Thursday, 24 April 2014

Watermouth Castle

 We spent last week on holiday at our castle. There it is, up there, look!

And also up there - a bit closer.
Only it isn't really our castle, of course, It belongs to the Haines family who have restored it and now run it as a theme park with half a dozen holiday apartments in the castle itself. This is our fourth or fifth holiday at Watermouth and it's the setting I chose for my first book.

There it is in the days of sepia. Not only is it not our castle, it isn't even a real castle. It's a country house built to resemble one. A folly. For some reason, this makes me like it even more. 

Now that my book 'The Secrets of Darkmere' is going to be published, I was even more excited than usual to be back at Watermouth Castle. It was a similar feeling to the excitement that comes over me in bookshops. When I was on the receiving end of rejections from agents, I had to stop going into Waterstones for a while. All those published books made me feel sad and defeated. But now I love book shops again - and as I get near to the YA shelves in particular, I come over quite tingly! 

I've wanted to write a story with a grandiose and spooky setting ever since I first read Rebecca (about thirty years ago!) Manderley has to be the ultimate country-house-as-character in a book.

Some of my other favourites are...

Godsend Castle from I Capture the Castle                                   Brideshead
San Salvatore from The Enchanted April                                     Pemberley
The Great Gatsby's mansion                                                      Gosford Park

And Fiercombe Manor from my friend, Kate Riordan's book 'The Girl in the Photograph' which is completely awesome and will be published next year.

There are beautiful gardens in the valley behind the castle, full of fountains, topiary, tropical planting and the sort of rhododendrons and azaleas that Daphne du Maurier wrote about.  



Apart from the gardens, there are several other things that I've mentioned in my book - and that I revisited last week. These include...

This weird little pepperpot building that looks out to sea from one of the Watermouth cliff-tops...

 The woods...

These old gateposts hidden under the ivy...

And this long path carpeted entirely in wild garlic.

Although we had a lovely time, I'm not convinced we'll be going back to Watermouth any time soon because - yikes - no wifi! Husband and self wondered how much we'd miss it and decided we could cope. We would read improving books and perhaps even talk to each other (yeah, right!) But we couldn't have known how dependent the boys had become on their ipads. Very - is the answer.
It's mostly the fault of this individual...

Damn you, Stampy - for being as addictive as crack to 7 - 11 year olds everywhere! Almost every day we had to seek out restaurants and cafes with free wifi so the eleven-year-old could check out what his favourite YouTubers were uploading. And without the internet to keep both boys quiet, self and husband had to (horrors!) entertain them ourselves. So the holiday was an endless round of swimming-then-crazy golf-then-a trip to the beach-then swimming again until we were exhausted. By the third or fourth day I had the sort of muscle aches that usually follow excessive aerobic and weight-lifting exercises. Pah - so much for relaxing and catching up on my reading!

Eleven-year-old contemplates the path of garlic and wonders why there are still parts of the world without instant access to images of MrStampyCat laughing insanely as he falls into yet more molten lava...Why, cruel world? Why? 


  1. Hi Helen, sounds like the usual family holiday with the kids in tow! We visited Watermouth with our girls (a good few years ago now) so thanks for the little trip down memory lane. I have a photo of Alice leaning over the railing at the end of the walkway with the overhanging wisteria. She was probably about 4. I seem to remember a button to press to make some puppet move was there? I also remember a little roundabout on the lawn. Ah happy days of innocence!

    We are supposed to be having our broadband updated next week so fingers crossed it won't throw us all in a spin again here! Amazing how we ever coped before it was invented. xx

  2. Yep, lots of rides, lots of puppets and quite a few dancing robots. One morning, when eleven-year-old had been especially moany about the lack of wifi, we took him to the foam-ball-shooting range and shot at him for a hour. Would definitely recommend something similar if your girls complain too much when their broadband is being interfered with xx

  3. Gaming media is a challenge for parents today. I see this with my grandchildren, although there are probably good things learned too. There really is no turning back except to teach our children (and ourselves) how to balance this with the real world, and it sounds like you're doing a great job at that :)
    I'm a sucker for the pics and walkways (I Capture the Castle is one of my favorite books). Congrats too on your first book!


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