UK 2017: Grasmere, Hadrian’s Wall, and Langley
The next leg of our trip took us through the Welsh and English countryside, by some lakes, and into the North country.
The M6: After I finally dragged Ann away from Tinturn Abbey, we got back on the road, headed for the Lake District. That night was one of just 2 we had not yet booked hotels, to give us maximum flexibility on our road trip. Unfortunately, it also meant I was more stressed about when and where we’d stop for the evening. That stress went into over drive around Liverpool as our GPS failed us for the first and only time. A new exit ramp and motorway had been built, we missed our turn, and ended up on a long one-way road without any exits. We got back on the right road, only to see our fuel meter get lower and lower. We finally found a petrol stop literally just as the red light was coming on. Ann was pushing her self too hard on this drive, so we had to take several stops for power naps.
The Inn At Grasmere: Unfortunately, our drive wasn’t yet over. We made it into the Lake District just as it was turning dusk. I had booked us a swanky suite (the only room I could find available online and at last minute) at literally The Inn at Grasmere. But no one told me the road to get there involved tons of little twists and turns down one-lane (and sometimes half-lane) roads with no lighting or that the parking at the hotel doubled as parking for their pub and was insufficient for either. We made do, were able to get a second room comped when they had no extra towels or bedding or anything of that sort. Still, it was a lovely hotel and I would have enjoyed staying there longer if we could, but it ended up being little more than a place to crash for the night.
Dove Cottage: The short stay at The Inn was partly because Ann wanted to find William Wordsworth’s Lake District home, Dove Cottage. The Romantic poet, whom I barely remembered from 10th grade English, wrote much of his poetry on the natural beauty he found right there in Grasmere. The cottage was a neat little exhibit, with a cute garden in the back, but I didn’t enjoy the latter much because it had begun to rain, and hard.
The Lake District: After Ann finished up at the cottage, we got on the road again. It was at this part of the trip where I tried and failed miserably to take adequate pictures of the breathtaking roadside views of the lakes. If I were to find myself retired to a place like this, I would probably be very happy. But we didn’t stop to take many pictures because Ann was on a mission to find…
Hadrian’s Wall: The Roman-era barbarian barricade seems to have inspired Trump’s signature policy against Mexico. Unfortunately, centuries of looting by area residents who wanted their own stone fences or stone homes had reduced the wall in many places to an uninspired lump of rocks. The first piece of the Wall we found was also notable in one other respect – I tried getting on top of it to take a picture of the length of it, and mildly twisted my ankle stepping down from the ledge. Who can say they injured themselves on a piece of history?
Cliffside Sheep: Fortunately, our next stop, which was the result of a minor GPS glitch, had a bench I could sit on while Ann explored. And, I still got my favorite pictures of the entire trip from this place. It had sheep (of course), a cliff (very British), a body of water, and part of the Wall. I could not be happier for the GPS mistake or for Ann insisting we get out of the car and explore, simply because I got some memorable pictures of it. The picture for this post is from this stop.
Arrival at Langley Castle: After a few more stops along the Wall, we made it to our stop for the night, Langley Castle. Unbenowst to us, a wedding was scheduled last-minute for the next day, so tons of workers were on-site getting ready for the event. And unfortunately, their driveway to the castle was packed, so we had a bit of a stressful start. The Castle itself dates back to the 14th century, where semi-ordinary people would fortify their homes and property against all the violence and war that took place in the north of England. In the lobby, they even have framed a recent document showing who owns the title of nobility attached to the castle.
The rooms: We stayed in one of the more luxurious suites, actually in the Castle (rather than a more modern building elsewhere on the property). It was renovated with modern bathroom and expensive looking toiletries, but it still had a little nook where we could open the windows and look out of the castle and onto the grounds below. They had a Great Room which had insane high ceilings, and row after row of comfy sofas and high-back chairs for reading and relaxing. Along the walls were tapestries, a suit of knight’s armor, and other effects to make you feel the history of the place.
Afternoon tea: In the Great Room, we had a very British bit of Afternoon Tea, complete with sweets and finger sandwiches; I really could get used to drinking tea like that! Outside the castle, there is a water fountain that looked under-used; while we had tea, a peacock came out of nowhere and enjoyed the fountain.
Dinner: Maybe my lower-to-middle class upbringing shines through in this thought, but I thought the expensive dinner was a let down. It took a long wait in the Great Room to even get seated. The room was ultra-quiet and probably meant to be romantic, so the staff took their time waiting on us. The portions were probably average, and the food was a little weird. I could see why some would say “this is the high life,” but my idea of dinner is not 2 and a half hours of waiting and then eating pasta out of a cup of tea. I think the only redeeming quality that I can recall now was the Old Mout Cider, a brand of hard cider where you almost wouldn’t notice the alcohol amidst all the apple flavor.
The rooftop: But the next morning, after breakfast, we took a tour up to the rooftop where we got to see the view from the battlements, see their little church, and where they typically host wedding receptions. It was a damp morning, but a nice way to cap off our quick visit to a legitimate 14th-century castle.