Zoe Dawes aka Britain's Best Travel Blogger

Sometimes life takes the most unexpected turn.  You may think you have a plan, a map, a route to follow, then something happens and the plan/map/route is suddenly obsolete.  It might be for a very positive or negative reason; whichever way, things change and are never the same again.

The Quirky Traveller

In January 2011 something happened to me that has changed many things in a very, very positive way.  That was when Travel Titbits announced the winner of their search for ‘Britain’s Best Travel Blogger’; they’d asked people to submit a short piece about a Bargain Weekend in Britain.  I wrote about the Eden Valley in Cumbria, a favourite area off the usual tourist route.  I enjoyed the chance to enter a writing competition for the first time.  What I was especially delighted with was that my article was chosen on the basis of the writing, which they said was inspirational and gave a  different angle on a destination.  When I was told I’d won, little did I imagine the wonderful doors it would open and the great travel opportunities that would result.  Here are some notes from a few of them:

January – Winning the title!

The Prize: Choose anywhere in Great Britain to have a bargain break, with £250 to spend on travel, accommodation and food.  So much choice, but one place was easily top of the list – The Isle of Man. Childhood holidays, day trips from Llandudno; not been back for over 30 years.

Zoe at The Sound, Isle of Man

February: The Lake District with English Lakes Hotels

Stayed at lovely Low Wood Hotel, on shore of Lake Windermere.  Hot tub in the snow. Delicious food, Pre-Raphaelite art works, son enjoying swim in indoor pool, walking to nearby fells and visiting Ambleside, Grasmere and Bowness. Friendly staff, attention to detail in service.

Quirky factor: tiny canon on the jetty which is used to frighten the Victorian guests – and still used today

Low Wood canon

March: Finland with Mighty Fine Company

Remote Finnish Hotel Iso-Syöte set atop a snow-covered mountain on border of Arctic Circle.  Never been in that much snow for so long. Real winter wonderland. Mighty Fine Company arranged loads of exciting trips including a snow show hike walk, a husky safari and a really exhilarating snowsmobile ride – released my inner racing demon. Fascinated to discover history of region along with the traditions and modern techniques of reindeer farming.  Want to go back to see the Northern Lights one day!

Quirky factor: Reindeer Farmer Juhe’s collection of old fishing implements

Juhe and fishing canoe

April: Chatsworth House with Visit England

Visit England held their annual Tourism awards – Chatsworth House short-listed for Large Visitor Attraction. Stayed at quirky Devonshire Arms at Beeley on Estate. Historic home of the Devonshire family, still manages to be friendly and awe-inspiring. Guided tour round house, discovering eccentricities and eclectic mix of art-work and priceless treasures. (They won!)

Quirky factor: House & garden scattered with bright yellow plastic ducks – Easter hunt …

Flora & duck

May: The Isle of Man with Travel Titbits

Flew from Blackpool c/o Manx2 – stayed at a very quirky Aaron House in pretty Port St Mary. Such a variety of things to see & do, great organisation by Visit Isle of Man.  Travelled all over the island, back in time to the Vikings via excellent museums and attractions. Delightful towns, villages and harbours: Douglas, Peel, Port Errin, Laxey, Ramsey etc.  Famous for Manx kippers and crazy motorbike racing. Friendly welcoming place – moved with the times but still retains a quirky old world charm I’ve not found anywhere else in Britain.

Quirky factor: the rather vocal Manx Loaghtan goats and learning about ‘The Peggy’ at the Nautical Museum

Cregneash cottage & goats

May: ‘Queen Elizabeth’ Maiden Voyage to Norwegian Fjords & Waterfalls with Cunard

Cruise virgin finally gets to fulfil a life-long ambition; a trip on Cunard’s newest liner Queen Elizabeth.  Treated to the ultimate luxury cruise experience. Stayed in Princess Grill Suite, dined on the some of the best food afloat and visit one of the world’s most beautiful countries.  Majestic fjords including Geiranger, one of UNESCO World Heritage site.  Fell in love with the ship, the crew who were so friendly and helpful and the whole cruising way of travel.

Quirky factor: the plaques presented by dignitaries in every port the ship visits and the fabulous Art Deco works around the ship


June: Cumbria hideaway with Sojourn North

Invited to stay at Salutation Yard, brand new self-catering gem in a little known part of Cumbria, Skelton village, between Penrith & Greystoke.  Took teenage son & his mate to escape for a weekend far from the madding crowd. Relaxing in peace and quiet, luxurious accommodation and pretty rural surroundings.

Quirky factor: fresh bread for breakfast from our very own breadmaker

Bread makers

A few other opportunities that have come along …

  • Invitations to give talks on Travel Writing & Blogging,
  • Developing Travel Writing Workshops to share tips and support
  • Increased website traffic, advertising, sponsors & PR interest
  • World-wide exposure and myriad offers to travel and write about quirkilicious people and places

Update January 2013: sadly Travel Titbits holiday company was one of those hit by the recession and is no longer trading.  However, I am hugely in their debt for selecting me and hope that Alan and company are still travelling quirkily somewhere.