Travel blog aimed at mature, independent travellers who like to plan their own holidays. The blog is based on our own travels and walking holidays in beautiful places such as Iceland, The Azores and Peru, and contains accounts of our experiences, advice, links to resources and lots of photography.
Nostell Priory near Wakefield, Yorkshire, is an interesting and relaxing place to visit The post Nostell Priory – A Relaxing Day Out Near Wakefield appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.
Matt and I are members of the National Trust, and we like to visit NT properties whenever we can. A property we visited recently for the first time is Nostell Priory, situated between Wakefield and Pontefract in South Yorkshire.
The house, which was lived in until recently by successive generations of the Winn family, is well worth a visit. It contains interesting decorative interiors and a great collection of Chippendale furnishings.
There is currently (2018) an exhibition about Thomas Chippendale’s life and work, and his dealings with the Winn family at Nostell.
You can join an informative guided tour in the morning if you wish, but we chose instead to visit in the afternoon when you can wander around at our own pace. The guides in the various rooms were very friendly and told us more about some of the interesting items on display.
The Gardens and Parkland
Adjacent to the house there are attractive formal gardens.
As we love growing our own fruits and vegetables, we were particularly interested in the Kitchen Garden. It is beautifully kept and contains a range of interesting varieties, as well as some lovely climbing white roses.
There are lots of beautiful mature trees in the surrounding gardens and parkland, like this huge oak.
Winding paths through trees lead down to the scenic lakes. We saw lots of tame squirrels in the woods, and there were swans, geese, ducks and coots on the lakes. There are plenty of seats where you can enjoy the views and watch the wildlife.
The secluded Menagerie Garden is a great place for a peaceful picnic.
We enjoyed our day at Nostell Priory – a great place to relax for a few hours in beautiful surroundings!
Nostell Priory is situated in Nostell village, reached by the Doncaster Road from Wakefield.
There is a tearoom with indoor and outdoor seating, a gift shop and plant sales.
For access information, opening times, prices for non-members and details of special events and exhibitions see the Nostell page on the National Trust website.
If you like to visit National Trust properties regularly, membership makes a lot of sense.
As a member you get free access to over 500 National Trust properties (including National Trust for Scotland), and free parking in many NT car parks. Just a few visits will recover the membership fee and you will then be saving money. You can visit as often as you like, and you will be contributing towards the care and maintenance of these very special places.
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A lovely walled garden and park to visit in North Yorkshire The post Scampston Walled Garden and Park, North Yorkshire appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.
Just off the A64 between Malton and Scarborough, Scampston Hall walled garden and parkland are well worth a visit.
The Walled Garden
The beautifully maintained walled garden was originally designed by Piet Oudolf in 1999. It is divided into several distinct areas which combine colourful, relaxing flower beds with bold, contemporary designs.
There are also water features and ample seats and benches scattered around so you can enjoy the peacefulness of the place. We enjoyed watching the numerous bees at work. It was a pleasure to hear the humming sound which was so common when we were younger, but rarely heard these days.
A previously derelict glasshouse has been beautifully restored, with the help of National Lottery funding. It now contains an interesting exhibition about the history of the gardens and parkland and the people who worked there.
The parkland, designed by Capability Brown, contains open views, some beautiful mature trees, grazing sheep and upper and lower lakes joined by a small cascade. Several trails allow you to explore, but some of the paths are a little rough so do wear appropriate footwear.
Wandering around the park you have a good chance of spotting wildlife. The lakes, one of which is covered with water lilies, are home to many water birds, damselflies and dragonflies. We also saw buzzards and red kites as we walked around the park. Barn owls and kingfishers live here too.
Scampston Hall is located just off the A64 between Malton and Scarborough. There is ample parking with a picnic area.
There is also an excellent Garden Cafe with indoor and outdoor seating. Good coffee, homemade cakes and quality light meals are served. I can vouch for the homemade scones! Other facilities include plant and gift sales.
The walled gardens and parkland are open from the end of March until the end of October (closed on Mondays except for Bank Holidays).
Guided tours of the Hall are also available on some days. For full details of opening times and admission prices see the Scampston website.
Scampston Walled Garden is a partner garden of the Royal Horticultural Society. Members are entitled to free entry on Fridays and throughout October. For membership see Royal Horticultural Society.
We loved visiting this peaceful little gem – don’t miss it!
The magical city of Carcassone, France, makes a great destination for a winter break The post Carcassonne, France – A Short Break in a Magical Medieval City appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.
Carcassonne in the French Languedoc is magical. The old medieval walled citadel is a maze of cobbled streets, drawbridges, turrets and towers, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated on a hilltop, above the River Aude, it really does look like something straight out of a fairytale when seen from a distance.
It’s a wonderful place to explore on foot. Strolling around the double walls, ramparts and narrow cobbled streets is just fascinating and very atmospheric.
But of course, being so magical does have its drawbacks. Carcassonne is one of the most visited places in France, and is understandably hugely popular with coach tour groups. It can therefore be extremely busy during the day, especially during the summer season. And there is the usual overabundance of touristy shops, stalls and cafes.
A Winter Visit
In an attempt to avoid the crowds and the summer heat, Matt and I visited in winter, just after Christmas. And we are so pleased we did. The crowds were indeed less, and if anything the city looks even more magical when the spotlights come on at night. Wandering around after dark, checking out the restaurants, with spotlit turrets and towers at every turn, was a very special experience.
One thing to bear in mind if you do visit in winter is that it can be surprisingly cold. When we visited cold winds were blowing straight down from the nearby snow-capped Pyrenees, making it very chilly indeed.
The Lower Town
As magical as the Citadel is, it is also worth spending time exploring the slightly newer ‘lower town’ across the river. Here there are all the facilities you would expect, including good hotels, restaurants and shopping.
We enjoyed just strolling around, and particularly enjoyed the attractive bridges over the River Aude.
Canal du Midi – Great for a Longer Stroll
The Citadel is not the only UNESCO Site in town – the Canal du Midi which runs through Carcassonne also has UNESCO status. There are great towpaths beside the canal, making it ideal for a longer stroll if you want to get away from the sounds of the city for a while.
When we visited in mid winter there were sheets of ice on some sections of the canal, which was interesting to see.
If you want to explore further afield, here are a few suggestions.
By rail it is easy to visit nearby Tolouse, Perpignan or Montpellier see RailEurope for timetables and to purchase tickets online.
If you would like to join an organised tour see Viator for a range of options in and around Carcassonne.
Getting to Carcassonne
Carcassonne has its own airport. To check for available flights from your local airport try using Skyscanner.
If you cannot find flights direct to Carcassonne, the city is easily reached by car from the airports at Tolouse, Perpignan, Montpellier or Girona (Spain). For car hire try Holiday Autos for a massive choice at great prices.
Or you can easily travel by train from Tolouse, Bordeaux, Marseilles, Paris and many other cities.
To check train routes, connections and timetables from any starting point see RailEurope.
Where to Stay
We stayed in the Hotel Mercure La Cite, and were very happy with it. The hotel is really conveniently situated, just a few minutes walk the citadel entrance, making it a pleasant stroll in the evenings. It was comfortable, with a good breakfast and pleasant restaurant, and good value.
If you want to splash out and stay actually within the citadel walls, the Hotel de la Cite looks fabulous – we would love to give this one a try one day!
To search the huge range of accommodation available at Carcassonne see this page at booking.com.
Although magical at any time of year, we highly recommend Carcassonne for a short winter break. The sight of the medieval city lit up at night will certainly remain long in your memory.
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Have a great day out exploring the gardens and parkland of Ripley Castle in North Yorkshire The post Ripley Castle – A Great Day Out in North Yorkshire (Update) appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.
Note – I first posted about Ripley Castle after a visit late last autumn. This is an update to that earlier post, and also includes new information and photos from a recent visit in early June.
A visit to Ripley Castle, situated between Knaresborough and Ripon in North Yorkshire, is a treat at any time of year. You can join a very interesting guided tour of the castle buildings (tours last about an hour – see Visitor Information for details and opening times).
Or you can just spend a couple of hours or more exploring the extensive gardens, woods, lake and parkland. Entry to the gardens is free during winter months, and to RHS members on most days.
And what lovely gardens and grounds they are! The notes and photos below are from our two recent visits, one in late autumn and one more recently in early summer.
The Walled Gardens
There is an old walled garden and a kitchen garden known for its collection of rare vegetables to explore. In summer the walled garden is full of colourful flowers and a delight to stroll around.
The extensive glasshouse is almost 200 years old, and contains various palms, succulents and other unusual plants from around the world.
The mixed woodland is a delight in any season. There are shady paths, convenient benches, beautiful deciduous trees and some very impressive (though still relatively young) giant redwoods.
Good paths lead to a lovely ornamental lake, with a bridge over a small waterfall. There are great views over the lake from the bridge, which is frequently used by wildfowl. The following photos are from our autumn visit.
Ancient Trees in the Deer Park
The highlight of our autumn visit was undoubtedly the walk around the spacious deer park, with its herd of fallow deer and many wonderful old trees. The trees are beautiful at any time of year, but particularly resplendent in their autumn colours.
The ancient horse chestnut tree below has a fantastically gnarled trunk.
Some of the oak trees are thought to be 1000 years old. Like the gnarled tree below with a convenient wooden seat for a picnic.
We walked round the entire park, and had sandwiches on the seat shown in the photo above, and only saw one other couple. It was such a privilege to enjoy these wonderful trees with only the sounds of nature.
The Fallow Deer
During our recent summer visit we managed to get quite close to the resident fallow deer herd. They are shy animals and we tried not to disturb them.
We have had two lovely visits to Ripley Castle, and will certainly visit again soon. In fact I am already looking forward to seeing more summer flowers in the walled garden and checking out the rare vegetables!
A Few Practicalities
Ripley is situated close to Harrogate and Knaresborough, on the A61 towards Ripon. It can be reached by a regular bus service which connects Leeds, Harrogate and Ripon.
There is a nice tearoom in the village opposite the entrance to the castle. There is also the renowned Boar’s Head Inn which provides quality accommodation and excellent food.
There are a few small shops in the village, including a gallery and gift shop.
For information about disabled access see Visitor Information.
If you are a member of the Royal Horticultural Society, Ripley Castle is a partner garden and entry is free on most days.
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Breezy Knees is a beautiful and peaceful flower garden a few miles outside York, England The post Breezy Knees – A Fantastic Flower Garden Near York appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.
If you love flowers and gardens, and are in the York area, you should seek out and visit a wonderful garden called Breezy Knees. Situated close to the village of Warthill, the garden is a haven of peace and full of colour and character.
Note: The photos here are from a visit in May, before many of the plants were flowering. I hope to update this post when we visit again later in the year.
Apparently containing over 6000 varieties of plants, the garden is divided into various themed areas and seems larger than its 20 acres. You can easily spend a couple of hours strolling around the well laid out paths. And if you love plants you could spend much longer…..
Themed areas include, among others, the May, June and September gardens, the Cottage Garden, the Rock Garden, the Rose Garden and the Raised Bed Garden. As a lover of trees I particularly like the Conifer Garden.
I am also very fond of Hostas, with their beautiful leaves, and Breezy Knees has some particularly fine examples.
There are a couple of ponds, one of which was teeming with tadpoles last time we visited, and the impressive White Rose fountain.
There are also a few quirky features to add further interest.
Anyone who enjoys peaceful places, interesting plants and beautiful gardens will surely enjoy a visit to Breezy Knees.
A Few Practicalities
Breezy Knees is situated close the the village of Warthill, just off the A64 north of York.
The garden is open from the beginning of May to the end of September. See their website for directions, opening times and prices.
As well as the gardens, there is a nursery specialising in perennials, and a small but pleasant cafe with indoor and outdoor seating (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays).
Note that there are toilets near the cafe, but none in the actual gardens. Be aware that it is a bit of a walk back to the entrance if you need to use the facilities during your visit.
Many of the paths within the garden are suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs, and there are lots of seats and benches around the gardens.
If you would like to stay in York there is a huge variety of accommodation available – see this page at booking.com.
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A selection of photos from around my Yorkshire home, to remind us that we do not always have to travel long distances to see beautiful places The post Travels Closer to Home – Photos from Around my Yorkshire Home appeared first on Self Arranged...
You don’t always have to travel to exotic faraway places to see interesting and beautiful sights.
You may be surprised to learn that until I was in my mid 30s I had not been outside the UK. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t love travelling. Trips to see the wonderful mountains in Wales and the Lake District. Drives through the bleak but beautiful Yorksire Moors. Day trips to the Lincolnshire and Yorkshire seaside. Bird watching trips to the Norfolk Coast. These holidays and outings were always the highlights of my year.
And I have always loved exploring the countryside and nature around my home. It is so easy to overlook what is right on your doorstep.
Therefore I thought I would do something different, and post some photos from around my local area. None of these are from tourist attractions, they are just from local footpaths, parks, woods and fields close to where I live, just outside York.
Never stop exploring – there is beauty to be found everywhere if you bother to look!
York City Centre
Of course York is well known as a tourist destination, and has many world class tourist attractions (York Minster, National Railway Museum, Castle Museum, Yorkshire Museum, Jorvik Viking Centre, York Dungeon).
But you can also see interesting and beautiful things just by strolling around.
If you would like to stay in York there is a huge variety of accommodation available – see this page at booking.com.
There are many paths and country lanes around the outskirts of York where you can experience some peace and nature. I particularly love many of our beautiful trees.
Much of Pocklington Canal is designated an SSSI for its wildlife.
Accessed at Canal Head, a few miles from York and just outside Pocklington town, or at Melbourne, it is a great place to go for a stroll and a picnic. We have seen lots of birds here, including kingfishers, and in the summer it is teeming with dragonflies and damselflies.
River Wharf at Tadcaster
Another good spot for a stroll is by the River Wharf at Tadcaster. You can park free in Tadcaster, where there are coffee shops and bars.
As well as the attractive weir and viaduct, you can often see wildlife. We have seen mergansers and herons in the river, and kestrels, buzzards and red kites overhead.
Around my Village
Paths around Bishopthorpe, my village, lead through fields and trees to the River Ouse. There is always something to see. Read more at Open Skies and Yorkshire Sunsets on my sister website Thoughts of Dawn (where I post original photography – and sometimes have a good moan!)
Of course nothing beats the excitement of exploring new places. But sometimes those places may not be so far away.
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