Visit Edinburgh: Edinburgh Castle

Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom, Visit Scotland

When one thinks of Edinburgh, the first thing that comes to mind is the castle.

It’s estimated that there was life on the rock as early as the Iron Age, and evidence the royal castle existed from the 12th century. Possibly, the most notable inhabitant of Edinburgh Castle would have been Mary, Queen of Scots, who gave birth to her son in the castle walls, James, who would later become King of both Scotland and England.

Another fun fact about Edinburgh castle is that it exists on top of an old volcano!

It was a snowy day when I arrived. The photo above is taken from a window in The a Elephant Cafe – more on that in a later post!

As you can see, the castle stands above the Old Town, a staple of history, and an impressive sight.

March prices for Edinburgh castle tickets are £18.50 on site, but online you can buy them for £17.00 in advance. Not much of a saving, but worth noting! April prices increase to £19.50 on site, and £17.50 online advance. Don’t let the price put you off, however. No trip to Edinburgh is complete without a trip to the historic fortress.

On a clear day, the free vantage points in the courtyard show you just how high you are. You would be able to see far and wide, over the rooftops of buildings and apartments. Only on our day, we could only see so far, but the snow added that wonderful charm.

The castle is accessed by the royal mile, where you will find many pubs and tartan shops. It’s a tourist hotspot, naturally, but you can absorb the architecture of Edinburgh, and see why it’s known as ‘the old town’.

So, what’s inside the castle?

Well, naturally, there are tales of family life throughout the castle’s existence. You can read about the royal’s that inhabited the castle, and visit rooms such as the great hall, and even a room that was revamped for only one royal visit.

Inside the castle is also The Stone of Destiny. This was returned to Scotland, and is a stone that has been used for centuries in the coronation of monarchs of Scotland. The Stone of Destiny sits alongside the Scottish Crown Jewels, in a room where photos are not allowed.

Another selling point of Edinburgh Castle is the ability to visit the actual room where Mary, Queen of Scots son was born, James VI. The room is quite small, but holds an impactful tale. It’s also a fun fact to read about rumours that James was gay – something scandalous back in those times!

A dog cemetery is at the castle. These are dogs that belonged to soldiers, who have been given a royal burial. For fans of Pet Sematary, it may be a little eerie!

Wherever you go in Old Town Edinburgh, the castle towers above you. It really does give a sense of what times may have been like back then, where royalty could look down and see life below them, and where they could be aware of any impending siege.

A must visit!

Preparing to Travel: Edinburgh

Travel

It won’t be long, and I’ll be travelling to Edinburgh. It’s the first time I’m visiting, so I’m really excited. It’s a place I’ve wanted to go for a while!

Part of the preparation for travel is finding out what to do once you get there. Sure, flights are important, but a big decision for me is working out why I’d want to go somewhere.

Finding things to do:

I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, and knowing that J.K. Rowling lived and wrote the series in Edinburgh is a big selling point for someone like me. In Edinburgh, there is no absence of Potter. You can visit a street that supposedly inspired Diagon Alley. You can visit The Elephant Cafe, where J.K. Rowling wrote some of the novels. You can visit a graveyard where one of the graves reads Thomas Riddel. And there’s even a Harry Potter Escape Room! Am I doing all of this?! YES.

As well as Harry Potter, I’ll be looking into the history of Edinburgh, so I’ve found some locations, such as Edinburgh castle, to visit.

Finding flights:

Always browse incognito or on private browsing when looking for flights. Many people check out prices a few times before actually booking anything, by which points those tracking cookies have upped the price, and you’re paying more than you should be paying.

I wanted to fly from Cardiff airport – support the local airport and all that – but flights were £100 more expensive. I instead went with EasyJet, knowing they would be reliable and budget friendly.

Because I’m going for only a few days, I’ve booked an early arrival and a late departure. Absorb as much of Edinburgh as I can!

Now, the importance is knowing our flight time, booking airport parking, and day dreaming about the airport food.

Fashion

ASOS is my friend. And new holiday destinations means new clothes. But I’m only taking a carry on, so I have to be sensible. But hey, new clothes. Even if not for Edinburgh, why not just for general life?

Did you know my new novel, Murder on the Rocks, is out now? Get your copy now!

Visit Wales: Sleeperz Hotel, Cardiff

Cardiff, Travel, Visit Wales

Step off the train at Cardiff Central, walk outside, turn right and you’re at Sleeperz hotel.

When visiting the Welsh capital, it’s essential to be in the hub of activity. Sleeperz offers you that.

Located central to the train station, with rooms facing the heart of Cardiff, Sleeperz offers comfortable stays in a building of 74 stylish rooms.

Sleeperz offers quirks. My reason for staying at Sleeperz was for birthday celebrations, and a weekday night out in the Welsh capital. I’ve walked past the hotel many times, but never had the opportunity to stay.

Prices are relatively cheap – room prices from £45 – but the price doesn’t reflect what you get.

If big double beds with luxurious rooms and big bathrooms are what you’re looking for, Sleeperz may not be the first choice. The cosy chic style of Sleeperz is its charm.

Inside the rooms are bunk beds – I’m not sure if it is the same for every room – and the beds are comfortable. There’s no issue with getting atop the bunk, at least not for me, and the beds don’t rattle or squeak with every move. There’s even a light at the bed for any night time reading.

The hotel provides tea and coffee – though not enough milk – and the TV is small, but offers freeview channels.

A divider door is locked, separating our compact room from the next. It’s easy to hear those next door, as I’m sure it’s easy to hear us.

The bathroom doesn’t offer much for movement, and little storage space for toiletries, but it does come with body soap and shampoo. It’s small, but not claustrophobic. It’s clean and fresh. A divider door is pulled across to separate you from the room. However, shadows can be seen on the other side, and you might not feel like you’re in total privacy.

All in all, Sleeperz is a friendly hotel to stay at. The staff were helpful, the food was good, and the lobby bar offered a range of drinks. It’s inexpensive, within a central location, but it doesn’t feel budget.

I would definitely stay at Sleeperz again!

Did you know my new novel, Murder on the Rocks, is out now?

When Wales had a Banksy

J.S. Strange, lifestyle, Travel, Visit Wales

Everybody knows about Banksy. The most elusive artist has been known for works such as Mobile Lovers and Well Hung Man…

He’s an artist that has political background to his work. His creation of Dismaland in Weston Super Mare on the surface was a parody of Disneyland, where everything is happy and perfect. But upon further inspection, Dismaland held displays of a whale jumping out of a toilet boil through a hoola-hoop, and refugees on a boat heading for the White Cliffs of Dover.

Bristol based, Banksy has remained anonymous for years. Of course, people claim to know the man. Others enjoy the mystery. It’s all part of the charm.

In 2018, for the first time, and shortly after the abolishment of the Severn Bridge tolls, Banksy appeared in Wales.

His work featured a child in the snow, catching flakes on his tongue. It appeared on a garage in Port Talbot.

It appeared in December, before Christmas. On the other side of the garage, around the corner, it’s revealed that the snow comes from a burning waste bin. The child is catching ash on his tongue.

Port Talbot, and even the location of the painting in Port Talbot, was not chosen randomly. A video that appeared on Banksy’s official Instagram page, confirming the work was his, showed a drone rising up to reveal the famous Port Talbot steelworks behind the garage.

Port Talbot is known as a place that is tired and polluted. The steelworks pollute the air. It was even claimed that children of Port Talbot really did play in ashes.

The work drew in tourists from all over, with some people arriving from Australia.

Being Welsh, and having visited Dismaland in the past, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to go and see the work myself, before it was protected with glass. At the time, the man who owned the garage was struggling to keep the work safe, with actor Michael Sheen donating money to fund temporary glass enclosure.

I went down on the Saturday before Christmas, and there were a lot of crowds all there to see Wales’s first Banksy piece.

It was definitely worth seeing! I’m not a huge art fan, but Banksy has caught my interest because of his anonymity. We were very lucky, as we were allowed to go behind the fence that had been erected to deter vandals, and so we could have a photograph with the work behind us.

Whilst there, the Perspex glass began to arrive, and we watched as the work was protected.

Now, the owner has sold the graffiti to a gallery in Essex. The boy in the snow will stay in Port Talbot for up to three years, before going on display elsewhere.

Catch it whilst you can!

Where to Next? Pembrokeshire, Carmarthen or Tenby…

J.S. Strange, Pontypool, Torfaen, Travel, Visit Wales, wales, writing

As I sit with Dolly on my bed, the winter sunshine falling through the bedroom window, I’m thinking of somewhere to go for a short break.

It can be so tempting to get away from the mundane routines of normal life. Most of the time it doesn’t happen, but with time booked off from work in late March, I’m determined to make it happen.

I’d love to be one of those bloggers that say ‘let’s catch a flight to some far off country, where the sun always shines, and the money never runs out.’ But alas, I can’t say that. I have responsibilities; a job, a mortgage, cats. It ain’t that simple.

So, I’m going to go somewhere in my home country. I’ve been thinking, ‘what’s on my doorstep?’ Well, certainly not very much in Pontypool. But further afield? Yeah, there are plenty of choices!

But where should I go?

I can’t make my mind up between Carmarthen, Pembrokeshire or Tenby. I know it won’t be warm, so I can’t appreciate a seaside holiday with sun and beaches. But I’m thinking of restaurants, hotels, museums and historic landmarks.

And bookshops. Always bookshops.

I want to go somewhere new. Somewhere to explore. But somewhere relaxing.

Have you been to Tenby, Pembrokeshire or Carmarthen? Let me know! I’d love some recommendations, and I’d love some help on making up my mind!