Frightwater!

Growing up, although Halloween was enthusiastically celebrated by my friends, it was never a holiday that excited me. However, as our girl is growing up in England where Halloween is more of an up-and-coming holiday, a certain part of me is keen to make sure she has the opportunity to experience many traditions that I grew up with in the US. She’s still a bit too young to understand exactly what is going on, but this past Saturday, we ventured to Lightwater Valley Theme Park in Ripon for some Halloween festivities.

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The theme park transforms into Frightwater Valley for the Halloween weekend. A lot of the park is decked out in Halloween decor and the staff contribute to the atmosphere by dressing up or painting their faces. There are a number of additional Halloween-themed attractions just for the weekend like the Live Scare Maze and the UV Monster Puppet Show. A few of the attractions didn’t open until after 3 PM and some aren’t suitable for an 11-month old, so we couldn’t check them all out, but we could still enjoy some of the walks and the actors that took their roles seriously as zombies/creepy people.

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Richard and I are major wimps when it comes to scary movies, haunted houses, and the like, so that part of me is glad we weren’t able to ride the haunted train and venture into the haunted forest maze, but I do wish we could have experienced them so I could give a proper review of all of Frightwater. Maybe next year! It was funny to watch our girl look at some of the Halloween decorations and the actors walking aimlessly with blank looks on their faces. You could tell she was trying to process it all, but it just wasn’t making sense!

DSC_0027The Lightwater Wheel

DSC_0003Black Widow’s Web…maybe next time!

We were happy to be able to experience Lightwater Valley as a family and to take the little one on some of the rides. We enjoyed the Lightwater Express train ride around the park, Eagle’s Creek Farm in which you ride in tractors around a little farmyard with a variety of animals in it, and the Lightwater Wheel. We did plan to take her on some more rides, but when Richard went to take her out of her stroller, she was completely zonked out! So, that idea was short-lived and instead we walked around and enjoyed the day. Richard did ride The Ultimate, which is Europe’s longest roller coaster, and thought it was great. We also enjoyed wandering through Lightwater Valley Falconry, which is home to a number of birds of prey and some reptiles, ferrets, and rabbits as well. It was amazing to see some of these gorgeous birds up close.

IMG_5489Enjoying the Lightwater Express!

Of course, my American mind pictured a massive amusement park similar to Six Flags or Busch Gardens right off the motorway, but I was pleasantly surprised at the manageable size of Lightwater Valley and its beautiful rural setting. As a theme park, it is a good blend of rides that has something for everyone from our young daughter to those seeking something more thrilling. Being spread across the gorgeous grounds makes it feel as if you aren’t constantly fighting crowds. We really lucked out with the weather whilst we were there, and it must have made for a great last weekend of their regular season.

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I’d definitely recommend Lightwater Valley for a family day out. I’d also recommend what I saw of Frightwater. Lightwater Valley is closed for the season, but they do have a few special event weekends coming up, such as Meet the Gruffalo and the Santa Experience. It is a place to definitely keep in mind if you are looking for a day out with the family!

Our tickets to the park were kindly provided to us by Lightwater Valley for the purpose of review. All of the opinions are honest and all photos are my own. I promise to always share my honest perspective when doing reviews. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions. Big thanks to Lightwater Valley for a fun day out with my two favorite people!

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IMG_5497She definitely had fun!

 

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel: All of The Food!

Not only did we enjoy the hotel and the property at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, but we were extremely impressed with the food. When you read this post, you will think that all we did was eat…and well, it is sort of true! We were spoiled with afternoon tea, an evening meal, and breakfast the next morning. All of which were delightful.

After a visit to Scarborough, we headed to the hotel as we were booked to have afternoon tea at 3 PM. (Booking is required for afternoon tea.) We weren’t exactly sure where tea was served, so we asked Lynsey at the front desk and she told us we were welcome to be seated in the lounge. The lounge boasts a couple of leather sofas, and we cozied up on the larger of the two as we waited for our tea. We browsed some photo albums of weddings held at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel when Lynsey appeared with two glasses of fizz for us to enjoy! It was a welcome treat after being pounded by the wind on the seafront.

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Next, out came our tray of scones, sandwiches, and miniature desserts. It was presented nicely on the traditional three-tiered tray. We tucked into the sandwiches whilst waiting for our tea to be served. The sandwich selection included roast beef, prawn with Marie Rose sauce, and brie with chutney. Richard raved about the prawn sandwich. We both liked the roast beef sandwiches. However, Richard doesn’t like soft cheeses, so I ate the brie with chutney sandwiches. The selection was a bit different than the traditional choices, but they were nice.

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Our next course had us enjoying scones with absolutely delicious and silky clotted cream with our choice of jam. I’m a clotted cream enthusiast and Richard realized he is as well, so we constantly found ourselves adding more and more to our scones. With the scones demolished, Richard dove right in to the mini desserts whilst I took a little breather. There were two of each of these allowing us to indulge in lemon cheesecake, a fudge-y brownie with pistachios, parkin, and a chocolate cake with icing. I most enjoyed the brownie and the cheesecake. The cake and its icing were a bit too sweet for me. Richard had both his and my slice of parkin, so I’d say that must have been good! All in all, we enjoyed our afternoon tea and having a relaxing afternoon in the lounge at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel.

The second food experience we had was the evening meal. We ended up pushing our booking back from 7:30 to 8:15 for two reasons:  1) the afternoon tea left us feeling quite full and 2) the results show for Strictly Come Dancing finished just before 8. Priorities, people! We were slightly early, so we wandered to the bar in The Bistro. We were both planning to order a drink, but before we knew it, the bartender asked our room number and suggested we take a seat on one of the sofas in front of the fireplace before bringing us two glasses of prosecco whilst we perused the menu. We both commented on how we really like it when restaurants give you an opportunity to sit in the bar and have a drink whilst you leisurely look over the menu and place your order for starters and mains before being seated at your table.

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DSC_0084The Bistro

Although you can eat in The Bistro, we were having our meal in the Courtyard Restaurant. The Courtyard Restaurant has been awarded 2 rosettes for culinary excellence and is listed in the Michelin guide as a recommended restaurant, so we were both very much looking forward to this meal. Once we were seated at our table, the waiter brought us an amuse bouche of a delicious tomato bisque. He also came around with the bread basket, and we both opted for a slice of the fruit and nut loaf that tasted like it was fresh from the oven. And, the best part was the pats of butter on the table that were perfectly room temperature to top the bread.

For our starters I went with the Ham, Egg, Peas, which is a mini ham hock with pea mousse and a slice of a a hard-boiled quail egg. It had pickled vegetables as an accompaniment and the tanginess complemented the ham well. This isn’t a dish I typically would order and I’m not sure I would again, but I did enjoy it. Richard went for the Yorkshire Coast Fish Cake topped with a perfectly gooey poached egg. I tried a bite, and the egg really made the dish.

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Next up, our mains were delivered to our table. Richard went with the pork, which had belly pork, stuffed tenderloin, and homemade black pudding. I ordered the cod, which was perfectly cooked and served atop fondant potatoes, chorizo ratatouille, and a red pepper coulis. We both agreed the main courses were absolutely delicious, and I can say without a doubt that we both would order them again. All of the pieces of our meals meshed extremely well together in terms of flavor.

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Although we were both feeling full after two courses, we can never pass up dessert. After a peek at the menu, I decided on the apple and pear crumble. It was served delightfully warm with vanilla ice cream on the side. Richard chose the Caribbean Cocktail, which was a platter of four tropical desserts. He surprised me with his decision because if sticky toffee pudding (and it was!) is on the menu then he will usually order that, but he was so happy with his choice. I stole a small bite of the piña colada and it was a great blend of tropical flavors without it being too overwhelming on the coconut side as I find tropical-flavored desserts to sometimes be. We returned to our room incredibly impressed with the food and the service.

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When we went to sleep that night, we both wondered how we would manage to eat breakfast the next morning, but we did. Breakfast was served in the Courtyard Restaurant and we had a lovely table beside the windows overlooking the courtyard.

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For breakfast, there is a buffet of cereals, fruit salad, croissants, yogurts, and fruit juices plus you are able to order a cooked meal. We both ordered tea, and toast and jam were soon brought to our table. Richard went with the full breakfast, which was definitely one of the most well-presented full breakfasts both of us have seen. He said it was extremely tasty as well. I am not a fan of the full breakfast, so I ordered the goats cheese and tomato omelette. The fluffy omelette was cooked to perfection with cheese oozing in all of the right places. The breakfast was the perfect end to a great visit at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel.

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Our dining experience at Ox Pasture Hall was impressive. We particularly enjoyed the evening meal and the breakfast. I feel they truly excelled at those two meals, and the evening meal at Ox Pasture Hall is definitely one we would be glad to indulge in again. It was a fabulous 24 hours of food!

Our stay and our meals were kindly provided to us by Ox Pasture Hall Hotel for the purpose of review. All of the opinions are honest and all photos are my own, unless otherwise noted. I promise to always share my honest perspective when doing reviews. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions. Massive thanks to Ox Pasture Hall for the opportunity!

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel: The Hotel

A couple of months ago, Richard and I were talking about how great it would be to have a night away just the two of us. We love our girl something fierce, but I think most parents can agree that it is so good to have child-less time for mom and dad to relax. This past weekend, Richard and I had the pleasure of doing just that thanks to Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in North Yorkshire. We truly enjoyed our stay at the hotel, which is set in the countryside two miles from the seaside town of Scarborough.

We headed there on Sunday morning and the drive took about two hours from our house in West Yorkshire. After a lovely and extremely windy visit to the seaside in Scarborough, we hopped back in the car to make our way to the hotel. I settled into the passenger seat expecting at least a 20-minute drive, but about 5 minutes later, Richard was telling me that the satnav had told us that we had passed the hotel. We drove a bit further and there was the sign indicating we were in the right place. It is amazing that in that short of a distance you can feel like you are in a completely different town altogether. The contrast from the hustle and bustle of the seaside and the tourists enjoying the front in Scarborough to the green and peacefulness of the countryside is remarkable.

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When we turned onto the tree- and lavender-lined drive, we were greeted with a view of the beautiful hotel and grounds. The view made me even more excited for our stay. After checking in and being shown to our room, we both acted a bit like kids and checked out the spacious Hornsea Suite. The bathroom was definitely a favorite for us both with the double sinks and drencher shower head. It was especially nice to have a lounge area to sit and completely relax with our feet up. As we don’t drink coffee and we rarely drink tea in hotel rooms, I was happy to see two large bottles of water placed in the room free of charge.

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After enjoying afternoon tea, we decided to explore the grounds. Despite the wind, it was a lovely autumn day. The rustic grounds are full of wild flowers that add to the charm of the country setting of the hotel. There are gazebos throughout the grounds that are a perfect place to spend a leisurely afternoon or, even better, to get married under.

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Ox Pasture Hall would truly be a lovely place to hold a wedding. There are a number of locations both inside and outside of the hotel where you can be married by a registrar, so if you are looking for a countryside wedding, I would definitely recommend Ox Pasture Hall. Had we not gone for a destination wedding, I definitely think we would have chosen somewhere like Ox Pasture Hall. The wedding reception can be held in the Dovecote Suite, which seats 150 for the meal and can accommodate 180 for the night do. The Dovecote Suite has vaulted ceilings and exposed beams that add to the rustic feel of the setting. I was impressed with the size of the bar in the suite as it  definitely would accommodate a large wedding. There is also the option of hiring the entire hotel for exclusive use for you and your wedding guests, if you would like to go that route. If you chose to do this, a great way to take advantage of the entire property would be to host the wedding meal in the Dovecote Suite, to hold the evening do and dancing in the Courtyard Restaurant, and to use the bar in The Bistro.

Ox_Pasture_-7Photo provided by Ox Pasture Hall

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Ox_Pasture_Hall_Spring_WeddingPhoto provided by Ox Pasture Hall

As well as the seventeen acres that the hotel is set on, there are a number of places (with car parking available) to hop on to lovely walking trails through the forest. We chose to walk (instead of drive) down the road (turning right out of the hotel’s drive) and happened to stumble upon a nicely maintained trail. It was such a peaceful afternoon exploring that part of North Yorkshire.

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We headed back to the hotel and decided a nap was in order before our evening meal. The bed was perfect – from the duvet to the mattress – and I honestly could have slept straight through the night, but I’m glad I didn’t as I would have missed a delicious meal (my food review will be posted in a couple of days). That bed left me looking forward to a restful night of sleep.

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Both Richard and I were extremely happy with the entirety of our stay at Ox Pasture Hall. We felt so comfortable there, and it was the ideal place to relax and have a quick getaway full of laughs and conversation. A big thank you to everyone there, especially Lynsey, for making our stay so wonderful.

Our stay and our meals were kindly provided to us by Ox Pasture Hall Hotel for the purpose of review. All of the opinions are honest and all photos are my own, unless otherwise noted. I promise to always share my honest perspective when doing reviews. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions. Massive thanks to Ox Pasture Hall for the opportunity!

Strolling Around Knaresborough

This past weekend, we experienced a bit of an Indian summer, so Richard and I wanted to make the most of the good weather and road tripped to Knaresborough in North Yorkshire for the afternoon. I had never been before and it had been years since Richard last visited the town, and since it is only about an hour drive from our house, we thought we’d head that way.

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What remains of Knaresborough Castle

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Knaresborough Castle from below

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The Viaduct (photo from my Instagram)

When we arrived we were both hungry and thirsty, so we zoomed around the grounds where the ruins of Knaresborough Castle are located and headed down the steep steps to the River Nidd. We came upon a few tea rooms and cafes along the way until we finally saw The World’s End pub and decided it was the perfect place for us that afternoon. I’m not sure if we were just really hungry or what, but we both really enjoyed our sandwiches and the side of chunky chips that we shared. Bellies full, we set off to explore the town a bit more.

Richard had told me about Mother Shipton’s Cave a few months ago (I have an odd fascination with caves, although this cave isn’t one that you really explore), so when we realized it was a walk across the bridge away, we decided to check it out. We paid our £6 per person (The estate is privately owned, so the admission helps with the maintenance of the park.) and set off on the walk along the River Nidd toward the Petrifying Well and the cave. We paid an extra quid for the guide to the area, so I read that aloud as we went along and we both learned some interesting facts about this supposedly magical place.

Mother Shipton’s Estate is actually the oldest tourist attraction in England and is part of both the Ancient Forest of Knaresborough as well as the Royal Forest. There are two things in particular though that have drawn visitors to the area since the 16th and 17th Centuries. The first being the Petrifying Well, also called the Dripping Well, known for its healing waters and the fact that it ‘petrifies’ items left in its stream of water for 3 months or more. The second being the cave that is the supposed birthplace of Mother Shipton, who was said to have been able to tell the future and apparently prophesied many events in British history. Along the path to the well and cave, there are some great views of the river and the sites along it.

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Weeping Willow along the Nidd

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Up close and personal with the Viaduct

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When we came upon the well, I was expecting it to be small and a slow trickle of water. However, it is rather large with the stream originating from an underground lake that keeps the water flowing over the mineralized wall at a steady rate. (The recording at the site did say the exact amount of water that flows over it per hour, but I cannot remember it. I blame baby brain.) People have been visiting the well since 1538 for it was said to have magical healing powers. No longer can you bathe and drink the waters in the well, but rather you will see items (somewhat eerily) hung in the well’s stream of water for petrification. In the tiny museum/gift shop, you can purchase one of their well known petrified teddy bears for around £35. Also, in the museum, you will find a number of items that celebrities have left to be petrified, including John Wayne’s personal hat that he gave to the family when he visited years back. Richard and I were quite mesmerized by the Petrifying Well and stood and stared at it for quite some time whilst listening to the audio recording about its history.

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The top of the well

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The items being petrified (Isn’t that doll slightly creepy?!)

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Looking at the Petrifying Well from the cave entrance (The Wishing Well is up the stairs to the right in the photo.)

Just a short walk from the well, you will find Mother Shipton’s Cave where she was said to have been born in 1488 and spent most of her life keeping to herself. As I mentioned above, it is a very small cave, almost like a den which would have provided shelter to her and her mother during their time living there. We sort of walked in and walked out as there isn’t much to see. Right across the way, you will find a Wishing Well, so I dug two 20p coins out of my purse and we followed the instructions on the sign for making a wish properly (keep your right hand in the water while making the wish, do not tell anyone what you wish for, and allow the water on your hand to dry naturally) before having a go.

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Excuse the red eye. I am still trying to master red eye reduction on iPhoto.

Wishes made and feeling like kids, we continued on the path to the museum and were impressed by the trees – some of which were originally planted in 1739 – towering above us along Beech Avenue. It is described as ‘the largest collection of oldest and tallest Beeches in the country.’ Not only are they old and tall, but they are extremely straight because their location in the gorge keeps them protected from damaging weather.

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I did mention the museum/gift shop is very tiny, but it is worth a nosey just to see some of the items that have been petrified in the well. It shares more about the legend of Mother Shipton and some information about Sir Edward Slingsby, the man who purchased the land. They also have a cross-section of one of the fallen beech trees from Beech Avenue marked with dates and what happened during those years to show how old the tree actually was, so it was neat to see what the tree had lived through.

After the museum stop, we headed back to the entrance and decided to call it a day. If you find yourself in the area, I do recommend a visit to Knareborough and even to Mother Shipton’s Cave. We both really enjoyed our day out in North Yorkshire (and an added bonus is that parking is cheap in the town car parks)! I definitely could see us going back on a slightly warmer day and having a go in the row boats you can rent to paddle up and down the river.

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I couldn’t resist snapping this photo as we passed a church walking back to the car. I just loved that the door was half open giving you a tiny glimpse into the dark corridor.

{Road Trip} Burnsall, North Yorkshire

Burnsall could also be known on this blog as ‘the-place-we-decided-to visit-because-we-saw-it-on-Don’t Tell the Bride-then-the-Brit-remembered-he-used-to-take-school-cycling-trips-to-the-village-a-mile-away-and-he-thought-it-was-a-beautiful-place.’ Phew!

The lovely River Wharfe running through Burnsall

The bridge in Burnsall...you can see the clouds that rolled in later in the afternoon.

This past weekend, we had beautiful spring weather here in England. On Saturday, we went for a run, but when Sunday rolled around, we nixed our normal running route in favor of a walk to somewhere new. We still had to drive about an hour to Burnsall, but the scenery and the leg stretching (and rope swinging!) once there was well worth it.

Having some fun on the swing we stumbled upon!

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On the drive there, we passed Bolton Abbey and The Devonshire Arms, which we both decided we’ll have to return to when we have more time and/or when we want to have a day of luxury.

Once in Burnsall, an extremely small village (I believe Wikipedia says that the 2001 consensus listed the population as 112 and I doubt it has increased much since then), we headed along the river towards Appletreewick, which is the even smaller village where the Brit would camp on his school cycling trips. The round-trip walk was about 2 miles and we could have kept going on the trail, but the clouds started to roll in and it was getting chilly!

The campground in Appletreewick, which apparently 'looks smaller than I remember it!' 🙂

We finished up with a glass of Diet Coke each at the The Red Lion & Manor House, which is where the groom hosted the wedding in that particular episode of DTTB, before heading home! All in all, a really great day out!

The River Wharfe in Appletreewick

The sun came out!!