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Gadding About

May 30, 2023

After moving into our new motorhome we’ve been spending our time between campsites close to London to see family and friends, doing adaptations to the camper, a bunch of boring chores and heading off for mini-breaks further away to figure out what works for us and what needs changing before heading further afield.

At the Long Coppice Campsite, Hereford

The UK is not the easiest country to travel around in motorhomes. With its parking restrictions and height barriers, it makes it difficult to park to visit local attractions or stay anywhere other than dedicated campsites – although some savvy pub landlords are starting to see the value in opening up their carparks to campers, the quid pro quo being that you buy a drink or meal whilst there.

As a result, we have been staying in campsites in the UK which can be quite expensive, although the price varies significantly depending on location and the facilities available – which range from massive sites with marked up pitches and all the mod cons to very undeveloped sites which are basically just a field.

Invasion of the tiny horses in Ocknell Campsite, New Forest

We have spent some time in the New Forest and have really enjoyed a basic campsite run by Forestry England called Ocknell. There are no specific pitches and you can setup wherever you like as long as you are 6m from other campers. We found a large clearing which was fairly flat. The great thing about this campsite is the sheer volume of wildlife that comes through.

View from our window, New Forest

We had deer, Shetland ponies, new forest ponies and donkeys eating the grass around our camper. At one stage we were surrounded by tiny ponies including a mother with a new born foal which we think we saw suckle for the first time – it took a while before it worked out how to do it, but it was great to see it grow in strength and become more steady on its feet as the day went on.

New Born Shetland Foal

We also saw New Forest pigs foraging by the roads and plenty of free roaming cows.

New Forest foraging Piggies

Believe it or not we also saw the Northern lights while we were in the New Forest – albeit only as a purple glow in the sky.

Northern Lights on the South Coast of the UK

We have also had a couple of trips to Wales and the West of England, staying near Monmouth, Hereford and the Forest of Dean.

Whilst in Monmouth we did a tour of nearby castles including Raglan Castle, White Castle, Grosmont Castle and Monmouth Castle. Raglan castle is definitely the pick of the bunch and is quite impressive while Monmouth castle only has a couple of walls still standing.

Raglan Castle

When staying at a farm near Hereford we enjoyed the first proper sunshine of the year and visited an owl centre with over 30 different species of owl and also a small breeds farm attached where you can feed the sheep and goats – which were really cute.

A couple of very cute Kids

In Hereford we also visited Beefy Boys – one of the best burger restaurants we’ve visited. Every time we go to the Hereford area it’s a must stop off for us. Their burgers are amazing.

Beefy Boys

Forestry England have campsites all over. Having loved the one in the New Forest we decided to visit another in the Forest of Dean, called Bracelands. This is in a big clearing in the woods but is more expensive than the New Forest (to be fair it has full facilities) but the grass, no electric pitches are not very flat. We would visit again (during the week as the weekends were very busy) but would stump up the cash to stay on a hard standing pitch as these were in the prime positions with great views.

A greedy goat

After our trips around the south and south west, we have got used to living in the Beastlet and prepared as best we can for our trip to Europe. Having applied for and now received our 6 month visa for France, we are leaving shortly and hope we haven’t forgotten anything that we’ll need!

The Beastlet: Benimar Mileo 201

May 28, 2023

When we came back from our trip to the Americas we both agreed that we would definitely tour in a camper again. Its taken 10 years but when we were back in the UK in December we went to see a few motorhomes and found one that suited our needs. Having put down a deposit, Marquis (the dealers) agreed to hold onto it until the start of April when we would be back from skiing.

So at the start of April we moved into our new home – all 6 metres of her.

We had a good idea of what we wanted in our new camper from our time living in the Beast and from the camper we hired in Andalucia a few years ago:

  1. Max 6m length: short enough to manoeuvre through medieval towns without getting into too much trouble at tight corners.
  2. Fixed Bed: Making up a bed every day begins to really grate after a few nights and, when travelling for long periods invariably one of you will be ill at some point.
  3. Two Lounging Areas: When you are together 24/7, it helps to be able to get a bit of distance from each other (even if it is only 2 metres), especially on those rainy days
  4. Decent Kitchen: we like to cook so some kitchen workspace is an absolute must
  5. Bathroom: with a shower and most importantly a toilet.
  6. Garage:  Storage space for all the toys!
  7. Payload: Enough payload to ensure we can carry all the stuff we need
  8. Under 3.5 tonnes: Faster speed limits, cheaper tolls and less restrictions on roads.

When we started looking at campers we initially thought that we would be getting a new one but after making a few enquiries we realised that the supply chain for vans has been so disrupted by Brexit, Covid and the war in Ukraine, that we were unlikely to be able to take delivery before 2024. This meant that we had to look at the used market.

The impact of Covid on the used market has been significant. The supply of used vans in the UK has reduced as lots of people were forced to holiday at home. Reduced supply has increased prices and this coupled with inflation has meant that used vans are selling for more than new ones from only a couple of years ago.

We were therefore a little bit concerned that we would struggle to find what we wanted but after some online searches we picked out a number of dealers to view a few potentials.

The model we went with is a 2019 Benimar Mileo 201. This is a Spanish built motorhome. Benimar are part of the Trigano group which is one of the biggest motorhome manufacturing companies in the world, including brands such as Auto-Trail, Adria and Chausson.

Layout Diagram of the Mileo 201

It is based on a Fiat Ducato van and has a fixed rear transverse bed over a large garage (back locker).  At 3 years old it has done just over 10,000 miles so was only lightly used and the interior was in great condition, the previous owners looked after it well.

Our Campers Lounge with driving seats swivelled round

We are delighted with our purchase and have been getting used to living in her while making some modifications to enhance our ability to travel off-grid (which I will post about at a later date) before heading off to Europe.

Kitchen in our camper

Skiing Wrap Up: All good things must come to an end

April 10, 2023

As the proverb goes, all good things must come to an end and our time in the Alps has drawn to a close. After being starved of snow throughout February, March has brought better conditions with some good dumps of snow but rising temperatures mean that many of the low lying areas have melted back quickly. We’ve been seeing temperatures as high as 20C in the valley and 13/14c on the slopes. There have been some overcast days in March but the majority have been beautiful blue skies. Alpe d’Huez boasts 300 days of sunshine per year and this has certainly been borne out while we have been here.

Powder in March

The slopes at the top of the mountain remain in fantastic shape with the runs down from Pic Blanc covered in powder and in great condition. The low lying resort of Auris de Oisans though is really struggling and the slopes down to Maronne have been closed for some time.

Snow down Low

There are slopes in the resort that have not been open throughout both February and March because there just hasn’t been enough snow to keep them open. Although after the large dumps in March some of them have been skiable for a few days even though not officially open.

Powder on Les Cristaux

In 2 months of skiing I have skied 965 km’s with a vertical drop of 190 km’s. I’ve skied just about every run in the resort (there are some green runs I haven’t tried) and taken every lift.

Below you can see a heatmap from Strava of the skiing that I have done and this looks a lot like the resort ski map.

Heatmap of Alpe d’Huez

and the heatmap showing the runs in the Sarenne Valley:

Heatmap of Sarenne Valley (extends through valley to left)

So for us we are heading back to the UK for some downtime, before starting the next chapter in our adventures!

The undoubted highlights of the resort for me are:

Sarenne Run

Sarenne: From the very top of Pic Blanc (3,330m) this black slope falls 1,820m, through 9km into a deserted valley below Alpe d’Huez, the Sarenne Gorge. Once you start there is a bail out after the first 25% but then you are committed to the whole thing but the first section is probably the most difficult. In good snow, freshly groomed it is a standard red run but in the late afternoon with spring conditions it can become quite moguled in certain places making it live up to its black designation.

La Fare in the trees with Vaujany ahead

La Fare: This run is so good they built a gondola purely to service it as it drops down well below the town of Vaujany. If you ski from the top of the Alpette lift it is a 8km drop of around 1600m vertical. But the highlight is when you turn onto the narrow La Fare run dropping through the trees. It is never busy and is one of the few runs through the trees in the whole domain. I have skied it in powder, when icy, pisted and non-pisted and each is a different experience but all have been fantastic. It is quite shaded which means even though it drops down so low the snow has stayed in great condition throughout the time we’ve been here.

Tunnel: Often making the list of top 5 hardest runs in Europe. Tunnel starts from the highest point in the resort at 3330m, Pic Blanc. From here you have to ski down a steep moguled run called Glacier, to the entry point to the tunnel. This 200m long tunnel, built in 1964,  takes you under the glacier and through the ridge back into the main valley of the Alpe d’Huez resort.

Entrance to the Tunnel

At the end of the tunnel a very narrow, steep and moguled funnel is the start of the much wider, but no less moguled or steep slope. The slope is 70% or 35 degrees making it the steepest moguled slope in France.

Start of the Tunnel Run (Steeper than it looks)

Just don’t fall on this one as getting skis back on is fiendishly difficult. The run finishes at its own lift to connect back to the Alpe d’Huez side of the resort or can be skied out to just below the Dome de Rousses.

Les Deux Alpes

March 24, 2023

Ski passes at the larger French resorts are very expensive. It costs €56 per day to ski in Alpe D’Huez but fortunately if you are in resort for more than a week there is a season pass available which is much cheaper. We bought our season passes for €745 including medical insurance for the equivalent of 13 days skiing.

The Venosc lift rising through the clouds

The bonus of buying any pass that is one week or longer in Alpe D’Huez is that you also get a number of days in other ski areas included in the cost. One of these is the nearby report of Les Deux Alpes, which can be seen from some of the Alpe D’Huez slopes.

Big Runs in Les Deux Alpes

The town of Les Deux Alpes is sprawling and busy and it is difficult to park so I wasn’t keen on trying to drive up there. However, just like Alpe D’Huez, there are lifts in the valley which directly access the resort. At the bottom end of the village of Venosc is a lift called simply Telecabine de Venosc, with a car park alongside it. The slight disadvantage with this lift is that it arrives in the bottom end of town and the connecting ski lifts are a few hundred metres walk away.

However, once you reach the lifts (the closest being the new Diable lift), it is a very quick ride up the mountain. This is a high resort with the top at 3600m and the town at 1650m. Les Deux Alpes is an unusual resort in that the very top of the mountain, the glacier, has pretty gentle slopes which make up a great beginner area. The more intermediate and advanced skiing is in the middle and then the way back to town is either a wide sweeping blue run or a gnarly steep black run. There are 15 greens, 41 blues, 13 reds and 9 black runs over 119km of slopes. So overall it is a smaller resort than Alpe D’Huez and more geared to the early, intermediate skier.

The lift system in Les Deux Alpes seem to be more modern with fast chairlifts in more places and the lifts seem less prone to queues than in Alpe d’Huez. The ski runs also tend to be much wider than in Alpe d’Huez and there are lots of really cruisy runs making it really suitable for those intermediate skiers.

The mountain itself is made up of different sectors which are either linked by lift or by fairly level ski runs so it takes a bit of time to learn your way around. It is possible to ski all the way from the top at 3600m down to the town without using a lift and the run is just over 12km long with almost 2000m of vertical drop.

Wide open runs in Les Deux Alpes

The views from Les Deux Alpes are spectacular and from the top it’s possible to see all the way to Mont Blanc and over back towards Alpe d’Huez. Going right to the top of the resort is a bit of a chore though with the final T-Bar lift only accessible after a bit of a trek over flat ground and the same on the way back. This is hard work at over 3000m.

View from the top of Les Deux Alpes with Mont Blanc in the background

There has been talk for a number of years of a lift linking Alpe d’Huez and Les Deux Alpes but the construction was delayed by Covid and there is no go live date currently fixed.

Heatmap of My skiing in Les Deux Alpes

Alpe d’Huez Town

March 14, 2023
Alpe d’Huez from Above

In order to keep our costs down we had booked most of our accommodation for our trip to the Alps in the town of Allemond in the valley below Alpe d’Huez. But for the middle two weeks we had decided to treat ourselves to an apartment in the resort itself. We figured that 2 months in the thick of a ski resort would probably be too much but it would be nice to have a short ‘holiday’ in the town where we would probably eat and drink too much and be grateful to get back to the peace and quiet of Allemond.

Studio in Alpe d’Huez with Sofa Bed

Alpe D’Huez town is divided into a number of quartiers, each with their own small centre of shops, bars and restaurants. Some of these quartiers are nearer the slopes than others with Cognet, Jeux and Bergers being closest to the slopes. For the other quartiers of Vieil Alpe, Passeuax, Eclose, Outaris and Huez Village there are both lifts and a free shuttle bus to make getting to the slopes easier. Fortunately, more through luck than anything else, we had booked accommodation in Jeux which was only 100m away from the nearest piste.

Outdoor pool in Alpe D’Huez (Jeux quartier)

In hindsight, and fortunately, it looks like Jeux is one of the better places to be based with a lovely outdoor pool (heated of course), the ice-rink and a short walk to the luge, along with a good selection of bars and restaurants.

Telemark Skiing

One of the disadvantages of ski resorts is that once the lifts shut, at around 5pm, you need to be back in your home town as by road the various settlements can be a long way from each other and potentially a very expensive taxi ride. So it was very fortuitous for us, that while we were staying in Alpe d’Huez town itself and not Allemond, the ESF (French Ski School) put on a fantastic evening show on one of the slopes straight above town.

ESF Instructors

The event show-cased all the different styles of skiing such as telemark, snowboarding, skiing, slalom, biathlon, monoskis and parapenting. This was interspersed by freestyle skiing and snowboarding over a jump.

The whole event ended with a spectacular torchlight procession down the mountain and a fireworks display.

Global Warming

March 12, 2023

One of the reasons we chose Alpe D’Huez for skiing was its high altitude, with slopes as high as 3300m. We wanted a snow sure resort that would guarantee snow for our whole trip.

This turned out to be a good decision as February has been one of the worst winter months for snowfall in history. Only 5cms of snow fell on the slopes throughout the whole of February. The normal expectation for this part of the Alps is around 62cms, so we are way off the average.

Ski Run in Auris de Oisans

Not only has there been a lack of snow but almost every day since we arrived has been a blue-sky day. Curiously the ski areas and the immediately surrounding valleys have been clear of clouds but the valleys moving away from the Alps have been filled with thick cloud nearly every day. Some days we’ve seen a real cloud inversion in the surrounding valleys, which tends to clear by lunchtime.

Ski Lift over fields (Where’s the snow ?)

The impact of this weather, with highs of 14C (the highest temperature I have seen while skiing in February), means that a lot of the snow cover from earlier in the season is melting. The pisteurs have been doing an amazing job at keeping the pistes in good shape but despite this, some of the lower slopes are now closed, several of them are surrounded by exposed grass and those that are open are becoming narrower by the day.  Having said that, it is still possible to ski down to the lower lying towns of the ski area, it’s just that the ski conditions are what you might expect towards the end of the season, not at its peak.

Home Run to Alpe d’Huez

There is no doubt that this hasn’t (so far – I’m still hoping!) been a great season for skiing in the Alps and while this may be a freaky one-off warm snap, I worry that this is a sign of things to come. For now I am just grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time on the snow.

Ski Run down to Vaujany

It is not all doom and gloom though and the top of the resort, over around 2500m, is still in good condition with cold temperatures and full snow cover.  The pistes are icy in the morning but soften as the day progresses, this softening does hasten the formation of moguls but these are kept under control by the pisteurs overnight, apart from on a small number of unpisted runs which are kept that way.

Afternoon Moguls on Sarenne


February 28, 2023

We’ve always loved mountains and one of our favourite things to do in the mountains in winter is to ski. So before we started travelling we decided that we wanted to spend some time in the Alps in winter to try and improve our technique and to enjoy all that comes with skiing.

La Fare Black Run through the Trees

Our last trip out to the French Alps – Val Thorens in 2020, had ended very abruptly when about 2 hours after we arrived at our hotel the French government announced that from midnight all ski resorts were closing. Then ensued the utter chaos of independently trying to find our way home when our travel agency failed to step up to the plate.  A week later, back in London, lockdown commenced.

Ski Run in Alpe D’Huez

There is no denying that skiing is a very expensive hobby and the prices in ski resorts are very high during the winter season so we had to find a way to ski for a couple of months without breaking the bank.  We knew we wanted to ski in France – which is home to the biggest ski areas in the world and an easy drive from the UK.

After much research we came to realise that in recent years a number of the largest resorts have been building cable cars from the surrounding valleys to directly access the ski areas. These allow large car parks to be built and easy access without the long, slow, sometimes wheel-chained drive up the switchback roads for those who are not staying in resort.  Another positive of course is that accommodation in the valleys, away from the resorts is much cheaper (and less busy).  So, the small towns and villages surrounding the bigger resorts became our focus.

Run from Top of Alpette lift to Vaujany

The small village of Allemond (at approx. 700m), better known for being on some of the best alpine cycle routes, has recently had a fast gondola lift built to directly access into Oz de Oisans, which is part of the sizable Alpe D’Huez Grande Domaine. There is a large car park at the bottom of the lift and a free shuttle bus through the village to and from the lift  (although not as frequently as one would like). 

Allemond Church on the hill above the town

The lift from Allemond is called the Eau D’Olle and takes about 10 minutes to reach Oz de Oisans. From Oz there are 2 different lifts which in another 10 minutes or so take you to over 2000m – one on the Vaujany side of the resort and one to the Alpe D’Huez side.

Burger with a Waffle Bun at Les Gauffrettes in Allemond

Unlike many of the valleys in the Alps, Allemond receives sunshine for most of the day which given its altitude of only 700m makes it a warm and pleasant place to be.  It is a quiet and peaceful village (this may not be the case in the summer, there are quite a lot of campsites and public toilets for such a small place, which makes us wonder if it is much busier in the summer months with cyclists) with four cafes/restaurants, a Spar, post office, newsagent, medical centre, an excellent bakery, pharmacy, tourist office and church (in the upper village).   

River in Allemond

A pretty river runs through Allemond village from the large lake/hydroelectric dam (used for water sports in the summer), and in addition there is an outdoor swimming pool and climbing pinnacle (open only in the summer months).  The village also has a square where they host a (small) market on Sunday mornings and live music and food/drinks tents on Wednesday evenings.

Bourg de Oisans High Street

If like us you are staying in town for longer than a couple of weeks, then you can find a larger supermarket a 10 minute drive away (called Casino) in the larger town of Bourg de Oisans.   The supermarket conveniently has washing machines outside.  Very handy, if like us, your accommodation does not have a washing machine.  I will admit when we first drove through the village we were underwhelmed and wondered what we would do with our time.  However, after spending just a couple of weeks here we have grown quite fond of the village and its hidden gems.

Cloud Inversion in Valley from the Alpe D’Huez Ski Area

The ski area of Alpe D’Huez is fairly large with the sprawling town itself in the middle at 1800m but stretching to a number of outlying villages which are lower down. The top of the ski area is at the peak of Pic Blanc which is at 3300m and the lowest point is Vaujany at 1250m. There is a good spread of different slopes with 35 greens, 30 blues, 31 reds and 19 blacks.

View of Alpe D’Huez Town from the Slopes

One of the highlights of the ski area is the 9km long Sarenne slope which drops from the top of Pic Blanc at 3300m down into the deep valley below Alpe D’Huez. It is categorised as a black but in reality it is more like a tough red although conditions can vary considerably along its length and parts can get fairly moguled later in the day.

View from Mid Way Down Sarenne

My personal favourite is a fabulous run which drops from the 2800m Dome de Rousses to below the town of Vaujany. This goes down the black rated La Fare run which is a steep run through the trees to its own cable car.  It is a pretty run, around 7.5km long with 1500m of vertical and tends to be a bit quieter than the rest of the resort, making it without doubt more serene than Sarenne.

View from the Top of La Fare

The UK Lake District

January 29, 2023

When we were telling our friends what our plans were for the Winter the universal response was along the lines of “You’re nuts!”. Well no one has ever accused us of making sensible decisions.

So on returning from the balmy Mediterranean coast of Turkey, we picked up our car and headed North to spend two months in a rental cottage just outside the Lake District in Cumbria. Yes In the middle of Winter.

Winter Walking in the Lakes

On arrival in Tebay – just off the M6 and sitting between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales National Park – we were pleased to see that our two bedroom cottage was in lovely condition and although small, was much bigger than the studio apartments and hotel rooms we have been used to over the last few months. The lounge and kitchen are even separate rooms and there is a bath – Luxury!

We have spent most of our time exploring the Lakes but we haven’t entirely neglected the Yorkshire Dales. One trip was to the Ribblehead Viaduct which is 400m long, 32m high and opened in 1875.

The weather through December was bitterly cold, dropping to as low as -12c and covering the landscape in a cloak of hoar frost, but this came coupled with blue skies and beautiful days. Absolutely perfect for hiking as there was no snow to trudge through.

Ice around a small waterfall on the way up Blencathra

We soon discovered that those sort of temperatures meant that there was a huge amount of ice on the hiking paths, some paths becoming ice rinks.

Frozen Waterfall on the way to Crinkle Crags

A quick trip into the Climber’s Shop in Ambleside and we had purchased some Kahtoola Microspikes which are perfect for hiking in icy conditions. I soon tested them out and they helped me climb up a 45 degree slab of ice on the way to the peak of the Crinkle Crags. I just couldn’t have got to the top without them.

Views from Blencathra

The Lake District is famous with British Hiker’s but we had only ever spent 1 weekend here previously so it was a real journey of exploration for us.

Kirkstone Pass

The lovely thing about the cottage we are renting is that it is possible to hike straight from the door. One way goes straight up onto the Howgills, a series of grassy fells, and the other way, once you are across the M6, is the Eastern edge of the Lake District and you come across a valley known as the Other Borrowdale.

Posing Wild Fell Pony

I’ve hiked across to the Other Borrowdale a few times and the lovely thing about these fells is that you can come across herds of friendly fell ponies – I expect they are after a treat but one even let me pet it. The fell ponies are an endangered species of horse that is native to Cumbria and there are only around 6,500 of them. The fell ponies are great for the environment as their grazing promotes biodiversity by controlling the spread of gorse and trampling areas to allow seeds to have space to germinate.

Rare White Fell Pony

December flew by with lots of hiking, climbing Helvellyn, Blencathra, the Crinkle Crags and ticking off multiple Wainwright’s with each hike.

Summit Plateau of Helvellyn

Perhaps one of the most beautiful places that we have visted in the lakes is called Buttermere. This can be very still and have amazing reflections. It is easy to walk around the whole lake and there are also a number of hikes to up to the fells surrounding the lake.

View of Buttermere
Buttermere Trees

We headed back South for Christmas with family and then it was a fairly miserable 9 hour journey back (should have been 4-5 hours) to the Lake District in terrible weather after Christmas. It felt like everyone was travelling on the same day and that combined with rail strikes and bad weather caused complete gridlock on the motorways.

Scales Tarn below Blencathra (Saddleback)

Winter Time in The Lakes

January 28, 2023

Following beautiful cold but clear days in December, the first couple of weeks of January in the Lake District were absolutely terrible – near constant heavy rain coupled with low cloud and very poor visibility.

Rutter Falls

We pretty much hunkered down with only a couple of damp hikes on the best of the days to break the monotony and some binge watching of series on Netflix. Of course this is the risk you take in the Lakes in Winter.

Castlerigg Stone Circle in the Snow

And then the temperature dropped again and the snow and ice came. This was coupled with much better weather with blue skies and low temperatures. It was nowhere near as cold as before Christmas.

A snowy Buttermere

A fantastic hike in deep snow where I was the only person on the mountain up to Red Pike was the reward for my patience. I didn’t quite make it to the top as the snow kept getting deeper and over knee deep snow on a 45 degree slope was proving heavy going. However, the views back over Buttermere and of Ullswater were worth the effort.


Returning to Buttermere the wind had dropped and the lake was completely still, reflecting the surroundings perfectly. This is my favourite place in the Lakes so far.

Famous Lone Tree at Buttermere

The hike to Red Pike was actually a last minute decision as I wasn’t able to get to the walk I wanted to do at the other end of Buttermere. After so much rain and flooding, the mountain road was completely covered in ice and after several hair-raising attempts at getting up it, I eventually abandoned that idea.

Sour Milk Ghyll, Grasmere

I took the opportunity in the good weather to visit some of the iconic views in the Lake district; hiking up to Rydal Caves, the Sweden Bridge above Ambleside, some waterfalls around Grasmere and the stone circle at Castlerigg near Keswick.

Rydal Cave Selfie

The ice certainly made the roads interesting with the high passes pretty much impassable without chains and while the A roads had been gritted, a lot of the B roads were really sketchy.

Sweden Packbridge in Ambleside

After the snow and ice came the thaw and some pretty dense fog. This led to a very atmospheric hike around the Ingleton Waterfall trail in the Yorkshire Dales. But anywhere with grand landscapes was definitely due to the visibility, which was down to 50m or so.

The Ingleton Waterfall trail is around 8km long and is loop going up one river in a gorge and down another in a gorge. Both flow through the same small town of Ingleton. It is a curated trail and therefore there is a charge for doing the hike but no charge for parking so it actually works out around the same price as most of the parking in the Lakes.

Our time in the Lakes was drawing to a close so there was time for one last hike. A great day, in the now almost completely thawed landscape, climbing Glaramara. I didn’t see a single person on the entire hike and it felt like I had the mountains to myself – one of the benefits of hiking at this time of year.

Glaramara in the background and Bessyboot in the foreground

So 2 months in the UK Lakes District in winter was an equally mixed bag of appalling weather and glorious winter days. When it isn’t raining it feels like the perfect time to be up here. The hills are deserted, there is no problem parking anywhere and winter conditions can make the hills more beautiful than ever. You do have to be careful driving on the B roads when it’s icy and sometimes have to make longer journeys to avoid the high passes but with such an amazing landscape there are still plenty of hikes to choose from. The cold conditions are not so bad if you dress right and hiking keeps you warm anyway.

Icy waterfall in Tebay

When the rain falls (all day), the wind blows and the visibility reduces, it is definitely a less pleasant place to be and outdoor activities are off the agenda unless you are much hardier than me. It is also less easy to do the more touristy things on the rainy days like visiting castles and gardens etc., as many of them are only open from March to October. We did however visit Lowther Castle (open all year) and Brougham Castle (open only at weekends in Winter) and on a particularly bad day when we just had to be indoors, the infamous Keswick Pencil Museum!

Brougham Castle

Lowther Castle (below) was occupied from the middle ages by the Earls of Lonsdale and their families but the family fell on hard times and the castle was closed in 1937. It was used in WW2 by an army tank regiment but the roof was removed in 1957 in order to avoid taxes and it fell into ruin. It is still in the same family however, and a lot of work has been done, and is still on going with the help of the National Trust to restore some of the building and the gardens to their former glory. Definitely worth a visit.

Lowther Castle in the snow

The pencil museum is better than it sounds. Although the only part that really captured (excuse the pun) our attention was the use of the pencil in WW2 to smuggle maps and compasses across enemy lines to aid escape if captured. Charles Fraser Smith, the inspiration for Q in James Bond, asked the pencil company to produce a pencil containing a map and compass for Lancaster Bomber Crews to help them if shot down and it tells the story of how this was secretly created.

Replica of the secret map pencil. Note the map and compass in the front of the case

Overall though, I would recommend spending time up here in the winter if you have time to enjoy the fair weather days when they come. Some days it even looks like summer!

Grasmere Lake

Travelling In Turkey

January 24, 2023

Entry Into Turkey

For UK and EU citizens entry into Turkey is possible on a visa free tourist basis for up to 90 days within any 180 day period. So it couldn’t be easier.

However US citizens are required to get an E-Visa prior to travel.

Driving In Turkey

We decided to hire a car for our month-long trip to the Southwest of Turkey. We wanted to be able to move around easily and not be tied down to tourist trips, particularly as we were outside of the main season. This proved to be a great decision.

We managed to find a car for a full month for £300. That works out at only £10 per day. We ended up driving around 3000km in total so I think we got our money’s worth and we went to lots of places off the beaten track which we just couldn’t have got to otherwise.

Our car was a Fiat Egea (Known as Tipo in the rest of Europe) and it had 68k KM on the clock when we got it. It had a couple of small scrapes but was in good condition and we didn’t have any problems with it.

We used a small car hire firm called Boycar that were based outside the airport. On arrival we had to give them a quick call and 10 minutes later we were picked up and taken to their office. About 10 minutes of paperwork and we were ready to go.

Overall we thought that the standard of driving in Turkey was pretty good although when we mentioned this to the locals they invariably found it hilarious… I guess they maybe haven’t driven through the centre of Lima or a little closer to home, Sicily – experiences not to the forgotten!  Like anywhere there are some aggressive drivers but with some defensive driving and a cool head it was a pretty good place to drive.

Perhaps the only area that took some concentration were the roundabouts. The general rule in turkey is that you give way whilst on the roundabout to traffic entering the roundabout. However, this isn’t always the case and with some you give way to traffic already on the roundabout. You just have to keep an eye on the signs as there is generally clear indication which set of rules apply.

There are quite a lot of police checkpoints where the police cordon off part of the road to pull drivers over. We were waved through all but once and on that occasion as soon as the policeman realised we spoke English and were clearly tourists he waved us on, so we are still not sure what they are actually checking.

We really enjoyed seeing the fake police cars that are pretty common at the side of the road to encourage people to slow down !

Speed Limits are mostly marked with signs at the side of the road however they are rarely obeyed and speeding is common place. The motorway limit is 120km/h (although certain motorways have a 130 or even 140 limit we did not encounter this) and main roads are set at 90km/h. Urban areas have a 50km/h limit.

Where to Stay

As we were travelling in the off-season in Turkey there weren’t a huge amount of people in the hotels and therefore, despite some hotels shutting for the winter, there was a lot of availability.

Our Room in Antalya – there was also a second bedroom with single beds and two balconies !

We had decided to not book any accommodation for our trip but to remain flexible and book 1 or 2 days in advance when we were sure of our plans. is blocked in Turkey and you cannot make local bookings using this website. However you can get around this by using a VPN or there are plenty of other hotel booking sites that do work in Turkey. We found that using google maps to show hotels in an area worked really well and this then gives you the cheapest price for online booking.

Prices for hotels vary considerably and it is possible to pay £100’s per night to stay in very upscale places. However, if like us you are on a tight budget there is plenty of affordable accommodation.

Bar/Restaurant in our Hotel in Side

In general we paid between £18-£25 per night over the course of our trip. Of course this was off-season.  These prices have increased since last year as inflation was running high in Turkey while we were there.  We booked almost all of our nights in advance over the internet however for a few nights we just wandered in off the street and found that it was possible to negotiate a reasonable rate.

A few nights we paid a bit more in the more expensive areas but our most expensive night was £30.

Breakfast in Aksehir

In almost all the hotels the cost included breakfast although the standard of the breakfast was very variable. From big buffet breakfasts with hot and cold options, traditional mezes, through to a plate with hard boiled egg, salad and bread we had a real variety.

Some hotels had swimming pools. Pamukkale Hotel pictured.

Eating in Turkey

To be perfectly honest we had no idea what to expect from Turkish food and we were so happy when we got to Turkey and started dining out.

The prices in Turkish restaurants vary wildly from town to town but in each area most of the restaurants seem to have similar prices (although of course there is some variation).  The most expensive places are unsurprisingly the most touristy and, for us, these were Antalya, Side and Goreme but even in the most touristy places you can still find cheap local eateries.  As always, the general rule of thumb to getting quality food and good value for money is to check out where the locals eat.

Our cheapest meal of the whole trip was around 80TL for two which is about £4 and our most expensive meal was 500TL or around £25.

Efes beers

If you want to drink alcohol this is fairly expensive with a bottle of beer around 80TL (£4) and the price of this doesn’t vary much from place to place. Efes is the most common beer in Turkey and it’s pretty decent, although there are a number of different types (Pilsener, dark, malt and others) so plenty to work through to find your favourite!


In terms of food, some of the our favourite local dishes included Manti (Turkish pasta), Pide (Turkish Pizza), Lahmucan (Flatbread with Toppings), Tavuk Durum (chicken wrap), Beyti Kebab (meat in pastry) and Adana Kebab (spiced ground beef/lamb skewers).

Restuarant in Selcuk


Every hotel we stayed in had free WIFI available and almost all of them had good service. The speeds varied from around 10mb – 30mb but everywhere had decent speed.

For those with UK phone contracts it is unlikely that calls and data in Turkey will be included in your package and therefore will be a pricey extra.  To overcome this we bought a local pay as you go Sim card for use while on the go. We particularly relied on mobile data for navigation while driving.

Signing up for a pay as you go Sim is simple.  There are phone shop in all the towns, we visited Vodafone in Antalya and for £25 bought a sim with 20 gb of data and a large amount of calls and texts. This was a 30-day package which suited us perfectly. To recharge the sim with another 20gb of data is only £10. In order to sign up for this you do need to take your passport but it only took about 10 minutes to get set up. 

The mobile phone signal was strong everywhere we went and I think the only place that we suffered a dead spot was deep in a Cappodocian valley.

Museum Pass

Almost all of the ancient sites in Turkey come with an entry charge which can vary from as low as 20 TL (less than £1) up to 200 TL (£10).  Ephesus was the most expensive site we visited and in addition, they charge extra to access the excavated houses (85 TL/ £3.50) and the Ephesus museum (50TL/ £2).

When you are touring around these costs can add up really quickly.  Fortunately, there is a multi-day pass that can be purchased called the Museum Pass. This can be bought at the entry to all of the ancient sites/museums and costs 1000 TL (€50 or £43) and lasts for 15 days. If you are travelling for two weeks and planning on visiting a lot of sites this will definitely be good value.

It is also possible to buy cheaper 7 day passes for the Mediterranean or Aegean regions, a three day pass for Cappadocia or a 5 day Istanbul pass. These all represent worse value than the 15 day pass though.

We definitely visited more sites and museums than we would have if we were paying individually and thought that the Museum Pass represented great value for money.