With the Red Lion at Stiffkey, North Norfolk, you get the best of both worlds. Newly built, eco-friendly modern accommodation with power showers, warm heating and comfortable beds and a pub, dating back to the 1600s whose character is allowed to speak for itself with flag-stoned floors, ancient beams and log fires. Mussels are a speciality here, not just the classic white wine and garlic, but more adventurous choices such as mussels with curried potato and spinach. There’s nothing better than a wind-swept walk along the sea-marsh, accessible straight from the pub and coming back to a plate of mussels in front of a roaring log fire, washed down with a pint of Norfolk Wherry, knowing a comfy bed awaits. Dogs allowed.
“Aaah! He’s going to go in.” We watched in fascinated horror as the next foolhardy person tried to negotiate the Dovedale steps. We’d managed two steps and gingerly turned back as today, despite wearing thick soled walking boots, the great stones strung across the River Dove were slippery as giant ice cubes.
Luckily the man we were watching regained his balance and made it. It was a fun end to a hilly, winters' day walk, which had started at Ilam Hall across Lin Dale to the River Dove, frost glittering in the hollows, sunlight bouncing off the pyramid-shaped, Thorpe Cloud hill as we made our way down the limestone gorge where a walk along the riverside leads to the steps. A circular route back led us over fields, past the Izak Walton Hotel, named for the author of ’The Compleat Angler’ back to Ilam Hall and its welcoming tearoom.
Ilam Hall, Ilam, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, DE6 2AZ
+44(0)845 371 9023
Ilam Hall is a youth hostel, but you can walk over the grounds with parking, toilets, tearoom and visitor centre next door.
Google map: bit.ly/S8ID9Z
If by Easter Monday, the family are sick of chocolate eggs, gambling lambs and all the Easter tweeness, a feisty anecdote is a day out at Hallaton in Leicestershire to witness the traditional bottle kicking contest with rival village, Medbourne.
The annual event, which goes back centuries, is like a rugby scrum where anything goes apart from the proviso that there be ‘no eye-gouging, no strangling, and no use of weapons.’ Two teams battle it out to get two out of the three small wooden barrels or ‘bottles’ over to the stream on the boundary side of the village they are fighting for.
Before the mayhem begins, a parade takes place in the village, followed by a scramble for the Hare Pie which is tossed to the crowd after it’s been blessed by the vicar and then onward to Hare Pie Hill to watch battle commence.
For times and further details, see: calendarcustoms.com/articles/hallaton-hare-pie-scramble-bottle-kicking/
Google map: bit.ly/Hf3d8C
“Hi there. You knew it would come to this didn’t you? An American showing you London. If you can’t hear, speak up, because you ain’t heard nothing yet.”
David, our London Walks guide, manoeuvred us away from the traffic and chain shops of Kensington High Street into a Russian doll’s London within a London of the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
First stop, the early 20th century and the art deco Barker’s Department Store, then onto Kensington Square, with its Regency houses lived in by the likes of William Thackeray and John Stuart Mills.
David took us into St Mary’s Church, pointing out the “Healing” window, funded by the Royal College of Surgeons. Out of the church and through a scattering of graves and daffodils and onto another narrow row of houses where T S Eliot and Ezra Pound had both lived and written.
Now down a narrow, cobbled lane, straight out of a Jane Austen novel, lined with tiny shops converted from stables.
We strolled along ‘Millionaire’s Row’ arriving at Kensington Palace, the sunken gardens and David’s last tip, to “Forget the Ritz, take tea at the Orangery.”
Full of enthusiastic information delivered in an entertaining, professional and friendly manner, this was one of the best value for money, interesting experiences I’ve had in London.
This was the Old Kensington walk but London Walks do lots of walks to suit all ages, interests, tastes. No need to book and timetable on website. Cost £8.00
+44 (020) 7624 3978
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