After being rushed out of our B&B by our not-so-friendly host, we spent most of the morning exploring Alnwick Castle (Harry Potter was filmed there!). The inside of the castle itself was as fancy as you'd expect, all gilded and laden with silk, oil paintings of dukes and duchesses, and an endless array of fine chinas. We weren't allowed to take pictures in the castle and for once Tyler followed the rules; we'll just have to catalog that part of the visit in our memory.
There was an exhibition on the castle grounds featuring birds of prey and we got to pet an adorable, luxuriously soft owl. When we are finished with our bike tour of the world, I think I want one!
We walked around the gardens, admired the few flowers that were blooming, found our way through the bamboo maze, and had some fun with the huge fountain that was the centerpiece of the entire area. Tyler accidentally got sprayed while taking photos since unbeknowst to us, water bursts forth from various places in the fountain at surprise intervals. Children jumped up and down in anticipation of getting rained on as the arcs of water shot over their heads into the next fountain behind them.
The Alnwick Garden also features a really cool tree-house (though it is only about eight feet off the ground and isn't really in the trees) complete with rope bridges and a restaurant. We ran across its "wibbly wobbly bridges" (a little girl yelled this repeatedly as she scampered across them ahead of us), snapped a few photos and carried on. We both thought the tree-house felt a bit like Disney World.
While in the garden we also made friends with a hungry little robin. Tyler thinks he followed us around, while I think it more likely that there were several hungry robins in the park. Here is (one of) the robin(s):
After thoroughly enjoying the castle and gardens, we headed out to do a bit of grocery shopping before we left town to ride to Hedgeley Hall. Though hilly, the roads were everything we hoped for: only two cars passed us on our way, and the scenery was (as usual) stunning.
At one point I saw a sign that said "Ford" and just as I was thinking "wait a minute…" I turned a corner and there was a little stream running across our path. It was only six inches deep, but it was quite exciting to cross! We had been in high gear from the slight downgrade the last mile or so and my gears didn't shift properly as I crossed. I wound up coasting through most of it, just barely making it across without getting my feet soaked.
After our first fording experience, we cycled another three miles or so until we rolled up to Hedgeley Hall and the surrounding Estate. More on that later.