Places We Saw on the Way to Other Places

As you might have noticed from the previous half dozen or so posts, Craig and I did a lot of driving over the fortnight we were in England. We weren’t on a tour of the country or anything, we just had a lot of things we wanted to do in various parts of the country. Fortunately, we didn’t have a strict schedule to keep too often, so we were able to stop and smell the roses along the way. Or the next best thing, which was to consult the English Heritage handbook we had gotten with our membership and find a likely spot to take a break on the way to our actual destination. None of them really seem to rate a post on their own, nor did they really fit in with the post about the intended destination, since those were about the events that took us there, rather than general sight-seeing. Since they were all brief visits, I’ve just lumped them all into one omnibus post.

First up, Bolsover Castle. We stopped on the way to Stratford and either we happened in at a good time, or it’s a great place to take the kids. There were actors in costume telling kids about castle life long ago. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but I think most kids can imagine a much better existence than the reality of life at a time before flush toilets and central heating in a stone building. Just saying. Anyway, there was a guard milling about shouting at people and a woman I assume was a servant talking to a group of rapt children.

Actors infotaining the children.

Craig checking out the view down to the valley.

We decided to forgo the lecture– we were on our holidays, after all, and went straight in to have a look around. This one had a miniature castle, about the size of those dollhouses crazy people enthusiasts get that are scale models of the White House, only it was a scale model of, well, a castle. It showed what life was like at the time the castle was lived in, so you didn’t have to look at the information signs and use your imagination. As you can imagine, I much preferred the doll house. 🙂

The Zweifels have been working on this my entire life, because everyone needs a hobby.

Informative without being a sign of insanity.

We wandered around for a bit, taking in the views and admiring the walls– most of them were still life murals (or whatever they may actually be called when walls are used as a canvas for painting people.) All in all, a pleasant way to break up a long car journey. Since we were in England, it was a pleasant way to break up a not-very-long car journey.


On our way to Edinburgh, we stopped and took a boat to the Inner Farne Islands. It’s famous for its birds and seals, but the birds had mostly migrated south a week or two before our trip. I’m not much of a birdwatcher, so to my untrained eye, it seemed like there were approximately a crapload of birds still there, including a pair of babies still shedding their cute fluffy chick feathers and being fed mother’s milk vomit.

Mmmm... vomit...

The boat ride was pleasant enough– I was right near the… um… whatever Gilligan was, and he pointed stuff out to me along the way, like seals playing in the water. The weather was clear, but windy and chilly, of course. It only got worse on the island, which somehow seemed to be a wind tunnel, despite there being nothing on the island which could function to tunnel wind. We were only there for about thirty minutes, but I spent about ten in the miniscule chapel just to get out of the wind. Wind aside, there are a handful of rangers who live on the island, and that struck me as quite a cool job. At least until you get stuck there with your five best friends and boats can’t bring you supplies (like potable water) for 17 days, as had happened in the not-too-distant past. Jobs which require isolation always seem appealing to me somehow.

I'm colder than I look.

They're Scottish, so it felt like sunbathing weather to them.

St. Cuthbert's Church and the ranger's quarters. I think five inhabitants is just about perfect. For anywhere.

About the time it started raining, it was time for us to head back to the mainland and continue on to Edinburgh.


Finally, we made a side stop in Craster. We had promised Craig’s mother we would stop in Craster on our way back from Edinburgh and get her some kippers. We got there a bit earlier than we had expected and were surprised to find Dunstanburgh Castle. We decided to walk over and have a look, not realizing that it was a mile from the road. It wasn’t that bad and I was able to take a photo with the most laid-back cows we encountered. I think the families with little kids were a bit annoyed that the sign didn’t mention quite how far it was. Since it was open land, and the castle was in sight, it didn’t look far away.

It's a lot farther away than it looks.

We were able to amuse ourselves along the way by posing with the cows. I’m using the royal we here, because Craig was just amusing me after about the 50th photo I had him take of me near some random cow or sheep. He may have been amusing for 49 of the first 50, as well. He is a good man. There were also dozens of stone people decorated with found objects– seaweed, trash, whatever, decorating the path. I have no idea who put them there, if it was an art installation or just some kids having a laugh, but they were pretty cool.

There were dozens of these with different found objects used to "dress" them. Pretty cool.

Cows that didn't run away from me!

As most of the others, it was in ruins, with some bits in better condition than others. It did seem like one of the better ones for playing hide-and-seek, if parents trusted their kids not to hide in a chute that would drop them a couple of meters to the ground. If I were a parent in England, I would get an English Heritage membership and take my kids to a different castle every weekend, have a picnic, and let them run around until they begged for a nap. We were uninclined to play hide-and-seek or run around like kids, so we walked back to town and looked for a restaurant.

Pretty cool ruins. Definitely worth the hike.

If I were a kid, I would have been tempted to hop out the window. As a grownup, I have to pay my own medical bills, though.

We found one which either banked on being the only game in town or assumed enough tourists would come through that word of mouth wouldn’t affect them. After a disappointing, but overpriced, meal of fish and chips, we found a fishmonger and got the kippers and some crabs before heading back to Teesside.