Thursday, 14 July 2016

Boats, Beer and Bag End

I love birthdays and I love planning things, so I had a fine old time sorting out a whole itinerary of things to do for Steve's birthday this year.  It's so easy to overlook what's right on your doorstep so, with that in mind, we headed off to Lancaster for a day of shenanigans!

First up was a cruise along the canal - admittedly not a high octane start, but a great way to get a completely different view of the city.  The cruises are run by Lancaster Canal Boats and it's all terribly civilised - sipping a cup of tea as you waft high over Caton Road (you can sip something stronger if you like, they're fully licensed, but it was only 11am and we had a long day ahead).

There's a basic commentary filling you in on the history of the area and a trip across the Lune Aqueduct - including a quick photo stop on the side you can't get to without a boat.  And if you fancy something a little livelier they have a selection of themed evening cruises available so you can belt out your favourite Abba classics as you slip along the waterways.

The cruise finished at 12:15pm and it was off to our lunch appointment - when I make a schedule I do like to stick to it!  I'd had a rummage around t'internet for somewhere we'd not been to before and discovered The Three Mariners down near the river.

It's one of the oldest pubs in Lancaster, has a fantastic and very reasonably priced menu and a cellar that's upstairs, behind the bar.  An unusual place for a cellar granted, but it's there because the place is built on solid rock, so going down wasn't an option.

It's a place that's more popular with locals than visitors and we had fun chatting to the guys behind the bar and one of the regulars, who told us all about hidden tunnels, rogue cotton plants and the origins of lino.  They also have an excellent line in background music, espcially if you're up for a bit of 80s rock.

Two hours had flown past and I was starting to get twitchy about my schedule again, so off we pottered to Lancaster Maritime Museum.  It was badly flooded during Storm Desmond and has only been open again for a few weeks and even now it's not completely open - but it's free for the moment and well worth a look.

There are plenty of imaginative exhibits that you can climb onto, into and write to.  This was my personal favourite - an exhibit asking kids to imagine they were stuck on a desert island and write a message to go in a bottle...

Another 2 hours quickly gone and now it was time to nip to M&S to grab a picnic for the main event of the day - a performance of The Hobbit in Williamson Park.

When you book for open air theatre you take a bit of a gamble with the weather, but we were blessed with blue skies and sunshine.  The views from the Ashton Memorial are superb and the park could not have been a more perfect setting.  There are 5 scenes and an interval and each scene takes place in a different part of the park, with the natural scenery taking the place of big sets.

The acting was fantastic, the staging imaginative and the costumes superb - we'd never been to anything like it before and can't recommend it highly enough.  The recent films may have been somewhat violent, but this was brilliantly done and all the kids were clearly enthralled - as were we.  Seriously, if you're in the area you really should go along - you can book via The Dukes website, but don't hang around as I know tickets are selling fast.

As we wandered back through Lancaster to catch the last train there was live music belting out of at least 4 different pubs and I must admit, if there had been a later train we may have lingered a little longer, but our Hobbit hole beckoned and anyway, my hairy feet were getting tired...

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