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A Little About Us

Travel blog aimed at mature, independent travellers who like to plan their own holidays. The blog is based on our own travels and walking holidays in beautiful places such as Iceland, The Azores and Peru, and contains accounts of our experiences, advice, links to resources and lots of photography.

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    A Short Break in South Cumbria – For Lovers of the Gentle Outdoors

    A short break to visit gardens and nature reserves in South Cumbria The post A Short Break in South Cumbria – For Lovers of the Gentle Outdoors appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

    Matt and I recently spent a lovely three-night break in the countryside near Cartmel in southern Cumbria.

    There was a time when visiting Cumbria was, for us, all about hill walking in the Lakeland fells and conquering every summit.  But now we are older, heavier, and (perhaps) a little wiser, we like to enjoy the great outdoors in a more gentle manner.

    Lake in the grounds of Sizergh Castle, Cumbria

    Lake in the grounds of Sizergh Castle, Cumbria

    We are discovering all the great places we missed when getting up high was the only objective!  If you love nature and wildlife, the best places are often in lower lying and sometimes remote locations.  You don’t have to push yourself to the limit to enjoy being in fantastic surroundings, and to discover great countryside, gardens and wildlife.

    Cumbrian countryside, England

    Cumbrian countryside

    If, like us, you love being outdoors in great countryside and love nature reserves and gardens, here are some ideas in a less frequented area of Cumbria.

    Sizergh Castle 

    Sizergh Castle, Cumbria, England

    Sizergh Castle

    We passed close to the National Trust property Sizergh Castle on our journey to Cartmel, so this seemed like an excellent place to visit on our first day.

    Because our short break was in November, the house itself was closed (as were many other stately homes and gardens in the area).   But the gardens and parkland were open, as well as the excellent cafe with a great outdoor terrace.

    The gardens, which include a national collection of ferns, were absolutely splendid in their autumn colours.  Don’t be put off visiting because the house is closed – it is still a great place for a stroll.  Here are some pictures.

    Autumn in the gardens at Sizergh Castle, Cumbria, England

    Wonderful autumn leaves in the gardens

    Gardens in Sizergh Castle, Cumbria, England

    Path through the gardens including some of the fern collection

    Golden autumn maple leaves

    Beautiful autumn maple leaves

    Reflections in the lake at Sizergh Castle, Cumbria, England

    Reflections in the lake

    In addition to the gardens, there are several laid out trails in the surrounding parkland.  Unfortunately there had been recent rain when we visited, and the trails were boggy.  We didn’t want to arrive at our hotel covered in mud, so we saved the trails for another day.

    Sheep in a field

    Sheep in the parkland

    If you regularly visit National Trust properties, membership makes a lot of sense.  Follow the link above for full details.

    For more information about Sizergh Castle’s location, opening times, admission costs for non-members and facilities follow this link to Sizergh.



    Walney Island

    Lighthouse at South Walney Island, Cumbria, England

    Lighthouse on Walney Island

    It is a bit of a trek to get to Walney Island, which is right at the southernmost tip of Cumbria, connected to Barrow in Furness by a bridge.  If you like remote places, it is so worth the trip.  When you get to Ulverston choose the scenic coastal route to Barrow in Furness – the views are stunningly beautiful.

    We went to visit Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s South Walney Nature Reserve, which is an absolute gem.  To visit the reserve you follow a long, narrow track to the southern point of the island.  This takes you through a wonderful landscape of salt marsh and tidal creeks.  There are lots of gulls, ducks, herons and other wading birds, depending on the tide.  Speaking of the tide it is worth checking a tide table before you set off, because the track can occasionally be inundated in very high tides or bad weather.

    The reserve itself has a car park, a small visitor centre, and good toilets.  There are excellent tracks around the reserve, and a lot of very good hides.  You can walk for several miles if you wish, or just have gentle stroll.  Depending on where you are on the reserve there are fantastic views to the offshore wind farm, the Cumbrian hills, Piel Castle and across Morecambe Bay.

    The coastal habitats attract many birds, and the reserve is particularly known for its grey seal colony.  The seals are regularly seen around high tide.  We didn’t see any seals hauled out on the shore, but got great views of them playing in the sea as the tide went out.  We absolutely loved the reserve, and hope to return.

    South Walney Nature Reserve, Cumbria, England

    Wide open views at South Walney Nature Reserve

    South Walney Nature Reserve, Cumbria, England

    One of the hides and more distant Piel Castle on Piel Island

    Piel Castle on Piel Island, Cumbria, England

    View of Piel Castle on Piel Island

    South Walney Nature Reserve, Cumbria, England

    Great track along the coast

    South Walney Nature Reserve, Cumbria, England

    Great habitat for bird watching



    Leighton Moss via the Kent Viaduct

    Lake and reed beds at Leighton Moss, Lancashire, England

    Lake and reed beds at Leighton Moss, Lancashire, England

    We visited the RSPB reserve at Leighton Moss quite recently (see our post on Arnside).  But it is such a great reserve that we couldn’t stay so close and not visit again.

    A fantastic way to get to Leighton Moss from the southern Lake District, is to take the train over the Kent Viaduct.  You park at the station in Grange over Sands, and get a train to Silverdale.  From Silverdale Station, it is only 250m to the entrance to the reserve.

    Trains run regularly (approximately once an hour – timetables), and tickets only cost just over three pounds.  Make sure you ask for a return ticket because they are hardly any more expensive than singles.  The journey takes around 10 minutes (much less than driving), and is very scenic.

    Kent Estuary viaduct at Arnside, Cumbria, England

    Kent Estuary viaduct

    Leighton Moss is actually just outside the Cumbrian boundary, in Lancashire.  It is a wonderful reserve, with extensive reed beds, wetlands, and loads of wildlife.  There are also great visitor facilities including a cafe, shop, binocular sales, information, play areas for children and regular events.

    There is always something to see here.  The garden and woodland birds are incredibly tame, and there are regular sightings of otters, bearded tits and marsh harriers.  We had fantastic repeated views of the marsh harriers, and had a great day roaming around the excellent paths and hides.  After a short shower the afternoon light gave the reeds a lovely golden glow, and we saw the rainbow in the photo below.

    Sunlight after rain at Leighton Moss Nature Reserve, Lancashire, England

    Sunlight on the reeds and a rainbow after a shower at Leighton Moss

    Reeds and lake at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve, Lancashire, England

    View over one of the lakes

    Robin (Erithacus rubecula) in a tree

    One of the reserve’s exceptionally tame robins

    For more information about the reserve see Leighton Moss.  For RSPB membership see RSPB.

    Other Places to Visit in South Cumbria

    Follow the links for more places to visit (note some places have limited opening hours in winter months).

    Where to Stay

    We stayed in the charming Aynsome Manor hotel, which is situated just outside the lovely (but busy) village of Cartmel.  The hotel has an attractive restaurant room with a great view over the surrounding hills.  Breakfasts were excellent, and there was a daily changing menu with good choice for evening meals.  Our room was very comfortable, and the staff were great.  The hotel appeals more to older guests, but note that they do not have a lift.

    Other good places to stay would be Grange over Sands or Ulverston To search a vast range of accommodation options in Cumbria see booking.com.

    For a general guide book of places to visit in Cumbria we recommend the AA Guide

    For a detailed map of the area we recommend the OS Landranger



     

    The post A Short Break in South Cumbria – For Lovers of the Gentle Outdoors appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.


    Yorkshire Nature Reserves

    A review of some excellent nature reserves to visit in Yorkshire The post Yorkshire Nature Reserves appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

    Matt and I have recently been exploring nature reserves in the region around our Yorkshire home.  I can’t believe we have lived here for over 30 years, and explored so much, but never realised how many excellent reserves there are within easy reach of York.

    Birch trees in the woods at Barlow Common nature reserve, Yorkshire, England

    Birch trees in the woods at Barlow Common

    Here are photos and information about our favourites.  My skills as a wildlife photographer are limited, but I hope the photos will give you an idea of how excellent these reserves are.  All are definitely worth a visit, whether you are a keen birdwatcher, a plant lover, or just enjoy a good walk surrounded by wonderful nature.  Now we have discovered them, we will be returning again and again.

    Greylag geese in flight at Staveley Nature Reserve, Yorkshire, England

    Gregylag geese flying over Staveley Nature Reserve

    If you are interested in membership of the RSPB or the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, just follow the links.  Hopefully I will add more reserves to this page in the near future, so do keep checking back.  And if you know of others worthy of inclusion, please do let us know!

     

    RSPB Reserves

    Blacktoft Sands

    Blacktoft Sands nature reserve, East Yorkshire, England

    Tidal wetlands, reed beds and waterfowl at Blacktoft Sands

    Blacktoft Sands is just within the Yorkshire county boundary.  It is situated on the south bank of the River Ouse, just before the Ouse joins the Humber, close to Goole and Scunthorpe.

    Blacktoft Sands nature reserve and a ship on the River Ouse, East Yorkshire, England

    Tidal habitat at Blacktoft Sands, and a ship passing on the higher River Ouse

    Blacktoft Sands is one of the largest tidal reed beds in the UK, and is a fantastic reserve.  There are six excellent hides, with great views over the tidal pools and reeds.   Good paths link the hides, and the distances between them are quite small.

    Reeds at Blacktoft Sands Nature Reserve, East Yorkshire, England

    Reeds at Blacktoft Sands Nature Reserve in late afternoon sun

    The bird life varies with the tides and seasons, but there is always something to see here.  And you get great close up views from the hides.

    On a recent visit we saw numerous black-tailed godwits, redshanks, wigeon, teal, herons, lapwings and many more.  There is a resident population of tree sparrows, which is easy to observe at a well-placed feeder.  We also got a great view of a marsh harrier, and were able to watch this lovely snipe feeding right in front of one of the hides.

    Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) in grass at Blacktoft Sands, East Yorkshire, England

    Snipe feeding in the grass in front of one of the hides

    Facilities at Blacktoft Sands

    • Car park and small visitor centre
    • Toilets including accessible toilets
    • Good paths and excellent hides (some with wheelchair access)
    • Assistant dogs only

    For more information, and charges for non-RSPB members, see Blacktoft Sands.

    Konik ponies grazing at Blacktoft Sand nature reserve, East Yorkshire, England

    Konik ponies – resident grazers at Blacktoft Sands

    Sunset at Blacktoft Sands Nature Reserve, East Yorkshire, with a flock of fieldfares

    Sunset at Blacktoft Sands Nature Reserve, with a flock of fieldfares

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    Fairburn Ings

    Fairburn Ings RSPB reserve, Yorkshire, England

    Lakes at Fairburn Ings with Fairburn village in the background

    Fairburn Ings is one of our favourite reserves.  The reserve contains a number of lakes and ponds on different levels, in what used to be a coal face.   The lakes are connected by good paths through beautiful woodland.  From higher ground there are great views over the reserve and the surrounding countryside.

    Path through the woods at Fairburn Ings, Yorkshire, England

    Path through the woods

    The paths are suitable for all seasons and abilities.  There are excellent hides and screens to watch the wildlife, and plenty of benches when you want a picnic.   The reserve is large enough to walk for several miles if you wish.

    River Aire seen from Fairburn Ings nature reserve, Yorkshire, England

    View of the River Aire from one of the paths on the reserve

    There is always wildlife to be seen here, particularly wildfowl and waders at the lakes.  On recent visits we saw great white egret, little egret, grey heron, curlew, wigeon, teal, shoveler, great crested grebe, little grebe, merganser, marsh harrier, buzzard, kestrel, and many others.  We also saw dragonflies, butterflies, and on one of our visits impressive numbers of ladybirds!

    Other species regularly recorded on the reserve include kingfishers, bitterns, sparrow hawks, red kites and otters – we will definitely keep returning!

    Birds on a lake at the RSPB Fairburn Ings reserve, Yorkshire, England

    Mute swans, coots and cormorants on one of the lakes

    Facilities at Fairburn Ings

    • Two car parks (one at the main entrance and one at the end of the reserve at Lin Dike).   There is a charge at the main entrance car park (free for RSPB members)
    • Visitor centre, shop and binocular hire
    • Refreshments with indoor seating and outdoor picnic areas
    • Toilets including accessible toilets, and many paths accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs
    • Excellent hides
    • Activities for children and special events
    • Dogs allowed

    For more information see Fairburn Ings.

    Bird hide in Fairburn Ings Nature Reserve, Yorkshire, England, surrounded by autumn foliage

    One of the hides at Fairburn Ings, nestled amongst splendid autumn colours

    *************************************************************************************

    St Aidan’s Nature Park

    Reeds and wetlands at St Aidan's Nature Park, Yorkshire, England

    Reeds and wetlands at St Aidan’s Nature Park

    St Aidan’s Nature Park, like nearby Fairburn Ings, occupies a disused coal mining site close to the River Aire near Leeds.  As at Fairburn, there are numerous lakes and ponds connected by an extensive network of good paths.

    Mute swan and cygnets at St Aidan's Nature Park, Yorkshire, England

    Mute swan and cygnets

    However, despite the proximity to Fairburn, the two reserves are very different in character.  St Aidan’s is much more open and exposed, with big wide views over the wetlands and reed beds.

    Wetlands and reed beds at St Aidan's Nature Park, Yorkshire, England

    Wetlands and reed beds

    The wetlands are a hive of activity with various water birds, and there is always something to see.  You can walk for several miles here using the paths on the reserve and also the adjacent path beside the River Aire.

    Wetlands at St Aidan's Nature Park, Yorkshire, England
    Open views across the wetlands at St Aidan’s

    However be aware that there are no hides or shelters on the reserve, so it is very exposed.  If you plan to visit on a wet or windy day, go prepared!  The reserve is quite new, and hides are being planned for the future.

    There are some benches around the site that are suitable for picnic stops.

    Greylag geese flying over St Aidan's Nature Park, Yorkshire, England

    Greylag geese flying over the reserve

    Facilities at St Aidan’s

    • Car park (charge, but free for RSPB members)
    • Small visitor centre
    • Light refreshments
    • Toilets
    • Excellent paths

    For more information see St Aidan’s Nature Park.

    Sunset at St Aidan's nature reserve, Yorkshire, England

    Sunset at St Aidan’s

    *************************************************************************************

    Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Reserves

    Barlow Common

    Barlow Common nature reserve is situated just south of Selby, off the A1041.  It is literally in the shadow of Drax Power Station, but is a haven of peace and tranquility.

    Lake at Barlow Common, with the towers of Drax Power Station in the background, Yorkshire, England

    Lake at Barlow Common, with the towers of Drax Power Station in the background

    We visited the reserve on a glorious autumn day, as you can see from the photos.  The colours were just stunning, as was a flying display given by an obliging buzzard.

    Autumn foliage at Barlow Common Nature Reserve, Yorkshire, England

    Beautiful autumn foliage

    Golden autumn foliage at Barlow Common, Yorkshire, England

    More fantastic autumn colours

    The reserve consists of lakes, meadows and beautiful mature woodland.  It has good paths to enable an easy circular walk with plenty of benches and a picnic area.

    When we visited there were teasels everywhere.  We will definitely visit again in the spring and summer – this must be a fantastic for bees and butterflies as well as birds.

    Teasels in autumn

    Teasels

    If you visit, be sure not to miss a second circular route through oak and birch woodland.  It is a short and very easy circuit through beautiful trees, and definitely worthwhile – see the map in the reserve to find the entrance.

    Birch tree trunks at Barlow Common Nature Reserve, Yorkshire, England

    Birch trees in the woods

    Facilities at Barlow Common

    • Small visitor centre (closed when we visited)
    • Toilets
    • Picnic area and benches
    • Good paths with carved marker posts

    For more information see Barlow Common.

    Buzzard (Buteo buteo)

    Buzzard soaring overhead at Barlow Common

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    North Cave Wetlands

    Lake at North Cave Wetlands nature reserve, East Yorkshire, England

    View over a lake to one of the hides at North Cave Wetlands

    North Cave Wetlands is a fantastic reserve, which will become even better in the near future.  The reserve has been created from a former quarry.  A further 100 hectares, which is currently still in use as a quarry, is going to be added to the reserve within the next few years.  It will then be a huge area of deep and shallow lakes, meadow and paths.

    Map of North Cave Wetlands reserve, showing planned future developments, East Yorkshire, England

    Map of the reserve, showing planned developments

    When we visited in late summer we saw lots of dragonflies and butterflies, as well as many birds on the lakes.

    Common darter dragonfly (Sympetrum striolatum)

    Common darter dragonfly

    Amongst the birds were many little egrets on the islands, as can be seen in the photo below.

    Little egrets at North Cave Wetlands, East Yorkshire, England

    Little egrets on one of the islands

    Facilities at North Cave Wetlands

    • Car park and mobile refreshments
    • Toilets
    • Information boards
    • Good paths
    • Excellent hides
    • Dogs not allowed on the reserve

    For more information see North Cave Wetlands.

    Pathway between hedges at North Cave Wetlands, East Yorkshire, England

    Pathway in North Cave Wetlands reserve

    ************************************************************************************



    Spurn Point

    Approaching the lighthouse on Spurn Point, East Yorkshire, England

    Approaching the lighthouse on Spurn Point

    Spurn Point is a unique reserve, consisting of a vulnerable spit of land jutting out from the Holderness coast to the mouth of the Humber Estuary.  There used to be a road to the end of the point, but part of this was washed away in a tidal surge in December 2013.  Access is now on foot or cycle, and is not safe during very high tides, when part of the route may become inundated.

    Dunes and shore at Spurn Point, East Yorkshire, England

    View from the dunes at low tide

    It is a bit of a trek to get there, so if you plan to visit make sure you check the ‘Do not cross’ times on the Spurn Point website before you set off.

    From the car park you can walk as far as you wish along the point, and there are various side trails to explore.  It is around 4 miles to the lighthouse (which you can visit at certain times), and a little further to the tip of the point.  No matter how far you walk, it is always exhilerating being here, with wide open views on both  sides.

    Offshore wind farm seen from Spurn Point, East Yorkshire, England

    Offshore wind farm seen from the path

    There are good chances of seeing wildlife on the shore and in the dunes.  Spurn is well known for its migrating birds, and is also a great place to see various insects and mammals.  On a recent visit we saw a roe deer in the dunes, a seal just offshore, and this interesting convolvulus hawk moth caterpillar which was crossing the main path.

    Convolvulus hawk moth caterpillar

    Convolvulus hawk moth caterpillar

    Facilities at Spurn Point

    • Pay and display car park (free for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Members)
    • Excellent visitor centre with educational displays
    • Regular organised activities including Spurn Safaris in an all terrain vehicle
    • Toilets, including accessible toilets
    • Good cafe
    • Mainly good paths, but there is soft sand to cross at the wash-over zone, and note information about ‘Do not cross’ times on the YWT website below.
    • Hides, nature trails and history trails
    • Dogs not allowed on the reserve

    For more information see Spurn Point.

    Sandy shore at Spurn Point nature reserve, East Yorkshire, England

    Sandy shore at Spurn Point

    *************************************************************************************

    Staveley Nature Reserve

    Herons at Staveley Nature Reserve, North Yorkshire, England

    Herons at Staveley Nature Reserve

    Staveley, situated close to Boroughbridge, is another lovely reserve to visit.  It is quite a large site, with wetlands, grassland and good paths and hides.

    Bird hide at Staveley Nature Reserve, North Yorkshire, England

    One of the hides at Staveley Nature Reserve

    Otters, barn owls and red kites are often seen here.  There are several orchid species flowering in summer, and lots of butterflies and dragonflies.  Even if you are not lucky enough to see the star species, there is always something to see on the various ponds and lakes.

    Birds on a lake in Staveley Nature Reserve, North Yorkshire, England

    Birds enjoying one of the peaceful lakes

    On a recent visit we enjoyed great views of herons, and large flocks of lapwings catching the light as they flocked above the lakes.

    Lapwings at Staveley Nature Reserve, North Yorkshire, England

    Lapwings flocking above the lake

    Facilities at Staveley

    • Car park just outside Staveley village (see YWT website below)
    • Extensive network of paths
    • Good hides
    • Dogs allowed on leads

    For more information see Staveley Nature Reserve

    Staveley Nature Reserve

    Staveley Nature Reserve

    *************************************************************************************

    I will be adding more reserves to this list in the future, so please do keep checking back!

    For reserves and country parks on both sides of the Humber Bridge, please see our post Humber Bridge.

    To join the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust or the RSPB, follow the links.

    If you would like to stay in Yorkshire, you can search for accommodation using this link to booking.com.

    For more ideas for places to visit in Yorkshire we recommend the Rough Guide to Yorkshire.

    And just a quick final request – we are always saddened at how much litter we see, even on nature reserves.  Please, please – take your litter home!



    Please remember that this site is based purely on our own experiences – therefore kindly note the Disclaimer.

    Reeds

    Reeds at Staveley Nature Reserve

    The post Yorkshire Nature Reserves appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.


    Need a Gift for Someone Who Loves the Outdoors? Here Are Some Great Ideas.

    Here is a great range of gift ideas for people who like being outdoors The post Need a Gift for Someone Who Loves the Outdoors? Here Are Some Great Ideas. appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

    If you know someone who loves walking, nature or just being in the great outdoors, here are some great gift ideas.  There are prices to suit all pockets!

    For people who love to travel please also see our recent post on Travel-Related Gifts.

    (Please note that the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links we will receive a very small commission.  This is how we fund Self Arranged Journeys, and if you do decide to purchase one of these great gifts your support will be very much appreciated.)

    Solar Device Charger

    We rely so much on our phones and tablets these days, that it can be a real hassle if they run out of charge.  For someone who spends a lot of time outdoors a solar charger is a great idea.

    It can even hang on a backpack and be charging a phone as you walk!

    The examples shown here are all available from Amazon.  For further details click on the images, or for more options see Solar power banks.

    Cloud Identification Wheel

    This handy carry-around device is an aid to identifying over 20 different types of clouds!

    Cloud Selector, Cloud Identification Wheel

    It is durable and weatherproof, and is available from Stanfords for £8.99 – click on the image for further details (worldwide delivery available).

    Fleece-Lined Beanie

    Just the job when the weather turns chilly!

    These are fun, practical, and look as good in town as they do on a hill.

    These examples are all available from Amazon. Just click on the images for further details, or see Fleece lined beanie hats for more options.

    Waterproof Phone Case

    Perfect for protecting a valuable phone in a deluge, if dropped in a puddle – or even when going for a swim!

    The example shown is certified waterproof to a depth of 6 meters, and will also protect against dust and sand.  It comes with a detachable lanyard, and has a clear window front and back so you can access the camera and touchscreen without removing the phone.  It will take any phone up to 6.7 inch size, and also MP3 players.

    It is available from Amazon – click on the image for further information, or see Waterproof Phone Cases for many more examples.

    Torch

    Not just for night-time use – a decent torch can come in handy for exploring caves or, as I know from experience in Madeira, walking through long tunnels.

    The one shown above (available from Amazon) has adjustable focus, is waterproof and shockproof, and is easy to carry and pack.  Just click on the image for further details.

    The example above can be solar charged as you walk, or charged via a USB cable.  Click on the image for further details, or see Torches for loads more examples, with prices to suit all pockets.


    TourRadar

    Compass

    A decent compass is always useful for anyone who hikes, cycles, or just has a habit of getting lost!

    The compasses shown here (available from Amazon) are strong, accurate and suitable for use in all seasons.  The one below is shake-proof, so suitable for use in vehicles or boats.

    Click on the images for further details, or for many more examples see Compasses.

    Waterproof Notebook

    You just never know when you will need to jot something down in the rain!

    The examples here are from Amazon, and make ideal, inexpensive stocking-fillers.


    Click on the images for further details, or see Waterproof notebooks for more examples.



    GPS Device

    The ultimate way to make sure you don’t get lost is to carry a personal GPS tracking device.  These show you exactly where you are on a preloaded map, so you can be absolutely confident of which side valley you have just hiked into, or which hamlet you have just cycled through.

    Garmin devices have easy to read screens and are tough and waterproof for outdoor use. They come preloaded with TopoActive Maps which are suitable for hiking and cycling. Extra maps can be purchased and added via microSD cards or downloaded (subscription required).

    The model shown above is available from Amazon – just click on the image for further information.  For more options see GPS devices.

    For walking and cycling in the UK, Ordnance Survey also have a wide range of GPS devices.  To explore their extensive range, click on the banner below.



     Multi Tool Knife

    These have so many uses – from peeling an apple to opening a can to trimming a toe nail….

    The examples shown here are available from Amazon.  Click on the images for further details, or see Multi Tool Knives for many more examples.

     

    Photographer of the Year Books

    Wonderful inspiration for anyone who likes photographing the great outdoors.

    These book features the best entries from recent competitions, and are available from Amazon – just click on the images for further details.

    Trek Umbrella

    Ideal for anyone who spends time outdoors, this practical automatic umbrella with a comfortable ergonomic handle is lightweight and designed to prevent wind damage.

    Trek Umbrella - Medium

    It is available from Stanfords, and worldwide delivery is available.

    Binoculars

    Of course binoculars are great for bird watching.  But they are also great for watching boats go past as you are having a waterside coffee, reading a distant signpost when you are lost on your hike, checking whether an object on a hillside is a deer or just a bush, etc., etc……..  I never like to be without mine.

    Wex Photographic have a comprehensive range to suit all pockets (available for UK delivery only).  Click on the ad above to visit their site.

    For more options see Binoculars at Amazon.

    Vacuum Flask

    Another item that is useful for anyone who spends time outdoors, for any reason!

    If the weather turns cold and you are miles from anywhere, you just can’t beat a steaming hot coffee.  And they are just as useful for keeping cold drinks cold.

    The above examples are from Amazon. Just click on the images for further information, or for many more examples see Vacuum Flasks.

    Picnic Blanket with Waterproof Backing

    Of course enjoying the great outdoors doesn’t have to involve trekking off into the wilderness.  If your gift recipient enjoys picnics, a blanket with a waterproof backing would be an ideal accessory.

    Click on the images for further information, or see Picnic Blankets for more examples.

    Personalised Ordnance Survey Map (UK)

    For UK recipients, here’s an idea for something completely individual.  You choose the centre point of your map and the scale.  You then add your own map title and your own photo for the cover, and OS produce your map for you.



    Prices start at under £20.00, including free UK delivery.  Just click on the ad above to be taken to the OS site.

    Membership

    If you want a gift for someone who likes getting out and about in the UK, membership of the National Trust or the Royal Horticultural Society would be a great choice.  Especially if the recipient of your gift happens to live near one or more properties owned by the societies.

    Both societies have fantastic properties to visit with great walks in beautiful gardens and grounds.  The National Trust also do a huge amount of conservation work in some of the UK’s best countryside, so buying membership will help to support this work.

    Click on the links above to learn more about membership.



    For more gift ideas both societies have excellent online shops with a wide choice of unusual gift ideas – see National Trust shop and RHS shop.  By using these shops you will also be helping to preserve some great outdoor spaces.

    The Usborne Outdoor Book

    Finally here is a great little book that is full of ideas for enjoying the great outdoors.  It costs £6.28 from Amazon – click on the image for further details.

    Please keep checking back, as more gifts will be added.

    If you still need inspiration check out my post on Travel-Related Gifts for more ideas.



    The post Need a Gift for Someone Who Loves the Outdoors? Here Are Some Great Ideas. appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.


    Looking for a travel-related gift? Here are some great ideas.

    Here are some great gift ideas for people who love to travel The post Looking for a travel-related gift? Here are some great ideas. appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

    If you are looking for a gift for someone who loves to travel, and would like some inspiration, check out the suggestions below.  There are ideas suitable for all pockets!

    For more gift ideas please see our other post on Gifts for the Outdoors.

    (Please note that the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you.  This is how I fund Self Arranged Journeys, and if you do decide to purchase one of these great gifts your support will be very much appreciated.)

    Scratch Map

    Here’s a great idea.  These elegant maps have a layer which you scratch off to reveal the countries you have visited.  Great for an instant visual reminder of where you have been – and where you still have to go.

    World Scratch Map® - Deluxe Edition

    A range of Scratch Maps are available including world maps, European maps, US maps, a few cities and even a globe.  See Stanfords for their full range –  worldwide delivery is available.

    For more examples see Amazon, where there are maps including country flags, highest peaks, ocean depths and more.

    Globe

    I have a beautiful globe which was bought for me as a gift, and I love it.  You can see where everything is in the world in relation to everything else, in a way that you just can’t with a flat map.

    Stanfords have a huge range of quality globes to choose from in many sizes (some larger sizes are available for UK delivery only).  The range includes desktop globes, floor-standing globes, illuminated globes, inflatable globes, foam globes suitable for children, novelty globes…….

    Prices range from £3.99 to over £250.00.

    For further choices, a wide range is available from Amazon – see Amazon Globes.

    Travel Journal

    You can’t really go wrong with one of these – a gift that looks good and is also functional.

    The journals shown here are all available from Amazon – just click on the image to visit the appropriate page.  There are many more to choose from – see Travel Journals.

    Point It Traveller’s Language Kit

    If, like me, you are not great at picking up languages, this is a really useful aid.

    The little book has over 1300 pictures of things you are likely to want to ask for.  You just point at the one you want, and thus make sure you are understood.  It is also great for asking how to say things, so you will know next time!

    Available from Amazon for £5.99 (UK price).

    Travel Survival Kit

    Here’s a novelty gift by Smile Gifts UK – hopefully it will make someone smile!

     

    Packing Cubes

    These are great for multi-base journeys – you can partition your luggage items ready for each base, and keep clothes that need washing separate.

    The sets shown here are from Amazon.  There are various size combinations and colours available, and prices vary depending on the size.  For more options, see Packing Cubes.


    TourRadar

    Ultimate Travel Pillow

    Ideal for long trips, this easily inflatable, ergonomic travel pillow provides excellent neck support.

    After use the pillow deflates easily and rolls up small for easy packing.   Click on the image for further details, or see Amazon for many more examples.

    Compass

    Stanfords have a range of unusual, stylish, antique-style compasses – ideal for the discerning traveller.

    Click on the image for further details, or see Stanfords Compasses for more examples.

    Personalized Travel Photo Gift

    If you have access to suitable digital photos, why not have a personalized gift made by Huggler, using your own travel photos.

    25% OFF off photo books, prints and more...
    You can select from notebooks, photobooks, diaries, calendars, prints and cards.  You select your gift, and the photos you want to include (the number required depends on the type of gift).  Then just upload the photos to Huggler’s site and design your gift online.   Calendars and diaries can start on any month, and there is a wide range of designs to choose from.

    Huggler quickly produce your gift for you and send it by post.

    Prices range from around £5.00 plus postage (items can be delivered worldwide).

    I recently ordered a calendar from Huggler as a gift for Matt using photos from our holidays.  I really enjoyed designing the calendar, and when it arrived the quality was far better than I expected.  It had an opaque front cover which added rigidity, and was much better than many of the calendars you see in the shops – I was really pleased.

    I can wholeheartedly recommend it!

    Books

    Of course, inspirational travel books are always popular.  Here are some great suggestions – just click on the images for more details.




    Calendars

    Not the most original of gifts perhaps, but always welcome.  Especially when you find examples like the ones below.  Click on the images for further details, of for many more see Amazon Calendars.

    Perfume Atomizers

    If, like me, you don’t want to leave home without your favourite perfumes, but don’t want to carry heavy or delicate bottles, travel perfume atomizers are ideal.

    This example includes 3 6ml spray bottles, together with a funnel and pipette for easy refilling.

    For many more choices, suitable for both men and women, see Perfume Atomizers.

    Portable Device Charger

    We rely so much on our phones and tablets these days, for boarding passes, maps, booking apps, entertainment……

    It can be a major hassle if they run out of charge.  A portable charger can be kept in a handbag or rucksack as a backup in case you need to use an app urgently, take loads of photos or just spend a lot of time online.

    These chargers are all available from Amazon. Click on the images for further details, or go to Portable Power Banks for many more examples.

    Travel Cable Tidy

    With all the chargers, cables, SD cards and memory sticks we take with us these days, it is easy to get them mixed up in your luggage so you can never find the one you want.  A neat answer is a cable organizer bag.  This one is from Amazon – just click on the image for further information.

    Larger organizer bags are also available which are suitable for thicker cables, plugs and adaptors.  Again just click on the image for further details, and for many more examples see Cable Organizer Bags.

    Luggage Scales

    Perfect for checking that luggage doesn’t exceed the weight allowance.

    These examples are from Amazon – just click on the images for more information. There are many more to choose from – see Luggage Scales.  Prices range from very low to impressively high!

    Kindle Fire

    The Kindle Fire range is just such good value.   With its built-in wi-fi it acts as a HD-screen e-reader and a tablet combined.  So if you finish your novel before you finish your holiday you can easily download any book from the vast Kindle catalogue.

    You can also download movies, music and games, and it can be used hands-free with Alexa.  And of course wherever you have a wi-fi connection you have full Internet access, so you can check timetables, check out local restaurants, or do anything that needs a larger screen than your phone.

    Kindle Fire tablets comes with a choice of 7″, 8″ or 10″ screen, and storage capacity ranging from 8 GB to 64 GB.  I personally like the 8″, for the best balance between portability and screen size. There is a range of colours to choose from.

    I would also highly recommend the custom-made case.  It fits so well, it’s tough and protective, it acts as a stand, and the combined tablet and case are really thin and light-weight – perfect for travel.

    I wouldn’t leave home without mine!

    If you are still in need of inspiration, please see our selection of Gifts for Lovers of the Outdoors!



    The post Looking for a travel-related gift? Here are some great ideas. appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.


    The Yorkshire Arboretum – A Wonderful Place for a Peaceful Stroll

    If you enjoy walking amongst beautiful and interesting trees you will love the Yorkshire Arboretum.  Consisting of around 120 acres of beautiful parkland, the arboretum apparently contains more than 6000 trees. The collection consists of trees from temperate countries around… The post The Yorkshire Arboretum – A Wonderful Place for a Peaceful Stroll appeared first on Self Arranged...

    Yorkshire Arboretum, North Yorkshire, England

    Yorkshire Arboretum looking down towards the lake

    If you enjoy walking amongst beautiful and interesting trees you will love the Yorkshire Arboretum.  Consisting of around 120 acres of beautiful parkland, the arboretum apparently contains more than 6000 trees.

    Yorkshire Arboretum in early autumn, North Yorkshire, England

    Early autumn colours

    The collection consists of trees from temperate countries around the world, and is around 40 years old.  There are many unusual specimens, and all are labelled with a tag attached to a branch – great if, like, me you like to know what you are looking at.

    There are gentle paths around the site, and plenty of benches to sit and enjoy the glorious surroundings.

    Yorkshire Arboretum in autumn, England

    Path through the Arboretum on a beautiful autumn day

    The Arboretum is a lovely place to visit at any time of the year (it is open from the beginning of February to the end of November).  In spring and summer there are vivid greens and wild flowers.

    Horse chestnut tree in the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

    Old horse chestnut tree and distant bluebells in spring

    Path through trees in the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

    Path through the trees in late spring

    Wooden bench in the Yorkshire Arboretum, North Yorkshire, England

    Wooden bench surrounded by summer foliage



    Autumn is, of course, the most colourful season.  If you are lucky enough to visit on a sunny autumn day with a clear blue sky, the Arboretum is a truly beautiful place to be.

    Acer rubrum 'October Glory' maple trees in the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

    Acer rubrum ‘October Glory’ maple trees at their most colourful

    Golden autumn foliage at the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

    Golden foliage in autumn light

    Red maple leaves in autumn in the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

    Vivid red maple leaves

    Autumn colours at the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

    Stunning autumn foliage

    As well as the trees, the Arboretum is also a great place for spotting wildlife.  There are birds singing in the trees, butterflies on the flowers, and water birds and dragonflies near the lake.

    Lake in the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

    Autumn colours around the lake

    Last time we visited we spotted this impressive pale tussock moth caterpillar on a fallen oak leaf.

    Pale tussock moth caterpillar

    Pale tussock moth caterpillar

    A few hours spent here is a great way to unwind and enjoy being surrounded by beautiful nature.
    Shadowy trees in the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

    Shadowy trees in autumn light

    Practicalities

    The Yorkshire Arboretum is situated just opposite the entrance to Castle Howard, easily reached from the A64 York to Scarborough road.

    There is ample parking, an excellent cafe, gift and plant sales, and regular events.  For full details of opening times, events and prices see the Yorkshire Arboretum website.

    The Arboretum is a partner garden of the Royal Horticultural Society, and RHS members are entitled to free access on all days until the end of August.  Follow the link for information about RHS membership.

    If you would like to stay in North Yorkshire, you can search available accommodation on this page at booking.com.

    For more great places to visit in Yorkshire we recommend the Rough Guide to Yorkshire.



     

     

    The post The Yorkshire Arboretum – A Wonderful Place for a Peaceful Stroll appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.


    Visiting Turku – A Lovely Relaxed City in Finland

    Turku is a hugely attractive city on the banks of the River Aura in Finland The post Visiting Turku – A Lovely Relaxed City in Finland appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

     

    Turku Cathedral and River Aura, Finland

    Turku Cathedral and River Aura, Finland

    Many people may not have heard of Turku, though it is one of the most visited places in Finland.  Situated about two hours from Helsinki by bus or train, Turku is a smaller, more relaxed and highly attractive city on the banks of the River Aura.

    Bridge over the River Aura, Turku, Finland

    Bridge over the River Aura

    It is the riverside setting that makes Turku so attractive.  Paths on both sides, linked by frequent bridges, are lined with cafes, bars and beautiful buildings.  There are leafy sections with boardwalks and flowers, and quirky art installations abound.

    Boats moored along the river banks take excursions to the nearby archipelago and act as floating restaurants.  It is just such a nice place to be.

    Boats on the River Aura, Turku, Finland

    Boats on the riverside

    How to Get to Turku

    Turku has its own airport, with regular flights from Helsinki and Stockholm.  To search for routes from your local airport try Skyscanner.  Bus route 1 runs very regularly (up to four times each hour) from the airport to the city centre and ferry port.

    It is also easy to reach Turku from Helsinki by bus or train.  Both run regularly and take around two hours.  Try GoEuro to check for timetables and prices.

    However we think the nicest way by far to reach Turku is by ferry from Stockholm.  Ferries run daily via Mariehamn in the beautiful Åland islands (if you have time to spend a day or two here don’t miss it – see our post Visiting Mariehamn).  The journey from Stockholm to Mariehamn takes just over 5 hours, as does the onward leg from Mariehamn to Turku.

    Ferry in the Aland islands, Finland

    Ferry travelling through the Aland islands

    The entire journey is incredibly scenic as the ferry weaves its way first through the Stockholm Archipelago, then through the Åland islands and finally through the Turku Archipelago. As a foot passenger it is also amazingly good value (see our post Exploring the Baltic Sea by Ferry).  As more than one ferry company operates on these routes, try Aferry to compare timetables and prices.

    Island in the Turku Archipelago, Finland

    Island in the Turku Archipelago

    Where to Stay

    When we visited we arrived by ferry, and therefore chose to stay in the very convenient Seaport Hotel.  This hotel is situated in an old customs buildings, and is literally straight off the ferry (I wish all hotels were this easy to find!)

    Seaport Hotel, Turku, Finland

    Seaport Hotel

     

    The ferry port and Seaport Hotel are about 4km from the centre of Turku, but there is a bus stop literally outside the door of the hotel.  Buses are very regular (several each hour).  It is also possible, and very pleasant, to walk from the hotel to the centre by following the riverside path.  You pass several coffee bars and restaurants on the way.

    The Seaport Hotel is quite basic, but it has character and is incredibly convenient for the ferries.  To see other accommodation options in Turku follow the link to booking.com.

    Things to Do in Turku

    Really, one of the nicest things you can do is just stroll around the cobbled streets in the old centre and the leafy riverside paths.  There are plenty of bars and restaurants with outdoor terraces to enjoy a coffee or lunch.

    Cobbled centre of Turku, Finland

    Cobbled centre of Turku (Photo obtained from Pixabay.com)

    But there are lots more things to do.  Here are some ideas:

    NOTE:  Outside the summer season, most museums and galleries are closed on Mondays.

    Visit Forum Marinum

    This fascinating maritime museum has excellent exhibitions and boat collections.  It also has a collection of impressive museum ships which you can board and look around in the summer months.

    The museum is situated very close to the ferry port, and can be reached by Line 1 Bus to the port or by following the southern bank of the River Aura.  It has a good restaurant for lunch, which is also accessible to people not visiting the museum.  For more information see this page at VisitTurku.

    Crane and museum ships at Forum Marinum, Turku, Finland

    Crane and museum ships at Forum Marinum

    Other Museums to Visit

    Turku has a wide variety of museums, including, among others, museums of art, handicrafts, biology and pharmacy.

    For ideas, information and links see City Museums.

    Stroll Around The Castle

    Turku Castle, Finland

    Turku’s ancient Castle

    Turku’s Medieval Castle is one of the oldest buildings still in use in Finland.

    You can join a guided tour to learn more about the Castle’s history, or wander around the buildings and various exhibitions about the history of Finland.

    For more information see Turku Castle.

     

    Enjoy the Galleries and Street Art

    Turku is a great place for art lovers.  There are many galleries, and interesting examples of sculptures and street art wherever you go.

    Whale tail sculpture and fountain, Turku, Finland

    Whale tail sculpture and fountain

    For a list of art museums and galleries, with useful links, see TurkuArt.fi.

    Visit the Archipelago

    The Archipelago consists of literally thousands of islands and skerries, and is extremely beautiful.

    There are many possibilities for visiting the Archipelago, with regular ferries and boat trips leaving from the River Aura in Turku.  Many islands are linked by bridges, and there is a popular Archipelago Trail which can be completed by car or cycle.

    The Tourist Information will be able to provide details of ferry times and tours.  For more information about the area see this page at VisitTurku.

    Ruissalo island, Turku Archipelago, Finland

    Ruissalo island

    These are just a few ideas.  There are many more things to see and do, including excellent shops and markets, the central cathedral and green leafy parks.

    With its museums and galleries, riverside walks and flourishing cafe culture, Turku is a city that is well worth a visit.  We hope to return one day.

     

    Riverside terrace in Turku, Finland

    Riverside terrace

    For a guide book to Finland including Turku and the Archipelago (and also Aland) we recommend Lonely Planet Finland.

    The post Visiting Turku – A Lovely Relaxed City in Finland appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.


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