There are a few destinations around the world that are thoroughly misunderstood despite being very popular, and Ibiza is certainly one of them. Because it has world-renowned night clubs and has at times been a favoured spot among the rich and famous, most of us tend to think of it as a night-and-day beachside and yacht deck EDM party in island form. That might sound like a pretty good time to a lot of people out there, and it actually can be a fair description of some aspects of Ibiza, at some times. However, thereâ€™s plenty else to love about the island also, which is why weâ€™ve compiled some highlights.
Less than an hour away by train, Edinburgh is the perfect location for a day trip from Glasgow. In the past 11 years that Iâ€™ve been back living in Glasgow, Iâ€™m ashamed to admit that Iâ€™ve probably been to Edinburgh no more than 10 times. So Iâ€™m making it my mission in 2019 to explore Edinburgh and itâ€™s surroundings more.
If you’re heading to the city soon, looking for things to do and hotels in Edinburgh to stay in while you visit, this post is just perfect for you.
When you first think of Edinburgh, Iâ€™m sure that first thing out your mouth would be Edinburgh Castle, THE most historic castle in the world, in my opinion. From the Edinburgh Tattoo to Hogmanay celebrations, its no wonder that this beautiful 12th-century masterpiece is Scotlandâ€™s most-visited paid tourist attraction. But what if you wanted to explore more of what Edinburgh has to offer? Today Iâ€™m showing you what I got up to in this east coast city for the day, just donâ€™t expect me to start putting sauce on my chips anytime soon. Seriously, who invented that?
Food for Fuel
Away from the crowds of the Royal Mile, I started my day with Bross Bagels in Edinburghâ€™s West End to fuel me for the day ahead. A short hop in a tram from Haymarket,
With three locations around Edinburgh, I would make it my mission to try this gem. If you canâ€™t quite manage to make it or live far away, they also do UK Wide delivery of their Montreal style bagels to have at home. Bonus.
Explore Scotlandâ€™s National Museum
Renovated in 2011 at a cost of Â£47 million, within the National Museum of Scotland, there is an abundance of galleries and exhibits for everyone to enjoy. From Scottish History to Dolly the sheep, you could get lost in here for hours. My top tip? Head to the 5th floor first, go through the Enquire gallery towards the lift/stairs to the 7th floor where you can access the roof terrace and are met with some of the best views of the city.Â
Once youâ€™ve soaked in the stunning scenery, make your way down floor by floor. My picks? Exploring East Asia, Ancient Egypt and Animal Senses. Favourites of mine no matter the museum. The National Museum of Scotland is one of the best museums Iâ€™ve been to in a very long time and love how inclusive it is no matter the age. Even better? Itâ€™s free to enter.
Get a caffeine hit
What I love about Edinburgh is the number of
Later in the day, to soothe my sore feetÂ and give them a rest after hours of walking, we headed to Lowdown Coffee in one of my favourite streets in Edinburgh, George Street. Lowdown is a beautiful small coffee shop a stone’s throw away from Princes Street and is by far my favourite in Edinburgh. From knowledgeable staff to ever-changing beans, their coffee has never let me down. They also do some great cakes too.Â
Greyfriars Bobby, the most devoted dog around
Greyfriars Bobby is definitely the most famous dog in Scotland. So famous he has a life-sized statue of himself outside Greyfriars Kirk. Bobby slept next to his masterâ€™s grave for around 14 years before his own death in 1872.
My visit to Greyfriars Bobby was tinged with sadness as my beloved dog Bobby (and his namesake) passed away last Friday, 15th February. Iâ€™m filled with sadness at losing him after almost 13 years together by my side. My visit to Edinburgh was at a time earlier this week when I wanted to keep myself busy and clear my mind as its still so raw. Seeing this statue in real life, knowing Bobby was named after him by my late grandfather brought some joy to a very sad week.
Dogs called Bobby really are the greatest.
Stroll through Grassmarket
Nestled within the heart of the Old Town, Grassmarket is one of the most picturesque and lively areas of the city. With colourful shops and curved street its no wonder locals and tourists alike flock here. Victoria Street is a popular spot for independent boutiques, food and drink. In the olden days, the area was used as a cattle market and more notoriously, where public executions took place. I visited as the sun was started to set and the sky was utterly beautiful. Definitely very magical around that time.
Explore the gardens
Separating the Old Town from the New, the Princes Street Gardens are a wonderful setting for relaxing away from the hectic city life. During warmer days, these gardens are overflown with people basking in the sun. In autumn, filled with visitors to the Edinburgh Festival and with Winter comes Winter Wonderland and Hogmanay. If you love exploring, monuments and nature, this is one sight not to be missed and once again, even better, is free to enter.
Authentic Mexican at El Cartel
With hundreds of restaurants in the city, its no wonder that you could dine at a different restaurant daily. Edinburgh is a melting pot of International cuisine catering to the diverse residents who call Edinburgh home. We decided to dine at El Cartel on Thistle Street for something quick before our train ride back to Glasgow.Â
Freshly-made, authentic Mexican street food, we ordered Duck Carnitas, Carne Asada and Baja Cod Tacos with Chamoy Chicken Wings and JalapeÃ±o Bombers on the side. This was undoubtedly the best Mexican food Iâ€™ve had in Scotland. Tacos were bursting with flavour, taking on a modern twist with ingredients such as pomegranate, dried cherries and pecan salsa. The JalapeÃ±o Bombers were addictive, I could have eaten platefuls of these but all in moderation and all that. You canâ€™t book a table at this branch, so wait in line and youâ€™ll end up thanking me later.Â
No sooner had I finished my last bite than it was time to head back West to Glasgow. As we had a tram pass, we jumped back on the tram from St Andrews Square to Haymarket to catch the connecting train to Glasgow. A quick 48 minutes later, I was back West Side in my natural habitat planning my next adventure.
Have you been to Edinburgh before? What are YOUR favourite things to do in the city? Let me know below.
Collaboration post: Spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own.
Christmas and New Year is over (can we stop saying Happy New Year now?!) and the first official working week of 2019 is over
I donâ€™t know about you but when you need to buy presents, Iâ€™m fresh out of ideas on what to buy for those special in my life. There are only so many boxes of chocolate, jumpers and socks you can buy before it becomes very monotonous.
So what do you buy for the people in your life that have everything? The ones who tell you they donâ€™t need anything but you still want to get them something? Iâ€™m looking at you Dad! For me, this is where Red Letter Days comes to the rescue and perfect for last minute gifts for procrastinators like myself.
Red Letter Days was the first of its kind, pioneering the concept of experience day vouchers way back in 1989. Over the years it has transformed and now, you can choose from 6000+ variations of amazing gifts. Now surely you’d be able to find a special gift for that person in your life?
I tested out one of Red Letter Days more popular experiences, Boutique Escape for Two recently and transported myself to the Lake District for the weekendÂ before Christmas season was upon me. Years ago, I actually went to Boarding School for two years near the Lake District. I visited Kendall and Windermere a good few times but had never been back since the early 00â€™s.Â At just under 3 hours drive, I forgot just how accessible it is from Glasgow. The Lakes are a beautiful part of England and the perfect place for some relaxation and exploration.Â Its been rather stressful the past few months and I desperately needed a break.
On a recent trip to St Andrews, I was in the mood to explore some other villages in the surrounding area. One that stood out for me was the pretty village of St Monans on the East Neuk of Fife, a little over 12 miles south of St Andrews. St Monans is the smallest of the East Neuk fishing ports, filled with 17th and 18th century colourful homes wrapped around the harbour.
Cyprus is an island-country located at the east end of the Mediterranean Sea. Its historic and ancient past combined with its bustling present is the perfect experience for any would-be world traveller seeking adventure in this part of the world. 48 hours in Cyprus is certainly not enough to enjoy everything that it has to offer. However, it is enough to see some of the most dazzling and significant locations this side of the Mediterranean.
Sometimes you don’t realize you need a break until you arrive at your destination and for me, this was St Andrews Holiday Park with ABI Holiday Homes.
The past month has been rather hectic and my life’s possessions are currently in boxes between two properties. Quite frankly, I’m just trying to ignore them in the hope they’ll magically unpack themselves. Here’s wishing.
48 hours before getting the keys to my new home, I was invited by ABI Holiday Homes to a weekend getaway in one of their static holiday homes, situated within Abbeyford Leisure’s St Andrews Holiday Park, a mere 5 minutes from the town centre.
The timing was perfect as I needed to relax before the whirlwind that was ahead of me and looking back, I wish I had been able to stay longer.
I made my first trip to St Andrews two years ago and ever since, I’ve been hooked. From the beautiful architecture which surrounds you to the East Sands Beach, this is one destination in Scotland not to be missed.
At just under two hours from Glasgow and a pit stop to Unorthodox Roasters in Kinross en-route, we arrived at St Andrews Holiday Park and checked into our home for the next 48 hours.
The ABI Connoisseur
I have a confession to make, I had one prior experience of staying in a static holiday home and if I’m truly honest, I wasn’t impressed and felt rather claustrophobic. So to say I was a tad hesitant with my stay in an ABI Connoisseur was an understatement.
Luckily for me, all hesitations were brushed aside from the moment I opened the door. This holiday home was not short of space in the slightest and I was rather impressed.
We were met with a beautifully decorated open plan living room, kitchen and dining room which was fully fitted with everything you would need throughout your stay; even down to the dish washing liquid which we forgot to bring with us.
Exploring the rest of the holiday home, we had a spacious shower room opposite a small twin bedroom which would be perfect for children but we used this as a walk in wardrobe because quite frankly, we packed too many clothes! The master bedroom was equipped with a dressing table, wardrobe and an en-suite for good measure. A great bonus if you have a family of 4-6 staying (or a bathroom hogging boyfriend!).
What I specifically liked about the holiday home we were staying in was the attention to detail, from the soft furnishing to the ample plug sockets next to the beds. Everything was of a high standard and felt like you were living in luxury, on a budget.
Each holiday home within St Andrews Holiday Park has gas central heating, double glazing, a freeview TV and free WIFI throughout, which not many Holiday Parks provide. Certain holiday homes are also dog friendly which is great if you want a break away with the entire family. Another plus from me.
A slight downside for me though was that the heating was on full blast when we entered and was rather suffocating as it was a gloriously sunny day. This was rectified by turning it off and opening every available window for the remainder of the evening. Just a little pet hate of mine and no doubt will seem rather pedantic to you all.
However, the main focal point for me was the incredible views of the East Sands Beach from the living room of Number 12, Seascape. I literally could not get enough of the view from the rather comfy corner sofa and not one moment went by where I didn’t stop to take it in.
From watching the local fisherman trawling to families walking down to the beach with their dogs, the location of the holiday home was perfect for a wide angled view of the horizon.
The decking area was a very welcome addition and we were greeted with a little arrival gift, two miniature bottles of wine and some biscuits, perfect for devouring while the sun set over St Andrews and watching the impromptu fireworks display over the castle.
The next morning, the decking – complete with tables and chairs was the perfect breakfast location. In the spacious and well-equipped kitchen, we cooked our supplies (purchased from Balgove Larder, a favourite farm shop of mine in the local area) and served our food with some Aeropress coffee, courtesy of my Barista boyfriend and his travelling equipment.
This set us up for a day of exploration ahead. The Holiday Park was in the perfect location, not only to venture into St Andrews itself but also as the starting point for some East Neuk exploration. We road tripped to Anstruther, Crail and had lunch in St Monans which deserves its own blog post relatively soon.
No trip to St Andrews is without a visit to Jannettas Gelateria. With a queue bursting out the door for takeaway orders, we were lucky to get the last sit in table before they closed. Two Scoop Pistachio Sundae with Sprinkles and Hot Fudge Sauce please. Yum.
Before we knew it, it was time to depart our holiday home in the pouring rain. Somethings never change in Scotland but when your surroundings are as beautiful as St Andrews, you don’t seem to begrudge it.
I stayed in 12 Seascape as a guest of ABI Holiday Homes. To find out more about them , check out their collection of holiday homes available for sale. If you’d like to stay at St Andrews Holiday Park, rates are available from as low as Â£233 for up to 6 people for 3 nights.
Have you ever stayed in a Holiday Home? Do you own one? Where is your favourite location for a Holiday Home? Let me know in the comments below or over on Twitter at @ananyah
For most, life can be very hectic. You’re stuck in a robotic rut of waking up, going to work, coming home and then doing it all again the next day. It gets stressful, especially with everything else in between.
Have you ever just wanted to escape?
I have and last weekend, I did just that.
Nestled within the surroundings of Loch Ard, the MacDonald Forest Hills Hotel & Spa is set within 25 acres of landscaped gardens overlooking Ben Lomond. The hotel boasts 53 luxurious bedrooms, 2 suites, 65 self-catering lodges, two restaurants, spa, swimming pool and fitness suite. After an Â£3.5 million renovation investment over two years, the hotel has seen its bedrooms, cocktail bar, piano lounge and Garden Restaurant transformed.
Yearning for some serenity, I made my way up north.
Making sure to pack some road trip snack essentials and a new playlist to boot, I hopped in my car and drove up north via the Erskine Bridge for around 45 minutes. In Scotland, I think we forget just how close places like Loch Ard and the MacDonald Forest Hills Hotel & Spa are from cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh. No sooner are you out of the city before you are transported to the most idyllic location for a weekend getaway. Don’t drive? MacDonald Forest Hills Hotel & Spa is 14 miles away from Balloch Railway Station and you will need a taxi to take you the remainder of the way. Alternatively, you can get a bus to Aberfoyle and once again complete your journey in a taxi.
As soon as my car swooped around the winding roads and I was met with Loch Ard for the first time, I was instantly blown away by how beautiful the surroundings were. I couldn’t believe it was so close to my house and I had never been in this area before.
Entering the reception, I couldn’t help but notice a flock of ducks on the lawn outside and I was reliably informed by staff that there is also a herd of wild goats causing havoc, which I later came to see for myself.
Now you really know you’re in the countryside!
Tucked away in the rural village of Minster Lovell, The Old Swan and Minster Mill is a delightful boutique hotel, not only charming but the perfect place to relax after a hard days work.
With a new job and promotion, the past six months have been hectic. My life has resolved around catching flights, packing suitcases, hotel living, dinners for one and doing laundry on the one day I was back in Glasgow before jumping on another flight back down to south. Thankfully, the amount of travelling has calmed down enough for me to enjoy Glasgow living again.
The first of my travels took me to the rural countryside and the village of Minster Lovell which was 15 minutes away from Brize Norton, where I was going to be spending a few days with work.
I found The Old Swan and Minster Mill by chance and I certainly don’t regret it. All our work travel has to be booked on a centralised system and the “preferred hotel” was a little too far away for a daily commute. I chose The Old Swan & Minster Mill out of sheer laziness and ease. The location meant I could get an extra hour in bed in the mornings. Win win.
Set in 65 acres of gardens, woodlands and orchards on the banks of the River Windrush, The Old Swan & Minster Mill is over 600 years old and combines a Victorian mill with stylish, modern rooms and a late medieval inn, both bursting with traditional charm and period features.
With a 5-star rating, rooms are stylishly decorated and most rooms also have the added addition of a scenic garden or river view. An on-site gym, spa and tennis court ensures there’s plenty of opportunity to explore and relax. Sadly, I was unable to visit the spa during my stay, but I loved walking around the estate during sunset with nature as my backdrop. There is something so therapeutic with walking around the countryside, inhaling fresh air and listening to the water flowing down the river.
I stayed in the Windrush room for two nights, costing approximately Â£175 per night, and was impressed by how beautiful the room was. A wooden four poster bed was the focal point of the room and set the theme for the entire stay. Small touches such as bottles of water, nespresso machine, biscuits, a whisky decanter, magazines and high quality toiletries were also a welcome addition. My room had patio door access to part of the hotel grounds so if you fancied playing lawn chess a short stroll from your room or even sit and have a coffee during sunrise or sunset, you could.
Throughout my stay, I dined alone at their cosy bar and dining room within the Old Swan, first having the rib eye steak for main and sticky date pudding for dessert and then chicken and black pudding press for starter and lamb cutlets for main the next. I’m normally a little intimidated dining alone in new surroundings, however, staff were very welcoming and I was soon at ease after spotting a few other guests dining alone.
Food was cooked beautifully and from chatting with staff discovered that on-site vegetable gardens supply the chef with fruit, vegetables and herbs as well as fresh eggs from chickens and honey from hives. Great for sustainability. Breakfast each day was also served within the Old Swan; buffet style. I enjoyed fresh fruit salad with yoghurt then scrambled eggs with a mountain of toast. Great to set me up for a busy day ahead.
I throughly enjoyed my stay at The Old Swan & Minster Mill, my own little slice of the Cotswolds and cannot wait to return to try out their new garden spa and escape from the world, this time with a plus one.
Have you ever stayed in the Cotswolds before? Ever wanted to escape to the countryside? Let me know your favourite escape destinations in the comments below.
No sooner was it New Year than I found myself in the middle of Glasgow Airport ready to fly down to Bristol on another extended work trip. This time? Staying in Bath for a week and commuting to Corsham daily. This has been my second trip to the area and I keep kicking myself that I don’t try and squeeze in some time to explore the city in all its glory.
Luckily, I was able to finish up work early one day, head to my favourite coffee shop, Colonna & Small’s to pick up more NespressoÂ® capsules and a much needed Flat White before heading to The Roman Baths, the one place I’ve been dying to visit.
A mystical labyrinth in the heart of Marrakech, the Souks of Medina are a sensory explosion. From bric-Ã -brac to freshly ground spices, this is one location you don’t want to miss.
Before jetting off to Marrakech, I knew that I couldn’t resist a spot of shopping while I was in the city. I mean, where better than in the blazing sun, in a souk, bargaining for your purchases.
I mentally drew up a list of things I wanted to get my hands on; some beautiful crockery, fresh spices for cooking with back home, kaftans and some good quality sweets that I’ve been missing so much. Would I succeed?
With 1000 MAD (approx Â£65) tucked away in my handbag, I found myself in Jemaa El-Fnaa, right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Marrakech. The square was swarming with people- tourists and locals alike.
By day, Jemaa El-Fnaa is full of vendors with dancing monkeys in t-shirts and diapers, snake charmers and women offering you henna. My advice? Steer clear of them. By night, it transforms into a vibrant street food market. Sadly, I didn’t get to visit the square at night but it is a place I definitely need to go back again to experience in all its glory.
Heading to Marrakech soon? Nervous about going to the souks for the first time? Here are my top tips for tackling the souks of Marrakech which will make you a pro in no time!
The souks are crazy!
Keep your wits about you. As I said above, it’s a sensory overload. From the intense smell of petrol, dodging motorbikes whizzing past you, men with fruit carts and mules making their way through the maze of the souk to the sound of stall holders shouting at each other, it can be overwhelming. People will barge past you to get to their destination. They aren’t being rude, it’s just the way of life.
Can you afford it?
If you see something you like, think about what maximum price you are willing to pay before asking how much it is. Once you have a figure in your head, ask, then haggle like your life depends on it. If you’re told the item is 100 MAD, divide it in half and start from there. I got a lot of great purchases using this calculation. Of course, this only works on items that do not have a set price. Although, when I spotted an amazing tea-cup set for 20 MAD and I only had 12 left, they gave me it. Happy bunny. Bartering is all about luck. Just keep at it and you’ll find your mojo.
Bad at maths like me?
Download a currency converter app onto your phone. I used Currency Converter Plus to quickly convert between MAD and Pounds. It was a lifesaver all over Marrakech and as it’s a free app within the AppStore, I would highly recommend you all download it no matter where you are travelling to. I know I’m going to use it when I jet off to Germany at the end of the month.
Be prepared to walk away
Say what? You want to shop, yes, but sometimes walking away from a purchase right in front of you will work out to be the best move you’ve made. If you keep the points above in your head, it will all make sense. Say you’ve found a stall selling amazing crockery but the price is a little steep, you’ve tried bartering like your life depended on it and the owner still will not budge, walk away. The outcome will be one of two things, the owner will chase after you and agree to the price you want to pay or another stall a few doors down will have a similar piece (if not the exact same) for sale, potentially at a lower price. If all else fails, go back to the original stall again if you really want the item.
Think before you buy
That’s rich coming from someone like me but you are in a foreign country. That means you have to take a plane back home (unless you are on some insane road trip!). You can get carried away in the souk but you have to think sensibly. Can it fit in your suit case? How heavy is it? Will it get damaged?
I bought a rather large pouf, bowls, plates, kaftans, delicate tea glasses, spices and rose buds. Luckily, my case was under the max weight when I arrived to Marrakech. I made sure that I wrapped all the breakable items in clothes a good few times and then stuffed them within the pouf. Extra padding to ensure my money wasn’t wasted.
In all honesty, I wasn’t sure if everything would fit within my suitcase, but I was lucky. Make sure you have enough room before you buy and if all else fails, purchase a bigger bag for your hand luggage!
These top tips for tackling the souks of Marrakech will ensure you are a master of the souks in no time. Don’t be intimidated in your surroundings.. Enjoy yourself and soak up the atmosphere around you. It is an unforgettable experience.
Have you ever been to Marrakech? Hit up the sinks? What did you buy? What are your own top tips? Let me know in the comments below!
All too often, when people think of the Canary Islands, they think of the kinds of drink-fuelled holidays for teenagers that are regularly documented on ITV2. But there is so much more to this stunning archipelago than booze cruises and horrendous sunburn.
Blessed with a rich diversity of landscapes and activity options, the destinations dotted all around Tenerifeâ€™s party places are rich in holiday potential. So, if youâ€™re thinking to go and see a Canary Island or two by plane or on a cruise ship, hereâ€™s a list of the 7 top reasons why a visit to the Canaries will make your heart sing!