A week in Pembrokeshire

Last year, whilst we were preparing to go to the Gower peninsular we stocked up on OS maps, including one for Pembrokeshire. We spent all our time in the Gower, and didn’t use the map at all. So, we thought we’d rectify that and so decided to head there for a visit. We weren’t disappointed.

We found ourself a lovely house to stay at in Lower Fishguard and spent our week exploring the area, making the most of the mostly dog-friendly beaches, and enjoying the beautiful view from the balcony.

Panorama of beautiful beach at Traeth Llyfn, Pembrokeshire

As I mentioned in a blog post a while ago, Traeth Llyfn, could be my favourite beach of all time. Other beaches we visited were Newgale sands, Porthmelgan, Abereiddy, Musselwick – all of which were charming and beautiful in their own way. The Pembrokeshire coastal path is well maintained, and well marked, and has some stunning views along the way.

Pebble Art at Porthmelgan

The house was very dog friendly, and the garden was pretty secure too. There was at least one dog friendly pub in Fishguard itself and a few more in Pembrokeshire itself. The kitchen was well stocked (although if there had been 6 or 7 of us, there may not have been enough pots and pans). The bed was incredibly comfortable, and I spent many a happy afternoon in the living room, reading my book and looking out across the harbour.

Pembrokeshire is definitely an area that deserves further exploration, possibly more towards the Southern area.

A week in the Lakes

Following on from the success of last years two week long holidays [12] in dog friendly accommodation, and to continue the pursuit of visiting the 10 most dog friendly beaches, we decided to head off to the Lake District for a week.  As a child, most summer holidays from 1980 until probably 1990 were spent in the Lakes, staying with my Godfather and his family.  Amongst all of the beautiful spots, one place stood out, and that was Wastwater.  Consequently, that was where I decided we should base ourselves close to.

After a bit of searching, we came across Scafell View:

a three bedroom cottage in the small Hamlet of Santon, in the Western Lake district, a 10 minute drive from Wast Water

Richard and Skitters play in the garden

This seemed to meet most of our requirements for a holiday home:

  • dog friendly (up to 3 well-behaved dogs allowed)
  • garden (enclosed)
  • well equipped kitchen (shame the dishwasher didn’t work, but otherwise all good)
  • double bedroom
  • parking (garage parking for two cars with off road parking for a further two cars)
  • near a dog friendly pub (less than a mile walk)
  • have walks from the house
  • have a bathroom with a bath and a shower

…so we booked it.

Richard, Skitters and Wastwater in the background

On our first morning, we headed out armed with an OS map and quickly discovered that it pays to check the gradient of a “short stroll”.  We had walked over the top of a fell and down the other side, which of course meant we had to do the same again in reverse. A lesson learnt. At least the views from the top of the fell were lovely, giving Richard his first view of Wastwater, and reassuring me that it was as beautiful in real life as it was in my memories.

St Bees headland

On Monday we headed out to St Bees, somewhere I don’t recall every visiting as a child, and walked a little bit of the Coast to Coast as well as ticking off another of the 10 most dog friendly beaches.

Skitters at Buttermere

Tuesday found us at Buttermere, following the easy track around the mere, enjoying the scenery, and feeling justified for a stop at a farm cafe for a cream tea before getting back in the car. This was another area that I don’t remember visiting as a child, and another lovely place to spend time.

One man and his dog: at Wastwater

Wednesday found us fulfilling an ambition I’d had for a while, to walk around Wastwater. Looking at the OS map there was a definite footpath over the screes, but as we discovered, there is no path, more like a set of rocks and scree to scramble over, something that was a bit disconcerting at times. We’d parked at Wasdale head and tackled the walk in a clockwise direction, heading over the screes whilst our legs were still fresh. This was a sensible decision.


We had our packed lunch under the trees at the far end of the lake, looking across it, before heading past the beautiful Wasdale Hall youth hostel and on along the shoreline.

Thursday was the one wet day of our week, so we headed off to one of the more forested areas, Ennerdale Forest, and explored that, trying to keep out of the rain.

One man and his dog: at Mile 21 Fortlet

Our final full day, and we headed off to see what else we could find. We started off at Mile Fortlet 21 where Skitters had a good run along the beach until she got distracted by the wildlife.

Richard and Skitters look down over Derwentwater

To avoid further doggy distraction, we decided to head off to Dodd wood, and go for a walk in the woods, following the Dodd Summit trail to get some wonderful views over DerwentWater and Bassenthwaite.

Our final morning, before starting the drive back to Brighton, we headed to Ravenglass, just a short drive down the road for a pre-drive walk wandering past ruins of a Roman castle, and along the river banks before walking back through the very pretty main street.

Wastwater from the fells

So, a combination of old and new places for me, almost all new for Richard, and probably all new for Skitters. My memories of Wastwater weren’t exaggerated – it is a most beautiful place. And all in all, another great week spent in the UK with comfortable accommodation, and exceptional weather (there is a reason why there are Lakes in the North West!)

See more photos

50 hours in Tokyo

After our initial stop-over in Hong Kong, and then 2 weeks in Sydney, our final stop-over was Tokyo. Our time here was limited so this was a convenient way to get a taster, before deciding whether to spend more time in Japan some time in the future.

We arrived at Narita airport at 6am-ish on the 14th January 2010 to an outside temperature of -2 deg C, quite a shock after the (at least) 20 deg C of Sydney. This is a pretty ridiculous time to arrive in any city. Our main priority was to get into the city centre, and get to Shinjuku, the area our hotel was in. A small amount of research done on the flight, using the Lonely Planet “print and bind” guide we’d got at Sydney airport, had pointed us in the direction of the Narita Express train service, and the Suica pre-paid travel card which we could use for one airport to city journey, and for travelling around Tokyo. We had an hour or so wait for the train, so ambled around the airport, sampling coffee and tea and generally killing time whilst waiting.  I spotted this lonely little bear looking rather lonely and thought he ought to have his photo taken.
Lonely, lost bear at Tokyo airport

We arrived in Shinjuku station, and followed the signs to our hotel where we dropped our bags off but were told we couldn’t get our room until 2pm or so.  So, we decided to make the most of our limited time and get straight on with exploring.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

So, after a quick breakfast we headed off to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building to get a (free) view across the city.  As I’ve mentioned before, one of our strategies is often to start our trip to a new city with trying to get to the top of a tall building to get a birds eye view, and the beginnings of our bearings. The Government building was only a short walk from the hotel, so proved perfectly placed for our first exploration.

Kumano-jinja shrine

From the tower, we spotted the Shinjuku Central Park area nearby and so headed off to investigate it, discovering the Kumano-jinja shinto shrine within it.

Shinjuku Street View

Our next mission was lunch, and so we headed back finding a place in the station complex which seemed busy, and reasonably priced. We also took a break to check in at the hotel, freshen up and unpack before heading back out to see what the more commercial areas were like, and having our first experience of getting horrendously lost in the rabbit-warren of passages beneath Shinjuku Central Station. We wandered around quite a few of the vast department stores, being completely fascinated by the sheer amount of wonderfully presented items in the Isetan food hall.  Our next attempt was to head to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden but we’d left it too late, and we arrived just as it closed, as it seems to close at around 4.30 pm all year around.

Shinjuku food stall

The Keio Plaza hotel has a bar area at the top of one of the towers which serves beer and light snacks, and it is here we found ourself that evening planning with great care the places we wanted to get to the following day. With such a limited amount of time available to us, we wanted to get the most out of it that we could, but without exhausting ourselves completely, so planning was essential.

Richard and the map

Our only full day started with us heading to Shibuya and after a little time watching the crossing, and finding the statue of faithful dog Hachikō we headed off in search of Kiddyland to go and spend some time browsing through the toy store. My main purchase was a new camera, no real surprise I guess, but I left clutching my new Superheadz Blue Ribbon along with a few odds and ends as gifts for friends and family.

Gate to the shrine

From a shrine of toys, to a true shrine, our next stop was to the Meiji Jinju Shrine, a Shinto shrine that is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken.  This shrine is situated in a large amount of forest area, and is a beautiful and peaceful place to spend an hour or so.

Wedding procession

Whilst we were at the shrine, we had the pleasure of watching, and in my case photographing, a wedding procession.


After all of that culture, our next stop was Akihabara Electric Town to explore what gadgets and gizmos were available.  We managed to keep our credit cards in our wallets and definitely restricted ourselves to window shopping.

The Tempura bar food ordering machine

Hunger struck us at this point, and after a quick wander around we managed to find a great tempura place with a unique, at least for us, way of ordering food. Press buttons which are either covered in illustrations (good for us Brits) or script, enter some money and get receipts. These receipts are then taken by the waiting staff and food arrives.


We then attempted to get to the gardens of the Imperial Palace, but we were about 15 minutes late getting there so headed straight off towards Ginza where we explored the Sony store, the Leica showroom and various other interesting places before heading back to Shinjuku.

Ginza at night

We finished our final evening in a conveyor belt sushi place in Shinjuku, where we were adopted by a Japanese gentleman who was keen to ensure we had the best experience possible.  He remained concerned that we weren’t eating enough, and when we looked around us at the other patrons and the amount of empty plates they had stacked up, we began to realise why.

Our airport bus left the hotel at 6am the following morning, and after a quick breakfast in the airport we were on a flight heading back to the UK armed with memories, souvenirs and lots of photographs.

As with Hong Kong and Sydney we used a lot of iPhone apps to get around Tokyo, but also found the Lonely Planet guide which we’d purchased in Sydney airport to be very useful, and being unbound and in a cardboard folder, quite discreet.

Tokyo was a wonderful place to spend some time, but 50 hours was far too short, I could easily have spent another couple of days there without running out of things to see and do. Although it was cold, the air was crisp, the skies were blue and the light was amazing for photography. I’d love to return to Tokyo, and Japan sometime, probably combining some more sightseeing with some snowboarding. I found the whole experience exiting and exhilarating, with a slight feeling of being in the film set for Lost in Translation.  Recommended.

Dog friendly beaches – 4 down 6 to go

I’ve always loved beaches, holidays as a small child were always in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, and holidays as an adult have often involved Cornish coast and the like. When we got the dog, it was fairly obvious that beaches needed to be involved. After a quick search, I found a really useful resource from the Times Britain’s 10 best dog-friendly beaches and over the past 18 months we’ve visited 4 of them, with another couple in the plans for the not too distant future.

1. Rhossili Bay, Swansea

Rhossili Bay

A beautiful, long beach in a really dog friendly part of the world, the Gower peninsular where there are lots of dog friendly beaches to choose from. Other favourites in this area were Oxwich Bay, Three Cliffs Bay and the tree lined Whiteford Sands.

2. Danes Dyke, Yorkshire

Skitters on Dane's Dyke beach

Despite having been brought up in Yorkshire, I don’t recall ever going to this beach having, as a child at least, being more frequently found in Bridlington. It is situated at the bottom of a woody path, and is quite a lovely beach. The other beach we enjoyed a lot in the area was Filey which is dog friendly from the edge of Filey itself, all the way past Hunmanby for about 5 miles.

6. Camber Sands beach, East Sussex

Silhouetted Man and Dog

The only one of the list that we’ve visited more than once, and this is mostly due to it being only an hour and a half or so away from home. A lovely long sandy beach. Our last trip was at the end of April, when we stayed in the lovely Ship Inn, Rye and made the most of the full extent of the beach before the seasonal dog restrictions (May – September) come into play.

8. St Bees, Cumbria

St Bees

After having watched a BBC programme about Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk, and taking an opportunity whilst in East Yorkshire last summer to walk a little bit of the end part, it seemed only right that we should visit St Bees whilst in the Lake District for a holiday this summer. So we did. This beach had a lot in common with Filey, having a mainly earth basis for its cliffs and was very much enjoyed by Skitters.

Which leaves us

3. Holkham, Norfolk
4. Durdle Door, Dorset
5. Calgary Bay, Isle of Mull, Scotland
7. Branscombe, Devon
9. Whitstable, Kent
10. Lepe, Hampshire

on the “to explore” list

2 weeks in Sydney

After our 60 hours in Hong Kong was a more leisurely stay in Sydney, Australia.

Our lovely friends Jono and Anna were getting married, and we were invited, and so it was around this event that we organised our three destination trip (Hong Kong, Sydney and Tokyo).

Day 1: 31 December 2009

New Years Eve champers

Jono and Anna kindly met us at the airport on the morning of New Years Eve, fed us, gave us tea, and access to a shower, in the hours before we could access the flat we’d rented in Randwick (a 15 minute walk from their place). It was a day of acclimatising, and light shopping at Bondi Junction, before welcoming in 2010 with Jono, Anna, Ash and Mitül and some wonderful Anna cooked food, and quite a few bottles of fizz, watching the fireworks from their sun-room.

Day 2: 1 January 2010

Planning complete

Our first communal (Jono, Anna, Ash, Mitul, Richard and I) task on New Years Day was to put together a basic plan for the rest of the week, making sure that Jono and Anna had all their pre-wedding commitments listed, so “The English”, as Richard and I and Ash and Mitül were collectively known, could sort ourselves out to do the more touristy bits and pieces on those days.


After all that planning, we were hungry and so stopped off for a bite to eat before spending time in the Aquarium, learning the differences between manatees and dugongs, looking at manta rays, crocodiles and a whole array of similar, and different, aquatic species.

Day 3: 2 January 2010

View IV

Whilst planning our days together, Jono had suggested a bit of light bush walking, doing the Spit Bridge to Manly walk. We all trooped off on the buses, with the five of us (“The English” plus Jono) getting off at Spit Bridge, whilst Anna and the children continued to Manly. The walk was a 10km-ish walk mostly along the coast, walking amongst trees, getting a chance to see lizards, and enjoying the warmth on our backs. Jono was a keen pace-maker, and we arrived in Manly after 3 hours and 15 minutes, ready for a sit down and a cool beer. Fortunately, both of these things were possible and we established ourselves at the Bavarian Bier Cafe just in time to watch a sudden shower empty the surrounding streets.

Fort Denison

After refreshing ourselves, we caught the ferry back into the City, enjoying the views and having landmarks pointed out to us by our own tour guide (Thanks Anna).

Day 4: 3 January 2010

Guy looking for a view

Ash and Mitul had previously booked to spend a couple of days in the Blue Mountains, so we opted to travel with them, but just do a day trip, so off we all headed on the train to Katoomba. As we got higher, the clouds got lower, and we spent the majority of the day in the clouds. This meant that we didn’t get to appreciate many of the great view points, but we did get to enjoy a wonderful walk through the rain forest and a trip on the Scenic Railway back to our starting point. We left Ash and Mitül here, and headed off back to Sydney by train, enjoying a lazy evening in the flat.

Day 5: 4 January 2010

East Chamber

A day wandering around bits of Sydney with Jono, he took us around some of the areas he lived in when he first arrived, and showed us the very lovely and photographically inspirational Paddington Reservoir Gardens before moving on to Centennial Park.

Day 6: 5 January 2010

Bronte Bay

Another day, another coast walk. This time from Coogee bay to Bondi bay on a well maintained route – a lovely way to get to see the different beach areas. The area around the Waverley Cemetery was especially beautiful.

Day 7: 6 January 2010

Great Picture Point

This was probably our most touristy day. We knew that we needed to be at the Opera Bar in the evening for pre-wedding drinks with Jono and Anna, various family members and friends, so we planned our day to take in some of the sights.

We met up with Ash and Mitül at Sydney Tower, and enjoyed our birds-eye view of the city. Over the years Richard and I have headed up many tall buildings as a way to get a feel for the extent of a place, so this suited us well.

Cadman's Cottage

Next up was a wander around The Rocks, and a look at the oldest surviving residential building in Sydney area (Cadman’s Cottage)


From here, we walked towards the Botanical Gardens and explored a bit before heading towards the Opera House, and the Opera Bar for drinks.

Harbour Bridge at Night

Day 8: 7 January 2010

Arrived at Coogee

As we’d done the Coogee Bay to Bondi Bay walk the other day, Richard and I decided to walk along a different patch of coast, so went from Maroubra to Coogee Bay, again part of the Coastal Walkway. This section seemed quieter, and the coast seemed a bit more rough, and in some ways a more pleasant stretch to wander along.

Day 9: 8 January 2010

Holding hands

Jono and Anna’s wedding day, the reason we were in Sydney at this time. The ceremony was late afternoon, so the rest of the day was spent just wandering around the local area, grabbing some wifi at a cafe, and generally just relaxing ahead of the evening. The ceremony was held in the open, with kookaburras joining in and was a beautiful occasion which we were delighted to have been able to present at. A lovely venue, with lovely people, and lovely food. Ahh, lovely.

Day 10: 9 January 2010

Genuine Aussie barbie

A very quiet day, attending the well named recovery barbecue at Anna’s Mum’s place on the North Shore and doing very little else.

Day 11: 10 January 2010

In transit

After packing up our belongings, handing the key back to the letting agent, and depositing the majority of our luggage at Jono and Anna’s place, we all (The English, Jono, Anna and Jono’s sister Lisa) piled into the people mover we’d hired and Anna, our designated driver, drove us out from Sydney to the Hunter Valley for a two night stay. We stopped for lunch at Hungerford Hill, and managed to do a quick bit of wine tasting before heading to Cessnock for supplies and finally reaching our accommation at the Lovedale Country Lodge

Day 12: 11 January 2010

Group shot: Richard, Me, Mitul, Ash, Lisa, Jono, Anna

A day of wine tasting in some of the boutique vineyards around the Hunter Valley. Richard blogged about this months ago, so I’m not going to repeat that detail here. The evening continued in much the same manner as the day, involving drinking some of the wines we’d bought, and making good use of the barbecue.

Day 13: 12 January 2010

Wine sales signs

A slow start to the day – probably related to the wine tastingdrinking of the day before – meaning that it was lunchtime before we even left our lovely lodge. We stopped off at Wollombi on our way back for a spot of lunch and then trundled back into Sydney, and made camp at Jono and Anna’s place for our final night in Sydney.

Day 14: 13 January 2010

Lighthouse in context

Ash and Mitül left first, heading off to the airport, and then on to Hong Kong for a few days. We returned to Paddington with Jono, getting to look around the Blender Gallery looking at the Pattie Boyd “Through the eyes of a muse” exhibition before walking across the road to the Australian Centre for Photography and the Montalbetti & Campbell “The Sensualists” exhibition. After meeting up with Anna and Lisa, we headed off to Watsons Bay for a last walk in the Sydney area before heading back to Jono and Anna’s flat, packing our bags and heading to Sydney airport for our overnight flight to Tokyo.

As with Hong Kong, we used an iPhone app as our main guide which turned out to be excellent and was based on the wikitravel Sydney information – see Richard’s post for information about which other apps we used.

So, two weeks in Sydney, and reading back over these notes it doesn’t feel like we saw that much, and we didn’t really venture into any other parts of the vast country that is Australia. But, we did get to go to Anna and Jono’s wedding, and spend time with them, their families and their friends, and that was why we were there. Walking along the coast was lovely, and was a really pleasant way to explore the coastline, and something I’d recommend to others to do. I’d also like to return to the Blue Mountains some time, and spend a bit more time there, hopefully being able to see something other than clouds 🙂

60 Hours in Hong Kong

I don’t remember when I first learnt of Hong Kong, I know it was whilst it was still under British rule. It interested me as a city, in theory at least, being an easily navigable city with lots to see. As we planned our trip to Australia to visit Jono and Anna for their wedding it seemed like a golden opportunity to visit.

We arrived at Hong Kong reasonably early on the Monday morning between Christmas and New Year and made our way to Kowloon, and the Hotel Benito, via one of the airport buses. We couldn’t check in for a few hours so abandoned our stuff and spent some time exploring the area surrounding the hotel and discovering Kowloon Park and it’s free government wifi.

Plant tree and gardener in Kowloon Park

After check-in, naps and a freshen up we headed back out for further exploration, still staying in the Kowloon area, taking a walk down to the Temple Street night market where we found food and beer, before heading back towards the Avenue of stars to take some night photographs of the skyline.

Night market, Temple Street, Hong Kong

Hong Kong Island at night

Our only full day started late due to the excitement of Christmas and travelling catching up with us, but after a quick trip to a nearby bakery to feed ourselves, we headed off to the nearest MTR station to pick up our octopus card (pre-paid travel card – similar to an Oyster card in the UK). Armed with our travelcards we headed off to Lantau Island to take the Ngong Ping 360 cable car to see the Po Lin monastery and the Tian Tan Budha.

Cables in the cloud

Tian Tan Budha


After lunching at the monastery, we made our way back towards town and stopped off at Hong Kong Island for some exploring around that area, including, of course, a trip on the Central Mid-levels escalator and a trip to the Man Mo Temple.

Man Mo Temple

After our fill of culture, we headed off to check out a few recommendations from a friend of mine who lived in Hong Kong for a few years, so took in the Red bar at the IFC before finishing our evening at Lin Heung Tea House for dinner.

Beers at RED bar at IFC

Richard and I on the roof of the IFC

Our final day in Hong Kong, so after another bakery based breakfast and checking out of the hotel (and leaving our bags) we headed off to the 10,000 budha temple as our final cultural experience of Hong Kong, well, if you don’t include food courts in department stores, haggling for iPhone related stuff (case, charger etc) as cultural before getting our bags, getting on the airport express and waiting for our 10pm flight to find Jono and Anna in Sydney (of which more in another blog post).

Winged praying buddha

We used an iPhone app as our main guide which turned out to be excellent and was based on the wikitravel Hong Kong information. See Richard’s post for information about which other apps we used.

60 hours in Hong Kong was a reasonable amount of time to see most things – it was pretty cloudy most of our time there, so there was no point in heading out to Victoria Peak. The timing of our visit, between Christmas and New Year, made this even more interesting, as the cultures collide between dim sum, noodle bars and piped Christmas music from every possible outlet. The general cries of “copy watch, copy handbag” and “new suit, new tailored suit” at every corner were accompanied by the occasional jingle bell rendition – most odd. As a stop over destination, I really enjoyed it, and would gladly stop in Hong Kong again. It was everything I’d imagined it to be, an interesting city which, as an English speaker, is relatively accessible without too much difficulty.

Travel apps we used.

During our time away in Hong Kong, Sydney and Tokyo, we decided to use iPhone apps whenever possible to get by. These are the apps we found useful:

  • Instapaper – brilliant for keeping light reading to hand.  The pro version is needed unless you can live with just a small number of pages.
  • Dropbox – for travel documents, and entertainment.
  • Built-in Maps app – generally filling the cache when we had WiFI and then using the GPS on the 3GS to find our way around.
  • The built-in Screen shot (hold iPhone menu button and power button) – great for capturing images of maps  with a route on when you have WiFi but think you might lose the map or directions out of the cache later.
  • Todo – for getting junk out of our heads so we could forget about stuff and enjoy ourselves.
  • FelaurPDF – transport maps which were too large to view on the in-built PDF viewer.
  • Power Plug – visual reference for the power sockets around the world.
  • Metro – for finding our way around Hong Kong and Tokyo.
  • Weather Pro – use this everyday to plan for the weather.
  • Currency – handy for converting back to GBP.
  • The built-in camera app – obviously, but useful to snap route information to look at later.
  • Sydney Travel Guide  from Fidesereef
  • HongKong Travel Guide also from Fidesreef.
  • Tokyo Travel Guide from Fidesreef, again.
  • Tokyo Zuti for getting around the train system.
  • Tokyo Cool City Guide
  • Transit Sydney
  • Sydney Street Map – offline map with GPS support.
  • Hong Kong 720 (useful before we went)
  • NHS DrinksTracker – for keeping score.

We also had TripIt, Dopplr and TripAdvisor apps, but I don’t think we used them.

We picked up one paper guide: at Sydney airport we did a Loney Planet “print and bind” of a chapter of Tokyo from one of their travel guides.  This was so that I had something to use on the flight to figure out what we were going to do in Tokyo in a limited amount of time.  As a bonus, the guide was bound in an anonymous brown card, making us look less touristy if we needed to refer to it.

Jane paying for a printing a Tokyo guide
Jane paying for a printing a Tokyo guide

A week in Gower

Following on from my retro-blog the other week about A week in Filey, I thought I’d follow up with a review of our September holiday in the Gower Peninsular.

As I mentioned last time, we’d seen the Britain’s 10 best dog-friendly beaches list, and there, hogging the limelight at #1 was Rhossili Bay, Swansea which it described as

Let’s start with a real classic. This spectacular sandy beach offers miles of pristine sand at the tip of the Gower Peninsula in west Wales. There’s enough space for dogs to run free and there’s usually a good selection of kites to bark at. The beach even has its own shipwreck – the remains of the Helvetta, wrecked in 1887.

Well that sounded pretty good, and coupled with the fact that Rhossili Bay, and nearby Oxwich Bay also made it into our Time Out Seaside book, a book which had previously resulted in us enjoying visits to Bedruthan Steps, Praa Sands, Kynance Cove and St Ives Bay in Cornwall, and Saunton Sands in Devon, it sounded like an area that we could happily explore for a week.

Our holiday home

Our criteria for accommodation was similar to last time, dog-friendly (obviously), a decent kitchen (after eating in quite a lot in Filey), a bathroom with a bath (we only have a shower at our house so a bath is a lovely holiday luxury), a garden area and opportunities for walks from the front door. After quite a lot of searching around, we settled on Three Elms, in Middleton. This was a large house, much bigger than our home in Brighton, with a really pleasant feeling to it. There was bookshelf after bookshelf of books, and good books too. The sofa in the living room was long enough to lie out on and while away a few hours reading one of the books, or having a well-deserved afternoon nap. I say well-deserved as most days found us out walking Skitters along beaches, or moors, or both. The only thing we’d forgotten to check was the dog-friendliness of the nearby pub (a 10 minute walk away). It wasn’t, so we ate in most evenings, or stopped off on our way back after a walk. There was also a lack of grocery shopping for anything other than absolute essentials, resulting in us heading to Swansea to find
supplies. The grocery shop at Scurlage stocked enough for us to top up on things like bread, milk and basic vegetables, and the fish and chip shop next door, Chips Ahoy, provided us with a good helping of fish and chips.

Grass on sand

We visited both Rhossili beach and Oxwich bay and can testify to them being beautiful and long and clean. But my favourite beach was actually Whiteford burrows. We approached this area through the pine plantation, walking through trees with sand surrounding their roots and trunks. Really beautiful, tranquil and there were very few other people around. Definitely worth an explore if you’re ever out that way. The scenery is a bit reminiscent of Cornwall, only with all the beaches being much closer together – for instance you can walk between Oxwich Bay and Three Cliffs Bay along the beach when the tide is out, visiting two beautiful areas at once. It is also much less crowded than Cornwall, at least in early September. A week is long enough to visit the majority of the dog friendly beaches, and to take in some really good walks. It is an area that I can definitely see me returning to after a few years for another week of exploration.

Rhossili Bay

Horse trotting off into the distance

As usual, there are lots more photos on flickr.

In Hunter Valley

Two-ish hours north-ish of Sydney is the wine destination of Hunter Valley where we spent a lovely couple of days with Lisa, Mitül, Ash, Jono and Anna.

If you drink a little wine from time to time you’ll recognize the name “Hunter Valley”, but it turns out there’s just a handful of boutique vineyards left here.  The region contributes just two per cent of all Australian wine.  The upshot is: it’s tourism that’s the real industry in Hunter Valley.

These facts were given to us by our tour guide and minibus driver, James. He’s an English ex-pat, and former travel agent, with a brisk, dry manner and cavalier attitude to driving. I liked him a lot.  He’d take us over dirt roads to some great wine tastings, prepping us on the eccentricities of the owners, while we bounced around in the back of the bus.

With four vineyards to hit in the day we needed to make at start  at 10am.  Kicking off a wine tour so soon after breakfast wasn’t something I’d fully thought through—I’m not yet at that stage of life where I wake up thinking I could really do with a nice glass of red.  However, when the minibus arrived and we climbed on-board the immediate concern switched to defending ourselves from the hoard of mosquitoes in the minibus.   “Are there mosquitoes back there?” asked James in a tone of surprise that suggested he knew damn well there was, had a pretty good idea of how they got there, but wasn’t comfortable explaining the cause. I may have read too much into his tone.   Not that it mattered much, as we’d nailed most of them by the time we arrived at our first vineyard, Ernest Hill.

Jane made notes on the wines, so I don’t have to mention them, other than to say there were some lovely wines, once you get passed the problem of tasting wine while minty toothpaste still lingers in your mouth.  That problem goes away pretty quicky, but for me was replaced with a different problem.  How much wine was I drinking?

I’ve started using the NHS drinks tracker (iPhone app) and it doesn’t have a category for wine tasting, and as you taste more it becomes increasingly difficult to translate wine strengths and tasting measure volumes, or “standard drinks”, into “units” used in the UK.  It wasn’t until the third vineyard that I found a handy leaflet which at least told us how much was in a tasting measure:

By about the third vineyard, I’d probably had enough wine tasting for the day.  Ash and I started wandering around a cellar with a calculator working out how these people make enough money from selling wine to people like us, or from wine clubs.  “They don’t”, was the short answer from James.  I guess it’s all about the wine passion then…

The tourism side has warped some people’s minds a little.   At an ice cream place there was a no photography sign. WTF? Jono asked the question of a member of staff and she said the rule is there because the competition had been copying their designs.  Although she added “….but I don’t care”.

But if you’re out that way, I’d definely recommend heading out there.  We stayed at a lovely place in what I’d describe as the middle of nowhere, and I could have probably enjoyed another day or so there.   But I’d have to drink less wine.

A week in Filey – July 2009

As our blog was broken from around the time we got back from our holiday last July, I never got around to writing about it. So here’s a few quick thoughts about it.

This was our first holiday with Skitters. In recent years we’ve often spent our summer holidays in the UK, preferring to head further afield for snowboarding holidays. This year we would do no different. But, we did need to consider some new things. We needed it to be dog friendly (obviously), we needed it to have a garden of some description, and ideally we needed it to be somewhere we could walk the dog.

As a child I spent summer holidays on the East Coast, mostly in Bridlington but often with day trips further afield to Whitby, Robin Hood’s Bay and Filey. I remember these trips with fondness, and have always had a particular soft spot for Robin Hood’s Bay. Richard had visited a few of these places with me and my family years ago, but neither of us had really explored under our own steam. Filey has a very long, sandy beach which is mostly dog friendly (only the bit closest to Filey itself isn’t) and stretches from Filey down to Hunmanby.

We found ourselves a lovely house in The Bay estate (on the grounds of the old Butlins camp) which was so dog friendly it even had dog bowls. They had a no dogs upstairs restriction which was fine as they’d provided a child gate to put on the stairs – without this we might have struggled somewhat 🙂

The Bay, Filey

The Bay estate is still being worked on, and looks to have quite a lot of space still available to it. The pub was open, and a couple of shops but there are still quite a few opportunities for development which I believe to be underway. The walk from the house to the beach was about 1km and this delivered us at a good dog-friendly stretch of beach (as long as the tide was out – at high tide there is no beach at all).

Looking towards Filey

Our adventures took us all around the area including a visit to Dane’s Dyke beach (listed on the Times list of Top 10 dog-friendly beaches) , a walk into Dalby Forest (I remember a school trip there as a child), visits to Staithes, Robin Hood’s Bay, Runswick Bay and even along a bit of the Coast to Coast walk. It was a great trip and an excellent first holiday with a dog in tow.

Skitters on Dane's Dyke beach

Runswick Bay

More photos of our adventures can be found here