Thursday 16th April 2015 – (Day 35)
We had commenced our ‘Elf and Elfette’ adventure, Season 2, some five weeks ago, however, with other things taking precedence, our days off had not enabled us to start exploring our new environment, apart from a couple of walks around the town that is. That was about to change and it was time to venture a little further afield, but with so much choice, where should we start ?
One of Shazza’s ‘must do’ explorations was a little confusing, people had talked about ‘Holy Island‘, others ‘Lindisfarne‘, was this two separate locations or what ? I decided to do what the majority of intrepid explorers do before departing into the unknown, I ‘Googled‘ it and discovered that they are one and the same place and the correct terminology is ‘The Holy Island of Lindisfarne‘. However, to get to it you have to drive across a causeway, this is a road that between certain times is cut off by the sea !! But, being an informative Campsite for its paying guests (and ignorant but hard-working wardens), we provide a table in our ‘Information Room’ that displays both the ‘Safe Times To Cross‘ as well as the ‘Unsafe Times To Cross‘. If only we had had the forethought to have checked it the day before our day off !! Being a day off we enjoyed the luxury of a lay in bed with a nice cuppa, well you do don’t you !! However, on this particular day we were too late to get across, do the sightseeing bit and get off again before it became unsafe to cross again, well, we could have made it across with Shazza doing her ‘Louis Hamilton‘ driving, which is quite normal for her I hasten to add, however, we would then have been stuck over there for just over five hours before it would have been safe to return, where is ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang‘ when you need it I ask myself. We were not certain that this small Island could have held our interest for such a period of time, our flask of coffee wasn’t that big and Shazza hadn’t prepared the picnic sandwiches so Holy Island, or is it Lindisfarne, would have to wait to be explored on another day !! Not to be thwarted, also on our list of ‘Must Do’s‘ was Alnwick Castle & Gardens, only a short drive away and with the sun shining it had all the makings of a good day out and it was bound to have a coffee shop so Picnic not required.
In 1987 ‘BS’ (Before Shazza), I had visited both the town of Alnwick and the Castle, my memories were of a very busy and thriving market town and I was suitably impressed by being able to visit and walk around a ‘real‘ castle, one that was still lived in by the ‘Duke of Northumberland‘, and his family, and not one that was just a pile of rubble, so I was very much looking forward to having another visit.
When we were up in Scotland on last seasons ‘Elf & Elfette’ duties, one of the good things about our sightseeing trips was that all the car parks were either ‘free’ or voluntary donations towards their upkeep. But alas, although we are but a few short miles from the Scottish border we must face up to the fact that this season we are in England, that means that by way of thanking tourists for visiting their attractions they charge them for parking the very vehicles used to get to them !! So we paid the Three Pounds charge and made our way towards the Castle & Gardens entrance. Now we are both of pretty good health, neither of us suffer with anaemia in fact we still had pretty good ‘Winter Sun’ tans, however we felt the blood drain from our veins and went as white as freshly laundered bed linen when we saw the visitor board advertising that the entry fee would be Twenty-five pounds each ! I can’t remember it being that good on my previous visit so it was going to be interesting to see what our Twenty-five pounds was going to get us on this visit. As it was a nice sunny day and after settling our blood sugar levels down with a coffee and salad roll, which cost us over Thirteen Pounds !! we went for a relaxing walk around the gardens.
Okay, so the truth is that actually the gardens were very nice, they were divided into several different areas and they even had a ‘Bamboo Maze’, although I regret to say it would have been a bit more exciting, or should that be ‘Amazing’ if we had actually managed to have got lost in it for a while, then we would have really got our money’s worth. But just when we were considering moving on towards the Castle I looked up to the heavens and saw a sign…………..
Now that’s more like it !! Needless to say these particular specimens were behind locked gates and we had to wait for our ‘guide’ to take us in, give us a pre-scripted commentary on some of the plants and flowers, I say pre-scripted because there were other small groups being shown around with their own ‘guide’, a group in front of us and a group behind. I got distracted now and again so ended up listening to three different guides giving three verbal commentaries, each was word-perfect with the same commentary as the last !! However, it was pretty awesome and the best bit of the Garden tour, well in my opinion at least. Here are a few of the nasty specimens, every one of them highly poisonous, good job they didn’t search us on the way out though, anyone for a spot of herbal tea !!
Well that was well worth the half-hour tour, but now, it’s time to visit the Castle, which I am reliably informed was used to film the ‘Christmas’ Special Edition of ‘Downton Abbey’ no less, can’t say that I have watched too many episodes myself but if it’s good enough for a TV Series then it’s good enough for me, I hope !!
It didn’t bode well when we entered through the Castle Gates and saw another ‘Information Board’ with lists of ‘Attractions & Events’ that ‘we’ the public could participate in, at more additional cost though !!
Unfortunately, the Castle grounds didn’t offer very much, well not for us at least, but for the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland it was another opportunity for them to relieve us of our hard-earned cash yet again, Ten Pounds for two coffee’s and two pieces of cake !! You would have thought that we would have learnt by now wouldn’t you ? It was time to do the ‘Grand Tour’ of the inner Castle, well it would have been nice to have thought so. The best way to describe the inside of this Castle is to do an ‘analogy’ with ‘Dr Who’s Time Machine‘, outside it looks like a small old style ‘Police Telephone Box’ but inside it is massive. Alnwick Castle from the outside looks pretty big but in fact when you get inside, it is more the size of a ‘two up, two down’ semi-detached house !! Exaggerate, me, Never !! Actually, the one room that did impress me was the library with seventeen thousand books, to reach the upper level bookshelves their were hidden steps to a walk around balustrade sort of affair, we weren’t allowed up there, but still it was pretty awesome just to look at. The disappointing thing was that although this Castle is steeped in history, and yes, I know, I don’t do history ! But, I would rather have had that, than entering every single room with Visual Display Monitors telling you all about the ‘On Location Filming of Downton Abbey‘.
We decided, as we still had some nice late afternoon sunshine, to take a walk around the town, my memories of my last visit were, as I stated earlier, of a very busy and thriving Market Town but alas things had changed here as well, and not for the better. It was mid-week but the place was like a ghost town, no people, no traffic and even this pair had got so bored that they had turned to stone !!
We left rather underwhelmed, did we feel we got value for the near Hundred Pounds it had cost us for a day out, no not really, but we did leave feeling like victims who had just been ‘Mugged In Broad Daylight‘ several times over !! Oh well, at least we can cross that ‘must do’ off Shazzas Expeditions list and add it to my ‘Never Again’ one !!
We did finish the week off on a certain high though, it was a certain persons ‘Big’ Birthday but I was under strict instructions, even ‘Pain of Death’ or worse, having to watch a whole Box Set of ‘Downton Abbey’ DVD’s, Series One and Two !! if I so much as told anyone that it was her Birthday or how old she was, now as if I would be so indiscreet as to do a thing like that !!!!!!