Award-winning author Karen McCullough is the author of more than a dozen mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy novels. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. Learn more about her and her books at her website and blog.
A Visit to England’s Channel Coast
Having part of my family – my son, his wife, and two children – living across the ocean from me in England can be hard. I haven’t been able to be there to help when the children were born, nor can I manage to be there for all the developmental milestones, birthdays, special events, or when they need extra help due to illness or work crises. Still I’m grateful to live in this century when pictures and videos make it easier to keep up with them, and Facetime lets me even watch the children at play and talk face to face with them.
The flip side of the coin is that I have a great excuse for travel abroad. It’s given us the opportunity to visit several places in that country and others in Europe. In 2015 we met them in Rome and did some travel around Italy.
Late last summer they had a second child, which limits their ability to travel for a bit, but we did have the good fortune to visit them in the town where my daughter-in-law grew up.
Hythe is a lovely town on the Channel coast in Kent, just southwest of Dover and Folkestone, on the northeastern edge of Romney Marsh. It has a beautiful shingle beach (stones, not sand) with a popular seafront promenade. On very clear days you can see the coast of France across the channel.
It’s an old town as well, with some buildings dating back to the Middle Ages, though most of the structures in the main part of town are a combination of eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth century vintage. But behind their antique facades, many of the buildings have been modernized and are still in use today. The main street is narrow but gets heavy traffic, except during the times when it’s blocked off to automobiles and the road becomes a pedestrian walkway.
|Hither Hotel and Beach|
It's not a very touristy place, which makes is a delight to visit, but it does have some features that make it well worth a visit, including a really magnificent hotel on the shore, the Hythe Grand Imperial. We had a chocolate tea there that was to die for!
The High street is lined with a variety of shops, teahouses, restaurants, and there’s even an antique mall. You can easily spend a day just browsing all the charity shops, the bookstore, the bakery, fruit and veg stalls, and have lunch or tea and cake at one of several lovely places.
A park with boats to rent and plenty of room for the kids to run around and play surrounds the old military canal that runs through the town. Or walk along the promenade from the hotel to the end where a tiny seafood restaurant serves some of the best fish and chips around, or better yet, have a scallop roll that will leave you dazed with delight.
Hythe is just two rail stops away from Dover, site of the famous ferry landing and of Dover Castle. The castle, which dates originally from the Middle Ages, is worth allotting an entire day. The main keep features displays of castle life in the fourteenth century, and the roof of the keep offers a panoramic view of the countryside, but the tunnels underneath were used extensively during World War II and the displays there range from fascinating to downright creepy. Also on the grounds are the ruins of an old Roman lighthouse and a chapel. We packed a picnic lunch, but there is a café on the grounds along with the inevitable gift shop.
|Romney-Hythe-Dymchurch Light Rail|
A final attraction in Hythe is the Romney-Hythe-Dymchurch light rail line. Several times a day small coal-fired steam engines pull streams of passenger cars along a 14-mile light rail from Hythe to Dungeness. There’s very little in Dungeness other than a nuclear power plant, two lighthouses (an old one and a new electric one), a couple of gift shops, a few scattered old cottages painted matte black, and the shack Marconi built back around the turn of the last century to test out his radio. But it features an astonishingly strange and bleak landscape of shingle covering acres of coastline that is worth the journey all by itself. I could write another entire post on the rail line and Dungeness.
How does all of this tie into my books? It doesn’t, really. But there is inspiration for any number of stories here and someday I’ll write one.
In the meantime, my latest release, Hunter’s Quest, is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
Kristie Sandford's vacation is interrupted when a man jumps out in front of her car. She avoids hitting him, but when she stops to see if he's hurt, he demands she help him escape from the people chasing him. Kristie has an odd "gift" - she occasionally gets warning messages, and she gets one saying he needs her help or he'll die.
Jason Hunter is an NC SBI (North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation) agent working on his own time searching for a friend, an investigative reporter who disappeared while tracking down rumors of corruption in the bureaucracy of a small mountain town. Jason is grateful to Kristie for rescuing him, but dubious when she insists she has to continue helping him.
Kristie is attracted to Jason, but the edge of danger she senses in him reminds her too much of the abusive family she escaped as soon as she could. Still, the message said he'd die if she didn't help him, and the messages have been right before.