Enchanting Edinburgh

A week off continued…
The next part of our trip saw us heading up to Scotland. I have never been that far North before so was very much looking forward to it.
We checked out of our hotel, loaded ourselves up like pack mules we went out to load up the car, belts buckled and sat nav set we headed off waving good bye to the lovely Daffodil Hotel (we will be back one day I’m sure).
The drive out of the Lake District is something to be marveled at with it’s picturesque scenery, rolling hills and stone walls, not to mention the grey scale tones the sheep came in!
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It took us just under three hours to get to Edinburgh, we weren’t in any great hurry, taking in all the scenery as we went. Arriving in Edinburgh the fun soon began, we were staying in the Ibis Styles in St Andrews Square, the problem I had when finding a hotel to stay in when planning our trip was finding one that came with parking, so our first job was to find a car park that was near to where we were staying! It turned out to be fairly easy and I don’t remember getting lost at this point, however trying to navigate your way out of the car park on foot was a nightmare, we had to go through a John Lewis…could we find the exit??!! I wanted to throw down my bags and shout get me out of here! Eventually we saw the sun shining through a door way and managed to get out before we became a piece of the furniture in the store. Once we got out side to day light – phew- we made our way to our hotel to drop off our luggage, good old Google Maps was our friend for the next few days. We managed to find our hotel fairly easily but the long way round, anyway we climbed the steps with me trailing behind in a grump. The lady at reception was nice and friendly and answered all of my questions with ease and informed us that we had been upgraded to a superior room, hoorah! Despite being early for check in (again) we were given our keys and made our way up to the top floor of the hotel. The superior-ness of our hotel room meant that it came with a balcony which was great, the first day it was clear weather and we had a fantastic view of the City, Dave asked me to remind him to take a photo before we left, however this was not to be as the weather soon turned and we were left with this wonderful view! Bad times 🙁
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We dropped off our bags and went out to explore a city that was new to me. We picked a good location to stay, it was fairly easy walking distance to get to everything we wanted to see.
Right at the bottom of the road was a very gothic looking piece of architecture called the Scott Monument, it was almost eerie looking standing tall at the bottom of the road, we later learnt that it is a Victorian Gothic monument to Scottish author Sir Walter Scott and stands at 60 meters tall, so as you can imagine it’s quite imposing… so now you know too 😉
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We found ourselves making our way up to the famous Edinburgh Castle, we had thought that we might not go in but soon changed our minds once stood outside. There wasn’t a queue to get in so we made our way through the entrance, there were lots of work men setting up for the Edinburgh Tattoo it looked like a huge task but a great event to see I bet. We walked in through the brick entrance and went in search of the ticket office, after being served by a very friendly lady we made our way through the ticket barrier and started our tour of the castle. We spent a good few hours looking in all the different rooms they had and learnt a lot along our way. It was bustling with tourists as you would expect but worth a visit, Dave even found his own Tower!

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Once we had finished at the Castle we wandered back to our hotel to get changed and search out somewhere nice for dinner. Where we were staying in St Andrews Square was very handy for places to eat as it backed on to Rose Street and George Street, both good streets for restaurants and bars. We left the hotel and went into All Bar One for a drink, after here we came across an American Restaurant called The Filling Station at this point we were starving, the menu looked like it had plenty we would both like so we made our way in and settled into a booth in the window.
We both had two courses and left feeling stuffed! The highlight for me was warm dough pretzels with sea salt and garlic butter, scrum! After a couple more drinks we made our way back to our hotel with full bellies and heavy eyes from our eventful day.
The next morning we woke up and went down for breakfast, it was a little different to what we were expecting, being that it wasn’t a cooked breakfast – cue a grumbling Dave, it was continental style but still a huge amount to choose from. Once refueled we made our way out of the hotel to further explore Edinburgh. We didn’t really have any plans so just walked and walked… and walked everywhere! The weather had turned a bit miserable so we made plenty of coffee and beer stops. I think Edinburgh is a place best discovered by foot, there are so many little streets steeped in history and hidden away.

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 We walked along the Royal Mile and found a Bakery that was highly recommend by a good friend, called Mimi’s Bakehouse, it would have been rude not to try it so we popped in and came out with boxes of lovely treats, including a delicious Snickers Chocolate Brownie! It was the best thing I had eaten in a long time, thanks for the recommendation Helena!
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After our brief pit stop we carried on along the Royal Mile and soon found ourselves outside some strange looking buildings, after a quick search for a sign we discovered they were the Parliament Buildings, they were certainly very different!
Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of them so you will have to go and visit for yourself. Opposite this was Holyrood Palace which is the official residence of the Queen in Scotland, it’s a really beautiful building in which the Queen spends one week at in the summer, where she carries out official engagements and ceremonies. If you keep walking along here you come to the bottom of a very steep hill in which you can climb up to Arthurs Seat, this was what we were going to do the following day so we turned around and went back in search of somewhere to rest of feet for a little while.
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In the evening we had arranged to meet with a good friend who lives in Glasgow, he caught the train in so we met him from the station and went in search of somewhere to eat for dinner. He took us to an area called The Grass Market, we went to a pub and had a little catch up then walked on to find somewhere nice to eat, we ended up in a little Mexican called Mariachi which was lovely and a good choice by Stu, I would highly recommend! We stuffed our faces with Nachos and Burritos and left in search of another bar for a drink before Stu had to catch the train home. We walked back in the direction of our hotel and found a little bar called The Boozy Cow unfortunately for the boys it was mostly a cocktail bar, I was in my element and the boys embraced it, going for manly Irn Bru Cocktails… why would you not drink Irn Bru when in Scotland!
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Soon it was time for Stu to catch his train so we walked back to the station with him, with the promise of catching up soon. We wandered back to our hotel and packed up our bags in preparation for check out the next morning.
In the morning we went down for our last breakfast and checked out soon after. We were heading back down South and stopping off in Stoke on Trent to break up the trip home… I will tell you why we were staying here in my next post! However before this we made a trip up to Arthur’s Seat, normally this (I imagine) would be a beautiful walk but because of the weather we could barely see 10ft in front of us because of thick fog, we sweated our way up the steep hill to see yet more fog, then made our way back down feeling quite disappointed.
We really enjoyed Edinburgh and will definitely add it on our places to go back and visit, perhaps we will fly next time though!
I would highly recommend it for any one that likes exploring historic cities and walking, it is also very good for food and drink lovers! Thanks for having us Scotland you were a pleasure, despite the weather!
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Glorious Grasmere – Lake District

It’s getting to that time of year where the nights start drawing in and there is a little more chill in the air, having not taken a single week off from work so far this year we decided it was good time for a little R&R before winter properly rolls in.
We have been fortunate enough to visit several different countries around the world on our annual holidays but this year we thought we would try something a little different and give a ‘staycation’ a go, visiting some of the places we have been meaning to go to in our own country. This blog post will therefore be written over several posts rather than one mammoth post, I am one for rambling on so don’t want to bore you!!

Walking out of the office with a little spring in our step on Friday afternoon we went home to pack up our bags for a week of exploring. We loaded up the car at an ungodly hour on Sunday morning in order to hit the road before the usual build up of motorway traffic. For the first part of our trip we were headed for the Lake District. I had high hopes for this part of our trip, having done my research and followed lots of Lake District accounts on Instagram I was hopeful of a few rays of sunshine, however for anyone who has been to The Lakes before you will know this is very much wishful thinking!
We arrived in good time and didn’t meet a single traffic jam (well worth the 4am wake up call!), we turned off the Motorway and made our way through the Lake District National Park. As we navigated our way through we ended up passing by Lake Windermere so made our first stop of the day. We found a car park towards the end of the town, put our coins in the park car meter and off we went. Windermere was a nice little town full of lots of little gift shops selling Kendal Mint Cake and quaint little coffee shops, we wandered up the streets to see what it had to offer. After making our way through the tourists we went back down to the lake, there were many people queued up for the different types of boat tours around the lake, we decided against it but I am sure they would have offered some fantastic views

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As we made our way back to the car we passed many tourists fascinated by the local swans and geese, they were trying to feed them and got way too close for my liking. We got back to the car and decided to make our way to our hotel to see if they would let us check in early.

The short drive to our hotel was a very picturesque one (that word maybe used a lot in this post, the lake district really is very pretty) we passed another lake which I have forgotten the name of but it was full of families giving water sports a go in the little bit of sunshine that had made an appearance. Eventually we made it to our Hotel; The Daffodil Hotel in Grasmere, situated right next to the lake Grasmere.

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We made our way into the beautiful old building which was first built in 1855, it has obviously since had a vast amount changed but it is still very impressive inside. We paid a little extra to have a room with a valley view (well we weren’t going to drive all that way to look at a road!) we were quite impressed with it and glad we paid the extra.

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We couldn’t check in early so we made our way back out and decided to go for a wander about Grasmere. It was a short walk down the main road to reach the little village which was bustling with more tourists and a few locals.  After stopping off and looking in a few shop windows we came across a nice little cafe called The Grasmere Tea Rooms where we stopped for lunch. We managed to find a table outside and watched as the hustle and bustle of the lively village went on.

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After lunch we carried on through the village in search of the famous Grasmere Gingerbread shop, we soon found it as it was the only shop to have a huge queue out of the door. It was only a tiny little shop but is world famous for it’s gingerbread which was first made in the Victorian era of 1854. It was not quite what I was expecting but was devoured by myself and friends when we got back home. Time soon went by and we made our way back to check into our hotel. We were met by the friendly staff at reception and told we still had to wait a few more minutes but that was fine by us as we made good use of the bar, make mine a Strawberry Daiquiri!29146950704_6ee2c9f4d8_z

With alcohol warming our bellies it was finally time to check in. We collected our key cards and made our way up to the second floor, our room was lovely with a bed so big you could probably fit four in! We unpacked a few things and quickly made our way down to the spa. The spa had only just been renovated in the last week so it was lovely to be able to use the brand new facilities it had to offer. It came with the usual a pool, steam and sauna rooms and then three different type water features to massage your back, or so that was the theory, me being on the shorter side just felt like I got battered by water, however we both left feeling a lot better for it.

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We returned to our room with our skin feeling softer and our shoulders a little more relaxed, time to get ready for dinner. There were two rooms you could eat in, the Lounge or the Dining room, we chose to eat in the Dining room the first night. It was a relaxed atmosphere with plenty to choose from on the menu, I went for the Steak and Dave went for Pork Belly, which we both really enjoyed, we had no room for pudding after cocktails and beer. We retired to our room with full bellies and feeling sleepy after our long drive.

The next morning we got up and headed down for yet more food, Breakfast! There was so much to choose from with the traditional fry up and also continental. Once we had eaten a bit of everything and Dave going back for seconds we made our way out for the day, deciding to just get in the car and explore the area. We visited Keswick first which was a little town not far up the road, after Keswick we weren’t sure what to do so got back in the car and just drove for a little while, we had no clue where we were going but that was part of the fun! We visited several little places and found a few lakes and plenty of sheep, the views were amazing despite the weather, Dave said he preferred it with the the low clouds, it made it more mystical I suppose!

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We found our way up some steep slopes and narrow roads but eventually made it back to our hotel, just in time for our afternoon tea. We’d booked it as a bit of a treat and wow what a treat it was! It was so much that we couldn’t eat it all and ended up taking it away with us in boxes!

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It came with everything you could wish of an afternoon tea and more! We left with sugar whizzing around our blood stream and went to walk it off around Lake Grasmere. The lake was very pretty and almost beach like in some spots, we felt like odd ones out having not packed any walking boots (Dave doesn’t even own a pair) but we managed, just about, in our trainers, we got rained on a little bit but it didn’t dampen our spirits, we were too busy appreciating the view.

Our hotel from across the lake –

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We strolled back to our hotel and spent the rest of the evening, relaxing and visiting the spa again. When we got back to our room we decided against going back out for dinner and did something I’ve never done before… ordered room service! What a treat!

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We ate pizza, drank wine and watched TV, you might call us boring farts but we loved it 🙂

After another good snooze we woke and went down for breakfast, packed up our bags and made our way on to Scotland. We had a lovely time at the Daffodil Hotel they really couldn’t do enough for you. I would highly recommend staying there if you ever visit the area and don’t forget to book a room with a view and treat yourself to afternoon tea… you won’t regret it I promise!

 

Get out there and cycle!

This year saw me purchasing a shiny (or rather matt grey) new bicycle.
I had a gym membership at the University which I really enjoyed, however it became increasingly busy and I became increasingly frustrated at the lack of equipment free to use at peak times. Rather than waste my money on a membership that I had started to fall out of love with I decided to spend my money elsewhere and invest in a new bike. I went for the Whyte Fairfield in matt grey/black with a bit of pink detailing and was not disappointed, it’s lightweight, step through frame makes it easy to navigate about and an ideal choice for the hilly area I live in. I purchased it from the lovely people at The Bike Shed – I would highly recommend them if you have no clue what you or looking for or even if you do, they provide a fab, highly knowledgable service and nothing was too much trouble, especially when I rocked up near closing time several times!

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Most weeks my cousin Rachel and I take our bikes for a spin around the english countryside to burn off some steam. Living in hilly Mid Devon it’s a job to find a ride that is fairly flat, leaving us with no choice but to pedal ourselves around the steep hills surrounding our little village. It has it’s advantages though, the views when you get to the top of the hills are something to be desired and very much appreciated, all the while trying to catch our breath through burning lungs! We are very much rewarded for our hard work.

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Cycling is a form of exercise that I am thoroughly enjoying this summer, rather than being copped up in a sweaty, hot gym, I only wish I had more time to do it.
We are fortune enough to live in Devon where cycles paths and routes are fairly accessible; I hope to venture along the Tarka Trail before the Summer is up and also catch the train into Exeter to cycle from St Davids to Exmouth on The Exe Estuary Trail (of course visiting a few watering holes along the way… although I do not condone drinking and cycling ;-)) Also the cycle to Powderham from the Quay is a pretty one too, they have now finished the tarmac track making it a lot more accessible.
I hope you can find time to get out on your bikes with what is left of our summer, I think both Rachel and I find it really helps to clear the mind and there’s nothing like the wind in your hair on a summers eve.

 

 

Chocolate Chip Banana Cake Recipe

This is one of my favourite go to recipes and one that my sister in law gave me a few years ago, I make it so much I now know the recipe off by heart.  If you are anything like us we always have a couple of spotty brown bananas left over at the end of the week, these are the perfect ingredients for this simple banana cake recipe.

To make this lovely moist *shudder at that word* spongy cake, you will need to following few ingredients –

8oz Self Raising Flour

6oz Sugar

4oz Butter

2 Eggs

2  Ripe Bananas

*Chocolate Chips and Vanilla Essence optional

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First of all put the butter and sugar in a bowl and cream it by giving it a good old mix until the sugar and butter are creamed and light and fluffy.

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Next you need to crack the eggs into the mixture, one by one, giving the mixture a good stir each time. If it looks like it’s starting to curdle add a little bit of flour and mix it in.

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Next you need to peel the bananas, break them up into a little bowl and mush them with a fork until they look like the picture below

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Add the mushed bananas to the butter, sugar and egg mixture. At this stage you can add anything else you’d like, I normally add 50 grams of milk chocolate chips but you can add anything you like really, fudge pieces are also one of my faves!

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I also add a few drops of vanilla essence too

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Mix it all together so its all combined

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Finally add the flour and stir until it’s all mixed in

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Line a bread tin with some grease proof paper and add the mixture to the tin

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Pop in the oven on the middle shelf at 180 degrees (Gas Mark 4) for 40 minutes, then turn down to 150 degrees (Gas Mark 2) for a further 30 mins.

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Once the time is up remove from the oven and place on a wire cooling rack… after it’s cooled down pop the kettle on and enjoy with a nice cup of tea

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Wonderful West Bay – Dorset

This year my parents bought themselves a new (nearly new) camper van so they could go exploring in a bit of luxury. When my Mum mentioned they were going to West Bay I jumped at the chance. As some of you may know West Bay is home of the ITV series Broadchurch and somewhere I have wanted to visit for a little while. Mum and Dad had already chosen and booked up a camp site so with a phone call to the site we were all booked in too. We packed up our car the night before and left for our trip after we finished work on the Friday, Dorset is only an hour up the road from us so we were there by 6.30pm. Mum and Dad had chosen to stay at the West Bay Parkdean Holiday park, it was a little different to how we had all expected it to be, a lot of the static caravans were owned and there weren’t many people camping it was more caravans, camper vans and static caravans. The site catered for all ages but we got the feeling it was aimed more at the older generation. Anyway we didn’t let this bother us too much and once we were directed to our pitch began setting up for the weekend.

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When we finished pitching up and making our tent a home from home we wandered out of the camp site in search of some fish and chips. We found a place with a queue out of the door and thought they must be a good choice! We had to wait a little while because they were so busy, once we had our chip boxes in hand we walked a short distance down to the seafront. We each sat on a bench and tried our best to keep the seaguls away from our food! They weren’t the best fish and chips but they filled our hungry bellies. We threw away our wrappers and empty cans of fizz and walked along the sea front.

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There were a lot of people coming and going, they were setting up for a boat race the next day and all camped along the sea front.

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After we had seen enough we strolled back up to the camp site, all the while trying to find Pokemon along they way (yes we are ten years old)! Once back at the camp site we piled back into my parents camper and watched the sun go down.

We woke on Saturday to a mixture of weather, dark black clouds one side and bright blue sky the other side of us. After a sausage sandwich breakfast we packed up a bag and went off to see what West Bay and Bridport had to offer, the night before we had seen a big cliff with the pathway to the top so that was where we were going to start. Before we got to it we found a little emporium full of lots of little nic nacs and different shops, we had a little look round and then carried on our way.

We walked to the beach and climbed the big steep cliff side, it was hard work but so worth it when we got to the top, there was a golf course and fields of wild flowers to the left and the sea to our right.

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We carried on along the pathway, hoping to get to Burton Bradstock beach, the path started to descend so we thought we had reached our destination, however the sign post told us we had only walked a mile and a quarter so we gave up and went down to the beach. We could have been anywhere in the world the weather was so nice.

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We sat by the sea and rested our shaky legs from our little trek. We watched the waves lap at the shore, while Dad searched for anything prehistoric in the pebbles we sat on! We got caught out in the weather and decided it was time to apply some sun cream, turns out we had left it too late and were already quite burnt, we got caught out in the sea breeze, we were very cross with ourselves! Ouchy! After we creamed ourselves up we started to make our way back but down the beach this time. It was a pebble beach but they were quite tiny so it was quite hard to keep your footing, as we walked along we passed the cliffs that are famous from the TV Series Broadchurch.

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When we got back to West Bay, we sat and ate our lunch and then carried on exploring, stopping for a pint of cool cider in a pub beer garden. In the car park opposite were lots of trucks containing TV filming equipment and rumors of the third series of Broadchurch being filmed. We made our way from here back up to the camp site, passing by an ice cream shop that sold over 30 different flavours of ice cream, we couldn’t walk past without popping in, I went for Banoffee, Dave went for Mint Choc Chip, Mum Berries and Cream and Dad Honeycomb. I didn’t have time to take a picture of them, for fear of them melting so you will just have to take my word for it that they were delicious! We got back to our camp site and went our separate ways for an hour or so. Dave and I purchased a LayBag this week, so we spent some of the afternoon lounging on this!

It was quite funny watching Dave and my Dad trying to inflate it but I think they got the hang of it in the end, the guy in the video definitely makes it look very easy!

After a little lounging we went down to watch the power boats, they were so loud we could hear them from the camp site. We walked down to the beach and saw about five minutes before it finished! It was still good fun to watch, what we saw of it anyway!

We soon got hungry and walked back up the hill to camp, Dave and I cooked up a feat of Sausages with pasta sauce and salad, Mum and Dad joined us with their tea and we sat and played cards until the sun went down.

We had to check out by 10am so we were up nice and early the next day and packed up our little home from home, we said good bye to my parents (they were staying until Monday) and made our way home.

We enjoyed our stay in West Bay, there wasn’t a huge amount to do there which is why we left early Sunday morning, but what it did have to offer was lovely and very picturesque, I am sure we will be back one day!

 

Afternoon Tea – Exeter Golf & Country Club

My lovely friend Harriet (who also writes a fab blog – Harriet Loves – go and check her out) decided we all deserved a little Sunday treat and were well overdue a proper catch up with the girls. The choice of venue was the Exeter Golf and Country Club where she works because she had tried and tested some of it’s delights and thought we would all love it too.

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We were booked in for 2.30pm and all met outside the Georgian Manor Building just before. There were 7 of us in total, we were just missing Leanne who was off having fun at a Hen Do, you were missed Lea. We were seated by a window looking out on to the golf course and it just so happened that there was a pianist booked for the afternoon too, which was a nice added touch.

Soon after we sat down we were asked what we would like to drink, which of course was obvious for an afternoon tea… pots of tea silly, we were all driving so had to pass on the Prosecco option! Once the tea was set out on the table, soon came the afternoon treats, oh were we spoilt when it arrived, there was even a dairy free one for Bekie too.

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After we had finished admiring the sweet and savoury delights in front of us we tucked in, starting with sandwiches of course, the little rectangle sarnies were Ham and Mustard, Cheese and Pickle and Salmon.

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Next up were the bite size cake pieces, these were a mixture of Brownies, Cheesecake, Carrot Cake and miniature Victoria Sponges. Harriet had asked specially for the brownies to be included in our selection of treats, assuring us they were the best she had ever tasted and we weren’t let down, they were delicious! Carrot cake is not my favourite normally but that was scrumptious too.

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Finally we came to the cream tea on the top… I’m ashamed to say that I couldn’t eat mine, it was just too much for me, especially after the delicious but rich brownie. However they looked like lovely scones, nice and tall and just the right amount of cream and jam.

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After we had finished our afternoon treats we realised that we were the last in the building and they would soon be finishing up for the day at the golf club. All of us had happily chatted the afternoon away without giving much thought to the time. We settled our bill, a very reasonable £10.50 per person and made our way out to our cars with talk of when our next catch up would be.

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I thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon with my lovely ladies and very much enjoyed our afternoon tea. I would highly recommend it for a bit of a treat, you can also go all out and replace your tea/coffee for Prosecco, it makes it a bit more expensive at £14.50 each or £25 for two but nice for an afternoon relaxing with your favourite people.

Go on treat yourself!

Impromptu visit to Saunton Sands – North Devon

Dave and I found ourselves at a bit of a loose end on a Saturday evening and with the sun sort of shining we decided to head to the sea side to blow out the cob webs from our working weeks and treat ourselves to some scrummy fish and chips. Living in Mid Devon has it perks in that we are fairly close to some of Devon’s most stunning beaches. We packed up a bag, grabbed our hoodies and picnic blanket and headed on the A377 to Barnstaple. Once we reached Barnstaple we navigated our way to Braunton where we parked up and ordered our fish and chips from Squires, considering the queue we were served and out the door before we knew it, with two cod and chips in hand.

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We hopped back in the car and made the short drive to Saunton Sands, we approached the beach car park down the steep hill and entered through the automatic barrier (for those of you that haven’t visited for a while they have a new car park system, it one which baffled all and left a lot of people scratching their heads as to how to work out how to pay!). Dave made me hurry up and gather our bits from the car for fear of his chippy tea getting cold. We quick marched on to the beach to find a spot to sit but found it to be very blustery, we walked along towards some dunes and found shelter behind a fairly steep sandy mound, but so we could still see the beach in front of us. We shook out the picnic rug and took our sides on the rug eager to unwrap our fishes. We demolished the contents leaving just the greasy papers and sat back and watched some keen sea canoeists trying and failing to stay up right in their canoe, not so fun for them but entertaining for us to watch!

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There were several walkers and their dogs in their element out for an evening walk. We soon got cold and fed up of sand blowing on us so we decided to pack up and wander back to the car, on our way back up the hill we passed a little restaurant above a surf shop called Beachside Grill, we chucked our bits in the car and decided to venture in to warm ourselves up with a hot chocolate (yes we know how to live on a Saturday night!!). We walked up the stairs and were greeted with a bustling, modern, little open plan restaurant. A waiter came to us almost immediately and we chose to sit outside so we could admire the view. We enjoyed our hot chocolate on the balcony, sat by a warm patio heater.

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I love our little trips to North Devon and hope to make more of them over the summer,perhaps packing up our tents next time for a camping adventure.

I will leave you with a few other pictures from our evening at the sea side 🙂 hope you can visit soon too!

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Radio 1 Big Weekend – Powderham Castle

This is a weekend I and a lot of my friends have been excited about for a long time. Most of us managed to get tickets for one of the most highly anticipated events Exeter has had for a very long time, Radio 1’s Big Weekend Exeter! One of my good friends Harriet didn’t manage to get any tickets, but I was lucky enough to get tickets for both days so she was to be my date for the weekend as the husband didn’t want to go!

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We decided to get the train to Powderham both days because it was the cheapest way to get to the event, at £4.30 return we thought it was an absolute bargain and even cheaper when you bought a group save ticket! Lots of other people caught the bus or went via taxi, some even cycled. Saturday took us a little while to get there because we couldn’t get on the first train, it was absolutely jam packed so we had to wait 25 minutes for the next one which was much quieter. Once we got to Starcross it was about a 20 minute walk to Powderham Castle. We queued a little while to get in and eventually got through the gates at 11.45.

Saturday Line Up – 

Main Stage –

  • Nick Jonas
  • Tom Odell
  • Meghan Trainor
  • Sigma
  • Jake Bugg
  • Jess Glynne
  • Bastille
  • Chase and Status
  • Mumford & Sons

In New Music We Trust Stage –

  • Craig David
  • Twenty One Pilots
  • Flume
  • Stormzy
  • Chvrches
  • Tame Impala
  • Fetty Wap
  • Bring Me the Horizon

Out of every one on the line up I was the most excited to see Mumford and Sons, they are a band I have tried to see several times and have never been lucky enough to get tickets. I was so very excited when they were announced on the radio as the headline act for Saturday, jumping up and down in my seat on the way to work, however we had a long day ahead of us before we could watch my faves! The first act of the day was Nick Jonas at midday, having only just got in to Powderham we had to run to the Main Stage which was across the other side of the site. We had now multiplied from two of us to a much bigger group and my friend Zoe is a fan so off we went for our first act of the day.

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Once Nick Jonas had done his thing in his fancy leather jacket and sunglasses, we headed over to the In New Music We Trust Stage where Craig David was about to play, we hadn’t given ourselves much time to get there and didn’t quite realise how popular he would be! When we arrived outside the huge red circus type tent we were met with huge bundles of people trying to get in different entrances. The entrance we were trying to get in was just about to be shut off so I darted to the next one dragging Harriet and Zoe with me and we just made it in. I think Craig David was one of the only acts to fill the tent to capacity, meaning the rest of the people trying to get in had to listen from outside the tent, blocked off by metals barriers and some hefty looking security guards. Despite getting in we had a rubbish place in the tent… right behind the sound and lighting deck, meaning we couldn’t see an awful lot but we could still hear the man himself. Craig David is someone Harriet is a massive fan of so I hope it still made her day. He played a few new songs as well as his classics which got the crowd going crazy. We squeezed our way out of the tent just as the last song finished and went in search of some lunch. There were many stands to choose from, you weren’t aloud to take in any food or drink into Powderham, other than a sealed 50ml bottle of water, so there had to be a lot of choice. We were surprised by the variety of different food stalls there were to choose from, there were your regular burger stands, but then other healthier options and also a vegan stand. We went for the Paella stand, where you could choose to have a box of paella or a burrito, how do you choose?! I went with Paella, as did Harriet and Zoe went for a Burrito. There were a couple of bands we weren’t too fussed about so we sat on the grass out of the way of the main crowd (still with a good view) and munched away on our purchases.

 

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The afternoon seemed to whizz by with brilliant performances by Sigma, with their two special guests Take That and Paloma Faith, both of which were brilliant. We sat out for a little bit of Jake Bugg and enjoyed a cider in the sun. We and many others were slightly caught out with the weather that day, the Met Office had issued a weather warning for Saturday, predicting Thunderstorms, oh how wrong they were! Many people had packed for wet weather and clearly didn’t bring any suncream despite the high temperatures, there were some people there that would be feeling very sorry for themselves the next day. It’s got to be some of the worst sun burnt people I have seen, ouch!

After Jake Bugg had finished and we’d rested our little leggies for an hour we heaved ourselves up and went to find a good spot for the rest of the afternoon. We spent the rest of the afternoon singing our hearts out, waving our arms like loons and generally letting our hair down. We stopped for another bite to eat and then it was soon time for my favourites Mumford and Sons. When we left the crowd to get something to eat we noticed that if you stood slightly on the outskirts you had a much better view and weren’t so squashed so that was our plan and we stuck to it. Zoe wasn’t sure that she knew much of Mumford and Sons but Harriet and I assured her she would once they started playing… this happened several times throughout the day with me being heard saying “Do I know Sigma?” sure enough once they started playing I actually knew A LOT of Sigma! Zoe soon got into the swing of things and seemed to really enjoy Mumford, I hope we have converted her. The band as expected were amazing, Marcus Mumford even launched himself into the crowd at one point in a song, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone bounce around a crowd like that before, he emerged as one big sweaty mess but with a massive grin on his face. They also brought out Baaba Maal to perform their new song There Will Be Time, which was brilliant. If you have time to watch, this is their set from the night, definitely worth a watch if you are a fan. They finished with a finale of beautiful red fireworks, signalling the end of the first day.

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We had already decided that our plan would be to leave as the last song started so we could beat the crowds and get back to the train station based on how crazy it was in the morning we didn’t want to be stuck for hours, especially if we had to do it all again the next day. Oh were we glad we did, it seemed like a fair few other people had the same idea as us. After a bit of queuing and excited chatter about our days with the people in the crowds we eventually made it back to Exeter at just gone 11pm, Dave collected us from the station and we quickly dropped Zoe home and made our way home with Harriet in tow, to our much needed beds! Alarms were set for 6.45 the next morning to do it all again!
Sunday Line Up – 
 
Main Stage –
Coldplay
The Weekend
Ellie Goulding
The 1975
Iggy Azalea
Years and Years
Catfish and the Battlemen
Kygo
OneRepublic
In New Music We Trust Stage –
Biffy Clyro
Alesso
The Last Shadow Puppets
Skepta
Wolf Alice
Alessia Cara
Jack Garratt
Panic! at the Disco
Sunday seemed to feel a little different to Saturday and I’m still not sure why. We came up with a new plan for Sundays travel after the craziness of Saturday. Harriet and I woke early Sunday morning, after showers were had and outfit choices were made (very important), a filling breakfast we headed to Zoe’s house. We had decided that instead of catching the train from St Davids we would this time catch it from Polsloe which was two minutes down the road from Zoe’s house. Our plan was if we caught this train then we would already be on it before it got to St Davids, meaning we would be guaranteed a space, we were so glad we did what we did this morning because it was yet again, crazy! So many people trying to get on diddy seaside trains! I have to say most of the Railway staff were lovely, however some lost their tempers which made things interesting!
After witnessing the sunburnt people from Saturday we warned a few people on the train about it and even sun creamed one girl up… just saving the youths skin, no biggy, they’ll thank us when they’re older! Our friend Jade and some of her friends were meeting us that day, we gave her a quick ring to tell her to change her plans because there was no way she was getting on this rammed train so she headed over to St Davids rather than trying to get on at St Thomas.

We got to Powderham nice an early and it seemed that lessons had been learnt from the previous day and we got in much quicker, with hardly any queuing or waiting around. Let day 2 begin!

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First up was One Republic, I’m not really their biggest fan and not that fussed about their music, but after a quick bite to eat we found a good spot right at the edge of the stage to watch, oh was I glad we did, I wasn’t really expecting too much but they were brilliant, they really got the crowd going seeing as they were the first act, I can imagine it’s a little bit tough going.

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Once they had finished their set we went for a wonder and ended up finding Jade and her gang. After a quick catch up we walked over to the big red In New Music We Trust Stage to watch Jack Garratt, I think it was only really me that was keen to see him but the others soon got into it. For those of you who haven’t heard of him he is an amazing musician, a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist! When you watch him on stage you wonder how on earth he does what he does, I was very pleased I got to see him and we got an amazing spot too!

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You can check him out here –

The rest of the day seemed to go by in a blur, we got some lunch and spent a lot of time chilling out on the grass and watching a few bands from the edge of the crowds. We got up and got in the crowd for Iggy Azalea but we were saving ourselves for Ellie Goulding. Ellie has a great stage presence and was brilliant, I feel like she wears her heart on her sleeve when she performs, we really enjoyed it, so much so that it only seemed like she was on stage for 5 minutes.

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The penultimate act of the day on the Main Stage was The Weekend, there was a lot of hype about them and a lot of people keen to watch them, so off we went to get a good spot before they started. We waited a few minutes for them to come on stage, there were a few songs I recognised, more than I thought actually, however their use of language seemed really inappropriate for the age group of the festival, bearing in mind that a lot of people where already stood waiting in their spots of Coldplay, young and old, I’m not a prude and it takes a lot of offend me but it just didn’t seem the right audience for their performance so we left before their set ended, preferring to go and get something to eat before the highly anticipated Coldplay. We grabbed a fajita and some nachos and enjoyed them from the side of the stage and then began our mission to get a good spot in the crowd for Coldplay! We managed to wiggle our way into the middle of the crowd but had what seemed like the tallest guys at the festival stood in front of us, after a bit of shuffling about we managed to get slightly better spots and stood for a little bit waiting for the headline act of the day. Wow were we not disappointed when they arrived on stage, the crowd went crazy for Chris Martin and the gang. Chris was very appreciative of the crowd and it made it even more special that he was back in his home town. I can’t quite remember but I think they started with “Hymn For The Weekend” followed by a fond favourite “Yellow” which was amazing to watch with the stage lit up in yellow laser lights

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They also played a lot of other old songs which I think every one appreciated, to watch 25,000 people that weren’t necessarily there to see Coldplay sing their hearts out was amazing. They also played a song that holds a big place in my heart “Fix You” a few tears were shed during this song. At one point Chris Martin made the whole crowd sit on the floor to then be told “everybody jump” it was crazy, even more so as the lady behind me got her glow stick stuck in my hair and pulled me up with her, ouch!!! It was soon time for their last song and they ended with their new track “Up & Up” this ended with a huge laser show and spectacular fireworks, closing Radio 1’s Big Weekend.

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We left Powderham with Coldplay in our ears and smiles on our faces, what a weekend we had!

The only thing left to do was get on a train home…

I hope you guys all enjoyed the weekend too and sure you all had you own favourite acts of the day. I was gutted I missed out on this amazing cover (but we did hear them sound checking on the way in so maybe it counts!?)

Center Parcs – Woburn Forest

One thing I have learnt over the last few months is never to keep a secret from my Mum, it turns out she HATES them, that and surprises!!

A couple of weeks ago it was a big birthday for her so we decided that we should surprise her with a trip away. Having never been before we settled on Center Parcs – Woburn Forest, just outside of Milton Keynes. We thought it would be a good place to go together as a family and would have plenty to do once we got there.

After a bit of wrestling and some Tetras skills we managed to fit most things in the car, mum had packed for every eventuality unaware of where she was going and we started our 4 hour journey to our destination. I don’t know how we managed it but she still didn’t know where we were going right up until Center Parcs was eventually signed posted on the roads, then our plot was foiled. She seemed pleased with where we had taken her and we were all relieved to have no more secrets, especially Dad!

At this particular Center Parcs check in was at 3pm, we made it there with 4 mins to spare, so we joined the queue awaiting the barriers to rise to let us in for our weekend of adventures. As we approached the queue the barriers had already been lifted and we were on our way to our lodge. We drove past several multi story lodges which looked just like wooden every day houses, they were huge, a few minutes later we located our lodge and pulled in to start the mammoth task of unloading our rammed car. My brother was arriving with his girlfriend a little later so we sorted out all our bits and then headed out to return the car to the car park (all Center Parcs have a policy in which you must return your car to the car park for the duration of your stay, which is a good idea as the park is full of small children). Once we found a space and checked we hadn’t left anything in the car we went to hire our bikes for the weekend (a must at any Center Parcs). Bike hire is £30 per bike for the weekend, which I didn’t think was too bad, it took the hassle out of taking our own, although we would have quite liked to have done that. Within an hour of Dave being on his bike he had managed to fall off in quite a spectacular fashion, nearly straight over his handle bars, in his own words – “nothing handles like a rental”!

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We rode around for a little while exploring the park. We stopped off to book into one of the many on-site restaurants for dinner, we chose Hucks an American restaurant and booked in for 7.45pm, in the hope that my brother and his other half would have arrived by then. There were several other places to choose from, including Cafe Rouge and Strada, but we thought we would try something we didn’t already have at home. After this we made our way back up to the lodge for a well deserved cider. Shortly after my brother and his girlfriend arrived, we had never met before, so introductions were made as we helped them unload the car. Dave and I unlocked our bikes and they followed us back to the car park and we showed them where to hire there bikes… here is where the fun began, boys being boys, it was then a competition to see who could do the biggest skids, this was then the theme for the rest of the weekend! We rode back to the lodge, picked up Mum and Dad and made our way out for dinner.

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Upon arriving at the restaurant we locked up our bikes and made our way in. We had to wait a few minutes in the bar before being seated but by the time we ordered our drinks our table was ready. The restaurant was a typical american themed restaurant with metal signs hanging from the walls and all wooden interior. We were given our menus which listed a wide selection of things to choose from. One thing I will say is that none of it came very cheap, a salad being at least £14.50. We all ordered our food which came out in good time, Dave had the biggest burger he could find and Dad had chicken wings, the rest of us went for a salad. It wasn’t the best meal we have had, it especially wasn’t worth it’s expensive price tag. Anyway being the British folk that we are none of us grumbled about the uninspiring food and we made our way back to our lodge.
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The weather forecast for Saturday looked pretty dire so we decided to go tenpin bowling on Saturday afternoon, you will notice the running theme of this blog post… the expense of everything! We did come prepared but you definitely need to save a few pennies for your Center Parcs trip because not a lot is included for free! Bowling wasn’t too badly priced and we played for an hour with children screaming either side of our lane, although I can’t complain because it is a place for families after all!
After bowling we went for lunch at the pancake restaurant (again crazy prices!!) we all ordered something slightly different and all enjoyed them, they weren’t like your normal pancakes, they were a bit thicker and very fluffy. We then went a burned off our lunch with a round of crazy golf (yes you had to pay for it and no it wasn’t cheap) we all enjoyed whacking the dimpled balls with our battered metal clubs, even if we were holding up everyone else who were taking it slightly more seriously! I’m ashamed to say I came joint last with my brother, but we had a good laugh around the way so we didn’t mind! We even found some hobbits in their hobbit house 😉
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After our game of golf we wandered back to our lodge on our bikes, with the boys in front skidding all the way back. They wanted to get back to watch the football and we thought it would be cheaper to watch it in our lodge with the keg of beer we had bought, rather than sit in the sports bar where beers were £5.10 a pint! Me, Mum and Arusha sat on the sofa and played cards while the boys were being lads and watching the football supping pints. We decided that evening to retrieve the car from the car park and pop out for Dominoes Pizza. At this point it had started to rain, Mum and I made the short journey into the town to collect the pizzas and then walked as fast as we could back from the car park, we’d considered taking our bikes but thought we would be devastated if our pizzas ended up on the floor, so thought it best to walk. We devoured every slice and washed it down with a few elderflower and gin cocktails (recipes to follow)! After the football has finished out came the cards, we decided our next game would be Cards Against Humanity, what an awful idea that is with your parents! However none of us were particularly offended and we certainly learnt a lot about our parents! Oh the horror. There were a lot of tears of laughter that evening, but that’s good for you right?!
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Sunday was soon upon us and we had decided to check out the ‘Subtropical Pool’ – which just so happened to be free – Hoorah! Dave sat this one out as he’s not really in to swimming, he made use of his time in the Starbucks next door. But oh the fun he missed out on! My mum isn’t a huge fan of water park type pools after an accident on holiday when we were kids, so we went carefully with her 🙂 However Me, Dad, Adam and Arusha took full advantage of all the rides on offer. First up was the outdoor rapids which were hilarious! You enter through a bit of a jacuzzi type pool which is where we left mum, you then go through some pretty awful clear plastic flaps (a bit like the ones you see in a butchers shop!) to get through to the outside where the rapids begin. You start at the top of the white concrete trail push yourself off and away you go! Some parts are deeper than others meaning you bash your knees and legs a bit, it twists and turns and just takes you along. It’s great fun and very funny to watch your family members bashing into each other. We ended up with a few bruises from that one, one go wasn’t enough so we went a few more times!
The next thing we tried was one of the water slides, you could do this in a two seater ring or a single person ring. Dad decided to go on his own, while Adam and his girlfriend went in a double ring, leaving me and Mum, I am sure she didn’t really want to ride but I made her come with me and assured her she would be fine. We got to the top of the steps and entered the pool at the entrance to the slide, she still wasn’t sure about going but I hopped in the front making her get in the back with her bum in the air, the light went green and away we went with Mum screaming the whole way down, all went fine until we got to the end and our ring tipped up and she grazed her leg in the shallow landing pool. I did feel bad about it but I hope she was glad she did it. To make up for it we let her choose what we did next, so on to the lazy river we went! We did this a few times and then decided we should catch up with Dave and grab some lunch. We had great fun in the pool and wished we had done it earlier on in the weekend, especially as it was one of the only things that was free.
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We went back for lunch and decided to carry on making the most of our bikes for the rest of the afternoon. We decided to give the Treasure Hunt a go, however it was again something you had to pay for, I asked one of the park rangers about it and he said there was a meeting point and we had missed it, so we just did it on our own. Dave took the roll of Treasure Hunt leader and off we went. You had to find 9 different wooden signs around the park which each had a clue on them as to how to find the next one, they also had a letter on each of them which you had to collect to spell a word. We spent most of the afternoon searching the park for clues, Dave got really into it while the rest of us got disctracted – we even tried hiding from him at one point! How mean!
We found most of them quite quickly but the last couple puzzled us, so we stopped for an ice cream. Eventually we found the last one and tried to work out the word, now I don’t want to spoil it for anyone that might visit in the future so I won’t give the word away 😉
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Once we had finished treasure hunting we popped to the on site supermarket, which I have to say was very reasonable. We picked up two disposable BBQ’s and some BBQ’s packs and luged it back on our bikes, I was the only one to bring a back pack so I was the donkey that afternoon. As we got back it started to rain which wasn’t ideal for BBQing, however there was another football match on so the boys watched that and by half time the rain had passed. Mum and I lit the BBQ and got cooking. We all filled our bellies with chicken, burgers, sausages and some very BBQ’d ribs. We all obviously washed it down with lots of beer and yet more cocktails.
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Sunday night we had a fairly early night because we knew we had to drive miles the next day. We woke up early Monday morning and packed up all our bits and collected our cars from the car park, a little sad to be going home so soon.
I think that Mum enjoyed her long weekend away with us all and it’s made me think that we should do it more often. Centre Parcs was great for what we wanted, it is very family friendly but maybe more so for younger families, although there were all sorts of people there, couples with tiny babies, older couples and even the odd hen do or two. It’s quite an expensive place to visit so I would recommend saving a few pennies before you do go, but I think you can make it as cheap or expensive as you like really, there is a fully equipped kitchen if you wanted to cook a few nights too. It’s also set in a beautiful location with lots of wildlife around, we saw squirrels most mornings, foraging on the patio.
Overall we had a fab time, despite my whinging about the price of things 😉
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Lovely Weather for Ducks – Castle Drogo to Fingle Bridge Walk

Back in September last year a few of us went on a walk from Fingle Bridge in the hope we would make it to Castle Drogo. However after walking for what seemed like a long time (it probably was) we were getting no where and ran out of time, so we gave up and turned back to the car.
Whilst sat on the Sunday evening of the May Bank Holiday wondering what to do the next day, we decided to try the walk again. We had a lot more time on our hands so could even afford to get lost if it should happen; which of course, it did.

After a few messages sent to friends we had a group of 5 of us and a pooch, ready for a trek the next day.
We met at our house in the morning and despite checking the weather forecast several times it was still showing rain, but we were hopefully that the promise of sun in the afternoon would come true. We packed up our waterproof coats and wellies (Joe had to borrow my coat because he forgot to pack his, leaving me with a bright pink ski jacket!), loaded Buck (the pooch) and the rest of us into Ash’s car, armed with bags of quavers crisps and headed on the road.
Living in Mid Devon has it’s perks as we are quite close to the moors and good walking spots; it took us about 25 minutes to get to Castle Drogo, however on arriving it seemed like everyone else had the same idea, not a single space was free to park; after a few laps we gave up and parked right outside the entrance.
We bundled out of the car and released Buck from the confines of the boot, pulling on our wellies and coats were went on our way. We wandered up the long drive way that leads into the Castle Drogo Estate, trying to work out where we had to go.

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We got a little bit lost a long the way and accidentally ended up outside the Castle which is currently being refurbished.

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We turned around as it clearly wasn’t the way we were supposed to go, not only that but we hadn’t paid to be there either! Tut, Tut! We quick marched pack up the pathway, trying not to look at too much, seeing as we hadn’t paid our way. Eventually we found the pathway that took us where we wanted to go, turns out we walked right past it on our way to find the toilet! Anyway on we went, we were met with a few different coloured posts that took you different ways; I think we ended up following the red path, much to my husbands disappointment, he was happy to just have sat in the cafe for the afternoon.

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The first part of the walk was fairly easy going and we passed several young families and older couples along the way. It then started to absolutely pour down making things a little miserable and a little harder as the ground became slippery under from and also start descending down into the forest. The view from where we were walking would have been absolutely stunning, had it not been so wet and misty.

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As we went further along the pathway, following the signs as best we could, we heard some noise through what sounded like a tannoy speaker system, the further we walked the louder it got. The path started to descend making things even harder, it was quite stoney and slippery from the rain, I’m not ashamed to say I did need a hand in case I fell and landed on my butt! We walked a little more and then realised that what we were actually a lot closer to Fingle Bridge than we thought, the way we had walked had taken us along the top and down a slop towards the car park. Once we finished descending the slope and waked through the car park we discovered that the chap making all the commotion on the tannoy was talking about  duck race that was happening at the pub.

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We stopped off for a little while, but because it was so busy there was no where to sit inside or out, we found a picnic bench with a view of the duck race and perched for a little while. We ordered a few bowls of cheesy chips and warmed our bellies with tea. We were absolutely soaked so appreciated the warmth they brought us!

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Once we had finished our chips and had enough of listening to the muffled words of the chap commentating on the duck race we made our way back to the castle. The way back was a bit harder than the way down because most of it was up hill, we definitely felt it the next day in our legs! As we slowly pulled our way up the hill the rain subsided and the sun finally made it’s overdue appearance, it dried us off a little bit so we weren’t so soggy but we were all still desperate for a hot shower, Buck even more so! The sun made for a much nicer photo so it was it all in the end.

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With a soggy Buck in tow we eventually got back to the car and mad our way home. The walk didn’t take us as long as we were expecting, we probably got from the Castle to Fingle Bridge in about 45 mins and a little quicker back. It was a nice walk but I would highly recommend taking good foot wear, I wore my wellies but I think walking boots would have been a better idea.

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On the way back in the car, we made plans to go home and shower and treated ourselves to a lovely homemade chicken and leek pie. A good day had by all, despite the weather!

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