Mystery Tour of Southeast England

August Bank Holiday, I finally had Chris all to myself for an entire day. And he had planned a mystery tour of Southeast England for us.

With only a slight idea of where we were going, we headed out in search of breakfast. We had hoped to find somewhere along the way, but one hour later (with a very hungry Hazel) we took a diversion into Royal Tunbridge Wells. Suddenly remembering a place he’d been before – which had a café – Chris took us on a wild goose chase. No name and only a slight inkling that it actually had a café, I wasn’t very hopeful. But he came through.

Dunorlan Park Lake
Dunorlan Park Lake

Dunorlan Park was beautiful. The bacon and sausage sandwich very much appreciated. Finishing our breakfast in the gorgeous 27C heat, we naturally headed straight for the ice cream. Then it was time to explore.

Dunorlan Park
Dunorlan Park

Idyllic in the summer sun, we wandered through the gardens spotting the ornamental fountain and impressive trees. Once part of the 78-acre gardens of the grand mansion built by Yorkshire millionaire, Henry Reed, the park is Grade II listed. The gardens contained within were designed by renowned Victorian gardener, Richard Marnock in the 1860s.

Ornamental Fountain
Ornamental Fountain

Another stunning feature is the 6-acre boating lake. Lots of people were out kayaking and playing in the pedalos. Definitely a place to revisit when we have more time.

Dunorlan Park Lake
Dunorlan Park Lake

Having had a nice break from driving, we continued on our journey to the main surprise. I tried to figure out where Chris was taking me. I knew it was close to Hastings, so I had some ideas, but it wasn’t until I saw the brown sign “Bodiam Castle” pop up a few times that I guessed.

Bodiam Castle is your classic castle. It’s the kind of castle that every young child imagines. A picture perfect monument with its symmetrical towers and large circular moat.

Bodiam Castle
Bodiam Castle

Upon arriving, we found multiple groups of people dressed in period clothing. There was an archery section where we watched some young children do worryingly well! As well as a number of tents and workshops set out like a battle camp. We never found out quite why there were these displays of 14th century England, but it definitely made the day more fun.

Battle camp
Battle camp

Crossing the bridge into the castle, we watched the gorgeous Koi Carp – with one rather spectacular orange one catching our attention. We explored the castle top to bottom, from picturesque views of the surrounding countryside to the servant’s quarters.

Koi Carp
Koi Carp

Bodiam Castle was built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a former knight of Edward III, with the permission of Richard II. Its primary role was to defend the area against French invasion during the Hundred Years’ War.

Looking through a window at Bodiam Castle
Looking through a window at Bodiam Castle

However, the structure and details of the castle with its quadrangular shape and position in an artificial watery landscape suggest that it was designed to impress. Attractive as much as it is defensive.

 

 

Well worth a visit, the castle remains in good condition and certainly has lots of history attached.

There was one last stop on our mystery tour. The beach.

Hastings Beach
Hastings Beach

Our final destination was Hastings, a seaside town on the southeast coast of England – and landing place of William the Conqueror. It is most known for the 1066 Battle of Hastings, fought on a nearby field where Battle Abbey now stands.

Hastings Beach with Pier
Hastings Beach with Pier

Arriving around 5pm, we headed straight for the seafront. Met by a shingle beach, it’s not quite your ideal picnic spot, but it was lovely to be beside the sea again. We wandered through the amusements area, eyeing up the Crazy Golf and Go-Karts as we went.

Fishing net shops
Fishing net shops

Continuing along the shore, Chris showed me the old net huts. Originating from the 16th-17th century, these huts were traditionally used to store fishing gear made from natural materials which would rot if left in the open. They have vastly changed over the years, but were recently awarded Grade II* listing and are almost as they were in 1865.

Anchor
Anchor

We also found a huge anchor which had once held centre stage on the pier. It was here that we realised the East Hill Cliff Railway was still running.

East Hill Cliff Railway
East Hill Cliff Railway

Having been convinced it had fallen into disrepair, we had to go up. The funicular railway was opened in 1903 by Hastings Borough Council and originally operated on a water balance principle. The line was modernised between 1973 and 1976 with an electric system and new cars added.

View from the East Hill Cliff Railway
View from the East Hill Cliff Railway

Despite knowing it must be safe, at points you certainly felt like you could fall off! The view, however, was a fantastic distraction. There was a hazy mist hanging over the scene making Hastings appear dream-like as we looked down upon it. At the top, you can explore Hastings Country Park which is the perfect place to relax in the sunshine – there are also steps if you don’t fancy the (almost) vertical railway.

View from the Hastings Country Park

Unfortunately, it was nearly time for the last car down – and we didn’t fancy the steps – so we couldn’t spend too long at the top. Just enough time to take in the view.

Our stomachs rumbling, we headed for the nearest Fish and Chips shop – and it was divine. After incredibly efficient service and enough chips to feed an army, we were definitely satisfied. Thank you very much, Fish Hut. Much better than Wales…

It was getting late, but the lack of people on the Crazy Golf tempted us to stay longer. We couldn’t resist a game, our competitive edges coming out. Far too much fun was had, especially when I managed to hit a hole in one! With only one point in it, I think we were both winners.

The light fading on a perfect day, it was time to head home. But not before a stop at the arcades – and no, Chris did not get me the Iron Man toy…

Sunset on a perfect day
Sunset on a perfect day
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Inspired by Italy – Painshill Park

A couple of weeks after my return from France, we visited Painshill Park. A grade I listed 18th-century landscape garden envisioned by the Honourable Charles Hamilton, 9th and 14th child of the 6th Earl of Abercorn. The gardens boast 158 acres of woodland, shrubberies and a vast lake, as well as a large Vineyard.

Inspired by his exploration of Italy and his Grand Tours of Europe, the gardens were one of the first designed in the naturalistic style brought about by the Landscape Movement. There are hints of this influence everywhere, from the Renaissance-style Crystal Grotto to the Chinese Bridge.

It was lunchtime by the time we arrived, so our first stop was the café next to the entrance. We enjoyed fresh sandwiches and a delicious lemon drizzle cake before exploring the walled garden. Teaming with vegetables and a lovely potting shed, it was very quaint, fully allowing us to immerse ourselves in the past.

Walled Garden Potting Shed
Walled Garden Potting Shed

There are a number of routes around the park, but we chose the historical route. Naturally, this path led us to most of the main features of Painshill Park – other than a slight detour to the ruined abbey. Almost immediately, we found ourselves looking down upon the Vineyard. Hamilton planted the two and a half acres with Pinot Noir cultivar, as well as Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc hybrids, to produce Hamilton’s Painshill Sparkling Wine. Stretching down the steep hill to the River Mole, the vineyard looked magical in the summer sun. You could easily imagine yourself in the Italian countryside.

Vineyard
Vineyard

Our first time around, we completely missed the Amphitheatre as we wandered through woodland to the Gothic Temple. The temple stands atop the hill presenting us with beautiful views down towards the Serpent Lake and its bridges. Later in the day, we saw a couple having their wedding photos taken there and I can completely understand why!

Gothic Temple
Gothic Temple
Gothic Temple
View from Gothic Temple

Making our way slightly off the trail, we came across the Ruined Abbey. The abbey looked surprisingly new for a ruin and later research revealed that it is, in fact, a mock representation. Nevertheless, the accompaniment of a couple of swans made for some idyllic pictures through the abbey’s arched windows. Not wishing to disturb a group having a picnic too much, we continued along our route.

Ruined Abbey
Ruined Abbey
Ruined Abbey
View through Ruined Abbey doorway

Walking through the woodland and carefully planted gardens, we came out into the open to find the Chinese Bridge. A couple of people were feeding the birds from the bridge meaning the area was teeming with ducks, geese and swans. Making our way through and over to one of the islands, we were faced with the Crystal Grotto. Unfortunately, due to lack of staff, the Grotto was closed on this particular day. All the more reason to come back again!

Crystal Grotto
Crystal Grotto

Undeterred, we got as close as we could in order to see the unbelievable structure. Completely man-made, the crystals were intricately placed to form the cavern by celebrated grotto maker Joseph Lane in 1760. However, during a period when the park fell into disrepair, the grotto roof collapsed meaning a full restoration was required.

Crystal Grotto
Crystal Grotto

In 2013, Heritage Lottery funding enabled Cliveden Conservation to restore the folly, which historically has been recognised as the finest stalactite Grotto in Europe. Hundreds of thousands of crystals – calcite, gypsum, quartz and fluorite – including originals recovered from archaeological works, were skilfully embedded with lime mortar onto a framework of inverted wooden cones, to recreate the incredible stalactite effect of Joseph Lane’s original folly.

I have never seen anything so unusually beautiful. Stunning in its strangeness, the grotto almost looks like skulls eroded together with shimmering chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.

 

Serpentine Lake
Serpentine Lake

Wishing we could have gone inside, we continued along the historical route passing along the edge of the lake and back into woodland. It wasn’t long before we came across the Waterwheel. Still operative today, the Waterwheel was built by Bramah & Sons in the 1830s to replace the original and is one of the largest working wheels in the UK. It was restored in 1987 and continues to pump water from the river Mole into the Serpentine Lake.

Waterwheel
Waterwheel

Conscious of time, we decided not to visit the Hermitage but instead carry on towards the Gothic Tower through the Alpine Valley. Positioned upon a high-point in the park, the tower’s red brick stands out against the landscape. The tower is accessible to the public and there is a quaint café on the first floor where we stopped for a drink. We then trekked up the many steps, stopping on the various floors to find out more about the history of the park. Upon reaching the top, we were treated to picturesque views of the Surrey countryside – even despite the power lines!

 

 

Clambering back down the spiral staircase, we started the loop back towards the entrance passing through the Elysian Plain, which surrounds the Temple of Bacchus. Presumably inspired by Greek mythology, which can interpret the Elysian Plain as a place where heroes were sent when granted immortality, the area is full of colour. Hamilton’s Temple of Bacchus was originally home to a collection of antiques collected during his Grand Tours to Europe. It featured a seven-foot marble centrepiece statue of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, as well as 12 marble busts of Caesars. However, these pieces were sold in 1797 and the current foundations of the temple are currently undergoing restoration.

Unable to enter the temple, we continued on to the Turkish Tent: another feature of the park that has been recreated. There were no standing remains of the original 18th-century tent, so it was from drawings that the conservationists were able to reconstruct what might have been. With its beautiful blue edges and a fantastic view of the park, we spent a long time taking in the scene.

Turkish Tent
Turkish Tent
View from Turkish Tent
View from Turkish Tent

Making our way back to the café, we realised we had some time before the site closed. So we headed back to find the Amphitheatre where Hamilton would have entertained his guests. A cast of Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabines is the main feature which we admired whilst enjoying the late afternoon sun.

Giambologna's Rape of the Sabines
Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabines

Paris 3 – Celebrating at the Palace of Versailles

This is Part 3, read Part 1 here or Part 2 here.

Earlier in the holiday, we had booked tickets to the Palace of Versailles. So we awoke early on my sister’s birthday to pack and give presents before the journey. The palace is roughly 20 miles from the centre of Paris so it took us over an hour to make our way there – especially with one of the underground stations being closed. By the time we arrived, there was already a pretty long queue meandering up and down the square outside the palace gates. This was when we really regretted not a having had breakfast…

Crowd waiting to enter the Palace of Versailles
Crowd waiting to enter the Palace of Versailles

Despite having pre-bought tickets, we had to queue for an hour and a half at least before finally entering the palace. Where we promptly found ourselves in another queue. It is very popular.

The Gold Gate
The Gold Gate

Finally, we were seated in the Palace restaurant, Angelina where Heather enjoyed a luxurious 21st birthday lunch. My favourite part, naturally, was this beautifully crafted patisserie that was pure decadence.

Patisserie at Restaurant Angelina
Patisserie at Restaurant Angelina

We then explored the palace at lightning speed. I would have liked to spend longer reading in all of the rooms but the mass of people was far too much to contend with! Still, it meant we had chance to see every public room in the complex and still get an hour to enjoy the vast gardens, which would quite easily take a day by themselves.

Everything is extravagant and intricately beautiful in its majesty. From the painted ceilings to the garden’s gold fountains, the gorgeous bedrooms to the incredible hall of mirrors, I cannot even put it into words.

La galerie des Batailles (The Gallery of Battles)
La galerie des Batailles (The Gallery of Battles)
La galerie des Batailles (The Gallery of Battles)
La galerie des Batailles (The Gallery of Battles)
View into Chapelle Royale
View into Chapelle Royale
Salon d'Hercule ceiling
Salon d’Hercule ceiling
Salon de Vénus ceiling
Salon de Vénus ceiling
Salon de Mercure
Salon de Mercure
Le galerie des Glaces Hall of Mirrors
Le galerie des Glaces Hall of Mirrors
Le galerie des Glaces Hall of Mirrors
Le galerie des Glaces Hall of Mirrors

We then went to sit in the gardens in the scorching sunshine. As I said earlier, you could spend a whole day in the gardens so we didn’t even scratch the surface. Nevertheless, what we did see was beautiful. At this time of year, the palace has it’s Musical Fountain displays, which I would have really liked to have seen. For another time.

South Parterre
South Parterre
Orangery Parterre
Orangery Parterre
Latona's Fountain & Parterre looking down towards the Great Lawn, Apollo's Fountain and the Grand Canal
Latona’s Fountain & Parterre looking down towards the Great Lawn, Apollo’s Fountain and the Grand Canal

Definitely somewhere I would like to visit again, I highly recommend the Palace of Versailles. But suggest you leave plenty of time to explore and potentially stay closer than we did!

Not wanting to carry our bags all the way around the palace, we had left them at the hostel (not realising they do actually have a baggage hold there). This meant we needed to return to the hostel from Versailles before jumping back on the metro to Gare du Nord.

It was terribly stressful in our fatigued states but we made it to the station with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately, there were huge delays on the Eurostar and we ended up standing for an hour in queues waiting for the train to be ready. It has seriously made me question using the Eurostar again, despite its convenience and cost.

Nevertheless, despite the not so happy ending to our holiday, we left feeling like we’d had the best long weekend of our lives. Paris, we will be back!

This is Part 3, read Part 1 here or Part 2 here.

 

Paris 2 – Sightseeing along the Seine

This is Part 2, to read Part 1 click here.

On our second day, we decided to visit Notre Dame. Unfortunately, my sister really was not very well so we decided not to wait in the queues to go inside but continue on to find a river cruise along the Seine.

 

Making it to the western tip of Ile de la Cité, we jumped on one of Vedettes du Pont Neuf cruise ships. For €14, it was definitely value for money as we were taken on an hour cruise along the Seine. Our guide, dressed as a French maid, pointed out various landmarks and attractions providing the history alongside.

Padlocks at Pont Neuf
Padlocks at Pont Neuf

We were introduced to The Louvre with its more than 35,000 works on display at any one time and the Musée d’Orsay, where an impressionist exhibition was taking place.

The Louvre
The Louvre
Musée d'Orsay
Musée d’Orsay

We passed the Palais Bourbon with its classical colonnade added by Napoleon, which sits across from the Place de la Concorde where Louis XVI was executed.

Palais Bourbon with Eiffel Tower in the background
Palais Bourbon with Eiffel Tower in the background

As well as the classic Eiffel Tower, Grand Palais and many, many bridges.

Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower
Pont Alexandre III with Eiffel Tower in the background
Pont Alexandre III with Eiffel Tower in the background
Nymphs of the River Seine on the Pont Alexandre III
Nymphs of the River Seine on the Pont Alexandre III

Of course, there were also some incredible views of Notre Dame as we passed back around the island.

 

Despite minor sun stroke, we were very pleased with our short tour of the main Parisian attractions – they have all been added to the bucket list!

Our energy wavering, we headed for some lunch, coming across the quaint restaurant Frou Frou. Unfortunately, our French is pretty much none existent, so ordering was a little confused but the food was incredible. It may even have been my favourite meal of the holiday. Traditionally French with duck perfectly seasoned and a dip that I could die for. Needless to say, I was very impressed.

My sister was struggling with being unwell so we headed back to the hostel for a nap before venturing out again that evening. We headed out to see what was nearby to our hostel and found a delicious Tex-Mex restaurant called Indiana café. Now, I’m no expert on the whole cultural appropriation concept, but using Native American Indian masks as decoration didn’t sit right with me. Yet, morals aside, the food was tasty and we left feeling very content.

Indiana Cafe
Indiana Cafe

Deciding a little wander was needed to walk off our Burgers, we explored the area a little more. However, we soon were confronted with a homeless shelter and a lot of men in terrible conditions asking us for money.  It was quite horrible to see but an unfortunate reality of many cities. At least there was a shelter for them.

Wishing to get back to our room now, we hurried through the streets and crashed for the evening.

This is Part 2, to read Part 1 click here.

 

Paris 1 – Wandering the streets on Bastille Day

After a day breather from Wales, it was immediately on to celebrate my sister turning 21 in Paris. We took the 7.01am Eurostar from St Pancreas, arriving a Gare du Nord at 10.26am local time.  Unable to sleep on the train as it was so cold (like seriously, take at least 10 blankets. I had goose pimples!) we headed straight to our hostel, the FIAP Jean Monnet.

Navigating the metro system in Paris certainly was an experience – they have opening windows underground! With the help of google maps we managed to locate our hostel and the route we needed to take. Check in time wasn’t technically until 2pm but we were allowed immediately into our tiny room.

Everything was clean and tidy but the lack of air conditioning in the 27˚C+ heat was a little uncomfortable. Evenings were definitely noisy, especially on the Saturday night and the area was slightly more on the dodgy side in the 14th Arrondissement of Paris. The breakfast was a disappointment – we did not attempt it again. Nevertheless, for £67 a night, we couldn’t complain.

After a quick nap to recharge the batteries, we wandered through the streets of Paris to the Eiffel Tower. A nice three mile walk, it was perfect for fully taking in the atmosphere of Paris and exploring some areas we might not otherwise have done.

Graffiti artwork on our walk to the Eiffel Tower
Graffiti artwork on our walk to the Eiffel Tower

It was Bastille Day, France’s national day, and we spotted the dregs of the Bastille Day Parade travelling through the city. There was a fantastic feeling of patriotism, especially as we neared the Eiffel Tower where the evening celebrations would take place.

Before setting off, we stopped for a bite to eat at this Café/Restaurant called Fourteen and got our first taste of Paris. We sat outside in the earlier afternoon sun as our waitress ran across to the bakery across the road to retrieve our fresh baguettes. You really can’t get better than that!

On our journey we passed many beautiful buildings, including the Church of Saint-François-Xavier and the Hotel les Invalides.

Church of Saint-François-Xavier
Church of Saint-François-Xavier

The Hotel les Invalides is a collection of buildings all relating to France’s military history. The buildings house the Musée de l’Armée, the military museum of the Army of France, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and the Musée d’Histoire Contemporaine, as well as the Dôme des Invalides, a large church with the tombs of some of France’s war heroes, most notably Napoleon Bonaparte.

Hotel les Invalides
Hotel les Invalides

As we had approached from the southern side, we were unable to enter into the complex, which is only accessible (to our knowledge) from the northern side. Something for next time!

Finally, we arrived at the Eiffel Tower. We could not get too close as everything was fenced off for the concert and fireworks taking place that evening. Nevertheless, we found a spot to sit and wait as the crowds teamed in and the orchestra practised for a night of opera.

The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower

Our stomachs starting to rumble, we decided to get some tea. Wandering down the Avenue de la Motte-Picquet we found Le Bouquet de Grenelle. Looking perfectly tacky, the food here was nothing to scream about but the serving staff made our night. They were attentive the entire evening and a little bit of flirt goes a long way! I don’t think we stopped laughing.

A few glasses of wine down and the clock only just hitting 8pm, we decided to forgo the fireworks and head back to the hostel. We were asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

Girl’s Trip – exploring Anglesey Part 2

This is Part 2, read Part 1 here.

Day 3 presented us with grey skies and drizzle. Thankfully, we were all feeling the need for a rest day. The worst of the rain was waited out “playing” snooker in the games room, reading and doing jigsaws. Because, yes, we are all old ladies.

View of Beaumaris Pier
Beaumaris Pier

Yet, a chilled morning gave us chance to book our cruise to Puffin Island in order to spot, you guessed it, some puffins! Our plans for the next day sorted, we headed into the pretty seaside town of Beaumaris where we had a lovely meal at the George and Dragon.

View from Beaumaris Pier
View from Beaumaris Pier

Wandering the streets, we window shopped and admired the multi-coloured houses along the seafront. Eventually making it to the pier where I remember crabbing with my Dad and sister many many years ago, we were mesmerised by the hundreds of jellyfish floating past. We must have spent an hour spotting the Lion’s Maine jellyfish as they floated past.

Colourful houses of Beaumaris
Colourful houses of Beaumaris

Luckily, we arrived back at the car just before it started to rain. Upon our return to Henllys, we continued to enjoy the games room and taught a couple of our friends how to play chess on the giant outdoor board. We made full use of the swimming pool, sauna and steam room again that evening.

Looking out from back of the boat
Looking out from back of the boat

The next day was once again a little miserable but we had booked onto the Puffin Island boat trip at 11am, something we’d been saying we needed to do since day 1. I would highly recommend the Seacoast Safaris. Their skipper was informative and intent on giving us the chance to see some Puffins – even circling out to sea in chase of these tiny birds.

Puffin Island
Puffin Island

We learnt some of the history of Anglesey and the Menai Strait, but the main focus was the many seabirds living on Puffin Island. From Cormorant to Kittiwake, the island was teaming and we almost ticked off our check list. Upon reaching the island, the boat slowed so we could squint to see the seabirds – scanning for any puffins. In doing so, we caught a glimpse of a seal resting below the rocks.

Puffin in the sea
Can you spot him?

You could sense the passion of the skipper as he meandered out to sea spotting puffins flying above and bobbing on the surface. We must have seen about twenty or more! Definitely impressed. Returning to the shore, we were all a little frozen so warmed up back at the apartment before playing some more chess and board games. A lovely last full day.

Trwyn Du Lighthouse
Trwyn Du Lighthouse

Our actual last day was spent playing more chess and board games before the long journey home. The sun had decided to join us again making for a beautiful departing view and even an ice cream once we were in Chester! All in all, a wonderful holiday spent with my best friends in a beautiful place.

View from HPB Henllys
View from HPB Henllys
HPB Henllys
HPB Henllys
View from HPB Henllys
View from HPB Henllys

This is Part 2, read Part 1 here.

Girl’s Trip – exploring Anglesey Part 1

At the beginning of July, it was finally time for our long-awaited Girl’s trip to Anglesey, Wales. I set off from London to meet my uni girls in Chester, from where we travelled to the HPB site, Henllys near Beaumaris.

The first day was, naturally, spent travelling – especially as we were converging from all corners of the country. Nevertheless, after a slightly less smooth journey from London, the drive from Chester to Anglesey is beautiful. Views span through open countryside and over the River Dee to The Wirral. Unfortunately, no image could quite capture it.

Upon arriving at HPB Henllys, we decided to explore our home for the next five days. The view from the site is incredible, stretching across the Menai Strait and over to Snowdonia where vague glimpses of Mount Snowdon could be spotted.

View from HPB Henllys across the Menai Strait
View from HPB Henllys across the Menai Strait

Henllys is a beautiful former Franciscan Friary converted into apartments. It boasts its own golf course, a games room and swimming pool – which we made good use of during our stay. This first evening, we picked out a number of chick flicks for the coming nights and some leaflets on what to do in Anglesey. I have to admit, for exciting fun adventures, it’s not the best place. But for long countryside walks, Puffin watching and quaint shops, cafes and restaurants, it’s perfect.

On Day 2, we ventured out to Holy Island at the western tip of Anglesey. We travelled the half an hour journey on advice that the beaches were some of the best in Wales. However, upon arriving at Trearddur Bay, we realised it was a little chilly for paddling. With not a lot around, we jumped back in the car and headed to South Stack Lighthouse.

South Stacks Lighthouse
South Stack Lighthouse

With incredible views across the Irish Sea, we spent a long time wandering along the clifftop where people were watching the myriad of seabirds. My friend swears she saw a seal but, unfortunately, it was very elusive to the rest of us.

View from the Cliffs at South Stack's Lighthouse
View from the Cliffs at South Stack’s Lighthouse

Realising we were all a little hungry, we ventured to Holyhead to find some Fish and Chips. To our disappointment, we found the grumpiest lady in the world who served us tasteless chips and cheap sausages – I didn’t even try the fish but the batter looked rather soggy. Definitely not recommended!

Trearddur Bay
Trearddur Bay

We wandered through the seaside town a little only to find grey concrete and not much else. Disheartened, we returned to Trearddur Bay just in time for the best part of the day. The sun was out and the sand wonderful and warm between my toes.

Trearddur Bay
Trearddur Bay

Setting up camp with our beach towels, we took it in turn to guard our bags whilst the others paddled. The water was freezing! Refreshing after baking in the summer sun.

Trearddur Bay
Off for a paddle!

Suitably burnt, we headed back to our apartment in time for some homemade dinner and a quick play in the pool. In-built into the side of the hill with panoramic windows, the view from the pool is amazing.

Catch Part 2 of our Welsh adventure here.

My favourite place to holiday: Robin Hood’s Bay

On a recent trip back up north, I visited one of my favourite places in the world: Robin Hoods Bay. It’s a place that always takes me back to childhood camping holidays at Middlewood Farm campsite, which has a well-trodden track down to the beach. The area around the beach is a complete honey pot with cute gift shops, holiday cottages and plenty of places to eat and drink.View from the beach at Robin Hood's BayThe drive through North Yorkshire to reach the bay, which is close to the seaside town of Whitby, is beautiful in itself, but nothing quite beats the view from the top of the cliffs. There is a carpark at the top of the hill (which is usually incredibly busy) where you can walk down the many steps to reach the beach.View from beach at Robin Hood's BayThe beach is a haven for children and I spent many holidays rock-pooling with my Dad and sister, finding crabs and anemones – even a lobster once! This time we stopped for ice cream from the van which is always there and it was wonderful. We sat with the sea creeping in and the last families packing up their beach towels in time for tea. View from the cliff top at Robin Hood's BayAfter eating our ice creams, we went to discover whether our favourite place to eat was serving. Unfortunately, a Tuesday evening after a bank holiday Monday, Ye Dolphin was only offering drinks. We still sat in the lovely old bar lined with beer bottles and quirky pictures, taking in the atmosphere. Beginning to feel hungry, we wandered through the cute back alleys between holiday cottages back up the hill to eat at the Victoria Hotel, which has a beautiful view along the coastline.View back towards Robin Hood's Bay

Fed and happy, we headed back home, stopping to take in the view as we went.

Top 5 walks around Richmond upon Thames

After having lived in the Borough of Richmond upon Thames for the last seven months, I thought I would share my top 5 walks around the area.

  1. River Crane Walk
River Crane Walk
River Crane Walk

This was the first walk I did when I moved to Twickenham in November last year. It was fairly late in the afternoon with the winter nights drawing in fast, but it was beautiful to see the orange sun shining through the trees and listen to the bird’s evening chorus.

The walk is pretty easy and can be accessed from the Staines Road in Twickenham via Meadway. We turned left onto the footpath which follows the river along to Hounslow. There are plenty of benches with intricate carvings along the way as the path meanders along the riverside and it is perfect for an evening stroll. Read more here.

Bench along the River Crane Walk
Bench along the River Crane Walk
  1. Teddington to Kingston

The walk between Teddington and Kingston (via Teddington Lock) is a must for the summer. With sweeping views of the River Thames and the shade of trees, there are plenty of places to sit and relax or enjoy a picnic by the river. The walk itself is flat and paved for the most part and, at only 1.5 miles, it is an easy walk for all the family. Follow the signs to Teddington Lock from Teddington high street and turn right after crossing the bridge to reach the path. I decided to turn back upon entering the outskirts of Kingston, but you can continue into the town centre for plenty of cafes and shops. Read more here.

The walk towards Kingston
  1. Bushy Park
Bushy Park
Bushy Park

Whilst living in Teddington, I was amazed to find that I could walk for 10 minutes down Park Road and suddenly be in open countryside. The road takes you to the gates on Chestnut Avenue from which you can explore the entire park along various paths. Following the road, you will eventually find yourself at Hampton Court Palace (somewhere I still need to explore). However, I tend to take the right fork through the trees that takes you either round to open parkland if you turn right onto Cobblers Walk, where I have watched beautiful sunsets, or towards The Pheasantry café and woodland gardens if you continue straight. Whichever way you choose to go, the park is teaming with wildlife, including the many deer that call it home.

  1. Twickenham to Richmond

Despite exploring this route in the depths of winter (gloves and scarves at the ready), it still amazed me how beautiful Richmond looks as you approach along the Thames walk. It was mid-afternoon as we neared the town, its red brick blazing in the late winter sun. The path itself is encased in trees and a little rough in areas but otherwise very walkable. We walked from Staines Road, Twickenham to the opposite bank towards Ham House, but turned back here as it was rather muddy and we were losing the light. The view along the Thames is incredible and well worth the 3 mile walk from Twickenham and is easily accessible from Twickenham riverside off Church Street. Both Twickenham and Richmond have pubs and restaurants in abundance, so there are also plenty of options to refuel along the way. Read more here.

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View from Richmond Bridge
  1. Teddington Lock to Ham House

Teddington Lock tops my list mainly because of my experience getting lost and wandering forever along the banks of the Thames in beautiful sunshine. The walk takes you through an overhanging of trees and is the least busy of all the walks listed, allowing for you to completely immerse yourself in your surroundings. Again following the signs to Teddington Lock from the high street, turn left upon crossing the bridge taking the path along the Thames to Ham House. The path is easily traversed with a couple of benches for pit stops and emerges from the trees to wonderful views across to Richmond – once again shining orange in the sun. You can continue along this path to Ham House and on to Richmond joining the Thames path to Twickenham, which can make a nice circular walk I intend on attempting soon. Read more here.

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Looking toward Richmond along the walk to Ham House

Do you know of any other walks in this area? Let me know in the comments!