Wednesday, 27 December 2017

North Coast 500 honeymoon roadtrip - Gairloch, Big Sands, Gruinard Bay & Ullapool

Posts 1 & 2 of my Scottish honeymoon road trip series focussed on the the long journey from South Wales to Scotland. After a few days on the road and stop offs in the lower highlands we finally reached the official North Coast 500. Hurrah! We thought the views were spectacular in the Nevis range but nothing prepared us for the the drama of the landscape as we headed closer to the north coast. 

The drive from Fort William to Gairloch was simply stunning but you'll have to take my word for it because I didn't manage to get any photos other than this one. I was so engrossed in the changing scenery and holding Coco still on my lap in the camper van that I didn't get my camera out. Some tips for this drive would be to fill up on petrol in Fort William and pack a lunch as there are some beautiful stops and view points along the way. 

On our way to Gairloch we drove past the beautiful Loch Maree which contains over 60 wooded islands. The area has a long history which dates back to the Druids and 8th Century monks and loch even has it's own monster - Muc-sheilche.


A picture of Gairloch with big sands beach

Upon arrival in Gairloch we checked in at Sands campsite which boasted excellent coastal views. You could camp in the sheltered dunes or higher up like we did for a perfect sunset viewpoint. This was another great site on our trip. The site had a well stocked shop with fresh baked bread, local produce and camping equipment and a fantastic cafe open until the evening for takeaways (dog friendly too). 

The big draw of staying at Sands campsite is the Big Sand beach which the site overlooks. The beach has great views of the mountains of Skye and Torridon. Coco absolutely loved the beach, running around and skidding in the sand and he could go as crazy as he liked because there was only one other person on the beach. As with much of our trip I wished we had longer in each location and I would have loved to stay here for another night and spent more time on the beach and exploring the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve. We had to push on as there was so much more to cram in to our 11 day trip.


this is a picture of sands campsite in gairloch overlooking big sands beach

this is a picture of big sands beach on a sunny evening



this is a picture of Gruinard Bay on the NC500 route in Scotland

After a short-but-sweet stay in Gairloch we headed back on the NC500 route to move on to our next stop, Ullapool. The views along the drive were amazing again and a highlight was Gruinard Bay which has three pink sand beaches with views of An Teallach and the northern Highlands. There are also lots of interesting rocks and things to see for geology buffs out there - I just thought it looked very pretty. 

this is a picture of Gruinard Bay on  sunny day



this is a picture of ullapool harbour with boats

Ullapool is a picturesque town nestled on the shores of Lochbroom. It's a great place to stop off in its own right but it is also a gateway to the Isle of Lewis with a ferry port in the town. We stayed at Ardmair Point which was a rather basic site but had pitches with a view over Loch Broom and out to the Summer Isles and a curved pebble beach.



The culinary highlight of our trip to Scotland was definitely the lobster and dill potato salad and crab linguine we got from the Seafood Shack in Ullapool. It was on my must visit list months before we set off and it didn't disappoint. The shack has won a BBC Food Award for the Best Street food and serves top quality seafood which was caught and landed locally. The lobster was well worth battling with the cold and windy weather, holding the tray down with one hand and trying to stab at the lobster with a fork to stop it from blowing away. If you ever visit Ullapool you have to make a pit stop at the Seafood Shack. 

this is a picture of lobster served fresh at the seafood shack in ullapool

There are still a couple of Scottish adventure posts left for me to type up. I am really enjoying reminiscing about my honeymoon back in September and I hope you come back to check out my next post about the final stages of my journey to Durness and Eilean Donan castle.


Our North Coast 500 route - you can find all of our stops and campsites here. 

Gemma
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Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Christmas Dangers for Dogs

My fur baby Coco is nearly a year old now and he is spoilt rotten by everyone in the family. I always try to buy his love by giving him the most treats so she will come and sit by me and give me cuddles. I think most dog owners are tempted to treat our furry loved ones to whatever we’ve been indulging on but beware! Not all human foods are safe for you dog and what you think might be a nice treat for them may make them ill. 


There are quite a few human foods to avoid feeding to your dog but there are some Christmas staples  that your dog can safely eat in moderation.

Doggy dinner approved

Turkey - Your dog can eat turkey but make sure you remove the bones.

Potatoes - Dogs can have a little potato but don't give them any with added salt or butter. 

Vegetables - Your dog can eat vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, sprouts, peas and cauliflower etc
Fruit - These can be high in sugar and acidic, which can upset your dog's stomach. Give this in moderation with stones removed. The fruit to avoid is rhubarb as the stalks and also its leaves are toxic to canines.


Coco's favourite festive treats


Don’t feed to your dog

Chocolate - AVOID AT ALL COSTS. It contains Theobromine which can be deadly to canines, even in small amounts. Keep it well out of their reach at all times.

Turkey or chicken skin - This contains a lot of fat which can cause inflammation of the pancreas.

Gravy - Very tasty poured over the dogs dried food but gravy made with animal fat and stock is far to fatty and salty for your dog.

Onions and garlic - Onions are a definite no no as they are poisonous to dogs. A little bit of garlic is not toxic to your dog it can have a dangerous cumulative effect so best to avoid sneaking your dog a stuffing ball.

Turkey bones - They are hollow and can easily splinter and get stuck in your dogs throat. 

Grapes and dried fruits such as raisins, currants, sultanas - These can be fatal to dogs, even in small amounts. It's best to avoid giving your dog any mince pies or Christmas cake as these contain a lot of dried fruit. 

Milk and dairy products - My dog LOVES cheese but research has shown that dogs are lactose intolerant.

 Coco was completely unimpressed each time I tried to have a festive photo shoot with him, hence all the side eye and sass he's giving in these photos. He's has a mind of his own...





If you want more tips for keeping your dogs in tip top shape over Christmas head over the MORE TH>N guide which includes more info including how to make your own treats and how to dog proof your home.

I hope you and your furry loved ones have a lovely Christmas, if you're dressing them up in cute jumpers feel free to sent me a photo on twitter because I love nothing more than wasting hours of my life looking at photos and videos of dogs on the internet.

*post written in collaboration with MORE TH>N
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Gemma
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Tuesday, 5 December 2017

#TooGoodToGoOut - My festive home with DFS

With long, dark Winter nights here to stay for the next few months, colder weather setting in and Christmas shopping crowds filling the streets of my hometown staying indoors during my downtime seems like a great idea. 

Braving the elements at this time of year fills me with dread and I would prefer to be a home with my husband and dog, making our home cosy rather than eating out in restaurants filled with crowds of office party groups and rushing about buying presents that people don't really need. 

The house Martyn and I purchased over a year ago is still a work in progress and decorating was put on hold during the wedding planning period. Since returning from our honeymoon we have been adding lots of finishing touches to the house - getting pictures framed and upgrading our old furniture we had bought separately to higher quality items that suit us as a couple. One thing we had been on the lookout for was a armchair for the bay window in our dining room and DFS came to the rescue with the beautiful velvet number you can see in the photos below - sofa of my dreams! 

This is a picture of the dfs zinc sofa in navy blue velvet

A comfy sofa is a central component of any living space and my new sofa from DFS  gives our home a ‘too good to go out’ feeling. It has certainly turned my favourite room in the house to the most used room in the house. I love the original picture rail and cabinet and the huge bay window in the dining room but we rarely spent any time in there. The only time we ate at the table was for Sunday lunch or Christmas dinner which was a waste of a large, well lit space. 

The addition of what is typically seen as living room furniture into my dining room has changed the feel of the room completely. We now use this room to read, listen to music and just hang out as a couple and the snuggle chair is the perfect size for two and a little puppy. As mentioned in a recent post I'm trying to take more time out to relax and my new sofa is certainly helping with this. 

  
Photo frames: John Lewis - Plants & pots: IKEA - Cushion cover: eBay

The navy blue velvet ties in perfectly with the feature wall and the mid-century style doesn't look out of place in my Edwardian home thanks to the dark colour and luxurious feel of the fabric. The sofa is from the Zinc collection by French Connection at DFS and you can get these sofas in a more traditional textured fabric (like the ones in my living room) or in velvet  - I was highly tempted by the yellow and forest green options but navy was the safer choice (and less likely to show any puppy stains).


This is a picture of my festive fining room with fairy lights

I can't wait to entertain in this space over Christmas with my friends and family around the table, sipping G&Ts whilst reclining on my sofa and listing to to my records with the fairy lights flickering in the background. 

This is a picture of my christmas tree with red, blue and white decorations

This is a picture of a Mariah Carey christmas record

This is a picture of the dfs zinc sofa in navy blue velvet

Now that I've got the room just how I like it I think it's far too good to go out. If you need to find me over the next few months I'll be curled up on the sofa with a good book and Coco on my lap...

*Thank you to DFS for providing the sofa. As always, all views and words are my own. 
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Gemma
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