Exploring Caithness

Caithness in the far north east corner of mainland Britain is full of ancient brochs, cairns and castles and gorgeous beaches. But hardly any people or traffic.

Caithness is the county that covers the far north east of Scotland. You might think it’s so far away that there won’t be much to do and see there apart from getting your picture taken at the John O’Groats sign, but you’d be wrong. You could really dedicate an entire holiday just to Caithness and still not see everything. Even though I’ve travelled round it several times I still have plenty of reasons to go back and I know I won’t run out of things to do any time soon.

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Exploring Thurso – Scotland’s most northerly town

Quirky gravestones, an old well and a nuclear power station control room are all good reasons for stopping off and exploring Thurso, Scotland’s most northerly town.

Thurso, in case you don’t know, is mainland Britain’s most northerly town. It sits right at the top of Scotland looking out across the sea to the Orkney Isles.

The north coast of Scotland is absolutely stunning and has so much to see and do, you might be tempted to just pass right by Thurso. I wouldn’t blame you for taking one look at that gorgeous coastline and thinking ‘town? – meh! – I can see towns any time, why would I waste my time visiting one now?’

I take your point, but before you make the decision have a read of this post as I think you might find it worth your while stopping off for a few hours.

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Exploring Mey – Scotland’s Homeliest Castle

The Queen Mother turned a derelict castle on the far north coast of Scotland into a beautiful home. I went to explore and found a place I never wanted to leave.

Who doesn’t love exploring an old castle? Whether it’s clambering around ruins or wandering through stately rooms decked out for the 1800s there’s just something about a castle that will pique most people’s interest.

The best kind of castle though, at least to me, is one I really could imagine living in. And to help facilitate my imagination it’s best if the castle actually looks like a home I’d want to live in; the sort where I really have to restrain myself from pulling a book off the shelves, flopping on the sofa, putting my feet up and pouring myself a coffee from the silver pot (there’s always a silver pot).

The Castle of Mey is just such a castle.

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Goodbye 2018 … Hello 2019!

I don’t believe in New Year resolutions as such, but I do think the ending of a year is a good time to review what went well and set some goals for the coming year.

I’ve just read over the post I wrote at the end of last year where I summed up how my year had been and what my goals were for this year. Of course, once I hit publish I barely looked at the post again and so had forgotten what I’d written. Even though I hadn’t been consciously thinking about what I’d written, those goals must have been firmly wedged into my mind somewhere because I’ve been working towards them all year anyway.

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How to Spend a Day in Corona, Queens

On my recent trip to New York I wanted to explore more than just Manhattan. So I spent a day in Corona, Queens. I found great Mexican food and got to see bears and the most ostentatious bathroom ever.

One of the reasons I chose to spend ten days in New York rather than just a week, was because I wanted to give myself chance to get the feel for the city. I knew I wanted to do all the big touristy stuff, but I also wanted to have time to sit in coffee shops and wander round back streets and generally pretend I was a New Yorker

Okay, so I knew that ten days was never going to do much more than lift the hatch on New York, but at least the hatch would be lifted. 

Ten days also meant I had time to get out of Manhattan. Technically I was out of Manhattan every day as I deliberately chose to stay in Brooklyn, but I also wanted to spend a day exploring somewhere that wasn’t Manhattan. I looked at ways of getting out to the Hamptons or upstate to the Catskills or even to some of the towns along the Hudson, as they all seemed the sorts of places New Yorkers would go when they wanted to get out of town. But none of them really worked for a day trip without a car. 

Step forward Corona, Queens. Yeah, I hadn’t heard of it either. Corona, that is. Of course I’ve heard of Queens. 

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25 Ways to Pretend to be a New Yorker

On my recent trip to New York I wanted to be more than a just a tourist. I wanted to get insider insights and feel like I could be a New Yorker. This is what I learnt.

The anthropologist in me is never content with just visiting a place and being a tourist. I like to feel I’m getting under the skin and finding out what it’s like to be a local there. This was even more important to me than usual when I made my first visit to New York in October. It’s a place I’ve dreamed about visiting for years decades. It’s a place I’ve seriously thought about spending a year in just so I can get to know it. It’s why it’s on my ‘60 things to do before I’m 60‘ list. 

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Exploring Wick

Wick in Scotland’s far north east has an interesting history that can be discovered on an easy to follow heritage walk. I spent a day exploring Wick and this is what I found.

I’ve always bypassed Wick when I’ve travelled up and down to the far north of Scotland. No particular reason other than that it’s a way off the main A9 route and I’ve always had other places I’ve wanted to visit. This time I was determined to stick to the coastal road and visit some of the places which have found fame since some clever marketing person coined the idea of the North Coast 500 route a few years ago. I’m looking at you Whaligoe Steps.

As I was going to be driving right through Wick it would have been too much of a missed opportunity not to stop and explore for a few hours.

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Exploring the Best of Rotterdam’s Architecture

Rotterdam deserves several days, but even if you only have one day you can still get a feel for the city and appreciate its regeneration. Here’s how to explore the best of Rotterdam’s architecture in one day.

Earlier this year I attended a travel blogging conference in Rotterdam and squeezed in an extra day which I spent exploring the best of Rotterdam’s architecture.

I hadn’t realised this was the theme for my day until afterwards when I was looking over everything I’d done that day. That everything seemed to be about architecture really sums up Rotterdam.

Rotterdam has struggled with second-city syndrome for years. Not only does it have to compete with Amsterdam (which would be stiff competition in any country), but it also has to compete which much smaller, but very much better known places like Delft. Continue reading “Exploring the Best of Rotterdam’s Architecture”

9 Things You Need to Know Before Using the New York Subway

My first forays on the New York subway made my head spin. As a seasoned traveller I didn’t think this was possible! As the New York subway has quirks you won’t find anywhere else I’ve made it easy for you by letting you in on 9 things you need to know about using the New York subway so you can be prepared before your first trip.

The New York subway is great. It runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week and there are stations everywhere. And it’s cheap – only $2.75 for a ride that could take you from one end of Manhattan to the far reaches of Queens or Brooklyn. There are no zones to worry about, it’s a one-size fits all system.

So using the subway to get around New York should be dead easy right? And it is. Sort of. So long as you take account of its quirks and allow yourself a bit of time to get your head round it without beating yourself up when you find yourself in completely the wrong part of Manhattan. Continue reading “9 Things You Need to Know Before Using the New York Subway”

Nightmare at Madame Tussaud’s

I thought Halloween would be the perfect time to share my Nightmare at Madame Tussaud’s with you. I didn’t realise editing the video would be an even bigger nightmare!

I hadn’t intended going to Madame Tussaud’s whilst I was in New York, but I found myself in Times Square one evening with not much else to do and it was just there. Lit up in front of me. It was still open and I had a pass that included free entry so thought I might as well go and see what it had to offer.

Well it was a complete nightmare. So horrific I had to make a video so I could share the experience in full with you.  Continue reading “Nightmare at Madame Tussaud’s”