Short Guide: Edinburgh in a Day | Get the Most out of Scotland’s Capital!

While most of the time I’m dreaming of exotic destinations in faraway countries. The dense jungles of South America, the white beaches of the Caribbean or the palaces of the Middle East. It’s easy to forget about your own country. There is still so much of the United Kingdom I haven’t explored, and I should because it is definitely not lacking in beauty.

In the summer of last year I stayed in Northumberland for a few days. It is the northern most part of England. I had been there many times before as a child so there was practically nothing new to see. Scotland on the other hand was uncharted territory, so what better way to spend the day than exploring its capital. Here are my pointers about getting the most out of your first trip to Edinburgh.

Getting There.

I don’t drive so I had to take the train from Berwick-Upon-Tweed. The journey is about 40-50 minutes direct and is a highlight in itself. If you sit on the right side of the carriage you have beautiful views of the sea and surrounding beaches and cliffs. If you’re lucky enough to be travelling on one of the UK’s very few sunny days like I was, then everything really comes to life. It is guaranteed to put you in a good mood for the rest of the day!

The Fringe.

When I visited Edinburgh, coincidentally, it was at the same time was the Fringe Festival. I totally recommend you visit the city while this is on. The event runs from August 5th – August 29th varying on the year so check in advance. It really makes the city such an electric place to be in. The streets are filled with people and various other street performers. I spent a good hour just watching people showing off their wacky talents. There were acrobats, a really flexible woman and a dance off. All you had to do was walk down one of the main streets and you felt like you’d already seen a show (for free!). Be prepared to be handed hundreds of leaflets as well! I wish I had researched the event beforehand because I missed out on being able to see a show. It’s something I would definitely come back to Edinburgh for.

Touristy but Good!

If you’re not in the capital for the Fringe Festival then there’s no need to feel disappointed because there is still so much that this city offers. Be sure to visit the National Monument of Scotland. If you can manage the short hike there you are greeted with magnificent views of the whole city and beyond. It’s also a perfect place for photo opportunities – as I can demonstrate!

FullSizeRenderIMG_3676IMG_3679

If these views aren’t enough for you then I suggest making a trip to Arthur’s Seat. It’s a pretty challenging walk but you are rewarded for your efforts. I think I made it about halfway before giving up (the vertigo won). Still even at this height I could see for miles. Seeing the trains pulling out of Waverley station made Edinburgh look like a miniature model village someone’s grandad would have in their garden shed. The photos here don’t really do it justice. Don’t be like me, aim for the top of the hill – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

imageimageimage

It’s important to remember that we live in such a beautiful and diverse country. This is easily forgotten due to events that happen in the news. We take our surroundings for granted as we see them every day. It’s necessary to explore and see what these places have to offer as they’re right on our doorsteps. It’s a lot cheaper than a cruise around the Caribbean anyway?!

Advertisements

Wales Without Wifi | Featured on Yourlifeisatrip.com

Following a trip to Wales a few months ago, I wrote an article about holidaying without the internet. The article has been featured on Yourlifeisatrip.com the “#1 Website for Experimental Storytelling and Narrative Travel Writing”. This is the first time i’ve ever been featured on a site like this and i’m proud that they liked my writing enough to publish it!

Read the full article here: http://www.yourlifeisatrip.com/home/wales-without-wifi

“I’m sure I can’t be the only one guilty of this but when I trawl through countless comparison hotel websites trying to find the best deal for a weekend away, I find that the most important question I’m asking is “does this place have Wi-Fi?” Forget about the great breakfast that travellers scored 8/10 or the new stylish and modern bathrooms. I need to know if this place has Wi-Fi! Recently my partner and I booked to go to Wales for a couple of days. He had warned me that we would be in the middle of nowhere, completely enclosed in the mountains of Snowdonia. Nope, no internet connection at all! He said. I didn’t believe him, of course, because this is 2016 and there’re hotspots everywhere, aren’t there?”….

A Little Piece of Botanic Japan | Lincoln’s Crystal Garden

A botanic paradise with koi ponds, bonsai trees and a crystal garden is probably the last thing you would expect to find in the small village of North Clifton just outside of Lincoln. I was just as surprised to stumble across it myself on a day trip to the city. Budda Maitreya’s garden is a must see if you want the peaceful afternoon of your dreams or just fancy stepping into Japan for a couple of hours!

Opening times are as follows: Source – http://www.buddhamaitreya.co.uk/japanese-garden/opening-times

 

“Open from the last weekend in March until the last weekend in October.

Tuesday to Friday – 10:30am to 5:30pm

Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays – 10:00am to 5:30pm

Monday – closed

 

Entrance fees (includes entry to the crystal garden)

£7.00 adults

£6.00 OAPs/students/unemployed/disabled

£4.00 children (over 5 years)”

 

Once you have paid Budda Maitreya you are then free to wander around the garden undisturbed. Luckily for us when we visited the garden it was a bright summer’s day so the whole place really came to life. In corners of the site there are little shrines with stone buddas, perfect if you wanted to sit and meditate. Further back into the garden you walk through hundreds of plants and trees, it’s hard to imagine that this is someone’s back garden and a few miles down the street is a busy A-road. Words can’t describe just how breath-taking the place is, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking:

bm1bm2bm3bm4bm8

At the back of the garden is a koi pond. You can sit here and watch the fish meander through the waters. There’s little gold ones that zip and zoom through the reeds. There’s also much larger ones, which lazily swim around the pond, gobbling up food that lays around the edges. There are little stone bridges that cross the water and you are allowed to walk on them to move to another side of the pond and get a closer look of the fish. Just be careful and make sure you don’t fall in!

The highlight of visiting Budda Maitreya’s garden is the famous Crystal Garden. This sits at the entrance of the site. You open the door to what looks like a normal garden shed and you are instantly in the presence of a plethora of different crystals all varying in size and shapes. It’s so beautiful to look at. It’s also really cool in there compared to the outside, and on a hot day like the one when we were visiting it was just what we needed. It’s a really calming escape from the sun. We sat down, took our shoes off and sat in the quiet for a while taking in the power of the crystals. It’s a very tranquil experience

bm9bm10

It must have taken Budda Maitreya so much time and effort to create this beautiful garden and there’s no surprise as to why it has gotten so much attention. I urge people to come and experience this beauty first hand. It’s definitely worth the trip and I would love to go back one day to see if it’s grown even more!

My Favourite Place in Leeds | The Hidden Park

Spending your time in a big city for a long period of time can have its effects on you. You grow accustomed to tall grey buildings, constantly having to wait for traffic and dodging the hordes of people that fill the pavements. Whether it is passing through Leeds station to get to university or going into the city itself for work. I am used to these annoyances of urban life. In fact when is the last time you saw greenery during your morning/evening commute? The fake plants in your office reception don’t count!

ldspark

My favourite place in Leeds is a small area called ‘Park Square’ and it sits nicely in the finance part of Leeds – where the offices that belong to solicitors and lawyers are. In the summer while I’m having a busy day at work it’s the perfect place to come and eat lunch. Some days I will grab a seat on a vacant bench in the shade. I’ll sit and watch the groups of people chatting as they walk through the park. Other times I will lounge on the grass in the warm weather and relax with the other sun seekers, who have spread a towel out on the floor in preparation for sunbathing. As I sit in my favourite place in Leeds I read a paperback, the soft breeze cooling me down as I do so. On some occasions the familiar noise of an ice cream van grows louder and louder, until that said van has appeared next to the park. A line of men and women in suits gets larger and larger – each eager for a cool treat to take the edge off the heat.

This is my favourite place in Leeds because it’s an escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city while still being in the big city. It’s like my very own miniature version of Central Park. The perfect place to escape to on a summer’s day. It’s a good job it’s there because otherwise we would all have to sunbathe on the steps of the town hall or on the office floor!

Mission: KAWS | YSP’s Latest Exhibit

I have been to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park many times throughout my childhood, having grown up in West Yorkshire. Over the years I’ve seen different exhibits come and go in an ever changing display of talent from artists all around the world – all happening just a few miles from home! It’s been a few years since I’ve visited the park but after finding out about the latest edition to its collection I knew I would be back soon.

“This is the first UK museum exhibition of work by the renowned American artist KAWS, whose wide ranging practice includes painting, sculpture, graphic design, toys and prints. The expansive Longside Gallery features the artist’s large, bright, graphic canvases immaculately rendered in acrylic paint, alongside towering sculptures in fibreglass and wood. The historically designed landscape of YSP becomes home to a series of monumental and imposing sculptures in KAWS’s trademark style – nostalgic characters in the process of growing up.” – YSP.

kaws1kaws2kaws3kaws4kaws5kaws6

 

The first set of KAWS characters are out on the lower field, near to the main car park. They won’t be very hard to miss because they tower over the whole landscape. In fact the sheer scale of the characters is hard to imagine unless you’re stood looking up at them. They overshadow the people below, which makes you feel pretty small in comparison. Each character brings its own story with it, whether that be a child KAWS figure hiding behind its parents’ leg or the figure sat with a melancholic look on its face after having broken its nose. It’s up to your own imagination to interpret the story that is being told right in front of you. The fact that it deals with issues of childhood speaks to you on a personal level, which makes the works even more appealing as it is relatable in some way.

If you want a taster of the KAWS exhibit then I feel the seven figures on the lower field are enough. However, if you’re itching for more (like I was) then you can make the journey up the hill to the Longside Gallery – considering you’re prepared for the walk. In this gallery you are allowed to take photos but you can’t touch the pieces out of respect and to avoid the risk of damaging them. The KAWS characters up here take on a different appearance. They have a range of designs that incorporate colours that pop and give off a retro aesthetic. They are a nice accompaniment as well as a contrast to the other characters. My personal favourite in this gallery being the one holding the two little babies!

kaws7kaws8kaws9kaws10kaws11kaws12kaws13

 

It was my personal mission to get a photo with each of the KAWS characters during my visit. To make sure that I got to see every single one of them. If you’re now inspired to see the quirky characters for yourself, then you can still catch the collection as it is running until the 12th June at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I would totally recommend going to see the exhibit, it’s a fun way to spend the day and appreciate some art by a really talented artist!

Monkey Madness | Swinging Through Trees in the Lake District

To me there are pretty much two kinds of people who travel. There are those that just want to lounge on the beach and have the sea gently kiss their toes to keep them cool. They want a cocktail of all the colours of the rainbow by their side and they don’t want to think about work or responsibilities back home. On the other hand there are those that strap themselves up with every kind of sports, hiking or ski gear that they own and go off on their adventures for an action packed holiday full of adrenaline and danger. I’d like to think I’m somewhere in the middle but people that know me know full well that I’m not the latter. In fact any physical activity more challenging than walking doesn’t really agree with me.

We had booked to go to the Lake District for my partner’s birthday. We hadn’t really planned out what we were going to do except visit Lake Windermere since we were staying nearby and tackle a few of the walking routes, a pretty standard trip for anyone visiting the area I would guess. Very close to where we were staying was a ‘Go Ape’. If you’re unfamiliar with ‘Go Ape’ it is an adventure course which involves climbing over different wooden obstacles in the top of trees. There are zip wires and barrels to crawl through and things to jump onto, it’s very muddy and looked intense. We drove past it a number of times while we were going back and forth from our hotel, each time we saw people clambering above the forest floor meters and meters in the air. We toyed with the idea of doing it ourselves but could we really do it? Were we brave enough?

Well that is exactly what we did. We decided to go and try it out. After signing up we were led to a small clearing next to the forest. We got helmets strapped on and harnesses attached before a brief safety lesson, at this point I’m pretty sure I still didn’t know what I was doing but I thought it was best to go with the flow. We followed our instructor into the forest, now the trees towered above us, other groups were swinging from tree to tree through the series of complicated looking obstacles. One person jumped from her podium onto a net and I grew even more nervous, hoping that I wouldn’t have to do that. After a more detailed orientation I felt more confident and we were left to get on with the real course after a practise. Now those trees are higher than you think and with every breeze the wood moves from side to side taking you with it, your legs turn to jelly and I forget the unforgettable rule ‘don’t look down!’. The adrenaline starts pumping and I am motivated to take a step forward. I walk onto a rickety rope bridge. Images of Indiana Jones flash through my mind and I’m convinced it’s going to break, causing me to fall into a river full of alligators – ok maybe I’m being dramatic.

CgfD1EnXIAE1CqM

Slowly but steadily I make it to the end of the course and I am greeted with a zip wire. I attach myself to it and stand there for a minute and look around. The birds fly out of the trees right next to me as I am the same height as them. I build up the courage and step off the platform. Now I am gliding through the air. I feel like I could reach out and grab one of the rich green leaves from the branches of the trees. I gain speed. Faster and faster I cut through the sky, the wild blowing breeze refreshes me instantly. I feel like I could just keep flying through the forest like those birds I saw earlier, but I land at the other side of the forest. I slide through the mud as I slow down. My first thought is that I want to go again. I want to run across the fields, climb the tree, work through the course and jump from the podium over and over again!

After the course we took our gear off and went to the reception where we were given a certificate, which means I am now an official ‘Ape’ so if anyone questions it I have proof! I know that for most people the course wouldn’t be challenging at all, but for this guy with asthma who got picked last in P.E at high school every time it was out of my comfort zone. I think it brought something to my experience of the Lake District that I wasn’t expecting since it wasn’t planned. I guess that’s the message of the story. Don’t be afraid to try something different while you are away, it’s good to throw away the itinerary and do it freestyle!

 

If my readers want to explore ‘Go Ape’ adventures further I have included a link to their website. They offer a range of activities all over the UK! (This article was not written for promotion. I have just written about my experience doing something different in the Lake District.)
https://goape.co.uk/