After another calm ferry crossing (how very lucky we have been!) we headed to the famous Brecon Beacons. Arthurian legend is strong here and by pure chance I had booked us into an Air bnb property located a 5 minute drive away from Llangors Lake! This lake, according to some legends, is where the Lady of the Lake gave the sword Excalibur to Arthur. On our first morning I woke Liam up (possibly a bit early), as there was a fine mist on the lake and I so desperately wanted to explore this mythical place with mist and clear reflections in the water. What happened next was a learning curve for the kid in me who spent hours reading history books and myths and legends of the UK: People still use these places. They have been modernised. My lake was surrounded by a camper van park, had a rowing and water sports club house and very little forest around it. Some (all) of the magic was lost when a school group showed up.
Our next stop had no legends attached to it (that I had grown up reading about), so there was no chance of disappointment. Known as the Four Falls walk we had a round trip of 9km over often rough, muddy and steep tracks. Were we adequately prepared for this? Did we have food, water or appropriate footwear that still had the sole fully attatched? You know we didn’t have any of that nonsense! This saw Liam carrying me over small rivers and had us dreaming about all the different food we would eat for lunch. Nevertheless it was an amazing walk, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Liam even walked behind the biggest waterfall on a tiny ledge. See if you can spot him in the right hand photo below.
After our time in Wales we crossed the Severn and were back on English soil, our first stop being the village of Cheddar. Being short of both time and money we decided not to visit the famous Cheddar Caves and instead took a drive through the gorge and sampled some of the local cheeses. From Cheddar we headed to Axbridge where we posted back the keys we (Liam) had accidentally stolen from our last B&B in Ireland and checked out the Hunting Lodge, a National Trust property which featured three levels and some crazily sloping floors and stairs. They had a capacity limit of twelve on the top story, if it exceeds that it is likely to collapse, fortunately for us it was a quiet day and we were never really at risk and safely made it out to continue on our journey to Weston-Super-Mare and The Grand Pier. Unfortunately the lovely old pier that Liam remembered from his childhood village had been burned down years previously and the new incarnation had retained very little of the original structures charm. That being said it was still a lovely seaside village and nice to be able to walk out on the pier over the ocean and check out the arcade at the end. It should be noted that whilst we were in the arcade Liam annihilated me at a horse race, and I only won at air hockey and Terminator.
After Weston we went to Bristol where we arrived just in time to see a gypsy caravan group evicted from a carpark by the sea. We didn’t stray to far from the vehicle and had a quick walk around the waterfront before heading down to visit Liam’s cousin Mark and his wife Hayley, our hosts for the evening. Hayley cooked up a lovely dinner for us and was a generous host considering we had essentially crashed her birthday which was the next day. Liam and Mark sat up half the night sampling ales, catching up and watching the football which resulted in Liam not bouncing out of bed too quickly the next morning. We wished Hayley a Happy Birthday and watched a few digger movies on youtube with Jacob before bidding our farewells and going to meet Liam’s Aunty Rita. We had a great catch up with Rita who took us out to The Windmill, a great restaurant overlooking the river, for lunch and shared travel stories galore before jumping in the car and driving down to England’s South West and the town of Penzance to prepare for out early ferry crossing the next morning.
Our journey to the Scilly Isles begun with the clearest, calmest day you could ask for. The middle picture below shows just how good it was. From the quay in Penzance you can see St Michael’s Mount, which we are excited to visit after Scilly. Legend has it that the Scilly Isles could be the famous lost land of Lyonnesse. I was excited to explore the islands and we were very excited to stay in one spot for a whole week without having to repack our bags and jump in the car!
We were staying at the Karma hotel on the island of St Martins. The picture below shows the hotel and the lower town boat ramp. The hotel has an enviable position, with an breathtaking outlook across to Tresco. It also faces west so we were treated to stunning sunsets every evening. By pure, happy chance we arrived on a weekend where they were offering 50% off spa treatments! Two treatments later and I was a puddle of relaxation.
Unfortunately Liam woke up on Sunday quite unwell and in no position to explore the island as planned. Being an excellent girlfriend I left him some water and the TV remote and headed off to enjoy the day. And what a day it was! I didn’t even take my raincoat! I didn’t see any people in my travels but I did discover some interesting things, including a rock maze and an alien like sea creature. I didn’t grow up around the ocean, so my knowledge of its critters is slim, but I have never heard of anything like this. I would appreciate someone telling me what it is! This thing was all connected, a heaving mass of pink tentacles ending in a shell with a crab like creature in each. I spent a lot of time pondering this potentially new species and what I would name it.
At a nearby beach I discovered what islanders do in their off time. They stack rocks. Lots of rocks.
Liam didn’t get better that day, or the day after. Luckily we didn’t have to go anywhere, and we were in a nice room so that eased him somewhat. I got up at 3am and watched the blood moon from the boat ramp, a surreal experience. When it was at its darkest and all the animals stopped making any sound I turned into somewhat of a coward and went back to watch it from the bedroom.
We had a couple of easy days just relaxing. A much needed holiday within our travel time and an attempt to help Liam recover to full fitness, on day two of his illness he even managed to leave the hotel room for a couple of hours and attempted to eat some food…
Unfortunately that didn’t help and he didn’t get any better, so after two and a half days I went on a mission to St Mary’s to find medication (foolishly we’d left everything we had in the car, in Penzance). Hugh Town has the largest population of permanent residents of all the Scilly islands, yet the directions to their medical centre and pharmacy were something along the lines of ‘climb the largest hill you can see, go right at the old tower, find a elvish creature and jump three times.’ Despite the game of ‘trick the tourist’ the locals had played I succeeded in my mission and also managed to bring back food for Liam (and chocolate for me).
The medication worked! Liam ate food and even left the room, a momentous occasion. To celebrate his health we travelled to Tresco, the second largest Scilly island with a world famous tiered garden. There are no cars on the island, instead people ride bikes, walk or use golf buggies to travel. I loved it. What a way to live. Beautiful beaches around every corner, stunning views to the surrounding islands, a great pub and cafe. We visited the gardens and were pleasently surprised to discover the program they’ve been running to save red squirrels. Not native to the island, a colony of squirrels were released into the abbey gardens in the hope they would thrive and eventually be reintroduced back onto the mainland, after the scourge of the grey squirrel had passed. I am happy to report the program has been incredibly successful! They have been breeding and there are now (apparently, I didn’t see them all) 40 squirrels.
The gardens have more than just squirrels, though they were certainly a highlight for me. The garden has plants collected from all over the world, and thanks to some very clever landscaping and the sub-tropical climate they are flourishing. There are 17 acres of gardens, established in the 19th century by Augustus Smith.
The garden is home to exotic plants, collected from all over the world: the Mediterranean, South America, South Africa and Australasia. It was nice to see some plants that reminded me of home.
Within the gardens are the remains of a Benedictine abbey, founded in 964 CE, and later redeveloped by monks from Tavistock Abbey in 1114 CE. It was a pleasure to lose oneself within the garden, discovering hidden treasures and exotic plants around every corner. Liam took some time out to read by the island’s helipad and take in some sun.
Tresco is not a large island, and we made the most of this by walking around and exploring as many areas as we could. The beaches are stunning and the weather is beautiful, I don’t understand why there aren’t more tourists!
Our last couple of days on St Martins were dominated by the annual St Martins Film Festival which was hosted by The Seven Stones Inn, an amazing pub with one of the worlds greatest pub views. The festival showcased some great Indie movies, our favourites being The Grand Seduction & What We Do in the Shadows, two films that I strongly recommend everybody watches. Locals and visitors alike were welcomed at the festival, and I mean welcomed, we felt like locals ourselves by the second day and were being greeted and acknowledged by people all over the islands after getting into the spirit of things and having some quality banter with everybody. As well as great pub food and exceptional cider the pub was offering multiple varieties of popcorn and mixed lollies and pumping epic movie soundtracks in between screenings, it was great fun and we were disappointed that we were leaving mid festival and weren’t there for the Blues Brothers screening with accompanying 12 piece blues band or the premiere and Q&A session with the director of a local Cornish film. As well as the movie festival we got out and explored the beaches, showing Liam what he had been missing out on whilst he was laid up in bed for the first half of our stay. We tried our hand at putting together some standing stones, which Liam failed at abysmally due to a lack of patience! (Liam wrote that – I thought he did ok, J)
Just like that we woke up and it was Saturday, our time on the Scilly Isles had come to an end and it was time to head back to the mainland, we had barely scratched the surface of what the islands have to offer and I hope that we get an opportunity to come back again in the future and experience a bit more of this amazing place. We had another smooth and uneventful ferry crossing and after three hours we were back on the mainland and ready to begin our exploration of southern England!
Thats all for this post, thanks for reading and look out for the next post about our adventures in Cornwall & Devon, it looks busy on the calendar so we should have heaps to report!!
Liam & Jess