Monday, 24 April 2017

Beautiful Britain - Penrhyn Castle NT - Bangor

While we were on a week's holiday on Anglesey a few weeks ago we managed to fit in a visit to another NT property that was brand new to both of us. Penrhyn castle was just a short drive away, in Bangor in North Wales

We made the trip back over the Menai suspension bridge to the mainland and parked up not long after the castle was open for business.

We were a bit dismayed to see hoards of school children milling about but were not deterred and made our way through the babbling throng.

It was a lovely walk along a windy path up to the castle. It wasn't the brightest of days but there were plenty of spring flowers and great views in all directions along the way. 
On a clear day the views would be even more spectacular all round, across to the mountains of Snowdonia to the South and the East, and the Menai Straight to the North.

As rain was forecast for later on we decided to make the most of the dry weather and started our visit exploring outside with a wander down to the walled garden. 
We were the only visitors in existence and all that could be heard was the faint hum of traffic in the distance, the splashing of the water fountain and the call of the birds. It was lovely, so peaceful.

There wasn't a lot in flower today but the camellias had clearly given a good show and the magnolias were still looking good.
We had a wander right round the garden discovering the bog garden at the bottom filled with the early signs of gunnera against a backdrop of acid yellow calla lilies.
From the walled garden we made our way back towards the castle via the chapel garden ...
... where we found the, pre-requisite for a stately home, pet cemetery.
We walked back through the trees towards the castle, which looked pretty impressive from here.
Once you come out of the trees it's here that the views of the castle would definitely be a sight to behold with a bit of sunshine and blue skies, framed by the mountains in the distance. Even with the dull skies that we experienced the view was still most definitely worth a look.
It was now time for us to head inside and we started our indoor visit with a wander round the railway museum, which fascinated Martin no end, having worked on the railway all of his working life.

Lots of photos were taken here, of the colourful engines by me ...
... and random mechanical parts by Martin ...

And not forgetting a few random bits of track ..
We decided to avail ourselves of the tea room before having a good look round inside the castle and had a welcome breather accompanied by a light lunch.Finally it was time to make our way to the front entrance of the Castle, take in yet more amazing views, brave the school trips and explore inside.
The information leaflet that you are given on entry is very useful and has a really handy map, which shows the layout of the Castle and the best route to take to make sure that you don't miss anything.

The scale of the place is impressive, all the rooms are just huge and really well laid out, with lavish furnishings and decoration.

There is plenty to see, including the formal rooms, and a good look at what would have gone on below stairs.

The must see formal rooms are highlighted as being the Library, which is just beautiful, the State Bedroom and the Dining and Breakfast rooms.There are plenty of fascinating architectural features, with stained glass and wooden and stone carvings the like of which neither of us have come across before.

The piece de resistance for us had to be the central staircase, which was reminiscent of both Hogwarts and those never ending staircases you see in optical illusions. It was absolutely stunning and our pictures just can't do it justice.
Below stairs we saw a maze of rooms including the Butler's Pantry and the Cook's Sitting Room and a range of rooms all available for different types of food preparation and cleaning activities.

When we had finished exploring the inside of the castle a little bit of blue sky had made an appearance and we just managed to grab a few more photos ... Everything always looks better in the sunshine.
So that's another NT property ticked off the list for us. Definitely one of the most impressive that we've seen and one to put on your must visit list if you've never been ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Easter Fun in the Garden at Number 27

Hi there everyone

I'm sorry if you've turned up expecting to read about Penrhyn Castle this week, I promise I'll be back on track with that post next week.

I thought I'd meander off plan just a little to capture the memories from our family BBQ that we had this weekend.

It was touch and go with the weather, the forecast was not good. Fortunately for us it wasn't that accurate and we managed to dodge the showers for a fun family afternoon.

Being Easter it seemed only right that we should turn it into a bit of an eggstravaganza and we decorated the garden and had plenty of games and Easter treats on the cards.
We'd been trawling Pinterest and the local pound shops for the past week or so and had managed to come up with a decent programme of events that cost next to nothing and wouldn't take that long.

As always the games were to be interspersed with far too much food to keep the stamina up.

The whole gang was there and we managed to grab the first full family selfie since Bobby turned up on the scene, so, although its not that brilliant a photo, it's definitely one for the album.

So the games ...

Face off
This was dead simple and a nice easy one to get started with.  The only specialist equipment needed were two packs of small Malteser bunnies, but you could easily substitute with Oreo style cookies.

The objective was to start with the bunny on your forehead and, just using your facial muscles, try and work the bunny into your mouth. There was a minute on the clock and anyone who managed to do it scored two points for their team.

Suck it up
Another nice simple and quick one, which just required a cheap pack of jelly beans, some straws and four plastic containers.

The objective of this game is to move as many jelly beans from one container to the other, just using the straw, in 30 seconds.
Two players from different teams were doing it at the same time, to keep the time down and to get that bit of competitive spirit going.

The team that achieved the highest combined score were declared the winners of this one.

Defy Gravity
Just a couple of packs of cheap balloons required for this one, with the idea being each team has three balloons and the team to keep the balloons in the air for the longest wins.

It did get a bit too easy, so we did end up adding a couple more balloons as the game went on.

Hook a Duck
The £1 shop came up trumps for this one with a set of five ducks and a fishing rod for just a £1. We bought two sets and set the ducks up in a tray of water with two players having to fish for as many ducks as possible within a 30 second timescale.

If it got a bit too easy then a storm blew up to set the ducks rocking about a bit more.

Tail End
This was basically a pin the tail on the bunny game that we found in Asda. It was only about £1 and came complete with bunny poster, four bunny masks and cottontails.
Martin took his role as official adjudicator for this one very seriously!

Easter Shed Hunt
The scores from the first 5 games were totted up and the 2 with highest qualified to take part in the Easter Shed Hunt. We are lucky enough to have two sheds and we'd hidden chocolate eggs, bunnies and jelly beans in each shed.

Each team were given two minutes in the shed to find as much bounty as possible with each item being worth a different score.
Both teams did really well, but there are still a few bits that weren't found that Martin and I hope to stumble upon in a future gardening day!

Easter Egg Hunt
The final event of the day was a more traditional Easter egg hunt, with eggs, fluffy chicks and bunnies being hidden around the garden for each team to find.

The game started with the roll of a die. Each team needed to roll a six to win their Easter egg hunt bag and then off they went.
Games over it was time to hand over to Martin, who is king of the BBQ for yet more food, before tucking into plenty of Easter treats.
We had a lovely afternoon, we managed to dodge the rain, had loads of fun and loads of food.

So that was Bobby's first family BBQ. I think he enjoyed it, though I think it wore him out.

Another lovely family day to store in the memory bank.

It was lovely to make use of the garden whilst it's looking lovely. Ready now for the renovations to begin ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Monday, 10 April 2017

Beautiful Britain - Plas Newydd NT, Anglesey

It was time for our first 'big day out' on our week's holiday staying in the lovely Cochwillan Cottage, on Anglesey.

The weather could not have been more glorious for this time of year and we were off to visit Plas Newydd, a National Trust property, about half an hour's drive from where we were staying.

The Trust describes the property as being an 'Enchanting mansion and gardens, with spectacular views of Snowdonia'. It was lovely to be out and about, with no worry of rain and, with the sun shining and blue skies above, we were looking forward to seeing what we would find.

Quite a few of the National Trust properties that we have visited recently are very good at drawing you in, from the entrance, to a big reveal, letting you see the property at its very best. Plas Newydd definitely falls into this category.

There is a bit of a walk to the property, though not too far. It takes you through the main entrance and gift shop, where we always hang our noses over garden sculptures and plants that we like the look of ...
Through the main entrance is a pathway which gives you great views of the old stable block, which is now part of the Conwy Centre, an Outdoor Education Centre. You would be forgiven for thinking that this is your first glimpse of Plas Newydd House.
The right of the pathway is edged with towering pine trees, with the most fascinating bark ...
At the end of the tree line is wooden hut, which was just calling out to be photographed ...
Eventually you round a turn and are presented with a view of the most spectacular kind ...
... which only gets better as you get closer ...
We were lucky on our visit and got to see it at its very best ... in bright sunshine and with blue skies ...
... fronted by purple heather, backed by the blue waters of the Straight, with the mountains of Snowdonia in the background.

It was so beautiful that we did linger a while, trying to get the very best angle and shot, whilst keeping free of other visitors.
Photos done we decided it was far too nice a day to go inside just yet and started our visit be exploring the grounds.

We followed the path that takes you round to the front of the house, for more fabulous views across the straight to the  mountains of Snowdonia beyond.

We explored the Italianate Terrace, where we chatted to one of the gardeners who confirmed that there were most definitely rhododendrons in flower, should we fancy the walk to the rhododendron garden.

Having decided to give the walk a go, we were a little deterred when face with this sign, but it was only a kilometer, it was a lovely day and it didn't sound that far.
It seemed to take forever to get to the first marker but we kept going. It was a lovely footpath, along the edge of the estuary, through woodland, with great views and interesting things to spot in all directions,

We met some people who were on their way back and hoped for news of beautiful flowers, well worth the walk, but they had said it was a long old way and had decided to turn back.
We managed a well earned rest along the way at a beautiful little spot which really suited the purpose.

Eventually we hit marker number 4, so we were half way and there was no turning back now.
Just past marker number 7 we met another intrepid adventurer. She was on her way back and confirmed that there were lots of rhodys in flower, which was just the motivation we needed for the final push.
Yay .... we seemed to hit marker number 8 really quickly and we were not disappointed.
The rhododendron garden is a maze of little paths and bridges. There was lots in flower and we had a good wander around and managed to take plenty of photos to prove we'd made it to the end.

After a lovely sit in the warm sunshine, just in front of the gunnera bed which is starting to spring into life ...
... we took the regulation selfies before deciding to head back.
As always, the walk back seemed to take a lot less time, though we were spurred on by the promise of a tea room treat, which did go down very nicely.
The weather was still glorious and we still weren't ready to go inside so we had a wander down to the side of the Straight, where we caught more fabulous views of the Britannia Bridge ...
... and the most amazing view looking back at the house ...
Finally we decided we couldn't put it off any longer and had just a very quick look round inside, not really doing it justice at all, before making our way back up the hill and past the enormous old pines to the car.
There was then time for a quick stop off at the viewpoint where we got to see the suspension bridge in all its glory. 

Whilst we didn't really do the inside of the house justice, we had really enjoyed our visit and would definitely recommend it as one for the list if you are over this way and fancy a good walk.