UK

Three Peaks Challenge

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Back in June, on the longest day of the year, Reid and I embarked (along with 12 other people) on what is known as the Three Peaks Challenge. The Challenge involves climbing the three highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales within 24 hours. I like to think of myself as a someone who stays in shape (I like to run quite a bit and try and do various races throughout the year- 5k’s, 10k’s, sprint triathlons) but this was not only the most physically challenging things I have ever done but possibly also the most mentally challenging.

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We began our trip the day before by flying from London to Glasgow (barely an hour flight) and meeting up with the rest of the group and the van that would be home for the next day or so. From the airport we drove further up north to the town of Fort William which is only a five minute drive to the base of Ben Nevis, our first peak to conquer the following morning. That night I didn’t sleep very well, mostly going over lists of things in my head making sure we had enough water, food and the right clothes. That morning we had an early wake up call followed by a hearty breakfast and then hit the trail!

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Ben Nevis is the highest of the three peaks and begins closest to sea level meaning it has the greatest vertical ascent of the three. We had pretty good weather ranging from sun to light showers and saw all types of people competing in the challenge. We even saw a group of who looked to be in the military carrying a tub up and down the mountain! The most incredible thing happened just as we reached the summit when the clouds parted to reveal the most beautiful view of the valley below. Seeing as you are against the clock, we had only a few minutes at the top before we headed back down. Partly due to the size of our group and a few injuries that happened on the way down, once everyone completed Ben Nevis we found ourselves behind schedule as well as loosing 8 people from our group who could not continue on. At this point, Reid, myself and the two others still ready to go had to make a decision if we wanted to keep going- something we all really wanted to do- so we decided to continue on our own.

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After we dropped the part of our group that could not continue off at the airport, the four of us plus our two guides continued on our roughly six hour road trip south to Scafell Pike in England’s Lake District. This next climb was going to be a bit of a challenge since we would have to climb in complete darkness due to the fact that we were significantly behind schedule. Luckily one of our guides was from the Lake District and knew Scafell Pike like the back of his hand. I almost think that climbing in the dark made it better for me mentally because I couldn’t see exactly how steep the climb was beyond the few feet that was visible from my headlamp. Our climb started around 11 pm and once we summited we were the only six people at the very top, a big difference from the busy trails of Ben Nevis. It was pretty amazing to sit under the stars surrounded by the quiet but once again, we couldn’t linger too long and began our descent. I hope to return to Scafell Pike one day during the daylight so I can see the trail that we actually climbed.

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After Scafell Pike and another five hour drive later we found ourselves at the base of the final peak of the challenge, Snowdon in Wales. We were greeted with the most glorious blue skies during this hike and I think that really brought everyone’s mood up. I’ll admit, that my legs were pretty creaky when we first started- I think I was walking about the pace of a ninety year old. Even though I was in the most pain physically during this climb (my knees were giving me trouble) I still found this peak to be my favorite of the three. The landscape was insanely picturesque and it also helped knowing that we were so close to the end though this was the only hike where we summited and descended via different routes (which meant that on the way down you weren’t really sure how much further you had to go because there weren’t any familiar markers). All in all, when we made those final steps to the finish, I had never been so happy to see the such a smelly van in all of my life. Having 6 boys (2 guides, one driver and three hikers) plus myself traveling in a small space for over 24 hours did not make for a clean vehicle.

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From there, we were driven to the nearest train station and hopped on to the next train to London (boy did I feel bad for the other passengers in our car as I’m sure we did not smell of roses). I spent most of the trip staring out the window at the passing landscape and dreaming of soaking in a nice warm bath and eating something other than nuts, dried fruit or beef jerky. The memories of the previous two days washed over me and I basked in the accomplishment of having climbed all three peaks. I couldn’t believe we did it and I’m so glad that we did. If you are ever thinking of trying this out, please drop me a line! I am more than happy to act as a sounding board or give advice for your adventure!

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Skibo Castle

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This summer Reid and I were invited to spend the weekend way up north in Scotland’s eastern highlands at the glorious Skibo Castle, now a private club that was originally built by Andrew Carnegie. The words private club tend to conjure up images of stuffy establishments that can make you feel out of place, but that could not be further from the truth. From the moment we arrived at Skibo, Reid and I could not have felt more welcomed and accepted and I think that is a big aim for everyone who works there or is a member there.

A quick flight from London to Inverness followed by an hour drive north and we had arrived at our destination. Once we had gotten over the shell shock of staying in such a beautiful location, we took advantage of exploring the grounds and everything on offer at the club. Besides never having been this far north in the UK before, the weekend was full of lots of firsts for me… my first time to go clay pigeon shooting (also my first time to shoot a shotgun), my first time to see and partake in falconry (the snowy owl took quite a liking to me), my first time participating in a ceilidh (traditional scottish dancing) and my first time hearing a toast given in honor of the haggis.

When we weren’t trying out new things, we filled our time with meandering walks, taking advantage of the spa and pool, and of course golfing (though that was just Reid, I’m not really blessed with any golfing skills). By the time the weekend came to an end, I’m surprised Reid and I were actually able to pry ourselves away and head back to London. It was a once in a lifetime experience that we are forever grateful for and will never forget.

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Cornwall in Summer

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Now that it’s October, I am finally ready for autumn to arrive, get my sweaters out of storage from beneath the bed and cooking more hearty meals for those chilly nights. But that doesn’t mean that I am finished reminiscing about summer. Back in August a group of us were invited down to our friend’s amazing home in Cornwall for what has turned into our third annual trip down that way (you can see previous trips here). Unlike past trips, we were blessed with beautiful weather pretty much every day and we took full advantage of it by having BBQs in the garden, swimming in the ocean, heading out on the boat to try to catch some fish and going for long walks along the coast. This year we made a return visit to the St. Kew Inn for a lovely pub lunch in their front garden before heading back to the house for a pretty hilarious mystery dinner party. This trip has always been a highlight of the year for Reid, Bonnie and I and this year was no different!

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Daylesford

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This summer marks Reid & I’s nine year wedding anniversary and where the time has gone completely baffles me! We tend to be hit or miss when it comes to celebrating our anniversary- sometimes we go out for a nice meal, a weekend away or other times life is too crazy and we forget to celebrate it all together. This year Reid surprised me with a getaway to the Cotswolds where we stayed at a lovely place called Daylesford. We had a weekend full of good food, drinks, long walks and beautiful weather. All in all it was a perfect way to celebrate nine years of marriage.

TRAVEL TIME: Daylesford is located near Kingham which is about a two hour drive west of London. Since we don’t own a car, we have been using Zipcar which makes it easy to go on trips where we might want wheels once we reach our destination though you can also reach Kingham by train.

STAY: The cottages at Daylesford are like staying in a fancy home away from home. They sleep anywhere from 2 – 8 people depending on which cottage you rent and all are equipped with a kitchen, sitting areas, wood burning fireplaces and the most beautiful bathrooms with gloriously large bathtubs. Our cottage also had an Aga which is a cast iron range cooker and oven. It was my first time to cook with one of these and I was quite taken with it, plus it is quite a beautiful oven to look at if I do say so. On our arrival we were greeted with fresh flowers, bread, eggs, orange marmalade and sparkling wine all from the farm. It was little touches like this that made the whole weekend feel really special. And my favorite part- all of the cottages are pet friendly so we brought the dog along!

And if you find that you would like to leave the comfort of your cottage, Daylesford offers a whole host of things like the farmshop, cafe, pizza bar, cookery school, spa and shop.

EAT & DRINK: 

  • Daylesford Farmshop & Cafe: Our first night we had a dinner reservation at the Daylesford Cafe and enjoyed a delicious summer meal of “meat from (their) animals, vegetables & fruit from (their) market garden, and cheese & bread made by hand on (their) farm.” It was a perfect intro to the weekend and all that Daylesford has to offer. Throughout the weekend we also frequented the farmshop for groceries that we used to make picnics or to cook meals in our cottage.
  • The Wild Rabbit: This pub/hotel is about a 30 minute walk from Daylesford. We stopped here for a quick drink before heading back to our cottage but didn’t get any food though it looked really delicious. The sun was out so we decided to make the most of it and sit outside with our drinks. One of my favorite details about this lovely place are the straw hats they have hanging up outside that guests can borrow for when the sunshine gets to be a little too strong.
  • The Kingham Plough: This pub, which is an easy walk from Daylesford, was recommended to us and provided a nice place for respite from the heat. We enjoyed some nibbles and a few pints while we rested our legs. In the back of the pub we stumbled upon a vending machine for organic Guernsey milk. It seriously was the coolest thing and of course we got some!

TO DO: Besides the copious amounts of food we ate, we also enjoyed the beauty of the Cotswolds and went for long walks. In the UK they have Public Footpaths that go through towns, countryside and even private property that are open to the public. This concept of being able to legally walk through private property is pretty foreign to me as an American where “private property” and “no trespassing” signs are posted everywhere but I absolutely love it. I think because these paths exist, people are very respectful when they are traversing someone’s land. This would be something I would love to see implemented back in the States but not sure if it would fly with everyone.

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Cornwall

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Itinerary: A long weekend in February celebrating two friends’ birthdays in Cornwall.

Travel Time: About a 4.5-5 hour drive from London. You can also take the train or fly but when we head down to the coast we like to bring our yellow labrador, Bonnie, along so driving is usually the best option for us.

Accommodation: We have been lucky to have some dear friends who own an incredible house in Rock which is located just across the way from Padstow in Cornwall. It is the perfect set up for a group of friends to enjoy a trip together on the coast in a very relaxed way. And the location could not be any better with easy access to the beach, the ferry to take you to Padstow or the shops up in Rock which are all walking distance away.

Highlight(s): We have had to good fortune to be invited to spend time in Cornwall on a few occasions, the most recent of which was over a long weekend in February (we have plans to head back sometime this summer and will definitely do another post with more summery images then). The beaches and dunes that surround them in Cornwall are absolutely stunning and one of my favorite things to do is go for a long walk. Depending on the time of day, the difference between high and low tide is quite dramatic and can change the  landscape drastically, sometimes even cutting off the path you may have previously taken. I love photographing all of the different textures and colors in the sand, dunes and rocks on these walks. It really is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places on earth.

Our dog Bonnie is huge fan of the water and can spend hours fetching sticks, eating seaweed and just exploring all of the new smells as we amble across the sand. She definitely gets in a good workout and usually spends the rest of the day snoozing by the bay window looking out over the boats going by as we warm up with a cup of tea. I can’t wait to get back here and capture some more of the beauty of the Cornish coast.

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