A New Member of the Team


We have a new member of our team travelling with us. Well actually we have had him with us from Australia, but we kind of forgot about him. Terry the tripod was kindly lent to us by some friends in Smithton but we forgot about him. We have rediscovered Terry and have found him very handy for getting some family shots. Setting up shots and then the rush to get into the picture also adds some fun and risk of serious injury sometimes depending on how ambitious we have been in relation to the ground I have to cover to be with the family. So unfortunately we have been to lots of places we didn’t takeTerry and therefore did not get photos of all of us together – granted it wouldn’t work in a place like Paris because someone would probably steal Terry and the camera before we got a photo.

So a big thank you to the Sayers for loaning Terry to us and hopefully because of your generosity we will have many more family photos to remember our year.


The Industrial Revolution


We decided to visit the Stanley cotton mill because it was something a little different from all of the castles and churches we had been looking at.

It was a great history lesson that also gave us a chance to reflect on the “good old days”. The Stanley mill was set up by a group of locals who believed they could make money producing cotton in this location because of the good water source to power the machinery. Seems OK so far. One of these men owned the land where the mill is and at the time his land was used by tenant farmers who scrapped out an existence on the land. When the mill was built there was also a village built. The landowner also wanted to convert his land to raising sheep. The farmers were given the option of moving into the nice new houses – which they would be given (still seems OK) – and working for wages in the mill or finding somewhere else to live (good and bad to this offer). The mill gave jobs to men, women and kids as young as 8 and 9 (everyone had cash to spend seems OK). As time went on it was discovered that the women and kids were more suited to working in the mill as they were smaller and had smaller hands so could get into the machines and clear stuff out etc. without the need to stop the machines. As you can imagine there were many injuries particularly at the end of a 14 hour day when the reflexes were a little slow. The mill was also incredibly noisy and of course it was full of dust and airborne cotton. At the end of the day I am not sure if anyone was better off or not – but the industrial revolution had begun for better or worse.


The mill had some very interesting displays that demonstrated the pulleys, gears and levers that were used in a place like this to harness the power of the water – a great way for the kids to understand the inner-workings of the place. There were also a couple of activities where you had to carry out some of the activities that were part of the daily working life of the people in the mill.


The highlight though was the model water wheels. This display pumped water into a channel which could then be directed to various waterwheels and turbines. The flow rate was adjustable to each turbine and the water level on the downstream side could also be raised to see the effect of flooding on water wheels as opposed to turbines – it was a great activity and the kids (and me) loved trying all of the different variables to get things working.


We had a great time at the Stanley Mill and were really glad we came to visit – a bit of a hidden gem and very quiet, we mostly had the place to ourselves for the 2-3 hours we were there.

Dressing up was also a big hit.




After the Mill we continued to head north toward the Scottish Highlands, which was very picturesque – full of lochs and mountains. Some of the mountains still had snow on them.




On the way we came across John Lacey’s (name was familiar but he was not the one we know) horn carving studio for a bit of a look at something different. I never knew you could make so many different things out of cow, goat and deer horns. Certainly something a little different.


We finished our day camped beside a loch (Loch Iubhair we think) and the kids and I went for an explore through the bush and around the loch and across a couple of creeks. A magical spot that we stumbled across just by pulling off the road.




The next morning.

The next morning.

You Painted the Walls with WHAT!?!


Stirling Castle is perched up on the top of a cliff and is very imposing as you approach it. It like most castles in Scotland has a very bloody history of fighting between the English and the Scots. The castle was held at different times by both sides.


It was here that while the English were in charge that William Wallace came and tricked them into leaving the safety of the castle with most of his men hiding behind a hill. Once the English were out in the open the rest of Wallace’s men came out and annihilated the English – this made Wallace a national hero. There is a memorial built to him near where this battle took place.



Mary Queen of Scots spent some time living here.

Parts of the Castle are still used by the military. Until recently (the last 100 years) they used the Protestant Church as a gun powder store. The Great Hall was split up by the army by adding additional floors so it could be used as barrack and I think also for stables.


Historic Scotland has done a large amount of restoration work on the Great hall. They have re-built the Hammer Beam roof which is one of only a small number in the UK. This style of roof is built like an upside down boat and contains no nails or screws, only timber dowels. The roof here took 350 trees to reconstruct and weighs about 1350 tonnes including the slate – no nails or screws, I might step outside.

Historic Scotland also discovered that at one point in time the king had the entire castle painted in a colour called Kings Gold so they decided to redo the Great Hall in this colour. Sounds nice and certainly has a royal ring to it.


Fortunately they also discovered the recipe for the paint – lime, straw and urine yes that is correct urine – nice colour. I guess on the day they were to start painting the boss gave everyone a few litres of water to drink and then said “OK boys no work to do until we can produce some paint” or something like that. It is amazing to realise that the whole place would have been painted with this – it certainly makes a statement from a distance though.



Once Historic Scotland had painted the building this colour they asked a few visitors what they thought – most hated the colour and that is even before they knew how it was made. I guess we all have a stereotype of what old castles should look like, and I guess it is not urine coloured walls.

There were a number of interactive activities here for the kids that we all enjoyed – but it is pretty hard to beat a dress-up.


While we were in Stirling we camped the night at the William Wallace monument. In the morning MiniMandM and I went for a walk to get some photos. An impressive memorial.





The Family Runabout



I know lots of people who love their boats. They like to have something to get out on the water and spend some time with their family.

I guess the Queen was no different – except hers was the Royal Yacht Britannia.

The kids were really excited to go and see a palace on water. We had a tour all around the ship.


The Bridge.


The Queen’s bedroom.


The State Dining room.


And the engine room.


The Garage for the Roller.P1110718


The Officers Lounge.


I was surprised at how basic and simple it all was. You may wonder why the Royal yacht has ended up in Scotland. When the Queen no longer needed the vessel they ran a competition to decide where it would go – and Edinburgh won.

We caught another bus back to the Royal mile and went to Arthur’s seat.


Arthur’s seat is a mountain that overlooks Edinburgh; it is in a huge park. There are tracks all around the place as well as the ruin of a church. The weather was great so there were people taking advantage of this and enjoying a walk.



The summit of Arthur’s Seat is 251m and gets quite steep toward the end (Mr Dunham?) – we had some Kendal’s Mint Cake on the way up to give us some energy – if it was good enough for climbing Everest it was good enough for Arthur’s Seat. There were a lot of people at the top and it was extremely windy – but we had a fantastic view.



We hadn’t been sure if we should take the time to climb up here but were very glad we did – and we thanked God for great weather – it would have been very miserable if we had done it and it was rainy like the previous day.

As we walked back to the bus stop we came across a set of bike racks – “so what?” you say – well from a distance they looked like a bike.


But up close they just look like some random squiggly bits of pipe.


One of the short comings of living in a motorhome with five of us is the fact that our water capacity, particularly our hot water, is pretty limited so showers are pretty quick – I guess you could say when in Rome and only shower once a month but… So if we stay at a caravan park with nice showers (this doesn’t happen very often) we will use theirs so while we were in Edinburgh we did that. Legoboy was having a shower and asked if he could just stand there and enjoy the nice hot shower – so he stood there for about 10-15 minutes (no water restrictions here) – very nice.

They are Everywhere


Well our friends the Grahams tried to take over all of the Scottish / English border areas when they were going around raiding and pillaging anyone they could find to pick on.

And nowadays they still seem to be taking over. We found Grahams everywhere (well a couple of spots).


The van does not actually say Graham but whenever we see one we are reminded of our friend AJ – we have seen a lot of them (they are courier vans) but could not get a photo. We got this photo when we were on the top of a church bell tower and saw it drive past below.


So to our Graham friends in Tassie we hope you like some of what we found.


Off to Wee Bonnie Scotland


We spent 4 nights in Edinburgh. We stayed at a caravan park in town and then caught the  bus ( a double decker bus, which was a little strange at first) to the different places we wanted to visit.


Edinburgh castle is a place that the English and the Scots have fought over  – these guys really didn’t get on. There are a lot of bloody stories about the castle.

We went on a tour of the castle and our Scottish tour guide pointed out Scotlands best piper (he was made out of fibreglass and silent – I won’t comment on whether I agreed or not.


Each day at 1pm the cannon is fired from the castle wall. This has been going on for a long time and was originally started as a form of timekeeping, particularly for the international vessels which came into the port. The whole process of firing the gun was all pomp and ceremony  which is a little funny to watch.


The gun is fired right on the stroke of one so the guard gets everything all ready a few minutes before then stands there looking at his watch waiting for the appointed time – then BANG it is all over. Because there is no warning it gives everyone a big fright. MiniMandM has a great photo of the end of the gun and the sky – she was pointing her camera at the guard and the gun but got such a fright when it went off that she jumped and then took the photo.


Legoboy saw a guy dressed in period costume with a musket and wanted to get a photo with him. Once we had the photo he told us he was going to do a demonstration firing the musket.


Legoboy got to hold the musket for him while he got setup. The guy was very funny and during the demonstration was showing how the musket was often used as a club – he said SWTTM was to pretty for clubbing but he thought I was more than ugly enough. He fired the musket a few times and it was probably even louder than the cannon.


We checked out the Scottish Crown Jewels which had been hidden in a toilet in the castle during one of the altercations with the English. Unfortunately no photos allowed of the Crown Jewels so you will just have to believe me.





After we left Edinburgh Castle we headed off down the Royal mile and checked out the churches, buildings and shops. We stopped and bought some good old chips from a shop that apparently Prince Edward buys his chips from when he is in town – according to the news article on the wall.


Unfortunately it had started to rain, but we had our wet weather gear so were OK.

At the end of the road was Hollyrood castle where royalty still come and stay when they are in town and the Scottish Parliament building.


Holy Island


Like Mont St Michel in France Lindisfarne Priory is built on an island – Holy Island. The idea was that the fact the priory was on an island separated the monks from the rest of the world. Monks first came to this island from Iona in 635 led by St Aidan. They were forced to leave however in the late 700’s because of Viking raids. The priory was re-established in the 1200’s when the buildings that are now ruins were built.


One of the fascinating aspects of this place is the fact that to access the island you cross over a causeway. This causeway goes under with each high tide; the road on the island which leads to the priory also goes under when there is a really high tide. There are signs everywhere warning you to make sure you don’t leave your run too late and to check the tide times.


We camped near the causeway and saw a number of cars that had to turn back on the other side as the tide was already in when they tried to cross back to the mainland. The next morning there was a line-up of cars waiting to get across. A few of them drove through the water – I guess they couldn’t wait.


It was fascinating to watch the tide come in and slowly cover the road until it was about 1.5 metres high in the middle.


Also on the island are a couple of “Herring Sheds” made from the upturned hulls of old herring fishing boats which used to fish herring off the coast here.


Further out on the island is a castle built to ward off the Vikings – but we decided not to visit this castle as we had to be off the island before high tide.



Should we stop here? – Legoboy says yes.


We were about to drive past Warkworth castle and asked the kids if they thought we should bother stopping. We wondered if the kids were a little castled out.

Legoboy thought we should – he said “I think it will be worth it”, so we pulled in for a quick look.

The castle was built in the 1100’s. We all really enjoyed looking around the keep and the outer area of the castle. We were able to go up into the keep as well as in and around the ruins on other parts of the castle.


We all really enjoyed this castle so it was a very good call by Legoboy – probably our favourite to date.


Belsay Hall and Castle

Once I had Max parked safely and securely I headed off to find the rest of the family. As we had not been to this estate before we really did not have any idea of what it would be like and I had just sent everyone off expecting to just go in and be able to find them.

How wrong I was!

As the name suggests there are two components to this estate, Belsay Hall and Belsay Castle. You enter the estate just near Belsay Hall.


Belsay Hall is a two storey mansion with a huge cellar underneath – so I headed in to see if I could find everyone else. When Legoboy becomes separated from some of us at any time he will yell out Aussie Aussie Aussie and the rest of us are supposed to respond with Oi Oi Oi so that he can find us. I didn’t think I could do that here, so I just went through every room as quickly as I could all the while looking out of the windows to see if I could catch a glimpse of anyone in the gardens.

Little did I know how futile my attempts were – but I was about to find out.


I headed out of the house and to the garden at the back where there was a path that led to Belsay Castle. The problem was there was more than one path. The path I chose first wound through some pretty gardens past the croquet green; that just took me to the edge of the formal garden for Belsay Hall. Once I had gone through the gate out of the formal garden I came to two paths to the Castle. The paths started off close together and I could see the other path to see if the family was heading in the opposite direction, but pretty soon they diverged. The paths actually made their way through an old quarry which was used to extract the rock for the Hall. I noticed that the gardens were impressive and the quarry gave them an enchanted forest kind of feel, as I raced through.


As I mentioned in my previous blog we had come here on this day because the estate was hosting a special medieval day and the activities were happening at the castle. Everyone was at the castle when I got there – well as far as I could see everyone except my family. I should also mention here that before we left Australia we purchased two SIM’s from Woolworths (yes Woolworths ) that enable global roaming and had been recommended on a number of online forums as being the best for coverage in multiple countries with reasonable rates. So far we have used our phone very little as we are mostly together however we have always had signal and they have worked OK when needed – but not in the UK, we can get no signal at all, and this is the first time we have really needed them to get in touch with each other. That is why I am now running around like a crazy person.


Anyway – so I had a quick look around all of the people and then had a look inside the castle which fortunately was not as big as the Hall. I decided not to go up onto the roof because the stairs were busy and I couldn’t see any of the family up on top (big mistake). So I headed back the 1.5 kilometres or so to the Hall via the other path and then back to the entrance via another path through the formal garden – I was getting a pretty good look around.


So back I went again – I really liked the garden in the quarry each time I went through it. This time when I got back to the castle there were my lovely family playing medieval games. Legoboy was rolling a hoop around like a pro – the medieval group running the games were actually telling other kids to watch Legoboy to see how it was done.


MiniMandM was trying to walk on stilts; they were all having a great time. By this time they had found a staff member to radio the entrance and found out I was un-bogged so figured it was best to stay still until I found them. They had been in this same spot the whole time enjoying the medieval events except for a little while when they went up to the roof of the castle!!


The Castle was the original family home but the hall was built when they need a bigger house that no longer needed to be fortified. The gardens are large and as I said the gardens in the quarry are very interesting.


Once we were all together again we went and looked at all of the places I had seen when I was rushing around. The cellars in the Hall had fantastic acoustics for making loud scary noises and scaring the kids.

Despite our not so great start to our time at Belsay we all had an enjoyable time and the kids especially enjoyed the medieval activities.