On the banks of loch ness

Legend has it that this castle was built on a site where a clan chief was converted to Christianity on his death bed. History has it that the first area of the castle was built in 1200. Whatever its beginnings, through its history, this castle witnessed violent squabbles between the Scottish clans and later between, the English and Scottish.

Urquhart castle was repeatedly raided by the MacDonald clan for anything of value, even the doors, locks and bolts was taken at one point. These walls also saw the British civil war. By the end of it, the castle was blown up as it was no longer considered of any strategic value.

Its position on one of the ways through scotland was the main reason for the disputes in the past though now, being at the very edge of, Loch Ness – home of ‘Nessie’ or the famous Loch Ness Monster, gives the ex-castle a mystical and mysterious air.

[bonus] The Blue Bicycle

With a menu full of different and exciting (mainly fish) dishes – all sourced with local produce, the Blue Bicycle was definitely a great way to end the England tour of the holiday.

At the side of the River Foss, the restaurant expands two levels. It is said that the venue used to be a pleasure palace and the small cave like tables downstairs had once upon a time curtains in where the clients would go in to see a little bit of heaven between the legs of an unknown stranger. It is also believed that the owner or madame used to leave out a blue bicycle to let the clientele know the place was open for business. A tradition that is still being followed to let people know the restaurant is ready for service.  

Whether this story is true or not I cannot be sure. I like to believe it is as the place certainly has character. In any case the perfect place for a date or the end of a holiday. 

  

Cliché

The Gothic cathedral of York is considered the largest of its kind in Northern Europe. It is built upon an older minster. This cathedral has a police of its own, added to many more staff (they add up to 150) it costs the minster £7 a day! Plus the government doesn’t contribute to the maintenance of this building, it is no wonder then why they have to charge!

The highest point in York is the minsters 230 feet tower. Climbing the 275 steps to the top means close up views and overviews of York Minsters pinnacles, gargoyles and carvings; plus views of the whole city. Plus who knows, on a sunny day you might even see a proposal! The exercise might also be insightful and a good time for reflection as you twist and twist to the top. 

Next time you are in York, even if it is cliché and you are not religious, definitely worth a visit. And climb the tower, it really is not that scary regardless of whatever they say about vertigo!

  

Hidden jewels

I wonder how many towns pass inadvertent to all tourists that are actually worth a visit. This one has some interesting components that make of this historic little market town in North Yorkshire, England a worthwhile visit.

The river Nidd carved a 120 feet deep gorge. The name Nidd it is said to come from Celtic hidden or covered. A much apt name for this river as it disappears underwater somewhere in the valley. The town Knaresborough seems to have a bit of history featuring in the Domesday Book in 1086 as Chenaresburg. 

Knaresborough also has a railway viaduct which was originally built to complete the Leeds Northern Railway. It was completed three years after the first viaduct collapsed before completion in 1848. 

A random character from Knaresborough is Blind Jack who despite of losing his sight at the age of 6 he became an accomplished musician, guide and road maker. He was responsible for the making of hundreds of miles of roads in the North of England.    

Strolling along

Being 346 km (or 215 miles) long, it is no wonder that the River Thames crosses many villages, towns and cities in England. It has around 44 locks including the one where the World’s Poohsticks Championship is held since 1984, Day’s Lock.
The Thames is so integral to English and Londoners as two thirds if London’s drinking water comes from this river. It crosses at this point Kingston, an ancient market town where Saxon kings were crowned. A nice stroll for a lazy and sunny Sunday early afternoon. 

  

Scotch eggs

Some say it was originally made for rich/posh people as a transportable snack; others that it was for the poor made with leftover food and easy to take to work; the reality is that no one really know the origins of this dish. 

The perfect Scotch egg has a hard boiled egg (with a soft yolk -though nit runny) covered with sausage meat and coated with bread crumbs. Either baked or deep-fried. It seems a bit excessive though it is pretty tasty. 

And of course there are varieties, in the Manchester area they pickle the egg, the sausage meat is actually pork meat combined with black pudding! In any case, a famous second class dish for the English. 

To close this post, here is a random fact: The world record for a Scotch egg is 6.2kg using an Ostrich egg imported from Mexico. 

  

Seven sisters

The South Downs Way I have learnt is 100 miles, and two thirds as long as its nothern equivalent, though has been used for a little bit longer (some 8000 years). A really good walk for a day or two. 

Between Seaford and Eastbound there are the seven sisters which are chalk cliffs. There is supposed to be seven but there is an eighth on its way due to erosion of the sea. Do not let the eye fool you though, these hills are a lot steeper than they seem. Plus just because you have finished the sisters does not mean you are done the ups and downs!

At the end, in Beachy Head there is a reward as you can have a cold pint in the pub. Though thus place is also known for being a popular spot for suicides and also being featured in many films like Quadrophenia and  most popular, the Quidditch World Cup in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. 

  

Alfriston. Population 774. 

There are many small villages whilst walking the South Downs Way. Some with more character than others, but all with the very much obliged pub. In Alfriston there are 3 to serve its population. And on a Thursday night one of them hosts a pub quiz. Remember all trivias have a question about Mexico, no matter where in the world you are. 
Pubs also can serve as accommodation. In this small village there is one that “housed a ‘Sanctuary Post’ which provided instant church protection to fugitives and smugglers”.    It is said that there was a gang that used it as a base and whose leader got sent to the prisons in Australia in 1830. 

  

Cold or luke warm?

In the late 1600’s a great invention occurred – and the world was never again the same. Although improvements have been made, for one reason or another, finding handpumps for beer in England is most common. It is said that it gives the beer a different flavour as there are no gases airing the liquid. I still am not convinced either way. I do see the benefits of serving luke warm beer in the winter, but on a hot summer day, a cold pint is an excellent reward. 

  

From top to bottom

Not particularly known for its food, it is easy to miss what is traditionally English cuisine. I for one, had very little idea that the English had more than fish and chips. 

In the western side of this country, there is a dish whose origins have been recorded to even before Henry III. Said to be the food of choice for miners due to the ease of transport, Cornish pasties are still truly one of this country’s favourites.  

 Although traditional Cornish pasty is filled with beef, potato, onion, swede and a bit of gravy, nowadays they are made in many flavours.   

Some are made believe that the pasties were eaten holding the “handle”, but reality is that it was eaten from top to bottom.