Last week Cliff and I took a quickly planned holiday - a road trip joining up some places we'd always meant to see but hadn't yet got round to visiting.
Our first stop was Durham, I wanted to see the great Norman Cathedral, the resting place of St Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede. Not doing our homework, we had no idea our visit coincided with Lumiere - the UK's biggest light festival! It also coincided with Abigail, the first of this year's Autumnal Atlantic Gales (which now have names to give the media an excuse for more amusing headlines).
We braved the elements and after spending a day exploring Durham and the ancient cathedral, after dark we managed to see most of the light installations - I shared some photos and videos on Instagram.
This is one of the installations in the cathedral cloisters - it's made from plastic drinks bottles.
Which transform into a Rose Window when illuminated.
Our next stop was Kirkcudbright on the south Galloway coast, you may have seen BBC Autumnwatch which was recently from Caerlaverock nature reserve, which was a few miles along the coast. If you did, you probably remember Martin Hughes Games watching Salmon swimming in the river at Dumfries. He stood on a bridge near a picturesque weir...
This is my selfie by that very weir ... I was lucky to keep my feet dry, as the aftermath of storm Abigail had filled the river to overflowing!
At Caerlavrock we saw the flocks of Barnacle geese through the driving rain and fog and decided not to walk around all the reserve in the mud!
But the weather wasn't bad all of the time ... we drove to the most southerly point of Scotland, The Mull of Galloway, where the strong winds blew the rain clouds and almost blew us away too!
Autumnal colours seen after soft Scottish rain seem to have a special luminous quality.
We did some short hikes in the Galloway Forest, where we saw lots of Red Kites - you can see one perched in the tree above.
Misty views to the Solway Firth in the far distance
and over moors, mellow with russet bracken and ochre grasses.
One afternoon we walked around the beautiful secret Rigg Bay on The Machers peninsula.
After 3 lovely relaxing days (staying here, which was fab!) it was time to start heading south again .... via Morecambe
where we stopped for lunch at the Midland Hotel ... if you like 1930s design, I recommend you visit
looking up through the stairs to Eric Gill's Neptune and Triton medallion (which was painted by his son-in-law Denis Tegetmeier)
and a beautiful wall freize - it's behind the reception desk and impossible to photograph but this detail gives you a taste of the whole.
In the rotunda bar/bistro are murals based on the original (sadly lost) designs by Eric and Tirzah Ravilious. The originals were photographed in black and white at the hotel's opening ...
That night while we slept in a hotel just north of Liverpool, another storm swept in from the Atlantic, Storm Barney was still blowing when we went for an early morning stroll to the beach - the tiny figures in the distance are the Iron Men of Anthony Gormley's 'Another Place'.
Barney blew the fine sand into our pockets and ears and mouths! (I'm not sure if this little film is going to work, if it doesn't you can try here)
Time to leave Liverpool...
but not before a stroll around Sefton Park ... that statue looks familiar!
It's an exact copy of the famous Eros fountain by Alfred Gilbert at Piccadilly Circus in London.
I've never taken a close look at the lower part of the fountain, it's often boarded up in London so revellers can't climb all over it. But if you get a chance to - in London or Liverpool - it's an Art Nouveau treat ...
The Sefton Park version has the added value of splishy splashy water trickling around the slithery fish and chubby cheeked children.
With the cobwebs blown out of our heads we're back home again and feeling strong enough to put all ghastly news reports in perspective. The cold weather is here and Christmas fast approaching ... and I'm already working on the illustration for January's Gardens Illustrated magazine!