Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Keswick - Pencil Museum and Puzzling Place

Place Name: Pencil Museum
Location: Keswick, England, CA12 5NG
Cost: Adults £4.50, Kids £3.50
Parking: Pay and display carpark to rear of building; £4 for all day
Time needed: hour to hour and a half
Restrictions: Must be on lead. If there is a demonstration on, dogs are not permitted in the cafe area but there is spaces to eat outside.
Refreshments: Cafe inside the gift shop area

The Pencil Museum was originally on the to-do list as a bit of a joke. One of the first places we found that allowed dogs inside, we simply had to take Missy and find out just how ridiculously twee the place would be...

The Pencil museum is well sign posted and easy to find. The car park gives you all day parking for £4, and that comes with a £1.50 off entry voucher, so we didn't begrudge that, especially as we'd already made plans to be spending the day in Keswick so the parking suited.  We had decided that we were going to stop for lunch first, so were a little caught out that due to the demonstration, Missy wasn't allowed into the cafe area (there's a small additional room that they are normally allowed in). There was plenty of outside sitting, so we braved the chill and ate out, though in hindsight there was a million dog friendly cafes and pubs barely five minutes away, so we should have just looked elsewhere.

We were pleasantly surprised within the museum - if anything, if wasn't big enough! There was a history on pencils and graphite in general, a section about the spy pencils from WW2, machinery and videos explaining how pencils are made and even tiny pencil lead sculptures! The floors were all carpeted so Missy was quite happy to lie down whilst we watched the videos.

The strangest thing for us was that no one batted an eyelid with having Missy in with us! She had a tremendous fuss made over her by the staff in the gift shop, bu other than that we were left to our own devices.

Overall rating : 5/5 - Surprisingly interesting and informative, staff were absolutely brilliant and really pleased to see us.

I now have a sausage dog!

Puzzling Place
Place Name: Puzzling Place
Location: Keswick, England, CA12 5DZ
Cost: Adults £3.75, Kids £2.90
Parking: A short walk from the Pencil Museum car park (£4 all day pay and display)
Time Required: 1 hour
Restrictions: None.
Refreshments: None.

This was a quick stop for after the Pencil Museum and the hubby particularly likes his puzzles and optical illusions. It was a short walk from where we'd parked which was ideal for us and was relatively well sign posted.

Up a flight of stairs and we entered a small shop before paying to go into the main attraction. For less than £4 it had a good mix of optical illusion posters, holograms and some very clever camera mounted sets that made it look like you were walking on the wall and things. Some of the holograms were a little worse for wear, but other than that it was well laid out, clean and very enjoyable.

Getting Missy to pose with the illusions was a little tricky, but other than that, we all had a good time!

Overall rating : 3/5 - A nice cheap way to kill an hour, but the low price does reflect on the exhibits.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Whinlatter Forest

Place Name:  Whinlatter Forest
Location: Lake District, England, CA12 5TW
Cost: Free
Parking: Plenty, pay and display
Walking distance: Variable, 1 hour to all day
Restrictions: Dogs are not allowed into the visitors centre, shop or cafe
Refreshments: Cafe by visitors centre (dogs allowed in outside seating area)

Whinlatter is the big brother of Grizedale which I reviewed previously. On that note, I will quickly start on their similarities and differences which are worth bearing in mind.

The parking is again pay and display, though more sensibly broken into hour blocks. I was more prepared this time and had plenty of change! A Go Ape is located within the forest, though this one felt more discretely placed to one side and tons of mountain bike trails. Missy, as I said previously, is on fairly strict lead walks because of her claw, so the odd bike whizzing by wasn't a problem, but should be noted for those who let their dogs free range, especially as the year warms up.
More carvings to find!
The one major difference that did surprise me is that the cafe in this one is not dog friendly (well, they can sit out under a shelter on a porch) and the prices are a touch more expensive - but you expect that when one place uses teabags and the other serves you loose tea leaves, a strainer and a menagerie of pots for it all!

Without sounding snobbish about trees, this forest is part of the forestry commission for felling and is a wave of evergreens. It is predominantly firs and pines with the odd lone birch tree making a spindly break for it. However, the forest still retains a natural feel, unlike the eerie endless rows of some forests and is well populated with birds and such. It is also huge. With the parking meter ever ticking in the back of my mind, we didn't stray off the marked routes (we did two walks, the yellow short walk and the blue medium walk) but there was plenty of 'off road' stuff to explore should you be a frequent visitor or decide to do a whole day.

Its difficult to really get the full scale of the place
We did have time for a little look at the playgrounds. Yes, plural. Whoever came up with splitting a play park into little bite sized pieces and spreading it across a walk was probably a genius. The areas we looked at were well made and designed, and we may have indulged in a go at what was effectively a giant sand pit toy but with pea gravel. The website also promises the Gruffalo (a statue of a children's book character) who we failed to find, but I suspect that he was tucked away on a separate little path rather than on a main one.

Overall rating : 4/5 - The parking (again) and the fact that the cafe didn't allow dogs whilst the sister site did pulled the score down. However, the paths are well kept, facilities were great and overall a great place to visit that could either be a tremendous morning walk or an all day thing.

Is that rabbit I smell on the wind?