Top Things To Do in Greenwich

As a passionate international traveller I often opt for overseas adventures over exploring what our great country has to offer. So if there is one thing the global pandemic has made me grateful for in relation to travel, it would be the time to visit areas that have never got round to or places I have not given much thought to since my school years. Enter Greenwich.

Before restrictions were in place, the last time I was in Greenwich was in 2017, taking part in the London Marathon. It’s safe to say I didn’t pay any attention to the sights on the day, everything was a blur and if you told me I ran round Cutty Sark I would not have been able to recall the memory.

As we were starting to be allowed to move somewhat freely, I started to make plans to base my time in the area. For long training walks for my summer events, I headed to Greenwich park each week to check out the status of the Cherry Blossom before heading home up the Lea Valley River or strolling along the Thames to get the miles under my belt. Then, once museums, galleries and restaurants started reopening – tickets were booked too.



With the summer holidays well in swing and travel plans still somewhat sketchy, I wanted to share my highlights from the area.

Greenwich Park
With views over the Thames and City, many would say Greenwich Park has one of the best views within London. I would be inclined to agree, as even on the dullest of days there is nothing quite like reaching the top of the hill, to the view point, and taking in the London skyline.

The park, well known as the starting point of the London Marathon, has something for everyone and offers a great base for a day out exploring. From the numerous museums and cafe, through to the infamous Cherry Blossom in the spring and deer park, there is plenty to keep everyone entertained.

The Royal Observatory & Greenwich Meantime
Head to the Royal Observatory and home of the Prime Meridian, where the eastern and western hemispheres meet.

Here you can place one foot in the east and one foot in the west, for that all important selfie. The Royal Observatory is a wonderful place to spend a few hours to make you appreciate time, discover all about astronomy and take in the historical clocks.

Rangers House
Sitting on the boundary of Greenwich Park and Blackheath you will find the English Heritage site, Rangers House. If you are a fan of the Netflix show Bridgerton, you might recognise the gates and front entrance as the home of the regal family. The Georgian villa houses The Wherner Collection, with over 700 pieces of art.

If you are an English Heritage member then entry is free. For non-members it is £11 to visit, however I recommend investing in a yearly membership as it provides free entry and parking to many heritage sites throughout the UK.



Queens House
Queen’s House, located at the edge of Greenwich park, is free to visit! Another filming location for Bridgerton, here you will find world famous artworks, including The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I – the iconic painting of the Tudor Queen.

Be sure to take in the first self supporting staircase in Britain, the Tulip Staircase. Look up from the bottom to admire the spiral structure and blue tulip railings.

National Martime Museum
Head to this free museum to read about tales of exploration and martime. With family friendly galleries and free exhibitions, you could easily spend half a day here alone.

Be sure to check out the “Ship in the Bottle” – the replica of Nelson’s ship can be found outside to the rear of the museum.

Old Royal Naval College
This UNESCO world heritage site, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, offers 500 years of British history. Here you can visit the grounds, chapel and visitor centre for free and book tickets talks and tours.

You can also get a full years entry to The Painted Hall for just £12.50. At the time I visited I was delighted to experience the Gaia installation, however even without this The Painted Hall is something to be seen, by far one of the most tranquil places I have visited to date.

Cutty Sark
Probably the most iconic sights of Greenwich is the Cutty Sark. This historic sailing ship was the fastest of its time and you can learn all about its fascinating history by jumping on board.

Walk along the upper decks, cabins and learn all about the precious cargo it transported during its heyday!

Greenwich Market
Now open 7 days a week, you can head to Greenwich market to enjoy a number of culinary treats with the food stalls, pick up some antiques, arts and crafts and even fashion from one of the traders.

It is somewhat of a bustling up within the area and you would be hard pressed not to be tempted to buy.

Greenwich Peninsula
The Greenwich Peninsula has seen a number of developments in recent years. Home to the O2, you will find that the neighbourhood is a hive of activity. Here you will find a vast number of restaurants, shops and the concert venue too. Keep an eye out for exhibitions too as they often are hosted here.

If you fancy a little more adventure, why not climb the O2 itself. Come rain or shine it makes for a great day out. Or head to the Emirates Cable Cars to experience a different way to travel round the city of London.

Its always worth keeping your eye out in the area for art installations. This summer has seen the colourful “Hundreds and Thousands” – a 700 metre long kaleidoscope dominate The Tide. Definitely worth checking out, especially on a sunny day!

The Royal Borough of Greenwich has so much to offer, that you most likely would not fit it all in a day, and with the every changing views with the seasons, exhibitions and installations, you are bound to keep visiting time and time again.



UK Staycation: Norfolk

Within days of the restrictions relaxing in the UK I was on my way to the first staycation of 2021. With the strong need for a mix of culture and coast, Norfolk was a perfect destination for a two day break. And as usual the schedule was jam packed to ensure I saw as much as possible. As such I opted to stay in Kings Lynn, which gave me easy access to all the spots that were on my agenda.



Sandringham Estate
The first stop on the trip was the 243 hectare estate of Sandringham. Here you can explore the vast woodlands and parklands, with the waymarked trails available for both cycling and walking (and dog friendly) and children’s play area.

On my visit, my main focus was the house and gardens itself. As with most attractions at the moment, pre booked tickets are a must, so if you are interested in exploring the 1870 country house and landscaped gardens, then it’s highly recommended to book in advance.

Most famously known for being Queen Elizabeth’s country house, and the place where both her Father and Grandfather died, I have always been rather intrigued by the stunning building and grounds. On an early spring, yet slightly overcast day, there was plenty to admire within the gardens – Wisteria was blooming and even the Bluebells were holding out too. Sadly, at the time of my visit the house itself remained closed to the public.

However, this did mean visitors were very sparse and therefore made for a much more enjoyable and peaceful visit. Take time to wander the paths, around the lake and on you way back to the main facilities pass by St Mary Magdalene Church – most famous for the Christmas Day service the Royal Family attend.

Wells-next-the-Sea

Next port of call was Wells-next-the-Sea. During our trip for Norfolk in 2020, we drove through the area but did not have time to stop. Therefore the port town was high on the list to return whenever I was next in the area. The award wining, dog friendly beach, is a must when in the region. Only a short walking distance, along the Norfolk Coastal Path, from the neighbouring Holkham, this sandy beach with colourful beach huts is popular with many! If you are not up for the walk from one of the nearby beaches, then you can park in the town and jump on the Wells Harbour Railway to the coast itself.

On return, take time for some fish and chips whilst sitting around the marina or spend a few pennies in one of the traditional arcades.



Hunstanton
Whilst many pick the elegant resort of Hunstanton as their base when visiting the North Norfolk coast, I had just two things that were on my list, both of which required low tide.


Timing my visit just right, early in the morning I headed to this stunning coastline to take in the uniquely red and white striped cliffs. The famous red rock colour comes from iron pigments and is very rich in fossils. At low tide, you can walk along the beach taking in this fantastic view above and rock pools below.

The other point of interest whilst visiting at low tide is the rather breathtaking shipwreck in-bedded in the sand and rocks. Here you will see the remains of the 1907 Steam Trawler Sheraton. Originally used as a shipping vessel and designed to handle hostile conditions in the North Sea. During both World Wars, the ship was used by the Royal Navy, before high winds caused it to stray from its moorings in 1947.

Castle Acre Priory
Castle Acre Priory, an English Heritage site is one of the largest and best preserved monastic sites in England. Dating back to 1090, it was home of the first Cluniac order of monks to England.


As with most locations on this particular trip I benefited from a lack of visitors and took time to explore the impressive remains, exhibition and displays.

To fully benefit from your visit, I would recommend picking up the audio tour to guide you round the site.

Castle Acre Castle and Bailey Gate
Just a short walk from the Priory you will find the rural village, boasting a wealth of history. Castle Acre Castle was founded soon after the Battle of Hastings, by William de Warenne, a close associate of William the Conqueror. Here visitors can roam the castle remains for free.

A stones throw from the castle, you will find the two stone gatehouses, The Bailey Gate. The main road to the village still runs through the towers, which was added to the settlement for defence purposes in 1200.


Ely, Cambridge
Whilst Ely is not located in Norfolk, I could not help but make an impromptu stop on the way home. After seeing the impressive cathedral towering the roads below en-route I made sure to make a de-tour and I cannot believe it had never been on my list before.

Famous for its resident, Oliver Cromwell, Ely is the second smallest city in England offering a large number of attractions that would be enough to fill a full day. Sadly on this visit, I simply wandered the impressive Cathedral and the surrounding streets. However, I left with a vow to return and explore a little more.

The first staycation of the year certainly lived up to expectation. There were beaches and coastal views, castles and cathedrals, and an abundance of history.

While international travel remains somewhat of a risk I certainly will be continuing my adventures in the UK – taking full advantage of my National Trust and English Heritage Memberships.

What are your top UK staycation spots?



Top Things To Do In London That Don’t Break The Bank

In recent months I have started to re-appreciate the city I grew up in. With many places closed or restricted, I have made it my aim to explore the parts that I don’t normally have time for, to sit back and enjoy the scenery and fall in love with London all over again.



In doing so, I have come to realise that there is so much that can be done for free or with very little budget. Therefore, I wanted to share my top haunts, so you too can get the most out of the city.

  1. Take a ride on the Emirates Cable car.

For years, I have passed by the cable cars, not only because there are quicker ways to get around, but the thought of being stuck with strangers high above the Thames filled me with dread. Not because I don’t like people, but it was the fear of other messing about and possibly rocking the car.

Therefore, before the world started to go crazy again, I took myself off to Royal Victoria to pick up the 10 minute ride across the river to the Greenwich peninsula. Luck had it, on a weekday morning, there was no one about. So not only did I have the car all to myself, but the blue skies offered a fabulous view. For just £4 for a single ride it is something I recommend. Children under 5 go free, and over 5 its just £2 each way.

2. Wonder the sites of Greenwich

Other than my run through the area when taking part the London Marathon, I had not visited Royal Greenwich since my school years. It is safe to say I did not appreciate the sights on race day – so lately I have been doing so with a passion.

Museums and buildings have been closed for many months in the area. However, that doesn’t mean you explore. Take a walk through Greenwich Park, checking out the Cherry Blossoms (I have been on blossom watch for weeks) and the best view in London over to Canary Wharf and into the city. Here, many sights would be recognisable as filming locations, with Rangers House and Queens House both featuring in the recent Netflix hit – Bridgerton.

If you have time, wonder the market and visit many of the independent bakeries, cafes and shops. With the museums due to re-open soon I will be planning another visit – spending the day exploring as much inside as well as out.

3. View the city on the Thames Clippers

Now known as the Uber boat, jump on board the clipper and sail down the Thames. Starting at just £5 per journey it is a fantastic way for the family to enjoy the views from the river without spending excessive amounts of money on a city tour.

I have enjoyed a number of trips in recent weeks – often picking up the boat from Greenwich Pier and sailing all the way down to Brixton.

4. Hunt down the colourful streets of London

London is a wonder of colour, even on the dullest of days. You just need to hunt down the right streets. Within the last few months I have got off the tube and just wondered in neighbourhoods that I wouldn’t normally.

Not only for a change, but to discover new areas and a different perspective. You will find the cheeriest of streets in Chelsea, Notting Hill, Portobello Road and Primrose Hill – to name a few.

By keeping off public transport as much as possible, it is amazing what you will discover.

5. Check out Art and Installation Trails.

London has been fantastic for trails. In recent years we have seen the likes of Paddington, Shaun the Sheep, Dream Jars and some may even remember the Wenlock and Mandeville trails from the Olympics in 2012.

Not only are they free, but it is a great way to get out into the city, get your daily exercise and even for adults it’s a bit of fun.

One of the most recent installations is the “Hundreds and Thousands” by Liz West at The Tide in Greenwich. The 700m walkway has been transformed into a rainbow of colour. Most certainly worth visiting in coming weeks.

6. Picnic in the Royal Parks

Despite being in a city we have some fantastic green spaces, from Hyde Park to Greenwich Park, find time to settle down with a picnic on a sunny day.

With most parks offering great facilities including cafes and toilets, it’s a great way to get out and about. If you are lucky, you may even spot the pelicans in St. James Park.

7. Enjoy the views from the Sky Garden

Though currently closed to the public, this oasis is London’s Highest Public garden.

And the best bit is its free! However, you do have to book tickets to go up and they often get filled quickly – so always keep an eye out for dates. At the top, you can enjoy a cheeky drink at the bar, take pictures from the open terrace and you can even dine at one of the restaurants.

8. Walk the Thames River path

For those avid walkers, the 184 mile Thames Path offers not only a great challenge, but a fantastic way to view the city.

To this day I have not walked the whole length, but I have completed Greenwich to Hampton Court in sections – with the longest being a 26 mile trek from the city out to the west.

There are many trail itineraries you can follow, with the recommendation to cover the full distance in 14 days.

9. Climb the O2.

If a good challenge and a great view is what you are after, then the O2 climb is for you. Though the priciest of my list, at around £30 per person, it is well worth the money.

There are often deals or packages to be had, so do shop around before booking.

10. Walking tours

With an amazing amount of history within the city, there are so many tours that can be taken simply on foot. You can either check out some of the self guided tours suggested by the City of London, for example a movie location tour – which is free to access.

Or if you are prone to getting lost, perhaps a guided walking tour is for you. Usually these are reasonably priced – for example the Hidden London Tour is just £16 for a knowledgeable, professional guide.

So there you have it. 10 ways you can explore the city of London without breaking the bank. To this day, I am still discovering gems myself, so if you have any you think should be added to my list please do let me know.



A Day Trip to Oxford

Towards the back end of 2020, when the world re-opened briefly pre Christmas, I booked a trip to explore Oxford and some of its wonderful sights.



Wanting to get started early, ahead of what was then the peak shopping season, I stayed over night in the very comfortable Jury’s Inn just outside the city centre. It was a perfect location for my first port of call the next day.

Blenheim Palace
The stunning country house in Woodstock, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, is probably most famously know as being the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. When visiting you will note the nod to the former prime minister, with trails throughout the palace highlighting his most cherished places, including the Temple of Diana. This Temple is famous as being the location where Churchill proposed to his future wife.

Movie buffs will also be familiar with the palace and grounds due to the numerous films that were shot here; Mission Impossible, Entrapment and James Bond were all filmed in the Great Court and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on the Bank of the Great Lake.

For the historians there is plenty to see at Blenheim Palace, with more than 300 years of captivating stories, from the Palace State Rooms through to The Stables Exhibition.

Blenheim Palace provides a great day out for the family too, with expanse grounds to stretch ones legs, a two mile Maze, Walled Garden and Miniature Train. Throughout the year the Palace provide events and trails for everyone to enjoy, including the Christmas lights during the festive season.

Radcliffe Camera
The iconic Radcliffe Camera is a building of Oxford University, built in 1737-49 to house the Radcliffe Science Library. Circular in design, it is separated from all other buildings, making it a focal point of the university.

Bodleian Library
The Bodleian Library is the main research library at the University of Oxford. It is also one of the oldest libraries within Europe. Housing over 13 million printed items, it is the second largest library in Britain after the British Library.

Many will recognise the medieval library from the Harry Potter films as it doubles as the Hogwarts library. Former users of the library include famous writers such as Oscar Wilde, CS Lewis and Tolkien.

Bridge of Sighs
The Hertford Bridge, also known as the Bridge of Sighs, is a skyway joining two parts of Hertford Collage over New College lane. Due to it’s distinctive design, it has become somewhat of an iconic landmark within the city centre.

St Michael at the North Gate
St Michael at the North Gate is a church, who’s name originated from the location on the site of the north gate of Oxford, when it was surrounded by a city wall.

Christ Church
This majestic university college is widely known for its riverside meadows and Cathedral Choir. Christ Church is one of the largest colleges within Oxford University boasting excellent libraries, the Picture Gallery, Art Room and the Music Room.

In normal circumstances visitors would be allowed to visit both the college and cathedral, however due to the ongoing pandemic both were closed in order to keep the community safe. At the time of writing, this still remains closed until the end of the academic year.

As with Christ Church, the majority of the sights within the city centre were closed during my visit. Which, being a university city, is unsurprising.



That said, it was great to have a walking tour, appreciating the grandeur and history it has to offer.

There is so much more to be seen, so allowing more than a day is recommended.

As such I will be looking at a repeat visit once we return to somewhat of a normal existence, so I can appreciate all the sights within the city.

London in a Pandemic

As someone who was brought up in the North London suburbs the capital city has a special place in my heart, despite now living in the Herts/ Essex borders. Known for being one of the greatest cities in the world, it is one that is usually filled with hustle and bustle – from the fast paced commuter (yes, I used to be one) to the millions of tourists taking London at an easy pace – full of life and excitement.

Enter a global pandemic.

Due to the numerous restrictions in place I have only ventured in to the city when it was appropriate, one of those times being around the Christmas season – when as usual London was jam packed with people.



Therefore it was hard to imagine how the pandemic was affecting businesses (large and small), as most were spending money in shops buying Christmas presents for loved ones, checking out the festive lights or having a catch up with friends in a socially distanced space.

Today, for the first time, I saw what lockdown looked like for our city and it brought tears to my eyes.

I spent a great deal of my youth in the West End. My Grandfather, who was an exceptional businessman at the time, had a number of restaurants and coffee shops in the area. Each one was independently, family run. My Mother, Uncle, Brother and even myself, in school holidays and weekends, worked to serve the vast number of tourists, theatre goers and workers passing through each day. Each establishment flourished on a day to day basis and relied heavily on these groups of people to make a trade.

As I walked the areas I know so well, the back streets, the arcades and so much more, I saw the struggle for these small businesses. For some, you noted the signs stating they would not be opening until May – due to lack of outside space ruling out reopening next week. Others seemed to be waiting for the rare passerby to make some take away trade to keep them going, clearly determined to make the best out of a bad situation.

Approaching midday on a Saturday afternoon, walking through Mayfair, Piccadilly, Leicester Square and Covent Garden, the silence was deafening. Everything closed, no signs of life and it was just not the London I know and love.

The silence made me thankful that my Grandfather retired long before this pandemic hit, as not only would he have been severely affected, but it would have also broken is heart to see the business he built up over decades suffer out of no fault of his own.

Whilst I, like many others, am wary about the restrictions lifting, I am happy to keep travelling and shopping in a mask, to keep my distance from others and to abide by any social distancing rules for as long is it takes – as long as we can get the heart of our city beating again.

So as the world starts to reopen again, take time to choose the small business over the Starbucks that is on every corner, stop by that local bakery or market stall, the independent coffee houses and boutique clothes shops. Support the little businesses that appreciate every ounce of custom.

And most importantly, lets start becoming a tourist in our own city and make London the vibrant place we know and love.

UK Staycation: Somerset

With the UK set to reopen and the chances of jetting off to an exotic destination being somewhat slim, it is safe to say 2021 will see the continuation in demand for staycations.

In 2020 I made the most exploring our great island, visiting areas that have always been on the list but were trumped for an international adventure. Just before the third round of lockdown restrictions we took some time out to explore Somerset.

Booking fully refundable accommodation was key, to safe guard any last minute restrictions, along with this I wanted somewhere peaceful with a few leisure facilities. The Best Western Webbington Hotel, in Axbridge, was just the ticket. Though slightly dated in decor, it offered the quiet location, with a sun terrace to enjoy the late Autumn sun and pool to boot, so we could enjoy a leisurely swim each evening after the days adventuring.



Here is what we got up to over the course of two days.

Cheddar Gorge
The limestone gorge in the Mendip Hills has always been high on my list. After years of saying to myself I will visit en route to Cornwall, and failing to do so, I centred the trip around visiting this National Trust site. Located near the village of Cheddar, the gorge is a site of cheddar show caves which provide the ideal humidity and temperature to mature cheese. Traditionally cheddar cheese had to made within a 30 mile radius within the nearby Wells Cathedral. If you are a cheese lover like myself, be sure to stop by The Original Cheddar Cheese Co shop, for your own wedge (or two) of heaven.

The gorge itself is extremely popular with climbers, cyclists and walkers alike, and despite the dip in temperature there were many visitors enjoying the view along the cliff top walk from Jacob’s Ladder. If you can manage the steep climb, it is well worth the effort to see the gorge in all its glory from the top.

Wells
Due to the presence of Wells Cathedral, the area has held a city status since medieval times and is often described as Englands’s smallest city. Some may recognise many of the sites within the city, including the market place and The Crown at Wells hotel as the filming location for the film Hot Fuzz. My other half is a big fan of the film and was extremely excited to explore the area.

The medieval city centre has a great number of picturesque views and sites, with the glorious Wells Cathedral which houses the famous Wells Clock. The clock is considered the second oldest clock mechanism in Great Britain. The cathedral also has one of the largest collections of historic stained glass in the country.

Adjoining the cathedral you will find Vicars Close, which is believed to be the only medieval street left in Britain. Designed to provide the communal accommodation to the Vicars Choral this picture perfect street is certainly unique and worth a visit when in the area.

The medieval Bishops Palace has been home to the Bishops of Bath and Wells for over 800 years, and is open for the visitors to explore along with its 14 acres of gardens. Sadly we didn’t get the chance to visit on this occasion, as it was closed. However it is one that is on our list when we are in the area again.

Western-Super-Mare
The seaside heart of Somerset was only a short drive from our hotel. Therefore we ventured to the area for dinner, just in time for sunset.

Steeped in Victorian history and with long stretches of beaches, it is clear to see why it is such a popular location for holiday makers, especially families.



Bath
A visit to Somerset would not be complete without a trip to the largest city in the county and World Heritage Site, Bath! I have visited the city on numerous occasions, as I am fascinated with Roman history and the Georgian architecture surrounding the city.

The Roman Baths is one of the finest historic sites in Northern Europe and remains one of the greatest religious spas in the world. Attracting over one million visitors every year, it offers a great deal to explore.

Pulteney Bridge is somewhat of an iconic site within the city. Completed in 1774 the Grade I listed building crosses the River Avon with the weir below.

Bath Abbey can be found in the city centre, close to the Roman Baths. Another Grade I listed building, the medieval Abbey is a parish church of the Church of England founded in the 7th century, with beautiful stained glass windows, art and sculptures.

Within a short walk of the city centre you will find The Royal Crescent. The famous location is comprised of a row of 30 houses in a semi circular formation, and is a great example of Georgian architecture. The iconic street, provides a fantastic background for the numerous hot air balloon flights which can start in the nearby park.

Our visit to the city ended with a stop to the famous Sally Lunn’s Eating House. The historic building is one of the oldest houses in the city, dating back to 1680. The menus offer historic refreshments based on the original Sally Lunn bun, which is still baked to a secret recipe, with a choice of sweet and savoury options, along side a nice pot of tea. I opted for their Cinnamon Butter bun, which was out of this world. We even purchased a few buns to takeaway and re-create at home.

Soon enough our time in Somerset was drawing to an end. Leaving the sunny sites of Bath behind we headed home via the quintessential Cotswold village of Castle Coombe.

The small village has seen no new houses built since 1600AD and has 107 listed buildings, with the majority being Grade II listed, offering a picture perfect pit stop to end our two day trip and a great desire to explore the UK futher in coming months.



Top 10 London Christmas Decorations

It has become somewhat of a Christmas tradition each year, that I take myself off to the centre of London to enjoy the magical light displays and decorations that our fantastic capital has to offer. In previous years, there have also been river side Christmas markets, the infamous Winter Wonderland (which can be seen from planes flying over the city) and even a trail or two (last year being the 12 days of Christmas Snowmen).

This year I was in more need of some festive cheer than normal and so after nine months of staying away from the city centre, I found myself wandering in to see what delights were to be found.

Burlington Arcade
Walk too fast and you would miss this 19th century shopping mall. Cutting through Piccadilly to Bond Street, this gem is oh so pretty.

Traditional red baubles hanging from the ceiling, Christmas trees dotted along the through path and a Moet & Chandon festive love swing, very understated, but classic.

Bond Street
You cannot miss Bond Street off your list of festive spots. Not only do you have the overhead twinkling lights (this year, looking very peacock inspired), but you also have the numerous high end shops competing with decorative shop fronts.

Cartier, is by far the most impressive for me this year. Dressed to look like the entire store is wrapped as a present with a lion peering down on the eager shoppers below and red and white lighting….it really does stand out amongst the other shops in this exclusive street. You would fail to miss it when walking down Bond Street, even during daylight hours.

Leadenhall Market
Venture a little away from London’s West End and you will find Leadenhall Market. Decorations here are minimalistic, however I always love visiting. Not only will you find it rather deserted at the weekends (so perfect for pictures), but the building is so impressive and it so charming amongst the sky scrapers that tower around.

Be sure to look up to the glass ceilings. Though a permanent feature and not just for Christmas, they seem extra high above the glorious Christmas tree.

Covent Garden
Covent Garden and the surrounding areas never fail to impress each year. Though, in recent years the market itself follows the same decorations, with giant shimmering baubles, mistletoe and, by far, the biggest Christmas tree ever (I would not want to decorate it, thats for sure), there is always different displays around the market too.

We have seen numerous Lego displays, including Santa and his sleigh several years back (which you could climb on board for a picture) and giant snow globes.

This year the Lego presence was evident, with Mario and Santa nestling amongst foliage and a free exhibition (tickets must be booked in advance). Additionally this year, you will find a display of Christmas trees all sponsored and decorated by stores around the market.

Make sure you visit Conduit Court too and talk a walk through the Covent Garden Infinity Chamber. This tunnel of changing lights and mirrors, is bound to add to the Christmas vibe.

Annabels – Mayfair
You may not be able to enter the private members club in Berkeley Square, but you can certainly admire the Nutcracker themed decorations they have displayed out front.

With the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy playing out and the giant soldiers standing proud over the square, it is enough to stop everyone in their tracks. The display was even stopping traffic as passengers paused to take a quick snap.

If you have time you can even sit in the square to admire the view, whilst spotting a number of luxury cars pass by…… you do have the Ferrari showroom on the opposite end after all.

Fortnum & Mason and the Ritz
Located on the iconic Piccadilly, and just across the road from Burlington Arcade are the world famous Ritz hotel and Forntum and Mason store.

Every year I wander down to enjoy their classic displays, with Fortum and Mason’s advent calendar shop front and the Ritz traditional decorations with red and gold.

Regent Street
Keeping consistent with their lights was Regent Street. From the bottom at Piccadilly to the top end past Oxford Circus, you will find the twinkling angle lights, that simply just look magical.

With the street closed to traffic you can wander the street, aimlessly, enjoying the real festive charm.

Simple. But powerful.

Carnaby Street
Some might say that the lights in Carnaby Street this year are somewhat dull. I, however, lured in by the bright purple colour (my favourite), and the powerful messaging, playing homage to the NHS and key workers in 2020 – found them rather joyful.

Half way down the street be sure to stop to take a picture against the purple angel wings (if you have indeed been an angel this year of course).

Hays Galleria and City Hall
The area on the Southbank of the river, with The Shard towering over, is usually bustling this time of year with Christmas market stalls and jolly shoppers in pubs and restaurants. Sadly, this December, no market was to be found due to restrictions and it was rather unnaturally quiet. That said, great for photo opportunities, as usual I wandered through Hays Galleria, with its simply dressed Christmas tree and twinkling lights wound around the columns.

I then ventured to the area just before City Hall. With the Tower of London and Tower Bridge in the background you will find the brightly lit Christmas installation. A stag standing proud with a fox and a robin resting on its back. Against the backdrop it looked so magical.

Christmas at Kew
Last but not least, Christmas at Kew! I think possibly my favourite, due to the numerous light installations.

I have been lucky enough to work as a steward for a number of years, so I really get to appreciate the event full with visitors (and experiencing their joy), but also when closing, without anyone around.

2019 – Temperate House

Each year I have worked, the team at Kew have provided a fantastic show! With the Temperate and Palm houses, plus the Treetop Walkway being the main attractions!

Though the fairground is not available in 2020 it is still a wonderful evening out for all the family to enjoy. And one I will enjoy working for years to come.

So, there you have it. My top magical Christmas spots of 2020. I’m sure there are many more that I just have not discovered yet. I would love to know your recommendations too, so I can hunt them out next year!

10 of The Best Places to Visit in Essex

When I first moved to the county over 14 years ago, many commented on the fact that I would become an “Essex Girl.” Maybe from a lack of education or from watching too much TOWIE on their part, who knows, but I was quick to point out that there is much more to the county than fake tan and stilettos. In fact, it is very rare for me to come across such stereotype. Maybe due to fact that I’m more likely to be found hiking the 350 mile long coast line rather than downing cocktails at the Sugar Hut.

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As such I wanted to share some of my favourite spots in Essex, so you too can enjoy just some of what the county has to offer.

Tiptree
If it’s good enough for the Queen, it’s good enough for me!

Head to this village, just a short drive from Colchester and you will find Tiptree. Most famously known for Wilkin & Son’s jam and preserve production, fruit farming in the village began in 1864 and still remains today. Here, you can visit the shop, small museum and have a traditional afternoon tea. 

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If you are in the area be sure to stop by the Messing Maypole Mill – a grade II listed Tower mill, dating back to 1755.

Heybridge Basin
Located at the end of the 13 mile Chelmer and Blackwater navigation you will find Heybridge Basin, with sea lock. The basin itself was dug out of the marsh to enable sea going vessels to enter the canal and unload cargo – which would then be transported inland by barges into Chelmsford.

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The area provides many peaceful walks for hikers, including sea wall paths and canal towpaths of varying lengths. There are even a couple of popular pubs and a Tiptree tea room to enjoy as pit stops.

Mersea Island
With a population of under 7,000, Mersea is the UK’s most Easterly inhabited island. The picturesque atmosphere provides amazing views across the Blackwater Estuary and due to the coastal location proves to be a popular spot for holiday makers. 

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The island also offers a perfect location for walkers, with a 13 mile loop round the coastal path, if a challenge is what you are after. If an adventure is not for you simply take in the beaches with the iconic coloured huts or enjoy a bite to eat in the fishing village area.

Dedham Vale
Step into a Constable painting and visit the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that is Dedham Vale. Located on the Essex-Suffolk border it compromises the area around the River Stour and is known for being “Constable Country” due to the paintings by John Constable. 

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The National Trust area, is another that is popular with hikers throughout the year. You can wander the many marked paths, stroll along the river and stop by the pretty village of Flatford, where you will discover Flatford Mill, Bridge Cottage, The Granary and Valley Farm.

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Frinton-on-Sea
The small seaside town, in the Tendering area of Essex, is one of my favourite spots to get away. With its sandy beaches and colourful beach huts, it is bright on even the dullest of days. Unlike most sea side towns, Frinton remains unspoilt due to its lack of seaside amusements. 

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The beach is a treat the whole year round, though if it is a gentle walk along the surf you are after, be sure to time your visit for low tide. High tide reaches the sea wall, making it impossible to walk the length, meaning the promenade is your only option (which in peak periods can be packed with beach hut visitors).

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Walton-on-the-Naze
If you continue your beach walk from Frinton, you will reach its neighbour, Walton-on-the-Naze with huts a plenty, pier with amusements and plenty of local amenities. 

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The Naze is a peninsula north of the town, with a small nature reserve great for bird watchers and hikers. On one of my many visits this year I completed a 10 mile loop from Frinton, incorporating the Walton sea front and nature reserve too. Seemingly, it is not a well walked path and can become quite boggy in the winter – so I encountered very few people on route – but was rewarded with some marvellous views. 

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Naze Tower is another point of reference, as it was a sea mark to assist ships on this fairly unmarked coastline. As the Naze erodes over time, the tower and surrounding wildlife continue to be at risk with sources expecting the area to crumble into the sea within the next 50 years.

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Epping Forest
The 6,000 acre forest stretching from Epping to Forest Gate in London, is one of my favourite stomping grounds. Once a royal hunting ground, this wonder of a forest offers areas woodland, heath, rivers and ponds.

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Due to its range of track and grass paths, it is popular with hikers, cyclists, runners and horse riders. For many years the forest has been my safe haven, with its miles and miles of pathways and hills enabling me to extend distance whilst training for various events.

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Throughout the year, Epping Forest remains a hot spot, for humans and a multitude of wildlife (keep an eye out for cattle and deers in particular).

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Southend-on-Sea
The resort town on the Thames estuary is a hot spot for families, especially in the summer months. Though, perhaps not as picturesque as the likes of Frinton and Walton, it is one that offers a little more traditional seaside charm. With a Sealife Centre and Adventure Island amusement park, fish and chip shops and pubs, it is a particularly popular spot for a family day out.

More famously, it is home to the world’s longest pleasure pier. At 2,158km, it is just over a mile long. Should you not be up for the walk out and back, you can board the railway and enjoy the ride.

However you reach the end, I would thoroughly recommend stopping in to the Alice in Wonderland themed tea shop, “Tea Beside The Sea.” Offering a selection of refreshments, including Afternoon Tea, it is the perfect spot with a view.

Hatfield Forest
Owned by the National Trust, Hatfield Forest is another favourite of mine. The Site of Special Scientific Interest, just three miles east of Bishops Stortford, offers a variety of forest trails for walking, running or riding, and a lake for fishing. Hatfield is the only remaining intact Royal Hunting Forest, dating back to the time of Norman Kings.

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If it is a long hike, cycle or run you are after, you can extend your route to include the Flitch Way, following the former railway from Bishops Stortford to Braintree, 15 miles in total (one way).

Coggeshall
The final spot on my list is the small town of Coggeshall. I discovered the charming location simply by passing through.

Eight miles east of Braintree you will find the attractive town centre. Made up of nearly 200 listed timber-framed buildings dating back to the 14th century.

When passing through I just spent an hour or so exploring the streets, where I discovered leaning houses, historic buildings, specialist shops and a real olde world village vibe.



National Trust: Kent

In the absence of international holidays and city breaks, I have taken the opportunity to make the most out of my National Trust membership in 2020. Since the sites reopened in the early summer months the majority of my staycations have been centred around my National Trust “bucket list.”

I have had a membership for over 18 months now, but have only made use of the sites that are in the vicinity of home and using the car parks when heading out for walks nearby.



Lately I have been particularly drawn to the “Garden of England,” Kent. Not only does it have an amazing coastline, with challenging hiking paths, but it is also rolling hills, countryside and an abundance of National Trust sites and houses to explore.

I have by no means finished my adventures into Kent, in fact I think another cancelled weekend break will lead me there again soon, however I wanted to share some of my favourites to date to provide some inspiration for your own staycation or even a day trip.

The White Cliffs of Dover
Needing no introduction, the cliffs are perhaps one of the most famous landmarks on our coastline, symbolising home and integral to our war time defence.

I have visited a number of times this summer and I can say without a doubt the cliffs provide one of the most tranquil and rewarding hikes. Even if you are not up for a long walk, you can venture the short distance to South Foreland Lighthouse and back – soaking in the views.

Bodiam Castle
This 14th century moated castle was built by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a former knight of Edward III, in order to protect the area from French invasion during the 100 year war.

Here, you can explore the interior ruins of the castle, along with the surrounding grounds and area of Bodiam itself – a peaceful spot for a summers day out or an Autumnal walk.

Scotney Castle
The English country house, with formal gardens, woodland walks and another 14th century moated castle, is a real gem and one of my top National Trust locations to date.

The moated castle itself is like something out of a fairy tale or Disney film – such beauty and charm in one spot. I only spent a couple of hours here, but you could easy spend the whole day exploring the estate. It is one I will most definitely be returning to when I have the chance.

Ightham Mote
This picturesque 14th century medieval moat house is something quite special. Surrounded by typical English country gardens, woodland walks and lakes, offering reflecting views back over to the moat house, the picture perfect 700 year old Grade I listed building is well worth a visit.

Take time to speak to the National Trust staff who eagerly share their knowledge of the building and its surroundings.

Knole
This grand country house, and former archbishop’s palace, is situated in the 1,000 acre Knole park to the south-east of Sevenoaks. The house itself ranks in the top five of England’s largest houses, totalling four acres. Doors to the house have recently re-opened so visitors can explore the rooms inside, with a one way system in place to comply with social distancing measures.

Knole is another location that could provide a jolly day out. After you have finished taking in the grandeur of the house, you have the whole park to explore, with long walks and an abundance of wildlife – in particular the Deer! On my visit, in mid autumn, it was bang in the middle of rutting season. The sound of the bucks on arrival was incredible. By the end of September these magnificent creatures are all fired up, their antlers are fully grown and they are desperately holding onto their harem of doe. Fighting happens when bucks attempt to steal doe’s from another harem, which can be impressive to watch.

As with all wild animals this can also be rather dangerous, so it advised to keep your distance and watch respectively at a distance. National Trust staff are nearby, who are extremely knowledgeable, so its worth taking time to talk to them and learn all about these beautiful creatures.

Chartwell
The former home of Sir Winston Churchill has long been on my list of places to visit. As with Knole, at the time of my visit they had recently reopened the house. However, my time was limited this time round so I simply enjoyed an autumnal walk through the grounds, including the walled garden, lake, rose garden, apple orchards and even the family pet graves.

When you arrive at the house, it is clear to see why Churchill loved the location so much. With 20 acres of grounds surrounding the house and a further 57 acres of parkland it is an oasis of calm in the English countryside.

With plenty to explore for all the family, it is a great day out within each reach of London and the surrounding areas. If in season, it’s worth popping into the shop to pick up a bag of apples grown in Chartwell’s own orchards.

These are just a handful of National Trust gems that are certain to provide a wonderful day trip or form part of a longer staycation to the Garden of England. Some locations are within a short drive from another, so if you plan the day right you can easily combine a number of locations in a single day trip**.

I will certainly be arranging further trips in coming months to see what else beautiful Kent has to offer.

**Regardless if you are a National Trust member or not, all visits must be pre booked, so ensure you do so in advance to avoid a wasted and disappointing journey.**



UK Staycation: Canterbury and Rye

If you are looking for a short staycation, the South East of the UK provides the perfect getaway. Within easy reach of London and the surrounding counties you will find a mixture of quaint cities, countryside and coastal paths all offering opportunities to blow the cobwebs away.

After another cancelled trip, and refusal to spend any annual leave vegging on the sofa, I decided to visit a couple of locations that have been on the list for some time.

Canterbury
The cathedral city of Canterbury was the first stop on my list. Having not visited since my school years, when we were studying the work of Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, I could only vaguely recall the visit. I remember seeing the cathedral and the sights related to the tales themselves. But, as with most school trips, you don’t take time to appreciate your surroundings as much as you could.

My first port of call when visiting was Canterbury cathedral, one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cathedral became a major focus of pilgrimage following the martyrdom of Thomas Becket in 1170. The journey of the pilgrims to Becket’s shrine, which then went on to be the framework of Chaucer’s tales.



With social distancing restrictions in place I arrived to find the Christ Church Gate closed, and staff asking visitors if they had pre booked tickets. Stupidly, I didn’t think to check to book online, so thought I would be missing out. Luckily, being a quiet Friday morning, I was allowed to purchase tickets on the door. Though, I would recommend booking in advance if you can!

Once inside, it is recommended to give yourself as much time as possible exploring both inside and the cathedral grounds. With restrictions in place, I imagine it was quieter than it would be normally, and therefore rather tranquil. I was able to roam through the cloisters, side chapels and admire the stain glassed windows, dating back to the 12th century, without worry of holding other visitors up or people being in the way of pictures.

Westgate and Westgate Gardens offers a serene spot on the banks of the River Stour. The Medieval gates, defending the city, were constructed in the 14th century. Build from Kentish ragstone and blue-grey limestone, with a drawbridge that is still marshalled by wooden doors and a portcullis.

If you wander through the gardens you will be able to explore the manicured gardens, the Victoria Tower House (now home to the Lord Mayors offices), a Norman Arch from the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey and even the former London Road Gate.

A tranquil spot to stop for lunch and watch the activity on the river, you can even take to a spot of punting or a row boat tour from the high street.

If time is on your hands there is plenty to explore in the city, including St Augustines Abbey, Beany House of Art & Knowledge, the Roman Museum and even the Canterbury Tales attraction (which I remember from the school days). Should none of this take your fancy, simply enjoy wandering the medieval cobbled streets, stopping in the local cheese and food stores. At the time of my visit there was even a street food festival to add to the atmosphere.

Without a doubt, any trip to the city will be one for all to enjoy.

Rye
Just an hours drive from Canterbury you will reach the pretty coastal town of Rye, West Sussex.

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Start your visit wandering through The Landgate, the last remaining of two gates build to defend Rye from invading forces, which started in 1066, before taking your time to amble the picturesque cobbled high street. Here you will find an abundance of pubs, tea shops, cafes, local stores and chocolate shops, and even some antique stores too.

Venture off the main street and you will discover Mermaid Street, probably one of the most instagrammed streets within the town. The chocolate box houses teamed with a steep, cobbled road is simply stunning. A good pair or trainers or walking shoes are needed to explore here, heels will be of no use!



Explore further and you will discover the redbrick Lamb House, once owned by writer Henry Tower, (sadly closed during my visit), St Mary’s Church overlooking the town and the 14th century Ypres Tower, which formed part of Rye’s defences.

Now the tower is Rye Castle museum, with paintings and displays detailing local history and even a ‘Gun Garden” with views out to the harbour and the English Channel in the far distance.

The small town was busy, despite being a week day, so I would recommend visiting off peak and arriving early to make most of your day.

I simply spent my time wandering the quaint town and making the most of the early Autumn sunshine, a picture perfect setting for the end of my whistle stop staycation.

Both locations are filled with history and have plenty to keep all entertained. Though, as with most attractions in current times, it is worth checking restrictions for entry and where possible book ahead to avoid disappointment.



Hiking: Ramsgate to Broadstairs

Just a short drive from London and the surrounding suburbs you will find the fishing and seaside town of Ramsgate. Home to the only Royal Harbour in the UK, the coastal town offers an array of bars, cafes and restaurants, as well as stunning architecture and views across the marina.

In the height of summer you will find the town packed with tourists looking to spend time on the award winning sandy beaches and take in the chalk cliff coastline.

At the time of my visit, in June, many of the bars and restaurants were offering takeaway service only. Undeterred, eager beach goers flocked here and the surrounding areas looking to take advantage of glorious weather.

It was here that I started a 10 mile coastal route that would take me to Botany Bay and back. The gentle path is a hike that links the three historic coastal towns of Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate. So, if you wanted to head out one way, you could walk the whole route to Margate (which is just under 10 miles itself) and return on public transport. On this particular visit, I chose a route that would see me come back on myself to my starting point.

Heading out early on a sunny Saturday morning, I was rewarded with bright blue skies, warm weather and a jammy parking spot right on the marina.

I had checked the tide times prior to arrival to plan out my route and with my trusted backpack and walking boots I set off along the promenade at beach level. If you find yourself following the route during high tide, there is the option to walk along the cliff top path. However on this beautiful day, I remained alongside the beach with the chalky cliff views for 95 percent of the hike.

Dumpton Gap was on of the first significant sights to highlight on route. If you walk along the shore during low tide you will find wide stretches of beaches with rock pools and cliffs as a back drop.

Continue following the path in a northernly direction and you will reach the sandy cove of Viking Bay, the most popular traditional beach in Broadstairs. The bay offers everything you would expect from a classic seaside resort including a small pier, promenade and changing huts. The beach was previously awarded a blue flag and in the summer can be one of the busiest beaches in the area, with lifeguards and excellent facilities from the town.

During my visit I was happy to discover the ice cream shops and even the toilets had re-opened, allowing me to plan a pit stop on my return journey.



From here I continued on a little to Stone Bay, another glorious stretch of beach. At high tide, I’m told that this area almost completely disappears, so its worth checking the tides before venturing further here.

Beyond the bay, with the tide not at it lowest point, I had to take a detour away from beach level. Here the path continues along Cliff Promenade, where you will find some of the most spectacular houses in a private estate, with sea views. The path clearly marked as a byway, so I had no worries about the change of view before reaching North Foreland Lighthouse.

Here I continued along the road for a short while, until I reached my turning point of Kingsgate Bay, a short distance from Botany Bay beach.

I had timed the hike just right and had arrived at the bay at low tide. The beach is best known for its sea caves, rock pools and cliff arch. During high tide the beach can be cut off on both ends, so I was extremely pleased to see that the low tide allowed me, not only to explore the rocky pools, but also walk through the arch itself.

If you do find yourself visiting during low tide, ensure that you have appropriate foot wear. Naturally the rocky service can be slippery with algae and sea water, so flip flops are not advised! I had removed my walking boots on the beach, to quickly put them back on around the caves and pools.

Time it right and you will be sure to get enjoy some beautiful scenery and walk through the arch too! If not, simply enjoy the view from above at high tide – you will not be disappointed.

From this point, I started my return journey to Ramsgate. And as the tide had become at it’s lowest point of the day, It allowed me to stay at sea level for the majority of the hike back. I removed the walking boots, socks and even packed away the flip flops, opting for a leisurely stroll back along the surf.

As it was approaching mid day, on an extremely warm day, the coolness of the sea was bliss. I spent time enjoying the view, taking a copious number of pictures and effortlessly topping up my tan. A quick stop off in Viking Bay was had for ice cream and before I knew it I was back in Ramsgate, following the surf until I hit the marina wall.



During my visit, it was clear to see that the whole coastal area was loved by many. From locals running and walking their dogs, to families with children enjoying the glorious beaches.

I’m sure to return to complete this path again soon, covering the whole route to Margate and I would thoroughly recommend it to eager walkers and hikers.

Just one word of advice, you must, must, must check the tide times if you want to enjoy the path at beach level. Don’t get caught out!



UK Staycation: South Wales & The Cotswolds

With 2020 being the most disrupted year for travel, I have lost count of the number of trips that have been cancelled. Gone was the dream beach holiday to Santorini and the ultimate adventure to trek the Great Wall of China, just to name a few.

Therefore, rather than waste my annual leave sulking at home, I decided to use this year as the one to make the most of what our country had to offer. With the weather remaining on our side, I decided to book a two part staycation to south Wales and the Cotswolds over the August bank holiday weekend incorporating some locations that had been on my bucket list for some time.

Day One – The Gower Coast

After the long drive arriving in the early afternoon, the first port of call was the Gower Coast. Just a 30 minute drive from Swansea city centre the Gower Peninsula is home to 30 beautiful beaches, cliffs and scenic coast line. The Area of Outstanding Beauty is popular with hikers, birdwatchers, sunbathers and surfers. With the Wales Coast path running around the coast line, here you can enjoy miles of coves, cliffs and salt marshes further north. Or if strenuous activity is not your thing, then you can simply enjoy the numerous beaches.

We spent some time following the coastal path from the National Trust carpark at Southgate, towards Pobbles Bay and the iconic Three Cliffs. Despite being a bank holiday, the area was relatively quiet and all visitors remained respectful in keeping their distance and even the weather behaving – offering us picture perfect views of the coast out towards the Bristol Channel.



Tired after our long journey, and with a busy day planned the following morning, we headed back to Swansea city centre to our hotel for an early dinner and bed.

Day Two – Pembrokeshire

Having always heard great reviews about the Pembrokeshire coast line and the surrounding areas I wanted include some of the sights into this trip.

Therefore, at the break of dawn (and to avoid the inevitable crowds), we headed further west and in just under an hour and a half we had reached our first stop of the day, the Green Bridge of Wales and Stack Rocks.

The dramatic natural rock arch and pillars can be found on the south west of Pembrokshire. Access to the area means driving through an army tank range. Generally the track is open most days, however it is advisable to check before you visit to ensure that you are not disappointed.

Both the Green Bridge of Wales and Stack Rocks have formed naturally due to years of erosion, as storms battered the coast pebbles have slammed against the rocks and over time, sand particles worn away therefore dissolving the limestone they are formed from.

In the case of the Green Bridge of Wales, erosion has been occurring on both sides of a small headland, caves formed which have extend further as a result, forming the arch that you see today. The arch also lost a considerable amount of rock to damage during the storm in 2017.

Venture a little further down the coastal path, still within the army range, and you will find Huntsman’s Leap. The deep, narrow gorge attracts many visitors and is extremely popular with climbers. At the time of our trip there were many avid climbers tackling the sheer drops and many standing aside watching them do so.

Just a short drive away you will find the National Trust owned Stackpole nature reserve. This area offers a wonderful stretch of coastline with beaches like Barafundle Bay, and lakes further into Stackpole Court itself. As most locations in the area, this offers the perfect setting for hikers and beach goers alike.

If you are a little more adventurous it boasts many activities including kayaking and coasteering. On this occasion we just followed the many walking paths the estate had to offer, before heading to our third stop of the day.

A short drive from the Pembrokshire coast you will find Carew Castle. The castle offers over 2,000 years of history, telling the tales of the knights of the realm. Due to the pandemic, visits to the castle are pre booked only. So if you want to explore the castle itself, then it is recommended to book in advance to avoid disappointment, especially during peak seasons. Alternatively, you can explore it from the outside as its stunning location is overlooking a 23 acre Millpond, and Tidal Mill, all linked by a mile long circular walk that is suitable for all the family. It also offers fantastic views back over to the castle itself.

The final stop on day two was Tenby. The picture perfect Victorian seaside town, with colourful houses along the sea walls, was heaving with tourists on the bank holiday weekend. With the glorious weather, many visitors were enjoying its charming streets and award winning beach. Here we stopped for a late lunch, ice cream and even some old fashion fun in one of the arcades. Tenby is one of those locations I would love to revisit during out of season as I imagine it would be stunning all year round.

After our stop in Tenby it was time to head back down the M4 and onto our second hotel, in Witney, ready for the Cotswolds the next day.

Day Three – Bibury and Bourton-on-the-Water

Having never spent time in the Cotswolds before, other than passing through, Bibury was at the top of my list for the final day of our whistle stop tour.



Described as “the most beautiful village in England” by William Morris, it certainly didn’t disappoint. On arrival it was clear to see why it’s featured on many lists of the most beautiful Cotswolds villages. With the historic 14th century cottages in Arlington Row, referred to as the most photographed cottages in the country, and the Arlington Mill surrounding the River Coln, this picturesque village is a photographers dream. The National Trust area offers free parking, along the main high street, tea shops, inns and even a trout farm, where you can pay a small entry fee and feed the fish.

Venture a short drive away and you will discover Bourton-on-the-Water, another pretty village that is dubbed “the Venice of the Cotswolds.” Here we simply enjoyed a stroll through the village, along the River Windrush, taking in its beautiful bridges and Cotswold stone houses. Being a bank holiday Monday, the village was full of brimming with tourists. Therefore, after a delightful afternoon tea and a stop at the old sweet shop for souvenirs we decided to beat the traffic and head off home.

If you had more time on your hands, or visiting with children, then there is plenty to keep you entertained in Bourton-on-the-Water. The Birdland Park and Gardens, the Model Village and Cotswold Motoring Museum (the home of Brum) are all within easy walking distance of the village. My only recommendation, come out of season when crowds are less of an issue.

Our whirlwind tour of south Wales and the Cotswolds was just what we needed to break away from the stress of day to day life. In the absence of our usual summer holiday, this gave us the perfect opportunity to explore a taster of each area, with a view to incorporate our favourite spots into another trip in the future.