A family visit to Santa

img_7421The best laid plans of Mice and Men!

After buying a high chair on the local “exchange” site, borrowing car seats, toys and a cot we thought we were prepared for another surprise for Mel by arranging for Sarah and Harry as well as Flic and Cody to visit for the weekend.

Flic did leave it late to get to Gatwick but she made it and all was well except that one of the helpers at the Pantoloons partially spoilt the surprise for Mel by saying “family was over”.

Despite this, they all enjoyed the Panto on the Saturday Matinee followed by the Santa train the following afternoon before they all had to catch the late Easyjet flight back to Gatwick and for Sarah a night in a hotel, an early start Monday morning to get Harry to School by about 9:30 – slightly late.

Mel in her Panto costume


Mel’s scenery with the family on stage

This year’s Panto which was not directed by Mel for a change was the Grinch and Mel had produced all the scenery which looked very effective.

Her one solo was absorbed by Harry and Cody both of whom were transfixed by everything on the stage even being allowed on stage afterwards.

Santa meets the boys

The Santa train the following afternoon was not as crowded as I thought it would be and after setting off from Douglas up the incline towards Port Soderick made easy work of the journey to Santa’s Grotto situated at Santon.

Cast (well some of them anyway) of The Grinch

After our visit to Santa, we have our refreshments in one of the refurbished dining cars situated in an adjacent siding, get photo opportunities with the train’s engine before heading back to Douglas.

Just time for a family dinner before they get packed up and we all head off to the airport for their flights back to the UK and Jersey after seeing the Christmas Tree display put on annually at the airport.

Happy days – next stop Christmas proper.



Devon and Dartmoor in November

Lighthouse on Plymouth Hoe

A brief visit to the Devon and Cornwall border area we last went to when Sarah was living in the area 20+ years ago but it was a long haul down from Heysham to Plymouth in one day for our overnight at the Crowne Plaza in Plymouth.

Back in the early 1970s, even before Sarah was born let alone when she was at University there, we stayed in a Holiday Inn on Plymouth Hoe and I am not sure if this was the same building rebranded or a different one – 44 years is a long time to recall.

Anyway, we were on the Hoe but at night time so nothing to see apart from the rain. No hotel car parking spaces available on arrival as a function’s attendees had taken them all so parking on the side street for £2 a night until 8am.

Went out later to move car after some of the function’s attendees had gone home but the car park must have been designed for a 1960s built Mini, not the people movers of today. Very tight corners.

The two sides of Looe

The food quality and service time in the restaurant was very good considering there was a function on at the same time and whilst the bed and room were comfortable the double glazing was poor, with loud noises on the Saturday night from (probably) students outside on the green drifting up to our 4th floor.

We venture out on the Friday to Looe and Mevagissey and a few villages in the area including Talland where we had stayed once when visiting Sarah.

The Narrow Streets of East Loo

Looe is a bustling little village separated by the River Looe with one side called East Looe and the other – yes, you’ve guessed it – West Looe.

East Looe is the more commercialised of the two and with more flat(ish) land than West Looe, has the ability to have shops, walkways, a market as well as – slightly out of town – the Railway Station with it’s splendid station buildings left over, thankfully, from a bygone era.

Water activities obviously play a big part in the life of the residents as there were a couple of fish stalls, a fish market as well as a moored up Dragon Boat which might just be used in the summer for races up and down the river.

Mevagissey Harbour

We did cross the bridge to West Looe for a photo opportunity or two but only in the car before we headed off for Mevagissey.

Another fishing village but a lot quieter than Looe although some of the residential properties on the West Bank of the harbour seemed to be quiet modern.

Mevagissey War Memorial

A very nice display at the War Memorial to commemorate 100 years since the end of the First World War.

With the earlier sunsets, light was at a premium and we headed back to the hotel with the thought of trying to stop in Tavistock but long queues there and back into Plymouth meant we arrived back at the hotel well into Darkness.

A good meal tonight in the top floor Marco Pierre White restaurant – reasonably pricey but the chocolate mousse wasn’t the best choice.

Buckland Abbey front entrance

On Saturday we headed up to Buckland Abbey in the morning using our Manx National Heritage cards – we were the first in – not crowded so volunteers were able to talk a lot about the history surrounding Drake’s purchase of the property.

Some wonderful artefacts and displays in this building that was “founded” by Cistercian monks and later turned into a private house owned, amongst others, by Sir Francis Drake.

Drake’s Drum

It has survived mainly due to the fact of it’s location, being hardly visible from many main routes and yet it does command fantastic views on a clear day – which today wasn’t.

One of the artefacts is Sir Francis Drake’s drum as well as some of the costumes from the day and of course a statue of the man himself.

Sir Francis Drake

One of the volunteer guides at the house, Charlotte, a 2nd year student in particular was very informative about the kitchen, The Great Barn and the Chapel.

The Great Barn at Buckland Abbey

Before we head out for lunch at the Two Bridges Hotel on Dartmoor we briefly dodge the raindrops and walk through part of the garden past the Great Barn which, sadly, was closed as they were preparing the Barn for some grand Christmas celebrations.

Two Bridges Hotel seemed like a good choice when we arrived although it was just as well we arrived early as a big wedding party arrived shortly afterwards in a couple of vintage cars hired for the purpose.

Bridal car

The hotel itself is surrounded by fields, streams, trees and livestock – virtually no other habitation for miles.

It is a wonder it has survived but with the meals they provided, not stupidly large portions and overall reasonably priced you can tell why people go there.

As you would imagine, the decor was a little bit dated but that did not take away from the ambience and the food quality.

The service wasn’t slow at all despite a wedding party arriving just after us but we saw little of the bride as the weather was bad – you take your chances with a wedding in Dartmoor at this time in November – and she fled from the car to the hotel pretty quickly.

An interesting drive back past Dartmoor prison which, we were told by a volunteer at Buckland Abbey, was built around themselves by French and American prisoners back in the times of the Napoleonic Wars and American Civil War.

Our brief visit was over the next morning and we retreated up the M5 for a couple of nights at Clearwell, to catch up with our caretaker, Rob and make sure everything is in working order.

@ The Butcher’s Arms in Clearwell.

Another good meal at our local – The Butcher’s Arms.

We have guests going in for virtually the whole of December including Christmas so Rob’s continued support as cleaner / caretaker is invaluable and not to be pinched by someone else who wants his services.

Back up the motorway to Heysham and the afternoon ferry home in preparation for the Peel Panto and a surprise visit (not of the Santa kind!).

Caro and Jersey

20181016_212459Tuesday 16 October

The tide out at Formby Beach

After our weekend on N Wales we just spend the day on a bit of a tour around some unknown, to us, parts of the NW of England including a brief stroll on possibly one of the most deserted beaches I have ever been on – Formby Beach – which is a National Trust property that surprisingly has a manned ticket desk.

Then a drive to Bents Garden Centre where the Christmas decorations are all out in anticipation of the big day in over 60 days time!

Bents Christmas display

Tonight though it is show time.  Caro Emerald to be precise and yes, we have seen her three times before.

So many lively songs performed including a performance of Havana, a recently released Camila Cabello song. You just have to sing along, tap your feet and enjoy the atmosphere – I am so in love with her music that I can’t wait until I can see her again. (She is coming to the Isle of Man in June 2019 so I don’t have to travel next time.)

Before her performance we had another solo female artiste, Loren Nine a Dutch woman who according to her Bio writes and performs “Thoughtful ballads and Waltzes that get under your skin”.

Certainly someone to be watched out for in the future.

Wednesday 17 October

Drive to Gatwick for a flight to Jersey to see how the family are getting on there with the re-doing of the house and of course to see grandson, Harry.

A few days walking on the beaches of Jersey, a bit of shopping and catch up with some friends and we are back to the UK a few days later for a couple of hours with Flic, Gary and Cody before the long trudge up the Motorway network for the ferry home and a few weeks rest before our next trip away – Cornwall.

Wales in October


The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

October 2018

For a few years now we have often shared a few days away with our friends Phillip and Sylvia who share the same Wedding anniversary date, albeit 5 years earlier.

This year we took in N Wales as it was also Phillip’s 70th birthday. Phillip & Sylvia used to live around Ruthin, a place we had not been to before so it was a new experience for us.

Nantclwyd Y Dre, Ruthin

Our stay was at a small B & B – Sarum House, a place I could thoroughly recommend. Cosy rooms with some artistry provided by the owners.

Sarum house is a short walk to the centre of Ruthin with some old buildings to admire along the way.

One of these is Nantclwyd Y Dre which is one of the oldest timber-framed houses in Wales.

Ruthin Square at night

Unfortunately, we never managed to get inside but looking at the website, it is worth a visit if you are in the area.

Our meal tonight was at Weatherspoons as it was a Monday with not a lot of choice.

That said, it was good, the place being popular and is housed in the Castle Hotel, itself a significant building on Ruthin Square.

Tuesday 9 October

After a sumptuous full Welsh cooked breakfast we head off to the Llangollen canal, and a walk around the Welsh town with it’s fast flowing river, heritage railway and a snapshot of the past at one of it’s Inns – The Bull Inn – which advertised from it’s signage suggests it once provided “stabling” for the horses on the stagecoaches up the nearby A5 London to Holyhead road (Watling Street).

Canal ride

After lunch we caught the coach to the start of a canal boat ride over the Pontcysyllte Viaduct on the Shropshire Union Canal and back to Llangollen.

a tight fit on the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

We have twice walked over the Pontcysyllte Viaduct which is a somewhat scary experience for anyone who does not like heights but this was the first time on the canal.

Our boat was not particularly full which did make for movement around it quite easy.

The Viaduct, built in 1805 by Thomas Telford is 336 yards (307 m) long, 12 ft (3.7 m) wide and 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m) deep but does have as part of the width a walkway which is two way!

At it’s highest point, it is 126 feet (38 meters) above the River Dee that is meandering at the foot of the valley the viaduct crosses so the views downwards from both the walkway and the boat are magnificent.

Canal side property

At the end of the Aqueduct, there is a sharp left-hand turn and the canal then meanders without locks all the way back to Llangollen where we disembark past a few canal-side houses and some wonderful views over the River Dee Valley.

Another service is offered here by way of a horse drawn canal boat ride but we were not in time for that, perhaps another day.

Wednesday 10 October

A fantastically sunny and warm day and we head off to Conwy Castle which allowed us to get in free as they have a reciprocal arrangement with the Friends of the Manx National Heritage.

Deganwy Marina from Conwy Castle

I had been through Conway both by road and train on many occasions in my younger days but never had I been inside.

It has Great views out across the River Conwy which rises south in the Snowdown Mountain range.

The well preserved Conwy castle round towers, overlooking the River Conwy

“Conwy Castle is a stunning Edwardian stone enclosure fortress, founded by King Edward I in 1283.

Long and narrow, the castle is tailored to fit the rock and is one of the great fortresses of medieval Europe.

Railway tracks through the castle

The mighty curtain wall is flanked by eight massive round towers, two at each end to guard the gateways and barbicans.

The two wards inside are unequally divided by a cross-wall, ditch and small barbican, to make a small quadrangle of royal apartments.” (www.castleuk.net)

A drive along the banks of the River Conwy after lunch to Trefriw Woolen mill where you can on occasions  (not today) see them weaving.

Display for information at Trefriw Woolen Mill

Tonight is Phillip’s birthday meal and we celebrate along with some local friends of his at yet another good restaurant in Ruthin – On the Hill.

We take over a room at the top of the building and of course the meal takes all night with talk, food and of course wine.  No cars to drive tonight so we can indulge

Thursday 11 October

With a friend of Phillip & Sylvia, we venture out to Erddig Hall, a National Trust property, near Wrexham and built between 1684 and 1687.


The house was passed down through the Yorke family until March 1973, when the last squire, Philip Scott Yorke, gave it to the National Trust following subsidence from the nearby coal mine under the house, causing substantial subsidence, which seriously affected the structure of the house.

Photo of a servant – Albert Gillam (gardener)

It would have become a ruin had not remedial work been carried out at some cost, some of which was borne by the National Coal Board.

Erddig is a Country House that tells the 250-year story of a gentry family’s relationship with its servants.

The chapel within Erddig

In Britain, many Stately Homes and Country Mansions treated their servants poorly but Erddig was different, with portraits, photos and paintings of all the House’s servants adorning rooms throughout the building.

Children’s lessons, Erddig style

We were not able to do justice to the gardens or the cup and saucer water feature unfortunately, but inside the house, it was absolutely fascinating.

School children were being treated to a cooking lesson in one of the areas which was well received by all accounts.

Tonight’s meal was at The Three Pigeons, a short drive away from Ruthin but a decent meal.

Friday 12 October

We have decamped to the Porth Tocyn hotel just west of Abersoch an area of Wales which we have not been to before (The Llyn Peninsular).

Porth Tocyn hotel, Absersoch

The hotel is in a commanding position on the headland and on a clear day views can be had over to Harlech on the West wales Coast.

Unfortunately, the weather was certainly against us with very little views past the end of the garden most of the time, very windy and wet due to storm Callum.

The Hotel is tired, somewhat set in the 1970s, 1980s in many décor respects and whilst the food was good I felt it was overpriced for what we got.

In the way of food, there was nothing else in the area other than to go into Abersoch so a hotel dinner it was.

Saturday 13 October

Storm Callum has hit us and dropped absolutely tons of rain on the area.  Today was Wet, wet and wet all day.

We do manage a stroll around Abersoch which is a bit strange as although it is right at the end of the peninsular, some of the clothing shops seem to be catering for some very rich people with one shop selling coats for over £330 and a ladies jumper for over £550. Really!

For once in our lives we opt to do absolutely nothing, sitting by the fire in the lounge drinking coffee (wine later ), reading books, newspapers, magazines, kindles etc. before dinner.

Snowdon & Harlech from the Llyn Peninsular

Sunday 14 October

At last we can (almost) see over the sea to Snowdon and Harlech – storm Callum has passed.

After breakfast we go our separate ways as Phillip & Sylvia have another family commitment and we have a concert in Liverpool in a couple of days time.

Drive around the rest of Llyn peninsula with some heavy rain still falling occasionally but eventually, some sun,  and an ever bettering weather situation.

Aberdaron, N Wales

At least by Aberdaron it was dry enough for me to get out to photograph the coast line although the photo wouldn’t win any competitions.

The village and beach could, I am sure be somewhat crowded in the summer.

We find ourselves off road (not according to my sat Nav though) going up a steep hill to an old Coastguard lookout point at Mynydd from where you can quite easily now see across the water to Anglesey. A good view of Bardsey Island though just of the mainland.

Bardsey Island

I did think it was the Isle of Man at first but it just couldn’t be – too far away.

Now a drive along the North Wales coast road to Liverpool and our home in a hotel for the next few nights.



20180916_154452Sunday 16 September

Today is a day for a family visit to Ulverston to see a cousin of Sally’s who she hasn’t seen for over 60 years – it’s a long story as to why but latterly, we have to thank the power of Facebook for easier communication.

Jill moved there from near Hawkshead a couple of years ago and whilst Sally and Jill discussed family history matters and as you can imagine, there was a lot of catching up to do, I struggled with a new printer that Jill had bought but was not able to get working.

20180916_154445Lunch was in the nearby Stan Laurel pub and it was clear that she was well known there albeit for food and soft drinks – usually.

Sunday lunch fare was excellent and of course we couldn’t leave without trying on a couple of bowler hats in true Laurel and Hardy fashion.

Why the pub’s fascination with Stan Laurel? Well, he was born in the town although of course he performed mostly in the USA but the pub is “dining out” on the connection and why not.20180916_131150

Lunch over, we continued family matters and printer troubleshooting the upshot of which is that whilst Sally came away with some valuable family history information, Jill now has a working printer/scanner albeit the instructions appear to be in Latvian or a similar language.

20180916_180201The time went very quickly but we were able to have a quick drive afterwards to Piel island and Castle and along the coast road back to the hotel.

Having never travelled around the area before, it was surprisingly interesting.

Monday 17 September

A bit of shopping before heading for the ferry home – strong winds overnight forecast so the next sailing is cancelled. We were lucky.


Windermere by train and boat


Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway engine

Saturday 15 September

Today is considerably better for weather, especially in the afternoon.

On impulse, we drive to Haverthwaite and on impulse catch the steam train followed by the Windermere lake steamer to Bowness.

Owls at Haverthwaite

Whilst we waited for the train we were entertained by two very friendly owls much to the amusement of some of the children.

It is a long time since we have been in this area and have never really seen the southern end of the lake either from the train or from the boat.

The steam engine was a little blue one without a visible number on the front and carriages it pulled slowly to Lakeside from Haverthwaite were just as they would have been in the 1960s with soft “bouncy” seats and windows that open.

Just sitting back and imagining how our ancestors would have got here before the modern transport of today!

img_7212At Lakeside, we transfer to the boat which is virtually moored alongside the platform it is that close and head off on the still waters of Lake Windermere at a sedate speed.

Sailing on the Lake

Lots of activity on the lake, canoes, Kayak, rowing boats but mostly sailing boats with a couple of races being held.

The lake now has a speed limit on it so nothing outrageously fast was seen.

All sorts of Lake activities

Having driven along the shores of the lake from Lakeland and Ambleside, you see some entrances to waterfront houses as you pass inland but it is only when you are on the lake do you really appreciate that those houses are something else.

Our ship’s tannoy does mention who owns some of them but there is not much attention being paid by many of the foreigners on the boat and therefore much of the words are also lost on the rest of the passengers.  The crew did try though.

Our return from Bowness was on the oldest boat on the lake, built in 1897, and of course the return train to Haverthwaite.

A couple of my favourite looking houses were these but there were so many.

That’s it for another day – off to Ulverston tomorrow.

The Cumbrian and Yorkshire Fells


Ribblehead Viaduct

After our stroll around Appleby, we ventured off in the car to Middleton-in-tees, Alston and back, not stopping other than for a coffee but just admiring the views even though the weather was not particularly good.

Friday 14 September

Today’s forecast is for RAIN. The forecasters weren’t wrong as well and how! Again, a drive out into the Yorkshire Dales but there will be little walking today.

Dent village

We stop for a coffee at Stone Close in our favourite Yorkshire Dales village, Dent with its cobbled streets.

A few other hardy souls have ventured out in the rain one of whom took my “IOM Rocks” (see Facebook page) stone I left in the car park for hiding elsewhere.

The cafe boasts good food and drink as well as an old fashioned till with £sd keys.

Pre 1972 till

Manage to get back to the car before the heavens opened even more.

Our route over the hills past some grouse or pheasant shooters towards Barbon, Kirkby Lonsdale and Settle was not pleasant in the rain but fortunately there was little else on the roads.

Back in the 1970s, I had camped with the Scouts near Dent and again near Barbon so going through both these little hamlets / villages brought back fond memories

Our full breakfast this morning, the late coffee and cake in Dent meant we didn’t need lunch but instead stopped for afternoon tea in a farm just by the 1st Railway Bridge on the B6749 on the way between Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Ribblehead – Blind Beck Tea Rooms.

The afternoon tea was well worth the stop and as a side-line, jam could be bought to bring home – well worth it as well.

img_7187Before we head off to our hotel for the next three nights (Holiday Inn at Lancaster) we stop for the sight of the marvellous Ribblehead Viaduct with a local train passing over it – sadly not steam hauled.

The Ribblehead Viaduct  carries the Settle to Carlisle Railway across Batty Moss in the Ribble Valley in North Yorkshire, England.

The viaduct’s construction began in 1869 and is  a Grade II* listed structure, is the longest and the third tallest structure on the Settle to Carlisle line built by The Midland Railway and opened in 1876 which is quite remarkable bearing in mind the difficult terrain and weather encountered.

The viaduct actually crosses Batty Moss which sorts of lets us know it was a difficult feet of engineering, especially in the Victorian times.

Windermere tomorrow.