When Wil and I visited Edinburgh recently ,we decided to leave be the usual touristy venues such as the Castle, the Camera Obscura, Mary Kings Close and the Scottish National Gallery. All these wonderful attractions are definitely worth visiting ( and we will again, I am sure), but we wanted to explore some other parts of this beautiful city.
The Scottish Capital has extensive parks, extinct volcanos, hidden bars, Harry Potter inspired locations and the most listed buildings in the world. Here are a few images from our trip.
Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden is just one mile from the city centre, and well worth the walk, if your feeling active. I must admit I was dying to visit the ornate glass houses, of which there are ten. The Victorian Temperate Palm house below is one of the tallest traditional Palm houses ever built. Because it was quite nippy, it was nice to keep warm inside for a while, so I recommend a Winter trip. Look out for the Gardens cat, a handsome black Tom, called Milo. I didn’t manage to get a picture, but he’ll be the one being fussed over by the tourists. 🙂
From the Botanic Gardens it is a pleasant walk alongside the Water of Leith into Stockbridge, an area of Edinburgh with lots of green spaces and a friendly village atmosphere. It’s plethora of independent shops and cafes makes Stockbridge a great place to linger.
Edinburgh is a walkers city! We followed the Dean Path along the waterside to the Dean Village, a beautiful Edinburgh suburb. An Instagrammer’s delight , the Dean Village is incredibly picturesque, but bring a picnic if your planning to eat here. There are no shops or cafes, though plenty in nearby Stockbridge.
One place we reserved a table for dinner was ‘ The Witchery By The Castle‘ near the castle gates. Fine dining in a gothic setting, this restaurant may set you back a few quid, but it is in a very atmospheric setting and the food is mouth watering.
We also discovered some almost hidden bars on our explorations round Edinburgh. Venture down any ginnel off the Royal Mile, and you will find a traditional real ale pub such as The Jolly Judge ( look out for the nearby Writers Museum) and The Jinglin’ Geordie. If your preference is cocktails, The Devil’s Advocate in the Old Town and Brambles in the New Town are both quite hidden from the hustle and bustle, but can get busy even so.
On the Sunday before catching our train home, we took a stroll up Calton Hill which is home to several skyline monuments. From here there are far reaching views over the city and some quite interesting structures, including a building that was once called ‘Scotland’s Disgrace’. It is in fact a half finished replica of the Athens Parthenon , a tribute to the fallen of the Napoleonic Wars. The money ran out and building of the National Monument was never completed. I quite like it though! Other iconic buildings include The Nelson Monument, The Royal Observatory and Rock House, which you can actually rent as a holiday let.
I’ve wrote my new Bucket List, though I can’t say I’m loving the title! But yes I am now 45 years old and having written a 25 Before 45 Bucket List when I was a mere age 42, I thought I would continue with the bucket listing lark, through the rest of my forties. 🙂
There were a few items on my previous list that I never got round to ticking off, so I have included some of them on here. I would still like to swim in a lido, see the Northern Lights and try a Dutch pancake in Amsterdam. And there are plenty of new ideas too, such as watching a starling murmuration, collecting sea glass from the beach at Seaham in County Durham and eating ice cream in a vintage ice cream parlour. I’m excited to get cracking!
And I’ve already crossed two things off my new Bucket List. I managed to take a photo of a Barn Owl that was hunting in the field next to my sisters house ( wow, they are such beautiful birds) , plus I went to watch a movie in an old vintage cinema , which has definitely made me want to do more of the same in the future. 🙂
My Bucket List.
Watch a film in an old vintage cinema.
Climb ten more Wainwrights.
Eat out at The Witchery in Edinburgh.
Go on a guided wildlife walk.
Swim in a lido.
Walk The Dales Way.
See the Northern Lights.
Try a Dutch Pancake in Amsterdam.
Collect sea glass on Seaham beach.
Stop in four quirky holiday lets.
Go wild camping.
Afternoon Tea at Cloud 23 in Manchester.
Explore more of the Outer Hebrides.
Stay a few days in the Peak District.
Go to the No 6 Festival in Portmeirion.
Photograph a Barn Owl in the wild.
Ride a street car in Lisbon.
Watch a starling murmuration.
Go Ice skating outdoors.
Make an honesty box meal.
Be Nine stone.
Visit Dungeness in Kent.
Eat ice cream in a vintage ice cream parlour.
Cycle round the isle of Cumbrae.
Meet Felix the Huddersfield Railway Cat.
Go for a cream tea at the home of the Yorkshire Shepherdess.
As you can see, I have left a few gaps in my list, in case I think of a few more things I would like to do.
Do you have your own list?
Have you seen or done anything that I have mentioned here? x
The month of January can be a wee bit meh. The sparkle and celebrations of Christmas are over and done with, so what is to be done ? Possibly go back to the gym, join weight watchers ( my depressing January thing once upon a time) or go into full on hibernation? I say do none of those things. Embrace the winter months. Get out and explore. Snuggle up with a good book or two. Engross yourself in a riveting boxset. Make hearty stews. Drink winter warming brews. This month sounds so much better already. 🙂
I’m presently loving The Marvelous Mrs Maisel on Amazon Prime. I can really get lost in the retro fifties glamor, the whimsical storylines and the laugh out loud moments.
Midge Maisel is a well to do Jewish New York house wife whose life falls apart when her husband leaves her for his secretary. Reeling, Midge accidentally finds therapy in stand-up comedy, almost unheard of for women in those days. This show is a visual treat with fabulous characters and is written by Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator of Gilmore Girls. I definitely recommend. ❤️
I’ve signed up to do the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch , which I had fun participating in last year. If you have any feathered visitors in your yard or garden or even in your local park, it is definitely a great help to take an hour out of your time to just sit and observe who turns up. The Big Birdwatch is on over the last weekend of January. Make sure you fill up the feeders beforehand. Then put the kettle on, relax and watch. You can sign up here.
I’ve also signed up to do the #walk1000miles challenge again. There’s a fantastic Facebook page with a wonderful community of experienced and inexperienced walkers. Lots of walks ideas on there and motivational stories too. Just think, by the end of January there will be an extra hour of daylight, so more time to enjoy the outdoors. I’m certainly looking forward to that!
I always think January is a good time to organize a mini break. Though that might be partly because it’s my other halves birthday. 🙂 Seriously though, what better way to combat the winter blues than a couple of nights away. Out of season breaks are usually less expensive and I was beyond pleased when I found Hubs By Premier Inn in Edinburgh. I’ll tell you if staying in such a bijou room is a good experience, later in the month!
If it’s cold outside, and it often is in January , head for the warmth. A great article in this month’s the Simple things magazine has some toasty suggestions including….
Admire tropical growing palms, ferns and flowers in the warmth of an ornate Glass House.
Book a break at SherwoodCenter Parcsandexperience a treetop sauna.
After a brisk walk on the beach, grab a blanket, buy some fish n chips and eat them on the prom in a wind shelter.
Google pubs near you with a roaring fire. Nothing beats a tipple of your choice in front of a crackling open fire.
My own suggestions ~ wrap up warm in a beach hut, relax in a Turkish baths, head to an independent cinema that serves hot drinks whilst you watch a movie and/or drink coffee with cats in your local cat cafe.
Back in August ( was it really that long ago?) we made the journey North to the Isle of Skye, stopping overnight in the small ferry port of Uig, before our crossing to Lochmaddy on North Uist, the following afternoon. So why did we choose a remote island in the Outer Hebrides as our holiday destination?
Some years earlier we had enjoyed watching a TV show called Monty Hall’s Great Hebridean Escape, where marine biologist Monty Halls and his madcap dog Reubs stayed in a restored crofters cottage on North Uist whilst working as a volunteer Wildlife Ranger on the island. The TV programme definitely put the thought into our heads about visiting the Outer Hebrides but it wasn’t until eight years later that we were flicking through a Unique Cottages holiday brochure and saw the cottage they had lived in for six months had been renamed Montys Cottage and is now a holiday let. We decided to book it there and then. 🙂
Uigg Lodge ~ Our hotel room.
Skye Museum of Island Life.
Over The Sea From Skye. Our time on Skye was brief but we did manage to visit a couple of places on the Saturday morning. After a comfortable stay in the Uig Hotel ( very friendly and welcoming, especially to our dog Hugo 🙂 ) we took ourselves off to the mystical Fairy Glen. Its miniature round grassy hills, one of which is basalt topped and from a distance resembles a ruined castle, have been used as landscapes in fairy tale films ‘Stardust’ and ‘The BFG’. We also visited The Skye Museum Of Island Life at Kilmuir. This collection of thatched Highland cottages housed everything a typical crofters village would have needed to make a living from the land and the sea.
The crossing from Uig to Lochmaddy on North Uist takes a little under two hours. Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries operate services to the islands and we spent the trip up on the deck, watching shearwaters skim the surface of the water and gannets dive-bombing the waves. There are dog-friendly areas inside too, so this journey is easy to make with a four-legged friend. 🙂
As we approached Lochmaddy we were welcomed by late afternoon sunshine and we couldn’t wait to get into the car and drive the 40 minutes north to our accommodation.
Monty’s Cottage. Located down its own secluded lane, a few minutes walk from the sea at Griminish, Montys Cottage looks just like it does in the brochure. A cute white washed crofters cottage with a thatched roof and incredibly thick walls, surrounded by the most beautiful countryside. It felt surreal that this place where Monty Halls had mapped out walking routes for the islands and Reubs the dog had run free on the sands, was to be our home for a week. 😁. Inside the cottage was cosy and well equipped. The owner had left us fresh milk, bread, eggs ect, which did prove a godsend as there were no shops open the following day. Be prepared that shops in the Outer Hebrides don’t usually open on a Sunday!
Female Wheatear. Wildlife On North Uist. The landscape of North Uist is more like a waterscape. There are over 800 freshwater lochans on the island. The watery habitat is perfect for wading birds and for one of Britain’s more elusive species of mammal, the European Otter. European Otters will swim in seawater but also need to bathe in fresh water to protect their coats. We were lucky enough to be able to watch two otters playing in the sea nearby the cottage. A magical experience indeed. 🙂 Other wildlife we spotted on North Uist included several birds of prey, red deer, grey and common seals, many beautiful wildflowers and….. jellyfish galore.
All this wonderful wildlife was on our doorstep, literally. Gaggles of greylag geese flew over every day, a merlin regularly hunted for small birds and field mice in the meadow next to the garden, seals watched us watching them as they bobbed in the bay and scores of compass and lion’s mane jellyfish washed up in one of the several little coves nearby. Corn buntings and countless other small birds make their home on North Uist and it’s neighboring islands. They are basically a nature lovers paradise.
Am Politician Bar ( The Polly), Eriskay.
Original haul from the shipwreck now on display in the Am Politician Bar. Looks like someone’s had a couple of wee drams!
Island Hopping. Very handily North Uist is one of several Outer Hebridean islands connected by causeway roads, making it very easy to visit it’s equally picturesque neighbors. Collectively they are known as The Uists. In the north is beautiful Berneray , which in my opinion boasts the most stunning beaches. All white sand and turquoise ocean. To the south is Benbecula and South Uist, both worth exploring too. And further South is pretty Eriskay , where Bonnie Prince Charlie first landed on Scottish soil. Eriskay is also the real-life location of the shipwreck and lost cargo that inspired the film ‘Whisky Galore’. We didn’t manage to visit the islands of Barra and Vatersay which are accessed by boat. Maybe another time!
Eider ducks, Berneray.
By the wind sailor, Berneray.
Life’s A Beach. How I long to stroll again on those never ending white sandy shores. The beaches in the Outer Hebrides can match any in the Caribbean I bet. Though we occasionally had to wrap up to walk on them..even in August! There are so many stunning stretches of sand that it’s hard to pick a favourite. 🌞
As you can imagine Hugo had a riot chasing sticks and balls along countless beautiful beaches. Our far from chunky labrador ended up almost whippet thin after a week in the Uists.
Food & Drink. I must admit we cooked most of our evening meals at the cottage, stocking up at the co op 5 miles away in Sollas. Having Hugo with us meant that we had to find pet-friendly places to eat and there are only a few on North Uist. We found both the Lochmaddy Hotel and Langass Lodge near Locheport to be excellent when it came to eating out. Both welcome dogs and have good locally sourced menus.
Wil was really happy when oneday by chance we discovered Namara Seafood Cafe. This place feels a bit like a hushed up secret ,as it is located in a remote working harbor at Kallin on Grimsay ( another small causeway island), miles off the beaten track. The cafe is part of a chandlery ( boat supplies shop) and is by no means posh. It does serve the best fresh lobsters and crab though, straight from the ocean. Wil was one happy man as he tucked into delicious lobster & chips for £13, sat on a bench outside.
Are there any pubs on the islands? Well, not many! And none within walking distance of Monty’s Cottage. In fact the only pub on North Uist is The Westford Inn which we never got round to visiting. It looks like a good one though, serves meals and is dog friendly.
Path to Barpa Langais.
Public Art & Landmarks. The Uists are home to many artists and creative talents, so it was fun to search out the various sculptures and art instillations on the islands. Even in a week we did not find them all. Interesting historic landmarks include the Neolithic chambered cairn Barpa Langais at the top of Beinn Langais , resplendent in heather by August. Also look out for the Hut Of Shadows at Sponnish, which hides a camera obscura within.
Dotted round the islands are several working craft studios. I noticed beautiful pottery at Shoreline Stoneware in Locheport and bought a lovely print of the machair ( coastal wildflower meadows) at Puffin Studio Crafts on Benbecula.
Are the Uists for you?
If you don’t mind not seeing a soul when you walk on the beach, don’t mind a short drive to the nearest shop and don’t expect a phone signal or WiFi, you will love holidaying on these Hebridean Islands.
Walking, wildlife, stunning beaches, turquoise sea, friendly folk( when you bump into any 😉), fresh seafood, creative art and spectacular scenery. What’s not to love!
more or less perfect. Surrounded by a mountinous back drop and boasting a well stocked shop, cafe and shower block with underfloor heating ( No Less!) , Scotgate has a village location and good bus links to nearby Keswick and Cockermouth. Braithwaite itself is a lovely village with 2 pubs, a tea room ( opening soon) and a friendly village shop.
Here are a few photos of what we got up to on our break away.
A lake we have always wanted to visit ‘Buttermere’ is a six mile drive from Braithwaite. A scenic route passes through the Newlands Valley and once in Buttermere village , there is parking near The Fish Hotel.
We loved our meander round Buttermere and I can’t wait to visit nearby Crummock Water and Loweswater.
Braithwaite is surrounded by mountain fells, so one morning we decided to bag another Wainwright ( mine and Hugo’s second! ) and walked up ‘ Barrow’ , one of the more diminutive Wainwright fells. At 1,494 feet , it still felt enormas to me!
We started our walk from the top of the village ( near the Coledale Inn) and the ascent is a gradual one , there is a clearly defined path up through the bracken. Once at the top, the views all around are stunning! The descent is quite steep. We soon realised we had actually done this walk before!! About 10 years ago, before I even really knew about bagging Wainwrights. So what was to be my second,is actually my first, done twice. Doh! Still, the hike up Barrow is definitely worth a repeat performance. 😁
The nearest town to Braithwaite is Keswick, on the shores of Derwentwater. Known as Queen of the Lakes, Derwentwater has a scenic ten mile waymarked path around it, which we walked on our last visit in January. This time however, we thought we would take advantage of the Keswick Launch , whose pleasure boats have transported tourists around the lake since 1935. Its a hop on/hop off service , so fantastic for taking to a certain point then walking back…or vice versa.
We walked from Friars Crag to Ashness Gate , passing The National Trust Centenary Stone at Calfclose Bay. I have wanted to visit the most photographed packhorse bridge in The Lake District, Ashness Bridge since seeing its iconic image on a postcard. A short hike from Ashness Gate, and there it is!! A little further and another wonderful photographic opportunity is Surprise View, where we had a vast uninterrupted vista of Derwentwater.
It was beautiful up there and so tranquil. Imagine clumps of pretty Wild flowers, curling ferns and the sounds of cuckoos calling. :). A cooling boat trip back and a delicious tea at The Square Orange in Keswick. Bliss…
Our last full day of our holiday was also the Royal Wedding day. During the day we visited Dodd Wood where there are two Osprey viewing points , trained over Bassenthwaite Lake. Unfortunately the Osprey were in hiding, but these magnificent raptors nest nearby every year and are often seen flying over the water. Opposite the Dodd Wood car park is the entrance for Mirehouse & Gardens , a beautiful historic mansion and grounds , open to the public. Dogs are allowed in the gardens and grounds, so I persuaded Wil, that we should take a look. 🙂
Mirehouse’s gardens are a riot of colour and there is lots to explore including a Heather Maze, Fernery, Herb Garden, Bee Garden, Poets Walk and nature trails. The grounds reach as far as the lakeside and there are woodland walks with surprises at every corner.
We were definitely late to the Wedding celebrations, but in the evening I did indulge in a Meghan Markle Mac N Cheese at the Coledale Inn , back in Braithwaite. : b
Sometimes its good to get away to the big city, especially to see a show or a favourite band. As we were off to the 02 Apollo in Manchester on Sunday night, we thought, ‘you know what, lets stay over’. We found a terrific ( and fun! ) budget option in The Ibis Styles Hotel on Portland street, which is centrally located opposite Piccadilly Gardens.
I booked a Queen room , which was bright and spacious …. and like the entire hotel, had a wacky weather theme. 😊 The room was furnished with Queen bed, a sofa , writing desk, television, free wifi, kettle and ensuite bathroom. All the usual amenities for a comfortable city centre stay.
It was ‘ Raining Cats & Dogs ‘ in the elevator, the carpets were covered in Autumn leaves and a production of ‘Singing In The Rain’, wouldn’t have looked out of place in the lobby. 🌞🌧☂️ You really couldn’t help but smile at the decor. 😁
A tasty continental Breakfast is served in the Jamboree Foodfest Restaurant & Bar , which is also a great place for evening cocktails and has a Happy Hour. Of course I headed straight for the pain au chocolat. 😁
For a budget B & B stay in Manchester , the Ibis Styles is a great choice. We were a 20 minute walk from the 02 Apollo concert venue and the eclectic bars & shops of the Northern Quarter are a 5 minute stroll away.
Hello my festive followers! I thought I would post my last post before Christmas today and spread some Yuletide Blog Love. ♡ Here is a Christmas Combo of some of my favourite posts through December , so do grab a Mince Pie with your brew and enjoy browsing through these winter warmers. 😁
This is my diary of the wildlife where I live in Oxfordshire, and sometimes the places I visit. I am a 15 year old young naturalist with a passion for British wildlife, especially Badgers and Hares. I have been blogging since May 2013 and you can read my old blog posts at www.appletonwildlifediary.blogspot.co.uk