Tag Archives: photography
June 19, 2017

A quartet of very different Lake District books

Four special Lake District Books Cumbria

“I’m coming to the Lake District on holiday. What book would you recommend?” Well, that really depends on what kind of book you’re looking for. There are so many Lake District books: traditional guide books, walking books, novels, biographies, photography books, children’s books … Here are four of my favourites.

Lake District Books

I Never Knew that about the Lake District - Christopher WinnI never knew that about the Lake District by Christopher Winn

Did you know that Fletcher Christian, he of Mutiny on the Bounty, was born in Cockermouth? Or that the ‘Yellow Earl‘, past owner of Lowther Castle, was the only man other than Winston Churchill to have a Cuban cigar named after him (the Lonsdale Cigar)? Well, if you read ‘I never knew that about the Lake District‘ you’ll find out hundreds of fascinating snippets and facts about the area. The book is divided up into geographical sections ie The Central Lakes, The Lakeland Coast, Windermere, so it covers Cumbria, not just the Lake District National Park. Charming illustrations by Mai Osawa add to the this delightful book’s appeal. It would make a great gift for a fan of the lakes; I was given it as a birthday present and regularly dip into it. Note to the author: the 201o edition could do with updating as a few things have changed eg many more local breweries and visitor attractions now.

More about I never knew that about the Lake District and other books by Christopher Winn

 

Dances with the Daffodils - Matthew ConnollyDances with the Daffodils by Matthew Connolly 

I chose this book from a host of books by local authors laid out on our tables at the Cumbria Family Business Awards 2017. (Well done to the organisers for an original way to support Cumbrian writers.) Author Matthew Connolly explained how the novel was inspired by the story behind one of the most famous English poems, William Wordsworth’s Daffodils. The poet’s sister, Dorothy Wordsworth, wrote an entry in her diary on April 15th 1802 referring to a walk she and her brother took beside Ullswater where they saw daffodils that ‘tossed and reeled and danced’ in the wind. In the book, Luke, who’s returning to the area after 20 years of travelling, visits the lake and sees a ‘thin, gypsy-tanned woman … hopping along the lane like a chaffinch,‘ admiring the daffodils, beside ‘… a tall and ugly mantis of a creature.’ (William). Luke is immediately attracted to Dorothy, ‘as she knelt among the daffodils like some pagan goddess.’ I thoroughly enjoyed this poignant love story, especially seeing Dorothy in a different light, as a feisty young woman, torn between her love for her brother and another. It’s also a love story to south Lakeland, its local culture and heritage, which the author clearly knows well.

More on Dances with Daffodils here

Photographer's guide to Lake District by Ellen BownessThe Photographer’s Guide to The Lake District by Ellen Bowness

‘The Lake District is a beautiful part of the UK and it’s jam-packed with photogenic locations, from lakes and fells to waterfalls and caves.’ The opening to this gem of a book says it all; here is a comprehensive guide to the best places to get the perfect photo of the top sights in the Lakes. Local Ellen Bowness is a self-confessed travel photography addict who shares her professional knowledge of the area so the rest of us can find the perfect location. The book includes directions, maps, parking and satnav information as well advice on the best time of year to visit. Many popular sites feature, including Cat Bells overlooking Derwentwater, Grasmere and Castle Rigg Stone Circle, but also lesser known gems like Innominate Tarn,a favourite of Lakeland walker Alfred Wainwright and Ritson’s Force at Wasdale Head. One for photographers of all levels from beginner to expert.

More on The Photographer’s Guide to the Lake District here

Small island by little train - Chris ArnotSmall Island by Little Train – a narrow-gauge adventure by Chris Arnot

OK, this book is not only about the Lake District; it’s a journey round the nation’s narrow-gauge railways, but it has a very interesting chapter about one of this area’s most popular tourist attractions. In a chapter entitled ‘Return Ticket to Red Squirrels’ author Chris Arnot travels on the Ravenglass and Eskdale Light Railway. which runs through some of the most beautiful scenery in England. He also meets some of the enthusiasts who run L’al Ratty, as it’s known locally. He talks with Peter Van Zellar, who sums up the appeal of this country railway. “You are conscious of being part of the scenery but, beyond the track, that scenery changes every day. You might see a buzzard one minute and a herd of red deer the next.” The author shares some local history and has a humorous style reminiscent of Bill Bryson and his Notes from a Small Island, on which this book is vaguely modelled.

Disclosure: I was sent this book by publishers The AA for review. It fits very nicely within into the Quirky Travel niche.

More on Small Island by Little Train here.

I hope you have enjoyed this review of some Quirky Travel Lake District Books. What’s you favourite book about where you live? Please leave your thoughts and any recommendations in the Comment Box below 🙂

October 19, 2016

Top Tips for your RV road trip in Canada

It looked a lot bigger than I had imagined. It also looked a lot prettier, covered in views of Canada’s splendid scenery. “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Once you get on the road, you’ll soon forget its size and be enjoying yourself behind the wheel.” I was at the Cruise Canada pick-up centre in Vancouver, about to set off on a two-week RV (Recreational Vehicle) road trip to Calgary via the Rocky Mountains, with photographer Alison Bailey. Luckily, Ali was familiar with driving a camper van and took in all the instructions from the very helpful guy at the depot.

Cruise Canada Standard RV

Picking up Rocky – Cruise Canada Standard RV

He was right. Once we were on the road and got used to driving Rocky (we were going through the Rockies so it seemed appropriate to name this hunky vehicle), it did become much easier. We had the Standard version, which is 25′ long, sleeps 5 and comes with a gas cooker and sink, fridge-freezer, plenty of cupboard space, water, electricity and sewage connections, a shower and big beds. For two weeks we travelled across Canada in this RV (motorhome), including the stupendous Rockies, staying in RV campgrounds of varying standards and facilities, met some lovely people along the way and found out more about the Canadian ‘culture’ of the RV road trip. You can follow our route on this map. Here’s what I learnt.

Map RV Road Trip from Vancouver to Calgary Canada

RV Road Trip – Vancouver to Calgary

RV Road Trip Tips

1.  Book a vehicle that’s big enough for your RV road trip

Nk'Mip RV Park Osoyoos Lake

RV beside Lake Osoyoos

Yes, I know it sounds obvious but actually it’s easy to just go by the number of sleeping spaces and think that’s going to be fine. We were doing our trip on behalf of Explore Canada who’d booked the trip and I had assumed, as there were only two of us, we’d get Cruise Canada’s smallest RV, the Compact, which sleeps three ie with one double bed and one single made up from the dining table. Thank goodness we got the next size up. Apart from both needing a decent size bed each, we didn’t have to keep shifting the table and also there was way more space inside for all our things. If you’re going for a weekend then maybe a smaller size is fine, but for longer, then go for the bigger size if you can afford it. Had been actually been 5 of us in the Standard RV it would have been VERY cosy …

Nk'Mip RV Park Osoyoos Lake

Our first 2 nights were spent in Osoyoos on the Canada/USA border in the excellent Nk’Mip RV Park and Campground. We were lucky to get a pitch by the lake, and as you can see, Rocky was most definitely NOT the biggest kid on the block. Some Canadian and American RVs are HUGE!

2.  Make sure your RV has enough storage space

Interior of Cruise Canada Standard RV

Ali getting the lowdown on the interior of the RV

This follows on directly from Tip 1, but is relevant whatever size RV you get. If you’re on a long road trip, you’ll probably be taking quite a lot of stuff with you. Canada’s climate is very changeable, depending on where you are and what season. We travelled in early summer and got everything from hot sunshine in Osoyoos in the Okanagan Valley and Calgary, to sleet and cool winds in the Rockies. Our RV had loads of storage, as you can see from this video, not only for clothes but also for food and cooking utensils. There was a fridge and also a freezer, which was really useful as we cooked almost every day during our trip. On the outside of the RV there was a large storage space which had our picnic table and chairs, spare wood for BBQ plus extra food.

Food and drink in RV

Food and drink in RV

The second stop on our road trip was at the Williamson Lake Campground in quirky Revelstoke, a railway town with a vibrant winter sports scene. It rained quite heavily here and it was great to have plenty of space to make a meal, eat at the table and then relax ‘indoors’ in the evening. You can see the RV interior in this video.

3.  Familiarise yourself with all the ‘technical things’

RV driver cab storage

The Driver’s Cab essentials …

There’s no getting away from it, a motorhome or RV has a lot more things to get to know than a car or even a simple camper van. If you’re British, you may not have driven an automatic before and there’s something called the Tow Hold for going up (or was it down?) hills. You need to be clear about the electrics for the interior lighting and heating but most important is the Hook-Up. This is where you get to connect the electricity, water (and sewage if you’re lucky) to the mains on your RV pitch at the campground. It’s not difficult, just a matter of remembering which way to turn things, but it is really IMPORTANT. Watch Ali demonstrating the Cruise Canada RV Hook Up in this video.


Here’s where I make a confession. During the whole trip I didn’t once do the hook-up. Ali very kindly did all that every time we arrived and departed – and got VERY quick at it. You can see more of super-star Ali here as she demonstrates UNHOOKING the Cruise Canada RV in this video.


NB: Make sure you know what noise the smoke/gas detector makes. Ali had gone for a walk and I was in the RV parked by the Columbia River in Revelstoke, writing my journal when suddenly there was a very loud and continuous noise. I couldn’t work out what it was or where in the RV it was coming from. Fortunately Ali came back in time; I’d not turned off a gas ring properly and it was the alarm telling me to get out before I succumbed to propane gas fumes … Thanks Ali!

RV at Columbia River Revelstoke

RV beside the Columbia River, Revelstoke

4.  Cook and eat outdoors

Lunch overlooking Lake Okanagan - RV road trip Canada - image zoedawes

Lunch overlooking Okanagan Lake

One of the huge pluses in an RV Road Trip is being able stop when you want, rustle up a snack, get out the chairs and enjoy the view. Most memorable was lunch on a sunny day driving from Osoyoos to Revelstoke when we stopped beside Okanagan Lake. As you can see, we really did relax. Nearly all the campgrounds we visited had a fire-pit or BBQ plus a bench beside each RV pitch. If there is a site shop, it will usually sell wood and charcoal. If not, stock up on some at the local supermarket. Ali was a dab hand at chopping wood, borrowing an axe from whoever was parked nearby, and could get a fire going, even in the rain. We ate outside as often as possible, using the fire-pit when we could or just rustling up something inside and eating it beside the van. It’s very sociable as many others will be doing the same.

BBQ meal RV Road Trip Canada

BBQ dinner at Dutch Lake Resort

At tranquil Dutch Lake Resort and RV Park in Clearwater, near Wells Gray Provincial Park BC, we had a great time cooking burgers and then enjoying them with a beer overlooking the pretty lake.

5. Enjoy the drive

Zoe Dawes driving on RV road trip Canada

Driving the RV

Canadian roads are generally wide and easy to navigate. Our RV had very big wing mirrors, split in two (see photo above by Columbia River) so we could see all along the side to the back of the vehicle. After some initial nerves about the length and width of our RV, I soon forgot about it and felt (amost) as comfortable driving Rocky as I did my own car back home. One warning; Canadian road signs are pants! They seem to assume you know where you are going and hardly ever seem to give directions for where you need to be. Our Cruise Canada RV didn’t have satnav – thanks heavens for Google Maps.

The Rockies - RV Road Trip Canada - image zoedawes

On the road to the Rockies

 If you’re doing the Rockies in your RV (and that is such a great way to see this iconic mountain region), then be prepared for some seriously great scenery round every corner. Apart from the initial route out of Vancouver, we mainly drove along the flat,  not OVER the mountains, which was a pleasant surprise. Ali and I took it in turns so we could enjoy the view and take photos through the van window. Once we got to the Jasper National Park we could barely speak for excitement at the views. (The signage improved too.)

The Rockies in Jasper National Park - RV Road Trip - image zoedawes

The Rockies in Jasper National Park

We spent one memorable night in the pouring rain at Gregg Lake Campground, in William A Switzer Provincial Park. It was notable for the limited facilities (we had no water or sewage pipe but there was a shower block) and the abundance of pine trees. On the way there we saw the most splendid rainbow arcing over the Rocky Mountains.

Rainbow in the Rockies - RV Road Trip Canada - image zoedawes

Rainbow from RV window

6.  Keep your eyes open

Rocky Mountain Sheep at Miette Hot Springs - RV road trip Canada - image zoedawes

Rocky Mountain Sheep at Miette Hot Springs

Keep your eyes open, not just so you don’t fall asleep but also to spot the vast array of wildlife you’ll see along the way. We saw mountain sheep at Miette Hot Springs and TWO black bears beside the road in the Rockies. Tip: if you see a number of vehicles pulled up by the roadside, chances are there’s a wild animal nearby.

Black bears in the Rockies - RV road trip Canada - image zoedawes

Black bears from the RV

“Zoe, wake up. There are elk all round the RV.” It was about 6am  in Whistler’s Campground near Jasper and Ali woke me up to see these elegant animals, which were sleeping, eating and totally unbothered by all the RVs and two avid photographers nearby.

Elk in Whistlers Campground - RV Road Trip Canada - image zoedawes

Elk beside the RV

Click on link to see more elk at Whistler’s Campground – not the best quality video but you get an idea of how close we were!

7.  Plan your trip carefully

Banff town signpost - RV road trip Canada - image zoedawes

Banff town

I’ve left this to last as it is possibly the most important. Before you leave home, have a good look at a map and talk with anyone who has been to the area you’re visiting. Your hire company can help too. Hopefully you’ll have lots of stops and time to explore, but remember the distances can be great, there are strict speed limits (National Parks max 90 kms ph), and there is so much to see you’ll want to stop often. We could have driven the Icefields Parkway from Jasper to Banff in about 3 hours. It took us all day; it truly deserves its reputation as one of the world’s top road routes.

Stutfield Glacier - Icefields Parkway Canada - image zoedawes

Stutfield Glacier – Icefields Parkway

You’ll need to take time out to rest as sometimes you’ll probably have long distances to drive. On our RV road trip we drove over 3,500 kilometres in two weeks from Vancouver to Calgary, which meant just about every other day was a long drive. Sharing the driving really helps. When you’ve got your route clear, choose your campgrounds carefully. They usually have more facilities than UK ones, and are geared up for big RVs but some have more amenities than others. You may want a shop or restaurant and a launderette is very handy. Our shower was small so we used the wash blocks on all the sites we visited. At Spring Creek RV Campground in Canmore, not far from Banff, there was everything we needed, though it was more crowded than some others. BOOK in ADVANCE, especially during high season or in popular areas like the National Parks.

Spring Creek RV Campground - Banff Canada

Spring Creek RV Campground

And finally …

Our last stop was in the really quirky town of Vulcan, which is the Star Trek capital of Canada … in some ways it was a very suitable place for our last night with Rocky. No mountains, rivers or glaciers, just the wide prairies of Alberta and a space ship! The sun set as we had our last meal (sausage and sweet potato mash with red wine) as we reminisced.

RV in Vulcan Alberta Canada

RV in Vulcan

Ali and I loved every minute of our RV Road Trip and we were  really sad when we handed Rocky back to the Cruise Canada depot in Calgary. I hope you get a chance to experience something similar – if I can do it, anyone can …

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Top Tips for Canada RV Road Trip

#ExploreCanada Road Trip

I visited British Columbia as a guest of Explore Canada as part of a Travelator Media campaign. Many thanks to Alison Bailey for her unfailing good humour, practical advice and excellent driving. Much gratitude to all the people we met along the way who made it such a memorable trip.

Read more about our road trip:

The Quirky Traveller: 24 hours in Calgary

Heather on her Travels: How to drive an RV from Toronto to Montreal

Travel with Kat: Vancouver Island Road Trip

On the Luce: First timer’s guide to driving an RV

September 27, 2016

An ideal walking holiday on the Yorkshire coast

Surfer walking along Whitby Cliffs, North Yorkshire - zoedawes

Surfer on Whitby Cliffs

Striding along the cliff top, the surfer added a somewhat incongruous element to this view of Whitby by the North Sea on the Yorkshire coast. I was here on a walking holiday with HF Holidays, and enjoying the great weather before going to Larpool Hall, where I was staying for 3 nights.

Whitby Abbey Yorkshire - walking holiday - photo zoedawes

Whitby Abbey

Walking Holiday: Day 1 – Whitby

Famous as inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, dramatic Whitby Abbey dates back to the 13th c. I spent an hour wandering about and taking photos, watching children having a go at archery and listening to the excellent audio-guide. Then I headed off to Robin Hood’s Bay, one of the North Yorkshire Coast’s most popular tourist spots.

Robin Hoods Bay Yorkshire - zoedawes

The tiny harbour marks the end of the Coast to Coast Walk, which starts near where I live, on the Cumbria coast, at St Bees. It was lovely to see so many people enjoying the summer sun, sitting outside the pub, dabbling in the rock pools, paddling in the sea and sunbathing on the beach. A perfect summer’s day.

HF Holidays - Larpool Hall - Whitby Photo zoedawes

HF Holidays – Larpool Hall

I arrived at Georgian Larpool Hall in the late afternoon and was welcomed by friendly Assistant Manager Sally who showed me around. My en-suite single bedroom overlooked the courtyard and had everything you’d want for a few days’ stay.

Larpool Hall - Whitby - HF Holidays

Larpool Hall

I had missed afternoon tea but was in time to meet fellow guests and go for the introductory walk with Christine Brook,  our guide for the next few days. HF Holidays runs with a large team of volunteer guides who play a huge part in the success of the company. Christine gave us a bit of history of the Larpool Hall, then we went along the railway trail which goes past the back of the house.

Hf Holidays walking group on Whitby Viaduct - photo zoedawes

Christine and walking group on Whitby Viaduct

We stopped at the local secondary school which has a replica of a Celtic Cross to commemorate Anglo Saxon poet Caedmon, who looked after the animals at Whitby Abbey in the 7thc AD. On our walk back we saw the abbey silhouetted  in the evening sun and caught a glimpse of a North Yorkshire Moors Railway steam train puffing into the town centre.

Whitby Harbour, abbey and steam train - yorkshire - photo zoedawes

Whitby Harbour

Back at Larpool Hall, there was just time to get changed before Christine gave us a briefing about the next day’s walk, along the coast. I was a bit unsure of the protocol for dinner but a helpful waiter explained it was free seating so I joined one of the circular dining tables. The food is excellent – I can see why guests love it here. I’ve been on a number of group holidays and sometimes the food lets it down. Not at Larpool Hall.

Meals at Larpool Hall HF Holidays Yorkshire - photo zoedawes

Meals at Larpool Hall

Table-talk was convivial and everyone was very friendly. I was there on my own but not for one minute did I feel lonely. After dinner about 40 of us took part in a lively General Knowledge Quiz, ably chaired by Christine. Every evening there was an organised activity but they’re not compulsory; I spent one evening chatting with fellow guests at the bar. There was a stunning sunset; sadly the maxim; ‘Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight‘ was not so accurate.

Sunset at Larpool Hall Whitby - photo zoedawes

Sunset at Larpool Hall

Walking Holiday: Day 2 – North Yorkshire Coast

The Cleveland Way - Runswick Bay to Staithes - Yorkshire - photo zoedawes

The Cleveland Way – Runswick Bay to Staithes

The next morning was overcast but dry. After an excellent cooked breakfast, I collected my packed lunch. The day before, I’d ordered a sandwich from a list of fillings and bread; it was waiting in the dining room, along with a tempting selection of ‘ingredients’ which include fresh fruit, raw vegetables, cheese and crackers, dried fruit, hard-boiled eggs, cake, biscuits and loads more.

Packed lunch selection at HF Holidays Larpool Hall Whitby - image zoedawes

HF Holidays Lunch

Our mini-bus took us to Runswick Bay, the starting point for our coastal walk to Staithes. Originally a fishing village, now it’s a very popular tourist destination. The quaint fishing cottages are mostly holiday homes and it has one of Britain’s few independent Life Boat Stations. It was misty so the views across the Bay were limited but it wasn’t raining and we were all in very good spirits.

Runswick Bay Yorkshire - photo zoedawes

Runswick Bay

We set off along the Cleveland Way, following a well-marked path that took us along what would be a spectacular coastline, had the sea fret not rolled in and obscured our view. Access to the little bay of Port Mulgrave is currently closed due to erosion of the cliffs. Christine explained the old harbour was used to transport iron ore, which was mined locally and taken to Jarrow for processing. Through the mist we could just make out some old buildings and the remains of the pier.

Port Mulgrave on Cleveland Way - Yorkshire - photo zoedawes

Port Mulgrave

We arrived in Staithes in time for lunch, which we ate on the attractive harbour front. Formerly a mining/fishing village, Staithes is on the way up, as can been seen in the rebuilding and new shops opening up everywhere. BBC TV children’s series Old Jack’s Boat, starring Bernard Cribbins, is filmed here and there are plenty of souvenir and craft shops, plus an Art Gallery. Staithes was home to the Staithes Group, a 19thc art colony.

Old Jack's Boat Staithes

Old Jack’s Boat banner

The quirky little Captain Cook and Staithes Heritage Centre has a comprehensive collection of  Cook memorabilia, collected by the owner in charming higglede-piggeldy displays. There’s also a unique exhibition of photographs and objects telling the story of Staithes. It’s one of the best small museums I’ve ever seen.

Captain Cook and Staithes Heritage Centre

Captain Cook and Staithes Heritage Centre

It started to rain as we got into the mini bus to take us back to Whitby. Some went back to Larpool Hall and a few of us joined Christine for an afternoon walk round the town. Even in the pouring rain, Whitby has an evocative charm all its own. We saw Captain Cook’s statue, the Whalebone Arch, the hotel where Bram Stoker wrote ‘Dracula‘, the jet shops along the little lanes and the 199 steps up to Whitby Abbey.

Whitby in the rain - HF Holidays - Yorkshire - photo zoedawes

Our group in Whitby rain

Our walk back took us through Pannett Park, where we stopped off at the Art Gallery and Whitby Museum. We got back to Larpool Hall in the late afternoon, nicely worn-out after our day’s walking and ready for another delicious dinner.

Walking Holiday: Day 3 – Castle Howard

Castle Howard and Atlas Fountain - Yorkshire - zoedawes

Castle Howard and Atlas Fountain

The sun shone throughout our final day of the walking holiday. Our coach driver dropped us off on the edge of the Castle Howard estate and we took a leisurely stroll past the Temple of the Four Winds, the Mausoleum and the Pyramid – and a very fine herd of Angus cattle.

Yorkshire HF Walking Holiday - Castle Howard - photo zoedawes

Our day was spent exploring the grounds and interior of Castle Howard, built between 1699 and 1702. The top of the famous dome is being re-gilded but the beauty of the house is still apparent, especially when viewed from the splendid Atlas Fountain. I ate my packed lunch in the delicately scented Rose Garden.

The Rose Garden - Castle Howard Yorkshire- photo zoedawes

The Rose Garden

Every room in Castle Howard is a treasure trove of beautiful paintings, impressive sculptures and exquisite furniture, much dating from its heyday in the Georgian era. The interior view of the dome (restored after a serious fire) is breathtaking and there is an interesting display of photographs from the filming of Brideshead Revisited. The Howard family Chapel has lovely Pre-Raphaelite stained glass windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones.

Inside Castle Howard - collage zoedawes

Inside Castle Howard

On our way back to Larpool Hall we crossed the North Yorkshire Moors which were flooded with purple heather. That evening dinner was very lively as we shared our favourite parts of the walking holiday. Christine organised a little quiz for those staying in and took me down to the town centre for the last night of the Whitby Folk Festival. Listening to sea shanties and blues music sung in a traditional pub seemed a very fitting end to a very memorable few days on the Yorkshire Coast.

Singer in pub Whitby Folk Festival

Singer in Whitby pub

Many thanks to HF Holidays for inviting me. You can find out more about their Walking with Sightseeing Holidays here. Thanks also to Christine for cheerful guidance on the walking holiday and to Sally and the team at Larpool Pool for being so helpful and friendly. Finally, a special mention to the friends I made during the trip and to my feisty fellow walkers. It was a real pleasure to spend time exploring the Yorkshire coast and surrounding area together.

In front of Temple of the Winds, Castle Howard - HF Holidays - zoedawes

Our walking group in front of Temple of the Winds, Castle Howard

July 26, 2016

Top tips for ‘off-season’ in Menorca

Es Grau cottage with flower pots Menorca - image zoedawes

Pots of flowers in Es Grau

Summer time and the living is … hot and humid and the beach calls. It’s the only place to be on Menorca (Minorca) in July and August. Lying on a sun lounger taking in the rays, plunging into the deep blue Mediterranean to cool off, lunch in a seaside bar and maybe siesta like a true Spaniard. However, during the off-season in Menorca, in spring and autumn, even winter, the sun shines without being scorchio, the island is lush with flowers and vibrant colour, beaches are less crowded and you can walk about in comfort.

Marguerites on cliff top overlooking Addaya Bay, Menorca Spain - image ZoeDawes

Marguerites on Addaya cliff top

Outdoors on Menorca

One of the best things to happen to Menorca in recent years, was the opening of the Cami de Cavalls, a 185km circular route round the island, tracing a historic route passing many places of interest and some gorgeous scenery. In summer you may get a tad overheated but off-season is the perfect time to walk, run, cycle, or do what I did this spring – go horse-riding on the Cami de Cavalls. It’s the perfect way to see the island. [Read Heather Cowper on hiking around Menorca for more tips.]

Horse riding on the Cami de Cavalls Menorca - image zoedawes

Horse riding on the Cami de Cavalls

There are plenty of other walking and cycling routes on the island, the smallest of the Balearics. Menorca derives from its size compared to Majorca – 47 km x 17 km and its highest point, Mount Toro is just 400m. Having a meal beside the sea tastes just as good off season and you’ll not have to queue for that special table. Menorca is designated a UNESCO Bisophere Reserve because of its unique bio-diversity. Albufera and its bay Es Grau is a haven for wild birds within its dunes and marshland. It’s also a great place to enjoy tasty seafood.

Meal by the sea in Es Grau Menorca - image zoedawes

Meal by the sea in Es Grau

Beaches on Menorca

There are more beaches on Menorca than Majorca and Ibiza put together. The popular ones can get very crowded during the summer holidays but off-season are much less frenetic. You don’t need to get there early to bag a sunbed; just bring a towel and if you feel like a swim, the sea is very tempting. It does take a while to warm up so choose a shallower beach like Arenal d’en Castell, if you want a dip in spring.

Sun loungers on Arenal Beach, Menorca, Balearic Island, Spain - image zoedawes

Arenal d’en Castell Beach in spring

At Binibeca there’s a great beach bar which serves basic food, cold beer and cocktails – ideal for sundowners. The sandy shore is perfect for making sandcastles and the inner bay is sheltered from the stronger currents further out.

Binibeca Beach Bar lspring sun on Menorca - image zoedawes

Binibeca Beach Bar at sundown

Nearby Binibeca Vell is a photographer’s delight. White-painted cubes house tiny bars and restaurants, souvenir shops, boutique hotels and self-catering apartments. Built in the 1970s to look like a traditional fishing village, it attracts visitors all year round but is best visited off-season; this photo was taken in May and hardly anyone was around even though it was a glorious day.

Binibeca Vell fishing village on Menorca, Spain - image zoedawes

Binibeca Vell

Cala Galdana is one of the best family beaches on the island; a delightful bay dotted with graceful trees and excellent facilities for all ages. I stayed at the Artiem Audax, an adult-only hotel overlooking the bay. Not far from here are some of Menorca’s picture-postcard-pretty beaches including Cala en Turqueta, Macarella and Macarelleta.

Cala Galdana from Hotel Audax on Menorca, Spain - image zoedawes

Cala Galdana from Hotel Audax

Other popular beaches include Cala en Porter, setting for the last of the Menorca Fiestas in September, Sant Tomas and Son Bou, bordered by sand dunes and the very busy Cala en Blanes, the nearest Menorca gets to a mass tourist destination.

Places to go when it rains on Menorca

Menorca Naveta in the rain - image zoedawes

Heather Cowper and Zoe at a pre-historic Naveta in the rain

Menorca does get more rain than the other Balearic islands but there are lots of things to do indoors when the weather changes. Check out my Top Tips for Culture Lovers on Menorca for some great ideas including museums, art galleries, historic sites and foodie venues. How about a guided tour round a winery? Binifadet started growing vines in the 1970s and has been selling quality wines since 2004. They have a high-tech wine production centre over two floors, producing not only red, white and rose,  but also a very good sparkling wine. Their wine labels are works of art, including the very quirky Merluzo. Binifadet Restaurant serves superb Menorcan cuisine with a contemporary twist. I especially enjoyed their cheese platter, monkfish and prawn croquettes, roast Mediterranean vegetables and cheese cake with wine jam. (Read Kathryn Burrington‘s excellent article on Menorcan Food and Drink.)

Binifadet Winery Menorca - image zoedawes

Binifadet Winery

On a rainy, cloudy or windy day (beware the nippy Tramontana) hire a car and explore the island. Mahon has plenty to occupy you, whatever the weather.

Mahon


There’s a major road from the modern capital Mahon in the east, to the old capital Ciutadella in the west. Many road fork off the north and south taking you down winding country lanes to coves, bays and beaches on both coasts. Signage has improved greatly over the years and it can be fun getting lost amongst the stone-walled lanes. Stop off in quaint villages, search out local bars and restaurants and eat like a local. Visit the famous Cova d’en Xoroi for a unique Menorcan experience; the huge cave has been turned into day-time bar with night club. If, like us, you can’t see the renowned sunset view, at least you can enjoy a pomada (Menorca gin and bitter lemon) sheltering from the elements.

Cova den Xoroi pomada Menorca - image zoedawes

Pomada at Cova d’en Xoroi

Off-season weather on Menorca

In spring and autumn you get some beautiful weather; sunny days, light breezes, occasional showers – though it can also rain very heavily and get very windy too!  Temperatures range from about about 18°C – 24°C but it gets cool in the evenings. Bring clothes suitable for an English summer, ie layers and you should be fine. A waterproof jacket, sturdy walking shoes and maybe a brolly can all come in handy. I was in Menorca one January when it snowed, much to the delight of the locals. The snow had barely settled before it melted but it was fun whilst it lasted. However, it is the spring flowers that I love the most. In April and May the island bursts into glorious technicolour; blue cornflowers, white and yellow daisies, lacy elderflowers, bright red poppies … Don’t take my word, get out there and see for yourself …

Spring flowers in Menorca - image zoedawes

Poppies by the roadside

Visitor Information for Menorca

To plan your holiday in Menorca visit the Menorca website and www.Spain.info or follow them on social media: Twitter @Spain_inUK | Facebook | Instagram. If you need a guide to show you the sites of Menorca, I can highly recommend Menorca Guides Luis Amella. Thanks to all for a lovely trip

Menorca gate and spring flowers - image zoedawes

Menorca gate and spring flowers

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Off-season Menorca - The Quirky Traveller

May 2, 2016

On seeing ‘Nocturnal Rainbows in the English Lakes’

Seven Nocturnal Rainbows - Lakes Ignite - zoedawes

Nocturnal Rainbow on Coniston

“If a picture paints a thousand words
Then why can’t I paint you?”

David Gates, BREAD

Those were the words that came into my head as I tried to photo over 200 coloured LED lanterns slowly drifting across Coniston Water in the springtime dusk. Looming over the lake, the Old Man of Coniston, snow-freckled and shadowy, provided an impressive backdrop to this impossible-to-capture picture. I realised it was futile, put down my camera and sat back on the rocky lakeshore, to enjoy this unusual spectacle. (The blurry photos are just to give you a very vague idea of what it was like.)

Created by Charles Monkhouse, Seven Nocturnal Rainbows for the English Lakesis one of three special artworks commissioned by Lakes Culture for the Cumbria Arts Festival called Lakes Ignite 2016. Charles took his inspiration from the poets and artists of the Lake District, in particular  ‘A Shower’ by JMW Turner, showing an arcing rainbow over darkling Buttermere. I was fortunate to be invited to the launch on April 30th.

Ready for Nocturnal Rainbows over Coniston - Lakes Ignite - zoedawes

Ready for Nocturnal Rainbows over Coniston

At about 8pm we wandered down Brantwood Meadow to the edge of Coniston as the sun set and the Lakeland fells came into sharp relief. Birds choralled their evensong and a dog barked excitedly but was quickly shushed by its owner. In the distance a small boat puttered about and the first of the lights gradually appeared. Chairs were unfolded, rugs laid across laps, children hoisted onto shoulders and an air of quiet anticipation flowed through the crowd.

Watching Nocturnal Rainbows Coniston Lakes Ignite - zoedawes

Watching Nocturnal Rainbows

Red lights were slowly joined by orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, a vivid illumination of that childhood rainbow mnemonic, Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain.’  People talked in undertones; somehow no-one wanted to disturb the mesmerising spectacle unfolding in front of us. A bat swooped across the water and a boy crouched down to peer into the pebbled shallows. Serious photographers checked lenses and adjusted tripods, hoping  to capture the nocturnal rainbows before they faded again.

Lakes Ignite Seven Nocturnal Rainbows - zoedawes

Capturing Nocturnal Rainbows

As the night turned electric blue, the gently bobbing line stretched out across the lake, sending streams of colour into its depths. Perchance the spirit of Donald Campbell was enjoying the show as much as those on the shore. Coniston village opposite twinkled; some may have seen the rainbow and wondered if water sprites were having a party …

Seven Noctural Rainbows Coniston - zoedawes

Noctural Rainbows Coniston

After half an hour or so the lights started to disappear, the violet ones going first. People slowly came back to reality, expressing pleasure at such a sensory treat. My amateurish photographs could not capture the beauty of this experience, but that is fine, for it was its gradual unfolding, transient nature that made it so special. Unlike a painting or sculpture that lasts, this is a truly unique artwork, ever-changing, dependant on its setting, the weather and the eye of the beholder. Charles Monhouse’s Nocturnal Rainbows are appearing on Coniston, Ullswater and Grasmere until May 6th. If you get the chance, take an hour or so to visit the English Lakes and enjoy them. Hopefully, Turner would greatly approve of this tribute to his art …

Lakes Ignite 2016

Lakes Ignite 2016

Lakes Ignite 2016

From April 30 to May 22nd Cumbria and the Lake District host numerous cultural events and exhibitions for Lakes Ignite 2016. Two more specially commissioned pieces are Museum of Water by Amy Shorrocks and 21st Century Landscape Art Class by digital artist Joseph Connor. Others include Rembrandt’s ‘Self Portrait at 63’ (get up close) at Abbot Hall, Kendal, Romance and Realism – Beatrix Potter; a life inspired by Nature (charming original illustrations) at the NT Hawkshead Gallery, Laura Ford ‘Seen and Unseen sculptures at Blackwell Arts and Crafts House (spookily unnerving), the Go Herdwick Art Trail (family fun finding these sheep dotted around south lakes), the Freerange Comedy Festival (still some tickets left) at the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, From Fjords to Fells at Heaton Cooper Studio, Grasmere (very good art shop too) and Design for Life (quirkily contemporary) at Brantwood. Find out more about Lakes Culture here.

March 11, 2016

Travelator Media out and about in the Lake District

When people visit an area you love for the first time, you want it to look its best, to show it off in all its glory. I remember going to Skåne, Sweden on my first group blog trip one summer; it was dull, cool and cloudy with ‘occasional showers’ almost every day and the Swedish Tourism rep was so upset. She kept saying, “It’s usually sunny at this time of year. Please try to imagine what this resort would look like in the sunshine.” Well, it was a bit like that recently when Travelator Media gathered in Cumbria for a working weekend.

Travelator Media Good Life Cottages Lake District

Heather, Kathryn and Zoe in Elterwater

Fellow Travelator Media team member Heather Cowper (Heather on her Travels) and Kathryn Burrington (Travel with Kat) both live in the south of England and neither had been to the Lake District or Cumbria before. It was winter and this area is famous for its ‘weather’, not just at this time of year, but any time. Yes, we are one of the wettest places in Britain, but we also get LOTS of gorgeous sunny days. I’d warned Heather and Kathryn to bring along wet-weather gear, but the week before they came, we’d glorious weather, so I was hopeful …

Lake ferry at Bowness-on-Windermere Lake District - image zoedawes

Lake ferry at Bowness-on-Windermere

However, the rain gods decided to show them the Lake District at her wettest. It rained for two days but we did get some breaks in the downpours to look around this stunning part of the world. They kept smiling throughout!

Daw Bank Cottage

Daw Bank cottage Chapel Stile

Daw Bank cottage Chapel Stile

We stayed from Friday to Monday at delightful Daw Bank cottage in Chapel Stile in the heart of the Langdale Valley It’s one of the many Good Life Cottage Company properties all around southern Lakeland. Daw Bank has three good-sized bedrooms, including a large master bedroom in the loft, and all the facilities you’d expect from a quality self-catering property. We had got together to discuss Travelator Media 2016 campaigns (highlights will include Menorca in the Spanish Balearics and a road trip across Canada) and some exciting projects we are working on. The other key member of the Travelator Media team, Gary Bembridge (Tips for Travellers), was on a world cruise so couldn’t be with us.)

The Langdales and Chapel Stile church from Daw Bank

The Langdales and Chapel Stile church from Daw Bank

Travelator Media

Travelator Media

Travelator Media provides a one-stop solution for creating inspiring travel campaigns targeted at the 40+ UK quality traveller interested in arts, culture, food and finding new travel experiences. Travelator Media is a group of established, proven and award-winning travel content creators; we are in the target traveller market ourselves. We co-ordinate and manage mixed-media campaigns with Tourist Boards, DMOs, resorts, accommodation providers, tourism attractions and others in the Tourism and Hospitality sectors. Recent campaigns include exploring South Tyrol and Canada Spring Watch. Find out more about Travelator Media here

Lake District highlights

The cottage provided a great venue for our working weekend but we also had plenty of time to see some of the area’s attractions. These included:

Blackwell Arts and Crafts House

Blackwell Arts and Crafts House - Dining Room

Blackwell Arts and Crafts House – Dining Room

Built in the early 20th century and set above Windermere, Blackwell The Arts and Crafts House is a great example of Lakes Culture. Designed by architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott (1865 – 1945), it showcases not only exquisite interior detailing ie leaf-shaped door handles and irridescent stained-glass windows, but also furnishings and lovley objects from the pinnacle of the Arts and Craft movement. Jeanette Edgar told us about the new bedroom that’s being opened later this year and some of the other events Lakeland Arts is involved in. As well as permanent displays at Blackwell, there are regular exhibitions of artwork both local and international.

The Britannia Inn

Britannia Inn Elterwater - zoedawes

On the Friday night we had dinner with Natalie Barker, Manager of the Good Life Cottage Company, at the Britannia Inn in Elterwater village. A hearty Cumbrian meal, real ale and a warm welcome gave Heather and Kathryn a genuine taste of Cumbrian hospitality. Natalie explained more about the company and the different properties they have. Read about my stay at luxurious Braegarth Cottage in Elterwater here.

Elterwater Lake and Chesters by the River

Elterwate Lake District - photo zoedawes

The shores of Elterwater

Having spent a few hours on Travelator Media business, on Saturday afternoon we left our cosy cottage to go for a walk along the shores of Elterwater. It’s a lovely little lake, which was gently overflowing its banks in places due to the recent heavy rain. There are usually many Herdwick sheep grazing but they must have been in hiding that day. Further on from the village is Chester’s, a ‘life-style’ shop crammed full of designer household goodies and an excellent cafe. We got there just too late to sit down for one of their scrumptoius cakes so took some back to Daw Bank to enjoy later.

Chester's chocolate tiffin - lake district - zoedawes

Chester’s cakes

The Langdale Estate

The Langdale Estate - hotel lake district

The Langdale Estate

Nick Lancaster showed us round the Langdale Estate and its 4-star Langdale Hotel, Terrace Restaurant, Spa Therapies, Leisure Facilities, Brimstone Hotel and 5-star self catering lodges. Since my last stay at the Langdale Hotel a lot has changed. The main restaurant has been totally revamped and reopens soon. The Spa and Pool area is currently being completely redesigned and should be a real stunner when it reopens in the autumn. However, it’s Brimstone that has the WOW factor now. A boutique hotel in attractive woodland surrounding, it has 16 contemporary boutique rooms and luxury suites. Built from local Lakeland slate, it is the ultimate in style and elegance;we all loved it, as does everyone who stays there.

Wainwright’s Inn, Chapel Stile

Steak and chips with smoked platter at Wainwrights Inn Langdale

Steak and chips with smoked platter at Wainwrights Inn Langdale

A few minutes’ walk from Daw Bank, Wainwright’s Inn is  a well-known Lake District pub serving good food in friendly, comfortable surroundings. On the night we went, there was a very welcome fire blazing with a couple of sheep dogs stretched out in front, lots of families, couples and friends enjoying food and drink. Heather had the smoked food platter; the chef is a big fan of smoking all sorts of different meat, fish, cheeses etc.

Hawkshead Village

Kathryn and Heather Hawkshead Lake District

Kathryn and Heather in Hawkshead

Hawkshead is famous for the Grammar School where Wordsworth studied, the Beatrix Potter Gallery where her hsuband William Heelis had his office, and now well-known for Hawkshead Relish, and beer from Hawkshead Brewery (now actually based in Staveley). Its quaint old buildings and narrow, traffic-free lanes are a magnet for tourists but on a wet February day we had it almost all to ourselves.

Beatrix Potter’s House – Hill Top

The Quirky Traveller outside Hill Top Near Sawrey

Outside Hill Top in the rain …

Hill Top was the home of children’s author and farmer in Near Sawrey, Beatrix Potter. She married local solicitor William Heelis and moved over the road. She left Beatrix Potter and a great deal of land to the National Trust. It’s still very much as it was during her lifetime and setting for many scenes from her tiny books can be identified around the house. Fortunately, being winter, the house wasn’t too busy and we had plenty of time to look round and also enjoy the gift shop. This year is a celebration of 150 years since Beatrix Potter was born on July 28th, 1866. Kathryn couldn’t resist buying her very own Peter Rabbit to take home as a souvenir.

Peter Rabbit in Hill Top Shop - zoedawes

Peter Rabbit in Hill Top Shop

Afterwards, we had a pub lunch in the Tower Bank Arms, seen in The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck. Owned by the National Trust and run by a tenant, it’s small, cosy and does an excellent smoked salmon sandwich.

Tower Bank Arms Lunch - Near Sawrey, Lake District - zoedawes

Tower Bank Arms Lunch

Other places visited by the Travelator Team included Coniston and the Blue Bird Cafe, Grasmere, the Gingerbread Shop and Wordsworth’s Grave, Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Trust Museum, Lake Windermere and Bowness, Wilf’s Cafe in Staveley and Lovingly Artisan at Oxenholme station, Kendal.

Dove Cottage - Grasmere

Dove Cottage – Grasmere

Many thanks to Good Life Cottage Company for providing us with the perfect base for our stay in the Lake District. Read more about our weekend on Heather Cowper’s article A weekend of culture in the Lake District (or what to do if it rains). Whether it rains or not, this is quite simply one of the loveliest places in the world …

February 16, 2016

Tasty fun at Kendal Festival of Food

Kendal Food and Drink Festival 16

“We’re so excited. This year’s food and drink festival is jam-packed with sensational and varied food producers, chefs, street entertainment, master classes, cookery demos and unusual events. There really is something for everyone, whatever age and whatever foodie preference.” Cath Dutton, founder of Kendal Festival of Food is speaking in her office, surrounded by boxes of brochures, flyers and wrist-bands. She’s been working 24/7 with Stacy Hurley to get this annual feast organized. “The awful floods of late 2015 devastated Cumbria, but we have a resilient spirit and Kendal Food Festival 2016 celebrates that, as well as the phenomenal food and drink that the North of England is famous for.”

Lovingly Artisan sourdough baking demo at Kendal Food festival

Lovingly Artisan sourdough bread demo

Kendal Food Festival 2016 is in its 7th year; I’ve been coming for 5 years and it just gets better and better, whilst still retaining its original ethos of showcasing local food and drink producers and talent. Some of the highlights I’ve especially enjoyed from previous years include The Fabulous Baker Brothers, who did a hilarious cookery demo double act, Smoky Jo’s introduction to smoking food at home and Aiden Monks’ Lovingly Artisan sourdough bread masterclass. Smoky Jo’s are back this year in the Best Of Cumbria Theatre in Kendal Town Hall.

Andy Swinscoe cheese demo Kendal Food Festival - photo zoedawes

Andy Swinscoe cheese demo

Throughout the weekend of March 12th and 13th 2016, there will a veritable cornucopia of events. Looking through the Kendal Food Festival brochure I’m hoping to attend The Best in Northern Cheese with Andy Swinscoe of The Courtyard Dairy and Cooking with Duck with Chris O’Callaghan of Linthwaite House. He’s going to be using a famous local speciality, Grasmere gingerbread in his demo. Mike Bevans, owner of the hotel said, “I’m delighted we can support the festival. It’s a great opportunity for Chris to showcase his talents and it will also hopefully inspire budding chefs and create positive publicity for this area.”

Wild boar stall - Kendal Food Festival

Wild Boar stall

As a blogger with a strong interest in cuisine in the UK and around the world, I often take photographs of food and drink in markets, during meals and at cookery lessons. I’m sure to pick up some useful tips at the Food Photography workshop with Jenny Heyworth from Aspire Photography. Catherine Connor, MD of Aspire told me how thrilled she is to be attending this year’s festival. “It’s a fabulous foodie event and brilliant that it’s in our own backyard. It attracts hundreds of photographers, bloggers, journalists, families, celebrities and food lovers, not just from Cumbria and the North West, but around the country. We’re proud to be a part of this increasingly popular festival.”

Kendal Food Festival stall - zoedawes

Local honey

NEW for this year is the Edible Garden at Wainwright’s Yard, where we can learn more about growing our own fruit and vegetables as well as food for health and well-being. The Family Festival Village returns with some fun events for children, including Sculpting with Ice Cream, Create a Cress Head and the Kidz Kitchen. Join the battle of the bakers at the Bring a Bake competition in the AGA showroom and watch out for the Strolling Gardeners, the Farm to Fork Roadshow (there will be lambs!) and the Festival Jester demonstrating his circus skills out and about.

Cumbrian lamb

Hold at lamb at Kendal Food Festival

Of course, the festival is renowned for the many stalls that line the streets of Kendal town centre, selling everything from scrumptious bakes and chocolate treats to artisan breads, organic meat and poultry, regional cheeses, craft beers and spirits, tasty preserves and oh, loads more. Marian Graveson, of Blue Moose Kitchen, says, “This will be my third year at Kendal Food Festival and it really is one of the best festivals in the country. There are lots of reasons why I love this weekend: we always have fun, even if the wind is blustering the stall down the street!

Blue Moose Kitchen Brownies

“It’s very well-organised and there is so much to see and do. I’ll be selling everything from Gingerbread Men kits, cookie mixes and 5 varieties of brownie mixes, including local favourite Kendal Mintcake.  Then there’s the Hot Chocolate. I’ll be giving out samples of my handmade mix during the festival; perfect if the weather is a bit chilly.”

Blue Moose Kitchen baking kits

Blue Moose Kitchen baking kits

The other BIG attraction is Northern Spirit on Saturday night. The brochure invites visitors to, ‘Join us for a celebration of some of the region’s very best spirits; sample a selection of regionally crafted vodkas and gins as well as some of Scotland’s best whiskies.’ Looks like a great way to celebrate a weekend of superb food, drink and much, much more.

The Lakes Vodka - Kendal Food Festival - zoedawes

The Lakes Vodka

Whatever the weather there’s always something to see, do, eat and drink at Kendal Food Festival.

Kendal Food Festival

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