Northern Ireland is different. To be honest, I had not expected much from this place and dare I say I did not plan this trip so meticulously perhaps this is why I was beyond surprised with what Belfast and surrounding areas had to offer. Here, I take you through some of my favourite points from our last holiday.

Belfast:

Belfast and Northern Ireland must see places

City Hall, Belfast

Many are quick to dismiss Belfast as a place with a wounded past nothing much to offer beyond its conflicted history. But hold those thoughts as Belfast would pleasantly surprise you. I had imagined Belfast to be grey and gloomy but only one trip to the city centre is enough to convince you of its grandeur, rich architecture and quirkiness.

The City Hall screams of underrated sophistication where as Cathedral Quarter located a few blocks away is filled with places where you can eat, drink and make merry. There is something decidedly edgy and trendy about this walk which overwhelms you pleasantly. Time really slows down when you are exploring the various interesting nooks and corners of this city and you would want more and more of it.

Belfast and Northern Ireland must see places

Beacon of Hope, Belfast

My favourite spot, however, was the brilliant water front. There is something calming about that spot where you can forget the hustle-bustle of the city, your own restless mind and see the river meandering through. Two sculptures which stood out for me here were the Beacon of Hope and the Big (Blue) Fish each reminding me of never letting go of hope and always remembering the bigger things in life. Other must-see places of Belfast are the Titanic Quarter, Peace Wall and St. George Market.

Game of Thrones:

I will be honest, I initially started thinking of Northern Ireland only for Game of Thrones. The rugged castles, gnarled woods and its raw beauty makes this place perfect for many Westerns locations. There are several tour guides operating here and based on your requirements and budget you can tailor make a trip for you.

Belfast and Northern Ireland must see places

The Arya Stark Bridge

If you are a fan then this tour is unmissable (can be done independently too). You can check out Stark’s home of Winterfell, the bridge where Arya runs to save herself from Waif, the ghoulish White Walkers and the caves of Cushenden, where Melisandre gives birth to the shadow baby.

Belfast and Northern Ireland must see places Game of Thrones

Dark Hedges, on the route Arya Stark, masquerading as a boy, took when when escaping King’s Landing.

Game of Thrones is almost like a mini-industry in and around Northern Ireland. Don’t be surprised if you run into extras or members of crew from this hit show. Both our GoT tour guide and Air BnB host were part of GoT cast and crew and needless to say gave us some interesting stories about the show and its main characters.

Coastal Drive to Giant Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge:

National Geographic mentions this coastal drive as one of the most scenic drives in the world and one has to take this trip to believe that it is in fact true. The hundred mile stretch boasts of some jaw-droopingly spectacular scenery. It is centred around the nine glens (valleys) of Antrim and you turn any which way you will see magnificent valleys, sprinkling water bodies, lush greenery everywhere.

Belfast and Northern Ireland must see places

Giants Causeway

Giant Causeway, itself is so amazing, that no superlatives can do justice to its beauty. Apparently a result of a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago; the rock formations are surreal. They are near perfect hexagon shaped tubes stacked neatly resembling a giant puzzle. The Giant’s Causeway is also steeped in myth and legend. Some say it was carved from the coast by the mighty giant, Finn McCool, who left behind an ancient home full of folklore.

Belfast and Northern Ireland must see places

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

On the opposite side of Giants Causeway, is the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge an ancient rope bridge. This is another stunning experience that Northern Ireland has to offer. Walk along an exhilarating coastal path awash with grassy slopes and rocky outcrops. You will see flower-rich meadows, the occasional grazing cattle, the magnificent views of Ratlin Island and Scottish Isles amidst the vast azure blue waters before actually arriving the entry of the rope bridge.

The bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede and it spans 20 metres (66 ft) and is 30 metres (98 ft) above the rocks below hill Mountains. If you are brave enough to see you will notice the sea below you dancing, thriving and teasing you whilst the swaying bridge would almost give you a feeling that you can descend down anytime.

Cave hill Mountains:

If you have been following my blog, you would know that I never ever miss a chance to go for a hike. Fortunately, my hubby shares my passion and despite our toddler we go for hikes whenever possible. There is something really therapeutic to be amidst wild, unpredictable and unassuming nature that inspires you infinitely.

Cave Hill overlooks Belfast and is nearby Belfast Zoo. Characterised by its famous Napoleon’s Nose; as the profile resembles the famous emperor; Cave Hill rises to almost 370 metres (1200 ft) above sea level. Most of its lower east side lies on the Belfast Castle estate, which has as its focal point the imposing 19th-century Scottish baronial castle.

Belfast and Northern Ireland Must See Places

The Caves which inspired Chronicles of Narnia

As you probably are aware, Northern Ireland has a rich literary history. Many authors like CS Lewis and Samuel Beckett came from this small country. Cave Hill has been an inspiration for several legendary literary work.  Cave Hill is thought to be the inspiration for Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Swift imagined that the Cave Hill resembled the shape of a sleeping giant safeguarding the city. The Caves inside the mountains (which we climbed with some difficulty) are said to be the inspiration behind Chronicles of Narnia.

Belfast and Northern Ireland Must See Places

On Top and that’s the whole city behind me

We navigated through some tricky slopes and encountered so many drops and caves to reach on top and once you are on top; the entire city comes so tantalisingly alive. Locals say on a clear day, you can see Scotland and Isle of Man from the peak.

Silent Valley and Ben Crom Reservoirs.

The Silent Valley Reservoir located in the Mourne Mountains near Kilkeel, County Down in Northern Ireland can easily be the best-kept secret of Northern Ireland and had I not bothered reading posters in the city airport, we would have easily missed this gem of a place.

Belfast and Northern Ireland Must See Places

Silent Valley

Easily about two hours away from Belfast (after the Bronte sister homeland), you know you are entering the reservoirs when you see majestic mountains cleverly sneaking from mist laden clouds. This place really feels like you are walking right inside a magnificent painting.

Secluded, peaceful and truly an oasis of calm, the reservoirs offer plenty of scenic trail walking routes and whichever route you choose you will see the incredible Mourne mountains dotted with beautiful towns and villas everywhere. 

If you are in Northern Ireland and want a place where you genuinely can clear your head and rejuvenate your body, mind and spirit then this is the place. The beauty of this place will make any challenge you are facing inconsequential and small.

Thank you for reading. Hope you enjoyed this travel post. Have a great weekend and do not forget to follow me. You can also follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

If you like me are one of those who make full-use of the last few days of summer, then stay put, this post is especially for you. Surprisingly, UK has seen a rather glorious summer this year (given the usual meh standards) and though we are nearing September it still looks promising. If you are looking for ideas to spend with the family for the next few days (or are bookmarking ideas for next year) then here are few:

Mayfield Lavender Farm, Surrey:

There is something gloriously luxurious about the calming fragrance of Lavender wafting through the air and 25 acres of beautiful lavender blooms filling your senses. This summer, this has been one of my favourite activities. The Mayfield Lavender Farm is a must place if you would just like to spend a great day amidst beautiful Lavender flowers and go crazy taking photographs. This place is certainly buzzing with photographers (and posers alike). And whilst there is not much to do it definitely can be a great outdoor activity. The Lavender Farm is only open till September 14 so hurry. (Outfit details).

Shirt dress over jeans style

Berry Picking:

Bomber Jacket Fashion

This activity has been our favourite activity this year. Who knew that picking strawberries and other berries could be so therapeutic. I honestly do not know who enjoyed this activity the most: me or the toddler? There are several strawberry picking farms in UK, my pick is the West Green Fruits in Hampshire (Hartley Whitney): a beautiful 20 acre area where you can pick not just strawberries but raspberries, rhubarbs, black currants and a host of other veggies. Just be mindful as this is a seasonal activity, if you have not done it yet, you might have to wait for another year (but I promise it is worth the wait).

Littlehampton Beach, Sussex

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Beach is synonymous with summer and once again an activity that knows no limit. There are several beaches in and around Hampshire from West Wittering, Bognor Regis and South Sea Pebble Beach. Litthampton beach tucked away in Litthehampton is a sand and shingle beach boasting of a bustling marina and harbour and a brilliant contemporary architecture. Play with your little one(s) on the beach building sand castles, put your feet up in the marina area or enjoy a nice grub in the plethora of restaurants here. Littlehampton beach definitely has something for everyone and you will not regret driving down to here. (Outfit details)

For more Family Days Out ideas check out here.

Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed this post. Have a great week and do not forget to follow me for more such great posts on travel, parenting and fashion 🙂

You can also follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

 

 

 

As I mentioned here, Cotswolds is a gentle haven for travelers, wanderers and those looking to connect with themselves. Every village will leave you a bit surprised, happy and relax your weary mind. I have already mentioned about the three popular villages of Bourton on Water, Lower Slaughter and Chipping Campden. Here, I continue with other lovely villages and various attractions we had the pleasure to explore couple of weeks ago.

Stow-on-the-Wold:

Cotswolds attractions

Cotswolds attractions

 

Located on top of an 800 ft hill, Stow-on-the-Wold is a small market town and civil parish. This village was once the business centre of Cotswolds as several exquisite fairs were held here which attracted the best of local business. The first annual fair was established in 1330 by King Edward III. It was held for seven days every August but by 1476 was replaced with two five-day fairs.

The aim of these annual fairs was to establish Stow as a place to trade, and to take control of the unpredictable passing trade. These fairs were located in the square, which is still the town centre. Today, this square is filled with a plethora of antique shops, specialty wool shops and indigenous fashion shops. Stow is definitely a paradise for treasure seeks. Unfortunately, by the time we reached here most of the shops were closed which meant that my purse did not get any chance to become light.

Another main attraction of Stow is the St. Edward’s Church (pictured above). I am one of those people who finds an ancient church (and even cemeteries) extremely romantic and this 11th century Church is certainly one of the most romantic Churches I have ever visited. It is intimate, cosy and a strong sense of character to it. Definitely not to be missed.

Blockley:

Cotswolds

 

The village of Blockley was once the centre of silk production with several silk mills burgeoning here since the 18th century. The legacy of its silky past continues with most street signs named as one mill or the other and its collection of golden hued buildings.

blockley church-7

Cotswolds

Aside from the rather enjoyable walk along the beautiful countryside; take a trip down to the charming Norman Church (SS Peter & Paul Church) located at the centre of the village. This Church dates back to 1180 and was featured in last year’s TV series Father Brown. It is again a rather inviting Church with an intimate garden and cemetery which will instantly transport to a bygone era.

Broadway:

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broadway-7

 

Located in the English county of Worcestershire; Broadway is often referred to as, “Jewel of the Cotswold.” Known for its sheer beauty and magnificence, several writers and artists like Oscar Wilde, Claude Monet, English textile designer William Morris and English composer Edward Elgar had made Broadway their home to draw inspiration from its beauty and location.

Broadway is flanked with a mix of Tudor, Stuart and Georgian buildings which lends this place a brilliant charm. Today, it is also another thriving centre of arts and antiques and hence it makes perfect sense to browse through its craft and antique shops for unknown treasures.

When you are here don’t forget the Snowshill Manor, a perfect spot to enjoy the unblemished green marshy plains surrounding this village and losing yourself to the pristine beauty of nature.

Hope you enjoyed this post on Cotswolds. Thanks for reading. As always likes and comments are most welcome. And don’t forget to follow me 😉

With its honey-chocolate coloured cottages, soft undulating farmland, picturesque villages, narrow cobbled roads and crystal clear streams, Cotswolds is a place which will fiercely compete for your attention and will win without much ado. According to Wikipedia, “The Cotswolds are a range of hills in southwestern and west-central England, an area 25 miles (40 km) across and 90 miles (145 km) long. The area has been designated as the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

“Quaint” is a word that springs in my mind every time I think of Cotswolds; there are a cluster of villages consisting of cosy, little cottages and buildings built in stone and surrounded by farms and farmland. A perfect place for wanderers, lovers, artists, dreamers and poets to get lost in the beauty of unadulterated, pristine nature.

We reached Cotswolds after an hour and half journey from Hampshire. It is quite easy to know that you have reached Cotswolds because the roads become decidedly narrow and have a rolling terrain here; where ever you turn you can spot either green, marshy farmland or tall deciduous trees forming a gentle canopy. Cotswolds, hence is a haven for drivers, cyclists and bikers.

But don’t be put off if you are an avid walker (like me); Cotswolds is definitely a place where you can walk for ages without a nary of tiredness to bring you down. It is next to impossible to explore whole of Cotswolds in one trip and here I bring to you six of the best villages we visited during our mini-break.

 

1)     Bourton on the Water:

Broughton on water village, cotswolds attraction

Known as the Venice of Cotswolds; this little village is one of the most popular destinations here and a big tourist attraction. I was actually going to give it a miss precisely for this reason but thank God I did not. Cotswolds’ main river—River Windrush—passes through this village and the crystal clear stream lined with carpet-soft lawn and shaded by tall, mature trees gives this place an understated charm.

A perfect place to enjoy a lovely picnic along the banks of the stream; Bourton on the Water has a decidedly romantic vibe to it. Enjoy the lovely walk around the stream or simply take out your mat, spread it across the lawn and take in the blossoming spring flowers, the beauty of the leafy neighbourhood and simply do nothing.

model village cotswolds attractions

 

Cotswolds attractions

Don’t miss the model village when you are here. Kids (or those who are young at heart) will definitely love the model village—this Grade II listed landmark has 1/9th scale replica of the village. Fine detailing and fascinating workmanship brings out the uninhibited charm of the village.

2)     Lower Slaughter:

cotswolds attractions

 

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Don’t let the morbid name of the village put you off. This village is famous for having the most romantic street of UK (2011) and it is a well-deserved title. Once again the river Windrush criss crosses this village and there are several walking paths you can take; we decided to stick to one near the stream with green tall trees on one side and perfect box sized, beautiful cottages on the other.

When you are here the Old mill (now a shop) on the end of the village is a must-visit. The beauty of this village you can still see signs of ancient life and traditions as well as modernity in one stop. Definitely a place not to miss.

3)      Chipping Campden:

chipping campden cotswolds

chipping campden1-7

 

 

Slightly further from other villages; Chipping Campden actually shares its border with Warwickshire—Shakespeare’s County. Another quintessentially pretty village; it is definitely bigger than the other two.

This small market town is notable for its elegant terraced High Street, dating from the 14th century to the 17th century. It was once a rich wool trading centre in the Middle Ages, and the place enjoyed the patronage of wealthy wool merchants. Today the high street is filled with a myriad of tea shops, pubs, ingenious shops and antique centers (not your average high street; thank God), this village is a perfect place to fill the fuel with some proper locally made cakes and sweets as well as walk properly.

Starting from the old Market Hall is a 4 mile loop trail which will take you through the village streets as well as woodlands nearby. I was quite surprised to know that the Market Hall is centuries old because it has still kept its original style and structure intact—definitely a feat in this race  for development.

I will bring you the next three beautiful villages of Cotswolds, the various attractions and where to stay in the coming days 🙂

Hope you enjoyed this post and would give Cotswolds a try. Don’t forget to Like, Comment or Follow me, I always follow back.

Stratford-upon-Avon, situated on the river Avon in the English county of Warwickshire, is decidedly an idyllic town. Best known to be the birthplace and hometown of William Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon is a town where time meanders slowly, cut off from the cantankerous spirit of a bustling city. As you enter this town’s winding little streets you will notice that Shakespeare still continues to dominate the place. The five Bard-linked properties: Shakespeare’s birthplace ( image below), Nash’s house, Hall’s Croft, New Place and Anne Hathway (Shakespeare’s wife) Cottage remains the heart of this town and it continues to draw travelers from all over UK and world even now.

Shakespeare's House UK attractions

Our first stop was Henley Street, where stands the famous landmark—Shakespeare’s birth house. It is quite easy to spot the house. Among the plethora of new age shops, tiny, intimate cafes and teahouses stands a half timber house where Shakespeare was born and brought up along with his brothers and sisters. As you enter the house, you will first notice a hall of fame which includes names like Judi Dench, Star Trek’s Patrick Stewart and former Doctor Who David Tennant, all of whom have enjoyed acclaim in Shakespearean roles at Stratford in addition to their on-screen stardom.

In the Courtyard, between the reception centre and the House, you would see costumed actors performing snippets from some of the best-known plays. The managers who run the show today have made quite an effort to retain the authenticity of the house; you will notice how the parlour, the hall, Shakespeare’s dad’s workshop and bed chamber are furnished as they might have looked in 1574 (unfortunately, there is a no photography policy). An exhibition runs which tells us about the times gone by and explains how part of the house became a public house in 1601. My favourite bit of the house? A literary graffiti featuring autographs of literary gems like Ivanhoe’s writer Walter Scott’s signature. This, I thought truly made the house a literature haven.

stratford-upon-Avon UK attractions

UK attractions Stratford-Upon-Avon

From here, we headed towards the Holy trinity Church in-between stopping at the Stratford Upon Avon Canal, which was built between 1793 and 1816. A spot to enjoy some peace and quiet, the Canal does not offer much except wind-swept trees looking rather stupendous in twilight, clear water, panoramic view of the town and a peaceful silence to keep you for company.

The Church and the canal is separated by an intimate garden. A gurgling stream giving out a beautiful reflection of the Church, evening winter mist hanging around its vicinity and tall, almost kissing trees on both sides gives this place an almost eerie feeling but it somehow added to its uninhibited, natural charm.

UK attractions travel

Holy Trinity Church UK travel attractions

The Holy Trinity Church also popularly called Shakespeare’s Church is the place where Shakespeare is buried. The Church has an attractive approach; with its pathway lined by trees that represent the tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles. Holy Trinity Church was one of the first churches in England where an admission fee was charged; even in 1906 visitors were asked to pay six pence each to enter.

Shakespeare, apparently died on his 52nd birthday of a fever which was said at the time to have been the result of a ‘merry meeting’ with fellow poets Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton. It is believed they all drank too much in that meeting.

Holy Trinity Church, UK attractions

As night was falling rapidly, we decided to call it a day and started our way back home but we walked past the old town briefly stopping before Hall’s Croft formerly the home of Shakespeare’s daughter Susannah and her husband Doctor John Hall. This White painted carved house lends the street a dignified character; it also feels that the place is slightly struck in a time warp with vintage style houses flanking its sides. Wondering how Shakespeare’s lineage ended? The death of childless Elizabeth (his granddaughter) in 1670 brought Shakespeare’s direct line of descent to an end.

UK travel attractions

Stratford-Upon-Avon is a town steeped in history, natural beauty, legacy and literature. It is also the town where theatre continues to mushroom. The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) runs four theatres here: the Courtyard theatre, the Royal Shakespeare theatre, the Swan theatre and the other place. Unfortunately, because of time constraint we couldn’t experience the theatre scene but that gives me a reason to go back.