High and Low Tide at the Beach

With the exception of a week of thunderstorms and torrential rain, we’ve had a wonderful summer of blue skies, sunshine and warmth, and we’ve been making the most of the good weather and our freedom after all the travel restrictions and lockdowns last year. We’ve had a couple of very different trips to our favourite beach recently, arriving at low tide one day, then high tide just a few days later, something we always forget to check before visiting.

When our visit coincided with low tide, we had a quick picnic lunch before exploring the rock pools that are normally submerged while the tide is in. My husband (an astrological crab) set about trying to find the biggest crabs he could, and found a couple of very aptly-named, red-eyed and fairly hostile, Devil Crabs, while I searched for starfish. Our daughter was fascinated by it all, pointing at rocks for us to turn over and giggling whenever we held up the aquatic critters we’d found for her to look at.

Just a few days later, we returned while the tide was in and spent an afternoon walking barefoot in the sand, paddling in the waves and letting the little one dig in the sand. We’re used to having the beach to ourselves most of the time, but this was the busiest we’d ever seen it with dog-walkers, swimmers and paddle-boarders, families picnicking and even someone trying their luck with a metal detector.

Whatever the weather, and regardless of the the tide being in or out, Croy Shore is always one of my favourite places to visit, and it’s been lovely to spend a few days there this summer. Have a lovely week. X

Five Sisters Zoo

Five Sisters Zoo in West Lothian was on my list of places to visit for a while but due to lockdowns and travel restrictions we didn’t have an opportunity to visit until recently, but it was absolutely worth the wait, turning out to be much bigger and with a greater range of animals than I expected from a family run zoo with a focus on animal welfare.

Five Sisters Zoo was founded by a couple who originally bought the land to open their own garden centre with a little animal rehoming centre for pets and rescued animals. While the independent garden centre struggled and eventually closed, the little animal collection, which started with rabbits, guinea pigs, goats and pigs, continued to expand until the local council granted them a zoo license in 2005.

I really appreciated the ethos of this family run zoo that has taken in animals from other zoos that have closed down, rescued and retired bears and lions from circuses and various other animals with injuries, illnesses and disabilities that would be unable to live in the wild.

We were really lucky and saw most of the animals during our visit with the exceptions of the rescued bears, the snow leopard and the wolves – all of whom were hidden away in their large enclosures. Our animal-loving daughter loved the otters, lemurs and meerkats best of all, and eventually had to be carried out of the zoo howling in protest after we’d spent a good three hours wandering around; while I was delighted to catch a glimpse of Rufio the red panda – a relatively new addition who arrived at the zoo in May.

We all thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the zoo and it’s definitely somewhere we’d return to. Have a lovely week. X

Returning to the Japanese Gardens

We’re in the midst of a summer heatwave at the moment, and while we’ve been spending most of our time in the garden splashing in the paddling pool and enjoying the shade of the summerhouse, we’ve enjoyed a few daytrips out of the city as well. We recently combined a long overdue family reunion with a visit to the Japanese Gardens at Cowden Estate in Clackmannanshire. My husband and I visited the The Japanese Gardens in 2018, and it was lovely to return with our toddler in tow to see how it’s grown and changed since our first visit.

The main path follows the edge of the lake with two bridges, one arched and the other zig-zagging allowing visitors to cross from one side to the other. There’s also a dry-garden with patterns raked into the stones, a moss garden, and stone lanterns scattered around. The gardens are elegant, tranquil and wonderfully combine the Japanese aesthetic with the surrounding Scottish landscape.

After exploring the gardens, we treated ourselves to coffee and freshly baked scones from the cafe. The Japanese Gardens are a little of the beaten path, but well worth a visit. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

A Glimpse Under the Sea at the Aquarium

I suspect the rest of the U.K. is watching the Euro 2020 final, while I’m enjoying a bit of a peace and quiet at the end of a busy weekend and tapping out a quick post about our recent family excursions to the SeaLife Aquarium at Loch Lomond Shores now that lockdown and travel restrictions have finally ended in Scotland.

One personal change the pandemic has brought about is that I used to book events well in advance (I always like to have something to look forward to) but after so many cancelled events and travel restrictions, I’m trying to be more spontaneous, so when one rainy Saturday my husband saw there were tickets available for the SeaLife Aquarium, we decided to seize the day as it had been on our list of things to do for a while. It’s not fully open yet due to refurbishments and certain areas are still closed where social distancing isn’t possible but there was plenty to see and more than enough to keep us and our inquisitive, energetic toddler entertained from clownfish (“Hello Nemo!”) to piranhas and sharks. Even though it’s relatively close (a half hour drive for us), the SeaLife Aquarium is not somewhere we’ve visited before but we had a lovely time and would definitely return. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

Back Again

As soon as travel restrictions were lifted in Scotland, we took a trip to our favourite beach, Croy Shore in South Ayrshire. We’d normally visit in January, often on New Year’s Day for a bracing walk along the coast, but that wasn’t possible this year due to lockdown; instead our first visit of 2021 was on a sunny Spring day with blue skies above, waves gently lapping the shoreline, sands stretching out for miles ahead and temps just hitting double figures. I was so glad to see the familiar sights of the curving coastline, Turnberry lighthouse (now part of a luxury resort owned by a former U.S. President), Culzean Castle to the South and the hazy outline of the Isle of Arran across the sea.

We had to planned to let our daughter just toddle about on the sands but she surprised us with her fearlessness by running straight towards the sea and splashing about in the waves grinning and squealing with laughter.

Croy Shore has been the setting for so many memories between me and my husband, we’ve come here to gather our thoughts, clear our minds and contemplate some of our biggest decisions, yet on this day we were just content to stroll along letting our little girl dictate the pace and direction, making some new memories as a family, and savouring the first taste of freedom after so many months of lockdown.

Take care, and have a lovely week. X

Autumn in Big Tree Country

We’d planned to have a little getaway to Perthshire in October, our first with the baby. However, between our cat’s sudden illness in September and rapidly changing travel guidance around Coronavirus, we decided it would be safer and less stressful to cancel our reservations and have a little day trip there instead.

Travelling north on the A9 is always a bit nostalgic for me, as it was the route to Aberdeen back in my undergraduate university days, but more recently because of our annual trip to the Enchanted Forest. We managed to time our journey around the little one’s naps so she slept most of the way there (and back).

Our first stop was at Pitlochry, and no trip there is complete without calling in at the Christmas Emporium to choose a few new decorations and the independent sweet shop, Love Your Sweets, to treat ourselves to some rosy apples and soor plums.

We decided to bypass Faskally Woods where the Enchanted Forest takes place, and visited the Hermitage at Dunkeld just a few miles south of Pitlochry instead.

We followed the muddy paths along the River Braan to the charming Hermitage Bridge admiring the roaring Brack Linn Falls, stopping to investigate the so-called Wishing Trees (fallen trees and stumps that have coins hammered into them over the last few years) and taking a peak in Ossian’s Cave before looping back on ourselves, and heading back to the car and home again.

This wasn’t the trip we expected to take but it was a lovely one regardless, and as travel restrictions have tightened it’s likely to be our last trip for a while. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

The Enchanted Forest ~ A Retrospective

The Enchanted Forest ~ A Retrospective

Back in May the Enchanted Forest team made the difficult decision to cancel the event due to the pandemic. It’s a shame as we were so looking forward to taking our daughter to see it for the first time but we’ve already booked our tickets and lodgings for next year as the team are optimistic that it will go ahead in 2021. However, as I’ve been visiting the Enchanted Forest for almost a decade, I thought I’d share a little retrospective of highlights from previous years.

My first visit to the Enchanted Forest was in 2010, after I saw it advertised on the Glasgow subway. The first year I went with a friend (though every year after with my husband, and we got engaged during our visit to the Enchanted Forest in 2013), and I loved it so much that I’ve faithfully returned to Pitlochry every October since.

The Enchanted Forest roughly follows the same figure of eight path around Loch Dunmore and Faskally Woods but the design team choose a different theme every year and always make the most of the natural and permanent features such as the towering fir trees, the Loch and the bridge, as well as building temporary viewing platforms for projections and synchronised light displays around the forest.

It’s an incredibly creative and innovative light and sound show, and given that it runs for the full month of October in all but the very worst Scottish weather, and attracts 80,000 visitors, I’m always impressed by how smoothly the event runs.

I’ve shared posts from our visits in 2017, 2018 and 2019, but enjoyed this little trip down memory lane, seeing how the Enchanted Forest has grown and developed – though my photos don’t do it justice at all. It’s one of my favourite events, it’s been the setting of some wonderful memories and I’m very much looking forward to returning when we’re able to. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

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