Hardwick & Edinburgh 2015 II Mon 27 July - Thu 30 July

Note: continued from part 1.

Monday 27th July

The next morning we had an early start as we had to be packed and out of the cottage by ten o'clock. There was much yawning and rubbing of eyes as we awoke Aurora and stoically got on with the packing.

Wakey wakey!

Eventually we were on our way up the A1 towards Newcastle, our overnight stop en route to Edinburgh. Since it was a relatively short drive we decided to stop off at another English Heritage property, Brodsworth Hall.

As we pulled into the car park it looked like we'd chosen well - the visitor centre looked modern and had swishy sliding doors, which is usually a good sign that it's a popular choice. We also discovered that we'd chosen a good week to visit - they'd set up an Alice in Wonderland treasure hunt around the gardens and we were duly issues with a log sheet for Aurora to stamp at each location (with a little help).

The initial views of the house were impressive despite the rather incongruous and slightly concerning sight of a fire engine parked off to one side.

We opted to explore the gardens first and Aurora especially was relishing the opportunity to stretch her legs. Frankly she could have done with stretching them a little less - they're getting long enough to give Daddy a bit of a run for his money given a decent head start.

Fortunately we relatively quickly came across a playground for her to burn some energy, although she got a little upset at not being allowed to climb on much of the wooden fort due to its extreme absence of grip.

A well appointed playground, but given the weather it was unfortunate that most of it was made of wood.

Once Aurora could be coaxed, with much effort, from the playground we continued our tour of the gardens. Just around the corner was the beautiful St. Michael and All Angels church. The existence of a church on this site predates the Domesday Book, which listed the village as being called "Brodesworde" in 1086, but the present church is largely Norman and later restored and further extended.

St. Michael and All Angels church.

With Aurora's exuberance to contend with we decided against exploring the interior of the church, although I'd like to if we ever return. Instead we headed further off into the gardens, collecting a couple more Alice in Wonderland characters along the way.

As we headed through the gardens we found a slightly sunken area, hidden away from the more formal lawns around the house itself. It was a fascinating design of garden, with raised paths and bridges, manicured hedges and tree-lined lawns.

Brodsworth’s pleasure gardens of about 15 acres were laid out at the same time as the hall was being built, with work continuing on them until the end of the 1860s. The gardens are Italianate like the house, and together they provide a remarkable expression of the mid-19th century taste for that style.
The lower gardens, leading to the rose garden and fern dell.

We had a great time exploring this section of the garden, and Aurora got to do lots of running around. At one point we even encountered an English Heritage photographer who asked if he could take some pictures of Aurora enjoying herself - who knows, perhaps she'll end up in the next handbook!

Further from the house a succession of areas of different character open into one another, providing new points of interest at every turn. Brightly planted flowerbeds are laid out around a three-tier fountain, contrasting with the predominant greens of the magnificent topiary and trees. Beyond are a rockwork grotto planted with ferns, a rose pergola, and a quarry garden laced with intertwining paths. These lead to eye-catching garden buildings like the summer house, a viewing point over the house and gardens, and the little target house, which marks the end of a former archery ground.

The rose garden was tucked away at the far end of the grounds and Aurora took great delight in walking back and forth under the floral arches.

Aurora for once moving slower than a mad dash.

Past the rose garden there was a cozy little dell with tree-lined lawns.

Looking back to the rose garden.

The ivy-covered rocks formed a pretty backdrop and also gave the place a real feeling of peace and isolation. It also handily kept Aurora rather enclosed, so we could let her run around freely without concern she'd disappear off into the distance.

It's not a millstone, Daddy, it's my running track!

Down a fern-lined grassy rake, the former archery ground, we found another delightful little dell, this time lined with gravel and with all manner of green plants lining its steep sides. To reach it, one had to pass under the raised paths that circled it above.

Aurora entering the fern dell.

The fern dell was another island of calm, all manner of brackens and ferns interspersed with other flowering plants to lend a little colour. Aurora enjoyed it for a few moments, but then spotted the irresistable attraction of the stairs.

Up the stairs and on to the raised path above, we discovered another of the several distorting mirrors that had been placed around the park in keeping with the Alice in Wonderland theme.

Aurora was fascinated by the bendy mirrors.
Fern dell, as seen from the raised path that circles it.

At this point Michelle had gone on ahead a little, so Aurora and I headed off in search of her. Leaving the fern dell behind us we headed back towards the house and the formal flower gardens that surround it.

Aurora leading the way, we made our way through the flower gardens. They were impeccably kept - even the trees seemed to have been persuaded to make themselves somewhat symmetrical.

Aurora explores the flower garden.

We strolled across the manicured lawns and discovered the final Alice in Wonderland character along the way. Michelle was nowhere to be seen, but I was fairly sure she'd wondered off for a cup of tea so we headed off to join her.

Aurora was more than happy to sit still for a few, fleeting moments and admire the- oh no, there she goes, off again.

Having settled down for tea and a sandwich, and of course the all-important slice of cake - important to Aurora at least - we stepped back outside the notice the rain had started coming down rather steadily. It seemed an appropriate point to explore the house.

Aurora didn't mind the wet - "puddles!" she cried, gleefully.

The entrance was a handily short dash away and soon we were inside, hoping that Aurora might perhaps be a little better behaved than at Hardwick.

Brodsworth Hall is one of the most complete surviving examples of a Victorian country house in England. It is virtually unchanged since the 1860s. It was designed in the Italianate style by the London architect Philip Wilkinson, then 26 years old.
The morning, dining and drawing rooms were all rather opulant.

As it turns out she wasn't totally keen on the place, but she was quite content as long as she was moving through quite quickly. Michelle ended up taking her on ahead a little bit while I spent a little time admiring the library, separated from the west hall by an interior stained glass window, cunningly lined up with the exterior window in the opposite room so as to spread the light rather effectively.

The stained glass window from one side and the other.

At this point I followed on after Michelle, who'd already been dragged upstairs by Aurora.

I do like that bed.

It turned out that the ladies had located a play room and when I caught up to them Aurora was happily loading bricks on and off a tipper truck, wearing a considerably more fashionable hat than your typical building site foreman. Since Michelle had been rushed through rather, I hung around playing while she went back and took a look.

Dressing up and wooden blocks? It's officially the best playroom ever!

There was quite a bit more house to explore - the bedrooms were all faithfully laid out and then we carried on into the servants wing and down to the kitchens.

Think of the amount of bangers and mash you could make on that!
The butler's pantry.

And then it was time to head off on our way to Newcastle, where we had a brief overnight stay to bridge the gap to the remainder of our holiday in Edinburgh.

Tuesday 28th July

There's precious little to say about the Preimer Inn in Newcastle. The exterior looked like a building site, it rained the whole time and there wasn't a bath tub - but the food was hot and the beer was wet.

After a very quiet journey up the A1, puctuated only by the odd snores from Michelle and Aurora, we arrived at Edinburgh. We spent a little while relaxing in the room and then I decided to take Aurora out for a walk to help her burn off a little energy. Michelle stayed behind to knit and relax for awhile.

With a little help from my phone we wended our way on a route towards the centre of town, seeing a few sights along the way.

"Horse & Rider" in Rutland Court. Hey, watch it, mate, that's my daughter's head you're standing on!

After a few twists and turns down the backstreets we arrived at Princes Street Gardens where I thought it was safe enough to let Aurora have a run around.

The dog is a statue of Bum, apparently a famous dog in San Diego with which Edinburgh is twinned.

Aurora had a great time and Daddy had a fun time keeping up, especially up and down the hills! Her only disappointment was that she really really wanted to ride on the carousel, but it was unfortunately shut for the day.

Aurora weighs up the terrain to decide whether it best suited a mad dash, a prolonged gallop or simply a quick scamper.
Keep up, Daddy!

After half an hour or so, however, it was time to head home again. This time I found a more direct route, but after all that running it was still a little far for Aurora and I ended up carrying most of the way back - more good exercise!

Memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson.

Wednesday 29th July

Our first full day in Edinburgh dawned bright and sunny, clearly illuminating the picturesque building site over which our room looked. Ah well, we didn't plan to spend time admiring the view - it was time for a hearty breakfast and then a trip to Edinburgh Castle.

The view from our room was quite pretty, if you ignored everything much below the horizon.

Breakfast eaten, we set off toward the castle on foot. After quite a stroll, the castle finally came into view.

Found it! Now we just need to get up there - what do you mean there's no lift?

The castle is situated on top of an old glacial crag-and-tail known as Castle Rock - these formations are very steep on one side, and have a more gentle slope on the other. We, unfortunately, were approaching from the same direction as the glaciers would have done eons ago and hence we had to bypass the crag and make our way around to the side where an almost uncountably huge number of steps eventually lead our breathless selves to the castle entrance.

The entrance to the castle proper.

Unsurprisingly for a sunny day in late July, the castle was packed witht tourists. More surprisingly we discovered that, as English Heritage members, not only was out entrance free, we also got to bypass the half-hour wait for tickets. Worth remembering, entry would have been £33!

Once inside, and through the crowds a little, we made our way over to the edge to admire the view.

The whole city was laid out before us, all the way to the firth.

We'd arrived just before one o'clock so we stuck around for them firing it. I'm not sure why they fire a big gun at one o'clock, but if there's one thing you don't do to someone with a big gun, it's argue. While we waited we took a few minutes to explore the large open area below the main buildings of the castle located on the summit.

Looking up the summit of the castle.

Off to the side and down some steps a small courtyard lay before the western defences, with another fantastic view over the city.

Aurora was fairly oblivious to the fact she was sitting next to Field Marshal Douglas Haig, one of the most contentious British figures in the First World War.
The view from the western end of the castle.

At this point it was time to go and watch the gun. It fired; it was loud; we all jumped. Huzzah.

Then, after a spot of lunch, it was time to explore the rest of the castle a little further up the hill.

The path winds its way up the hill to the castle, itself protected by yet another gate.
The memorial garden brightened up the otherwise rocky surroundings.
The central courtyard of the upper part of the castle, looking towards the royal palace.

After enjoying the sunshine in the courtyard for a few minutes we headed in to explore some of the interior. Taking one look at the queue taking up the entire length of the courtyard, that you can see in the picture above, we decided to skip seeing the crown jewels this time. Queuing is not Aurora's favourite activity.

Inside the great hall.
Some of the decoration was quite lavish - just as you'd expect for a palace, I guess.

After taking in the palace we headed back down, taking in the sights of David's Tower and the Forewall Battery along the way.

Argyle Tower with a commanding view of the city.

After leaving the castle we headed down the hill towards Princes Street Gardens where finally got to enjoy the carousel to which she'd been looking forward all day, as well as the nearby playground. Then it was time to head back to the hotel for dinner and an early night, so we'd be up in good time for our final day.

Thursday 30th July

On the final day we'd planned to take a trip to Edinburgh Zoo. After a short walk and bus ride we were standing outside of the entrance and it became obvious that we were far from the only ones with the same idea.

Despite having prepaid tickets there was no avoiding the queue this time, but it didn't take all that long for us to get inside and start to walk around. Aurora had been very excited about the whole thing, but as it happened she ended up being more interested in the rides, playgrounds and other children then the animals! Still, with a combination of encouragement, cajoling and strategically timed ice-creams we did manage to see quite a few of the animals.

We did get a chance to see some of the animals despite Aurora's disinterest.

Michelle had booked a time slot to see the giant pandas currently on loan to Edinburgh Zoo from China and it was a good job too - since the female is suspected to be pregnant right now, only those with pre-booked tickets were being allowed to view the enclosure. The female was tucked safely away out of sight, but we still got to watch the male stuffing his face.

After the panda enclosure we headed back to the penguins for the "Penguin Parade", where the door to the enclosure is opened and the penguins allowed to do a little tour in front of the watching crowds if they wish. As it turned out just a single penguin decided to play along on the day and by this point Aurora had more or less lost interest so we left Michelle to watch while I took her back to the playground.

Penguins are so much more graceful under the water.

I did eventually manage to tear her away from the playground eventually and we made our way to the insect house, where all manner of creepy crawlies were on display.

We spent the rest of the day meandering around the zoo and by the time we were getting tired we still hadn't seen probably more than half of the animals - still, there's little point in dragging Aurora round once she's tired so we decided to head home.

There was just time for a last ride on the giant panda on the way out.

And that was that - back to the hotel, dinner and packing up for the long ride from Edinburgh back to Cambridge the next day. It had been a generally relaxing holiday, but being our third holiday in as many weeks it felt like it was time to settle back into the daily routine for awhile. I give it two months before I'm back to thinking I could do with a holiday again...

Created By
Andy Pearce

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