The Magical Mystery Tour was hoping to take me away...
And it most certainly did!
To say that this trip was the pilgrimage to end them all, is putting it quite mildly. To set the scene: my husband and I have friends in Scotland whom we visit when we can and are our favourite travel buddies. That friendship began during my first trip to Europe in 2001, when I met Izzy in London after an aborted trip to Liverpool. We've kept in touch over the years, our lives took their respective courses, etc.. Each trip is always a blast and not one passes without something memorable and/or hilarious happening.
This trip, I got the idea of perhaps having that aborted journey to Liverpool. We had already decided on trundling through that part of the country, so why not? In the end, we decided on the Yorkshire Dales, Liverpool, Cumbria, and Mull. Mull was an improvisation, as I'd been under the impression that getting there in one day wouldn't work. Turns out the UK is a rather small country. Also, adventure! Who can turn that down?
Returning to the beginning, we arrived on a Friday evening, in time for a chat round the kitchen table and then bed. I think I slept for 5 seconds before jolting wide awake an hour later. On the plus side, I was awake when this happened out my window.
Gorgeous, isn't it? Their main house is a farm house from what I suspect is circa mid-1700's through mid-1800's, complete with stone outbuildings and an orchard. You couldn't get more quaint if you tried. The view past the fog is nothing but rolling fields, as far as the eye can see. It's broken up by the curving road and the occasional house.
Our first order, the next morning, was meeting the hens who had helped feed us that day. Part of what my friends are trying to do is live as sustainable and self-sufficient an existence as is possible in today's world. The hens are former battery cage hens from a factory farm, adopted from an agency specializing in re-homing factory farm animals. They have the entire orchard area (about 20 x 50 feet) all to themselves, which has to be an improvement. They were very curious about us when we first walked in, but soon took it in their stride. You can see the difference between the established hens and the new arrivals by their girth and the fullness of their feathers. One thing is always clear, however: the orchard is their roost. Your welcome is determined by their will and fancy alone...
We also took a quick trundle round that area of Scotland (St. Andrews and Leven, towards the coast). A quick perusal of the maps before arrival made things look humungous. This is where it was starting to dawn on me how quickly one could get through the area, if one got a feather up the duff.
The rest of the day was a blur. We set off on the actual journey the next day, just after breakfast. There was a lot of stopping. Mainly so I could gawp at the local wildlife. We happened upon this lovely lady at one point.
We can cue the theme from "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" right about here. Me making my friend stop the car so I could go "talk" to her probably wasn't helping.
I managed to get pretty close in the end, surprisingly. She stood gracefully still while I took my pictures, talking to her probably helped. We did this for about 4 minutes before she turned and walked off. We got to our hotel a couple hours later, the BlueBell Inn in Kettlewell. Gorgeous little B&B situated over a pub, in the heart of Kettlewell village. It was there that I got to be part of my first pub quiz night! It was a colourful, yet civilized affair. Our team didn't win, as the quizmaster picked a rather esoteric question that had us all scratching our melons.
Next day, it was another trundle, this time through the balance of the Yorkshire Dales. I was especially interested in going back to Hawes and my favourite attraction there: The Wensleydale Creamery. That's right, home of Wensleydale cheese of Wallace & Grommit fame. It truly is Wallace's fault I love their cheese dearly. I brought a whole cooler bag full home.
Then more driving through. The Dales are ridiculously gorgeous this time of year!
Further down, we came upon the scenic lookout at Dent Fault, near Dentdale. More grass, more sheep, more beauty. I was also shocked to find that a fault even existed in this part of the world (see what I did there?). Pity too, considering its beauty.
This guy was just wandering about, hanging out with us humans. He was very approachable and was kind enough to let me grab this picture of him, after a quick kiss on the nose. He was thrilled to bits that he'd be famous. He'd not been christened at birth, so we decided on "Arthur." He said he quite fancied himself an Arthur.
The next morning, we set off in the direction of Liverpool. The primary reason for a visit 15 years ago was because I am a huge Beatles fan. Down to knowing just about every obscure detail about the band and the lads individually. Thus, this part of the journey took on an especial sentimental meaning for me.
We arrived and checked into the Penny Lane Hotel, over on (you guessed it) Penny Lane and Smithdown Place in the outskirts of central Liverpool. Accommodations were clean and very well appointed. In addition, our particular rooms included a tub in the en-suite bathroom and a full English breakfast the next morning. While it's a Beatles themed hotel, the theme isn't so overwhelming that you'll feel suffocated if you're not a fan. I had worried previously that the hotel was too far away from the city centre and getting in would be a hassle. Turns out my worries were unfounded, once again. Smithdown Place has many buses running through the day, ready to take you wherever you need to be. Should you find yourself lost, there's always a friendly Liverpudlian willing to point you in the right direction.
Of course, the first thing I did on arrival at the hotel was take a photo of the room. That bed looks comfy, right? Well, it IS comfy. I had also never slept in a four-poster bed before. Considering I woke up feeling like royalty, I think it's an investment worth making.
Later that night, we paid a visit to the Cavern Club on Matthew St, in the city centre. The sad news is that it's not the original, as that one was filled in some years after The Beatles played there. The good news is that the current Cavern Club is just down the road from the original and has been replicated fabulously. It's well worth a visit, if for nothing else but to see what's on.
This next image was taken after a few pints of Guinness. I won't lie and say I had any lofty plans for it. But it's the perfect abstract statement on my state of mind throughout my visit- so much creative stimuli, so many possibilities.
The next day, we decided to have a look around. Here's a picture of Albert Dock, also in City Centre. The famous central sea port is where the Beatles spent many a day, forming ideas and mischief.
After a walk around, we went on the Magical Mystery Tour bus tour. This bus tour takes you through to all the significant sites in the city, with some of the background and trivia narrated by the host. Quite a few stops are made, where you can have a quick look at a particularly significant site and snap off a few pictures. The site that made the most impact on me that day was the gate at Strawberry Field, the eponymous park from that song on the Magical Mystery Tour LP album.
The bus pulled up and stopped just in front of the gate. Of course, pretty much everyone gets off to snap a picture. I'd been reluctant to join the throng, but I hadn't just paid to stay on the bus either. Besides, there was an inexplicable pull I felt. So off I went. As I stood there waiting for my turn to take a picture, the idea hit me. I dropped to my knees, raised the camera to my eye, and snapped. The image seemed to come together just like that. It was almost divine inspiration.
While the journey didn't end at Strawberry Field and Liverpool, the images do. While I have plenty that I couldn't resist taking on my iPhone, I decided to put the 5D down and just enjoy the rest of the journey.
Another special shoutout I wanted to give was to "Just Sew" in Penrith, Cumbria. They were wonderful and had some awesome fabric that I've yet to see on my side of the world. Definitely worth a look if you do anything fabric related or are just looking for some creative inspiration.
In case I don't write again before Christmas, please accept my sincerest wishes of a wonderful Christmas and happy New Year! From the bottom of my heart, thank you for reading these posts and for supporting my art. :)
P.S. I was not compensated in any way by the above venues/businesses for linking to them. I simply want to spread the word about them. They were good to me, so I want to return the favour.