Sunday, 15 January 2012

Ashby De La Zouch Castle & the National Brewery Museum

Today was a fine, albeit brisk, Sunday afternoon so we decided to hit a couple of sites.  The first was the Ashby de la Zouch Castle [wiki link] just over 30 minutes away.  It was going to be a family affair as usual, but Alex attended a sleepover birthday party with 6-8 other boys and let's just say he wasn't quite up for it.  So, it turned into a nice father/daughter day out.

Coincidentally, my buddy Jay happened to visit the castle yesterday (great minds think alike) and I am going to shamelessly plagiarize his blog for the description (thanks Jay).  Any factual errors are Jay's fault.  :-)

The castle was built in the 12th century as a fortified manor house.  William, Lord Hastings, acquired it in the late 1400's and made improvements to the property, including fortifying it into a castle.  (A side note on William was that he was a very generous lord, he paid his servants too much and didn't charge his guests at all which led to massive debt.  Generosity was probably not very common in those times.)  The castle eventually became an important footnote in the English Civil War.  The owners at the time were on the side of the Royalists, or Cavaliers, and housed retreating Royalist forces in 1645.  The Parliamentarians . . . caught up to the Royalists at the castle and laid siege to it from September 1645 to March 1646.  Terms of surrender were eventually negotiated with the family being allowed to leave because the castle was never breached.  (Some kind of chivalry thing I guess - the better the loser fights the more favourable their terms are.)  Some of the Royalist forces were killed but the castle was demolished as part of the terms which is why it is in ruins. 

The castle is also famous from Sir Walter Scott's 1819 novel Ivanhoe.  The novel mentions the castle by name
[Steve here] and turned it into a tourist attraction in the 19th century.  

The audio tour didn't take itself too seriously and actually featured some role play acting between the 2 characters that both Nicole and I enjoyed (better than a dry monologue). 

On to the photos . . .

A shot of Nicole on the grounds.  I wanted to make sure to get the frost.  It was just above freezing but obviously not in the shade.

View of what remains of the tower.  The rest was blown up as part of the surrender.  Look at those blue skies.  We don't get that too often this time of year.  Or any, really.

Sunken gardens and more frost.

Closer view of the tower.  We would walk the 98 large steps up to the top.  It's a rule of castle viewing -- you must climb to the top!  Larger rooms on the left; smaller on the right.  I find it interesting to see these multi-story cutaways without the floors.

at the top as promised

 view of the [former] gardens below

semi-artistic shot #1 -- I liked the funky moss at the top

St. Helen's Church next door.  Can you make out the remaining Roman numerals on the lower part of the former clock?  At least that's what I thought it was but the numbers are 6, 9, 7 and 3.  What?

semi-artistic shot #2.  Nicole requested this one.

arches from long-ago vaulted ceiling

School next door.  Wouldn't that be creepy?  It's only 100 years old or so.  Modern even.

semi-artistic shot #3

self shot -- if only my arms were a little longer -- happy days

very cool tunnel within the complex -- very dark, most of the light is from the flash

 good shot of Nicole and the castle ruins from across the grounds

On our way from Ashby to site #2 in Burton-upon-Trent, we saw this Greyhound Inn. Had to stop and take a photo given our history with greyhounds.  Too bad there's a tacky curry night sign up.

Quick tangent on the drive.  It wasn't that far away but it was painfully slow through many towns.  I actually like the roundabout system here in the UK for the most part, but this route had lots of mini-roundabouts with painted circles rather than a median in the middle.  Very difficult when you aren't familiar with the area.  Don't care for the mini-roundabouts.

Next stop was clearly my vote and not Nicole's.  Burton upon Trent has quite a brewery tradition and the National Brewery Centre  is located here.  Two of the larger breweries were Worthington and Bass which merged back in 1927.  In the early 2000's it was purchased by Molson Coors!  From the Burton wiki page:

For centuries, Burton has been associated with the brewing industry. This is due to the quality of the local water, which contains a high proportion of dissolved salts, predominantly caused by the gypsum in the surrounding hills. This allowed a greater proportion of hops, a natural preservative, to be included in the beer, thereby allowing the beer to be shipped further afield. Much of the open land within and around the town is protected from chemical treatment to help preserve this water quality.

a very large can o' Bass

 only 4 ingredients in most beers -- barley, hops, yeast and water (cool beer wiki)

The photo above is an example of what they have in the museum (stressing the more manual aspects of beer making before mechanization). Given the off-season, I should have tempered my expectations, but I was a little disappointed.  They still have guided tours at 11 but we missed that by a lot.  The shire horses, steam engine and actors are off until spring.  There was a decent amount of info for a self tour.  It was okay but not great.  I'd recommend waiting until spring for those interested.  No actual brewing on the tour either, btw.

Ah, but we did get samples (unfortunately served in these dentist rinse cups).  These are my 4.  Nicole got soda -- I didn't take hers.  I also opted for the mid-tour break rather than the end tour sample since I was driving and all.   I had Worthington's Winter Shield, Worthington's White Shield, Brewery Tap and a stout (8%!).  Can't say I was that impressed.  The Brewery Tap was the best and the Winter Shield was okay.  The stout was pretty bitter and the White Shield was nasty.  I've realized that I prefer American or Belgian beers.

A rare Coors Light tap.  Don't know that I've seen one here but I haven't been looking either.

Had to settle for a life sized photo of a Shire Horse (bred for pulling heavy loads like grain and beer carts).  Nicole was purposely placed to cover the anatomy (it was a little graphic for some in this audience).

 very cool beer bottle car in the not so cool winter shed

Ah yes, my wonderful wife.  I did not forget her.  As mentioned earlier, Alex was at a sleep over last night so we capitalized by ditching Nicole and having our first UK date (after 10 months -- phew).  We went to a nice gastro pub up the road in Duffield called The White Hart.   Kuk had a seafood pizza for her main.  Notice the rocket (arugula) in the middle.  Very British.

I splurged and got the fillet (pronounced fill it here -- snicker, snicker).  Came with a wonderful peppercorn sauce, fancy potatoes, onion rings, grilled tomatoes and marinated portabella mushroom.  I found a good British steak!  (though not cheap at all, in fact the filet mignon here is quite pricey -- this was £23; okay for a special occasion).

 shared dessert of another local treat -- sticky toffee pudding

Continuing on the weekly food theme:  Nicole made a challenging vegetarian chili with cheese quesadillas).   It was a good effort but we all wished for some ground beef in the end.  :-)  Kuk missed out on this as she continued her jet setting ways and was in Germany the latter half of the week.

And finally to follow up from last week, here's where the "polenta" (corn meal) ended up.  Sauteed chicken with an interesting salsa of mango, corn, beets, cilantro and garlic.  Better than it looks (food pictures are tough).

That's all for this week.  Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

  1. Nice self shot pic at Ashby. You're welcome on the plagiarizing. Agreed on the audio tour, they were more entertaining than some of the stuffy serious audio tours we have taken. Bummer on the brewery tour, maybe we will wait until a srping rainy day.