I have lived in Aberdeen for four almost four years now, and I am now just coming to the end of my time at university here. I can remember so clearly first sitting with my Lonely Planet Scotland book, months before first came, and looking at all of the potential for adventure hidden between the pages. One adventure, or several really, that I have been lucky enough to embark on are visits to a few of Scotland’s beautiful, historical and rugged islands, something that has just left me wanting to see more…Iona…Arran…Islay…here I come!!
So, grab your scarf and your woolly hat (they tend to be a bit blowy) and I’ll show you some of the magical places we visited last summer…
Tiree is about a four hour ferry journey from Oban. It is ten miles long and five miles wide, and is desolate and beautiful. I am told it is one of the sunniest places in Britain, however it is also very windy and know for it’s great windsurfing. We drove straight of the boat into the nothingness and tranquility, and stayed our three nights in the cutest little traditional black and white crofters cottage.
Lewis is the largest island in the Outer Hebrides covering about 683 square miles, it is also home to the largest settlement in the Western Isles, Stornoway. We only visited Stornoway once for provisions, spending most of our time exploring the diverse landscape and travelling along the deserted, sweeping roads and trying not to be blown away in the little wooden wigwam we were staying in. Two golden eagles even came out to play for us!!
Harris is attached to Lewis, and is MUCH more mountainous, meaning fewer inhabited areas, it is also home to the sought after Harris Tweed. It has some of the most breathtaking, sweeping beaches I have ever seen and makes for some very exciting driving!
Friday was our last night in Bristol. We were there for ten weeks, doing some good for our CVs, pretending to be grown-ups, and failing drastically (cue the yellow car game). If you’ve read my blog from the very beginning you’ve not only made me very excited each time I look at my stats, but you’ll also remember that my rule for the summer was ten weeks, ten new places. Sunday was our designated day trip day, I think I’ve probably driven Dom crazy pulling him out of bed on a lie-in day to jump in the car and head off to the next place we’d found in my guidebook! Luckily he’d always let me off when we got there – the South West really does have some beautiful places to visit.
1. Obviously our first new place was Bristol itself. I found it absolutely huge to begin with, and a real proper city with y’know, city people and city cars, and I wasn’t sure I liked it very much. It has still got some work to do, but Gromit certainly helped show me around and the coffee shops are THE best!
Do you like our fan set-up? I don’t know if it’s because we usually live in Aberdeen, but it was very warm!!
2. On our first weekend we went to Weston-Super-Mare, actually we drove straight through it until we found a lovely beach to walk along and then went back for chips later!
3. My favourite day of the whole summer was our trip to Lyme Regis. It was idyllic. We pootled around the town, walked along the beach and lolled in the sun. Take me back?
4. Cribbs Causeway is a shopping centre just off the motorway outside Bristol. It is massive and there are lots of shops. We went to the cinema there one night and had a little mooch round John Lewis for good measure (really, it would be rude not to). I didn’t take any pictures, so just think big, grey, shoppy and lots of car parking spaces!
5. Wells is the smallest city in England, and lovely it is too. It is home to a beautiful cathedral and palace, and as we sat in the gardens we were lucky enough to hear the choir practice for Sunday service.
We ate our picnic by the moat and then took a wander down Vicars close – the very last picture – it’s the oldest purely residential street in Europe, people have been living there for over 700 years. They were originally built for the Bishop’s chantry priests, but now you can go and stay in number 14!
6. The strawberry trail led the way to Cheddar Gorge, I bought the biggest strawberries you have ever seen just a few metres from where they grew. They were delicious! Once we reached Cheddar, Dom bought his cave matured (really just because it was cave matured!) cheddar and we found another Gromit. The scenery was pretty great too…
7. When Mummy and Daddy P came to visit we took mabel (can you spot her? She’s blue and beautiful…) on a day tour of the South West. We visited the charming village of Chipping Sodbury and the non existent castle of Thornbury – turns out it’s a hotel these days.
Anyone know the right way to go?? No…well at least the sandwiches have our names on…
8. So this one might be cheating a wee bit…but, have you ever been to a balloon fiesta? It was a new event in a new place just out of the city, and quite spectacular.
9. One Tuesday, I put on my boat/anchor/cloud dress and went on my very own adventure to Cheltenham. There were lovely parks, cutie shops and I bought myself some glass Tupperware with flowers on. It’s very nice :)
10. I really liked Bath, Jane Austen had good taste. We peeped over the wall into the baths and then went on an adventure to find the ‘famous round houses’ – we drove around the crescent (which I don’t think you’re supposed to do…) and watched a butler let guests into one of the houses. It was all very proper.
A few thousand miles later (we’ve even been to Aberdeen and back!), Anna, Dom and the little black clio packed up to drive home. But first, we sat on the outside sofas of an Italian restaurant I walked past every day and ate pizza… well pizza garlic bread to start with and then pasta. It was really good!
Thanks for spending the summer with us and listening to me babble on. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our adventures, why don’t you tell me some of yours?
Next stop, Aberdeen. See you there!
There is something truly magical about hot air balloons. They were the first mode of transport that allowed humans to fly, and over 200 years later they still force anyone who sees them to stand still for a minute, point, gawp and wonder just how exactly a wicker basket attached to a huge balloon can float through the sky so peacefully. When I was little my cousins and I swore that as soon as we turned twelve (we were told you had to be twelve to ride in a hot air balloon) we would go, we dreamed of an adventure through the clouds and the excitement of coming back down to the ground wherever the balloon chose to land. Sadly we never did go on our ride, but there’s always another day!
Last week 150 hot air balloons took to the skies of Bristol. It was the 35th Bristol International Balloon Fiesta – who knew there was even such a thing! It took place over four days on a huge estate just over the river, 15 minutes walk from the city, however our first balloon sighting was actually a couple of nights before. We were sat having tea and the sky outside our window was suddenly full of balloons of all shapes and sizes…including the FA cup, Mr Fredricksen in his balloon from the Pixar film UP, and, strangest of all, the Financial Times!
There was no chance of us staying away. After work on Saturday I packed up a picnic, put on my outdoor adventure shoes (don’t laugh) and off we went in search of balloons. They were easy enough to find as they dangled amongst the clouds over Ashton Court Estate.
I can imagine that the roads of Bristol were a dangerous place to be that night, with so many floating distractions. I didn’t think that the balloons would look quite so beautiful over the city skyline compared to the green countryside I have always wondered at them amongst before, but I soon realised that when you look up it is always just the same.
We fought through the crowds of people, all armed with their picnics and camping chairs, and buggies and children, until we found a spot on a hill just right for us and settled ourselves down to have some food, people watch and wait for darkness to fall. We were waiting for the Nightglow, an event where the ballooning teams line up, balloons tethered and perform a show with their flames to music.
The rain teased us, but we were in luck as it blew over for just long enough for the balloons to do their stuff. The display was spectacular. The hot air balloons lit up the sky as they danced their perfectly timed routine to a medley of entirely British music, all rounded off with a patriotic chorus of Rule Britannia from both audience and balloons! Fireworks joined the finale from behind the trees – we had such a great spot for the balloons that I think we forfeited an equivalent view of the fireworks, but we could see just enough to warrant the appropriate ‘oooohs’ and ‘aaaaahhhhs’.
Then, the rain came. We got home tired, soggy, but very happy having watched balloons dance for us! It was a perfect evening out, and if you are ever in the area for the Balloon Fiesta, you absolutely MUST go and watch the Nightglow!
PS. Just as a side note, my absolute favourite balloonist? aeronaut? hot air balloon pilot? of all time lives in a book. His name is Lee Scoresby, and if you haven’t met him you absolutely must – find him in Northern Lights and The Subtle Knife, both by Philip Pullman.
Sometimes the country girl inside me comes to the forefront with such vigour that I don’t quite know what to do with her. I am the girl who lives down the muddy single track lane, who wears her wellies EVERYWHERE, who looks out of the window to watch the cows parade past the house twice a day, who is late for school because she has been waiting for the cows to finish crossing the road, who has to undress at the front door because she has been scrubbing maggots out of the wool of Rosie the sheep, who loves to pick cow parsley from the hedge row and blabber on about how it is made up of so many tiny flowers…
There was a reason that I found myself at university in Aberdeen, 500 miles away from home, and (along with the philosophy department being pretty good) that was because there were things I noticed that reminded me of home. I fell in love with the beach and that you can jump on the train and be out of the city in 5 minutes. People pootle and smile, they don’t rush straight by. I love that you can see every season in one day, and that sometimes the city feels like an extra large seaside town and only the presence of a cathedral prevents it from being just that. But I did struggle with the big-ness of Aberdeen to begin with, I remember my flatmates in halls laughing at me the very first time we went to get the bus into town because I didn’t know what to do, and my mum begging me not to get a bike because although I’ve been cycling to school for much of my life, I’m still not very good with ‘real roads’.
Because of this, Bristol feels like a huge, giant city to me, and makes me feel more like a country girl than ever. The roads terrify me, I always wait for the green man! And just the other evening Dom laughed at me, telling me I was such a country girl as I mindlessly wondered along the middle of a car-less street. Yesterday, I faced the public transport, serious business I know. My destination Cribbs Causeway; a shopping centre just off the motorway outside of Bristol. I prepared myself, I looked at a bus map before I left and made a note of which number buses I could get and headed out feeling quite confident that I knew exactly where to go and would be mooching around John Lewis before I knew it. However, when I arrived at my three potential get-me-to-Cribbs-Causeway bus stops all of the buses were going in the wrong direction, no problem, I will cross the road. It was a one way street. An hour later and after a short tour of Bristol city centre and a trip to the bus station (who knew bus stations were just for buses doing longer journeys?) I found myself delightedly sat at the very front on the upper level of a double decker bus. I enjoyed my tour of Bristol from this new angle, probably more than I should have, but again marvelled at just how much city there was, it was never ending!
I defy anyone who claims they don’t want to hang on tight to the bar and pretend to drive the bus.
I arrived. Slightly later than planned, but that can be our secret. Dom came and met me after work and we had a lovely evening. We bought some birthday presents, had Nandos for dinner, killed time in Asda (resulting in magic stars, popcorn, animal biscuits and coffee) and finished off with a trip to the cinema. ‘Now you see me’ is well worth a watch. It’s about four magicians (the modern day, stand up kind – not those in a cloak and a pointy hat) using their tricksy knowledge to bring some fortune back to their audiences – very Robin Hood, and the best film we’ve seen in a good while.
P.S Gromit managed to find his way to Cribbs Causeway too…
Lyme Regis is beautiful. It is the place I would like to retire too, open my deli, and live happily ever after next to the sea. I can’t wait!
We picked a scorcher of a day to go, and apparently so did the rest of the South West of England. After hurtling around the teeny, I-used-to-see-about-one-car-every-two-weeks kind of streets and much unsuccessful space spotting a very kind lady gave us not only her car park space, but also her ticket to last the day. Within five minutes we had found our picnic spot and settled down to people watch, snooze, munch, read (me) and listen to the first set of the tennis (Dom).
It was a perfect summer afternoon spent wandering around the picture perfect seaside town, popping into little shops, chatting to friendly strangers (usually thanks to Dom’s phone spouting the tennis score wherever we went), paddling, and searching for fossils. Jane Austen sure knew how to pick a good holiday spot.
Oh, and Andy Murray won Wimbledon!
We took our fish and chips over to the harbour and ate them dangling our feet high over the clear blue sea looking out over the English Channel all the way to France. After one last walk around the harbour, we said goodbye to France and it was time to go home – I don’t think we would have ever been ready to leave. If only every day could be a Sunday…
‘A very strange stranger it must be, who does not see charms in the immediate environs of Lyme, to make him wish to know it better.‘
Jane Austen, Persuasion
As you have probably gathered, my boyfriend and I are living in Bristol this summer before our final year at university. We have suddenly found ourselves in a proper-job routine, and along with summer uni work, this means that week days are work days and we only have weekends as our play days! This week Saturday was still a work day for me, a long one, working at the deli and then helping out at a wedding the deli was catering for. By the time Sunday came along we were keen to escape and explore someplace new. It was while we were in the car somewhere between the petrol station and Weston-Super-Mare that I announced my new rule for the ten weeks that we are here – ten weeks, ten new places.
So the plan was to take a nice walk on the beach at Weston-Super-Mare, a quick twenty minute trip down the motorway. We found it easily enough and drove slowly along the front ogling at the old seaside resort town, still complete with big wheel, donkeys, screaming children and more than enough seagulls to play with them (or steal their chips). Looking for somewhere to park we found ourselves driving past the end of the fun beach and entirely unconcerned we carried on out of town onto a quiet, twisty road which happened to have the unusual speed limit of 25mph. After some beautiful views, and an excellent impersonation of an emergency stop from Dom as I yelled ‘FREE CAR PARK’, we found the small village of Kewstoke and a lovely part of the coastline called Sand Bay.
We walked and walked and put the whole world to rights…
…and got sandy toes to make sandy shoes!
Back in the car and a bit peckish we supposed we should stop in Weston-Super-Mare and have a look at the famous new pier. It was as horrific as we had imagined…but definitely worth a visit to use up your two pence pieces in the slot machines – I didn’t win – and eat ice cream and chips (in that order) whilst attempting to dodge thieving seagulls.
We had a lovely trip out. Where shall we go next week?