On the Celtic Trail.
I was asked recently to take a well-travelled couple to north Wales as they had already seen most of England. I met them near the Ashford Channel Tunnel terminus and we drove to Blenheim Palace, skirting London. The Duke of Marlborough's country residence is very imposing and full of beautiful pictures and furniture. We lunched lightly but excellently at the Feathers pub in nearby Woodstock, and despite being tempted to linger by the fire, we drove on to north Wales. The next day the weather was kind, unusual for the beginning of March, and we saw camellias, early rhododendrons, magnolias and daffodils to die for at Bodnant Gardens. The ensuing drive through part of the Snowdon mountain range, just glimpsing Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in Britain, was punctuated with a lively lunch at the pub where Sir Edmund Hillary and his team of mountaineers practised before climbing Mount Everest in the 1950's. The team were not averse to a bit of graffiti - eating a traditional ploughman's lunch underneath the signature on the ceiling of that great man is truly awe inspiring! We returned to the hotel via Conwy Castle perched on the edge of the sea. Although a ruin today it still has the majesty of one of Edward I's 13th century fortresses to be seen all over Wales. Sadly our drive back to Gravetye Manor near Gatwick airport the next day was marred by rain, but we did manage to stop en route at the 300 year old Spode Factory and see first hand how fine English bone china is made. We made up for the rain by stopping for a quick drink at the Lygon Arms in Broadway, a delightful Cotswolds village of honey-coloured stone. Of course I drank tea!