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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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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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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Why We Need to Stop Apologising for Being Pale

This is not a post to tell you to ditch the St Tropez and for everyone to start sporting the porcelain look. Don’t get me wrong, being tanned is a huge confidence boost and having a natural skin tone that is not pale or white is fab also. But for us pale ones, when in the summer especially, it feels like you shouldn’t show any part of your body if it’s looking a bit white and isn’t tanned, then it can be tricky to be confident embracing pale skin.

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If you are as pale as I am, aka. always the palest foundation shade, and if not paler, you will understand why this pressure we seem to have created to have a glowing tan, is quite frankly a struggle at its best. The ‘Kardashian look’ seems to be one that more and more people are striving for and idolising, especially young females. But is this realistic? Is having the goal of perfection, in any aspect of body image, whether it be your teeth, figure, hair, or skin tone, something people feel they have to attempt just because it has become trendy to do so?

Speaking for myself, and being a redhead, it is impossible for me to achieve a natural tan. I burn, I freckle, and I peel, and no matter how long I sit in the sun hoping that these will magically turn into a lovely golden shade, shock horror, it never does.

A question I get asked frequently in the summer is why don’t you fake tan? This is something I have tried, but due to the contrast between fake tan and my actual skin tone being a whole spectrum apart, it requires you to cover every single part of your body for it not to look stupid, and as a result any patches or missed areas look completely ridiculous. Quite frankly, I can’t be bothered.

However, having a tanned body and orange locks may make me resemble a carrot, not a look I tend to go for, so why did I still used to feel it was a bad thing to be pale? And why did I used to worry about changing the natural shade of my skin to one of a darker and more bronzed tone? The answer is, not because I wanted to, but because I felt I should.

Platforms such as Instagram give us the impression that everyone looks as if they’ve been lying on an Australian beach for six months, covered in tanning oil, and that therefore we should be striving towards this look all year round too. But what we forget, is that people on social media are more likely to post pictures of themselves when they are tanned, and on a beach holiday sipping on an exotic cocktail, than if they are pale and are at home doing nothing but the household chores. Additionally, looking at fashion and beauty campaigns, you just have to look at brands doing the current 2018 summer campaigns for makeup, sun cream or clothing, to notice everybody here also looks like they’ve been on that Australian beach along with the people on the explore page of your Instagram feed. This is only one of the few types of aesthetic that is under represented though, I understand there are so many other types of people that are under represented also, whether that be gender, sexuality, race or shape and size, but that could be a whole separate post.

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As someone with two fully Scottish parents and a long line of Scottish heritage, I am often told that I couldn’t look any more Celtic if I tried with my pale skin, freckles, blue eyes, and red hair. My heritage and this aesthetic are something I am proud of, why should I or anyone else change this just because society and the media is giving us the impression that we have to look a certain way?

My freckles are not something I should cover up just because other people round me, and people on social media are not necessarily showing them off as much as people are showing their tans off. But additionally, if you like making yourself tanned because it makes you feel good, and healthy and happy, then that is equally as great. But I have learnt that you do not have to make yourself look like anybody else, just because of societal pressure, we are all unique and diversity is something that everybody should be appreciating.

The same goes for any other feature of you as well, whether this be stretch marks, cellulite, veins or anything that we tend to feel self conscious about, because we have been conditioned to think we should hide these things, that not everyone has these too. BUT THEY DO! If they are on a part of your body that you love then why should we feel we have to hide them? It’s great that we are gradually starting to see more of a variety. Seeing current campaigns such as Missguided’s #InYourOwnSkin is incredible, with campaigns like this, we are starting to head in the right direction.

So if you’re a redhead, someone covered in freckles, or someone who wants to embrace their pale skin, or any feature of your body, even just for some of the time, then go for it! But equally as much, if tanning, either naturally or using a fake tan makes you feel even better in your own skin then keep bronzin’. But don’t apologise for looking the way you want to look.

Pale skin is beautiful, dark skin is beautiful, and every shade on the spectrum is as incredible as each other.

Thanks for reading,

Mol x

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The End of the Iceland Adventure: Basalt Column Beaches and The Blue Lagoon

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These basalt columns set on the deep black sands were created when flows of lava cooled down and contracted to make these vertical structures, an incredible masterpiece of nature, almost looking like towering blocks of marble with the patterns that have been weathered into the rock.

Our guide explained that ancient Icelandic Folklore has it that these these formations were actually once trolls living in the beach’s caves (shown in second photo above). The myth is that the trolls were turned to stone due to being caught in daylight trying to pull a ship from the sea, and that they are now trapped here for eternity.

The Blue Lagoon

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From the photo above it’s clear why this stunning location is a UNESCO geo-park and was named in 2012 by National Geographic as one of the 25 wonders of the world.

There are few places on earth where you can lie back in naturally warm water, heated by only the ground itself, and take in the panoramic views of the lava fields that surround you. If you are looking to relax in one of the most unique locations in the world then this experience will be truly breath taking.

The pool itself was technically man made, while the lava fields around it were made by nature. The water is technically waste water of the nearby geothermal power plant, and comes from 6,500 feet underground where at this point it is around 24 degrees Celsius. The water of this geo-thermal pool is self-cleansing and this means that it renews every 40 hours. Due to bacteria not being able to thrive in such an environment, the water has no treatments in it such as chlorine, meaning it is 100% natural and great for your skin.

There are pots of the Blue Lagoon’s own clay masks dispersed around the lagoon, make use of this incredible product! My skin looked very dewy and fresh after using it and leaving it on for around 15 minutes, I have normal/oily skin and can be prone to break outs but I experienced no issues from using this product.

The package we chose was the Comfort Package, this gets you entry to the lagoon, a towel, a first drink of your choice and enables you to use the clay mask. None of the packages limit how long you can stay for but premium and spa packages are also available at a higher cost, details of what these include can be found here.

Children up to age 13 get in free! A very child friendly place and the frozen slushies at the swim-up bar are likely to go down a treat if you are bringing kids!

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Things to Know Before You Go

Prebook!

The Blue Lagoon is only a 15 minute drive from Iceland’s airport and is around 45 minutes from the capital of Reykjavik so is a perfect plan for either the end or the very start of your trip. It’s opening hours are usually from around 8am-10pm but keep in mind that pre-booking is required to due it being one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland.

You get given a wristband on entry which the staff connect to your credit or debit card, meaning you do not have to take in a wallet or money if you are planning on visiting the swim-up bar, meaning your wallet or purse can stay securely in the lockers provided in the changing rooms.

Hair and What to Wear

The Blue Lagoon staff recommend that you take any jewellery off if possible, this is because the lagoon is not like a regular pool with chlorinated water, the ingredients in the water such as algae and silica could potentially affect jewellery, especially if it is cheap! However, many of the people I was with on the trip left in earrings and rings they could not remove and had no issues.

Swimwear should not be affected by the water, as long as your rinse it with cold water and soap after use to ensure the silica does not stick to it. Swimwear is however available to rent at reception.

Your hair can be affected by the water, especially by the silica levels which can make hair dry and very hard to manage. Make use of the complementary conditioner, you have to have a shower in your swimwear before you enter the lagoon anyway. I simply smothered my curls in the conditioner and tied it up in a top knot. After washing it thoroughly after leaving the lagoon, my hair experienced no change in the condition.

Bring your Shades

Due to the brightness of the gleaming turquoise water, I would recommend taking sunglasses!

Goodbye Iceland

The Blue Lagoon marks the end of the Iceland Adventure for this time around, but I have no doubt that I will be back at some point in my lifetime. Iceland has the amazing quality of making everywhere feel light and spacious, it was a very calming experience, even when trekking up glacier plains and trudging through snow. Even places that were popular tourist attractions never felt overcrowded. If you are looking for a destination where you can relax, but also be active and experience some truly unique creations of nature then you too will fall in love with Iceland.

Have you checked out the rest of the Iceland Adventure?!

Day One:  Travelling from tarmac to tundra

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Day Two: The Golden Circle and Gullfoss Waterfall

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Day Three: Sólheimajökull and Jökulsárlón Lagoon

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Thanks for reading,

Mol x

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