About Me

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I am a home educating mum of 2 living in the Northwest of England. I long to travel with my family (including the fluffs) to see the world and have amazing adventures, because life is too short to worry about paying off a mortgage!

Friday, August 11, 2017

One Of My Favourite Places - Lowther Castle in Penrith

The stunning backdrop of the castle from the large lawn area in the gardens

Having visited Lowther Castle last year for the first time we finally got a chance to re-visit at a nicer time of the year. It has to be one of my favourite places to go even if we don't get here as often as I'd like.

I could happily wander through these gardens every day they are so extensive and intriguing; whether following the meandering paths or wondering at the huge trees you can almost imagine all the people who have walked here before, and perhaps this is why I love this place so much, it captures your imagination on so many levels.

The history of the castle is fascinating and being in the ruins feels both inspiring and sad, it's a shame that such a beautiful piece of architecture can't be fully used as once intended. Trying to imagine where all the floors were, how it was adorned and who may have once swept through the halls is a great way to engage the kids and make the history come alive, or at least keep them from moaning about history....?

I would love to see an interactive way to show how the castle would have looked back in its full glory especially when you are stood in that particular part of the ruin.

Inside the castle ruins

From the family point of view this place provides a full day out for the kids; the Lost Castle is a play area of sheer beauty and even the most play park jaded adult will appreciate the effort that's gone into it (and enjoy a play or two themselves!). You can easily lose a good few hours on here alone.

The lovely rope swings in the trees

Then back to the extensive gardens, honestly they are huge! We really enjoyed the bear hunt trail that was on when we visited and we discovered some lovely areas of the gardens that we didn't see on our last visit. There are hidden gems everywhere and even when it's busy you can find secluded parts where you can appreciate the beauty of the nature around you.

Bow and I enjoyed the peace of the pond
Another bonus, it's dog friendly! They aren't allowed in the play area section but are allowed on lead everywhere else; it's nice to have the furry members of the household join us too and means we don't have to keep an eye on the clock to get home for them. 

The children just love being able to explore the grounds and there's a little something to find around every corner. We had to tear them away from the little house they discovered.

A little den for them!

There's a lovely cafe in the courtyard, again dog friendly, and on warm days it would be lovely having a picnic in the grounds. It's not the cheapest entry £29 for family ticket, you can also get 10% off if ordering online, but it feels like great value for money as you can easily while away the whole day there and guaranteed with all the running, climbing and fresh air the kids will sleep like logs at bedtime!

Since we head South on our way home we also got to visit the infamous Tebay services on our way home and picked up some interesting foods for our tea. For deli food, unusual finds and splashing some cash (it's certainly not the cheapest!) this place ticked all those, I think it must be the only service station in the country that doesn't house a fast food chain which says it all really!


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Exploring Dubrovnik in Croatia

After finding some cheap flights online (thank you Monarch) we had a mini adventure to Dubrovnik in Croatia and what a find!
People told us how beautiful it was before we went and yet I still didn't anticipate how lush the scenery would be and how every spot is as picturesque as the one before.

View from our apartment

If you love the bustle of the city yet crave the peace and calmness that the seaside brings then a stay in the new part of Dubrovnik is a perfect fit.
We stayed in a modern self catering apartment a stones throw from the harbour. Well laid out gardens provide a lovely walk right round the harbour and play areas for the kids are nestled between in these green spaces. A lovely daily food market is adjacent to the boat moorings and the kids were fascinated to see which cruise ship had appeared in the dock by morning.

Miss L enjoying the vista

With it being the new part of Dubrovnik it was much less crowded and calmer than the old town and after our visits to the old town it was nice to get back, catch a breath and enjoy a more chilled city vibe.
A note on the friendliness of the locals by the way, we made an effort with the language as we always do when abroad but rarely did we find this really broke the ice here, maybe they just get tired of tourists. However whenever Miss L said Hvala (thank you) or Molim (please) she was returned with squeals and huge smiles so we felt like that was at least a bit of a break through!

Island Of Lokrum
Dubrovnik Old City down below

Places To Eat


If you enjoy food, as we do, then there are just hundreds of choices in both the old and new parts. Sadly on day 1 due to a kerfuffle with our parking pass we were late exploring and got caught out by a typical tourist trap area; think paying a premium for mediocre (at best) food. After being charged 49HRK (Croatian Kuna, no it's not the Euro!) so around £6 for a seasonal fruit platter which ended up consisting of a massive wedge of water melon; no exaggeration! Throw in 2 x cheese toasties and we were £30 lighter which was a bit hard to swallow! Of course they are catching the hordes of tourists that descend from the docked cruise ships so these are best avoided if you like spending your hard earned cash on decent grub, a good lesson learned.

We did manage to unearth some wonderful places though, a stunningly located Konoba Dubrava up in the hills in Bosanka where we sampled traditional lamb and veal cooked for 3 hours under the iron bell (glad we ordered ahead on that one), delicious - although I would have left out the starter had I known how large the portion sizes were!

Starter platter at Konoba Dubrava
One of our best meals had to be at Peppers Eatery in new Dubrovnik, everything was delicious, the kids sampled calamari and we loved all sharing a selection of the meals. We were also treated to the best sunset once we had finished, it was a perfect evening.

Peppers Eatery
Sunset at Dubrovnik New town harbour
Finally another amazing place to sample some traditional delicacies was at Konavoski Dvori up in the hills of Konavle next to the beautiful river Ljuta.

River Ljuta in Konavle
It's a whole new experience sitting beside a babbling waterfall watching stunning, iridescent dragonflies and butterflies fluttering across the water. After, we wandered down the river to the mill, playing pooh sticks on the way and dipping our hot toes in the icy cold water - perfect in the high 37 degree heat.

Places Of Interest

Dubrovnik Old Town.

Steps in the centre
Entrance to the aquarium

The Old Town was a wonderful maze of narrow, cobbled streets, beautiful architecture, huge stone walls and of course (if you're a fan) Game of Thrones filming locations. Our first visit was so crowded with cruise ship tourists it was hard to get a true feel of the place, but on our second, much quieter visit we could really see the beauty of the place. Rustic stone buildings and reading the history and role of the city and it's huge walls made for an immersive experience. The kids adored the aquarium where we escaped from the blazing heat for an hour, some of the tanks are in the old gun holes. Although, sadly the size and decoration of the tanks for some of the fish seemed questionable (think octopus in a small tank with nowhere to hide). 


Sailing trip on the Karaka

We set sail on the Karaka for a wonderful Elaphiti Island day cruise exploring 3 of Dubrovnik's Islands - Kolocep, Sipan and Lopud. 

The Karaka
Stunning scenery aboard the Karaka

From start to finish we loved this trip. The Karaka (oh, also used in Game of Thrones!) for starters  is a stunning ship, especially when they lowered the sails. A trio of musicians played wonderful, cheery Croatian music during sail and got everyone joining in and a well made buffet lunch was provided whilst at sea.

I have never seen such clear turquoise water with so many fish swimming, the whole area is protected by UNESCO.
The islands were all beautiful and most exciting was getting the chance to have a dip in the sea at Lopud and then sample some Nutella ice cream crepes afterwards whilst sat by the beach, sheer bliss.


Swimming in Lopud

 The Island of Lokrum

Finally we headed to Lokrum, a nature reserve set on a stunning island a mere 15 minute boat ride away from the Old Town. It cost around 120HRK for the boat trip and combined entrance fee and it was easily a full day out. 
We made the steep climb to the ruins of the fort at the top through lots of pine, cypress and olive trees and were rewarded with the most sublime view; the sparkling blue Adriatic filled with magnificent ships and a lush emerald green backdrop. 

Atop the island of Lokrum
There are lots of secret bays to explore and swim in as well as the dead sea which is a lovely, if pretty chilly, cove. It's also pretty pebbly so we had to watch our feet!

A hidden cove with steep steps down.
There were free running peacocks and rabbits and the whole place buzzed with Cicadas, I couldn't think of a more calming, inspiring place where the kids can explore and run free in nature then this. 
Underground Tunnel
Racing through the forest



We visited the dead sea, the ruins, the play park, the restaurant (naturally) and the underground ruins from the monastery where the Game of Thrones iron throne is sited after being gifted by HBO to the city of Dubrovnik.

 Finally the boat ride home and then it was the end of our adventure in Croatia. I can't believe people only have a day or two here there is so much to see and do and explore. This is definitely somewhere we will be visiting again!

Enjoying the sea air