Birthday Mini Break – Glamping in Kent!

What is glamping? Its posh camping and is exactly what Kirsty and I did at the weekend with huge success!! Leaving London at 4.30 on at Friday afternoon I would not have guessed what was coming up. We arrived about 5.20 in the middle of Kent to be met off the train by a very nice man with a Volvo who drove us to the farm where we were staying?

The Nut Plat was a nut orchard with two self contained Glamping spots! We settled in to the one at the far end from the house which was more secluded. The plot was made up of a Sleeping wagon, with stained glass windows, a gorgeous double bed and  Wood burning stove to heat the place, a hut for a kitchen with running water and two gas hobs, a gorgeous outdoor fire area and separate toilet and shower huts.  Its situation was at the end of the Orchard between a beautiful deciduous woodland and a lovely stream on the other side.

We immediately got both fires going and put on the kettle. Kirsty had brought some very nice wine which we polished of sitting by the outdoor fine relaxing and winding down after quite a stressful week. With just two of us sitting round the fire  it was a different experience but reminded me a lot of Iceland and camp fires in the middle of nowhere. Gradually it got darker and the stars came out above the trees while the heat of the fire kept us both warm.

The next morning we woke to the sound of birds in the forest. Having breakfast in bed was a real luxury and we were lucky with the weather as it was beautiful sunshine once more.  after chatting for a while we went on a walk around the small but beautiful deciduous forest nest to the house as a exploration and came back to read our books in the sunshine. By this stage a rather cold wind had got up and we were forced indoors as it had become too chilly to be outside.

Half five was all of a sudden upon us, and it was time to set out for dinner before it got dark. We had a couple of miles to walk to get to the Swan on the Green. The walk there was great with the sun setting behind us as we walked through the fields. Dinner was a treat with the lamb  fall of the bone tender, The black putting scotch egg really rich and filling and the Tiramisu laced with loads of flavour. Kirsty’s stake looked really good as well.

The following morning we had to get back to london as Kirsty had some FSC training so we woke at 8 had some delicious eggs and eggy bread for breakfast and then came back into London. Glamping is a brilliant Mini Break idea for the slightly adventurous kind of people. A fantastic weekend with great company.

 

Land of Forest Lava and Ash, Porsmork

I Recently went to Iceland for the fifth time and went back to Porsmork a valley lying at the foot of two glacial covered volcanoes Eyjafjallajokull, the one that erupted in 2010 and caused the chaos across Europe for a week and Katla / Myrdalsjokull. The area  is a really stunning with loads of really awesome rock formations everywhere. The area is one of Iceland’s premier nature destinations and is at the end of the most famous hike in the country.

 

I was volunteering for the Icelandic Forestry Service who along with the environment agency maintain the footpaths in the country. My team: Olga  Rick  Matt and myself, were doing a way-marking and mapping project starting to  make the paths clearer and safer by installing extra way-markers on the paths and giving them unique plaques so that people could let others know where they were.  this was supplemented by making the volunteer base nicer and clearing up as it was the very end of the season.

 

I had some really good walks including up this spectacular upside down cone of a mountain Called Rjupnafell,  one of the most beautiful walks I think I’ve had in the past couple of years.   The different habitats and terrains  you walked through just made the walk extra pretty with each stage offering something different. I also did a number of smaller but equally good walks and a run along the top of a ridge which was really beautiful.

 

One of the best times from this trip was seeing the northern lights do a awesome display in Langidalur campsite whilst we were having a bonfire.  I had never seen them before and they are really quite something.

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A mid week break to Cambridge

Cambridge – I have been working there two days a week over this summer. Its a spectacular city with amazing old buildings lots of little streets and a lovely river.

Last week Kirsty came up for a overnight visit. On the Tuesday evening we went for a early evening walk and ended up at Varsity a really luxurious restaurant. The whole atmosphere was really special and the food was Excellent with our first courses being duck pate and the second course bringing swordfish and Roast Lamb both being absolutely delicious with the white wine. The deserts were the best part prehaps with the Passionfruit sorbet toping off a wonderful meal.

The Fitzwilliam Museum is perhaps the most understated Museum in the UK. The collection is an interesting mix of a range of renaissance and pre renaissance art with more modern works in a building that I can only describe as very fitting to such a excellent collection. Not everything was to my taste but it made me think about several things including the relationship between Christianity and the Virgin birth! (Could it be said that the story of divine conception is one that is meant to promote abstinence.)

Punting down the Cam is something that you must do when your in Cambridge and although it is about the most touristy thing to do there. We were joined in our boat by about 8 Chinese tourists but had a good chat with our guide who was a fun but very posh undergraduate who told us exactly where to go swimming to have the maximum amount of fun. We promptly went where he suggested to find that it was not quite what we had expected but walking a bit further we found ourselves at a beautiful swimming spot with some very interested looking cows and another couple sitting on the bank. We quickly got changed and slid into the deep squidgy mud at the bottom of the river. The water was a perfect temperature and as we swam down the river we were passed by several boats all of whom were a bit suprised to see us. As we got out with very muddy feet we were presented with another problem – the cows who had seemed interested before were definitely interested and we had an interesting changing session chasing cows around their field!

After lunch at the Chop House i brought three books in harpers books and we slowly wound our way back to the train staton to get the train back to london before I went for dinner with Mum as it was her birthday.

Another trip to the Hebrides – Colonsay

Last week I spent on Colonsay (an island between Mull and Islay off the west Coast of Scotland) with my girlfriend Kirsty. She was already there so I had to negotiate my way to Oban myself (I was assisted by Kieran, Kirsty’s youngest brother who drove me from Glasgow to the ferry).  I was going to meet Kirsty’s whole family on Colonsay so I was slightly nervous getting off the Boat after a 2 hour crossing. I should not have worried about anything as I really liked them instantly.

After a good evening in the Pub I woke up the next morning to a beautiful morning. Before heading to the Beach I had some more people to meet when  Morna, Alan Helen, Sally, Jen came over for coffee and Haribo! Helen and sally are six and four! That afternoon we all went to Kiloren the first of a few beautiful beaches in the week! We sat at one end of a semicircle of golden sand and chilled out for the afternoon. Eventually the Mc Nichalls joined us and Kieran and Dougal spent the afternoon playing golf balls along the beach.  The next morning I went on the first of three 12km runs round  the island’s solitary road which goes round the centre of the island. There was a nasty hill  just after half way round but it would have been worse going the other way.  After  lunch we went for a quick walk to to the old sawmill  and Gardens.  We then said our goodbyes to Alexandra and welcomed Roddy for dinner.

The next day was a beauty and we went to Macrans a beautiful beach on the west coast of the Island with a great bay which I   swam out into the beautifully calm waters of. That evening we played Risk, a family tradition for the Binnie’s and a fun game to play. I had never played before and  quite quickly got the general idea but spent most of the game watching and learning rather than actually playing. Roddy and I ended up with most of Europe and Africa which turned out to not be a good thing as we promptly lost it all to the eventual winners Alan and Morna.

On Wednesday we got to go out in Dave’s boat and catch fish and lobster. as  soon as we  had put the line in the water  about 10 fish were caught including a sizeable mackerel. I thought that was impressive until we had 8 lobsters in 4 Creels. Most of them were too Small to be worth bringing back so we only took 2 home. There was a super cute baby one about crayfish size that i almost wanted to keep as a pet but I decided that it would be best to let him go and see him in a couple of years when he was the size of the monsters that we came back with. As you can imajine dinner was tasty that evening!

Thursday was spent going over to Oronsay checking out the  ruined priory and coming back to Poll Gorm beach where Kirsty and I spent the next couple of hours chilling out and going for a dip! Oronsay is absolutely beautiful and has fantastic views over to Jura and Islay. It appeared at times as if we had the world to ourselves but the beach was packed with people as it was another scortcher. I came back looking a bit like the lobsters that we’d had the night before but it did no harm as i smothered myself in aftersun and was not too bad. as soon as we returned we were told that the  hay was being bailed over at Kilchatten so we rushed over to find out that there was very little activity going on.

Friday was hay day and after a morning walk up the hill, we spent the afternoon bailing hay to feed Jan’s horses this winter. I came away feeling as if I could be a farmer!!

Unfortunately London was calling and it was time to head bak to the mainland. The fortunate thing was that we had a RIB take us across, Which was a fantastic way to end a amazing trip with Awesome people.  Colonsay has certainly caught my imagination and I hope to go back there a few more times!

Isle of Gigha

I here you say ‘where is that’. It is the most southern Hebridean island just off the coast of the Mull Of Kintyre in the southwest of Scotland. The island is certainly a good one to visit as Kirsty and I found out last week when we took a wee trip there!

WE acutally started by  going to Knapdale peninsular where we stopped overnight on our way to Gigha. We camped out in Port Ban Holiday park which happened to be right by a beautiful beach.  The view looked out to Islay and Jura with the Paps the stand out feature of a completely amazing panoramic view. Going swimming was so refreshing after a long  drive from Perth. The sea was beautifully clear but frigid and we didn’t stay in for long!  After relaxing near the ruined church we went back to the Tent and grabbed some food before going and watching the sunset at 9.30p.m. unfortunately we had both forgotten midge repellant and suffered as a result! I was especially bad in the morning when i had just woken up and had to endure putting the tent away while getting eaten alive. The drive round the Knapdale Peninsular is spectacular with some really gorgeous views.

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We eventually got to Tayinloan, where the ferry to Gigha departs from. The crossing is about half a hour and we checked in as soon as we were across.  The island only has one single track road going the length of it and we explored the southern end on our first day. we soon found the wind farm and there was a almost deserted beach just beyond it. Swimming here was great fun and some cows decided to join us on the shore for a while.  Achamore gardens are  the main attraction on the island and they  are really pretty while being slightly overgrown and wild in appearance. The entrance is perhaps the best part with a really beautifully planted pathway from the car park to the education hut. The walled garden is just right in terms of formality with its very definite borders being more wild than they might have been. The Gigha Hotel served up some good fish and chips with great peas and had a good choice of Scotch for a wee night cap.

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The next day we decided to explore the north end of the island and went on a great walk to the top of the most northern hill on the island before going to find a palm tree planted on the beach. The weather was absolutely perfect again and as we explored some more we found another gorgeous beach where we spent the rest of the afternoon. I had brought a wetsuit so was more prepared to spend longer in the water and went on two swims one to cool off when we  got there and a longer one later on in the day. The beach was almost perfect and the crystal clear water was not too cold in a shortie. We decided to go to the boathouse restaurant that evening for something different. I was not expecting the best food Iv’e had this year but that is what i got with my absolutely delicious fish curry with about 5 different kinds of seafood cooked to perfection in a delicious curry sauce. Kirsty had The fish and chips with the fish falling apart when you touched it.. Exceptional food in a really friendly and chilled setting. After dinner we went back to the north end of the island where we watched the stunning sunset from  the top of a hill by the beach we had been at earlier in the day.

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After going for another swim in a secluded bay it was time to say goodbye to Gigha and head back across to the mainland and up to the ferry from Tarbert to the Cowal Peninsular.  This ferry crosses the end of Loch Fyne and took us to Tighnabruaich a lovely little village that reminded me a bit of Lochcarron. After having some lunch we went on to our second campsite at Glendaruel. This campsite could be lovely but be warned about midges as   it is at the bottom of a valley with quite a lot of shade from the trees. it happened to be windless when we were there which meant that they were out in force for most of the time that we were there.

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