A Travellerspoint blog

Grimsthorpe Castle


Greetings! We took a trip a little north on the A1, which by the way, history-lesson-time, predominantly parallels the Great North Road which was the main highway between London and Edinburgh, to visit Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire. I had come across Grimsthorpe in a brochure I had picked up. The brochure was really inviting so I decided to do a little more research into tickets as there seemed to be some good deals available. We opted for the 2019 Season Tickets because the ticket not only included admission to Grimsthorpe but also, a few special events, and one admission to Burghley House and Easton Walled Gardens. Burghley House is definitely on my list of places to visit.

A little history on Grimsthorpe Castle. It consists of the castle, gardens, and park. Grimsthorpe has been a home for the Willoughby de Eresby family since 1516. The home was granted by Henry VIII to William, Baron Willoughby de Eresby when he married Maria de Salinas, lady-in-waiting to Katherine of Aragon in 1516 (pop quiz: remember in a previous post...Katherine of Aragon was the first wife of Henry VIII who was banished for not producing a male heir and died at Kimbolton Castle following the last 22 months of her life there...this will come up again below). Construction of the castle is said to have begun in the 13th century and the oldest part is King John's Tower, which was built in the 13th century. In 1715, upon elevation to the Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven, Robert Bertie, 16th Baron Willoughby de Eresby, employed Sir John Vanbrugh to design a baroque front to the home to celebrate his new title (because doesn't everyone do that?!). Sir John Vanbrugh also designed Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard, also must sees. The Willoughby de Eres family still fulfills the hereditary office of Lord Great Chamberlain, the Monarch's representative at the Palace of Westminster, one of three families in England who fulfill this role. Some of oak trees in the park at Grimsthorpe Castle were likely to have been recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 (the big land survey) and were possibly still alive in the 20th century. Capability Brown, left his mark at Grimsthorpe as well, much to my dismay yet again, having designed the current park on the property. Grimsthorpe Castle also played a role both in World War I and World War II. The park was used as an emergency landing ground for the Royal Air Force in World War I and part of the central part of the park was used as a bombing range during World War II.

I've included links below to the Grimsthorpe website and Hidden England, which Grimsthorpe (and Rockingham Castle which we had visited previously around Christmastime) is a part of. I had not heard of Hidden England before, but I am sure we will be checking out some of the properties on there as well.

Grimsthorpe website: https://www.grimsthorpe.co.uk
Hidden England: https://www.hiddenengland.org

We really enjoyed Grimsthorpe Castle. We were able to do a 5.6 mile hike around the park and lake and saw some sheep and very curious deer. I included some pictures below from the trail. We arrived right when the property opened and had a wonderful walk with very typical English weather. Afterwards, we took a self-guided tour of the house. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos inside of the property. One of the most interesting things to me was in The South Corridor. The gallery there is lined with a series of thrones that various Kings and Queens used, to include: George IV, Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and Edward VII, in the old House of Commons. The Corridor also contained the rosewood desk in velvet that Queen Victoria signed her Coronation Oath on in 1838. George IV's throne was MASSIVE; he was apparently a large man with a 54 inch waist, according to the guide (apparently the nursery rhyme "Georgie Porgie" was an ode to George IV's size) . His coronation in 1821 apparently included a men's only 55 course meal; women/wives were banished to balconies to watch, according to the guide. The Gothic Bedroom in the house contained a canopy of state which supposedly hung over the throne of George IV. It was quite spectacular! The Chapel in the castle was also very beautiful. We were curious how the Willoughby family would have acquired these items as they do not receive money for their role mentioned above. The guide mentioned that the "payment," if you will, was the ability to ask for the thrones, desks, etc. Pretty sweet deal, if you ask me. She also mentioned that the house was technically part of a trust which avoids the dreaded inheritance tax. The inheritance tax could bankrupt families combined with the upkeep of the homes which is why a lot of families turn to trusts for their properties. The guide also enlightened us with a few interesting stories about Henry VIII during our visit. The first story was that Henry VIII prohibited visitors from seeing banished Katherine and Maria, being such a good friend (mentioned above) wouldn't listen, so she hopped on her horse and rode all the way from Grimsthorpe Castle to Kimbolton Castle where the guide told us that Katherine died in Maria's arms. What are friends for! Also, when Henry VIII visited Grimsthorpe Castle he took one look and realized he couldn't deal with the stairs due to a leg injury, so he stayed in a tent out back (probably "glamping") we were told. I am so glad we ran into this particular guide, she was wonderful and we had quite the conversation with her. After we finished in the house, we toured the various gardens. We really enjoyed Grimsthorpe and will hopefully return, if not just to take a walk through the park and gardens.

Grimsthorpe Castle:
The back of the castle:



On to the next adventure!

Posted by LCP 08:20 Archived in England Tagged gardens home england walking castle trail hidden grimsthorpe Comments (4)

Anglesey Abbey and Lode Mill

National Trust Property - Cambridgeshire

Greetings! We just took a visit to Anglesey Abbey and Lode Mill. This is another National Trust property. I really enjoyed this property, maybe even more than Wimpole Estate, another National Trust property, which we visited a few weeks ago.

When we first entered, we walked on a wonderful trail through various gardens. I have several pictures below, but I'm not quite sure they do the gardens justice. The variety and types of plants were just beautiful and the weather certainly couldn't have been better. I would imagine in another few weeks more things may be in bloom and the trail would be stunning. After about a 20 minute trail walk we came to Lode Mill.

Views from the trail:

Lode Mill dates back to the Domesday Book. The Domesday Book was a land survey of England and Wales, known as the "Great Survey," and was ordered to be completed by William the Conqueror. The survey was completed in 1086. No other land survey of the scale of the Domesday Book was attempted again until 1873 with the Return of Owners of Land, also known as the "Modern Domesday." (There's the history lesson for the day!). The mill remains an active water- mill today for grinding flour and you can buy the famous wholemeal flour from the mill or the shop near the entrance of the property. We were able to tour the mill and go about the different floors. There were many small steps, more like ladders, to get to the different floors and as one who falls up and down stairs, I was nervous, but I had no issues. The view from the mill was quite fantastic.

Inside of Lode Mill:

After the mill, we continued on the trail walk and came to the house, Anglesey Abbey. Anglesey Abbey is believed to date back to 1135 and was established as the hospital of St. Mary's by Henry I. It was converted to a priory of Augustinian canons in the thirteenth century. When Henry VIII began to dissolve monasteries in 1536, monastic life came to an end at the Abbey. The Abbey passed through a few more hands before being purchased by Huttleston Broughton, later known as the 1st Lord Fairhaven, and his brother Henry in 1926. Over the next 40 years, Lord Fairhaven added onto the Abbey and accumulated an impressive collection of art work. Lord Fairhaven's mother was the American oil heiress, Cara Leyland Rogers, who may have influenced his artistic tastes, and his father was very successful as well, having amassed a fortune in American railroads. Lord Fairhaven had a fantastic collection of art work of Windsor which showed the changing landscape over the years. The paintings were located in a two-story gallery in the Abbey. I believe I recall one of the volunteers mentioning that the house has one of the largest (if not the largest) collection of art work of any National Trust property. There was also a very interesting wooden piano on the first floor of the gallery. Lord Fairhaven was apparently a very precise person; he had dozens of clocks and several grandfather clocks throughout the house. One of the volunteers told us a funny story about Lord Fairhaven...the butler of the house would come down and announce the cocktail hour at 7:50pm. Everyone would have a salty dog cocktail, which is a cocktail of gin, or vodka, and grapefruit juice, served in a highball glass with a salted rim. At 8:00pm the butler would then announce dinner and guests had exactly three minutes to make it to the dining room or forfeit dinner. If you arrived at 8:04pm in the dining room, you were out of luck. So, the entry time to the house is a nod to the precise-ness of Lord Fairhaven. The rooms in the Abbey are definitely smaller and cozy and there are many more hallways and pathways compared to Wimpole. I enjoyed the vaulting throughout the house, especially in the dining room. I also appreciated the Jacobean architectural style of the Abbey. The gardens were beautiful here, pretty much what I think of when I think of English gardens. It would be great to picnic here or to just come for a stroll. After we finished the house tour we, walked through the Rose Garden and the Formal Gardens before joining the trail again and exiting. I would definitely visit Anglesey again!

Anglesey Abbey:

Lord Fairhaven:

A nod to Lord Fairhaven's timeliness:

His mother, Cara:

Inside of the Abbey:

Rose garden:

Formal garden:

Onto the next adventure!

Posted by LCP 03:19 Archived in England Tagged england national clocks abbey mill fairhaven lord trust anglesey cambridgeshire lode Comments (1)


Off the beaten path

Slovakia was an interesting and fun experience. I quite honestly didn't have this country on my initial "places to visit list" and I can't really say any of Eastern Europe was on my list, but Slovakia changed my mind. And again, I have to thank my friend who planned this trip and showed me some off-of-the beaten-path places. I must give her credit for the castle and cave pictures below. These were two places we had to pay to take pictures. We drove to Slovakia on the third day of our Poland-Slovakia trip. From Zakopane, the trip to Slovakia wasn't that long, maybe a few hours. We turned down one road and a little ways up was a "Slovakia" sign, very underwhelming. Not, "Welcome to Slovakia", but just a blue and white small sign.

Slovakia sign:

When first driving across the border:

Our first stop was Orava Castle which dates back to the thirteenth century, when Slovakia was part of the Kingdom of Hungary. It was constructed high above the Orava river in the village of Oravský Podzámok, Slovakia. And yes, very high up...it was a hike up to the castle and a hike around the castle. There were so many steps and stairs, and as one who falls both up and down stairs, I was a little nervous, but it all worked out. The castle was quite impressive and had three distinct areas. Unfortunately, the tour was given in Slovakian, so I didn't understand much at all. I think I caught the word "Catholic" once when were were in the dungeon, but I'm not certain. We took quite a few pictures and the views from the top were fantastic.

Orava Castle:

After the castle, we went to find Wooden Articular Church of Leštiny, Slovakia which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the broader category of Wooden churches of the Slovak Carpathians. The church dates back to the 1600s and is made completely of wood. This church was off the beaten path for sure, I think we drove by it three times and there was definitely no parking. Unfortunately, the church was closed, but we were able to get some pictures from the outside.

Wooden Articular Church of Leštiny:

Following the church, we went on a tour of a cave. We took an hour long tour of the Demänovská Jaskyňa Slobody cave, which sits below the Nízke Tatry Mountains. Unfortunately, this tour was also in Slovakian, but my friend has a lot of knowledge on caves and pointed out some interesting things to me and took some great pictures. The drive to the cave was also pretty interesting.

On the way to the cave, the drive was beautiful:

The cave:

My overall impression of Slovakia is that it is a hidden gem in Eastern Europe. It is part of the European Union and uses the euro for its currency. I plan on returning at some point, to go to the capital, Bratislava. After the cave, it was back on the road to Zakopane to finish up the Poland-Slovakia trip.

Border sign returning to Poland:

On to the next adventure...

Posted by LCP 09:53 Archived in Slovakia Tagged church world cave heritage castle unesco slovakia wooden Comments (0)

Handmade Polish Pottery

Manufaktura Pottery Tour - Bolesławiec

I must admit, like I mentioned in my previous post, I did not know about Polish pottery. I was lucky enough to have a friend introduce me to it and now I am hooked! There are five quality levels for handmade Polish pottery, 1-5. The best being "Quality 1" is exported to the US and other countries while "Quality 2-5" are sold in the local factory outlets and also any leftover pottery from export is also sold in the factory outlets. The pottery sold in the States costs at least two times as much as it is in Poland and a lot of the time, more than that. The pottery is handmade in factories and my friend was able to get us into a tour of one of the factories.

Factory outlets:

I found the tour very interesting and it helped that it was in English. We went to "Manufaktura" for our tour, which was located in Bolesławiec, Poland. I believe the guide said there are three factories in the Bolesławiec-area that are associated with Manufaktura. I included a link to company down below, if you care to read more. The tour was about an hour long. I learned that there are basically four steps to the handmade pottery process: shaping/molding the clay, firing, painting and glazing, and then the final firing. The first stop on the tour was the shaping area. We watched a worker shaping the clay into the various shapes of plates, mugs, dishes, figurines, etc. A pink line is painted/put onto each piece (this will disappear later in the process, as I recall) signaling a piece can move on in the process. If the shape is not right, the clay can be reused and remolded. Next, the pottery is ready to be baked/fired in the oven at 900 degrees Celsius for 8 hours. During this baking, the pottery pieces are stacked on one another. After the baking, the pottery is put into a water bath to find any cracks that may have appeared. If there are cracks, the pottery does not move onto the next point, which is painting the pattern. The paint is mineral based and therefore can rub off on your fingers. So, the painters are only allowed to touch the rim and the bottom of the pottery. The painters are given a pattern/design to follow and sometimes these are seasonal other times it is the traditional blue and white pattern which most people are familiar with. Patterns/designs are specific to a certain factory; each factory has their own designs and shapes for their specific handmade pottery and in some instances, these can be rare. For this particular factory, the key was a blue rim around the top of the piece of pottery. I was amazed at the intricacy of the designs on the pottery. After painting, the pieces are glazed and then baked again. The baking this time occurs at 1250 degrees Celsius for 13 hours. During this baking, the pottery cannot touch because the glaze will cause the pieces to stick together, so each piece is carefully arranged on the cart. Once the pieces are done, they are reviewed for any flaws, which could be an extra polka dot or flower, etc. Each piece is given one of the quality ratings above during this review. To my untrained eye, I could not tell the difference between and Quality 1 and 3, but there is a price difference. On some pieces, if you look at the bottom, the painter will have signed the piece. After we finished the tour, we did a little more pottery shopping and then departed for yet another acclaimed pottery shop, Andy Pottery. I also included a link to Andy Pottery below, too.

Shop inside Manufaktura:

Factory Tour:

Manufaktura: http://polish-pottery.com.pl/en/manufactory/
Andy: http://www.andypolishpottery.com

I was able to purchase some pottery at the factory outlets, some at Manufaktura and at Andy Pottery. There were so many options in shape, size, and pattern to choose from, it is definitely overwhelming. The pottery is dishwasher, microwave, and oven safe, but I think it is just too pretty to eat off of, ha! I really enjoyed the tour and learned quite a bit.

On to Slovakia...

Posted by LCP 01:46 Archived in Poland Tagged poland tour polish pottery handmade andy manufaktura bolesławiec Comments (1)


Pottery, Mountains, and a Salt Mine

Greetings! I just returned from a trip to Poland and Slovakia. I figured I would break the trip out into three different posts because it may get rather lengthy and I imagine not everyone is interested in the pottery experience. I have to give credit to my friend who basically planned the whole trip and introduced me to Polish pottery, which I did not know was a thing, but now I am hooked! She is of Polish heritage, so she made sure I tried local specialities while we were there. She is also deserves credit for some of the pictures below. At a few of the places we went to, not only did we have to pay an entrance fee, but we also had to pay to take photos, and she had the better camera and is better at taking photos.

To start with, travel around Europe can be very economical. This was my first experience with Ryanair, a budget airline. There are several of these types of airlines. Google flights can also be your best friend when trying to choose between all of the different airlines. While I had heard stories about Ryanair, both good and bad, I was interested in how my journey would unfold. First of all, Ryanair is cheap, as you are basically buying a random seat on the plane...not reserved seating-that's a fee, no checked baggage- that's also a fee. And don't even bother thinking you get a beverage or food on the flight because that is also a fee. There are nice food options in the airport, so we just picked up food before boarding. I was lucky enough to be allocated a middle seat each time, but it was not that bad, even next to a baby on the return flight. There is also no jetway to walk down to board the plane (I imagine the airline may pay a fee for that and I'm sure that fee would be passed along to the customer), so you walk on the tarmac to board the plane, despite whatever the weather may be doing. Also, they have very strict bag policies. I "upgraded", for a fee of course, to "priority boarding" which allowed me to carry on a personal item and a bag with specific measurements and weight. I stuffed my bag to the brim and I just hoped no gate agent wanted to weigh it or look in it. I was a little nervous about this, but I managed to get all of my beloved pottery back with a little help from my friend. The other thing is non-EU members have to print our their boarding passes, there is no mobile version, otherwise you pay a hefty fee to get the pass at the airport. My experience was definitely a positive one with Ryanair and we will continue booking with them because they have very reasonably price tickets to places we want to visit. My return ticket was $17.25! You honestly can't beat that. Also, the time of day can affect the pricing as well- our flights were very early morning flights, but to me, that just means you don't have a day wasted on travel. One trick I've learned is to figure the British schools' holiday schedule, half terms I think it's called, and then book trips the week after. Prices tend to creep up before the half terms and during because that's when most people with kids in school travel, so I wait until the week after the term ends and then book travel because it is much cheaper. It's also cheaper to travel throughout the year while school is in session.

To begin our journey, we flew from London (Stansted) to Wrocław, Poland. Once we landed, we picked up the rental car and drove to Bolesławiec to do some pottery shopping at the outlets. I was very lucky on this trip because my friend knew where the best places were, especially the factory outlets. It is much cheaper to buy the pottery in Poland rather than in the States...at least two, mostly more, times less expensive than what you'd pay in the States and you can get some rare pieces exclusive to the factories. I will save those details for the pottery blog post. After some serious pottery shopping, we drove to the Hotel Garden, also in Bolesławiec. The hotel was wonderful! We had a spacious room and they restaurant was fantastic. Before dinner, we walked around the city center. At dinner I tried, Polish vodka and apple juice, since it was something I was told was a Polish speciality...it was very smooth and quite enjoyable. I especially enjoyed the breakfast the next morning. The next day we did a pottery factory tour-more details in the next post-and then drove down to Zakopane, which was a five hour car ride. Polish roads are EXCELLENT! They are comparable to American highways, in most places, and they have great signs.


Polish vodka:

Zakopane was beautiful and is a hidden gem in southwest Poland. It's known as a local resort town. We had a beautiful view from our AirBnb, we couldn't beat the price either, $24 a night! After arriving, we explored "walking street" which is where all of the shops and restaurants are and then had dinner at Zapiecek. My friend and I shared a bunch of different plates, so I could try some traditional polish food. We had potato pancakes (latkes) , sour soup (soup with hard boiled egg and sausage), and pierogis, which are my new favorite food. They are kind of like a ravioli and can be stuffed with different things; my favorite being potato and cheese, but you really can't go wrong. After dinner we walked a little more, went to a grocery store to pick up a few things as we opted to have breakfast in the flat and pack lunches during our daily excursions. The next day we drove to Slovakia and visited a few places, including a cave and a UNESCO World Heritage site. I will save the Slovakia details for a later post. After the day in Slovakia, we drove back and ate at Chtopskie Jadto, which is a Polish chain I believe. We had potato pancakes (latkes), golumpki (stuffed cabbage), and more pierogis.

View from the flat:

One of the churches in Zakopane:

Potato pancakes and sour soup:



Our last day in Zakopane, we did a hike to Morskie Oko in the High Tatra Mountains...google it and you will see why...it is stunning, such dramatic views! The Tatra Mountains are part of the Carpathian Mountain chain in Eastern Europe. The mountains create a natural border for Poland and Slovakia. I have a lot of pictures from the hike, so I will let those do the talking. Round trip, it was a 10 mile hike and a lot of the paths were still snow-covered, but it was sunny, without a cloud in the sky, and sixty degrees when we did the hike, perfect weather! The lake itself was still frozen, but the views were still amazing! Following our hike, we drove back to the flat and ate at Mała Szwajcaria, where we had tried a different golumpki and more pierogis. After dinner, we picked up some Pączki, which are Polish donuts. Mine were cream filled and delightful, but I believe my friend said traditional Pączki are jelly filled.

Hike in the Tara Mountains to Morskie Oko:


Our last day in Poland, we went to the ”Wieliczka” Salt Mine near Krakow. I included a link to the mine's website below. The salt mine is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The mine is several hundred years old. There were nine levels in the mine, and we were able to tour three of them. There were several chapels that were constructed within the mine and statues, that miners had created. My friend some great pictures in the mine, so I will let those do the talking as well. The mine is not active, but miners still work in the mine ensuring it is safe for tours. We ran into several who were working during our tour. After the mine, we made our way back to Wrocław, for our flight back.

”Wieliczka” Salt Mine: https://www.wieliczka-saltmine.com

Salt mine:

My overall impression of Poland was that is a wonderful country for visiting. People were very helpful. The food was delicious and the roads were fantastic. Poland is also very cheap. While Poland is a part of the European Union, they use their own currency called the złoty. The exchange rate was roughly 1 złoty = 0.26 USD when we were there...that makes it really cheap to travel around and explore the country. I plan to go back to visit Warsaw and Krakow, and to see Auschwitz.

On to handmade Polish pottery...

Posted by LCP 00:25 Archived in Poland Tagged food poland hike salt mine zakopane pottery tatras Comments (0)

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