September, October madness

WE HAVE MOVED HOUSE! And it’s a beautiful wee flat in the very trendy area of The Shore, in Leith. Some lovely friends were moving to Belfast and looking for tenants, and it’s worked out so well. It’s an extra few minutes on my commute every day, but it is more than made up for by the view of the water, the swans, the ducks, the gorgeous bars and restaurants and the extra space!

I’ve been very busy at work and with the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation, so I have let my writing practice slide and have been procrastinating like a star with some fabulous television (Strike, The Crown, and brand new Outlander, Will & Grace, and Broad City!). I’ve also been reading up a storm, cat-sitting, studying Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, voting with a big fat YES online for that ridiculous Australian marriage law survey, attending a meeting of the Richard III society (for a fascinating discussion of Perkin Warbeck), going to an event at Waterstones with MARIAN KEYES (and managed not to cry all over her this time), rejoined the walking group (I used to be learning to run, but I prefer walking!!), and attending a friend’s baby shower (just in time – she went into labour three days later).

We’ve used the last of the ‘summer’ weather to have a BBQ at Leith Links, and two weeks ago we headed down to Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders. The Tempest Brewing Co. has an Oktoberfest event, and we were lucky to have a friend from Australia visiting as well. A good day was had by all, including an excellent selection of food trucks and stalls, quality cider and gin, and one of the best cover bands I’ve heard. We also said farewell to Sean’s sister after having her floating around Europe for two months. But we’re going to be in Australia in eight weeks, so it doesn’t feel quite as devastating as the last time we said goodbye!

Finally, the lovely Bec and I took a road trip down south. We stopped in Crosby to visit Belinda & Andrew, as always, lunched in Chester at a BEAUTIFUL restaurant called The Botanist, and then headed to an absolute utopia known as Gladstone’s Library.

My parents had bought me a voucher to stay the night – it is, I believe, the only residential library in the UK. It was clean and comfortable accommodation, but the library itself was simply magnificent. Historic, quiet, beautiful, and enormous. There is a lounge for residents with an open fire, lots of squashy armchairs, and an honesty bar, where you can read or chat or play board games. They have an onsite restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and afternoon tea – you can basically live there full-time and you would never need to leave. They offer scholarships and bursaries, a vibrant events program, and the friendliest staff. I think it’s a magic place and I can’t wait to get back there one day, hopefully for a longer stay!

The next morning after breakfast we jumped in the car and drove deep into Wales. We stopped for photos at Llyn Tegid and headed through the middle of Snowdonia National Park to the seaside town of Barmouth. This was a gorgeous little place, even while covered in mist and a light rain. We went into cosy gift shops, had lunch in a pub, and bought a banoffee pie milkshake for the road. After this, we headed back to Betws-y-coed, a picturesque village I had visited with Marnie and Mum several years ago. Drenched in rain, it was beautiful as ever. We drove back that evening to Belinda & Andrew’s place.

After brunch and a long walk along Crosby Beach to take pics of Antony Gormley’s Another Place, we jumped in the car and drove back to Scotland. It’s always a brilliant feeling crossing the border. It feels like home.

 

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Conwy Castle, Llandudno, and Betws-y-coed

This morning we charged out early after another delicious breakfast. The homemade bread is easily the best I’ve tasted, and we have been spoiled for choice in terms of everything else you could imagine available for breakfast. It’s Mothering Sunday today (the UK’s Mother’s Day), so we wanted to do something special. We headed out first to Conwy, into North Wales and drove along the top of the country. There were signs along the motorway to watch our for badgers and deer, but we saw no (live) specimens, unfortunately. We had heard Conwy Castle was worth a look, and were a bit concerned we may not be able to locate it straight away. If anyone has been to Conwy Castle, you’ll know that’s a bit of an unnecessary concern. It dominates the entrance to the town, rising above everything else and generally just being massive.

We had a cup of tea and bought a ticket into the castle. It’s basically an enormous ruin, but it is the best preserved ‘ruin’ I have ever been in. It’s brilliant. Absolutely huge, with four at least four different levels to explore because of the still-intact staircases (though they are extremely steep and dark and neck-break-y). The views across Conwy and the enormous river are spectacular, and the ruin is home to about a million pigeons and seagulls that chatter away to all the visitors. The seagulls in Europe are massive and make funny noises. We saw them in Venice as well and I couldn’t get over the size of them. We were on a bit of a schedule, so we stayed about 40 minutes, but you could easily spend an hour if you wanted to go through every passageway and staircase.

 

 

We hopped back in the car and drove about ten minutes down the road to Llandudno, which looked beautiful with the pastel colours in the hazy light. We walked along the promenade and up the pier, which is insanely long and filled with little shops and park benches. Walking through Llandudno, even on a crowded, sunny day like today, makes you think of all the 19th and 20th century British novels where the characters go to the seaside. It’s full of very up-market eateries and hotels and there is nearly nowhere at all to park, though we got lucky in the end. We had some lunch and then continued on in the car to our next destination.

 

 

 

Betws-y-coed is an absolute fairytale of a place. It’s all stone bridges and rushing rivers and beautiful trees and tiny railways and little teashops. Marnie had been there with Grandpa about 20 years ago and wanted us to see it. She took us to the 14th century church of St Michael, which has a font in it from the 13th century and is surrounded by yew trees that are over 1000 years old. It’s the oldest building in the community of Betws-y-coed, which only has a population of 534 people. The village was bursting at the seams today because of Mothering Sunday, but we did a lot of walking and photo-taking and sat down for afternoon tea at about 4.30. Then we drove home!

 

 

 

St Michael’s Church 
St Michael’s Church

Mum has been amazing with the driving, and the GPS has worked well so far. It was a long drive back to Frodsham, but it was so picturesque. The Welsh countryside is beautiful particularly in the sunshine. We also encountered a kamikaze pheasant, but managed to avoid squashing him. Now we’re back at Yarrangall for our last night here, and have been packing up all our stuff and eating all our food! Tomorrow we head to Shrewsbury. Goodnight!