May 26 – Yay, more castles!

Today the cafe folk were a bit more awake – as were we, after a coffee.

It was another big bus day, not quite as big as yesterday, with both the bus and the length of the trip being shorter this time.

Today was a “Alnwick castle and English borders” tour – let’s get this straight right from the start, Alnwick rhymes with Panic. Not that we had to as we were there at the bus in plenty of time, unlike the last two folks that turned up literally as the driver was closing the doors to head off.

Only a few stops on this one, accompanied again by a lot of interesting history from our tour guide Tim. And due to some very high quality napping time I probably missed a whole bunch (yes, did the same yesterday too!)

Our first stop, which I didn’t even know about til we got there, was the lovely little town of Bamburgh, and Bamburgh Castle. A real surprise, it was quite pretty, and worth almost going a-over-t walking up a grassy hill to get some nice photos.

A quick stop there then it back on the bus to get to Alnwick and Alnwick Castle. First impressions weren’t awesome (don’t worry it gets better) – we started at the more “made the the kids” end with a fake tournament area, and a silly “dragon quest”, again probably great for the kids but nothing at all to do with the history of the castle.

Things then took a turn for the so-much-better once we started to wander the grounds. Found the bit where they filmed the “Harry learns how to fly a broom” scene from the first Harry Potter film. There were also lots of sheep which were fun to watch for a while.

The real impressive part was “The Staterooms” – as this is still an occupied castle, this is basically a large chunk of the living quarters that the Duke lives in, when in residence that is. I mean, you don’t own a massive castle as your only place of residence, right?! No photos were allowed inside, but it will come as no surprise that was all quite ornate, with a breathtaking library room, a mirror so large (for it’s time) that nobody knows how it was even made, let alone transported, and some one of a kind chandeliers (I guess that makes it 4 of a kind, but that’s it. Three are in use and the other one is the only source of spare parts). The Duke has written a book about the long long history of his family which I’m pretty sure I’ll never get around to reading, interesting though it would probably be.

We still had an hour to kill so wandered around the very pretty town of Alnwick. We had a sausage roll from the local Greggs, thanks to the rude lady for bothering to serve us at all. We wandered to more important places, i.e. one of the many ice cream shops in town. A good way to pass the time before it was time to get back on the bus.

Again, our driver drove and regaled us with history – and despite sleeping through much of it again, I released that all the tour guides must get given the same book of historical events to talk through, because we heard pretty much the exact same stories on our bus tour yesterday.

Our last stop was at a lovely little estate called The Hirsel, in the town of Coldstream (unguarded, might I add). This was the birth of the Labrador – so if you need a claim to fame, there you are. There were plenty of swans and ducks by the river, and yes I was secretly wishing someone would get a bit too close to get chased away by a swan, but no, everyone stayed calm.

The trip back to Edinburgh was a bit of a slog for the driver – everyone is piling into town because Harry Styles is playing in Edinburgh tonight, and despite being a different bus than yesterday, it was having the exact same aircon issue which was making things super warm. But at around half past 5 we pulled back into the bus station, after a nice day seeing the border lands – again there was tons of beautiful scenery, field and hedgerows all over the place, but again I didn’t take photos because it would all just be full of reflections from the bus windows. But I’ll hang on the memories as long as I can.

As it was so nearby we went straight to St. James Quarter for dinner again, this time to the kind-of-food-court-but-not-quite area – it finally made sense , you get your food from whichever stall, but when you sit down you can order drinks directly through a website and they bring them straight to the table. We had the most delicious ‘pulled pork hopper’ – a Sri Lankan dish of pulled pork (of course), delicious caramelised onion and other delicious bits served in a sort of crepe. Man it was tasty, a good choice! There were a suspiciously large number of people wearing extra sparkly clothes and wearing feather boas – I guess a lot of people were have a pre-Harry-Styles dinner here tonight.

Incredible Pulled Pork Hopper and Roti mini-melts. So tasty!

After that, back to the hotel for an earlier night – despite doing nothing much other than sitting in a bus, it’s still hard work! At least I’ll finish this below before 11PM (if the internet problems resolve themselves – I think Harry Styles has broken the internet!)

Tomorrow – another lovely Edinburgh day, and more time to try and forget that this is our second-last destination for this holiday.

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