Living in Australia – Part 2: My first Christmas away from my parents (Christmas Special!)

Hello my little demons!

Sorry this Christmas Special is a little late, been a little busy lately. But hopefully better late than never, right?

If you haven’t read part 1 yet, read it here!

So, a small update before I begin which my Christmas Special blog post!

In 2009, at just 21 years old (ten years ago!), I went to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa. With my ex-boyfriend. It was both an exciting trip and a nightmare!

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Looking at the above photo of me (yes, this was on Christmas day!), you would think I was a happy person, but Christmas back in 2009 was horrendous.

It hadn’t even been a month into my Australian Working Holiday Visa yet I already had lost a lot of money, had a nasty break up with my boyfriend (I talk about this in my previous post), my relationship with my family in Australia was on edge and was now starting to question what to do with my life.

My ex and I had a small plan to build a new life in Australia, my Aunt and her husband had done just this, so we questioned whether we could too. But after finally realising the person he was, I knew that new and relatively young plan we had was crushed.

Now what do I do?

Over the Christmas period my mood was low, not only had I broken up with my boyfriend, I didn’t know what to do with my life, I was unknowingly suffering with depression and I was away from my close friends and my parents, whom I had never spent a christmas apart.

Christmas day 2009 was spent at the house of my Aunt and Uncle’s friends’, along with my step-cousin and a friend of his. It was a very hot day, as unlike the northern hemisphere where we hope for a white Christmas, Australia is in the peak of their summer. It was that warm that a couple of people took a dip in the pool.

Christmas 2009 016(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: A selection of prawns freshly caught for Christmas.

Christmas dinner was a BBQ, mainly focusing on freshly caught seafood, including some rather large prawns and playing a few silly games like this fun spin on Russian roulette which involved a plastic gun which would fire a pin into a water balloon

I remember having a phone call with the other side of the world with my parents at one point. I went off into the dark garden to take the private call and at the time feeling a little upset at the thought of what had previously happened, but then my parents opened the flood gates when they rang.

Luckily the day wasn’t a complete waste with my low mood and homesickness, I do remember a few laughs and good times. I remember my step-cousin’s friend disappearing and someone found him in a bedroom asleep. I took photos as my step-cousin and one other person started drawing something obscene on the side of his face, I remember him waking up and sitting down in the garden again, with a few people making puns, all the while he had no idea what was on the side of his face.

DSC00693(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: Secret santa present from my step-cousin.

I remember my step-cousin had me as a secret santa and had bought me a remote controlled lamborghini and I was extremely happy with it, not just having a cool gadget and a cool car, but the fact he knew me well enough to know I’d like it.

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(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: Side-show Penny.

I remember someone had the bright idea to stand underneath a hanging plant and looked like Sideshow Bob from the Simpsons, and a few others, including myself took part in this ridiculous photo opportunity.

I also remember someone bringing out their pet rat and I instantly fell in love.

So, although it wasn’t the best Christmas I’ve ever had, it certainly was one to remember.

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If you liked this post, please do give it a like! And feel free to leave a comment!
~Penny (Aka The Girl Who Whispered).

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If you liked this blog post, please do check out my others:

A small trip to Reading – Wokefield Mansion

Douglas, South Lanarkshire – A Hidden Gem

Best places to visit in South Lanarkshire

Rose Garden Sanatorium – Chapter 5

Happy Birthday! But why do we celebrate?

Remember, Remember, the 5th of November…

The HALO Trust: Safe Steps – Challenge Complete!

I won! I came first in the Earnesty Writer’s Awards 2018 Paranormal Genre!

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Best places to visit in South Lanarkshire

I’ve had the lovely experience living in South Lanarkshire for a while, also recently having to move back to the area, and I figured I’d write about what the best places are in the area.

New Lanark

New Lanark is definately one of my favourites. A UNESCO World Heritage Site because of it’s 18th-century village built up around an old cotton mill and next to the River Clyde. Definitely a lovely place to go if you’re a keen photographer.

If you’re a history buff too, or just generally like a day out, it’s not a bad site, not only can you walk around the area and soak up the buildings and the working old mill, but there is also a number of attractions to see, from the roof garden, Robert Owen’s School for children, Millworker’s House and Robert Owen’s House to name a few.

There is also a cafe and shop on site, the New Lanark Mill Shop. Although the cafe isn’t exactly the most comfortable, as it looks more functional than anything, it still does some half-decent hot foods, cold foods and drinks. During the summer months, they also have New Lanark Ice Cream in the usual flavours, but some not to usual, such as Irn Bru (I’d recommend!)

The shop is also large and has a variety of items being sold, of course there is a huge section dedicated to Wool and Textiles, but they also sell clothes, books, jewelry, home wear and foods!

New Lanark also has it’s own Hotel, the New Lanark Mill Hotel, if you’d like to stay in the area, which also has it’s own bar and restaurant. I’ve had the pleasure of both eating and drinking there, it has a beautiful bar area, although it can get busy during the summer months as it doesn’t have a lot of seating. And I can’t comment on the dining, as I went there for Christmas dinner one year, and unfortunately wasn’t that impressed, hopefully a typical evening meal would be more enjoyable.

But aside from the odd negatives, I still enjoy going back frequently.

(c) Photographs by Penny Hooper. No sharing/copying without permission.

Falls of Clyde

If you visit New Lanark, I’d also recommend the walk along the river to see the Falls of Clyde. Autumn is my favourite time of year to go, as the leaves on the trees are turning all types of beautiful colours and if you go just after a decent rain fall, the falls will be spectacular! Remember to charge up your camera!

It’s a bit of a walk, so it’s not ideal for those who aren’t very able-bodied, and there are a few steps. It can also get a little muddy in places, so I’d take some shoes you don’t mind getting a little dirty and take a decent coat with you just in case the weather turns. It is roughly about an hour and a half to Corra Linn and back.

There are four Linns in total. Corra Linn (Linn is Scottish Gaelic for Waterfall) is the tallest, and I’d recommend seeing this one at least. But you also have Bonnington Linn, Dundaff Linn (closest to New Lanark) and Stonebyres Linn (lower falls).

If you’re adventurous enough, like I am, I’d recommend walking all the way to the bridge/Weir (Bonnington Weir) and walk across the other side and along to the right, following the river. Here you can see Bonnington Linn. You can even walk as far as Corra Castle, although it’s not a huge castle, it is hidden away in the undergrowth (apparently home to some rare bats!)

If you’re even more adventurous than I am, the walk along the river can take you all the way into Glasgow! Have a look at the South Lanarkshire Council website for the maps: https://www.southlanarkshire.gov.uk/downloads/download/258/clyde_walkway

Alongside the Falls, if you’re an animal and/or nature fan, the Falls of Clyde have a Wildlife Reserve. They have regular evening badger watches, wildlife themed events and even interactive toys and games for children. For more information check out the Scottish Wildlife Trust website: https://scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/reserve/falls-of-clyde/ They claim to have a Peregrine watch site a third of the way up, but I have a feeling there are no Peregrine Falcons nesting in the area anymore.

(c) Photographs by Penny Hooper. No sharing/copying without permission.

Biggar

Going the other way, towards the Scottish Borders, is a little town called Biggar (ironically). It’s a medival town built in 1451 and has a wealth of attractions for such a small town. The only downside I can personally comment, is unlike it’s cousins towns and villages in the Scottish Borders, it doesn’t have the beautiful backdrop of hills and mountains around it.

However, there are lots of things to do. From the world famous Victorian puppet theatre, Biggar & Upper Clydesdale Museum and Biggar Gasworks Museum (the only preserved gas works in Scotland).

Biggar is also home to a number of festivals and events, with the famous Biggar Little Festival which is held in October each year, which celebrates arts, dance, crafts, drama and literature. If you stay around until New Year, you may also catch the Hogmanay bonfire and torch-lit procession through the town. It also hosts argricultural shows and vintage car rallies.

Chatelherault Country Park

Going away from The Scottish Borders and past Lanark and New Lanark, closer to Glasgow is a town called Hamilton and just on the outskirts is Chaterherault Country Park.

A 18th century hunting lodge with 500 acres of countryside and woodland. In the summer it’s a great place to go with children, with picnic facilities and a large adventure play ground. Also a great place to go for dog walkers and adventurers alike.

The house and grounds are all free admission, which makes a great cheap day out, with a few of the rooms being open to the public to see, and a small museum inside of what life used to be like there. There is a Cafe inside and a Gift Shop and it is even a great place to hold a Wedding or Private Event.

The grounds offer many trails, the main reason why I go there, as the trails take you through a varity of walks, through woods, across/under bridges (i.e. The Duke’s Bridge) and along a river (River Avon). There is even a small castle ruins called Cadzow Castle (although the last time I saw it, the small castle was trapped within a maze of scaffolding!) and keep your eyes out for the Cadzow Cattle or White Park Cattle a rare breed of ancient horned cattle that live in a field right next to the lodge.

(c) Photographs by Penny Hooper. No sharing/copying without permission.

Bothwell Castle

On the other side of Hamilton, if Cadzow Castle wasn’t enough castle for you, there is 13th Century Bothwell Castle. Another cheap day out, at £3.00 each for an adult, £2.40 concession, £1.80 child (free for Children until 5) or if you’re a Young Scot Card Holder, it’s only £1.00!

There is a fair amount of Bothwell Castle still standing, but what is striking about the Castle is it’s reddish colour and the large tower (or donjon).

The land originally was owned by Walter of Moray who began the construction of the castle in the mid 1200s. But by the late 1200s, was the start of the Wars of Scottish Independence, and Bothwell was unfortunately in the line of fire.

There is a lot of history around Bothwell, more than a simple Blog post can explain, and which I will leave you guys to find out. But one last thing I will note is that Bothwell passed to the Black Douglases, which pops up again later in this blog post, so keep your eye out!

(c) Photographs by Penny Hooper. No sharing/copying without permission.

Douglas

Heading away from Glasgow and Hamilton, back past New Lanark, but the other side of the motorway from Biggar, is a little village called Douglas.

This is a little village hidden away, not many people know of, mainly because there aren’t many attractions here, yet it is steeped in history!

Douglas is where the Douglas family took their name, originally where the stronghold; Douglas Castle was built, as early as the 13th century. The original castle was destroyed and replaced a number of times, until the last building to stand on the site was a large 18th century mansion. Unfortunately this too was demolished in 1938 due to mining in the area, but a single 17th century corner tower still remains.

Douglas and Douglas Castle was also in the line of fire from the Wars of Scottish Independence in the early 1300s, having been captured by Lord Clifford, but Sir James Douglas, Robert the Bruce’s friend, recaptured his family seat. It was because of this, and the loyalty of the Douglases, Robert the Bruce rewarded the Douglases by creating the title Earl of Douglas.

For any literacy fans, like myself, the Castle itself was also where Walter Scott got his inspiration for his novel “Castle Dangerous”.

Although the remaining Castle tower is 17th century, this isn’t the oldest building in the village. St. Bride’s Church is 14th century and became the mausoleum of the Douglases. The church yard and a part of the old church is free to wander, to gain access inside you need prior arrangement.

There is a long story about Robert the Bruce, his heart and James Douglas, one that will require a seperate blog post, but a long story short, Robert the Bruce wished to go on a crusade, but Robert was unfortunately dying. He entrusted James Douglas to take his heart on a crusade. Douglas died in battle, his bones taken back to St. Bride’s Church and Bruce’s heart was eventually buried at Melrose Abbey (his body was buried in Dunfermline Abbey close to his wife’s).

There is a small museum (The Douglas Heritage Museum) which originally was St Sophia’s Chapel, located next to the church yard, but only opens at the weekends between 14:00 and 17:00 (although I am sure it’s usually during the summer months) or by special arrangement.

Douglas has a small claim to fame in recent years too, having been a site for filming of Agatha Christie’s Ordeal By Innocence. If you’re a fan of Agatha Christie, or have seen the series, you might recognise “The Cross Keys”, located on the High Street.

There are also lots of hidden places to walk around Douglas, up in the wooded hills around the area.

(c) Photographs by Penny Hooper. No sharing/copying without permission.

To read more about Douglas, places of interest, and the history, I’ve recently created a new blog: Douglas, South Lanarkshire – A Hidden Gem

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Please check out my other blog posts:

Ender’s Love – Chapter 1

The HALO Trust: Safe Steps – Challenge Complete!

New Full Book Trailer! For Rose Garden Sanatorium

I won! I came first in the Earnesty Writer’s Awards 2018 Paranormal Genre!

Rose Garden Sanatorium – Prologue

I’m abseiling 165ft for Barnardos!