The Peak District and Makeney Hall

Apologies to the handful of people who check the blog with any regularity, I’ve really fallen off the regular-posting bandwagon these last few weeks. Partially because we’ve been lazy and haven’t done a lot of noteworthy things and partly because when there’s other people around I try to be more social. Hopefully I’ll catch up before we get home in a week and a half.

We start at the end of the last post – catching the ferry from Dublin to Liverpool.

After a 4:30am breakfast, the ferry from Dublin to Liverpool disgorges it’s passengers at the cruel hour of 5:30am, which meant we had a long day to fill before booking into our accommodation for that night.

Jess and Luke loved the croissants onboard and we could see why all the truck drivers were virtually spherical. Excellent food and service on the overnight P&O ferry!

We filled our day by first taking a drive to Edale, a little village in the Peak District and well known to me as the start/end of the Pennine Way, England’s most well known long distance trail. Possibly also it’s most grueling too. Not that I’ve done it, but it was nice to take a drive through the gorgeous hills and then stop for a cup of tea at the campsite cafe, once it opened. We were seriously early.

A classic British pub. Hopefully we’ll be back one day during opening hours.

Next we drove to Chatsworth farm house and cafe for a slice of cake and more tea. The range of stuff on sale was very tempting (and pricey) and I bought a few things for Andrew and some tasty treats for us too, including a ginger brack (a type of cake that keeps well) to put in my package of stuff to send home.

Fancy farm shop pies.

After the cafe we took a quick drive through the actual Chatsworth estate but we were all a bit too knackered to be bothered with the entry price and doing much walking around. The weather was glorious though and the building looked magnificent.

Last stop before our hotel was a leisurely walk around Bakewell, a very pretty, touristy and well-kept northern town. We looked through a few shops then made our way to Makeney Hall. As I’d thought the Lake District was too far to drive and our preferred hotel there wasn’t available anyhow and we thought it would be nice to spend one night in a relatively fancy country house/hotel and Makeney Hall looked nice and was in about the right location.

The hotel ended up looking quite nice on the outside but having a somewhat run-down feeling in the interior. Tatty carpet, dirty windows in the restaurant, and the bedrooms were pretty ordinary.

We had booked an afternoon tea and we were the only people in the spacious dining room. The food was nice and the ambience improved once we disconnected the country/pop music playlist on the staff iPad and connected my phone with more suitable classical music. Luckily the staff weren’t fussed.

All in all, not a hotel I’d recommend but we enjoyed taking a walk in the evening and watching the rabbits and squirrels in the garden.

The next day we drove to Cambridge for two nights then spent our last week in London, where we saw a number of plays and had high tea on a bus! More about the next post.

Here Comes The Planet 80 – Amalfi Coast (2018)

In this episode we take in the sights of the Amalfi Coast. First we stop in Amalfi to check out the medieval Roman Catholic cathedral in the Piazza del Duomo, and then head up to Ravello, a resort town set 365 meters above the Tyrrhenian Sea. Stunning views all across the board!

Click here to read Amanda’s blog entry about the Amalfi Coast!

Here Comes The Planet 79 – Where to eat pizza in Naples (2018)

Being the pizza lover that he is, Luke explores some of the most renowned spots in Naples to buy a slice of the finest Neapolitan Margherita, and gets down to eating. After watching this video you will know where to go (and also maybe where not to go!).

For a more detailed description of every pizza Luke tried while in Naples, head to this entry of the blog.

Ireland: Dublin

We only spent a day and a half in Dublin but we did a bunch of stuff!

We stayed at a pub/hostel that was a bit grotty but the location was great.

We visited the National Portrait Gallery.

Luke met an American lady who’d come to Dublin just to see this Caravaggio.

Jess went on a Viking bus/boat tour and a walking tour while Luke and I walked around town and then sat in a pub (just for something different). We did see the statue of Molly Malone.

Guess which bit you rub for luck?

Dublin has some shops with funny names. Also people in Ireland really love knitwear.

We also went to a comedy night – there is so much comedy in Dublin! If we’d known we might’ve booked tickets to something decent. As it was we saw three guys in a basement and they were ok. In the same pub there was a ukulele jam happening. People brought ukuleles and were given music books and all played along together. It was funny to watch.

Hrm… actually, we didn’t actually do all that much as there wasn’t much time. We enjoyed Dublin though and were looking forward to another fun ride on the ferry back. We ended up with the same kitchen crew as the way over and they remembered Jess was a vegetarian, which was pretty impressive. We slept a lot better as the sea was not as rough.

Next: driving through the Cotswolds and staying at Makeney Hall.

Ireland: Dingle

Dingle was definitely the highlight of our time in Ireland. It’s a little town on the west coast of Ireland in County Kerry and it’s the capital of traditional music. We had three nights booked at John Benny’s pub in the middle of town and stayed in an apartment out the back.

The first night in town we had a walk around and stopped in a few venues. The first had traditional music, the second had a guy with a guitar who played covers and used a loop machine. The third place was the hotel we were staying at and had a duo comprising of a young woman who sang and a man playing the guitar. They mainly sang covers and their own songs, not Irish songs. I’d expected every place to be doing trad music but the variety we encountered was good.

On the second night Jess booked us tickets for a concert in the local music shop, only a few doors down from where we were staying.

The show was mainly the man who’d played guitar at our hotel the night before (he was very good, he also sang) and a woman who sang and played the accordion. They explained a bit about trad music and the show was great plus it included half-time Irish coffees!

Luke and Jess went to another concert the next night which they said was even better. I stayed by the fire and read my kindle.

We didn’t just listen to music though. We took a drive around the Dingle Peninsula and were lucky to get great weather.

The views were absolutely spectacular. There were also lots of hills that looked like great walking and made me wish we had more time to explore.

We took at look at some ‘famine cottages’. While the layout was basic there was a lot of information displayed about the history of the area and the inhabitants of the cottages and what happened to them as a result of the potato famine.

Of course we also spent time in Dingle shopping and eating. I looked longingly at several pairs of Hunter boots but in the end decided I could order them online rather than lug them around Thailand.

As we left Dingle we stopped off at a very scenic little lough where took a bunch of photos and enjoyed the serenity.

Next: Dublin!

Ireland: Sligo and Galway

Luke, Jess and I caught the overnight ferry from Liverpool to Dublin and slept from about 10:30pm until 4:30am. It was a rough crossing, which made it more fun (for me anyhow), feeling the boat crashing up and down, but it also meant less sleep. Luke had a room to himself and somehow managed to sleep through all of it, lucky him!

Getting our stuff out of the boot after driving onto the ferry.

We drove off the ferry at about 5:30am, which meant very little traffic to contend with around Dublin. I felt the most awake so I drove up to Sligo. Here’s a map I have prepared to show our trip around Ireland. Please admire my use of lines and arrows and the star to denote our start and end point. Pretty good, huh?

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We stayed in Galway, Dingle and Wexford.

We’d decided on a stop in Sligo as Jess will be performing in an historical musical set in Sligo so she wanted to have a look. Also we had an enormous number of hours to kill before we could check into our accommodation in Galway.

Sligo is a medium sized town and it’s pronounced SLY-go, not Slee-go as I’d first thought and which, if I could make a suggestion to the local people, sounds nicer. Sligo sounds a bit like something you’d find if you hadn’t cleaned your drains for a while.

Anyhow, Sligo the town was actually quite nice. It didn’t feel too touristy and didn’t give us any indication of the startling numbers of American tourists we’d encounter everywhere else. I mean, there were still lots but not impenetrable scrums blocking every doorway.

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We signed up for a walking tour (actually Jess did almost all the Ireland booking and organising of everything, partially because she was the one who’d wanted to go there and partially because Luke and I were reaching booking-fatigue after months of travel). The tour started in the Information Office and the guy taking the tour had a pleasingly loud and deep voice and looked rather like the BFG.

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A statue of Yeats and our tour group in which I managed to photograph one hand of our very knowledgeable host.

The tour went for about 3 hours, which was on the long side for a walking tour, but I can honestly say that, when it finished, that I had learned a lot about Sligo and it turns out that Sligo has had quite a few interesting things happen in its history.

Sligo’s (and perhaps Ireland’s) favourite son was WB Yeats. Neither Luke, Jess nor myself are particularly into poetry and even though I’d heard of Yeats previously I knew almost nothing about him. Throughout our stay in Ireland his name came up over and over again and nearly everywhere we went there were exhibitions and memorials to his life, everyone and everywhere claiming to have had something significant to do with him. I almost wished I’d read up on him beforehand because he was such a recurring theme.

Sligo has a tiny museum that doesn’t have much in it. Currently there’s an exhibition on a woman who led the suffragettes, which was interesting, but the thing I liked most was a huge brown lump with a placard that said ‘BOG BUTTER’.

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Apparently people used to store huge (the size of a decent foot stool) chunks of butter in bogs. Bogs have a highly acidic, cool, oxygen-free environment that perfectly preserves all kinds of things. We’ve all heard of ancient people being exhumed from bogs but butter? It made me wonder whether they had forgotten where they put it or left town without it. The butter that has been found can be hundreds of years old and modern people have been experimenting and found that peat bogs can preserve food just as well as a modern freezer for periods of up to two years! Fascinating, I say.

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Because I’ve left my blog updates for over a week I now can’t remember a huge amount of what we did in Sligo (obviously the bog butter stuck in my mind) but I assure you it was a nice town. We spent our afternoon taking a drive up the coast (the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’) looking at the scenery, which was lovely, and then our last stop was the huge Glen Car waterfall. We caught a bit of rain that day but were all equiped with decent raincoats and the sun did come out here and there.

We left late afternoon to head to our Airbnb accommodation just outside Galway near the tiny village of Gort. Another terrible name for place that looked fairly inoffensive.

The next day we headed into Galway, after hiding in our Airbnb all morning watching the gale force winds of Storm Ali. The winds were so strong that they blew an unfortunate woman off the side of a cliff while she was in her caravan.

Galway is a pretty town. Many Irish towns are very pretty and colourful because of a government initiative in the 1050’s called ‘TidyTowns’. We have something similar in Australia but ours is mostly focused on reducing litter. In Ireland it is much more broad and encourages people to keep their towns appealing on every level. Part of the initiative was to encourage people to paint their towns bright colours.

While in Galway we did a number of things and if you go to Galway I recommend you do them too!

Shopping

We had  a walk around and Jess bought a tin whistle. Also we noticed how very many book shops there are in Galway – an impressive number!

Music

We spent a few hours in various pubs listening to trad music and also watching buskers deal with drunk people who then came into the pub and got told off by the bar tender.

The Aran Islands and Cliffs of Moher

Early on our last day we drove to Doolin, where the ferries to the Aran Islands leave. There are three main Aran Islands and we chose to go to the furthest, which is also the largest. It took two ferries to get there. The first looked like a normal ferry and the second one looked like a a fishing trawler. The weather wasn’t great, which meant sitting inside the stinky ship rather than out in the breeze.

On Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands we took a bus tour to see the sights. Our bus was small and there were only five of us on it. Our driver was a local who spoke Irish first and learned English at school. He had obviously had issues with people not understanding his astonishingly thick accent because he repeated everything four or more times. Also there wasn’t actually all that much to see. There were lots and lots and lots of stone walls surrounding tiny fields. Any areas that hadn’t been laboriously cleared of rocks were knee-deep in them. It was truly astonishing that anyone continued to live there, it was such a harsh and barren place.

After returning to the mainland we took a quick boat ride along the coast to see the towering cliffs of Moher. I had not realised they were the ‘cliffs of insanity’ from The Princess Bride. What with the rain and spray we didn’t end up with much of a view or any decent photos, I think I’d prefer to do the walk along the top on a sunny day.

Bunratty Castle

On our last night we attended medieval banquet and performance at Bunratty Castle. We went to the late sitting at 8:45, making it quite a long day but the show was great and the food was plentiful. Lovely singing and music with humorous interludes in a genuinely ancient castle.

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Next: Dingle!