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Edinburgh

    Glasgow, the Art Nouveau Movement and Cake

    Over the years that we’ve travelled up to Scotland, every time we’d planned to pop over to Glasgow, something got in the way. Christmas snowstorms, temptation by way of Peebles Fish and chips, lazy weekend afternoons, a rampant fire through Glasgow School of Arts and sheer unbridled disorganization.

    Willow Tea Rooms Art Deco Glasgow Mackintosh

    But, we finally made it to Glasgow. We intentionally planned a couple of days there to relax after an intensive road trip into the breathtaking landscapes of the Scottish Highlands. It was somewhere that I’d always wanted to visit – mostly spurned by my love of architectural details and a burgeoning fascination for Art Deco and Art Nouveau (you know who you are).

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    The 10 best castles in the world (IMHO)

    My inner princess never thought this was possible. My own country has a history of around 150 settled human years, so the magic of walking through thousands of years of Euopean history never quite loses the unique frisson of delight. This selection is my top 10 of the best castles in the world (well, in my honest opinion anyway!)

    Suits of armour that tell tales of bravery and hardship, kitchen hearths that fed hundreds of (in)famous dignitaries and hard-working servants, windows that saw enemy arches living up their longbows and sighing maidens dreaming of their loves, moats that were filled with all sorts of exotic contents and drafty castles walls that witnessed history that changed the lives of nations.

    The 10 best castles in the world Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Yeah, I’ve got the castle wandering bug bad. If there is a castle or palace near where we are (and by near I mean within 2 hours train ride) you can guarantee that I’ll be making my way there, scheming how to get closer or researching ways to sleep there (Prince Harry, watch out).

    Buckingham Palace, London, England
    Known by locals as ‘Buck House’ the home of our Commonwealth Queen was everything thing I thought it would be – ostentatious, sumptuous and amazing. Just what a Palace should be. As important to the British psyche as Tea, wellies and apologising for other people bumping into you, the Royal family is an institution. Britain (/England/the United Kingdom/whatever) simply wouldn’t be the same without the bastion of the eccentric royal family: the Queen’s imperious waves, Prince Philips gaffes, Charles & Camilla’s love affair and Kate and Williams rock-star icon just adds such a soupcon to the mystique of Britain.

    The 10 best castles in the world Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Pena Palace, Sintra Portugal
    Quirkily gorgeous, the Palacio Nacional da Pena is one of the finest tourist attractions of Portugal and exemplifies the 19th century Romanticism style of architecture with a twist of sheer imagination. The curiously crenellated collection of beautiful rooms crest a collection of beautiful palaces in the town of Sintra.

    The 10 best castles in the world Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany.
    On our visit, leaving behind the crowds in the busy parking lot (there are a couple of family castles that can also be visited) we walked up the hill towards Neuschwanstein. Leaving Mr Kiwi to enjoy the fresh mountain air, I took in the guided tour through the unique rooms created solely for Ludwig’s use – even the servants had separate hallways running alongside. From an ornately carved bedroom to a man-made cave and private theatre room, the castle that inspire Walt Disney’s cartoon glory was curious to say the least…

    The 10 best castles in the world Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey), Highclere, England
    They say never meet your heroes as you’ll only be disappointed when their humanity is revealed, but I say ignore that entirely. Sometimes you have to. Sometimes you have to get on that train, walk through those gates and simply revel in the crazy amazingness that is England. Case in point – Downton Abbey. Wait, I mean Highclere Castle…

    The 10 best castles in the world Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Winchester Castle, Winchester, England
    Housing the Arthurian Round Table of myth and legend (though sadly actually slightly more modern in construction – only commissioned by King Henry in the 13th Century, rather than 6th as they originally thought) Winchester Cathedral is well worth a wander – especially in winter…

    The 10 best castles in the world Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Strawberry Hill House, Richmond, London
    Hidden in the opulent suburb of Twickenham, (aka Surrey) a gothic castle of dreamy spires quietly rests. Each new room seemed like walking into a fairytale princess’ room – in fact my friend struggled the whole way round to choose just the one she would have as her bedroom…

    Eilean Donan, Highlands, Scotland
    You can name almost any of the residences of royal kilt wearers (a personal favourite is Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh), but the most famous in the Highlands is the beautiful and mysterious Eilean Donan, which means ‘Island of Donnan’. Found on a a small tidal island located in the western Highlands of Scotland, the castle was first founded in the 13th century and after extensive 20th Century work now features in a litany of movies and TV shows (including a Monty Python cameo).

    The 10 best castles in the world Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Kidwelly Castle/Castell Cydwell, Carmanthenshire, Wales
    Known best for featuring in the establishing shot of Monty Python’s Search For The Holy Grail (aka one of the best comic films ever) this castle is a treasure of the Welsh countryside.

    Eltham Palace, Eltham, England
    First mentioned in the Doomsday book, Eltham Estate was presented to King Edward II in 1305 and developed into one of the most favoured royal palaces with 1,000 acres of deer park on its doorstep. #swoon

    The 10 best castles in the world Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Blarney Castle, Blarney, Ireland
    Quite simply, that’s how Mr Kiwi and I came to find ourselves being pushed (by some bloke) over a parapet, backwards, whilst holding on to a couple of sturdy steel supports. Kissing the Blarney Stone was one of those ‘pinch me’ moments that blew my tiny little mind, and it was well worth the journey. (Will I ever become vaguely eloquent? Probably not, and I’m ok with that.)

    The 10 best castles in the world Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What would make your top 10 castles in the world list? (Real or fiction…) 

     (PS. pin me!)

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    Five Scottish gems everyone should visit (Guest post: Claire)

    Not only do I love Scotland, but I also adore Claire’s (of the blog Country Mouse Claire) enormous smile and when she kindly said yes to a guest post on her home country of Scotland, I couldn’t wait to explore a little more of the glorious lands that include the beauty of Skye.

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    Five Scottish gems everyone should visit

    While London is my home, Scotland is my homeland, so when Emma asked me to write a short piece on travel for her blog (thanks, Emma!), a little piece on my favourite parts of this special part of the world is what sprang immediately to mind. I’ve been lucky enough to visit some special, beautiful places, but the sights and sounds of Scotland always call me home. Here are five places I think should definitely make your itinerary, should Scotland be calling you too.

    1. Aberdeen 

    The Silver City is one of the gems of the north, a granite delight perched on the northeastern edge of the Scottish mainland. With a wealth of beautiful architecture and plenty to see and do, it’s well worth a visit. Marischal College in the heart of the city is a beautiful piece of architecture and the second largest piece of granite architecture on earth, and the Maritime Museum charts the role of the sea in hundreds of years of Aberdonian history. A trip to Duthie Park will show you a beautiful public space, and the award winning Winter Gardens means there is always warmth and greenery to be found, even in the depths of a Scottish winter!

    A short walk to Old Aberdeen will take you to the buildings and main hub of the University of Aberdeen. Both King’s College Chapel and the university’s Zoology Museum are must-sees in this part of town. Just south of Aberdeen and a short drive or train ride away is the pretty town of Stonehaven, where you can visit Dunottar Castle, made famous by the film Hamlet and full of artefacts charting Scotland’s rich history.

    Five Scottish gems everyone should visit (Guest post: Claire)

    2. Inverness

    The capital of the Highlands is a thriving small city and a beautiful place to spend a few days in. You’ll be welcomed warmly – Inverness is a bit of a hike to get to, but has much to offer tourists! On the top of many visitor’s lists is a trip south to Loch Ness to see if they can spot Nessie, the Loch Ness monster. As well as the lovely exhibition centre there are also companies who offer cruises out on the loch. While in this part of the world, Urquhart Castle is a lovely excursion – this ruined fortress is the second most visited castle in Scotland (after Edinburgh Castle) and it is an image frequently used on Scottish calendars, postcards, and memorabilia.

    The city of Inverness is a pretty one, with a wide range of shops, restaurants and pubs. The Botanic Gardens are a lovely spot to wander in and the Victorian market is similarly inviting. To the west of the city you can visit Culloden, site of the 1746 battle which changed the path of Scottish and British history forever. A short drive north will take you to the Black Isle, with distilleries, a brewery, and plenty of opportunities for spotting the Moray Firth dolphins.

    Five Scottish gems everyone should visit (Guest post: Claire)

    3. Moray

    While it may be less well-known than other areas I’m writing on, I have to mention Moray as it’s my local area! A small district nestled between the Highlands and Aberdeenshire, it’s known as malt whisky country, and as such there are loads of fantastic distilleries to visit (Dallas Dhu, Glen Moray, Glenfiddich and tiny wee Benromach being some of my favourites).

    As well as these delights there are many cultural high points and beautiful places to visit. In Elgin you can visit the ruins of Elgin Cathedral or take a short drive to Pluscarden Abbey, the only medieval monastery in the UK still in use as a working monastery. In and around Forres Logie Steading, Brodie Castle and Sueno’s Stone are all historical attractions of note, and in the spring and summer this pretty town (and frequent Britain in Bloom finalist) is a riot of floral colour. The Moray Firth makes up the northern edge of the area, and this coastline is full of beautiful beaches and seaside towns – Findhorn, a pretty village with miles of sand beaches is a favourite holiday spot of mine. It’s also home to one of the biggest ecovillages in Europe: the Findhorn Foundation is a place worth exploring.

    Local tip – for some of the best views across the area, a short drive up to Califer viewpoint is well worth your time (see below). Gorgeous.

    Five Scottish gems everyone should visit (Guest post: Claire)

    4. Pitlochry

    A visit to the mountains is a high point (no pun intended!) of any visit to Scotland, and Pitlochry is the perfect base from which to enjoy Highland Perthshire. A beautiful, welcoming town, it offers a great base for expeditions and visits in the area, with beautiful scenery and wonderful wildlife in abundance – if you’re very lucky you may even spot a rare osprey or golden eagle, or catch a glimpse of the timid red squirrels.

    As well as getting to know some of the more colourful locals, there are plenty of places to visit and enjoy in and around Pitlochry. From March to October you can visit Blair Castle, nestled amongst the hills and mountains. You can also take a tour of the Blair Athol distillery while you are in this part of world – you’re never very far from a distillery in Scotland! Both Faskally Wood and Killiecrankie offer some excellent walking; for a more challenging walk try summiting pretty Ben Vrackie to enjoy its stunning views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. Also not to be missed is the ‘Queen’s View’, where you can enjoy the same vistas which so delighted Queen Victoria when she visited Pitlochry. Such a great little town for an outdoorsy break.

    Five Scottish gems everyone should visit (Guest post: Claire)

    5. Edinburgh

    No Scotland guide would be complete without a nod to the nation’s capital. Edinburgh is an iconic city, and a major hub for commerce, culture and literature. How many other cities have a castle atop a chunk of rock as their centrepiece? Edinburgh Castle is a huge tourist attraction, as are the areas of the Old Town and the Royal Mile. On a fine day a walk to the top of Arthur’s Seat, 251 metres above sea level, is a pleasant expedition offering amazing views across the city and the Firth of Forth.

    Other wonderful places to visit are the National Museum of Scotland, the Camera Obscura, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. If you’ve tired of the national tipple, you may enjoy a tour of the Edinburgh Gin Distillery for a change of pace (or should that be flavour?). As well as all this there are more museums, art galleries, and a huge range of shops, restaurants and bars to enjoy. Each summer Edinburgh hosts the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – all are well worth attending, but as the city is far busier at this time of year it’s worth bearing in mind if you’re adding a quick jaunt to the city to a busy itinerary.

    Five Scottish gems everyone should visit (Guest post: Claire)

    As well as the five mentioned above, there are so many places to visit in Scotland, and the country is perfect for exploring, with a warm welcome awaiting. Oban, Stornoway, Wick, Nairn, Skye, Aviemore, Gairloch, Mull, Dundee, St Andrew’s, Perth, Huntly, Glasgow, Stirling. Trust me, I could go on and on….and these are just the places I’ve visited and liked! Whether you’re seeking history, distilleries, culture, or the great outdoors, there’s always something to see and do in Scotland.

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    Thank you lovely – there is so much more I want to see now! In the meantime, definitely pop over to Country Mouse Claire for more of her favorite adventures.

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    8 inspirational UNESCO sites around the world

    UNESCO is a club that all of the famous world heritages sites want to get into. Think of the listing as the glittery lip gloss worn by the popular schoolyard kids, only it applies to gloriously dusty buildings instead. I came to England intent on exploring the architecture of Europe, and haven’t done too badly over the years with my collection of UNESCO favourites.

    Kew Gardens London UNESCO

    It’s one of my 101 in 1001 days goals to visit at least another five – in the meantime here are a few that should definitely be on your UNESCO bucket list. That’s a thing, right? (I’m so cool.)

    Bath, Somerset England


    I’ve roadtripped to these gorgeous Georgian terraces more than a few
    times, each time leaving a little part of my heart behind in the
    glorious honeycomb of golden stone and history.

    Bath England Georgian UNESCO

    Forth Bridge, Edinburgh Scotland 

    Our favourite place in Edinburgh to visit? The Forth Rail bridge, mostly because
    we’re nerds, additionally because it’s internationally famous. Cool
    fact; the bridge was known as ‘the bridge with neverending painting’
    because as soon as they finished, they’d have to start again – though somewhat sadly in 2011 a
    paint was developed that would last 25 years (much to our disappointment).


    Forth Rail Bridge Edinburgh Scotland UNESCO

    Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland (not blogged, but we love Belfast)

    Allegedly created in a fight between two Giants, the causeway is a natural marvel of hexagonal columns.

    Giants Causeway Northern Ireland UNESCO

     
    Kew Gardens, London England

    I’ve at least a half dozen times, and every single time we go I’m amazed at the skill, the size, and the variety found within the gates. Take a picnic (the food in there is levelled at tourist trap prices), wander around the garden, say hi to the friendly inhabitants (the peacocks and squirrels in particular) and just enjoy. 

    Kew Gardens London UNESCO

    Stonehenge, Wiltshire England

    One of the best things to do at this time of year living in Britain is
    to hop in your car with some great company, a picnic, a map, your
    favourite music and go for a road trip, especially when your destination is a great big pile of rocks.

    Stonehenge Wiltshire England UNESCO

    Tower of London, London

    Priceless Diamonds & Sapphires, Murder, Kings, Queens, 1000 years of history, Ravens, Torture & Beefeaters. Need I say anymore? How about a free, ancient Ceremony of the Keys locking up the icon each night?

    Tower of London London England UNESCO

    Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli Italy

    When Hadrian died, various successors used the 350+ room Villa, but it fell into
    disuse and disrepair and by the 16th Century was in partial ruin, and
    the buildings’ materials were being nicked for the Villa d’Este.
    Can you imagine the parties they threw here? It’s now a UNESCO World
    History Site – where all those massive discos were thrown, amazing no?

    Hadrian's Villa Tivoli Italy UNESCO

    I’m counting the glorious Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal in amongst my latest UNESCO aquisitions, but I would LOVE any recommendations…

    Pena Palace Sintra Potugal UNESCO

    What are your favourites?

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    Where to go in Scotland – the best road trip ever

    If you are undecided about road tripping through the Scottish Highlands, just go. Simply get in a car, add a bottle or two of wine for an evening, a couple of snacks, good company and a GPS. 

    Where to go in Scotland - Skye Road Trip

    That’s all you need for an amazing journey of awe-inspiring landscapes, curious beauty and quirky discoveries.

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