Category Archives: England

The Chaos of the Christmas Markets at Chatsworth

Chatsworth House, a stately home in Derbyshire, is best known to me as the setting for Pemberley, Mr Darcy’s estate in the 1995 BBC mini-series of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Chatsworth House from across the river
Chatsworth House from across the river

That is why at 10:30am on a Sunday morning we turned in to Chatsworth Road and joined the queue of cars, only to still be creeping forward in the queue an hour later.

The queue to get in to Chatsworth
The queue to get in to Chatsworth (and we were following those cars!

Little did we know that our visit coincided with the first weekend of the Chatsworth Christmas Market – there seemed to be more people swarming the stalls than headed for the House!

The busy Christmas markets at Chatsworth House
The busy Christmas markets at Chatsworth House

The Christmas decorations were up inside the house, themed with characters from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. I had to remind myself to look at the house itself – I was so taken with the decorations (my favourite? The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in the hall!).

After walking around the gardens (and getting absolutely stuck in the muddy maze!) we wandered through the busy Christmas markets, had some lunch, and by the time we waded through the mud to get back to our car two hours later, the cars were still queued up to get in!

Should you come while the Christmas markets are on? Absolutely. While we didn’t think much of the markets themselves, the Christmas decorations in the house were inspiring and must have taken a lot of thought, effort and care to construct!

It isn’t cheap – parking on the weekend inside the grounds costs ten pounds (though we were given a five pound discount voucher against our admission costs to the house) and tickets to the house and gardens sit at 22 pounds. However, if you’re a admirer of stately homes (or of a certain BBC mini-series) it is worth it.

The Other Bettys in York

Looking for afternoon tea in York? The recommendation you’ll hear the most is to go to Bettys Tea Rooms. Once there, you’ll often be faced with a line out of the door and a wait for a table.

The cakes, slices and biscuits are worth waiting for, but did you know that there’s a second Bettys, just around the corner on Stonegate?

I thought that the second Bettys was only for take away deliciousness, but when we were there today, I noticed that they have tea rooms upstairs – with no queue in sight!

Bettys had their Christmas range out, so we chose a white chocolate ganache snowman and a marzipan pudding to try, and they didn’t disappoint!

The very cute white chocolate ganache snowman from Bettys Tea Rooms on Stonegate
The very cute white chocolate ganache snowman from Bettys Tea Rooms on Stonegate
Marzipan pudding from Bettys Tea Rooms on Stonegate
Marzipan pudding from Bettys Tea Rooms on Stonegate

If you’re in York, go to Bettys Tea Rooms and enjoy. And if there’s a line of people at the main one, sneak over to Stonegate!

From Steel Rigg to Sycamore Gap: How to get to the Robin Hood section of Hadrian’s Wall

Ever since I heard that the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was partly filmed at Sycamore Gap, a section along Hadrian’s Wall, I have wanted to visit it. When I was in the UK last year, I almost booked a day tour that went there, but chose one that went to Alnwick Castle instead. This year, we had a hire car from Europcar, and discovered that it’s quite easy to get to Sycamore Gap – if you know where you’re going.

Hadrian’s Wall and Sycamore Gap in particular, appear in the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as Robin and Azeem (played by Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman) make their way from the English coastline to Nottingham, where Robin first encounters the Sheriff’s men as they trap Little John’s son Wolf up the tree at Sycamore Gap.

Sycamore Gap along Hadrian's Wall, used as one of the filming locations in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Sycamore Gap along Hadrian’s Wall, used as one of the filming locations in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Unfortunately, there’s not a great deal of information online, and doing a Google search combining ‘Robin Hood’ and ‘Hadrian’s Wall’ returned plenty of photos but no directions.

Northumberland National Park does offer a brochure that includes it in one of their Hadrian’s Wall walks, but doesn’t tell you how to get there.

Driving to Steel Rigg Carpark

The easiest place to begin your walk to Sycamore Gap is by parking in the Steel Rigg carpark. (A four pound fee applies but the same all-day ticket can be used in six of the Hadrian’s Wall carparks)

To get there, you need to get on the A69 that runs between Carlisle and Hexham.

Look out for signs for Haltwhistle and Once Brewed. If you follow those signs you should end up in front of the Once Brewed Visitor Information Centre at the stem of a T-Junction. Turn right and then immediately left and follow the road up to the Steel Rigg carpark. (Note: turning left from Once Brewed will take you past Twice Brewed)

How to get from Steel Rigg Carpark to Sycamore Gap

Once you are in Steel Rigg carpark, you will find a gate at the back of the carpark that will take you through to the walking trail. To your left, you will see a lake partially hidden by some hills – if you see this you are in the right place!

Follow the trail (note at some points the dirt and gravel trail disappears and turns to grass) over the first two hills. You should come across a ruin of a Roman fort known as Milecastle 39.

Milecastle 39 along Hadrian's Wall
Milecastle 39 along Hadrian’s Wall. Sycamore Gap is just over the other side of this hill, before the lake.

Sycamore Gap is just over the next hill (if you have gone past the lake you have gone too far). The walking trail winds right around the lone tree, so don’t worry, you won’t miss it!

It took about half an hour for us to walk from Steel Rigg Carpark to Sycamore Gap.

Hadrian's Wall runs through Sycamore Gap
Hadrian’s Wall runs through Sycamore Gap

Whether or not you’re a fan of the movie, Hadrian’s Wall and the surrounding countryside is beautiful (even in low light with winds strong enough to stop you from climbing down a hill!). A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is definitely worth the effort of all of those hill climbs!

Stumbling across Lambeth Palace

One of the things I love about travelling to Europe is that it doesn’t take you too long before you stumble across another castle or palace, which is what happened when a wrong turn took me to the south bank of the Thames and instead of finding myself standing in front of The Globe Theatre, I came across Lambeth Palace.

Lambeth Palace, the London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury
Lambeth Palace, the London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury

Lambeth Palace is home to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and was unfortunately closed to the public when I happened across it. It made me wonder – how many other palaces are tucked away among the streets of London?

Looking across the Thames towards Lambeth Palace
Looking across the Thames towards Lambeth Palace

Have you ever stumbled upon something or lost your sense of direction? Share it in the comments!

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