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!

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***

The 12 Days of Christmas at Castle Howard, York

The 12 Days of Christmas at Castle Howard, York

During a weekend in the beautiful, historic city of York, I visited the stunning Castle Howard – a truly magical and Christmassy day out for all the family.

Castle Howard is an incredible stately home situated about 15 miles North East of York and after looking at their impressive website I couldn’t wait to visit and see the house for myself.

I arrived on a Sunday morning at around 11.00am – the car park was already pretty busy but it well organised and I was directed to a grass parking space. As I approached the entrance to Castle Howard I stumbled across quite a queue to get in. Whilst I had to wait in a queue over half an hour (it was pretty chilly!) to get to the ticket desk, I was excited about what I was about to see and enthused by the number of people eager to visit. Standing in line I listened to lots of people talking about return visits and their annual Christmas traditions of coming to Castle Howard so this really got my expectation going – it must be good if people come back every year!

After getting my ticket I hopped on the waiting Kelly Car – tractor pulled carriages that drive people to the entrance to the house. It’s only a short walk but given how cold it was and that I was a little short for time I was eager to get to the house. Plus, I’m a big kid really so who can resist a tractor carriage ride?!

The path to the house was lined with Christmas trees which I believe are lit up with lights once it gets dark – I bet this would have looked super festive! The views of the gardens down to the lake were stunning and looked gorgeous on the sunny winter day.

As I got off the Kelly car and turned my attention to the house I couldn’t believe how beautiful it looked. It’s so grand and very imposing! I can only imagine what it would be like to own and live in a house like this!

I had to queue again for a brief time to get into the entrance to the house but this wasn’t so bad as it was a little warmer! After making way for the choir to enter I was finally in and ready to experience the magic!

Stepping into Christmas

The house has a fascinating history and apparently, its construction took over 100 years to complete!  It was finally completed in 1801-11 so it has been standing a very long time and has been home to eight generations of the Howard family. I bet the walls have so many stories they could tell, including the devastation that hit the house in November 1940 when a fire broke out and destroyed the basement rooms, upper levels and the dome. If you’re interested in the history of this grand stately home then there is lots more information on the Castle Howard website here.

Every Christmas Castle Howard go to town in decorating the rooms to the highest festive standards. This year’s theme was ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ which meant each room was decorated resembling one of the 12 days of Christmas. The decorations were just incredible and each room just got better and better! I could have spent ages wandering around each room and looking at all the intricate details and beautifully put together displays.

I really loved the stunningly unique dress that was on display in one of the bedrooms which was representing the 6th Earl of Carlisle and his wife Lady Georgiana. The room was decorated in line with the second day of Christmas – two turtle doves – with the idea that the dress was laid out ready for Lady Georgiana to wear to some Twelfth-night celebrations. The dress looked like nothing I had ever seen before and I got lost for a moment thinking about how it would feel to wear it and danced the night away at Castle Howard centuries ago!

Each of the rooms I passed though featured a Christmas tree, all decorated with different themed baubles and lights. There were displays full of presents, old-fashioned toys and of course all the antique furniture that is normally on display at the house – just given a festive twist!

I had to remind myself to not get too distracted by the amazing Christmas displays but also take in the charm of the houses original features and the incredible paintings and portraits that filled its walls.

I really loved all the floral displays too and can only wish that one day I can be as creative with decorations in my home for Christmas!

The Biggest Christmas Tree Ever

When I entered the Great Hall I was amazed to see the biggest Christmas tree I think I have ever seen. At 25 foot tall I cannot even imagine how they got this into the house and in place in the intricately designed Great Hall. I wonder how long it will have taken the decorators to fill the tree with over 3000 baubles! They must have some very tall ladders! There’s actually a video on the Castle Howard Twitter page all about the tree which is well worth the watch!

The ceiling of the Great Hall is just incredible, I stared at it for ages, soaking up all the details and artistry. It was so nice to be able to admire the architecture and tree whilst listening to a small sing orchestra playing on the balcony above – how atmospheric!

Some of the rooms featured some rather impressive table designs. I really liked the huge circular wreath adorned with festive satsumas on the red themed roundtable – I think a centrepiece like that would certainly impress your guests wouldn’t it! The long table filled with swans and pink meringues was a definite hit with me too – so pretty and it reminded me of something out of Swan Lake! Table goals for sure!

Something a bit different was the Wassailing Tree – a simple tree display full of tiny little fairy lights that were really rather effective. The accompanying information board informed me that wassailing was a form of carolling that is sung both inside and outside the house and also in the fruit orchards to bless the trees for the coming spring. I had never heard of this tradition before and I thought it sounded rather lovely!

Also on display is an amazing miniature model of Castle Howard which features a scene depicting a winters day at Castle Howard during the Napoleonic Era. It helps show you the sheer size and magnitude of the house and how many rooms it must hold.

I loved the really flamboyant display in one of the final rooms – the tree was full of different coloured decorations of all sorts of materials and was certainly a different style to the ones in the rest of the house! The colours in this room were so deep and colourful which made it feel really atmospheric.

There are guides situated in each of the rooms who can provide more information on the displays and the history of the house. This is really useful if you’re interested in finding out more about what you are seeing and the different generations that have lived here.

As I came to the end of the rooms on display I was lucky enough to catch the last few songs being sung by the choir in the Long Gallery. This just added to the wonderful festive atmosphere and made me feel all warm inside!

Before leaving the house I visited the Chapel, again decorated for the festive period. I loved the stained glass windows – I always think they are just so pretty.

I couldn’t leave without visiting the well-stocked gift shop which was full of some luxurious decorations and lovely gifts. It seemed like there was something for everyone and I only wish I could have had an unlimited amount of money to buy all the gorgeous baubles and Christmassy bits they had to purchase!

Other Festive Offerings at Castle Howard

During the festive period, there are Christmas stalls offering lots of lovely looking gifts and festive food and drink. There’s plenty of places to treat yourself to something tasty and if I had been able to stay longer I would definitely have visited the Courtyard Café as it looked so warm and toasty and the food smelt great! There is a farm shop and garden centre to visit too and of course the wonderful grounds to explore. Children can take a trip to see Father Christmas at his winter grotto and there are various other festive delights happening such as winter shows, twilight evenings and festive afternoon teas.

I didn’t have enough time to go for a walk of any great length but what I did see of the gardens was very well maintained and beautifully landscaped. There are over 1,000 acres of grounds to explore at Castle Howard with a mix of lakes, woodland and more formal gardens to wander around. I would love to visit again one day and explore as much of the grounds as I could – maybe when it’s a little warmer! There’s even a mausoleum and temple to discover and a very impressive looking children’s adventure playground for the younger visitors.

Entry Prices and Information

Christmas entry to the house and gardens costs £19.50 for adults, £11 for children and £52 for a family of five. Tickets to the grounds only are cheaper and start at £7 for children. Whilst I think the entry prices initially seem quite expensive, after seeing the wonderful displays in the house and experiencing the beautiful gardens I think for a special seasonal visit it is well worth the money. You can buy tickets online saving 10% and then enter via a different ticket office on arrival at Castle Howard. This queue was much shorter on the day of my visit so I really advise booking online if you know you’re planning on visiting in advance. The 12 Days of Christmas Event is running from 17th November to 31st December so be sure to check it out before the festive period is over! More information can be found on the Castle Howard website and there are some gorgeous photos on the Castle Howard Instagram page.

Final Thoughts

I really, really, really enjoyed my visit to Castle Howard! It was magical, festive and a stunning place to explore. I loved all the decorations and displays and listening to the Christmas choir really topped the atmospheric experience off! For some reason this year I hadn’t been feeling very festive but a trip to Castle Howard completely changed this as I got lost in all things Christmas and left feeling very ready to face the festivities! I would have loved to spend more time exploring the grounds outside and really hope to visit again one day!

***My ticket to Castle Howard was gifted to me on a complimentary basis in return for this review post. All thoughts, pictures and opinions are entirely my own***


A Rumble in the Jungle at Jungle Rumble Adventure Golf, Brighton

A Rumble in the Jungle at Jungle Rumble Adventure Golf, Brighton

Anyone who follows the blog or knows Nathan and I, will be aware that we love a spot of crazy golf! Like with National Trust properties, whenever we are away or visiting somewhere new we make sure we check out if there are any local adventure golf places nearby!

When we visited Brighton in June this was no different and we were quick to head down to the Jungle Rumble Adventure Golf course on the seafront. As the name suggests the course is jungle themed, complete with wooden animals and totem pole characters.

The golf course boasts two 18 hole courses and costs £7 per adult for 18 holes or £12 for both courses. The holes were well maintained and pretty challenging, really adding to the competition between us! There’s nothing like golf to get us betting against each other and into the fighting spirit. As per usual I lost meaning ice creams were on me later in the day!

What are your thoughts on adventure golf – something you like or not really your thing?

Exploring the Home of Virginia Woolf at Monks House, East Sussex

Exploring the Home of Virginia Woolf at Monks House, East Sussex

I love the National Trust and as both Nathan and I are National Trust members we often see if there are any NT places we can visit when we are away somewhere.

When staying in Sussex for my nephew’s christening one weekend over the summer, we visited Monks House in East Sussex – the previous home of Leonard and Virginia Woolf.

Home Fit for an Author

The house is a 17th-century cottage and is really cute and quaint.  It’s situated in a really lovely part of East Sussex too, a very enviable place to live for sure! Due to its size, the house has a limit to the number of people able to enter at once but we didn’t have to queue and went straight in. A warning to people hoping to visit though – the ceilings are rather low and despite being told to watch out for them Nathan still managed to donk his head rather hard on the entrance door!

I loved the feel of the house, there were various rooms to explore and the staircase was lined with Virginia’s famous novels which was a nice touch. I really liked all the cactuses in the entrance way too for some reason!

A Writer’s Dream

Apparently, famous novelist Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard lived at Monk’s House from 1919 until Leonard died in 1969.  I can imagine it was a lovely place to live and a good place to draw inspiration and write from.

The house is surrounded by lovely countryside gardens and allotments. It was such a gorgeous place to wander around in the sunshine.

When we visited it was a sunny day and there were deckchairs conveniently situated on the lawn for us to have a little sit-down and admire the views!

Final Thoughts

As always this was a lovely little National Trust property to explore with beautiful and well maintained gardens. I liked all the references to Virginia’s work and enjoyed finding out more about her life and work as an author.