Have you taken the first steps to full time van life and now wondering what you need to do?
Whether this transition is one you have been dreaming about for years or perhaps a sudden impulse to live in your vehicle, we are here to help you out and ensure you have covered all of your bases. Full time van life is often a cheaper option than living in a house but it isn’t for everyone.
By now, you likely have the van already and are almost finished with the conversation. (I say that but a van conversion is never really finished!). You have made the decision and thought about how wonderful your new life will be. A simpler, more minimalist life. You look around your home and all you can see is ‘STUFF!’
Fret not. Here is a list of what you need to do.
CANCEL EVERYTHING YOU CAN.
1 Cancel your council tax. This could take a month to arrange and new bills/refunds to calculate. You need every penny so make sure you do the boring council tax bit! Some councils allow you to do this notification online so you don’t even have to talk to anyone. A cheque may be sent to your address so it’s helpful to be there or have your post redirected! (More on that later).
2 Cancel TV licence. It can be tempting to just cancelled your direct debit however you can be paid up to 6 months ahead. You may be entitled to a refund. Whilst we are talking about the TV licence, by UK law even if you have no fixed abode but a TV in your motor-caravan (or tablet /phone where you can stream the TV) you should still have a TV licence – if you have a home with a TV licence and that TV is not being used at the same time you can technically use your home TV licence to cover you. There is a lot of talk about how anyone would know and whether you could get away without having a licence. Please do your own research and make your own decision, I’m just here to tell you the facts associated with full time van life transition!
3 TV/phone/internet cancel all of these again giving your last day at the address. Be prepared for some charges, depending on your contract.
4 Gas, electric and water. Make sure you get the meter readings and report these to the utility companies. Take a picture if you need proof but don’t end up paying for someone else’s use!
5 Extra bin collection. We pay extra at our address for a garden waste bin. This needs to be cancelled or again, someone else will benefit financially. These are often on auto renewal set ups so cancel that direct debit!
6 Home and contents insurance. So easy to overlook when packing but anything related to the house needs to be notified of your exit from the property.
7 Mail. Options include leaving a forwarding address, redirecting your mail, a company such as boatmail who will scan and email or forward your mail to a destination as required. You may wish to also change you address with as many places as possible as you may not want your Dr’s letters being opened by the next occupant.
WHAT DO I DO WITH ALL MY STUFF?
1 Sort out what you NEED first. Space is an issue in a van. Make a list of the bare necessities, essential items and keepsakes. Once you have those items sorted you can start to look at what room you have left.
2 Sell some stuff! More money and less hoarding. You can use apps such as ebay, gumtree and shpock to sell things without leaving the house or hold a car boot sale. This will enable you to convert belongings to travel funds and boost your finances.
3 Recycle or upcycle. Upcycling is big at the moment and bulky furniture can be a blank canvas for a facelift. Why not try to find a local furniture upcycling group who may take that old chest of draws off your hands. We found a recycling waste company that delivered a skip and will recycle our items for us. This means less waste to landfill.
4 Storage is another option. Whether you have a friend with an empty garage or look at renting a unit, this option means your belongings should be safe in case you need them again.
WHAT YOU NEED TO ARRANGE
1 Photocopy documents. Take photos/ scans of important documents such as driving licence, bank cards and passports. This way you have all the details should they get lost or stolen.
2 Breakdown cover. If you haven’t already organised it you need to sort out cover. Don’t forget that you may need to confirm with the company that they can take the size of your vehicle. You don’t want to have a break down and then find out that the company you are paying wont help you due to size. Often this needs to be in place for 24-48 hours before it is active so give yourself time..
3 Emergency back up plans. Should something go wrong with the van you need to ensure that you have a back up plan, financially and with regards to accommodation.
4 Spare parts. Bulbs, fuses and fuel filters are a good idea to carry as well as using YouTube, Haynes manuals and ask on forums to see if you can fix a job yourself. Get recommendations from the van life community on trusted tradespeople.
5 Bright torch. either for dodging the frogs by the lake or being able to see under the vehicle, you need a really bright and reliable torch!
6 Always have a bag of change ready for car parking or public toilets!
THE FIRST 24 HOURS – WHAT TO EXPECT
Emotions will be high. you will be anxious and excited. You know that this isn’t going to be a walk in the park but you feel you have everything sorted out. Then you realise you still have possessions in the house that you haven’t decided what to do with. You have no choice but to throw them in the van. THIS ISNT PINTEREST. This is the reality of van life. It gets messy quickly. You are constantly battling for space and shifting things from one place to another.
It took us a full week of packing and unpacking, re-boxing, re-evaluating and ultimately getting rid of loads of stuff that we brought along with us.
1 It’s not uncommon to get ratty with each other when living in a confined space.
2 You will be busier than when you were at work and wonder where all of your time is going.
3 Plan ahead for water refills and toilet cassette emptying points.
4 If one of you is not feeling comfortable about sleeping in a certain location, you need to move. Listen to each other and respect their opinions. It is too small a space to argue!
5 Get comfortable with different smells, and quickly. Bodily functions happen, even if they are all glitter and sparkles! Respect when someone needs to use the toilet and go for a walk!
6 Top up your fuel tank when you pass somewhere with cheaper fuel. it may not be much that you add, but the money you could save will add up over the month! See how you could save money when travelling
7 Dry shampoo – buy it in bulk! Use it outside as it makes the van dusty however if you don’t have access to a daily shower it will be your best friend.
Anglesey is well known for its stunning beaches. After a day on the sand, why not go to the other extreme. Try a high speed boat trip down the Menai Strait! Rib Ride offer several different types of boat trip depending on your thrill seeking level. Their newest boats are capable of doing 73 miles an hour on the water!
When we booked the ticket they did say that parking could be problematic. They recommended getting there about 30 mins before your trip. Having seen the parking situation I would recommend getting there much earlier – especially if you are in a larger vehicle. We had the VW at the time so not too bad however the Iveco would be much harder to park.
We met up with Matt, our captain for the Velocity boat trip. He took us through a very extensive health and safety briefing and ensured that we were all harnessed up correctly. There was plenty of room on the jetty for all of us to get into our harnesses. The captain ensured that the boat was balanced as we made our way onto the seating area.
The boats are incredible and resemble a roller-coaster and that’s exactly what the ride is, without the rails. You must hold on to the handles at all times through this ride as sudden turns or waves could hit you hard. It does require a certain level of physical fitness.
White Knuckle Rollercoaster
The adrenaline is flowing as you power through the water past all the little sail boats! Zoom under the two bridges from the mainland and back again and feeling the G force on your face. Try and remember to breathe! This ride gives you a thrill for sure but also give you a great view. Not only of the wild life but the tiny beach houses situated at the waters edge. You can’t see these from the road, they are well sheltered. A little bit of envy perhaps at these gorgeous properties and their views!
Our captain was lucky that there were not many boats on the strait that day so he could show us how the boat handled. With loops and quick turns he put her through her paces! It was a real treat to feel the wind on our faces and pass the small boats as if they were motionless.
Our Rib Ride captain was very knowledgeable about the boat and the water he was taking us on. He stopped when he needed to around other boats and ensuring our safety at all times. The team were great fun and tried to take footage of us on the trip. This is because you do need to have both hands on the handle bars and it would have been far too dangerous to use a camera. There would be a good chance that you would knock your captain out as the device would fly straight at his head. Unfortunately, on our trip the camera failed so we don’t have any pictures to share with you. I guess we will have to go and do it again…
Great value for money and other trips available
This boat trip is not very expensive for what it is, £35 each when we experienced it and a really fun mini adventure. Only negative comment is that it doesn’t last long enough! 30 minutes sail time is all you get on the Velocity ride but there are other boat trips available at a slower speed.
Rib Ride also offer rides out to see the seals and puffins, as well as castles and islands. A 2nd office in Hollyhead also offers trips out to South Stack, Gogarth and the Skerries.
We have been on the road for a month now and wanted to share our personal journey with you. You will have read posts (hopefully!) of places we have been, but we haven’t really spoken about our personal experiences. Here is our post on the first month of full time van life.
The #Vanlife movement is really popular right now. We have been very open about our reasons when people ask us. (Vanlifediary will be doing a post on the questions people ask us soon!) We had planned extensively for our change to van life however nothing can really prepare you until you are living it. No matter how many times you read that you don’t need to pack too much for full time van life, you still will. This is because as far as you are concerned you have already downsized considerably. The truth is we still brought far more than we needed.
During the run up to us leaving I was still working a full time job where I lived on site. I would get home in the evening and be too tired to think about packing. Even though I was excited to change my life I just couldn’t find the motivation to pack for it. I know now that I was too emotionally attached to my ‘stuff’. The act of holding it in my hand and having flashbacks of the memories connected to it and deciding if I throw it, keep it or sell it were too hard. What I wanted was someone to do that for me.
Too Much Stuff for full time van life!
The day we left to start full time van life Louise greeted me in the car park. We had a very emotional send of from our work colleagues. The van packed to bursting point with (and not limited too):
2 Bikes (inside the van as no bike rack at that time). 3 Duvets, 8 pillows, 6 Blankets. 4 Bottles of shampoo (when we don’t have a shower), 6 Toothbrushes, 2 Full size and 4 mini toothpastes, 5 Bottles of sun cream. 4 Massive Tupperware’s full of rice. 15 Pairs of shoes, of which every day so far we have worn walking boots… AND all of our wardrobe – because you never know!
We thinned out more of our stuff over the next week as it was just too cluttered. Why did we bring 5 tool boxes, 4 wash-bags, 3 woolly hats (each), 2 extension leads and a partridge in a pear tree? No matter how much stuff you get rid of, you will still have too much!
Road less travelled
With the van down to a reasonable amount of crap, we could concentrate on our adventures. The first week was living with the STUFF so we didn’t get far. From Evesham, to Illmington Village, to Malvern and Hereford, our first week was so exciting. It was all new and felt like a holiday. We used a few websites such as searchforsites and pitchup.com for free locations where possible but cheep sites when we needed. Reasons like to empty the toilet cassette and have a shower. We try to free camp whenever possible but sometimes you just need a good shower and top up the electric.
Speaking of electric… When we set off we didn’t have an inverter in the van. We realised quite quickly that we had overlooked this in our rush to get going. TJ auto electrics in Evesham booked us in for the following week and we doubled back to ‘home’. We knew Tim and trusted him to fit the gear for us. We made all the mechanics jealous as we sat in the sun and they worked on the van! After all, it’s ‘home’ so couldn’t leave it to collect later! Inverter fitted we set off again and headed to Wales.
“Ones destination is never a place, just a new way of seeing things”
We stopped in Hay-on-Wye on the way. Totally blown away by it’s architecture and little roads filled with antique shops and independent businesses. The castle hid itself to us until we were nearly ready to go. It was covered in tarpaulin having some refurbishment work done. Saying that we did find a small hole in the castle wall and found a beautiful honesty bookshop, 2 massive bookcases piled high along the walls with a wooden shack roof fitted to protect them. Plants were growing on the floor and wound the books.
We have stayed in some amazing places but our next stop, Tallybont-on-Usk, is so far my favourite location. Just being able to fully relax and unwind, an impromptu 5 hour hike and frog mating frenzy made this an incredible location. We finally started to relax and realise that we were not on holiday. This is our life for the foreseeable future.
Dare to live the life you have always wanted!
The best part about being on the road is being able to decided if you want to move, or stay put. I could quite easily have grown roots in Talybont. It’s connection to Tolkein just added so much more and really inspired the imagination.
So far all was going well. As we were near to Louise’s brother we decided to stop with them for a couple of nights. To take advantage of a free hot shower and spend some time with them. We were not sure how long it would be until we were back in that area. Having mentioned to Louise’s brother that the van seemed a little sluggish, he recommended a mechanic near where he worked. We made an appointment and told Lous’s brother we may need to stay a few more days!
Miss Chewy spent the day being tickled by the mechanic. He thought it would be a good idea to change the oil, the fuel filter and the air filter as we were unsure when they had been done last. There wasn’t an air filter in place so all the muck from the road had been sucked into the engine. We poured Redex into her and we thought a good swill around the tank should clear some gunk out and get her healthy again. She hadn’t been used very much in the 3 months we had her. She had been between mechanics and electricians!
We also took advantage of a recommended welder to do a few bits that came up as an advisory on the last mot and got them sorted out. Chewy was being loved! In return we believed that she would look after us! Since then we had further issues with her turbo going and needing repair. This took about a week to fix and some angry tweets to Iveco. #sorrynotsorry. Luckily we could stay with family again but we did camp outside of Iveco in Avonmouth on one occasion! Touch wood she seems to have settled down except for a warning light telling us the warning light isn’t working. £150+ vat diagnostic fee for that one was averted! Oh and the sliding door got jammed so we had to climb over the seats to get in or out.
Somerset Sunsets, sat navs and crabs!
We have travelled through Somerset and met a fantastic bunch of people at Tuckers Grave Inn, many of whom were also on their own personal journey to heal and reconnect with themselves. We have ventured as far as the Norfolk Coast had had Cromer Crab, slept on marsh land with lapwings and marsh harriers surrounding us and now camping in a secluded woods not far from the coast.
The sat nav has been a help and a hindrance. It tried to take us down a rather narrow one way road in Malvern which caused chaos to the traffic behind us. It narrowed quickly and didn’t have much in the way of a pavement, just a tall, probably listed building. In the kerb was a ditch/gutter which changed the tilt on the van to where the top of the van was almost touching the building. Having cars up your rear end wanting you to go faster really isn’t helpful at that moment. Occasionally we have had to take a detour due to her size or the sat nav having a nap at the most inconsiderate moment but largely we are unscathed!
Some have asked if we are over our wonderlust yet – are you kidding? We haven’t even seen the start of it yet! Apart from van repairs most of our money has been in fuel as we have done a fair amount of back and forth to see family. We are hoping now that we can limit the amount of miles we do each day and just casually travel. There is still so much to see! Full time van life is an amazing experience.
We are trying to cook as cheaply as possible but not compromise on healthy fresh food. Today for lunch Louise cooked us a water chestnut and potato curry with a red thai curry mix we brought from Aldi. The whole meal cost approx £2.20 for 2 people, including the 80g of rice each. We are measuring our portions as we don’t want left overs (because we don’t have any spare tupperware – I am a horrible person and made Louise leave it all behind).
For us, choosing the first day of spring to leave for full time van life was a good choice. As we are waking up to our new lives, nature is waking up too. The sky, the buds on the trees, the fragrances and textures, the colours and sounds of nature… all things that we would have taken for granted when we didn’t have the time to look closer.
Not having a TV means we can ditch the soaps, news and propaganda, we listen to the animals and watch our barometer for the weather. This means we don’t fall into a nasty trap of talking politics with people! We did wonder if we would become lonely and not speak to people but actually we have had proper conversations with more people than I can count! Not mundane conversations, but conversations about healing, nature, environments and positivity.
This has been the best month of my life. A freedom to explore not only the land, but ourselves
What will next bring? All we know so far is a touch of cat sitting and a family holiday where we have to be still for a week… eek… that will be strange!
We were heading to a camper van meetup in Somerset in early April. If we know we have to be somewhere by a set date we can look at our route and plan stops on the way. On this occasion we stopped in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset. Home of cheese and Cider! I have been to Cheddar before and couldn’t wait to take Louise.
Driving to Cheddar is beautiful from every angle and is a great place to use as a base due to the amount of campsites in the area. I have stayed at 2 different campsites in Cheddar now.
What is it?
Cheddar is a limestone gorge on the south side of the Mendip Hills. It is where Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton was found during cave excavations in 1903. He has been named Cheddar Man and tests on his DNA show that 9,000 years since his death, there is a direct descendant of his living in the Cheddar area to this day!
Cheddar Gorge is a site of special scientific interest due to rare plants, caves and Vertebrate palaeontology. The gorge is 3 miles long and 400 meters deep! 2 of the caves are now open along with several other attractions such as the museum of pre-history. The museum displays many artefacts of great historical importance, that shed invaluable light on our ancestors and how they lived, have been found in Cheddar Gorge and it’s caves.
Jacobs Ladder is another attraction in Cheddar that’s included in the ticket price. At the exit of the Dreamhunters cave you can ascend the 247 steps straight up to the top of Jacobs ladder. Once there the panoramic views are breath taking. If your legs are still up for the challenge, there is the look out tower where you can go up even more steps (48) and take in the sights.
The climb is well worth the effort. You’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of the Mendips and beyond. To the south you’ll see the flat, lush water meadows of the Somerset Levels. To the north you’ll see the windswept plateau that runs for over 22 miles east to west! If you don’t fancy walking 247 steps back down you can always do some or all of the cliff top walks through a nature reserve.
At over 500,000 years old and excavated in the late 19th century, this is the most magnificent cave in Cheddar. I recall that the walk is around a quarter of a mile into the cave. In severe weather it has been known to flood to the entrance. You will also see where the famous Cheddar Cheese is put to mature at a consistent temperature of 11 degrees.
This cave system takes you through formations where the River Yeo carved its way hundreds of thousands of years ago. You can spot where whirlpools put pressure on the rocks and hollowed them out, as well as stalagmites and stalactites that have formed slowly over that time. St Paul’s Cathedral and Solomon’s Temple will have you in awe as you gaze up at rocks above you.
After your exploration of the caves, there are plenty of shops to wonder around. These include ice cream parlours – we found one with over 100 flavours! There are gift shops and cafes in the gorge as well as the obligatory Cheddar Cheese shop and the cider shops too.
If you don’t manage to visit all of the attractions in one day, don’t worry! you have a whole year from your purchase date to visit again and use the rest of the ticket.
You can walk into Cheddar Village where you will find supermarkets and other shops. Parking in Cheddar can be tricky especially if you have a larger vehicle so I would recommend staying on a site for a couple of nights and walking in!
I have stayed at 2 of the nearby campsites. Both easy to walk into the gorge and local shops.
Petruth Paddocks – Run by Jules and his family, Petruth Paddocks marks itself as a ‘free range’ campsite. With a lovely laid back feel and really clean facilities you will feel welcome here. Jules loved to drive around on his tractor and loan you a fire pit and sell you some wood. Its a great site for families, groups or just a quite get away. There is plenty of land and you can pitch where ever you like if you are happy on a field or they do have some electric hard standings available. If you want to splash out you could always hire a shepherds hut!
Cheddar Bridge – This is an adult only site, just a few hundred yards from Petruth. This quite site has the River Yeo running alongside it with many pitches able to take enjoyment from pitching close to the bank. It has plenty or hard standing pitches and a few camping pods on a field as well as 5 static caravans for hire. Facilities were clean and well kept.
We loved Cheddar and its such a beautiful place to visit. It is a popular attraction so in peak times it can be very busy. There are some lovely places to visit in the area too so we think you should make the most of it and stay longer!
Cheddar Gorge is linked with Longleat Safari Park and you can buy a duel ticket from the gorge ticket office.
A campervan meetup is an event organised by someone usually from a group. It is where like minded campervan loving people get together and have fun. We had not been to a meet up before last night. Not because we didn’t want to but because we were usually working and couldn’t get the time off. Now we are free to travel we finally managed to get to one and what an experience!!!
Between Louise and I we are members of a several campervan groups on facebook. One of which (Women with Campervans) is a group for women and we find it very helpful. It is full of people of different ages, interests and reasons for loving to travel in a campervan. They posted that they were arranging a meet up at a pub (Tuckers Grave Inn, Radstock), in Somerset. Unsure if we were going to make it due to technical difficulties we decided to wait until the last minute.
Will we make it?
After a lovely day in Cheddar Gorge we drove 20 miles to meet this group of women and listen to their stories. We pulled up at around 6 ish and found a field with lots of camper vans in it. Its our first time parking Chewy on grass. Opting to stay at the top end of the field rather than get stuck in mud at the other end! (you can park on the gravel car park if you don’t want to risk the field). Happy smiling faces greeted us as we exited the vehicle and went to introduce ourselves. There were lots of different groups here for the meet up and the pub hosts events regularly. £5 for the pitch – no facilities apart from a portaloo.
we drove 20 miles to meet this group of women and listen to their stories. We pulled up at around 6 ish and found a field with lots of camper vans in it. Its our first time parking Chewy on grass. Opting to stay at the top end of the field rather than get stuck in mud at the other end! (you can park on the gravel car park if you don’t want to risk the field). Happy smiling faces greeted us as we exited the vehicle and went to introduce ourselves. There were lots of different groups here for the meet up and the pub hosts events regularly. £5 for the pitch – no facilities apart from a portaloo.
The Gathering begun!
We were not the largest van on the site – beaten by an old bus who did risk it to the end of the field. What a beauty! Wood burner stove, fixed bed and plenty of kitchen space she really did look homely. I would expect that that one doesn’t bend going around corners either! There were motorhomes, van conversions and tents. All were welcome here at the campervan meetup and it was quite evident that people would want to come and look around each others van.
We quickly retired to have a tidy up and open the cider, made the bed and shoved things in boxes. Once we were settled we hosted a few people who wanted to have a look inside our van. We then got invited to see theirs. Van lovers are very proud of their vans and at a meet like this rather than looking at pictures of their kids, you will find them swapping pictures of their vans and where they have been. It is so beautiful to see how many of them have customised their vans to suit their own needs. From storage space to kitchens, everyone is unique.
A friendly atmosphere in a calm setting
Everyone was so friendly, sharing drinks and stories. People just pulling their chairs up to tables and forming a group together, not shying away on their own. Even the way they were parked, almost in a terrace house formation – there was no 6 meter rule if you didn’t want it! Some pulled right up close to each other. I instantly felt like I had found a family. A gathering of people who just get it, you know? These people love to do what we are doing, whether its for a weekend, a week or full time.
We have met so many wonderful people, men and women, young and old, some with a travelling cat, some with dogs. Some single and some couples. It really doesn’t matter – they just want to hear about your travels and swap tips!
At 8pm the pub had arranged for live entertainment and a BBQ for us. They had a massive barn at the back of the pub and this housed a stage on a trailer, hay bales for seats, picnic benches outside and a massive fire pit to keep us warm. There were loads of people, I assume some of them locals as well as the campers.
2 bands played last night and this went on until around midnight. Everyone was drinking, dancing and talking, swapping stories about van life. Our favourite was a story about a lady who had a toilet on one side of the van and her kitchen on the other. She used to lean back on the toilet door as she was cooking and prepping food. Having recently revamped the van she had swapped the door for a curtain. Safe to say she had a slight mishap when prepping food and ended up stumbling backwards into the toilet cubical, landing on the washing up pile! How she didn’t end up with a spoon up her ass remains a mystery!
Tuckers Grave Inn
Tuckers Grave is thought to be Somersets smallest pub. With a Skittle ally and a beer garden its local charm shines through. Being in somerset it was no surprise that the main drinks were Cider! A great range of Cider to try so I tried 3 last night. The BBQ was lovely with burgers, sausages and pheasant pitta pockets on the menu.
The staff are so friendly and the cozy pub with its log fires and eggs for sale makes it an experience you won’t forget. It’s not uncommon here for you leave with a whole bunch of new friends and I hope that is the case for us. This bunch of individual souls, each on their own journey but with such care and compassion for others really gives me hope that maybe we can turn this world around. There is no ego here, no pretence. just people coming together.
Louise was worried that after we left ‘society’ to live as nomads, we would find it hard to reconnect with the world if we dipped back in to the ‘matrix’. If we can meet up with others in this environment I think we will be just fine!
The gathering continues
As I write this some of the group have left, the rest of us are planning on staying another night. Louise made a lentil soup and fresh bread which we shared with some of the women. We have been invited to join them tonight in the skittle ally for an open fire and games night. I am already thinking about how much I will miss this group and want to see these people again.
Meeting new people makes me anxious and I don’t mind telling you that I was really nervous to come here. If this weekend has taught me anything it’s to stop worrying what others think of you and just be yourself. If you are genuine and true to yourself, this bunch will love you. It’s been a fantastic 24 hours and I cant wait to see what this evening brings.
If you haven’t already been to a campervan meetup I would thoroughly recommend it. It was so much fun.
Although we only have last nights experience to go on I have been told that it was quite typical for a campervan meetup so get on those groups and join up – check events and see whats near you.
To all of the people we have met this weekend, and to all others we may meet in the future, Cheers!
North Wales is a hotbed of activities. From Castles and Caves to Mountains and Lakes. There is no end to the adventure here. North Wales has something to suit every taste and fitness level. Check individual websites for access information if you have particular needs or requirements. Here are our list of places to check out when you visit North Wales but there are so many more! Pop yours in the comments if you have experienced North Wales.
I have compiled a list of things to do and experience. I have done 10 of them myself, 2 are on my bucket list so feel free to ask me any questions!
Llyn Tegid (Lake Bala) is a 6km long lake on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. It is paradise. Surrounded by hills and mountains the lake provides a sanctuary to its visitors. There is a watersports hire shop where you can rent various vessels for an hour or two or up to half and full day rentals. A cash deposit is required to hire the equipment.
With such a large body of water you never feel enclosed. It is a much better way to see the wildlife than by car! You can even pull your kayak up onto the shore, and investigate places you can’t get to by foot! If you are looking for more of a thrill seeking adventure, the white water rafting centre is a short drive away! (Or just grab an ice cream, relax on the shore and maybe dip a toe in every now and then!)
Bala town houses a few pubs, takeaways and gift shops. Lovely for a stroll around!
RAF aircraft can often be seen doing their exercises here. They call it the MACH loop. CLICK HERE for flight information!
If you are looking for a nice gentle walk and a bit of shopping, head to Corris Craft Centre. On the A487 between Dogellau and Machynlleth, you will find a series of honeycombed buildings housing all sorts of crafted items. Candles, soaps, chocolates, pottery, glassware, forest furniture and wooden toys to name a few! Many of the craft studios also encourage you to have a go. Why not indulge your creative side and design your own pottery, dip your own candles or make your own chocolate.
Set in beautiful surroundings with a café that serves spectacular food (their Welsh Rarebit still hasn’t been beaten!) you will be able to watch the world go by in luxury! Dogs are welcome in most of the craft shops and surrounding areas.
There are caving adventures here too, depending on your thrill seeking limitiations!
A cave tour where you will find out about the local legends of King Arthur! Crowned Best Visitor Attraction in Mid Wales 2018 in the National Tourism Awards for Wales. Equipped with a hard hat you’re greeted by a mysterious hooded boatman. He takes you by underground boat and through a magical waterfall; your gateway to the Dark Ages and to the life and times of King Arthur. Continue on foot for a guided tour around the caverns and learn about Dragons and Giants that lived here a very long time ago! Perfect for hot days as the caves stay a cool 8 degrees so take suitable clothing and footwear. The cave system is full of passage ways and large chambers. Not one to be missed! The kids will love this one! (Dogs not allowed in the caves, sorry!)
Offers a unique opportunity to explore the virtually untouched, abandoned workings of an old Welsh Slate Mine with one of Wales’ top Mine Explorers. The mine closed back in the 1970’s but was hand dug in the Victorian era. As you travel, with your hard hats and dim lights, you are taken back in time through stories of the people who lived and worked here. This one is a little more physical but worth the trip to explore the old mines! There are three trips you can take here, a taster session of just an hour, a 2 hour trip or a half day excursion. See the tools and machinery left behind as well as personal items and discover what it felt like to be a miner!
There are other mines and caves in North Wales including one where you can zipline and trampoline – however I have not tried this one out yet! do let me know if you have been and what it was like!
Situated on the Dwyryd Estuary, this village had been constructed in the theme of a Mediterranean Piazza. A punchbowl landscape filled with pastel coloured buildings, water features and architecture like no other. You will easily forget that you are in North Wales!
Recieving over 200,000 visitors per year, this tourist attraction has something to suit all family members. Marvel at the exotic plants that grow in the areas micro-climate, investigate the 70 acres of woodland, play in the water fountain or upgrade your kitchenware in the Portmeirion Pottery shop.
Guided tours are available at selected times during the season and these point out all the features you may otherwise miss. Perhaps best known for being the backdrop to The Prisoner TV show, starring Patrick McGoohan, this village has also had a multitude of media filmed here, including a 4 part Dr Who series in 1976, some shots for the 2002 final episode of Cold Feet and Siouxie and the Banshees ‘The Passenger’.
All the family will fall in love with Portmeirion and its beauty!
The zoo is a fantastic way to enjoy a day out with the family. The location is a little hilly so please bear this in mind, but nice paths and well signposted to different areas. The zoo houses animals from snow leopards, tigers and bears, to owls, meerkats and snakes. Although the zoo itself looks a little run down in places I found that the keepers had put a lot of effort into ensuring the areas were enriched for its inhabitants. The bear enclosure for me showed the most amount of effort on my visit with so much for them to investigate.
It is only through us visiting such zoos that they will have the funds to keep improving the facilities and participate in zoological programmes to keep these animals alive and breeding. Your entrance fee will help towards this but you can also get involved in other fundraising programmes or become a keeper for a day and have an amazing experience that you will not forget.
The Zoo also has interactive shows where you can watch flying displays from their birds, Chimp encounters, Sealion playtime and Penguin playtime, do try and catch some of these if you can!
The Safari restaurant overlooks the Tiger enclosure and serves hot and cold food and the Penguin Café overlooks the Penguin enclosure, so you have a couple of choices for food (although you can take a packed lunch). There is also a gift shop and an adventure land for the children to burn off some energy.
Featuring Alice in Wonderland, The Great Orme, A Tram and a Long Pier!
Llandudno is a beautiful seaside town. Georgian houses line the front, many now hotels and b+b’s offering spectacular views of the curved bay. This really is what every seaside town should be striving for. There is a large promenade, suitable for heavy volumes of foot traffic and push chairs, and a shingle beach leading out into the Irish Sea. Llandudno is home to the longest pier in Wales, which houses amusement arcades including one with a ZOLTAR machine. (If you have ever watched the film “BIG” you will either be enthralled or scared of it). You will also find a variety of shops, food stalls (including seafood and cheese as well as donuts and burgers) and kids games to keep all the family happy. The pier is also dog friendly.
Punch and Judy have some fame here as the longest running show. 150 years ago the Codman family started the show here and it is still going today! This is located on the seafront just before the pier. Regular shows in peak season will have the kids yelling “that’s the way to do it” for days to come!
Alice In Wonderland
As you travel through Llandudno you may notice some carved statues that look like the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts and a Cheshire cat to name a few! It turns out that the real Alice, inspiration for the Alice in Wonderland books by Lewis Carol, had a holiday home here in Llandudno. In homage to her the town has created a guided walk, great to do with a dog, with wonderland themed statues in locations around town! You can buy the maps from the tourist information centre.
A massive limestone headland on the coast, is well worth the effort of reaching the top. Fear not – you don’t have to walk! You can either take a cable pulled tram or a cable car up to the summit. There is a nature reserve up here where you can walk around the Orme in peace. Dogs are welcome here and there are lots of sniffs to wear them out. The Captains Table café/restaurant serves food and drinks for when you want to rest or take it easy. For the kids there is a playground and there is also a gift shop by the tram station.
Llandudno is a great base to visit North Wales from and is a super seaside location! You can read a more in depth review of Llandudno here!
6) Visit the Lakes
With so many Lakes to see when you visit North Wales, I would be here all day just naming them. From Bala you can take the road to Portmeirion and explore two other stunning lakes en route. The one displayed above does have a car park across the road where you could park up for the night. Whether you are looking for active water sports, bird watching or a place of quiet meditation, you will find a lake close by to achieve that.
We have seen amazing sunrises and sunsets by Welsh Lakes. The colours all reflect in the still, clean waters. The great thing about sunbathing by a lake rather than a beach is that you do not have to move every half hour because of the tide! Pop your picnic hamper down and know that you can sit here and watch the sun move slowly across the sky! Maybe even wait for the starts to come out.
7) Castles! Conwy, Harlech and Caernarfon…
Visit North Wales and its castles. Wales has such a rich history and its castles are a great reflection of both its Wealth and military strategy as well as being used as Places for royalty. Each castle is stunning in its own right and taking some time to learn about its specific qualities and place in history will open up a world of wonder. With so many castles and heritage sites to visit you will be in awe.
Conwy Castle is a spectacular site to visit. We had driven through the area on a previous North Wales adventure but been unable to find parking later in the day. Driving in to the walled town you are instantly blown away by the sheer magnitude of the Castle. She is amongst the finest surviving medieval fortifications in Britain and was a heavily fortified castle. The curtain walls surround the town and protect her inhabitants.
Most of these walls are still walkable today and you can find yourself climbing the old stairs to walk along the top of them like the soldiers did, and protect the castle from any incoming threats! With its 8 massive towers and inner chambers, this site was of great importance in Welsh history. The castle also had control of the port just below the Kings chambers and was a perfect location to defend itself from land and sea.
Another stunning castle built by the same master builder (James of St George) who built Conwy. Harlech has seen its fair share of battles and sieges. The song ‘Men of Harlech’ is said to describe a battle that took place here. A handful of men held out from a besieging army of thousands. They clearly did not think about visitor parking when designing the castle all those hundreds of years ago! However there are a few parking spots by the castle and a larger car park just around the corner in the village.
The new floating bridge, seen in the picture, gives you a real sense of what it would have been like to walk on a drawbridge. You are free to explore the grounds and climb the towers. The views from the top on a good day extend to Mount Snowdon and beyond! Great to get yours and the kids imaginations flowing as you learn about the castles history and imagine what it would have looked like when it was in its prime.
You cant really see her from your approach but when you do, she appears like a queen stood on the estuary, prideful and majestic. Caernarfon is a fortified town with magnificant walls around the perimeter. Cobbled streets and wonky buildings galore! We ‘wild camped’ the other side of the estuary and the castle was stunning from our back doors!
There is currently an extensive exhibition about the Welsh Fusiliers, including their part in the first and second world wars. You can see uniforms, medals, weapons and other artefacts used by the soldiers. For the children, they can fly their own dragon on a holographic screen! This castle has very high walls that overlook the town and again you are able to walk around up here. The railings are very so be cautious if you are unsteady on your feet.
Local to the castle there are great spots on the estuary to go crab fishing! You could take a boat ride along the Menai Strait, sit in the Anglesea pub listening to live music, or walk to the harbour and see the yachts. You can see Anglesey from here and explore the walled town including automated water jet fountains in the main square.
All of these Castles, as well as many others all across Wales, are part of Cadw – Welsh Government’s historic environment service. We purchased the CADW passes. This gives us free entry into Welsh CADW sites and half price entry to English and Scottish this year. On renewal we should then get free access into all 3!
With so many castles in North Wales to visit, you will have plenty of exploring to do. There are also plenty of castles in mid and south Wales to visit too!
8) Anglesey Beaches
Lligwy Beach, near Molefire, is a sandy beach backed by dunes. Anglesey is knows for having super beaches full with wildlife. The sand dunes are fun for the little ones to play in and there was a café when we went. I found it a but tricky getting to in the camper as the roads were narrow.
There were lots of children here playing in the water and it seemed quite safe but they do not have a lifeguard station here. Always be sensible near water and look out for anyone in trouble. The car park we found said there were parking charges and to pay in the café. If you are looking for a day to be lazy and relax on the beach then I would suggest Anglesey.
After a day on the beach, why not go to the other extreme and try a high speed boat ride down the Menai Strait! Rib ride offer several different speed boats and trip but their newest boats are capable of doing 73 miles an hour on the water! The adrenaline is flowing as you power through the water past all the little sail boats! Zoom under the two bridges from the mainland and back again and feeling the G force on your face as you try and remember to breathe!
This trip is not very expensive for what it is, and a really fun mini adventure. Only negative comment is that it doesn’t last long enough! Matt was our captain and was very knowledgeable about the boat and the water he was taking us on. He stopped when he needed to around other boats and ensuring our safety at all times. I guess we will have to go and do it again… sucks!
This is where the River Conwy meets its three tributaries flowing from the West, the Llugwy, the Lledr and the Machno. In the centre of the town you are treated to a mini rapid where you can sit and hear the water roaring past you with force. Not far away the tourist attraction of Swallow Falls will give you a camera worth snap of waterfalls.
Much of Betws-y-Coed was built in Victorian times and a popular attraction in North Wales in the Victorian era. It is the principal village of the Snowdonia National Park. Betws-y-Coed is a walkers paradise with several walks suitable for a variety of fitness levels throughout the mountain range. Just over the bridge a notice board with the walks and paths highlighted on it. Do check these before you set off so that you know what colour to follow. A few of them are very steep to start with! There are also a lot of outdoor shops catering to the adventurer. You can pick up a bargain on a backpack and save a few quid on walking boots.
We loved our breakfast!
If you prefer to stay at a reasonable altitude there are plenty of craft shops and cafes to eat in. The Alpine café served us breakfast (below). We found them to be such a good café that we went back later in the day. They have a wide range of veggie and vegan items, as well as extensive cake menus, home made fruit smoothies and to top it off – all palm oil free!
There is a motorhome parking area at the back of the car park at the end of the train station. We parked up here and only had to pay £2.50 up to midnight and then we were free until the morning. The train station also houses a mini steam train for the kids (although my dad would have loved it… if you have time, why not jump on a train to the beautiful countryside around the area from another perspective!
11) Climb Snowdon
This is one of the few that I still haven’t done. My friends have walked it (Thanks Zena and Tabs for the picture) and I am planning to do this next time I visit. Zena loves to travel – here is her insta) I aim to get fit so that I can really enjoy it. Mount Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales and England. It’s one of our most famous and recognizable landmarks. With 6 different walking paths and a train service, the summit seems within reach for everyone. The train from Llanberis to the summit of Mount Snowdon, in a Victorian style carriage, is a major tourist attraction. We advise you to book your tickets in advance. Since 1896 people have begun their exploration here and climbed the 1086 ft journey in the comfort of the train rather than walk up!
If you are walking, please make sure you read up about the mountain and the routes you can take. There is a visitor centre at the summit and their website states that you can see as far as Ireland on a really clear day! Visit the “the highest re-fuelling station in England and Wales” and have a drink in the summit Café.
On the A5 between Betws-y-Coed and Llangollen, a 6,700 acre in hand organic farm is the geographical core of the Rhug estate. The estate houses many animals including cows, sheep, pigs, turkeys, chickens and geese. It is the Bison, however, that give this location its unique selling point. A large restaurant serves novelties such as Bison Burgers, cream teas and full main meals to impress anyone! (check out this menu!!!) and their café serves more bbq orientated meals for a quick bite.
The shop houses almost 3000 products from its own range and those of other local suppliers and small businesses. These items include meat, deli, beverages and gifts.
Rhug is committed to an organic approach to farming. This means that the farm benefits from organic pastures that the animals are free to graze on, and they live their life free from unnecessary drugs. They are reared with minimal stress and a high quality of life. This is overseen by the estates governing body.
I hope that you have found something to cater to your tastes in this list. I could probably write one of these every week and still not get to the end of all the things North Wales has to offer. It really does have something for everyone!! Please do comment below and share other places you have been to or if you visit one of these places after reading my post, do come back and let me know if you enjoyed it.
Visit Llandudno! Situated on the coast of North Wales, Llandudno is a location full of promise and mystery. It incorporates both tourist attractions, stunning welsh countryside and wildlife. For this specific visit we decided to stay in a hotel and found a Travelodge. This is the only branded hotel in the town centre with a Premier Inn about 5 minutes out of town however there are so many B+B’s and independent hotels to choose from.
This Travelodge is one of the chains newest hotels and is only a few minute’s walk to the beach. Car parking is available on the roads central reservation or on side streets which could get busy.
After easily finding the hotel and a parking space we decided to check out the beach. Llandudno is a horse shoe shaped bay with large Victorian hotels standing shoulder to shoulder along the seafront. There is a large promenade, suitable for heavy volumes of foot traffic and push chairs, and a shingle beach leading out into the Irish Sea. Llandudno is home to the longest pier in Wales, which houses amusement arcades including one with a ZOLTAR machine. (If you have ever watched the film “BIG” you will either be enthralled or scared of it). You will also find a variety of shops, food stalls (including seafood and cheese as well as donuts and burgers) and kids games to keep all the family happy.
Visit Llandudno Pier – It has been lengthened since its original construction. Originally it started half way up with it’s entrance by what is now the Grand Hotel. An additional section brought it further inland alongside the edge of the bay. The pier is dog friendly, something that is rare to find, and they can enjoy the warm smell of donuts too! Llandudno is what we imagine a typical ‘British’ seaside town to be. Clean, friendly, colourful, charming and happy. Even though many British seaside towns are showing their age and some poverty, this doesn’t seem to have reached Llandudno. It looked fresh and vibrant with an air of Victorian charm.
Mostyn Street is located just behind the promenade and is the main street for shopping here when you visit Llandudno. Well known high street shops can be found here as well as independents covering gifts, antiques and clothing. There is a small retail park just 5 minutes away with more high street names.
There are an abundance of restaurants, coffee shops and take-away’s. From fish and chip shops to full seated restaurants. The town library and small shopping arcade feature tourist information centres.
Llandudno is the birthplace of Punch and Judy. To celebrate this there are shows on the promenade multiple times a day during peak season. A great opportunity to get the kids to sit down for a while! Another treat for the kids is to let them have a go at crabbing. Buckets and reels are available to purchase from several shops.
Alice, Alice? Who the hell is Alice?
As you travel through Llandudno you may notice some carved statues that look like the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts and a Cheshire cat to name a few! It turns out that the real Alice, inspiration for the Alice in Wonderland books by Lewis Carol, had a holiday home here in Llandudno. Alice used to visit Llandudno frequently and in homage to her the town has created a guided walk. It’s great to do with a dog, with wonderland themed statues in locations around town! You can buy the maps from the tourist information centre.
There are plenty of places to eat when you visit Llandudno and Harvey’s, a New York bar and grill, hit the spot! It has a lovely atmosphere and is a great place to relax. The food was amazing and the service was first class. There are plenty of cafe’s, restaurants and bars around, almost every side road featuring a food outlet.
Nothing beats being on the pier or the prom with a bag of chips but do be warned… the seagulls will likely mug you for the food, they don’t have manners!
Two tourist attractions can take you to the top of the Great Orme. A cable car or a tram. The cable car is weather dependant and doesn’t run in windy conditions. As we had a dog at the time we opted for the Tram ride (dogs travel for free – even the big ones!) Trams were running every 10 minutes but you may have to queue in peak times. It is worth the wait if you like stunning views. The tram stops halfway up the hill where you can get off and explore the copper mines – stick a pin in that… I’ll come back to it.
You could also continue to the next tram and head up to the top of the Orme. Here you will be able to see for miles and miles on a cloudless day, in every direction. There is a nature reserve up here where you can walk around the Orme in peace. Dogs are welcome here there are lots of sniffs to wear them out. The Captains Table café/restaurant serves food and drinks for when you want to rest or take it easy. For the kids there is a playground and there is also a gift shop by the tram station.
The Copper Mine was something that we came back to do a few days later and decided to drive to. It took about 45 minutes to go around the attraction which was full of fascinating information. The Orme Mines are thought to date back 4000 years – 2000 years before the Romans invaded. Over the past 28 years mining engineers, cavers and archaeologists have been slowly uncovering more tunnels and large areas of the surface landscape. This has revealed what is now thought to be the largest prehistoric mine, so far discovered in the world making this site very special.
There are 9 levels that have been uncovered so far and evidence of fires which were used to crack the rocks can also be seen. Unfortunately, not much of the site is open to the public yet but when speaking to a member of staff they said that they may open more in the future.
Excavations can only take place in the winter so that they can open it to the public during the summer season. It is very narrow inside and if you suffer from claustrophobia you may find it a bit much. The mine has been dug out using hand held tools, so the miners wouldn’t dig out more space than they needed to follow the copper veins.
Thursday saw us take the van out for a spin. You can easily spend a week in Llandudno and not needed to take a car out. Everything we needed was available in Llandudno. We drove west to Anglesey and found this to be a beautiful place to visit with a rich wildlife. Lligwy Beach in Moelfre is a wide sandy beach with low sand dunes giving an open airy feel. Dolphins and Puffins can spotted here – Keep your eyes peeled to see the local wildlife.
Thanks to the SATNAV we headed down a tight single track lane to the beach, and had to pass a lorry coming the other way. Minor damage was caused to the van in the shape of bramble scratches but nothing too major. The beach was worth it as there was plenty of space, golden sand and beautiful scenery. There was a little café where we purchased hot chocolates and hot bacon baps for lunch. Sunshine and blue skies accompanied us which I believe are a rarity in Anglesey.
Although there are plenty of attractions to keep you occupied when you visit Llandudno, you may wish to visit other local places. Here are a couple of ideas!
Conwy Castle. A stunning castle and part of CADW. We have passes to CADW sites and really recommend them. It’s a good idea to get here early as parking can be troublesome in peak season. The castle is a 13th centuary medieval fortification and was build for Edward 1st.
Colwyn bay, just on the other side of Llandudno. Free parking on the road side and a promenade with coffee shops, ice cream parlours and a Celtic hat shop to name a few!
Llandudno itself has two beaches. The main tourist one on the north face and then a west beach, which is quieter and dog friendly. It does not have the abundance of shops or tourist attractions but instead is a quiet beach, with lots of benches on the path way, for you to enjoy a quiet stroll. Being west facing you may also find the best sunsets on this side of Llandudno with views of the Ormes to treasure for ever.
There are still many parts of Llandudno that we did not get to fully experience in our 4 days here. We definitely want to visit Llandudno again!
Evesham is filled with fruit orchards and rolling hills galore. I fell into the same traps as many and forgot to investigate my local area, opting to travel long distances for the next adventure – but not this weekend! We had a blast without spending a lot on fuel or hours of driving.
Evesham is a Market town with an Abbey, Armoury and history steeped in legends. The abbey was, in a roundabout way, responsible for the name of Evesham. It seems that, Eoves, a herdsman of the Bishop of Worcester, had a vision of the Virgin Mary at this spot. Evesham Abbey, and consequently the town that grew around it, immortalised Eoves name.
The Vale of Evesham prides itself on its varied exports. Evesham Asparagus Festival is held annually to celebrate the harvest. The Round of Gras pub is the centre of the festivities, holding an annual asparagus auction (the village asparagus festival lasts a full week). They hold carvery’s as well at certain times and their food is delicious. We tucked into a lunch of freshly made baguettes and jacket potatoes with a couple of pints of lager shandy.
The other exports around the area include Apples, Plums (The Pershore Plum Festival is also a great one to visit!) and vegetables.
Sadly the town centres retail catalogue has shrunk, as it has in many local towns now. Projects are underway to restore footfall in the town and I would certainly say it is still worth a visit. The changing architecture, the park by the river, the history… all amounts to a wonderful trip out. (If you like your history you may even find links to the Knights Templar here if you do a bit of research! I don’t want to give away all of her secrets!)
For dinner we ventured into Evesham town and had a meal out at the ‘Casa’ Italian restaurant. Stylish and tasteful décor greeted us as we entered into the Bar area with dark beams and cosy lighting. It set the tone for a relaxing and enjoyable meal. We sat by the front window gracing us with a view overlooking the Abbey. They have a large conservatory at the rear of the venue with ample seating so you do not feel as though you are being packed in to get more tables, but spaced out where the emphasis is on the enjoyment factor. Their large menu caters for everyone in the family, offering vegetarian food, authentic pasta dishes and fish dishes.
Just 3 miles from Evesham you will find the text book definition of a Cotswold Village. With its wide high street and shops built with traditional Cotswold Stone, you can’t help but fall a little bit in love regardless of your age.
Places to eat in Broadway
There are an abundance of places to eat and drink to suit any budget.
Russell’s – Fish and Chip shop
We know the best chip shop is Russell’s in Broadway. Tucked down a side road you will find a rare gem. The design of the interior combines life jackets, sea fearing paraphernalia and candles on the tables with posh nosh! In the summer it is lovely to sit and eat outside under umbrella’s with the dog after a long walk.
Their menu is surprisingly large with the take-away option of beer battered cod/haddock, breaded or grilled plaice, scampi, chicken goujons or fish cakes as well as vegetarian pies, battered halloumi and a catch of the day. Customers can buy an alcoholic beverage in the licensed restaurant. The Take-away meal is presented to you in a lovely box with plenty of chips, including a serving of tartar sauce and a slice of lemon.
The Broadway Hotel
With a choice of spots to settle including a relaxed lounge, a bar area with an open fire (both dog friendly) or a formal serviced restaurant. You can relax here any day of the week and enjoy fine wines, excellent food and a friendly atmosphere. The decor changes through-out the hotel with the Broadway Hunt featuring largely in the local artwork upon the walls.
Stocked high with different local foods, treats and gifts. There is a cafe in there serving all manner of home cooked food with many vegan and gluten free options. They work with producers and suppliers from around the world who focus on the quality, integrity and provenance of their produce.
The Market Pantry
This small cafe sits about 20 people at a time. Vegetarian vegan and gluten free options, this British cafe serves meals ranging from £5-£9. Open 7 days a week and serving locally sourced, quality food, fresh seasonal and natural ingredients. Breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea or simply a coffee and a homemade cake.
There are so many other places to try, your taste buds will definitely be tickled in Broadway.
A walk around Broadway Village is a good way to walk off all of the food! It’s traditional Cotswold stone buildings pack in the charm with style and grace. Other shops include Kitchenware, Art gallery, old fashioned sweet shop and fashion items.
Broadway Tower and The Cotswold Way
Broadway Tower is a unique Capability Brown Folly tower. Its one of England’s outstanding view points, at 1024 feet above sea level, you can see over a 62 mile radius and as many as 16 counties from the roof viewing platform. William Morris also spent time here being inspired by the arts and crafts scene in the area.
Refreshments are available at the Morris and Brown cafe which is open all year round. It serves hot drinks and full meals or just a slice of cake if you prefer. Sit by the log fire and relax or browse their shop.
You can tour the tower with 50 acres of woods and parkland offering scenic walks and cycle routes. Spend time watching a heard of Deer housed there or go down and investigate the nuclear bunker between March and October.
The Tower just happens to be on the Cotswold Way, a 1000 mile footpath from Chipping Campden to Bath offering panoramic views of the Cotswolds. We have walked from Chipping Campden to Broadway so far and hope to walk other parts in the future. You don’t have to walk the whole thing and the paths are well sign posted.
Evesham Country Park / The Valley
Offering ample car parking. You can go for a riverside walk, do a spot of shopping, or grab a coffee with a friend. For the kids over the summer they have a ‘beach’ with sandpits for the children to play in. There are inflatable slides, carousel, swings and food and drink available.
A steam train runs from the car park, around the orchard, to a wooden castle built for the children. You can stop here and walk back or pick some apples and plums while you wait for the train to return. It is not an exceptionally long ride, but for £1.20 adult fare it is a good way to keep the family quite for 10 minutes!
Hillers Garden Centre
Hillers Garden Centre, Alcester, Warwickshire. Part of the Ragley Hall Estate, it has operated on one form or another on this site since the 1920’s. They have changed from a fruit farm to a pick your own and now a farm shop and garden centre. The shop sells produce either grown on site or sourced from a 10 mile radius. Farmers then invoice the farm shop what they need to make a living.
Honeyed ham, Ragley beef and pork are all roasted in their own kitchen for sale on the deli counter, along with a range of homemade salads, continental meats, pâtés and locally made cold pies.
Make your selection from the self serve olive and antipasti bar and stock up on all your groceries from the wide selection of specialised and everyday food. Bread is freshly baked throughout the day and they also have a selection of rolls and breads from local baker Lawrence’s.
The garden centre has well established flower beds and a rose garden. There is also a bird hide where you can see some of the 40 species of birds spotted. Fallow deer have also been known to feed here. There are avid bird watchers with camera lenses bigger than their heads, sitting next to children. For the children (and adults apparently) there is also a miniature railway – and the trains ARE small. It only lasts a few minutes but costs just 90p a ride. You can only fit two people in a carriage sitting opposite each other.
There are tea rooms here to enjoy your afternoon after walking around the garden centre. Staff members waited on you and come to your table to take your order. The tea rooms were dog friendly and we saw several well behaved pooches resting their paws in the shade.
There are many other places to explore nearby including Snowshill Lavender, Chipping Campden and Bourton on the Water. Stratford Upon Avon, although not in the Cotswolds, is only half an hour by car from Evesham – as is Cheltenham. Why not plan a stop to stay over and visit either the Cheltenham or Stratford races? Birmingham is also in close reach for a bustling nightlife or larger retail experience.
The Cotswolds are full of attractions and travel between the towns is easy with good public transport links. You can find accommodation to suit your budget and tastes.
Make your dream a reality. It is something many of us put off. I was just like most of you. Living in a house, working and paying into a pension and I liked cosy evenings on the sofa under a duvet. I had debts a few years prior but managed to get back on my feet. My hobbies include music, walking and hanging out with my friends.
My generation were raised on this notion that we all need to watch the news, have a 9-5 job, pop out a few kids, work some more and then retire.
For many years I had just accepted this model was the one we all had to live by. I understood my place in the world was to work and pay tax, food shop on a Saturday and do laundry on a Sunday. Gap years were something I heard of but didn’t get the chance to do. I grew up hearing the stories of strangers who went abroad and gained valuable life experience.
In my 20’s a friend of mine decided to travel to Australia for a year (or two as it turned out) and this was the first person I had a connection to that jumped ship. My BFF Becky decided that in a year she wants to emigrate to New Zealand. I suddenly felt as though it might be possible. Real people that I knew, that were like me, were doing something adventurous. Maybe I could do this too?
Work / life balance
My job was hard work and I found it to be both challenging and rewarding. I worked for an animal charity for 13 years and I have a great sense of achievement and pride for the job that I did. Starting at the bottom I worked my way up through some really hard grafting and I got promoted to assistant manager. As a result I was provided on site accommodation. That sounded really appealing! An extra half hour in bed, no commute, it had a garden.
In reality living on site is a ball ache! I got called out at 2am because the alarms are going off. I couldn’t leave site in the evenings 3-4 days a week or walk my dog except around the grounds.
What is your dream?
In 2014 we purchased a VW panel van and converted it into a campervan, this would mean that we were able to go on cheaper holidays and more often as we could camp – getting me off site more and keeping costs down.
It took a little while to get the van how we wanted it. With added units, insulation, carpeted walls and a really comfortable futon that we pulled out to sleep on, she was fit for use. After several trips in the van we really got into the swing of it. We started to take less and less with us and only brought essentials. As space was limited we began to cut out the bulk of clothes, shoes and ‘luxury items’ as we just were not using them.
As soon as we were pitched up I could feel my shoulders drop a few inches. There is nothing like being able to wake up and hear the birds, smell the earth and be surrounded by nature. I quickly realised this is what I NEED to be doing more of. For my own health and wellbeing I needed to get back to a simpler life. We wasted money on ‘things’ that we didn’t need, and when I looked around my house I just saw pointless clutter. I can’t take any of this with me when I die, decorations serve no purpose and it’s just collecting dust. In the van I only had what I needed, it’s simple.
The problem I encountered was that I wanted it more and more. My dream to live full time in a van only got stronger. I spoke to my friends who said “make your dream a reality”.
And we did.
You can make your dream a reality too, whether it’s buying a house, a big wedding or buying a van. It can take hard work but you can do it. Put simple steps in place to start saving money (you can save money travelling too!). Find a way to break it down into achievable steps and make a start today.
For us, travelling in a van means that we can wake up every day with a different view. Although we have only travelled in the UK so far, I have never been happier. I have a dream where I get to travel around the world. Thinking about our future it is clear to me that, unlike our elder generations, we will not have the opportunity to travel when we retire.
Why not? For the most part, people my age can expect to hit retirement age at 65+ and then it is likely that we will need to continue working as the price of living increases quicker than pay is rising. I will possibly be looking at working until I am 70-80. There is no way that I will be able to get into a van and travel the world then!!! This way we can explore the world while young enough to still get a job if we decide to settle down and pay back into our pensions.
The way I see it I only have one choice, do it now, while I am young. The technological revolution means that we are now able to reassess our working lives and can do things a different way around.
With the boom in working from ‘home’ and digital nomad enterprises increasing all the time it has never been a better time to travel and work. Setting up several online blogs or businesses can afford you the freedom to travel and still earn money. As long as you have an internet connection you can work on the road. Most towns have a coffee shop with free wifi or a library to log into. Many companies are also selling devices that enable you to take the internet with you. Mobile phone companies are making it easier to access the web from a phone or tablet too. This makes it easier when making your dream a reality!
How did we do it?
Our plan was a 2 year plan. Save money like crazy, Sell some of our clutter, build our web presence and start earning income. With 6 months to go, sell the VW and buy a bigger van, convert it, take a deep breath, leap.
In reality a lot of unexpected things happened. I split up with Ami and started a new relationship with Louise. Louise was working which brought in another wage and once I had introduced her to camping she fell in love with it. She wanted to help make our dream a reality! We actually moved the leaving date forward a year as there was a second income.
Now, Make your dream a reality.
You could do it too. If you have the feeling that you have been trying to fit into a mould that doesn’t fit, let me ask you this. What is it that YOU want to do? What is stopping YOU? Lastly, what would have to happen for you to make that change? Making your dream a reality is very possible.
Full time #VanLife travellers sharing tips and adventures