about 6 hours on the road, we reached Land’s End Hotel in the early evening. Our journey had seen clouds and sunshine in alternation but luckily the rest of the evening was perfect, a lovely welcome back to Cornwall indeed. Cornwall never fails to excite me. Once we pulled into the hotel parking lot on the ocean side, we were surrounded by stunning views that made my heart leapt. Literally pulled on by the force of nature, I jumped out of the car and started toward the cliff. From then on, our visit was a feast to the wild Cornish beauty.

Land’s End

South west tip of England, Land’s End’s enduring attraction is its beautiful surrounding, Atlantic Ocean, rugged rocky cliff, jagged rock towers, light house and promontory afar. Icing on the cake are a small visitor center with shop, restaurant, playground and amusement for children and Land’s End Hotel with view that few others can rival, making it a lovely place to stay, for day trip or base for walks to Sennen Cove or Porthcurno in the other direction. We booked a premier double with sea view, which we were very happy with, to make it sweeter, a nice surprise awaited when we checked in, we were given a 3 for 2 deal.

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St Michael’s Mount

In France there is Mont Saint-Michel, in Cornwall, there is St Michael’s Mount, 30 minutes east of Land’s End and south of Marazion, a nice little seaside town.

It is no wonder that I had at a time mistaken St Michael’s Mount for Mont Saint-Michel. Although St Michael’s Mount is smaller, the images are strikingly similar, both of conical shapes, and they were historically linked at one point, both belonging to the same Benedictine religious order, having been awarded to the Benedictines in 12th century by Edward the confessor. The island and church was however confiscated by Henry VIII like many other monasteries in the 16th century. Until the St Aubyn family purchased it from the crown in 17th century and it has been the family’s primary residence for 12th generations. Currently National Trust co-own and manage the island and castle.

It is a fantastic visit. The castle is grand and the interior is rich.  As you climb up by foot, you are surrounded by lovely views that change by every turn and a beautiful garden by the rocky seashore located on south east side of the island can be seen from the Sun Terrace.

Little chat with the guides, we discovered that the St Aubyn family also owns properties outside the island including some in Marazion. While the only way to get up to the castle is by foot, there is an underground tram entered from the harbor that is used to carry things up and down between the castle and the harbor.

As it was the only option, we left our car at a seaside car park at Marazion, which has a stunning view of the little island. A causeway links the island with the mainland, but tide was high at around 10:30am, and we had to take the ferry. Leaving the island at 1:30pm, the tide was low enough to clear up the causeway, with the exception of several feet in the center that was still covered by a shallow puddle. A little more than 5 minute, but it was a fun walk; kids of all ages were making the most of it.

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Porthcurno

Porthcurno is a village on the coast south east of Land’s End. A couple of the main attractions we visited are Minack Theater and Porthcurno beach. Minack Theater is a divine outdoor theater carved out on the face of the cliff with a stunning view to Porthcuno beach and Logan Rock promontory. The beach is one of the beautiful locations featured in BBC TV series Poldark.

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A Beautiful Walk to Sennen Cove

Sennen Cove is a seaside village north east of Land’s End. The foot path by the cliff linking Land’s End and Sennen cove is 1.5 mile and according to the hotel staff a 30 minute walk. It took us 3 times as long. With beautiful views at every turn the walk was exhilarating! Around midway, you’d also find the remains of a ship wreck.

Something very cool happened that day too. We spotted from afar someone climbing the cliff near the Coast Guard’s lookout. She, with a long ponytail, was navigating nimbly and quickly through the rocks. She beat us in reaching the lookout tower but we caught up with her and realized the pony tail had misled us. It was a boy, probably in his late teens. He was about to ride away on his bike and helmet, which was the only protection he was wearing while scaling the rocks. I commented what he did was very impressive. He replied he grew up in this area, was used to that sort of thing and today he was out exploring. Just exploring by scaling the rocks, couldn’t be more casual for him.

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Levant Mine and Botallack Mines

Copper and tin mining was an important part of Cornish economy during 18th to 19th century and a number of mines dotted its coast. You can still see a number of chimney stacks tower over the landscape driving around the right spot.

I learnt of these mines for they are the filming locations of BBC show Poldark. BTW I was a fan before the episode that aired on Sunday Oct 23rd. What happens in that episode however greatly disappointed me. Captain Poldark is no longer one in my list of literary heroes.

Nonetheless I am glad I visited these mines for it was more treat to the beautiful coastal scenery and an interesting lesson in Cornish mining history.

Levant Mine is substantial in size and located between St Just and Pendeen, 9 miles north of Land’s End. It was a joint venture and the investors certainly struck gold, eventually having their investment grown more than a thousand folds. It is a National Trust property. Visitors can roam about the ground free but the underground part of the museum is closed that day, albeit a Saturday. Geevor Mine next door appears substantial in size, not a National Trust property and also entirely closed that day.

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Closer to St Just are more mines at Botallack including Wheal Crowns Mine, Grambler in Poldark, and Wheal Owels, Wheal Leisure in Poldark. Botallack is National Trust property. There is a small office building with café and toilets available. Visit is free to all and you can get a map for self guided tour.  Some of the remaining structures were narrow tunnels, a few small kids were crawling through them.

The most striking is Wheal Crowns. Its building is a typical mine engine house like others. It is the location that gives it the stunning edge. The best view of both of these mines is on a terrace towering over the sea. The path to it, as narrow as a sheep’s intestine, is a precarious one; one misstep could cause one to tumble down the dizzying height of the cliff. Fortunately, it isn’t too long, we made it forth and back safely.

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Pendeen Light House

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Cape Cornwall

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Lizzard Point and Kynance Cove

Last day in Cornwall worked out most efficiently and happily. We visited Lizzard Point, Kynance Cove, and had a nice, big meal at Top House, a pub in the cute little village, Lizzard Village, before leaving around 4pm.

Lizzard Point is the Most Southerly Point in England, about 30 miles south east of Land’s End. Leaving Land’s End on a regular day, little did I know it’d be the most intensely windy spot I’d ever been to. As soon as we reached the parking lot next to a light house, I felt the strong wind. But most intense was when walking the short cliff path between the light house and the café and being around the café. My skin was pulling away from my face, my hair was slashing my face left and right, there was fine grits in the air, at times I had to hold on to something to steady myself and even doors of shop and café were rattling. I wonder how those little buildings had withstood the intense wind year after year.

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Kynance Cove is a dramatically beautiful cove with fine sandy beach and interesting rocks. There is also a café right by the cove.

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Both Lizzard Point and Kynance Cove are National Trust property. The foot path on the cliff top between both points should be beautiful. But at more than 5 miles long we did not have time to cover it. Luckily National Trust has parking lot at either end, making it possible for us to visit both points. Parking is free to members. Otherwise it is £3.

London Diary – Jane Austen Festival in Bath!

Sep 12, 2016

It is not officially autumn yet, but it is unmistakably palpable, cooling spells, leaves on the streets, schools starting last week and it seemed all the sudden it is starting to get dark at 8 not 10. It is at such turn of the season Bath welcomes its annual Jane Austen Festival. We were there for its opening over the past weekend. Three times in Bath, I like it better each time. In fact, it is becoming my favorite of all cities.

Beautifully situated along River Avon and over the hills on its banks, Bath is a prefect union of town and country. From architectural delights in the heart of the city, Bath Abbey, Roman Bath, Pump Room, Guild Hall, Putney Bridge, Royal Crescent, The Circus, The Assembly Room, to its average honey colored sand stone buildings and houses, to Queens Square, Victoria Park and Parade Garden, Bath is lovely to behold. Drive up to Alexandra Park south of the river, a breath taking view of Bath awaits. Fox and Hound north of the city is a popular pub with lovely view and great food. From that outward, Bath is surrounded with that typical, delightful Cotswold country side.

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Making it extra fun for me is Jane Austen Festival, which is a 10 days event and each day is filled with a range of programs. The costume parade is one of the highlights and officially commences the festival. The first time we went to the festival in 2014, there were more than 500 people participated in the costume parade, a record breaking year and a spectacular parade. The weather was less than perfect this time. But despite the rain, more than 300 people participated in the parade. We again were observers of the parade, next year I have a mind to go back in costume.

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Other events we did included pre festival get together, Jane Austen afternoon tea at Pump Room, a festival fayre at Assembly room, where you find Regency costumes and accessories for sale, and a 20 minute, comical version of Pride and Prejudice performance. My favourite was Austen Undone, a brilliant 90 minute program that seamlessly fitting together a walking tour with storytelling. The story is a spinoff of Austen characters, plots and humor. We got to watch it unfold live on the streets of Bath. Hilarious!

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Icing on the cake are the many fun places to shop, a few special mentions, Barlett Antique Center near Assembly Room, Mallory and Miles Mann (jewelry) near Bath Abbey, Alexandra May (costume jewelry) near Royal Crescent, Milsom Place, market at Guild Hall and monthly Artisan Market at Green Park Station.

London Diary – Readers I’ve been to Haworth!

Haworth, West Yorkshire.

A tongue in cheek attempt at a fantastic opening line. It might not have done the trick but fans of Bronte might have understood the allusion to the famous line in Jane Eyre, “Readers, I married him.”

A steadfast fan of Jane Eyre, the stories of the Bronte sisters fascinate me. In this year that is Charlotte Bronte’s 200th birthday, my wish came true, I made my way to Haworth, Yorkshire over Bronte Society’s annual conference weekend in June.

There were interesting activities during the four day conference. We attended annual lecture, participated in a lively debate on two of Charlotte’s novels, Jane Eyre and Shelly, where the actress Maxine Peake was invited as a presenter, and played a fun trivia game.

The visit to the Bronte Parsonage Museum was memorable. The parsonage on the hill top, the parish church, separated from the parsonage by the grave yard, and a simple, smaller stone building, which used to be a school where Charlotte had taught, would have made the Bronte’s most intimate surroundings. It was very touching to be there, feeling close to the talent and spirits that have inspired so many.

The historic part of Haworth village sloping up to the parsonage and parish church has been well preserved and is atmospherically charming, cobble stoned street, lime stone buildings of Yorkshire characteristic housing shops, pubs, restaurants and hotels.

My other favorite part was walking the Bronte country, following the sisters’ footsteps, through Haworth Moor, beyond Bronte Water Fall and Bridge, all the way to Top Withen. The path starts from the parsonage and quickly enters Haworth Moor with nice view of another village across a narrow, deep valley. After the passing of a few more large sheep farms and houses, there is not much else between man and nature. Most visitors stop their journey at the bridge. We continued on.

The surrounding after the waterfall and bridge becomes more and more desolate and wild. Top Within is a vague speck on the hilltop yonder. There are few trees. Counterintuitively, the vast openness made that two miles appear infinitely distant. But eventually, that tiny speck came into focus. There it was, the ruin of a stone farm house standing next to a lonely, tall sycamore. That was Top Within, the locale that was the inspiration for Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Height, the tale of a tragic, violent love story.

Since Haworth was fully booked, we stayed in Hebden Bridge, a small town 20 minutes south of Haworth. Hebden Bridge is a village on steep hill surrounded by fantastic view. Almost everywhere in Hebden Bridge, you can see a picturesque hill top village and its soaring church spire across the valley. Having been tantalized by it for days, we one day drove out searching for it. After climbing some steep streets, we stumbled across it, Heptonstall, a small village on steeper and higher hill.

The drive between Hebden Bridge and Haworth passes through some dramatic scenery. As it draws close, Haworth appears as a postcard picture on a hill.

It was the Brontes who had drawn me to this part of the country. In turn, it opened my eyes to a landscape that is like none others, and I discovered what had in part helped shape the sisters into who they were.

This part of west Yorkshire is arduously hilly, its scenery alternates between expansive, open, undulating land and steep, narrow valleys. Under thick clouds, it is bleak and dramatic all at once. When the shrouding veil is lifted by shining sun and all is clearly discernible, it is stunningly beautiful. Fog you’d often encounter is a phenomenon. It might be thick and dense on the road you are driving through, or wispy twists hanging in the narrow valleys. In either form it adds an intriguing mystery to the already unusual landscape, on the other hand, it could seem eerie to unfamiliar eyes. And that could be in part its enduring appeal.

 

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Harewood House

Harewood House is an hour north east of Haworth. It is where Lost in Austen was filmed as Mr. Darcy’s Pembley. The house is grand and beautiful. Its banquet room is breathtaking. Many staterooms feature ornately decorated ceilings. Designed by Capability Brown, its ground, lake and garden are tremendous and lovely. Its terrace in the back of the house, famously featured in Lost in Austen, is as romantic and gorgeous.

To make the visit interesting, we discovered its royal connection. Harewood became home to Princess Mary, QEII’s aunt, after she married Viscount Lascelles. The Chinese wall paper in Princess Mary’s former bedroom is beautiful, also her collection of Asian porcelains and figurines. Current Dowager countess lives upstairs of the house, her son, current and 8th Earl, and his wife however do not live in the house. According to a staff member, the Earl joked that it is too difficult to carry grocery up the stairs at the house. There are family photos including those with William and Kate in one stateroom. While having tea on the terrace, I thought I saw the Earl at another table having what seemed a business meeting with a couple.

Harewood is also where on its hall you’d find a life sized portrait of Lady Worsley, befitting to the character and scandal.

 

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London Diary – Henley Regatta

Jun 29, 2016

Henley Regatta is one of top events in the scheme of rowing competition, held annually at the picturesque village Henley on Thames. This year it runs from Wed to Sat this week when teams from the world, including many teams from US, Harvard, Yale, Columbia to name a few, row against each other. It is an exciting sport all right. But it is the social aspect of it that makes it a very English experience.

As it was demonstrated by the daylong program yesterday, which was the first day of event, the Brits surely knows how to live the high life. Watching from one of the river front boxes at Phillis Court, a private club right at the end of the race, guests were treated to noshes and continuous flow of spirits, coffee, tea and Danish pastries for breakfast, champagne and bar snack not long after, Pimm’s (one of those things with a firm British mark on it) heralding lunch, 3 course lunch served in a separate dining room with plenty of wine, then more tea, coffee or champagne continued in the river front box.

There was watching of the sport of course, but it seemed that for most guests, of our group anyway, there was more social going on, along with the people watching. The hats were fabulous and you might have guessed that there is a strict dress code for the club, skirts only for ladies and they have to be just sitting on the knees or below, not an inch higher or you’d be turned out. Gentlemen have to wear suits or blazers/sport jackets with chinos and ties/cravats. All was part of the fascinating experience.

Only thing I would have like to change was the weather, it was so cold few could stay out for long, not what you would hope for a summer day, is it. Anna from Rusia who has lived in England for more than 16 years said there is no summer in England, that one weekend in May was probably all the summer we’d get for the year. If she was correct then English summer had finished before it even started. In any case, it is not going to stop the fun is it.

P.S. I tried Pimm’s first time yesterday, it is a delightful sweet and fruity drink. It is made by mixing Pimm’s into lemonade and flavored and garnished with fruits. Although Pims’s is heavy at 25%, the mixed drink tasted however very light and I figured there can’t be too much Pimm’s in it right. But I was warned. The English likes their Pimm’s, one said, it is more likely there is more Pimm’s in there than it tastes.

 

London Diary – Magna Carta Memorial and More

May 28, 2016

Plan for Memorial Day weekend: day trips near London.

Day One: Egnham, 30 minutes south west of London

This day visiting Runnymede was nothing short of inspiration. These are the highlights.

Runnymede, an estate by the river Thames in Eghnam, has been home to multiple memorials. Most evocative among them is the Magna Carta Memorial. For it is the site where Magna Carta was sealed 800 years ago on June 15, 1215; seeds for ideals such as democracy and equal rights and fundamental principle for juror trials were planted, thus Britain’s immeasurable contribution to civilization and humanity. On site are also JFK Memorial and Air force Memorial, from the top of which you get a sweeping view of the area extending as far as Windsor Castle.

Royal Holloway was founded by Thomas Holloway as an all-women’s college and opened by Queen Victoria and is now part of University of London. Its crowning jewel is a grand, magnificent, stunningly beautiful building from its opening days.

Having lunch at Runnymede Hotel, which is situated at a lock on the river, watching pleasure and house boats queuing up to go through the lock and kids playing on the hotel lawn, walking along the river, checking out the houses and seeing people having picnic by the river was also great fun.

Dinner at Cafe Gondola, an Italian restaurant in Eghnam Town center, was superb.

 

May 29, 2016

Day 2: Cliveden House, 40 minutes west of London.

The house is grand and beautiful. It is now a hotel run by National Trust. It is open to public and offers a 30 minute guided tour, but only from spring to summer and two days a week. One of the few rooms included in the tour is The Great Hall. It is stunningly beautiful with intricate wood carving. Photos are not allowed in there, which is understandable. Today, it was filled with guests.  It is a short tour but very interesting. As former home to dukes, earls, viscounts, and one Prince of Wales, and then American millionaire, its history, 350 years long, is intriguing and scandalous. The ground and gardens are tremendous and wonderful.  Being a bank holiday weekend with beautiful weather, there were many visitors having picnic throughout the ground. Winter garden, parterre, long garden are all great. And you won’t miss the breathtaking Fountain of Love. The estate is right on the river Thames, it is a short walk to the river from the house where you can do boat tour, hire a boat to row yourself or just stroll along.

 

 

On the way home, we stopped at Windsor for dinner. Look what we found at the boat dock. Ever seen so many swans?

 

May 30, 2016

Memorial Day weekend day trip #3.

Henley on Thames, 40 minutes west of London, is a lovely little town famous for its annual Royal Regatta. Henley Bridge is a handsome feature. Close by is Church of St Mary, beautiful and steep in history. Town center is several blocks around with pretty cottages and nice buildings. The hub of activity that day seemed to be along the river front, between the bridge and River and Rowing museum, some boats cruising, a few kayaks, many ducks and swans bobbing, kids playing on a vast lawn and a large group of Indians doing barbeques at an adjoining  picnic area.  I had heard good things about restaurants in Henley, and The Angel on the Bridge did not disappoint, the slow roast pork belly with potatoes and red cabbage that I had was exceptionally good, the sauce for the potato was divine.

 

London Diary – Winter Wander Weekend

 

Jan 26, 2016
Many here love walking/hiking. And when you’ve had a taste of the extensive web of beautiful “foot paths”, easily accessed throughout the country, you’d understand why. It is not simply escaping to the country of open space, fresh air and delightful scenery. It is also rich history and architecture you’d encounter along the way. The enticement is irresistible.

I’ve done some walks here and there in England, loved every single one and forever looking to do more. A few weeks ago, I found out about a great opportunity, a long list of free guided walks in and around London sponsored by London Transportation was offered for the weekend of 23rd and 24th. I could hardly contain my excitement. Many routes looked fantastic but I finally decided, Richmond to Busy Park (9 miles) for Sat and River Walk in Hammersmith (3.5miles) for Sun.

That was to be the first of this organized walk that happens at most 2/3 times a year. Alas, a bad cold hit before the weekend. Although still battling the cold, I couldn’t help but try. I went but had to stop before long. I got as far as Ham House (one mile down) and turned back. It was however enough to whet my appetite.

Richmond is a pretty London suburb on the river Thames and the route is part of the longer Thames Path that stays close to the riverside. The list is also a wealth of information. I hope to catch up with the group next time, if not, I’ve picked up many walks to do on my own.

Here is the listing of the walks, http://www.walklondon.org.uk/

National Trust has a great walking route for Richmond and Ham House. The views from Richmond Hill and Henry VIII’s Mound are lovely. See link for details, http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ham-house-and-garden/trails/ham-house-from-richmond-walk

 

London Diary – Goodbye 2015 and Hello 2016!!

Dec 29, 2015 – National Gallery

By then, Ben had visited Natural History Museum and British Museum, and now he set his mind on National Gallery, excellent Choice.

Since it was close by, we had planned to see the Change of Guards first, which is done on the odd days at Buckingham Palace, we however underestimated the crowd, which turned out to be much bigger than the last time we visited it in Sep. of 2014. By the time we got there, there was not a decent spot left. We tried a bit but eventually turned away. Avoid the Christmas/New Year holiday season or be there early.

So we had more time for National Gallery which worked out great. National Gallery’s specialty is paintings. There are so many treasured pieces at the museum by so many masters, it is an amazing experience going through its labyrinth of rooms. First and last time I visited was more than 10 years ago and all I remembered was its Impressionist collection. Strategy this this time was covering it chronologically. I find it interesting, keeping the historical context in perspective and pondering upon the link between history and art, vice versus. By the end of the day, I went through Early Renaissance, High Renaissance and Baroque. Although I could appreciate the artistry in all these works, I enjoyed the paintings more as the subject matters turned away from being dominantly religious. The Baroque collection is by far the most interesting, it whetted my appetite and I look forward to come back for the later period, Impressionism especially.

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Dec 31, 2015 –New Year’s Eve

By now, I’ve already figured out people here love fireworks. What do they do for New Year’s Eve? One of the most spectacular firework displays in the world over River Thames. Alas, the event became ticketed since 2014 and ticket sale starts in Sep/Oct. Not having moved to London until mid Oct. and not having started to think about it even later meant that tickets were all gone. There were other alternatives of course, various parties and dinner packages, we opted to stay away from the crowd.

Instead, we planned an easy day that turned out delightfully pleasant. We visited Westfield Shopping Center, a chic and huge shopping mall at Shepherds Bush. I think it is the largest shopping mall I ever visited. There are more than two hundred shops and a few dozen places to eat, plus a movie theatre. We shopped, we watched Start War and dined at Wahaca, a Mexican restaurant, and had a feast of Mexican spirit and street food.

Champagne, noshes and sweets continued at home to accompany the count down and fireworks on TV.

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Jan 5, 2016

Somehow it is only now that I am able to say good bye to 2015, which was one of the most interesting year by far. While there were a few bad things and battles to fight, there were more good things, and we triumphed at the end.

And since moving to London, it’s been a journey full of happy experience and interesting discovery, especially the holiday with Ben. As Ben put it, All is well that ends well.

One party ends and another begin. And it is time to say Hello to 2016. I wish all a healthy, prosperous and happy 2016 and I wish all wonderful discoveries and triumphant experiences!!

London Diary – Dover, Kent

We went to Dover in Kent for Thanksgiving weekend. Because Dover is home to the famous White Cliff and Dover Castle. It is also the closest point to France across the Channel.

Dover was shrouded in grey rainy chilly wind when we arrived Friday afternoon. The wind was so strong we had to cancel the plan to walk along the cliff top.

Sat morning however turned out perfectly gorgeous. According to hotel staff, that was how the day started on Fri. We hurried through breakfast and headed back out to the White Cliff. On the way we ran into some traffic. It seemed that Saturday was a busy day for the port at Dover and long lines of big old trucks were inching their way into the port. We were able to detour out of it and no problem with it the rest of the day.

We walked from White Cliff Visitor Center, which provides free parking, to the South Foreland Lighthouse and back. The path meanders through naturally preserved fields where many species of wild plants and flowers grow. It stays mostly close to the edge of the cliff top, revealing a beautiful rocky shoreline. Along the way, we could see the French islands in the hazy distance and many ships plying the water, some of which we found out later to be ferries running between Dover and Calais on the French side, about two hour each way. It was a marvelously wonderful excursion, reminding me why I keep going back to the English coast.

One thing I have learnt about the English weather is its changeability. The wind started to pick up paces as we drew closer to the light house and it continued to grow on the return trip. There were also some very muddy spots on the path. A warm jacket, hat and good walking shoes are must for the jaunt.

Dover’s proximity to France has made it a strategic location historically. Along the path, you’ll find remains of underground shelters from WWII. Fan Bay Deep Shelter is one that is open to visitors Apr. to Oct. Its entrance is cut into the cliff face that falls on one of the multiple holes on the cliff. On the return trip, we ventured into the hole, walked down a deep incline then climbed a short but steep path to get up and close to the entrance. Interestingly the hole was somewhat sheltered from the wind that had become quite biting. The climb back up was short but again very steep, so much so that once we reached the top, I couldn’t see the path from up there. A bit scary thinking back.

It seemed that we beat the crowd this morning.  We crossed path with few people until it was almost halfway on the return trip. By that time, the sky had dimmed into a shade of light grey. As we reached Dover Castle, it had turned into a deeper grey and started to sprinkle.

No shade of grey however can diminish Dover Castle’s formidability. Impressively formidable it is.  It is also the first of this type of castle that I had seen that was still structurally sound and complete. A castle built in 12th century by Henry II, it is a complex of a robust center Keep plus two defensive outer walls spread across the hill top that overlooks Dover Harbor. As you start touring the tower, you’ll learnt some very intriguing history. Although not original, the indoor arrangement reveals an interior of its time that was interestingly colorful. A climb to the roof top of the main Keep aka the Great Tower is a must, it is where you can fully appreciate the advantage of its location, its extensive layout, and wonderful view of harbor and town. To our delight, we also found not far from the castle and just outside of its inner wall the ruin of a Roman light tower which is largely intact and a restored Saxon Church. There are other interesting structures on the hill as well but we did not have time to visit on that day.

Sunday morning came and there was no sign of the weather improving, same greyness that prevailed the previous two afternoons. But that wasn’t going to stop us. We drove around to explore a bit and quickly went back to Castle Hill. Passing Dover Castle and White Cliff we drove further eastward, hoping to find that spot in a residential neighborhood where I got a blurry glimpse of a mysterious white cliff lurking between the houses when we drove by in the evening of Friday. We did find it. It seemed close by but there was no sign indicating what it might be and how to approach it. We drove on to a road that seemed heading the right direction, ignoring a sign that read “Road Close Ahead”. We quickly lost sight of the cliff. Driving on, through zigzagging, narrow lanes, passing houses haphazardly built on the hill side, we ended up at a stunning spot; we had stumbled upon St Margret Bay. It was windy. Waves slashing the concrete wall sent splashes high and far. I got hit a few times and a taste or two of the salty water. At the end where the waves were fiercer than the rest, two brave surfers were testing their crafts. At the corner across the bay, sat a fantastic white house between the cliff and a small beach, it was dreamily picturesque.

Back at Dover Castle, it was obvious the wind affected the hill top more than any other part of the town because of its altitude. At first, roof top of the main Keep was closed. A bit later, the entire Keep had to be closed due to the danger of the “vortex” of wind formed between the main Keep and the inner wall. Although the rest of the ground was still open, it wasn’t fun walking around in the chilly wind. So naturally our visit turned underground.

There are many underground tunnels at Dover Castle. The set of tunnels that were built pre Napoleonic War on the sea side of the hill is a sprawling underground complex. The guided tour is very interesting and focuses on the importance of these tunnels during WWII. The medieval tunnels are close to the Keep and not as extensive, as far as we could see. By the time we went to these tunnels, most visitors have left the castle, and we found ourselves the only ones in these dimly lit old tunnels, not one single guide was in sight either. To heighten the atmosphere, a few outside windows/doors were broken in spots and I could hear the wind howling. As impressive as the tunnels were, I wasn’t going to linger. Nonetheless, it certainly added to the mystique and impressiveness of this already very impressive castle.

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England and Norway 2015 (1) – Costswold, England

Cotswolds, England

Just as we witnessed last year on our trip to London, Bath, Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, and Hampshire, for an area that is slightly more than 50,500 square miles, England’s landscape and scenery are rich and varied. Jurassic Coast is marvelously dramatic, Cornwall rugged and invigorating, Bath exquisite and sophisticated. Lacock, Highclere, Stevenson, Oakley, Alton and Chawton, although flatter and calmer, seem more intense in its Englishness. We ran through Hampshire in a whirl wind and left wanting for more. Adding to the calling was Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd.

And back to England it is. But it is not Hampshire, nor Dorset, it is this time Cotswolds. Cotswolds turned out everything I expected it to be, and more. Open countryside, rolling green hills, meandering rivers, picturesque villages or towns, and gorgeous churches, or cottages or manor houses that are decked out in the typical local golden stone, Cotswolds is beautiful and delightful. It is a place where time has stood still in so many ways and in so many of its corners, you sometimes can’t tell fantasy from reality or the present from the past.

In tranquil country setting, Cotswolds is indeed relaxing. On the other hand, it has so many little gems, I found it hard to go laissez faire. Between Stratford upon Avon on the north and Bath on the south, there is a long list of villages and towns to visit. The following are a couple of great websites where you can read about all of them and choose based on your interests and priority, http://www.cotswolds.info/places/ and http://www.fodors.com/world/europe/england/bath-and-the-cotswolds.

We split our stay between Wood Norton at Evesham and The Swan at Bibury and went through Hicote Bartram, Chippen Campden, Broadway, Stanton, Stanway, Snowshill, Morton in Marsh, Winchcombe, Cleeve Hill, Upper and Lower Slaughter, Woodstock, Chippen Norton, Stow on the Wold, Burton on the Water, Bibury, Barnsley and Berkeley. We visited several of them and drove through the rest.

Hidcote Manor and Garden

We picked up our rental car from Heathrow and went straight towards Hicote Bartram, a tiny village near Evesham. Having forgotten to bring our own Garmin, and turning down the offer to rent one from Euro Car, which costs more than enough to buy a new one, we had to rely on our cell phone which was sporadic in connection that afternoon. We struggled a bit and made a few wrong turns. But we made it to Hidcote Manor and Garden. Just in time to warm our spirits, the sky cleared when we arrived.

Not much of Hidcote manor could be seen, only a couple of the rooms downstairs are open to the public. The beautiful garden surrounded by wonderful countryside is the main attraction. The garden is famous for its unique and varied schemes in its different rooms. The creator of the garden, Major Lawrence Johnston, was from the United States. There were farm fields and paddocks near the garden, grazing sheep could be heard baaing occasionally. It was a delightful introduction to the Cotswolds.

Other than the manor, there are probably only a dozen other cottages/houses in the village.

Hidcote Manor House and Garden

Hidcote Manor House and Garden

Hidcote Manor House and Garden

Hidcote Manor House and Garden

Wood Norton and Evesham

Former residence of Duke d’Orlean, Wood Norton is a beautiful building on a hill top with nice garden, terrace and a pleasing view to the left of the building beyond its terrace’s elegant balustrade. It was our base for Hicote Bartram, Chippen Campden, Broadway and Winchcombe. In addition to the main building, there are rooms and banquet venue in two other newer buildings. Our room was in the main building, which, according to the owner whom we bumped into at check in, used to be the Duke’s bedroom.

It was an eventful weekend at Wood Norton. On the first night, a Friday night, there was a Jazz and dinner event in the main dining room and it was sold out. The next night, the hotel was booked for a wedding. We could hear indistinct music up to midnight. The dining room normally serves a three course dinner, the bar lounge serves snacks and light meals, both were quite good.

There was a novelty for me at Wood Norton’s breakfast buffet, honey served on the comb. It was as fresh as can be, absolutely delicious. This rediscovery of honey has led me to use it more since, honey and butter on toasty bread to go with a cuppa is just one of the ways.

Evesham is a large town in Cotswold, all we had time for on this trip however was going to the Tesco nearby, UK’s super market chain, looking for power adapter and finding some at Boots instead, a pharmacy store, also nearby.

Wood Norton

Wood Norton

Wood Norton

Wood Norton

Chippen Campden, Broadway, Snowshill, Stanway and Stanton

Second day in Cotswold was planned around Chippen Campden and Broadway.

Quaint and pretty, Chippen Campden is one of the loveliest towns I’ve seen. It is a small town with a long history and fascinating stories to go around. Sir Baptist Hick was the town’s benefector, Market Hall and Alm’s House are a couple of his projects. Campden House was burnt down during Civil War by its very own owner. Church of St James is beautiful, dates back to at least 1150 and includes in its list of former patrons names such as King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I. Similar to other towns in this area, the main throughfare in town is High Street, broad with rows of gorgeous buildings/houses lined up on both sides.

It was a Saturday when we visited and there was some kind of regional fair going on. On one end of high street, a group donning some traditional attire was jovially perfoming some folk dances and music, attracting a crowd. In the middle, another crowd surrounded a retangle area where school children danced to some pop songs. On the other end of the street, amusement park rides, etc. were set up, blasting lound modern music, there were also games, shooting and roulette, etc. and booths selling snacks, trinkets and toys common at amusement park and fair ground.

The juxtaposition of the new and the old was striking.

Church of St James

Church of St James

Gravel House (oldest building in town) and its evocative Door

Gravel House (oldest building in town) and its evocative Door

Broadway is similar to Chippen Campden in size and fashion, and only several miles south west. A few minutes south east from the town is Broadway Tower and park. The tower itself is an interesting building but better is the panoramic view of the surrounding area from the top, a view that is uniquely Cotswold and is intoxicatingly idyllic.

Broadway Tower

Broadway Tower

Cotswolds from Broadway Tower

Cotswolds from Broadway Tower

Broadway’s High street is very pretty and filled with hotel, restaurants and interesting shops. We had just 30 minutes to do a quick walkthrough though before we had to leave to keep our date with Buckland Manor.

Croft Villa

Croft Villa

Lygon Arms – A hotel

Lygon Arms – A hotel

Buckland Manor is beautiful manor house with a rich history dating back to the 13th century. Having been converted into a hotel, it has maintained some of its magic and you can still experience the atmosphere as if still a manor house. Expanding its facade is the gorgeous church right next door. We couldn’t have asked for a better setting for an afternoon tea!

Buckland Manor

Buckland Manor

Afternoon tea perfect for that chilly afternoon

Afternoon tea perfect for that chilly afternoon

At close to 7pm, it was still light out and we continued on to Snowshill. Snowshill is a miniature village, it is so quaint and pretty it is almost like stepping into a story book. Snowshill Manor, a well-known feature of the village, is open to the public till 5pm. We missed it and couldn’t see anything of it from the road. On the outskirt of the village, there is lavender farm. Although we found the field, it was not yet time for lavender.

Snowshill Church

Snowshill Church

From Snowshill, we drove on. For a few miles, we passed nothing but fields then we entered another quiet little village. Unexpectedly, as soon as we turned around a corner, a stunning building appeared straight ahead, we had stumbled upon the gate house of Stanway House, located right next to a church. It is an outstandingly beautiful building. It was closed but there was some indistinct music somewhere nearby. Turning around anohter corner down the road, a gate to the house was wide open and we could see that a small gathering of somesort was going on but still could not see the main house from there. Although that was all we could get of the 16th century Jacobean house, it was enough to make a long lasting impression.

Stanway House

Stanway House

Staton is the next village nearby, as small and pretty. From The Mount Inn located top of a hill you get a delighful view of the entire village.

Winchcombe and Sudley Castle

Former residence of kings and queens and the resting place of Catherine Pharr, Sudeley Castle, near Winchcombe, has a a long and complicated history. Richard III’s Banquet Hall that is now in ruin is a keen reminder of its intriguing past. The state rooms and apartments that are open to public tells vivid stories of its former occupiers. It is now both museum and a place that the current owner and family still call home. In addition to the marvellous building and its prize collection, there is a very special residence you most likely will meet in the garden.

Sudeley Castle

Sudeley Castle

Sudeley Castle from a road leading to Belas knap Long Barrow

Sudeley Castle from a road leading to Belas knap Long Barrow

Special residence at Sudeley Castle’s garden

Special residence at Sudeley Castle’s garden

Cleeve Hill

At 1,083 feet (330 m), Cleeve Hill is the highest point both of the Cotswolds hill range and in the county of Gloucestershire. “It commands a clear view to the west, over Cheltenham and the racecourse, over the River Severn and into Wales”. Since it is not far north over Winchcombe, we went looking for it after Sudeley Castle. We did find it. Although the visibility was not great that day and the wind and chilly air made it difficult to stay long, we did get a glimpse of the spectacle it would be when weather cooperates.

Morton in Marsh

There was a number of interesting things to see in and near Morton in Marsh. The Bell Inn, which was thought to be the inspiration for The Prancing Pony of Tolkien’s Lord of Ring, had its distinctive appeal, especially to my hubby, and was the one we hit first. Cold and hungry, we were looking forward to sit down at this pub, maybe by a fire, soaking in whatever atmosphere it offers, Middle Earth or not, and imbibing hopefully delicious modern food. Alas, it was closed for renovation! Not only that, peeping through the windows, it looked like it was going to turn out as a very trendy place. Obviously, we were not the only people looking for it and sorely disappointed. We found a very nice meal however at The White Hart Royal Hotel and Eatery not far down the street across the road.

By the time we got back on the road again it was after 5pm, the sun however broke through the clouds and was shining brightly above. We then drove around looking for a few other places on my list, although most were closed, we got to see Rollright Stones because the gates weren’t locked.

King’s Stone at Rollright Stones

King’s Stone at Rollright Stones

Gate House to Batsford

Gate House to Batsford

Chastleton House

Chastleton House

A glimpse of Sezincote through the trees

A glimpse of Sezincote through the trees

Blenheim Palace

Mind you, it is pronunciated as ‘blenim’. What else can be said about Blenheim? Simply put, it completely blew me away. I first learnt about Blenheim from Mary Lovell’s Churchills in Love and War. It is a fascinating tale of the Churchill family, with most of its pages dedicated to Winston Churchill. But I had not imagined it to be this opulent, grand, sumptuous, exceptionally beautiful place that rivals Buckingham Palace, or Versailles, or Louvre. It is breathtaking.

Take advantage of the many tours offered, free or otherwise. We did “Women of Blenheim”. Tales of strong women behind the powerful men give the place so much color and bring the place fully to live.

Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace

One of the State Rooms

One of the State Rooms

Consuelo Vanderbilt – An American Heiress who became the 9th Duchess of Marlborough

Consuelo Vanderbilt – An American Heiress who became the 9th Duchess of Marlborough

Elaborate, intricate carving on ceiling

Elaborate, intricate carving on ceiling

Bibury

Huddled around River Coln, Bibury is idyllic and picturesque. We stayed three nights at The Swan Hotel located in favorite part of the town and paces from the river bank. Tour buses did come in with day trippers who made their brief stop around the 1770 stone bridge, where you find some of the top attractions in town close by, such as The Swan Hotel, The Trout Farm, Arlington Mill and Arlington Row. In the same time, the village remained largely peaceful and tranquil.

The Trout Farm is one of the gathering points where there is a restaurant for meal and tea. You can also feed the trout and ducks and watch the feeding frenzy. Twice at the hotel I had trout for dinner, which were supplied by the farm and freshest trout I ever had. The little antique shop between the post office and the Trout Farm has got some fun pieces to go through and might just surprise you with a great find, as it did for me. Quaint buildings, pretty cottages, lively gardens, ducks and swans feeding and frolicking on the river, it really is the loveliest part of the village.

Bibury Court is the largest building in the village but not open to the public. St Mary’s Church is a beautiful building. At its bulletin board, I saw an announcement of some event to be held at the church, including Minnie Driver as one of the attendants. I wondered if she lived there.

The Swan Hotel on River Coln

The Swan Hotel on River Coln

Cottages near the hotel

Cottages near the hotel

St Mary’s Church

St Mary’s Church

Bibury Court

Bibury Court

Berkeley Castle

Planning the trip, Berkely Castle (pronunciated as Barkely Castle) struck me as odd and irregular. It however seemed the kind of place that would excite my husband, old castles, ruins and whatnot. So Berkeley we did visit. Now two months later it still stirs up mixed feeling thinking of it.

On the way to the castle, clouds gathered and wind thickened. As we arrived, it was overcast and started to sprinkle. Entering from the north east side of the castle, we started with a narrow prospect of castle, a glimpse of some very old looking wall. Tall, sturdy, staunch, it stretched on until we are at the main gate. With its entire west wing staring back at us, it revealed to us the formidable fortress that it was. We soon passed the gate and entered the castle. Standing in the center court yard, circled in by the menacing, high stone walls that towered over us, I felt anachronously misplaced, as if I had been transported back in time, way back in time, into a totally unfamiliar, bygone world. Moments later, still awe struck, it started to pour and we quickly ran for the closest open gate, which happened to be the entrance to the main keep and the beginning of the tour. If the castle spooked me a little at first, it soon mesmerized me.

Ups and downs, rises and falls, gaining and then losing their aristocratic title, once a stronghold that got slighted, but against all odds, “900 years later, it is still in the family”. The history of the Berkeleys and their castle is indeed colossal. And yes, they are the Berkeleys who are responsible for the Berkeley Square of London and UC Berkeley.

There are lots of antiquities and artifacts on display throughout the house. We went through it once and decided to do it one more time with a tour guide. The guided tour was included in the admission and our guide was very good, she told many interesting tales and answered questions. One portrait in the gallery featured a Berkeley as a naval admiral, he seemed too young to be true, but indeed he was a naval admiral at 18/19.

By the time we finished the tour, the sun came out high and bright. We continued onto the garden and discovered the best view of the castle.

Berkeley Castle

Berkeley Castle

Main Keep is from 1300s

Main Keep is from 1300s

Wall slighted and no longer a stronghold. (Note the thickness of the wall)

Wall slighted and no longer a stronghold. (Note the thickness of the wall)

Butterfly Garden

Butterfly Garden

Lower and Upper Slaughter

Many tour guides recommend a walking tour while in Cotswold. We took up Warden’s Way foot path between Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter, two of the prettiest villages of Cotswolds on the Romantic Road. We started in Upper Slaughter, leaving our car at Upper Slaughter car park, right by Lords of Manor, presently a hotel.

It is an easy and delightful path that stays close to River Eye. We passed manors, cottages, paddocks, fields, churches and little foot bridges and stopped at Lower Slaughter Manor, presently also a Hotel. It was a wonderful walk with photo ops every step of the way.

We took afternoon tea at Lower Slaughter Country Inn before following the same path to return to Upper Slaughter. The weather couldn’t be better, just perfect for a jaunt like that through the countryside. It was a happy ending to our visit to Cotswold.

Upper and Lower Slaughter

Upper and Lower Slaughter

Upper and Lower Slaughter

Upper and Lower Slaughter

Upper and Lower Slaughter

Upper and Lower Slaughter

 Yoga posing swan

Yoga posing swan

England 2014 (4)-Jurassic Coast

Great Brittan has some of the most stunning coasts in the world and Jurassic Coast is one of them. A 95 mile long sea shore spanning from county Dorset to county Devon, it is not only stunningly beautiful but also home to rocky cliffs that are 185 million years old and England’s first UNESCO designated natural World Heritage site. Even more interestingly, color scheme of the scenery transforms along the way, while the oldest rocks on the west are of deep clay red, the youngest on the east are of chalk white. Naturally, it is a rich ground for fossil hunting. And between its eastern end at Studland, Dorset and western end at Exmouth, Devon, it is studded with charming sea towns and villages.

Planning for this holiday, I discovered the impressive network of foot paths (walking routes) that exists in England. Apart from the local routes of shorter distance, South West Coast Path (a.k.a. SWC) is a 630 mile long route that crosses Somerset, Cornwall, Devon and Dorset, and the majority of it falls on the coast with striking sea sights, and one that we crossed path with multiple times. Jurassic Coast on its entirety is part of SWC, there are itineraries covering the whole 95 miles by foot. It is a tempting option, one that would allow the fullest exploration of the coast and places in between. Alas, it mostly likely would take almost my entire vacation to complete. I settled for covering in one and half days these highlights, Old Harry’s Rock near the eastern end, Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove, Coastal Drive from Wyemouth to Bridport, Lyme Regis and Orcombe Point at the western end.

My attack plan was to stay the night before near Old Harry’s Rock at Swanage and second night at Exmount which is where Orcombe point is located. It was a long day with a lot of rushing and we pretty much fast forwarded through the Costal Drive (Weymouth to Bridport), with one momentary stop in Lyme Regis. But we did make it to Old Harry’s Rock, Lulworth Castle, Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door and everything was every bit as splendid as I had hoped it to be.

At Swanage, we stayed at Clare House, a nice Bed and Breakfast. Although we did not have time to explore the town itself, driving through yielded a good impression. Dianne, Scottish, and Alan, English own the place. It was a few days before Scottish Independence Vote and I asked Diane about it. She said staying together is better for the economy. When the result was out, we were in Fowey. I was happy to find out England and Scotland would stay together. It would have been said to see the little island split up.

Old Harry’s Rock

The closest car park to Old Harry’s Rock is South Beach Car Park in Studland, an unmanned pay and park system. It was supposed to accept credit cards but ours did not work there, be prepared and take plenty cash with you. It could be done in one hour but we spent about two hours at Old Harry’s Rock, taking photos and video along the way, taking time to explore and appreciate the environs; it took us 50 minutes to get there, but only 20 minutes to return to the car park.

The walk was exhilarating. The route started off right across from Bankes Arms, a country inn right next to the car park, and was just some paces away from the path leading down to South Beach. The village was quickly left behind; the trail unexpectedly turned into a broad swath along the cliff, surrounded by nothing but sea and countryside, and hedges planted on the edge of the cliff. Somewhere on the hedge there was a sign warning about dogs falling off the cliff.

While there were other people around, it was far from crowded, which was nice. Many of the hikers seemed retirement age couples, they were friendly and polite, and they made eye contact and said good morning. Quite a number had their dogs with them. I wondered if they were locals and what was that area like for retirement. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a place like that right in your backyard?

Then the broad swath closed into a narrow way. It continued on through some thick shrubs. At some point, you’d notice an opening in the shrubs on the left, leading to a short path, and when you follow it, you’d quickly come to a small area on the edge of the cliff and a spectacular view of sea and chalk white cliffs. There is one single bench there. I suppose the choice is either sit back and enjoy the view or dare yourself down that sheep’s intestine like path in the middle. I knew it though; my husband would not pass it up. I curiously followed suit and found it more never racking than thrilling; but still glad I made it. The closer you get to end of the path, the narrower the path, at no more than 2 feet wide, in the meantime, the better your view of the perpendicular, sheer rocks, hugging you left and right, and you can’t help but stare down the whole length of the cliff, and feeling kind dizzy.

Giddy from that little adventure, we returned to the main track. As unexpectedly as before, it opened up again and this time to a vast open area that stretched across to edge of the cliff with no planted hedge railing. And there it was to the left Old Harry’s Rock, the giant rocker, towering over the water and seemingly disconnected from the cliff. Walk along the cliff, you’d find a few more interesting rocks.

The views are spectacular there, what makes it even better is that a whole area atop the cliff is naturally and verdantly preserved. A large tract of land immediately by the edge of the cliff is open field covered by low rise grass dotted with little wild flowers, further off are green woods and a village in the distance, wonderfully picturesque.

Old Harry’s Rock

Old Harry’s Rock


Another view of Old Harry’s Rock

Another view of Old Harry’s Rock


Spindle Rock near Old Harry

Spindle Rock near Old Harry


South Beach, Studland, Dorset

South Beach, Studland, Dorset

Lulworth Castle, Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door

Moving on to Lulworth, we drove by again the little hill with the ruin of Corfe Castle on top. Castles, ruins, adventures and treasure hunting are my husband’s fancy so we took a little detour through village of Corfe.

Corfe

Corfe


Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle

I was first made aware of the name Lulworth by American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin, a pleasurable read and I think it will totally pass as a prequel for Downton Abbey. It was serendipitous to find Lulworth as one of the main attractions of Jurassic coast.

The reach of Lulworth estate is draw-droppingly expansive; among others, it includes the stretch of Jurassic Coast ranging from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door. We visited Lulworth Castle first. The castle was ruined during fire early 20th century. While the frame and exterior has been fully restored to its former glorious and imposing self, the interior remained an empty ruin. The climb to the top of the castle provides a good view of surrounding area and also a glimpse of the current residence of the owning family, a pleasant looking red brick mansion not far from the castle, with a manicured front yard and a garden on the other end of the house that blends in with the Castle garden. The exhibit in basement tells a good story of the family’s and castle’s history. There are also two churches close to the castle, an Angelica church and a Catholic cathedral, both open to visitors. Its stable is located further off the castle.

Lulworth Castle

Lulworth Castle


Lulworth Castle

Lulworth Castle


Lulworth Castle’s Catholic Cathedral

Lulworth Castle’s Catholic Cathedral


Lulworth Castle’s Angelican Church

Lulworth Castle’s Angelican Church

Both Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door are beautiful sites. Car park and Lulworth Cove Heritage Center are closely located to the cove. You pay to park your car but no additional charge to go up to the cove. There were two options for us to get to Durdle Door. One was to start at Lulworth Cove car park and hike the mile long path accompanied by beautiful sea sight. The other was to drive up to Durdle Door Holiday Park, pay again to park there and make our way down the shorter path. The first was my original intention but it was approaching the evening and our legs had become heavy by that time, so we opted for the second. The path from there to the sea cliff is not too long but involves steep hills, which made it bit more challenging than it appeared to be. At the end though, all our effort was generously rewarded by Mother Nature.

Lulworth Cove

Lulworth Cove


Rocks at Lulworth Cove

Rocks at Lulworth Cove


Durdle Door

Durdle Door


Stunning cove near Durdle Door

Stunning cove near Durdle Door


Lyme Regis – The Cobb

Lyme Regis – The Cobb

Orcombe Point in Exmouth

A night’s rest restored and refreshed us; and the light rain stopped by the time we were ready to head out to Orcombe Point, where we expected to find oldest red rocks of the coast. What I had been able to find was that it is very close to the car park at eastern end of Queen’s Drive so the plan was to leave our car at the car park and go from there. Driving through town in the daylight now, we could see Exmouth as the charming sea town that it is. Queen’s Drive is a beach front road which comes to an end at a red rock wall.

That red rocky wall right there turned out to be Orcombe Point, the very end of that phenomenal 95 mile coastline. The beach west to Orcombe Point is Exmouth Beach and stretching eastward from Orcombe Point is Sand Bay. A number of people were that morning on the beach, with their dogs, which obviously enjoyed the water play with great energy and gusto. Sand Bay cannot be seen from the road or the beach but is accessible from Orcombe Point via a set of stairs, which on that day was however submerged in water due to high tide.

We couldn’t get onto Sand Bay but we could still get up to the hill and look down from the cliff. The view from up there of the red cliff, the town and beach were very nice. Geoneedle, a pyramidal monument erected on the hill top, is another highlight of Orcombe Point. It is made of different rocks from Jurassic Coast and officially marks the western end of the coast. Similar to that of Old Harry’s Rock, the land along the cliff comprises of luxuriant country fields, wonderfully unspoiled.

People were walking, jogging, dogs in tow. We trotted along but SWC goes on and on. We realized we had to stop our jaunt right there and move on to the next destination, Greenway in Devon.

Orcombe Point

Orcombe Point


Sand Bay east of Orcombe Point

Sand Bay east of Orcombe Point


Cliff at Sand Bay

Cliff at Sand Bay


Geoneedle at Orcombe Point

Geoneedle at Orcombe Point