2018 Instagram Top Nine Pictures

2018 Instagram Top Nine Pictures

I recently followed the trend and posted on my Instagram page my top nine most liked pictures for the year. It was so nice to look back at some of the memories I made this year and see what my followers had enjoyed seeing on my feed. Some of the photos were my favourites for the year too so I think they were quite accurately picked!

I thought I would do a quick post featuring the top nine pictures and explaining a little more about them and where they were taken. I had suggested I might do this in the caption on the post and lots of people were interested so here goes!

Pictures 1-3 – Bishops Palace

So three pictures from my visit to Bishops Palace in Wells, Somerset made it into my Instagram top nine. I think you will be able to see why – the gardens were just so beautiful and I visited on a very sunny day in August which I think really helped make them look so glorious!

This picture is of the well pools and you can spot the stunning architecture of Wells Cathedral in the background – just gorgeous!

Again this is another picture of the well pools. I loved how the trees were reflected in the water and the sense of calm and peace I got from wandering around the well pools and sitting on that green bench.

The final picture from Bishops Palace that featured on the best nine was this one of the old walls of the palace. I thought they were so pretty with the sun streaming through the window frames and the beautifully maintained gardens.

Picture 4 – Tintagel Old Post Office

Picture 4 is from the lovely Old Post Office in Tintagel, Cornwall. This is a National Trust property, which as a member I have visited a few times. It’s lots of fun to see how the old post office would have worked and you can still send letters from the post box in the wall! We visited in the late summer and enjoyed a good few hours wandering around the town and enjoying the coastal views.

Picture 5 – Valley of the Rocks

This is one of my favourite pictures I took when I stayed in Lynton and visited the Valley of the Rocks in Lynmouth, North Devon. It was a stunning piece of coastline and even though it rained and I got rather wet on my Septemeber walk, the views and grazing sheep and goats made it worth it!

Picture 6 – The Hideaway

This shows the amazing homemade cream tea I enjoyed whilst soaking up the countryside views at The Hideaway, Kingsland Farm in Bridport, Dorset. I stayed in the sublime shepherd’s hut and had the most relaxing and restorative stay. Danette the host is so welcoming and lovely and I would really recommend a stay here – check out my full review here.

Picture 7 – Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum

In Septemeber, during my South West tour, I visited Dorchester and the Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum. It was a really interesting attraction, although I visited on a free Sunday open day and so it was really busy. There was so much to learn about the justice system and historical crime which I found really interesting. Apparently, my Instagram followers did too!

Pictures 8 & 9 – Weston Sandsculpture Festival

The final two pictures from my Instagram top nine are from my visit to the Weston Sandsculpture Festival in Weston Super Mare, Somerset. The 2018 festival’s theme was the circus and I was amazed by the incredible skills of the sand sculptures in creating such stunning sculptures. You can find out more about the festival and see more of the sculptures on my blog post review. I also did a top ten favourite sand sculpture post too which is worth checking out to see which ones I loved the most!

So there we have it, a bit more information on the pictures from my Instagram top nine! Please do give me a follow on Instagram if you don’t already to see more cool pictures and to interesting pictures and follow my adventures!

Highlights from Longleat Safari Park and Safari Drive Through, Wiltshire

Highlights from Longleat Safari Park and Safari Drive Through, Wiltshire

In December Nathan and I visited the Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire and it was awesome! We went primarily for Longleat’s yearly Christmas event of The Festival of Light which was amazing. However, as well as the lights there is so much to see and do and we had the best day!

Longleat Safari Drive Through

On arrival at Longleat, we headed first to the safari drive through as I had read online to expect queues given how busy Longleat is during the festive period. We wanted to make sure we didn’t miss out on seeing all the animals.

At the main entrance ticket queue, each car is given a safari drive through CD which has a commentary to guide you around the tour and tell you about all the animals. We luckily got Nathans car CD player working and we were off!

There are so many different animals to see including lots of camels, bison and even big cats including lions and tigers. Unfortunately, due to the poor weather and rain, I wasn’t able to get any good pics of the big cats as understandably they were chilling out and not dancing in the rain! I enjoyed seeing all the warning signs telling people to stay in their cars -surely no one would actually get out?!

Time for Some Monkey Business

The best part of the safari drive through has to be the monkey section. This is an optional part of the tour, cars who don’t fancy driving through the open monkey enclosure can bypass it. However, there was no chance we were doing that! The monkeys were the reason we had some in Nathan’s car and not my nice new Fiesta!

The little cheeky monkeys are so funny and comical as they ride around on the cars, literally surfing on the roof and sliding down the windows and bonnets. It made us laugh so much, I can imagine children would just love it.

This rather cheeky chappy sat on the bonnet for a while, jumping up and down and eventually pulled out the windscreen washer from the front of the car. We also saw monkeys nibbling on car ariels, pulling off windscreen wipers and car jumping from car to car.

Feeding the Deer

After the fun of the monkey drive-through, it was time to chill a bit and pass through some of the other animals before reaching the deer section. For £1 you can buy a pot of deer food and then drive to where the deer are feeding and feed them by hand.

This was such a cool experience and we got there just in time before most of the deer had eaten enough and had moved away to rest.

They were pretty slobbery when they took the food out of my hand and certainly ate it up quickly, sticking their heads through the car window looking for more!

Safari Park Fun

Look at this giraffes with their young – so cute and magical to see so close up! This so makes me want to go on an African safari one day!

There is so much to see off the main square including jungle kingdom, the bat cave, adventure castle, monkey temple and more.

It was pretty funny watching these cute penguins be fed as they were all really rubbish at catching the fish when the man threw them. They just kept missing them every time and for some reason it really tickled me!

I loved going through the butterfly house as butterflies are one of my favourite animals. We were lucky enough to spot a couple too and see some coming out of their chrysalis which was something I had never seen before.

Jungle Cruise

Just in time, we caught the last Jungle Cruise boat to see the gorillas, hippos and sea lions. This was only a short boat ride but a chance to sit and relax whilst spotting even more animals. Great that this is included in the entry price too as it adds another fun element to the visit.

When you reach the sea lions visitors are invited to feed them some small fish which they go mad for! You would think they hadn’t be fed all day! They were so noisy and excited, jumping up at the sides of the boats – again another new experience for me! Sadly I didn’t catch any of them with my photos as they were just too quick, but you can see the seagulls went crazy trying to catch the fish too! Nathan used his go pro though and so he got some good footage of the sea lions feasting!

Longleat House and a Bit of History

Included in the ticket price was also the chance to go inside Longleat House and have a look around. It is full of Elizabethan architecture and featured some stunning artwork. It was decorated for Christmas too which made us feel so festive. Photos aren’t permitted inside the house so you will just have to visit for yourselves to see what’s inside!

I love looking at old items and getting a glimpse back into history and we had the opportunity to do this and explore a small museum full of objects from the olden days.

Visitor Information

Tickets for The Festival of Light, which includes entry to all the normal attractions at the park and the safari drive through, are slightly cheaper if booked in advance online. They cost £31.45 for adults and £23.55 for children. Annual passes are available too which I think would be great if you live locally enough to visit multiple times a year.

There are lots of places to eat and drink and various shops too. All of the food we came across was relatively well priced although the queues were quite long and we had to eat outside as there wasn’t much space available. For further information on visiting the park take a look at their website or find them on Twitter and Instagram.

Final Thoughts

We had such a good day at Longleat Safari Park, there is so much to do and see and fun for all the family. We went mainly to see The Festival of Light which you can find a separate blog post about, but we were surprised by how many other attractions there were to enjoy. We spent most of the day at Longleat and still didn’t see it all so to make the most of the entry fees and to ensure you see everything I would recommend going early as soon as it opens. The safari drive-through and in particular, the monkey section of the drive-through, has to be my favourite part of the day – super entertaining and really made us laugh. We will have those memories around for a long time I am sure!

Have you ever been to Longleat before? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

My Favourite Christmas Gifts 2018

My Favourite Christmas Gifts 2018

Like with the rest of the human race I have always enjoyed receiving gifts as much as the next person. However, as I have got older I have enjoyed spreading happiness and the gift of giving presents. I always really enjoy seeing my loved ones opening up their chosen presents and seeing their reactions. Presents with thought, presents with love and presents that are personal are the best to both give and receive I think.  This year, as with years gone by I was lucky enough to receive a host of lovely and well thought out presents this Christmas.

I thought I would share a few of my favourites with you – they will give you quite an insight into things I like and enjoy as my family and friends clearly know me all too well! I haven’t been able to share all the gifts I received as I really did have many, but thought I would choose a few quirky and different ones for you to peek at.

Primark Pretties

I am 29 yet still get a stocking every year from my parents. This more often than not includes a pair of Christmas PJs and this year’s were these very warm and fluffy Disney ones from Primark. I think they are super cute and they are really comfy too!

I also received some socks and slippers from my sister Chloe – these were groovy chick themed and transported me back to the 90’s! I remember as a young girl having a groovy chick bedspread and other bits – it was the ‘in’ girl brand to have back then. I can’t believe Primark are now stocking groovy chick clothes years and years later! Thanks, Chloe for taking me back to my childhood whilst keeping my tootsies nice and warm!

A Spot of Fun

My nearest and dearest know that I have a horrible love for squeezing spots! It’s gross I know but I just can’t help myself and my sister Chloe treated me to this yucky but hilarious Pimple Popper kit from Zuru. Basically for all you avid spot squeezers out there you put some rank looking pus-type liquid into it and then sit and squeeze out the spot pores to your heart’s content – delightful eh!

My friend Katy gifted me the game Dobble – I hadn’t heard about this game before but now I absolutely love it and cannot recommend it enough for fast-paced, fun and competitive game. Nathan and I played it numerous times over the new year and we are now addicted to it! Thanks Katy!

In my stocking was also this cute little Christmas themed duck – it can join me in the bath one day, the lucky quacker!

My boyfriend Nathan gave me these Mensa gifts – a 2019 Calendar Challenger which includes a puzzle a day for the rest of the year, and The Absolutely Authentic Mensa Test. I am not sure what he is trying to prove – something about his intelligence or mine! I did have to remind him that I have two degrees and am currently working for my doctorate so I do have some intelligence in the bag.. somewhere! They have provided us with some brain-teasing tests so far which we have enjoyed competing against each other for and working as a team when we both get stuck!

Beauty Bits

I was treated to these gorgeous Ted Baker sets from my youngest sister Emily. The makeup set has loads of lovely makeup bits including lipsticks, mascara, nail polish and a cute eyeshadow shadow pallet. Emily also gave me the Ella perfume set which has a cute little bottle of gorgeous smelling scent and a pretty jewelled mirror. Such lovely gifts which I certainly will enjoy using.

Gifts to Encourage Calming and Self-Care

In the last couple of years, I have become more keen to enjoy the simple things in life and to try and use things to help me relax. My job and doctorate can be very stressful at times and relaxation time can be limited. My family did a great job this year of buying me gifts they know I will use to take some time for myself and chill. I am obsessed with candles and using them when I am chilling in the evenings and having a bath and so both my step-mum Caroline and sister Chloe got it spot on when buying me these candle selection boxes form Yankee Candle. I can’t wait to try them all and smell all their different and scrummy scents!

I have recently discovered the Happy Place podcast by Fearne Cotton and have been listening to it in the car during long drives. I think Fearne Cotton has done wonders in talking about her mental health and promoting mindfulness and well-being. Nathan brought me Fearne’s book ‘Happy’ which attempts to help people “find joy in every day and let go of perfect”. I feel I need more of this in my life and am excited to get stuck into this book and complete all the exercises within it.

Now I am a fan of mindfull colouring and colouring books used for relaxation, however, I have never come across mindful stickering before! My older sister Sarah gave me this awesome sounding book in which people can use stickers to fill in colourful patterns to relax! Each page has a motivational and inspirational message in it too which I think I will benefit greatly from this year – what a thoughtful and different present idea! Thank you, Sarah!

Tempting Treats

These pictures really aren’t great and are doing no justice to the wonderful presents but this picture shows some more thoughtful gifts from Chloe. To provide me with a sweet treat are these prosecco flavoured boiled sweets – very tasty I can guarantee! The notebook obviously isn’t for eating but is very cute and stylish and I do love a notebook so a perfect gift for me!

I was also lucky enough to receive one of the Naked Marshmallow Company dipping boxes which went down very well during our new year break. It was gifted to me by Caroline’s sister and family and is such a lovely treat gift. It matches the marshmallow advent calendar I had from the same company and I can assure you that the marshmallows dipped into the chocolate and salted caramel sauces are delicious with a capital D!

Pandora Presents

Finally, I am really grateful to have received some lovely jewellery from Pandora. I got some gorgeous charms for my bracelet from Nathan and a much-needed safety chain from his parents to keep my bracelet and ever-growing collection of charm safely on my wrist.

Last but not least I got this stunning Pandora necklace from my parents. It’s so pretty and sparkly and I love it! I am a very lucky girl indeed!

Thanks to everyone for their wonderful gifts this year, I love each and every one of them including all the other fab pressies I got but didn’t mention in this post (as it would have gone on for ages!). I guess the best gift I got was also quality time with my boyfriend and family and this is the best gift I could ever ask for! Cheers!

What was your favourite Christmas gift to receive? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

Indulging in All Things Chocolate at York’s Chocolate Story, York

Indulging in All Things Chocolate at York’s Chocolate Story, York

I am a massive chocolate fan and anyone that knows me knows chocolate is my Achilles heel. I love the stuff! So when planning a trip to York for some university training I knew I had to check out York’s Chocolate Story –  a chance to take a guided tour through York’s chocolate history and of course taste some of the best chocolate!

Welcome to the City of Chocolate

York’s Chocolate Story is situated in the middle of Kings Square; the heart of York. It is easy to find and there are plenty of car parks located nearby. I visited on a busy weekend in December and the streets were bustling with tourists shopping and soaking up York’s historic atmosphere.

As you enter York’s Chocolate Story you can’t help but breathe in the scrumptious smell of all chocolate! As I waited for my3 pm tour I took a sneak peek at the chocolate Chocolate Café that’s next to the museum and contemplated what delights I would treat myself to later!

As the tour begins you are taken upstairs in a lift and greeted by your guide. Our guide was called Meg and she was super friendly and enthusiastic. She did well to entertain a group of about 5 of us including a large group of Chinese tourists who appeared to speak little English!

A Little Bit of Chocolate History

At first, you are taken through some beautifully decorated and interesting rooms where you are told about the history of chocolate making in York – the UK’s home of chocolate. There’s a really cool room where you watch animated screens and hear the stories from the main chocolatiers. There’s loads of brands you will recognise! You hear about how each of the famous chocolatiers chocolates became famous and the rivalries between the different companies – I found this really interesting as I love history and hearing about times gone by – even better when you are learning about one of your favourite things – chocolate!

As your tour is situated in York, Meg told us lots about the history of chocolate in the city and how much chocolate is produced and now sells worldwide. There are loads of interesting facts to be heard including the fact that 6 million Kit Kats are made in York per day – how mental is that! There were loads of other interesting and fun chocolate related facts to be heard but I won’t share them all here – you will have to go and visit to hear them for yourselves!

There are plenty of tasters along the way too and the chance to try different types of chocolate and taste the process from begging to end. I loved hearing about the cocoa beans and how chocolate is made – quite the process it seems!

Heading downstairs there are some cool interactive displays in which visitors get the chance to learn how chocolate is made and try out the interactive displays that detail the process. We also got more tasters and learnt how to check the quality of chocolate relating to its taste and shine. Normally I just gobble chocolate up as fast as I can so it was nice to have the opportunity to savour the chocolate a bit more and really think about its flavours and where’s it’s come from.

Giving Chocolate Making A Go

Next up was the chance to have a go at getting hands-on and making a chocolate lolly! As it was Christmas time our chocolatier gave us the choice of what festive themed chocolate lolly to make. We then had free reign on the choco decorations which included salted caramel curls, crispy chocolate nibbles and all sorts! I made what I think was a rather fetching white chocolate Christmas tree.

Finally, the end of the tour culminates with a chocolate making demonstration where we were able to see how chocolate truffles were made. The chocolatier made passion fruit and cherry flavoured truffles and the best bit was we could taste them and take a couple home with us too. They were just delicious with the passion fruit ones being my favourite for sure!

After the demonstration, I made sure to go back and have a look at the funky looking displays that detail loads more information about all things chocolate and its history in York. There was lots to look at and read which was awesome.

I really liked the feedback wall in which visitors can leave their compliments and comments on the tour on coloured sticky post its. There were so many praise-filled comments for the tour and the guides which were lovely to read – certainly some very happy customers!

Chocolate, Chocolate and More Chocolate

I made my way back downstairs to the cafe as I understandably had chocolate on the brain as all the tasters had really whetted my appetite for more chocolate! I sat in the small café and enjoyed a salted caramel hot chocolate with all the toppings and a very tasty millionaires shortbread. Both were delicious and really filled me up. I do believe I experienced a chocolate-fuelled sugar high for sure!

Before leaving I just had to look around the chocolate shop which is stacked high with scrummy looking chocolate gifts and bits to treat yourself or others too.

I found it hard to decide what to treat myself too but ended up selecting a white chocolate heart covered in freeze-dried raspberry pieces. Yum! Of course, I also had to pick up a rubber and pencil to add to the collections! No trip would be complete without them, would it!

Visitor Information

Tickets to York’s Chocolate Story cost £10 for children and £12.50 for adults, with discounts for senior citizens and students. There’s the option to buy family tickets too. York residents can get a third off admission prices on Sundays, so if you live locally then be sure to make the most of this opportunity! Tours run daily at regular times between 10 am and 4 pm and last about an hour and a half. Find out more visitor information on the York’s Chocolate Story website. Be sure to check out the York’s Chocolate Story social media pages too including Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for more interesting chocolate facts, upcoming events and choco-tastic pictures.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed my time at York’s Chocolate Story. I loved the mix of having a guided tour that as fun and informative but also having the opportunity to have a look round the static displays at my own pace too. The extra additions of the chocolate lolly workshop and chocolate making demonstration were awesome and really added to the overall experience. The tour was excellent too and I thought our tour guide Meg did a really great job. I would recommend a trip to York’s Chocolate story to all – I think it’s a great attraction for people of all ages and of course, it’s perfect for chocolate lovers like me!

***Entry to York’s Chocolate Story was provided to me on a complimentary basis in return for this honest review. All thoughts, pictures and opinions are entirely my own***

A Fabulous Festive Afternoon Tea at Kitley House Hotel & Restaurant, Plymouth

A Fabulous Festive Afternoon Tea at Kitley House Hotel & Restaurant, Plymouth

On a cold, drab December day my festive mood was lifted a million per cent when I visited Kitley House Hotel and Restaurant in Yealmpton, Plymouth for a stunning festive afternoon tea.

As I drove down the very long driveway to Kitley House Hotel the anticipation grew and the excitement built – I was so excited to see my best friend Katy who I hadn’t seen in ages and also to feast on the wonderful festive afternoon tea ahead of me! As the driveway through the vast estate to the house was so long it allowed me to wonder what the delights the afternoon had in store and also allowed me to daydream what it would be like to have such a grand drive to a big beautiful house!

I arrived, parked easily in the large parking area and was reunited with Katy. It was great to see her and we were both so excited to step into Kitley House and see what was inside! Even on the gloomy winters day, the hotel looked so grand and imposing from the outside. It felt rather posh too!

The inside of Kitley House Hotel was just stunning; it was warm, festive and decorated so elegantly for Christmas! We were greeted by the friendly reception staff and out wet winter coats were taken and hung up for us.

We were guided into the Regency Room where the tables were decorated with pretty china crockery, festive candle displays and Christmas crackers! There was a lovely looking Christmas tree in the room too and some lovely Christmas decorations that added to the warm, festive atmosphere.

We were able to choose our table and chose one where we could see outside to the lovely gardens and watch the wildlife wandering about. It was such a wet and miserable day so it was lovely to be able to look out of the damp gardens but know were nice and toasty inside having a really tasty treat!

We pulled our crackers, told each other our jokes and of course put on our cracker hats! We were now ready to indulge in the festive delights of the festive afternoon tea and we couldn’t wait!

The waitress bought out our pots of tea and the cake stand full of scrummy food. There was a plate full of festive sandwiches including turkey and cranberry, smoked salmon, ham and mustard. We then had two huge warm scones each – one plain and one fruit which we were able to top with copious amounts of cream and jam – my favourite!

The top layer of the cake stand was filled with bitesize festive treats that included fruit cake, mince pies, mini blueberry cheesecakes and some fruit to balance out all that naughtiness I guess!!

Everything tasted delicious and we took our time enjoying it all whilst gossiping and catching up on all our news. I can’t decide whether the warm scones or blueberry cheesecakes were my favourites – it was all so tasty it’s hard to decide. We both gave it our best shot but we were unable to finish it all, but this didn’t matter as we were encouraged to take the extra bits home for later which Nathan and I enjoyed that evening!

I can really recommend Kitley House Hotel and Restaurant for afternoon tea – it was such a lovely treat and the perfect place to catch up with my best pal. I loved the festive twist on the afternoon tea selection as I am a big mince pie and Christmas cake fan so this was perfect for me! We also saw another table who were enjoying a three-course meal and the food looked really tasty.

For more information on the hotel and restaurant, and to see the food menus be sure to check out the Kitley House Hotel and Restaurant website. Cream teas can be enjoyed for £8.95 per person, with traditional afternoon tea starting at £17.95 per person. I would love to go back one day to sample either the normal afternoon tea menu or some of the main food offered as I can imagine would be of very high quality and very delicious tasting.

I think an afternoon spent in cosy warm surroundings with a good friend and lovely food is the perfect way to relax, indulge and treat yourselves and Kitley House offers the perfect place to do so. All the beautiful Christmas decorations and festive touches really helped us feel really festive too and we left feeling excited for the festivities ahead and rather full too!!

***Our afternoon tea was provided to us on a complimentary basis by Kitley House Hotel & Restaurant in return for this review. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.***