At the very beginning of our 5 week trip, we decided that since we had very limited time and a to-do list as long as your arm, we had to make every day count. We crammed as much as we could into a five day road and air trip over four countries. Visiting many interesting and delicious places along the way – including servos with Krispy Kreme machines – dangerous!
We started from our base in Sheffield, England, We drove our hire car (the “Chelsea Tractor” Land Rover) up the A1 and west through the Yorkshire Dales to our first stop. The Yorkshire Dales are stunning – lots of hills and valleys covered with farmland – made famous round the world by TV series such as James Herriot, Heartbeat and even Postman Pat!
Chef was super excited, as just two days before, the Tour de France had passed through the dales. It was a real thrill for him to be driving the route of Stage One. The bunting was still out in the villages and there was a festive atmosphere in the market towns. We even spotted a huge bike on the side of a mountain!
A few hours later we came to the first destination – The Lake District. This is a very popular holiday spot in England’s North West, as it’s filled with beautiful scenery, lots of culture and so many things to do. To Chef’s delight, I’d booked our two night stay in a country pub. It was in the village of Hawkshead. Somewhere I’d holidayed as a child many times. All roads in and out are very narrow, so there were some very hairy moments when we met busses and trucks coming the other way, nearly ending up in a hedge full of brambles.
Beatrix Potter, the author of Peter Rabbit and many other beloved children’s tales, lived in the Lake District. The National Trust has preserved her house, Hilltop Farm, which we visited. Before entering the house, to the delight of our son, we saw bunnies hopping in a meadow. He was calling “Peter” out to them, to see which one looked – so cute! One of the guides in the house took Little Chef to one side and read him parts of the book “The Tale of Samuel Whiskers”. It quickly transformed what was just a dark old house to a very magical place to him. She showed Little Chef the chimney place where Tom Kitten got stuck and the rat hole where Samuel Whiskers lived. His eyes were wide with wonder – oh to be five years old again!!
We also visited Wray Castle, Windermere, The World of Beatrix Potter and Grizedale Forrest – where we went on a Gruffalo hunt.
Back at our pub, the Queens Head, we had some fabulous food. The 17th century inn is regarded as the best in the village by many of the locals (there are 4 pubs in Hawkshead). We had some excellent breakfasts and dinners at the gastro pub. The dining room had a cosy feel – with low ceilings and wooden beams, it was brimming with character.
The pick of the bunch was a slow-cooked lakeland pork belly dish, with creamed mash, roasted root, pickle jus (£15.95) that Chef really enjoyed and Little Chef loved the local specialty of sticky toffee pudding (£6.50). Our room and en suite were lovely too and we thoroughly enjoyed staying at the Queens Head.
We drove up to Scotland the next morning and after a couple hours, we found ourselves at the venue of the Commonwealth Game’s opening ceremony – Celtic Park. We then took a trip through the cosmopolitan city of Glasgow and to the gorgeous old Central Train station.
We took a short train ride to the lovely holiday town of Largs – on the west coast. We were there to catch up with Chef’s Aunty C and Uncle W. We were made very welcome and had a lovely time with Aunty and Uncle. They treated Little Chef to fairground rides and numerous ice creams! We even met a giant Viking called Magnus – Largs has a rich Viking history.
We all had a lovely dinner together at the appropriately named “Scotts” – at the Largs harbour. We sat in a booth in the stylish restaurant. Scotts overlooks the Firth of Clyde and as Chef noticed – some VERY expensive boats! Our pick of the dishes were an entrée of pan friend king scallops and pork belly was a well-cooked dish (£7.45). It came with pomegranates and cauliflower puree.
For main, I REALLY should have tried the Scottish delicacy of “Haggis with Neeps and Tatties” (Turnips and potatoes), but I totally chickened out. I regretted it a bit, but after eating out for four days solid, all I really wanted was something light, healthy and fresh. The Asian sirloin salad with a hot and sour dressing (£12.95) fitted the bill nicely.
On the penultimate day we flew from Glasgow to Belfast. The fight took a whole 25 minutes! Once in Belfast we picked up our slick Audi hire car and Chef drove us west through the Northern Irish country side.
The roads were some of the bumpiest we’d encountered so far, we felt like we were on an hour long rollercoaster! Soon enough we crossed the border into the Republic of Ireland. We stayed in a lovely town, full of little shops and bars. Chef isn’t usually a Guinness drinker, but he agrees that it somehow tastes much different in Ireland, so he had a couple of pints of the black stuff.
After a nights rest, in our County Donegal Hotel, we drove back to Belfast. This time taking a route through Derry/Londonderry and along the magnificent Northern Irish coastline. We stopped at the world heritage site, the Giants Causeway along the way. The unique volcanic rock formation was every bit as stunning as we thought it would be.
We also stopped at a few filming locations for our favourite TV show – Game of Thrones (which I’ll cover in a future post). We carried on through small fishing villages, pausing for a traditional Irish Stew (lamb/mutton, with potatoes, carrot and onion) and champ (mash with spring onion) lunch.
Eventually we ended up back in Belfast. I loved the stunning building that houses the titanic museum. In stark contrast to this, we also found ourselves in East Belfast – which I found very interesting, not having any Irish heritage of my own. The ends of the terrace houses were covered in murals, depicting images from the past conflict in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is a country of many facets – through it was a flying visit, we thoroughly enjoyed it.