Follow:
    Travel

    Scottish Road Trip Chapter 1: Nessie Hunt at Loch Ness Shores

    Loch Ness Shores Camping and Caravan Club

    I’ll tell you what I believe about Nessie if you like,’ says co-owner of Loch Ness Shores Camping and Caravanning Site Lyn. ‘I used to run the shop in the village, and many of the elderly villagers used to come in and tell me their stories.’ She leans across the desk and her voice softens, as she looks gently at L.

    8 yo L’s eyes are ready to pop as she stands at the shop counter listening intently to Lyn share so many accounts of sightings. L’s come in for sweets and souvenirs, she wasn’t expecting a story, and a real one at that, about Scotland’s biggest tourism PR success, and this most fascinating phenomenon –  to young and old visitors alike – the Loch Ness monster. We arrived at Loch Ness the previous evening, after a spectacular drive in our rented motorhome from Edinburgh, we feasted on Scotland’s spectacular scenery from the motorhome window, but now we want to really get inside it. Continue reading

    Date, Fun, Nottingham

    Forest Live Gigs: Who would you like to see in the forest this Summer?

    forest live 2016

    Jake Bug, Nottingham, good friends and trees. Forest Live. Now that is a winning combination.

    I was so excited to hear that Jake Bugg had announced a gig in his home town Nottingham on Thursday 23rd June, even more pleased when I later discovered he is performing at Sherwood Pines forest and that the Forestry Commission have asked me to review it. This is one of a series of performances by a fabulous range of artists at Forestry Commission sites around the UK, Kaiser Cheifs, Simply Red, Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott, Tom Jones, Rudimental, Guy Garvey, UB40,  John Newman, James Bay are playing in different forests in June and July… I will share all the dates and venues below. Continue reading

    All of it!, Relationships, Wellbeing, Wisdoms

    Weeding the Mind – My 10 Day Mental Detox

    Weeding the Mind, a 10 day mental detox

     

    I have always wondered how on earth Mr A’s brain is wired to always see the positive, when mine is wired to worry. I wouldn’t say I was a pessimist, I’m not anxious or depressed or a serious worrier, but I have always been conscientious and keen to do well and sometimes that means I can be overly negative when things don’t got to plan or move fast enough or when I am feeling stuck or bored, times when it would really help me to be more positive.

    I’ve felt a but stuck for a while, juggling lots of projects, enjoying playing with lots of ideas, but it feels like time to really consolidate some things and move on a little. I’ve found some great tools to help with that.

    So, today I am sharing with you my diary of a 10 day mental detox which was inspired by a Tony Rubbins book (written in the 90s, so with some now slightly dubious celebrity reference points). I am not a great fan of spending too long reading self help type books, but I love anything immediate that puts me in a brighter frame of mind and Tony Rubbins is meant to be the world’s number one life coach. Continue reading

    All of it!, Days Out, Fun, Nottingham

    5 reasons to go to an Ice Hockey Match: Nottingham Panthers 

    I can’t believe we’ve never been to an ice hockey match before. Nottingham is home to the Panthers, and also to the National Ice Centre, so it’s a pretty awesome place to watch a match. I also can’t believe how excited the kids were about going, they didn’t stop talking about it beforehand, and afterwards. Now they both want lessons!

    Here’s why it makes a great family night out:

    ONE Ice hockey is fast, it’s hard to get bored.

    TWO Ice hockey is really graceful, it’s breathtaking to watch the moves the players pull off, and the ease with which they do it.

    THREE The music is brilliant and really adds to the sense of an event, the DJ really knows how to play the crowd. We all like a bit of rock music. The music adds a cheeky commentary too, bursts of love songs when players fight and get sent off.

    FOUR. It’s dramatic, as the play went on, there were more and more skirmishes as the players crashed into each other and the side lines, where fights broke out. L was a bit taken aback at first, but we explained they weren’t actually fighting, just doing it for show. There are clear consequences too – the players get time out in the sin bin.

    FIVE. The crowd are enthusiastic, Mr G really loved joining in when the panthers scored, as the little video shows, click the arrow and it will pop up.

    Mr A bid for the tickets in an auction and we were lucky enough to sit in the box. We would definitely go again, I think it would be fun to be amongst the crowds too.

    All of it!, Days Out, Dog, Travel, Vlogging

    Welsh Adventure Chapter 3: Mwnt Beach and Aberaeron

    A family day at Mwnt beach, Cardigan bay, Wales

    After a few days just the four of us, a day at Devil’s Bridge and a rainy pyjama day at cosy Barbara House – the gorgeous coastal Sykes Cottages place we stayed in – my Dad joined us for a day out in Cardigan Bay, Wales. The sun shone, so we decided to head for a National Trust beach I had seen mentioned in a list of Top UK beaches in The Guardian. It was about 40 minutes from our cottage in Llanon, you need to look out for sign posts and follow the map closely as it is a tiny turn off to this secret beach.

    A family day at Mwnt beach, Cardigan bay, Wales

    We missed Penbryn, the beach before it, also owned by The National Trust, and ended up at Mwnt. I think it was fate, this was one of the best days, made even more special by the tiny kiosk selling home made barabrith and Welsh cakes, and by the tiny chapel, and the breathtaking views from the top of the hill above the chapel. I took some of my favourite photos of the whole trip on this hill and beach. Here is a gentle introduction!

     

    Just so happy to be with two of my favourite boys!

    IMG_7152

    A family day at Mwnt beach, Cardigan bay, Wales A family day at Mwnt beach, Cardigan bay, Wales A family day at Mwnt beach, Cardigan bay, Wales

    Cake has never tasted so good.

    A family day at Mwnt beach, Cardigan bay, Wales

    Love this selfie this pair took.

    IMG_7136

    So many parts of Ceredigion feel otherworldly, this reminded me of Greece…

    A family day at Mwnt beach, Cardigan bay, Wales

    I love how fascinated Max was with the view across to Ireland, I forget sometimes he is Irish, so maybe it was a homing instinct, or just the smell of the sea?

    A family day at Mwnt beach, Cardigan bay, Wales A family day at Mwnt beach, Cardigan bay, Wales

    These are my favourite shots of the whole trip, they really put the sweepingly beautiful Cardigan Bay into perspective.

    A family day at Mwnt beach, Cardigan bay, Wales A family day at Mwnt beach, Cardigan bay, Wales A family day at Mwnt beach, Cardigan bay, Wales

    This one puts the tiny chapel in more perspective.

    A family day at Mwnt beach, Cardigan bay, Wales

    So stunningly white against the blue skies.

    A family day at Mwnt beach, Cardigan bay, Wales A family day at Mwnt beach, Cardigan bay, Wales A family day at Mwnt beach, Cardigan bay, Wales A family day at Mwnt beach, Cardigan bay, Wales

    Aberaeron

    After a lovely morning we decided to head to Aberaeron, a gorgeous multicoloured coastal town on the way back to Llanon. It is a foodie’s paradise and we enjoyed a gastro pub style feast at The Harbourmaster, which Alistair Sawday lists in his Special Places to Stay, and I highly recommend for families. The giant rocks along the beach are also great fun for leaping on, and you must try honey ice cream at The Hive in the harbour too.

    Dinner at The Harbourmaster, Aberaeron, Cardigan Bay, Wales

    Dinner at The Harbourmaster, Aberaeron, Cardigan Bay, Wales

    Dinner at The Harbourmaster, Aberaeron, Cardigan Bay, Wales

    Dinner at The Harbourmaster, Aberaeron, Cardigan Bay, Wales Dinner at The Harbourmaster, Aberaeron, Cardigan Bay, Wales Dinner at The Harbourmaster, Aberaeron, Cardigan Bay, Wales

     

    Need to Know 

    Barbara House, Sykes Cottages

    We stayed in Barbara House, as guests of Sykes Cottages, You can read more about our adventures here and here.

    Charity, Travel

    Team Honk London Museum Dash for Sport Relief

    london museum dash for sport relief

    26 museums. 3okm. 35,000 steps. Over £1000 raised for Sport Relief. At the weekend I completed an incredible London Museum Dash for Sport Relief as part of Team Honk, the blogging collective I co-founded three years ago to raise money for Sport Relief. I thought it would be fun to ‘see’ the whole challenge in one post. You can still sponsor us here and help change lives in the UK and beyond.

    The Museum Dash was the brain child of fellow blogger Nell from Pigeon Pair and Me. Nell and I often blog about similar things – culture and travel – but haven’t hung out properly before, so I was instantly taken with her challenge. Swazi from Chocolate is Not The Only Fruit also took on this amazing challenge – Nell planned the route, but Swazi was our bold and fearless navigator – it was lovely to spend time in their company and to be with people who know London so well.

    I am terrible at map reading and my London knowledge has faded rapidly in the 10 years since we moved away, so my contribution was to be a sounding board, to print out maps, buy deely boppers and research all the social media handles for the museums we visited.

    We started at the Barbican cafe for tea and planning. A shot in the art gallery and we were off!

    london museum dash for sport relief

    Stop 2 was the Museum of London Life, swiftly followed by The British Museum where I managed to admire an artefact!

    london museum dash for sport relief

    Next stop the Cartoon Museum, which was so colourful and friendly, shop looked fab and a great bonus stop if you are at the British Museum.

    Then the Courtald Musuem, where the brilliant staff helpfully ushered us to their most well known painting by Manet. I can’t tell you how much of a philistine I felt trying to take selfies in deeply boppers, luckily a security guard came to our photo rescue. I also spied a Van Gogh on my way out, definitely need to revisit this one.

    Then onto The London Transport Museum. We got some cracking photos here and if you have a transport mad family member, you must visit!

    london museum dash for sport relief

    I especially loved nearly crashing a bus!

    Another bonus stop we hadn’t planned was the London Film Museum, and the security guard who went out of his way to get us some great Bond back drops for our photo evidence!

    I really wanted to take in the Foundling, Dickens and Medical Instrument Museum, but a demo in the area meant we needed to move through this area fast. Then towards Trafalgar Square, a quick Vogue outside the National Portrait Gallery, smiles outside the National Gallery and that’s the Cartoon Museum from earlier too!

    We had time to head to RADA, this area brought back lovely memories of this trip to London at the Cavendish Hotel and of wedding shopping with Mr A when we lived in London. Poor Swazi dropped my phone trying to take this pic, she was so worried returning it with the smashed screen, but it is insured thank goodness, I hugged her, told her not to worry and we moved on. 9 hours together, having only just properly met in ‘real life’, and not a cross word – we were such a team. Continue reading

    All of it!, Dog, Travel

    Welsh Adventure Chapter 2: Exploring Hinterland Locations

    Hinterland Mathias on gravel road

    As we drove to our Sykes Cottages place Barbara House in Cardigan Bay I saw the signs for Devils Bridge, it nudged something dark in my subconscious but I couldn’t for the life of me place what. I watched from the window as we entered an otherworldly landscape of hinterland locations: forest, isolated farmhouses, tiny chapels, reservoirs and rugged open moorland, red kites soared ominously above the trees. This part of Wales is quite unique, mountains give way to a wonderfully remote feeling, it reminded me of Canada in its scale of houses to land. The land soon gives way to the sea and a stretch of beautifully multi coloured seafront houses in pretty villages.

    We stayed in a beautiful blue house in the seaside village of Llannon.

    IMG_6948

    As I was flicking through the leaflets in the gorgeous and cosy cottage, I saw leaflets advertising walks round tiny remote chapels and again something in my subconscious ruffled the hairs on my neck. It wasn’t until I reached the bottom of the pile of leaflets and found this one that I finally realised where the creepy feelings had come from. An episode of Hinterland we had watched on Netflix.

    If you haven’t seen it, mysterious DCI Mathias starts a new job based in Aberystwyth and the surrounding area, or Hinterland. His first day on the job sees him solving a murder in Devil’s Bridge, the climax of the episode takes place in a tiny remote chapel. The series was part of a BBC commitment to showing more Wales on TV and it was made simultaneously in Welsh and English, in Welsh it was titled Y Gwyll or The Dusk.

    Visiting the setting of HInterland

    We had an amazing time exploring the seaside villages of Aberaeron and New Quay, but by Tuesday I felt I needed to exorcise the Hinterland demons and explore Devil’s Bridge. It turned out to be a great day out for the family, with the added layer of filmic interest for Mr A and I.

     

    Hinterland Locations – Devil’s Bridge

    I remember DCI Mathias finding bloodstains on this bridge, but the sunshine, ticket office, shop, signage and other visitors soon helped me feel more at ease. It is a stunning family nature walk.

    Exploring the setting of HInterland and Devils Bridge, Ceredigion, Wales

    While the kids leapt about and marvelled at the landscape, it was hard not to see it all in camera angles, what an amazing place to shoot! A Hitchcock dream, with the vertigo enhancing set of the River Mynach crashing through the deep ravine of ferns and ancient oaks. The perfect thriller setting, so many steps, a winding path, so desolate and no idea what is lurking at the end.

    Exploring the setting of HInterland and Devils Bridge, Ceredigion, Wales

    The hotel is also used as a set, and a really creepy back story it has too, I won’t ruin it for you.

    Exploring the setting of HInterland and Devils Bridge, Ceredigion, Wales

    Devil’s Bridge has a great folk story behind it – the shop can give you a map and a copy or you can download it here – and as we walked down the ravine I began to read it out to the rest of the family, who were hooked. Hinterland unfolds around a team of modern detectives, but also draws on the ancient legends of Ceredigion and Wales, which makes it a really powerful thriller narrative.

    Exploring the setting of HInterland and Devils Bridge, Ceredigion, Wales

    This picture really captures how much the landscape seems to belong to another world, Mr A said it reminds him of Canada.

    Exploring the setting of HInterland and Devils Bridge, Ceredigion, Wales

    Once you reach the bottom of the ravine the views of the 300ft waterfall are stunning.

    Exploring the setting of HInterland and Devils Bridge, Ceredigion, Wales

    Exploring the setting of HInterland and Devils Bridge, Ceredigion, Wales

    We really enjoyed Jacob’s Ladder, a set of 100 steps. Again the photos start to remind me of a thriller…I used to love teaching a Media Studies A Level module on making a thriller opening sequence, I can see exactly why Hinterland was filmed here, apart from the dramatic setting, the angles and sense of vertigo is really effective too.

    Exploring the setting of HInterland and Devils Bridge, Ceredigion, Wales

    Exploring the setting of HInterland and Devils Bridge, Ceredigion, Wales

    Exploring the setting of HInterland and Devils Bridge, Ceredigion, Wales

    The walk has lots to keep everyone entertained, a bridge at the bottom, before climbing back up the other side, alongside the waterfall.

    Exploring the setting of HInterland and Devils Bridge, Ceredigion, Wales

    Exploring the setting of HInterland and Devils Bridge, Ceredigion, Wales

    Exploring the setting of HInterland and Devils Bridge, Ceredigion, Wales

    Exploring the setting of HInterland and Devils Bridge, Ceredigion, Wales

    The kids were excited to find icicles.

    Exploring the setting of HInterland and Devils Bridge, Ceredigion, Wales

    One last look back, through a telescope that again screamed thriller opening sequence to me too.

    Exploring the setting of HInterland and Devils Bridge, Ceredigion, Wales

    More stunning views of the incredible landscape.

    Exploring the setting of HInterland and Devils Bridge, Ceredigion, Wales

    Exploring the setting of HInterland and Devils Bridge, Ceredigion, Wales

     

    Hafod Hotel

    The nature walk brings you out at the Hafod Hotel, I had to take some pictures, I won’t spoil the story but those windows and the phone box were so engrained in my mind.

    Exploring the setting of HInterland and Devils Bridge, Ceredigion, Wales

    Exploring the setting of HInterland and Devils Bridge, Ceredigion, Wales

     

    Aberystwyth

    After a day out Hinterland style we decided to follow DCI Mathias’s footsteps to Aberystwyth, where the police station is set. It was a grey day, and we were too hungry to spend much time looking for a dog friendly cafe or pub, so instead we went for chips on the sea front, which snuggled in a little shelter together was blissful. Max our greyhound especially loved the fact he got to snaffle everyone’s leftovers.

    Aberyswyth

    Aberyswyth

    It was followed by tea and cake in a cafe and a bit of pocket money shopping. Max the greyhound was made such fuss of everywhere we went in Aberystwyth, such a friendly, lovely place full of exactly the kind of shops my kids, and their grown ups love.

    Aberyswyth

     

     

    Need to Know

    Visit our gorgeous Sykes Cottage base Barbara House,  here and take a tour in this post, or see our fun on the beach!

    Devils Bridge Falls – Info, maps and opening times

    Dogs are allowed on leads. The only part of this walk that wasn’t so large dog friendly was getting out through the turnstile at the far end. Max took a lot of coaxing to go through, but luckily he did it. It was that or walk all the way back down and up and ask the man in the shop to let us through. It might be worth visiting during times when the attendant is there if you have a large dog. Attendant at entrance from 9.45 am to 5.30 pm but hours do vary depending on high or low season. More info here

    Other Hinterland locations can be found by downloading this brochure.

    We were guests of Sykes Cottages, opinions remain my own.

    Days Out, nature

    A room with a wit woo

    Off we went, along the canal, a strange group to anyone who passed, carrying ladders and a large box. The kids keen to help carry something. My Dad came too.

    DSC03619

    A right turn off the canal into Danes Moss, a nature reserve and SSSI. I grew up in Macclesfield, but I have never been here before.

    DSC03623

    Over the railway bridge we went, carrying our ladders and the big brown box.

    DSC03624

    Into the woods and over another bridge.

    DSC03627

    Over the walkway across the marsh, to the furthest corner…

    DSC03633

    Continue reading