Three thrifty things to do for nature lovers!

Thank goodness things are looking brighter! The weather is improving, days are lasting longer and this summer is beckoning us with a promise of better things to come. As more events and activities open up to us post lockdown, it’s easy to understand why we would want to enjoy them as much as possible. However, as much as we would like to catch up on visiting these places, each activity could cost a lot of money. Your financial situation may have even changed a little over the last year too.

So, you still want to explore, but how do you do it without upsetting your bank balance too much? Here are three budget busting activities to bring you closer to nature and to help you to enjoy your life outside…..

Animal adventures

If you shop at Tesco like I do, you may find that you’ve built up quite a few “Clubcard” points to spend as a result of last year’s lockdowns. Why not use them for an animal adventure in the UK later this summer? There are currently 35 different attractions where your vouchers can be turned into a fabulous adventure for all the family. From safari parks and zoos to butterfly farms and SEALIFE Centres, there’s a huge choice of activities, and each voucher is worth three times the cost of your entrance fee in many cases. Have a browse at the options here. Just remember that zoos and wildlife centres have struggled for funding during the recent lockdowns, so if you can donate a little whilst you are there, you’ll be helping to maintain the wonderful wildlife you see for future visitors too.

Discounted days out

There are plenty of websites on local areas providing inspiration to enjoy nature and wildlife for free. Visit Lancashire has a great selection of nature reserves and animal themed visits, all of which can be enjoyed very cheaply, or in most cases, for free. Visit Dorset has a wonderful top ten list of cheap days out for enjoying wildlife and the great outdoors. Visit Wales has some super ideas for both young and old including dolphin spotting in Ceredigion, Geocaching in the wild landscape of the Brecon Beacons, as well as walking along the magnificent 870 mile long Wales Coast Path. In fact, many regional tourist board websites have brilliant ideas for places to visit on a budget, where you can enjoy local nature and wildlife. Of course, if you are a family and your child has managed to earn their Blue Peter badge, you’ll be one of the lucky ones eligible for free child entry at over fifty zoos, parks and wildlife themed attractions in the UK already!

Nature on your doorstep

Many people have enjoyed getting closer to nature during lockdown in their own gardens. Thanks to the RSPB, they can continue to enjoy and encourage local wildlife by using their “Nature on Your Doorstep” ideas. The activities are designed to be affordable, easy for beginners and relatively quick to complete. There are plenty of ‘how to’ videos and new features on easy ways you can encourage more wildlife. There are masses of ideas to try out such as creating a bee hotel and bird cafe, or even building your own nature highways and byways. The RSPB also have a wealth of creative ideas for children as part of its “Wild Challenge” section, something which I have highlighted in previous blogs. Great for extending that budget, keeping families entertained during the summer holidays and maintaining that close link with nature.

The best thing of course about these budget friendly attractions and ideas is that the cheaper they are, the more you can do! Now get out and enjoy that summer……

Please see the latest UK’s COVID-19 regulations in the RESOURCES section for up-to-date advice on travelling this summer.

For more ideas on outside adventures, follow me at alifeoutsideblog.com. If you liked what you’ve read, don’t forget to like, or share this page too!

Falling in love with Lochalsh

(and it’s not just a Highland fling!)

Pristine white beaches and cascading waterfalls reaching majestic stretches of water, behind which lie mountains, glades and valleys shrouded in mystery….. Have you guessed where I have described yet? Of course, it’s Western Scotland! Where else can you find some of the most delightful and unspoilt scenery in the whole of the UK? On top of this you have a guaranteed packed itinerary for your Scottish staycation break.

It felt right to focus on this beautiful area of the UK this week. Having spent our honeymoon at Glenelg ten years ago this April and having enjoyed several trips since to this amazing area, I wanted to write about the Lochalsh area of Western Scotland. My husband and I were lucky enough to be married in a castle near Barcaldine in Argyll, around an hour and a half further east of Lochalsh, an area which we also love.

What’s so lovely about the Lochalsh area?

Well, to sum it up in a sentence, I’d say it’s magical, mountainous and steeped in history. Many tourists on their way to Skye drive past the peaks of the Five Sisters of Kintail, stop off for a few hours to visit the much photographed castle of Eilean Donean and then move on, joining the trail of cars, motorhomes and road trippers travelling to Skye. However, I believe that missing out on a longer stop to this area is a great shame, as there are so many worthwhile sites to explore.

Eilean Donean Castle

Here are 5 key reasons to stop a wee while longer…

Lush location

Nestled between the legendary island of Skye and the five sisters of Kintail mountain range to the east, this location is also part of the newly created North Coast 500 route. However, it really holds its own in terms of places to visit on your doorstep. The scenic village of Plockton lies to the north of this area, where you can catch a boat to visit dolphins or enjoy a serene kayak across Loch Carron. It is also famous as the village where “Hamish Macbeth”, (the ever-popular BBC TV series), was filmed. If you’re feeling adventurous, and you aren’t towing the caravan or driving a motorhome, (and if your vehicle is safe enough to try it), drive on one of the steepest access roads in the UK called Bealach na Bà. It raises you up over 2053 feet above sea level.

Plockton

Having driven up this road, I can honestly say, it was one of the most dramatic routes I have navigated and I was extremely grateful for being able to rely on our car’s braking system! The views from the top of the pass were spectacular. There’s a video of the pass itself which you can watch here. Beyond the road lies the Applecross peninsular where you can find a myriad of pristine white beaches to recover from your trip!

If you holiday in Lochalsh, you are also within reach of Loch Ness and the Ben Nevis range of mountains to your east at just under two hours’ away. From there, you could catch a dog friendly gondola ride to glimpse the spectacular views of Ben Nevis and the Inner Hebrides from 650 metres up Aonach Mòr. Alternatively, you could attempt Ben Nevis itself, the highest mountain in the UK at 4406 feet.

The added bonus of this location is the fact that it is relatively easy to access in terms of campsites in the area, two of which are just off the main A87 leading to Skye. Skye of course, is famous for its Cuillin mountain ranges and other geological features such as the Quiraing and Old Man of Storr, as well as plenty of other attractions.

Glenelg – a secluded gem

We lost our heart to Glenelg on our first visit and returned for our honeymoon a year later. The village of Glenelg is situated south of the A87. I call it a secluded gem because it’s not easy to get to and not recommended if you are towing a caravan. To reach this village, you must first brave the Mam Ratagan Pass whose single-track gradient can reach 15% in places. The start is gentle but once you’ve reached the summit, you are rewarded with a superb viewpoint looking over Loch Duich and the Five Sisters of Kintail.

The village itself has a small variety of independent shops and a wonderful place to eat, called The Glenelg Inn which is set in front of stunning views over the Sound of Sleat. It also offers accommodation, for those who don’t camp or own a leisure vehicle. Further south, you can visit Iron Age Brochs, (described below), or laze on the white sands of Sandaig Beach, famous for its location in the book “The Ring of Bright Water.” Do take note of tidal times though if you are paying a visit!

Further along to the west of Glenelg and you are treated to a historic ferry run by the community of Glenelg. It is the last manually operated turntable ferry in Scotland and still going, helped by local and national support on its JustGiving page. It crosses to Kylerhea on Skye from the Sandaig lighthouse normally between March and October each year. You may even get treated to a view of an otter or seal as you traverse the Kylerhea Straits.

Waiting for the Glenelg Ferry

Historical highlights

An hour’s walk from Glenelg village finds you at the first of two Iron Age structures, or Brochs. Dun Troddan and Dun Telve are believed to be roundhouses unique to Scotland. They are also some of the best preserved. Their purpose is shrouded in mystery to this day, but one thing is clear, you will not be disappointed if you walk along this gorgeous stretch of landscape through the valley of Gleann Beag to find each structure. There is a fantastic circular walk passing the Brochs starting at Glenelg village which can be found here, enabling you to soak up the wild beauty of this Highland region.

Gleann Beag

Wildlife wonders

There are few places in the UK where you could you honestly say that you drove past an eagle perched on a fence post, were stopped by a herd of deer and were treated to otters and seals swimming near the shoreline in a matter of hours. However, if you holiday in Lochalsh and you are a nature lover, you are in for a real treat! The Otter Hide at Kylerhea is a fantastic option and only a short walk from the Glenelg Ferry. From here, you could spot otters, seals, sea eagles and plenty of other highland wildlife. I wouldn’t, however, recommend taking Cinder Toffee with you if you decide to visit the hide as we decided to do on our first visit, much to the wrath of the rest of the wildlife spotters nearby! Quiet is best for the chance to indulge in your own David Attenborough moment…

To the south of Glenelg, you are also touching upon one of the most remote locations in Scotland, the Knoydart Peninsula. This land is a haven for elusive wildlife such as golden eagles, dolphins, otters, foxes, water voles and buzzards. You can only reach it by boat or on a long walk. The John Muir Trust bought a large area of land here and currently maintains its wildlife, encouraging the return of even more native species to this rugged and tranquil area.

No matter where you visit across the Lochalsh area, it is highly likely that you will be able to experience nature and wildlife at its best!

Activities aplenty

You are spoilt for choice in this corner of the UK for things to do from cycling, water sports and horse riding to hiking. Here are just a few ideas….

There are plenty of boat trips from nearby Plockton or the Kyle of Lochalsh where you can explore life under the waves in the Seaprobe Atlantis. From this glass bottomed boat you may be lucky enough to spot crabs and starfish as well as otters, seals, or porpoises. We saw seals and plenty of other sea life wandering around on the ocean floor on our trip.

If two wheels are more your style, there are world class mountain bike routes a little further north near Torridon, whilst the Lochalsh area has plenty of challenging routes for you to discover. A decent circular route in Lochalsh can be found here, whilst further information about the Torridon routes can be found here.

Finally, it would be remiss for me not to include information about our favourite walk in the area. This is the walk to the Falls of Glomach. Dropping from 113 metres high, this waterfall is a true sight to behold as one of the highest waterfalls in Scotland. You can reach the falls if you set off from the National Trust for Scotland Morvich countryside centre, opposite Morvich Caravan and Motorhome Club Site. It takes between 5-6 hours from here, but it is definitely worth it for an amazing view and a fearsome drop. Do make sure you pay attention to the signs near the waterfall itself though, to avoid putting yourself in danger. For a full route guide, click on this link . We can’t wait to walk up this route again this year!

There are plenty of other walking routes for different tastes in the Lochalsh region. You can find a selection from this article on other routes in the area.

Where can I stay?

There are several excellent options in Lochalsh. The Caravan and Motorhome Club’s Morvich Site is a great bet for soaking up the picturesque mountains and hills, designated a National Scenic Area, surrounding the site. Its 88 pitches and washroom facilities provide a relaxing break and the site itself is easy to reach, located just off the main road to Skye, (the A87). It welcomes campers with tents too. Don’t forget, you can also enjoy that amazing walk up to the Falls of Glomach from here! An alternative option is the equally well located Reraig Caravan and Camping Site which is a little nearer Skye, (further along the A87). This site has bathroom facilities as well as landscaped surroundings and is only 10 minutes from the bridge to Skye itself.

If you’ve not been north of Edinburgh or Glasgow, I’d recommend the Lochalsh area for its wild beauty and its potential for an action-packed Scottish adventure. Of course, you may just want to soak up those staggeringly awesome views and chill out instead. I’d recommend springtime or early summer before the midges visit if you’re not sure when to go. Whenever you decide to go, I’m sure you’ll not be disappointed!

If you’d like any further information on any of the activities or places mentioned in this blog, please click on the links in the article. For the latest UK’s COVID-19 regulations in each country, check out the RESOURCES section for up-to-date advice on travelling this summer.

For more ideas on outside adventures, follow me at alifeoutsideblog.com. If you liked what you’ve read, don’t forget to like, or share this page too!

How to be an “Appy” camper

Could these 8 apps make your holiday even more carefree and enjoyable?

Let’s be honest, when planning your next touring or camping trip, you’re probably thinking of relaxing, enjoying the beauty of your surroundings and catching a bit of sun. It’s time to switch off that laptop and just use your phone for those all-important holiday snaps. This is what holidays are all about. However, before you do, you may want to check out these cool apps for android or iPhone users which could help you enjoy your holiday that little bit more. By using them, you’ll also cut down on your packing, leaving more space in your luggage or camper for that all important sun cream!

Fun in the sun!

The Sun Locator Lite app is a great little app to help you work out the sun’s position from your pitch. Great for sites where you have a choice about how to pitch up and to catch that perfect sunset over a glass of wine. Or for stargazers, how about trying Sky Map? This brilliant app allows you to point your phone anywhere at the sky and tell you which star or constellation you are looking at. You can then wow fellow campfire chums with your astronomical knowhow!

The birds and the bees

The World Wildlife Fund has a fantastic Seek app which you can download. It helps you to identify different species on your holiday outings like plants, flowers, insects, birds and animals. When you identify a species, you’ll be able to find out all about it, as well as seeing how common or rare it is for the area and the time of year. Great for keeping families entertained on walks or trips. Alternatively, have a look at the Wildlife Trusts’ Nature Finder app which is full of fabulous places to visit near your campsite, as well as events and the kind of wildlife which live in each location. You’ll also have access to over 900 UK species and habitats. What’s more, it gives you all you need to plan your trip to each location. Find out more by watching this video. If you’re an iPhone or iPad user, you can access the Nature Finder app here.

Level up!

It’s true that levelling your caravan or motorhome can be a pain after a long journey to your destination but it’s always worth getting it right, instead of cursing the shower floor which doesn’t drain properly once you are set up! Help is at hand with a quick, easy to use basic spirit level. You can go for a traditional bubble style level like the Bubble Level, or a more singing and dancing levelling app which gives voice instructions instead. You’ll be set up and ready to start your holiday in no time!

Location, location, location!

It’s likely, you’ll be wanting to fill up on your journey to and from your destination, as well as once or twice whilst you’re there. The problem is, if you don’t know the area, you might end up paying more at the most expensive petrol station in the region. How can you stop this? Look no further than the Petrol Prices app. It can be downloaded for android phone users as well as for iPhones . A really easy to use app, you simply type in the area or town you want to look at and it will produce a list or map of the current petrol and diesel prices in this area as well as which petrol station to get your fuel from.

Walkers of all shapes and sizes might also want to check out new walks in the area by using ViewRanger. As well as being able to download route guides, outdoor maps and powerful GPS navigation features, you can also share walking routes with other people. This is fantastic if you like to compare walks with your friends or want to arrange walks together.

Of course, whatever your camping or holiday style, I hope you have a brilliant holiday! For the latest travel advice during Coronavirus restrictions or for more holiday planning, don’t forget to look at the “Resources” section of my website to help you plan your next one. Happy camping everyone!

There are plenty of other ideas about outside adventures, as well as holiday inspiration if you want to follow me at alifeoutsideblog.com. If you liked what you’ve read, don’t forget to like, or share this page too!

Northern Lights

Wide sandy beaches, ancient meadows, stargazing in the UK’s largest Dark Sky Park, and home to more castles than any other county in England, Northumberland is a great choice for a holiday adventure any time of the year! The landscape of this huge county has been used as the backdrop for many TV series such as Downton Abbey as well as Harry Potter and Marvel films, one of which we were lucky enough to stumble upon during our visit to this beautiful area.

Staying at Chainbridge Touring Caravan Site, a small but perfectly formed “Tranquil Park“, a short drive from the historic town of Berwick-On-Tweed, we were ideally placed to enjoy our Northumberland adventure. The site itself was welcoming, complete with 16 flat pitches, quirky touches and a lovely view of the fields beyond. It offered a peaceful place to stay for adults on 4 wheels. A mere 30 minutes’ drive and Cherry could scamper along the sandy beaches in front of Bamburgh castle, whilst other landmarks such as Lindisfarne, Alnwick Castle, Northumberland National Park, Kielder Forest and St Abb’s Head were all under an hour’s drive away. Added to this heady mix, was a sweet treat of a visit to a honey farm next door to the site, meaning that our break in this northernmost county of England was truly the “bee’s knees!”

We loved the diversity of Northumberland, and its very friendly people. From jaw dropping coastal views to wild moorlands, massive forests, islands and plenty of castles to keep any historical buff entertained, it seemed to offer everything we needed for an active break. What made our holiday even more special was the space that we felt we had during the entire holiday. According to ONS figures, Northumberland is the least densely populated county in England. Although, busier in several more popular locations such as Bamburgh Castle, the places we visited never felt as busy as other locations which we have visited elsewhere, meaning that we had plenty of opportunity to enjoy time to ourselves and not have to queue up to visit the attractions which we wanted to see.

Why else did we love Northumberland? Here are some highlights and ideas for holidays to this wonderful area of the UK.

Buzzing about the location

We loved the novelty of walking to Scotland every morning, mostly due to the border with England being located across the historic Union Chain Bridge, across the River Tweed, a few minutes’ walk from the site. Built in 1820, it was the longest wrought iron suspension bridge in the world at the time at 137 metres long, (like the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol which was built later). It is currently closed for renovation but it’s due to reopen in 2022.

What’s more, next door to the Touring Park was Chain Bridge Honey Farm, complete with as much bee related skin care, lighting, polishing, edible and gift products as you could imagine! They also have an online store during lockdown which can be found here. The farm itself, houses an observation hive where I have never been so thankful of glass separating me from the thousands of bees living in the colony! The highlight for us though, was the cool cafe on a double decker bus where we enjoyed a honey related cream tea on you guessed it, top deck!

Stunning seascapes!

From the beautiful harbour locations of Seahouses and Craster to the wildlife rich Farne Islands, there are enough coastal gems along this stretch of coastline to fill several trips, let alone just one! We were lucky enough with our caravan’s location to be able to reach rugged cliffs, rocky islands and expansive golden beaches within 30 minutes by car.

The Farne Islands, is the name given to the rocky outcrops which were once dangerous to ships but are now one of the largest sanctuaries for seals and seabirds, including puffins, in the UK. They can be reached in the summer season by daily boat trips from Seahouses, a picturesque harbour town. Further north along the coast is the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, an English Heritage site complete with an iconic castle and monastery ruins.  It is believed that the priory was built 1,400 years ago and became an influential centre of Christianity due to the influence of St Cuthbert, a bishop of Lindisfarne, and one of the most popular saints in Britain before the Reformation. It was also the scene of a dramatic Viking raid in the 700’s. This beautiful coastal island offers visitors plenty of space for relaxation and exploration and is accessed by a causeway from the mainland at low tide.

Further north of the border with England, and we were into the stunning south east Scottish coastline around Eyemouth and St Abb’s Head. It was here, where we stumbled upon some filming for Marvel’s “Infinity Wars.” The town of St Abb’s, (a.k.a. the “New Asgard” for the purpose of the film), and surrounding countryside it seemed, had been adopted by Hollywood royalty. Had I known that I was close to none other than “Thor,” (Chris Hemsworth), I might have rethought my clothes choice for the day, but despite the excitement of seeing various camera crews and actors from afar, we were not successful in star spotting as we made our way along the jagged and spectacular Berwickshire Coastal Path. However, the beautiful views were awe inspiring enough for me!

Castles galore

From one famous series of films to another…. The Harry Potter film series captured the imaginations of fans throughout the world and Alnwick Castle was the film location for Harry Potter’s “Hogwarts” school. This grand castle is the second largest inhabited castle in the UK and dates from the Norman Conquest. It is a justifiably popular place to visit, but don’t worry, Northumberland boasts 70 different castle sites, so there are plenty to choose from if you prefer to explore without the crowds.

Other wonderful castle options are the lovely Dunstanburgh Castle which is a picturesque walk from nearby Craster, Bamburgh Castle, (famously set against a backdrop of vast sandy beaches and another popular TV and film location), and less well known Prudhoe Castle and Aydon Castle which are both fabulous spots for a picnic after a day out exploring.

Unique experiences

In addition to the aforementioned double decker cafe experience, there are plenty of activities different to the norm which you can indulge in as part of your holiday to Northumberland. You could walk on “Northumberlandia” or The Lady of the North on the southernmost tip of Northumberland, a unique piece of public art in the shape of a reclining lady, designed in 2010 by architect and artist Charles Jencks. Alternatively, you can rock climb, swim, scramble and jump along the coast, as part of a coasteering experience, courtesy of Adventure Northumberland. Or you could even try your hand at Segway, canoeing, zip wires or star gazing at the Kielder Observatory in Kielder Water and Forest Park. There is a huge variety of activities for every taste and budget within its 250 square miles. Check out its website for more information.

Big country

One of the things which we loved most about our holiday was the fact that that Northumberland and its surrounding countryside is so vast and so varied. You have the stunning AONB coastline to your east and over 1000 square kilometres of National Park incorporating the Cheviot Hills, and beyond that, Kielder Water and Forest to your south and west. If you venture even further north, you have the beautiful Scottish Borders region to explore too. It really felt that it was easy to get away from the crowds and Cherry loved gallivanting on all of our walks across the ever-changing landscape. There are many amazing moorland walks to try on the Northumberland National Park website, as well as the scenic coastline walks of the Northumberland Coast Path. For those, who prefer to explore on 2 wheels, there is a good range of both short and longer routes to discover the coast on a bike on the Northumberland Coast website.

It really does seem that Northumberland has it all!

Please see the latest UK’s COVID-19 regulations in each country in the RESOURCES section for up-to-date advice on travelling this summer.

For more ideas on outside adventures, follow me at alifeoutsideblog.com. If you liked what you’ve read, don’t forget to like, or share this page too!

Wonderful wildlife opportunities

From bird blogging to building woodlands, there’s more than one way to look after the great outdoors if you’ve been inspired over lockdown….

After World Wildlife Day this week, which celebrated the many species and communities around the world depending upon forests and woodlands, you may be feeling inspired to lend your time to a charity which helps others to enjoy nature. If that’s the case, then read on for 3 fab ways to help others to enjoy nature and a life outside!

There are many charities focused on helping nature and promoting the great outdoors, whilst the benefits of volunteering for one of these charities are huge! Not only is volunteering a great way to engage with nature nearby, but you also get to gain practical experience and new skills. According to REED, volunteering can also help you to stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs. What’s more, according to recent evidence, volunteering can improve your physical and mental health and might even make you live longer!

Have a browse below to get volunteering, (safely), in 2021!

Tweet or chirp about bird benefits!

The RSPB has an excellent site for volunteering from home or in the great outdoors which means that whatever your confidence level after lockdown, there’s a volunteering opportunity for everyone! At the time of counting there were 84 volunteer opportunities on their site, ranging from surveying butterflies to being a “bushcraft” volunteer. You can also fundraise or organise meetings from home too. There are even residential volunteering placements abroad, or hourly opportunities for those with less time on their hands. There are plenty of options for anyone who wants to get involved and if you can’t find a role which appeals to you, get in contact with them by filling in a volunteer enquiry form.

Walking with nature through CareDogs

From Britain’s biggest charity to a much more local, but no less important one. CareDogs seeks to end social isolation for older people by forging life-changing connections between older people living in London and dogs who need rehoming. The charity provides opportunities for volunteers who want to do good, get outdoors and connect with people and nature by becoming dog walkers and befrienders. By volunteering for CareDogs you can encourage and accompany older people to enjoy more outdoor walks and activities with their dogs. The charity hopes to address the growing problem of social isolation, whilst increasing the adoption rate of older dogs from rescue centres and shelters around London. It’s a new and extremely exciting charity to get involved in and you can benefit in several ways. You’ll get out more, you’ll be closer to nature and you’ll get to meet new people! If you’re interested, fill in the enquiry form here, or if you’d like to watch a few videos explaining a little more, try this link instead.

Be part of a “Green” team!

Fancy being part of a huge group of volunteers around the nation who last year transformed 900 green spaces and planted 50,000 trees as part of 31,000 volunteer days? TCV or The Conservation Volunteers under the Vice Presidency of Sir David Attenborough aim to connect people and green spaces in order to improve people’s lives. They’ve been doing this for 60 years successfully! If you log onto their website, you can find a local activity to get involved in. From rehabilitating hospital patients through the green gym to building green spaces such as waterways, wetlands and woodlands. There’s plenty of choice! For more information about their work, watch their video, (which can be found on this page), or to find an activity to get involved in near you, try clicking here.

Hopefully, some of the ideas above have given you even more inspiration to enjoy a little more of your life outside!

There are plenty of other ideas about outside adventures, as well as holiday inspiration if you want to follow me at alifeoutsideblog.com. If you liked what you’ve read, don’t forget to like, or share this page too!

Holiday hacks for a Dogtastic summer!

Wanting some inspiration for UK outdoor adventures with your furry friend for your next holiday? Try these tips and links to make the most of your caravanning or camping canine adventures!

In celebration of a new furry addition to our extended family, (my brother’s family have bought a cute Cavapoo puppy this month), and as a result of adoring all things dog, I thought an article on dog friendly holiday tips, places to go and dogtastic holiday hacks might be in order. As a dog lover, I know that anywhere outside is likely to be a winning idea for your furry friend. Most dogs love the great outdoors and it’s really good for their health as well as ours. According to recent studies, dog owners are more likely to exercise half an hour more than the general population. The PDSA website has got some great ideas about getting the right type of exercise with your dog. So where can you go to find great tips for holidaying with your hound?

Doggy destinations

The UK is very much a dog friendly destination for a holiday, as is much of Europe for that matter. After being welcomed on the basis of our dog, rather than ourselves, to a restaurant in Germany, we’ve been incredibly lucky to have had extremely positive experiences pretty much wherever we have travelled. Only on one occasion in the UK, have we ever been disappointed, (a cafe which told us that we were welcome to eat with our dog, but as long as it was outside, where it was raining, and if we sat on plastic bags!). Cherry, our four-legged furball, has travelled with us on many ships, motorboats, cable cars, bendy busses and trains in the UK and on the continent, meaning that holidaying and exploring has been relatively free and easy. Obviously, like other dog owners, we are much more mindful in hotter weather and have to adapt our activities appropriately, where she is quite happy to chill out in a pub, coffee shop or three when things get too warm.

I would recommend the following destinations below for being particularly brilliant in terms of their dog friendliness. There are also plenty more guides to great dog friendly destinations here, here and here.

  1. Keswick. It seems that there isn’t a shop in Keswick which doesn’t allow dogs inside and it is a regular dog friendly award winner! Although this Lake District town is busier in the summer months, if you visit off peak, it’s a great base from which to enjoy the beauty and splendour of its surrounding countryside. Great walks nearby include scaling Cat Bells, Skiddaw and Buttermere, but there are plenty of quieter walks which aren’t too far away.
  • 2. Wells-next-the-Sea. This lovely town along the North Norfolk coastline is also exceedingly popular with dog owners, having been voted as the 2nd best dog friendly town and beach in the 2019 Dog Friendly Awards. You can walk from its beach to the beautiful wide sands of Holkham just a little further up the coast. Having highlighted the attractions of Holkham beach in a previous blog, I would recommend Norfolk as a great holiday destination for caravanners and campers with dogs.

Further afield, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Germany are very welcoming and often allow dogs into shops and restaurants. In fact, in plenty of motorway service stations on the continent dogs are allowed inside, as we found in Luxembourg and Germany. Although travelling abroad may be out of reach right now for UK citizens, these destinations are great bets for a European canine camping adventure in the future.

Pawfect caravan and camping sites for dogs

So many caravan and camping parks allow dogs to stay with their owners that it is impossible to cover them all in this section. Holidaying on wheels with a dog is a perfect way to get closer to nature and many campsites and touring parks offering plenty of dog friendly features such as dog walks on site, heated dog showers, fresh water bowls and free biscuits! All of the UK’s Caravan and Motorhome Club sites allow dogs to stay for free with their owners. This is great for the budget conscious holidaymaker. They also have a recommended list of sites which are perfect for dog walks here. Most Best of British Holiday Parks also allow dogs to stay alongside owners on pitches, or in their lodges, holiday homes and glamping accommodation, with plenty of extra dog friendly facilities onsite.

There are also a number of Tranquil Parks sites which are brilliant for dog owners staying in their caravan, motorhome or camper. We love the Old Oaks Touring and Glamping Park in Somerset which is very well placed for walks straight from the site in any direction. You can walk up Glastonbury Tor nearby, whilst it has its own enclosed dog walk complete with a dog shower onsite too. It’s 5 star luxury washroom facilities ensure that your stay is very relaxing. Red Kite Touring Park in Powys is similar in terms of the high standards of pitch, facilities and excellent dog walks both onsite and off site. It also has a dog shower for muddy walks and like the Old Oaks, has a well landscaped fishing lake onsite. We had visited Red Kite last summer, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, as we knew how safe we would be due to its excellent safety and cleaning practices onsite.

Dog friendly UK attractions

There are great online guides such as the Good Dog Guide and Dog Friendly Britain providing a plethora of recommendations for attractions to visit with your four pawed adventurer once you arrive at your destination. To start off, you can’t go wrong using English Heritage and the National Trust guides. Most of their sites are dog friendly and even free, if you become a member. There are also plenty of other UK attractions which are great options for dog owners. Some recommendations which we have visited with Cherry are….

Wells Cathedral, Somerset – Yes a cathedral! I’m not making this up! We were kindly allowed inside to be able to experience the beauty of this medieval building, set at the heart of England’s smallest city. Cherry had to be on a lead, well-behaved and accompanied at all times by us and it was an added extra that she was able to join us inside for a visit.

The Eden Project, Cornwall- Aside from the biome areas, we could walk carefree and explore the many exhibits and gardens with Cherry, whilst there were plenty of water bowls throughout this attraction. We took it in turns to visit the biomes but due to the huge choice of gardens, cafes and scenic places to sit, this was not a problem for us. We felt that it was excellent value for money as a daylong dog friendly attraction.

Nothe Fort, Dorset- A 100% dog friendly attraction overlooking Portland Harbour. This C19th fort was built to protect the naval harbour at Portland. There is a museum with many fascinating exhibits of military technology including one of the role of the fort in World War Two. We were able to take Cherry through each tunnel and my husband enjoyed posing on one of its many anti-aircraft guns!

There are plenty of other individual attractions that we are still to visit post Covid such as the Cotswold Wildlife Park in Oxfordshire, England, (a highly rated dog friendly award winner), and Inveraray Jail in Argyll, Scotland, (a place we have stopped at but not realised that dogs were allowed inside). Hopefully, we can explore more of these places safely soon.

Doggy proof your holiday home

The beauty of having your own home on wheels is the fact that Cherry immediately settles as soon as we have pitched up. After a few choice radio tunes and a quick drink, she’s already hogged the sofa, leaving us to get the rest of the caravan/ awning set up in peace. It also helps to have researched the site already. Where are the nearest dog poo bins? Where can your dog go and where not? How long should your lead be around the site? Camping and caravan sites are really welcoming places for dog owners but by paying attention to doggy etiquette, you’ll be appreciated by everyone. Remember, not all campers are animal lovers! The Caravan and Motorhome Club Guidance has a good guide to visiting its sites with a dog which can be accessed here.

Cherry meeting her match at Dogfest 2019!

As a proud caravan owner, I had to quickly improvise when we planned to go away for the first time. However, experience had already taught me the basics-pack a few towels, and a few more just in case, then a few more because you know a mischievious spot of sheep poo will turn up where you least expect it. The addition of several cheap coordinated fleecy throws has also ensured not only Cherry’s comfort, but my sanity! In addition to the usual, (a few toys, food, light weight bowls etc), we also carry different types of leads in the van- the screw in, a short lead, (for pub trips), and a longer extendable lead for our varied walks. The last item we find invaluable is a silicone folding water bowl for our walks. Not only are these lightweight and easy to attach to your rucksack, but they are much easier to carry and reduce water wastage when you are limited to how much water you can carry on longer walks. They can also double up as bowls in the caravan and unlike the bottle tray combos, are lighter, less clunky and easier to clean. Cherry is set up then to enjoy her evening entertainment of watching birds/ people/ other dogs and snoring.

I hope that you enjoy planning your next camping or camping holiday with your canine as soon as it is safe enough to enjoy the summer!

For further information on any of these destinations, please click on the embedded link for each attraction. Please also be aware of the up to date Covid-19 regulations within the UK which may affect the access to each attraction. For an up to date guide to the latest travelling advice in the UK during the Coronavirus pandemic, please visit the 4 websites in the RESOURCES section of my website.

For more ideas on outside adventures, follow me at alifeoutsideblog.com. If you liked what you’ve read, don’t forget to like, or share this page too!

Cultural sites less travelled for a super staycation!

Do you want to be a culture vulture on holiday but fancy a destination with less crowds this summer? You may be all too aware of the need to socially distance and prefer a place, where it is naturally easier to distance yourself from other tourists? Perhaps you’re the type of tourist who prefers to seek out your own hidden gems rather than be told about the top 10 places to go in the UK?

Read on for 4 alternative historical sites and perfect places to stay nearby…

Stonehenge vs Callanish Stones

Stonehenge in Wiltshire is a formidable prehistoric monument of unique historical importance and as a World Heritage Site, justifiably attracts just under a million new visitors each year in normal circumstances. It is a monument well worth visiting. However, an alternative prehistoric gem to try at the opposite end of the UK can be found in the Outer Hebrides. The Callanish Stones, are situated near the village of Callanish on the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, (Western Isles of Scotland). It is believed that the site itself was constructed between 2900 and 2600 BC, whilst the tallest stone marks the entrance to a burial cairn where human remains have been discovered. Set against a stunning Scottish backdrop, this makes an excellent day trip to from Uig in Skye, another beautiful Scottish island, via car ferry, courtesy of Caledonian MacBrayne. For a camping or caravan site on Skye, try Torvaig campsite near Portree which caters for motorhomes, caravans, campervans and tents with a mixture of hard standing and grass pitches with, or without electricity.

York Minster vs Sweetheart Abbey

York Minster, famous for its beautiful windows containing more Medieval stained glass than anywhere else in the country, has long been a magnet for tourists. Not only does its history stretch back as far as Roman times, but it is one of the largest cathedrals of its kind in northern Europe. However, if you want to avoid the crowds visiting this extraordinary historical site, consider another abbey or cathedral. The UK has plenty of them. A great alternative option is Sweetheart Abbey in Dumfries Scotland, where fans of a good historical yarn can discover more about the story behind the name.

In 1268, Lady Dervorguilla of Galloway, had her husband’s embalmed heart placed in an ivory casket after he died. This grieving widow is believed to have carried it with her everywhere. Lady Dervorguilla also founded the Cistercian abbey of Dulce Cor, (Latin for ‘Sweet Heart’), and when she died in 1289, she was laid to rest in front of its high altar. You can even glimpse the stone effigy of Lady Dervorguilla cradling her husband’s embalmed heart to her bosom in the south transept of the abbey. As well as the abbey itself, there is much to see and do in this beautiful and quiet region of Scotland. You are a hop and a skip away from Galloway Forest Park, Scotland’s first Dark Sky Park and the beautiful Galloway Coast. These make superb day trips from Englethwaite Hall Caravan Club Site, which as long as you have your own facilities, comes highly recommended in terms of forest walks from the site, ease of access from the M6, as well as its sheltered and tranquil location. Glentrool Camping and Caravan Site also offers a no frills site in the beautiful Galloway Forest.

Warwick Castle vs Goodrich Castle

Knights, camera, action!! Warwick Castle is well known as a hub of Medieval style re-enactments, entertainments and jousts for historical thrill seekers and offers a rich variety of family friendly opportunities to discover the world of chivalry, battles and castles. However, if you are happy to let your imagine do the work, Goodrich Castle in Herefordshire is a brilliant bet and much easier on the pocket too! It also allows dogs on leads, which is great for us. This well preserved and fascinating castle lies next to the river Wye, near the English and Welsh border. Steeped in history and dating from the 11th Century, it also played a prominent part in the English Civil War.

Herefordshire itself is a stunning county, and one of our favourites. You can find plenty of space for countryside walks, and culture seeking. From the delightful black and white village of Pembridge to the Mappa Mundi, (the largest Medieval map of the world in Hereford Cathedral), there is plenty here to attract culture seekers. You’ve also got a number of cycling cider circuit trails from Visit Herefordshire to make the most out of too! Visit, Lucksall Caravan and Camping Park, a 5-star location which we’d heartily recommend. It has a cafe onsite alongside a beautiful river location, as well as plenty of pitches for caravans, motorhomes, campers and glampers, just in case you haven’t got your own home on wheels!

Blackpool Tower vs Darwen Tower

The bright lights of Blackpool have long attracted visitors and Blackpool Tower, built in 1894, is one of the most famous landmarks in the UK. Modelled after the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris, it was commissioned by the mayor of Blackpool after his attendance at the Great Paris Exhibition of 1889. This iconic Lancashire landmark, set along the seafront, has always been popular with day trippers and holiday makers keen to sample other attractions along the coast such as the Pleasure Beach and illuminations. For a less busy location with an equally fantastic view from its summit, try Darwen Tower further east of this same county. Although you won’t experience the same razzmatazz of Blackpool, you can enjoy a beautiful walk along the surrounding moorland to reach the tower which was built four years after Blackpool Tower, in 1898. Originally built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and to celebrate the victory of the local people for the right to access the moor, this 85 foot tower offers great views of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Morecambe Bay, Blackpool Tower, Cumbria, the Isle of Man, and North Wales on a good day from its summit.

Not so far away is the Forest of Bowland, an AONB, (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), with plenty of further opportunities to walk, cycle, horse ride, watch wildlife or go star gazing, whilst sampling local history and culture. J.R.R.Tolkien visited this area a lot, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was schooled in nearby Stonyhurst College. Try Clitheroe Camping and Caravanning Site which is perfectly located for this area. Set alongside a river with plenty of canoeing and fishing opportunities, you can walk to Clitheroe town and castle only a mile up the road. Having stayed here before, I can vouch for its clean facilities. It offers hardstanding and grass pitches, as well as glamping tents for those who don’t own a camper, motorhome, or caravan.

Whatever summer holiday you are planning this year, I hope it’s a good one for you!

Don’t forget to read my other blogs such as “Brill Beaches for social distancing“, “Happy New Year, Happy New Holidays!“, “Castle , Combes or Coast?” for more ideas on that summer staycation….

Please see the latest UK’s COVID-19 regulations in each country in the RESOURCES section for up-to-date advice on travelling this summer.

For more ideas on outside adventures, follow me at alifeoutsideblog.com. If you liked what you’ve read, don’t forget to like, or share this page too!

Lockdown blues?….5 family friendly ways to get back in touch with nature in January

Too many mince pies and Netflix? Feeling like it’s too long until the summer? Struggling with fewer opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors? Then read on….

As we navigate our way through tighter restrictions and fewer chances to exercise in our local neighbourhoods, it is easy to lose contact with the world around us. In January, we also tend to experience more difficult extremes of winter weather, making getting out and about even more difficult. However, by reconnecting with nature, you can become more relaxed and less stressed, even during this winter month. According to the UK’s mental health charity MIND, nature helps us to be more active and confident. What’s not to love? Read on for 5 family friendly ways to get closer to nature in January.

1. Join the Big Garden Birdwatch!

Bring nature closer to you later this month with help from the RSPB, by taking part in the world’s largest wildlife survey Although you might not be able to get together with loved ones at the moment, you can make plans with friends and family to join together for an hour between the 29th and 31st January. The Big Garden Birdwatch helps the RSPB, which is the largest nature conservation charity in the country, in tracking wildlife around the UK. There are also plenty of other activities which the whole family might want to take part in this month on its website, such as taking part in a “Wild Challenge”, “Upcycling for nature” or creating a bird bath! You can also complete a quiz to work out which garden bird you are… I’m a blackbird apparently!

2. Help a hedgehog!

You could build a hedgehog home if you have a garden with access for hedgehogs. According to Hedgehog Street, the population of Great Britain’s only spiny mammal has fallen considerably. We’ve lost a third of these wonderful creatures from our towns and cities and a half from our rural areas. By providing shelter and supporting this amazing charity, you can help these cute creatures to flourish.

3. Create a bug box!

The Woodland Trust has a great selection of ways to enjoy nature. It offers guidance on building a bug hotel on its website, as well as several resources to help little ones get inspired by nature in their own backyard. Building a bug hotel is a brilliant activity which the whole family can take part in, whilst helping wildlife on your doorstep. Elsewhere on the Woodland Trust’s website, you can find lots of other activities for children to do during the winter lockdown months such as making natural artwork and becoming a nature pirate or expert tree tracker. For more information, click here.

4. Walk for wildlife

The World Wildlife Fund has a brilliant Seek app which you can download which helps you to identify any living thing on your walk such as plants, flowers, insects, birds and animals. When you identify a species, you’ll be able to find out all about it, as well as seeing how common or rare it is for your area and the time of year. You can also run, walk, or cycle in your own garden or local community and raise valuable funds for WWF’s conservation work around the world through its challenge event ideas this year. Its fundraising pack is available here. Not only are you getting closer to nature, but you are giving something back too, and keeping healthy by doing it!

5. Plan your 2021 summer adventure

“The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting”

Andy Warhol

Anticipation of events to look forward to can give us pleasure. So much pleasure comes from excitement about the future, so why not get planning or preparing for your next trip outside, whether it be a weekend in the country or a travelling tour around the North Coast 500? By planning a family camping or caravanning trip, you are undoubtedly going to get closer to nature with your accommodation choice, whilst you could include new adventures which actively involve you all getting close to nature as part of your holiday activities. How about dolphin spotting along the Moray Firth in Scotland? You could look out for basking sharks along the Causeway Coast of Northern Ireland or even take a Red Squirrel Spotting Tour in the Kielder Forest! Try the Caravan and Motorhome Club’s Website to start planning your next summer adventure…..

To help you plan your next outdoor adventure, have a look at the RESOURCES section of this website and if you enjoyed reading, follow me on WordPress and share or like this page!

Happy New Year, Happy New Holidays!

Fancy pushing your boundaries a little with a different type of holiday to look forward to this summer? Would you like to try a different experience, or go even further to become an adrenaline pumped adventurer? After our long lockdown winter, hopefully vaccines will have kicked in and we can look ahead to lighter days and a well-deserved break. Here are some alternative holiday ideas for anyone thinking about the summer, who wants to be inspired to try something a little different for their camping, caravanning or motorhoming holiday…

“SUP”ing in a Scottish Loch!

Stand Up Paddle Boarding or “SUP”ing is growing in popularity and being able to begin your first adventure in the spectacularly scenic and historic surrounding of Glencoe could be one of the best aquatic experiences you’ve had! From as little as £30 per person, you can choose from different paddleboard activities from the “Loch Leven Discovery” experience where you can learn the basics on a tour of Loch Leven, to a more private adventure, soaking up the mountains surrounding you, whilst exercising and learning a new skill. Visit Rugged Paddleboard to find out more about this fantastic activity. Having kayaked a few summers ago across Loch Leven, I can vouch for the beauty of these picturesque surroundings. We’ve stayed in many places nearby, but I can recommend nearby Bunree, where you can stay with the Caravan and Motorhome Club or Oban Camping and Caravanning Site, both of which offer a friendly welcome. They are situated next to forests and lochs and there are plenty of walking, cycling trails and other mountain adventures on your doorstep.

Vineyards, mountain boarding and a step back in time in Shropshire!

Fancy an adventure and culture combo? Start with the action-packed adventures available at The Edge Adventure activity centre at Much Wenlock. Here, you can Segway, mountain board, zip wire and quad bike, before scaling the heights of Jacob’s Ladder. This activity centre based at Newton House Farm in Much Wenlock, also offers caravan and camping accommodation on its site too. Not far away at Wroxeter you can indulge in a vineyard tour at Wroxeter Roman Vineyard followed by a cultural visit of the Roman ruins at Wroxeter Roman City, just a few minutes up the road. If you are happy with a very basic stopover, overlooking a field of alpacas, try where we stopped over in May a few years back at Glebe Farm Certified Location, where for only £12 a night you are close to both of these contrasting attractions. What a treat!

Two Welsh waterways in one!

Experience two contrasting water-based experiences near Llangollen in North Wales. Begin with a white water rafting adventure courtesy of River Active Llangollen, starting at the Horseshoe Falls with a guided safety briefing before you start your adrenaline filled venture along the River Dee. The following day you can opt for a much more serene experience guaranteed to give you beautiful views along the route of the 11-mile World Heritage Site route travelling along the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. You can hire a horse drawn boat for a full day or opt for a shorter cruise along the canal instead by visiting Llangollen Wharf. There are also plenty of castles to visit nearby at Chirk and Dinas Bran, whilst you are not too far away by car from the highest mountain in Wales, Snowdon. Abbey Grange Campsite is located near the centre of these activities. Alternatively, the all singing and all dancing Plassey Leisure Park, complete with swimming pool, leisure centre and retail village is only 18 minutes’ drive away. Plassey offers pitches, glamping accommodation and holiday homes for family fun.

Sports to make you scream in the Lakes!

From the Via Ferrata Xtreme challenge to the Infinity Bridge Step where you can push yourself across a single wire strung across a gorge 2000 feet above the valley floor, the experiences and activities available at Honister.com are definitely not for the faint hearted! You can choose to attempt single or multiple activities, including vertical climbs and cliff edge ladders whilst taking in the beautiful views of Buttermere and Loweswater nearby. This slate mine found at the head of Honister Pass in the Lake District, provides any daring adventurer to try out a range of adrenalin inducing indoor and outdoor activities. It is also home to the last working slate mine in England. If you’re feeling hungry after all that, you can enjoy a delicious lunch at the Sky Hi Cafe, the highest cafe in the Lake District, where dogs and humans are welcome! The Lake District is famous for plenty of other reasons too, from Beatrix Potter to Alfred Wainwright and there are many other outside activities nearby for any outside enthusiast. VisitLakeDistrict has lots of other ideas to help you to make the most of your stay. As regular visitors to the Lake District in our caravan we would recommend Coniston Park Coppice as a great sheltered site which offers plenty of walks to the lake and nearby Coniston from the site. It suits families as well as couples wanting a more chilled break, who can benefit from the diverse choice of different pitches available, as well as glampers and campers.

Buzzing or Baking along the British south coast!

Lastly, for something totally different, try your hand at a beekeeping course, cooking, gardening, or bakery session at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage near Axminster in Dorset. Famous for his war on plastic, cookery books and tv series, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage business encourages visitors to buy in to the best of sustainable living, gardening and cooking and offers a diverse array of courses and gastronomic experiences for any taste. You can also enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labour at a dining event or at his River Cottage Kitchen in nearby at Axminster town centre. Dorset offers tourists a rich array of sites to visit, ranging from the large stretch of the stunning Jurassic Coastline, a World Heritage Site, to museums, harbours and historic towns such as Dorchester and Blandford Forum. There are plenty of camp sites for all tastes and budgets too. The Caravan and Motorhome Club has an excellent selection which can be found by clicking this link.

Whatever your plans are for the summer, stay safe and check out the latest Covid-19 advice in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales before you go…. Enjoy!

For more ideas on outside adventures, follow me at alifeoutsideblog.com. Check out the resources section of my website for more information about places to visit. If you liked what you’ve read, don’t forget to like or share this page too!

So, here it is….Merry Christmas!

As I admired our Christmas tree handiwork and chomped on the first of many mince pies of the season, I, like many people this year, made a secret wish. Obviously, I can’t tell you what it was, or it won’t come true! I would love to share with you though, one of my many hopes for next Christmas in 2021….

I really hope people can share Christmas with each other in 2021 without fear of making others ill. Sharing festive traditions can be great fun and can really help to bring communities together. There are so many wonderful Christmas outdoor traditions which had to be cancelled during the winter months this year. Let’s hope that next Christmas will allow us to safely enjoy some of these wacky traditions in the great outdoors. I love the sound of these ones in particular, for the colder months of 2021…

  • How about immersing yourself in a network of Winter Wonderland Caves in Valkenburg, in the southern tip of the Netherlands? You can shop for Christmas gifts and admire the beautiful nativity scenes in the candlelit caves underground.
  • Or perhaps you fancy a little fright before Christmas? If you do, then you could take part in a Krampus procession in a city like Innsbruck in Austria. These demon-like figures with their long horns, frightening masks, iron chains and loud bells might be right up your street instead. The tradition dates originated in pre-Christian times and traditionally takes place in early December.
  • You can always try out the International Hair Freezing Contest a little further afield in Yukon, Canada during the winter months! Participants in the contest dunk their heads in the hot water of the local pools and then create frosty hairdos by shaping their locks as they freeze in the cold air above. Temperatures in the area can reach below -30° Celsius at the time of the contest!
  • Finally, how about a refreshing icy cold splash on New Year’s Day in the Firth of Forth in Scotland? This New Year’s Day swim isn’t for the faint hearted and braving the freezing waters of the North Sea is a real challenge! You can swim in fancy dress for charity which might spur you on to embrace those chilling temperatures!

Whatever you are up to this Christmas, I wish you all a happy one! Hopefully, you will have a very safe and very enjoyable Christmas this year wherever you live!

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