Blea Tarn and Brothers Water.

I was almost deterred from swimming in Blea Tarn and Brothers Water as they have been designated SSSI’s or Sites of Special Scientific Interest. However with both having been on my ‘to do’ list since the very beginning, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Blea Tarn:

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Blea Tarn and the Langdales

David and I drove to Blea Tarn at the start of our few days away to the Lake District. As we came from the direction of the Great Langdale valley the tarn looked rather uninspiring. Undeterred we parked up at the National Trust Blea Tarn car park, and paid the rather steep charge of £5.50 for 4 hours. Parking is right across the road from the tarn with an accessible walk to the waters edge and stunning views. I was surprised the area wasn’t more busy, we only saw a handful of people!

We followed the National Trust trail and took a gentle meandering walk past the tarn, gazed at towering Scots Pines before heading out towards the fells and then the ultimate viewpoint over Great Langdale, which was stunning!

During our walk we saw common spotted orchids, golden ringed dragonflies (to fast for us this time, though we would see them again during our walk over Beda Fell), and a beautiful summer visitor, a pied flycatcher.

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Blea Tarn

We returned to the shingle beach of Blea Tarn where we set up base and I stripped to my new tankini. Terence the turtle registered a balmy 18°C but with the wind I soon cooled quickly. Here’s some pictures and video of my very enjoyable swim, the best of the weekend! The entrance into the water was easy underfoot. No scrambling over rocks is always a plus in my book!

Brothers Water: 

We got to the shores of Brothers Water after a five hour hike around Beda Fell. At 3.30pm there were only a few dog walkers around, I had the entire lake to myself! Tired and with aching feet we stumbled along the shingle shore towards the waters edge. From there I struggled into a new swimsuit and waded out ungracefully into the shallow and reedy waters. I did not stray too far from the shore, though in hindsight I think maybe I should have ventured out further. I was afraid of fronds catching at my ankles, much like Loweswater. However the waters were silky against my tired limbs and the views were soul nourishing. Pictures of Brothers Water to me, always looked like a mini Wast Water but once there the lake was reminiscent of Buttermere. The water was a warm 17°C but the swarm of flies that hovered about the surface of the water, and then me, was slightly off putting. I think with being exhausted from a mentally challenging walk, I didn’t enjoy swimming at Brothers Water as I should have. The real stars were the small fish that swam in shoals in the shallows. If anyone can ID them for me that would be great! Here’s a small selection of pictures and video of my swim.

Have you visited this tarn/water? What are your memories of them?

Where do you think I should swim next?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Into the Blue.

I have been so excited to share my latest adventure with you all! On Sunday, David and I spent a leisurely couple of hours walking the Secret Valley of Rannerdale.

With an early start to the day, and a two and a half hour drive north, we met 2000 cyclists along the A66 embarking on the Fred Whitton Challenge. On our arrival at Crummock Water, we parked the car at South Beach. I watched as people donned wet-suits and took to the water with orange tow-floats. I itched to follow them in! The weather was glorious, blue skies and bright sunshine, but with a fierce, biting wind.

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Crummock Water

David and I took the road leading away from Buttermere to Rannerdale’s National Trust car park where there is free parking, but we arrived too late to enjoy this privilege. From this car park is a path leading around Rannerdale Knotts, to the valley of Rannerdale.

The month of May is the best time to visit due to the abundance of bluebells that have become a historic feature. Even from a distance you can see the blue haze of the fields and up close their scent is intoxicating! Local folklore suggests that the bluebells grow here due to a battle between Cumbrians and Normans after their invasion of 1066. The Normans were defeated yet the blood that was spilled spawned the many heads of bluebells.

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Bluebells and Whiteless Pike


From Rannerdale, we retraced our steps back towards the shores of Crummock Water. As the day lengthened the numbers of walkers and day trippers swelled. The shingle beach we were hoping to visit was full of families enjoying the spring sunshine. So we walked along the road until we noticed a small secluded cove.

From this cove I excitedly stripped to my tankini, donned my neoprene boots and gloves and strapped Wilson to my torso. I waded out into the agitated waters of Crummock. Terence the turtle suggested the shallows were a balmy 14ºC but with the wind that whipped across the water, it felt much colder!

I was in the water for around 10 minutes. I really didn’t want to get out. I was having so much fun! With piercing blue skies above and green mountains all around, Crummock Water was wonderful! There were even people paddling past in canoes. Crummock looked very different to the first time we visited, you can read about that adventure here. If it had been warmer and the waters calmer I would have stayed in for longer. Swimming against the wind tired me out quicker. Shivering I came out of the water to be dried by the unrelenting wind. I got dressed quick enough and soon warmed up once back at the car with a hot flask of coffee.

Crummock Water became my first swim of 2017 and what a welcome introduction it was too! I am so happy to be back in the water again!

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Until my next swim!

Christine x

Dodd Wood

With the British weather still not warming up for skins swimming (well for me at least). I forsook a swim and headed instead for a walk with David to Dodd Wood.

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View from Dodd

Dodd Wood, managed by the Forestry Commission, is a fell that overlooks Bassenthwaite Lake. It is part of the Skiddaw range and has an elevation of 502m. It is 50m higher than Catbells and without the scramble to the top!

After an early start, we arrived at the pay and display car park at 10am and promptly paid the £6.30 for all day parking. There is a cafe and toilets on site, and the forest was already busy with walkers and families.

To start our walk, we headed for the lower Osprey viewpoint. Since 2001, Ospreys have been breeding in the area, after travelling from Africa.

Osprey Viewpoint

Lower Osprey Viewpoint

There are two viewpoints at Dodd Wood both equipped with long range telescopes and friendly volunteers. There is also an online webcam where you can view life in an Osprey nest. At the time of visiting the female was incubating three eggs. We didn’t see either Osprey. At the lower viewpoint there are feeding stations for woodland birds such as Jays and Coal Tits. There are even visiting Red Squirrels but when we were there they never showed.

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Woodland Bird Feast

From the second viewpoint David and I walked through an overgrown path that joined up with the way-marked (in green) Dodd Summit route. We took our lunch overlooking Derwentwater before heading up to the summit.

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Viewpoint selfie

The summit had fantastic views overlooking Derwentwater, Bassenthwaite Lake, Skiddaw and towards The Solway Firth, though it was a bit cold and windy on this cloudy April day!

On our way back down towards the car park, we walked along a woodland path with grassy embankments. From one such embankment came the chirrup of birds. At first glance we couldn’t see anything, but then David lifted his camera and pointed to a small round hole in among the moss. There were three open mouths awaiting their parent.

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Nestlings by David Evans

We walked a total of 4 miles, but it sure felt longer! After a coffee, we headed back on the road towards home. We’d had a tiring yet enjoyable day!

Have you visited Dodd Wood? What are your favourite woodlands in the UK?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Scenes from the Lake District. (Whinlatter Forest.)

Our last breakfast during this short break to the Lake District, was shared with another couple who had arrived the previous evening. I felt rather sad that we were going home later that day, yet I knew Artie was missing us. Breakfast was a relaxed and leisurely beginning to the day.

On leaving Hermiston, Phil and Helen said goodbye to us with more hugs and handshakes. It was a wrench to leave, they do indeed make you feel like friends.

David and I headed 10 minutes up the road to the visitor centre at Whinlatter Forest. I had planned a three hour walk to the top of Seat How. On arrival the car park was already busy with bikers and families. We donned our walking boots and headed towards the red way-markers.

The winding pathway took us past a Gruffalo and through tall trees. The walk wasn’t too strenuous and we got to the top of Seat How earlier than planned. I thought the pathways were better sign posted than our visit to Grizedale last year. We stopped and ate our packed lunch with views of the surrounding fells, Keswick and Derwent Water before us. We watched transfixed as a pair of buzzards drifted elegantly on the breeze.

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Seat How Summit

As we made our journey back to the car park, the clouds broke and the sun came out!

Our time at Whinlatter Forest was shorter than I had planned, though we had enjoyed our time spent beneath the trees. The paths towards Lord’s Seat and Grisedale Pike will have to be revisited some other time. After 1pm we decided to make the journey home. I was sad to leave the Lake District but knew I would return again soon. My wild swims beckon!

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Fudge

The news we were greeted on arrival home, was that we had lost one of our finches while away. R.I.P. Fudge, you are still sadly missed.

Artie however was happy to see us and for this past week has been more clingy than normal. He is usually such an independent cat.

Thank you for joining me as I recap my short break to the Lake District. The change of scenery was much needed, and even David said he had a good time! Thank you Phil and Helen for making our stay at Hermiston such a relaxing and pleasant time.

Are you planning a trip/day out to the lake District? Do you know of any sights David and I would enjoy visiting?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Scenes from the Lake District. (Ennerdale Water, Buttermere and Derwent Water.)

A rather uninspiring, grey day dawned for our last, full day in the Lake District. After breakfasting on fruit salad filled with mango and blueberries, David and I headed towards Ennerdale Water.

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Ennerdale Water and Angler’s Crag

Ennerdale Water is only 40 minutes drive from Braithwaite. You may have guessed that the week’s itinerary of lakes have been selected solely because swimming is prohibited, due to them being reservoirs! I just had to put up with walking around them instead! (I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so I can take up my swim/walks again!)

We parked the car at the ample (and free) Bowness Knott car park. We visited this spot on our last break to the Lakes, due to Ennerdale being a dark sky area.

The planned walk was the Smithy Beck Trail. It’s low lying (so easy on creaking joints) and takes in a woodland walk as well as lakeside.

We took the woodland path first, and marveled at the great towering Scots Pine trees. We gasped as we saw fleetingly, a red squirrel and then later on a tree creeper. David wished he had brought his big lens, maybe next time!

The path (which was very muddy), took us to the bridge over Smithy Beck Falls where David and I played Pooh Sticks. There was no clear winner. From there, the path meandered towards the lakeside. We picnicked on a bench overlooking Pillar, Steeple and Scoat Fell.

After lunch we decided to head towards Buttermere (another 40 minute drive) and visit the much photographed lone tree. On our last visit, the permissive path had been closed due to nesting sandpipers!

Instead of finding a free lay-by in which to park the car, we headed to the National Trust car park by the Fish Inn, and paid the steep £3.50 for two hours! I didn’t mind as I see it as giving a little back to the region that has kept us entertained with beautiful vistas, walking and swimming.

We spent a good hour at the lakeside of Buttermere, taking dozens of photographs. However, much like the day before the weather turned blustery and drizzly. Chilled to the bone by the wind that whipped over the lake, David and I headed back to the car.

‘I can’t visit Buttermere without seeing Derwent Water!’ I cried. So David fired up the engine and we headed towards Keswick and the Theatre by the Lake parking. (One day I will see a play at the theatre!)

The journey to Keswick (around 30 minutes) took in the mountain pass, Honister, much to David’s consternation. Touted as one of the best mountain drives in the UK. At it’s summit it climbs to a dizzy 356 metres, with a 1 in 4 gradient. The rugged scenery was impressive and we luckily had the winding road to ourselves, as David crunched the clutch into 1st gear. It was times like this that I wished we had a drone!

In Keswick, we paid the £3.00 for two hours parking and walked towards the lakeside. The weather had made a turn for the worse. Heavy clouds obstructed much of the scenery. We made our way towards Friar’s Crag and took pictures along the way. How different out first visit here in October had been!

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Derwent Water

We decided to call our sightseeing a day and headed back towards our B&B, Hermiston in Braithwaite. On arrival Phil and Helen offered more tea, coffee and cake which we received gratefully. We changed from our mud caked clothes and warmed up before heading back to Keswick for our last meal of the holiday.

We had a table booked at the Lakes Bar and Bistro for 5.30pm. We had looked at the menu online earlier and liked a few of the options. On arrival we were asked to chose any table as the place seemed ‘dead.’ I’ve read that when a restaurant is quiet it could be because the establishment is not very good. A little worry crossed my mind. However the meals we were served, though took about 20-30 minutes to come to the table was enjoyable.

David ordered a chicken, ham and leek pie with vegetables, while I opted for the vegetarian goat’s cheese pizza. The pizza made for a very filling meal. I was stuffed after a few slices! David liked his pie but not the butter coated chips. The service was friendly and the food warming, so there were no complaints from us.

We returned to the B&B to enjoy one last shower and recharge our batteries, before our journey home the next day.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

Scenes from the Lake District. (Thirlmere and Castlerigg Stone Circle.)

Breakfast at Hermiston is served between 8am and 9am. As we were the only guests staying with them during this week, we had the entire buffet to ourselves!

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David enjoying the view from the breakfast room

On offer there is a selection of cereals, muesli and gorgeous fruit salad. You can request a cooked breakfast but as David and I are not big morning eaters we stayed with the continental. Phil served us fresh coffee and tea, and as we sat gazing out at the freshly fallen snow on the peaks, we chatted with Phil and Helen about our plans for the day.

I had planned a day around Thirmlere, with a walk up Raven Crag and then a lakeside stroll.

Thirlmere is about 20 minutes drive from Braithwaite. We parked the car in a lay-by opposite the start of the walk, crossed over the road, entered through a gate and began our ascent. It was tough going to start with. We passed another two gates and walked along a path through recently fallen trees, before we walked up steps towards the viewpoint.

From Raven Crag there is unparalleled views of Thirlmere below, and of the snow covered Helvellyn range. We even spotted a Peregrine Falcon flying over the tree tops!

Once we had navigated the route back to the car, we headed further up the road to Armboth car park (and toilets). Parking is free at present due to damage to some of the paths by Storm Desmond last December. We had our packed lunch in the warmth of the car and watched as the weather turned squally.

For the next hour or so we traversed the lakeside path. Some of the going was tough due to boulders blocking the way. Low lying cloud obscured the view and we were soon cold and wet.

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Thirlmere

Deciding that the weather was not going to improve for the rest of the afternoon, we decided to head back to the B&B. On our way we took a whistle stop tour of Castlerigg Stone Circle, just so I could see Blencathra! The snow caps from the morning had melted in the rain!

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Castlerigg Stone Circle and Blencathra

We returned to Hermiston cold and tired. Phil offered us tea and coffee which we gladly accepted and the homemade cake was very restorative. Just what we needed! From the guest lounge we watched as clouds obscured the mountains.

For dinner we planned on popping into Keswick and trying our luck with their only Indian restaurant, Lakeland Spice Cuisine.

They serve evening meals from 5.30pm. We got a table straight away, indeed we were only one of two couples eating at that time. Keswick in March seems to be really quiet, well especially around 5pm! David ordered a chicken tikka masala and I a vegetable balti. David enjoyed his coconut infused meal, while mine at first was tasty but got samey as the meal progressed and there was a lot of oil! A bit more vegetables wouldn’t have gone amiss! I still think the meal we had at India, Kendal a few years back was of better quality.

Fulled by a warming meal, we headed back to the B&B to relax with a film. Hermiston’s guest internet is of a good speed. A full day out in the elements had tired us so we had yet another early night.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #22

It’s been a while since I’ve contributed to the weekly Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie. This is my first Sunday Seven’s of 2017, I hope you enjoy?!

After a visit to Lady Green Garden Centre, I had a few new plants to place in the yarden. So on Sunday David and I managed to do some tidying and landscaping.

The beginning of the week saw me with a stinker of a head cold. Tuesday was World Scouse Day, so I made a warming vegetarian version, Blind Scouse.

Wednesday was the beginning of our much anticipated little break to the Lake District. Before David and I returned to our B&B for three nights, Hermiston in Braithwaite, we stopped off at Hodge Close Quarry.

Thursday was all about exploring Thirlmere. Unfortunately due to last years storm Desmond, some paths were closed, but that did not stop David and I heading up towards a snowy Raven Crag.

Friday was a cold and cloudy day in the Lake District. As part of our travels we revisited Buttermere, and finally got to see the lone tree!

Saturday was our 11 years anniversary! What better way to celebrate than to walk through Whinlatter Forest and pose for a selfie atop of Seat How?!

Sadly on our return home after three nights away, we found one of our finches, Fudge on the bottom of the cage. His friend Pi was seen sitting on his body, trying to keep him warm. It was news to bring us back home with a bump!

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RIP Fudge

So there you have it, a whistle stop tour of my past week!

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a good week ahead!

Christine x

Grizedale Forest and Hermiston B&B.

On our journey north towards our bed for two nights, I planned an excursion to Grizedale Forest. It was the perfect opportunity to look for the colours of autumn. However, the day dawned grey and oppressive. Indeed all weekend the weather forecast was for heavy cloud cover.

Grizedale is the UK’s first sculpture forest and while David and I walked the route towards Carron Crag we looked for sculptures en-route.

The walk to Carron Crag took two hours. There are many other walks, some strenuous, others less so. Our visit was brief but Grizedale is definitely a place to re-visit. Have you been? What did you think of the place?


Grizedale was an hours drive from our B&B, Hermiston Guest HouseHermiston is situated in the quiet village of Braithwaite, just 10 minutes drive from Keswick. On arrival we were met at the door by Helen who welcomed us inside. She carried my suitcase and showed us to our room, Skiddaw. The room was well appointed, in neutral colours with an en-suite (the shower was lovely!) The window opened to glorious views of the Skiddaw mountain range.

While we chatted about my wild swims over coffee, tea and cake in the guest lounge, Helen informed us that she had left me a gift for my birthday from herself and husband Phil. I was astounded by their generosity. They had gifted a bottle of bucks fizz! I was warmed by their kindness!

David and I had planned on an early rise the next morning, meaning we would miss breakfast. Helen offered to make me a fruit salad to take on my travels, which I kindly accepted.

Even breakfast the day after was a relaxed and friendly affair. Phil served the meals and friendly chatted to the guests, showing real interest and giving suggestions on places to visit. Helen and Phil made us feel very welcome in their home. David and I really enjoyed our stay and would recommend their B&B. It would be nice to visit again in the future.

I can’t wait to write up and tell you all about my next adventure. Our full day in the Lake District was EPIC! 14 hours of wondrous sights and experiences! Do continue to follow me as I recount my short but wonderful trip to Cumbria.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

#PoppiesTour – Liverpool

I have previously written about the 14-18 NOW Wave and Weeping Window poppy tour. You can read my post on my joy at seeing the Wave at Yorkshire Sculpture Parkhere. Both sculptures were designed by Paul Cummins (artist) and Tom Piper (designer).

The Wave

The Wave at YSP

In November, just in time for the city’s Armistice commemorations, the poppies, first seen as part of the breathtaking Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, at the Tower of London in 2014, finally came to Liverpool. The Weeping Window at present graces the St George’s Plateau side of the Neo-Classical Grade 1 listed building. I must admit while the sculpture was being constructed I was not overtly taken by the design. After seeing pictures of the poppies at Woodhorn Colliery, it seemed somehow anticlimactic.

However the poppies have grown on me and the city has welcomed them warmly.

The poppies are open to the public from 10am to 6pm daily, with a metal barricade placed around the site after hours, but you can still see them and photograph them. The first time David and I went to see them was around 10pm on a stormy Sunday night. My pictures are not as good as the ones I took of the Wave, but I did have my camera on the wrong setting for night-time pictures (silly me!)

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St George’s Hall: Weeping Window at night

The second time I visited, I went with my Mum while Christmas shopping but once again I forgot to change the setting on my phone, so never got any fancy ones with just the colour of the poppies showing through. It was a dreary day light wise too which seems to be the norm of late. No sooner had the poppies arrived in Liverpool, then there seems to have been nothing but a succession of storms. There hasn’t been many days when the sun has shone! I live in hope that there will be at least one bright weekend, before they leave the city on 17th January 2016, so David and I can visit them one last time.

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The 2016 leg of the poppy tour has been recently announced and there could be at least one, maybe two more occasions where David and I will see the poppies. The new sites and dates are as follows:

  • Lincoln Castle, The Wave – 28th May to 4th September
  • The Black Watch Museum, Perth, The Weeping Window – 30th June to 25th September
  • Caernarfon Castle, The Weeping Window – 12th October to 20th November

If you have not had the chance to see the poppies, maybe you will be able to see them at these stunning new locations next year?

© 2015 Christine Lucas.

Shiverpool – Ghost Bus

This weekend we made use of the competition prize I had won during the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic‘s most recent prize draw on Facebook. So David and I wrapped up warmly and made our way to the Suitcase Monument in Hope Street to embark on the Shiverpool Ghost Bus.

Shiverpool bus tour

Shiverpool bus tour

It was a clear, yet windy night, perfect for haunting stories and ghostly apparitions.

When we got to the monument there were already lots of people waiting for the bus which arrived a little late, (typical of the buses in Liverpool!) :p However it was nice to listen to the harmonious bells of both cathedrals, at opposite ends of Hope Street ringing into the dark evening as we stood waiting.

In hindsight perhaps I should have booked a tour on a weekday as town on Saturday became busy with revellers and the roads chocked with traffic.

When the bus finally arrived it was a red double decker and looked impressive.

Shiverpool Ghost Bus

Shiverpool Ghost Bus

Our tour guides for the evening were a duo of ‘brother and ‘sister,’ both lightly joked with the passengers who were all asked to go upstairs on the bus. This was by no mean feat with heels and an ankle length dress which I wore. The staircase was narrow and the steps uneven and in darkness was a bit of a safety hazard! The deck below was commandeered for a hen party from Ireland who held the tour up by 10 minutes!

While the bus waited for the late comers, the tour guides bantered with the passengers, asking where everyone lived. David and I had been the last to go upstairs and ended up seated at the back! We were, on more than one occasion singled out as a couple on a date. Apparently ‘I had made an effort’ on my toilette. Why thank you! 🙂

David and I have been on many ghost tours while holidaying in Edinburgh so the Shiverpool Ghost Bus had a lot to live up to!

The tour took us around the beautiful Georgian Quarter of Liverpool, visiting Rodney and Huskisson Street. The guides spoke of George Huskisson who was the first person to be killed by a steam engine at the Edge Hill trials and unknown to me Huskisson Street was also the home of Florence Maybrick who was charged with the death of James Maybrick, A.K.A. of Jack the Ripper fame.

The 90 minutes or so of the tour flew by and unfortunately the stories the guides narrated were rattled out at such a lightening speed that come to recap the experience, I am finding it hard to recall some of the tales. One such story, as we pulled alongside the leafy Falkner Square was about child murders and witches.

The tour was punctuated by the appearance of ‘ghosts’ who seemingly had come to life as the stories were recounted. The first appeared while we were parked outside St Bride’s Church, off Catherine Street. It was of a young bride to be, who was buried alive in the grave yard. The actor was dressed in white with a veil covering her face. She silently walked around the bus before being scared away by the tour guides. The creepy part of these ‘apparitions’ was looking out of the back window to see them just standing on the pavement silently watching as the bus drove off!

There was however a downside to having other actors joining us along the journey. This was, that while they were terrorising the passengers, as in the case of an angry drunkard tearing through the bus, you didn’t get to hear the story. So I missed a lot of the narrative due to this.

One good thing that came from the tour was a greater appreciation of the city and it’s architecture. Liverpool is indeed beautiful! The bus drove past the Anglican Cathedral, the biggest in the UK, and took us along the waterfront to see the Albert Dock and the Three Graces all lit up!

At one point in the tour we had to get off the bus. We all stood huddled together outside the iconic Royal Liver Building whose clock face is bigger than the Elizabeth Tower clock, ‘Big Ben‘. Here, outside the old insurance building, the guides told us a tale of poison and fraud. The silliest part of the night was when one of the guides got a gentleman to re-enact the symptoms of arsenic poisoning! Chronic diarrhoea and all!!

However let’s not forget that the tour tickets were free and it was something different to do from the usual humdrum routine of a Saturday night. It’s just sad that the stories were really not that engaging, nor scary enough! We have been on better ghost tours!