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2015 Travel Plans

By 13 January 2015 Life, Lifestyle, Travel
Travel plans 2015

This year, I’m actually going to travel abroad. My poor passport didn’t see any action in 2014. I’m sure it’s feeling a little neglected.

Kingston-Upon-Thames

Yes I realise this isn’t abroad, but I’m going to include my weekend in this royal borough in my travel plans because I intend to make the most of it. I’m going to the Traverse 15 travel blogger conference. Yes, these meagre travel plans mean I’m not exactly a top travel blogger, but travel is my passion and I’m sure that what I’ll learn will be transferable.

I’m determined to travel more. In fact, I read a great article by Monica of The Travel Hack about saving money for travel and I intend to take on board her advice. This year, these few plans are all I can muster but I intend to get my finances in order during the year so that from next year on I can travel a whole lot more.

France

Pontivy panorama

My parents live in Brittany. You’d think that would mean regular trips over to see them but unfortunately, finances dictate otherwise. The last time we went over there was Christmas 2013.  I was determined to visit during the summer though as it’s been quite chilly during our last couple of trips.

I’m going alone to France in June. I’ve picked up a £50 flight from Ryanair and timed it over a weekend so that I can spend 6 days there but only take 4 days holiday.  I only get 20 days annual leave per year so every day is precious.

Portugal

I’ve booked two weeks off in October to coincide with my birthday and I’m determined to spend it on a beach somewhere. Unfortunately I can’t afford the Caribbean or somewhere else exotic or tropical but we can hopefully stretch to ten nights on the Algarve.

I’ve seen some pretty amazing deals where we can get 10 nights self catering for about £500. I’m definitely going to be exploring lots of options. We’ll hopefully be spending lots of time out and about so the accommodation doesn’t matter too much, but I’d like decent self catering facilities as we won’t be able to afford to eat out every night, and a swimming pool is also a must. Somehow it doesn’t feel like a holiday unless there’s swimming involved!

If anyone has any recommendations for places to stay, things to do, etc on the Algarve please let me know!

I’ll probably buy a guide book. I’m trying to do my bit to keep the travel book publishers in business! 😉 Or perhaps I’m just old-school.

guidebook collection

So that’s about it for my 2015 travel plans.

Where are you off to this year? Let me know in the comments.

Rachel x

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Exploring Blair Castle and Killiecrankie, Perthshire

By 17 October 2014 Life, Lifestyle, Scotland, Travel
Blair Castle through the trees

I decided that it couldn’t possibly by right to visit Scotland without going to a castle. The nearest to where we were staying was Blair Castle.

Blair Castle, Perthshire

Situated outside the village of Blair Atholl, near Pitlochry, stands the pretty white castle with a history that spans 700 years. The current castle is Victorian and the east wing is still home to the family of the Duke of Atholl.

We arrived at Blair Castle just in time for the piper.

Piper at Blair Castle

The rooms accessible to the public are beautifully decorated and take you back in time. There’s something a bit voyeuristic about peeking into the lives of others but, perhaps because I’m extremely nosy, I love it! Just like Through the Keyhole or the fabulous home tours on The Everygirl! (By the way, if you want to see how young, professional women live in America, you should definitely check out The Everygirl!)

No photography was permitted inside the castle, except in the ballroom but that was one of the least interesting rooms. The main stairway was adorned with weapons and there were stag heads lining the corridors. This was most definitely home to some serious hunters. But then hunting is one of those country pursuits that is still very much enjoyed in this part of the world. Deer stalking is carried out between July and February to both bring money into the estate and to keep the deer population under control.

After we ate our lunch sitting on a wet bench (picnics and Scotland in September don’t really mix!), we got to exploring the grounds a little. Close to the castle itself is the Hercules Garden. This walled, ornamental garden is gorgeous. It’s full of bright flowers, fruit trees, topiary and sculptures, all surrounding a huge pond.

I love photographing flowers. The colours always come out so well.

Flowers at Blair Castle

Blair Castle is sat within the expansive Atholl Estates. We walked just one short path that took us through ancient woodland, alongside a gorge of a river and inside a Victorian folly.

River in the woods Blair Castle

We just about spotted a red squirrel before it scuttled back up the tree. This meant spending a long time with our necks craned trying to find more squirrels but to no avail. We did meet a friendly German Shepherd though!

View Atholl Estates

Having spent a few hours at Blair Castle, we continued down the road towards Pitlochry and visited the famous Killiecrankie. Here at ‘Soldier’s Leap’ a fleeing Jacobite soldier evaded the enemy by leaping from one side of the gorge to the other. I think it was about 17 feet! Aside from being a place of historical significance, the Pass of Killiecrankie is a pretty stunning location.

Killiecrankie

Pass of Killiecrankie

Soldier's Leap, Killiecrankie

Before heading back to our cosy cottage, we did pop by Pitlochry but the shops were closed and it was starting to get late so we didn’t stop long.

Pitlochry main street, Perthshire

We loved our holiday in Scotland. This is just one of the days out we enjoyed. Have you been to Scotland? Where did you visit?

If you like castles, you might also want to read about Dover Castle in Kent.

Rachel x

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Autumn in the Scottish Highlands

By 4 October 2014 Outdoors, Photography, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom
Autumn in the Scottish Highlands

This time last week I was driving home from South Yorkshire where we spent an overnight to break up the long journey from Scotland. That’s one of the downsides of living right in the south east corner of the UK; everywhere else in the country is a long way away!

We spent an awesome week in the Highlands, that followed a fantastic 6 nights camping in Cumbria. This holiday felt like it had taken an age to come around. Aside from a few days away here and there, we’ve not been on holiday since our honeymoon in May 2013. Having two weeks off work has been bliss and it meant returning feeling refreshed and raring to go.

Neither of us had been to Cumbria or the Highlands before and I think we chose the right time of year. Scotland was stunning and we were in awe of the view at every turn.

Woods at Blair Castle estate
When we left Kent, it was still late summer. Autumn seemed to happen in front of our eyes during our holiday. Now the fall is well and truly here. These woods at Blair Castle are home to red squirrels. We were lucky enough to just about spot one as it scrambled up a tree.

Ferns  at Rothiemurchus
Our rented cottage was about half an hour or so from Aviemore. Just down the road is the Rothiemurchus estate. We parked for FREE (a shock to system after forking out a fortune in parking charges everywhere in the Lake District) in the woodland car park and took a delightful stroll through this Highland estate. The dying ferns were turning brown, the purple heather was full of glistening spiders’ webs and the leaves were literally falling around us.

Woods on Rothiemurchus estate near Aviemore
Rothiemurchus is obviously a popular place on a Sunday and we were by no means the only people out enjoying the unseasonable warm weather. I managed to avoid getting anyone else in my photos though, so we can always pretend we were the only ones there!

Outside the Clachaig Inn Glencoe
Glencoe was simply awe inspiring. Having arrived to the area late, we didn’t really get to explore but we stopped for a beer in the Clachaig Inn, which is right in the heart of the glen with insane views from the car park!

Streetlight on bridge at Boat of Garten, Speyside
On our last day, we went for a drive around Speyside. Having driven through Boat of Garten, we continued over a bridge over the river Spey. Hubby had to pull over on the side of the road so I could get out and take some pictures!

River Spey Boat of Garten
The river was shimmering in the early evening sunshine. This area of Scotland is the home of whiskey production. There are a huge number of distilleries in the area, with some famous names including Glenfiddich, Aberlour and Glenlivet. Since neither of us particularly like the spirit we didn’t stop for a wee dram.

Padlock on gate at the Highland Wildlife Park
Sister to Edinburgh Zoo, the Highland Wildlife Park has to be in one of the most picturesque settings for a zoo. Hubby thought I’d gone mad taking a photo of this locked gate but I knew the colours would match that of the landscape!

Sun through the clouds out car window
I took far too many photos out of the car windows this holiday. Don’t get me wrong, Kent is a beautiful part of the world but it’s mostly rolling hills, flat marsh and farmland. Both the Lake District and Scotland had us driving around open-mouthed for the majority of the time. The most uttered words in the car were ‘wow, look at that view’!

We fell in love with the Scottish Highlands. So much so that we might live there one day! Have you ever been to the Highlands? What did you think?

Rachel x

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Camping Packing List: What I’m Taking to Blogstock

By 5 August 2014 Life, Lifestyle, Outdoors, Travel, Travel Tips
Camping packing list: what I'm taking to Blogstock

This weekend I’m going to Blogstock! Apparently, it’s the world’s first blogging festival and I, for one, am really looking forward to it!

Blogstock is a cross between a blogger conference and a festival. I’ve never been to either! The interesting part is, I’m camping for the weekend, by myself. Well, in a field with loads of other people but still, I’ve got a tent to myself.

I’ve bought a new tent especially. My tent is a massive 4 man one that takes forever to put up. There’s no way I could put it up by myself even if I wanted to. So, I’ve opted for a funky pop up one from Quechua at Decathlon. I’ve heard good things about these tents and am assured that they are one brand of pop up tent that actually doesn’t leak.

Quechua breton

Luckily, I’m driving to Blogstock. My packing list is pretty long and there’s no way I could carry it all otherwise.

 

 

Here are some of the essentials I’m intending to pack:

Essential camping equipment

– Tent – obvs!
– Sleeping bag
– Mallet to hammer those pegs in
– Self inflating mattress
– Folding chair and mini table
– Gas stove
– Kettle – I don’t want to have to shell out every time I want a coffee
– Torch

Food and drink

I know there’s going to be food available but I want to save a little bit of money on the basics.
– Nescafe 3 in 1 sachets – these are coffee, sugar and milk all in one – not the most amazing cup of coffee but not bad.
– Massive bottle of water!
– Pot Noodle – festival staple I think.
– Bread for toasting
– Cup a soups

Toiletries

– Baby wipes! I’m taking regular wash bag stuff too but baby wipes are essential for quick clean ups, removing make up, cleaning dirty feet before getting into your sleeping bag, etc.
– Quick dry travel towel
– Sun cream (fingers crossed I’ll need it!)
– Hand sanitiser gel – ‘cos you never know what the toilets are going to be like

Clothes

– Flip flops
– Wellies
– Warm socks for the evenings
– Cosy jammies
– Fleece to keep warm after dark
– Waterproof jacket

Optional extras

I’m trying to glamp it up just a little bit. I may be essentially sleeping on the floor but I’d like as much comfort as possible!
– Ikea rug I found for £1.75 – perfect for use as a doormat.
– Picnic blanket – I’m going to use it as a tent carpet. Yup.
– Glow sticks to hang from the front of the tent
– Cute pink pin wheel I found in Sainsbury’s to put outside!

See, told you it would be too much to carry!

Who else is going to Blogstock! Anyone else flying solo? I’m leaving hubby at home for the weekend. Please say ‘hi’ if you see me!

Rachel x

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Fly Folkestone: Folkestone Airshow 2014

By 9 June 2014 Folkestone, Life, Lifestyle, Travel
Folkestone Airshow collage

This weekend saw the welcome return of the Folkestone Airshow. And the sun didn’t half come out to say hello!

After a spectacular downpour, the sky gradually cleared and turned into a real scorcher. Hubby and I just made it to The Leas in time for the Red Arrows display to start. We should have got there earlier to secure a decent spot. It was really hard to see the planes through the trees. For the last airshow we camped out on the beach for the day and I think that needs to be the plan for the next one.

Red Arrows downwards branch out

Red Arrows flying away

Red Arrows flying in formation with the red white and blue smoke

Red Arrows flying to the sun

Red Arrows soaring up high

I love the Red Arrows and I even felt myself get a tad emotional during their display. Yes, I know I’m a weirdo. Luckily I kept it together.

I don’t know what it is about planes. I’m fascinated by them. I briefly worked near Gatwick and could see the planes taking off from just outside work, and I’d frequently get the bus to the airport to get the train rather than using my nearest station just to experience the atmosphere at the airport. It’s probably because it reminds me of my travels.

Anyhoo, I digress. Back to the airshow. It was packed and it was fantastic to see. We’d totally worn the wrong clothes though and ended up having to walk home mid afternoon for a quick shower and change of outfit. Coming back out in summer clothing was much more comfortable! We walked all the way along The Leas, went on a Eurofighter flight simulator and kept walking until we left all the crowds behind.

Spitfire at Folkestone Airshow

Looking down toward the beach, you could almost be in the south of France. The sea was a beautiful colour on Saturday.

Sandgate Beach

Dinner was fish and chips eaten out the paper on the beach at Sandgate. Bliss. Even if I did have to ignore the seagulls circling hungrily above my head just praying that I wasn’t going to eat all my fish. Those birds obviously don’t know me at all.

We strolled home with full bellies and the sun still warm on our bodies along the seafront and back into Folkestone, where the harbour was looking magnificent in the late evening sunlight.

Folkestone harbour with clouds

Folkestone Harbour

The organisers were hoping to continue the airshow as an annual affair but from what I’ve heard they might not have raised enough money this year so it might not be happening in 2015. I think that would be a real shame.

Meanwhile, I’m scoping out tickets to Farnborough International Airshow but unlike Folkestone this isn’t free to enter. It’s £45 each! Mmm… anyone want to buy me a ticket or two?

Do you like airshows? Where have you seen the Red Arrows?

Rachel x

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