Before I arrived in Morrocco, I was worried that I hadn’t given us enough time to explore the city of Marrakech. I’d become so fixated with our three days of excursions that I couldn’t possibly give any of them up! More worry set in when it took us HOURS to get through security at Marrakech airport. I mean hours. The security queues were so long, officers examined everyone’s entry cards and passports in the greatest detail (for a moment, we thought that we weren’t going to be allowed into the country because the security officer didn’t believe that Callum was the same person as the photo in his passport)! So in the end, we got into Marrakech at about midday and we were left with closer to 1.5 days to explore the city. Thankfully, (almost) two days in the city was absolutely perfect for us and I wouldn’t have structured our trip any other way! Here’s what we got up to in our two days in the city (with some bonus options if you have 3 days in the city)!

Day One 

Check into your riad and enjoy some mint tea Marrakech Riad More kerfuffle arose as we couldn’t find the man that was meant to pick us up from the airport. Luckily, a lot of the men doing hotel pickups know each other and when I questioned where he was, another man phoned him and told him to come back  (that’s how long it took us to get through airport security – our pick up man had left)! At this point, I was already in love with the welcoming hospitality of the Moroccans. Once we were in the riad, we certainly weren’t disappointed. The staff sat down with us and drew all over a map to make sure that we knew where we wanted to go and how to get back to the riad – Marrakech is a crazy maze of winding roads after all! After this, we were shown around the riad and treated to complimentary mint tea on the roof terrace. I quickly became obsessed with the mint tea in Morocco and if you visit, you’ll definitely be offered some during your stay! After finishing our tea and dumping our belongings into our room, we set out to explore! Jemaa el-Fnaa (The Main Square) Marrakech Doorway Medina WallMarrakech Souk El Kessabia Our first port of call was to have a wander and get our bearings - I had intended to do a guided walking tour, but with the delays of the morning, we had well and truly missed the start time! So instead, we took some time to weave our way round the back alleys of markets and shops around our hotel to the main square of Marrakech. The square comes alive at night, whereas in the day the square was mainly filled with orange juice carts. But we stopped off for lunch at Cafe France (a very popular restaurant in the square for tourists. Not the most authentic Moroccan cuisine, but it was quick and easy). Koutoubia Mosque Marrakech Koutoubia Mosque We continued our self guided tour of the square with a trip to the nearby Koutoubia Mosque. We didn’t enter the mosque  (it isn't open to tourists) but we definitely took the time to admire the architecture. I am a huge fan of Moroccan style architecture apparently! Jardin Marjorelle Marakech Jardin Marjorelle Cat Marakech Jardin Marjorelle Girl Marakech Jardin Marjorelle Mural Marakech Jardin Marjorelle Fountain Marakech Jardin Marjorelle Cacti Our riad was in the perfect position to visit Jardin Marjorelle  as it was only a 20-ish minute walk away (the garden is outside of the Medina walls and we were staying by one of the exits closest to the garden). The garden is famous for its bright blue and yellow building which was once home to the incredible designer Yves Saint Laurent. We overheard a fellow tourist sum up the area perfectly - "looks like this bloke had a shit tonne of money but bloody good taste". It was beautiful and an oasis of calm in the bustling city. This is the perfect place for photos and we saw a few professional photo-shoots during our time here – that’s how pretty the area is! Entry is 70 MAD which is much more expensive than many of the other attractions in Marrakech but it was well worth it. Callum would say that it was worth it purely based on the free WiFi and amazing Pokémon Go spawns... Dinner at Latitude 31 Marrakech Latitude 31 Chocolate Sphere After heading back to our Riad to freshen up, we spent a lot of time on TripAdvisor deciding where to eat. Our Riad wasn’t located directly off the main square and we were absolutely exhausted after a day of travelling and exploring, we wanted somewhere close and easy... alas, we stumbled across latitude 31. This is a pricey restaurant by Moroccan standards however, we had 3 courses with soft drinks and it came to 520 MAD (about 41 GBP) for both of us, which isn’t bad at all by English standards! The restaurant menu is filled with traditional Moroccan foods with a modern twist and all of our courses were out of this world. We were first presented with a complimentary amuse-bouche. The three appetisers were a small creme brulee, a chicken dish and a fish dish. The two I ate were amazing (I gave my fishy one to Callum as I don’t eat fish). Next up, I had a dish that at first looked like a tagine but was a refreshing twist on the traditional tagine.  The chicken was layered with caramelised tomatoes which were so sweet and delicious! Callum had the mixed grill platter and raved about it for the rest of the trip! Finally we both had a “chocolate sphere” (pictured above) which consisted of a hollow ball of chocolate filled with fruits which were then covered in warm chocolate sauce – yum! After successfully filling our stomachs, the restaurant owner treated us to a complimentary cocktail which were also gorgeous.

Day two  

Saadian tombs Marrakech Tombs Girl Marrakech Tombs InteriorOur first port of call was the Saadian tombs which I’m quite aware sounds a bit depressing, but I promise it wasn't! The area is really beautiful. A common theme in Marrakech attractions is that information is given in Arabic and French with no English translation, so it might be worth researching the attractions that you want to see before you visit. The mausoleum houses around 60 members of the Saudi Dynasty and has become popular with tourists due to the pure beauty of the site. This isn’t a huge area, so you won’t need TOO long to explore it. Even though we arrived fairly early, queues were already forming to see into the different rooms – however the queues were definitely worse as we were leaving, so this is probably a good place to see early in the day! El Badi Palace Marrakech El Badi Stairs Marrakech El Badi Landscape Next stop was El Badi Palace which I’d read to be very run down ruins and nothing in comparison to Bahia Palace (see below). In true Danielle fashion, I actually preferred El Badi Palace! We struggled to find the entrance for quite a while but it was definitely worth the wait. For the most part, this is a ruined palace, however it’s absolutely huge and I can only imagine how grand it would have been in its prime. There are plenty of corners, underground tunnels, nooks and crannies to explore. This is one of the fee places that appeared to have English translations on most of their information boards too! My love for Moroccan architecture has been strengthened once more! Bahia Palace Marrakech El Bahia Palace Marrakech El Bahia Palace Fountain Marrakech El Bahia Palace Tiles Now for the much more built up and stereotypically beautiful palace. If you’re a big fan of Moroccan tiles and colour, this is the place for you. Once again, the palace is much bigger than you think it will be – I’m sure Moroccans have mastered the art of making buildings 10 times bigger on the inside than they look from the outside (it definitely puts Doctor Who's Tardis to shame)! This is an undeniably beautiful palace and will be the background of many Instagram photos if you are that way inclined! Lunch in the square As we headed back up north, we stopped once again for lunch in the square, this time opting to eat at Zeitoun Cafe  where we had the most delicious Moroccan style sandwiches with a view over the square for a spot of people watching! Explore the Souks Marrakech Spices Marrakech Souks Trinkets Our Riad staff had told us that we would most definitely get lost in the Souks but I think we did quite well! Before arriving in Morocco, I had downloaded the app “City maps to go” which you can use offline and whilst no GPS companies have mapped out the winding alleyways of the Souks, it was a good way of seeing whether you were coming closer to the exit or not! We didn’t pick up anything during our time shopping – I’m not one for bartering! But I was obsessed with their hand painted beautiful plates. Once I’ve bought a house, maybe I’ll think about buying plates! Ben Youseff Madrasa Ben Youseff Madrasa Marrakech Marrakech Ben Youseff Madrasa Couple This is definitely another attraction that you will want to read about before visiting if English is your only language! Alternatively, I know many people have hired guides for the day and completed similar itineraries  to the above without the need for research. This was the most prominent Islamic College in the Marrakech area and led to many great scholars. This was one of the largest theological colleges in North Africa and housed up to 900 students - it's hard to believe that 900 students stayed in the small dormitories (many of which had no windows) but that's a small price to pay for apparently one of the best religious teachings in North Africa! If any universities looked like this in the UK, then maybe I’d have gone to uni!  This is another attraction for the instagram-holics! Dinner and exploring the main square at night  As mentioned previously, the main square comes alive at night time, so on our last night, we opted to eat slightly closer to the main square so that we could check out the square in all its glory of an evening. As we had been on 3 days worth of excursions prior to this day in which we had no choice when it comes to food and had been served repetitive tagine / chicken meals for the duration, we were most definitely "tagined"-out. So instead wee opted for a restaurant that was popular on TripAdvisor and served a menu of varied cuisines (if you're also getting sick of tagines, be sure to check out Kui-Zin). Unfortunately at our time of visit (March 2017), a large part of the main square was under construction, so I don’t think we got the full impact of the area. With a positive outlook, the square is beautiful - stalls selling mainly handcrafted Moroccan souvenirs, beautiful women offering henna tattoos, bustling restaurants, street music. However, there is a dark side to this square; Morocco do use animals in the tourism trade extensively. I was saddened by the monkeys on chains and kept in small boxes – hopefully the world will learn!

If I had one more day  

While I think my 2 days in Marrakech were perfect, if I were to spend one day longer in the city, here's what I would do! Spa day Morocco is famed for its Hammam style of massage/bath and if we had an extra day, I would have loved to try one! We decided to skip this activity as we have both had Turkish baths previously (which are ever so slightly different - you can learn about the difference here), so we felt more inclined to go out and explore what Morocco had to offer! Cooking class Another thing that Morocco is famed for is it's food! We loved the food on our trip (despite getting a bit "tagined"-out towards the end) and it would have been so interesting to see the pros at work/learn how it's done! Guided Souk Tour The souks are a mess of colour, winding alleyways, stalls and activity. We didn't purchase anything whilst we were there on the basis that a) nothing caught our eye and b) we weren't actually sure what was worth buying and for what price! You can hire guides to take you around the souks and get all of the top tips and tricks! Overall, our time in Marrakech was amazing and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a trip to experience a culture that is completely different from their own, eat great food, meet incredibly friendly and helpful people and generally have a great time! Have you been to Marrakech? What was your experience like?

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

Danielle1

Two Days in Marrakech Pinterest

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

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

It's no secret, I bloody loved Edinburgh. We booked the trip as a surprise for my friend Grace's 21st birthday and it was one of my favourite trips this year! In total, we spent 4 days in Scotland and here's all the things we recommend you should do! Day One Check Into Hotel and Then Head for Lunch at Deacon Brodie's Tavern We quickly checked into a private 4 bed room at Edinburgh Safestay Hostel and then headed out on the search for food before our first activity! I can't recommend Deacon Brodie's Tavern enough. The food was incredible and definitely set us up for a full day of exploring! Anywhere that does macaroni cheese as a side is a winner! P.s. Everywhere in Edinburgh does macaroni cheese - it's incredible. Become Familiar With the Royal Mile The Royal Mile is the centre of the action in Edinburgh and is where you will find most of the main attractions (or they will be nearby at least)! Our hostel was perfectly situated just off of the Mile, so it was in the prime location for some great restaurants (I can't count the number of hearty pubs and cute cafes on this one road!) as well as shops (it took a lot for me to resist buying complete tartan outfits). Take the Sandeman's Free Europe Walking Tour It wouldn't be an Escaping Essex city guide without a recommendation for a free walking tour really would it? We had Max as our guide and he was brilliant (so much so, that we booked another tour with him the following day). Sandeman's New Europe are one of my favourite tour companies, and as always the tour covers the majority of the free sights you will want to see in the city. The website lists the following sights within the 2.5 hour tour, but it felt like we saw much more!
  • Edinburgh Castle
  • St Giles’ Cathedral
  • Heart of Midlothian
  • The real Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
  • William Wallace and the Stone of Destiny
  • Greyfriars Kirkyard (cemetery) and Greyfriars Bobby
  • The Royal Mile
  • Edinburgh’s Old Town
  • Mercat Cross
  • National Museum
  • Covenanters’ Prison
  • Martyrs’ Memorial
  • The Scottish Writers Museum
  • Grassmarket
  • The original ‘Hogwarts'
  • The Hub
Grab Some Food and Head For a Drink As we arrived in the city mid-way through the day and were completely exhausted, we wandered around for a while after the tour before heading to a local shop, picking up a pack of cards and heading back to the hostel bar to chill obviously! Even if you're not staying at The Edinburgh Safestay Hostel, you can go to Bar 41 for cheap drinks and good food (they also had events on throughout the week - we respectively failed the pub quiz). If you're more at home in a pub, do not fear, Edinburgh has a pub basically on every corner to fill your needs! Day Two  Browse The Royal Mile Market Located inside the historic Tron Kirk is a gorgeous market filled with independent crafts, arts and fashion traders. My friend picked up a pretty epic pair of tea-pot earrings and I was almost drawn in by some cute prints (before realising I have no wall space left for more prints!) Make the Most of The Long Walk To The Botanical Gardens We underestimated the long walk to the botanical gardens, it was looooong (made slighly better by the fact that Edinburgh is amazing for Pokemon Go... lol). While the walk is long, there are some good little photo stops along the way! My favourite being the Scott Monument (you can't miss it, it looks like a giant rocket), this is the largest monument dedicated to a Scottish author (Walter Scott), so it's pretty special. With the backdrop of Princes Street Gardens, it's definitely worth a photo stop and if you're feeling a little bit more active, there are 287 steps to the top! Explore the Botanical Gardens There's something so god damn relaxing about being in botanical gardens, I loved my visit to one recently in Cologne and Edinburgh was just as good. As an added bonus, bring a friend who works in horticulture to show you around and pronounce all of the funny plant names. The gardens are pretty huge (especially if you pay to enter the greenhouses too) and with the long walk there, this is easily a half-day trip.

RELATED: Read about my time in Cologne's Botanical Gardens here

Head Back to the Royal Mile Visit the Castle With my friend's love for horticulture now suitably satisfied, it was my turn to inflict my love of castles on the group! Edinburgh Castle can easily take up another half-of your day as there's plenty to see in the castle (including a graveyard to the army dogs - which melted my stone cold little heart). We visited a few days after The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the stage was still in place which blocks the main view of the castle when you are walking towards it - so if you're a photography buff, you might want to avoid Edinburgh at that time!

RELATED: Do you love castles too? Read all about my latest castle jaunts here

Optional Extras Near The Castle The castle is at the far end of the Royal Mile, so when you're in the area you might as well see everything else that the area has to offer. After a long day of gardens and castles, we were shattered and in desperate need of food, but if you have some more energy than us, the main two attractions are:
  • Camera Obscura - A world of optical illusions which sounds like a fun day out for all ages! Apparently there are some epic views of the city from the roof!
  • The Scottish Whisky Experience - Directly opposite Camera Obscura is the ultimate place to try Scottish Whisky! With none of us being big Whisky drinkers and one of us actually being allergic to alcohol, we decided to give this one a miss but I've heard great things!
St Giles Cathedral On our walk back down the Royal Mile to the hostel, we made sure to pop into St Giles Cathedral which is absolutely gorgeous. When we visited (September 2016), a boat used in the current refugee crisis was on view, a really harrowing sight. The Dark Side Tour & Calton Hill  As if we hadn't walked enough today, we decided to take another walking tour. We loved Max so much after our Free Walking Tour in the previous day that we booked onto The Dark Side Tour for the following evening! Edinburgh has a very spooky past and the stories were great (especially when told by Max)! I would highly recommend this tour if you like to hear a little horror story (and if you don't... don't worry, I'm a wuss and I was fine)! During the tour, you'll tick another of Edinburgh's bucket list items off of your list - Calton Hill! What's even better is that you will visit the hill at sunset which is really gorgeous in early September. Day Three  Take A Day Trip Into The Scottish Highlands Whilst Edinburgh is absolutely incredible, sometimes it's nice to head out into the countryside. We decided to take the FREE Scottish Highlands Tour with The Hairy Coo and I couldn't recommend it more. The company were so incredible that they deserve their own blog post and you can read all about our experience here. Learn From Our Mistakes We decided to go for a wander in the evening as one of my favourite times to explore a city is when they are lit up at night... apparently not all that much of Edinburgh is lit up (unlike some of my favourite evening cities such as the view of Parliament from Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest or the view of the Castle in Prague from across the river or the Wesminster area of London). The castle was lit blue but was very hard to photograph! Day Four  National Museum With some time to kill before our flight home that afternoon, and a number of options to chose from in the city, we decided to go to the National Museum (we were mainly swayed by the giant posters of turtles outside telling us that the National Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition was on.... turns out we read the signs wrong and it was next week, oops). I'm not usually a big museum fan, but this one was great! There were plenty of interactive exhibitions and it reminded me of the London Science and Natural History Museums - a good day out! Plus... did you know that a mega sloth once existed?! Eat in The Elephant Cafe I am a huge Harry Potter Fan, so a trip to the Elephant Cafe was an absolute must! This is the cafe that J K Rowling began writing the famous novel series in and for good reason - the food and drinks are great! Make sure you peep into the toilets to see the messages that fans have left scribbled on the walls!

RELATED: Want to find more Harry Potter locations in Edinburgh? Read all about them here!

Shop in Cute Independent Stores Edinburgh is a creative city. It can be felt in the aforementioned memorials to Scottish writers, J K Rowling's inspirational presence, the Scottish Writers Museum, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the sheer number of crafty independent stores. The arts are really celebrated in this amazing city and it's amazing. We headed up Victoria Street and the surrounding roads popping into cute shops, my favourites were Miss Katie Cupcake (specialising in handmade jewellery) and Museum Context (a shop for creative unique interiors). The Things We Missed After exploring the shops and getting some food, it was time for us to head to the airport to catch our flight home. Edinburgh is an incredible city and there were a tonne of other things we could have spent our time doing, so to make this post as informative as possible, here's some other really great options to fill your days in Edinburgh! In the City
  • Real Mary King's Close - We tried really to visit this underground city tour on our last day but unfortunately they had a power cut just as we tried to visit!
  • Arthur's Seat - TripAdvisor lists this as the number one thing to do in Edinburgh and it's very unlike me to have not completed one of the best tourist attractions in a city! However, we were restricted for time and the hike to the top of Arthur's Seat wasn't too appealing on our very worn-out legs but I'm sure the views would have been great - there's always next time!
  • Palace of Holyrood House - This is the official residence of the Queen in Scotland and it looks VERY grand! If I ever find myself back in Edinburgh, I will definitely be making a visit!
  • The Edinburgh Dungeon - Having visited the London Dungeon's, we felt like this was an tourist trap we could probably miss!
Seasonal
  • The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo - Annually Edinburgh Castle becomes the stage for military tattoos performed by the British Armed Forces, Commonwealth and International military bands.
  • Edinburgh Fringe Festival - In late September, the city comes alive with the world's largest arts festival!
  • Christmas Markets - As with any European city, supposedly Christmas is a great time to visit!
  • Hogmanay - This is the Scottish word for "New Year's Eve" and the celebrations in Edinburgh are huge! Their fireworks displays are world renowned!
Day Trips/Excursions During our time in Edinburgh, I stumbled across some things on the Edinburgh TripAdvisor page that looked great but on further inspection were nowhere near the city centre - if you're in the area for longer than a few days or have access to a car, these could be the spots for you!
  • Craigmillar Castle
  • Inchcolm Abbey
  • Gilmerton Cove
  • Jupiter Artland
  • Portobello Beach
  • Hopetoun House

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. This post does however contain affiliate links which I may earn a small commission from should you purchase from the respective company. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

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side angle of berlin cathedral Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe Swirl yellow blue pattern east side gallery berlin Berlin is the city that sparked my love for European city breaks. The reason I spend every weekend possible in a different city. So, of course, it holds a special place in my stone-cold heart <3. I visited back in 2014, so this is a #throwbacktrip. I recently visited Cologne (see all of my blog posts about Germany here), so it had me thinking a lot about my first trip to Germany and just how much I love Berlin. Without further ado, here are 10 reasons why you need to go to Berlin immediately. 1) The History As a massive history nerd, this is probably one of the biggest draws for me. I very nearly went to university to study history and World War II is one of my favourite eras to study. We went on an amazing walking tour of the city on our first day and seeing the spots where so many events I'd studied actually happened felt so surreal. 2) You'll Never Run Out of Things to Do  Out of all the cities I've visited, I still feel like Berlin maybe has the most to do (excluding maybe London and New York). We were rushing around the city at top speed trying to fit as much as we could into 4 days - there is a photo of me sitting on a bench on the last day almost crying because my legs were in so much pain. #travelgoals 3) The Nightlife Now, I've been reliably informed that Berlin has an epic nightlife scene. Given the fact I sat on a bench crying because my legs hurt, I couldn't stand for any longer and I was on a trip with my (then) boyfriend, it's safe to say that I didn't see much of this nightlife! 4) The Food Not only did Berlin spark my love of city breaks, it also sparks my love of curry wurst. Enough said really. 5) The Amazing Buildings Architecture in Berlin is unreal. I don't even know why I loved it so much. I remember being on our first walk through the city the evening we arrived and just falling in love with everything. From the rough and rugged, to the grand and exciting, to the modern and cool. There's something for everyone. 6) The East West Divide I am so fascinated by the East West divide (that inner history nerd is coming out again). There are subtle differences between the two sides of the city which is unlike anything I've ever seen before. My favourite one is the difference between the men on the zebra crossing lights! In fact, we stumbled across a multi-storey shop dedicated to the cartoon man on the East Side crossings! He's an icon apparently! 7) The Most Captivating Monuments With a city filled with so much history, it's only right that there are some good monuments to back up that history. Sometimes you stumble across displays with no real indication as to what they are about (Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe for example) but taking a free walking tour of the city explained them all and there's some that really got me choked up! 8) Lush Greenery in a City Despite being a big and exciting city, Berlin has plenty of areas to chill out and relax. Our hotel was near Tiergarten which I loved. The park was peaceful but still filled with things to do (the Victory column and Bellevue Palace are must sees)! 9) Plenty of Things To do Nearby If you're staying in Berlin for longer than necessary, there are plenty of things to do outside of the city - a great list of ideas can be found here. 10) Replace My Old Photos! Okay, so this might just be a reason for me. But I asked my ex-boyfriend to send me our photos from Berlin and the ones shown in this post are the only semi-decent ones he could find on his laptop. I know memories are more important than seeing a city through a camera lense. But I love photos and I'm gutted I don't have anything to show for my trip to Berlin! Have you ever been to Berlin, what's your favourite thing to do?

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

If you've read this post about my recent trip to Germany, you'll know that my long weekend in Cologne  was booked because I was in search of one particular magical castle. So, I didn't really know what to expect from Cologne. I won't lie, it was never at the top of my list of cities to visit in Germany, let alone in the world, but I'll do anything for a castle. So Let's Start With The Pros... That Cathedral To say that I've travelled to a lot of European cities and seen a lot of churches and cathedrals is an understatement. I can't remember the last time I visited somewhere that didn't feature a grand cathedral. So you'd think that I have a bit of cathedral fatigue now (I've even got bored of writing the word in this post). But holy crap, this cathedral blows the socks off many that I've seen. It's. So. Big. And so imposing. There's something eerily beautiful about the exterior and the inside is pretty damn nice too. The Food I am obsessed with curry-wurst. So maybe I'd be happy with anywhere in Germany but Cologne definitely delivered the goods when it came to dining. Everything we ate was great - we even ate twice at the same Italian restaurant (not very German we know, but it was so damn good!). Throw into the mix that Cologne is home to the Lindt Chocolate Museum and you know that you're in for a treat! And oh my bloody god, that stuff is gooooood. Christmas Markets Cologne is famous for it's German Christmas Markets. Whilst I didn't visit in Winter, so I can't confirm nor deny how fab they are, I've hear from reliable sources that they one of the best in the country! A Great Transport Hub Cologne has a fantastic main train station and is close to some great places - day trips a plenty! If you're not a fan of moving all of your belongings around regularly, this would be a great base! We took an amazing day trip to Burg Eltz but there were so many other places that we wanted to try - Aachen, Trier, Koblenz, Dusseldorf, Bonn, Essen and Frankfurt to name a few! That Laid-Back Care-Free Vibe Germans have a stereotype of being very strict and organised (my kind of people). You can expect that attitude to go completely out of the window in Cologne! And On To The Cons... It's Not The Most Charming City In The World Don't come to Cologne expecting gorgeous rows of fancy old buildings or a charming Old Town city centre like many European cities. I think this is why I didn't click too much with the city. I love old architecture and charming cities/towns. Cologne is a relatively new city. It was was almost completely destroyed in World War II - the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force alone dropped almost 35,000 tons of bombs on the city. However, the laid back care free attitude of Cologne means that planning permissions/building regulations in the city's rebuild programme were very lax and you do stumble across some interesting buildings! On one walk along the river, we spotted a tiny house with a giant turret attached! A Rough And Ready Vibe With such higgly-de-piggledy building structures, the city has a much more "rough and ready" vibe than many European cities I've been to. And lets's face it, Cologne doesn't have the best reputation as of late given the New Years Eve 2016 assults and the more recent knife and gun attack of August 2016. We had absolutely NO reason to feel unsafe whilst in the city, but if you're of a nervous disposition, maybe stick to the uber-charming "nothing bad could ever happen here" looking cities. Things to Do  Whilst we didn't struggle to fill our time in the city, this is mainly because I made some bad shoe choices and ended up with horrendous blisters early on. I was in so much pain that sitting down and spending a lot of time eating seemed like a good idea! The freak heat-wave we encountered during our time there also slowed us down, we took a lot of time to stop and get a drink/try to cool down. With all of this taken into account, we spent near enough 3 days in Cologne enjoying the tourist attractions. We then took 1 day to visit Burg Eltz. Had I been on top form however, we could have explored the city much quicker and had more time to day those day trips I mentioned earlier! In Summary... If you're limited on time in Europe, maybe skip Cologne. Most people come to Europe to escape into our beautiful charming cities, and you won't find much of that here. It's ugly (by today's standards) but it's also a direct reminder of 20th century history (given that 95% of the city had to be rebuilt in the 50s). Therefore you may still find it worth visiting, because of course learning and understanding the history of the world is important. Unless you are only interested in fairytale-perfect postcard images. It's no secret that I find central European cities such as Budapest and Prague the most charming, and the South Eastern region of the Balkans the most beautiful area of Europe. Cologne is a modern city but if that's what you are after - go wild! On the other hand, if you're looking for a cheap weekend getaway, this could be the perfect place. If you're from the UK, Stansted Airport has RyanAir flights flying to Cologne multiple times every day and they are usually dirt cheap. Book in advance and see prices as low as £10 each way. Ours were around £60 return on the August bank holiday weekend - given the popularity of this weekend, this is still pretty incredible! What makes things better is that the flight is little over an hour long - a very easy getaway! Plus... Burg Eltz is TOTALLY worth it. Fancy a few more opinions? Britt has written a fantastic post about her not-so-fantastic time in the city which you can read here.

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

Whats The Deal With Guided Tours? Guided tours are a controversial topic in the travel blog world because "if someone just shows you around, r u even travelling?!". But screw convention, I'm going to talk about one particular tour company here, because they definitely deserve some recognition & I'm a massive fan of a guided tours! I'm especially a huge fan of free walking tours, I find that they are the perfect way to orientate yourself when arriving in a new city. You get to know your way around, learn some history about the city, hear some interesting stories and best of all, if the tour guide was a bit pants, you aren't obliged to pay a penny! Having said that, I have never not tipped a guide! Another tour style that I'm a big fan of is a well structured day trip. As I have to plan my travels around work and study commitments, recently I have been going on a lot of city breaks rather than extended travels. Sometimes it's great to escape the city and take a day trip to somewhere new. You can read about a few of my guided day tours here:
  1. Alpine Fairytale - Slovenia - Roundabout Travel 
  2. Karst And Coast - Slovenia - Roundabout Travel
  3. Countryside & Windmills - Netherlands - Tours & Tickets

So Who Are The Hairy Coo? 

The Hairy Coo are a tour company operating from Edinburgh who take tourists around the Scottish Highlands in a manner that combines my two favourite tour structures. Yes, that's right, they offer whole day tours including transportation for FREE.

Our tour guide stressed the fact that The Hairy Coo company was set up to provide anyone, of any budget range, the opportunity to explore the beautiful Scottish Highlands. Something that I very much agree with - everyone should visit!

Is It Really Free?

You enter the coach without having paid a single penny. Of course, a tip to the tour guide is expected at the end of your tour, however, you are free to pay the amount that you believe the tour is worth.

I would highly recommend that you book your tour online in advance. When I booked our tour, we only had the choice of one day during our stay in Edinburgh as the others had all sold out. There were only 2 spare seats on our coach once all of the pre-booked passengers were on board, these were swiftly taken by two girls who had turned up hoping there would be spare spaces.

On booking, you are sent an email stating that your card will be charged £17 per person if you fail to turn up or cancel your place less than 48 hours before the tour is to take place. This is quoted as being the "cost" per person. Further to this, the website claims that the tour has a market value of £37, so bare these figures in mind when you determine your tip!

So What Was Our Day Like?

We were only in Edinburgh for 4 days and were dying to get a glimpse of the Scottish Highlands, so this seemed like the perfect way to do it. Ideally, of course we would have road-tripped the area over a few days, but time was not on our side!

We met at Deacon's House Cafe at 8.30am. We actually ate in this cafe twice during our stay in Edinburgh (once for lunch and one for breakfast) and would highly recommend it - great food in a cosy setting!

After being greeted by our tour guide Don (one of the founders of The Hairy Coo), we knew that we were in for a great day! Don was hilarious, well-informed and you could tell that he had a real love for Scotland. He wasn't afraid to give his stance on current affairs and since he grew up in the areas that we were visiting,  his anecdotes were funny and a great addition to an already great factual & beautiful tour!

You can view the entire itinerary for the trip on their website here. But I'll talk just explain the two highlights for me and let the photos do the talking for the rest of the trip (because those Highlands are blimmin' beautiful)!

Highlight #1) BABY HIGHLAND COWS

Yes, you read that right. You get to meet baby highland cows. The Hairy Coo have a "top secret" spot where you can feed a small herd (3 adults & 3 calves) and learn more about these gorgeous creatures.

Even the bus used by The Hairy coo is disguised to look like a Highland cow - it's orange and has a little fringe across the top of the windscreen - adorable!

Highlight #2) Loch Katrine

Many of the larger tour companies will take you straight to hunt for the Loch Ness Monster. Loch Katrine is lesser known, but it is beautiful and definitely shouldn't be missed! Enjoy a leisurely walk around the beautiful loch and spend lots of time taking photos!

Would I Recommend?

Without a doubt, yes. This tour was well constructed and I can't sing Don's praises enough - one of the best tour guides I've ever experienced! I've paid around £50 for similar style tours in other countries, and if the tour/guide was rubbish, that's £50 down the drain!

They also offer a paid tour (£45) which visits the Loch Ness, Glencoe and a Whisky Distillery. If I had longer in Edinburgh, I would have most definitely paid to take this trip too! After taking the free tour, I know I would have been in good hands!

The Hairy Coo are a small business and many of the larger companies would like to see them shut down as they are rightfully gaining more custom. When you book your tickets, you have to provide your debit/credit card details to ensure that you are a real person as other tours have been known to fill the seats with fake customers - it breaks my little heart!

So, if you're in Edinburgh any time soon and want to explore the Highlands (duh, who doesn't), give these guys a shout!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. I rightfully paid the tip that I felt appropriate for my tour like all other customers. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1