Black Rock Sands

Black Rock Sands in North Wales holds many precious memories for us as a family. You can drive on the beach in your car with all your kit and enjoy a fantastic day at the beach. We are looking forward to visiting this beautiful beach again soon.

Gibraltar

With a population of just over 34,000, only 29km of roads and just over 2.6 square miles in size Gibraltar is British Over Seas Territory and an excellent place to take a vacation.

With the iconic ‘Rock of Gibraltar’, now a Nature Reserve the backdrop of Gibraltar is truly stunning and steeped in history. Standing at 426m high the imposing rock covers over 40% of the counties land area and is made from Jurassic limestone. With no rivers, streams, or large bodies of water on the peninsula rain water is a valuable resource with huge underground reservoirs excavated under the Rock of Gibraltar both for the drinking water and a separate supply of saltwater for sanitary purposes.

The Gibraltar Rock is home to the only wild apes/monkeys in Europe (Barbary macaques, officially monkeys but often referred to as apes). When visiting please remember to respect the animals they are wild, ensure you keep your personal belongings on you at all times, don’t litter and don’t feed the monkeys; there are fines if you are caught feeding them. We love to explore but we must also remember to respect, protect and enjoy at all times where ever you are.

There are several options for getting up and down the rock, Cable Car, Taxi Tour, e-bike, Guided Tours and walking. If you are looking to explore the rock you will need to pay for a ticket to the nature reserve, there are many options on how to do this we opted for the Cable Car ticket including the nature reserve as this provide the best value for us. You can also look to book a tour which will generally include the attractions in the price. With so many options there is something to suit everyone, we took the cable car up and walked the rest; although Gibraltar is small remember its very hilly up and down to get to the different sites of interest.

With many attractions on ‘the rock’ I would say it’s a good day by foot to explore, in the taxi it takes about an hour and a half. I felt that on foot we got to take our time and see a few hidden gems, and soak up the culture.

Attractions on ‘The Rock’: Apes Den, Mediterranean Steps, St Michaels Cave, WWII Tunnels, Cable Car, Nature Reserve, Pillars of Hercules, Jews Gate, Great Rock Gun Battery, Siege Tunnels, Windsor Suspension Bridge, O’hara’s Battery, Rooke Battery, Hayne’s Cave Battery, Douglas Lookout, Lord Airey’s Battery, Skywalk Gibraltar, City Under Siege Exhibition, Moorish Castle, Military Heritage Centre and Princess Ann’s Battery. With so many places there is sure to be something everyone in the family would like.

St Michaels Cave was impressive and I would have loved to go for a tour in the lower sections of the cave but unfortunately we didn’t get time.

Dolphins are frequently seen in the Bay of Gibraltar and you take can a boat trip to explore the bay and search for dolphins. We opted for the Dolphin Safari Gibraltar as they offered a smaller group capacity of 25 with others up to 110 people per boat. They were incredibly experienced and friendly, we were out for just over an hour and a half seeing dolphins several times, check out my video here . We were also provided with a voucher that we could use to gain discounts at some restaurants in the ocean village area.

Beaches are in on the Eastern and Western sides of Gibraltar with Sandy Bay, Catalan Bay, Eastern Beach on the Eastern Side and Western Beach, Little Bay and Camp Bay on the Western side. With their own dedicated website providing weather information and live stream online cameras you can check out how busy the beach is before you go. We opted for Sandy Bay as we could see it from the top of ‘The Rock’ and put it on the must visit list. We got a taxi there and back dropped and collected at the steps side of the beach, taxis require that you to be dry and not sandy which was ok as we had taken spare clothes.

Gibraltar Botanic Gardens – The Alameda is free to explore, we headed there in the evening before sunset to take a look; open daily 8am – Sunset and are at the base of ‘the rock’ south of the town centre. The glasshouse ‘Bicentenary House’, is open to the public Fridays 10am-12pm, or by appointment. The open air theatre can hold a maximum of 450 people where events are held. There is also the Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park situated on the upper south-west side of the gardens.

Shopping is VAT free with many perfumes and other shopping at great prices. There are some English stores, a small Marks and Spencer, Next and Mothercare the international shop Tommy Hilfiger and more. There is also a McDonalds, Costa, Burger King, Pizza Hut and Pizza Express. There are also many fabulous local restaurants and shops, one of my favourite was chök which had an amazing, beautiful and delicious selection of doughnuts, kronuts, cookies, chocolate and much more.

Gibraltar airport is 1.8km long and intersects with Winston Churchill Avenue Road, the road is shut off for take offs and landings. A tunnel under the runway has been long planned but so far has not been completed.

Gibraltar has the Gibraltar pound and are used alongside the Bank of England bank notes and coins. Some retailers accepted Euros and US Dollars but most accept UK Sterling (Gibraltar Pound and UK Sterling Pound).

The official language spoken is English although many are bilingual and also speak Spanish. 

Gibraltar has a Mediterranean climate with mild, rainy winters and then summers that are very warm to hot and humid and with very little rainfall. Making it a great place to visit all year round, we enjoyed a Winter break with the February temperature at 18-19°C with the days clear and sunny.

There is not many places where I can say I have walked the length of the country more than twice in a day or even more than that in a week. Gibraltar was an excellent holiday we made lots of amazing memories and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re looking for something other than a just a beach holiday.

I would recommend the Visit Gibraltar – The Official Gibraltar Tourist Board Website as it has lots of information on and one of the best sites for a countries tourist board I have used. Also tour and attractions can be purchased from Buy Tickets Gibraltar.

Traveling in 2022

When traveling currently you should:

✅ Check covid rules before, during and after travel
✅ Complete passenger locator forms
✅ Ensure you respect the country you’re in and their rules and people
✅ Make sure you know your rough plans if someone got covid or if restrictions changed quickly
✅ Read your travel insurance (I honestly would never recommend going anywhere abroad without it). My life would have been so awful if I hadn’t had it when we went to Venice. You should always be prepared to pay for it if your prepared to pay for a holiday.

Half Term Ideas – London Theatre Show

So half term is here and if your looking for something extra special to do last minute then check out Today Tix great priced tickets for top London Theatre Shows, I can highly recommend The Lion King 🦁 and so many others too, I currently have my eye on Frozen ❄️ maybe I should take my beautiful niece? 👸🏼

Bakewell Pudding or Bakewell Tart

The 17th century creation of the Bakewell Pudding was an accident when an order for a strawberry tart was mixed up by the cook when she spread of a layer of jam and then placed the egg mixture into the pastry before cooking. The mix up ended up being a huge success with a local entrepreneur acquiring the original recipe in order to commence a business of her own.

Mrs Wilson set up The Original Bakewell Pudding Shop and you can still visit and taste the amazing Bakewell Pudding today, why not take a seat at the restaurant, take one away or even receive one in the post.

Bakewell Tarts a variation on the pudding were a later 20th century creation. The pudding a buttery puff pastry case, topped with a layer of seedless strawberry jam and finished with a soft set custard of eggs, sugar and almonds against that of the tart with its sweet shortcrust pastry, layered with seedless strawberry jam, a pale fluffy frangipane sponge filling of eggs, almonds and sugar and finished with a layer of white fondant icing and half a glace cherry. The Mr Kipling Bakewell Tart would be the image many people have of a Bakewell Tart with many variations are now in existence, lemon, chocolate and too many more to list here. But trust me there are many fabulous ones available from so many other places.

So are you team Bakewell Pudding or Bakewell

Half Term Ideas – Muddy Puddle Jumping

February Half Term Ideas – time to get walking and maybe jumping in muddy puddles. It’s cheap it’s fun and the kids won’t forget it. I mean really let them have fun, go prepared take spare clothes a towel and don’t forget your wellies ❤️

Chinese New Year – The Year of the Tiger

Lasting up to 16 days with the first 7 considered being public holidays (January 31st – February 6th 2022) the Chinese New Year follows the Lunar Calendar. New Year celebrations close with the lantern festival on February 15th celebrating family reunions and society.

2022 is the Year of the Tiger the third animal in the 12 year cycle of animals in Chinese astrology. Tigers are said to be vigorous and ambitious, daring and courageous, enthusiastic and generous, self-confident with a sense of justice and a commitment to help others for the greater good.

Every Chinese New Year is one of five elements, water, wood, Fire, Earth and Meatal with 2022 year being water.

Now it’s time to move into the year of the Water Tiger….

Check out what animal you are:

Rat: 2020, 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972

Ox: 2021, 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973

Tiger: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962

Rabbit: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963

Dragon: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964

Snake: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965

Horse: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966

Sheep: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967

Monkey: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968

Rooster: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969

Dog: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970

Pig: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971

Half Term Ideas – Go for a Walk

Why not explore one of the fabulous walks in Kent, a few lovely ones are:

Samphire Hoe created by the Eurotunnel in 1997 is a lovely place to explore with the sea one side and the grassland the other often grazed by animals. With 200 species of plants and more than 200 species of birds it’s a haven for many and made from the discarded waste land material from the Eurotunnel; a total of forty five hectares of land was reclaimed from the English Channel utilising five million tons of spoil from creating the tunnels in the cliffs.

Brockhill Country Park with a lake, meadow, play area and picnic site its a great place for a walk. There is also a café if you would rather someone else take care of the refreshments.

Grove Ferry Picnic Site is nestled along the banks of the River Stour and the great location to start a walk. You can either explore the river banks or head to the Stodmarsh Nature Reserve which is just over the road. And if you’re  looking for some additional fun you could look to enjoy one of Canoe Wilds half term paddles.

Shorne Woods Country Park has a vast 292 acres of beautiful woodland, wetlands and meadows waiting to be explored. With trails to suit all levels it’s a great place for many to visit and boasting an eco-friendly visitor centre and restaurant you will be kept busy all day. There is also picnic and play areas to be enjoyed.

If your looking for a seaside walk Deal to Kingsdown is a lovely beach walk with space for cycling and walkers so you could even bring your bikes. Maybe you could enjoy a refreshing drink at the Zetland Arms Pub and there is often the ice cream van to be found along the way and some great fish and chip shops. The walk is easy to follow and parking is available at various places along the front at Deal and along to Kingsdown. Walk towards the beach and then follow the wide footpath/cycle path  along the beach.

So I’m going to wrap the walk ideas up as I could go on and on however I will add more places to walk in coming months. The ones above are ones that I enjoy going to over and over at different times of the year. If you follow my Instagram account I am always sharing places to walk.

If you would like some inspiration Explore Kent have some great mapped walks so take a look.

Half Term Ideas – Train Rides in Kent & Sussex

First in the February half term ideas is a train ride. Great for all weather a train ride in Kent or Sussex it’s an excellent day trip out exploring the hidden gems off the roads.

Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway the famous one third full size steam and diesel locomotives take you on a 13½ mile journey along the Kent coast and countryside ending at the only desert in Britain that is Dungeness; classified Britain’s only desert due to its dryness and spectacular lack of surface vegetation.

Bluebell Railway heritage railway runs through eleven miles of the stunning Sussex countryside boasting vintage steam locomotives and carriages. With so many amazing trips available from the roaming rover or the pullman dining packages. There is also half term ice skating sessions available – 12 – 27 February 2022 at Sheffield Park Station.

East Kent Railway a once industrial line the four mile round trip through the lovely scenic Kent villages of Shepherdswell and Eythorne is a relaxing fun journey for all. Note that trains only operate on Sundays. Update: trains aren’t running until Easter however the cafe is open Wednesdays Fridays & weekends.

Kent & East Sussex Railway  is a 10½ mile light railway that whistles you through the stunning countryside and also onto the beautiful Bodiam Castle so you could also have a castle visit too. Half term fun celebrates Waterbirds in the Wealden countryside and free children’s onboard activities.  

With so many more train journeys to be discovered in Kent, Sussex and across the UK I can’t fit them all here so I will share some more with you soon.

Scottish Burns Night

25th January 2022

Burns Night is a celebration of the life of Robert Burns, born in Ayrshire in 1759, Robert Burns is Scotland’s national bard (poet).

Auld Lang Syne is perhaps Burns’ most famous work and is one of the most widely sung songs of the English language, with many of us singing Auld Lang Syne on Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve).

Burns Night celebrations range in formality some much more relaxed than others but main parts would include:

Piping in the guests – to bagpipes or traditional music

Reciting of the Selkirk Grace – recited after the guests have entered the room and are seated at the table and before the haggis is piped to the table.

Some hae meat and canna eat,

And some wad eat that want it,

But we hae meat and we can eat,

And sae the Lord be thankit.

Piping in the haggis – guests stand to welcome the haggis to the table!

Toast to the haggis – honouring the most important ingredient of the meal

Time to enjoy the Burns Night meal

The ‘immortal memory’ – an account of the life of Robbie Burns, followed by Burns’s songs and poems often read by guests around the table.

Toast to the lassies – a traditional thank you to the women involved in the preparations (and a light-hearted homage to Burns’s love of women).

Finale is singing Auld Lang Syne.

And how about a traditional Burns Night Meal? This would include, Cullen skink, Haggis, neeps and tatties followed by Clootie dumpling. Why not try making your own Burns Night meal by using the these recipes. I think I will try making the Clootie dumpling this year.

Bishops Glen Reservoir
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