Back at the end of September, we took a wee day trip to Culzean Castle to make the most of a mild and sunny day. Culzean is just a few miles south of our favourite beach, Croy Shore, but is only somewhere we’ve visited a handful of times, though I can see it become another family favourite because there’s so much to see and do. It’s an NTS property so entrance is free for members, but for everyone else it’s £18.95 to visit the Castle and grounds, or £13.95 for the grounds (free for under 5’s), which is what we chose as with the adventure playpark, woodland walks, private beaches and gardens to explore, you could easily spend a whole day there.
Our first stop was at the Adventure Cove, a huge wooden fortress fulls of slides and places for children to climb and explore. During the summer holiday, I imagine this place is mobbed, but it wasn’t too busy when we visited.
We made our way through the woods to the beach, and it was really lovely to see clear views of the Isle of Arran and Ailsa Craig across the sea but from a different angle than we’re used to. While we were trying to work out what the stretch of land between Arran and Ailsa Craig was on the far horizon (our best guesses were either the Campbelltown Peninsula or Ireland?), we spotted a couple of seals swimming much to our delight – though annoyingly I didn’t have my camera with me so could only get a few zoomed-in, blurry shots with my phone.
Afterwards, we headed back towards the main entrance and the castle itself. Culzean Castle is perched on the cliffs and always reminds me of Manderley from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. I would’ve liked to visit the gardens in front of the castle but by this time the little one’s energy and patience were flagging so settled for a quick glimpse through the ruined arch, then a break for refreshments at the Home Farm Cafe before the journey home. It was a really lovely day and somewhere that we’ll definitely return to. Have a lovely week. X
We’re in the middle of the summer holidays here in Scotland, but just before the schools broke up we took a trip to Five Sisters Zoo. This was our third visit to the zoo, having been twice last year – including an afterdark visit to see their winter illuminations, but it’s one of our favourite places to visit.
We saw one of the rescued bears for the first time on this visit, as well as catching a glimpse of one of the wolves, but other highlights included lions lazing in the sun, the snow leopard sitting out surveying the area, the lynx snoozing, lots of curious monkeys and lemurs, snuggling otters and meerkats coming right up to the windows to say hello to our daughter.
We visited midweek, arriving just as a bus full of school children were leaving, meaning there was just us and a handful of other families wandering around. We had taken a picnic as we didn’t know if there would be anything GF for my husband in the cafe, and the little one had a great time in the playpark in the middle of the zoo, which was a great way of breaking up our visit.
For a family run zoo, I’m always surprised by how big it is and how many creatures there are to see, it’s really great value and well worth the ticket price. Have a lovely week. X
A mercurial spring has finally given way to a warm and sunny summer, and a couple of weeks ago we had a long overdue visit to the beach. When it was just the two of us, my husband and I would always visit in January (if not on New Year’s Day itself) for a bracing walk along the shore letting the icy winds blow away the cobwebs of the year before and sharing a flask of hot coffee while we chatted about our hopes and plans for the year ahead, but this year was half gone before we found time to visit.
Croy Shore is a beautiful beach with incredible views of the Isle of Arran across the sea, but lacks the amenities of other beaches along the Ayrshire coast such as cafes and ice-cream vans or public toilets (closed during the pandemic and never reopened) which mean our visits here always require a bit more planning like toilet breaks on the way and packed lunches.
My husband had checked the tides before we arrived so we knew that it would be out allowing us to explore the rockpools that are usually hidden underwater at high tide, and after scrabbling across some very slippery seaweed covered rocks we found crabs, an eel and starfish.
Our toddling daughter was fascinated by all the aquatic critters but she probably had just as much fun digging in the sand and splashing in the sea.
After a lovely afternoon of picnicking, walking barefoot in the sand, paddling in the sea and exploring rockpools, we were all tired but refreshred and ready for dinner, showers and baths to wash the sand from between our toes, and an early night. Have a lovely week. X
I bought tickets to the Spectacle of Light show at Dalkeith Country Park last year but due to the lockdown and travel restrictions we were unable to go, I decided to risk buying tickets again this year and it turned out to be a really lovely place to visit.
Dalkeith Country Park covers over 1000 acres but the part that has been illuminated is concentrated around the permanent children’s play areas which is split into one side full of wooden forts connected by sturdy bridges, and a more traditional playpark with swings, roundabouts and seesaws opposite. I can definitely see us returning here in the summer for a day trip and lots of adventure play with our daughter, but Spectacle of Light turned out to be the most child friendly light show we’ve ever been to.
Spectacle of Light is actually held in multiple sites across England between October and February, though Dalkeith Country Park is the only Scottish location and takes place during December. The light show itself was beautiful, from the fire fields where visitors could toast giant marshmallows, and the Nutcracker garden with a spinning ballerina in the centre, to the pavillion and synchronised lights on the lawn. Unlike other light shows we’ve been to, each section is seperate and it doesn’t follow a linear route around the illuminations, which meant it never felt crowded or like visitors were caught in a bottleneck.
Much like GlasGLOW (which we visited last month), our little one enjoyed the first half of our visit but after a while, even wrapped up in her snow suit, the cold (temperatures hovered around 1°c) and the interruption of her normal evening routine (she’s normally fed, bathed and asleep by 7.30pm) started to bother her, though she soon cheered up once we’d warmed up in the car and we played peekaboo and sang nursery rhymes all the way home.
With Christmas parties cancelled, a close friend testing positive and an outbreak at my husband’s workplace (though he’s fine and well), my anxiety around Covid19, new restrictions and another long winter ahead have been increasing, but we thoroughly enjoyed a very wintry wander around Spectacle of Light. Take care and have a lovely week. X
We recently took a wrapped-up trip to the Botanic Gardens which had been illuminated for GlasGLOW. I’ve found it hit and miss in previous years, but I couldn’t resist the appeal of an event located so conveniently close to where we live. I’ve really missed light shows during the pandemic, and this was a welcome return to one of my favourite ways to spend a dark and wintry evening.
My husband and I have been visiting The Enchanted Forest and other light shows for a decade, but this was our 21 month old daughter’s first light show, and she was fascinated by it all. We deliberately chose an early slot (living in Scotland means it’s usually dark by 4pm in Winter) but even so it was a slightly later night than the little one was used to.
The theme of GlasGLOW this year was gloop – a toxic substance created by an evil scientist that was polluting the city – which seemed slightly topical given that the event coincided with COP26.
My favourite parts of the show were walking through the strings of lights and the walkway over the grassy meadow that was festooned with lights leading to Kibble glass house, though one disadvantage of the one-way circuit around the park is that it discouraged us from lingering too long in one place or returning to our favourite parts of the show.
It was a well-organised event, we barely had to queue at the entrance, and it never felt too crowded. We were pleasantly surprised by food vendors that offered a decent range of vegan and vegetarian food, and my husband really enjoyed a gluten-free pizza. We also had toasted marshmallows. We had a lovely time and I loved seeing our daughter’s reaction to it all. Have a lovely week. X
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 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
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
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
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.
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