A little jaunt around Scotland

I used to travel up to Scotland a lot when I was younger as I had a friend who moved up there, but I had not been for years. For some reason we have now been twice in less than a year!

On Friday we flew up to Edinburgh from Stanstead- as we were hand luggage only this meant not too long at the airport and not too much stress once through security (as we landed there was a fanfare over the tannoy system announcing how good Ryanair were at being on time).

After parkrun on Saturday morning (see previous post) we picked up the car and drove to Pitlochry, where we would be staying for a couple of nights.

Saturday- we park in town and have a wander. Check in to B&B. Walk into town a bit too late and get caught in torrential downpour. Discover that my “shower-proof” pack-a-mac is not waterproof in the slightest. All restaurants full so end up eating chips from a chip shop under the awning of a shop.

Sunday: We did some lovely walks around the town, around some different lakes and forests, including getting slightly lost for a bit in some woods, and finding some stone carvings.

Pitlochry was a lovely little town- it was all very walkable and we could walk down into the centre from our B&B. It had plenty of lovely cafes and even a John Muir centre (we are more used to seeing things about him in the US National parks). We saw a salmon ladder, although it was too murky to see inside if there were any fish. It was so warm we even shared an ice cream.  As it was so busy the day before we had booked a meal for the Sunday evening (I had veggie fajitas which came with the most enormous pile of sizzling peppers, onions, courgettes, mange tout etc.).

Monday- Of course we went to a distillery. We were heading to Fort William and this one was on our way. Initially I was going to drive the hire car on this day, but it was too expensive to add another driver, and we found lots of the distilleries did driver packs where you took sample bottles away. Bonus for Andy- he gets mine too!

We stopped off in Aviemore for a wander and lots of people had recommended this mountain cafe, run by someone from New Zealand. This was a falafel and beetroot sandwich and it was so huge- each slice of bread was the thickness of two normal slices! Andy had a flatbread with chilli haloumi in it, which was equally as huge.

Their cakes had come recommended so we bought some lime and blueberry cake for after dinner, and a chocolate, plum and almond scone (*).

It was still fairly overcast and we didn’t want to get to the B&B too late so we didn’t stay much longer- I think if we were to visit again there would be some lovely walks nearby. We then drove to Fort William and after checking into our B&B had a walk beside the water. We were both so full from lunch that we had a bit of fruit salad, and then shared the cake.

The view from our room

Tuesday- It rained. Oh, how it rained. We had a lovely breakfast (cinnamon porridge) and took our time as it was just raining and raining.

We drove out to one of the visitors centres, and after being told off for not having walking boots (even though we told the lady we were only there for one more day, she told us quite seriously to drive back to Fort William and to buy some walking boots), we found a walk through a forest to Signal Rock.

It actually stopped raining for the walk, so we enjoyed the views and fresh air (the midgies, less so).

Just as we were nearing the car park the rain started, and as we got into the car it was torrential yet again. We drove out towards the coast for a bit in the hope of passing the rain, but it seemed fairly set in, so we headed back to Fort William as there was a little museum there. We mooched around the museum for a bit, had lunch in a lovely little cafe, wandered around the town a bit more and picked up a little picnic tea. We drove to the canal to see Neptune’s staircase (8 locks)- so we walked up one side and down the other.

There was even a teeny bit of blue sky.

We had a little picnic with these views, and I got out the scone * for us to share after. Sadly, it turned out to be some sort of cheese scone, and not the plum and chocolate one I had asked for- how annoying!

Wednesday- we had a long drive back to Edinburgh so left early. I took a few photos as we were driving- it was so scenic.

Once we returned the car (which took 35 minutes because there was one customer in front of us and no other members of staff, and this customer was being a right pain) we had a few hours to wander around Edinburgh.

Blue skies!

More blue skies!

We were going to go out for lunch as we wouldn’t be back until after dinner time, but it was so sunny we got some picnic bits and sat in the park.

It was so peaceful and a lovely end to the holiday. We had time for a bit more of a wander around the centre before we got the bus back to the airport.

Now, we just had to go straight through to security, and at Edinburgh they have the big body scanners. I was randomly selected to go through one, and I made sure I had nothing in my pockets, not even a hairband (I was stopped before and then had to have a proper search because it called up an anomaly which turned out to be a small hairband in one of my pockets- they are clearly very sensitive). On the screen it shows where the anomaly is and it was my hair! After having the pat down I had to turn around and the lady had to lift up my hair and pat it down too! That has never happened before- I do really need a haircut though!

Our plane was a bit late landing (no fanfare this time) and we got home at 9pm- the good thing about going away for only a few days meant that unpacking only took about 10 minutes!

Have you ever been to Scotland? We are already planning another trip for sometime next year. Do you like more active holidays? 

A lovely week in the north round 2

So after our few days in Alnwick we headed to North Yorkshire, via Hadrian’s Wall.

Oh my word it was totally freezing! The wind was whipping off the moors and was just biting. After walking up to the wall, looking around for a bit, we found a National Trust place on the way to our hotel so decided to stop there.

I cannot remember where this was, but there were lambs wandering around in the car park. I love seeing the lambs.

The grounds had a walk to an old water mill, through some woods, so we walked first (saw some pretty flowers too) and then went to the tearoom, sharing a piece of chocolate and beetroot cake- I’ve never had it before and it was lovely. As someone with a bit of a thing about beetroot (I love it in salads but don’t like the idea of it in a smoothie because of the blood colour- I don’t know why) I was surprised that I liked it so much- you could taste a hint of beetroot- it made the chocolate cake taste a little earthy, but in a good way.

We had two full days in Askrigg- here we drove out to places in the surrounding area. Our B&B was lovely- for those days I went for their American-style pancakes, plus a bit of the freshly made fruit salad. I was very tempted by a hot cross bun one day (there was always toast, yoghurt and cereals out too, but I didn’t feel like I needed any of those extras alongside pancakes), but I managed to resist.

On one day we followed a walk in one of the books we had borrowed from the library, basically finding areas that they filmed at on the first series of The Trip. We spent a lot of time on our walk doing impressions of them doing impressions.

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This was me doing the “Ah-haaa” in the same place that Steve Coogan does.

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And back down in the bottom of the valley again.

We were fairly near the Wenslydale Cheese factory, so we headed there one afternoon to look around the shop (I’ve seen cheesemaking once before and it’s not something I am keen to repeat!) and we ended up having grilled cheese sandwiches and some tiffin. The sandwich was good (roasted veggies and rocket pesto or something) but the tiffin was so good as it had caramel in there too. One thing I really didn’t like was the samples room- I went in there as it had a bigger selection of jams and things- I got some raspberry and elderflower jam, and some blackcurrant and lavender, plus some for my mum- but there were piles of cubes of different types of cheese and people could help themselves- I am sure some people ate their own weight in free cheese samples, and even though they asked you to use hand santiser as you entered the room (for some reason, for health and safety, you couldn’t use cocktail sticks), I saw a lot of people who didn’t. Bleurgh.

Anyway, our sandwiches were good which is the most important thing.

One day we went to Ingleton Waterfalls- you pay to park in the car park and then have entry to the 4 or 5 mile walk up past waterfalls, along the tops of hillsides and back down past yet more waterfalls.

Some of it was fairly steep, and the weather went from being very warm if you were out of the wind, to being quite cold- layers were very much needed.

It was so impressive seeing so many waterfalls.

We had driven past this huge viaduct as it was fairly close to where we were staying, so one afternoon we parked up and walked up to it.

We ended up being so lucky with the weather too- we had a few spells of rain in the car but no rain when we were out walking. It didn’t last- on Easter Sunday we drove to Buxton and it rained a lot of the way so we didn’t stop off anywhere.

I was very pleased to see I was wearing rabbit socks (Easter Bunny?)- I hadn’t planned it- they were just the next ones in the suitcase! We walked into Buxton, then it rained some more so we had a drink while we waited for our restaurant reservation. As we were walking back it poured with rain again, and I had only done something like 8,000 steps. I had managed to go well above my 11,000 target for every day of the holiday so I ended up walking around our hotel room for a bit to get up to the right number.

On the Monday we walked into Buxton for breakfast in Caffe Nero (no cooked breakfasts any more!) and then decided to head straight home, so we had the afternoon to get ready for going back to work.

It was a lovely trip- so relaxing, with lots of walking, lots of fresh air, lots of tea room visits, and not a bit of work in sight. A very refreshing break.

A lovely week in the north- part 1

It always makes me laugh when I drive anywhere north from here as the road sign just says


The North”

as if “The North” was one place. We did a fair bit of travelling about and managed to see lots of sights.

After our trip to Harrogate and Fountains Abbey, we drove to Durham.

We had a lovely day there, wandering around the town centre and walking by the river. We went into the cathedral too which was so impressive.

The river is in a sort of a u-bend shape so you could enter from one side of the town, walk along it for a while and end up not far from where you started- or cross over and walk back along the other side.

After a quick breakfast on the Monday morning we drove further north to our next destination, stopping off at a National Trust place on the way.

Cragside was the first house to be lit by electric lights, and was powered by hydroelectric power. I usually much prefer the gardens to the house, but this one was very interesting (some of the inventions were a bit Wallace and Gromit).

As well as walking around the gardens there was a big estate drive where you could stop off and walk around lakes or along trails.

This put the Blur song “Trimm Trabb” in my head after seeing it. I think it was actually a walk with different types of fitness equipment to test balance, agility and so on.

We stayed in Alnwick for three nights- we had a lovely B&B right in the centre of the town. They did a lovely breakfast (I had their “eggy bread” each day as it was so delicious, but there were loads of other options too)- they even bought in almond/soya milk and yoghurt for another guest who could not have dairy.

Also, they had locally blended loose leaf teas in the rooms as well as being served at breakfast- this was a big thumbs up from me!

Some of the time we stayed close to Alnwick- we’d bought a book about walks in Northumberland and they had some close by including a 3 mile one in the countryside around the town.

Sometimes we drove out towards the coast- we saw a few different castles and drove on the causeway to Lindisfarne (this was not so good for someone who is a bit panicky about forgetting things- we double checked the times that we could get back by-1.50pm- and then I spent a while wondering if it was 12.50 instead..). This was not helped by the signs posted everywhere with a photo of a car surrounded by water- I did not want us to end up like that!

Once we’d driven back to the mainland (and with plenty of time) we drove up to Berwick-Upon-Tweed and it was so strange seeing signs for Edinburgh- it made me realise how far we had driven. It was also totally freezing cold- I had regretted not wearing a thermal top that day!

We went to the Bari tea room one day and it was so relaxed with delicious home-made cakes. We’d had a long walk in the morning so shared some lemon cake.

We had glorious weather although on this walk out to a castle it was super windy- I am sure at points my hair was going full troll (vertical).

On our last afternoon there we were back in the B&B fairly early (4pm ish I think) so I headed out on a run- previously we had walked in a loop around the town- it turned out to be about 2 miles so I repeated it twice (with a photo stop half way to take pictures of the old railway building that is now a large book shop)  before popping to the Costa for a drink (it was sunny but with a really cold and strong wind)- although I regretted it right away because the service in Costa is always never faster than a snail’s pace and usually worse than a sloth. (We have one at a local cinema and sometimes I get a drink, and then spend ages wondering if I am missing the film or just the adverts while they painstakingly make the drink in slow motion…).

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We went to this bookshop for dinner as it had a lovely cafe inside- it’s an old railway station and a very large second hand book shop so great for a wander too.

After our few days in Northumberland we drove to Yorkshire for our next B&B, but I’ll save that for another post.

What would your breakfast of choice be? Andy usually goes for scrambled eggs and bacon on toast, but he did have the eggy bread one day as mine was tempting him each morning.

Do you prefer visiting houses or gardens?

Are the Costa’s near you slow at serving people or is it just all the ones I have visited? 

Colmar Christmas markets

For the last few years we have headed to Europe for a weekend to visit a new Christmas market- we’ve been to Copenhagen, Bruges, Cologne, Vienna and Strasbourg. Last year our train to Strasbourg also went to a place called Colmar, and when looking into where it was, it turned out to be one of the top ten Christmas markets in Europe. We have flown to a few of the places, but getting the Eurostar is so much easier and less stressful (this was confirmed by our September trip to Paris where we flew out and got the train back)- the train from St Albans is 25 minutes and goes right to Kings Cross, and you only need to get to the Eurostar 30 minutes before, no worries about baggage limits or liquid restrictions. So a few Fridays ago we headed off, picked up a sandwich to eat in the train station and got the Eurostar- I had downloaded some things to watch on the Channel 4 app (Secret Life of the Zoo/ 4 and 5 year olds) but it hadn’t worked so I listened to some podcasts which meant basically I slept most of the way. We stayed overnight in Paris, right by the station, and then in the morning got the train to Colmar. There is a Starbucks in the station so we got a hot drink to have on the train.


They can never get his name right – at least they got mine right though, often I am Marielle. The awful exchange rate means it’s a very expensive treat now though. There were great views on the train of the pretty French countryside, all enjoyed whilst listening to Wittertainment. It was so cold though- all the lakes we passed were frozen solid.


We arrived around lunch time and luckily our hotel room was ready, so we dropped off our bags and had a wander around. It was such a pretty town, very similar to Strasbourg with all the buildings. It was beautifully decorated, and easily walkable.


It’s a bit like Brugges, with canals running through the old town, and lots of buildings facing straight out onto the water. All of the bridges had lovely decorations on them.


There were lots of different markets, all well signposted. We were given a map when we checked in to the hotel, with the markets marked on them, but we didn’t use it as there were signs everywhere.


I loved this little village set by one of the canals.


There were some more unusual decorations too- I loved this tree made of skis!

Of course while we were there we sampled some of the drinks on offer- I had a lovely warm apple drink with spices and local honey, and of course Andy had some mulled wine.


We headed back to the hotel for a bit to warm up and have a picnic dinner of nice bread and cheese, before heading back out to see the decorations at night.


It was even prettier at night (but very cold). The markets were still busy- I think the European ones are so good as they get the local people out too, it’s not all tourists. I had a proper hot chocolate while we wandered to keep my hands warm.


Argh! I washed my hair on Saturday night as we had to be up fairly early in the morning for the train- it was only after that I realised that this was the in-room hairdryer. I’ve only ever seen them in Italy before- it’s the equivalent of someone blowing gently on your hair. Plus the tube gets so hot as you hold it, so you can’t use it for very long. About as useful as a chocolate teapot. Not quite as bad as when we were in Yellowstone and the room didn’t have a hairdryer (it was a lodge with no TV, but I thought it would still have a hairdryer as it had a shower)- it was freezing in the mornings and I remember sitting in the sun by Old Faithful hoping the sun would start to dry it a bit!


This was the park between our hotel and the train station. On Sunday morning we had to get a short train ride (15 mins) to a place called Mullhouse, as there were no direct trains back to Paris that day. We had a good hour there, so we wandered into the town and found a lovely bakery for our breakfast- chocolate almond croissant= winning at breakfast, oh yes.


There was a Christmas market there too, although it wasn’t open at that time on a Sunday morning. I liked the display in the town centre.

After the main train journey, we had time to wander around Paris- we had a walk along the river, before heading to the underground to go to the Eurostar station.


The only thing we bought was this gingerbread man, which was very tasty indeed. It was another great place to visit and put us in a very festive mood.

Do you prefer trains or flights? Where is the best Christmas market you have visited? Any travel hair issues?

A long weekend in Edinburgh

Last Thursday we headed up to Edinburgh for a long weekend. We had both been there a few times, but I think the last time I went I was still at uni, so a re-visit was long overdue. A few weeks ago Andy found a deal for first class train travel (which means bigger seats, a meal and drinks) for £30 each, which seemed like a bargain. We got the train from Kings Cross at 6pm, so spent the evening on the train, listening to the film podcast first, and then some others, before arriving after 11pm (the train got stuck behind a slower train after another train broke down and it had to take a different route, so it was a bit later than planned). We were planning on walking to our hotel as it was around a mile from the station but after walking a bit we ended up getting an uber.

On Friday morning we went out for breakfast at this amazing bakery around the corner from our hotel (Loudon’s)- I was spoilt for choice but in the end went for French toast with bananas and salted caramel sauce. So delicious.


Loose leaf tea in little tea pots too, which is always a winner in my book. Andy had gone for scrambled eggs (his usual) but even he was envious of my choice- it was such good bread (home-baked) and really thick slices- not soaked and not too eggy. It was massive though (not sure the photo really shows it) and so he ended up finishing it for me!


Good fuel for walking around the town. We walked along Princes Street (the main shopping street) and into a park at the end, up some steep steps for lovely views.


We then walked along the Royal Mile, past all of the very touristy shops, up to the castle. Andy wanted to go into the Whisky experience, so we booked tickets for later that afternoon. We were both so full from breakfast so we shared a salad, before heading inside to warm up.


The tour was actually quite interesting, and we got to see the thousands of varieties made in Scotland. Each ticket also got you two samples- we did ask if they did a cheaper one without, as I wouldn’t drink them, and they told us I could have Irn Bru instead- sorry Scotland but I’ll pass on that. Andy had mine! The seating area had great views too, and a map to show what you were actually looking at too. We then walked back along the main streets, before heading for an early dinner close to our hotel.

On Saturday morning I was off for my parkrun tourism.


I was very glad of uber as I am not sure I would have managed to navigate the buses. However there were not that many around so I had to wait about 10 minutes at the end before one came- if I had realised that I would have booked one and then stretched and taken photos, whereas I waited until I had done all of that before booking it. Ah well.


We headed to Loudon’s again, and I was going to have the blueberry pancakes, but then they said they were doing a Halloween special- French toast with nutella, banana creme fraiche, caramel sauce and m&m’s- I could not resist that! It also came with various jelly sweets which I asked to be left off because of the gelatin. I was so full after that! We needed a big breakfast as we were walking up Arthur’s Seat (and walking to the bottom from our hotel). There are some museums in Edinburgh but we were saving those for if it rained- not this time luckily.


It was hard work!


I even took my coat off as we were walking up as I got so hot. I soon put it back on again as the wind was very cold.


We had lovely views across to the park we went to on the Friday- it also showed us how  far we had yet to walk as we were going back to the centre after.


We didn’t need lunch of course, but we stopped for a cup of tea to warm up for a bit, and sat in the park with lovely views.


On our way past Hotel Chocolat we saw a sign that advertised a seasonal special (the shop had a cafe in the back)- spiced hot chocolate with salted caramel (or something, I can’t quite remember). I could not resist that so we shared one of those- it was so good.


Then it was time for dinner- we were both pretty shattered after all of that walking.


On Sunday we were up early as we had to get the train back at 12.00- this time I had the blueberry pancakes (they were actually purple!) which I think came with banana and cherries. Of course it was delicious. We then walked into the centre and wandered around the town a bit. Annoyingly my back was really sore when I woke up, and so I was walking fairly slowly and not looking forward to sitting down all afternoon on the train.


Going back down in the light was great, particularly further north as the train tracks were right by the coast. We saw lovely views, and mostly listened to more podcasts- really relaxing.

It was a great place to visit, and we are already looking at where else we can get to by train- Durham always looks great and the line goes through there so that might be next.

Have you ever been to Edinburgh? What type of city break activities do you like to do?