Archive for the Holidays Category

Macdonald Houston House Hotel

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Last month we spent my birthday weekend at the Macdonald Houston House near Edinburgh. The main building is an impressive 16th century Tower House and the hotel is equipped with a spa, a 2 AA rosette restaurant and a very cosy bar. Although slightly dated, our room was massive, spotlessly clean, with an extremely comfy bed. I was also pleased to find that the room was snug and warm as I really feel the cold, so am a little wary of old buildings!

After checking in, we had a quick explore of the hotel and gardens before I headed off to the spa for a facial. I really do love a facial and as I don’t have them often it was a real treat. The waiting room was lovely and relaxing with scented candles and bubbly spa music and the facial itself was amazing. My therapist was lovely and put me at ease – I am usually a little nervous at the start of a facial as it is a bit weird having someone prodding your face! Within ten minutes I was more relaxed than I had been for months and I think I even drifted off for a while!

With my skin all preened and feeling very soft, we headed to the bar for our dinner. The bar is in a snug room with the thickest walls you’ve ever seen and a roaring log fire to keep it toasty. We both ordered a burger and a glass of wine and continued relaxing. The food was fantastic and just what we needed after the drive down to Edinburgh and the strenuous (!) facial!

Next morning, after the excitement of opening birthday presents was over, we had a hearty breakfast in the restaurant before catching the train into Edinburgh. The train station was just a fifteen minute walk away with regular, direct trains into the city. All day we were looking forward to that evenings dinner! We hadn’t remembered to book the Jeremy Wares restaurant in the hotel in advance so we ended up having to eat incredibly early, I think around quarter to 6, as that was the only slot available when we checked in! There was no way we were going to miss the chance of eating in the 2 AA rosette restaurant – we would have taken any time slot they gave us! The meal was totally worth hurrying back from town. The service was impeccable and food was delicious. Everything was cooked to perfection and we really enjoyed the whole experience.

We’d definitely love to visit the hotel again. It was such a relaxing weekend and we both managed to completely switch off which was nice as we had been so busy for what felt like months beforehand!

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A Weekend at Crieff Hydro

Crieff Hydro is spread over 900 acres of countryside just outside of Perth. You can stay in the hotel itself or in one of the self catering lodges in the grounds. A couple of months ago, my mum and stepdad drove up from Cardiff and we met them at Crieff Hydro for a relaxing weekend. Our lodge was stunning with fantastic views of the hills from the big windows. I really liked the colourful blue boards on the outside of the lodge and also the cosy heated floors in the bathrooms! Crieff Hydro LodgeCrieff Hydro Lodge Crieff Hydro Lodge Crieff Hydro Lodge Crieff Hydro - view from lodgeThere are lots of things to do at Crieff but we opted for a weekend of doing very little. On the Friday night, we were picked up from our lodge by the site mini van (which anyone can use by calling reception) and were driven the few minutes over to the main hotel where we had a cocktail in the piano bar followed by dinner in the Meikle Restaurant. The food was fantastic and the staff were really attentive and friendly.Crieff Hydro countryside The Famous Grouse Experience The Famous Grouse Experience Towser the catAfter a lazy Saturday morning, we dug out our rain coats and took a walk through the countryside to the nearby Famous Grouse Experience in the Glenturret Distillery. The Glenturret single malt is the main whisky used in Famous Grouse. Despite living in Scotland for almost two years now, this is the first distillery tour I have been on and I found it really interesting – especially the story about Towser, the distillery cat, who apparently caught 28,899 mice throughout her life!

Apart from this outing, the rest of the weekend was spent catching up, cooking together, playing boardgames and watching Eurovision! We had a lovely weekend at Crieff and felt so relaxed that we didn’t want to leave. I would love to stay for longer next time so that there is more time to explore and also try out the spa…..

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Sherwood Forest

On Friday I got back from a few nights away in Sherwood Forest Center Parcs with my family. I had been in Aberdeen for a course the week before so travelled up to Nottingham on Monday after flying down to Heathrow that morning. When I flew up to Aberdeen the weekend before I‘d left my car at the airport using the Meet & Greet service which I booked through Holiday Extras. This made it so much easier and saved lots of time as I was able to drop off and pick up my car right outside the terminal which saved the hassle of having to get a bus from the long stay car park. Unfortunately my car battery has been playing up recently and my car refused to start when I picked it up but the Meet and Greet staff were able to call someone to get it started for me! When I got to Nottingham I took the car straight to the garage so now it’s all fixed at last!Center Parcs Sherwood Forest Center Parcs Sherwood Forest Center Parcs Sherwood Forest Center Parcs Sherwood Forest Center Parcs Sherwood Forest Center Parcs Sherwood Forest Center Parcs Sherwood ForestAnyway, apart from the car situation I had a really lovely week. I spent a morning with my sister in the Aqua Sana spa which was as relaxing as it always is with lots of different saunas and steam rooms to try out. I also had a Decléor Ultimate Vitamin Glow facial which was amazing. My skin felt so much better afterwards and I got some tips on how to look after it. We were really lucky with the weather and were able to spend lots of time outside. One evening we all went out to Huck’s for a meal – the food was so good and we all ate way too much! Look at the size of the ice cream sundae my sister shared with my step brother – it was supposed to serve 4 to 6 people!!!

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Thailand – Part 4

After visiting Koh Phangan we took the catamaran to Koh Tao.  We stayed in a lovely hotel but only really had one full day on the island so didn’t get to see all that much of it.  During our one day we went on a snorkeling trip around the island where we stopped in some beautiful bays and saw some amazing fish and coral.  As part of the trip we also went to a private island called Koh Nang Yuan which was stunning!Unfortunately, the day after the snorkeling trip I came down with food poisoning, as did the rest of our group except for Nick!  It was horrible especially as we were taking the catamaran to Koh Samui and I get sea sick at the best of times!  Luckily we didn’t have much planned for Koh Samui so I didn’t miss too much for the two days I was ill.  Our hotel was so nice but there wasn’t much nearby which meant we mainly spent our last five days relaxing by the pool which was literally right by the sea.  It was the perfect end to our busy holiday!
On another note, visit my Twitter page to enter the fab competition I’m running together with The Thumbs Up to win a Glamoriser straightener / curling tongs!

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Thailand – Part 3

I’ve had such a busy weekend moving up to Aberdeen and my holiday now feels like a lifetime ago!  At the end of my last Thailand post we’d just got back to Bangkok so I will take it from there.

We took one of the public boats along the river to Wat Arun – The Temple of Dawn.  It was the most amazing complex and must have taken forever to build!  We climbed up the prang which is decorated with bits of porcelain – I’ve never seen anything like it.  The steps were so steep but the view from the top made the climb worth it.Next stop was Wat Pho – The Temple of the Reclining Buddha – which was just across the river.  I don’t know what exactly I was expecting but the actual Buddha was so much bigger than I’d imagined it would be.  I think our guide told us it was 15m high and around 45m long!  It was impossible to photograph but hopefully these give you some idea of the massive scale!On the way back to the hotel we found a brilliant English bookshop which I wish we’d found earlier – that staff were lovely and you could take books you’d read back to get discounts off your next book.  I thought I’d put in the photo so that if any of you are ever there you can pop in!That night we took another overnight train, this time South to Surat Thani.  After a super early breakfast at the train station we took a coach to the port to catch the ferry to Koh Pahngan.We stayed at Pen’s Bungalows which are right on a beach called Than Sadet.  The beach was so beautiful!  Our bungalow was amazing too – modern, clean and literally two minutes from the sea.  We spent two days just relaxing on the beach during the day then eating and drinking cocktails in the bars and restaurants which open up along the beach after sunset.  I’d have loved to have stayed here longer and would really like to go back there again!I’ll leave the rest of the islands we visited for another post….

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Thailand – Part 2

My last post on our Thailand holiday ended after our visit to the hot springs.  That night, we stayed in a house in a nearby village.  I was a little nervous about this but we actually ended up having a fantastic time.  Local women cooked us some amazing food and the children played music while we ate.  After we had finished eating, we had a go at playing the instruments with them and later on, we were shown some Thai dancing.  The highlight of the evening was setting off a lantern which we all wrote our names and wishes on!The next morning we went to the temple in the village to offer food to the monks.  Then we visited a local school where we helped some 4 year olds with their English.  We played games and sang with them and it was loads of fun!  After that we went to a mushroom farm and a rice farm to see how they worked which was really interesting.  We got to pick some mushrooms which were then deep fried for our lunch and served with a delicious sweet chilli dip!  Since we’d arrived in Thailand we’d been to quite a few temples but here we were shown around one properly and it was fascinating to hear about how people use the temples and why they are built the way they are.We left the homestay after lunch to go to Chiang-Mai where we stayed for 2 nights.  My favourite thing about Chiang-Mai was the night market which is held from 6pm until midnight and was literally just around the corner from our hotel.  There were so many things I could have bought but didn’t have room in my suitcase for!  I did manage to pick up quite a few pieces of jewellery, gifts for my family and a lovely mango wood dish for our new kitchen.  While in Chiang-Mai we also did a Thai cooking course which was great fun.  We ate way too much food but it was all so good so totally worth it and I can’t wait to try out some of the recipes we learnt!We left Chiang-Mai on an overnight train back to Bangkok but I think I’ll leave it here for today as I seem to have written way more than I intended!

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Thailand – Part 1

I’ve ended up with hundreds of photos from my holiday to Thailand. Don’t worry, I’m not going to put all of them up, but even after I’ve narrowed them down there are still too many to put in one post!

We flew to Bangkok where we spent a few days visiting temples, Buddha images and eating the amazing street food, before meeting up with our travel group.  We went with a company called Intrepid who arrange tours in lots of different countries where you travel around with a local guide.  We decided to do two tours – one more cultural tour and one relaxing tour of the islands.

The first tour was the cultural one.  We ended up in a group with eleven girls and Nick – luckily the group leader was a guy so Nick wasn’t completely outnumbered!  The first morning of our tour was taken up with a 6 hour train journey North out of Bangkok – we saw some stunning scenery – and a ride on a songthaew to reach Sukhothai, the ancient capital of Thailand. We spent the next morning cycling around the ruins of the old temples which were spectacular.  Our guide had a arranged for a local woman to cook us lunch and I’m not exaggerating here – it was some of the best food I’ve ever eaten in my whole entire life!

That afternoon we had a four hour bus journey to Lampang.  I was super excited as we were on our way to visit the elephants!  First thing next morning we went to the elephant hospital.  It was heartbreaking to see the poor elephants who had had to have legs amputated because of land mines on the Burmese border.  It was good to see that the elephants are now being well looked after and they even came over to say hello to us!  Next door to the elephant hospital is an Elephant Conservation Center where we saw an elephant show.  We were amazed by strong and clever they are and how much they seem to love their trainers.  The elephants can play tunes on chimes, paint pictures and lift very heavy tree trunks.  After the show we went on a half hour elephant ride which was so exciting!!  The elephants are massive but they are surprisingly agile – they can walk up narrow, muddy tracks with seemingly no effort!

That night we were going to stay in a village with a local family.  On the way we stopped off at the Sankhampang Hot Springs where we saw a butterfly bigger than I knew could exist (look at the size of its legs!) and had a quick swim.

I think I’ll tell you about our evening in the homestay another time as we managed to fit loads in that night and I don’t want to overload on the photos!

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Instagram Thailand Round Up

Hi everyone, I’m home from Thailand!  We had a fantastic time and I will get around to posting photos in the next few weeks.  In the meantime I thought I’d do my first Instagram post using some of the photos I posted while I was away….

1. Excited for our holiday!
2. Sparkling wine at Heathrow.
3. From the train North out of Bangkok.
4 & 5. Old temples at Sukhothai.
6. Rice paddy.
7. My new bracelet.
8. From inside our mosquito net at the homestay.
9. Beautiful temple in Chiang Mai.
10. Chiang Mai night market – amazing!
11. Another stunning temple.
12. Hot pink leather interior of a Bangkok taxi!
13. Feet of the massive Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, Bangkkok.
14. 5am breakfast after a night train.
15. Arriving at Koh Phangan.
16 & 18. View from the hotel restaurant!
17. Than Sadet Beach on Koh Phangan.
19. Huge rainstorm in Koh Tao – hard to capture!
20. Pool in our Koh Samui hotel.
21. Palm trees at the pool side.

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Kos

Here are some photos from our trip to Kos which I mentioned in my NOTW post a couple of weeks ago.  I went with my sister (Maddie), mum, stepdad and two step brothers (Tom and Matt) and stayed at the Aegean Village in Kardamena.  The weather was stunning all week and we didn’t see a cloud the entire time we were there.  We spent most of our time relaxing by the pool or at the beach opposite the hotel but we also took the local bus into the main town of Kos one evening and Maddie, Tom and I went on a guided coach tour organised by Thompson one day.  The coach took us around a couple of villages as well as to a family run honey factory, the Asklepion and a traditional Greek house turned museum which was really interesting.  Anyway, here are the photos… I hope they don’t take too long to load!

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Bluestone

A couple of weekends ago I went to Bluestone with my mum, stepdad and Nick for my birthday. Bluestone is sort of like a mini Center Parcs and is near Tenby in West Wales.


We stayed in a gorgeous lodge and spent the weekend just generally relaxing. Instead of hiring bikes to get around the site we took the lazy option and hired a golf buggy instead! The weather was lovely so we drove round the site a couple of times looking at the fantastic views of the National Park. Look how cheeky Nick looks here as he drives off without me! We weren’t completely lazy and did spend an hour or so in the swimming pool!


The weekend we stayed was bonfire night so there was a short firework display in the main village. We also had an amazing meal in the very fancy on site restaurant!


The highlight for me was a visit to the spa with my mum. We spent an hour in the various saunas and steam rooms before going off separately for facials. I had the Bluestone customised facial which used products from Decleor. It was so relaxing and my skin felt really soft and clean at the end. Harriet, my therapist, was brilliant and showed me some products which were great for my skin – my favourite was the Phytopeel Exfoliator. I just wish I wasn’t a student and could afford some of the products now!

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