Discover Scotlands Borderlands

Discover Scotland’s Borderlands… Something most US tourists miss

Do you like many tourists think of Edinburgh when you think of Scotland?

Scotland borderlands
Welcome to Scotland

Maybe a quick stop on a multi-city tour.  But there is so much more to see, experience and explore in Scotland.  Like discovering the borderlands. Head south an hour outside Edinburgh, and discover castles, abbeys, and quaint towns.  Rich in history, beauty, adventure, and opportunities.

This is a tour you can easily do in five days with no rush.  If you like biking, hiking, and the outdoor life, be sure to add extra days in the Tweed Valley. For “high-octane”  adventure, you’ll need more time.

It’s only 21.9 miles between Peebles and Selkirk so you have lots of choices of a place to stay.  You’ll find accommodations that range from castles, hotels, guest inns, bed-and-breakfast, to bunkhouses, camping, and self-catering.

There is a lot to see in a small area. Pick a town as a home base. Or tour and stay over in multiple spots to get a sense of life in the very different communities.

As in all of Scotland, the weather can change quickly.  It’s always good to have a raincoat and good walking shoes.

Venues generally close before dark for guest safety.  Since they depend on natural light, winter hours are shorter.  In very inclement weather, there can be surprise closures.  It’s good to do a last minute check.

Edinburgh – Tweed Valley

Scottish borderlands
Tweed Valley Scottish borderlands

From Edinburgh take the A703 to its junction with the A72 and head toward Peebles.  You are driving through the stunning Tweed Valley. It’s one of the most popular places in the borderlands. Prized for its natural beauty and outdoor activities of every imaginable type.

An hour 15 minutes down the road you come to the little town of Galashiels.

Just outside of town is Abbotsford, the home of writer Sir Walter Scott.  The

Abbotsford in Scottish borderlands
Abbotsford photo courtesy

striking hills, valleys, and history of the area were a great inspiration to him. Tours of the house and gardens are available March to November, but the gift shop and restaurant are open year round.

Galashiels was a textile town. It has a more modern post-industrial feel to it. There is still a textile making school here. Famous for its sheep, wool was readily available and the fast-flowing Tweed River powered the mills.

Selkirk is less than 7 minutes down the road.  Here you can visit Bowhill House and Country Estate, and two glass studios.  Lindean Mill Glass and Twist Glass Studio will both amaze and tempt you to buy.

From this area of the lowlands came a grace that Robert Burns popularized as the Selkirk Grace.  A two-line prayer often recited before eating.

Melrose, about 5 miles from Galashiels, offers the historic charm of a border market town.  It’s full of history well worth exploring. Melrose is 14.6 miles, about 27 minutes west of Kelso.

Explore Melrose – Kelso

You could easily spend two days in this area of the borderlands.  There is a lot to see and do.  Be sure to take your camera as there are lots of photo opportunities.

Melrose Abbey

This is a must-see.  One of the most famous ruins in Scotland. Founded by

Melrose Abbey in borderlands
Melrose Abbey

David I, in 1136 for the order of the Cistercian.  Melrose suffered damage at the hands of the English during the middle ages. In the 1380s, rebuilding took place. After the last monk passed away in 1590 it fell into disuse.

The abbey is open year round, but October through March the hours are shortened. The Commendator’s House Museum has a diverse collection of medieval objects.

Three Hills Roman Heritage Center

The Romans arrived in the Melrose area in 79-80AD.  They built a major fort called Trimontium, ‘Place of the Three Hills’. The Three Hills Roman Heritage Center houses a museum dedicated to Roman life in Scotland.

The name Three Hills refers to the distinctive three-peaked hill, also called Elidon, just south of the town of Melrose.   One of the highest and most distinctive geographical features in the borderlands, it was a natural location for an outlook or signal station. The military base would have been along the Roman army road that ran through the valley near the Tweed River.

Dryburgh Abbey

This abbey is nearby in St. Boswells.  Established in 1150 you’ll find well-

Dryburgh Abbey borderlands
Dryburgh Abbey

preserved ruins.  They rank among the most beautiful in Scotland.  It survived three fires and is the final resting place for both David Eskrine, 11th Earl of Buchan in 1829, and three years later his friend Sir Walter Scott.  The abbey is open to visitors year around.  It’s easy to access… flat with no steps.

Kelso Abbey

Located in Kelso you’ll find the remains of the abbey founded in the twelfth

Kelso Abbey borderlands scotland
Kelso Abbey

century.   The ruins are a testimony to one of the greatest architectural achievements in historic Scotland. It was one of the largest and most affluent of the abbeys in Scotland. The area is so pretty, it has attracted artists since the 1600s.

Scott’s View

This high point was an inspiration to Sir Walter Scott. Located off the

Scotts View borderlands of Scotland
Scotts View Elidon Hills in the distance

narrow B6404 that runs between Kelso and St. Boswells it offers commanding views of the Three Hills and the Tweed Valley.  A bench and marker commemorate where Scott liked to contemplate.  On our tour, we stopped past Scott’s View on our way to find Smailholm Tower.

Smailholm Tower

This is a classical borderland tower house.  Four stories tall  (65 feet), and

Smailholm in Scottish borderlands
Smailholm Castle

built on a rocky crag called Lady Hill its address is Sandyknowe Farm. This reflects its location adjacent to a local farm on the narrow B-road.

It’s a gem of a find.  To get there park in the small carpark and hike up the hill.  The ground is rocky and uneven. Not recommended for those with physical challenges.

Amazing views reward your hike.  Inside the hall, there is a model of the Pringle residence and a collection of garments and tapestries from Sir Walter Scott’s time.  Scott’s grandparents brought him to the area when they stayed at Sandyknowe Farm.

Floors Castle

Located just outside of Kelso, the 1st Duke of Roxburghe built Floors in 1721.

Floors Castle in Scottish borderlands
Floors Castle

It is more a country estate than a defensive fortification.  Offering tours for over 40 years, this huge castle is still an inhabited family home.  There have been many modifications over the years as families suited it to their needs.

If you have the family names of Ker, Kerr, Car, or Carr in your ancestry, you’ll enjoy researching in this area.  Both lines of the family were in high power positions as lords of the middle marshes and favorites of King James VI.

Cessford Castle

You’ll find Cessford just over 11 miles south and slightly east of Floors.  It

Cessford Castle Scottish Borderlands
Cessford Castle

was the stronghold of the Ker family during the 16th and 17th century.  The area was in constant turmoil for 200 years. But the Kers exercised considerable power and extended their prosperity.

Built in about 1450 this is a tower house fortification.  It sits high on a hill with commanding views that made it very defensible.  Cessford is located just outside of the town of Cessford.  Last inhabited in 1650 it fell into ruin.  Standing on this windswept hillside, it’s a cold lonely place that triggers the imagination of life in times gone by.

Roxburgh Castle

Also near Kelso, you can find the ruins of Roxburgh Castle.  Sitting next to

Roxburgh Castle Scottish Borderlands
Roxburgh Castle rendering courtesy Pinterest

the A699 it’s easy to find.  There is a pull off where you can park and hike to the ruins.  Wear good footwear, the ground is uneven.  Little stonework remains but the site is impressive.

Built by King David I in 1125, it stood guard protecting the burg of Roxburgh.  The location overlooked the river Tweed, a valuable method of transporting goods.

In its day, it was as important as Edinburgh or Sterling are today.  The rivers Tweed and Teviot ran closer to it than they do today, protecting the castle with water-filled defenses on all sides.

Besieged numerous times for its powerful vantage point, it shifted back and forth between English and Scottish ownership for nearly 300 years. Finally,  abandoned, 1551 saw it demolished to prevent further military use.

Look northwest across the Tweed and you can see Floors Castle in the distance.


Jedburgh sits 12 miles southwest of Kelso, about a twenty-minute drive.  It makes a great day-trip or a quaint place to stay.  This market town was home to the Kerr Clan. The family castle, Fernihurst, is located just outside of town.  The village name comes from its location on the river Jed. Only about 10 miles from the English border, it is the heart of the borderlands.

Jedburgh Castle

King David I built the original castle before 1174.  In the late 12th century,

Jedburgh Castle Jail Scottish borderlands
Jedburgh Castle Jail & Museum courtesy Trip Advisor

Jedburgh along with four other castles was ceded to the English.  An occasional royal residence for Scots, the English recaptured it many times. Finally, Scots demolished it in 1409.  In the 19th century, rebuilding occurred. It opened as a prison in 1823.  Today it is a museum. It gives you insights into being a resident in the jail… as well as a glimpse of the area history.  Free admission.

Jedburgh Abbey

The abbey founded in the 12th century was home to Augustinian monks.  It is

Jedburgh Abbey Scottish borderlands
Jedburgh Abbey

one of four great abbeys built at this time.  You’ll find it exceptionally preserved. Good access to the abbey, its cloister, and domestic buildings.  The blend of Romanesque and early Gothic is intriguing.  The abbey is open year round, but the hours are shorter in the winter.

Mary Queen of Scotts Center

The Kerr family rented this home to Mary when she toured the area on

Mary Queen of Scotts borderlands
Mary Queen of Scotts Center

business.  She stayed a month in the autumn of 1566 and as queen, dispensed justice.  Today, a visitor’s center, the home gives you insights of her life and times.  It is one of the largest collections of pictures and objects about the queen.

Many Kerr were left-handed. When they built this home, they included a left-handed stairway. It’s on the second floor. The stairway offered left-handed defenders a decided advantage over right-handers trying to attack them.

You can also walk in the enclosed garden and wander in the town.  Free

Jedburgh borderlands Scotland
Left-handed stairs, Mary Queen of Scotts Center

admission.  It is open to the public March 1st through the end of November.

Fernihurst Castle

Tucked on a hill two miles south of Jedburgh is Fernihurst Castle, the seat of

Fernihurst Scottish borderlands
Fernihurst Castle

Clan Kerr.  Privately owned, it allows the public access during the month of July.  This coincides with the Jedburgh Summer Festival.

During this two-week-long festival, there are lots of activities to celebrate and commemorate the taking back of Fernihurst from the English in 1549.  The festival tops off with a 200 man mounted cavalcade. They ride from Jedburgh to Fernihurst castle. There a commemorative service is performed.

Nestled among trees, Fernihurst has commanding views of the surrounding countryside and village.

Fernihurst represents one of the best-preserved castles of its period. Originally a tower fortification built in 1476. James VI mostly demolished it in 1593 as punishment for helping the English.

Sir Andrew Kerr rebuilt it in 1598. The family occupied the home for 200 years.  Starting in the 1980s the Laird hired local craftsmen, using local materials. to undertake restoration.

Occasionally, a private tour is available. The amazing curator Bob Larson is extremely knowledgeable.  He also responds to family and genealogy inquiries from Kerrs/Carrs worldwide.

Waterloo Monument

From Jedburgh, you are only 6.2 miles, about 15 minutes to the Waterloo

Waterloo Monument Scottish borders
Waterloo Monument courtesy Explore the Borders

Monument. It’s accessible via a car park at the Harestanes Visitor Centre.  It’s accessible from the B6400 or A68.  The marked path sits on private land. The hike is steep in places. It’s best on a good weather day.

The views are fabulous.  The monument soars 150 feet tall.  Constructed in 1817-1824 it commemorates the battle of Waterloo.

They keep the tower locked. For a small fee, you rent a key that allows you access inside. You’ll find a circular stair that takes you clear to the top.  I didn’t do this hike but there heard of key issues. Key access is not available daily. Some reviewers reported faulty keys.

If you like a good hike and want spectacular views, this is a must do.

Return to Edinburgh

From Jedburgh, you are less than two hours to Edinburgh.  From the Waterloo Monument about 75 minutes. Both routes travel the A68.   Easy access to return to the city.

Create your own tour?

If you need help creating your own custom tour, please contact me: [email protected].  My husband is English and knows all the insider places.  We both love exploring the British Isles and help you create your memorable experience.

Wales Coastal Tour explore beauty and history

Wales… Rugged Beauty Oozing withCastles on Wales coastal tour


Wales Coastal Tour day by day…


A coastal tour of Wales gives you a good sense of the beauty of the place and its people. The Welsh are fiercely independent.  Their rugged mountainous landscape helped isolate and protect them from English rulers for hundreds of years.  Today, though long a part of the United Kingdom, they maintain their unique culture.

Every signpost is written both in English and in Welsh. Welsh are bi-lingual with both languages taught in school.  You’ll have no trouble chatting with shopkeepers or mingling with the natives.  But you’re likely to hear this Celtic language spoken by the locals.

Do keep in mind… YOU are the one with an accent. Take your time and slow down just a little so they have a chance to understand you.  I have found this trick works well over all the UK.

At every turn, you know this place is Wales coastline


The coastline is spectacular.  There are over 100 castles still standing. You can also visit some of the many standing stones/ burial sites. There are 29 listed on the national heritage website.  Some are easily accessible.  Others take a bit more work to get to.

If you’ve got a week… or two or three, it’s a great country to explore.  I recommend starting with the coastline as it’s more easily accessible.  There are lots of great B&B’s, Inns… even castles where you can stay.

You could probably do a coastal tour in five/six days if you are pinched for time.  Having toured these roads I recommend at least 8, plus a travel day to get from the US to Cardiff and then an additional travel day from Manchester back home.  You could easily extend it to two weeks or more and explore the in-lands more extensively.

Or, if you want to make a loop, that too is possible and I’ll show you how.  You could also reverse the trip and fly into Manchester and finish in Cardiff.  Fly home from Cardiff, or train to London.

To Wales Day 1:  Depart US for Cardiff

British Airways flies from numerous US cities into Cardiff.  If you choose another airline and fly to London, you can take the train from there to Cardiff.  This will avoid driving in London traffic… something even the locals avoid.

Wales Day 2: Explore Cardiff

Cardiff Castle Wales coast tour
Cardiff Castle

Since you’ll probably be jet-lagged, take the day and relax. Explore Cardiff.  You’ll find multiple museums,  gothic Cardiff Castle and a revitalized, and thriving waterfront.  Fabulous shopping, restaurants, and entertainment will keep you more than busy.  Here’s a great link for 24 hours in Cardiff:

Wales Coastal Tour Day 3: Cardiff to St. Davids

Round up your car and time to head west.  Today you’ll drive 111 miles from Cardiff to St. Davids. The trip only takes about 2-1/2 hours so you have time to detour and explore if you wish.  St Davids is the final resting place for Wales Patron Saint.  It is Britain’s smallest city.  Nestled in picturesque Pembrokeshire, next to the River Alun it is compact and easily walkable.  St David’s is rich in history. The cathedral and monastery… old and new are fascinating.  The area is blessed with stunning coastlines and opportunities for hiking and camping.

wales coastal tour st davids
Bishops palace with cathedral in background

You’ll find numerous Inns and diverse properties to choose from. Want budget friendly? You can find hostels. But as I’ve gotten older, those have less appeal. I want memorable experiences.

castle escape

If you want a quiet escape, consider the exquisite  10th Century Roch Castle. Castle on the outside. Totally renovated inside. It’s rated the best luxury hotel in Wales.

Roch Castle Wales Coastal Tour
Roch Castle

It’s in a tiny hamlet on the way from Cardiff to St. Davids.  But it’s an experience of a lifetime: Built on a hill the views from the upper levels extend for miles and are mind-boggling. You can even see to the sea on the south.

Roch Castle has two sister properties located in St. Davids, Twr Y Fellin, and Penrhiw.  Twr Y Fellin has a lovely restaurant and should you wish, they will transport you from Roch Castle into town and back home again.  Just make the arrangements in advance.

Wales Coastal Tour Day 4: St. Davids to Pentre Ifan

Pentre Ifan Wales Coastal Tour
Pentre Ifan

and then Barmouth.

It’s about a 3.25-hour drive from St. Davids to Barmouth.  With lots of quaint towns and stunning coastal views, it’s an easy way to spend the day.

But if you want to see standing stones, there is an amazing one called Pentre Ifan a short detour off the main road.  Traveling up the A487 and then taking the shortest side road it’s about 26 miles from St. Davids.  (Google map it so you have an idea where you’re headed.)

Pentre Ifan

It’s located up on the hills off a narrow road.  There is a place at the side of the road to pull off then follow the path adjacent to the cow pastures to the site. It’s from the Neolithic age. You can see for miles across the hills of Wales.  You can feel the power in the place. Lofty, commanding. In the distance, you can see the deep blue of the sea. As with many of these more isolated sites, it’s you and the stones with their history and stories.


From Pentre Ifan, it’s 2-1/2 hours via the A487 to Barmouth.  You still have plenty of time to stop and explore on your day.  Barmouth is small but situated for exploring.  Located in county Gwynedd are more ancient sites and standing stones than any other area in Wales.

There are lots of cute little beach-town shops, restaurants, pubs and places

Wales coastal tour tyr Graig
Tyr Graig Castle

to stay.  OR….just half a mile north is T’yr Graig Castle on the beach side of the main road on a rocky rise about 200 feet above Barmouth.  The name in Welsh means house on the rock.

Needless to say, the views are stunning.  Built by gun-manufacturer WW Greener as a holiday home for his wife it has kept its historic Victorian nature. Many aspects of the home,  including woodwork, tiles, stained, glass, even the house design were completely custom.  If you check out a copy of the floor plan in the main entry, you see that the house, viewed from above, resembles the shape of a double-barreled shotgun.  A nod to the builder’s craft.  Contact T’yr Graig Castle directly for the best rates:

Depending on what you might want to explore in this Snowdonia region of Wales you can decide to stay in the Barmouth area or shift northward.

Wales Coastal Tour Days 5-7: Caernarfon and

wales coastal tour caernafron
Caernafron Castle


Caernarfon 39 miles (about an hour) north is a good choice as is Bangor, about 90 minutes away.  Both cities offer access to the interior mountains and more historic sites.  They also are fun to explore on their own.  You’ll find well-preserved castles in both cities that are open to the public.


The Isle of Anglesey is just across the iconic bridges from Bangor.  You’ll

discover lots of history tucked away on this land associated with legends.

wales coastal tour anglesey hotel tre-ysgawen
Tre-Ysgawen Hall

Built on some of the oldest rocks in the region, it is home to nearly 150 historic sites ranging from prehistoric burial tombs to castle fortifications.   You’ll find miles of stunning beaches, cliffs to hike along and lots of tranquility.  Tucked away you can find deluxe resorts. One lovely manor, Tre Ysgawen exemplifies relaxation, health wellness year around. If you want a quiet escape positioned well to explore Anglesey, this just might be your spot.

Make the drive to Anglesey and discover the rich history and legacy of the Druids. On the more isolated west coast, you can find tombs and markers of their past dating to 3000 BC.  It may take a little “Google” detective work before you go, or talk with the locals as you explore the area.

If you Google Anglesey and bring up the map of the area you will find over

wales coastal tour caernafron
Caernafron Castle

14 historic sites including castles, Roman and other ancient sites within a short drive on the mainland and on the island.  Spend your first night in Caernarfon, you could work your way north and spend another near Bangor or on Anglesey as you explore.


There are a string of historic sites along the east side of Anglesey just across

wales coastal tour beaumaris
Beaumaris Castle

the bay from the mainland. Edward I built Beaumaris castle as a state of the art fortress.  The last of his “iron ring” of castles, it’s goal…subduing the Welsh. Today, CADAW manages its remains as a tourist attraction. The second castle on Anglesey is Castell Aberlleiniog, but there are many more historic sites near here to explore.

One note: weather on the island can be changeable. I recommend packing a raincoat.

Wales Coastal Tour Day 8 Colwyn Bay & Ruthin

This lovely bay with its seaside town is less than an hour from Bangor. On

wales coastal tour conwy
Conwy Castle

your way be sure to stop at Conwy Castle. It is massive, towering and looms over the bay.  Allow yourself plenty of time to visit and explore before heading inland.

I enjoyed Ruthin, the county town in Derbyshire built around the hill and topped with its castle, town square and the oldest part of the city. It’s about 26 miles (45 minutes) from Colwyn Bay.  If you want to skip it and head north to Manchester and your flight home… we’ll leave you here. It’s just over an hour and a half from Colwyn Bay to Manchester.


At the very top of the hill in Ruthin sits Ruthin Castle.  Narrow arched

Wales coastal tour ruthin castle
Ruthin Castle

entrance passes you through the castle walls into its protected grounds. Ancient red brick towers above you.  This was a fortress, not someone’s Folly.  Explore the grounds.  Note where brick colors change.  It’s a clue to building additions. When you are centuries old… owners needs change.

Inside you will find every creature comfort, fabulous food and attention to detail.   Contact the hotel directly for the best rates:

If you opt to stay in the city, be sure to venture up and walk the grounds.  They are exquisite.

If you stay in the castle… take time to walk down and explore the city.  It is charming and you get an interesting sense of how people lived in the castle at the top, supported by tradespeople below.


It’s just over an hour and a half from Ruthin to Manchester.

If you’re flying home from Manchester you need somewhere not far from the airport.  As a large city, traffic is something you must allow for.  I’ve stayed in several different places.  My favorite is Wilmslow Lodge @ Coach & Four. This traditional pub great food and the adjacent lodge is in the suburb of Wilmslow.  A coaching inn it has provided respite for travelers for over a century. It offers easy access to Manchester airport and the local train system.  If you’re in a shopping mood you’ll find great options a short walk from the property.  As always, contact the hotel directly for the best rates:


Extend your Wales coastal tour and loop back to Cardiff:

If you’ve got a few more days and want to make a loop so you can fly in and out of the same airport that is easily possible.  (If you’re using Manchester as your gateway, simply make your loop in reverse.)

The quickest route is using the A5 to the A49 freeway.  You can cover the 154 miles in about three and a half hours.  But there is a lot to see here so I recommend taking at least a couple of days to explore the “Midlands”.   Oswestry, Shrewsbury, Telford, and Ludlow are all worthwhile visits.  Known for their history as market towns they beckon you to wander their narrow streets.


You’ll still find markets daily in Ludlow. Every kind of thing imaginable.  Food, baked goods, jams, honey, crafts. We even met a falconer with his hawk.

Ludlow on Wales tour
Feathers Inn

When you visit Ludlow, be sure to visit the Feathers Inn.  Built in 1619 over an existing core, it’s known for its Tudor architecture and Jacobean furnishings. You’ll find it friendly and accommodating, with good local foods in the restaurant/pub. Whether you stay there or not, Feathers is a “must see”. They’ll even let you see the rooms directly above the lobby where Jacobean leaders used to meet.

It’s a great location just a short walk from the marketplace and castle.  Reports say the Feathers is haunted.  Be on the lookout, just in case.  Be sure to contact the hotel directly to get the best rates:

Swinton Park Wellbeing Escapes

How to Destress…Escape to Wellbeing in Beautiful Yorkshire

Embark on world-class wellness in the heart of the beautiful Yorkshire

Escape to Swinton Park for wellbeing
Swinton Park for wellbeing escapes

countryside. Swinton Park is a sprawling 200-acre park that focuses on nature to enhance your wellbeing. Here you’ll find space to breathe, relax and revitalize. Have an adventure, hike the high rolling hills or wander next to a gently flowing stream.

Stay in a yurt, log cabin or self-catering cottage. Or live like royalty at the gothic styled, ancestral seat of the Earl of Swinton. Get pampered in the ambiance of a genteel country home.

Wellbeing activities abound…

Fish in pristine streams… rent a bicycle… ride the ponies… or watch falconry, the sport of kings.  Visit their walled gardens, one of the largest in Europe. Try your hand at shooting, or wander in the nearby market town of Masham.

Walk, hike, or cycle. There are over 63 miles of footpaths and bridle paths in the park and beyond.  With 20,000 acres of the private estate, you’ll never be bored.  Explore the farmlands, moors, rivers, forests, and reservoirs. Or the concierge can arrange a car or motorcycle tour if that’s more to your liking.

It’s a great home base to explore the Yorkshire Dales National Park and

River Ure for peacefull wellbeing
River Ure Tranquility

the numerous quaint villages and nearby castles. Here, far from the crowds, it’s easy to imagine yourself in an earlier century.  Here the pace of life is slower, more leisurely.  Even the roads are narrower, encouraging you to slow down.

Stop for the view, meander down a path to view enchanting waterfalls. Tea shops, pubs, and farmer’s markets invite you to pause and browse.  From high escarpments to country lanes where the main traffic is free roaming sheep, you’ll find something unique at every turn.

Experiences abound indoors and out to restore your mind, body, and spirit.

Nourish wellbeing with farm-to-table food.

Choices abound. Savor fine dining at Samuel’s Restaurant. Relax with something more casual at the Terrace Restaurant and Bar. Collect a custom picnic for your day out. Maybe you have a private event in mind. Regardless, you’ll find the food is always amazing.

You’ll enjoy the freshest produce from their garden and the peak of the season’s offerings. Meat, fish, and poultry direct from the estate.  All raised with natural sustainable techniques. Swinton Park specializes in earth-friendly practices for the healthiest farming possible. They care for nature so nature can care for you.

Their cooking school events run continuously and offer something for every age and taste.  Both guests and visitors are welcome to sign up for a half-day, full day, or weekend cooking experience. You’ll go home with ideas and tips that will make cooking fun and a delight for the palette.

Make time for the spa!

The new state-of-the-art spa, built to bring nature indoors, opened in

restorative well being pools
Swinton park restorative wellness pools

July 2017. From the latest in therapy treatments to unique experience rooms, nothing has been spared for your ultimate restoration. Light, air, and water surround you. Though soaring windows, nature’s healing powers comfort you.

Whether your goal is rejuvenation, restoration or fitness, the Spa will exceed your expectations. It blends seamlessly into the historic architecture. At the same time, it reaches out in a modern way to embrace nature and draw it in. Both indoor and outdoor pools invite you to relax. Lounges poolside and on the covered and heated terrace beckon you, year around. Thick snuggly blankets are handy if there is a chill.

The aroma steam room, salt steam room, and Finish sauna will help detoxify and boost your immune system. Or visit with friends around the fire pit of the alfresco sauna.

The eight quiet treatment rooms and skilled therapists will have you feeling renewed… but don’t rush away.  Post-treatment downtime is available in the relaxation room, restful niches, or sleep room with heated waterbeds. Complete peace is yours for the having.

Wellbeing retreats

Escape for a day and enjoy the wellbeing programs or private bodywork sessions. Or slip away and join one of their ongoing wellness retreats.  Swinton Park offers both guests and the locals numerous packages choices.

Come alone, or come with friends. Immerse yourself in world-class wellness in the heart of Yorkshire.

Explore wellbeing now…

To explore all of your options for a fabulous wellbeing adventure visit  Booking direct will always give you the best value. Direct booking is also the way to access all their unique experience offerings.

West Witton’s Old Vicarage Explore the Dales

West Witton’s Old Vicarage – Explore the Dales…

A charming village in the Yorkshire Dales, West Witton is a perfect

West Witton's Old Vicarage sits along the main road
West Witton’s Old Vicarage on Main Street

location to use as your base to explore. Picturesque. Quiet. Relaxing. Stay at the caravan park, a farm or a lovely Bed & Breakfast. Our personal favorite is the Old Vicarage.

West Witton’s Old Vicarage…

This Grade II historical property offers just five rooms. Built of stone, with

West Witton's Old Vicarage has ample parking in the rear
Old Vicarage ample parking behind rear garden

an intriguing history. Ask about the Vicar who made his home here. Some parts of the building date back over 300 years, but guest rooms have all the modern amenities and are en suite. From your windows, enjoy views of the garden or panoramic vistas of the Dales.

When you arrive at the Vicarage, relax with a spot of tea or coffee and maybe a homemade treat by your hostess Kirsteen. Besides treats, she also makes amazing preserves. You can even take one home with you to extend your memories.

West Witton's Old Vicarage
Old Vicarage guest lounge snug on a rainy day

The guest’s lounge has that very friendly English country feel. Relax with a book, peruse a map, take advantage of the free Wi-Fi. Enjoy the log fireplace when the weather is cool. It’s the sort of room you want to snug up in on a rainy day.

From the front windows, Bolton Castle invites you across the valley. It welcomes you to come visit the medieval castle, maze, gardens and birds of prey.  Explore, have an adventure or even get married there.

West Witton is only three miles from Leyburn and four miles to Aysgarth

West Witton's Old Vicarage guest room
West Witton’s Old Vicarage room with four-poster bed

Falls. In exchange for the short drive, the Old Vicarage gives you the peace and tranquility of the Dales. Though the house is right on Main Street, in the evenings it becomes very quiet.

Fox & Hounds is a favorite

Just a short way down Main Street is the Fox and Hounds, a local’s

Yorkshire steak and kidney pie at Fox & Hounds

favorite. Leave the car tucked in its space behind the Vicarage and walk. It’s only a block or two.

The pub specializes in quality home cooking, locally sourced and… some

amazing ales. Never tried a Yorkshire steak and kidney pie? This is a good spot to give it a try. Not quite that brave? They have great fish and chips and other classical pub favorites. Every Sunday you can have the traditional Roast Beef lunch.

Locals and visitors gather and chat, play games or cards or… darts. A 15th-

Fox & Hounds near Old Vicarage
Enjoy a game of darts at the Fox & Hounds

century pub, the Fox and Hounds oozes character. It’s homey, friendly and the classical juke box keeps the music going. They say you know it’s a good night when the manager, Blackie, is feeding the jukebox too.


After a quiet rest, the aromas of bacon and sausage grilling will tease you awake. Yes, fresh hot coffee, or tea if you prefer. While you enjoy their amazing homemade breakfasts, you can plan your tour for the day.


Outdoor adventures await you. Hiking, bicycling, motorcycling or a drive

River Ure near West Witton

in your car. Visit waterfalls, castles or the Wensleydale Cheese Factory. Want to picnic? Plan ahead with Kirsteen, they will arrange a packed lunch on request. They also offer a flask filling facility.

Want to shop? Visit Hawes and Leyburn. They are both market towns full of quaint shops and history along with beautiful views. You’re in the country where stories of the famous veterinarian, James Herriot took place.

In an easy day trip, you can venture to Thirsk to the Herriot museum, or to Ripon and visit beautiful Fountains Abbey. There is so much to see and do in this area you can’t do it all in a weekend visit. You’ll need to come back again. Kirsteen and Roddy will welcome you, pamper you and make you feel at home.

Plan your next stay at the Old Vicarage…

For the very best rates and friendly service, contact them directly. Ask them about events and specials during the time you want to visit. Complete details are here:

Rudding Park Spa for Wellness

Rudding Park Spa Embraces Nature for Wellness

Rudding Park specializes in escapes. The sprawling estate welcomes those

Rudding Park luxury hotel, Spa and golf
Rudding Park, Harrogate, UK regency manor house, courtesy Rudding Park.

who come to soak in the restorative waters while they enjoy nature’s healing balm. You’ll find it on the outskirts of the historic spa town of Harrogate. Since Victorian days, the area has drawn visitors with its mineral springs and many beautiful parks. Here they walked, visited, soaked and drank the waters.

The elegant Regency style sandstone manor has long been a popular destination for golf, weddings and holidays. This spring it unveiled its newest expansion, The Spa. It has quickly become the place to escape for guests and locals.

Few spas can claim fully booked days in less than two months. Spa memberships have already been capped and have a wait list. The Spa accomplished both of these and there is good reason for its swift popularity.

Rudding spa embraces nature…

Instead of tucking away, Rudding Park Spa reaches out and embraces

Rooftop Spa gardens embraces nature at Rudding Park
Rudding Park rooftop spa overlooks gardens and manor. Image courtesy Rudding Park.

nature. Window walls, patios, pools, and gardens surround you. Lounge areas direct your gaze outward calming and inviting. As you work out, swim, or soak, the views beyond relax and soothe your mind as well as your body.

Rudding Park Spa uses its surroundings and natural spring waters to create an ambiance of complete wellness.

Hotel guests can access the exquisite indoor pool, sauna and bucket shower. Those who want to enjoy all that the spa has to offer schedule for treatments or packages.  Limiting the number of the packages offered for a full day, morning afternoon or evening means an enhanced experience for guests and a well-being work environment for staff.

The Spa’s mission: “Wellness of mind, body, and soul.”

Every aspect is state of the art… in a peaceful and serene environment. It seamlessly blends amazing cutting-edge experiences into the relaxing historic setting.

Handpicked staff offer the highest quality of service. You’ll drift off into

Couples experience suite Rudding Park Spa
Couples room with copper bath, courtesy Rudding Park.

bliss as skilled therapists work their magic in your bespoke (custom) treatment. But facials, body treatments, massage and more are only part of the experience.

Infinity Pool Rudding Park spa
Rudding Park infinity pool courtesy Rudding Park

Enjoy pools for swimming, pools for hydrotherapy, indoors or outdoors, it’s your choice to take advantage of any or all. Lounge in a steam room or you can relax in the panoramic sauna or herbal steam bath. And, don’t miss the ice shower or tropical rainforest thermal experiences. Each works to restore and soothe your senses.

Step outside the spa to the rooftop garden complete with its own pools, sauna, shower and sun deck. Skies, gardens and ancient trees surround you. Quiet, peaceful. It’s the perfect place to spend a leisurely afternoon.

But Rudding Park Spa has even more to offer…

Take time to discover the unique mind and sense zones. Each room offers its own sensory experience so you can savor one or explore your way through all of them.

  • The video wall treats your gaze to picturesque landscapes. Lounge in the
    Visual sense experience at Rudding Park Spa
    Visual room at Rudding Park Spa transports you to tranquil vistas.

    oversize rattan swing and soak up scenes of waves lapping on beaches, wildflower meadows, and expansive mountain vistas. Enjoy it alone or relax with friends.

  • In the relax room you’ll find silence and serene lighting. Unwind as you recline on a sleek comfortable lounge – it’s the perfect place to find peace.
  • In the audio room, snuggle into a quiet niche. Listen to meditation or
    Audio relaxation experience Rudding Park Spa
    Enjoy meditation or relaxing music while you snuggle into a private niche at Rudding Park Spa

    soothing sound tracks on your own personal headphones.

  • The mind room offers a unique setting to stimulate your awareness. Coloring books, puzzles, and books from their spa library allow you to settle and center alone or chill with friends.
Don’t forget your sense of taste…

Many of the spa packages include a welcome beverage and a snack. But should you fancy something a bit more substantial, tasty delights await you at Horto Restaurant. Horto’s name, referring to horticulture, gives you hints as to its kitchen garden inspiration.

Situated right next to the spa reception area, Horto, with its own wall of

Horto pudding Rudding Park Spa
Horto amazing fruit salad pudding. Photo, Judith Culp Pearson

windows, is casual and inviting. During the day, you are welcome in your robe, no need to change. Simply wander over and enjoy the fresh garden, farm to table choices that will please your pallet. This is not the time to skip the Puddings either… they’re amazing!

Plan your escape…

The entire property encourages you to disconnect from your hectic routine from the moment you enter. Go leisurely. Enjoy, savor, de-stress, relax, and enhance your entire well-being. That’s what Rudding Park and The Spa are all about. Because spa packages do sell out, book early to get your preferred dates and the experiences that have you daydreaming. Weekends can be particularly busy.

For the latest in their specials and offerings visit Choose from the Sleeping Beauty Spa Break, Spa and Horto, Escape with Me or Time for 2 and more. So many choices.  Plan now for your own unique, personal escape.


Join the party, Explore vibrant Hull UK City of Culture

Hull City of Culture a fun visit

The city of Hull, (actually Kingston on Hull), is this year’s City of Culture

Hull’s City Hall is the backdrop for the splash ponds that kids love.

in the UK.  I don’t know what I expected, but I found it a picturesque, vibrant and delightful place to visit.

The city is only a few miles from the village of Cottingham where my husband’s family lives and where we stayed.  My sweet mother-in-law, Dorothy was a tour guide extraordinaire.  A history buff, she gave me insights to the city and made sure I saw the hot spots. Bonus? She knew where to see all the cool stuff that doesn’t have entry fees. Most did accept donations, but there is a lot to see that won’t cost you a pence. The city has worked hard to offer a lot of free venues and numerous walking tours.

Paragon Station
Paragon Station is huge and all under cover in Hull City.

We traveled like the locals, making use of the bus which meant no need to find and pay for parking. You’ll find lots to see within an easy walk of the Paragon Transport Interchange.  While each bus follows its own route into the city, they all end up at the interchange.  This huge center opened in 1847. Once dubbed “Hudson’s Folly” because of its gigantic scale. It has been revamped and rebuilt several times to keep up with needed changes and recover from direct bomb hits in WWII.  This last year it got another update to get it ready for the tourists expected during the City of Culture events.

Paragon Station now includes 38 bus stands and 4 coach stands.  On the other side of the station are six train platforms. And all of it undercover.

Don’t dash out of the station, there is much to see here

Food stands, gift shops, and florists vie for your attention.  Want a break

Replica of Jason the plane flown by Amy Johnson

and maybe a brew?  Visit the Tigers Lair pub. This setting is the original emigrant waiting room used to keep these guests separated from the locals to minimize the risk of disease spreading.

Visit the huge statue of Philip Larkin beloved poet. In the flooring around him are slate plaques commemorating some of his poems.

You’ll also find a dimensional video commemorating William Wilberforce

Philip Larkin and guide Dorothy

who headed the movement to abolish slavery.  And look up – you’ll find a full-size repleca of the Jason, the plane Amy Johnson flew solo to Australia.

On the path…
Hull City Hall preparing for another event

There are lots of must sees. Ferens Art Galery, Hull Minster, the Deep, Queens Gardens, the marina and so much more.  The best thing you can do is stop by one of the numerous Visitor booths and friendly volunteers will be happy to share. They have walking maps based on your interests.

You can follow the Hull Firsts Trail to learn about the people and their accomplishments. Or take the Hull Blitz Trail if you

Hull Minster with shallow pools

want to learn about the people and the city enduring 86 bombing raids in WWII.

Go on a quest for Larkin’s Toads.  Many of the original 40 giant fiberglass based toads created as a commemorative fund raiser are still visible around the city.  You will find them in a wide array of colorful artwork.

Those from Hull are quite proud to be able to make the claim that they

The Deep Aquarium sits at the conflux of the river Humber and its estuary to the North Sea

kept the king out.  You can visit the spot where the famous Beverly Gate once stood. Here they refused the king entry. Thus began the Civil War.

Be sure to take your “brelly” because the weather can switch from sun to showers in a heartbeat. Thanks so much for a lovely tour Dorothy!!!!!

Schedule your trip to see touring art shows, watch an event or take in a concert. Visit the city’s website to explore your options:


Cave Castle Fairytale wedding venue

Cave Castle for Weddings and more

Cave Castle Hotel & Country Club

 Girls in the East Riding of Yorkshire all know of Cave Castle Hotel.  It is a favorite place to have your fairytale wedding. Large or intimate they can help the bride make her wedding day dreams come true. But they also offer a lot more…

 Set in the midst of 150 acres of meadows and park lands it is absolutely

Cave Castle Pond and Geese

stunning. A beautifully groomed golf course drapes around the manor like a cape. Across the drive, the pond fed by a natural spring used to be the main water source for the villagers. Now, with its resident geese, it is entertainment for the visitors. Children and adults alike enjoy their antics and quest for bread.

Cave Castle Manor
The current building was erected in the 1870s on the foundations of a previous structure. The history is a bit obscure but has tracked to the Domesday book of the 11th century.  The entrance to an underground tunnel that leads to the chapel hints at the lost stories.

Today guests enjoy the Victorian manor house built in the Gothic Revival

Cave Castle 4-Poster Bedroom

Style. It is complete with crenelated towers. Despite the “cannons” at the entry, it was never designed as a fortification. Inside it is a luxurious haven for relaxation and comfort.

Locals love it for social and business events small and large. They partner extensively with the local community and can meet a broad spectrum of desires.
Our guide Emma & Judi
Our hostess, Emma shared with us the fascinating building and its history. She was a wealth of knowledge on all it offers to guests. The spa, health club, golf course, country club all await both guests and locals. Cave Castle has made great efforts to tie itself into local life both as a social and business venue.
Year around events….
Emma keeps busy creating all the fun events at Cave Castle. Besides the daily activities, you’ll find lots more. Murder mysteries, concerts, and many special wedding events. There are also themed holiday events. For a quirky bit of fun, join them in December for “A Christmas Killing” murder mystery event.
Coming from the US, I was intrigued with the history. George Washington’s grandfather used to live at Cave Castle. He was a partial owner before he emigrated to America. A portrait of our first president still hangs in the house.

Both the cafe and the restaurant have first-class food. The cafe is more

Cave Castle Restaurant has views across the green park lands.

casual and the restaurant offers fine dining. If you stop by the cafe for a bit of lunch or a coffee, don’t miss their desserts. They are made on-site and are divine. 


Local sourced, fresh daily gourmet treats. The restaurant draws visitors for miles. Choose from the A La Carte menu or table d’hote menu which changes daily.

Cave Castle sandwich with 2 salads
Lovely Cappuccinos
Cave Castle hospitality attracts not only resident guests but local patrons alike. The golf club, fitness center and spa all provide opportunities for health, wellness and relaxation.

If you are ever in East Yorkshire, be sure to put this on your bucket list. Whether you are looking for a

Yummy dessert

golf retreat, spa retreat, romantic escape, or a fine dinner, this is the place to be.

Magical mysteries of Standing Stones

Mysteries of Standing Stones

Some of my best adventures happened when we got off the main road in search of a local treasure… like standing stones. Standing stones are a record of man’s history and they seem to hold some sort of mysterious magic. I’ve heard it called energy.

Standing Stones

Standing stones are single or groups of stones which are typically upright in position.  But, they are often combined with stones laying horizontally across the top of them.  Think Stonehenge.

Aerial view of Stonehenge standing stones
Stonehenge aerial view


Their fascination lies in their age. To someone who has grown up in the Western US, a man-created structure over 100 years of age is extremely rare.  On the east coast, they can trace structures back to the 17th century.

In Europe and the UK, our ancestors have left physical markers that are far older.  Those markers draw visitors by the thousands every year.  To protect popular destinations from damage and vandalism, protectors fence them or limit access.


Stonehenge exemplifies a stone circle that is easily accessed and full of history. It’s probably the best known standing stone circle in the world. Started in about 3100BC, history and mystery shroud it.

Stonehenge paths are accessible to all
Paths at Stonehenge are easily accessible to all

Accessed via the A36 and A303 it is about 40 miles east of Bath on your way to London.  Stonehenge receives tens of thousands of visitors. A paved path minimizes human impact on the site.

Two things struck me.  One – it was raining sideways and there is little shelter on the Salisbury Plains.  Be prepared for what mother nature sends you direction.

The second was the extremes.  These magnificent ancient stones erected and placed in a precise manner.  The difficulty of the work had to be incredible.  Then shift your gaze and the A303 freeway is in the background.

The site is handicap accessible and there are visitor facilities available.

I respect the need to preserve, but the restrictions of access felt sad.

The stones are magnificent and impressive, but their majesty feels restricted and distant.


Avebury is an even older ring of stones and the largest in the world. It also

offers you a more authentic peaceful experience of the majesty of standing stones.

While you can’t reach Avebury via tour bus… that’s ok.  It means the area gets far fewer visitors and less impact.  Narrow roads and hairpin turns restrict large vehicles.  It’s an entirely different experience.

"Avebury Standing Stone
Massive natural standing stone at Avebury

Avebury’s about 30 miles north of Stonehenge.  It’s a short hop north off the A4 – an old Roman road that used to link London to Bath.

Much of Avebury is within a huge standing stone circle.  Researchers date the stones to 3400BC.  The start of construction had to be 300 years before Stonehenge.  Another difference is the stones.  The stones not smoothed or chiseled like those of its neighbor.  These are natural in shape. The work needed to move them from their quarry two miles away had to be extreme.

Go and Explore

Park your car and go through the gate – mind you don’t let the sheep out. There you are. You and the sheep among the massive stones.

The remaining perimeter standing stones at Avebury seen from aerial view
Avebury seen from aerial view

The outermost circle is 1396 feet in circumference but there is more than one circle here.  Inside this is a second circle which encloses two more circles. They offer guided walks of this Neolithic monument. Or do a self-tour.  There is a great little store in the post office that has lots of useful information on the area available.

The Avebury pub is the only one in the world completely surrounded by a stone circle… It’s  also got a reputation for good food.

No one will rush you here.  Walk the perimeter, enjoy the peace and the energy. Visit with the locals.  Take your time and restore.


Travel insurance protection for international travel

Do I Really Need Travel Insurance?

Do the current attacks and events have you a little nervous about travel? It may be time to reconsider travel insurance.

This is a question that has personally confused me over the years. First, how do you know if you need it? Second, how do you pick it?

I think the answer is there are a few “ifs” and a lot you need to check out. Fortunately, it’s getting much easier to know whether you need it, and then to find the right coverage.

What to consider…

Where are you traveling?

If you’re headed to the coast with the kids for a weekend you probably don’t need travel insurance.  Headed down the road to visit Grandma? Same answer.

Frazzled travel planner 

If you are traveling over 100 miles, have to prepay for tickets, expensive events, or a tour, you may want coverage.

Keywords are “prepaid” and “non-refundable”. You can’t get insurance to reimburse you for money you haven’t spent.

If you are flying, you may want coverage in case there are flight delays or baggage issues.

Sit down with pen and paper and add up trip costs that are non-refundable. Things like pre-paid flights, hotel, all-inclusive packages, tour packages and event tickets. This will show you the travel coverage that you need.

International travel

International has more considerations. It’s more expensive and insurance coverage that you have may not cover you.

  • If traveling internationally, you may want to supplement your health insurance. This may also cover emergency medical evacuation. Medicare does not cover international travelers.
  • Are you a regular traveler? You can purchase coverage that covers all your travels in a year. There are some restrictions and caveats.
  • Another way to save on insurance is to cover all family members traveling together on the same policy.
  • Be aware of the limits and exclusions on the policy.
  • Think about extra coverage – for failure of an airline, cruise ship or travel
    Stressed travel researcher


  • Activity coverage. There are a lot of common tourist activities that are only covered if you request this. You may not ride an elephant or camel at home, but tourists do this. One woman was badly hurt falling off a camel.
  • Winter sports are a lot of fun but can lead to accidents. You need these covered, just in case.
  • “Cancel for any reason” this covers you for all eventualities. This covers you for things that are foreseeable but unavoidable. If you are traveling with a known medical condition, it’s the only way you can get reimbursed for last minute cancellation.
  • What about coverage through my airline reservation? Do some comparisons. These generally are much more restrictive and harder to receive reimbursement on.

Will you be driving internationally? Most travel policies do not cover international car rental. Your existing auto insurance may not cover this. Some credit card benefits do cover international car rental – check it out. But there are specific restrictions you need to be aware of. Reading the fine print is the only way to know.

Select coverage

When you start making reservations, you need to find desired coverage right away. Most companies require you to purchase coverage within 10-21 days of making your initial purchase. If you have additional purchases to make, contact the company.

Once you have decided what you need, you need to go to an insurance comparison website. Three of the leaders are:

  • insuremytrip.ocm

I recently used Squaremouth based on a travel insurance review that I read. The company is top rated and has 44,795 travel insurance reviews. They made it easy to compare coverage and find exactly what I needed. And the price was less than I was expecting to have to pay.

[Note: I have no financial interest in Squaremouth and receive no reimbursement from them.]

Take documentation with you

In addition to your travel documentation, be sure to take copies and contact information for:

Travel documents
  • your travel insurance policy
  • international health care coverage
  • credit card details on international car rental if applicable

Proper insurance coverage will allow you to relax and travel knowing you have it covered.

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