things I found while walking around (2007-09-24 - 2:10 p.m.)
So since it was the weekend, and I don't know anyone really, I spent most of it walking around. I looked at my mapbook and found places that looked like they might be worth walking to, and walked there. Actually I've started to get the whole thing down to a science. When starting over in a new town,
1). Find out the main streets and where to find groceries.
2). Walk around until you find other useful things, like pound/dollar shops and post offices and drugstores and bank machines.
3). Find the library and get a card, so at least you have something to do at night. Also usually free internet and lots of noticeboards full of useful information.
4). Find out what there is to do, ie. theatres, swimming pools, museums, art galleries, and other things of that sort.
5). Go out to things where you might meet people, meet some people, and have them lead to you to the good pubs and places to eat.
So far I've managed all but #5. We'll see how the week goes.
Anyway, I went for a walk on Saturday in the direction of a castle listed in the mapbook. Halfway there, I got distracted by a pedestrian gate that led to a pretty-looking path. It didn't have any Private or No Entrance signs, so I figured it was fair game. (Besides which my housemate Anna told me that most places around here walkers are allowed - something to do with right-of-way).
So I wandered down the path and presently it started going beside a river - though really it looked like more of a stream. It had a very damp, moist, rainforest kind of feel (though of course, being the UK, it was several hundred times colder). Lots of mosses and ferns and vines and branches dripping with precipitation. You couldn't see or hear the town, for the most part, and it felt quite removed from anything industrial. Eventually I found a little bridge, a bench shaped like a fish carved out of driftwood, and a sign telling me the river contained interesting things like otters and eels. Did not see either of these things, though, unfortunately. Eels always make me think of Puddleglum but I don't think I've ever seen one in its natural habitat. Only preserved in jars, really.
From there I squinted at the map and managed to work out that the river bordered an industrial estate and on the other side there should be a castle. It was quite confusing as the roads on industrial estates aren't marked in any useful way, but eventually I came to two roundabouts which did seem to be marked on the map. Turned a corner and - holy crap! Giant, intricately carved, majestic stone gates loomed up at me.
I went through and asked the nice man at the booth how far it was to the castle. He said it was about a mile but that it was closing in 45 minutes. It seemed to me that a mile wasn't much in the grand scheme of things, so I paid my eight pounds and set off down the road. Of course, being a castle built mostly to show off, there was a grand winding road leading up to it calculated to make the most imposing impression possible - but taking as long as possible to get you there in the process. It did achieve its aims, though - it's quite hard NOT to be impressed.
Once in, and despite the fact the castle was closing soon, it occurred to me how useful my Historic Scotland membership had been, and I thought perhaps I should join the National Trust (the equivalent to Historic Scotland in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and get my eight pounds castle entrance fee back in the process. Said process, of course, took ages and by the time I got back to the front of the castle there wasn't much time left. (And of COURSE memberships were half price for anyone under 26, and of course I felt compelled to tell my actual age and have to pay full price. Sigh.)
The castle was really quite something. It had been a proper Norman castle until one of the heirs made a fortune in Jamaica, inherited the estate and decided to remake it into a nice big imposing "modern-day" (late 1800s) castle. This took twenty years. All done by local artists (except one plaster ceiling for which they imported Italians), all done in local materials. It's pretty darn amazing. Most of the original furniture and paintings, original silk wallcoverings, original childrens' toys. And a large slate bed make for old Queen Vicky, in which she refused to sleep because it reminded her too much of a tomb. The castle's called Penrhyn, and I will definitely be back to look at everything properly.
Yesterday I went down to see the pier, which has a tearoom which boasts the World's Best Scones. I have not tested out this theory yet, though, as scones are more fun if you have someone to eat them with.
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