Last Sunday I headed out to Beeston Castle with the famalam. My work-life balance has been absolutely shocking lately and it was absolutely essential for me to get out and not think about teaching and lesson plans for a while. With my Tudor Gothic module coming to an end, I was craving some Gothic vibes; Gothic castles, overcast weather, the mood that Horace Walpole described as ‘gloomth’. So after a scan around Google Maps (and adding a couple of places to my ‘Want To Go’ pile) I landed on Beeston Castle. It’s only a 50-minute drive from me so I set off with the mother and met up with my sister and her husband when we got there.
The drive was alright, even with my mum’s not-so-precise directions.
‘Which way, mum?’
*Proceeds to gesture someone writing with their right hand without actually saying turn right*
‘Which lane should I be in?’
‘Mum, which lane do I need to be in?’
‘I DON’T KNOW JESS! IT’S NOT TALKING TO ME AND I CAN’T READ THE MAP!’
You’ve got to love the chaos.
The route was pretty scenic and there were some gorgeous views on the way. We crossed the Runcorn Bridge, sailed through little Welsh villages, over rivers and past fields; Mum had her eyes on the passing houses as usual.
We got to Beeston Castle at 11.30 and parked up. Parking was £3 and entry was about a tenner. While we waited for Beck and Rob, we headed to the little cafe just outside of the visitor centre. We both ordered tomato and lentil soup and drinks. Seating was all outdoors which was fine for the overcast, mild weather.
I tried to set me mum up with the guy running the cafe. She told me to f**k off.
When Beck and Rob got there we headed back to the visitor centre. I bought myself a fancy ring that now rests on my index finger, ready for me to regally point at people with scornful judgement. We also learned a little bit about the castle: that it was built in the early 1220s by Ranulf (sixth Earl of Chester); it was never fully completed (with the domestic buildings remaining unconstructed); it’s seen battle in the 1645 Civil War; and in the late 19th century, the ruins became a site for a popular charity fête called Bunbury Fair.
Once we were all sorted, we headed up through the woods, towards the castle. It was a short walk to the outer wall before reaching the inner keep about 10 minutes later. This part of the castle was well-maintained and it had an imposing air, sitting atop the hill, overlooking the ocean of emerald countryside.
We headed across the newly built bridge over the surrounded ditch, which could have easily been a moat in earlier times. We reminisced about the cartoons where castles had crocodiles in moats, then we discussed the reality of putting sharks in moats before carrying on to look around. I, personally, am terrified of sharks so I’m glad that having them in moats wasn’t (and isn’t) a common occurance.
The views were amazing – a 360-degree landscape. Fields, sheep, cows, mountains, the Mersey, towns, villages, winding roads stretched out as far as you could see. The wind was strong at the top and my hair at this point looked like an actual flame. We were distracted by a well for about ten minutes- looking down it, guessing where it led, imaging there was a guy chilling at the bottom, dropping sticks down the grid, and listening out for the bang, imagining that we’d hit said guy with the sticks. It turns out the well was very, very deep.
Heading down from the inner keep we circled over to the Roundhouse – a bronze age replica metal-working hut; fitted with historically-accurate tools, a log-burning fire, and skinned dead boar – yum.
It was an interesting and unique experience. We were invited inside by the volunteers posted there who were really welcoming and full of information. We learned that it took nine months to build the roundhouse, using historically-accurate tools, and was completed in 2019. Beck sat by the fire for a little bit, enjoying the sweet, incense-like smoke from the fire before we headed off again to finish our woodland walk.
The rest of the walk took about 20-30 minutes and we got to see some caves that were at the foot of the castle. Beck tried to convince mum that she could see someone in the darkness. Mum was not impressed.
After our little adventure, we headed off again to a farm shop that we’d seen on the way to the castle, called The Hollies Farm Shop. It was gigantic; fitted with a cafe, outdoor seating, garden centre, farm shop, and gift shop. The produce alone was well worth travelling out for.
We reconvened at the outdoor seating area, locally-grown groceries successfully hauled into the car, and planned where to go for lunch.
Sunday dinner was on the mind so we went to The Goshawk, just on the outskirts of Chester.
Wood-burning fires, comfy seating, attentive service, and pretty nice food made for a cosy experience. It was like stepping into someone’s very welcoming living room. The red cabbage and roasties were awesome, as well as the quinoa, beetroot and edamame roast. The only issue was that they were stingy with gravy, but I’m sure we’ll get over that.
My little day out was well-needed. I was tempted to say well-deserved but I’m trying to readjust my mindset away from believing that rest needs to be earned. Rest and/or a break from routine is a necessary part of a healthy life – no matter how hard you work – and it’s something that I’m hoping to do more of going forward as I try to reintroduce more of a work-life-study balance.
If you’re feeling that nudge for change and/or rest, it doesn’t have to be a drive out to a castle. You could go for a walk somewhere new, try out a different fitness class, visit a friend’s house, host a Come Dine With Me dinner party, watch a film/series that’s been on your list for a while, journal, watch YouTube videos on a skill you’ve been meaning to practice or even remove your alarm for one morning and give yourself a lie-in. What you do isn’t that important, it’s about giving yourself permission to do it. That’s something I’m still struggling with, the guilt of taking time for myself, but not only is it nice to take a break – it is absolutely essential.
How do you wind down? Do you need to do it a little more often?