Spring has officially arrived along with shorter nights and the occasional appearance from the sun. Next weekend I start 2 weeks holiday from my 'real' job and normally this Spring break combination would see me heading off on my travels. Instead I have chosen to invest my time off updating my blog, catching up on some of the behind the scenes work that I've just not had the time to do lately. In May my little travel blog will be turning 2 and I'll soon be entering my third year of blogging. I'm very proud of my little space on the world wide web and I want that sense of pride to continue for years to come.
Recently I've been Spring cleaning and de-cluttering my home and now feel ready to shake off the dark winter and embrace a fresh new season. I've decided it is also time to do the same with my blog in preparation for it's blog birthday and my many journeys ahead. I see it as a small sacrifice to make and by putting my travels on hold and spending some time working on my blog now, I will be able to relax when my summer holidays arrive in July when I will be more than making up for time spent indoors thanks to a 6 week adventure around Scotland that I'm planning!
Most of all I want people to find my blog a useful resource for their travels in Scotland and hopefully some of the changes I'll be making will provide even more inspiration. This is all just a long way of letting you know changes are coming, my regular blog posts might not be so regular and if I seem a bit quieter than usual it's because I'm hard at work in my wee office trying to improve things. There is nothing like a good Spring clean to prepare the mind and soul for a brighter period ahead!
MY LATEST ARTICLE FOR SCOTLAND NOW
I didn't manage to publish any new blog posts on here last week but that doesn't mean I was slacking, quite the opposite! My second article for Scotland Now was published (see below for the link) and I submitted my first blog post for the VisitScotland website which should be published this week so look out for it on their blog page. As I've written quite a few freelance articles about Scottish travel, I decided that it would make sense to put them all in one handy place on my own website so you can now find all the links with even more travel inspiration here.
This weekend I enjoyed a trip to the historic town of Biggar and will be writing all about it soon. Before I finish up for my holidays I will also be taking part in a Scotlanders campaign to promote Glasgow so look out for updates on social media at the weekend and my blog post to follow. So I still have a few travels to share with you before the behind the scenes work begins!
Happy Easter :-)
If there is one thing that almost 2 years of travel blogging has taught me, it's that there is no such thing as a typical week. As your profile starts to grow, so does you Inbox and it is always good to leave a bit of flexibility in your plans in case you get an opportunity that you just can't turn down; last week I found myself in that very fortunate position not once but several times.
In my weekly blethers I have tried to give you an insight into some of the people that inspire me and thanks to them I have been motivated to not only follow my dreams but also to have the confidence to take on the challenges required to get there.
BBC RADIO SCOTLAND INTERVIEW
Live radio is not something in my comfort zone but last week I put myself out there and achieved a personal triumph when I accepted an invite to chat about easy walking trails in Scotland on BBC Radio Scotland's 'Out for the weekend' show. I have done a few radio interviews before but they have been pre-recorded over the phone, not that they were any less nerve wracking.
Arriving at the BBC studios in Glasgow on Friday I wasn't quite sure what to expect and was initially a bit thrown when I realised I was going to be sitting in a studio on my own talking to a big yellow sponge because the presenter was actually in a studio in another part of the country!
Anyway, I wasn't quite as nervous as I thought and the whole thing flew by so quickly. I haven't managed to bring myself to listen back to it yet but if you want to hear me talking about easy walking trails you can catch up with my interview here (I'm on around 1hr 8 mins in).
ARTICLES FOR SCOTLAND NOW & VISIT SCOTLAND
Last week I also received commissions from Scotland Now and Visit Scotland to write some blog posts for their websites. Freelance writing is something I do quite regularly and it can be a good way to earn some money without compromising your own blog, Inevitably writing for someone else impacts on the time I have to write for my own readers, but again they were opportunities I had to take and you can read my first article for Scotland Now on '8 hidden gems on the Isle of Bute', which was published today here.
MY IMAGE FEATURES IN THE VISIT SCOTLAND LIVE POSTER CAMPAIGN
I was approached recently by Visit Scotland to ask if they could use one of my Instagram images in a new live poster campaign and last week I found out where it was going to be displayed and I was quite excited to find out it is initially rolling out across various railway stations in London from 18th March so please do get in touch if you see it at any of the following stations
· Liverpool Street
· London Bridge
· Kings Cross
· St Pancras
· Cannon Street
· Charing Cross
Hopefully the project will be heading to locations in Scotland later in the year. This is my image from Tobermory that they have chosen
When I need some travel inspiration or practical advice I turn to local bloggers, after all who knows a country better than someone who lives there?
Recently I have come across a trio of lovely Scottish based lady bloggers, Mel, Dawn-Marie and Smidge and their travel posts have been filling me with lots of new ideas of places I want to explore. I know what inspires me to blog about Scotland but I often wonder what motivates other people to give up their spare time to share their travel stories online.
I decided that it would be great to get to know these ladies a bit better and have a blether about Scotland, blogging and a few random personal facts! I know I learned a few things from their answers so I hope you will too.
Anyway, enough from me, its time to let my fellow bloggers have a blether...
1. Can you firstly tell me a bit about yourself and what inspired you to start a blog
After a car accident, subsequent injury and then unable to do my job working in Police Custody I sort of fell into photography. Nearly ten years later and I have a successful photography business and it is rare that I go anywhere without my camera. My Full Stop Next Chapter blog was borne from our announcement that my ever patient boyfriend and myself were moving nearly four hundred miles north from Herefordshire to Perthshire. I thought it would be a good way of keeping in touch with my clients, a diary and also a way of helping people, who like ourselves, were new to the area and Scotland finding walks, events and local products.
2. You recently moved to Scotland, what have you found to be the best thing about living here
One of the main reasons for moving was a change of lifestyle. Moving to Perthshire meant we could have the best of many things - mountains, lochs and rivers, either on our doorstep or a short drive away. The best thing I would say so far is that is didn't take us over 10 hours to drive to our annual holiday to the Isle of Mull. People are also REALLY friendly and helpful.
3. What one place in Scotland would you really like to visit this year
The Outer Hebrides has been on my list for some time and next month we have the opportunity to visit Harris. Camera batteries already on charge!
4. Have you come across any hidden Scottish gems that you are willing to share
I'm not sure it classes as a hidden gem but visiting Mull in Winter is certainly something rather special. Less people about and some rather impressive landscapes and views.
5. As a photographer what are the biggest mistakes you see bloggers making and what is your one top tip
Some people are not very aware that they are casting a shadow over what they are trying to photograph (especially it is small). I see people apologising for using the camera's on their mobile phones. It's not always about the camera. My tip would be to take your time - hold the camera (or phone) still. Out of focus and dark images are not good.
6. What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start a blog
Do it. It's good for your soul and you will start to write about your life and the people, things and events that mean something to you. They won't necessarily be the biggest moments. It will become your own journal. You will get to meet new people and maybe inspire some too. Don't be scared to interact (or ask for help) with people and companies that you are interested in - whether this be their blog content or products.
7. Do you have a guilty pleasure you would be willing to share
I do lots of exercise and walking and my little legs and muscles do ache sometimes. My guilty pleasure is to have a sports massage - work out all those knots and put some mileage back in my legs!
8. What is your best travel souvenir
Memories. Stories and photographs. I terms of things I have purchased on my travels my favourite has to be a prayer wheel from Nepal.
9. You have 24 hours in Scotland and an unlimited budget, what do you do
Wow. That is some question! After much deliberation here are a few things we have come up with.
Scottish breakfast on the Jacobite steam train. Get picked up from Mallaig by helicopter and taken to a section of the North Coast 500 where an MX5 would be waiting for us. In the boot there would be a hamper of Scotland's best produce. We would find an amazing beach and watch the sun go down. Later we would be blessed by seeing the Aurora Borealis (again). We would be joined by Colin Prior all day, and he would be my personal photographer for the day ensuring I actually got to see everything with my own eyes. Simple things...
10. Favourite photo taken in Scotland and the story behind it
This week I've been immersing myself in magical worlds on my doorstep. It all started with a chance find of fairy doors in my local woods while walking my dog. The surprise discovery came on a day I was feeling under the weather and the little colourful doors set into the mossy trees brought a smile to my face and all of a sudden my day seemed brighter.
As adults we sometimes think that magic belongs to children, but in a world where fairies exist, all adult responsibilities and stresses can momentarily be forgotten and anything becomes possible. Fairy-tales can be just as important to us grownups as they rekindle our imagination and reignite forgotten dreams.
In a search to further reawaken my own imagination I set off for my local forest a few days later to follow the painted rock trail. A simple concept that involves following rainbow coloured stones into a quiet setting among the trees has been made even more enchanting by the addition of fairy doors and rocks painted with bright images.
As I ventured further into the forest, gnarly trees soon had me thinking of witches and goblins lurking in the shadows and by the time I returned home my low energy earlier in the week was starting to feel like a distant memory.
My weekly blether is a little late this week for two reasons. Firstly because I have just got back from The Destinations Show in London which you can read about below and secondly because I have something exciting to share with you that I haven't been allowed to publish until today...
A SPECIAL VISITSCOTLAND ANNOUNCEMENT AND LAUNCH EVENT
Today sees the launch of VisitScotland's biggest ever global campaign, ‘Scotland - A Spirit of its Own’ which will be accompanied by a brand new hashtag, #ScotSpirit.
The Spirit of Scotland campaign will herald a new era for VisitScotland, with a new website, marketing brand and television advert. The new #ScotSpirit hashtag launches today and VisitScotland has asked me to share what the Spirit of Scotland means to me and if you want to find out you better pop over to my social media channels!
Even more exciting is that I have been invited on a secretive VisitScotland media event to launch the new brand. All I know is that I have to meet a bus in Glasgow tomorrow, dress warm and comfy and I will be staying the night at the very lovely Dumfries House. The rest is a mystery so stay tuned to my social media tomorrow when I can hopefully share what I'm getting up and where I am in the country as soon as I find out!
Don't forget to check out #ScotSpirit posts and share what the Spirit of Scotland means to you.
THE DESTINATIONS SHOW
One down side to living in Scotland and having an interest in travel is the lack of big travel exhibitions. This is why I spent last Friday taking a ferry, train, plane, bus and tube to get to The Destinations Show in London, a rather adventurous journey which was ironically taken to visit an adventure travel show!
There was no shortage of unusual international travel inspiration from the 300+ stands at the show, however this was not my main reason for crossing water, land and sky on this occasion. I was enticed along by the other attractions such as the Stanfords Travel Writers Festival which had some particularly fabulous speakers, Meet the Experts Stages and workshops with National Geographic. If you have an interest in adventure travel or travel writing/photography, I highly recommend you add this to your diary for next year.
I enjoyed so many great talks at the show and came home feeling really inspired, so I thought I would share some of my personal highlights from the show with you.
What I love most about Simon's work is his genuine interest in telling the human story, he doesn't just focus on a place but tells the story of that place through its people.
The fact he gave me a spontaneous hug as a thank you for travelling all the way from a Scottish island to listen to him has made my year. Despite his TV and book success he was totally down to earth, happy to give people his time and just seemed like a really nice bloke who has ensured a fan for life.
For one moment I wondered if I was still at The Travel Writers Festival and not a One Direction concert when Levison Wood was due to appear. Queue jumping, pushing, shoving, people arguing with burly security and general chaos just to get a seat in the auditorium. I am the first to admit I am a big fan of Levison Wood and his talk was another big draw for me but I wasn't prepared for how fanatical some people seemed to be and needless to say I didn't bother joining the huge queue to get my books signed at the end, I'll wait until a saner occasion as some of those Levison Wood fans were a bit too hardcore for me!
Adventure comes in all shapes and sizes and this week I have been thinking about how we can all become adventurers by pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone and trying something new.
I was on a real downer last weekend when my weekly adventure fix with Levison Wood and his epic journey through the Himalayas came to an end, so this week I have been following various other adventurers that have been making the news including Scots Explorer, Luke Robertson, who recently became the youngest Briton and only Scot to journey solo to the South Pole, unassisted and unsupported. His frostbitten features telling a story of their own. Meanwhile The Coxless Crew, a team of British women, were celebrating their achievement of becoming the first female crew to row across the Pacific Ocean, spending a total of 257 days at sea and breaking two world records.
However, while some were reliving their tales of endurance, there was a sad reminder that not all expeditions end so well and the very real dangers involved, after experienced explorer Henry Worsley died as he tried to cross Antartica unaided. I'll admit these were all pretty huge adventures and there are only certain types of people that have the physical and mental stamina to attempt them (I'm certainly not one of them!) but that doesn't mean we can't all be mini adventurers, it just takes a little effort and imagination.
The definition of adventure according to the Oxford Dictionary is simply -
'An unusual and exciting or daring experience'.
If you dream of going on a mini adventure but don't know where to start or wonder how you can fit it in to your 9 -5 routine then I highly recommend popping over to Alastair Humphreys website. He is another hero of mine, his blog is awesome, he practically provides step by step guides on how anyone can add a little adventure to their life, his photography is fantastic and his Microadventures are amazingly inspirational. I especially like his blogs on a 'Commuter Adventure' and 'A Journey Around your Home' which made me think about ways to turn everyday experiences in to unique adventures. He does embark on plenty of bigger challenges too but if being an adventurer seems all very glamorous and tough then you must read 'I'm an Adventurer. My Job is Awesome. Here's What a Day Looks Like...' which really made me laugh.
Incidentally, if you are in the Edinburgh area next weekend (6/7 Feb) then you can enjoy your own outdoor adventure fix while sitting comfortably indoors at the Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival. With lectures from leading mountaineers, adventurers and explorers, many short films and various exhibitions, this should be an inspiring weekend.
Although I can't make that event I am looking forward to going to The Fort William Mountain Festival later in February and even though I'm not a mountaineer, the programme still has lots to offer anyone that just enjoys mountain and outdoor scenery or hearing adventure stories.
I may have mentioned once or twice that I am seriously excited about heading to The Destinations Show in London and can't believe it is finally happening this week. While some people stalk pop stars and celebrities, I stalk travel writers and adventurers and as all my favourites are handily in one building next week, stalking them will be that bit easier! If I don't explode with excitement I will be back to tell you all about my fangirl exploits in my next weekly blether...
For this week's blether I wanted to tell you all about 'Hamish' and how you could be in with a chance of winning him in my giveaway.
A couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail about 'Hamish', the latest figurine to join the ‘Shaun in the City’ flock. With his Grant tartan kilt, sporran and ghillies, I immediately fell in love with him, I mean who wouldn't? If you have seen the Wallace and Gromit animations you will be familiar with the clever and mischievous Shaun the Sheep who was so popular he went on to have his own spin off film.
WIN one of these cute Hamish figurines in my giveaway - details below
Image Copyright - Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Foundation. Charity no. 1043603
Shaun the Sheep & Shaun in the City ©& ™ Aardman Animations Ltd 2015
The other thing I love is that Hamish is part of the latest charity initiative for the Wallace & Gromit's Grand Appeal, a Bristol based charity which raises funds to improve the lives of sick children in hospitals and hospices throughout the UK.
Hamish was one of 50 individually-designed sculptures of Shaun the Sheep installed across London as part of the ‘Shaun in the City’ charity sculpture trail last year. Each Shaun sculpture was designed by a different artist, designer or celebrity, including such well-known names as supermodel David Gandy, fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, and iconic British brand Cath Kidston. Hamish was designed by renowned botanical artist Ros Franklin and was on display in Paternoster Square and sponsored by iconic Scottish biscuit makers, Walkers Shortbread.
All images above are copyright Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Foundation. Charity no. 1043603
Shaun the Sheep & Shaun in the City ©& ™ Aardman Animations Ltd 2015
The London trail was followed by a second trail in Bristol, featuring 70 different designs. The 120 Shaun sculptures were auctioned in October, raising over £1million for The Grand Appeal, the Bristol Children’s Hospital Charity, and Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Charity, which supports sick children in hospitals across the UK.
Now you can own your very own (albeit slightly smaller) figurine of some of the best-loved designs including Hamish who will be available from 23 January for £35 from the charity’s online shop at www.wallaceandgromitcharityshop.org.uk
All proceeds from the figurines will help the charity to support sick children, babies, and their families and since 2003, Wallace & Gromit's Children's Charity has given over £2 million in grants to 291 projects in 93 different hospitals and hospices throughout England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It is the only children's charity supporting sick children in hospitals and hospices throughout the UK.
I'm literally just back from my first trip of 2016, a quick visit to the charming city of Dublin. I've been a couple of times before but not since 2007 and it was great to see new little pockets that have been upgraded since I was last there with sooooo many lovely new restaurants that I felt overwhelmed by the choice. I really like Dublin and although it has had a gradual face-lift over recent years, particularly around the Temple Bar district, it hasn't been overdeveloped and there is still plenty of rustic history visible around the city to make it interesting.
Unfortunately, my most memorable moment of the trip did not involve culture, craic or Guinness, but a rather spectacular slow motion fall in the middle of O'Connell Street, landing unceremoniously on my backside surrounded by a throng of horrified and amused Saturday morning shoppers and tourists. I wish I could say I was embarrassed or upset by the undignified incident but the truth is I'm so accident prone that I have perfected falling in style with no shame, although even by my standards this was a magnificent public tumble. I've also perfected the art of immediately jumping to my feet and hobbling off smiling as if falling on my bum in the middle of a busy city centre is not only totally normal but was my plan all along.
Meanwhile I'm secretly crying on the inside, convinced that half my behind has swollen up to the size of a watermelon and hoping that there isn't a video of the incident currently going viral on YouTube!
I have a feeling my third trip to Dublin will quickly become referred to as 'the time Susanne fell on her a**e'.
Here are a few photos from my trip and if you want to see more I'll be putting a selection on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/AdventuresAroundScotland/
For a while now I have been wanting to add a more personal space on my blog where I can chat more generally about my favourite things which mostly involve travel, adventure, blogging and of course everything Scotland related. There's nothing like a New Year for starting a new project so this is the first of what will hopefully be a regular weekly blether feature.
Expect a random mixture of things I've loved or hated during the week, my thoughts, discoveries, people that have inspired me, places I've visited and anything else that I think is useful or interesting to share. The only criteria I've set myself is that it fits in with one of the topics above so don't expect any lipstick recommendations as I'm still using the same Avon lipgloss I bought about 5 years ago (yes the actual same one!) so I am definitely not qualified in that area and you're definitely on the wrong blog!
So without further ado grab a brew and enjoy the blether...
What I've been watching this week
Into the Wild - I can't believe this movie came out in 2007 and passed me by until now. It tells the true story of Christopher McCandless who gave up his money and possessions to hitchhike to Alaska and live in the wilderness. McCandless has become a controversial character, admired by some for giving up on materialism to live his dream and criticised by others for naively entering the wilds unprepared. I personally just see him as someone trying to figure out his place in the world.
If you're interested in adventure and the psychology of what drives people to escape their lives then you might love this film as much as I did, just make sure you have plenty of tissues nearby!
Walking the Himalayas - For so many reasons Levison Wood has easily become my favourite explorer and his documentaries really capture the highs and lows of traversing some of the most remote, hostile and beautiful parts of the world. His epic Walking the Nile was one of my favourite series from last year and so far I'm loving Walking the Himalayas even more if that's possible.
He is one of the reasons I am heading to The Destinations Show in London next month and I can't wait to hear him talking about his adventures along with some of my other favourite travellers at The Stanfords Travel Writers Festival stage. Incidentally if you are planning on visiting the show you will find a complimentary ticket for 2 inside this months National Geographic Traveller magazine, bonus!
What I've been reading this week
Stylist Magazine interview with survival consultant Megan Hine - The headline "Meet the woman Bear Grylls turns to for advice on staying alive" was enough to draw me in. Megan is one seriously tough cookie who takes on intense challenges just to improve her already superhuman survival skills!
While her lifestyle seems a bit extreme (and just a tad dangerous!) to a mere mortal like myself who doesn't need to play Russian roulette with wild mushrooms when I can happily buy them from the supermarket next door, she does make a good point about how few of us possess even basic survival skills. It did get me thinking that if we were invaded by aliens, overrun by zombies or facing some other apocalypse then I would be one of the useless ones who wouldn't last a week in the wild which is why I have decided to go on a Bushcraft course this year, although if the worst does ever happen I'll be hoping Megan is nearby!
Alone in Iran - What was I Thinking by Silvia at Heart my Backpack - I've not long discovered Silvia's blog and it is quickly becoming one of my favourite reads. Her post on being a solo female American travelling in Iran is from 2014 but still makes a great read. It proves that the world isn't always as scary as you think and that on the whole people are generally welcoming, curious and helpful. In my own experience being respectful of cultural differences and an amiable disposition goes a long way to breaking down suspicion and forging friendships in any country.
Dublin - Next week I'm off on my first trip of the year and shock, horror it's not in Scotland! I'll be heading over to Dublin for my third visit to the city. I was last there in 2007 so I'm sure there will be plenty of new things to discover. I've already visited most of the touristy things so would quite like to get off the beaten track this time, although I'll no doubt still spend a disproportionate amount of time in an Irish pub enjoying the music and craic, although I won't be delving into the local stout as I just can't abide Guinness (I'm ashamed to say I opted for orange juice on my visit to the Guinness brewery) so I will be on the look out for some other more palatable local beverages.