Top 10 Tips on How to Plan a Mini Break on a Budget: Edinburgh Edition

I have just returned from the most fabulous three day break in Edinburgh, Scotland’s magnificent capital city. This was a mini break with two of my friends, with all of us travelling on a student budget. We managed to compromise very well on costs without compromising at all on the quality of our city break. We managed to book our flights and accommodation for a total of £107.84 each. We flew from Luton airport to Edinburgh airport with EasyJet, and got the tram from the airport to the centre of Edinburgh. We stayed in a gorgeous apartment on Montgomery Street, in the centre of the city.

Here are my top 10 tips on how to plan a brilliant mini break on a budget wihtout compromising on quality…

1. Book as Far in Advance as You Can

The further in advance you book your travel, the cheaper it will be. This goes for any destination! We booked our accommodation and flights in May, and our trip was in September, so we planned it 4 months in advance. For return flights booked this far in advance, I only paid £37.78. Our airbnb cost £210.18 for two nights, so split between three of us we paid £70.06 each. There was a £28.18 service charge included in this. For a lovely flat, spacious in such a central location, this was a very good deal. Planning in advance really pays off!

Here are some photos of our gorgeous airbnb, it just shows you that by saving money, you don’t have to compromise on quality…

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2. Travel Outside of School Holidays

If you are a university student like me, then you have the advantage of having holidays that are outside of the school holidays and being more flexible with dates. Try and go before the school holidays if you can, May and June are much cheaper than July/August if you have finished your university year by then. The school holidays means that accommodation and travel costs can almost double in price. We also found that September seemed to be even cheaper as it was outside of both the Scottish and English school holidays (bear in mind that if you are visiting a different country then school holiday dates may differ).

3. Use Comparison Sites to Find the Best Deals

We used Skyscanner to find our flights. I cannot recommend this tool enough. You can input your destinations and it tells you the cheapest options for travelling. It also lets you add the option to include other airports and non-direct flights if these are cheaper options. There is also a feature to search for the cheapest month and destinations. You can also find hotel and car hire information on here too.

It’s also useful to compare if it’s quicker/cheaper going to your destination by train, plane, ferry or driving. We found that even with a student railcard, the trains were considerably more expensive and would have meant a very long journey.

4. Sit Separately on Flights

Another cost that can be avoided is choosing to not pay to sit together on the flight. If you are spending a whole holiday with people, then it’s not the end of the world if you don’t sit next to each other if you are on a short haul flight like we were. However, we checked in for our flights about two weeks in advance and this meant we were placed next to each other anyway on both our outbound and inbound flights.

5. Limit Your Luggage

For this trip, we took hand luggage alone. This means you can avoid the cost of having to pay for putting luggage in the hold. Small savings like this can add up to save you a fair bit of money. Additionally, it also means you don’t have to hang around waiting for a suitcase once you’re off the flight. Not having heavy bags to cart around with you is also a bonus, this applies if you are travelling by train too. Our flight landed at 10am on Monday and we could not check in until 3pm. On Wednesday when we left, we had to check out by 10am and our flight was not until late evening. Therefore we knew we had to carry our luggage with us for these times in between. By having just a light rucksack, it meant our luggage didn’t limit us. We were still able to visit the castle and walked up to Calton Hill without being weighed down by heavy bags.

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6. Don’t be too Fussy About Travel Companies

We flew with EasyJet due to their company in general having lower cost flights compared to other airlines. Other airlines may offer what is considered ‘a ore luxurious experience’ but if you are on a short flight and it gets you from A to B then going with cheaper options to save money is definitely a good idea.

7. Be as Flexible as You Can With Where You Travel From

The closest airport to where I live is Birmingham. But we worked out that the cheapest flight at the time was from Luton airport and that airport parking was only £30 here. The Flybe flights from Birmingham to Edinburgh were significantly more expensive. So even though we drove a bit further than we would have to get to Birmingham, it was more cost-effective for us to go to Luton instead. So if you can, it’s good to be as flexible as you can with airport/train station locations as this may save you a significant amount of money.

8. Plan a Rough Itinerary in Advance

We roughly planned out the main activities we wanted to do Edinburgh and what day we could do them on (weather permitting!). Due to only having three days away, this meant that we knew we could include our prioritised activities in the small amount of time we were in the city. By booking certain activities in advance it can save you money and often saves you queuing for long periods of time. Additionally, so many great things to do are often free! On our last day we walked up Calton Hill which gives you an incredible view of the whole city of Edinburgh around you. I would thoroughly recommend visiting if you are in Edinburgh. We also enjoyed a coffee and pastry in Gardener’s Cottage which is the restaurant set on the edge of Calton Hill. This was surprisingly very affordable at just £5 each, but avoid at lunch and dinner unless you want a very pricey meal! Walking round and soaking up the atmosphere of the Royal Mile and Princes Street Gardens was another lovely experience which won’t cost you a penny. Most cities will have free galleries and museums you can visit, the National Gallery is free in Edinburgh, as is the National Museum of Scotland.

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9. Avoid Buying Food and Drink etc. from Tourist Attraction Shops

Often shops at tourist attractions have extortionate prices. Avoiding spending £3 on a disposable water bottle every time you want a drink and paying loads just for a sandwich is always a good plan in my book. Bring a water bottle with you that you can fill up before you go out for the day, and maybe some snacks if you’re likely to get hungry whilst out and about. We took a picnic with us to the zoo and bought snacks from a Tesco Express next to our airbnb so you can just grab something on your way out for the day.

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10. Choose Your Accommodation Location Wisely

By staying right in the centre of Edinburgh, it meant we were able to walk from our apartment to all the central locations that we wanted to visit. We were about a 15 minute walk from Princes Street which was great. It was also near the tram links that we used to get to and from the airport. So by staying in the city centre, we saved money by walking lots, where as if we had been much further out we may have spent more time and money on buses etc. Walking more is also a more sustainable and healthy option, and gives you the chance to see the city you’re in up close.

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I hope this was helpful if you are planning a trip on a budget. Here is a link to another of my Edinburgh posts which has more details on great things to do in Edinburgh once you’re there!

Hope you are having a great day where ever you are in the world,

Mol x

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The Essential Guide For Your First Trip to York, The Perfect UK City Break

Exploring York for the first time was a great experience, a city full of history and beauty. We packed so much in to a short space of time so if you are looking for a UK city break with lots to offer, then York would be a brilliant choice! It was great to be in a place where you can walk everywhere due to everything in the city centre being so close together. The city also has a vibrant and friendly atmosphere which makes it a lovely place to be in. We visited for a long weekend but you could certainly spend more time here and have plenty to do! This guide features three mains sections: What to Do and Where to Visit, Food and Drink, and Accommodation.

What to Do and Where to Visit

York Minster

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York Minster is one of the largest cathedrals in Northern Europe. Then first recorded church building on the site was estimated to have been built in 627, although just a wooden structure at this time. The first stone structure was completed in 637.

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Guided tours run here from 10am-3pm from Monday-Saturday. You can also pay extra to take a trip up the tower, which is a climb of around 275 steps. I also got a student discount on entrance, and by paying once you receive a ticket which you can use for a whole year, which is a brilliant deal if you are planning on visiting again.

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There was so much to see that you could easily spend hours here. We spent a whole morning here but there were still lots of things we could have spent more time looking at. The information provided on the history of the cathedral was also very interesting to read.

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The cathedral has more medieval stained glass windows than anywhere else in the country, they really are stunning.

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York Minster is a stunning building from the outside as well as the inside, and the detail in its architecture is quite incredible. I would highly recommend this as a must see place when visiting York.

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There is a small gift shop attached to York Minster if you are looking to buy any souvenirs from your stay in York. Here is a link to their website if you would like some more information.

The Jorvick Museum

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The Jorvik Centre was another great tourist experience. On the site of the Jorvik Centre, between 1976-1981 archaeologists revealed the viking city of Jorvik as it once stood around 1000 years ago. The Jorvik centre stands on the site of the excavation grounds to reconstruct what life was like in 10th century York.

When you first go in, you are taken round in what they call ‘gondolas’ which look like slow moving and low down cable cars. You are then taken round the reconstruction of the city, this includes sight, sounds and even smells. There is also a speaker on the gondola which plays an audio guide throughout about the buildings and people you see as you go along. There is also a screen on the front with pictures and additional information. The recreations are extremely authentic due to the detail in them. There are 22 characters withing the reconstruction, their clothing, speech and facial features is all specifically from research in to Viking-age York to ensure that everything is as accurate as possible. When you’ve finished the ride, there is then the museum including more information and artefacts that were discovered from the 10th century.

It was a bit tricky getting pictures whilst taking in the whole tour but the photo below is the screens in front of you that you can use whilst on the ride. You can also change the language on these if you are visiting from abroad.

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You can pre-book tickets which gives you a time slot for your visit and enables you to fast track through the entrance (it was fairly busy we went so this may be advisable). Adult tickets are £12.50 which covers admission for a whole year. Other tickets are also available for families of 4 and 5, concessions, and children.

 

The Shambles

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The Shambles is the iconic narrow street in York with its timber buildings dating back as far as the 13th century. During medieval times the street was used for butcher shops, which is why some of the shops still have meat hooks placed on the front of them. If you’re a Harry Potter fan this will definitely be a must see for you! There were at least three Harry Potter themed stores and many compare the street to Diagon Alley.

Do bear in mind that due to being one of Europe’s most visited streets, The Shambles does get very busy and is very narrow! So if you are looking to get some good photos of it then you might want to go early in the day. Here is a link to The Shambles Trip Advisor page if you are looking more more information or reviews.

It’s also worth just taking the time to wander round the other streets of the city centre, there are some incredibly beautiful old buildings and quirky shops to admire. Every building and street is full of character and has a unique feel to it.

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The Original Ghost Walk of York

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The ghost walk began at the King’s Arms pub, and runs every night at 8pm. The guide takes you round the city and stops off at various locations to share stories and experiences of people claiming to have seen ghosts there. The man who ran the tour was an absolutely brilliant storyteller and made the tour very interesting. It was also a great way of getting a tour of the city too. It was about an hour in length. You do not have to book, tickets are £5.00 each, children are £4.

 

Walk The City Walls

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The city walls are 3.4km long in total and are the longest medieval walls in England. Walking the whole route would take you around two hours. I would recommend doing even just part of the route if you want to see some great views of York, there is also a great view of York Minster.

Here is a link to a map with the 5 points at which you can enter the walk round the walls.

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Food and Drink

The Whippet Inn

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We visited this restaurant for mu Uncle’s 50th celebration and it was a fabulous meal, the staff brought out a cake at the end too which was a lovely touch. The waitress was also incredibly helpful and friendly, she really made the meal a brilliant experience. The food was delicious, I would highly recommend this restaurant if you are looking for a nice meal out during your stay in York. We walked from our airbnb in the city centre which took around 20 minutes.

The Old White Swan

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The atmosphere of this pub was lovely, a very cosy vibe with fairy lights and rustic decor. It was pretty busy when we went on a Friday evening which added nicely to the friendly atmosphere.

The Three Tuns

We popped in to this old style pub for a quick drink in between exploring the Shambles and the Jorvick Centre. This one is certainly more of a classic and older feeling pub, it was a bit darker inside and is less modern. We actually quite liked this as it fits in with the historical feel that many of the York streets and buildings have. But again this one was very friendly and was a great stop off point for a drink and a seat.

The Golden Fleece

This was another oldy-worldy style pub from the 16th century, said to be one of the most haunted buildings in York! The old style decor and stories you hear of this pub did indeed give it a bit of a spooky feeling. Again, we just stopped off here for a drink whilst exploring the centre of York, a very quirky and interesting place to have a drink or some food.

The York Gin Shop

This was a lovely shop and the staff were also very helpful and welcoming. We bought one of the small bottles of gin which comes in a very unique square shaped bottle.

 

Accommodation

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This was the beautiful house we stayed in for the weekend. It was only a couple of minutes walking distance from the very centre of the city. You could walk to York Minster in about five minutes, it was a brilliant location for our stay.

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The house had a beautiful balance of maintaining the character of the 1753 property but also having modern elements which gave it a very fresh and homely feel. There were eight of us staying in the house which is the maximum amount of guests you can have staying here. The house was across three floors, and the rooms were incredibly spacious.

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You can see in the photo below that you actually get a stunning view of York Minster from the upstairs window.

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I hope this city guide was useful if you are wanting to venture to York any time soon, I hope you have an incredible time if you are. Let me know if you have visited this beautiful city and if there are any other parts of the city that you enjoyed that are not included in this post!

Hope you are having a great day where ever you are in the world,

Mol x

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Spending a Day in London as a Tourist: Hyde Park, The Tate Britain, and Covent Garden

“Oh, I love London Society! It is entirely composed now of beautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics. Just what Society should be” –Oscar Wilde

I was lucky enough to spend a gorgeous and sunny day exploring London on our last bank holiday. So if you are looking for some inspiration of things to do and see in London then here is a day’s travel guide to adventuring around England’s capital city. We started off in Hyde Park after getting off the train in Marylebone. We then headed to the Tate Britain and the Van Gough exhibition. Westminster was next on the list with Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. Finally, we headed around the beautiful area of Covent Garden. You simply can’t beat the atmosphere of London on a sunny day.

Hyde Park

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We started our walk in the north of the park, as we came out of the Lancaster Gate tube station which is just over the road from Hyde Park. This means you can start your walk in the Italian gardens, which has some beautiful flowers and fountains in it. We walked right down the length of the park, down to the Princess Diana Memorial Garden. This was a beautiful walk, it’s great to be in London but surrounded by green, open space. It’s a lovely walk past the Serpentine river too. For the route we walked, we exited the park very near to Hyde Park Corner tube station. This is a good place to come out if you then need to get a tube after your trip to the park.

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There are so many great spots for a picnic and also some great places for food and drink. There were lots of people renting bikes which I’d love to do in the future. There are a few places throughout the park where you can buy food and drink too. If you know the route you are walking then maybe just check on the map when you get there to see where you could pick something up. We had a coffee and pastry from the Italian Gardens Cafe, which was gorgeous. There are also tables to sit and eat here if you want a stop off and appreciate the Italian Gardens at the same time. The cafe was on the more expensive side for food so if you are on a budget you may want to bear this in mind. The Serpentine Bar and Kitchen also looked like a great food and drink option. It has a fabulous view and is set right on the edge of the river. There are also tables outside which look like a great spot for a sunny day. You can also rent boats on the Serpentine if you are wanting to do a bit of rowing!

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EY Van Gough Exhibition- Tate Britain

The Tate Britain is an art museum which was opened in the Millbank area in 1897. It houses art from 1500 up to the present day. We got to the gallery by getting off the tube at Pimlico station then walking from there. It was only a ten minute walk and the gallery is sign posted which makes it very easy to find.

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This exhibition was brilliant, with a good balance of Van Gough’s work and also information about his life and inspiration for his work. It was wonderful to see his iconic paintings in person. ‘The Starry Night’ is my favourite of his work, but the famous ‘Sunflowers IXXI’ is also a stunning piece.

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The exhibition was extremely busy when we went so bear this in mind when you go in. Some of the paintings were very crowded, but it seemed to get less busy as we progressed through the exhibit rooms.

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Here is a link to the exhibition information if you are wanting to look in to visiting. It is running until the 11th of August, but you have to book your tickets in advance as it’s been a very popular attraction. Also, if you are between the ages of 16-25 you can get in for just £5! I just had to sign up to the ‘Tate Collective Scheme’ on their website, which gives young people discounts on any exhibition. I would’ve paid £22 for a ticket without doing that, so definitely worth doing! You just need age ID when you go in so they can confirm you are between 16-25.

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The architecture of the building is beautiful. There is also a restaurant and cafe inside the museum, we had lunch in the cafe. The food was delicious, but again on the slightly more pricey side. There is also a water machine in the cafe which is handy if you are needing to fill up bottles, sometimes this can be tricky when you’re out and about all day.

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We also had a wander round the other rooms in the Tate Britain outside of the Van Gough exhibition. All of these are free to enter! There was a mix of older works, more modern ones, and also quite a few sculptures funky sculptures.

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This piece below has a very interesting finding to it. Sonia Boyce invited people to come to be photographed in an afro wig. But from sourcing the wigs, she realised they were only available in fancy dress and costume shops as opposed to any of the hair shops in London. She realised this was due to them being used as a trigger of mockery against African-Caribbeans.

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The gift shop had a large range of lovely gifts, all ranging in price. There was everything from books, postcards, clothes and art prints to purchase.

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The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben

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We walked up to Westminster from the Tate Britain as it was just a short walk up the Thames. We walked past the houses of parliament and Big Ben which is a good walk if you want to experience the busy nature of London! This is also a good spot to visit if you are wanting to visit the classic London tourist spots. Bear in mind if you are visiting at the moment, Big Ben is covered in scaffolding due to the construction and repair work going on.

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This statue of Emmeline Pankhurst is near the Houses of Parliament. Pankhurst was one of the leading figures in the suffragette movement in Britain who fought for women’s rights to vote.

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Covent Garden

Covent Garden has its own tube station so it makes to a very easy location to get to. We travelled from Westminster tube station and with a few changes, it was a pretty easy and quick journey.

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We had a good browse around the covered markets, which are also near to all the other shops. The markets had a lot of vintage jewellery and furniture if you are interested in retro stuff! We aslo saw some really great street performers, from painters to a man doing the limbo which was on fire! If you have time, I would highly recommend stopping to watch some of the acts as there were some brilliant ones. It also creates a lovely atmosphere when everyone gathers around to watch.

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“London is a roost for every bird”- Benjamin Disraeli

This concludes this London day guide! I hope you enjoy your trip if you are visiting soon.

Looking for another city break? Have you seen the wonders that Edinburgh has to offer in my blog post?!

Hope you are having a great day where ever you are in the world,

Mol x

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Discovering the Wilds of the Scottish Highlands, The Tourist’s Guide to the Applecross Peninsula

Welcome to part two of my Applecross travel series!

Here is part one if you missed it! My first post shows you the journey to Applecross up the Bealach Na Ba, the beautiful cottage we stayed in, and some of the incredible views we enjoyed.

In this second instalment, I share with you the gorgeous beach that was right on our doorstep during our stay. The famous Applecross Inn is also a feature of this post, a must see spot if you are visiting the area!

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This was the pebbled beach that was just beneath the cottage we stayed in (the cottage was just further left of the end of this photo). Clachan Church is the building on the right, which there is photos of further down in this post!

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This was the view from the beach at sunset. The mountains you can see in the photograph below is the Isle of Rasaay which is an island between mainland Scotland and the Isle of Skye.

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Clachan Church

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The church was built in 1817, but stands on the site where the 7th century monastery once stood which was established by the Irish saint ‘Maelrubha’. Maelrubha sailed from Bangor to Scotland in the year 671, and is thought to be responsible for the spread of Christianity in parts of Northern Scotland. If you want to learn any more information and see the interior of the church then this Britain Express page is a helpful place to look.

 

The Famous ‘Applecross Inn’

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The atmosphere in the inn is extremely warm and friendly, it was also lovely to see people visiting from all corners of the world. There is a very funky map inside on the wall where you can put a pin of where you’re from, it was great to see how people have visited from so many countries! We enjoyed drinks here a few times and sat outside to enjoy the lovely views. We also had a meal here which was delicious, the menu was great. There are also rooms available to stay in here if you are looking for accommodation in Applecross. Here is a link to their website if you would like to check it out!

The Silver Bullet

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The silver bullet was just outside of the Applecross Inn. We had some incredible ice creams here, which were home made and there were different flavours every time we went back! The fish and chips were delicious and there were also other drinks etc. you could buy here.

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We saw this deer roaming in this field just along from the Applecross Inn, the building in this photo offers kayaking trips if you fancy doing some water sports whilst you’re in Applecross!

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I hope you enjoyed this second part of my Applecross series, the next part features the Kishorn seafood bar, and some great coastal picnic spots!

Hope you are having a great day where ever you are in the world,

Mol x

Part one of the Applecross series! Are you wanting more Scotland travel posts? Check out Edinburgh or St Andrews!

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Discovering the Wilds of the Scottish Highlands, Exploring the Applecross Peninsula

Welcome to the first post in my Exploring Applecross series!

The Applecross peninsula is in North West Scotland, only accessible by two roads, and inhabited by only a couple of hundred people. Despite this, it’s one of the most unique and rugged landscapes I have travelled to, with a fascinating and deep routed history which very much still feels alive today when you visit.

In this first  post I share with you; getting to Applecross and venturing up Scotland’s highest road, the beautiful cottage we stayed in, and a first look at the views Applecross Bay has to offer.

Scotland’s Third Highest Road: The Bealach na Bà

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The road is single track, but there are passing places along the way in case you meet another car. You can’t drive at a speed over 30mph, or if the weather conditions are poor. We travelled in a BMW 4×4, so travelling in a large vehicle made the single track element of it even more interesting! It is not advised to drive on the road in a motor home, very large vehicles, or if you are a learner! The road is often closed in the winter months. The road twists and turns through the mountains to 2,054 feet above sea level, and as you can see, the views really are worth it.

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The name of the road is Gaelic for ‘pass of the cattle’. The road was originally built in 1822 and was used as a drovers road to direct cattle from one place to another. The road is engineered similarly to ones in the Alps.

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Cruary: The Cottage Set Amongst the Hills

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This was the beautiful cottage we stayed in, named ‘Cruary’. If you like staying in places with no neighbours anywhere in sight then you would love this cottage! There was nothing but hills and heather behind the house, and the gorgeous view of Applecross Bay that the house looked out on to. This is the spectacular view from the front garden…

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This is another view of the house from behind the house, the building on the left is the shed that also belongs to the owners of ‘Cruary’.

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This is the view from the road before you reach the driveway, the house was only a few minutes drive away from the Applecross Inn, more information and photographs of that famous pub coming in my next Applecross post!

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This was the lovely view from the driveway…

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The first set of buildings you can see across the bay on the left is where the Applecross Inn is located.

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The photo below gives you a feel of the decor in the house, it was very cosy. If you are interested in looking at the house in more detail, there is a link to more information here.

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We spent most of our time in the open plan kitchen of the house as the large glass windows look out on to the bay. The house was built in the 18th century but has been extended since. The house sleeps up to four people, with two bedrooms and one bathroom. The rooms were all very spacious. The house was very well stocked, the kitchen supplies we needed were all there, there was also plenty of items such as towels etc. A great thing that came with the house was a pair of binoculars, it was great being able to use them and look in detail at the wildlife and scenery that surrounded the cottage. There was also a large collection of information books and leaflets on things to do in the area and the history of Applecross. The house is pet friendly too. An important feature of the house is there is no wifi, it was actually really lovely to live without wifi for a week, I read a lot of books during this trip!

Speaking of wildlife, here is one chap who also enjoys making use of Cruary’s garden…

Martin the Pine Marten

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This fellow, who we named Martin during our stay, visited every evening and seemed to be particularly fond of peanut butter on toast. He was very interesting to watch, he seemed to enjoy climbing on our car too!

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There were lots of birds that came to the garden too, as well as a couple of mice who would feed on the birdseed.

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If you look closely, you can see the cottage on the right hand side of this picture, it really shows off ow wonderfully it was located!

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Here is a link to the Applecross peninsula website which has a lot of helpful information if you are thinking of visiting! My next post will have lots of photos and information about things to do when visiting Applecross, including the Applecross Inn, great walks on the beach and the interesting history of the church. Keep an eye out for this post next Saturday!

Also, if you are looking to explore any other areas of Scotland, here is a link to my post all about the gorgeous town of St Andrews. I also have a tourist guide to Edinburgh if city breaks are more your style!

Hope you are having a great day where ever you are in the world,

Mol x

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A Winter’s Week in St Andrews: The Scottish Town That Will Capture Your Heart

Happy Sunday everyone, today’s travel post is all about the incredible town of St Andrews, a perfect destination no matter the weather. My family and I spent a beautiful week staying here, a place we have all loved and have grown up adoring. If you appreciate beaches, harbours, and gorgeous sunsets, all set in a historic and scenic setting, then you will fall in love with St Andrews!

The Castle Sands and Harbour

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The town of St Andrews is on the East coast of Scotland, North of Edinburgh, and about a half hour drive away from the city of Dundee (which is also worth a visit if you are in the area). St Andrews is famous for its golf courses, St Andrews University, and its idyllic coastal setting. The town is perfect for a day trip if you enjoy walking and learning about Scotland’s history, but it also makes a great holiday if want to take a longer trip.

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The house we were staying in was right behind the sea front on North Castle Street, right by ‘The Scores’, the famous street that runs along the St Andrews sea front. Due to being a popular tourist destination, there is a huge variety of accommodation to pick from in St Andrews, from hotels, houses, and bed and breakfasts. We found that staying near the centre was great as we were near to Market Street, this is the high street where there are lots of shops and good places to eat and drink. But we were also very near the beaches and the coastal walks.

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We went for a brisk walk along to the harbour every morning of our trip, the house was also just a couple of minutes walking distance from the harbour, a great place to see the town awakening each morning after the sunrise. Almost every morning we saw herons down on the rocks by the harbour, incredibly majestic animals which were fascinating to watch. My Uncle managed to take this incredible photograph of one of them!

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The photo below shows the coastal path that you can follow right along from the Scores, along side the cliffs to the harbour, there are benches and tourist information boards along the way. It makes a great place to bring a picnic in the summer, but even in winter it was still very enjoyable.

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The West Sands Beach

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The West Sands is just a 15 minute walk from the town centre, and if you’ve seen the film ‘Chariots of Fire’ you will recognise this beach from the opening scene. The beach is about 2 miles long and is very close to the famous ‘Old Course’ which is a very popular tourist destination for golf fans, especially in the summer months. The beach makes a serene and peaceful walk, even if there are other people around it still feels this way. There is parking at the beach, and the golf museum and toilets are also close by.

 

St Andrews Cathedral

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Despite our many trips to St Andrews, we had never visited St Andrews Cathedral, and it was well worth the visit! The cathedral, now in remains, was once Scotland’s biggest cathedral and most important church. The museum has some extremely interesting artefacts and information boards, dating from early medieval times. St Rule’s church (on the cathedral site) is estimated to have been built in 1130, and the cathedral begun in 1160. It was finally complete in 1318, Robert the Bruce was present for this momentous occasion in Scotland’s history.

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Here is a link to the Visit Scotland website which has more information about the cathedral if you are planning a visit. The staff who worked in the museum and gift shop here were also very helpful.

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We climbed to the top of St Rules’ Tower, which can be seen the photo above, it is about 33m tall. It was an extremely narrow and steep climb but the view at the top was certainly worth the hike. You get a panoramic view of the town, and all the way out to sea. The weather was lovely on the day we went so the sun made the view even more glorious. There is a fee to pay in order to visit the cathedral, but it is not expensive, and you can also get a discount if you get a ticket to visit St Andrews Castle which is just down the road.

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The East Sands Beach

The East Sands is also just along from the harbour and is a very short walk from the town centre. You can also get a great view of St Andrews castle from here, and to the West Sands in the distance. This beach is usually quieter due to it being a bit rockier and further from the town centre, so if you want an even more peaceful beach to stop off at and watch the seabirds then this spot is ideal.

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This photo was taken just outside of the house we were staying in and shows St Andrews Castle, we did not visit the castle on this trip but it looks like another great place to go if you are visiting St Andrews. There is more information about the castle on the Visit Scotland website which can be found here.

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Hope you’re having a great day wherever you are in the world, and that you get to experience St Andrews and all it has to offer. Let me know if you have ever visited!

Mol x

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The Cotswold Lavender Farm

“It always seems to me as if the lavender was a little woman in a green dress, with a lavender bonnet and a white kerchief. She’s one of those strong, sweet, wholesome people, who always rest you, and her sweetness lingers long after she goes away”- Myrtle Reed

Despite the days now being crisp, cold and very autumnal, I think a bit of sunshine and lavender can still be appreciated outside of the summer months. This post is all about the Cotswold Lavender Farm, a brilliant visit which is not too far from where I live.

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The farm is on the outskirts of a small idyllic village called Snowshill (if you get to visit and are new to the area  then there are brown tourist signs with directions). The nearest train station is in Moreton on Marsh, which you can get a taxi from if you are not driving, Moreton is also a lovely place to visit. The farm is also only about two miles from the town of Broadway, which is a gorgeous and very traditional looking Cotswolds town, if you want to combine it to make the most of visiting the beauty of the area. There are directions on their website if you need them too.

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The method used to distil the lavender oil is both a simple and traditional method. The crop is harvested and collected in a trailer. Collected rainwater that is heated to steam is then put into the trailer through pipes. The oil from the lavender evaporates in to the steam due to the intense heat and is then piped in to a condenser, where cold rainwater is then used to return the product to an oil state. After being put in to a separator to divide the water and oil, the oil is then collected.

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The shop and tea room are closed over the winter months, but are certainly worth a visit in the summer, set in a classic stone barn. The online shop is available to use all year round. There is a huge range of lavender products, from the plant itself, to bath and body products, oils, candles, and even lavender chocolate!

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The vibrant purple tones of the lavender have been growing here since 1999. There is an incredible 500,000 plants on this farm alone, and 40 varieties within these. The lavender is cut and the oil distilled on the same day, and is then aged for a year before use.

There is also a variety of wildflowers that appear in the Spring throughout the fields, such as cornflowers and poppies. Chamomile is also a new edition to what is being harvested here, used in tea and similar to lavender, can help you sleep.

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Hope you’re having a great day wherever you are in the world,

Mol x

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An Audience With Simon Reeve- Any Travel Fanatic’s Perfect Evening

“If it’s difficult for you, take things step by step”

If you’ve never watched any of Simon Reeve’s travel programmes, you are majorly missing out. Simon is currently doing a tour around the UK, giving talks about the incredible places he’s visited, people he’s met, and how his career became what it is today. We attended the part of the tour in the Birmingham Town Hall.

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It was incredibly inspiring to hear about the success of someone who worked hard to be where they are today. Having watched Simon Reeve’s travel documentaries for years, I think I subconsciously presumed that he had travelled his whole life, had always known that this was the path he wanted to take. When we see people presenting on our screens, we often don’t think about how perhaps they were not always in their ‘dream job’ from the get go, there is always more work and sides to the story than we think.

The talk began with Simon introducing how he was as a teenager, these years were not easy, having few qualifications and few prospects, growing up in West London was painted as a fairly bleak picture for this point in his life. Hearing him speak about the topic of mental health was also very interesting, despite it also being a sad topic.

Simon then began to explain how he signed up for income support, still being in a very low place at this point. He quoted what the woman at the DSS office had said to him, saying it’s still relevant in his life today…

“If it’s difficult for you, take things step by step”

After hearing this advice, one train ticket and a hire car later he found himself climbing the mountain sides of Glencoe, Scotland, taking it step by step. This was where there seemed to be more of a glimmer of hope, he had completed a journey successfully, he had achieved something.

It wasn’t until Simon was given the job of a post boy for a newspaper, that he began working alongside journalists, some of the jobs he described being given were hilarious, probably not tasks that would be allowed to be given to young people now a days!

He then described how his skills developed and he went on to write a book called ‘The New Jackals’, published in 1998, which at first nobody really paid attention to. But by the time 9/11 happened, he had written the only book in the world about Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, and soon found himself being asked to be interviewed for American news channels. And in a nutshell, that’s how he got the opportunity  in the future to start his own BBC programmes, looking at modern history and showing the world we live in.

He then went on to show pictures from his travels, food he’d eaten, places he’s had to flea from, even the most comical toilets he’s seen around the world! The stories of the wonderful people he’d met from all corners of the globe were also incredibly moving.

It was interesting to see the case he takes with him on all his trips, and some of the objects he’s been gifted by locals to bring back, from fabrics, to a sword he was given in Borneo.

Hearing about the process of making a documentary was also fascinating, he explained that with his programmes, they are not highly researched or scripted before they go out and make them. No team goes out before it is made to check there is enough opportunities and places for content.

An incredibly enjoyable and inspiring evening, Simon was an incredibly engaging speaker and answered some of the audience’s questions for the last part of the evening. It made me feel more ambitious about pursuing a career in travel journalism and publishing, or perhaps the news. His book is definitely going to be a Christmas present idea!

His most recent programme ‘The Mediterranean with Simon Reeve’ is currently on BBC Two, and is accessible on iPlayer, I thoroughly recommend you watch it if you haven’t already. The journey through the Mediterranean starts in the first programme in Malta, carries on to Southern Italy, and ends in Albania.

Luckily for me, my family and I are actually going to be listening to another great presenter, author and historian very soon! Tomorrow we are heading back to the Birmingham Town Hall, this time to see Neil Oliver, on his tour of the UK with ‘The story of the British Isles in 100 places’. Having a keen interest in coastlines, I am greatly looking forward to this, as Neil is a presenter on BBC 2’s ‘Coasts’ programme. I think this will be another greatly rewarding evening.

Thanks for reading, hope you’re having a great day where ever you are in the world,

Mol x

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My First Visit to Cornwall, Watergate Bay and Swimming in the Atlantic Ocean

Happy Sunday everyone, recently I was lucky enough to head down South to Cornwall for the first time, an area of the country and the British coastline that I’ve always wanted to explore.

I went with fifteen of my friends who I went to school with, before we all headed back to university. We drove down to Newquay and stayed in a gorgeous Air B&B for three nights. The house had everything from a cinema room and pool table, to a jacuzzi, it was a lovely place to call home for a few days. We stayed on the outskirts of Newquay which was a perfect location, far enough so we weren’t right in the centre, but really close to the beaches. We also managed to go outside of the school holidays so we escaped the height of the summer tourist season.

Watergate Bay

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Watergate Bay was about three miles from where we were staying, so it was only about fifteen minutes away by car.

The sunset on this evening was one of the best I’ve seen in the UK, after swimming in the sea and sitting on the beach, we all got fish and chips from the restaurant by the beach and ate whilst watching the sun set over the bay. Also, if you are an avid surfer then this seemed to be a very popular surfing spot!

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Fistral Beach

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Despite the weather being slightly chilly on our first full day, we still wanted to make the most of our holiday, so with body boards and swimming attire, we headed down to Fistral Beach, about a ten minute drive away from our house. This beach was lovely, a long stretch of sand, dramatic and tall waves, there were also places to eat, buy beach and surf stuff and also parking facilities just up the cliff from the beach.

The ocean wasn’t exactly like swimming in the tropics of the Mediterranean, but it wasn’t as cold as I was expecting! We had a great time frolicking in the sea, luckily we had the jacuzzi at the house which we used to warm up in afterwards!

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We also ventured out on a walk round the coastal path, which you can join at whatever point you want to. We walked for about seven miles, we also found a lovely tea room before we did the route back so we were able to enjoy some fab hot chocolates and scones whilst sat outside.

 

Padstow

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We stopped off in Padstow to break up the long journey, this was the most beautiful little seaside town, all the classic Cornish pasty, ice cream and sweet shops. This was the view from the harbour, we sat for a while here just watching the hustle and bustle of people passing by and the boats drifting through the water. I wish I had taken more pictures but unfortunately I was slightly unwell after the long journey!

I would love to know if you’ve ever visited Cornwall and other places that are great to go in the area!

Thanks for reading, hope you’re having a fab day wherever you are in the world,

Mol x

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The Best Desserts and an Autumnal Escape: The Eis Cafe

October is in full swing folks! The leaves are already turning to warmer tones, and everyone just wants to be cosy with a hot beverage and a cosy blanket. Also, is it just me who has more cravings for indulging in some more seasonal treats?

This cafe was a real gem of a find, having heard of the Eis Cafe and seen their incredible desserts on their social medias, me and my house mates ventured out to treat ourselves after a cold autumnal day.

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The vibe of this lovely place was so cosy and autumnal, perfect for this time of year now that the days are getting crisp and colder.

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This was the seating upstairs, the decor was beautifully rustic and again, very autumnal with the warm tones and slightly retro feel.

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The menu was incredible, making it extremely difficult to know what to pick! Their Instagram was a big help as you can see what all the options look like. There was a big selection of treats to choose from, waffles, milkshakes, cookie dough, cakes, ice creams there was also a selection of savoury food too.

This was the amazing selection of ice creams to choose from, I tried the honeycomb with my dessert and it was delicious!

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In the end I went for this marvellous creation… the Waffle Cookie!

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This was a freshly baked waffle with a fresh baked cookie dough, honeycomb ice cream, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream with ginger biscuit crumbs! I think this was hands down the best dessert I have ever had!

My friends had the ‘Sluttty Brownie’ which also looked divine!

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Hope you’re having a fab day wherever you are, and are enjoying all the joys of Autumn so far!

Mol x

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Exploring the Jurassic Coast

“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul” – Wyland

Travelling to new countries is one of the most exciting and fulfilling experiences you can have, however, exploring the country you are already in, is also an experience to make the most of. The Jurassic Coast is somewhere I had never been until this trip. Spending a few days by the coast was extremely refreshing.

The Jurassic Coast covers the stretch of coastline in Southern England from Exmouth in the county of Devon, to Studland Bay in the county of Dorset. On this trip we explored Lyme Regis, Chesil Beach, Durdle Door, and West Bay. Having mostly explored the Scottish coast due to many a holiday up North, it was lovely to be able to experience the brilliance of the sea and the skies down in the South of England.

West Bay

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West Bay, or Bridport Harbour, was a small and sleepy seaside town, we mainly visited to see the beach and the cliffs, which you may recognise if you were a fan of the BBC drama Broadchurch (would highly recommend it). The dramatic shape of the sandstone cliffs was one of the locations for the programme and was a lovely beach walk, it was great to be able to look up at the magnificent cliff face whilst being below on the shore. We also ran up the slope of the cliff to get the view from the very top, which was so peaceful being able to see the ocean for as far as the eye could see. As you can see from the photos, if you go early in the morning or later in the day, the sun and the shadows make for a great photography spot. The cloudy weather actually also made for some fab photos.

“To go out with the setting sun on an empty beach is to truly embrace your solitude” – Jeanne Moreau

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Lyme Regis

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Lyme Regis is how I think of a classic British seaside location. Think fish and chips on the seafront, ice cream cones, and beach huts with doors the colours of pick ‘n mix. We went to Lyme’s Fish Bar for our lunch, and got a classic ’99 with a flake from one of the cute little tea rooms. There’s nothing better than eating outside and listening to the waves crash against the pebbles on the shore. This would be a lovely day out for anyone of any age.

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Chesil Beach

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Chesil beach is an 18 mile long beach and goes from Portland all the way to West Bay, this was very near to where we were staying in Portland.

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Durdle Door

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“Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone” – Anonymous

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Durdle Door is one of the most iconic coastal features in the Dorset area, it was designated England’s first natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001 and is also classed as a natural wonder. This archway was created by the limestone being eroded by the sea, the word ‘durdle’ originated from the word ‘thirl’ which means ‘to pierce’.

This was one of the highlights of the trip, again another lovely beach walk, there were hardly any other visitors there when we went even though it’s a very popular tourist attraction. Many of these coastal features we visited also had really interesting information boards so you could learn more about how they were created.

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Old Harry’s Rock

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The final coastal feature of the trip, and another UNESCO World Heritage Site located at the most Eastern point of the Jurassic Coast. As you can see, Old Harry is a stack out at sea, composed of chalk. The National Trust manage this site and there is a walking route of about 3.5 miles which you can do if you want a walk and a view!

Until 1896, there was also Old Harry’s Wife, a stump, but she was completely eroded in to the ocean so now Old Harry stands alone.

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“After a visit to the beach, it’s hard to believe that we live in a material world”– Pam Shaw

It was lovely to be able to spend so much time outside and on the coast, I find it very relaxing being by the water, this would be a great trip if you love walking and the outdoors!

Thanks for reading, hope you’re having a fab day where ever you are

Mol x

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Rousham, The Secret Garden of Oxfordshire

Rambling roses encasing woven branch archways that cover elegant pools of water, your reflection so vividly clear, the water is as tranquil as the peaceful aura that makes the garden so special…

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Rousham is 12 miles North of the city of Oxford, I am incredibly lucky to live so near to this exquisite place, it is one of the very few gardens to this day which has completely escaped alteration of the modern age. There is no commercialisation, also no dogs or children under 15 allowed (bear this in mind if you are planning a family visit).

All of this makes the gardens seem almost untouched, there were a few groups of people there at the same time we were but this did not alter the calm atmosphere in any way.

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Tickets for the gardens are £6, you can also pre-book a tour of the house if you are visiting in a larger group.

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We enjoyed a walk around the walled gardens and grounds, sat by the river soaking up the sun for a long time and got so many lovely photos. Whether you are a flower enthusiast, if you are looking for a peaceful day to yourself, or you love taking photos of nature and the outdoors (or lots of your friends looking gorgeous against floral backdrops that are certainly Instagram worthy!), then you will love Rousham.

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This was one of my favourite spots, the only noises were the sounds of the birds and the lapping of the water on the river bank.

We all thought this would be the ideal place to sit and paint or draw, so if unlike us you are able to paint beautiful landscapes then I can imagine this would be the perfect spot!

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If like me and my friends, you are major picnic enthusiasts, grab your picnic basket and blanket, and stock up on cocktail sausages because this is one of the most lovely picnic spots we have enjoyed, and we have had a fair few picnics round Oxfordshire (shocker: we are indeed uni students and not retired Grandma’s).

If you also love being at one with nature, Rousham also had an element of this! Now don’t get carried away, we’re still in England, we’re not exactly feeding elephants in Thailand or observing sea turtles in Coral Bay, but we made a new pal with a peacock who was very friendly and interested in anybody who had a snack in their hand, what a guy…

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If you have enjoyed books like the Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and were read Beatrix Potter books as a child, the honeysuckle, intricately carved archways and walled gardens with ivy and assortments of spring colours climbing up them will certainly make you nostalgic.

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“It is the time you have spent on your rose that makes her so important” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

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The gardens were designed by William Kent (1685-1748) who was originally a painter who went on to create what many called the “new English garden”. The gardens stand in almost the very same way that he left them in back in the early days of Georgian Britain.

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“What we call the highest and the lowest in nature are both equally perfect. A willow bush is as beautiful as the human form divine.” – Beatrix Potter

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This was a perfect day out

“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.” – Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed please leave a comment and follow me!

Until next time,

Mol x

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