Tag Archives: Scottish Borders

Postcards of 2015

Warsaw

February 2015 – Warsaw

I had never really thought seriously about going to Warsaw before and I put this down to the fact that when I was younger I always associated it with two things.  Firstly, word association and the town of Walsall, which is a dreary unattractive, industrial town in the Black Country in the United Kingdom which is a place that few people would visit by choice.  Secondly the term Warsaw Pact, which was the name of the Soviet military alliance in Eastern Europe which during my early years seemed to be the sinister organisation responsible for plotting to wipe us of the face of the map in a messy nuclear strike.

Buses of Malta postcard

April 2015 – Malta

I have been to Malta before.  I first went there in 1996 and liked it so much that I returned the following year.  Both times I stayed at the Mellieha Bay hotel in the north of the island.  These were family holidays with two teenage children, beaches, swimming pools, banana boat death rides and Popeye Village.

I liked it so much that I have always wanted to go back.  I have repeatedly told Kim that Malta is special and that I am certain she would like it as much as I did.  Late last year the opportunity arose and I was able to find a combination of cheap flights and a hotel deal at Mellieha Bay for just £200 for four nights and five full days!  A bargain not to be missed.

During the gloomy winter months I continued to try and convince Kim that she was going to really, really enjoy Malta but as the departure date grew closer I began to worry that she might not be so blown away with the place as I had been previously…

Giants Causeway Northern Ireland

June 2015 – Northern Ireland

It hasn’t always been free to visit.  In the 1800s, the Causeway was fenced off by landowners who saw its potential as a tourist attraction and so an easy way to make money but after a long drawn out case the High Court ruled that the public had an ‘ancient right of way’ to visit the Causeway and view the stones.

Now the National Trust wants to turn back the clock.  They haven’t exactly built a fence but they cleverly mislead visitors into paying the extortionate parking and visitor centre admission charge.

Here are my tips for avoiding the Giant National Trust Rip-Off:

Durham Postcard

August 2015 – Durham

For eight hundred years Durham was the most important city in Northern England with a castle and a cathedral built within the natural defensive position of a loop in the river Wear which gave protection on three sides and the city became the first line of defence against any invasions from Scotland and the North.

Abbotsford House Scotland

August 2015 – Scottish Borders

I was staying in the town of Galashiels in the Scottish Borders  which is so far south in Scotland that it is even nearer the equator than the town of Berwick-on-Tweed, the furthest town north in England but what a wonderfully scenic and historic part of the country.

Castell y Bere Wales

August 2015 – Wales

It was quite a difficult drive to the castle and there was a bit of moaning from my passengers and I began to worry that it might be a disappointment but we arrived eventually and made our way to the top of a rocky crag and the extensive ruins of the castle.  It had once belonged to Edward I but in 1294 it was captured by Welsh forces and burnt to the ground.  Edward never rebuilt it, maybe he hadn’t renewed his home insurance policy and he abandoned this once strategic position to concentrate instead on his new defensive ring of castles that he was busy building all along the coast.

Dinard, Brittany, France

September 2015 – Brittany, France

It has been called the Cannes of the north, apparently Joan Collins is a frequent visitor but we didn’t spot here tonight, Winston Churchill enjoyed holidaying on the River Rance and it is claimed that Alfred Hitchcock visited Dinard and based the house used in his most famous movie Psycho on a villa standing over the Plage de l’Écluse, there is even a statue of the man to endorse the claim.  Long before his adventures Lawrence of Arabia lived in Dinard as a small child and Picasso painted here in the 1920s, Claude Debussy is supposed to have had the idea for “La Mer” during a visit to Saint-Énogat in 1902 and Oscar Wilde also visited the place and mentions it in his De Profundis.

Valle de Luna Sardinia

October 2015 – Sardinia

Cheap flight tickets are top of a long list of good reasons to travel and when we spotted some reasonably priced return flights to Sardinia with Easyjet it didn’t take long to make a decision to visit the second biggest island in the Mediterranean Sea (just slightly smaller than Sicily) with our occasional travelling companions Mike and Margaret.

Wales, Change of Plans and Taking a Weather Risk

Rain In Wales 1

Earlier in the year I had made plans to go on holiday with my daughter and grandchildren and my son and we had chosen a holiday cottage near Boulogne in Northern France.  I like it there.

Longvilliers Holiday Cottage

As the Summer approached there were more and more delays crossing the channel as a consequence of striking French ferry workers and large numbers of migrants attempting to cross from France to the UK.  I love my grandchildren very much but the prospect of being stuck in a traffic jam for up to twenty-four hours with them was just to awful to contemplate so when the critical moment came to make the final payment I cancelled and transferred the holiday to a cottage in mid Wales.

I was surprised that I was so easily persuaded to book a holiday cottage in Wales because most of my holiday memories of the Principality involve precipitation.  In 1972 I went to University in Wales and rather than books I spent about 50% of my student grant on raincoats and umbrellas.

When I was a boy we used to go on family holidays to Borth in Mid Wales and stay in a caravan.  It always rained and all through the night there was a stready pitter-patter of rain on the biscuit tin roof and everywhere seemed damp and cold.  Later we used to go the Plas Panteidal holiday village near Aberdovey and although the accommodation was an improvement the same could never be said for the weather.

In 1986 I went to Wales for a holiday to the Hoseason’s Holiday Village in Carnarvon in North Wales and it was so cold and so wet that we gave up on the fourth day, abandoned the holiday and drove all the way back home.

After a gap of twenty-five years I was ready to give Wales another chance and in 2011 booked a holiday cottage in Cardigan in South Wales.  Things seemed promising as the spring and early summer got off to a fine start with the hottest April on record followed by the driest ever May and the meteorologists predicting a long hot summer and a certain drought.  Now, I didn’t particularly want a drought but I did rather hope that these fine weather conditions would continue a little longer through into the middle of June.

Unfortunately I was going to be disappointed and a week following a BBC1 special programme on the drought crisis everything changed and it rained every day and instead of picnic hampers and swimming costumes I needed anoraks and umbrellas!

I said that I would never go to Wales again but four years later I found myself preparing once again for a week of uncertain weather.

Getting to Wales was not easy.  First of all I had to drive two hundred and fifty miles back from Scotland.  When I left the Scottish Borders the weather was wonderful, crisp blue skies and a burning sun.  When I arrived home in Grimsby it was quite possibly the hottest day of the year so far and the plants in the garden were wilting under the midday sun.

And so we set off, driving west towards more blue sky and golden sun and the car’s air conditioning system belching out a stream of icy cold air.  I was so optimistic that I even forgot to pack a rain hat or an umbrella.  I should have known better.

Sheep in Wales 2

Almost immediately that we crossed Offa’s Dyke somewhere near Wrexham there were single carriageway roads with ever widening puddles and bleak gloomy conditions ahead as heavy grey clouds stuck like stubborn Velcro to the tops of the Welsh hills.  It rained in Llangollen, it rained in Corwen and it rained in Bala and it was about now that I was forced to concede that we probably wouldn’t be having a barbeque this evening.

Kim had never been to Wales before and with a preference for Mediterranean sunshine, balcony life and al fresco dining I sensed that she wasn’t too impressed.  She wasn’t too happy either when for no good reason I took an unnecessary detour for the final few miles along a single track road and got hopelessly lost.

Eventually however we reached our remote holiday cottage destination in the village of Llanuwchllyn where there were only sheep for company and by some minor miracle the clouds broke and the sun spilled some temporary golden light onto the surrounding meadows.  It still wasn’t barbeque weather but it was nice enough to sit outside and enjoy a glass of wine.

We were the first to arrive, my son was an hour or so behind and lost somewhere along a remote mountain pass and my daughter had delayed her arrival until the following day.

The fine weather didn’t last very long and by the time Jonathan arrived we had been forced inside by the steady advance of grey clouds and heavy rain.

Later we went to the village pub for evening meal and drove back along the narrow lanes in rainfall of truly biblical proportions, hammering down and bouncing off the car roof like shrapnel.  It rained like that for most of the night, raindrops like lead weights crashing into the slate roof and pouring down over the gutters and drain pipes like a mighty waterfall.

As I lay awake listening to the surging river nearby swollen by the heavy rain and bursting its banks and the avalanche of water cascading off the roof I was beginning to wonder if perhaps I had made a terrible mistake!

Heavy Rain in Wales

Scottish Borders, Postcards

Jedburgh Mary Queen of Scots HouseJedburgh. Mary Queen of Scots House

005Melrose Abbey

Abbotsford House ScotlandAbbotsford House