Chasing Waterfalls at Finlaystone Country Estate

We’ve been under partial lockdown since the start of September, with restrictions around socialising indoors, but thankfully we’re still allowed to meet other households outside and to travel for leisure. We’re still enjoying getting out for our daily walks, more often than not just around the neighbourhood or to a local park, but we did venture a bit further afield recently when my husband suggested a day trip to Finlaystone Country Estate, which he used to pass on his commute to his previous job but never visited.

It costs £5 per adult to enter the gardens and grounds, and seems popular with families as there are swings, slides, a full scale wooden fort and pirate ship for children to play on. There’s also a cafe on site, though we took our own picnic of homemade quiche and a flask of coffee.

There are a few different walks around the grounds, but we followed the Burnside Path to see the waterfalls, giving me the chance to play with the aperture setting on my camera. It was a sunny day when we visited but had rained a few days before so the waterfalls were flowing.

We also stopped for a look around Hootenanny Owls, a volunteer-run social enterprise with a selection of birds of prey including a few rescue birds, which is based in the grounds. The staff were very enthusiastic and gave us a guided tour showing us the birds and telling us a bit about each of them, and I’d love to go back to handle them.

Finlaystone Country Estate was a lovely place to wander with plenty to see and do, and we all enjoyed exploring somewhere new. In contrast, we’ve spent this weekend cosy at home, lighting the fire for the first time since last winter, catching up and quizzing with family and friends over Zoom while the rain fell outside. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

Capturing Castles at Mugdock Country Park

Situated 10 miles North of Glasgow and just a short drive for us, we’ve only visited Mugdock Country Park a handful of times, but I can see it becoming one of our regular jaunts because it’s such a fun place to wander and explore.

We’ve generally avoided parks and crowded places during the pandemic, and Mugdock Country Park seems to be popular with young families, dog walkers and cyclists, as well as people walking the West Highland Way, which cuts across the park, yet the only crowded area was the visitor centre where the toilets, cafe and children’s play park are all located, while the paths and walks around the grounds allowed plenty of space to keep a safe distance from others.

We followed the path from the Visitor Centre past the ruins of Craigend Castle through the woods, around Mugdock Loch before having a ramble about – and a little picnic – in the Mugdock Castle ruins before returning to the visitor centre and car park. It was a lovely family day out giving us a chance to stretch our legs and clear our heads while we explored.

With national and local restrictions around socialising in place and so much uncertainty hanging over the rest of the year, I’m so grateful that we’re still able to get out for little adventures around our beautiful country. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

A Coastal Wander

Portencross

We recently took a trip to another stretch of the coastline at Portencross in North Ayrshire, a place we first visited last year. It had been raining and overcast in the morning but just as we arrived the clouds passed revealing blue skies and beautiful views of the Isle of Arran and the Isle of Cumbrae across the sea.

Portencross Castle

There were quite a few other people there at the same time either visiting Portencross Castle (which we skipped), walking their dogs or fishing on the pier, but it never felt crowded.

Taking it in turns to carry our daughter, my husband was happy to explore the rockpools finding crabs and showing them to our daughter, while I picked out shells for her to see and touch.

We’re really appreciating the freedom to visit some of our favourite places around Scotland after spending so long at home during lockdown, and I always find a day by the sea refreshing. Have a lovely week. X

Here and There

Swans on the Sea

We’ve been making the most of our beautiful country over the last few weeks, enjoying the freedom to visit places and people we haven’t seen for months during lockdown.

At the top of the list of places we wanted to visit once restrictions around travel for leisure were lifted was Croy Shore. We were last here in January just before I gave birth, and it was so lovely to return with our little girl for the first time on a breezy summer’s day in July.

Culzean Castle Ailsa Craig

Even on a busy day, it’s a quieter beach than most so we had plenty of space to wander without bumping into anyone else, and we could take our time, relax and appreciate the refreshing wind, the crash of the waves and the familiar sights of the Isle of Arran, Ailsa Craig and Culzean Castle, and on this particular day the less common sight of swans.

Croy Shore

There have also been lots of catch-ups and reunions with our extended family dotted around the country over the last few weeks, chatting over tea and cake with some, and rambling through fairy woods with others. Grandparents were delighted to be able to cuddle our daughter again, and there were some very cute scenes when we introduced our daughter to her younger cousin (born during the lockdown) with the babies gazing and smiling shyly at each other for the first time.

My daughter and I had our first playdate at the park with a few of my best friends and their children recently too. While the youngest (my friend’s son and my daughter – born just a month apart) were too little to join in with the toddlers’ games, they enjoyed seeing other small people and grasping each other’s hands whenever they were close enough.

Here and There

Closer to home, last week I visited our local supermarket for the first time since mid-March to get a few essentials I’d forgotten to add to our click & collect shop, and had my hair cut for the first time this year. Wearing masks, standing behind plexiglass screens and all the other changes that are likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future still feel strange and it’s going to take some getting used to.

Life still doesn’t feel anywhere near back to normal, but all these people, places and shared moments that would have seemed ordinary a few months ago, now feel so precious. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

Stories, Music and Swans

LittleBookworm

As lockdown restrictions are being relaxed here in Scotland, I’ve been reflecting on how I’ve spent my maternity leave so far. My days still mostly revolve around my daughter’s feeds and naps but she’s always been very curious and animated, never content to just watch the world from her pram or playmat, and it’s been a fun challenge keeping her entertained without the usual range of playgroups that many parents rely on (though I have signed up for baby massage classes on Zoom).

Unable to go to the library or bookshops during lockdown, I feel like I’ve kept Waterstones in business ordering books for the three of us. My husband and I try to read at least one story to our daughter every day, and we’ve discovered some really lovely picture books (that I’ll review at some point!). Our little bookworm also has a few scrunchy, cloth books that she can gnaw the corners and practise turning the pages.

LittleBookworm2

I’ve always wanted to learn to play piano and started teaching myself last year, but it fell by the wayside and so far all I can play is a passable version of Jingle Bells. As we’ve not been able to join any of the local baby music groups, instead my daughter and I have been plunking away on the piano, and shaking rattles or clapping along to nursery rhymes at home. My husband and I also sing to our daughter (Jason Mraz and Sara Bareilles are favourites in our household at the moment), and bounce her on our knees to the William Tell Overture, Orpheus in the Underworld (the Can Can music) and other jaunty classical pieces.

Piano

Our little girl loves getting out for walks and starts grinning as soon as she sees the baby carrier. We avoided parks during the lockdown, but wandered round our local park for the first time in months when it seemed quiet recently, and our daughter saw the resident swans, cygnets and coots in the pond for the first time.

Pond

I’ve tried to make the best of it over the last few months, but at times I’ve struggled with loneliness and self-doubt. I’m very aware of all the ordinary experiences our daughter has missed out on, but fortunately she’s too young to understand how strange this year has been and for the most part she’s a lively, cuddly girl who keeps me busy and we have a lot of fun together.

As restrictions are lifted, I’m looking forward to taking our daughter further afield, sharing new experiences together and seeing the world through her bright eyes. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

A Windswept Walk on the Beach

CroyRocks

I’ve written before about our favourite beach, Croy Shore, and over the years my husband and I have enjoyed relaxing walks watching the sunset in the weeks leading up to our wedding, summer days paddling in the sea and searching for starfish in the rockpools, and refreshing New Year’s Day walks here.

We didn’t make it to Croy Shore for a walk on New Year’s Day itself this year as we were visiting my family instead, but wanted to visit before January was out. Unsurprisingly, on an overcast, cold and blustery day, we had the beach almost to ourselves and spent some time exploring the cave and rock formations towards the North of the beach. No matter the weather, I always find a wander along this familiar shoreline so steadying and reinvigorating.

This stretch of the coast is a place we’ve come to contemplate some of our most life-defining decisions and changes, to gather our thoughts and stretch our legs but also to immerse ourselves in the moment and savour the the regular crash of the waves against the shore and the view of Culzean Castle and Ailsa Craig in one direction and the Isle of Arran in the other. Have a lovely week. X

Walking with Dinosaurs

LostWorlds

Of all the nocturnal light shows competing for visitors across the country, the Giant Lanterns of China at Edinburgh Zoo is definitely worth wrapping up and venturing out on a winter evening to see. This was our third time visiting the Giant Lanterns of China, and while previous years have focused on Chinese Astrology and Scottish and Chinese Myths and Legends, this year the theme was on the Lost Worlds of the Prehistoric Eras and was probably the best yet.

Wrapped up in boots and winter coats, with cold hands curled around cups of hot chocolate, we enjoyed wandering (or in my case waddling!) around the displays and learning about the different prehistoric eras from the infamous Jurassic era all the way up to the marsupial and ice ages. I’m always impressed by the scale and details of the lanterns with their feathers, spines, teeth, eyes, expressions and shading.

I have mixed feelings about zoos, but this event always reminds me of the valuable conservation work that Edinburgh Zoo does, as well as raising awareness that we must all do whatever we can to prevent other endangered species from extinction in our lifetimes. Have a lovely week. X

EndangeredSpecies

The Enchanted Forest ~ Lighting Up Dark Nights

The Enchanted Forest

Last weekend we made our annual jaunt to Pitlochry for the Enchanted Forest, which remains one of our favourite traditions, and a seasonal midpoint marking the transition into the colder, darker months of the year.

The theme this year was ‘Cosmos’, inspired by the skies above the forest and commemorating 50 years since astronauts walked on the moon. Now in its 18th year (and this was our 8th year visiting), it still impresses me that the creative team continue to explore new ideas and technologies, never content to just repeat what they’ve done before, and always striving to make it an immersive and interactive experience.

EFCosmos3

EFCosmos4

It’s so refreshing and restorative to have a night away at this time of year, from watching the scenery change as we cross the country with trees lining the roads already various shades of red, amber and gold, to treading the familiar paths around an illuminated Faskally Woods, pausing to take photos and appreciate the displays, sipping hot chocolate and treating ourselves to a little Christmas decoration from the merchandise stall, before returning to the hotel for a well-earned rest and waking up to marmalade on toast and porridge with honey for breakfast.

The Enchanted Forest is the first of a few seasonal activities we’ve got planned over the next couple of months, and as the nights draw in and life moves indoors, it’s lovely to wrap up warm and get outside for events like this that light up the long, dark nights. Have a lovely week. X

By the Sea

On a windy, overcast day, we took a trip to the little village of Portencross in North Ayrshire, somewhere we’d never visited before, but somewhere we’ll definitely be returning to.

Portencross

There is a small castle at Portencross, which is free to explore, but a little underwhelming compared to some of the other sprawling castles steeped in history around Scotland. The top of the castle does offer some lovely views of the coastline, the islands of Wee Cumbrae and Great Cumbrae, and even the CalMac ferries transporting passengers from Largs to Millport and back again.

From Portencross we wandered north to Hunterston Power Station. It’s a short walk, only a mile each way on a relatively flat and straight path with crocosmia, aster and yarrow growing wild on either side. We probably walked a little further as we deviated from the path a few times to scramble closer to the sea to watch the waves crashing against the rocks and so my husband could search the rock pools for crabs and other marine life – always the highlight of a trip to the seaside for him.

With everything else we’ve had going on this year, we haven’t had much time for day-trips or adventures, but we both felt refreshed after our day by the sea, enjoying the fresh air and the chance to explore somewhere new, chatting about everything and nothing, and just letting our minds and feet wander. Have a lovely week. X

A Day Trip to Jupiter

JupiterArtland

Summer has been a bit stop-start in our part of the country but we recently took advantage of a very sunny day with clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid-20s (hot by our standards!) for a little day trip.

Jupiter Artland is a contemporary sculpture park set across 100 acres of forest and meadows near Edinburgh. There’s a lot to see but I thought I’d share a few photos of our favourite exhibits.

In a clearing in the forest, there are statues of five little girls in various stages of a tantrum, it is a little bit creepy but Laura Ford’s Weeping Girl sculptures capture so much emotion and movement.

Several years ago, we visited The Cosmic Garden of Speculation designed by Charles Jencks and the highlight was climbing the spiral mounds, although the Cosmic Garden of Speculation is only open to the public one day of the year (or by special arrangement), the Cells of Life provide a similar experience here.

There was much more to see but these were the exhibits I found most memorable. Jupiter Artland appears to be a little off the beaten path but it was a fun place to explore and offers a more interactive and multi-sensory experience than traditional art galleries. Have a lovely week! X