Witley Court

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

As I mentioned in my post about Goodrich Castle, I love a day out to somewhere historical with my mother. We took advantage of my English Heritage membership in October and went to Witley Court.

Witley Court is very unusual as stately homes go. It's actually now only a shell of the home it used to be. Part of the home was destroyed by a large fire in 1937, after which the estate was split up and everything remaining was sold off. English Heritage took ownership of the property in 1972 and a lot of restoration has been done on the remains of the house over the years. What is left is - to borrow the words from the Wikipedia page - "a spectacular ruin."

The ruin itself is huge and we could only imagine how fantastic it was back in the home's heydey. The gardens and grounds are equally beautiful. The Perseus and Andromeda Fountain was in the process of being restored when we visited, which was disappointing in one way as it meant that we weren't able to see it 'firing', but it did mean that we were able to have a close up view - there was something quite creepy and haunting about seeing it that close!

Possibly the best part of the whole property - well, in my opinion anyway! - was the amazing adventure playground that was there. It was all wood and ropes and like a proper adventure to climb over. I may be in my late twenties (that's a horrifying thing to type!) but I absolutely adore a good playground. Though it does get a little embarrassing when I'm scrambling over parts looking a little terrified and some kid waltzes past me with no fear. I miss that no fear aspect of being young!

I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Witley Court. I'm planning on going back in the future to hopefully see the Perseus and Andromeda Fountain in action!

Penderyn Distillery

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

For Justin's birthday in October, I treated him to a tour of the Penderyn Distillery in the Brecon Beacons.

Penderyn is a relatively new distillery - it only started selling in 2004 - and is the first whisky distillery in Wales in over a century. The water used in the process comes from the Brecon Beacons themselves, from a source that sits far below ground under the distillery. The distillery specialises in single malt whisky, but also produces gin (Brecon Gin), vodka (Five Vodka) and a cream liqueur (Merlyn).

I'm not one for whisky but I am nosy and do like seeing 'behind the scenes' of how things are made, so although it was a present for Justin I was also quite interested. While the tour was interesting enough, it lacked a LOT. For instance, until the tasting at the end there was barely any mention of the gin, vodka and cream liqueur - I wanted to see how all of the items were made, not just the whisky. There seemed to be a lot that was missed out, such as where all of the casks are stored (the ones above were just for display purposes), and the bottling process. I don't even know if those things are on site there or somewhere else - it was never mentioned!

The girl doing our tour was lovely, but it was quite clear that she'd been employed as a tour guide and didn't have any knowledge of the distillation process beyond the tour spiel that she had learnt.

There was a lot of emphasis put on the tasting at the end but, given that I had no desire to try any of the whisky, it meant that the tour fell a bit flat. We had so many unanswered questions! The most interesting part (to me at least) was actually the mini museum at the beginning, which served as a waiting area for the tour to begin.

At the time we both enjoyed the experience. It wasn't until we were driving away afterwards that the slight feeling of being underwhelmed set in. A shame really, as the complex itself is very modern and lends itself to a great day out. As it was, the whole experience was very short - we were in and out in under an hour and a half! Hopefully they'll add more to the visitor areas and tour over time.


Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The benefit of having friends around the UK means that when you visit them, you also get to visit where they live (and get free accommodation!). I'd never been to Manchester (unless the airport counts ... which it doesn't!) until I went to visit my friend Chantelle in her northern lands. I was only there a day and a half and I loved it, so I'm really keen to go back.

We started with a (Chantelle guided) tour around Manchester, going around places with hipster sounding names like Spinningfields and Northern Quarter. We had a yummy lunch in The Oast House - anywhere with finger food that has garlic butter dripping down onto it is a winner with me!

We also took a trip around the John Rylands Library, which was gorgeous. It was like something out of a gothic romance novel.

That evening we were joined by Chantelle's boyfriend and had a delicious meal in Cau in Media City. I don't seem to have any photos of this so clearly the food was so good that I tucked straight in!

The next day we explored the Imperial War Museum and then walked around Salford Quays and the Media City area. We even got to see the Blue Peter garden!

Before I left we had time to go to The Alchemist for some of the most exciting cocktails I've ever seen.

Mine came with two mini flasks (I'm sure there's a scientific/technical term for them ...), and when I poured them into the glass it changed colour and smoke billowed from it! Chantelle had one that frothed, and looked exactly like bubble bath, while her boyfriend had one that they set half of the ingredients on fire before putting mixing it altogether. Definitely a way to end on a high!

Goodrich Castle

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Since becoming a civil servant, I've been reaping the rewards of being a member of CSSC. I pay a small amount out of my pay each month, and it means I get membership that includes free entry to Cadw and English Heritage properties. There's plenty of other memberships benefits too, but being the kinda girl who loves a good day out to somewhere historical, it's ideal.

My mother and I ventured to Goodrich Castle, which is an English Heritage property in Herefordshire, not far from Ross-on-Wye. The castle is a ruin, although parts of it are still very well-preserved - the essential structure of the castle is still very clear.

Goodrich Castle is surrounded by countryside and overlooks the River Wye. It was a Norman-built castle and 'guards' the line of the old Roman road that ran between Gloucester and Caerleon, where the road crossed from England into Wales. In the English Civil War it was the site of one of the most desperate sieges. During the siege, it was fired on using a mortar known as 'Roaring Meg', which has been restored and returned to the castle (you can see it in the bottom left of the picture below).

The castle is built on sandstone, a lot of which is visible around the base of the castle. I had a great time jaunting across these rocks as you can see!

The visitor centre, which is by the car park and a couple of minutes' walk from the castle itself, is modern and has a really nice little shop and cafe - my mother and I had a happy few minutes trying samples of the different wines and liqueurs they had for sale in the shop!

If you want more information on visiting Goodrich Castle (and if you like castles or a good day out, you should - we had a great time exploring it all), take a look at the English Heritage website for opening times, prices and directions to get there.

Craig-Y-Nos Country Park

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

The Brecon Beacons are one of my favourite places in South Wales - there's so much of them to explore. At the end of summer we visited Craig-Y-Nos country park, which is in the upper Swansea Valley and surrounds the River Tawe. We made the mistake of going on a Bank Holiday, which meant that the car park was full. We ended up having to park on the side of the road, which Justin wasn't too pleased about!

The country park used to be part of the Craig-Y-Nos castle estate, which is right next door. It's a foreboding looking gothic-style castle that now holds weddings. The castle and the estate used to belong to Adelina Patti, who was apparently once an internationally renowned opera singer.

It was a pleasant day out. The park was a lot smaller than I'd expected it to be. It seemed as if there was a lot of land that didn't have any paths through it. In fact, we ended up taking a turning that led us out onto the road on two occasions! It's really close to Dan-Yr-Ogof caves, which is definitely on my Welsh To Do list.

Interested in visiting Craig-Y-Nos country park? More information can be found on the Brecon Beacons website.

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