Posts

,

My 2020 Year in Review

It’s that time of year again, and what a year it’s been… It barely seems 5 minutes since the start of 2020, and yet at the same time it feels like its been the longest year ever. I’m sure we can all agree that this year has been truly awful. Coronavirus has taken over the world, countless countries have experienced large lockdowns, and hundreds of thousands of people have sadly died from this horrific virus. What started off as a new year and a new decade filled with hope and excitement in January quickly turned in to a nightmare by the time March rolled around. The world changed before our very eyes and there was nothing we could do about it but stay at home and watch events unfold around us. Here in the UK, the entire country went into lockdown on 23rd March and has never really recovered since then. We had a couple of months during summer where restrictions were lifted, but now we are stuck in a never ending tier system of differing rules and regulations where nobody knows what they are doing.

 

 

It’s been a tough old year, hasn’t it? A couple of months ago I was hopeful that, by the end of the year, most of this would be over and we could enter 2021 with optimism and hope, but now I’m not sure I feel that way. Despite the good news of a vaccine being rolled out quickly, I still think we are going to be stuck in lockdown for most of January and February, but I hope that things will start to lift by the spring. I have tried so hard to remain positive but lately I am really struggling, and I am not ashamed to admit that. I miss seeing my friends and going out for dinner, I miss my old job and the buzz of working in the travel industry, and most of all I miss my family who I’ve barely been able to see this year.

Despite all of this doom and gloom though, there have been some positives that have come out of 2020. I bought my first house, I became a qualified TEFL teacher and I still managed to visit London, Liverpool, Bournemouth, Norfolk and the Brecon Beacons this year. I learnt to appreciate the smaller things in life and I found a new love for my local area here in Oxfordshire, enjoying my daily walks and exploring the Cotswolds as much as I could. Although when I look back at my 2019 Year in Review it makes me want to cry (!!) I am still excited to be sharing my 2020 round up with you. Let’s start right at the beginning, before Covid-19 spread across the world, before Zoom quizzes were a regular occurrence, and before the words unprecedented, furloughed and social distancing were floating around…

 

January & February

 

Back in January I celebrated my 27th birthday by taking a trip to London with my sisters. We had the loveliest day wandering around the city and heading to the Tutankhamun Exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery which was amazing! We stopped for lunch in Chelsea and then headed to a secret Harry Potter bar for cocktails in the Dungeon which was amazing. It was my sister Sophie’s 21st birthday at the end of the month so the Harry Potter treat was a double celebration, but we also enjoyed a spa weekend in Cheltenham and a trip to Liverpool to see our family at the end of January. Little did we know that would be the last time we had the majority of our family in one room together before the world would change forever!

 

March & April

 

 

As we all know, March was the month where the world totally changed and the country went into its first full lockdown. I was told to work from home from mid March anyway, but on 1st April I was put on furlough for three months. At first it was lovely to have some time off work and be paid 80% of my salary, but the novelty soon faded and before long I was feeling stupidly bored! I kept myself busy by enjoying my 1 hour of daily exercise, found a new love for reading books (I’ve read 35 this year!), and started a TEFL course to teach English as a foreign language, something I had thought about doing for ages but never found the time until I was furloughed. I think being in lockdown really taught me to appreciate what I have, not what I don’t have, and it made me stop and think about life for the first time in a long time. I was so used to going on trips left, right and centre, and going through life at a million miles an hour, but being forced to stop and stay at home made me appreciate the smaller things in life.

 

May & June 

 

 

May was probably the most exciting month of 2020 as my sister Hannah and I bought our first house!! We completed and got our keys on 1st May, after our offer had been accepted back in November, so our purchase took a whopping six months to go through but we were in the middle of a pandemic so can’t complain too much! We spent the majority of May & June doing up our new house whilst we still lived at home, painting every room, ripping out and laying new carpets, re-landscaping the garden and fitting new front and back doors. Being on furlough was the perfect time to do up my house without having to take any annual leave so the timing actually turned out brilliantly and it gave me so much to focus on at a time where I was feeling lost without my job. May also saw us celebrate Hannah’s birthday (lockdown style) as well as VE Day where we enjoyed an afternoon tea with our neighbour over the fence and listened to Vera Lynn on repeat. I also spent time going for long walks around the Cotswolds, where I live, and enjoying the amazing mini heatwave the UK experienced in the early part of this summer.

 

July & August

 

 

July brought my dad’s birthday and our first meal out as a family at a local pub once they finally re-opened as lockdown ended. At the end of the month Hannah and I finally moved out of our family home and into our brand new house which we love! I also spent the majority of July volunteering in my local community, collecting prescriptions and shopping for vulnerable/elderly people in my town, as well as doing over 1000 hours on-call for the NHS volunteer responders which I signed up for at the start of the pandemic. Volunteering gave me a real purpose at a time when I needed it, and I still volunteer today helping out as much as I can. Unfortunately July was also the month that I was made redundant from my job in the travel industry after three months on furlough. I was absolutely gutted to have lost a job I loved so much, but I was so lucky that I found a new job just a week after being made redundant, at the estate agents where I worked for five years between the age of 18 and 23! In July & August two of my cousins, Amy & Emma, also came down to stay at our new house and it was so lovely to finally see our family after a rubbish few months. My lovely friend Rachel also came down to visit and I took her on a mini tour around a few of my fave places here in the Cotswolds which was super fun!

September & October

 

The only time I managed to squeeze in a couple of day trips and overnight stays was in these two months, and I certainly made the most of being away from home for the first time since January! In September I visited the Brecon Beacons with my parents as we took part in the Four Falls Trek for the Pituitary Foundation, and the weekend after I went down to Norfolk for a mini break with my family and was reunited with my lovely nan which was amazing. My other nan and grandad also came down to stay with us in September for my mum’s birthday, and my aunty and uncle stayed in a hotel in nearby Burford, so it was nice to spend some more time with our wonderful family. In October I took a day trip to Bournemouth with two of my closest friends and their little girls. It was super quiet as it was after the school half term and we had the best day wandering along the beach, having fish & chips at Harry Ramsden’s and running in and out of the sea.

 

November & December 

 

November saw us enter another national lockdown here in England, with all pubs, restaurants, shops and leisure closed again for four weeks. I spent November doing nothing but reading books and enjoying my daily walks again, as well as finishing my TEFL course and gaining my teaching qualification. I went to a couple of our local garden centres and we put our Christmas decorations up early to try and cheer us up a bit. My sisters and I were due to go to Edinburgh in November but our trip got cancelled so we are hoping to visit next year instead. In December we had a wonderful Christmas together just the five of us, and even enjoyed some beautiful snow here in Oxfordshire which made our tier 4 restrictions a bit easier to cope with!

 

My 2020 New Year’s Resolutions 

 

As you can probably imagine, half of my 2020 new year’s resolutions were no where near close to being completed this year with everything that has happened because of the pandemic! But let’s take a look at the resolutions I set myself at the start of January to see what I acheieved and what I missed out on this year.

I want to buy a house – SUCCESS – I am so happy I managed to achieve this and finally get on the property ladder! My sister and I absolutely love our little 2bed semi in Oxfordshire and it’s been the highlight of our 2020.

I want to focus on my new job – FAIL – Sadly being made redundant from my dream travel job has meant I have failed at this one!

I want to travel to 5 countries – FAIL – I made it to Wales, so that counts as one country, right?! After visiting 7 countries in 2019 and 9 countries in 2018 I didn’t think 5 countries would be that hard this year, but that was before a global pandemic occurred!

 

 

I want to start working out 3 times a week – SUCCESS – Hooray, something I have actually manage to stick at this year. Lockdown really helped me to focus on my fitness, with my one hour daily walks and three 30min workouts a week helping me to gain some routine and structure to my day whilst I was on furlough, and I continued it for the rest of the year too.

I want to start dating again – FAIL – lol, we are in a pandemic, it’s hard enough to meet people at the best of times without the shops/bars/gyms being shut too. Maybe next year I’ll get better at this one but I’m not holding my breath 😉

 

I hope that 2021 brings hope and optimism for us all and that we are able to enter this new year feeling excited for the future once Covid disappears (if it ever does!). I’ve decided not to write any new year’s resolutions for 2021 because I don’t want to put any pressure on myself and I think I did well this year to hit 2 out of 5 of my goals all things considered. It feels very weird not setting myself any goals/resolutions or even having any travel plans set in stone as I usually do at this time of year. I simply wish that, by this time next year, all of my family and friends will still be here with us, and that they will be healthy and happy. I hope that we don’t have another year where this horrible virus rules every aspect of our lives, and I hope that we all get through it as best as we can.

So I’ll sign off now and wish you a happy new year. Here’s to a happier and healthier 2021 for us all!

Love Jess x

,

Climbing Mount Snowdon: The Highest Mountain in Wales

Perfectly positioned in the north of Snowdonia National Park, Mount Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales, and the third highest in the UK. Standing 3560 feet tall, Snowdon towers above the village of Llanberis and, on a clear day, commands views over Pembrokeshire, Anglesey and Snowdonia. Of course many people choose to hop on the very convenient tourist train and enjoy the stunning scenery from the comfort of their train window, but by far the best way to get to know Mount Snowdon is to climb it, so that’s exactly what I did. Back in June 2018 I joined a team of 55 walkers and spent the day climbing Mount Snowdon for charity. Along with my parents, their friends and one of my best friends, we joined The Pituitary Foundation on their annual fundraising event and were looking forward to climbing Mount Snowdon for the first time. If you’ve read my previous post about hiking the Four Falls Trail in Wales you’ll know that I have taken part in many fundraising events for the Foundation over the past few years, and climbing Mount Snowdon was one of the first ones I ever did.

Me and my team mates were staying in nearby Betsw-Y-Coed which is a gorgeous Welsh village approximately 20 minutes away by car from one of the starting points for Mount Snowdon. We parked the car near the Electric Mountain Visitors Centre (postcode LL55 4UR) and met up with everyone in our group for our safety briefing before setting off on our climb. There are six different paths to take when climbing Mount Snowdon, some of which are detailed on the image below.  We took the Llanberis Path which is the easiest one as it catered for our large group of mixed ages and abilities. We were split into two groups and each assigned team leaders who would be able to keep an eye on everyone in the group and offer help to those who needed it.

 

Image credit: https://www.visitsnowdonia.info/snowdon-walking-routes

 

After a difficult ascent from the village of Llanberis – arguably one of the hardest parts of the entire climb as that first part of the terrain is incredibly steep! – we were well and truly on our way to climbing Mount Snowdon. We split off into smaller groups during the climb but were all within easy reach of the guides who were checking on us every 10mins or so. It was a boiling hot summers day and the Llanberis path was extremely busy with other climbers, so it was difficult to gain momentum and we had to keep stopping every few hundred metres for water/to remove layers/to let people pass. The scenery whilst climbing Mount Snowdon is lovely at any time of year but even more so on a clear sunny day, with green grass and blue skies as far as the eye can see.

When we reached the Halfway House, which is indeed the halfway point for the climb, we all had an hours break to eat our packed lunches, use the toilet facilities and stop and chat to our fellow walkers. I really enjoyed being able to climb at my own pace and take it slowly as this really helped me to catch my breath and refuel whilst remaining on the go. I met so many like minded people who had similar pituitary conditions to me and it was so lovely to hear their stories too. After our lunch stop, and several stops for various people to take wild wees – sorry kids, there are no toilets between the halfway point and the summit – we slowly made our way to the top.

 

 

The train passed us several times back and forth during our ascent, and at times I was really struggling with the climb. The change in altitude and temperature made it hard for me to continue as I had at the start, and the onset of one of my pituitary related headaches was causing me a considerable amount of pain. After some painkillers and a motivational heart to heart with my mum, dad and friend Tiff, I decided to carry on and get the climb done. One of our guides kindly let me borrow his walking poles and these were an absolute godsend when I needed a bit of a push to get me up that mountain! Finally, after what seemed like forever, both of our groups reached the summit and were treated to spectacular panoramic views over Snowdonia below.

We all stopped for group pictures, hugs and snacks as we congratulated each other on reaching the summit, and made use of the excellent toilet and cafe facilities!  After around 30 minutes, we made our descent down the Llanberis path and the walking began once more. I found the descent much easier than the ascent, although I was beginning to tire again by the time I reached the halfway point. An ice cream and yet more photo opportunities soon cheered me up though and I was well on my way to reaching the end and touching down on flat ground again with the rest of the group within a couple of hours or so.

 

 

 

I think it usually takes around six hours there and back to climb Mount Snowdon, but I would say our group did it in around 8-9 hours because a) there were so many of us, b) it was a boiling hot day, and c) the path was extremely busy with other walkers. I absolutely loved climbing Mount Snowdon and it is definitely one of the hardest treks I have ever done. Our group of 55 walkers raised over £25,000 collectively for The Pituitary Foundation which was absolutely phenomenal and made everything so worthwhile.

I would highly recommend climbing Mount Snowdon who anyone who enjoys walking, hiking and climbing, or those who want to explore more of beautiful Snowdonia, one of the most visited areas in Wales. We were extremely lucky to have such good weather and a clear sunny day but the conditions can change quickly on Mount Snowdon, and cloud and fog can descend fast. To ensure you are fully prepared for your climb, be sure to take equipment for all weathers, such as thick fleeces, thermal vests, waterproof jackets and trousers etc. Tough walking boots are essential, as is a sturdy backpack to carry all your equipment. Walking poles are optional, but I found them super useful and have used them in all of my mountain treks since climbing Mount Snowdon.

Some of you may know that I attempted to climb Ben Nevis the year after climbing Mount Snowdon, but it didn’t go quite to plan! Unfortunately I didn’t take the right waterproof equipment so was struggling massively and at a very real risk of developing hypothermia, so we decided to turn back at the halfway point. The weather was torrential, with rain and wind which was getting worse by the minute, and after four hours of getting soaked to my skin I didn’t fancy another four in even worse weather. On the descent, my dad slipped and hurt his wrist and little finger, so we headed straight to Fort William A&E where he was very well looked after and diagnosed with a broken wrist and a fractured pinky. We were due to attempt Ben Nevis again this year, but of course Covid-19 put a stop to that when the world shut down and the UK went into lockdown for three months.

At some point in my life I would like to attempt Ben Nevis again, but I am not sure when that may be. Have you ever climbed climbed Mount Snowdon or Ben Nevis before? I’d love to hear your experiences too!

 

,

Hiking the Four Falls Trail in Wales: Exploring the Brecon Beacons

Back in September, I went on my first post-lockdown stay right here in the UK, where I visited the Brecon Beacons for the very first time. I have wanted to visit the Beacons for ages, and even included them on my recent UK staycation wishlist, so I’m really glad I got to experience a weekend there whilst the weather was good this summer. I was in Wales to take part in my 5th fundraising challenge for The Pituitary Foundation, a charity extremely close to my heart who I am proud to be an ambassador for. After all their fundraising challenges got cancelled due to Covid this year, I was determined to help them raise some vital funds and was excited to take part in this group event, which was to hike the Four Falls Trail in Wales. I have previously climbed Mount Snowdon and Ben Nevis with the Foundation, both of which left me totally exhausted, so when they were hosting a walking challenge instead of a climbing one I was desperate to sign up as I am so much better at hiking than I am at climbing! Here’s how our day went…

 

 

I travelled up to Wales from home with my mum and dad and we stayed in the pretty Nant Ddu Lodge Hotel & Spa, which is perfectly positioned right on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Located just a 10 minute drive from Pen Y Fan, the hotel enjoys a spectacular location from which to explore the surrounding Welsh countryside. I was gutted that we only had 1 night as I really wanted to climb Pen Y Fan whilst we were there, but we didn’t want to tire ourselves out ahead of the Four Falls Trail the next day so opted for a relaxing stroll around the grounds and a hearty lunch and dinner at the hotel instead.

The next morning we drove 20 minutes to one of the start points of the Four Falls Trail, The Angel Inn in  Pontneddfechan, just west of Merthyr Tydfil. We didn’t park in the pub as this is not encouraged but there is plenty of on-road parking directly opposite on the main road. The other starting point, should you wish to go from there instead, is the Four Falls car park Gwaun Hepste, which is about halfway from the Angel Inn start point.

 

 

After our safety introduction and Covid-19 briefing about social distancing during the walk we met with our guides and Jay, the fundraising manager for the Foundation, as well as all the other walkers who had decided to join the event. We set off at around 9am and were immediately greeted by small waterfalls and pretty streams as we meandered our way through the first leg of the Four Falls Trail in Wales. I couldn’t believe how beautiful some of the scenery was already; they don’t call this place Waterfall Country for nothing! We were taking this route as pictured below, which is approximately 15km in total:

 

 

Comprising of, yep you guessed it, a series of four waterfalls, this trail is located within the Fforest Fawr, right at the heart of the Brecon Beacons. Passing four rivers along the way (the Mellte, Hepste, Pyrddin and Neath Fechan), the rivers meander downwards towards the waterfalls which can be seen from the pathways, although they of course look much more impressive the closer you get to them.

After a couple of hours we had a toilet stop and enjoyed our packed lunches next to the pretty green countryside. I hadn’t realised just how many hills we would pass during our walk, I knew the Brecon Beacons were mountainous, but I thought we would just be following the waterfalls and that the scenery between them wouldn’t be that special – how wrong I was! I loved every minute of the Four Falls Trail, from seeking out the waterfalls and following the rivers to being immersed in the surrounding countryside and seeing beautiful trees and hills at every turn.

 

 

The four waterfalls that we passed on the Four Falls Trail in Wales were called Sgwd Clun-Gwyn, Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gqyn, Sgwd y Pannwr and the mighty Sgwd-yr-Eira which was by far the most powerful and certainly the most impressive. Although it was super busy with other walkers at Sgwd-yr-Eira, we waited our turn and were able to step behind the cascading waterfall to take some fantastic photos with the water tumbling in front of us. It was truly magical and I have never seen a waterfall as beautiful as this one.

The walk usually takes around  3-4 hours to complete, but we took just over 6 hours mainly because we were in a group of about 15-20 with people of all ages and abilities so we had to make sure everyone could keep up and no one got left behind. It was also stupidly hot for late September with the sun beaming down on us, so it took a little longer as it’s seriously hard work lugging your backpack around in the heat whilst trying not to slip by the waterfalls! By the end of the walk we were relieved to make it back to the car park in one piece, despite having huge blisters, and I really wanted to stop for a pub meal at the end but unfortunately we had to jump in the car and drive straight home as it was nearly 5pm by the time we had finished.

 

 

I would highly recommend the Four Falls Trail to anyone looking for a low impact hike in the stunning Welsh countryside. Despite the paths around the waterfalls being a little rocky and slippy, this route is not particularly challenging and is suitable for all ages and abilities. The 15km length can be a little strenuous at times, but if you take it at your own pace and enjoy plenty of stops and food breaks along the way, the walk is easily achievable within a few hours. In terms of kit to take, I would make sure you wear waterproof walking boots with good ankle support, a waterproof jacket as you will definitely get wet at the Sgwd-yr-Eira waterfall, and take a rucksack which can hold plenty of snacks and at least 2litres of water.

I thoroughly enjoyed hiking the Four Falls Trail in Wales and I hope these photos and handy insights give you an idea of what the walk is like. Have you ever hiked it before? I’d love to hear how your experience was! I’m proud to say that our team raised over £5000 for The Pituitary Foundation which is absolutely AMAZING and will really help to boost funds that were lost this year due to every other event being cancelled during lockdown. To find out more about why I am a proud ambassador for The Pituitary Foundation, please read one of my previous pituitary related blog posts.

 

,

How to Become a Digital Nomad: 6 of the Best Online Courses

Online courses. Digital Nomad. Remote worker. Fulltime freelancer. These expressions are very common in the online world. If the idea of working 9-5 in an office scares the hell out of you, life as a digital nomad will have surely crossed your mind at some point. It has mine. I spent the best part of a year and a half working freelance when I ran my own travel blogging/content creation company, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. As well as the flexibility of being able to work where I wanted, when I wanted, I loved the freedom that being a digital nomad gave me. I didn’t have to worry about limited annual leave, or about taking time off for a doctors appointment, I simply just worked whenever I was able to, and chose not to work when I fancied some time off.

 

 

The digital nomad life is not for everyone though, and it was incredibly tough at times. If I’m honest, although it was amazing at the start, I really struggled for the last six months of my 18 month freelance life and made the decision to go back to full time work shortly after. I found I was constantly hustling, constantly pitching. I had visions that being a full time travel blogger meant I went on back to back press trips, writing hotel reviews and destination guides left, right and centre. But in reality, hardly any of my income came from press trips/sponsored blog content, and the majority of what I earnt was through social media management from clients that weren’t in the travel industry. I woke up late and went to bed late because I had no routine. I needed structure in my life, and a 9-5 job gave me that, so I started working in luxury travel in September 2017 and have been grateful to enjoy a fulfilling career until Covid-19 ruined the travel industry!

But lets go back to the digital nomad life for a second. If I had more determination, more consistency and perhaps a little more time to make it work, I have no doubt in my mind that I would largely still enjoy being a freelancer. I just wish I’d had more of a niche, and perhaps more transferable skills or multiple income streams, that would have made it work better for me. Having worked for both myself and for others, there are so many benefits to freelance life that you just don’t get when you’re an employee for a company. However, in order for your career as a digital nomad to be as successful as possible, I think it is absolutely KEY to invest in yourself, and your future.  By constantly learning new skills you can apply new experience to every role you take. As well as networking and attending events, I found that online courses were also a fantastic way to learn new skills and build my confidence. So, without further ado, here are 6 of the best online courses to help you on your way to being able to work from anywhere in the world…

 

An English teaching course with The TEFL Academy

 

View this post on Instagram

☺️ Meet alumna @eslroxy! Roxy is from Australia 🇦🇺, currently teaching online in Scotland with Palfish. ⠀ ⠀ "I've been teaching online for a few months now and I love it! I have been inundated with job offers from different companies thanks to my level 5 TEFL Certificate and the help from The TEFL Academy with re-writing my resume. I teach kids from all over the world and have already formed a solid base of regular students. I can work part time and maintain a full time salary which gives me the ability to do more of the things I love!" 👏⠀ ⠀ #teach #teacher #teachenglishonline #teachenglish #teaching #teacherlife #teachers #onlineenglishteachers #remotework #remoteteaching #remoteteacher #tefl #teflteacher #efl #eflteacher #teachersofig #remoteworker #teflteacher

A post shared by The TEFL Academy (@theteflacademy) on

 

During lockdown I promised myself I would finally enrol on my first ever TEFL course after putting it off for months! Back in April I finally took the plunge and enrolled on my level 5 168 hour TEFL online course with The TEFL Academy to teach English as a foreign language. Whilst I was on furlough for three months I dedicated a lot of my time to doing my course, and I have very nearly finished it with just one unit and one assignment to go before I’m qualified! I cannot wait to get my certificate and would really recommend doing a TEFL course to anyone looking for another way of diversifying their income and taking a step towards digital nomad life. Once qualified, there are plenty of online teaching platforms you can choose from so you can teach adults or children from the comfort of your living room and start earning money whilst teaching from your laptop.

 

An SEO blogging course with Make Traffic Happen

 

 

Run my two full time bloggers and SEO consultants, Make Traffic Happen is allllll about keywords, optimisation and Google rankings. After attending a couple of Gemma and Laura’s SEO talks at various Traverse conferences over the past few years, I felt inspired to learn more about how to optimise my blog. SEO the Easy Way, one of Make Traffic Happen’s most popular online courses, gives a fantastic introduction to the world of SEO and how to implement strategies that will make your website traffic skyrocket. There are 35 video lectures, 16 worksheets and 7 checklists to track your progress as you go, and you’ll be sure to notice an improvement of web traffic as you make y0ur way through the course. Admittedly I haven’t actually downloaded the course or the e-book yet, but I am a member of the Facebook group and find some of their posts incredibly helpful, and I have a few friends who have downloaded the course too. This course will be hugely beneficial if you’re looking to increase your web traffic and, in turn, maximise opportunities to monetize your blog.

 

A marketing course with The Open University

 

 

During lockdown The Open University offered free access to hundreds of online courses across a range of industries, with marketing being one of the most notable. The idea was to encourage the th0usands of people on furlough in the UK to do something useful and interesting during their free time whilst they weren’t working, and what better way to do that than to learn something new! Throwing yourself into a new course is always a great idea, and if it’s online it means you can study at your own pace, however slow or fast you like depending on how busy you are. The free courses have unfortunately now ended, but OU still offers plenty of online courses to get stuck into, with their marketing ones proving popular. Improve your social media knowledge, gain an understanding into how brand campaigns work or specialise in digital marketing.

 

A language course with Duolingo

 

 

I downloaded the Duolingo app a couple of years ago when I was trying to re-learn Spanish and practice my fluency. I took Spanish for GCSE and earned a B grade in my written and speaking exams but didn’t take it at A Level, which is something I really wish I had done! I was struggling with websites or audio books which made learning Spanish feel fun and easy, until I discovered the Duolingo app and I instantly became hooked! With daily levels which can be unlocked as quickly or as slowly as you like, and both audio and visual prompts to encourage different learning styles, understanding the basics of a new language has never been easier with Duolingo, and it’s totally free to use!

 

A Photoshop course with Adobe 

 

View this post on Instagram

Hey guys, @georgiarosehardy here! I'm very honored to be doing this week's takeover for the theme #Ps_Imagine.⁠ •⁠ When people ask what I do for a living, I'm often unsure how to answer. Am I a photographer? A digital artist? An escape artist? A weirdo in a field with a tripod? The lines are definitely blurred. I started shooting self-portraits at the tender age of 16, and I'm now nearly 30! The ability to create magical worlds (as a teenager with a low budget) was transformational for me, in more ways than one. It's given me a career, been therapy through the challenges life has thrown, and makes up a large portion of my identity.⁠ •⁠ I am so looking forward to sharing more of my journey and work with you all and seeing the different ideas people come up with for #Ps_Imagine! Thanks so much for having me, Photoshop.

A post shared by Adobe Photoshop (@photoshop) on

 

Photoshop is one of the best tools out there for editing images, and if you want to start making money from your prints, it’s a good idea to invest in some training with Adobe first. Choose from a wide range of beginner, intermediate and advanced online courses to suit your needs depending on which learning level you’re at. Becoming a bit of a professional with Photoshop means you’ll learn how to become an expert in image editing and can really show off your creative photography skills. If you specialise in Instagram and want to take your account to the next level, these online courses will be right up your street.

 

A social media course with Buffer

 

 

Much like the Open University, Buffer often offers a multitude of free online courses to help you grow your skill set, but these are available throughout the year, not just during lockdown! Specialising in social media and marketing, Buffer’s fun and interactive online courses are perfect for delving deeper into the digital world and discovering algorithms and trends within social media platforms. Whether you’re more interested in Facebook or Twitter, or keen to learn more about strategies than advertising, Buffer’s insightful online courses are the perfect place to kick-start your social media learning.

 

I hope this selection of online courses help inspire you to think about which path you want to take in order to obtain that digital nomad life. There are plenty of free online courses out there which you can take alongside your day job so you can earn whilst you learn, and even the ones that aren’t free should still provide an excellent return of investment once you’re qualified/certified and can use those transferable skills. Have you ever taken any of these online courses before? I would love to know if any of them have brought you one step closer to your dream of being a full time freelancer!

,

How to Spend a Weekend in the Cotswolds: A Cotswolds Road Trip Itinerary

Having lived in Oxfordshire my entire life, and having blogged for over six years, I have no idea how it has taken me this long to write up my suggestions for a Cotswolds road trip itinerary. I think that, because I have grown up here, I have taken it totally for granted, and I have always prioritised writing about my overseas trips in comparison to favouring UK content. However, with UK staycations becoming increasingly popular post-lockdown, I figured now was the perfect time to help you plan a spectacular Cotswolds road trip itinerary. All these places are hand-picked and I have visited them all over the past 27 years. Here’s how to spend a weekend in the Cotswolds, including everything to see and do in the various towns and villages, as well as plenty of recommendations of where to eat and drink too!

 

 

Day 1 (Friday)

I have based this Cotswolds road trip itinerary on having 3 nights from Friday-Sunday so that you can really make the most of your time in the Cotswolds and see as much as possible. If you don’t have the time, it can of course be cut down to 1 or 2 nights depending on which places you want to see, so you can remove the areas you might have visited already or aren’t too bothered about, but this itinerary is a great place to start if you’re totally new to this neck of the woods. It is also worth pointing out that this itinerary only really works if you have a car. If you don’t have one and are arriving by train or plane into London (1hr by train from Oxford or 2hrs by car) I would really recommend that you hire one as public transport isn’t one of our strong points down here!

 

Burford, Oxfordshire

 

 

Assuming you’re travelling to the Cotswolds on the Friday, either morning or afternoon, I would 100% recommend starting in Burford and basing yourself here for the duration of your stay. Perched on a medieval hill and also known as the ‘gateway to the Cotswolds’, Burford is conveniently located just off the A40, allowing easy access to the likes of Oxford, Cirencester, Cheltenham and more. I went to school and sixth form in Burford for seven years so I am totally biased, but I just love it so much and it is definitely not to be missed off your Cotswolds road trip itinerary! Highlights include Huffkins tea rooms (they do the best cakes), the stunning St John the Baptist church at the bottom of the hill, and the upmarket Burford Garden Centre, frequented by many a local celeb. Cotswold Wildlife Park, just a few minutes outside of Burford, is also well worth a visit if you have time and are looking for a family day out.

 

Bourton on the Water, Gloucestershire

 

 

After having lunch and wandering around Burford, head over to nearby Bourton on the Water (15 min drive) for a lovely stroll around one of the best loved villages in the Cotswolds. Often referred to as the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’, Bourton is brimming with boutique shops, classic tea rooms and cosy pubs. Bourton is home to many different bridges that stretch across the river Windrush and the water is at the heart of this village. Travelling with kids? You won’t want to miss Birdland, an enormous wildlife park with penguins, pelicans and parrots, home to over 500 bird species. In the height of summer Bourton is very busy with tourists, so get away from the crowds and take a countryside hike out to Upper and Lower Slaughter instead – these picturesque villages are a must on any Cotswolds road trip itinerary.

 

 

Stow on the Wold, Gloucestershire

 

 

On your way back from Bourton, make a stop at the historic market town of Stow on the Wold. Brimming with cafe’s, shops and restaurants, this place is classic Cotswolds in a nutshell and is worth a visit, although there isn’t a huge amount to do. St Edward’s Church, with its heavy oak doors, is said to inspire JRR Tolkien’s Doors of Durin in the Lord of the Rings, and makes a perfect photo opportunity. I’d also recommend a stroll down the high street so you can dip in and out of the many antique shops, as well as an evening meal at either The Old Butchers or The Queen’s Head, serving delicious dinners until late.

 

Day 2 (Saturday)

After a busy first day of your weekend in the Cotswolds, today is no different as you explore a whole host of famous chocolate box villages. Continue exploring more of pretty Gloucestershire as you tick more Cotswolds landmarks off your bucket-list. This itinerary still works well if you’re staying in Burford, as I have previously mentioned, but stays at either Cheltenham or Gloucester would work fine too. Don’t forget that you’ll still need a car to get around as transport links between these places are pretty non-existent!

Broadway, Worcestershire

 

View this post on Instagram

Beautiful day out at Broadway Tower… how have I lived in the Cotswolds my entire life but never been here before?! 😍 Exploring new places close to home is how I've been spending my lockdown and I'm going to continue it over the coming weeks and months too! I just love discovering more of our beautiful country 🇬🇧 . . . #broadway #broadwayuk #broadwaytower #broadwaycotswolds #worcestershire #igersbroadway #cotswolds #thecotswolds #igerscotswolds #discovercotswolds #cotswoldslife #cotswoldway #cotswoldsuk #cotswoldvillages #visitcotswolds #visitengland #visitbritain #lovegreatbritain #weloveengland #england #england_insta #englandmylove #englandtravel #britishsnaps #englandtourism #bbcbritain #capturingbritain #scenicbritain #beautifulbritain

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

Somewhere I have only visited recently is beautiful Broadway and it’s famous tower. Broadway is a stunning market town lined with honey coloured cottages, antique shops and cutesy cafe’s and is one of the most visited spots in the Cotswolds. It can get super touristy and really quite busy on weekends, so I would recommend going first thing in the morning or later on in the afternoon to avoid the crowds. No visit to Broadway is complete without a stop off at Broadway Tower, a few minutes drive (or approx an hour’s walk) away. Completed in 1798, this Saxon designed tower is a museum/viewpoint housing historic exhibitions and boasting stunning views. Climb to the top and you’ll be rewarded with sweeping panoramic views reaching as far as 16 counties, as well as an aerial view of the resident red deer in the park below. There are many circular walks you can take at Broadway Tower, along with a shop, cafe and interesting nuclear bunker onsite too.

 

Cotswold Lavender Farm, Gloucestershire

 

 

Located just a 4 minute drive from Broadway Tower, close to the teeny tiny village of Snowshill, Cotswold Lavender is one of the most instagrammable places in Gloucestershire. A must visit for any Cotswold road trip itinerary during, a stop off at Cotswold Lavender makes a great addition to a day out in Broadway. For just £4 you can access the beautiful lavender farm and walk along the many rows of gorgeous lilac flowers that stretch as far as the eye can see, but please bear in mind that the farm is only open from mid June – early August. There’s also a vibrant yellow field right next to the lavender too, which is perfect for even more photos. Dogs are welcome if they are kept on leads, and there’s also a small shop and distillery on site if you want to purchase some pretty lavender infused goods! If you have time, drive 3 mins down the road to nearby Snowshill and enjoy a drink or a pub lunch at the Snowshill Arms.

 

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

 

 

Famed for its annual race days, Cheltenham is a great place to while away a few hours on your weekend in the Cotswolds. On your way back from Cotswold Lavender/Broadway, stop off in Cheltenham for an afternoon of shopping or fine dining. Regent Arcade and the Promenade are great for high street and designer shops, whilst the Brewery Quarter and Montpellier are the best places to find all your favourite restaurants – The Ivy is a particular favourite of mine! Enjoy an ice cream at Imperial Gardens if the weather is good, and look out for the Neptune Fountain just around the corner. If you have time, head to nearby Bishops Cleeve to walk up Cleeve Hill which boasts impressive panoramic views over the valley below.

 

Bibury, Gloucestershire

 

 

Make beautiful Bibury your last stop of the day before you head back to your accommodation for the evening. Perched on the river Coln, Bibury is a very small village but is hugely popular with tourists. Lined with iconic Cotswold stone cottages, Arlington Row attracts coachloads of visitors at the height of summer, so avoid going in the middle of the day and head out late afternoon/early evening instead. Walk around the village over the bridge and past the trout farm, where you can spot plenty of rainbow trout splashing in the stream below. Round off your day with an evening meal at either The Swan or The Catherine Wheel, both perfectly located in the centre of Bibury and both offering delicious lunches and dinners.

 

Day 3 (Sunday) 

 

It’s the third and final day of your Cotswolds road trip itinerary, and I’ve only added two morning stops so that you can spend the majority of the day exploring beautiful Oxford! Head out on an early morning walk to Minster Lovell before stopping for brunch in Woodstock where you’ll then wander around Blenheim Palace. From there head into Oxford to marvel at its university buildings and dreaming spires. You could easily spend 2 whole days in Oxford, but I’ve listed the highlights below for you and these can easily be done in a day if you’ve got your walking shoes on!

 

Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire

 

View this post on Instagram

I hope you've had a lovely Easter weekend staying at home 🏡 Every time I walk past this gorgeous cottage I want to live there! Haven't been to this little village in #Oxfordshire since we went into lockdown 3 weeks ago, and I can't wait for the day when we are able to drive 10 mins to the next village/town to enjoy a long walk or a pub lunch rather than being confined to our back gardens for the foreseeable future ✨ This easter has been a little different – last year I had just got back from being in Australia – but when all of this is over, I'll look back and be so grateful that I have my family, my health, a lovely home & 2 pretty gardens to enjoy in the sunshine ☀️ Whatever happens over the next few weeks, we must continue to #stayhome ❤️ The world will be waiting for you to visit when we are able to, and the #Cotswolds certainly isn't going anywhere 🌎 . . . #happyeaster #uklockdown #minsterlovell #littleminster #lovethecotswolds #cotswoldstyle #thecotswolds #loveoxfordshire #weloveengland #visitbritain #instatravel #lovegreatbritain #capturingbritain #photosofbritain #loveengland #photosofengland #visitengland #thisisengland #igersengland #igersuk #igersoxfordshire #cotswoldslife #oxford #experienceoxfordshire #oxfordshire #countryside #oxfordshirelife #travelblogger

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

The first stop on the last day of your weekend in the Cotswolds is Old Minster Lovell, a tiny Oxfordshire village located near the market town of Witney (also worth a visit if you have time). Park at the Wash Meadow and walk across the fields to Minster Lovell Hall & Dovecote, the ruins of a 15th century Oxfordshire manor house. Complete with crumbling hall, tower and nearby dovecote, the ruins date back to the 1430s when they were built by William Lovell, one of the richest men in England at that time. Occupying a peaceful setting beside the River Windrush, you can take a walk in the nearby woods before circling back to the car park via St Kenelm’s Church and passing the gorgeous cottages that line the main road.

 

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

 

 

Before you head into Oxford, I’d really recommend spending an hour or so at beautiful Blenheim Palace, one of the most famous palaces in the country, and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. Book in advance if you want to check out the state rooms inside the palace itself, otherwise you can turn up on the day to explore the grounds and gardens. With history spanning 300 years, there’s plenty to see and do during your visit to Blenheim. Check out the ‘finest view in England’ (according to Churchill) as you stroll around the grounds past the enormous lake, or let the kids run riot in the maze and pleasure gardens.

 

Oxford, Oxfordshire 

 

 

In my humble opinion, no visit to the Cotswolds is complete without a day trip to the dreaming spires of Oxford! Famed for its historic university, its enviable location on the river Thames and its secret Harry Potter filming locations, Oxford makes a fantastic place to end your weekend in the Cotswolds. As well as visiting the iconic college buildings, be sure to tick the Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library, Sheldonian Theatre and Bridge of Sighs off your Oxford bucket list. All that walking will have you working up a thirst, so I’d highly recommend stopping at rooftop bar The Varsity Club to enjoy a drink with a view of the spires in the distance. The Pitt Rivers and Ashmolean museums (both free entry) are worth a visit if you have time, and don’t forget to head to the newly opened Westgate Centre to get your shopping fix (there are lots of rooftop bars/restaurants there too). You can read more about things to do in Oxford in my other blog post, but you can definitely see most of the sights in a day! Finish up with a hearty meal at The Chequers, just off the high street, and indulge in yummy pub grub at the heart of the city centre.

 

So there we have it, a bumper guide on how to spend a weekend in the Cotswolds. I really hope this helps you to start planning your Cotswolds road trip itinerary and gives you plenty of travel inspo. I’m well aware that this itinerary is completely jam packed and I have probably included way too many stops for a short three night break in the Cotswolds, but I really want to share all my favourite places with you as there are SO MANY TO CHOOSE FROM!! This itinerary therefore is of course totally adaptable, so feel free to remove or add any places that you do or don’t want to see depending on how much time you have. A weekend in the Cotswolds is a lovely idea for a UK staycation, and there’s so much to see that you’ll struggle to fit it all in, but that just gives you all the more reason to come back again another time!

Have you been to the Cotswolds before? I’d love to know which parts you’ve visited!

 

View this post on Instagram

🌼

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on