As noted in my last post, this is not a post about Doha. It's about Doha expats escaping the summer heat for a little bit of silly summer fun. It's about finding glory in little bits of normality as we return to the 'familiar'. It's about appreciating what we miss, and eventually allowing living out of a suitcase to make us appreciate the return to Doha. So forgive me if you were expecting to find any Doha info in this post ....
Though we’d hoped to see Stonehenge up close, the shuttles ferrying tourists to the towering monument had ceased operating for the day (6:30 p.m. is the last). So we grabbed a quick sandwich, took a few pictures of poppies and fields with Stonehenge far off in the distance, and headed back on our way, reinvigorated, hydrated and ready to complete our first day’s adventure.
We arrived at the inn just minutes before 9:00 p.m., and were let in by the lovely owner Michelle. We headed up to our third floor room which, although lovely, bore a distinct lingering stench of cat urine (urine if you’re posh, pee if you’re not, wee if you’re travelling through England). Either way, it wasn’t pleasant. Exhausted as we were though, we decided that then was not the moment to complain about such trivial matters. A quick call by our friendly hostess to the local pub 500 m (that’s meters, not miles) down the road meant they would keep the kitchen open long enough for us to grab a quick bite to eat.
Satiated and bellies full, we climbed into the most comfortable bed ever and collapsed into a deep dreamless sleep, blissfully oblivious to the cat pee pee smell.
We were served up a wonderful breakfast the next morning, and armed with 50 brochures and the advice of both our hostess and the previous evening’s pub patrons, we headed off to discover Fingle Bridge and Castle Drogo.
As we made our way down single lane country tracks in County Devon, we wondered if perhaps we should have stuck to major highway attractions. But all our doubts were erased as we arrived at Fingle Bridge, a small stone structure supported for centuries by naught but a keystone over a gurgling river in the middle of a truly majestic forest. Kiddo was immediately drawn to the river, and headed down to play with the other kids and dogs splashing around in the icy water. We sat back long enough for refreshments at the pub on the water’s edge, then grabbed our backpacks and camera in preparation for the 45-minute hike along the river to the castle (as in the previous post, the ’45-minute’ guide was nothing more than the Brits once again having a laugh at global perception of time).
We started off along the forest pathway, revelling in the warmth of the day, tempered by the cool breeze coming off the water and the shade of the trees. Perfection.
Until about 1 hour and 15 minutes into the walk, when we realised the steady uphill climb appeared to be leading nowhere. Which is the point at which we noticed a family of five jostling and tumbling down a steep incline to our right. Smilin’ Vic asked the dad where they were coming from and the dad answered ‘Castle Drogo'. We asked if up the cliff face was the only way there. He answered that we had the option of going up that incline for about 10 minutes or continuing along our original path for 30. He clearly stated that coming down the incline was treacherous and that he would most definitely not recommend going UP it. I heard him clearly.
Advice that Smilin’ Vic and Kiddo chose to blatantly ignore as they set their compasses upwards, tempted by the possibility of an earlier arrival at destination. And so it is that we set up that 70 degree incline, me in my white pants and cursing all the way up, daring either of them to say One. Single. Word. about how hard this was.
The climb up took about 15 minutes and four litres (not gallons) of sweat. But we finally made it, and were well rewarded with the visit. We became official members of the National Trust, and were given a car decal to prove it. I must say, if you’re ever in Devon, do take the time to visit this historic site.
The last castle to be built in England, it is a dichotomy of old and new, with indoor plumbing, central heating, electricity and telephones built into the cinderblock structure. Although it is undergoing major renovations to the tune of 11,000,000 £, it is still truly impressive and a sight to behold. If you’re visiting in 2018, you’ll see the structure fully restored to its original glory. Unfortunately, on our visit most of the furniture had been stored to protect it from ongoing works, many of the windows boarded up to prevent dust from coming in, and the exterior sheeted to protect visitors from construction works and construction works from visitors.
Having learned a lesson about British timekeeping, we spotted an Italian tourist and asked him for the quickest route back down the mountain, and were rewarded with a surprisingly accurate indication of a 25-minute route running almost straight down the mountain back to Fingle Bridge.
And from there, we decided to pursue our haunting of Devon with a jaunt to the East Coast, aka ‘the Riviera of England’ …. (to be continued)