Tag Archives: travel

Marlborough Sounds

The Marlborough Sounds have been on my “to-do” list ever since we left New Zealand the last time. Everyone that asks about your travels, always asks whether you’d seen the Sounds and until now, I hadn’t.

So when an invite popped through our door last year, inviting us to a wedding in the Sounds, we really couldn’t resist making the trip around the world to come and celebrate with our friends in such a magical place.

From Wellington, we took the large passenger (and sheep) ferry over to Picton. The ferry connects the North Island to the South on a 4 hour crossing which really is a means from A to B than a glamorous boat. The first hour of your journey crosses the famous, and choppy, Cook Straight then in the horizon you spot them, the Sounds.

Due to a few delays, we arrived at the tip of the sounds at sunset. Everyone crowded onto the decks for the best photo opportunity yet.

And as darkness fell, we had no idea what the sounds would really look like till morning. After arriving in complete darkness at Picton, a small private boat whisked us off under the stars at Lochmara Bay, where the wedding party was in full swing for the “night before” celebrations. We went to bed early, eager to see what view would greet us in the morning.

As the sun came up over the mountains, I leaped out of bed, flung open the balcony doors and gasped in awe at the view. This was paradise.

Lochmara Lodge is only accessible via this small bay. There are no cars and no connection to civilisation. It was just us and nature.

After watching the sun rise in our pyjamas, we headed to the lodge for breakfast. Perfectly crispy bacon, two runny poached eggs and of course, a flat white coffee to set us off for our day of adventure and partying.

Before the first activities of the day I grabbed my book and sat on the jetty for a while, watching the hundreds of jelly fish beneath my feet and the occasional boat pass us by.

Back at the lodge, we met up with some friends and set off into the hills behind us.

As we climbed higher, at every break of the trees the views would be even more incredible.

The odd hammock on the track provided us with a much deserved breaking point.

Until finally we reached what we’d trekked up the mountain for…the Flying Fox!

Short but sweet, you soar through the trees like Tarzan, ending with a picture perfect view of the bay. After all that excitement, we headed back down to the beach and took the kayaks out for a spin. Scott and Richard got a little carried away and I was ropped into being the judge for their countless “boat races”.

Back on dry land, we had a small bite to eat and headed off to our rooms to put on our glad rags ready for the afternoon wedding!

Marlborough, I am so totally in love with you already.

Poole Quay

Hopping across the border to Poole is a trip down memory lane for me.

We left our leafy little Wiltshire village when I was 7 and moved to a small beachy suburb of Poole. My parents had their honeymoon on the Isle of White and then stayed in a small house for a few days after in where we later went on to buy our family home. It always held a place in their heart. When Dad found “the” perfect property, we left our friends and family and set up a new life in Dorset.

Every weekend after our sunday lunch, we’d take the short walk over the lifting bridge into Poole Quay. I would stare in awe at the luxury yachts lining the promenade and Mum would always be on the look out for the rich & famous visitors. Poole Quay has changed alot in these years, with the demolition of the Poole Pottery factory and the appearance of new multi-milion pound apartments, but every time I go back it’s as dreamy now as I remember all those years ago.

The Old Town highstreet is full of history. Famous visitors like Henry IVV and his wives once roamed these streets on horse and carriage and no doubt trawled their way through the number of pubs before departing once again on their wooden ships. Pirates historically took over Poole Quay and some pubs even pay tribute to them today.

Nestled within the history of the old High Street, the museum offers budding pirates a glimpse into the yesteryears of life in Poole.

Once you reach the Quay there is an abundance of touristic atmosphere. At this time of year, holiday makers from the across the country visit in their thousands for a slice of the warm summer micro-climate and the fish and chips lifestyle. We joined in the fun and hopped on a yellow boat cruise.

Me and Jennie hit the top deck and watched as the quay turned into a miniature town in the distance.

Sailor Scott was more interested in topping up his tan.

We made our way through the harbour and past the real sailors relishing in the light breeze.

Our first attraction along the way was Brownsea Island, the famous birthplace of the Scouts. Lord Baiden-Powell famously took his first group of explores to the island and the Scouts as we know them today were born. The island has changed very little in this time. Owned by the National Trust, its a haven for wildlife and at this time of year you can even catch some outside theatre in the castle grounds.

If you’re brave enough, you can make your way over by sea kayak. These guys clearly could not believe they’d made the crossing!

And before you know it, you’re at the entrance to Poole Harbour. A very narrow entrance which separates luxurious Sandbanks and Sandbanks. Just a few hundred metres wide, the chain ferry whisks cars from one side of the entrance to the other in a matter of minutes saving a 25 mile journey around Poole Harbour itself. As you pass through the entrance of the harbour, you also pass some of the most expensive properties in the UK. The 4th most expensive place to buy a square metre of land in the entire world is as mesmerising as the turquoise waters that glisten against their perfectly landscaped gardens.

And back to reality, we made our way out into the English Channel and into the World Heritage Site of the Jurassic Coast. Its very jurassic history has given this area its world accreditation and there are some amazing fossils still to be found. The devastating effects of coastal erosion is a very real threat on the South and as destroying as this natural beast can be, it also uncovers some archeological breakthroughs. You may be very lucky on a Jurassic Coast beach one day!

The crown jewels of our trip is Old Harry Rocks. Named after the Poole pirate Harry Paye, the smuggler who cheated the French, it is one of the most famous landmarks on the Dorset Coast. Its unusual formation created by coastal erosion once distracted sailors from the several several caves which surround it where smugglers would hide with their illegal tobacco and alcohol.

We circled back past the chalk cliffs one more time before turning back and heading for shore.

This is the face of a hungry sailor…

So its lucky that Poole Quay serves up the best that Dorset seafood has to offer. Jennie and Scott shared a pot of local cockles and musles, while I went all out with a large portion of fish and chips.

The perfect end to the perfect day on Poole Quay.

Brownsea Island Ferries offer cruises around the harbour just like ours, as well as a shuttle to and from Brownsea Island. You can visit their website here for prices and times, but arrive early and book you space and spend the rest of your time exploring all that the quay has to offer. Oh and don’t forget to pop into Poole Pottery and grab a gift for Nan!

Holiday Postcards – Our Magical Island

Once upon a time, there were two young, naive and carefree travellers, a kiwi and anenglishman. In search of adventure, they set off on the bonus Royal Wedding bank holiday of 2011 from the southern shores of Bournemouth destined for the Scottish Highlands. They packed their survival gear into the back of their rickety old Ford Focus and strapped the moutain bikes as securely (and legally) as possible to the back and hit bank holiday roads.

Of course I’m talking about me and Scott.

After hours of driving to the Lake District we finally arrived in Windermere. It was a little overwhelming, what with the thousands of tourists which had turned this quiant lakeside resort into a themepark, so we made a quick stop of at the tourist information centre for directions to the nearest campsite. As I re-appear rather disheveled, I told Scott that the women had quite literally laughed in my face and told me “that I was unbeleivably naive to have come here without a booking” and that we’d have to “wild camp”. Well, well, well, that sounds like a challenge to me.

After a few hours of driving from village to village, we finally found a campsite set in the valley of a mountain range. The most expensive camping we’d ever experienced, but none the less absolutely spectacular. We set up our tent, cracked into a bottle of wine and watched the sun disappear behind the mountains.

Scott’s tent has been around the world with him. We laugh every time we sleep in it as we always seem to find some travel memorabilia hidden within its small poles and ropes. Its the curse of the travelling tent and in fact last time we slept in it, we found some kind of African currency! Not much use in the Lake District however…

The next day, fresh faced and ready for some exploring, we hit the lakes. They have got to be one of the most incredible landscapes I have ever seen.

Lakes so clear they appear to mirror the landscapes surrounding them. The unseasonable April weather also made for the most magical of spring side settings. Lambs patrolled the greenery and the leaves awakened from the warmth of the sun. We weren’t quite ready to leave our paradise, but Edinburgh was calling our names.

Ever wondered what a Kiwi looks like in Scotland?

Edinburgh gave us the perfect opportunity to use those bikes we’d dragged up the length of England, so we set off early in the morning on our two wheels and explored the cities amazing history. Waking up a little jaded the next day (the Scots love to get you drinking their local whiskeys) we set off and headed west towards Lock Lomand.

And WOW is it incredible. The road further north runs adjacent with the Loch and in the spring you’ll get uninterrupted views of the magnificent scenery. Boat trips of tourists gallivant up and down the crystal waters and you can spot castles and large mansions nestled in the quiet of the other side of the Loch. After 3 hours of driving we arrived in Fort William (home to Ben Nevis) and once again set up our tent. That night we gorged fillet steaks and fine red wine under the clear Scottish skies. I was loving this already.

The next day we made our way to the local tourist information centre (just outside the Morrison’s) and booked some Outer Hebrides ferries with the main provider Calmac. We’d booked our first ferry from Ullapool that evening so after pleading with the kind Scotsman at the campsite to let us keep our tent pitched in the grounds for a few days, we hit the road once again.

We headed north towards Inverness and once again the landscape just blew us away.

Take the road to the west of Loch Ness for the best views of the Loch. They’ll blow your mind.

After Inverness the landscape changes completely. No longer are you driving through lush green forests alongside mirror lakes. Oh no, everything turns dry and baron.

Its unnerving and eery.

But the roads are an entirely different story. Long, straight, amazing roads that allow you to enjoy the view in its entirety. The below photo is scarily similar to those I’d taken on the South Island of New Zealand.

We reached Ullapool in the early evening, hit up a local fish and chip shop and joined the que for the car ferry. We met travellers from all over the world on the ferry that evening and as we shared life stories under the setting Scottish sun, the view on Stornoway had everyone on their feet.

Stornoway is the largest town on the Isles of Harris and Lewis. The northern part of the island is Harris, famous for Harris Tweed, and is amazingly flat. The weather proof houses here are battered by the Atlantic weather and still to this day villagers burn the “peat” that covers this island as fire fuel for their homes. There are no trees and nothing in the way of protection, but it is the exposure of this island which creates its beauty.

After a full Scottish breakfast in our B&B we headed north from Stornoway to the most northern point on the Isle of Harris to the famous lighthouse. On our decent back through the isles you spot parts of history which have been left virtually untouched. They call them Blackhouses and are thousands of years old. You can freely walk up to and even explore the interior of these amazing small buildings and still to this day smell the peat which was once burnt inside.

On the Isle of Lewis, stone circles cover the landscape. Far larger and more impressive than Stone Henge, you can freely walk up to each circle and marvel in the mystery of these incredible formations.

Our last ferry of the journey took us from the most southern point of the Isle of Lewis to the northern tip of the tropical Isle of Skye. Unfortunately the evening winds had drawn in some clouds and we were desperate to get back to our tent in Fort William for more of that fine Scottish steak, that Scott put his foot down and we flew threw the Isle of Skye like there was no tomorrow.

And our final view of this amazing landscape was one worth pulling over for. We’d crossed the bridge connecting the Isle of Skye to Scotland and in the rear view mirror we saw the most magical of sunsets. The sun just breaking through the clouds and the enormous mountain range as a backdrop of the sheer beauty of the landscape.

And so I urge you, with all my will, please see our magical island. Those dark winter days are more bearable knowing how wonderful our land is and having travelled to New Zealand, Scotland is like the kiwi’s little sister.