Favourite Places and Virtual Visits Part 1

Lockdown (with barred window) in times past??

While we’re in lockdown, we can’t travel to favourite places, the kind that inspire us (and sometimes comfort us, too).

At Libertà, we’ve been reflecting on that. So we’ve been digging out both images and memories of some of our favourite places to share.





Pack your bag and enjoy our virtual tour 😉

Libertà’s Favourite Places #1 : Ruins and Berrington Hall (Joanna)

Here in the Welsh Marches, I’m surrounded by amazing historical sites — more ruined castles than you can count, I sometimes think — and every stone of them has seen centuries of living, breathing history.

Goodrich Castle

Skenfrith ruins

These are two of my favourite ruins:
Skenfrith and Goodrich.

But most of the castles round here are medieval and, so far, I haven’t published any medievals. (Writing medievals? Ah, that’s another story, if you’ll excuse the pun. I’ll admit I have done that, though none has yet seen the light of publishing day.)

Berrington Hall front portico

Most of my published stories are set in the Napoleonic Wars or the Regency. So I thought I’d share a favourite gem of a Georgian house and garden that I visit often: Berrington Hall.
(Front portico shown above.)

It’s a small (well, small-ish) neo-classical mansion in Herefordshire, managed by the National Trust. It was built in the late 18th century by Thomas Harley, a rich banker and former Lord Mayor of London. His daughter, Anne, who married the son and heir of Admiral Lord Rodney, inherited the house after Harley’s death. Seven generations of Rodneys lived there before the house was sold in 1901.

An Invitation…

Come with me through this intriguing gateway to Berrington Hall…

The house was built by Henry Holland (who also remodelled Carlton House for the Prince of Wales before he was Regent). The landscaped gardens are by — you’ve probably guessed — Lancelot “Capability” Brown. It was, apparently, his very last commission and required the local village to be moved because it would mar the vista from the house.

Tough on the villagers, but just look at the vista he created. To give you an idea of scale, that distant lake covers 14 acres. Oh, and Brown created a 4-acre island in the middle.

There are more formal gardens, too. And if you need a sentry, why not a peacock?


Why do I love Berrington? Why do I keep returning?

Essentially, to feel the history there. Its interiors are stunning as you can see on the NT site here. (Visitors aren’t allowed to use cameras inside the house, so I have no interior images of my own to share.) And outside (where I do use my camera) the history comes alive — in the Georgian dairy (below left), the stables (below right) and a back yard of incredible magnificence.


Yes, that is a picture of the back of Berrington. Did the nobs see it? Or would they have stuck to the front entrance?

Most of all — moment of truth here — I love Berrington for the Charles Paget Wade costume collection, on show to visitors by appointment (once the house is open again, of course).
I’ve included lots of Berrington pieces in my series of historical costume blogs but to whet your appetites, I’ll throw in a few extra pics here. In homage to the Naval connections, they’re almost (but not quite) red, white and blue!


Mouthwatering, aren’t they? No wonder I can’t wait to go to Berrington again.

Libertà’s Favourite Places #2 : (Sarah’s ramblings)

And this IS a ramble – I am sharing photos from far and wide. (The first shot is John O’Groats, in case you hadn’t recognised it.) I hope you enjoy the ride!

I am starting with West Wycombe, home of the Dashwoods and the notorious Hellfire Club in the early 18th century. The house was the setting for an early book I wrote for Mills & Boon, The Wicked Baron.  Carlotta, my heroine, was the daughter of an Italian artist who had been commissioned to paint murals and ceiling decorations at the hero’s house, so West Wycombe was just perfect!

NEXT – Below is Hartland Quay on the North Devon coast. I have spent several holidays in this area, and just love the wild coastline that is constantly battered by the Atlantic.

And another coastline that I  love is just about as far from Hartland as it is possible to get! This is the north east coast and Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland.

I take inspiration from so many places, and Dunstanburgh gave me the idea for The Bladesmith, my Melinda Hammond book set in the mid 18th century and full of swash and buckle! The castle is a ruin now, but that just allows the imagination to run even more wild…

Much closer to home…

This is Bernera Barracks, Glenelg in the West Highlands of Scotland. It is fenced off because it is in a perilous condition, but for all that, it is a wonderful place. It was built soon after the 1715 Jacobite Rising to control the rebellious Scots and could hold over 200 troops. From here the government troops could patrol the surrounding area and guard the route to Skye and onward to the Western Isles. (Well, since Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped via Skye in 1745, it can’t be considered a complete success, can it?) Below is the view from the barracks to the Kyle Rhea, and a ferry still crosses this water from Glenelg to Skye.

Bernera is a haunting place, peaceful now,

but just begging to be used in a future book….

And finally…

And finally – this intriguing shot is from Strome Castle, a small ruin on the edge of Lochcarron. At one time, it guarded a busy route from Kyle of Lochalsh to Achnasheen and the north west. Today, Lochcarron is a pretty tourist town. I stopped there en route to the Isle of Skye last year and loved the atmosphere of this little gem.


It was Strome that gave me the idea for my latest Mills & Boon story (currently with my editor). I imagined the heroine imprisoned in just such a castle as this and escaping from a window very like the one behind me in the picture.  

This will be my first Highland book, so I am very excited about it. Wish me luck!

But this is only Part 1?

In the second part of this virtual tour, coming very soon, Liz and Sophie will be your guides to a special house and a secret garden..

Don’t miss it


Joanna Maitland, author Sophie Weston AuthorSarah Mallory guest blogs on romantic seriesLiz

Keep safe and well, everyone, and enjoy your tour with us
Joanna, Sophie, Sarah, Liz

9 thoughts on “Favourite Places and Virtual Visits Part 1

  1. Elizabeth Bailey

    Those dresses, Joanna! Swoon. The embroidery on the white one, and that glorious blue. And then Sarah’s haunting castle ruins and breathtaking scenery. Very enjoyable tours, thank you.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Agree about the dresses, Liz. And they just go to prove that not every Regency female wore white, don’t they? Glad you enjoyed our tours. More very soon.

    2. Joanna Post author

      And since you love the embroidery on the white one, here are close-ups of the bodice and hem. The pics aren’t as good as I’d have liked, but flash is forbidden in the collection (for obvious reasons) and the filter blinds are always kept drawn to protect the colours. They’ve survived remarkably well considering they’re about 200 years old.
      bodice of embroidered Regency gown
      hem of embroidered Regency gown

      1. Elizabeth Bailey

        Gorgeous! Especially when you consider what painstaking handwork this must have entailed.

  2. Liz

    Fabulous pictures! I lived quite near Wesf Wycombe as a child and a Sunday ride out there was always a treat. My father, as a scout, actually went up inside the golden ball – long since closed to visitors for safety reasons – and sat on the bench inside.

    1. Sarah

      What a wonderful memory, Liz. I loved the house, and always spot it when it is used in films or tv programmes (which is quite often). Also, what a treat for your father to go inside the golden ball, the memory obviously stuck with him.

  3. lesley2cats

    Thank you for all those – I do love Hartland Quay. The only one I know is West Wycombe, too. In fact, I, too, have used it in a book – with the Hellfire Club. Well, as background. They didn’t exactly appear.

    1. Sarah

      West Wycombe has had a fascinating history, hasn’t it, Lesley? So many scandalous tales, I am not surprised you used it as background.

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