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

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

Malta St Julians Bay October Prague Castle River Foggy Lake Bled Hallstatt fog St Jovan Kaneo Ohrid Macedonia Shoulder season travel is something I recommend to everyone. What could be better than cheap flights, cheap accommodation and best of all, having a destination all to yourself away from hoards of tourists? When it comes to shoulder season travel, I am the Queen. From soaking up 30 degrees sunshine in Malta in October to avoiding the crowds in Prague in May (my friend went in August and said it was unbearable), I’ve done it all. But there is a slight downside... the weather likes to mess with me. You know those glorious photos of Lake Bled that everyone and their dog are currently posting? Yep. My experience involved being stuck in a car for the day with no ability to see Lake Bohinj or Vintgar Gorge due to extreme fog and dangerous weather conditions. When we could exit the car at Lake Bled, we almost got stuck on the island due to a torrential thunderstorm. It’s all fun and games! The next day, a girl from the hostel went and was greeted by a big beaming sun!

RELATED: Read all about my foggy storm-filled day at Lake Bled here

Lake Como? Same thing happened. Luckily I wasn’t a photo obsessive travel blogger back then! But I can assure you that my old photos look nothing like the sunny Italian scenery you’re used to seeing! Halstatt? Forget being able to see those gorgeous mountains, here comes the fog! That was the luckiest experience of the three however as it did brighten up eventually!

RELATED: Find out exactly what there is to do in Hallstatt here!

Should the weather affect your experience, I hear you say? No, it shouldn’t. All three times I was with great people and still had a great time. On the even brighter side, it gives me an excuse to go back (although that’s a scary prospect – I’m not sure my life is long enough to see everywhere that I want to see)! Last year when I was planning an September trip to Bergen and the Norwegian fjords, I was told by so many sources that I was stupid for even thinking about planning a trip to Bergen outside of May – August as even some of Bergen’s biggest tourist attractions close in that time! So, I cancelled the trip. 2 weeks later on the weekend I was meant to be exploring the magical land of the fjords, Planet D post photos of Bergen on their Instagram page looking gorgeous – the caption even saying how they were experiencing freak good weather! Do I regret it? Life’s too short or regrets, but I would I have had more fun in Norway that weekend than I did sitting at home studying? Most definitely. Moral of the story & a message to future Danielle – don’t cancel a trip because it might not be “perfect” at that time of year. You never know what might happen. You know you’re too addicted to finding cheap flights to give it up! What are your thoughts on travelling in shoulder season? Has the weather ever ruined your trip?

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

Danielle1

HOW is it almost the end of 2016? This is absolutely ridiculous, I'm sure January 1st was yesterday. Back in April, I wrote a blog post called "My 2016 Travel Plans", so today I'm going to do a big summary and see how well my plans held up! January 2016 - Work Busy Season As long as I'm working in personal tax, I won't be travelling in January any time soon! This is our busy period and we work 6 days a week - I definitely am not allowed a holiday! February 2016 - York, England York Minister I didn't get my butt in gear quickly enough after the January busy season at work to plan a trip for February, but I did get to discover a new UK love of mine - York!
  1. A Day In Beautiful York!
March - Krakow, Poland Visiting Auschwitz Main Square Krakow Church of St Mary Wahoo, the first international trip of the year! To Krakow, a city I had been dying to visit for quite some time due to my inner history geek! Having the opportunity to visit Auschwitz was incredible and I really want to return to take some of my family members who are as history obsessed as me!
  1. What’s It Like to Visit Auschwitz?
  2. Top 16 Things To Do In Kraków!
  3. Kraków – Is it Worth the Hype?
April - Studying I had two pretty massive exams at the start of May, so April wasn't a great travel month for me! I was confined to my desk with my head in books for most of the month! The good news is that next April should be my last study session EVER! May - Ohrid, Macedonia Lake Ohrid Macedonia Swan Lake Ohrid Macedonia Boat After the mayhem of exams at the beginning of the month, I was dying to have a trip booked for late May. When I saw cheap flights to Ohrid (a place I'd not even heard of) on Skyscanner, I was sold! I treated my friend to the trip for her birthday and I honestly think it was one of my favourite trips this year - I don't think I've ever been somewhere so beautiful!
  1. Best Things To Do in Ohrid
  2. Things You Should Know Before Visiting Ohrid
  3. Budgeting For Ohrid
June - Salzburg & Hallstatt, Austria Hallstatt Austria View Hohensalzburg Fortress Austria Salzburg Here's the true Instagram trip of the year - I can't scroll through Instagram without seeing a picture of Hallstatt! I originally started looking at booking a trip to Vienna but the prices for accommodation were just too ridiculous in June, so we settled for Salzburg and I am SO glad! It was the perfect little city for a long weekend!
  1. How to Spend A Long Weekend in Salzburg
  2. What Is There To Do In Hallstatt?
  3. How To Get From Salzburg To Hallstatt
  4. Is The Salzburg Card Worth It?
  5. Budgeting for Salzburg, Austria
  6. Visting Arundel Castle
July - Arundel & London, UK Arundel Castle One of my New Year's Resolutions was to see more of the UK and I think I achieved that this year! Arundel was my favourite little day trip this year, if you live nearby, I would definitely recommend that you visit! I walked around the town exclaiming "I want to live here" more times than I care to admit! The latter half of the month saw me and my friends take another friend on a surprise day trip to London for her 21st birthday which featured drinks at the Sky Garden and dinner at Crazy Bear - both are now highly recommended by me!
  1. Visting Arundel Castle
  2. The Sky Garden, London
August - Cologne, Germany Koln Cologne Dom Germany Burg Eltz Cologne Germany Dun dun dun, my first international trip with Callum! And he was the unlucky soul that got to experience my incessant need to visit remote castles. Visiting Burg Eltz was perhaps my favourite day of this year - the long hike was beautiful in itself but having the perfect travel buddy made it even better!
  1. How To Spend 3 Days In Cologne
  2. Is Cologne Worth A Visit?
  3. Our Experience of Burg Eltz
September - Edinburgh, Scotland (& Nearly Norway) St Giles Cathedral Edinburgh Loch Katrine Scottish Highlands Another UK gem was found in September - how bloody lovely is Edinburgh?! This is the "surprise" birthday trip that I described in my 2016 travel plans! I tried to throw her off the scent by saying in that post that it was an early birthday present for someone when in actual fact it was a late birthday present for her! We had the BEST long weekend in Edinburgh and I have fallen head over heels in love with the city!
  1. How to Spend 4 Days in Edinburgh!
  2. Visiting the Harry Potter Locations in Edinburgh!
  3. Hairy Coo Tours – The Best Tour Company!
This was also the month of the almost trip to Bergen (Norway). I had reserved a space at a hostel and cancelled at the last minute because I had been told by everyone that experiencing the fjords in September was a bad idea because of fog - little to my dismay, after cancelling Planet D were in Bergen that EXACT weekend and took so many amazing photos with glorious weather! October - Centre Parcs, UK Centre Parcs This was another month that I should have been sitting at home revising, but I did manage to sneak away on one little trip! I headed to Centre Parcs with my Callum's family for the weekend. It was my first time there and I've just realised that I never wrote about it! Watch this space! November - Birthday Month Keveldon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker At the beginning of the month, I had more exams and I turned 22! Sadly, I didn't go away anywhere to celebrate but I did book my first trip for 2017 in November - so that counts right? Marrakech here we come! We did however take the time to explore some more of Essex (my home county if you couldn't tell by the blog title!). We had the best day at Rope Runners, Kelvedon Secret Nuclear Bunker and Hopefield Animal Sanctuary using my trusty Essex Pass!
  1. £20 Day Out Using the Essex Pass!
December - Toronto, Canada From 26 - 31 December, I will be in the very cold city of Toronto! It's my first time in the city (and Canada for that matter), so any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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

What are my two favourite things on the planet? Number one is definitely travelling. Second place is a tough call between food, my dog and Harry Potter. For the purposes of this post, let's go with the latter. So, you can imagine my excitement when visiting Edinburgh and getting to see all of the Harry Potter locations *insert squealing noises here*. There are plenty of tours  which enable you to pay someone to take you around the famous Harry Potter destinations of Edinburgh, but we saw the majority of them (or they were pointed out for us to explore later) on our free walking tour with Sandemans New Europe  (big shout out to Max the epic tour guide!). But if tours aren't your cup of tea, here's a nice little list for you to get your teeth stuck into and go find yourself! The Elephant House cake food and juice at the Elephant House, Edinburgh Even if you aren't a Harry Potter fan, please promise me that you will visit The Elephant House to experience their incredible freshly squeezed orange juice. It was unreal. The Elephant House is the cafe which proudly brands itself as "the birthplace of Harry Potter". This is the cafe that provided a nice warm cosy spot for  J. K. Rowling to begin writing the Harry Potter books in. You can expect fairly long queues to eat here, but it's well worth it for the juice and amazing range of cakes! Make sure you also check out the toilets as Harry Potter fans have taken to the walls and graffiti-ed their love for the wizarding world all over the walls! Never have I found myself taking pictures of cafe toilets before... The Balmoral Hotel
Image Credit: Booking.Com
Fast forward to the end of the Harry Potter series and Rowling suddenly had a few more pennies in the bank and decided to use the Balmoral Hotel (room 552 to be precise) as her writing grounds. On completing the novels, she decided to scribble ‘JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007' on a marble bust in the room. If you're willing to fork out a hell of a lot of money ((approximately £1,000) per night, you can stay in the Grand Suite that has since been named "The J K Rowling Suite" and it can be booked here. Greyfriars Kirkyard Greyfriars Kirkyard Harry Potter Inspiration McGonagall and Riddle at Greyfriars Kirkyard It's not often that a travel blog recommends you visit a graveyard, but here we go. Greyfriars Kirkyard is a short walk from The Elephant House and is said to be where J K Rowling went for a walk on her breaks from writing. The graveyard plays particular importance in naming a few of the books important characters - here you will find the graves of Thomas Riddle and William McGonagall (who we were actually informed on our Sandemans tour is known for being one of the worst recognised Scottish poets!) George Heriot's School Adjacent to Greyfriars Kirkyard is The George Heriot School which is known for being the inspiration for Hogwarts school (and it's not hard to see why). Unfortunately the school is very rarely open to the public and it's hard to see the entire building in all it's glory (unless you want to try and climb over the fence separating it from the graveyard). But apparently you can get a good view of the school from the observation deck at Camera Obsura - we didn't visit, so I can't comment! J K Rowling's Hands
Image Credit: Andy At College
One thing that I completely missed whilst in Edinburgh and have only read about since returning is the "Hollywood Walk of Fame"-esque  imprint of J K Rowling's hand-prints in the Edinburgh City Chambers floor. Go size up your hands - who knows, you could be the next biggest writer! Just Explore The City and It's Architecture Let's face it, the whole of Edinburgh feels magical. The buildings are old and whimsical. The city is also littered with ghost/horror stories (we took another tour with Sandemans New Europe called the "The Dark Side Tour" which explained all of the gruesome ancient stories that the city has to offer! There are so many other streets and buildings that apparently inspired J K Rowling, but who knows how truthful these accounts are! One story that I can believe to be true is Victoria Street inspiring Diagon Alley - take a look and you'll see why! Another favourite is the street "Potterrow" which alledgedly inspired the name for Harry! Glenfinnan Viaduct
Image Credit: Getty
Okay, this one isn't in Edinburgh, but if you are taking an extended trip to Scotland and you're a huge Harry Potter fan, you will want to know about it (it's still on my bucket list)! Glenfinnan Viaduct is the famous bridge that the Hogwarts Express takes its journey across. Trains still run across the bridge every day, so grab a ticket and pretend you're off to the land of Hogwarts!

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

Danielle1

Day One (1/2 Day) Wahoo, after a very early morning, we were off to Germany! After taking a while to check in to the hotel and subsequently falling asleep for much longer than anticipated, we were off to explore the city for the afternoon! The Cathedral Our first stop was obviously the world famous cathedral which is definitely the best place to orientate yourself. There is one word for the cathedral - huge. Like, actually huge. Almost scary huge. I've seen a lot of European cathedrals and this one is definitely up there with the best! I took millions of photos of the cathedral during our time in Cologne and I can't believe how much the lighting affects one building, it looks different in each photo! Botanical Flora Gardens After searching for food, we headed to the Botanical Gardens as we thought it would be on route to our next destination but it was a much longer walk than we expected! Although it wasn't a bad walk by the river in the sunshine. The gardens are beaaaautiful and definitely worth your time if you're in the area on a sunny day! Free Walking Tour After spending some time in the gardens, we headed to the meet point of the Free Walk Cologne tour. I would definitely recommend this company, our guide (who's name now escapes me) was really informative and funny! Cologne has a lot of history and given the fact it was such an important hub in World War II. Among all of the mains sights of the city (including the cathedral), you will see lots of little bits that you may have missed while wandering the streets of the city unguided - including the narrowest house in the city (the 2nd narrowest in Europe!) & underground Roman ruins (actually located in an underground multi-story car park!). Moan A Lot Because You Wore Silly Sandals And Now You Have Blisters My least favourite activity of the trip. Day Two Take a Day Trip! We all know that I was using Cologne as a base to explore a nearby castle (standard Danielle behaviour). So on our second day in Germany, we headed to Burg Eltz and you can read all about our experience here. I'll shortly be writing a post on exactly how to get to the castle because the internet wasn't very helpful during my research, so let me know if there is anything you want to know! If castles aren't your thing, there are plenty of other cities/towns that are an easy train ride away including:
  • Dusseldorf
  • Frankfurt
  • Bonn
  • Aachen
  • Trier
Day Three We were hoping to go on another day trip on day three, but my feet had turned into two giant blisters, so we decided to spend the day in Cologne and try to do as little walking as possible! Chocolate Museum I'm normally a history/nature lover while I'm travelling, choosing to avoid more commercialised tourist traps but we LOVED our time at the chocolate museum! A lot of the reviews on TripAdvisor moaned that there weren't enough free samples - we only got 2 but they were bloody incredible! Eat Yourself Into Oblivion  With it being ridiculously hot, we spent some time in a small beer garden near the Chocolate Museum downing steins of cold drink and of course eating my favourite - CURRY WURST! National Socialism Documentation Centre Yes, that does sound like a really boring building. But I can assure you that it's not! The Documentation Centre was previously used as a Nazi prison and the information inside is a harrowing reminder of the holocaust. The above-ground floors of the building are used as a museum and do a good job of explaining what life in Cologne was like during the war (although I don't think the museum was quite as harrowing as places like Typography of Terror in Berlin and House of Terror in Budapest - both of which I would HIGHLY recommend). Make sure you ask for an English audio guide, many of the displays in the museum are written in German only. The audio guide makes the experience much more poignant with the most memorable aspect for me being the room which explains how minority parties were treated, namely anybody that was gay, disabled or had mental illnesses - really awful stories! The really harrowing aspect of this attraction are the underground prison cells. The wall carvings left my various prisoners have been preserved and notice boards translate the carvings into English - I've never seen anything like it and would highly recommend that you take a visit. Eat More Food and Do Some (Window) Shopping To get back to our hotel, we had to walk through a large shopping area (the mains streets being Schildergasse and Hohe Straße), so we spent some time window shopping (and actual shopping for plasters that would cure my broken feet) as well as getting dinner and exploring some more of the streets in the city centre. Day 4 (1/2 Day) Take A Stroll Across Hohenzollern Bridge Hohenzollern Bridge is the iconic bridge that can be seen in practically all photos of Cologne. The bridge is lined with love locks and it's lovely to stroll across here, taking a look at all of the locks and maybe leaving one of your own! Get a View of The City From Above After exploring all of the city at ground level, the best way to get a birds eye view is to head to Koln Triangle and pay the small 3 euro fee to reach the top of the skyscraper. This is where you will be able to get that iconic shot of the bridge, cathedral and city skyline! Take a Cruise Down The River  Rhine Our last activity of the trip was to take a cruise down the River Rhine. There are loads of different companies which line the Rhine and run at various times during the day, we picked the one that had people queuing up well in advance of the departure time hoping that they knew more about the reputation of these companies than we did! Tickets are cheap and it's a great way to spend an hour. We were a bit stupid however, leaving it to our last day in the city. Our first 3 days were 30 degrees and nothing but sun... our last day was rainy, dark and windy - you win some, you lose some! And with that, our trip to Germany was over and it was time to head back to the airport before flying back to England. See you soon Germany!

RELATED POST: Is Cologne Worth A Visit? 

Looking for some more great things to do in the city? Maybe try visiting during these times:
  • Easter - Cologne Carnival - Each year, Cologne is home to the largest carnival in the German speaking area and it sounds mental! If you take the free walking tour mentioned above, they will tell you all about it!
  • Winter - Christmas Markets - Cologne is known for it's incredible Christmas markets, so there's no better activity to get you in the Christmas spirit!
Have you ever been to Cologne? What was your favourite thing to do?

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

Danielle1

Why Burg Eltz? You may have noticed from my Instagram account that I recently took a trip to Cologne, Germany. I'd be lying if I said that the idea of this trip didn't come about because of a castle... we all know how much I love castles! Burg Eltz first came onto my radar through the amazing Jacob's Instagram account. A few of my favourite shots of the castle taken by him are here, here and here. After seeing those pictures, I made it my mission to convince my boyfriend that a trip to Cologne was necessary and I succeeded, mwahahaha! How to Get to Burg Eltz  After a very slow start to our second day in Cologne (apparently we walked a little bit too far the day beforehand and then struggled to get out of bed... after one day in stupid footwear, I already had blisters #rookie), we set off to the nearest train station in search of my beloved castle! You can get the train from Köln Central Station, but we opted to begin our journey at Köln Süd which was only an 8 minute walk from our hotel and is on route (perfect!). The journey from Köln Süd to Koblenz takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes, you'll then be faced with a 20 to 30 minute wait at Koblenz station (snack time, duh) before jumping on a train to Moselkern for around 30 minutes. I probably should have started this story by saying that this region of Germany was experiencing a freak heat-wave and it was 35 degrees for the majority of our journey. THIRTY-FIVE BLOODY DEGREES. So I'm praising the lord (and I'm not even religious) that German trains have fab air-conditioning because our train to Koblenz was delayed by an hour! After arriving in Moselkern an hour later than expected, and it being midday at this point (thus even hotter), the fun began! Luckily, the 90 minute hike is very well sign-posted as big wooden arrows engraved with the words "Burg Eltz" line the path (just don't worry as much as I did. I think I got a bit annoying constantly screeching "WE HAVEN'T SEEN A SIGN IN A WHILE" when the only option was to keep going forwards since the last sign... Soz Callum, castles and heat make me cray cray). The hike starts in the town of Moselkern which is really charming, even the train station is a cute building. The walk from the town centre to the edge of the woods was the hardest part in the intense heat as there was zero shade. Once you get to the woods, things get easier in the heat (although it does start getting steeper) and it gets pretty damn beautiful! My favourite spot was by the stream just before you start the uphill accent, we sat here for a while, escaping the direct sunlight and attempting (read: failing) to skim stones on the water. Then BAMN, you catch sight of the castle and suddenly the hiking, the blisters and the potential sun stroke all feel worth it! What To Do When You Get There Well... We first decided to get drinks, sit in the cafe and sweat profusely for a while. After acclimatising, we headed straight into the main gift shop area to get our tickets into the castle (with much excitement). You can't always guarantee when the next English-speaking tour will be taking place. It appears that they only take place if there is enough interest for them, we were lucky that even though we arrived late, there were enough people wanting an English Tour. The tour was informative and took us through some lovely parts of the inside of the castle (unfortunately, no photos are allowed). The castle remains in it's natural state, it hasn't ever been destroyed and the same family have always owned the castle - perfect! The only downside is that the tour is a bit short, I would have loved to see a bit more inside the castle! Afterwards, we took our time exploring the grounds and capturing some photos - the location and castle couldn't be more picture perfect. And then it was time for the journey home! The 90 minute hike in slightly cooler temperatures and going downhill was much easier and luckily there were no train delays. All in all, through the sweat and blisters, it was actually a really perfect day. I finally got to visit the castle of my Instagram dreams! Have you ever visited? Do you recommend any other "off-the-beaten track" castles?

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

Danielle1