The Little Castle is very well-preserved, especially all the wall & ceiling paintings, which are amazingly detailed with vivid colors. Much of the gilded paneling is still bright, and no surprise that I liked the aqua ceiling in the Star Room. ;)
We had an audio tour so I was surprised when inside one "closet" off the Star Room there was recorded music playing...an instrumental version of the Round of Three Country Dances sung on the bus on tour that I learned 20 years ago! I recorded some video to hear the music with the paintings that featured a musical theme.
We enjoyed seeing everything, then of course we had to visit the gift shop. They had tastings of mead & elderflower wine, the first white wine Cyd has enjoyed, and they had Henry's Horned Helmet as a keychain! We also found out that Bank of Ireland pounds aren't accepted, and neither of us had realized that the same ATM in Newry had given me all Bank of England notes but all Bank of Ireland to Cyd. Before she changed them at a local bank in town, I took a photo, since the designs were much more elaborate. We also stopped at the antique store right by the parking lot, where I found a small apothecary bottle for my Halloween laboratory collection, and a tiny hardback 1888 edition of Shakespeare's Henry IV.
It was already past 1:30pm with only toast for breakfast, so we were definitely hungry. We went to the Hardwick Inn next to Hardwick Hall, and to my wonderful surprise they had Addlestones cider on tap - my inspiration to start homebrewing! Addlestones is the cider I first tasted in 2004 that I've only been able to find at the Windsor Castle Pub in Notting Hill, London, until today! Since I knew there was no way we can get to that pub before we fly home, I'm very glad I had the chance for an Addlestones this trip! I enjoyed a full pint with my steak & stilton pie. Cyd decided to taste a local bitter beer instead of having Guinness, but when given the choice of chips, potatoes or rice with her cottage pie and she chose rice, the waitress and Chris both were horrified & asked 3 times if she was sure! Cottage pie already has mashed potatoes, so she didn't want more of the same, but I guess gravy with rice is a huge shock. I see no problem with gravy on rice either. She enjoyed her lunch regardless of the reaction. ;)
After lunch we toured Hardwick Hall, built by Bess of Hardwick, childhood & lifelong friend of Queen Elizabeth and 2nd most powerful woman of the Elizabethan Age. We even saw the "keys to the castle" at the gatehouse when we paid our entrance fee. :) Very impressive house, reminiscent in style to Chatsworth House, which was owned by the same family. This house has the largest collection of textiles & tapestries in England and in the best condition, so those were beautiful to see.
The wood table in the great hall was a masterpiece of inlay work, showing various amusements, including playable game boards, musical instruments and even sheet music. I took lots of interior photos, especially of the tapestries, since one day I want to either paint or make my own tapestry, but I just haven't figured out what design yet. :)
The Long Gallery was quite impressive, and there were several "please touch" children's exhibits along the way, so Chris & Cyd had to assemble the portrait puzzles, and Janet & Cyd dressed up in frilled collars and jewels, posing with their best portrait faces. ;) The painted hangings were stunning, and a lady next to me commented in awe "you rarely see painted hangings since most of them have deteriorated" so nice to be able to see those, even if only a quick photo to appreciate later. We were already warned that the house was closing in 15 minutes with the tea shop closing soon afterwards, and all the senior citizens on a bus tour moved faster than ever to make it to tea in time. Pretty funny! We did have tea ourselves with scones & clotted cream...yum!
We left the house in drizzle to see the gardens, then it cleared up a bit for a last few photos before we got in the car to head back to Janet & Chris' brick house in the Doncaster suburbs for spaghetti dinner. Just yesterday I was commenting about how many rainbows we saw in Ireland, but that all my time spent in the UK since my first visit in 1996 I had only seen a rainbow in Scotland, never England...then today from the car we saw a rainbow! Maybe that will mean good weather luck for Whitby tomorrow? ;)