A day out at Harewood House

The birds are singing, lambs are playing in the fields and the big yellow thing in the sky has actually deigned to put in an appearance. I think spring might actually be here, gasp! To celebrate that very thing, my mum and I went for a day out at the beautiful Harewood House in West Yorkshire.

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Harewood House

Harewood House has always been one of my favourite places. When I was little, I loved playing on the amazing play equipment (seriously awesome slides!) As a slightly more grown up person (well, in theory) the stunning house and grounds at Harewood have captured my imagination. Daydreaming about what it must be like to live in such a place helped inspired my debut novel, Who Does He Think He Is? Unfortunately for my heroine Lady Aurelia, her estate Leydale Park couldn’t be more different from Harewood House, as it’s more of a pile in a state, than stately pile! But Harewood House and my fictional Leydale Park do have something in common in that they are both used as TV and movie locations.
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Serious bookshelf envy!

Harewood House has most recently graced our screens as one of the major locations for the ITV drama series, Victoria. Queen Victoria herself visited Harewood House in 1835, although she was just a princess at that time, so it seems appropriate that the house is featured as a double for Buckingham Palace in the TV series about her life.
I was delighted to discover on my visit that the house is hosting an exhibition inspired by Victoria. There’s lots to learn about life at Harewood during the Victorian era, but also on display are costumes from the Victoria TV series, along with a behind the scenes look at the filming of the show. The costumes are works of art in themselves, and they look very at home in the ornate surroundings of Harewood’s State Rooms.
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Some of the beautiful costumes worn by Jenna Coleman in the title role of Victoria

Another claim to fame for Harewood House is that it has played host to the delectable Mr Darcy not once, but twice. It featured as Pemberley in ITV’s series Lost In Austen (all about a 21st century woman who gets whisked back in time and meets Mr Darcy – lucky her!) and scenes for the BBC murder mystery series based on PD James’ book Death Comes to Pemberley were also filmed there. As you can imagine, my mum and I had great fun playing spot the location on our visit!
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We also enjoyed exploring Harewood House’s beautiful gardens and parkland. They were designed by Capability Brown and I confess I filled quite a bit of my camera roll with snaps of the myriad pretty flowers.
No day out would be complete without a spot of cake, and I’m pleased to report that Harewood’s lemon drizzle is particularly scrumptious! All in all, we had a lovely visit, and I’d definitely recommend it as a great trip out for everyone.
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Something to eat and something to read!

Murder mystery mayhem!

 

It’s nearly Halloween so it seems appropriate to have a bit of a gory theme to my blog this week. As you may know I’m a big fan of murder mysteries, and enjoy writing them myself. But what you may not know is that I also enjoying trying to solve mysteries. For the past few years my friends and I have  been going on murder mystery weekend breaks run by the fabulous Joy Swift. They take place in lovely country house  hotels across the country. From Friday night to Sunday morning we become detectives, working to solve dastardly deeds and catch cunning criminals. 

Basically among all the guests will be around 10 actors. They’re in character for the whole time and over the course of the weekend they’ll have huge arguments, catch each other in compromising positions and ultimately at least three of them will end up ‘dead’. Fear not, no actual murders take place! It’s then the task of guests such as ourselves to piece together the clues, crack codes, question suspects and come up with our solution. In between all the sleuthing there’s also lot of extra fun and games with quizzes, charades and a fancy dress disco. 


The mysteries certainly give the old brain cells a workout, and for the duration of the weekend, you end up forgetting what’s going on in the rest of the world. 

The company is celebrating its 35th anniversary this weekend, so happy birthday to all the team, and here’s to many more mysteries to get us sleuthing! 

One should always have something sensational to read on the train

As the nights draw in and the weather gets increasingly grim, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s thinking wistfully about my summer holiday.

At the beginning of September I packed my Greek dictionary, and set off for a little bit of island hopping with friends. We went to Crete and Santorini and had lots of adventures along the way. From being trampled by a herd of donkeys in Santorini to discovering quite possibly the best ice-cream shop in the world in Rethymno, Crete, I chronicled it all in my holiday journal.

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When I was little, my parents encouraged me to write a holiday diary and I’m so glad they started what has turned into a lifelong habit. I love that I have a collection of diaries spanning all my travels since I was about 14-years-old. When I read back through my travel journals, I am instantly transported back to the holiday and find myself recalling little details that I would otherwise have forgotten. And when I’m searching for ideas, sometimes a little incident from a holiday can spark the plot for a short story or even a book.

I think the character Gwendolyn Fairfax in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest sums up for me why a diary is a good idea. As she says, “One should always have something sensational to read on the train.”