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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!

 

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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.

 

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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

 

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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

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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

 

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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

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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!

 

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My UK Travel Wishlist: 10 Places for a UK Staycation

As we enter the 13th week of lockdown here in the UK, I’ve slowly started thinking about the idea of travelling again. Don’t worry, I’m not going to be jumping on a plane anytime soon, but I am hoping to travel to a few places in the UK whenever we are able to. At the time of writing, we are currently not allowed to stay overnight anywhere in Britain, and we’re encouraged not to take any day trips or make any ‘non-essential journeys’. When lockdown is over and we are able to roam around the country again, I can’t wait to spend time exploring places I’ve never been to in our British isles. I’m grateful to have visited a huge portion of the UK over the past 27 years, but there are still so many places I’ve yet to discover. With that in mind, I thought I’d put together my ultimate UK travel wishlist so I can plan some day trips and staycations closer to home, post-lockdown of course. Here are 10 places in the UK that I’m just itching to visit whenever we are able to…

 

Stonehenge, England

 

 

This one feels pretty fitting as it was the Stonehenge Summer Solstice this weekend, celebrating the longest day of the year. I have driven past Stonehenge many times before on the way down to Cornwall and Devon but never actually stopped off and visited for the day. I would love to visit whilst en route to Southampton or Bournemouth and use it as a handy place to stop off and break up the journey. At over 4000 years old, Stonehenge is the world’s most famous pre-historic monument, and one of the most impressive landmarks in England. I can’t believe I still haven’t been yet!

 

Brecon Beacons, Wales

 

 

Apart from heading to Cardiff last year to see the Spice Girls on tour (yep, they were amazing) and climbing Mount Snowdon the year before, I haven’t actually spent a lot of time in Wales in recent years. Growing up as kids we would visit the likes of Tenby, Cardigan Bay, Newquay, Caernarfon and Pembrokeshire on our annual summer holidays, but I have never explored the Brecon Beacons before. Climbing Pen Y Fan is definitely on my UK travel wishlist, and I’d love to spend a few days getting well and truly lost in the mountains during an epic Welsh staycation.

 

Dublin, Ireland

 

 

Ok so don’t judge me but I have NEVER been to Ireland before!! I know, I know, it’s crazy that I haven’t visited yet. I think the problem I have is that I travel so much and often overlook places closer to home in favour of destinations that are further away or more exciting. Dublin, however, is somewhere I definitely want to visit as soon as possible. I’d love to explore the cobbled streets and the ancient castle, as well as have a good old night out in Temple Bar – it’s got to be done, right? As soon as we are able to fly again, I am 100% heading over to the Irish capital. Although I won’t be indulging in any Guinness, sorry to disappoint 😉

 

Edinburgh, Scotland

 

Despite only being to Scotland once before (last year, aged 26!) I still haven’t ticked Edinburgh off my UK travel wishlist. I I have NO IDEA why or how I have not yet visited this stunning city, but I am really hoping to go towards the end of this year if we are able to travel around the UK – fingers crossed! Everything about Edinburgh oozes charm, history and culture. From it’s striking castle to its cobbled streets, Edinburgh has something to offer all year round. As much as it’d be great to visit in summer, I’ve always thought December would be a great time to go as I am a sucker for a Christmas market and I know theirs are supposed to be amazing!

 

Windsor, England

 

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What's your favourite castle in Britain? 🏰 Edinburgh Castle? Conwy? Warwick? Leeds? Bodiam? For me, it's hard to beat the beauty of this incredible place – the near 1,000 year old Windsor Castle. Love this view of the “Long Walk” – swipe for a close up! Both shots by @_beans_on_toast_ Let's tuck into a large slab of delicious history: In 1066, when William the Conqueror claimed victory at the Battle of Hastings, the Forest of Windsor was already established – serving as a vital resource for the people who lived in the area. But it was William the Conqueror who was the first monarch to be inspired by the grasslands of Windsor Great Park as a place to build a residence In fact, the outer walls of Windsor Castle as they stand today are the same walls which were constructed by William the Conqueror in 1070AD – and some of the original oaks planted during his reign can still be seen standing tall within the Park now. Just amazing Ahh to be a King. Still, I'm the king of my garden shed and there is a slab of half nibbled fruit cake waiting for me there 🤓 This is @timholt wishing you a wonderful Thursday! Super photos by @_beans_on_toast_ 🇬🇧 To be featured, follow and tag us! ‘Ta! 🇬🇧

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Technically I’ve been to Windsor before as I went to Legoland on a school trip when I was 8 (what a day that was), but I was supposed to visit Windsor again properly back in April. Me and two of my besties were so excited for a fun filled girls day out and a little bit of sightseeing, but obviously Corona meant lockdown which meant our day out was cancelled. I am however still planning a little day trip to see the Queen’s Castle (and my best pal) as soon as we are able to travel safely again. Aside from seeing Queen Liz’s digs, I’d love to visit St George’s Chapel (where Harry & Meghan got married) and am sure we would enjoy a little river walk along the Thames too.

Newcastle, England

 

 

Up next on my UK travel wishlist is Newcastle. I have fancied a ‘night out on the Toon’ since I was 18 but I’ve never got round to visiting because a) it is very far away from me and b) it’s bloody cold up there! I think I’d like to do a stopover in Newcastle on the way up to Scotland and would enjoy a wander around the shopping district and a walk along the river Tyne. I definitely want to visit Durham and the famous Angel of the North statue too so would probably try to cram as much in as I could during my short stopover. Also, what are the chances of me meeting Ant and Dec?!…

 

Loch Ness, Scotland

 

 

I travelled to Loch Lomond and Glencoe last year whilst en route to Ben Nevis, but sadly I didn’t have time to visit the famous Loch Ness. A boat trip around the loch is something I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember, especially as I would be on the lookout for Nessie the whole time! There are so many beautiful parts of Scotland I am yet to visit, and I would love to dedicate a week or two to the North Coast 500 road trip which would allow me to tick off plenty of famous sights along the way. If anyone has any tips for doing this, or knows of any companies who offer group tours, please let me know as I really want to do this road trip but definitely don’t want to drive it solo!

 

Gower Peninsula, Wales

 

 

Not far from Swansea, the Gower Peninsula was the first place in the UK to be awarded the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty status back in 1956. Stretching across 19 miles of fantastic coastline, the Gower Peninsula offers 25 fantastic beaches to enjoy. If I were to book a Welsh staycation I would spend my days taking cliff walks, going on countryside hikes and sunbathing on the beach (if the weather was good). I definitely think the Gower would make a great base for exploring some of the best areas in Wales and would really love to tick it off my UK travel wishlist sometime soon!

 

Belfast, Ireland

 

 

As if I needed another reason to visit Ireland… Belfast is just perfect for a weekend city break staycation. The birthplace of the Titanic, and Northern Ireland’s capital, Belfast is steeped in maritime history. Top of my Belfast bucketlist is the castle, city hall and botanic gardens, all of which are right up my street! If I had time I would love to do a week long road trip in Ireland so that I could visit Dublin and Belfast in one go, but I am also desperate to do the Giants Causeway too as the scenery looks totally breathtaking! Does anyone know of any good companies who do Ireland road trips? Again, I’d love to do this on a group tour instead of travelling on my own!

 

Cambridge, England

 

 

Another place I was supposed to visit at the end of March right before lockdown hit was beautiful Cambridge! My cousin Katie goes to uni there so me and my sisters were going to hop on the train to meet up with her for the day and enjoy a lovely lunch and a bit of sightseeing. Being from Oxford I think most people assume I will have visited Cambridge at some point in my life, but nope, I am still yet to tick it off my UK travel wishlist! I’d love to wander around the college buildings, see the Bridge of Sighs and go punting down the river – it sounds sooo similar to Oxford doesn’t it?!

 

These are all popular places to visit in Britain, some more well known than others, and I can’t believe I haven’t visited any of them yet! In terms of immediate travel plans, I’m hoping to go to Scotland to attempt to climb Ben Nevis again for The Pituitary Foundation in 2021, so I’m definitely looking at having a few extra days up there to explore some of the surrounding highlands. And as I’ve never been to Ireland before, I’d love to do a week long road trip and visit Dublin, Belfast and the Giants Causeway one after the other. How many of these places have you ticked off your British bucket list? And where are you planning your next UK staycation? Send over allllll your travel plans please!

Love Jess x

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How to Spend 24 Hours in Manchester

 

Last weekend I stayed overnight in Manchester for a fab travel blogger conference, Blog at the Beach, hosted by Ice Lolly Holiday and Visit Barbados. I had an amazing time catching up with all my fave blogger friends and meeting loads of new ones, and was excited to explore Manchester properly for the first time in YEARS. In the past I’ve usually just headed straight to the Trafford Centre from Liverpool as I spend a lot of time with my family up there, but this time I was determined to see all that Manchester had to offer, so when Hotels.com asked me to create a guide on how to do a budget break to the city, I was more than up for the challenge! They offer some fantastic accommodation options including luxury hotels, budget B&B’s and the serviced apartments Manchester are a great choice too. Here’s what I got up to during my 24 hours in Manchester, and what I recommend you do there during your northern getaway…

 

Check out Exchange Square & the Northern Quarter

 

exchange square manchester

The Exchange Square

 

Located slap bang in the middle of the city, Exchange Square is home to the shopping district and is right behind the popular Arndale Centre. You’ll find street performers and live music in the square, with the Corn Exchange building as the impressive backdrop. There’s also the Printworks, which has now been converted to a food court with the likes of Five Guys & the Hard Rock Cafe dominating the skyline. The Northern Quarter is another quirky area of the city which is home to an abundance of bars, cafes, shops and restaurants as well as some fantastic street art too. Situated between the Ancoats and Piccadilly, the Northern Quarter is the retro part of Manchester and has plenty of character, with record shops, vintage stores and places where bands gather to play live music.

 

Shop til you drop on the high street  

 

the arndale centre

The Arndale Centre

 

Manchester has got some fantastic shopping, and the high street is one of the best places to go for this. You’ll find every kind of high street, designer and department store you can think of, and the enormous Primark is also home to the newly opened Central Perk Friends Cafe which is hugely popular with locals and tourists alike. Located five miles west of Manchester city centre, The Trafford Centre is of course another obvious choice for shopping, and boasts a fantastic range of shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. There’s also plenty of leisure options for those that don’t fancy shopping or eating, with an Odeon cinema, laser quest, mini golf course, escape room and even a Sealife aquarium offering a fantastic day out for all the family.

 

Visit one of the many museums

 

The National Football Museum

The National Football Museum

 

Manchester has some great museums, many of which are free to enter and are suitable for people of all ages. From football and music to art and fashion, you’ll be spoilt for choice. The National Football Museum, just a stones throw from Victoria station, is one of the city’s most popular attractions, detailing the successful history of the beautiful game. The Science and Industry Museum and the Manchester Art Gallery are well worth a visit, as is the Imperial War Museum located right on the waterfront at The Quays. For those of you who are soap lovers, Coronation Street The Tour at MediaCityUK in Salford is a great day out for all the family. You can explore the historic cobbles, wander through Weatherfield and even see where the pints are pulled in the Rovers Return.

 

Have a night out in Deansgate

 

 

One of the liveliest parts of Manchester, the Deansgate area is a great night out and is brimming with bars, clubs and restaurants. We had cocktails in the All Star Lanes bar, which is complete with a full bowling alley at the back, and then headed to Rudy’s for pizza. We passed the Peaky Blinders bar, a popular new hangout right in the centre of Deansgate, and also passed tonnes of other clubs and bars too. This area of the city is the place to be for a great northern night out, with the mile long road home to trendy eateries such as The Living Room, MOJO and The Botanist.

 

Getting around

a Manchester tram

The trams in Manchester

 

Manchester is quite a big city, so you may need to use public transport or taxis to get around, but the central area is best discovered on foot. You can walk from the high street up to Exchange Square in around 10 minutes, and head to the Victoria or Piccadilly train stations which are either a 5 or 15 minute walk away too. For a proper Mancunian experience, hop on a tram to get around like a local and explore everything much more quickly.

 

Where to stay

 

quad room at the macdonald manchester hotel

Macdonald Manchester Hotel & Spa

 

We stayed at the 4* Manchester Macdonald Hotel & Spa which was located a little out of the city centre, but was just a 3 minute walk from Picadilly train station. The hotel was in a perfect location for our Ice Lolly event as the office building was right around the corner, but we did have to get Uber’s/ taxis in and out of the city centre as the 25 min walk was a little too much for some of us who were wearing heels in the evening! The hotel had plenty of facilities including a tecnho-gym, swimming pool and spa with infra-red sauna, sensation shower, eucalyptus steam room and even an ice igloo. Please note that the spa was only accessible by paying a £10 supplement per person. I was in a room of 4 and we had 2 double beds between us which were super comfy and the bathroom was amazing. I’d definitely stay here again on my next visit as it was the perfect place from which to base ourselves during our 24 hours in Manchester.

 

Where to eat 

 

yard and coop manchester

Yard & Coop Manchester

 

Manchester has a great foodie scene, and we spent most of our time having lunch or eating dinner around the Deansgate area where we were going out on the Saturday night. There are some brilliant restaurants to choose from, with popular chains including Bella Italia, Nandos and Wagamama, but we opted to eat at Rudy’s which has been voted as one of the UK’s best pizza restaurants. For lunch the next day we headed to the Northern Quarter and ate at Yard & Coop, a speciality chicken restaurant serving every kind of chicken dish you could think of! Other great foodie areas include Peter Street and the Ancoats.

I had a great 24 hours in Manchester exploring all that the city had to offer, but I know there’s lots more that I didn’t see during my short time there. If I had longer I definitely would have spent more time seeing some of the museums and exploring the older buildings, as well as venturing out to the Trafford Centre too, but I definitely got a good feel for the city during my 24 hours in Manchester. Have you been to Manchester before? I’d love to know your top tips!

NB. My spending money during my time in Manchester was gifted by Hotels.com but all views, words and photos are of course my own.