I was totally unaware of a surprise trip my DH had planned for my birthday, he kept it a total secret until Friday and then let on that we were going away for the weekend but wouldn't say where. So, on Saturday morning we packed a bag and drove to Taunton, Devon. It was a lovely warm day with some clouds and sunny intervals – end of weather report!
En-route we stopped for lunch at Barrington Court, a National Trust property with beautiful gardens and excellent food in the Orchard Café. The kitchen gardens were some of the largest vegetable gardens I’ve seen and could explain the wonderful fresh flavours in the salad we had for lunch. We went around the house, which was the very first property ever owned by the National Trust. The rooms were mostly empty but they were certainly grand rooms with lots of wooden panelling. During the second world war the house was home to evacuees from Kent and the shelves in the laundry room still had name labels where they stored their clothes.
There was an exhibition “Field for the British Isles by Antony Gormley in three rooms but I can’t say the rooms full of clay figures did anything for me personally. To my mind they looked like they belonged in a Dr Who episode and the figures were not the goodies!
After the house we went for a nice leisurely walk around the gardens, taking time to photograph the lovely flowers. Then it was getting late so back into the car and off to Taunton to check into our hotel.
We were booked into Taunton Castle Hotel and were very excited at the prospect of a night in a real castle. Externally it looked like a lovely old castle with hidden gardens for afternoon tea and the reception and stairway were old and traditional looking.
Regrettably the rooms had been modernised and had no old charm left at all, in fact once inside the rooms you could have been in any four star hotel. However, it was of a very good standard, with a large room with very comfortable king size bed and a large bathroom. Just disappointed there was not a ghost to be found!
We had dinner in the Brazz restaurant. Another extremely modernised part of the hotel but it was the only restaurant open. It was much noisier than we would have liked as it had a general bar opening onto the main street in Taunton. We’re really into quiet romantic dinners served at a leisurely pace. Ok we’re getting old and it would probably have been perfect for a thirty something couple!
The next morning breakfast was served in the main dining room – much more in keeping for a Castle and then we set off for some sight seeing. First we went to Fyne Court, where we had a good stroll around the lost gardens and took lots more photos.
Then on to Watchet on the Somerset coast. We wandered around the quaint village, harbour and sea shore but decided against lunch as we were both still full from breakfast. It was very odd to see sailboats sitting in mud – the tide was very far out. I was beginning to feel I’d had rather an excess of sun so we headed back to the car, taking in a photography exhibition en-route.
So, off home but first another National Trust stop, this time Montacute House, a very grand Victorian Mansion with an amazing long gallery displaying more than 60 Tudor and Elizabethan portraits. Sense and Sensibility and The Libertine were filmed there. We saw the bed used by Johnny Depp in The Libertine and very impressive it was, lavishly embellished with carvings on every inch of the heavy oak four poster. Another four poster bed was the tallest bed I have ever seen – you could have bounced on the bed without hitting your head on the top!
Following our tour of the house we walked in the vast grounds and formal gardens. We went through an opening in the “wobbly” hedge to find the old ice house. This is built into the hillside and has a very deep well like chamber into which servants placed ice cut from frozen ponds during the winter.
Before continuing on our trip home we had a lovely cream tea in the Courtyard café.
On our way home we decided to go to Weymouth and find out where the Olympic sailing events were being held. We drove through Weymouth and out to Portland and decided there is no way we will be able to drive over to watch any of it albeit from a distance as the roads are almost certainly going to be at a standstill. Perhaps a train journey or stay home and watch it on TV.