Isle Of Scilly Couple Beach Isle Of Scilly Cromwell Castle “Where?” people asked. “Is that the island off the coast of Italy?” others asked. While a part of me wished that I was going to the gorgeous island of Sicily to soak up some Italian sunshine, I was going to somewhere just as beautiful! If you are still confused about where the blimmin’ hell I was heading, the Isles of Scilly are an archipelago off the coast of Cornwall. There are 5 inhabited islands that you can visit with ease but there are a whopping 140 uninhabited islands in the area too! So, here’s exactly why you should consider the Isles of Scilly as your next destination… Isle Of Scilly Group of Friends

The Weather

You’d think that because you’re still technically in the UK, you’d be destined for gloomy, miserable weather no matter what time of year you go (apart from the unpredictable week of glorious sunshine we seem to get in Spring/Summer). But no, given the fact that the Isles are the most Southern point of the UK, their climate is surprisingly tropical! Isle Of Scilly Beach View

The Beaches

So, do you want crystal clear waters? Forget Mexico, forget Bali, head to the Isles of Scilly. When I showed my Uncle some photos of the beach, his immediate reaction was “that is the kind of beach we were looking for when we booked our Mexico honeymoon”! There are hundreds of little beaches dotted around the Island. We visited in May and rarely saw other people on the beaches with us! Unfortunately (despite my previous point), we did have some freak cold/rainy weather in May which meant the sea was absolutely freezing – but the beaches were still the perfect place to chill out and explore! Isle Of Scilly Food Burger

The Food

Oh. My. God. This should be my first point really. The food on the Isles of Scilly is impeccable, no matter where you eat. My personal favourite was brunch in The Flying Boat Bar & Bistro on Tresco Island (which was handily right outside our accommodation), I highly recommend! Isle Of Scilly Flying Boat Cottages Isle Of Scilly Flying Boat Cottages

The Accommodation

We stayed in the Friendship Cottage (one of the Flying Boat cottages) on Tresco Island and I only have good things to say about it. The cottage was spacious, well decorated, modern and had an impressive veranda area that led onto the beach. The master bedroom had huge double doors that opened onto a small balcony with a perfect view of the sea. There aren’t many better views you could wake up to (apart from maybe George Clooney, I don’t know).

RELATED: I've been trying to explore more of England recently, see all of my posts on our glorious country here

Isle of Scilly Tresco Abbey Gardens Isle of Scilly Red Squirrels

The Wildlife

Both in plant form and animal form, the wildlife on these Island will make you feel like you’ve to a tropical Caribbean Island. For plant-life, Tesco Abbey Gardens is where you need to be (and I’m not just bias because my friend works here).The gardens are really beautiful, especially on a sunny day and will make for the perfect afternoon of wandering. For animals, head to St Agnes Island where you will be able to take tours to (try!) see seals as well as many different species of birds. We unfortunately didn't have time to take this trip but we did spot the gorgeous Golden Pheasant! Isle of Scilly Accomodation Isle of Scilly Gallery

The Chilled-Out Lifestyle

If you’re looking for a chilled, relaxing break, there isn’t a better place. If I were to summarise a perfect day on the Islands, it would be waking up to the view of the sea before having your morning cuppa on the beach. A long brunch is the best way to get your energy (especially with the Islands’ great food) before taking a long relaxing stroll across any of the Islands taking in the truly picturesque scenery. While there may not be many people living on the islands (a 2001 consensus shows that there were a mere 2,153 people living there), they have the best lifestyle. Everybody knows each other, everybody is friendly and the relaxing lifestyle works wonders. Isle of Scilly Girl At Sunset Isle of Scilly Sunset View

The Sunsets

If there’s one thing that having a friend in living in the Isles of Scilly who regularly sends me pictures has taught me, it’s that the Isles of Scilly have the most impressive sunsets in the whole of the UK. No, I haven’t tried and tested this, but I am almost 100% sure that this is the case. So, if you’re ever considering a break in the UK, make sure you give the Isles of Scilly some thought, you won’t regret it. If you're thinking of taking a trip, make sure you check out the Isles of Scilly Travel website for advice & bookings! Have you ever been, what was your favourite part?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own.

Danielle1

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT THE ISLE OF SCILLY

Ice Lolly Blog At the BeachBlog At The Beach Friends I type this semi-tipsy on a 4 hour train journey home from Leeds after an amazing day with Ice Lolly at their #blogatthebeach event. If you couldn’t make it to the event, here’s exactly what you missed! Please excuse the dodgy camera quality, apparently, I was too engaged by the talks to grab my proper camera from my bag and settled for my phone instead (something I NEVER do, so the talks must have been good)! Introduction First up, we were treated to an introduction talk by the lovely people of Ice Lolly, telling us more about their brand and how they want to work with bloggers going forwards - really interesting and you should definitely check out their website if you're looking for a cheap holiday - I've just found some fab deals! Growing Your Instagram – Rhianna (Rhianna Olivia) Blog At The Beach Rhianna Olivia First up was a talk by Rhianna on how to grow your Instagram organically (no bots or follow4follow here)! Let’s face it, Rhianna has defied all odds by gaining almost 10,000 Instagram followers within a year organically, so she’s probably the best person to advise on the matter! To be completely honest, with all of the changes that Instagram has gone through recently with algorithms etc. I’ve completely fallen out of love with the platform. Sometimes I go through posting sessions, but more often than not, it’s a dormant account. But, after this talk, I feel like I probably should up my Instagram game! My favourite tips from the talk were:
  • Engage with other accounts directly before you post a photo – I only ever have a commenting/liking spree after posting, so this will be interesting to test!
  • Make sure you use a mixture of popular and less popular hashtags on each picture and make sure they vary from picture to picture – okay okay, I know shadow-banning exists, but I’m super lazy and do just tend to copy and paste my hashtags from a previous post – having someone actually say the point to me in real life reiterated it a bit more!
  • Use text replacement on your phone to input hashtags automatically to save time – I am totally looking for a way to do this on Android phones as soon as I have finished typing this blog post!
Lunch & Challenges Blog At The Beach FoodIce lolly Challenges Next up, we took a break for lunch and made a start on our “challenges” for the day. Ice Lolly set us a bunch of challenges that we needed to complete by the end of the day for the chance of winning an Instax camera – Gina and I took this very seriously and were on the case! Unfortunately, we didn’t win, but massive congratulations to Ashton who did! Creativity for Busy Bloggers By Jen (She Gets Around) Ice lolly Challenges She Gets AroundNext up was a talk by Jen – who by the way is one of the most energetic people you will ever meet. I wish I had that much energy and I almost felt tired just watching her! Her talk was all about exactly how to spark creativity and enthusiasm for blogging and is something I really needed right now! At one point during the talk, Jen made us all pick an object in the room and write a poem about it to get our creative juices flowing – naturally, I wrote a poem about a light bulb, begging Ice Lolly to let me win the trip to Ibiza, and here it is….
Oh that light bulb, how bright it shines, Like the trip to Ibiza, I wish that trip was mine. The light bulb brightens the day, Oh to go to Ibiza I pray, Ice Lolly, please send me away!
Gina can confirm that I did write this masterpiece in the 5 minute time frame given at the event rather than as a ploy whilst writing this blog post, ha! My top tips from the talk were:
  • Act like a child as they have the most creative brains. They don’t have as many rules in life as they are still learning – this I something I really need to engage with. If something doesn’t make sense to me, I don’t like it. I really need to let go!
  • Make sure you talk to people and get their ideas on your blog as one brain is better than one. At one point during the talk, Jen made us pair up with someone who hasn’t read our blogs, give them a 2-minute briefing on what our blog is about and then they gave us immediate pointers on what they would do within that genre. I was teamed up with the lovely Rebecca who blogs about film and travel, her tip for me was to do multiple posts on each city encapsulating everything so that my blog is a one-stop-shop for everything a person needs to know on that city – something I will start trying to do from now on!
  • Don’t be embarrassed – a lot of the time, people hold back on what they really want to say or who they want to say it to because they are embarrassed. At the moment, only a small selection of my friends know about my blog. Most people don’t understand writing about your holidays on the internet – I need to let go of this and embrace my passion!
Making Money From Your Blog by Jess (The Travelista) Ice lolly Challenges The TravelistaLet’s start off by saying that Jess is an unbelievably beautiful human inside and out. Many people shy away from the topic of monetisation as it can be a touchy subject but Jess was inspiring, down to earth and completely natural/honest. Jess runs a luxury travel blog full time which is incredible in itself, but when she started speaking, that’s when I realised quite how much of a great entrepreneur she is. #girlboss and all that. Have I made it clear how big my girl crush is on Jess yet? Yes? Good, let’s get to the nitty gritty then, my top tips from the talk were:
  • Always upsell your products – the brand wants a sponsored blog post? You offer them the complete package of a blog post, Instagram posts, video content, tweets and a Facebook post. Or, offer something bigger and better, bring ideas to the table and prove your worth.
  • Opportunities aren’t always going to land on your lap, you’ve got to make your name heard and present yourself to brands – I need to stop being so shy!
  • And my favourite quote from Jess’ presentation – “paid blogging isn’t about numbers or luck, it’s about being pro-active and business minded” – it’s time I started treating this little space on the internet as a proper business rather than something that just brings in some spare cash every now and again.
The Alchemist After rounding up the talks and some more mingling, we headed over to The Alchemist for some 2 for 1 cocktails which were amazing as always! It was lovely to meet everyone and all three speakers were really inspiring.  A big thank you to the Ice Lolly team (especially Emma) who threw a great event! Now to catch some zzz’s on the train home – looking forward to the next event!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I was invited to the event by Ice Lolly and had a genuinely great time!

Danielle1

BLOG AT THE BEACH PINTEREST

The Royal Hotel Southend Exterior Royal Hotel Southend Interior Royal Hotel Southend Ballroom Royal Hotel Southend Savoury Platter Royal Hotel Southend Earl of Grey Royal Hotel Southend Cakes Desserts Recently, the lovely Penny organised for a group of #EssexBloggers to head down to The Royal Hotel in Southend-On-Sea to sample their food and drinks menus - and I have one word for the morning - "wow". Okay... I have a few more words, otherwise this would be a very short blog post. I don't spend much time in Southend, so I didn't know much about the restaurant beforehand but I can safely say that it is my new favourite restaurant and cocktail bar in Essex and I will definitely be back regularly! Whilst it is called "The Royal Hotel", they currently do not have any hotel rooms and it is just a restaurant/bar but do not let that deter you - it's worth a trip just for the food and drinks! The History On arrival, we were greeted by the very lovely Matt (who bought the building with his brother a few years ago) and were told a little bit about the gorgeous building. The Royal Hotel is a listed property built in 1971 and was a hot-spot for former royalty and aristocracy including Princess Caroline & Napoleon! Before Matt and co bought the property, it had spiralled into a realm of madness. The beautiful listed building had boarded windows and was used for local "raves". If you saw the interior now, you would have absolutely no idea as the team have done a really incredible job in turning the place around. The Cocktail Bar Matt's brother Dave is the resident mixologist and BLIMMIN 'ELL does he do an incredible job. The cocktail list currently comprises of around 50 different drinks, many of which are created in-house and are completely original! We tried 2 of the cocktails from the main cocktail menu being "The Earl of Grey" and the "Mrs Kensington" - both were absolutely incredible. I wouldn't normally choose gin over other spirits, but if I will definitely be ordering a "Mrs Kensington" on my return! Dave is also working on a number of new and exciting ideas revolving around molecular mixology (if those big words scare you - think Heston Blumenthal and The Alchemist). As it was the Easter weekend, he was experimenting with creating an egg-like shape which popped when putting your straw through the yolk - as an avid fan of both dippy eggs and cocktails, I very much approved of this idea! And don't worry, The Royal Hotel is a very short walk from both Southend Central and Southend Victoria train stations, so there's no need to be the designated driver and miss out on the cocktails! Tapas style "small plates" and tasting platters can also be ordered at the bar - the menu is to die for and I think I could happily surround myself with every one of their small plates! The Lounge We were seated in the "lounge" area which has a super cosy yet sophisticated feel to it. The website quotes that this area is "perfect for an informal  lunch or early dinner in a relaxed setting" and I can agree to that! We were served an array of different tasting platters and all of them were absolutely amazing! Our savoury platters were filled with traditional British finger foods but with a twist - including a scotch egg where the meat had been replaced with fish. I haven't eaten fish in over 10 years, yet one fish dish looked SO good that I just had to try it - this is a BIG deal and a true testament to how good the food we tried was! The sweet platter was just as good with the bakewell tart being my absolute favourite - which isn't a surprise if you know me! We all said that the cakes were on par if not better than top London restaurants which makes me very excited to go back and try the Afternoon Tea that The Royal Hotel offer! The Ballroom The Ballroom is the restaurant's formal dining area upstairs. As we visited during the day, the room had been booked for a wedding reception and we got to have a sneak peak before the party arrived. It is a really gorgeous room with great views out to the seaside! Afternoon teas are also served in this area and it is the perfect spot for it! The Verdict You NEED to try this restaurant if you find yourself in Essex (or Southend specifically). Not only are both Matt and Dave really lovely people, they really know how to run a restaurant and you will not be disappointed with either the food or the cocktails! For information on booking and copies of the menus, see here. A big thank you to Penny for organising and also Matt and Dave for their hospitality. A shout out to Donna and Lucy also who were the best company! Disclaimer: I was invited to the Royal Hotel as a guest and did not pay for my visit, however this blog post is written of my own accord for no payment and all thoughts are my own!Danielle1  
After dipping my toes into the realm of UK travel last year and discovering two of my favourite cities (Edinburgh and York, you are beauties), this year I have vowed that I will see more of our glorious little nation. My first port of call in 2017 was the "Island City" of Portsmouth - did you know Portsmouth is technically an island? I didn't - you learn something new every day! Myself and my buddy Alex jumped in the car early one Saturday morning to visit our uni-going friend Graceybum (who would probably prefer to be referred to by the name Grace but that's boring) and we had the BEST weekend. I am now very concious of the fact that Grace has shown my blog to her uni buddies and they are probably sniggering at the fact that someone could write a travel blog post about Portsmouth... shut up guys, I promise I have super exciting posts about Morocco and Canada coming up. When I returned to work, all I heard was "what is there to do in Portsmouth!? That must have been boring" - oh how wrong they are! When you live somewhere, you don't tend to truly explore the area like a tourist would, so we decided to make Grace visit all of the touristy areas! Get ready for the ultimate tourist-fest!

Day One

Drive!  First job of the day was to jump in the car and drive our ass' to Portsmouth - it takes us around 2 hours to get to Portsmouth from our near-coastal towns in Essex, so it's the perfect journey for a weekend! Alternatively, Portsmouth has great train connections to London and the surrounding areas. Grab an Amazing Late Breakfast / Brunch IMG_4841 v2IMG_4843 v2 Before arriving in Portsmouth, Grace had expressed that she wanted to visit The Tenth Hole for breakfast/cake/both. We obviously happily obliged and I shouted from the rooftops to anybody at work who would listen about how amazing the cake in this cafe looked, so obviously this was our first stop. I opted for the the breakfast bruschetta followed by a GIANT slab of chocolate fudge cake and they were both incredible! (If you're reading this The Tenth Hole, please have your bakewell in stock next time I visit - the photo on your website looks TOO good to be true)! Play a Round of Crazy Golf (... or two) IMG_4858 v2 The Tenth Hole is situated on a golf course, which lead to the revelation that Alex had never played golf of any kind before (not even crazy golf), which obviously meant we had to enlighten her on the sport of champions. So we headed down to Treasure Island Mini Golf and completed both crazy golf courses like the absolute cool kids that we are. If crazy golf isn't your thing (I refuse to believe that you visited the sea-side if you didn't play a spot of crazy golf), there are fairground rides and Clarence Pier in this general area - or you can skip to the next stage of the journey... Enjoy the Beach!  IMG_4855 v2IMG_4867 v2 A beach? In England? In February? Yep, you're right, we were blessed with some freaky weather during this weekend and a stroll across the beach was just what the doctor ordered. Splash The Cash at Gunwharf Quay A few years ago, you could count on me for a shopping trip, I'd have been recently and I'd know exactly what each shop is selling at that present moment  right now, I couldn't care less. So it's very strange for me to really enjoy a little shopping area! Gunwharf Quay is an outlet designer shopping centre right in the middle of the city - it's sleek, it's modern and it's surrounded by loads of fab looking restaurants - perfect! Take a Trip Up the Spinnaker Tower IMG_4945 v2IMG_4905 v2IMG_4894 v2Tile 2Now, for perhaps the most touristy item of all - if you're only in Portsmouth for a short period of time, it would be rude not to visit the Spinnaker Tower really! This led to lots of freaking out on my part while trying to get onto the glass floor section of the viewing area - note to self: you don't like heights. Annoyingly, the Spinnaker Tower's windows are tinted blue and whilst the view is fab, taking photos is an absolute nightmare!

Day Two

More Amazing Breakfast... Duh IMG_4919 v2 After yesterday's amazing breakfast, we knew that day two's breakfast would have to be pretty damn good to top it. We headed to Feed and the food was unreal - I opted for the Eggs Benedict (apparently I had an fixation with eggs this weekend) but all of the full English options looked amazing! The Historic Dockyard IMG_4926 v2 Another big "must" if you want to be the ultimate Portsmouth tourist is a trip to the Historic Dockyard to see the likes of the likes of the Mary Rose and the HMS Victory. Tickets looked pretty pricey, but as we were entering,  a nice security man told us that there's a free ticket available if you just want to wander around and not actually enter any of the ships - so we opted for that! Portsdown Hill  IMG_4953 v2Slowly running out of ideas for things to do in Portsmouth, we turned to trusty old TripAdvisor and decided to take a drive up Portsdown Hill for pretty views of the city and the opportunity to play with horses! Grace says that the view from Portsdown Hill is even prettier at night when the city is all lit-up and pretty! Fort Nelson IMG_4987 v2IMG_5001 v2 On the way up to the viewpoint on Portsdown Hill, we drove past Fort Nelson and were sold at the "FREE ADMISSIONS" sign glaring in our faces, so on our way back down the hill, we decided to make a pit-stop. The fort was MUCH bigger than we had expected and is the perfect activity to fill a few hours without breaking the bank (although you would need to drive there). Take a Trip to Southampton Tile 1 On the weekend of our visit, Southampton's Westquay was having a "Festival of Light", so we decided to head down in the evening to check it out and attempt to take some nice photos (emphasis on the word "attempt"). Eat More Food We tried so hard to find Bills, only to be turned away at the door (apparently everyone else at the festival also wanted to eat in Bills) but we stumbled across Thaikhun and fell in love with their Thai food - I'm very upset that they don't have any Essex / London branches! With very full stomachs, we jumped back in the car to start our 2 hour journey back to Essex. After a surprisingly good weekend (tourist attraction-wise, I knew the company would be good!), I'm looking for more UK cities to explore for the weekend - where would you recommend? Have you been a tourist in your own city recently? I'd love to hear about it!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

IMG_3477 v2IMG_3468 v2IMG_3478 v3 If you've read my London Winter Bucket List, you'll know that I wanted to try a "festive" afternoon tea because there is no combination better than "food" and "Christmas". You may also be aware if you follow me on Twitter that I have two work buddies who are also bloggers, so we jumped at the chance to make a booking a B Bakery in Covent Garden for one night after work! Sadly Charlie (lifestyle blogger) wasn't able to make the evening but it's okay because myself and Amy (baking blogger) definitely ate enough on her behalf! I'll stop nattering now and get on to the good stuff... B Bakery Formally know as "Bridget's Bakery", B Bakery is famous for it's Afternoon Tea bus tours which, if you hadn't guessed, involve eating a selection of Afternoon Tea classic foods whilst touring around London on a big red bus - could you do something more quintessentially English? My friend Charlie has written about her experience on the bus here if you're interested. I really like the idea and it would be great for someone who is only in the city for a few days but wants to sample the English tradition of Afternoon Tea whilst still being able to continue their sightseeing! However, if you're not a fan of eating whilst in motion (not an issue for me, I will eat wherever and whenever I can), you'll be glad to hear that the have a cute little bakery in Covent Garden. The Menu From 15 November 2016 - 5 January 2017, B Bakery offer a "Christmas Afternoon Tea" and the menu features some great twists on the usual afternoon tea classics. The turkey sandwich was to die for (who doesn't love a good turkey sandwich?!) and there wasn't one thing on the menu that we didn't enjoy. I only removed the salmon from the smoked salmon blinis as I don't eat fish - otherwise everything was perfect! The only thing that could have improved the menu is something that truly makes you think of a good Christmas dinner like pigs in blankets maybe? I am obsessed with those tasty little buggers. There was a wide selection of teas and coffees, including one Christmas Tea which is cinnamon based - yum! But of course I opted for the hot chocolate which was great! As well as a hot drink, a glass of fresh orange juice and a glass of prosecco are included in the price! Menu.PNG Overall Opinion For £33 on a weekday and £36 on a weekend, this isn't the most expensive afternoon tea experience available, you get a lot of food/drink and it will definitely get you in the Christmas spirit - there's something about pulling a Christmas cracker and plonking a silly hat on my head (ridiculous selfie below) that makes Christmas seem real - so if you are in London and want to try something new, I'd definitely give this a go! IMG_3480 - v2 I'm an avid fan of afternoon teas and it was great to try something a bit different to the usual fare. Have you visited B Bakery before? What did you think?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

London Winter Pavement LightsLondon Oxford Street LightsLondon Winter Snow Big BenLondon Harry Potter Studios HogwartsLondon Festive Afternoon Tea B Bakery
Where photos are not my own, the watermark shows the credited author. Please click on the photo to view the original source.
Working in London means I take it for granted and don't go out of my way to enjoy what the city has to offer. I rarely visit London at the weekends seeing as I have to do the 3 hour round commute every week day already! However, London is the perfect place during Winter (despite the bitterly cold weather). So in an attempt to get myself out and exploring this beautiful city, here is the ultimate Winter London Bucket List!
  1. Visit the ultimate Christmas London destination - Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
  2. See the Covent Garden decorations because who doesn't love a giant reindeer?
  3. Ice skating at Somerset House (once I stop being a wuss)
  4. See the amazing window displays on Oxford Street
  5. Eat festive treats at Borough Market (... and the non festive treats... JUST EAT EVERYTHING)
  6. Explore the lights of Kew Garden After Dark
  7. See a Christmas show on the West End - Cinderella pantomime anyone?
  8. Stumble across Christmas Markets
  9. Take a frosty walk around the many parks - who knows, you might be lucky and get snow!
  10. See Trafalgar Square's  giant Christmas tree (which apparently resembles a gerkin this year lol)
  11. Grab a mulled wine... or two!
  12. Splurge on loved ones in Harrods and Hamley's for the little ones!
  13. Curl up in a cosy English pub to escape the cold because there's nothing better than a hearty pub lunch!
  14. Treat yo'self to a luxury Christmas decoration from Liberty (and then cry when it comes out of the loft broken next year)
  15. Explore the WHOLE Christmas floor at Selfridges (and probably the other floors too, just for good measure)
  16. If Somerset House isn't your cup of tea, head to Canary Wharf for futuristic skating surrounded by skyscrapers
  17. Experience a luxury Fortnum and Mason Christmas Hamper
  18. Go for a festive afternoon tea
  19. Get squished in the crowds watching the New Years Eve fireworks
  20. Eat your way through the Taste of London Festive Festival (which is stupidly in November and I have now missed)
  21. Go behind the scenes of the films and visit the Harry Potter Studios for "Hogwarts in the Snow"
  22. Hit the Boxing Day sales (... if you're brave)
  23. Drink in a rooftop WigWam surrounded by Winter Nordic Viking decor at Queen of Hoxton
  24. Shop, eat and Drink at the Southbank Winter Market
  25. Test your cold threshold by taking a drink at The Ice Bar
  26. Just explore and enjoy all of the pretty twinkly lights!

RELATED: Want to see my all-year round London bucket list? Be sure to read this!

I absolutely love the city at this time of year and definitely want to take a trip one weekend in December - is there anything else you love doing in London? Also, I'm heading to Toronto this Winter, recommendations for Toronto are welcomed! :-)

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

IMG_3296 v2 What Is The Essex Pass?  If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may have heard about my love for The Essex Pass. Despite my blog name, I'm not ALWAYS trying to escape Essex, in fact I love finding new things to do in the local area. That's where the Essex Pass comes into play - 12 months membership will cost you a mere £9.99 and will give you loads of discounts in Essex (most of which are 2 people for the price of 1)! If you live in Essex and want to find some new things to do (like me), or you will be in the area for a short period of time and want to do more of the touristy attractions in the area, I couldn't recommend this card enough! I've recently visited the Original Great Maze and also Hazle's Pottery Barn using the pass, but this was the first time we had used it for a FULL day out - so I thought I'd share it all with you because it was a really great day (although it included a very strange mixture of activities - from sports, to history to animals)! Rope Runners IMG_3269 v2IMG_3271 v2IMG_3284 v2
  • Location: Ongar Rd, Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood, CM15 0LA
  • Normal Price: £28 per person
  • Essex Pass Price: £28 for 2 people = £14 each
  • Website: http://www.roperunners.co.uk/
If you want to complete the full day of activities listed in this post, you'll need to book on to a 10am Rope Runners course. The booking lasts for 2.5 hours and your get to do as many courses as you like in that amount of time as possible! There are 6 rope courses in total, 2 at ground level, 2 at medium height and 2 high up courses. Being completely afraid of heights, the medium levels were quite enough for me but Callum completed all of them (with only a few little moans on the high levels). Each course ends with a zip-wire (there's a brilliant video of me being terrified on the podium and refusing to do it, before doing it, realising it was fun and then falling on my face at the end - not sure that video will ever make it to the internet!). And there's also a huge stand-alone zip-wire which we both also completed. The staff were super helpful and friendly, so if you want a fun activity-based day out, this is the place for you! They also have archery, air rifle, paint balling and water-zorbing to choose from, so there's something for everyone! You can tell I'm not built for sports however.. it's the day after and my legs hurt... Secret Nuclear Bunker IMG_3293 v2IMG_3300 v2IMG_3339 v2
  • Location: Ongar Rd, Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood CM15 0LA
  • Normal Price: £7 per person
  • Essex Pass Price = £7 for 2 people = £3.50 each
  • Opening Times: 10am - 4pm (5pm on weekends in Summer)
  • Website: http://www.secretnuclearbunker.com/
If you're visiting Rope Runners, it would be wrong not to also visit the Secret Nuclear Bunker as they are located right next door to each other! This photo made it's way round social media a while back as the "secret" bunker is clearly not much of a secret! You enter the bunker through what looks like a normal little house before picking up an audio guide - I think the tour took us about 2 hours but it was great! According to the website, this is the biggest and deepest Cold War bunker that's open to the public in the South East of England. After the heat of the Cold War died down, the bunker was no longer needed and the Government sold it, hence we are now able to visit it as tourists! It's so strange to see something of such historic importance so close to your home! Hopefield Animal Sanctuary IMG_3344 v2IMG_3359 v2IMG_3400 v2IMG_3444 v2
  • Location: Sawyers Hall Farm, Sawyers Hall Ln, Brentwood CM15 9BZ
  • Normal Price: £5 per person
  • Essex Pass Price = £5 for 2 people = £2.50 each
  • Opening Times: 10am - 4pm
  • Website: http://www.hopefield.org.uk/
Located a mere 20 minute drive away, I couldn't help making a quick visit to Hopefield Animal Sanctuary! The sanctuary isn't huge, and it won't take you much longer than an hour to see all of the animals on display. Even so, there's a great range of animals to see including many horses, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, alpacas, raccoons, various reptiles, birds and many more! The sanctuary is a non-profit organisation caring for around 200 unwanted, sick or mistreated animals. They require donations and volunteers to continue their great work - so if you're in the area, make sure you stop by! Even the former X-Factor winner Leona Lewis is a huge supporter of the work they do! There are plenty of other ways you can help out including volunteering and adopting an animal. And for only £20 you can have a full animal experience day - my sister has already asked me to buy her this for her birthday! Highlight of the day: I didn't know that Racoon Dogs exist - but apparently they do, and I love them so much. So god damn cute. And in Conclusion... We had a really great day out! The close proximity for these three activities means that it's easy to do all three in one day (providing you get to Rope Runners early)! The full day out would normally cost £40, but with The Essex Pass, it will cost you a mere £20. For three activities spanning 10am to 4pm, I think that's a pretty great deal! Plus, given The Essex Pass only costs £9.99, you've already made your money back! Apart from the Secret Nuclear Bunker, without The Essex Pass, I wouldn't have known these activities exist and I can't wait to find out about more hidden gems near home! Does your local area have a discount pass? Have you ever used it?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

Y'know that big shiny building affectionately referred to as "The Walkie Talkie"? The one that accidentally melted cars when it was first erected? Well... it turns out that on the top floor of this building (155m high!), there's a super cool bar set in a garden themed area. And best of all? It's free! The Sky Garden is a glass dome at the top of the building which spans 3 storeys and offers 360 degree views of this beautiful city. You can expect delicious cocktails, gorgeous views and funky tunes (yes, there is a DJ in amongst all the greenery!). How to Book Like I already mentioned, the Sky Garden is free to visit but you do need to make an online booking prior to arrival. Time slots are available online 3 weeks beforehand and can be booked up to 1 hour before your arrival. If you're planning on visiting on a weekday, the booking process should be easy peasy. However, the weekend slots are notoriously hard to get, so make sure you're online 3 weeks beforehand!

RELATED: Thinking of heading to the Sky Garden? Check out my "London Bucket List" to see what else you can do during your time in London! 

Why You Should Go
  • Let's not beat around the bush, London is an expensive city, so any free activity is a good one! Friends of mine have said that the Sky Garden is better than the Shard which you have to pay to visit - I can't comment as I've never visited the Shard! I feel somewhat reluctant to visit now that I've had such a great experience at the Sky Garden.
  • The cocktails are absolutely insane. Whilst they are slightly pricey at around £11 each, I've paid up to £16 for a cocktail in the city and given the fact that this is such a touristy attraction, I don't think £11 is too bad! Each cocktail takes a little while to make, so make sure you order as soon as you arrive (we had dinner reservations booked in Central London, so had to down our drinks super quickly and run out the door once they had been made - that will teach me for taking so long admiring the view and taking photos beforehand...).
  • If you're a fan of London, the view is a pretty damn good one.
  • There are also two restaurants to dine in being the Fenchurch Restaurant and the Darwin Brasserie. I've heard good things about both and would absolutely love to try one (or both!).
Why You Shouldn't Go
  • As you can see from my above photos, there's a big chunk of glass separating you from the lovely view, so my photos are a bit crap. But I suppose having crap photos is better than plummeting to my death from 155m... I suppose.
Have you been to the Sky Garden? What Did You Think? Do you have any other recommendations for free things to do in London?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

I bloody love castles. If I had to pick my perfect day out in the UK, it would revolve around visiting a castle and eating a good pub lunch. So, you can imagine my excitement when I convinced my boyfriend that we needed a little day trip. We whittled our options down to Arundel Castle, Windsor Castle or visiting a relatively close tourist city like Cambridge or Oxford. Arundel was the winner and it was a really lovely day - even with the rain! What's Inside the Castle? The castle itself is huge. There are a few different ticket options available, which can be viewed here. We opted for the gold ticket which meant we could see the gardens, ground, Fitzalan chapel, Castle keep, main castle rooms, shop, restaurant and cafe. The Gold Plus ticket would have also allowed us to see the castle bedrooms, but we were only in Arundel for a quick day trip (it's a 2 hour journey from where we live) and we wanted time to see what the rest of Arundel has to offer. The grounds are absolutely stunning, it's the perfect place to spend a sunny day. The inside of the castle is interesting, varied and beautiful (my favourite information board was about Empress Matilda - she sounds like an absolute sassy babe!). What Else Can You Do In Arundel? Arundel is picture perfect. The drive into Arundel is beautiful. The main road into the town is surrounded by lush greenery with a great view of the castle and cathedral. Once you've spent enough time in the castle (although I don't think there's ever enough time, I could happily stroll around a castle for hours), I'd definitely recommend taking time to visit Arundel Cathederal. It's a short walk away and is a really beautiful Roman Catholic building. Arundel is also filled with adorable streets and shops. We spent some time exploring the cute little independent shops, there's definitely something for everyone - especially if you like fudge! We didn't have any time to explore Arundel further, but apparently there are some other really great things to do in Arundel including: What's In The Surrounding Areas? We originally tried to book an overnight stay in Arundel so that we could do 2 days of exploring and break up the 2 hour drive each way. However, we planned everything a little bit too late and couldn't get any decently priced hotels - woe is us! If we had a second day, we had a few ideas for things to do outside of Arundel including exploring South Downs National Park which is filled with fun activities such as gliding, hot air balloon rides, cycling, walking, Geocaching and horseriding. The main thing that made me want to visit South Downs so much is that, it is the world's newest International Dark Sky Reserve (IDSR) meaning stargazing is incredible. I want to be wrapped up warm in blankets, sitting under the stars enjoying the sights please! We obviously didn't get to do this because of time restrictions but I'm dying to go back and experience it! By way of larger cities, Brighton is a 40 minute drive from the castle, Worthing is 18 minutes, Chichester is 20 minutes and finally you can reach Bognor Regis in 22 minutes. I'm looking for more castles to discover in England, where would you recommend?!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

Given that I work in London, I tend to take the city for granted. So I've decided to draw up a London bucket list to make sure that I actually do more things in the city!

Tourist Attractions

There are hundreds of tourist attractions in London, so here is my small pick of the ones I'd like to try the most! 

1) Ride in the London Eye ✔ The London Eye is one of the most iconic sights in London - be sure to pre-book your trip and hope for good weather! 2) Visit the inside of Buckingham Palace & see the changing of the guard ✔ I've visited Buckingham Palace many times and seen the changing of the guard. However I didn't ever visit the inside until last year - it was amazing and you can read all about it here. 3) Do a tour of the Tower of London ✔ The Tower of London is another sight that I hadn't managed to see inside until very recently - we did a twilight tour and it was great! The Beefeaters tell brilliant stories and there is plenty to see inside! The Beefeater showing us around was from Chelmsford - so obviously we had a lot of Essex banter! 4) Take a cruise down the River Thames ✔ Whilst the river isn't the prettiest (unless you like murky green water), there are plenty of attractions to see along the river and this is the perfect thing to do on a sunny day! Read all about my experience here. 5) Take in the views from the Sky Garden Take a trip up to the Sky Garden (it's free!) for unrivalled views across London - but be sure to book your time slot in advance! There's also a bar and a restaurant! 6) Take in the more expensive views from the Shard The views that you're more likely to have heard of are from the Shard. A rather controversial building (my boyfriend hates it and says it looks unfinished... he's a bore). I've never been to the Sky Garden or the Shard but I'm swaying towards the Sky Garden... just because it's free! 7) Climb the O2 Arena You can now climb/walk across the top of the O2 Arena! Imagine doing this while the sun sets - perfect! 8) Visit inside St Paul's Cathedral I love a good Cathedral, so how have I not been inside St Paul's Cathedral? Probably because it's expensive! If the UK had as many free-entry beautiful cathedrals as the rest of Europe, I'd be one happy girl. 9) Hear the chimes of Big Ben ✔ Everyone needs to go and see Big Ben (and the surrounding area!), get their infamous Big Ben selfie and hear the chimes - they happen on the hour every hour if you're wondering. 10) Hire a Boris bike for the day A "boris bike" is the affectionate Londoner term for the Santander cycles you see throughout the city - simply pay, cycle and then plug the bike back in a the closest bike bank to your destination. A cheap way to get around the city quickly but be warned - the roads of London can be crazy and we don't have many cycle lanes! 11) Visit Windsor Castle and get the iconic "long walk" photo This is probably at the top of my list of things to do right now - Windsor Castle looks incredible and is only a short train ride out of London to picturesque Windsor! 12) Visit the Houses of Parliament  This is something I will be doing in November as my qualification's ceremony is held inside the Houses of Parliament - AMAZING! 13) Get the iconic Abbey Road photo Heard of The Beatles? Of course you have. So head over to Abbey Road and get that iconic photo! 14) Explore Kensington Palace Can I wander the halls pretending to be Kate Middleton? You can call me the Duchess of Cambridge from now on.... a girl can dream! 15) Roam around getting camera happy at Kew Gardens When the city is filled with hustle and bustle, it's nice to escape to the peace and quiet. There are plenty of parks to choose from in the city, but Kew Gardens is at the top of my list of green places to see right now! 16) Take in the views from Primrose Hill Located in regent's park, if you want somewhere peaceful but closer to the city centre than Kew Gardens (see above), then Primrose Hill is the one for you! 17) Go pretend house shopping in Notting Hill / Chelsea / Kensington With rows and rows of gorgeous houses, what better place to go pretend house shopping?! Get a few #DoorsOfInstagram pictures while you're at it! ;-) 18) Visit Nelson in Trafalgar Square ✔ Nelson's Column stands tall in Trafalgar Square to commemorate Admiral Nelson. On the few days that we get sun in London, I've been known to sit by the fountains absorbing the sun on my lunch breaks. 19) Stroll around embankment at night ✔ One of my favourite areas of London is Embankment, especially at night. Walk across the bridges taking in the views of Big Ben, Parliament, The London Eye and London Bridge, all lit up and looking beautiful!

Harry Potter

1) Visit Platform 9 and 3/4  ✔ Located inside Kings Cross station, make sure you take the time to pretend you're a wizard but beware of long queues! 2) Walk across Millennium Bridge - hopefully with fewer dementors! ✔ Any of the bridges on the River Thames are great to stroll across and enjoy the views. However, if you're a Harry Potter fan, this is the bridge you'll be the biggest fan of! 3) Visit the reptile house at London Zoo (although I won't try talking to the snakes) ✔ The famous snake scene in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was filmed inside the reptile house inside London Zoo - take a peek inside if you're brave enough! 4) Visit Leadenhall Market  Leadenhall Market was apparently used as Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Even if you aren't a Harry Potter fan, this is a beautiful Victorian market building and should be worth a visit! 5) Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studios ✔ Located 20 miles North-West of central London, you'll find the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studios. While it's not in walking distance/a quick hop on the tube like the rest of the items on this list - if you're a Harry Potter fan, you need to check out the Studios!

Museums 

Most of the museums in London are free! Yipee! Therefore they make a really great day out if you want some culture but don't want to take out a mortgage (because let's face it, London is a pretty expensive city!). However, be warned, because they are free, they are often very busy on weekends and school holidays.

1) Get up close and personal with the dinosaurs at the history museum ✔ You've probably seen the iconic photos of the T-Rex towering in the main entrance hall, why not go see him? I'm sure he won't bite! This is one of my favourite museums in London and for good reason! 2) Explore the interactive exhibitions at the Science Museum ✔ If you're visiting London with kids and want to visit a Museum, the Science Museum is the one for you! I haven't been for a few years, but can remember so many interactive activities and kids loving every minute! 3) Marvel at the costumes at the V&A Museum ✔ As a former textiles and design student, it's safe to say that I have spent a lot of time exploring the costumes and clothing at the V&A Museum and it is definitely worth a visit! 4) See the Egyptian mummies at the British Museum  I have actually visited the British Museum before, but I was very young and we were mainly using the building to escape the rain while we were on our way to our actual destination - I I'd love to go back, especially to see the Egyptian mummies. 5) Release my inner history buff a the Churchill War Rooms There's no hiding the fact that I am a bit of a history nerd - it's what I should have been studying at university before I decided not to go. I'd love to explore the Churchill War Rooms - everyone who has been raves so highly about it! (FYI - this one isn't free!) 6) Bask in the beauty of the Courtauld Gallery I'm not a real art fan. There, I said it. So gallery's tend to bore me a little bit - but the Courauld Gallery is in such a beautiful building that I'd enjoy just admiring the outside. Although apparently the inside is a real treat too!

Entertainment

London is definitely somewhere that you will never be bored!  These are my top picks of things to do to keep yourself entertained (if the range of tourist sights aren't enough to fill your time here!)

1) See a West End Show ✔ Living so close to London, I take the range of shows on offer in London for granted and almost forget that other UK cities don't have half the range of entertainment that London has on offer! My absolute favourite West End show is Wicked! However, I've also seen The Lion King, Matilda, War Horse (now ended), Women In Black (twice!) and all were great! Be sure to check the internet for late minute cheap tickets and don't be scared by "restricted view" seating - I've never had any issues. 2) Watch a play at Shakespeare's Globe  After studying King Lear at school in such detail, I'd love to see it performed on the traditional Shakespearean theatre stage. I'm not sure how much I'd be able to remember nowadays though (sorry Miss Chiv!) 3) Watch a football match at Wembley Stadium ✔ Despite the fact that this is a fairly new stadium, Wembley Stadium has become an iconic London Stadium in no time at all! I recently won tickets to see a friendly football match between London and Holland with my boyfriend and can confirm that you don't have to be a massive football fan to enjoy it. I've also seen a few bands play here and it's a great atmosphere if you like big venues! 4) See an "indie" gig at one of the many intimate awesome venues ✔ From the large Wembley Stadium to the teeny tiny intimate venues of London, we have it all! There's nothing better than seeing a local band at a small venue and really feeling really up close and personal with the performers. 5) See your favourite band at the O2 Arena ✔ Another great venue is the O2! I've seen many bands here and will continue to see many more in the upcoming years. My favourites being Biffy Clyro, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Foo Fighters, Coldplay & Adele (my massive girl crush of the moment). 6) Visit a comedy club for some cheap laughs! There are plenty of comedy clubs scattered through London and all provide a great night out. Be sure to look out for "work in progress shows", these are the shows that big name comedians do to test out their material and tickets are a fraction of the actual tour ticket prices. 7) Watch a tennis match at Wimbledon Enough said really. This is an iconic day out - get me some strawberries and cream already! 8) Be amused by the street entertainers in Covent Garden ✔ I work in Covent Garden, so often get to see the street entertainers in full force - another very busy area during school holidays! But a great way to keep yourself entertained for free! 9) Go to a film premiere in Leicester Square Just down the road from Covent Garden is Leicester Square - try and visit on a premiere night to spot some celebrities and get a taste of the glamorous life! 10) Try an "Escape Room" ✔ This is a phenomenon that is currently sweeping the world - I've seen escape rooms in so many cities now! I did one with London Escape Entertainment and would highly recommend. 11) See a show at the Royal Opera House Whilst I'm not a huge Opera, classical music or ballet fan, there's something really special about seeing hugely talented individuals performing in this world class venue.

Food

I eat a lot of food. That's an understatement. But I tend to stick to a lot of the chain restaurants near my work for a quick lunch-time meal. Here are a few places I would love to try! 

1) Eat a curry on Brick Lane I am a huge fan of Indian food. I mean, a HUGE fan. I've heard so many people talk highly of the curry houses on Brick Lane and now I'm absolutely dying to go! 2) Visit Clos Maggiore Located in Covent Garden, Clos Maggiore is known as the most romantic restaurant in London - the flower covered ceiling is very Instagram worthy, surely that's a reason to visit in itself! 3) Have Afternoon Tea at a fancy restaurant ✔ I've had afternoon tea many many times now, who doesn't love sandwiches and cake? Free-flowing champagne is usually also an option! The next afternoon tea I want to try is the Mad Hatter's Tea Party at the Sanderson Hotel. 4) Have a picnic in one of the many parks ✔ Whilst London is a bustling city, there are plenty of green spaces and areas to relax - grab a picnic and head to the nearest park on a sunny day for a great afternoon! 5) Buy food at Borough Market ✔ Borough market is the ultimate food destination in London in my eyes! Think British meats, local wines, dairy, fresh fruits, vegetables and baked goods galore! 6) Eat authentic Chinese food in China town London's China Town isn't the biggest in the world, but the food is to die for! I often walk past drooling at the smell! 7) Visit Mister Lasagna This is a new restaurant in London that maybe isn't on many people's radars yet. London has lots of "quirky" eats to choose from, so I thought I should include one! Mr Lasagna specialises in yep... you guessed it... Lasagne. In fact,the only main meals they have on option are lasagne - TWENTY different types to be accurate! If you can't pick what lasagne to have, you can select 3 smaller portions for around £8 or £9 - bargain!
Photo credit: A Spoonful of Style

Shopping

When I'm on a city break, I don't tend to do any shopping as I want to go and explore the city, however, as I live in such close proximity to London and it has some iconic shopping areas, it would be rude not to visit! 

1) Explore Camden Markets ✔ There are plenty of markets to choose from in London, but Camden is definitely my favourite area. You'll find all kinds of weird and wonderful treats here - and delicious street food! Although, I'd love to go to Portobello Markets too! 2) Shop on Regent's Street ✔ The famously beautiful curve of Regent's Street is filled with high-end stores. The perfect place to go window shopping! 3) Soldier through the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street ✔ Oxford Street has a lot more high-street options in comparison to Regent's Street but it can be unbearably busy! I love Oxford Street at Christmas time. Christmas lights make everywhere much more appealing for me *stares longingly into the distance* 4) Visit all of the major department stores - Selfridges, Harrods, Harvey Nichols & Liberty! ✔ You've heard of Macy's and Bloomingdales in New York, it would be wrong not to give the same appreciation to the London counterparts. Selfridges is my favourite - I often visit as it's not too far from work and in my opinion has the greatest range of products/brands. However I really want to spend more time in Liberty!
Photo Credit: Here

Winter Activities

If there's one time you need to visit London, it's Winter! Although, be warned, it gets VERY cold.

1) Visit Winter Wonderland ✔

Winter Wonderland is a huge Winter set-up in Hyde Park. Think Christmas markets, theme park rides, ice bars, a circus, Christmas lights, mulled wine, etc etc!

2) Skate on the ice-rink at Somerset House Probably one of the most picturesque things to do in London during Winter - I just need to get over my fear of ice skating first! 3) See the New Year's Eve fireworks from Alexandra Palace You're probably wondering why I chose Alexandra Palace... I think this is a beautiful area of London and I'd love to be up on that hill with a view over the rest of London! 4) Be at the River Thames for the New Year's Eve fireworks Now for the more traditional place to view the classic New Year's Eve fireworks - right by the river! I'd love to do it once. But have heard many horror stories of being very cramped and queues for the grimy toilets that are hours long! 5) Go on a Christmas lights hunt ✔ During the Winter months, you can't go too far without stumbling across some Christmas lights. Covent Garden is one of my favourite areas at this time of year.

MY SCORE!

Tourist Attractions - 7/19

Harry Potter - 4/5

Museums - 3/6

Entertainment - 6/11

Food - 3/7

Shopping - 4/4

Winter Activities - 2/5

Total Score - 29/57

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1