The most beautiful castles in Scotland you have to see

If you have visited Scotland but have not been to the Highlands - you are missing out. If you haven't visited Scotland at all - you are missing out even more!

I've met so many people living in the UK for years and never venturing out to Scotland. Yes, it can be very wet but if you are dressed for any weather you'll surely have a great trip.

Autumn is my favourite time to visit Scotland - the leaves and the grass turn the most amazing golden colour. This time we only stayed for 3 days but I'd like to show you how much you can see in this limited time.

Scotland in autumn

Stirling Castle

After arriving to Glasgow and picking up our car we first made our way to Stirling. The Stirling Castle is one of the largest and most important castles in Scotland but I wouldn't call it the most beautiful (=instagrammable). It was one of the two castles we managed to see from the inside so it was still interesting, plus the view from the castle's walls is just great.

Stirling

Blair Castle

Without wasting too much time we headed to Perthshire to visit the Blair Castle. Sadly, the castle was closed to a private event but we had a lovely walk in the area and tried to make friends with the hairy Highland cows. To our disappointment, the cows decided that the grass was too irresistibly tasty to pay any attention to us.

Ballintaggart Farm

In the evening we stopped for the dinner at Ballintaggart Farm (booking required) where we were overwhelmed by the hospitality of the owners - Rachel and Chris. It was dark, so pictures don't do justice but this kind of food and attention to detail can't be found anywhere else in the Scottish Highlands. We did not stay overnight but the farm has two rooms for the guests, they also run cookery masterclasses that you can book in advance online.

Ballintaggart farm

Dunnotar Castle

Next day we drove to yet another castle, the Dunnotar - a ruined cliff top fortress. As you can see all the castles we visited are very different so it doesn't get boring. We got really lucky with the weather in terms of rain but unfortunately, it was too windy for the castle to stay open for visitors.

Dunnotar Castle

Craigievar Castle

You won't be surprised to hear that our most anticipated visit was to Craigievar Castle. Does it even look real? As you approach it from the distance you can't miss this pink fairytale building peeping between the trees. It is said to be the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle and you can see why. The castle was already closed for the season (even when it's open you can only visit as part of a guided tour) but we were lucky to have it for ourselves to photograph from the outside for almost half an hour.

Craigievar castle
near Craigievar castle in Scotland

We had dinner and spent our last night in the Pierhouse Hotel in the quiet village of Port Appin which is located in Argyll, on the shores of Loch Linnhe. In the morning we admired the picturesque location of the hotel followed by a quick walk to the lighthouse where we were greeted by those furry locals.

Port Appin
Scotland

Castle Stalker

The Castle Stalker is surrounded by water making it look very special. It is privately owned but a tour can be booked in advance (we didn't do it).

Castle Stalker

Oban

Back to civilisation for a quick lunch in Oban, it was almost time to head back to Glasgow airport for our flight back to London.

Oban Scotland
Oban

Inveraray Castle

On the way to the airport, we managed to squeeze in another stop at Inveraray Castle and even had a quick look inside (finally, a castle that wasn't closed or needed prebooking). The castle is surrounded by a beautiful garden that must look wonderful in spring and summer as well.

Scotland Inveraray Castle
Inveraray castle

That was the end of our trip but I hope to be back to Scotland again soon as there are more castles to explore and more places to visit.

Scotland highlands

More information on Scotland can be found here.

Yorkshire in 2 days

Yorkshire might easily become my favourite part of England - with its heritage sites, beautiful landscapes and booming food scene - it has everything to become the next go-to destination. The only downside - it's a little far away for a weekend trip from London, same being an advantage as otherwise most of the London folk would be found there!

After a long drive from London and a cosy night at one of the Northstar Club woodland suites (more on it later), we ventured out to explore the picturesque Whitby.

Whitby view
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Whitby is a seaside town, also famous for its association with Captain Cook who learned seamanship there, and the horror novel Dracula by Bram Stoker making it the destination for the goth weekend twice a year. We didn't visit on a goth weekend but still saw some interestingly dressed people which made our visit even more interesting. Also, I have to note that it seemed like almost everyone in Whitby owns a dog or two.

Whitby
Whitby harbour

One of the most popular sights of Whitby is the characterful abbey ruins at the top of the fishing harbour. The first monastery was founded in the 7th century, although the remains we see today are of the later built 13th-century Benedictine abbey.

Whitby overview
Whitby Abbey

Later in the day we headed to Yorkshire's most wonderful hidden gem - Staithes.  Did you know that Captain Cook, Staithes's most famous resident, worked in Staithes as a grocer's apprentice where he first gained his interest in the sea?

Staithes street view

This view of the quaint fishing village was more I could dream of! 

Overlooking Staithes
Staithes house

On the way back to our charming cottage we made a quick stop in Robin Hood Bay, and in this place, with the most romantic name, I caught this most romantic moment of a couple's wedding photoshoot.

Robin Hood Bay

Our trip wouldn't be so perfect without a stay with the Blue Chip holidays in one of the North Star Club woodland suites. For someone like us, coming from a big city, it was a perfect weekend retreat in the woods. The rooms are equipped with everything you need, and even though it's on a self-catering basis, there's barbeque equipment next to each suite and a communal space with tea and brownies. I really liked all the cosy details in our room, especially the real fireplace. I'd love to come back in summer with a group of friends for a more relaxing weekend in the area.

Those cows were the only neighbours we encountered!

Cows in Yorkshire

Next day York greeted us with rain, compensated by all sorts of colourful bunting and an opportunity to see the Shambles, the best preserved medieval street in the world, less crowded than usual.

York the Shambles
York

To be fair, York deserves a separate blog post as it has so much offer. With this said, I think I need to plan another trip to Yorkshire very soon!

York bunting
York cathedral

A day in Bradford on Avon in the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is probably my favourite part of England. Honey coloured houses, old-fashioned tea rooms and beautiful views make it a perfect weekend trip any time of the year. I've been to the city of Bath twice but had somehow overlooked Bradford on Avon which totally doesn't deserve it. It's a bit smaller than its famous spa-attractive neighbour but also quieter and less touristy.

Cotswolds
Bradford on Avon

As the name suggests, the river Avon runs through the town and makes it look even more picturesque. The history of Bradford on Avon can be traced back to Roman settlements in the area. The town still has several 17th-century buildings dating from the period of its woollen textile industry.

Bradford on Avon
Cotswolds tea room

While exploring the area I stayed at Widbrook Grange hotel, located in a recently refurbished Grade II listed Georgian model farm. I was impressed by their attention to details and couldn't stop taking photos! There's even a heated indoor swimming pool! We opted to try a dinner at the hotel too and it didn't disappoint. More photos below. 

Widbrook Grange hotel Cotswolds

Below are two more pictures of Bradford on Avon. I'll share another post where to go in the Cotswolds in the coming months. 

Bradford on Avon
Cotswolds England UK

I was a guest of Widbrook Grange hotel. All opinions are my own.

Where to see lavender fields in the UK

It's this time of year again when all the Instagram feeds are turning purple and all the photographers are rushing to photograph lavender fields.

The good news is that you don't have to go to Provance as there are a few lavender fields in the UK!

British lavender field

Last week I visited The Hop Shop at Castle Farm in Kent. It's a working farm and lavender harvest has already started but you can still catch the blooms on a guided tour on the 26th, 29th and 30th July. On a tour you will also learn about different varieties of lavender and visit the distillery where aromatic oils are made. They also offer aromatherapy massages and picnics in the lavender fields. Sadly this years season is coming to an end but you can already start planning for next year! 

UK Lavender
lavender harvest
lavender harvesting UK
lavender picnic UK

All the items used for the picnic are available to buy in the farm shop (it's open all year round). I am planning to go back for pick your own apples and to stock on lavender honey that is absolutely delicious!

Another place I visited a few times over the years is Mayfield lavender farm in Surrey. This one is much more touristy (very little chances of being alone in the field) but is a bit easier to visit as there are no guided tours - you just pay the entry fee and can stay as much as you like. It is also available to visit later in August - best to check their website for details.

Mayfield lavender UK

Last year they installed a red phone booth on the field so it became an even bigger tourist attraction.

lavender phone booth
buy lavender

Other fields I have not yet visited but have heard of are Cotsfold LavenderHitchin Lavender, Somerset Lavender, Norfolk Lavender and Yorkshire Lavender.