An August Day In Tenby

Tenby view

A week in Pembrokeshire would not be complete without a visit to Tenby. A visit to Tenby by car in the height of the August holiday season, however, was not to be undertaken lightly. Or so we were warned in advance of our visit.

With this in mind we followed the first Park & Ride sign that we saw and what a good decision that was. We parked in the Salterns car park for £3 for the day and were able to use the excellent free bus service to the centre, which ran every 15 minutes and dropped us at the gates to the Walled Town.

Tenby view

Tenby’s walled town with its windy cobbled streets is mostly pedestrianised in high season and so is a delight for those of us who like to stroll. There are fabulous views over to the nearby holy Caldey Island, which can be reached via a short boat trip from Tenby harbour and is home to monks of the Cistercian order.

There are also excellent views of the two nearby beaches, both of which seemed vast and on a dry day would have been very inviting. Unfortunately for us, the day we visited was a pretty soggy one, so neither mooching on the beach or sailing over to Caldey Island seemed very attractive.

Tenby beach view

Tenby boats

There is a nice shopping area with plenty of independent and individual small shops as well as a good choice of cafes and restaurants. Not being great shoppers, we headed for the National Trust’s three-storyed Tudor Merchant’s House.

Built over 500 years ago to house a merchant and his family at a time when Tenby was a prosperous trading port, this house still has much of the original interior. It is currently decorated and furnished with brightly painted replica furniture and wall hangings and has various costumes and activities to recreate life in Tudor Tenby.

Tudor Merchant's House Tenby

Our next rainy day stop was Tenby Museum & Art Gallery.

Tenby Museum

This little (or so we thought) gem is hidden away on Castle Hill but is well signposted from the centre of town. At £4 per adult with free admission for accompanied children, this really is excellent value whether it’s raining outside or not!

The museum is actually quite large once inside and gives an excellent grounding in the history of Tenby from ancient geology and archaeology through to the development of modern day tourism. As an ex tourism lecturer I found the latter fascinating and particularly enjoyed the 10 minute film (and the accompanying sit down!). Even with our little knowledge of Tenby it was fun to spot local landmarks that were still part of the Tenby tourism experience today.

Another aspect of the museum that we enjoyed was the displays on local eminent people or people who had a connection to the town such as Dylan Thomas, Roald Dahl and Kenneth Griffiths. This applied to the Art Collection too. It reminded us of the Cockermouth Wall of Fame that we’d wondered at on our visit to the Lake District. Small towns producing great people.

We came across a couple of blue plaques after we left the museum. One commemorating the stay of Admiral Lord Nelson, Sir William and Lady Hamilton in 1802.

East Rock House Lord Nelson Tenby

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The other highlighting the regular visits of Road Dahl as a child with his mother and siblings.

The Cabin Tenby

Blue Plaque Roald Dahl Tenby

We spent about 4 hours in Tenby but could easily have spent the whole day had it stopped raining! There is so much to see and explore in the surrounding area. Ah well, as ever, its always good to leave something for next time ……

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Beautiful Bodnant Garden

Bodnant Garden entrance

Bodnant Garden in North Wales was established in 1874 and was given to the National Trust in 1949. Whether you are a keen gardener yourself or just enjoy being in a beautiful garden, it really is a fabulous place to visit.

The garden is not far from the main A55, so even if not living or staying locally it makes an ideal stop off en route to or from Anglesey or Snowdonia. There is plenty of car parking on the opposite side of the road near the Pavilion Tearoom. It is quite steep, but there are reserved spaces nearby for those in need. The garden itself is via an accessible tunnel under the road.

Bodnant Garden tunnel

The entrance has to be one of the prettiest and most inviting garden entrances….who wouldn’t want to step through this archway?

Bodnant Garden entrance

The garden is famous for its incredible Laburnum Arch which springs to life in May each year. However, we have yet to see this!

Last year we visited in early May and were just a little too early, although the wonderful colours of the rhododendrons and azaleas more than made up for that, as can be seen in last May’s pictures below.

Bodnant Garden Azaleas Bodnant Garden Azaleas

This year our visit was in July, so this time we were way too late to stroll through the golden arches. Even in its bare state, however, at 55m long it still makes quite a spectacular sight.

Bodnant Garden Laburnum Arch

July is a fabulous time of year to visit, with colour at every turn.

Bodnant Garden Bodnant Garden Bodnant Garden

Bodnant Hall itself looked pretty spectacular against the bright blue sky too!

Bodnant Hall

All signs pointed to the roses on the Terraces, so we thought we’d better head there to see what all the fuss was about.

Bodnant Garden sign

The Terraces were indeed magnificent with an array of beautiful scented roses.

Bodnant Garden Terraces Bodnant Garden roses Bodnant Garden roses

Unfortunately, recent weather had not been kind to the roses and they did seem to be past their prime (note to self – visit in June next year!) but there were still some magnificent specimens to be seen.

Bodnant Garden roses Bodnant Garden rose Bodnant Garden rose

One nice thing about Bodnant Garden is that there are loads of benches dotted across the garden for resting weary legs.

These range from the magnificent …..

Bodnant Garden bench

To the hidden away….

Bodnant Garden Bench

There are intriguing archways…..

Bodnant Garden Archway

Bodnant Garden Archway

Views to admire…..

Bodnant Garden

Bodnant Garden Tree

And stunning scenery…..

Bodnant Garden Pin Mill

The Wildflower Border (above to the right) was looking fabulous.

Bodnant Garden Wildflower border

And just on the approach to the garden exit (and Garden Centre, Cafe and Shop) there was one final colourful farewell…

Bodnant Garden

We didn’t get chance to walk further afield on this visit, leaving the Magnolia Walk, The Dell and Arboretum unexplored. But that is the beauty of a garden, it’s constantly changing and there is always something new to see on every visit.

You can find out more, including latest plant updates and opening times on the National Trust website.

A Trip Up The Great Orme Tramway

Great Orme Tramway

As you drive along the A55 across North Wales it is impossible to miss the magnificent sight of The Great Orme, a huge carboniferous limestone headland jutting out into the Irish Sea. We had passed this countless times on our way to Snowdonia and Anglesey and had added it to our ‘to do’ list but never quite made it. We’d not been to the seaside town of Llandudno either, so a weekend plan began to form.

Determined to make it to the top of The Great Orme as a priority, we decided on The Great Orme Tramway as the way to go. The Tramway opened on July 31st 1902 and is Britain’s only cable-hauled public road tramway. It has been lovingly restored and maintained over the years with the help of Heritage Lottery and European Union funding and is now owned and operated by Conwy County Borough Council.

Great Orme Tramway

We headed for Llandudno, following the brown signs to a choice of two car parks neither of which seemed to be anywhere near the Tramway station! A map in the car park did confirm that these were the nearest car parks however, and we were in fact only a 5-10 minute walk away.

Our plan to ascend The Great Orme via the tramway turned out to be a good idea, as Plan B – the Cable Car, was closed due to high winds and Plan C – walking, seemed distinctly unattractive the closer we got to the very steep start of the climb! Tramcars run at regular intervals so, having bought our tickets and climbed aboard, we soon set off on the first leg of the trip which is scarily rather steep but does give wonderful views over Llandudno.

The Great Orme Tramway leaving Llandudno Llandudno from The Great Orme Tramway view of Llandudno from The Great Orme Tramway

The tramcars are original and are open to the elements so you do need to dress accordingly. It is often colder and windier at the top of the Great Orme than people expect. Happily for us a quick advance look on Trip Adviser was all we needed to pack an extra layer!

The journey is divided into two sections and all passengers have to change trains at the new Halfway Station which opened in 2001. This houses both the winding gear (safely behind glass) and an exhibition on the history of the tramway. You can easily spend 20 mins or so reading the information boards whilst waiting for the next tramcar.

The Great Orme Tramway Halfway Station

The Bronze Age Copper Mines are just a short walk away and can be visited separately.

The Great Orme Copper Mines

The quarry apparently still contains ancient fossil remains, although visitors are asked not to remove them.

The Great Orme Tramway and quarry

Once at the top there is a Visitor Centre, which contains exhibits and excellent films on the wildlife and history of The Great Orme, as well as information on walks in the area.

The Great Orme Visitor Centre The Great Orme Information Board

There is also a children’s playground and the Summit Complex with its bar, cafe/restaurant and mini golf. The cafe serves very nice tea and cake and has excellent views!

Playground at The Great Orme

The Summit Complex itself has a fascinating history which can be explored in more detail at the Visitor Centre.

Summit Complex at The Great Orme

Above all, there are excellent views of Snowdonia, Anglesey and the Irish Sea…..

The Great Orme Tramway views View from The Great Orme The Great Orme view View from The Great Orme

There is a car park at the top, should you wish to avoid the train and drive straight there. For us, however, letting the train (or in this case the tram) take the strain was most definitely part of the experience, as we felt privileged to follow in the tracks (if you’ll pardon the pun) of tourists from far and wide who have been visiting The Great Orme by train for the last 113 years – and the 160,000 who continue to do so annually.

We spent about 3 hours there altogether on a blustery day, but could easily have stayed longer on a warmer day. A highly recommended trip.

A Trentham Gardens Stopover

We must have driven past the sign for Trentham Gardens hundreds of times on our way up and down the M6, but had never stopped. Finding ourselves about to pass the door and in need of a break, we thought it was about time we paid a visit. Good decision! We were pleasantly surprised by how much there was there to see and do. We passed on the Monkey Forest and the Aerial Extreme and went straight for the log cabin Shopping Village – I bet it looks great at Christmas. Trentham Shopping Village

There is plenty of parking available for the 60 shops, cafes and restaurants. We indulged in a little retail therapy before heading over to the enormous Garden Centre where we were confident that we would find some lunch.

Trentham Garden Centre

This Garden Centre is indeed vast. There are 3 eatery options: a cafe with comfy sofas, a self service restaurant and a full service Italian restaurant overlooking the Italian Garden. We elected for the self service option and enjoyed an excellent lunch before heading to the gardens themselves. There is a charge to enter the gardens, but there are various ways to save on the cost, including the use of Tesco vouchers. These are all mentioned on the cheap tickets and discount page on the website – well worth investigating beforehand if possible.

Trentham Estate map

As our decision to visit was spur of the moment we hadn’t done any advance research and so knew nothing about the history of the gardens. What a fascinating place! Trentham was first mentioned in the Doomsday Book in 1086 and has a colourful history. It had one of the most celebrated gardens in the country in the mid 19th century, but the house was abandoned in 1905 and is now sadly derelict. There is lots of information about the history on the website.

Trentham Hall Remains

The revival of the gardens began in 2003 and plans continue to “regenerate and restore the historic Estate and gardens, turning it into a premier tourist and leisure destination of national significance.”

A specially constructed viewing platform gives visitors an excellent view of the Italian Garden.

Trentham Hall Viewing Platform Sign Italian Garden Trentham Gardens

The restoration of the Italian Garden over time is clearly explained on nearby information boards.

Italian Garden Regeneration Time Line Trentham Gardens

The Trellis Walk and David Austin Rose Garden are particularly stunning

Trentham Gardens Trellis Walk Trentham Gardens Trellis Walk

We had a look around the Show Gardens. Then needing a good stretch of the legs before continuing our journey, we elected to follow the 2 mile circular walk around the lake, spotting a few fabulous Trentham Fairies and sculptures as we went.

Trentham Gardens Fairy

How many robins can you see?

Trentham Gardens Robin Sculpture Trentham Gardens Fairy on bench Trentham Gardens Tree Sculpture

The far end of the lake is home to The Lakeside Cafe and Boat Jetty, where for a small sum you can catch a boat back up the lake.

Trentham Gardens Lakeside Cafe Trentham Gardens Boat Jetty

Further round the lake there is a little train that runs in peak season.

We spent a very pleasant few hours at Trentham Gardens and suspect that this will not be our last visit. Even if you only have a short time to spare, it’s a highly recommended alternative to a motorway service station!

You can find out more on the Trentham Estate website.

Castle Howard Revisited

Castle Howard is a stately home dating from 1699, located 15 miles north east of York . It was the setting for the 1980s TV series ‘Brideshead Revisited’ and had been on my hit list of places to visit for over 30 years.

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Many years previously we had booked a weekend stay in York which was supposed to include a visit to Castle Howard. Sadly for us on arrival at the hotel we discovered that the house was closed for the winter season and we were offered a visit to Eden Camp instead! While this was very interesting in its own right, Castle Howard it was not 😦

It was, therefore, with great anticipation that we headed across the M62 in the trusty campervan aiming for the Lakeside Holiday Park. This was a perfect way to spend not just one day, but the whole weekend, as not only do they offer discounted entry but a second visit within a week is included. Perfect for a weekend of total Brideshead immersion.

The Stable Courtyard is where the ticket office, cafe and giftshops are found and there is plenty of parking for cars, campervans and coaches. Castle Howard does seem to be a popular spot for coach trips, particularly those full of overseas visitors on whirlwind tours of the UK, stopping only for brief photo opportunities between Cambridge and Edinburgh! We visited the Courtyard on our first afternoon for tea and cake and a mooch around the shops, before heading to the campsite.

There is, of course, plenty of other accommodation nearby but the Lakeside Holiday Park is a mile away from the entrance to Castle Howard and offers excellent views of the house both from the Lakeside walk and roads nearby.

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From the site it is possible to walk to the house, however the route is along the busy access road, so the next day we decided to drive, confident that we would be getting plenty of exercise walking around the grounds once we got there. The fact that it was raining was the deciding factor! Rain was also the deciding factor driving us into the house as soon as we arrived. We spent about 2 hours inside, enjoying the magnificence of the interior, the exhibitions and the history of both the house and the family. The following pictures are just a sample of the rooms seen on the house tour.

The China Landing is the first room in the house. It is a lovely bright and airy space due to the huge skylight. It is up a flight of stairs that was purpose built for visitors but does have a stairlift.

China Landing Castle Howard

The Antique Passage shows the bust and statue collection of the 4th Earl.

Antique Passage Castle Howard

The Great Hall and Dome are pretty awesome. This area is used for weddings – what a spectacular venue.

The Great Hall and Dome Castle Howard

The Turquoise Drawing Room was refurbished in 2002 and is quite stunning.

The Turquoise Drawing Room Castle Howard

We particularly enjoyed the ‘Duty Calls’ exhibition, which explains the story of the house, family and tenants in times of war, and the story and photos of the 1940s fire and ‘Brideshead Restored’.

After a morning in the house we were ready to eat. There are several places that provide food and drink. By the end of the weekend we had enjoyed afternoon tea in the Courtyard Cafe (with Wifi should you need it) and the Boathouse Cafe (lovely setting by the lake, spoiled only by paper cups!) and two excellent hot lunches in the Fitzroy Room.

There is a programme of free guided walks on the hour which last about 35 mins and start from the Boar garden. These have various themes; we chose the ‘Introduction to Castle Howard’ which took us around the building and highlighted various points of interest, including the time capsule from 1982 to be opened in 3982! It is worth planning your day around these walks as they do give a special insight into the house and garden.

Happily for us the rain had stopped by the time we were ready to explore further. There is ample opportunity for fresh air and exercise with lots to discover outside and plenty of photo opportunities available.

Castle Howard view

The Atlas Fountain was commissioned in 1850 and transported from London by railway. What a sight that must have been. It usually operates between 10.30am and 4pm.

The Atlas Fountain castle Howard

There is a nice view of the house and Prince of Wales Fountain from the South Lake.

Castle Howard with Prince of Wales Fountain

The Mausoleum and New River Bridge can be seen from the grounds but are not part of the tour.

Mausoleum and New River Bridge at Castle Howard

The Walled Garden, including the Rose Garden, is the place to head to if you like flowers.

Walled Garden Castle Howard

Flowers in Walled Garden at Castle HowardFoxgloves in Walled garden at Castle Howard

Walled Garden Castle HowardFlowers in Walled Garden at Castle Howard

Rose in Walled garden at Castle HowardWalled Garden Castle Howard

Much of the site is flat and accessible. For anyone less mobile or just wanting a ride there is a Tractor Train or Kelly Car which travels between the Ticket Office, the house entrance and the Boathouse Cafe and Adventure Playground.

Kelly Car at Castle Howard

Returning the next day, the sun came out and we were able to make the most of our two day ticket by revisiting the house and taking a pleasant stroll around the grounds to take sunnier pictures (albeit with background of ‘dramatic’ skies). It has to be said that amazing as the house and garden at Castle Howard are, the staff are most definitely one of their finest treasures. Everyone we met was delightful, super friendly and only too happy to answer questions. A thoroughly lovely weekend, thanks to all.

You can find out more about Castle Howard at their brilliant website  www.castlehoward.co.uk

A day at Waddesdon Manor

Waddesdon Manor is a French Renaissance style house built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild from 1874 to 1883 to house his art collection and to host fashionable society weekend parties. It was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1957 and is managed by a Rothschild family charitable trust. P1040196

We’d visited Waddeson Manor once before, several years ago, and wanting somewhere to spend an afternoon north west of London, we decided that a revisit was in order. Unfortunately it was a rainy day which, combined with the less than impressive temporary visitor reception, was not a good start to our visit.

A new reception is under construction but in the meantime access involves queueing (in the rain for us) to buy a ticket, use of portaloos (after a long drive) and a bus journey, albeit very scenic, through the estate. Grumpy as this made me and no doubt several others (overheard on exiting the portaloos ‘not quite the normal National Trust experience’) our view soon turned from this: P1040246 To this: P1040155 Any grumpiness soon melted away. There is even a 7 seater mini shuttle bus or ‘Mobility Assistance Vehicle’ that will take anyone requiring assistance down the drive to the front door. P1040245

We had decided to head straight for the house as it was still raining. We had been given timed tickets for 12.30pm, but didn’t  realise quite how long we would be in there for. There are currently several exhibitions in the house with fascinating archive material.

We spent about 90 mins inside and could easily have stayed longer had hunger not driven us out! An audio guide can be hired for a small charge or it can be downloaded in advance. Each room has laminated A4 sheets that highlight significant items and room guides are also present who will answer questions. The interior of Waddesdon is something else….. P1040160 Photography is allowed, although understandably use of flash is not. Most rooms are quite dark to protect items from light deterioration. P1040165 P1040168 Dinner was quite clearly a very lavish affair. P1040174 There is a choice of places for the rest of us to eat including the table service Manor Restaurant, various outdoor coffee bars and the informal Stables Cafe. P1040184 We elected for the latter which is a little trek from the house, through the children’s Woodland Playground and perhaps not ideal on a wet day. It does also involve a steep slope on the return walk – be warned if slopes are not for you! You can, however, plan to end your visit there and avoid the slope by being collected at the Stables by the shuttle bus to return to the car park. This area also houses a gift shop with children’s toys and rather nice fudge. After lunch it was time to explore the gardens. A visit to the Power House to watch the 25 min film on the history of the Rothschild family and Waddesdon is a must  You can take a stroll down the Baron’s walk for views of the estate and the South Front of the house. P1040188 Closer to the house the fountains and colourful Parterre with 190,000 bedding plants come into view. These are changed every May and October. P1040194 P1040201 The stylish Aviary dates from 1889 and should not be missed. It is well stocked with an exotic collection of colourful birds, many of which are part of a conservation programme. P1040211 P1040240 The Rose Garden was created in 2000 in tribute to the original by Alice de Rothschild. The garden contains 600 beautiful roses, many scented. Wonderful even on a wet day  – how can raindrops on roses ever fail to please? P1040222 P1040228 We spent about 4 hours in total at Waddesdon, which could easily have stretched to a whole day had the weather been better. There are several free walks and talks during the day which we didn’t get chance to do, including the wine cellar talk. Always good to leave something for next time! You can find out more about Waddesdon Manor at www.waddesdon.org.uk

A low level weekend in the Lakes

When we invited our parents for a weekend in the Lake District we didn’t give much thought to how we would spend our time. We were confident that they could not fail to be impressed by the scenery, particularly as one of them had only been to the area once, 30 years ago.  One thing was sure, with two willing but less sprightly seniors, a middle-aged dodgy knee and a car that didn’t perform well on hills, it was clearly not going to be a high altitude experience.
Searching our memory banks for places that did not involve heights or excessive walking, our first stop off the M6 was the ever-reliable tea room at the National Trust’s Sizergh Castle.Sizergh Castle Garden

Here we sandwiched an hour’s stroll around the garden and shop between morning coffee and lunch. Heading north via the scenic route our next stop was Galava Roman Fort at the head of Lake Windermere in Ambleside. Galava Roman Fort

We stumbled across this several years ago with the aid of an OS map (as otherwise you wouldn’t know it existed). It’s a fascinating place, with quite extensive, albeit low level, remains. It is a flat site with good access for buggies and has large, bright interpretation panels. There is no parking on site, but we parked a short, flat walk away at the nearby local rugby club which has an honesty box system.

By this time tea and cake beckoned. Consulting the map we remembered that it was possible to park in a school car park in Grasmere, close to a selection of tea shops. Happily we managed to park there and dived into the nearest cafe, followed by a short stroll to the Wordsworth graves and Daffodil Garden, not forgetting the famous Gingerbread shop. Wordsworth Graves

Sightseeing done for day one, we retired to the lovely Ivy House at Braithwaite for the evening.
Day Two saw us head to the Ullswater Steamers for a round the lake tour – an excellent way to see beautiful scenery with minimal effort! It was a little chilly and more than a little breezy, but the boat had a cosy cabin which allowed good views of the passing scenery and lots of deck space for the more hardy among us.Ullswater Steamers

A hot coffee during the 15 mins at the Genridding terminal was most welcome.

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By the time we returned to Pooley Bridge we were ready for a quick lunch at Granny Dowbekin’s Tearooms and then on to the Wordsworth House at Cockermouth.

Wordsworth House Cockermouth

An hour’s drive but we’d been previously and knew that it would be an ideal place to visit. The house was as interesting as ever and the garden was full of bluebells and apple blossom. We also had a look at the impressive Cockermouth wall of fame. Amazing to think how many eminent people came out of one small town.

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The next day it rained. We were heading home but an indoor option was required for a leg stretch and a coffee before hitting the motorway. It had to be Lakeland at Windermere. Perfect for a mooch, a coffee and, of course, fabulous cake.

Job done.

Our Cunard Three Queens Weekend

Liverpool certainly knows how to welcome a cruise ship. There’s a party atmosphere at the dock whenever a ship is in town, with people from across the city making the trip to see the latest visitor from the high seas. Reasons vary, some have worked on the ships, some have been passengers and some are just plain curious. The arrival of the three Cunard Queens, Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria on Bank Holiday Monday was clearly going to be a very special party. As big cruise ship fans, we decided to make the most of the occasion and join the fun.

We live near the coast, so our Three Queens weekend started very early on Sunday morning, as we stood on a soggy sand dune peering out into the wet and misty Mersey in the hope of seeing Queen Mary 2 approaching from the Irish Sea. No chance. We couldn’t even see where the beach ended and the sea began. We were no wiser than if we’d stayed in bed, just wetter. We headed home to watch events unfold on Twitter.

We did, however, visit Liverpool that afternoon to have a good look at QM2 and a wander along Pier Head, enjoying the atmosphere, street theatre and amazing buildings.

Queen Mary 2 at Liverpool
Queen Mary 2 at Liverpool
Cunard themed street theatre
Cunard themed street theatre
Liverpool's Three Graces
Liverpool’s Three Graces

Everything was set up for the evening’s Amazing Graces light show and fireworks, which we returned to see at 10pm, after another stroll past QM2, beautifully lit up for her evening on the town.

Queen Mary 2 at dusk, Liverpool
Queen Mary 2 at dusk, Liverpool

The light show started a little late but there was a justifiable air of expectation among the waiting crowds. It was 30 amazing minutes, as images representing the maritime history of Liverpool and Cunard were projected onto the Three Graces. Wow, what a show.

Amazing Graces Light Show  Liverpool
Amazing Graces Light Show Liverpool
Cunard 175 Fireworks, Liverpool
Cunard 175 Fireworks, Liverpool

The main question for the big reunion on Monday was where to watch from?  We decided to head to New Brighton, on the other side of the Mersey, for the best views of the three ships meeting up and their sail in formation down the river, infront of the spectacular skyline of Liverpool. Arriving in plenty of time we enjoyed a hot coffee and a stroll around the area. We’d not been ‘over the water’ for many years and had forgotten how spectacular the views were.

At 10.45am, as planned, QM2 left her berth in Liverpool and sailed up the Mersey towards us.

Queen Mary 2 leaving Liverpool
Queen Mary 2 leaving Liverpool
Queen Mary 2 on the way to visit her sisters, Liverpool
Queen Mary 2 on the way to visit her sisters

We could just see the two sisters, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria waiting out at sea. We then had a rather cold and breezy wait for the three to pal up, entertained by a lively band of drummers.

Three Cunard Queens from New Brighton
Three Cunard Queens from New Brighton
Drummers entertaining the crowds at New Brighton
Drummers entertaining the crowds at New Brighton

When the three Queens finally began their sail in formation towards the Three Graces we kept up with them for a while, following the crowd along the promenade towards Birkenhead. What a great atmosphere. The houses along the river were bedecked with flags, people had set up marquees on the grass and the deck chairs and barbecues were out. Everyone was in party mood.

Three Cunard Queens heading towards Liverpool
Three Cunard Queens heading towards Liverpool

Eventually the sun came out. Tired and hungry, we sat on a wall, broke out the butties and watched in the glorious sunshine as the three Queens carried on their way along the Mersey, to line up opposite the Three Graces – The Royal Liver Building, The Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building.

Three Queens line up at Three Graces, Liverpool
Three Queens line up at Three Graces

We didn’t get up close and personal with the manoeuvres, hear the music or be under the flight path of the Red Arrows, but we’d had a magnificent view of the proceedings up to that point and got another fabulous view of QM2 as she left Liverpool….

QM2 waves goodbye to Liverpool
QM2 waves goodbye to Liverpool

….and of Queen Elizabeth as she took QM2’s place at the Liverpool Cruise Terminal.

Cunard's Queen Elizabeth at Liverpool Cruise Terminal
Queen Elizabeth at Liverpool Cruise Terminal

With the show over and no chance of a ‘ferry cross the Mersey’, we trudged wearily to Birkenhead for the ‘train under the Mersey’ and so back home, feeling privileged to have been part of a very special day.

Why a tourism blog?

I was fascinated by anything touristy from an early age. I loved holidays and given sufficient spending money, I would happily have filled my bedroom shelves with souvenir shop china ornaments and plastic mementos.

My hometown of Birmingham didn’t offer much opportunity for sightseeing that I knew of (I know better now) so it was annual visits to the south coast and seaside day trips (featuring Weston-super-mare and Southport) that piqued my interest in life beyond the West Midlands, before we graduated to road and caravan trips round France and flights to Spain and Mallorca.

School Duke of Edinburgh expeditions introduced this townie to the idea that it was actually OK to walk across other people’s land, leading to several years of YHA walking holidays with friends. At about the same time I hit 17, learned to drive, joined the National Trust and within the next few years was dragging my long suffering family around the UK and beyond.

We’ve visited hundreds of beautiful places and visitor attractions, staying in accommodation that has varied from tents, camping pods and caravans to self-catering cottages, five star hotels and cruise ships.

The internet barely existed when I was a young mum, but I suspect that I would have loved the opportunity to write about my life and travels, connecting to the world outside the home via social media, as so may seem to now.

I lectured in tourism for 10 years and loved preparing teaching materials using resources and knowledge I’d collected on my travels. Students were often amazed by how many places in the UK I’d been to and would ask ‘have you been everywhere?’ as I showed them my photos and regaled them with yet another tale. Of course I hadn’t, but I’m still working on it, and as an official ’empty nester’ I have more time to write about it too. If anyone else finds what I have to say of interest, well that will be just dandy.