Edinburgh!

Ahh Edinburgh, the big old grey city with a wealth of history and a rich Scottish culture. I know cities tend to just be the same, but there’s just something about Edinburgh that makes it unique. It might have something to do with the huge castle plonked on top of the hill overlooking the city, I don’t know :p We arrived into Edinburgh after a reasonably short drive from the Lake District. It was exciting crossing over into Scotland – a first for me! We even stopped on the side of the highway and snapped a selfie with the ‘Welcome to Scotland’ sign. It was about 5pm once we reached our accommodation for the night, which was an apartment just five minutes from the Old Town. They were called Holistic Apartments and they were lovely on the inside, but the outside wasn’t exactly what you would call ‘holistic’. But with a double bed and a washing machine, it was all we needed.

We made it to Scotland!
We made it to Scotland!

After settling in we drove into the Old Town and walked up the Royal Mile to check out the Edinburgh Castle. The sun was settling past the big old grey buildings, which created a golden light over the ancient castle. The cobblestone streets glowed golden and the distant sound of bagpipes made the Scottish capital morph from the harsh, cold city into a beautiful old style town.

Edinburgh at sunset..
Edinburgh at sunset..

The Royal Mile was buzzing with people and the search for a dinner spot was difficult as most restaurants were filled up with people. We eventually settled on the No. 1 High Street Bar, which served lovely fish and chips. Mum and I also dared to try the unappealing haggis, which I must admit was actually not that bad. But maybe that’s because it was served as a mince with mashed potato. If you just pretended it was regular mince, you could almost call it delicious. We headed back to our apartment to do some more washing and research of what to do the following day. We woke the next morning to fog as thick as pea soup. Despite not being able to see twenty metres ahead, we got organised and set out for the morning’s activity, hiking to Arthur’s Seat. Arthur’s Seat is the highest peak in Holyrood Park. It peaks at 250m above sea level, which gives you a fantastic panoramic view of Edinburgh. Or at least, that’s what I hear. Mum and I took on the mountain despite the heavy fog; in hopes of the sun deciding to appear once we reached the top. In typical blonde fashion, we decided to take the steep track up because it looked shorter. However with the fog making seeing any further than 20 metres ahead impossible and our total lack of knowledge on where to walk, Mum and I ended up taking the longest route possible. We reached what we thought was the Seat, however it was actually the highest point. Not satisfied, we continued walking and reached a crossroads with absolutely no idea which one to take. There are no signs on this hill, at all!

Even heavy fog creates beauty
Even heavy fog creates beauty

We asked a fellow walker and he pointed us in the direction of the steepest route, typical! We hauled ourselves up the many stairs, pausing to catch out breath and look out into the thick fog for a possibility of seeing the city below us but no luck. We continued on until we reached the actual Arthurs Seat. I’m sure the view would have been fantastic, but we could only see grey, thick fog.

Yeww! Made it to Arthur's Seat, eventually!
Yeww! Made it to Arthur’s Seat, eventually!
Impressed with the view.. Not!
Impressed with the view.. Not!

Breathless, sweaty and tired, we headed back down the hill to find that we had taken the longest route possible, and could have been at the top within half and hour. Ahh well, the cardio was good for us!

St Anthonys Church on the way back down.
Ruins of St. Anthony’s Chapel on the way back down.

We got back to our apartment and quickly showered and packed up in time for check out. Our first point of call was our course, coffee, as well a dirty big cream cake for Mumma Bear as a reward for climbing the mountain 😛 After coffee, we walked up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle where we handed over our 18£ to walk through the old castle.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle
I had to.. I just had to.
I had to.. I just had to.

Edinburgh Castle has believed to be on Castle Rock since the reign of David I in the 12th century. It was used as a royal residence until the 15th century when it was used at military barracks. The castle has had a pretty rough life, but today it serves mainly as a tourist attraction and the home to the famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo. We spent over an hour walking through the castle, learning about the history and marvelling at how intact it was. We were treated to a hilarious history lesson in the Great Hall by a Scot in a kilt, who threatened to reveal the truth behind the ‘what do they wear under the kilt’ mystery!

Learning Scottish history in the Great Hall
Learning Scottish history in the Great Hall
The Lang Stairs at Edinburgh Castle
The Lang Stairs at Edinburgh Castle

As usual, time was escaping us and we had places to be. We headed back to the car and navigated our way out of the city centre, not before launching ourselves onto a tram line and bus and taxi only zone! Getting out of Edinburgh didn’t take long and before we knew it, we were back to zooming past green paddocks and cute little towns.

Scenes on the Royal Mile
Scenes on the Royal Mile
Edinburgh
Edinburgh

Our next stop for the night is Anstruther, a small fishing village before climbing up to the top of Scotland towards Aberdeen! J. x

The Lake District

After the fun from riding the heavy horses we buzzed rather quickly through the Lake District towards Keswick. Stopping every so often because the view was so damn pretty that we had to take some photos, we made it to Keswick just as the sun was starting to sink below the horizon. Tonight’s accommodation was in a little B&B called Blue Stone Cottage, just off the town centre of Keswick.

The beautiful countryside we were driving through
The beautiful countryside we were driving through

Keswick is the main tourist hub for the Lake District and despite it being the end of peak season, the little town was absolutely poppin’! Hiking and camping is a popular activity in the Lake District so it wasn’t unusual to see people walking around with big hiking sticks and heavy backpacks. We had dinner at the Bank Tavern where all three of us ordered pies. We got a lamb and mint pie, chicken and mushroom pie and a steak and ale pie. All three were delicious though I think the lamb and mint one was the winner. Afterwards we had a cuppa at a small Italian restaurant and played cards until tiredness settled over us and we retreated back to Blue Stones for a much needed sleep.

A bit more English countryside :p
A bit more English countryside :p

The following morning we packed up early, had a quick brekkie and headed down to Derwentwater for a boat ride and a stroll. The lake is absolutely stunning, surrounded by huge mountains and a layer of early morning mist still settled above the water. It was a crisp morning but warm in the sun. Overall, a really, really pleasant day in England! The boat ride took about 15 minutes and we sliced through the glassy water, passing a group of school children and their brave teachers paddling out on canoes.

Canoeing on the lake is a popular activity..
Canoeing on the lake is a popular activity..

We reached our starting point, Lodore headed over to the waterfalls for a squiz. I know I keep going on and on about how green this country is, but I still cant fathom how there can be that much damn chlorophyll in one part of the world! Anyway, the waterfalls were exceptionally green and pretty. I kind of expected some forest fairies to come flying out and sprinkle fairy dust everywhere. We continued around the lake, which was absolutely picturesque.

Waiting for the boat to take us around
Waiting for the boat to take us around

The water was still and the mountains reflected in the glass-like water. It was a photographers dream. The walk took about an hour and we arrived at the pick-up point just in time for the wooden boat to pick us up.

The picturesque Derwentwater
The picturesque Derwentwater

I can definitely see why the Lake District is such a popular destination is so popular with nature buffs and outdoorsy types. The air is so fresh and clean, you feel alive and energised. The last time I’ve really felt like this was in Switzerland, in Lauterbrunnen. It’s that mountain air, beats a hazy city anyday.

DCIM105GOPRO

After our stroll we had coffee and cake at Laura in the Lakes and jumped back in the car headed for Scotland! First stop, Edinburgh!

 

J. x

Cumbrian Heavy Horses

Today’s events are why I love travelling 🙂

Mum, Dad and I had left Starbotton in the direction of the beautiful Lake District. All we had was accommodation for the night booked in Keswick, about a two-hour drive away. The rest of the day was up to us to fill. We had stopped in the town of Kendal for a look around and a much needed coffee. Kendal didn’t look like much of a town as we drove in, but once we got out of the car and had a wander around, it turned out to be a great little town.

We had coffee at The Famous 1657 Chocolate House that made the most wicked chocolate cake I’ve tasted. It was an adorable two-story building on a serious slant and with a very low roof. I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland after she drinks the potion and grew to a giant! We were perusing through local magazines as we sipped our coffee and came across an ad for Cumbrian Heavy Horses – the only company in the world that offers rides on heavy horses, such as Clydesdales and Shire Horses. The three of us, having horse withdrawals called them immediately and booked in for an afternoon ride. We chugged down the rest of our coffee and practically ran to the car, we had plans for the day!

Cumbrian Heavy Horses
Cumbrian Heavy Horses

It was about an hours drive to the farm and took us through more incredible countryside. The grass is that green that it hurts your eyes. As we neared the farm we could just see the Irish Sea in the distance past the paddocks. The Cumbrian Heavy Horse Farm was your typical English farm, a huge stone house, big green paddocks and blackberries spilling over the fences. They had about twenty horses, all beautiful big draught horses which I instantly fell in love with.

Lifes tough at Cumbrian
Lifes tough at Cumbrian
You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours?
You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours?

We had a briefing with Johnny our riding leader and assigned our horses. I am probably a bit biased here but I think I scored with the best horse, Zac. He was a giant 18.2hh black Shire horse with fluffy white, feathered legs and a big white blaze. His head was pretty much the length of my upper body and his hooves were the size of dinner plates. But he was very gentle and loved getting his ears rubbed. Mum was on a bay Clydie called Miri and Dad had a roan Shire horse called Otto.

Zac and me!
Zac and me!

We mounted (with the help of a very big mounting block!) and had a walk around to get used to the horses large, long strolling walk. As we were riding in little dressage saddles, I felt a bit wary compared to how I feel riding in my bigger stock saddles. Though as we rode on, I went back to my Pony Club Days and got used to the smaller saddles.

DCIM105GOPRO

We rode out through the paddocks, trotting and cantering in places but mostly enjoying this unique way to see the countryside. Zac had this lovely loping canter that felt like a rocking chair and even though my butt ached from not riding for over a year, I didn’t want to get off him!

Dad, Mum and I. Not quite the Australian Stock Horses we have at home, but just as fun!
Dad, Mum and I. Not quite the Australian Stock Horses we have at home, but just as fun!

The ride went far too quickly, even though we went for over two hours. Once we reached the stables again, we gave our new giant friends one last cuddle and pat, thanked the owners and headed off towards the Lake District.

The Cumbrian Heavy Horse stables
The Cumbrian Heavy Horse stables

The whole day was such a fun and different experience. It’s always the spontaneous decisions that turn out the best fun. I’m so glad we picked us the magazine in Kendal that led us to Cumbrian Heavy Horses. It’s an experience that I won’t ever forgot! Even if I have a sore butt for the next few days!

Didn't want to leave this guy behind :( He was such a honey!
Didn’t want to leave this guy behind 😦 He was such a honey!

 

J. x

Birthdays, countryside and one really big pie.

This morning was a bit of a special one – my birthday! I turned the big 23, however I like to think of it as 21 + 2 years :p I actually wasn’t too fussed about my birthday, it just felt like another day. I guess that means I’m getting old! After a quick brekkie and Skype with my sister back home we checked out of the Farmyard Inn and drove onto Bakewell for a quick poke around the local markets. The small township was jam-packed full of people checking out the goods for sale. Because we needed a birthday cake (and caffeine), we dropped into the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop for a slice of their famous Bakewell tart and a coffee. If you ever happen to be in Bakewell, definitely get your mouth around one of these bad boys. The caramelly, cakey goodness is absolutely lekker! Definitely was a good choice for a birthday cake!

Happy birthday to me! Dad and I devouring the delicious Bakewell Tart
Happy birthday to me! Dad and I devouring the delicious Bakewell Tart

We continued onto towards our next perch for the night, Starbotton. Mum is a genius at finding cute little B&B’s in cute little towns and this one didn’t disappoint. The drive there was another bendy one with miles and miles of lush green paddocks and rock fences. The English countryside sure is growing on me!

This.
This.

 

..and this.

 

..and this.

Starbotton is a small blink-and-you’ll-miss-it type of town in the Yorkshire Dales but the stony houses, manicured gardens and random red telephone boxes made it memorable. We were staying at a place called the Sweet Briar B&B for the night, which was run by an youngish English man. We were literally staying in his house, but had a totally private section of the house.

Developing a bit of an obsession with these telephone boxes!
Developing a bit of an obsession with these telephone boxes!

There were all these painted yellow bikes hanging off buildings and on top of roofs. We couldn’t work out why there were so many, sure the roads in the Yorkshire Dales were reasonably bike friendly, but these people must be more bike obsessed than the Dutch. It wasn’t until we commented on the amount of bikes that we discovered Le Tour De France had been held in this very place just two months earlier! Apparently the race holds a stage or two in a different country and this year it was England! Well, the yellow bikes suddenly made sense!

Some of the locals recommended heading to the next town for dinner so we drove the 2 minutes down the road to Kettlewell to the adorable Blue Bell Inn. Dad was starting a trend of ordering a pie in every town so he went for the steak and ale pie. Mum and I went for steaks, though when Dad’s pie came out, we abandoned our steaks and helped him devour his. This was no problem because the pie was the size of the entire dinner plate and the best pie I’ve ever tasted! We rolled back down to Starbotton and passed out in another food coma. English pub food is ridiculous; I don’t know how much longer I can indulge in such goodness!

Yellow bike and giant pies. Welcome to Blue Bell Inn!
Yellow bike and giant pies. Welcome to Blue Bell Inn!
Just a steak and ale pie they said, you don't need to share they said..
Just a steak and ale pie they said, you don’t need to share they said..

Our next stop on our very rough itinerary is the Lake District. I’ve heard lots about the area and am keen to see what all the fuss is about!

J. x

Youlegreave and the Suffolk Horse Spectacular!

Driving through the English countryside is just a party for the eyes. Especially being a country girl, the huge green paddocks, the flocks of sheep and the quiet roads tend to bring on a sense of home. It was a particular windy drive through Derbyshire and the Peak District, I felt a bit ill as Dad buzzed around the tight corners pretending he was a Formula 1 driver. On the plus side, Britain is quite a small country, so we didn’t drive anymore than 3 hours at a time.

Beautiful English countryside.
Beautiful English countryside.

Before reaching our destination for the day, we had to stop by the Suffolk Horse Spectacular and County Fair in Kentford, Newmarket. We had spotted an ad for it in the local paper and being total horsey nutheads, we couldn’t miss it. We reached Kentford and found the fair grounds rather easily. A county fair is similar to what we would call a show back in Australia, with horse events, demonstrations and delicious food stalls! Due to our limited time frame we stopped in for lunch and watched the beautiful Suffolk Horses parade around with their shiny chesnut coats and beautifully braided manes.

The Suffolk Horse Spectacular!
The Suffolk Horse Spectacular!

It certainly was different to what we were used to, but it was great to watch. The care and detail these people poured into these heavy horses was incredible, it made me miss my ponies at home! Unfortunately we had to keep moving to reach our next stop for the night.

Just like the olden days..
Just like the olden days..

We pulled into Youlegreave at around 5:30pm, just in time to enjoy a drink in the outdoor area of the pub we were staying at before the sun went below the horizon. Youlegreave is a cute little town (another cute little town!) in the middle of the Peak District. We were staying at the Farmyard Inn, in a room called the Stables. Though I think we would have been better to stay in the Pig Sty because of the mess we made once we unpacked our gear. We were starving by the time we got ourselves organised so dinner was first priority. The Farmyard Inn was the epitome of English pub fare with specials of the day including steak and ale pie, fish and chips and my jeans worse nightmare, chips drowned in gravy. Of course, using the excuse that this technically was our first proper English pub meal – because you can’t really count London – we went all out. A short awhile later, we decided that probably wasn’t the wisest decision because we were so full we couldn’t move. It was absolutely delicious though, deliciously bad. Deciding a walk might do us good, we had a jaunt around the town before it got really dark before heading back to our room to conk out in a food coma.

Dad thoroughly enjoying his pub dinner!
Dad thoroughly enjoying his pub dinner!

Tomorrow is my birthday!! We’re off to the Yorkshire Dales to see more lovely countryside and visit some markets.

Stay tuned!

J. x

East Bergholt & Flatford

Note to self (and anyone thinking of it) – allow at least two hours to pick up hire car in England!

We eventually got our little black Volkswagen Golf on the road after a veerrry long time waiting around and headed in the direction of Colchester. Our destination was East Bergholt, the home of my grandparent’s friends Mert and Brenda, who had kindly offered us a bed for the night. We stopped in at St. Albans for a quick bite to eat before making our way to East Bergholt. Several wrong turns later we reached Mert and Brenda’s just in time for dinner. A massive baked chicken dinner and absolutely mouth watering blackberry crumble later, we rolled into bed totally knackered and totally stuffed.

The following morning Mert and Brenda took us out and about East Bergholt and the surrounding area. The little villages are just what you would picture an English country town to look like. Stone houses with well maintained gardens, lots of green and a beautiful old church.

Beautiful old chuch in East Bergholt
Beautiful old chuch in East Bergholt

We had a stickybeak through the church and walked out to a beautiful view point, where on a clear day you could see for miles. I couldn’t get over how green the place was. The grass doesn’t take sides on the fence here, its green everywhere. We walked back towards the church in time for the bells to ring. This was no ordinary bell ringing however. There were five bells in a sort of cage-like building. At 10am every morning, five men ring the massive bells using all their bodyweight to move them, which create lovely, yet loud ringing chimes that fill the surrounding villages. It was quite a workout for these bell-ringers but a unique way to do it.

The bells waiting to be rung in the bell cage
The bells waiting to be rung in the bell cage

After the bells we drove down to Flatford where the famous artist John Constable found inspiration for his paintings over 200 years ago. The walk through Flatford was peaceful and just lovely to look at. The quaint, little thatched roofed houses and ponds filled with reeds and grumpy geese make it easy to see where Constable drew his inspiration from.

Lovely little Flatford
Lovely little Flatford
Thatched roofs and green grass - perfect countryside
Thatched roofs and green grass – perfect English countryside
Don't be fooled by that face. He was one grumpy old bird!
Don’t be fooled by that face. He was one grumpy old bird!

We headed back to Mert and Brenda’s for a cup of coffee before saying our goodbyes and heading north towards Derbyshire. It was so nice to stay at somebody’s home instead of another hotel or B&B. Mert and Brenda were so hospitable and generous, which is something you forgot when you’re constantly checking in and out of hotels and hostels.

Mert, Brenda, Dad and myself at Flatford
Mert, Brenda, Dad and myself at Flatford

Next stop is heading out into the English countryside in Derbyshire and the Peak District.

J. x

Mammals, Markets & Musicals. . Day 2 in London

Another early wake up (thanks Mum), we chomped down some brekkie and set off towards the tube while B headed off to work. Our first stop today was the Natural History Museum, which I’ve heard is a must-do in London but have never gotten around to going. Mum went the last time she was in London over 20 years ago, so she was excited to see what had changed.

We got off the Tube at South Kensington and walked the short distance to the museum. As it is a free attraction it gets rather busy but luckily we were there early enough so we only had to wait in line for 15 minutes or so to get it. The grand old building is bloody beautiful, to put it bluntly. The architecture had us fascinated, particularly Mum and Dad, who own a building company. The sandy coloured stones, intricately carved and detailed and the pointy turrets make it seem like a castle. The entrance is just as grand as the outside, with a giant skeleton of a dinosaur in the foyer and colourful stained glass windows. We walked through the different exhibitions, such as the dinosaurs, mammals and the cocoon. The museum, as beautiful as it is, was a little out-dated. Mum even said it looked much the same as it did when she visited 20 years ago. In saying that though, they are still researching new species and providing updated information. Even if you aren’t overly interesting in the natural world (can’t imagine why you wouldn’t be!), a visit to the Natural History Museum is definitely a must-do. The carvings in the stone walls are enough to marvel over.

The beautiful exterior of the Natural History Museum.
The beautiful exterior of the Natural History Museum.
The architecture was just incredible.
The architecture was just incredible.

After the museum, we walked through Hyde Park and the Kensington Gardens where we caught the tube to Camden Town. I love Camden. It’s quirky, cool and there is always something to look at. We were pretty starving at this point so we made a beeline for the Stables and grabbed some lunch from the multicultural bunch of food stalls in the middle of the markets. My dear friend K met us briefly for lunch and a wander around the markets.

Dad braving the shops in Camden Town
Dad braving the shops in Camden Town
DJ Grandad killin it on the streets of Camden
DJ Grandad killin it on the streets of Camden

Unfortunately, jetlag was still affecting Mum and Dad so we headed back to Hammersmith for a quick rest. Dad by this stage, was a bit over London and the crowds, so Mum and I bought tickets to see the Lion King in theatre, while he had a quiet night in. Mum and I did a quick turnaround and were back in Leicester Square by 6:30pm. B met us for a quick dinner and then the three of us went into Lyceum Theatre ready for the show. Even though it was my second time seeing the Lion King, I still got goose bumps when the curtains were opened and ‘Circle of Life’ begun. I won’t go into great detail about the Lion King, I don’t think I need to. If you haven’t seen it, well then, go and see it. You will not regret it in the slightest.

Mum and I ready to Hakuna Matata!
Mum and I ready to Hakuna Matata!

The following morning we packed up our gear and said goodbye to our little London home and B, potentially might not see him until he’s back in Australia around Christmas time, so that was a little sad. We didn’t have to pick up our hire car from Heathrow Airport until 1pm so we spent the morning in Notting Hill at the Portobello Markets. It was a delightful morning, however somewhat rushed as we browsed through the many stalls as quickly as we could before catching the train to Heathrow. You could find anything at these markets and if not, the people watching level is off the radar!

Portobello Markets
Portobello Markets
Colourful town houses in Notting Hill
Colourful town houses in Notting Hill

 

A sneaky bit of Banksy in Notting Hill
A sneaky bit of Banksy in Notting Hill

 

From here we start our three week long UK road trip. First stop is at friends of my grandparents in East Bergholt!

J. x