Posted by: marymarthatours | October 28, 2012

A Surprise for Martha

On our recent England in Miniature Tour, Martha and I included a number of surprise visits for our group — locations that were not mentioned in the trip brochure. I’ve posted about our first day stop at Little Moreton Hall, near Manchester, and that day also included a fun stop at St. Mary’s Church in Astbury, where Fr. Jon gave us a humor-filled tour of the church.


St. Mary’s Church, Astbury


One of the best surprises of this trip was our dinner and evening at the Three Ways Hotel in Mickelton, not far from Stratford. We had publicized a “special dinner”, but did not say anything more about it. As we pulled up to the Three Ways Hotel, we announced that we would be attending our own private “Pudding Club” at the hotel. Our evening included dinner in the hotel’s elegant dining room, followed by a parade of four traditional English puddings, each one described by our host, hotel owner Peter Henderson. After sampling Bread & Butter Pudding, Jam Roly Poly, Ginger Syrup Pudding, and Very Chocolate Pudding – all accompanied by lavish helpings of custard sauce – we voted on our favorite. (It was a tie between Ginger Syrup Pudding and Very Chocolate Pudding.) Great food, much laughter, and wonderful company.

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The Puddings at the Three Ways Hotel


But my favorite “surprise” of the trip was the one that I provided for Martha. Our last day in England was Sunday, September 23rd. The plan was to leave our hotel in Stratford in the late morning and head for Birmingham to check into our hotel there before people returned to the Birmingham Miniatura Show for the afternoon. I was concerned that we would arrive in Birmingham too early for hotel check-in time, but our fabulous coach driver, Darren, came up with a brilliant idea. He suggested that we make a short stop somewhere to bridge the time gap. We put our heads together and decided on the perfect place.

We headed off, and I announced that we would be stopping at yet-another surprise location. “I know, I know”, guessed Martha, convinced that we were headed for Coventry Cathedral. We did go in the direction of Coventry, but that wasn’t our destination. Finally, as we entered the town of Kenilworth, Martha shouted, “Oh, I know where we’re going now. Yeah!” No sooner had she figured it out, than we pulled into the carpark for Kenilworth Castle.

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The magnificent ruins of Kenilworth Castle


Kenilworth Castle is one of my very favorite castle ruins. The setting, the history, the red color of the stonework, the opportunities for wonderful photos, all makes Kenilworth Castle a must-see place.

 clip_image012And now there is the recreated Elizabethan Garden as well. This garden is new since Martha and I last took a group to Kenilworth, and we have been anxious to see it. Guided by contemporary descriptions and archaeological evidence, the garden has been restored to look as it would have when, in 1575, Queen Elizabeth I visited Kenilworth, the home of would-be suitor Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

I knew that all of the travelers would love Kenilworth Castle, but I choose this last surprise mostly for my sister. Hope you enjoyed the garden, Martha.


 Martha and Vera get their first view of the Elizabethan Garden

(by Mary) 

Photo credits: St. Mary’s Astbury, Jennie L.;  Three Ways Hotel exterior, Joanne B.;  all others, Mary



  1. I actually LOVED this castle ruin more than the “liveable” Castle Howard, which we also visited! The ruin sparked my imagination and I found myself looking at it — not so much as a ruin — but as a castle in the making. At every turn I was able to visualize how those now partial walls and stairways would have been built and finished all those years ago. And to know I was walking where Queens once walked, and still do, was just beyond magical.

  2. Mary, really did get me with this surprise. I was so sure I knew where we were headed. I loved the Elizabethian garden. I actually got Mary with a big surprise at Barley Hall in York several days earlier (more on that later).
    Martha, the younger sister

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