Rutland

A flying visit to the smallest county in the country yesterday. There really isn't much to see or do, I stopped at Rutland Water but the weather seems to have broken for the Autumn and it was really quite nippy. So onwards to Oakham. Really just another pretty English town, sorry I can't say much more than that.

The main purpose of the quick trip was to go and see Simon, Fiona and Elspeth who is now 9 weeks old and was suffering from her first case of the sniffles. Even so she was still pretty happy, grinning and gurgling almost on cue. She's a lovely little thing (proud uncle alert).

We are off to London tomorrow for my birthday present - a carving course at Simpsons in the Strand. Even if I am rubbish at carving, at least we are guaranteed the best roast lunch in the country as a consolation prize. Just hope that the trains are OK for my first trip up in two weeks.

Wiltshire

Or henge county as it should be properly known.

I was meeting a friend in Devizes this morning but on the way popped off route to go to Stone Henge which was handily available. A lot of people say it is not as impressive as they thought it would be and it certainly isn't big but I liked it all the same. I still quite haven't worked out what a henge is but I know we should probably have more of them.

We headed off to another henge (Avebury) which I didn't even know existed. Much bigger but less complete it's set in a picturesque village. Along the way we managed to have a coffe in Devizes, a pub lunch in West Lavington and a drink in the pub next to the Avebury henge. I am not sure you'll find a much better way to spend a day. Unless you have an irrational hatred of henges and I have yet to meet anyone with that unfortunate affliction.

Dorset

I think the way to do Dorset is before Devon or Cornwall. Unfortunately the way that I have done it it's come off as being very much the slightly poor relation - still very nice and everything but not quite as impressive as Cornwall or Devon.

Oh well I got a chance to see Corfe Castle which we drove past when I came here on a school trip back in 1991. For once the fact that it's a ruin is as it's meant to be, it was pulled down deliberately during the civil war. And a very good job they did of it too.

Unfortunately when I got to Bournemouth in the evening my hotel room had gone so I got bounced to a B&B. I am now going to have to argue with the hotel who claimed that they were putting me into equivalent accommodation. A pity as everything else has gone so well over th elast few days but not the end of the world.

Devon

Another day of driving so that I could listen to the cricket which has just been superb. I don't remember an exciting test match series before. Usually I have them on in the background because it is good ambient noise but this has been genuinely gripping. Well done England.

So the first stop was Exeter, strange city. It is trying very hard to be olde worlde with lots of littles alley ways like York or somewhere but it doesn't work, everything seems have been built in the 60s and 70s which just didn't do "cute" architecture. That being said the cathedral is impressive and the quayside area is great for just sitting with a beer and just watching the world go by.

After that I headed right over to the other side of the county, the north coast and Ilfracombe. This was obviously a fishing town in the past but is now a pure tourist area because the landscape is so stunning. The houses overlooking the bay there must have some of the most stunning views in the country. Rather like my hotel room in Torquay which is high up overlooking the bay from the Imperial Hotel.

With another day of sunshine I am getting progressively more sunburnt to the point when I am more red than white now. Oh well got to make the most of it.

Cornwall

A great day for me, some people may not like it though. The drive down from Bristol to Cornwall was much longer than expected but it was enjoyable - no traffic and great scenery through Dartmoor and then right on down almost as far south and west as you can go in England. Rather than going to Land's End which is just a tourist trap with not much to see a friend had recommended I try out the Minack Open Air Theatre and I am so glad I did. It's built into the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic, I don't think you will find a more dramatic backdrop for a theatre in the world. There was no actual performance today but rehearsals for Iolanthe were going on so we got to sit and listen for a while. While the rest of the country sound slike it was covered in cloud Cornwall seems to have escaped for the most part so once again the only reason to move on was sunburn.

The driving continued to another unique venue... the Eden Project. Again the photos are pretty amazing. It is two "biodomes" built in an old clay mine and just looks so alien. Quite astounding. Each of the domes contains a habitat, one is tropical jungle and is just staggeringly hot and humid, the other a more temperate Californian climate. The whole thing does teeter on the edge of going a bit "wierd-beard" on you but they just manage to get away from ramming eco-warrior ideas down your throat. Even if you don't like the plants (which anyone who knows me can attest to) it's worth a visit just for the architecture and engineering. I found I was just wandering around looking at how the whole thing was put together.

A cracking day.