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As we haven't managed to get away this year, and the Memsahib's school starts back today, we thought we'd take a couple of days off.

I've always loved Northumberland (you'll note I spell it the "correct" way   ) but the Mem has never been, so I booked us into a Hotel in Alnwick, snuck off early on Friday and off we went.

The Hotel we stayed in was right in the centre of what is a lovely old fashioned small town, part of the Alnwick Estates and right next to the Castle and Gardens.

We spent Saturday roaming the gardens and grounds - this is the Garden that the Duchess spent a lot of money on (not all her own) and created a marvelous place with a water feature that you could sit by for hours. There is also a tree house that was still under construction last time I was there and although it's a bit of fun I don't think it offers much more than that.

The Gardens themselves are superb, if a little repetitious but there are lots of species of plants and shrubs in there that give you loads of ideas for what might work well in your own garden.

Then we went and visited the Castle itself - this is the place where a lot of the Harry Potter filming was done (Hogwarts) and is the home of the Percy family (Duke of Northumberland) The Castle itself is quite impressive, although you only get to see parts of it - but we both said that we didn't think we could live amongst all that finery, you almost get the feeling that it's stuffed full of almost random aquisitions and I'd hate to be the one who has to dust the place

After we left the Castle we headed up the street to "Barter Books", which is a well known second hand bookshop with a massive selection, all set out like a library and ranging from cheap, used paperbacks to old and valuable editions - you can browse for hours  

Back to the hotel for a pint and a freshen up, then to a small bistro that we spotted the previous evening and booked a table for Saturday. We'd decided to book as Friday evening had been very quiet around the town and we expected Saturday to be the big night.

If any of you ever go to Alnwick, I can seriously recommend this little Bistro, it's called the "Tower restaurant" and although small, produces food which is devine, in very relaxed surroundings. The prices aren't cheap, but they aren't outrageous either and I don't mind paying for quality.

Once we'd eaten we needed a walk, so we pottered around the town for an hour and it was eerily quiet, no boy racers, no drunken teens puking in the street, just a peaceful place.

Back to the Hotel for a nightcap or two and then a good night's sleep.

Sunday we spent at a National Trust property called Cragside, which is an estate formerly belonging to the Armstrong family, who were artillery manufacturers in Newcastle upon Tyne. It's just outside Rothbury - latley famous for the antics of Raoul Moatt) This is a really interesting place to visit as you get to walk, or drive, right round the estate and see the manmade Lakes that were used by Armstrong to power both the Electricity and hydraulic power for the house and grounds. the house has been openeed to the public for some years but once the NT got their hands on it they have, to be fair, made quite an effort to show it in all it's glory and to show how this ingenious man used natural resources to power everday things - the lift in the house is powered by an hydraulic ram using water pressure to drive it in and out - even the spit in the kitchen is powered by water (a "Barker Mill" drives shafts and gears through the floors to the kitchen)

They have also kept the pumping station and the Power house and these really made me think of why Britain was once great - the innovation for that period in time was so far ahead.

It had now got to about 16:30 and was time to begin the trip back to Upper Buggersdale so we had a quick last look around and hit the road. We hadn't eaten since breakfast and although it was a good one we were both ready for some food, after eating well all weekend we decided we would  both like Fish & Chips (we probably haven't had them for at least three months) and I said we'd go to a chip shop I knew in Hexham which was about 40 minutes away on the route home. We got there and it was closed! as were all the others in the town - but never mind, there's another about 5 miles further on - it was closed too

Ok, keep heading back and we'll pass another town I thought - we did, a Town called Haltwhistle, about which I've heard a few odd tales, but not to worry - did they have a chip shop?

Yes, they did - and it was open

In I went, and here's where the fun started  

I said hello and my non-local accent obviously gave the game away, you could see them eyeing each other and thinking "strangers"    

As the first few bars of "duelling banjos" started to play in my head I politely asked if I could have fish and chips, twice please?

Now bearing in mid that the hot cabinet was full of cooked fish and I was the only customer in the place, I was somewhat surprised, nay puzzled to be told that I would have to wait 15 minutes or so

I elected not to wait, preferring to get the hell out of the place before the guy in my avatar appeared and told me to "squeal like a pig"

So Milton's travel tip of the week is:

If you are crossing the A69 and fancy Fish & Chips - don't go to Haltwhistle  

We did the Alnwick last year, along with Beamish.
That bookshop is fantastic isn't it? Karen had to drag me out of there kicking and scraming. If you remember, Phil Tufnell was doing a photo shoot and promotion when we were there. Its a super place and not to mention the Hardy factory shop in the town.

Milton wrote:

I elected not to wait, preferring to get the hell out of the place before the guy in my avatar appeared and told me to "squeal like a pig"

He was probably the tourist board representative.............

Just as well you weren't on your mobile! By the sound of it they'd have been raking through your ashes for gold fillings by now    

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