We left the house about 1130 on the Friday – only about half an hour late, which isn’t bad for us at all – but it took us about an hour and a half to get as far as the other side of Ilkley (including stops at the petrol station, Halfords and Booths in Ilkley for sweeties). We were using Autoroute with a GPS thingy and it suggested going along the M62 onto the M6 to get into Cumbria but we preferred the idea of going the more direct route on the A65 instead – much more interesting with cracking scenery and just a bit slower.
In fact, the whole journey was pretty direct: we turned onto the A65 at the bottom of our road and travelled on that for 60 miles, then turned onto the M6 for another 60 miles, then the A74/75 for 30 miles – and only then, when we reached Dumfries did it involve any sort of left/right/glurg directions. After Dumfries, we decided to take the more scenic route again, around the coast via Sweetheart Abbey (which, in the glorious sunshine, was beautiful) and the beach at Sandyhills. We stopped off at the beach: the sand was clean, golden and warm, with lots of cool shells and John got excited about all the pools that had been eroded from the adjacent marshland. We stayed there for about an hour but I insisted we leave at about 1730 because I was starving (not having filled up on Campini and other assorted sweets as John had).
With the GPS and the teeny size of Rockcliffe village, we found the hotel easily. Like most country hotels we’ve visited, it has an old house with a new bit on the side. As we walked up to the reception, we mused how one day it would be nice to stay in the main house rather than the concrete add on. Sigh, one day, we thought. So, a few minutes later, we were delighted when the wonderfully enthusiastic manager told us we were in the tower room. The picture at the top of this entry is only tiny but you should be able to see the tower. Yes, the really cool bit of the hotel with the best views since you were so high up. This is a picture from the window.
The room only had two (minor) downsides: 1) the room itself was quite dull (compared to some of the others at the hotel with bookshelves and four poster beds) but you know, you don’t go to a hotel to be wowed by the duvet cover, and 2) the stairs, my god, the stairs. It was wonderfully quiet though – there is only one room at the top so we didn’t have any noisy neighbours – and the view, did I mention the view?, it was ace, even at sunset. :)
We gazed out of the window for a while then dressed for dinner. We only had B&B at the hotel but the menu looked alright so we had dinner there that night. (And funnily enough, the pre-dinner bar was covered in paintings of Venice so that was a nice reminder of our last holiday together). I had local sardines to start (which were nice but, ick, heads) and either lamb or duck with a fruity jus and really well cooked (as in good, not overcooked) veg. Hey, that was vague, wasn’t it? It was delicious and the meat was really nice, I just can’t remember exactly what I had :) Yes, I know I’m MemoryWoman and can remember what we did on a random day seven years ago but I’m getting clouded by the excellent lamb I had in the hotel in just outside Scarborough (18 months ago) and the duck I had Moscow, and actually, the duck I had in the salad-as-starter at the place in Scarborough too. And yes, I am vegetarian. Ahem. Anyway, John had something vegetarian followed by, I think, some sort of vegetarian pasta. (I’ll do better remembering the food we had the next night, I promise). Whatever we ended up eating, it was great and we were too stuffed to manage dessert.
And, of course, the best thing to do when you are stuffed full of quality food is to climb a hill. The hotel faces onto the Mote of Mark, a 5th century hill fort (which is considerably bigger than that picture makes it seem), and history aside, we thought we would be a great place to watch the sunset. We dragged our tubby asses up to the top and watched the sun go down between the hills to the west (funnily enough). It was beautiful and all you could hear was birdsong. We also larked about with John’s brand new wide-angle (fish-eye) lens.
Realising when it went dark, it would be REALLY dark, we headed back to the hotel before it got too late, and read in our room until nothing could be seen out of the window apart from blackness and stars. The bed was big and comfortable but I didn’t sleep too well: my brain, now accustomed to screeching tires, car alarms, unwarranted shouting and FREAKY noises, obviously found the silence too suspicious to relax.