I know, I know. I seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth. It really comes down to two things, really… the first being that I was in the UK for all of October, and the second being that I have been without a laptop for about two months now. Thankfully, I now have a new machine (thanks, Mum!) and plenty of new memories to go along with it. I was able to visit so many places I’d only previously been able to dream about – including plenty of bookish places! – and I’d love to share a few of these precious moments with you!
London was everything I’d dreamed it would be. I’ve never been overseas before, so seeing something I’d only fantasized about in person was beyond life-changing. Big Ben was particularly something I needed to see. Apart from it being London’s most iconic spot, it’s also something personal to me because it’s reminiscent of one of my most favourite tales – Peter Pan. Every time we walked by it, or saw it in the distance, I had to stop and look for a while. I was utterly enamoured with it, even though I couldn’t believe it was smaller than I imagined!
Keeping on with the Peter Pan pilgrimage of sorts, I also insisted we visit Kensington Gardens and see the birthplace of JM Barrie’s story and the boy who wouldn’t grow up. The Peter Pan statue was magical (and very popular!) and it was oh so photogenic. I have so many pictures of the statue (and of me with it!), but this one is my favourite.
Ahh, I just couldn’t go past Notting Hill and its famous bookshop. Yep, I’m a fan of the film – and although the shop wasn’t the one used in the movie (they actually used a different building for The Travel Book Co.) it was based on this famous bookshop you see right here. There’s even a plaque to mark it’s iconic status. Inside it was filled with lots of new releases, classics, and of course – travel books.
If you want to buy (or just hug, stroke or gaze at) first edition books, look no further than Cecil Street in London. My favourite shop was one called Marchpane, who specialised in classic and first editions of children’s books. While a lot of their focus is on Alice in Wonderland editions and memorabilia, there were also antique prints for sale and pretty much every other children’s books under the sun. I managed to find a few copies of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, Peter and Wendy and The Secret Garden. While I didn’t buy any (ouch, price tag!) it was fantastic to see the old pages and personal inscriptions within each cover. ONE DAY!
Harry Potter enthusiasts will recognise King’s Cross station. It was surreal to see it in person, and even more magnificent inside. I didn’t take any pictures inside as we were scurrying about trying to find Platform 9 3/4, and buy collectables within it’s own Harry Potter shop. I should also mention that our fervent enthusiasm for Harry Potter had also been a little dulled by the fact we spent a whole day at The Harry Potter Studio Tour earlier in the week…
The model of Hogwarts is quite literally MASSIVE, and the size of a house on it’s own. If you look in the back of my photo, you can get a feel of how big it is from the people trying to get a better look at it. It was great to be in the actual sets they used for the film (particularly the Great Hall!) and we spent so many hours poring over the thousands of props and even taking a spin on the CGI brooms.
But, before we actually explored London – we explored a few other parts of the UK. After attending one of my good friend’s wedding in Surrey, we headed up to The Cotswolds – which was utterly breathtaking. These pictures in particular are from our day at Sudeley Castle, once home to Katherine Parr – sixth wife of Henry VIII. The gardens were stunning and very reminiscent of my favourite book, The Secret Garden. I could have explored this place for days.
After stopping by Coventry, we headed to Birmingham and then Manchester. In Manchester, we popped in to the majestic John Rylands library. Does it remind you of something? If anything besides a movie set even came close to the Hogwarts Library, this is it! It was wonderful to see such a collection of books, manuscripts and even historic scrolls. It was a haven for any booklover!
It’s been(another) lifelong dream to visit the North Yorkshire Moors. Why? Well, my favourite story (and film) The Secret Garden was inspired by, and filmed, here. I couldn’t believe I was finally there. And yes, it was just as magical as I dreamed it would be. The moors were so harsh and barren, yet so beautiful at the same time. If I could live anywhere, it would definitely be by the moors… *sigh*
Did you know that the moors is also home to another one of the Harry Potter film locations? Yep, in Goathland, the original Hogsmeade station can be found. It was used in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and was immediately recognizable. There was even a small spot to buy HP memorabilia.
And finally, another jewel in my Yorkshire collection – a visit to Fountain’s Abbey – more specifically, Fountains Hall. If you’re a major Secret Garden nerd like me, you’ll recognize this as the place used as the back of Misselthwaite Manor in the 1993 film. Mary always left for the garden by this entrance to the house, walking down these same steps. To say I was in a dream is an understatement!
From Yorkshire, we took the train to Scotland, staying in Edinburgh. What a wonderful, historic city. The real highlight of this part of our trip, however, was our day tour across the Scottish Highlands. I managed to see quite a few places from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander book series and TV show, which was a real treasure for me. How beautiful is it? Even though we went in autumn, it was still breathtaking.
We also took a journey over Loch Ness on the same day. Seriously, Scotland is so vibrant and beautiful. If you have a chance to visit, don’t hesitate! I only wish we had more than three days there. There’s so much to explore and so many places I wish we’d had time to visit!
After Scotland, we flew to Northern Ireland. We stayed in Belfast and I managed to accomplish yet another dream (seriously, can you get tired of that?) that was visiting the Titanic Museum. Ive always been truly fascinated with anything to do with the Titanic, so seeing the place where it was built and launched from was mind-boggling. The museum itself was floors of information on the building, decorating and voyage of the Titanic – there was even a ride!
The Antrim Coast was beyond belief. I didn’t know the water could be so beautiful and blue so far north! Yes, it was cold, but you could easily be forgiven for thinking this photo was taken somewhere warmer. Most of the scenes from Game of Thrones were shot in Northern Ireland, too. We got to see a lot of these places, which was a bonus I hadn’t expected!
Yup, I accomplished another lifelong goal here, too – seeing the Giant’s Causeway. Seriously, this place was magical (and slippery!) I can’t believe you’re just allowed to walk all over the rock formations, too.
So what was it all for? Do holidays really need an explanation? Well, I’m certainly a change person after it. I am so proud of managing to get myself out there finally. Travel, for me, has always been a pipe dream. Something I thought I would never accomplish – and I DID. It sounds corny to say it, but it really has changed my outlook and made the world smaller. Things don’t seem so out of reach, somehow. I still think about my month long trip and smile, and I’m sure the feeling won’t go away.
I also managed to collect a lot of inspiration for my writing projects, which I don’t really talk about on the blog. Those who follow me on Wattpad might be familiar with my re-telling of The Secret Garden I’ve been working on for many moons. After visiting the places described, my inspiration gauge is pretty much working overtime. I hope to dive back into that anew soon, with a whole lot of ideas and enlightened descriptions!
So yeah, that’s where I’ve been. While I want to apologise for the lack of activity on the blog, I also don’t want to wish away my amazing adventure. I may not be able to complete my goal of reading and reviewing 100 books this year, but I did accomplish a whole lot of other goals which more than certainly makes up for it! Thank you for sticking around (and reading this ridiculously long post!) and I hope to have some more reviews for you soon!