You may be wondering how we came to be in Blackpool when our next stop was supposed to be the Lake District but we were very long on time as the distance between Buxworth and Keswick is just 2 hours and 25 minutes going via Manchester, Bolton and Preston. As our check-in time at Howe Keld was after 3.30pm and we left Wood Cottage at 9.30 am, we had at least 4 hours to kill.
Alex had already planned a visit to the last original temperance bar in Britain - Fitzpatrick's in Rawtenstall, Lancashire - to sample some of their non-alcoholic cordials so our first stop was already planned. After an unexciting trip skirting Manchester on the M50 then taking the M66 past Bury to Rawtenstall we easily found Fitzpatrick's; finding somewhere to park was a little trickier.
Having secured a spot in a free parking area we walked back to the tiny shop at 5 Bank Street and entered Mr. Fitzpatrick's Temperance Bar, the last of its kind and, at around 10.30am on a Monday, bereft of customers. Inside it was quite dimly lit and not hard to believe that the place is over 120 years old - it certainly felt like we'd stepped back into Victorian times (except of course for the young man at the counter who looked more like something out of Trainspotting) and after examining the shelves and the drinks menu we decided to sample some of the famous cordial; Alex chose traditional sarsaparilla and I had the dandelion and burdock.
The cordial is made up at the counter and we duly handed over our money and were presented with two glasses, both cordials the same colour. After some thought the bar-keeper pointed and said he thought the one on the left was the sarsaparilla. As it turned out he was right but it was pretty much a "suck it and see" approach. I hope he never gets a crowd in as remembering two orders appeared to challenge his intellect! As soon as he had served us he left us alone in the shop while he sat outside with his cigarettes and mobile phone. In fact, when Alex decided she wanted to buy a bottle of the cordial to bring home she had to go outside and fetch him - and then he asked if we'd already paid for our drinks. Obviously he was having memory issues on that day - if not every day!
Our verdict on the cordial? It was actually very nice. I'm used to having Dandelion and Burdock as a carbonated drink and thought as a still cordial it might not translate well but it was possibly better than the soft drink version. I didn't buy any simply because I knew that I couldn't accommodate the bottle in my luggage, which was a shame as I would have liked a memento of the experience.
On our way once more we took the scenic route via the coast which, ultimately, led us to Blackpool. It seemed worth a look and the day was turning out to be just perfect weather-wise so we parked on the Golden Mile near the Pleasure Beach and set off to explore. Alex had already checked out the Pleasure Beach online and we'd considered getting a pass and experiencing the thrill of the Big Dipper and the other rides but it was nearly 30 pounds each and Alex thought we would not get value for money in the time we had so we had dismissed it as an option. Of course, once we saw the roller-coasters in action we wished we had taken the plunge (so to speak) after all.
Leaving the Pleasure Beach behind us we walked along the beach-front for a while then went down onto the sand and walked as far as the north pier, almost to Blackpool Tower. It was amazing to still see donkey rides on the beach, something that has been a part of the Blackpool experience for years. In fact, I believe that some of the arcades ans amusements are still the same ones that were opersating when I visited the Illuminations as a kid! I have to say though that I would rather see the donkey rides and horse-drawn carriages disappear from Blackpool; an anachronism, they have no place in this day and age and I feel sorry for these poor animals.
We had paid for 3 hours parking so after looking around the Tourist Information Centre Alex hit on the idea of visiting Madam Tussaud's. Buying the tickets at the centre was much cheaper than at the door so Alex picked up a couple and we headed back down the main street, stopping for some fresh, hot doughnuts on the way which we ate while sitting on the promenade and people-watching. We then spent some time looking at the "Comedy Carpet" before finally entering the world of Madam Tussaud.
What can I say? It was fun. We embraced the moment and had our photos taken by the staff at set tableaux throughout the centre in such ridiculous poses as being part of a police line-up, in silly hats at the beach-front holding a giant stick of Blackpool rock and hanging from a skyscraper being rescued by Spiderman. Of course, when all is said and done it's just a way to get extra dollars from visitors by selling the photos but it was a bit of fun and we duly paid up at the end of the day for our pictures. Having seen some of the po-faced people behind us grumpily refusing to take part (even though there's no obligation to buy anything) I'm glad we did!
Alex posed with everyone from Freddie Mercury to Sooty & Sweep, although in the odd lighting I was having difficulty getting good shots with my Nikon and in the end it was the iPhone camera that was taking the best pictures. Go figure.
By the time we came out of the exhibit it was getting on for 3.30pm and we had just enough time to get back to the parking area before our ticket expired. Once again on our way, we drove out of Lancashire and into Cumbria driving by the scenic towns of Windermere and Ambleside before arriving in Keswick just after 5pm.