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Mar Menor

From small sea to large pond, this area has had many names but all describe the natural formation that we see today at Mal Menor, its name translating as “minor sea”. Europe’s largest salt water coastal lake is located on the Iberian peninsular near Cartagena and home to 170km2 of sun warmed salt water. Not only does it provide an amazing view, but is a great location for water sports such as stand up paddle-boarding, windsurfing and kite boarding.

La Manga (meaning sleeve) is the area that separates the salt water lagoon from the Mediterranean sea. A strip of land full of holiday apartments and hotels provide a modern looking tourist resort that can be easily spotted from the main land. Originally the bay was open and La Manga was the natural end of the salt lake. Over many years, the volcanic reefs at either end of the bay started to hold back sand and sediment in between two meeting seas, the Menor and the Mediteranean. Now, La Manga is the result of that natural phenomenon. The resort has been being built since the 60’s and now very commercialised.

La Manga
La Manga in the distance

The mainland side of the Mar Menor lagoon, looks out to sea and to the right of us are the blue and purple silhouettes of the mountain ranges. Taking our first outing from our volunteering stint with Galgos del Sol, we ventured to Mal Menor as it looked interesting on the map.

Mar Menor and it’s ecological importance

Emma on the edge

The northern end of Mar Menor still has salt flats and these now include a wetland protected by the regional government and is a special protection zone (known as a Zepa in Spanish) for bird life.  It is a humid area with its own micro-climate. It has been included in the list of wetlands of international importance since 1994.

With reeds standing 15 ft tall, sea lily, sea thistle and more, a broad representation for varying flora can be discovered here providing all sorts of food and habitats for the wildlife. With birds such as the grebe, large cormorant, black neck grebe, stilt, plover and tern for example, there are also reptiles including the Iberian skink, red-headed lizard (which we didn’t see) and common chameleon (which we could have looked straight at but not seen). Endangered insects, crustaceans and fish also live her and mammals such as shrew, weasels and bats.

reeds mar menor
Reeds in the conservation area

Beaches

There are more than 8km of beaches around the Mar Menor lagoon. Three most popular beaches are Las Salinas, Beach Barraca and Punta de Algas although there are many more options for quieter locations depending on what experience you are looking for.

We headed to a location given to us, just the other side of Murcia airport and near a couple of motorhome campsites. They were full of holiday makers even in early March so  that was a good sign for us! After a few failed attempts we finally located Kinita restaurant and beach club and found somewhere to park.

Visiting the conservation area

conservation area looking out to sea
Conservation area

Walking through to the beach was like looking at a postcard, blue sky, warm sunshine and palm trees lined our way as we walked through to the beach. Although not golden sand like the Caribbean, the beach was small but a great location to keep an eye on little ones! The sea was a bit mucky today but that could have been tidal so don’t take our word that it is always like that as we don’t know and we have had a few storms recently in the area.

At the end of the beach we noticed some steps and what looked like a little wooden footbridge so went to explore. This was the entrance to the conservation area. Wooden boards and railings lined the footpath to keep all visitors in designated areas instead of walking anywhere and damaging the reserve. A look out tower and some viewing platforms made for great photo opportunities. We saw some birds hopping around in the shallow water and watched them for a while. It took around 15 minutes for us to take a gentle stroll for us to reach the other side and onto the next stretch of beach. It was here we swapped wooden boards for a paved esplanade next to the sandy beach.

Playa de Los Narejos

palm trees lining the esplanade and sea
The esplanade

Kite suffers lined the horizon as we looked out towards La Manga and beyond, twisting and turning in the breeze. Children played in the sand and groups of people were gathered in the communal areas (If you know what I mean!). A few bars and watersports schools lined the path as we took in the sights and aromas of Spain.

As we walked around looking at the area, we heard a chirping noise above us. We tracked it down and found out that it was a green parrot, sat in a tree!

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a parrot in a palm tree!

We really enjoyed our afternoon off in Mar Menor and took a drive through San Javier on the way back to base camp. As the sun started to go down, a chill in the air bought welcome relief to what had been a hot day when out of the wind. With the breeze on the sea front, we forgot quite how stong the sun was and burnt a little but even though we were wearing sun cream.

And… Relax

Louise, Monanna and Emma

A nice relaxing evening of sorting out our laundry and cooking some dinner (first time we had properly cooked in 2 weeks for an evening meal!) before we head off for an early night. Although we enjoyed our afternoon off we really missed the dogs and cant wait to see them again in the morning.

Emma and Louise at the beach


We heard just now that Maria Jose has caught another stray this evening that will be coming to us after her vet check and we will be making sure she feels safe and loved. Add on to that our ever growing list of favourite dogs (Bonjo, Marie, Javi, Fiji, London, Peugeot, Joaquim, Kissy, Libby, Penny, Wella, Violetta, Tania, Blossom, Isabachi, Tomi, Montanna, Quid, Madrid, Moschu Anton and Twinkles – oh dear….) its going to be more than 10 days before we want to take any more time off!!!

Your donation are saving lives

With the money you have donated, we have been able to help care for the site whilst Tina and Nat have been off assisting with rescues as Galgos del Sol. Yesterday they caught a poor galgo that had been seen with a nasty trap around her stomach. After saving 3 other dogs the day before whilst trying to catch her they finally succeeded. She is now safe and being taken care of. We saw her ourselves today and she will be looked after medically and emotionally as she recovers.

We are so grateful that you helped us get here to the front line and you honestly don’t know what a difference you have made to the lives of these dogs just by helping us. We are dedicated and cant wait to bring you Marie’s story soon. But for now, we have to go and finish a few things around the centre for our night duty before we try to get a few hours shut eye and wake up ready to bounce into kennels in the morning!

Van Vs London House – an adventure!

This week we wanted to bring you a bit more of a behind the scenes post. We know you all look forward to seeing what exciting places we have been visited and what crazy adventures we have been having but this week it has been a little different!

From looking after London house that kept breaking, exploring the UK’s capital city, to flooding a fishpond – it has been quite an adventure going back into a house.

Van Vs House sitting?

Garden Lights London House
Garden Lights

We were house sitting for a family member in the city of London. They decided to go on holiday and at the last minute we asked if they would mind us house sitting. They get peace of mind that the house is ‘safe’ and we get free digs! Win win! Well, not exactly… We arrived at the London house around 10pm on the Sunday night so after a brew and chill out we retired to bed. This is after we disabled half of their garden lights…

Honestly it is like Blackpool Illuminations with all of the solar lights – don’t get me wrong they do look lovely, however some of them emit a really high pitched noise that goes straight through me. This is nothing compared to the cat scarer he has – that drops me to my knees like Kryptonite! After an audio hunt around the garden and turning them all off we have to try and remember to turn them all on again just before we leave #nohope #pleaseremindme.

Aiming to have a few days to catch up on some admin we were all set to be productive and motivated. Monday started well with a relaxing morning and a spot of food shopping. That is when it all started to go wrong.

Builders are in!

Office London House
Mobile Office

All of a sudden, the noise of drills and building machinery penetrated through the wall, making all of the kitchen cupboards shake. It sounded like someone was building HS2 through the front room! Builders had turned up next door. They kindly co-ordinate their house renovations for this week to have their kitchen ripped out, walls knocked down, RCJ’s installed and all less than 10ft from where we were sitting! They continued through the day to bang, crash and hammer all the while we were so hot we had to have all the windows and doors opened so the noise was amplified. There was just NO AIR.

We tried to get a bit of work done even with the disruption. The week before I had purchased a new laptop and this was the first time I was going to take it out of the box! Within one hour, it was quite apparent it was faulty, the screen was really pixelated. It needed to be returned to the store. After a battle with London transport, the store advised they didn’t have that model in stock so they would have to order it and it would be a week. Back on the bus empty handed, but we did still have a spare so we could still work but have to share between us!

Random noises

Later that evening the builders left, advising a skip would be delivered early in the morning. After enjoying the luxury of trash TV, not having to worry about where we are sleeping tonight or the power left in the leisure battery, we thought about bed. Beep… Beep… Beep there is an alarm going off somewhere in the house! Possibly a fire alarm battery? No. It’s the intruder alarm telling me it has a fault at 11pm. Could it have done this earlier? Sure! But where is the fun in that?

After having a look to see if setting it and resetting it would work, and checking that all doors and windows were shut properly, we realised that trying to do anything tonight was probably going cause the alarm to start blaring out and potentially police at the door! We left the alarm beeping, every 30 seconds, safe in the knowledge that we could google it in daylight as the home owners were not contactable!

That was alarming

We had decided that if the builders were going to be noisy again the next day, we should use it to our advantage and head out for an adventure! But first we had to fix the alarm! We found the manual and proceeded to disable the ‘tamper alarm’ safety feature before touching anything. When we tried to change the battery, we quickly realised I was not successful in removing the tamper alarm safety feature and the whole street knew it too! We repeated this about 6 times until, defeated at the first hurdle, I asked Lou to stay by the panel and keep turning the alarm off!  While tried to switch the batteries over, I broke the case for the alarm and have stuck it back on with Sellotape.

We were excited to finally leave the London house and explore somewhere I had not been since I was a child and Louise had never visited. Full of apprehension – from travelling by London transport to whether the museum would be as good as I remembered, we boarded the train to London and changed onto the underground to Kensington South.

Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum London
Natural History Museum

From the second you lay eyes on the museum you are in love. The architecture is incredible and is also reflected on the inside in a similar fashion. From the ceilings painted with flowers and animals, to monkeys carved into the pillars it takes your breath away.  Built between 1873 and 1881 and by the architect Alfred Waterhouse. The Romanesque style building made of terracotta stands out along with those other brilliant designs of the 19th century. With its cathedral like grand hall and use of arches, large staircases and detailed side rooms, this space has incorporated fossils, plants, and animals in every imaginable place. Looking at this building is a treasure hunt and day out in itself.

Don’t forget the giant statue of Charles Darwin at the top of the stairs to! The exhibits were out of this world including the moon museum, a giant moon suspended, glowing in a cool darkly lit room and tranquil music enveloping you in mystery and intrigue. The Dinosaur exhibit was very busy. One of the museums best known attractions with a vast array or remains and replications. Other exhibits include the mineral gallery, the vault – with rare finds and the most expensive jewels and the David Attenborough wing where you can watch the scientists at work whilst discovering all about insects.

Refusing public transport at rush hour we walked two miles for our dinner. Dinner out at a Persian restaurant finished our day. Amazing authentic kebabs, fresh bread and salad for our main course followed our feta and mint starters.

A Window

London house

Arriving back at the London house late in the evening we were thoroughly shattered! We went upstairs and tried to open the windows as it was so hot, only they wouldn’t open. This house is like fort-knocks and no one is getting in or out tonight! A search for the keys, again late at night, yielded no response. A hot night with no air ensued! Things are not going well!

It seems that either we have been out of a house for so long that things have changed far beyond our ability to relearn, or this house is trying to tell us something! At that point we got the fan from the master room. Held together with cable ties and making a sound that was not healthy, we turned it off again very quickly and will be having words with someone on his return home!

Wednesday morning, we try and have an admin day today. Writing and researching the next post is fun but the building work is still going on. The cupboards have become booby-trapped by the vibrations and opening the doors is a risk to your life! Things keep falling out on us like a friendly poltergeist is having a laugh! On the plus side, we eventually found the key windows!

End of Alexa and start of another problem!

The London house is still standing but only just – the internet is up the creek! For some reason, Louise’s phone is telling her the password has changed – it hasn’t. My connection is hit and miss, it keeps dropping out. We reboot the phone and same issue. Troubleshooting the problem, we try to reboot the router. We broke Alexa. It was a sad day. Alexa kept telling us to look at the Alexa app – but we don’t have one and the home owners phone is somewhere in Europe.

Thursday – we were woken with a bit of a shock. Voices. 2 males. A clatter, a bang and the sound of a ladder.  I quickly glance at the clock. 6:45AM. “Is the London House being burgled?” I think?  “No, surely they would want to be quiet? Maybe that’s their cover, be so loud that they don’t look shifty?” The windows are both open and we can hear everything they are saying – luckily the curtains are drawn but we lay still in bed. The window suddenly gets pushed closed! SPLOSH! Ahh! It’s ok – window cleaners! Panic over.

Kitchen Catastrophe

kitchen london house
Kitchen Catastrophe

After the startling and early wake up call, Today the Dishwasher decided to break. We google the make and model and try to fix it! Torn between leaving it for their return or dismantling it on the lawn we opt for the first option.  After a hard day at the computers, we fell into bed and slept like babies… For a couple of hours at least! Until this… The local foxes were holding auditions for the next performance of FAME and had us awake all night as they rioted up and down the road screaming! We did check out of the window and they were not in harms way or looking hurt – they were just being territorial, possibly over some scraps of food.

Fish Pond Fiasco

Koi london house

As you can imagine by Friday – we were rather scared to touch anything! However we still had a duty to look after the London house. The fishpond is a rather nice feature and it is enjoyable watching them swimming about. Due to the warm weather we noticed that it could do with a little bit of a top up so set the hose going and went inside for a while.

As you can guess, we forgot it was on and by the time we remembered and ran out there, there was a little bit of water just starting to cover the edge of the patio. The fish were all perfectly fine however if they wanted to escape they could possibly have beached themselves so I found a bucket and started to scoop water out the pond and relocate it out of the back gate. I really hope they are not going to watch the CCTV back!

It was at this point that the rather large black cloud above me decided to break. It came down like bricks! Cold wet bricks. As fast as I was scooping, it was being thrown back on me and into the pond. Finally, after a lot of fighting with the elements, I got the water level back down to where it should be.  

Resurfacing

london house resurfacing
Resurfacing preparation

If that isn’t bad enough in the catalogue of failures, we received notification that they were resurfacing the road that night, directly behind the London house and diverting all the traffic down the front of the road! Starting at 8:30 and carrying on all night, the noise of the heavy machinery and smell of tar filled the air. With that happening out the back, and the cars being diverted out the front, at least we wouldn’t have to worry about the foxes tonight! Wrong. 4am they re-appeared for their next rehearsals!

Although sometimes it is nice to stay in a house and have those extra comforts like a bath, a tv, a dishwasher – this week has been a real reminder of how much we have complicated our lives over the centuries. From not being able to ask Alexa to play music or for the weather forecast, to using a machine to clean our plates, clothes or provide us with entertainment.  Why have we made things so complicated? None of this happens in the van – well, ok, the door has got stuck before and locked us IN but on the whole it is uncomplicated and simple. No technology to go wrong and no manuals to have to refer to. It’s time to leave this place.  

A simple life

After thanking our hosts and walking them through everything that broke whilst they were away, we gladly got back in the van and we are now ready to hit the road again. Back to a simpler life, with just a 2 ring gas hob, a leisure battery and my favourite person in the whole world to share the experiences with.

We don’t want much in life. Just some peace and quiet, to explore this stunning country full of history and beautiful landscapes, and a donated smallholding full of pets, with a wood burning stove, hot water, central heating, no light pollution, roses around the door, a vegetable garden and enough room to have family over. No gadgets or gizmos, no overly complicated fandangled equipment, just a calm tranquil life without manuals!

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Amazing Coastal Locations in Ceredigion, West Wales

As far as holidays go, you are spoilt for choice. From sweeping golden beaches to a sunken city myth to rival Atlantis. From dolphin watching to steam trains through a mountain and a Land Rover discovery safari. Amazingly – you can do ALL of these things in West Wales – Ceredigion to be precise! Ceredigion covers the bulk of the west coast of Wales as you look at the map. The area is from Aberdyfi to Cardigan and boasts 50 miles of the most spectacular coast line in the UK. Considered to be the centre of Welsh Culture and still mainly rural, a coastal path runs from top to bottom allowing back packers or day trippers to safely navigate the sometimes rugged coastline.

Lets just get straight in and tell you about this amazing county!

Aberdyfi

Aberdyfi, also known as Aberdovey, is one of the most northern locations on the West Wales coast of Ceredigion. Now a beautiful and charming village on the north side of the estuary on the River Dovey it was once sparse. With early mentions of boats docking here with nothing but 3 houses, it has now expanded a lot to include bars, restaurants and miles of beaches in its own micro-climate.

Offering free water refills from participating stations it is trying to do its bit to cut plastic pollution. Activities include The Dovey Yacht club, Bowling Club and is an organiser of Welsh Cycling events, you will fall in love with this charming village.

Borth

Picture By Matt Wilby – Check out his Insta! He is a Graphic & Web designer, Duck film poster maker, Social media marketer, Tent Inventor, wanna be Photographer & actual Technician.

7 miles north of Aberystwyth is a village and seaside resort called Borth. A seaside resort with a magical difference. At low tide, a submerged forest becomes visible. Preserved by the acid in the peat, stumps of oak, pine, birch, willow and hazel can be seen. These have been carbon dated back to 1500 BC and may be connected with the myth of Cantre’r Gwaelod!

Borth is an old fishing village and along with Ynyslas, claim to have the longest and most golden beach stretching to meet the Dyfi National Nature Reserve.

Cantre’r Gwaelod

Wrapped in myth and legend, this is Wales’s version of the lost city of Atlantis! It is possibly one of the best known of the Welsh Legends. Legend tells of a rich and fertile lowland. 16 cities governed by Gwyddno Garanhir and a palace, Caer Wyddno, close to Aberystwyth. The land stretched across the expanse of the Cardigan bay sea.

The cities lay lower than sea level but were protected by mighty sea walls. A guardian was responsible for ensuring the sea gates were shut every night. One night, the guardian had a little too much to drink and when, at a feast with the king, he forgot to return and close the gates. That night there was a storm and the high spring tides broke through and flooded the area.

Locally to the Ceredigion region in West Wales you will find links to these lost cities all over, from a petrified forest in Ynyslas where strong tides wash away the sand and mysterious bells from under the waves. At Borth, a sculpture has carved tales of the scene on a giant slab of slate!

Aberystwyth

View of Aberystwyth from Constitution Hill

From the amazing views and beacon on top of Constitution hill, which you can access by taking the Electric Cliff Railway, to the 13th century castle ruins. This university town has a whole hosts of independent shops showcasing local artists and enterprises to the high street named brands we all recognise.

The promenade is 2000 meters long and is full of joggers, walkers and people wanting to relax. Some food and drink stalls line the way where you can pick up a snack. We had a fish and chip lunch with a seagull when we visited! We recommend you check out Constitution Hill at the northern end of the Prom. It has a lovely cliff railway (opened in 1896) to save the legs from climbing up – always a bonus! And at the top you will find a camera obscurer and views covering 1000 square miles. Attractions such as a kids play area, gift shop and café are available at the top.

Aberystwyth Castle

The castle ruins now house a park and play area. Construction began in 1277. In 1404 the castle fell to Owain Glyndwr and was occupied until it was recaptured by cannon in 1408. In 1649, it was at the wrong end of an order to have it blown up. Today the remains are the inner and middle walls which would have had an outer wall.

Rheidol Valley Steam Train

A narrow gauge railway from Aberystwyth to Devils Bridge. 11 ¾ miles of the stunning Welsh valleys rising around sharp corners and steep gradients. From here you can access the Devil’s Bridge falls. It was built in 1902 to provide a link between lead mines and the Aberystwyth harbour. From the train you can visit the Devils Bridge Falls.

Devils Bridge Falls

The Devils Bridge falls are a world famous attraction at the heart of the Cambrian mountains. Even William Wordsworth visited here and wrote about “The torrent at Devil’s Bridge”. There are two different walks available as well as a tea room and gift shop.

Visit devilsbridgefalls.co.uk to print off a 20% discount voucher. (If you liked this tip check out our post on cheap attraction tickets).

Silver Mountain.

Typical Traffic jam in Wales!

If you and your family like caves and mystery then you could also visit the Silver Mountain experience! Located in the western Cambrian mountains of Mid Wales approximately 11 miles from Aberystwyth on the A44, the Silver Mountain Experience was originally a silver-rich lead ore mine. By 1973 the Mine was derelict.

Now the attraction has been opened following careful restoration work. There is the original old mine “count house”, other buildings connected with the ore dressing process, plus many ancient photographs, tools, equipment and mining documents from the industry displayed in the museum.

Above ground are collections of mining machinery and working water wheels which were actually made in local foundries which closed long ago. (10% off if you book tickets on line!)

Land Rover Safari

Not enough adventure yet? How about a Land Rover Safari? With several tours and prices varying from £20pp for a 2 hour adventure to £150+ for 1-3 people on a half day tour, you can discover Devils Bridge, Hinterland, The Elan Valley and the silver lead mines in a Land Rover enabling you to get to places other tours cant reach!

Aberaeron

A Georgian fishing port town turned picturesque focal point for the rural community. Aberaeron is a great location to use as a base in order to reach a multitude of locations. Whether you are staying in a hotel, guest house or self catering cottage or campsite, you will be met in a friendly town with a variety of excellent restaurants.

Full of elegantly painted town houses, you can stroll along Quay Parade where the harbour is or take a boat out to explore Cardigan bay and the coast.

Llanerchaeron Estate

A national trust property, is home to an elegant Georgian Villa in the Aeron Valley. Self sufficient with a farm, walled garden and lake, the property has lots to offer. From Butter making sessions to Nordic walking and wild bat walks, there is something here for everyone to enjoy!

New Quay

Louise, Dolphin watching!

Oh New Quay! This place will blow your mind. We stayed on a caravan site here for a week and used it as a base to travel from one end of Cardigan bay to the other. Home to the UK’s largest pod of Dolphins, they can be easily seen here with the naked eye just by sitting on the harbour wall. You don’t need binoculars but they will get you a closer look! A few cafes and restaurants line the tiny harbour wall. It isn’t a big town but it is very pretty.

The beach is a must to walk on. When we visited, we had access direct from the caravan site to the beach and even though for a day or two the weather was awful, we still went to the beach in wellies and waterproofs! The best thing was that we had the beach all to ourselves!

If you want to try and get a closer look at the dolphins and seals that live in the area, you can take a boat trip from several of the cardigan bay harbours. Do be warned though – these dolphins are wild and have their own agenda on if they will show up on time! Sightings cannot be guaranteed even though the captains will do their best and point out all other animals they see on the way.

New Quay – Cardigan Bay Watersports

wellies and Waterproofs! hard core beach addicts!

If you fancy something with a little more adrenaline, perhaps Cardigan Bay Watersports are more up your street? From sailing and sea kayaking , paddle boards, water skiing and wake-boarding sessions you will really get your blood pumping! With courses starting from £55 and rentals from £18 +4 if you require a wet suit. They also offer a ladies only sailing lesson, lead by a female instructor.

Llangrannog

An excellent beach for families all year round, this is also a good spot for a bit of surfing in the right conditions. It is a really relaxing location with a traditional pub that overlooks the sea and a beach café selling home made ice cream.

When the tide is out, you can walk around to the next beach which is also accessible from the cliff top steps. Take a walk around the headland or join up with the Ceredigion, West Wales coastal path. The views here are among the best you will ever get. Being west facing, Ceredigion is one of only a few counties that can boast sun sets over the sea!

Another great place to see the marine wildlife of seals, and sometimes their pups, the bays provide safety and a rich spot in which to find yourself. It has a blue flag beach award and is a sandy beach perfect for picnics and castle building!

According to legend, a Ceredigion giant called Bica was suffering from toothache and spat out the offending tooth in anger. Imagine the size of Bica when you see the weathered rock known as Carreg Bica at Llangrannog, which was allegedly the giant’s tooth.

Cardigan

Guildhall Market

The beautiful market town of Cardigan is the gateway to the Teifi Valley (pronounced Tie-Vee) as well as the coastal paths for Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. To the untrained eye, nothing much has changed here in decades. It has narrow streets and untouched buildings dating back to Georgian and Victorian times. These are now inhabited with quirky gift shops, traditional butchers, grocers and independent stores.

Cardigan Castle

Not your typical castle experience for sure! From a Georgian mansion to the medieval castle ruins and grade 2 listed gardens full of rare plant species. The castle houses temporary and permanent exhibitions. It even has a live bat-cam! There are lots of activities on their calendar throughout the year so do check what is on when planning your trip!

Cardigan town

There is also a good variety of refreshments on sale in cafes and pubs featuring a range of locally sourced food. This even includes Sewin, a sea trout that is a speciality of the river Teifi.

The Guildhall market.

A Georgian building built around 1860. It has high arches decorating the walls outside and these are also reflected within the building. A crypt like arched basement houses the lower tier of stalls. These range from a friendly café serving artisan pasta, quiches and pastries, to dress making, clothing, home appliance and pre loved furniture stalls.

A new addition is a gallery that opens onto the street, full of beautiful carved wooden items and paintings of the local area. It is certainly worth exploring some of the side roads too as we found a few interesting shops selling unusual gifts. we find it helpful when we travel to check out these types of shops for unique gifts and keep them for Christmas or birthday presents for people.

Poppit Sands.

A short drive away from Cardigan is Poppit Sands. This is a wide beach with parking and a café on the roadside. Sand dunes and a lifeboat station block your view of the beach from the car park but a very short walk later and you are rewarded with a magnificent beach.

There are rocky areas on the left with plenty of rock pools to investigate and a lovely sandy beach where we watched the horses being ridden along the shallow water. Driftwood was in plentiful supply if you are looking for a project so bring a ‘bag-for-life’!

Coasteering

If you fancy a close up look at the rocky cliffs, why not book onto a coasteering taster session for you or your family. Everything your mother told you not to do at the beach can be achieved under the watchful eye of Adventure Beyond staff. They offer a wide range of activities including white water tubing, gorge walking and climbing.

Ceredigion, West Wales, simply put has it all. From relaxing beaches to full on exhilaration. Myth, Legend and modern museums. For more information on the West Wales Coast including Ceredigion, check out the Visit Wales website.

For other locations we have visited, for example 12 amazing experiences in North Wales or where to find cheap attraction tickets, check out our menu above!

How to find Cheap Attraction Tickets

There are so many things to see and do in the UK and abroad. Sometimes finances can limit our experiences and we have to miss out. We are here to bring you a list of websites that you can visit to help keep these costs down. This post is all about how to find cheap attraction tickets.

We aim to cover a wide range of activities below and pass on information that we have found useful but do please also do your own research. These prices were correct at the time of posting but may be subject to change. Always see the partners website for full terms and conditions and check to see if there are any limitation on dates.

Save money with cheap attraction tickets

By looking for the best deals on attraction tickets, you could find a cheap way to enjoy a day out. Some of these tickets have massive discounts and get you into multiple locations. If you are looking to visit a few different places, perhaps looking to see which passes would cover most of these attractions and enable you to save some money.

A quick search for ‘cheap attraction tickets’ on the web should bring you up with lots of possibilities. We have covered our favourite but there are plenty of others and discounts are always coming and going. Occasionally a newspaper may also offer a discounted ticket if you collect tokens so check with other media formats too!

Free Museums

Natural history museum cheap attraction tickets
Natural History Museum

There are tons of free museums out there that mean you don’t need to find cheap attraction tickets! Just transport to the museum. Most of the Museums in London are free. Have a quick google for ‘free museums near me’ for an inexpensive day out.

  • Natural History Museum -We visited here this week and loved it! We got to see the dinosaurs and all sorts of amazing animals, crystals, insects and even see the scientists working in the labs! 
  • The Science Museum – a hands on experience the kids (and adults) will love! 
  • British Museum – Retracing the history of humans from across the world.
  • Art Galleries – From the Tate Modern, the Tate Britain and the National Portrait Gallery.
  • St Fagans in Wales is a free open air experience where you can see carefully restored buildings representing Welsh history. Over 100 acres of history to explore. (Just a £5 car parking charge).
  • Royal Armouries in Leeds. The UK’s biggest collection of arms and armour.
  • Manchester’s Imperial War Museum
  • Oxfords Ashmolean Museum

Merlin Pass

Cheap attraction ticket Merlin pass
Merlin Pass

The Merlin passes cover over 30 different types of attraction and offers multiple event tickets for cheap. From the London Eye, Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures, Alton Towers, Sea Life Centre’s, Legoland, Blackpool Tower, Madame Tussaud’s, Warwick Castle, London Dungeon and many more!

Standard Annual Ticket – Individual ticket price £139. Family pass £179 (Family is a max of 3 adults and total of 5 people on the ticket – no child price it’s all the same.)

If 2 adults and 2 children were to visit Madame Tussaud’s, Alton Towers, Chessington and a Sea Life Centre just once each, you would have saved £92.06! This cheap attraction tickets benefit is that it will really help you visit more locations rather than pay to enter each one.  

* The Standard Merlin Annual Pass has some restriction dates and is subject to operating calendars.

London Pass

Cheap attraction tickets underground
London Underground

If you live near the capital city or are just visiting for the week – there are several ticket options available.  The London Pass gets you access to 80+ attractions. You can use a digital pass on your app and skip queues with the fast-track entry on selected attractions.

Visit some of the following locations on this cheap attraction ticket!

  • Hop on / hop off bus
  • Tower of London
  • Thames Cruise
  • View from the Shard
  • St Pauls Cathedral
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Hampton Court
  • London Bridge Experience
  • Shakespeare’s Globe
  • HMS Belfast
  • Cutty Sark
  • Wembley Stadium Tour, 
  • London Zoo
  • Kensington Palace
  • Kew Gardens
  • And so many more!

There is a day pass, 6 day pass and a 10 day pass. We recommend the latter if you have the time as there are so many great attractions to see in the city. Plan ahead to fit in as much as you can and use the hop on/off bus to get you to the attractions!

  • 1 Day – Adult £75 Child £55
  • 6 Day – Adult £159 Child £119
  • 10 Day – Adult £189 Child £139

iVenture Pass London

Cheap attraction ticket HMS Belfast
HMS Belfast

iVenture offer deals on passes at home and abroad!

Covering Africa and the Middle East, the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe, you can save loads of money on these cheap attraction tickets. So what are they? A pre-loaded, pre-paid attraction card to get you into either 3,5,7 or 10 attractions of your choice. Choose from plenty of attractions such as Wimbledon Tennis Museum, Ghost bus tour, HMS Belfast, London Zoo, Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge tour and Thames Clipper river cruises.

These passes are valid for 1 month from the first use and could save you up to 40%

Choose your packages, Load your card and off you go!

  • Ticket pass Adult Child (4-15)
  • 3 ticket pass £69 £59
  • 5 ticket pass £90 £89
  • 7 ticket pass £129 £114
  • 10 ticket pass £169 £149

English Heritage

tintagel english heritage cheap attraction tickets
King Arthur’s castle in Tintagel

With over 400 historic sites across England ranging from prehistoric sites, medieval castles, Roman forts to country houses. English Heritage states that it uses these properties to ‘bring the story of England to life’. If you love a bit of culture and prefer this to theme parks then definitely look into some of these more historic passes.

Overseas Pass

English Heritage do offer an overseas visitor pass. This is specifically for those people travelling to the UK and not for people already living here. This ticket gives you access into 100 sites and these will be disclosed when you receive your handbook. 

  • 9 Day pass 16 Day pass
  • 1 Adult £35 £42
  • 2 Adults £60 £70
  • Family pass £65 £75
  • Family pass includes 2 adults and up to 4 under 18’s at the same address.

UK Resident

For UK residents there are lots of ticket options covering all 400 sites. 

  • Individual Adult £60
  • 2 Adults £105
  • 1 Adult & up to 6 children £60
  • 2 adults & up to 12 children £105
  • Senior £51
  • Children are under 18’s.

There are other ticket options available – Check the website for details.

Historic Scotland

edinburgh castle
Edinburgh Castle

With up to 5000 years of Scottish history you can save money by visiting 3 or more of these sites.  With added benefits with partners Manx, English Heritage and Cadw you can also enjoy half price entry into these sites for the first year and free entry on renewal. Thanks Historic Scotland!

  • Visit over 400 daytime events
  • 20% discount in Historic Scotland shops
  • 10% discount in Historic Scotland Cafe’s

Pricing

  • Individual adult £52.20
  • 1 Adult and up to 6 children £56.70
  • Joint adult £90.70
  • Concession £41.40

*Seniors/ Students/ people on benefits/ Armed Forces

CADW

Cheap Attraction tickets raglan castle
Raglan Castle

The Welsh Governments historic environment service. CADW means ‘to keep’ or ‘to protect’ in Welsh and that is exactly what they aim to do. They are committed to protecting and making accessible the rich history of Wales. We have been lucky enough to visit lots of these locations over the last 18 months and each location is unique. From the oriental looking Castle Coch just off the A470 near Cardiff to the homely Raglan Castle or the fortified town of Caernarfon with its majestic castle on the estuary overlooking the Menai Strait and Anglesey. It’s not all castles though – there are also burial chambers, abbey’s, mines and iron works for example.

We covered some CADW castles in our ‘12 amazing experiences to have in North Wales‘ post

As with English and Scottish Heritage, you can reap the benefits of having half price entry into these sites for the first year and free entry on renewal. 

Prices are based on annual memberships

  • Individual £43.20
  • Senior £28.80
  • Child (5-17) £18
  • Joint adult £66.60
  • Senior couple £47.70
  • SENIOR FAMILY TICKET – If you are in charge of occupying the grandchildren, CADW offer this pass – 2 Seniors and all grandchildren for £56.70!

If you are not sure, or are on a short break to Wales, why not try the explorer passes, either 3 or 7 day options.

Single Adult 2 Adults Family*

  • 3 day pass £23.10 £35.70 £47.25
  • 7 day pass £33.60 £53.55 £65.10
  • *2 adults and up to 3 children/grandchildren under 18.

National Trust Touring Pass

cheap attraction tickets national trust
National Trust

Overseas Visitors

Like the English Heritage pass, National Trust also offer an overseas cheap attraction ticket. Allowing access to 300 stately homes, gardens and castles and film locations.

7  Days 14 Days

  • Individual adult £33 £38
  • 2 Adults £58 £69
  • Family £64 £81
  • A family ticket is 2 adults and ANY children under 18

UK Residents

For UK residents, an annual pass is available to secure your access into all of the National trust locations – even car parks! From waterfall walks in Shropshire, Manor houses visited by royalty to summer beaches and beautiful gardens you will be spoilt for choice.

Annual price

  • Adult £72
  • 18-25 year olds £36
  • Junior £10
  • -5’s Free
  • Joint adults £120
  • Family (2 adults and their children) £126
  • Single Family (1 adult and their children £78

Sea Life Centre

Cheap attraction tickets sea life centre
Sea Life Centre

If you are a hearty sea lover or a family member who can’t stop watching the little mermaid, why not take out a sea life centre membership?

There are lots of options to purchase a cheap ticket to the sea life attractions, from saving up to 20% by booking on line to passes for 1-5 sea life attractions or the annual membership which gives you:

12 Months Unlimited Free Entry into 13 UK SEA LIFE centres and Sanctuaries for you to enjoy. Exclusive Discounts for Annual Pass Holders:One FREE Entry to the UK Resort Theme Parks (Chessington World of Adventures Resort, Alton Towers Resort, THORPE PARK Resort or LEGOLAND Windsor Resort).

  • 20% off Gift Shop
  • 20% off in the Coffee Shop
  • 50% off Guidebook
  • Discounted entry to other attractions and access to special events onsite.
  • This ticket is £75 for an individual and £60 per person for a family of up to 5.

Sea Life Attraction passes

You can add other attractions to your ticket and bulk buy tickets from their website too, for example a 2 attraction pass (sealife and london eye for example) is £40 adult £32 child (3-15)

A 3 attraction pass (Sealife, London Tussauds and London Dungeon for example) is £50 adult and £40 child.

Attraction Tickets Direct.com

Stonehenge scenery cheap attraction tickets
Stonehenge

Rated 5* on Trust Pilot, Attraction Tickets Direct offer cheap tickets for attractions all over the world. Their UK section covers experiences such as a Sushi Workshop for 2 adults for £50, White water rafting for 2 from £109 and a helicopter ride from £39 per person.

Theme park tickets can see you make a big saving too by booking in advance. We found Alton Towers tickets from as low as £33 per adult and £28 for a child compared to the Alton Towers website of £58 and £48 respectively.

Chessington World of Adventures is slightly cheaper booking through this site in advance but only by a minimal amount. The further in advance that you book, the cheaper you can find the tickets usually. 

There is a Stonehenge experience that looks pretty cool! Travel from London on an air conditioned coach to Stonehenge for £53 adule £30 Child (3-16) and £52 Senior.

Picniq.co.uk

Cheddar Gorge cheap attraction tickets

This is the website we used for our Longleat tickets where we got 20% off the entry price when the Longleat website was offering 15%. Check out Picniq. We found it easy to use and they sent the eTicket straight away!

Covering attractions from Disneyland Paris, Dreamwork’s tours: Shrek’s adventures, The Mary Rose Museum, Whipsnade zoo, Crystal Maze live experience, Zip World, Cheddar Gorge, Drayton Manor and so many more! 

Visit Britain.com

St. Paul's Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral

This is the official tourism website for the UK. Advising on all types of tourism from how to travel in the UK, How to find accommodation, practical information on transfers, weights and measures, postal services, Pharmacies and mobile phones etc.

Other websites are available and we do suggest that you shop around to get the best cheap ticket for the attraction you want to go to. Every little bit you can save can go towards another event or experience. It really is worth looking at whether you will be visiting a few locations through the year and really making a saving.

Do let us know if you find a great deal and share it in the comments below!

As with all posts – we are not affiliated with any of these websites and receive nothing but pleasure from sharing this information with you.

Why you should visit Longleat Safari Park this summer!

One of the best examples of a safari park you will find in Britain is Longleat. The UK’s original and world famous safari park, is set within 900 acres of land. You will be amazed by the abundance of attractions. There are boat and train rides, animal experiences where you can get up close and personal as well as the safari where you can drive through the animal enclosures and get really close to lions!

If you are looking or a bit of culture too then there is also the Longleat House. With over 450 years of history and still lived in today, this is one of the finest Elizabethan stately homes in the country.

Visit Longleat Safari Park

This attraction is split into 3 areas.

The adventure park (Main Square),
The safari park,
The house and gardens.

Car parking is free for the attractions and the ticket gets you into all 3 sections. The only additional cost you may incur for the standard ticket (except for purchasing food and drinks) is for the Safari bus. If you want to protect your mode of transport, we suggest taking the safari bus for £5 each. This will take you safely through the monkey enclosure without risking losing your rear wipers!

The Adventure Park / Main square

Longleat safari park cruise
Longleat Jungle Cruise

This area is free for you to roam on foot. Explore the Animal Adventure area where you can handle a tarantula or python in the handling hall. Parrot displays show you all the tricks the resident birds can do, including riding a scooter!

Hang out on the Jungle River Cruise where you can feed the impressive Sea Lions, see the Hippo’s that live there and marvel at the Gorillas on Gorilla island! Hippo’s are considered one of the world’s most dangerous animals. You can get pretty close to them on this cruise overlooked by Longleat House.

On the boat trip, they have a set amount of fish per trip and these cost £1, cash only. Once they are gone, they are gone, so get in the queue quick!

Longleat Hippo

As you leave the boat you will be close to the Monkey Temple where you can see the red pandas and marmosets. Jungle Kingdom lets you walk with meerkat’s in their enclosure as well as see the aardvarks and porcupines.

The Family Farmyard lets you get up close and personal with the donkeys, goats, rabbits, emus and wallabies.

New additions

Koala Creek Longleat safari park

Longleat Safari Park have new enclosures that are absolutely amazing including the Crocodiles, Giant Otters and Koalas. The Koala Creek enclosure is something like you have never seen before. So much has been spent on designing the new enclosure to ensure the experience is world class for both the Koalas and the visitors.

There are trees for the Koalas to sit in, either inside or outside and just a glass panel about 4 or 5 foot high to separate you. This is great for photography as there is no glass or wire fencing in the way to mask your shots! This enclosure has to be one of our favourite as you feel so close to these animals that you don’t see in this country very often.

One of our other favourite places is the Bat house. A dark enclosure where the bats are free to fly about around you. They go so close that you can feel the wind as they fly past your head. See them hanging upside down from the ropes or eating fruit – a rare chance to examine these mysterious creatures close up. Keepers are in the enclosure (for the animals protection, not yours!) and we heard her ask someone if they wanted to tickle a bat with a feather! It was the cutest thing to see this bat enjoying a tummy tickle!

There are also a small handful of rides, like Rocking Rhino, a maze and an adventure castle that the little ones can enjoy. The adventure castle also has an ability swing and wheelchair accessible picnic table.

Food and Drink

There are plenty of options for food and drink including Pizza Piazza, a fast food kitchen, donut hut and boathouse snacks. For a healthier option you can check out the Chameleon Tree, the Picnic Basket, Cellar Café or the Orangery. You are welcome to take your own food and drink to Longleat and this can be especially helpful when counting the pennies. There are plenty of picnic benches as well as nice grass areas for you to put a blanket out under the shade of a tree.

Extras at Longleat Safari Park

There are some optional extras you can add if you wish to enhance your experience. VIP experiences are a one-in-a-lifetime gift that you can indulge in yourself or buy for a loved one. From feeding gorillas to a safari tour in the iconic zebra striped 4×4’s, a Big Cat photographic experience, meet the meerkats or feed a giant anteater/tiger among other packages. For information on these, do check the main sites website.

Longleat Safari Park – Drive Through Experience

Are you ready for the biggest adventure you will undertake this summer?

At Longleat, take the safari tour to get up very close with some of the park’s residents! You can drive through in your own vehicle but do be warned – the monkeys do have their own car parts franchise and take great pleasure in stealing bit and pieces. We saw so many cars with Monkeys sat on top of them unscrewing the aerials and pulling of wipers! We have information from good authority that their favourite vehicles to dismember are Minis and VW Polos!

Monkeys on a car longleat
Mini Monkey’s!

We decided that our camper-vans air vents were far too precious and being robbed by the little monkeys was not an option. We opted to take the Safari bus! For around £5 each you can travel in style with an average speed of 5 MPH. This enables you to learn more through the commentary of the driver/keeper including a fact at the first section – the Elands. The Eland is a breed of antelope with sharp horns that twist gracefully to a very sharp point. As stunning as they are, they can be very dangerous. The first zoo keeper ever to be killed at work was killed by an Eland.

Longleat antelope
Longleat Safari Park

The driver knows all the spots to look for the animals as she has driven through so many times and knows lots of their characteristics. A good tip is to look for the zebra patterned 4×4’s. The keepers will always ensure they can see the animals they are caring for. If you can spot them, the animals will be close by!

Feed the Giraffes

Giraffe close up longleat safari park
Longleat Giraffe

You can stop for a while in African Village and see the Giraffes. There is a raised viewing platform where you can be at head height to these incredible giants. During feeding time, you are able to purchase a branch for £3 and feed these gentle and semi graceful animals yourself. It makes for a great photo memory. If you do not wish to feed the giraffes there are still plenty of opportunities for a great snap or selfie! The African Traders shop and conservation centre are great to explore. Christmas is
coming so we started our Christmas shopping with some of their unique gifts.

Back on the bus you continue around the Safari through Tapirs, vultures, rhinos, Annie the elephant (rescued from the circus and now in her retirement home), lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves and of course
the monkeys! There is a bypass lane for the monkey enclosure if you want to give that a miss.

Honestly, so much damage was being done!!! There were whole families of monkeys sat on the roof of a mini cooper writing a Haynes manual for the new edition and collecting a heap of wheel trims and bumper parts for their Ebay account. (These items were not for resale in the gift shop!)

Longleat Lion
Longleat Lion

We managed to get some really good photos of the animals and they all seemed really well looked after in huge enclosures. The bus driver was very knowledgeable and we all had a great time! We are glad to report that we got a good glimpse of the tiny magnificent 7 wolf cubs that were born but we were too early to see the 2 new tiger cubs that were born on the 20th July 2019!

Longleat House

Longleat house safari park
Longleat House

Following our Safari and tour of the park at Longleat, we decided to visit the house. We were unsure if we would fit it all in during a day and it was a bit of a push but it is possible. Longleat House and gardens are a majestic accompaniment to the park. They couldn’t be so different yet to seamless! Perhaps it is the rolling parkland that means you can see the house from many parts of the adventure park or the Capability Brown landscaped gardens that connect them together. All we know is that we loved it!

The house is still inhabited by its current occupiers, the eccentric Marquis of Bath and his family. Some rooms have been opened to the public. Lord Bath has been known to pop up out of the private quarters to meet visitors and talk about his home.

Longleat house has so much history. Sadly no photos are allowed inside the house. It is packed to the rafters with Elizabethan architecture and artefacts to marvel at. The house was finished in 1580 and although the exterior maintains a Tudor feel, the inside has been altered to keep up with the latest fashions in country houses!

The house was built specifically to impress the then Queen, Elizabeth 1st. It was the first stately home to open its doors to the public and is the site of the first, and best, safari park outside of Africa!
The house has:
128 rooms
365 windows
36,010 tonnes of Bath stone.

In 1966 the 6th Marquess decided to open a safari park at Longleat and made headlines as visitors queued for four miles to get a glimpse of the only animals on show – 50 lions. Today there are over 500 animals in residence spanning 130 species.

Rent a cottage or hold a function

If you are planning a really special event you can hold it at Longleat. From a 4* spa hotel to a historic inn, you can make your home at Longleat. From properties to buy or for a romantic weekend away, the Longleat estate has many options to cater for you.

The Longleat Safari park estate is also connected to Cheddar Gorge and you are able to buy a ticket to get you into both attractions at a further discounted price.

Prices

Prices are always going to be more on the door but the great this is that you are able to buy on line and the more in advance you can be, the better!

STANDARD TICKET PRICES
VisitorGate PriceOnline Price*
Adult (16-59yrs)£34.95£29.70
Child (3-15yrs)£26.20£22.27
Senior (60yrs+)£31.45£26.73
Under 3 (0-2yrs)£0.00£0.00

* Prices show 15% discount. Applicable if purchase is made 2+ days in advance of visit. 10% discount 1 day in advance. 0% for tickets purchased on the day of the visit. Taken from the Longleat website on day of publishing.

There are also other offers you can search for. We booked out tickets the evening before the event on www.picniq.co.uk and saved 20%! Check out our post on how to find Cheap Attraction Tickets.

Check out our other locations HERE and don’t forget to give us a like, a share or subscribe!

Alcala De Jucar

The Journey to Alcala De Jucar

Today we are taking another coach trip with David’s Coaches. We are heading 2 and a half hours North of Torrevieja to a town called Alcala de Jucar. It is here that we will get to see and experience the Cave Houses. 

Boarding our coach for an early start we are able to fully relax. The air conditioning and USB charging points in the bus mean we can relax. Time to enjoy the scenery, something that usually only one of us can do at a time! We collect the other passengers and continue our journey. As we travel our rep brings us lots of information about the towns and villages that we pass. 

The bus is a happy one today. People say hello to the new additions as they board. A steady chatter fills the coach. There is a real mix of age groups on the tours we have been on. Sometimes there is an age bracket and personality type associated with coach trips. We found that to be untrue. The tours was were filled with people from all age groups and backgrounds.

Almansa

Visit Almansa Castle - on the way to Alcala de Jucar
Almansa Castle

As the journey was so long, we broke our route with a brief stop in Almansa. Almansa stems from the Arabic المنصف (al-manṣaf), “half way of the road” and this was very apt for us. Set in the province of Albacete and built at the foot of a white limestone crag. At the top is a castle built during Moorish times. During the Reconquest, a long period in history where the Christians and Muslims fought over territory in Spain and Portugal, this area became a ‘frontier’. This was between the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragon and the Muslim kingdom of Murcia. 

The castle was built in the early 12th century. Quite a few remains of this original building survive in the present structure. As with many historic castles, the building we see today is a vastly modified castle. Over the years, and changes of inhabitants, it has seen parts added and removed. The castle finally fell inactive at the end of the 15th century, after the expulsion of the Moors and a unified nation emerged.

Over the hundreds of years the castles fell into decay. In 1919 the Mayor requested its demolition. The castle was saved and declared a national monument following an outcry to save it. Restoration work continues still today to save the castle. Sadly during our visit we could not go inside due to this work.

vanlifediary Almansa Castle

Almansa Town

That didn’t stop us having a wander around the charming town’s high street and narrow side lanes. There were local bakers with windows full of sweet pastries. Cafes with chairs on the pavement serving hot drinks as well as refreshing cold drinks while the sun warmed up.

The town hall was absolutely stunning and well worth a few pictures. It had a lovely shaded garden with lots of sculptures in and this beautiful courtyard.  

River Jucar

The Jucar River is on the Iberian peninsula of Spain. It runs for around 510km from its source in Montes Universales to the sea in the resort of Callera. The gorge where the road runs is very deep in parts, especially as we get closer to the town. Our rep for the day, a delightful woman with a bit of wiggle room on her sense of humour, announces that we are about to start our ascent to the top of the gorge we are currently in. She advises us (tongue in cheek we hope) that our coach driver only passed his test last week and that he is nervous about the road ahead… Great!

Soon we start to see the road ahead. Winding left to right up the side of a mountain reminiscent of Lombard Street on San Francisco but on steroids. Louise and I look at each other and hope we get to tell the tale. Spoiler alert – she was joking and we survived.

Alcala De Jucar winding road
View from the top of Alcala De Jucar

Cave Houses

We are heading to the top of the gorge for lunch before visiting the cave houses. There are lots of cave houses here and we find out that during the time of the reconquest, the Moors fled for safety. Due to the relatively soft rock in Spain many of them hid in caves. These caves are visible from the road as we drive.

Originally seen as a sign of poverty, recent building and home shows such as Grand Designs, have started to make these cave houses popular. It is interesting to note that these cave houses are subject to the same planning permissions as ‘normal’ houses. This is especially relevant if they want to dig out another room.

There are a lot of benefits to living in a cave house in a hot country. The caves stay an ambient 18-20 degrees. Due to the thickness of the walls and that the windows are at the front of the house only, it stays nice and cool in the summer and retains the warmth in winter.  A quick scan of the internet will bring you up plenty of examples of cave houses for sale in the region of 30,000 euros upwards. A point to remember is that walls are hardly ever straight or symmetrical. If you have OCD or want to hang a large mirror, take your spirit level with you to the viewing! 

El Mirador Restaurant views

Reaching the top of the gorge after a half hour see-saw of winding roads, we stop for lunch at a stunning restaurant. The town, clinging on the edges of the gorge walls, seems peaceful. An odd shape bull ring lies further down. A tear drop shape.

Standing in the garden of the restaurant you get some amazing views of the gorge. They leave you breathless and suddenly the drive seems worth it. We stop for a few photos before heading inside.

Lunch at Alcala De Jucar

El Mirador Alcala de Jucar
View from the restaurant

Entering the restaurant you find yourself in an elegant bar area. To the left is the dining area. The tables pulled together to form 4 long banqueting tables to seat the 52 guests and complimentary wine is on the tables ready for our arrival. Organised into our groups we are then seated. We manage to grab two window seats and get to know our neighbours. 

For starters we had a serving of traditional of hams and cheese with fresh slices of bread. The main course was a delicious turkey stew (and the vegetarians had a fried vegetable dish). The deserts were what ever they had in stock so we all feasted on Cornetto ice creams!  

Wine Drama.

Louise writes – The wine was going down a little too well. More had to be brought to the tables. Imagine this… each table was given 3 bottles of red and 3 bottles of white to SHARE between them! One lady didn’t get that memo and happily polished off a bottle of white before the main course had been served. She then asked the gentleman, sat to my left, to pass our bottle over and down the hatch it went too. Well, this lady had no idea that the 2 ladies from Germany were watching her and so was I at this point, all the while trying to contain my giggles silently. Em kept looking at me and trying to ask discreetly what was going on.

The chap then asked the waiter for another bottle of white and it arrived promptly……. Drum roll please……. The same lady took it from his hands and filled her glass once again. Bearing in mind these were large glasses and could hold over half a bottle. Well the German ladies rolled their eyes, looked at me watching them and we burst out laughing. 

If you thought that was bad – just wait for this!

We got back on the coach to drive us down to the town to the cave house museum. Our rep clocks a bottle of wine in someone’s bag and it turns out that some of the guests felt it was appropriate to steal a bottle of wine from the restaurant. This was a total disgrace. If you took the cost of the trip (27 euros each) and looked at the cost of the menu from the restaurant (17 euros without wine), you would see that they were already offering a highly discounted menu to the tour operator.  Bottles of wine in Spain are not expensive and start from around 2 euros a bottle. 

Our rep made it very clear to the individuals that this is not what is expected and that what they did was wrong. The told the rep that another couple in the group asked them to do it and lets just say it was made very clear to these people, in front of the whole coach, that this behaviour would not be tolerated. You may expect this from the younger generation but actually this couple were retired and living in Spain.

The Cave House Museum

entrance to the caves at Alcala De Jucar
Entrance to the caves

Moving on, we approached the drop off point for the coach. The rep advised that the paths were very steep and the cobbles could be slippery. A safety briefing warned us to use our own initiative. If we felt it was not suitable for us then to stay on the coach. Most of us decided it was worth the risk, after all – that is what we had come to see. She wasn’t wrong! Steep narrow lanes zig zagged from the drop off point to the museum. Ee don’t think anyone ended up on ‘You’ve been framed’ but it was a miracle!

The outside of the museum looked rather discrete. If you didn’t know it was there you could easily have walked past it. The history of Alcala tells us that there are two important caves here. Garaden and Devils cave. Garadén, has 750 years of history and was used as a sentry post. Due to the gorge, anyone who came through from Castilla-La Mancha towards the east had to pay a tribute. The 170m long tunnel essentially acted as a mini customs area! 

cave tunnel
The 170ft tunnel

Juan Jose Martinez

The owner of the caves is Juan José Martínez, an ex Mayor of Alcala De Jucar. Perhaps better known as the bull fighter El Diablo he is also the owner of the restaurant we visited. I can’t help but wonder how far his influence stretches. We are warned that he is a larger than life character and that he is a poet. He has written in excess of 2500 poems, some of them receiving awards. Best known for his moustache and is often at the caves ready to great guests. Juan Jose Martinez is happy to pose for photos. Be warned – he may try to kiss you as it’s customary in Spanish culture!

We each pay 3 euros and are told that at the end of the tour there is (here we go again) a free glass of wine. We are not sure how much of the caves half of our coach saw as they bee lined to the end for their alcohol… The rest of us had a good look around as we saw all of the artefacts that now reside in the museum. Some not seeming to have a specific reason for being there we might add but most demonstrating the layouts a stereotypical cave house may have looked. There were old farming tools, taxidermy animals, mirrors and old cinema equipment.

Strange goings on in the cave disco!

At the end of the bar is a larger section with the walls full of pictures of Juan Jose Martinez with high profile individuals and images of him with lots of beautiful women hanging on his arm. We get the impression he is a bit of a play boy. Not surprisingly perhaps, when we have a look around the area he commissioned as a disco, we see something our rep hasn’t seen before. We have alcohol fuelled minds in the gutter so we will just let the pictures do the talking!

We asked our rep about the rounding of the wooden bar tables and the strange shapes in the concrete ones. We tell her what we see and she blushes a little before trying to explain to the poor lady working the bar what we are asking! Is that table for more than drinking on? Why is it curved like that? 

Bemused we watch as the lady and the rep have a conversation in Spanish before heading off to the area in question. A few moments later our rep is laughing and shaking her head! Apparently the tables are old farm tools, a little like ploughs, that were used to harvest crops. They just flipped them over and made them into a table. The bar lady found it very comical that we thought it was used for secret sex parties! 

Back to the coach!

We had some time to walk around the small town of Alcala De Jucar after the cave museum and see some of the houses still being used today. There was a lovely Roman bridge to cross the river and as we were leaving it looked as though they were setting up for a fiesta.

Little shops selling gifts for the tourist trade adorned the streets near where the coach would collect us. Around 2500 people can visit here each day in the height of the season. Something you would never expect on entering the picturesque location clinging to the side of the mountain and carved out of the rocks.

If you are interested in the other trips we have done in Spain.

Click here to find out where you can swim in a stunning waterfall used in the Timotie adverts.

Click here to find out about Guadalest – the most beautiful town in Spain

And here to find out about our journey to Torrievieja

Click here for other locations and don’t forget to Subscribe via email and follow our social media platforms!


Why you should scrap your all inclusive beach holiday and visit Scotland

We have had the privilege of knowing Rebecca for a few years now. She is a talented writer, baker, singer/songwriter and dog lover. Whether she wants to admit it or not she is an incredible human with a passion for learning and exploring. At the beginning of the year she planned on taking herself and her car for a soul searching visit to Scotland. As the day came to set off, she got up at silly o’clock and got in the car. Even though she was nervous about the prospect of being her own company, she didn’t let this stop her.

Rebecca kindly accepted my request to write about her adventure. Scotland is one of the places we would love to go to but haven’t yet reached. If you enjoy Rebecca’s post please do show her some love on her Insta channel. Check out the video she made of her adventure! It’s incredible and we take out hats off to Rebecca for her bravery and courage. Without further ado…. Rebecca’s post!

Guest post by Rebecca Allen – Visit Scotland

Visit Scotland and scrap your all inclusive
Visit Scotland

I had wanted to go to Scotland for as long as I can remember. To this magical land fit for Kings and Queens and almost every mainstream TV program and film there ever was. They told me that it was far better than England, and well, the whole of the rest of Europe actually. Well aren’t they full of themselves? 

Spoiler alert: They were right. 

I decided to embark on this mission during May half term of this year (stupid idea, I KNOW). It was just me, my car and a human sized box of snacks to sit in my passenger seat and keep me entertained.  

I did a 1,300 mile round trip, starting in Edinburgh and leaving Scotland at the Cumbrian borders near Loch Lomond.  

I cried for about a week after I got home. That’s a lie, I’m still crying.  

I now tell new friends that I’m half Scottish. Sometimes, I’ll go full days speaking in a Scottish accent. (While spending those five days on my own in a car, I had to get good at SOMETHING). I buy Scottish shortbread and hang the wrappers from my wall like trophies, that only I know about. I bought a Highland coo.  

It’s fair to say, I miss Scotland. 

Scottish lake - Rebecca Allen

A blog post or a dissertation?

I was going to spend this article telling you all the places that you definitely should visit whilst you’re in Scotland, but quickly realised that the length of the piece would be closer to a dissertation than a blog so scrapped that idea. 

On second thought, I now want to convince you why you should scrap your £300 per person-all-inclusive to ‘somewhere in Southern Europe that all looks the same anyway’ holiday (no offence Emma and Lou, I love you really… Benidorm… *rolls eyes*) and instead, go to Scotland! 

First of all, it’s beautiful. Like not just ‘ah that’s a cute sunset’ beautiful, because you’re drunk on the weak Blue Lagoon cocktails Fernadez has shaken and stirred up for you. Scotland is the kind of beautiful where you will wake up at 4am (drunk or sober) just to watch the sunrise. Where every single corner that you turn has a whole new world, shining, shimmering, and bloody well splendid. And the kind of beautiful where that one wrong turn on a road where you can’t do a U-turn for 20 miles is actually a blessing not a curse.  

Scottish mountain and road
Wrong turn or right turn?

My second point is that this place is magic, like genuinely magic. And yes, I’m a bit of a magic fan and talk about it waaaaaaay too much, but even for people who are not into all that, Scotland is magic. It is home to some of the oldest Neolithic monuments, stone circles, and burial chambers in the whole world. If you’re an Outlander fan (don’t, just don’t, now THAT’s a dissertation), you will have heard of the legend that stone circles are time travelling portals, for the right people, at the right time.  

It could be YOU. This Summer… 

winterfell castle
Winterfell

It also has fairy glens and fairy pools and fairy hills, and oh, how can I forget, our good old friend Nessie. (#Ibelieve). These aspects of Scotland make it perfect for kids, not to mention the huge Harry Potter thing they’ve got going on. As in, Harry Potter was written in Edinburgh, inspired by everything Scottish and bits filmed there too (could you ask for more?). And then there’s Game of Thrones, James Bond, Brave, Macbeth, Braveheart, Made of Honour and the list goes on and on and on.  

So, that’s the extroverts convinced. Now for my introvert friends.  

There are lots of giant empty mountains with no one else there that you can go sit on a be alone.  

You’ll LOVE it.  

Safe travels, have a whisky on me, love, Rebecca. 

Rebecca Allen on tour
Rebecca on tour!

We want to know more! Did you ever visit Scotland? Did it change your life?

Comment below and join in the conversation on Social media too.

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Visit Guadalest

We journey from a stunning waterfall to a town that looked photo-shopped. Our Guadalest visit was an incredible find with so much beauty it made us emotional. It has white washed streets and fruit trees hanging over the paths showing off its idyllic natural beauty. Picture postcard alleyways around every corner. A bell tower forced to sit outside the walls of the town as there was no space left inside. An incredible reservoir that is crystal blue like you have never seen before! So many components make up the beauty of this walled mountain town and we can’t wait to tell you more! 

A modern way to travel.

Davids coaches had picked us up early from our resorts local collection point on the Costa Blanca. We had all the home comforts you could expect from a modern 52 seater coach including the new additions of USB charging points. Between all of the seats were 2 USB ports to charge your phones, cameras or other devices as we travelled. The coaches were also fitted with Wifi but as we were travelling long distances there were some black spots. Air conditioning was also part of the draw to a coach trip given our 40 degree heat. 

Sadly the coach is quite a large space to cool down so some people on our trip were unhappy at the back. The driver did all he could to keep the vehicle cool but it is worth remembering that there is a lot of space to cool down. It is still cooler than without any air conditioning at all – just be aware and maybe just don’t take it out on the driver or the reps. (You can close the curtains if the sun is coming through the window too!). Bring plenty of water and a little fan to help keep you cool. 

Bucket List Tick!

Fonts De L'Algar

You may recall from the Font’s De L’Algar post that we had just visited the most breathtaking spot. The waterfalls from the Timotei advert where we were able to swim in crystal blue water by the falls. We are still so excited to talk about this moment as it had always been on our bucket list. Admittedly it also included a skinny dip (or chunky dunk) but that would not have been appropriate! We got to swim in a waterfall! We want to shout it from the roof! We have goose bumps just thinking about it. We want to do it again! People were jumping off of the rocks into the water and Emma didn’t do it as she got scared. Next time she will for sure!

The waterfalls were an incredible moment in our life and one that makes us so glad that we are living this adventure together, and us with you! We thought that moment would be the highlight of our day. We didn’t think it could be topped! That was until we paid a visit to Guadalest.

A visit to Guadalest

View of Guadalest from the coach
The view from the coach up to Guadalest

Just under an hour East (and up mountain paths that our driver deserved an award for scaling) we see Guadalest. The roof tops at the edge of the town emerge balanced on a cliff edge. White buildings with beige roofs jutting out as though they have been built into the mountains. Clusters of houses wedged in to keep each other in place and further up, a tower, on its own and a visual marker for our driver as we continue to twist and turn up the mountain side.

We pass Nispera and Almond trees, pine forests and citrus groves. Carob trees are common here too. Our rep explains that these trees possess a fire retardant quality so by strategically planting Carob trees they can slow down wild fires often caused by the blistering heat. 

Arrival

On arrival, we see that the town is quite large and has a fair sized car park to accommodate the many tourists who visit Guadalest. It’s not a surprise  that this location is so popular even from the car park! Strange to think that this little place is only home to 250 inhabitants but is reported to be one of the most visited towns in Spain! It is in complete contrast to the bustling tourist resorts full of English bars that we often associate with Spain. In keeping with its historical past it is a town that time forgot about. Ancient ruins, traditional homes and packed with character. 

Our rep gives us our return instructions. We have around 3.5-4 hours to walk around. Unbeknown to us there was a lunch option and half of the coach continue on to their restaurant and will join us in the town later. We feel smug, we packed a lunch today. We start to explore the town. To our surprise we find a Salt and Pepper Pot Museum, a Museum of Medieval Torture, a Museum of Dolls Houses and the Micro-Gigantic Museum featuring items such as a bull ring on a pin head and the bible written on a grain of rice. Most of these venues were just 1 euro or so to get in.

Cobbled alleyways and a light lunch

We walk down cobbled paths amongst white washed walls. Sloping streets with houses next to shops with window boxes full of flowers in bloom and bowls of water left for dogs and cats to drink from on the door steps. Spanish radio floating out of windows where wooden shutters keep the sun out but let the air in. A side street catches our eye. An apricot tree gives shade to a low wall opposite a little house. An old bicycle leans against the wall and a dog lead is tied to a wooden door, ready for the evening stroll when its cooler. All of these things make up the perfectly relaxed atmosphere of this charming town. Guadalest is worth a visit for sure.

Back in our resort, the local supermarket was full of spanish hams so we feasted on mortadella, gherkins, feta and Spanish bread for our picnic lunch. Fresh flat peaches dripping with juice and a taste that can only be found in Spain itself are our refreshing dessert. Topped up with food we continue to explore the town.

El Castell de Guadalest

guadalest vanlifediary.com
Tunnel to the castle at Guadalest
Guadalest tunnel
Looking up through the tunnel

The town of Guadalest is home to a castle you can visit whilst here. As you follow the signs from the town below you are taken through a short stone tunnel. Top tip – on a hot day, this is a good place to find some shade and a breeze as it flows through the tunnel. On your way up you may have local photographers take your picture to print out for a keepsake if you wish. Once through the tunnel you are met with further squares, shops and cafes. 

The castle is open to visitors and is well worth a look around. Again just a few euros to enter. The castle was built under the Moors occupation in the 12th centuary. On 22 July 1644 an earthquake destroyed the Castle, and in December 1644 another earth tremor destroyed part of the town. Now rebuilt and turned into a museum, you can find information on its former inhabitants through the years, rare Jewels, artwork and artifacts from the area. Unsurprisingly most of the information is in Spanish. If you have downloaded the google translate app on your phone you may be able to hover over the text to translate it to English.

Local goods for sale.

Leather shops display their goods on cobbled street corners and a stall selling herbs and spices fills the air with the aromas you expect from Spain. Some gift shops have sprung up selling more commercial items such as the good old fridge magnet and key rings. Other shops are also dedicated to items such as pottery, glass wares, jewellery and embroidery/lace. Food items such as honey, wine and dried fruits are also available here. 

One shop, quite large from the outside, and further up the hill, displayed really unusual gift items. This location also had a conservatory out the back of the shop and gave our first glimpse of the reservoir below! Interest peaked – we set off for a better view.

Reservoir 

Guadalest Reservoir
Reservoir below Guadalest

It’s hard to believe with your own eyes that it is real and not a photo-shopped image from Insta or a postcard. Did you see my ‘expectation vs reality’ picture on the last post? We all know it’s hard to find spots these days of outstanding beauty where pictures haven’t been touched up. 

We walked to the view point and looked over the stone wall to the incredible views. The colour is caused by tiny particles of salt suspended under the water. Guadalest overlooks the ‘Embalse de Guadalest’ reservoir, built between 1953 and 1963 feeds the Valencian region and Benidorm.

40 Degree sunshine

Vanlifediary Guadalest
Louise and Emma in Guadalest

We spent some time taking pictures and marvelling at the view. Behind us we found a little shade to cool down in as it was the hottest part of the day. A beautiful square dotted by trees and some seats to relax in. Across the square were a few shops and cafes so we purchased an obligatory ice cream. Our water bottles, frozen overnight, were now warm enough to boil eggs in and the heat was tiring. We gathered under the shade of a tree by a wooden door and looked back over the photographs we had taken.

On our way down to the car park we did stop to look around the Ethnological Museum. This is a small museum which displays a typical house from the 18th century built on the rock. This was part of the Old Town originally and the Arabian origins are reflected throughout the display. Access to the house it through is just past the tunnel and the original entrance is still preserved today. From the kitchen and bedrooms through to a small display on farming and agriculture, this attraction may help answer some questions you may have. Another ‘must’ for your visit to Guadalest.

Homeward Bound

Guadalest ice cream
Ice cream

A short walk back through the tunnel starts our descent to the car park. Views stretch out over miles to the sea. The clean streets and proud residents remain a fond memory. Images of the streets remind me of wall hangings in my parents house that I adored as a child. Terracotta roofs and little white houses winding up hills and the sky as blue as a primary colour paint set. I wasn’t sure if they were of Spain or Italy, I just wanted to smell the air. It smells sweet. Of fruit, leather and spices. I feel the cobbles under my shoes and I feel the grain of the painted white walls. I imagine I could lose myself here quite easily in the romance of Spain. 

The time comes to gather back for our return journey. Our Visit to Guadalest was full of surprises. We have plans to take another coach trip and wonder how it will compare. Today has been packed full of things it is hard to attach the right words to. Sometimes there are not enough words to describe beauty. We highly recommend a visit here if you can fit it in and have a day away from your resort.

Whats Next?

Next trip is to a town with Cave houses. We are going to see how the Moors lived after fleeing the Christians and what was once deemed a symbol of poverty are now in fact becoming sought after locations thanks to shows like Grand Designs!

For now, a little doze on the coach and a quiet evening in on the roof terrace. A couple of bottles of wine and some beautiful food (Louise made Crevettes with a garlic and butter dip). We listen to the crickets and smell the evening flowers as a gentle breeze rolls in from the sea. The sky is clear and the stars are out. We are even lucky enough to catch sight of a satellite or two!

Goodnight Moon

Rolling into bed at midnight, the air conditioning keeping the bedroom cool, we slip into a silent nights peaceful slumber.

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Visit the Heights of Abraham, Matlock

Whether you are 6 years old or 60 years old, a visit to the Heights of Abraham is great day out. From the second you arrive and take your seat in the cable cars you know this is an attraction with something a little bit special about it – if you like heights and caves!!!

Those who are not lovers of heights, beware! The only other way up is a long climb up a steep hill. If you can close your eyes and pray that no one rocks the cable car it’s the quickest way up! Oh, it’s the best way to take pictures too.

Parking for your Heights of Abraham visit.

Parking at heights of abraham
Parking the Beast!

Findng parking for your visit to the Heights of Abraham is easy. There’s a large car park, just off of the main through road, that doubles up as the train station car park. It is a pay and display car park and there are restrictions about sizes of vehicles. Louise managed to park Chewy (I was too scared to try) as we found a spot at the end where we could overhang the grass and still be inside a bay! 

A short walk to the ticket office later and we had our tickets for the cable car. They advertise that this cable car ticket get you into all of the attractions once at the top. It may seem a little steep (the ticket price and the hill) £18 for an adult and £12 for a child. They do have family tickets and senior tickets too. Our advice is to book in advance online and save a small amount. (They do also do a season ticket if you don’t manage to see it all in a day).

Cable Car

Heights of Abraham cable cars vanlifediary
The Heights of Abraham cable cars

Louise and I had both been here when we were children and remember it fondly. It’s strange to think that not much has changed in that time. That said, the attraction is still fresh and up to date. Originally the site opened in the Victorian times, thanks mainly to the development of the railways. Victorians had a passion to travel and desired to be entertained. The owners of this site saw a goldmine (well a lead mine at least) that could couple up as a tourist attraction. Displays here that show you how the caves transformed from working mines to the attractions you see today.

The heights of Abraham visit is synonymous with its cable cars. It was only when we were half way up on the cable car, that it slowed down. Louise remembered her dislike of being stuck half way up a gorge suspended by a cable car not going anywhere fast. I can’t say I was much happier about it. The views were stunning and you get a good spot for some aerial photography. There are 4 cable cars working when you visit the Height of Abraham and they do slow down. This is so that guests can get on and off. It does mean that the cars will slow down half way up so that the opposing carriages can change guests. It is normal and nothing to worry about.

Once you reach the top, a journey of just a few minutes on the cable car, the attraction really starts to reveal itself. 

Victoria Prospect Tower

Visit heights of abraham vanlifediary
View from the tower

A tower built in 1884 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s reign takes you higher for panoramic views of the Derwent Valley. The steps are narrow with only a handrail on the outer wall. If you have your sensible shoes on then you should be ok. It is amazing how much difference those extra 50 or so steps makes!

Show Caverns

During your visit to the Heights of Abraham there are 2 different cave systems accessible to enter. Masson and Rutland caverns. Included in your ticket price are guided tours that run periodically through the day. These tours tell you about the history of the mines, how women and children also worked here and not just men. 


Masson Cavern

There are 160 ish steps in this cave system. We gave up counting at that point! The only good thing is that 7 of them were down – the rest were up! Descending into the cave and adjusting to the light, the guide tells us about the mining that took place here. We move through the dimly lit caves, with the sound of water dripping gently through the rocks. Narrow and dark, we begin to understand how hard it must have been to be a miner. 

The guide moves us on to another large cavern where he begins to tell us of the early tourism trade. The Victorians loved a good show and also loved their ‘curiosities’. They didn’t have all of the mod cons and technology that we have now. We had great light shows, lasers and a host of video projection. The Victorians did it as good as they could. Often, orchestras were brought down to play their instruments to entertain guests. Chandeliers were hung from the ceiling to provide ‘amazing’ light shows. The last part of our trip has the most amount of step out of the cave. Around 80 steps bring you out just below Tinkers Shaft.

Tinkers Shaft

Tinkers shaft is an old mine shaft with a huge vertical drop into the Masson cavern below. This would have been used for raising the excavated lead, by women using a hand winch, in all weathers. Nowadays, there is a viewing platform with allows further views and photos to be taken of the valley. After your climb out of the cave this is a picturesque and welcome spot for a short rest.

cable car heights of abraham
View from cable car half way up!

Rutland Cavern

This cavern is lower down the hillside on the attraction and is a fair walk down some steep paths. This cave is smaller than Masson cavern but does feature a day in the life of a 17th century lead mining family. It is very interesting to find out also that the phrase “looking a bit peaky” originated in this area. Being underground and working with the lead, the miners would often look quite pale and sick. It was coined ‘Peaky’ due to being in the Peak District!

Picnic and Play

Walking back down the path through some woodland you rejoin the attraction near where the cave entrance was. It is a good time here to mention that there are picnic spots around the site including a children’s play area. This seemed quite popular with the kids on our visit and they were having loads of fun swinging like monkeys and making up their own games.

If you need a rest but the kids are still full of it, this is a great place to keep an eye on them whilst letting them burn off some energy!

Food and drink

With a terrace cafe, a bar, restaurant and a tavern, there are options for food and drink. Just one little note, the terrace cafe is directly under the bar and restaurant. If you are not savvy you may think they are the same place. We had intended to have a light snack but ended up in the restaurant where our eyes were bigger than our bellies! Look at the size of this Burger!!!

Big Burger at Heights of Abraham
Lunch at the Heights of Abraham restaurant

Fossil factory and Rock Shop

A visit to the Heights of Abraham is not complete without a trip around the fossil factory. With interesting facts on fossils and local rocks the kids will be educated! The may even enjoy the film about how the landscape and caverns were formed over millions of years. The highlight has to be the fossilised remains of a giant Ichthyosaur, alive at the same time as the dinosaurs. Coming in at 3 metres long it is one fossil you won’t want to miss!

The rock shop has some beautiful rocks and crystals that you can purchase either for yourself or for a gift. Decorative stones to Jewellery and from Geodes to minerals. We could have spent hours looking at the shiny crystals and picked up a little present for a friend here. If crystal’s don’t grab your attention like a magpie, you can also check out treetops gift shop for other treasures to take home! 

Matlock Bath

Matlock Bath and river
Matlock Bath

We really loved our day out here and after visiting the Rutland cavern we decided to walk down the hill rather than take the cable car! It took maybe half an hour/ 45 minutes as a slow ramble and was quite easy to navigate. We can guarantee we wouldn’t have made the walk up!!!

Matlock Bath is just as quirky as the Victorians. With a high street that should really be on a beach promenade! From amusement arcades to chip shops it’s no surprise that this was one of the first developed tourist destinations. In 1698 warm springs were discovered here and a bath house was built. Since then a steady increase in tourism has seen the quaint riverside town bloom into what we see today – a quaint riverside town! No high rises and high street chains will be found on this road, but a throwback to a time where women wore long dresses and carried umbrellas to shield them from the sun and men wore top hats and opened the doors for women! 

Today you are more likely to bump into a group of watersports fanatics who kayak in the river rapids or motorbike enthusiasts who gather here most Sundays and sunny evenings. Nothing quite beats a steady amble along the River Derwent followed by a cold pint and a portion of fish and chips.

We loved that we could reminisce about our visit to the Heights of Abraham as kids and now as adults how things have changed.

Things to do in the area

Not far from here are loads of other attractions worth a visit if you are staying here for a few days. 

Stunning Chatsworth House

Home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Complete with its 150 acre gardens and over 30 rooms in the house to explore, full of artwork and history. You can easily spend a day here imagining what life would be like to live here and mosey about on the lawn in a ball gown!


Bakewell

Known best for its pudding and the possibility that Jane Austen visited here whilst writing Pride and Prejudice. Bakewell is a photogenic town of honey coloured houses. Monday is market day here, following a long tradition and a medium sized cattle market also takes place in the town – however a larger agricultural centre with a larger cattle market has been built across the road.

We are constantly updating our Locations page so do check back as we add more!

If you have visited the Heights of Abraham, drop us a comment below and tell us what you thought of it, share your pictures with us on Insta #vanlifediary and share with your friends!

If you are looking for a way to find cheap attraction tickets, check out our post!

Fonts De L’Algar – Is swimming in a waterfall on your bucket list?

We are driving towards Fonts De L’Algar following our 8:45am coach pick up. Travelling with David’s Coaches we are now collecting passengers from Quesada, Rojales and Gran Alicant. The rep is educating us about the stunning pink salt lakes on our left as we pass mountains of white granules stacked on our right. Exported for gritting roads, the salt process has considerably shrunk since some of the land is now a protected nature reserve.

Torrievieja salt lakes
Pink Salt Lakes

Torrevieja Lagoons Nature Reserve is approx 3700 Hectares. 2100 hectares correspond to water surfaces and the remainder is the land around the lagoons. This consists of salt marshes, plant formations, reed beds, and Mediterranean scrubland. Marsh land originally and gifted by the King to the locals. Channels were cut to drain the marsh land back into the sea to dry it out, however the land is below sea level and they flooded it by accident. That is how the salt lakes of today originated. A fabulous disaster!

There are museums dedicated to the salt works if you would like more information

“Be a Flamingo in a flock of Pigeons.Savannah Larsen

Stock image from Unsplash
Stock image of Flamingos

We spot tall birds standing in the strawberry angel delight coloured lakes. A slight pink tint to their feathers, a large flock scattered over the watery fields. Flamingos! They come here in their droves to feed off of the crustaceans.  There is an usual bacteria in the water here called halobacteria. It is the pigments from these that colour the shrimp, that the flamingos eat and it turns their feathers pink. Emma remembers seeing these as a teenager when she last visited the area on a family holiday. Emma has some very good memories from that trip!

Grapes and Roses

Roses on a vineyard
Roses at the end of a vine

Sitting on the coach gazing out of the windows at the Spanish region we are now driving through, with mountains in the distance we are soon to drive up, we are educated about the vineyards flashing past us. There are odd flashes of colour at the end of every 4th row, Roses! They are susceptible to the same diseases as the vines and the farmer will inspect the roses. If they are being attacked then the farmer will know which rows to treat and which rows are OK.

Our rep tells us that when the grapes are starting to grow, the farmers attach paper bags to the stems. This is so that at harvest they are pre bagged. A process that protects them from the damage of the sun, insects and birds and is easier to harvest. Farmers just snip the stems which is quicker and means less bacteria is being passed to the fruit. It’s information like this that really help you to understand the intricacies of the area you are holidaying in. It helps you to understand their traditions and customs but also gives information you wouldn’t be told if you just hired a car and drove yourself. We hadn’t thought of doing coach trips before but we really enjoyed the experience and would do it again.

Arriving at Fonts De L’Algar

Fonts De L'Algar  waterfall
Emma at Fonts De L’Algar Waterfall

After a long but educational drive we twist and turn through the mountains. Soon we pull into a large car park by a restaurant at 11am. We get given our tickets and are told we get a free drink here with one half of the stub. The other half gets us into the attraction.

A gentleman just behind us whispers that the drinks are still free after a swim and don’t feel pressured to drink it first! He had been here before and said it gets very busy. His advice is to go for a swim and get your photos first, then come and relax with your drink.

Never dismiss a free drink!

We take his advice! Continuing on foot up hill for another 100 meters and see the entrance on our left. We pass some little shops on the way up with all the provisions you may have forgotten. For example, suitable shoes for wearing in the water, sun cream and clothing. There is also a fresh local/traditional Spanish fruit and veg stall.

Famous for the early Timotei adverts and then for its inclusion on an episode of the TV Series Benidorm, Fonts de L’Algar is really worth a visit if you are visiting the Costa Blanca. Crystal blue waters and mountain views, you can’t help but feel in one of the most exotic locations in Spain. Ever wanted to tick ‘swimming in a waterfall’ off of your bucket list? Now you can!

You can’t buy happiness but you can buy a ticket to Spain, that’s pretty close!

Just under half an hour from Benidorm (15 km) and an hour and a half from Torrieveija, Fonts De L’Algar is the complete opposite to the busy tourist resorts Spain is more commonly associated with. It is also very popular with the local inhabitants given its proximity to them and ability to keep cool. According to the Valencian government this area has a high degree of ecological richness, tourist services and environmental education. It has now been declared a wetland and is protected.

Entering the waterfall area you’re greeted by stunning pools of crystal blue water, known as ‘tolls’ or “source of health”. The water stays a constant 18 degrees all year round. It is a refreshing, but startling, way to cool down on a hot day. Bridges and paths have been added at Fonts De Algar to enable access to parts of the site. The site has a 1.5km circuit path where you can walk through the bed of the river. Do be warned there are a fair amount of steps given the location. If you want to have a drink or a bite to eat there is a restaurant by the entrance but the main attraction is definitely the water!

Expectation Vs Reality


Sadly the sun was not in the right spot during the limited time we had there so the expectation shot and the reality shot were slightly different than we had hoped as you can see below! Still, undeterred we got a picture! The water was freezing and the closer you got to the waterfall, the less air their seemed to be. Once out of the swell of the falls, the water drops down to the pools where the light was better. The water was so clear it was incredible. Once you have your shoulders under the water you quickly get used to it. It was very refreshing given that the temperature was around 40 degrees when we visited!

Expectation Vs Reality waterfall
As glam as Emma gets!

We managed to spend around 2 hours here which was enough to cool off. There were not any areas by the water for lounging, as it is a natural formation, so we were glad we hadn’t opted for the full day excursion here. The crowds were really stacking up now and the queues were getting long. We decided to let the other guests have their time and head down to the restaurant for our free drink.

No rest for the wicked!

Glad to be drying out we sipped our Fanta lemon (it tastes so much better in Spain!) and sat astonished at the fact we had just swam in a waterfall. The restaurant had a shallow pool just deep enough to paddle your feet in. The umbrellas were giving a little bit of shade and we relaxed while the other guests gathered together. We had a set time to depart as after this we were going to a very special location… A town that looks as though it is photo shopped!


Join us in the next instalment to find out where we went!
Read about our journey to Torrievieja if you missed our last post!