crash, bang and a shaking Mia

Mia hates this time of the year. Not that she is aware of what is to come, and for that we are grateful. Imagine if she had the comprehension that fireworks were coming, she would be a nervous wreck waiting for them to start. She hates fireworks (and thunder, loud bangs and we have now added Typhoon afterburners to the list, but that is for another blog). She can always hear them well before we can (obviously) and will retreat to 1 of her 2 “safe” spots. The first is her usual spot on the couch where she will curl into the tiniest ball and shake violently until the fireworks have finished. Her other “safe” spot is llay in the dark at the top of the landing (again, curled into a tiny ball). Our landing has no windows and runs along the side of the house where we are attached to our neighbours property, and so this is the quietest and darkest part of the house for her. We ensure bedroom doors are all closed and we place a radio on so that there is some sort of noise other than the fireworks. She always has her favourite toy placed next to her, we use an effective homemade “thunder wrap” which helps but does not cure and her blanket is moved to whichever spot she has chosen. But other that, we are unable to do much more other than wait it out and watch our gorgeous girl shiver and shake.

Don’t get me wrong, I personally like fireworks and I also fully understand the meaning behind Guy Fawkes night, something which is definitely disappearing as most seem to refer to it as “fireworks night” or “bonfire night”. But I have to see Mia petrified and confused, lasting anything from a few minutes to displays happening all over our area for most of the night and so for that reason I also detest fireworks.

I am not of the opinion that we should ban these displays, which symbolise a pretty major incident/near miss in British history. But, what I would campaign for is only approved and licensed displays to take place. No fireworks should be available to the public. That way, I would know that this weekend there would only be 1 firework display within hearing distance of Mia. I would know what time it would start and when it would be over by. That way I would know when it would be safe for her to go out into the garden and I would be able to ensure there is “white noise” to distract her. It could also mean that these “events” would have to apply for licences through the local council, whom could in turn create a list of local events, so that local pet owners (it is not just dogs that are affected – horses, rabbits, cats and local wildlife etc) could check the lists and know what would be going ahead in their area and at what time.

I know that tonight we will have the big organised village event on our local fields which is approximately 1 mile away, but I know what time it will be and within 20 minutes it is all over. However, I can also list 5 neighbours who will all set off fireworks this evening, all within yards of our house and they will all be a different times, so from approximately 6pm this evening until 9pm there will be fireworks going off into the night sky with no warning. Then don’t even get me started on the muppets that set fireworks off for the “fun” of it late at night or in the early hours when we are in bed asleep and a silent house makes it so much worse for Mia

We now have this uncertainty for the next 3 nights, until November 5th which is the actual day to set the damn things off in the first place. Last time I checked we don’t celebrate New Year for the 3/5 days before. We don’t celebrate Christmas with a huge meal and bucks fizz in the morning everyday from 20th December until the 25th. So why should  Guy Fawkes night be any different?

So lets make a change. Don”t buy fireworks for your back garden. Go to an organised display in your local area which will be safer, more fun and usually a lot cheaper. Lets push for “quiet” fireworks, licences for organised events and hopefully we can limit or even stop millions of animals being forced to hide themselves away because they are so scared and don’t even have the understanding as to why

So I am off now to take her for a quick walk before it gets dark and the bangs, cracks and fizzes start.

Before I head out with hats and scarves for a quick walk – kudos to Classic FM for shining a spotlight on the issue and they will be broadcasting Classic FM’s Pet Sounds from 7pm-9pm, designed to help soothe and relax our pets during what can be a traumatic couple of hours. We will be tuning in our radio on the landing for Mia and even though it will not solve her problem with fireworks it will definately help

 

 

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UK bucket list

Obviously here at Mia’s Travels we have a worldwide bucket list of places we would like to visit and things we would like to do – snorkel in the turquoise waters of Bora Bora, road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway and visit Maine in the Fall – all on that list. But to complete the list we need money and time off work so it’s going to be a slow process ticking those items off the list.

However, something we can get started on is our UK bucket list. We have a list of several places in the UK we want to visit, all sooner rather than later. So we have narrowed the list down to our Top 5

1. Observe the Aurora Borealis

Many people don’t realise that you don’t have to visit Norway, Finland or even Canada to see these. You can take a trip up to Scotland and see them from the comfort of the Great British Isles. Obviously the further North you travel the likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights increases but they have been seen in Aberdeenshire, The Cairngorms and even in the Dark Skies of Dumfries and Galloway.

The good news is we don’t have to get on a plane or hop on a boat so it’s not a problem taking Mia along on the journey with us and it is not too far to travel should we get there and have cloud every evening!

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2. Explore the Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye is located on the North West point of Scotland, making up part of the Inner Hebrides and is stunning. We have technically visited once before – purely to drive over the Skye Bridge onto the Isle of Skye to reach the ferry port from which we travelled onwards to North Uist. The island looked stunning and we would love to stay so that we can visit the Fairy pools, Kilt Rock waterfall, Neist Point and the Old Man of Storr. There is something about the ruggedness of Skye that really appeals and we cannot wait to visit

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3.Walk to the summit of Snowdon

Considering we don’t live far from Snowdonia National Park we have never walked any of the paths to reach the summit of Snowdon. This is something we would love to do as a family and obviously Mia can join us for the walk too. You don’t have to walk all the way as there is the Snowdon Mountain Railway to help you on the way. But we are planning to walk, that way we can say we did it all ourselves.

4. The Kelpies, Falkirk

The Kelpies are 30m high horse head structures standing next to the Forth & Clyde Canal. We first learned of these magnificent sculptures only last year whilst travelling up to Aberdeenshire for a family holiday. Unfortunately, they were a little out of our way to see whilst we were there but we definitely want to see them soon and they have taken number 4 on our Top 5

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5. Cheddar Gorge, Somerset

We love cheese, especially Mia so the Cheddar Gorge seems like a great place to visit. The area offers some of the most spectacular views the UK has to offer and there are plenty of dog friendly attractions in the area including the caves and the Lookout Tower. Plus, it’s the home of our most favourite cheese – what’s not to like?

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Where would be on your top 5 places to visit in the UK?

“The Waterfalls”

Amongst our family and friends, if we say we are visiting the Waterfalls, we all know where we mean. Obviously there are lots of waterfalls in the UK, but for our family and friends, the Waterfalls can only mean one place – Nantcol!

Nantcol holds a special place in our hearts, both at Mia’s Travels UK and with the maternal side of our little family. Recently, it was my parents Golden Wedding Anniversary so out came the old slides of camping trips and family holidays and a large amount of them were taken at the waterfalls during the 70s & 80s. We loved nothing more than literally messing about on the river. Mildew ridden tents would be erected, dinghies would be inflated, colourful fishing nets would be grabbed, inappropriate male swimwear would be worn and rope swings would be swung upon.

Our family (including my older brothers & their friends) still camp at Nantcol, with our last visit being a few years back for big bro’s 40th birthday. We have so many fond memories of staying at this campsite, and even when it poured it down and at the time we were miserable and wet – we still remember the trips fondly. One such trip was a 40th birthday camping trip where it rained all weekend, a lot! So much so that the “men” grabbed their hatchets and camping spades and dug trenches in the rain to try to divert some of the rain away from the tents. We have fond memories of being woken up by sheep chewing the guide ropes and washing our hair in the river. For Nantcol never used to be all fancy with lovely clean showers and flushing toilets. Nope, it was a field filled with tents, sheep and a river. You had to be creative when you needed the loo, or wait until you drove down into town and went for a pint! But that was the fun of Nantcol, up until this year it was one of the few campsites where you could still have fires on the ground. I understand why these changes have happened, and I will be the first to admit I prefer it with toilets, showers, a little shop and “danger steep drop” signs at the top. But that doesn’t take away from the amazing memories we made there and continue to do so.

Whilst staying in the area recently, we made the trip up to the waterfalls and immediately I am taken back to my childhood and love nothing more than trudging up the hill, over the huge steps and stopping to catch you breath at the top, getting stuck in mud and getting a little lost (every damn time!) but we are always rewarded when we reach the cataracts at the top. The views are stunning and we always spend at least 60 minutes just mooching around the top and putting our hands into the fast chilly waters of the falls.

This is my happy place, I love it here and I am so happy that we can visit it year in, year out. It changes with the seasons, in the summer we have been known to climb the falls, victorious as we reach the summit soaking wet. Other years we have stayed away from its edge as the water rushes by in great violent torrents. But I love it, I am happiest when at the top, looking out towards the sea to the West and the mountains to the East.

Our daughter loved the walk up, especially laughing at her dad who kept getting stuck in the mud. She took her camera and loved taking lots of photos of the falls as well as the flora and fauna. Mia was in her element, lots of mud to run through, rocks to scramble on and cool waterfall water to drink from. Due to there being sheep grazing she had to be kept on her lead, but this never bothers her anyway, so she had a fab time!

Thanks Nantcol, it was a pleasure as always! We will continue to spread the word and tell everyone just how fabulous you are!

Yellow helmets

Whilst on holiday in Gwynedd we visited several dog friendly attractions in the area, one of our favourites being Llanfair Slate Caverns.

Visiting these caverns has been a family tradition for over 30 years. Every time we have stayed in the area we always make the effort to visit, making great memories each time. I visited as a child with my parents whilst camping at Shell Island, visited with my husband and friends whilst having a drunken weekend camping at Nantcol and taking our daughter for the first time whilst away last week.

There are 9 caverns to explore on the self guided tour, allowing you to take your time and explore at your own pace. We love putting on our yellow hard hats and having our own torches to explore the caverns. This is great for kids, as it all adds to the adventure. Mia loves caves and caverns, and always insists on leading our little family, making sure it is safe up ahead.

The caverns are very dog friendly, with steps and smooth tunnels leading you down into the hillside. We pretty much had the caverns to ourselves, exploring deeper and deeper, feeling the temperature drop as you passed further into the site.

There is lots of information in the caverns giving you a real sense of what it must have been like to work in there with only a candle and a rope. We spent a lovely hour exploring the caverns before returning to the surface to clear blue skies and warm sunshine. The views from the shop and café out towards Shell Island and beyond are stunning and well worth the visit alone. There is a lovely gift shop which was also dog friendly, a café and picnic benches from which to sit and enjoy the view.

These caverns never disappoint us. It was lovely to introduce our daughter to them for the first time. She loved creating echoes from the lower levels and realising that she would have been old enough to be sent to work in them had she been alive when they were working slate mines!

A little piece of quiet

As you all know we love to travel the UK and visit new places. The UK has some amazing places to visit and we try to holiday somewhere different each time, that way we get to see somewhere new. After trawling the internet I stumbled upon a company called Dioni, who specialise in holiday cottages in North Wales & Snowdonia. Their cottages look beautiful and are set in some stunning locations.

Now, I was a little hesitant at first, purely because we live less than 45 minutes from the boundaries of Snowdonia National Park and it is somewhere we visit regularly for days out and have camped many times along the coast either at Shell Island or Nantcol. But I realised that we had never really stayed in Snowdonia and spent time exploring in more depth. Day trips have normally been to one location and stops to and from that place and whenever we have camped – well, we never drink and drive and I personally find that camping is a little more bearable once the wine/cider or prosecco starts flowing so then we would be restricted to stay where we were camped. We have had fantastic weekends camping, but normally once the car is parked, it stays that way, so we only get to see what we can explore on foot

So, we had a good look through the pet friendly cottages at Dioni and finally narrowed it down to a spacious 2 bedroom cottage located in Dyffryn Ardudwy. The cottage is located in the next village along from Llanbedr where we have always stayed, but we had never been into the village and looked around. We always just drove through it on the main road heading South for the day.

Upon arriving at the cottage we immediately felt at home. We were greeted by Ben the owner who brought us a welcome pack full of goodies including Welsh Cakes, Kettle Chips, fire lighters, a bag each of kindling and logs plus a very welcome bottle of Mud House wine. The cottage is beautiful inside, with the kitchen range still in situ in the kitchen, log burner and comfy sofas in the living room, under floor heating downstairs, pretty little bathroom with rain-fall shower, 1 double bedroom & 1 twin. The views to the rear of the property look out over fields and hills to the East and to the front you can spot the dunes and sea in the distance (approximately 20 min walk). The cottage is located on a lane with only a few houses along and a very pretty church opposite. There was hardly any traffic, just walkers and the occasional cyclist or horse rider, everyone saying hello as they passed, all enjoying the fresh air and stunning scenery

Mia made herself at home straight away, either lying in the garden sunbathing during the day or curled up in front of the log burner in the evening.

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Each morning we would come downstairs to the sunlight flooding in from the rear of the property, and the mist slowly lifting off the hills and mountains. The location really did offer a relaxing and peaceful week away.

We were in walking distance of the local dog friendly beach (please check seasonal restrictions to the South end) and we found that we had the beach to ourselves most of the time. We even managed to time a visit at sunset and were rewarded by the most beautiful colours and a real sense of tranquillity.

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Beach at peak time!

The cottage was a great base to explore the surrounding area and we visited Barmouth, Nantcol Waterfalls, Abersoch & Criccieth. We ate lunch at the Victoria Inn in Llanbedr, drank hot chocolate at Davy Jones Locker in Barmouth & ate fish and chips from the Mermaid in Barmouth whilst sitting watching the tide coming in

We didn’t want to leave our little slice of heaven, but unfortunately we had to come back to reality. Mia did seem a little perplexed on Sunday as to why we weren’t having our daily 2 hour walk along the beach! We have had a lovely week away, recharging our batteries, spending time together as a family making memories and sandcastles. We would definitely recommend the area for dogs with the majority of cafés and pubs welcoming our four-legged friends and there are some fantastic walks with your dog – we will visit these in future blogs.

So, thank you to Ben for letting out your beautiful Welsh stone cottage and thank you to Dioni for all your help in finding somewhere stunning to stay.

We do love to be beside the seaside…

We love the seaside here at Mia’s Travels UK – so much so that human mum spends too much time playing “fantasy rightmove” with only beach and sea locations allowed! Just need to find a few million pounds and we are there 🙂

However, a lottery win seems pretty unlikely so we have to make do with day trips and holidays to the seaside. We find there is nothing more relaxing for us than being by the sea, the closer the better! Whenever we are looking for a dog friendly holiday the first “filters” to get ticked are “coastal / sea view / near to beach / sea within 1 mile”

We are fortunate enough to live on an island and have some of the best beaches in the world, a recent poll in a national newspaper found that the UK had 10 beaches featured in the Worlds Top 50 beaches, with 3 UK beaches coming in the top 25! So why would we want to travel further afield? Yes, of course we have Bora Bora, the Seychelles and the Maldives on our bucket list, but we have a mortgage and bills to pay and a gorgeous black Labrador who can’t enjoy those places with us.

The UK offers some amazing beaches, a good deal of them are dog friendly. Mia loves nothing more than running on a beach. She doesn’t like deep water so the shallows are perfect for her. Her face lights up as soon as we get on the beach with one of her favourite tennis balls. The beaches don’t have to be sandy to enjoy, she loves wandering amongst the rockpools fascinated by the tiny fish swimming around, scattering when they see her.

We have learnt that Mia will bring half the beach back with her, so a good towel rub at the beach and a nice warm bucket of water when she gets in always helps. The White Ship in Portsoy had an Aga in the kitchen which was perfect for her to curl up in front of after she had been washed off outside – another item to add to the fantasy Rightmove shopping list!

Don’t wait for the summer to come to visit our beaches (you might never get there! 😉 ). Get wrapped up – hat, scarf, gloves, snood, ear warmers, extra socks, balaclava, long-johns, woolly knickers, mittens with string attached, wellies or walking boots. Get “rugged” up and head out. We’ve quite often had beaches all to ourselves in the winter months. I am sure there are people looking at us thinking we are loons, but we love the outdoors. We love spending time out in our gorgeous country walking our gorgeous Mia. We have made more memories on cold windy beaches than we have on hot sunny ones!

We plan to visit more UK beaches this year and we are always open to suggestions so please contact us if you have anywhere to recommend

In the meantime, here are a few of our favourite beaches which have all received the stamp of approval from Mia!

Some beaches have local By-laws restricting dogs during the peak seasons. Please always check with local councils and abide by any signage you see.

 

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Beaches of North Uist could be anywhere in the world
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Berneray sand dunes, Outer Hebrides
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Trearddur Bay, Anglesey
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Wirral Country Park, Wirral
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Barra, Outer Hebrides

 

 

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Spey Bay, Moray
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Gardenstown, Aberdeenshire
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Portsoy Beach at low tide, Aberdeenshire

 

Mud, deer and plane spotting

Last Sunday we had planned to spend the day in Wales visiting Aber Falls & Conwy Castle. We had bought the picnic food the day before, planned our route, charged the cameras and I even bought new walking boots as my old ones had died a horrible death several weeks back and I have been wearing my trusty welly boots everywhere since then

Unfortunately, we had to postpone our trip into Wales for a few weeks and we found ourselves stumped on where we could spend the day on such short notice. We decided we did not want to travel far but really wanted to go somewhere we had not been before. So, I suggested Tatton Park!

This is when hubby looked at me with a puzzled look and gently asked me if I was OK as we had been to Tatton many times over the years, from visiting the Farm with school, running the 5k Race for Life, wandering around VW Northwest and visiting the Mansion and Gardens at least once a year. It was definitely not somewhere new and different!

But I pointed out to him that for all the times we have visited Tatton Park (and it is a lot!) we had never walked around the parkland. We had always visited the attractions, wandered around the courtyard and visited events on the field but we had never walked onto the parkland. I had only ever seen the deer as we drove in or out of the park. So it was decided, we would visit Tatton Park.

We arrived at the park around 11am, driving along the avenue past the deer and towards the main carpark nearest to the courtyard and farm. It was very busy when we arrived and we were a little unsure as to whether or not we had made the right decision to visit on a Sunday. Mia can be very nervous around dogs, especially small ones and there appeared to be a lot of small dogs all pulling their owners around and yapping at each other. We managed to find a quiet picnic table towards the end of the courtyard and we tucked into our picnic, distracting Mia from the other dogs with a cocktail sausage now and again.

There is plenty to see and do here, with a café, gift shop and “farm shop” all open and offering all the standard “National Trust” wares. We have visited the Gardens many times over the years and love the events they hold. During this half term they have a scarecrow trail which is movie themed, however, dogs are not allowed into the gardens so we had to give this a miss this time.

Upon heading into the Parkland we found that we also left the crowds behind. Tatton Park has over 1000 acres of parkland to explore so we were able to wander along for nearly all of walk avoiding bumping into anyone. A few doggies would trot over and say hello and Mia made friends with a beautiful Retriever who wanted to play, but on the whole we felt like we had the park to ourselves

Mia loved running through the long grass and kept sticking her head into the occasional rabbit hole. She was particularly intrigued by all the mole hills and gave quite a few of them a really good sniff!

We headed towards the old hall and followed the boundary of the park in an anti-clockwise direction. The parkland is beautiful, full of ancient woodlands, babbling streams, lake and of course mud!. Even though it was an overcast day we still had stunning views towards the Peak District hills and could watch the planes taking off from Manchester airport.

Eventually we came across some of the deer, all stood together, some keeping their watchful eye on us. Mia really wasn’t bothered by them and carried on her merry way getting more and more muddy by the minute. But it was lovely to see them “up close and personal” and not just from the car window

We arrived back at the car 3 hours later, 4 miles under our belt and freezing cold. But we had all had a lovely walk and we were ashamed that we had never taken advantage of such a lovely parkland before.

I love Tatton Park and have fond memories of visiting over the years, but it was lovely to make some new memories together as a family – from our daughter being daft and saying that beavers lived in the mole hills to Mia running straight through 7inches of mud and stopping to look at us as if to say “ha, look at this guys! good luck cleaning me later!!” Husband even had us in fits of giggles as he tried to track the deer footprints, however, there were hundreds of prints and he had us laughing at him as he spun round in circles pretending to be a professional tracker

We are definitely guilty of taking Cheshire for granted but we are proud to call it our home and welcome anyone who wants to come and visit! So, if you are ever stuck for somewhere to visit – head to Tatton Park, leave the attractions and the noise behind and head out into the rolling green parkland and enjoy some fresh Cheshire air, you won’t regret it!

The White Ship

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Last year we visited Aberdeenshire for the first time and fell in love with it, we loved the people, coastline, the countryside, everything.

We had looked at a few places to stay and had settled on the White Ship in Portsoy which we booked through Cottages.com

The cottage sits on the harbour of the small fishing village with views looking out to sea. The garden to the rear is tiered over several levels and offers fantastic  views of the coastline.

 

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View from the upper garden and Mia enjoying the sunshine

 

From the moment we walked into the White Ship we felt at home. We have never stayied in a house so well equipped. There was everything from 100s of books, several buckets & spades, washing tablets, pots and pans of all shapes and sizes and even a ball thrower – we had left ours at home!

The kitchen is a real feature of the house, with a large AGA taking prime position and a large dining peninsula in the centre of the room. We loved sitting in the kitchen watching the world go by. I loved nothing more than coming downstairs first thing in the morning and making a coffee, standing on the tiled floor warmed by the heat of the AGA.

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The house is full of little hidey-holes, winding staircases and curved hallways, all of which our daughter loved exploring and climbing into. Her personal favourite was what she termed as the “cave” in the kitchen. It was nothing more than a small alcove in the stonework but she could climb in and pretend she was a pirate!

Every morning we awoke to the sound of the sea as it moved in and out of the harbour. You couldn’t help but feel relaxed. From the moment we woke to the moment we fell asleep, the house was always warm and welcoming

The 2nd floor of the house offers a large study with skylights facing the sea, we loved to sit in these in the evening watching the sun set over the hills to the west.

The house was only a few minutes walk from the beach, which was Mia’s favourite place to visit. At low tide the beach is vast and reveals a great selection of rock pools set amongst patches of golden sand

Portsoy village offers the amazing Portsoy Ice Cream, which we visited everyday and tried a new flavour each and every time! We loved having a walk around Loch Soy whilst eating our ice cream, before heading back down to the beach for another wander along the sands. Our personal favourite flavours were Unicorn flavour and condensed milk – yummy and highly recommend if you are every passing through!

The White Ship is a fantastic dog friendly cottage set in the stunning location overlooking the sea and we highly recommend Cottages.com and have used them again already for this year!

 

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Portsoy beach at low tide

 

Sandstone Trail, Cheshire

One of our favourite walks in Cheshire is the Sandstone Trail. The trail comprises of a 55km path running from Frodsham in Cheshire at the Northern-most point down to Whitchurch on the Shropshire/Cheshire border at the South. Last summer we had a lovely walk along part of the trail followed by a delicious lunch at the Bickerton Poacher

Our walk started from a small layby at the bottom of Bickerton Hill, with Mia jumping straight out of the car and heading up into the woods before we could even get her through the kissing gate. Mia loves this walk, running a few feet in front of us and sniffing her way between the trees and sandstone rocks

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Our walk took us up the steep incline of Bickerton Hill, past sandstone outcrops which offer sneaky-peaks of the views below as you climb higher. All you can hear is the movement of the trees in the breeze and the buzzards call as they fly overhead

Upon reaching the top of Bickerton Hill, we decided to head away and towards Rawhead. This part of the Sandstone trail took us through a lushious green cornfield with a clear path down the centre which was full of muddy puddles – Mias favourites!

The path can be narrow and steep at times, with a few nettles and brambles in the summer, but it is clearly marked to help you reach your destination.

Upon reaching Rawhead the views are spectacular. This is the highest point of the Sandstone trail sitting at 227m high and looking out over the Cheshire Plain. On a clear day you can see out to Liverpool, Chester & North Wales.

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After our walk we headed back down the hill and stopped for lunch at the Bickerton Poacher with their dog friendly beer garden and bar area.

They certainly cater for dogs, offering plenty of water bowls with fresh water and dog biscuits, as well as Bonios for £1 each and a bowl of “doggie” sausages for £1.50 which we treated Mia to. She loves their doggie sausages everytime she visits – a little bowl of cold sliced sausages just for her – great after a big walk

The food at the Bickerton Poacher is lovely and reasonably priced. Our daughter had the small plate fish and chips which came with mushy peas and tartare sauce – it looked and tasted yummy, whilst we had their burger (yummy)

We love the Cheshire countryside as it offers some fantastic walks for all abilities and we find the majority of pubs are dog friendly as well as some of the local attractions – Beeston castle is always a lovely visit and the 360 degree views from the top are worth the climb.

Self catering first impressions

Our first holiday of 2018 has officially been booked! Woohoo!

We love Scotland and try to visit at least once a year, but when it came to finding somewhere to stay for our first break this year we just couldn’t find anywhere that we fancied. I would find a lovely house but it would be in the middle of nowhere – ideal for husband, Mia and I but not great for an 11 year old! Then we would find something next to the sea but the house would have no garden or no parking so would be struck off the list.

So, after spending 2 weeks looking and not finding anything we could all agree upon I decided to try a little closer to home and look at Wales. We go into Wales for day trips quite often, and have spent many camping holidays on Shell Island, Nantcol and Fforest Fields as well as long weekends in Snowdonia but we don’t really look at it for one of our main holidays. I think with it being on our doorstep and so easy to access you tend to take it for granted . So I thought I would take a closer look and see what was available.

I had seen Dioni holiday cottages pop up on my Facebook feed so I decided to head on over to have a look. Wow, their cottages look gorgeous! Every photo makes me want to stay there, whether it’s a shot of the kitchen Aga, a bottle of wine ready to pour after a long walk or the breath-taking views of some of the properties. I spend a lot of time looking for dog friendly places to stay as we try to have a few short breaks away each year and some of the images people use to promote their accommodation are awful. At the end of the day these self catering properties are a business and need to earn their keep. Displaying photos of unmade beds, blurred bathrooms and dark kitchens is not the way to sell it. Well, whoever takes the photos at Dioni needs patting on the back, because they know how important it is to take a good photo. -First impressions count!

After selecting my dates and checking the all important “pet friendly” box I was spoilt for choice. They all looked gorgeous, welcoming cottages and houses. All immaculately presented, enticing you to come and stay in them.

I eventually narrowed it down to 2 cottages near to the coast just outside Snowdonia National Park. The one that won is a lovely 2 bedroom stone cottage within walking distance of the great sandy beaches between Shell Island and Barmouth, there is a local pub, a little post office and a Spar with a butchers inside. I’ve visited this area many times since I was little, but usually we are camping and I haven’t really explored the area except for what is along the main road between Harlech & Barmouth. So we are looking forward to a week away exploring the area in more detail and finding lots of dog friendly places to visit. So far on the list are the dog friendly Llanfair slate caverns, Harlech Castle & we might even venture down to Devils Bridge.

We are always looking for dog friendly places to visit, so if you know of somewhere, then give us a shout and we will do our best to visit and give a review!

So, all I have to do now is count down the weeks until we can go away and stay in our gorgeous little Dioni cottage for a week. But in the meantime, I can get looking for our next break – where shall we stay next? May well be another Dioni cottage because every one looks stunning!

 

Nice and comfy

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We have been saying for some time that Mia needed a new bed. In typical Labrador style she has her spot on the couch which is reserved by her favourite blanket, she has her spot on the rug in front of the log burner, she has her spot on the rug in front of the open fire in the snug and she has a quilted “bed” down the side of our bed. But we have been needing to get her a proper bed for sometime. Somewhere that is just hers, no one else can lie in it. We go away a lot in the UK travelling with her and we needed something that we could throw in the car and take with us. That way, where ever we were staying she would know that was her bed and it was hers to sleep in.

In the past we have taken her favourite blanket and laid it in a nice spot for her. Last year in Portsoy this was in the kitchen in front of the Aga, camping at Fforest Fields she slept at the bottom of our daughters sleeping bag and at Ashlea Pools it was down the side of the hot tub! I have been looking for a bed for some time and just haven’t been able to find one.  I have looked online but I’ve always been unsure which size she would need. She is a small Labrador and loves nothing more than curling up into a little ball. But after a while she likes to spread out and so would need a bigger bed. The quilted bed she has at the moment is fine for when she is curled up but no good once she decides to spread out. She ends up more off it than on!

Well, today we needed to get her some more food so we headed out to Pets at Home in Northwich. Mia loves it there. She loves to sniff everything and everyone always makes a fuss of her. She is even allowed to jump up at the counter onto her back legs and she gets a free biscuit. Well, the Northwich shop is getting a fancy new refit at the moment, but it is still open to the public so there was more exciting stuff than usual to investigate. Soon we found ourselves by the dog beds, with me trying to work out which would be the best fit for her.

I had no idea which size was best and she was looking at me with a bewildered look as I was muttering about tartan coverings, memory foam sides and fleecy bedding. That’s when Jess came to introduce herself and ask if she could first say hi to Mia and secondly if she could help us. She was fantastic, she advised which size they recommend for Labradors and allowed Mia to test run a few of them out there and then. She encouraged Mia to lie down so that we could see which fitted best and whether it should have deep sides or fluffy bedding. She was extremely helpful and we never felt like we were putting her out. Mia took to her straight away, although she was determined not to lie down at one point and couldn’t understand why she couldn’t have the treat that was being used to bribe her.

We settled on an XXL bed for Mia in mock brown suede with high sides and a very deep fleecy bed. We were helped to the counter and we really felt like nothing was too much trouble.

Safe to say Mia loves her new bed and is curled up in front of the fire. I just need to tell her that it’s not staying there, it’s supposed to go down the side of the bed. But for now, she can have it there. All curled up, snug as the proverbial bug!

Thanks Jess at Pets at Home, Mia loves it!

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School holidays ripoff

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Holidays can be expensive, especially when you are restricted to travel within the school holidays. Our daughter is 11 so we have at least another 5 years of swearing at the PC each time we put in dates for school holidays and watch the prices increase dramatically.

I once priced up a cottage in the UK and thought to myself I had found a bargain as it was only £390 for the full week. But then I realised I had not reset the dates. I popped in the Easter Holidays (just 2 weeks different) and the same cottage for the same amount of time increased to over £875!! I understand to a certain extent why they charge more and it boils down to 1 reason and 1 reason only – because they can and there will always be someone who will pay the extra.

I myself am guilty of this. Before we were restricted to school holidays and our daughter was in pre-school we booked a 2 week break in a stunning 3 bedroom thatched cottage in Dorset and paid just over £500 per week (which we split with another couple) and at the time I had a serious chat with myself as this at the time for us was a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a holiday cottage in this country. Well, 8 years later and we are restricted to school holidays and I now find that if I could find a cottage of that specification for that price during the holidays I would snatch their hand off! We are lucky if we can find something for less than £600. Don’t get me wrong, there is accommodation out there for less than that, but when we come to choosing our family holiday and it’s our own hard-earned cash we have certain criteria that we look for when finding somewhere to stay and all these things bump the price up ie log burner, near the sea, parking, enclosed rear garden, amenities within walking distance. But why shouldn’t we be picky, I don’t want to go away for a week, be freezing cold with no central heating, mouldy wooden spoons (yep, that happened, thank you tiny stable conversion in South East Scotland!) and husband having to park his car miles away from the house.

So we are stuck with paying that bit extra. But once we have arrived all of this is forgotten. The wine is opened, Mia gets her bed in the best spot possible and our daughter gets her paints and paper out and starts to dabble in some seascape art. We fall asleep before 10pm, we awake before 6am, we walk for miles, get caught in rainstorms, slip in rock pools, bring half the beach sand back with us each time we return to the house, we (well, our daughter) gets stuck in sinking sand and we can’t find a pee-stop for over 40 miles. But I don’t care, because I love this country. We are so lucky to have such a varied landscape, we personally are less than an hour from the sea, just under 2 hours away from 3 National Parks, 30 min drive into Wales and within a 1 hour drive of 3 major cities.

You can keep your foreign travel. Mia is a part of our family and we love travelling with her. There are so many dog friendly places now that there is no need to leave her with my mum and dad whilst we go out exploring. The UK offers amazing scenery and a vast array of history. We love the UK, whether it’s the islands and locus of Scotland, the beaches or Dorset, the hills of Snowdonia or the bustle of Liverpool.

So get out there, visit the UK. Travel from John o’ Groats to Lands end in your car because you can.

Happy travelling

xx