Category: Travel

A Scottish Adventure – Our Top Ten Places to Visit

A Scottish Adventure – Our Top Ten Places to Visit

I can’t believe it was only last month that we were getting ready to board the Caledonian Sleeper up to Fort William (read about that here) but now we are home and back to normality we’ve had time to time to think about our favourite places to visit all over Scotland and here they are:

  1. Tobermory – If you a get a chance to visit this picture-postcard town when you are in Scotland it’s a must. Instantly recognisable from the children’s show Balamory, watch your kids faces light up as they realise its an actual REAL place. We took the Caledonian ferry from Oban to Mull and drove across this beautiful island for a day. Next time I’m stopping for longer, there is so much more to see here.
  2. John O’Groats – Our household is split on this one! I loved it here, B not so much to say the least. It was pretty blustery, as you’d expect and he was convinced he might blow into the sea. The drive up is amazing, and some of the most amazing views you’re ever going to get here in the UK. If you’re nearby, do it. Definitely one to tick off the list. 
  3. Edinburgh Castle – I could write pages about Edinburgh, but you can’t visit without a trip to the infamous castle. I love how it dominates the skyline and can’t help but think back to how it would have been in years gone by.
  4. Urquhart Castle – Whilst we are on castles, this is one of my favourites. Steeped in history Urquhart is one of Scotland’s most iconic castles. I visited when I was pregnant, and to be able to bring B back here was lovely. He spent ages playing make believe in the ruins of the kitchen offering strangers ice cream – as you do.
  5. Loch Ness – It’s a must on everyone’s list! No trip to Scotland would be complete without a search for Nessie. There are plenty of boat trips to choose from to go on the hunt. I must admit, I shamelessly do this every time I come to Scotland, and have been on several of the boat trips available and each one has been brilliant. I am yet to spot Nessie though. Maybe next time.
  6. The Jacobite Steam Train – This is an absolutely magical steam train journey, considered one of the greatest railway journeys in the world. It does get booked up well in advance so I’d recommend booking before you go. It’s not open all year either, so check here  before you go.
  7. Glenfinnan – Harry Potter fans will be in their element as they spot the famous viaduct from the films. If you’ve been on the train, its great to then see your journey from another perspective. Take a walk around the monument and admire the spectacular views of the loch.
  8. Nevis Range Gondola – Unless you’re a seasoned climber, a trip up Ben Nevis is ill advised, but you can take advantage of the Nevis Range Gondola to experience the mountain heights. Aonach Mor, is the eighth highest mountain in the UK and offers views for miles. The restaurant at the top offers a great range and even has vegan options which pleased us no end.
  9. Glencoe – With some of the most breath taking scenery in Scotland, Glencoe has so much to offer. I first drove through here in a thunderstorm which was exceptionally dramatic and rather scary. This vast sweeping pass has a host of activities. From the beautiful waterfalls and hikes to inner tubing and mountain biking for the more adventurous.
  10. Neptune’s Staircase at Banavie – If you’ve a budding engineer in the family this is the one for you. Neptune’s Staircase is a dramatic eight lock flight at Banavie near Fort William. If you get to catch a boat passing through its amazing to see. We were lucky enough to stay near by and used to watch as the last boats of the day all came through. It’s an amazing feat of engineering and the longest staircase lock in Britain.

I’m now busy compiling my list for what to see on our visit for next year. Watch this space!

Adventures on the Caledonian Sleeper

Adventures on the Caledonian Sleeper

If you ever get a chance to travel on the Caledonian Sleeper Train my advice would be to grab it and leap with joy. It is one of the most amazing things we’ve done as a family and such a fun way to travel. For train enthusiasts like B this was one ticked off his bucket list, and for the rest of the family, it opened our eyes to a new way to travel. No more “are we there yet” and should your children continue to ask that dreaded question, there is WINE! For you, not them obviously.

The train leaves from London Euston in the evening with the Highland route journeying to Fort William, Inverness and Aberdeen, and the Lowland route to Glasgow Central or Edinburgh Waverley. We were off to Fort William and having driven the long route a few years back, I was looking forward to being able to relax on the long journey up.

The train is ready to board shortly before departure, so you have time to get yourself acquainted with your surroundings before you’re on the move. For B that meant unpacking all of his hand luggage as if he was moving in! The train cabins are cosy, but there is room enough. With each berth sleeping two people, the rooms have an adjoining door to unlock and make it into a family style abode.

Once everyone was organised, the kids decamped to the top bunks to play games we’d packed for the journey. Top Trumps, colouring in, and the IPad had come along for the ride. Travelling as a group of 7 with great friends made this into the ultimate adventure for all of us. B had company with his 2 oldest and dearest buddies, and the adults had each other too. This was our first foray as a family travelling with friends, and made for the perfect adventure as we usually travel just the three of us.

With all under control in the berths (thanks Dads), it was only right that we should check out the bar area (all in the name of research). Unlike your heads down, reading the newspaper, commuter train, this was the most social train carriage I’ve ever been on. Maybe it was the gin? Either way, it was surreal to sit and drink whilst finding out everyone’s plans for after departure.

Back to the berth and B was tucked up ready for bed. He couldn’t wait to get to sleep (another reason to love this train), to say he’d slept on a bed on the train. I was on top bunk which we all know is the most fun, and I was amazed at how secure I felt up there.

So far, so good. Waking up though is the best. To open your blind in the morning and see the dramatic Scottish landscape whizzing by is amazing. Snow capped mountains, waterfalls and valleys abound. Coffee and juice had been delivered to our room, and we’d packed a picnic breakfast of cereal bars and goodies to tide us over until we departed the train.

Sitting in your PJ’s with a hot coffee watching the world go by…it doesn’t get much better than that.

UK Visit Wish List

UK Visit Wish List

Every year the boy makes a list of places he wants to visit before he reaches his next birthday. There is normally some epic stuff on there, such as rides on the bullet train in Japan and finding a train that goes through a mountain. Sadly I don’t think we’ll get to Japan this year, but I do intend to tick off everything on our UK list this year!

  1. With the largest marble run in the UK, the House of Marbles in Devon sounds like a lot of fun. Its been a couple of years since we’ve been to visit that area of the UK, so I’m itching for a visit.
  2. Just a quick train ride away for us is the Florence Nightingale Museum. I’d only discovered this one recently when I stumbled across a chat about it on Facebook. I think we’ll tie it in with one of the regular trips we make to the London Eye.
  3. We’ve just been recommended to visit the home of Charles Darwin. One of the many wondrous buildings available to visit from English Heritage. There are some great events coming up over the summer, so I think we’ll choose to visit as soon as the warmer days are upon us.
  4. With a budding engineer in the family, I think that the Brunel Museum should be a hit. The underground chamber looks amazing, and the Boat Trips and London Walks sound intriguing.
  5. Also on our list for London is the Canal Museum. I love a narrow boat, so can’t wait to visit this place with the boy.
  6. A bit further afield for us, but high on the list is a trip to The Space Centre in Leicester. Who doesn’t love learning about space after all?

So if you’re looking for something different to do this Easter, why not beat us to it and check off some of our list.

Holiday Planning

Holiday Planning

We’re a little late in the year with our holiday plans this year, so I’ve decided to get planning. There has been a lot of adjusting going on in our lives after making the decision to home educate B, both practical and emotional. I made the choice to give up my business as I knew I couldn’t dedicate time to both B’s education and run it successfully. I’d tried working around family life previously and 2 am finishes and 5 am starts are not good for the health so it seems! Fortunately, as one door closes another one opens, and there are all kinds of plans in the pipeline. This time projects that allow for some kind of semblance of balance. For once I actually learnt my lesson from previous disasters – go me!

With our new found freedom to go on holiday any time we liked, we kind of just assumed it would happen. Normally I am working out when and where we can go early in the year. Will this country/that country be too hot in the summer holidays? Should we go at half term? What will happen if B misses a day or two either side of a school holiday. We also had to depend on when the man who pays for it all could get time off (kind of important that one). School holiday time is like gold dust for workers all fighting after the same few weeks. I

I think without the constraints of having to go in the holidays, I didn’t see how quickly the months were whizzing by. We now had a life we weren’t trying to escape from. Everyday was now exciting and an adventure. If we needed to recharge our batteries, a few tweaks to the social calender and we felt better already. Sadly this doesn’t apply to the poor man, who has to go to work to support us, but two thirds of the house were now a whole lot less stressed.

Usually each January we make a list of where we’re dreaming of going. From days out, short breaks, or month long trips. It’s all allowed on the list, you never know if its achievable after all. This years list looked like this:

  • Japan – for a trip on the bullet train
  • New Zealand – an our summer/their winter trip for skiing and fun in Queenstown
  • Australia
  • Scotland – train rides and waterfall hunting
  • Wales – for a visit to Snowden
  • Cornwall – one of my happy places
  • France – camping
  • Lapland – to meet the big man in the red suit
  • Iceland – frozen waterfalls, geysers and aurora borealis
  • Crete – Sensatori (B sees no reason why this shouldn’t be an annual visit)
  • Brentwood – to play crazy golf

To be honest, this years list has been the most ambitious (for ambitious, read unlikely). B has upgraded from last years day trips to Frinton requests that’s for sure! I thought we might be able to achieve a couple, and then Brexit happened. Boom! With the man working in the financial sector life is suddenly a little more unpredictable. From suddenly back to working all hours as the country adjusted to this brave new world, to financial uncertainty, the list kind of got ignored. So 6 weeks later, I’m back on the holiday hunt! Our list has had additions, including a month long trip around India on a train, and a trip to Cuba, are just a couple that were bandied about. Where we end up who knows, but I’m sure it will be fun!

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