The Faroe Islands: Itinerary & Guide

For our last official trip while living abroad, George and I knew we wanted to go somewhere special. I had been saving a trip to the Faroe Islands for May or June, not only to see the islands in the summer, but also to see the puffins. However, our moving date turned out to be early in April, so we just decided to go for it on our way out of the country. For those of you that don’t know, the Faroe Islands are in the middle of the North Atlantic between Iceland, Norway, and Scotland. So I wasn’t exactly expecting it to be a summery green landscape, but I also never expected to see so much snow–knowing the islands have pretty mild weather overall. Anyway, I’m so glad we got to see the landscape covered in snow, even if it did force us to cut some things from our itinerary. Below is a guide of how we spent our time on the islands. But they are really quite small and easily navigated, so you could always switch up activities without any lost time.

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ITINERARY

  • DAY 1: Arrival & Múlafossur
  • DAY 2: Sørvágsvatn
  • DAY 3: Saksun and Gjógv
  • DAY 4: Klaksvík and Viðareiði
  • DAY 5: Departure

GETTING THERE: Atlantic Airways via Edinburgh

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DAY 1: Arrival & Múlafossur

The sun was already quite low in the sky when we arrived in Vágar, but somehow I convinced George to brave the icy roads in our tiny ill-equipped rental car for one quick adventure. Of course we went with the cheapest option possible. Linked below, it was the easiest rental experience ever. They email you the car info and where to find it in the airport lot so when you arrive, you just walk outside to find your car with the keys in it, ready to go!

CAR: Unicar

And off we went to one of the most incredible sights I’ve ever seen: Múlafossur and the tiny village of Gásadalur. Previously only reachable by a long and strenuous hike over the mountain, I for one am so pleased there is now a tunnel and vehicle access to the village. Fifteen minutes drive to the waterfall from the airport makes it such an easy and quick stop, we managed to make it there just as the sun was setting.

STAY: Kristjanshavn $

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DAY 2: Sørvágsvatn

Our initial plan was actually to wake up early and hike to the Drangarnir sea arch, but unfortunately, the weather made that impossible. We didn’t come prepared for snow and had to adjust our plans quite a bit. Instead, we had a leisurely morning near the harbor and went into town to stock up on supplies for the week. We drove to Bøur to get a view of the arch, but didn’t stay long.

A bit later in the afternoon, some of the snow had melted and we decided to try a different hike in the area. Sørvágsvatn is a lake situated near some spectacular sea cliffs creating an amazing optical illusion. My photos really don’t do this landscape justice as I was way too afraid to get any closer to the edge. The ground was still quite frosty from the snow and I couldn’t bring myself to test it. But if you’re interested in looking it up, there are some outstanding photos of this place from other, braver photographers than I. Park near the boathouses on Vatnavegur to begin the walk. Others have said the walk takes only half an hour, but it took us nearly an hour to reach the cliffs only stopping for a few photos.

STAY: Kristjanshavn $

This price really can’t be beat, so it’s worth staying two nights. Not luxury at all, but the options were quite limited anyway.

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DAY 3: Saksun and Gjógv

We woke up the next day to a raging snowstorm, which I was quite excited about but did pose a problem for driving. We set out anyway, having checked the route beforehand and not seeing anything too alarming. There are a number of small villages I was hoping to see, but we settled on only two: Saksun with its hidden beach and cute grass roofed houses and Gjógv with its charming harbor and gorge. Both were lovely, although I would love to see them in summer with a few more people around.

We stopped at Fossá (the highest waterfall on the islands) along the way, but didn’t manage to get the drone out far enough to see the upper falls. You can scramble up the grass in order to see it without a drone, but again we didn’t have the proper footwear for climbing in snow. My favorite stop of the day, however, was completely unplanned. On our way to Gjógv, we came across this view of a windy road leading down the valley to a village and I just loved it. Perhaps because it was unexpected. Now I’m happy to share that the name of the village is Funningur.

That night we stayed in Tórshavn (the capital city) and ate our only nice meal of the trip. Read more about Tórshavn in our city guide, here.

STAY: 62°N Hotel $$

DAY 4: Klaksvík and Viðareiði

The next morning, we woke up to the most beautiful snow falling softly on the city and had to get out to see some of the sights. Again, check out more specific ideas for Tórshavn in this post. We checked out of our hotel fairly early and started driving to our next destination: Klaksvík. We planned on taking the ferry from there to the island of Kalsoy, but it didn’t seem worth it with all the trails covered in snow. Instead, we walked around the surprisingly cute Klaksvík, stopped into a few shops and cafes and just had a really laid back day.

EAT: Fríða Kaffihús

It was perfect timing when an instagram friend and Faroese local, @byolafsdottir, invited us to her house for coffee and snacks. This culture of hospitality actually has a name in Faroese called ‘heimablídni‘ and it’s an experience worth taking part in. Check out Harriet’s home and meals offered here. I only wish I had thought to look ahead and book a full meal with her!

After leaving Harriet’s, we found ourselves with just enough time for one more adventure before sunset. And after talking with her, we decided on the Faroe Islands most northern town, Viðareiði. We hadn’t planned on visiting simply because it was quite far from where we were staying, but I’m so glad our plans changed because it ended up being my favorite. I couldn’t get over the way the sun was setting over the sea and mountains.

STAY: Bådhus i Klaksvík $$

This airbnb is by far the best place we stayed on the islands, perhaps because it was the only place we stayed that actually put thought into the decor. Not to mention the amazing view of the town and heated floors!

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DAY 5: Departure

On our way back to the airport in Vágar, we made a few stops just for fun. One to find these cool geodesic igloos that, for whatever reason, have been abandoned. And two, back at Múlafossur and Gásadalur, because why not?

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One of the main reasons George and I wanted to take this trip before leaving the UK is because it’s seriously half the price of getting there from the US. So unfortunately, I don’t see us going back any time soon even though it was incredible and I would love to. Both George and I really miss the ease of low cost travel within and around Europe. So if anyone is reading this from the UK, take advantage of where you live and the access you have to amazing places like this!

Tórshavn City Guide

Tórshavn far exceeded my expectations for the capital city of such a small country: the Faroe Islands. We had kind of a crazy time because we got to see everything covered in snow…in April. But we loved it! It’s a great place to base yourself from when exploring the islands and definitely worth spending a day or two wandering.

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SEE

Tinganes | The capital’s government buildings and one of the oldest parliamentary meeting places in the world. We loved the fact that this area is completely open to visitors, not to mention how cute it is.

Tórshavn Harbor | Reminded me a little of Nyhavn in Copenhagen, only smaller. The cutest, most colorful row of buildings is lined with restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating along the water.

STAY

Hotel Havn | There are a number of reasons why I chose this hotel for our night in Tórshavn, even though it isn’t that great. It was relatively inexpensive, within walking distance of everything in the old town, and pickings were pretty slim for hotels fitting both those criteria. Also, the restaurant on the ground floor, Frumbiti, is actually really nice and conveniently where breakfast is located.

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EAT & DRINK

Paname Café | Definitely the cutest coffee shop in Tórshavn and a great little spot for a midday snack.

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Barbara | Pretty much every guide to Tórshavn will tell you to eat at Barbara’s Fish House. Housed in one of the oldest, most charming buildings in town, the atmosphere alone is reason enough to visit, but it helps that the food is amazing too. We went for the ceviche, horse mussels, and of course couldn’t resist getting the whole fried ocean perch.

Ræst | This was our second choice for dinner in the city, although we didn’t actually make it there on this trip. Like Barbara, Ræst offers extremely traditional Faroese food–everything on the menu is fermented! We ended up trying a platter of traditional fermented food at a different restaurant and they were mainly just hard to swallow. But I read that somehow the chefs at Ræst make it all very tasty.

Smyrjibreyðsbúðin | Being in a country associated with Denmark had us both craving  smørrebrød (open face sandwiches) so we were very happy to stumble upon this place. I wouldn’t recommend eating in, but it was perfect for a quick, reasonably priced lunch. Excellent smørrebrød.

Mikkeler | After having such a good experience with this Danish microbrewery in Copenhagen, we were excited to see they had a location in old town Tórshavn. It is such a relaxed place to spend an evening, for locals and tourists alike. Crazy story: the bartender we met was from Michigan!

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SHOP

As usual in any Scandinavian city, the shopping was great in the Faroese capital. Crazy expensive, but fun to look. Below are the places we actually considered buying things.

Føroya Heimavirkisfelag | A good place to look for traditional Faroese sweaters, if you’re interested. Also picked up a sheep horn here, which we thought was pretty cool.

Öström | A design shop selling Faroese made art, homewares, and clothing. The perfect place to pick up gifts and souvenirs.

Leirlist | Home of ceramicist, Guðrið Poulsen’s label: Leirlist. You can also find her work at Öström, but I loved checking out her studio and tiny shop at 16 Sjúrðargøta.

ByOlafsdottir | Shamelesss plug for the friend we made in the Faroes, photographer Harriet Olafsdottir (@byolafsdottir). We met through instagram and she invited us over for lunch after seeing we were visiting her home town. I have always loved her photos, especially those of her flower-crown adorned pet sheep, Bambi. You can find her prints in a few different shops all over the islands, but I’m not sure exactly which ones. Anyway, the link above is to her etsy shop!

 

Autumn Weekend in Wales

One rainy weekend in October, George and I decided we were sick of staying in gross hostels whenever we visit Wales and thought we would try something nice for a change. Enter: the Quarryman’s Cottage. By far the nicest place I’ve stayed in Wales and probably some of the best accommodation even offered in the country.

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STAY

Quarryman’s Cottage | We drove west into Wales on a Friday night with plans to stay until Sunday evening (although the minimum booking is three nights). And we arrived with just enough time to get the fire going and relax for a bit before heading to bed.

Get $40 off your first booking through airbnb by clicking here!

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In the morning light, we were able to fully explore the rest of the cottage. It’s only one bedroom (and I completely forgot to take a photo upstairs), but it is the perfect size for two. The slate floors were so amazing I wanted to somehow rip them up and bring them home with me. And the kitchen was lovely and light thanks to a skylight over the sink.

Not to mention this sweet view from the back garden, below. It’s uphill from the house!

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SEE

After an easy Saturday morning and breakfast by the fire, we set off to explore the rest of the village. Cwm Penmachno village is the site of an old slate quarry in a sleepy part of North Wales. There is an interesting area to explore not far from the cottage where you can see the abandoned mine. On google, it’s called Penmachno Mine.

We spent some time there, in awe of what was once there and wondering what happened to leave it in its current state. But before long, we were heading back to our car and talking about where we should go next.

Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant | Neither of us really wanted to go far, so we settled on a national trust site close by, tŷ mawr meaning big house in Welsh. It is the former home of Bishop William Morgan who first translated the Bible into Welsh, thereby standardizing the Welsh language and helping to keep Wales’ national dialect alive.

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It was fascinating just listening to the host speak about the building’s history and turned out to be our favorite stop of the trip.

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Dolbadarn Castle | With Snowdonia Park serving as the most picturesque backdrop for this castle, I’m surprised it took me so long to find out about it. Regardless, I’m so glad we made time on this visit to see it. It is within walking distance of all the car parks for the mountain train, making it super easy to squeeze in.

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EAT

Tu-Hwnt-I’r Bont | More about the picturesque spot than the tea room itself to be honest. Regardless, it’s a fun stop and a good place to try some Welsh Classics like bara brith or rarebit. If you time your visit well in the autumn, those leaves covering the stone (in the photo above) become a vibrant red. We arrived a bit too late for that in early October and all but a few leaves had gone brown.

Cwmni Cacen Gri | The absolute best place in Snowdonia to try Welshcakes and probably the best Welshcakes in Wales. Get them fresh off the griddle for the best experience.

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DO

Climb Snowdon, duh. George walked up the mountain whereas I opted to take the train and we planned on meeting at the top. In the end, he decided to run up and beat me by a fair amount of time!

Snowdon Mountain Railway | I actually loved taking the train up Snowdon, but I also had a number of issues. Firstly, it’s way too expensive, especially when a window seat cannot be guaranteed–you kind of have to fight your way into the line to make sure you have first pick of your section. And second, there is no way to walk up and take the train down. Single tickets up are available, but not down. A return ticket only allows 30 minutes at the top, which doesn’t leave any time for exploring and you must go back on the same train…or else you have to walk down the mountain. But if you’re short on time or otherwise unable to make it up the mountain, it was a pretty cool option.

Pyg Track | Of the routes I know for climbing Snowdon, this is my favorite. The main, “easy” path that most people take is just too boring for me. At Pen Y Pass, you start in the mountains and have views almost the entire way up. And unless you go in winter, there is nothing difficult about this path. But if you plan on going in the summer, you must arrive early as the carpark fills up by 8 or 9 am. Of course, you can also arrange for a bus or taxi to drop you off at the trailhead. All the info for the walk can be found in the link above.

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Not sure if I would feel worse after climbing all that way for no view or paying to take the train. Either way, we tried to make the most of it. I do love foggy days afterall and these are some of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken. The feeling they evoke for me, takes me right back to that cottage in the mountains, snuggled in front of the fire.

On Sunday night, when we arrived back at our cottage from our journey up Snowdon, both of us decided we might as well spend one more night. It meant waking up at 4 am for me to drive George back to work in the morning, but it was totally worth it for one more night relaxing in front of that fire.

Weekend Adventure: Les Calanques de Cassis

I probably went on this trip at least two years ago, but I still think it’s one of the easiest weekend trips to take from London. Not to mention, a crazy beautiful place worth traveling to from anywhere in the world. The Calanques de Cassis are just outside the charming town of Cassis along the Côte d’Azur in France. In French, the name means something like: the creeks, but they are basically just a series of inlets with some of the clearest, bluest water I’ve ever seen.

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GETTING THERE

Flights into Marseille from London are crazy cheap. I think I paid £9 for my Easyjet flight home. Granted, I had just come from Italy, so it was only a one-way ticket. Still, Marseille is not the most desirable destination, which keeps flight costs low.

When you arrive in Marseille, the easiest way to get to Cassis is just to take the train. It takes about 15 minutes and costs a little over €6. A bus will then take you to the town center, or you can walk (it’s all downhill). Read this guide for clear instructions and photos about taking the train.

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THE WALK

After checking into our airbnb, my friend and I promptly started talking to our host about the walk to the Calanques. She basically mapped the whole thing out for us and told us approximately how long it would take. It was really helpful, but unfortunately I was still struggling with foot pain at the time and her estimates were definitely based on someone in good physical health. So just to let you know, this is a very difficult walk and not fun to do in the heat of the day. I recommend leaving as early as possible and bringing lots of water!

Google maps will tell you the walk to Calanque d’En Vau from Cassis center is only 3 miles each way. In actuality, my friend and I tracked our walk at around 8 miles in total. I’m not sure if we veered from the path somewhere along the way, but I would say be prepared for an 8 mile roundtrip hike.

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We left early the next morning and had the trail almost to ourselves! The first calanque you come to will be the one pictured above with all the boats, Calanque de Port-Miou. This was a very easy walk from the town and the beautiful blue water will make you excited for the rest of the walk. If you have a car, you can park at Port-Miou and save yourself half an hour of walking time.

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After another 30 minutes, you’ll arrive at Calanque de Port Pin, the smallest of the three inlets. We decided to keep walking past this cove in order to make it to the end while it was still relatively early.

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As we continued, the scenery wasn’t all that exciting except for a few interesting spots. There was a section further on that required a bit of a scramble downhill and I knew would be terrible on the way back up. By this time, I was questioning the expedition altogether. It was crazy hot and unlike the walking I was used to in England where it’s always cloudy and about 50 degrees.

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But after another hour of walking, we rounded a corner to this view and I decided it was worth it. You really can’t see anything, until you arrive at the beach! Can you believe the color of that water?

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We went up to check out the water and quickly realized we wouldn’t be spending too much time in there. It was freezing! But that was fine by me, because all I wanted was to find a shady spot to put my feet up.

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WHEN TO GO

Having now completed the trail to the water’s edge, I can say that I would almost rather have done the hike to the viewpoint above the Calanques as I find the pictures more interesting from that vantage point. However, the trail was closed during our time there. In fact, even the trail we took is closed during the summer months due to the risk of wildfires. The best time to visit is either June or October when the trails are open.

Alternatively, if you want to see the Calanques from the water, you can take a boat tour or even kayak there any time of year when the water’s calm. But the tours don’t allow you to get off on the beach which is a bummer.

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THE TOWN

That evening when we got back to our hostel and for the entirety of the next day, I felt absolutely terrible. I attempted to go for a short walk around town in the morning and managed to take a few photos before I had to lie down again. I was so disappointed and felt really bad for my friend traveling with me. I know that she quite enjoyed her time in town, but still, it was awful for me. I’ve never been so sick while traveling.

Anyway, my point is that the town is ridiculously cute and worth at least a day or two of exploring and/or lounging in the sun.

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STAY

Once again, this was a rather last minute trip and my friend and I were too late in booking our accommodation. We stayed in a hostel through airbnb that was absolutely fine and right in the center of town. The hosts were lovely and very helpful, as were all the people we met staying there. But it is still a hostel and therefore, not my fave place to be on holiday.

So I’m sorry I don’t have any food or lodging recommendations, but as it’s such a cute town, I know you’ll have no trouble finding some tasty food. And if you’re ever in doubt, just ask a local! I know I would love to come back and explore this place properly.

Midsummer in Cornwall

With it being the first of June and summer nearly upon us, I thought it might be an apt time to share a little midsummer inspiration courtesy of last year’s gathering in Cornwall. I love celebrating the changing of seasons, even if it means just putting on a dress and decorating a store-bought cake with fresh strawberries!

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The little cabin we stayed in was the perfect backdrop for our midsummer festivities and can be rented through airbnb here. But if you’ve never used airbnb, use this link for $40 off your first stay!

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In case you aren’t up on your Scandinavian culture, Midsummer is something Swedes celebrate on the longest day of the year, June 22 (or whatever Saturday is closest). This usually involves a smorgasbord, flower crowns, and the all important strawberry cake!

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Of course, as we were celebrating with British friends, ours had to include a cheeseboard and elderflower cordial.

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I also thought I would share the recipes we used for our smørrebrød (open face sandwiches). This was the easiest recipe I could think of to celebrate Scandinavian culture. Let me know in the comments if you end up trying them!

TOAST SKAGEN

German rye or sunflower bread
1 lb cooked & peeled shrimp (small works best)
½ red onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp dill, chopped
2 tbsp mayonnaise
4 tbsp crème fraîche
juice of ½ lemon
pinch white pepper
salt

To garnish:
red roe
dill sprigs

Just stir everything together and taste until you get the proportions you prefer. Top the sunflower bread with a scoop of shrimp and garnish with roe and dill sprig. There are so many different ways to make this recipe. We simply used what we had on hand, but you could definitely use substitutions like greek yogurt or regular sourdough bread.

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KARTOFFELMAD SMØRREBRØD

German rye or sunflower bread
2 small potatoes per person, boiled and sliced
¼ cup crème fraîche
salt

To garnish:
fried onions
freshly chopped chives

Spread crème fraîche on the bread and place 2 sliced potatoes on top. Spoon more crème fraîche on potatoes before topping with fried onions and chives. Sprinkle with salt if you want.

PS. If you want to make your own knækbrød, this is the recipe I use and it is great. The only thing I always add is a sprinkle of coarse salt or Maldon before putting them in the oven.

We couldn’t leave Cornwall without stopping by one of its famed picturesque fishing villages, so on the way home we stopped by both Charlestown near St. Austell and Polperro.

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I’ll be honest, the only reason we stopped to see Charlestown is because I love Poldark and it’s one of their filming locations (for more of Poldark’s Cornwall locations, check out the BBC’s list). Regardless, it was a fun place to take a walk along the harbour and break up our drive a little.

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Polperro, on the other hand, is a place I could have spent much more time. It was a bit of a trek to get to as there’s no parking in the village, but definitely worth the walk. Even on a busy Sunday in the summer, it felt quiet and quaint. We ate dinner that evening at a pub with a rooftop patio and it was the perfect way to end our trip.

The Isle of Harris & Lewis

Are you ready to learn about my favorite island in the UK? It’s called the Isle of Harris and Lewis because it’s technically two islands in one. The larger and more populated Lewis is well known among history lovers because of its abundance of ancient sites like the Callanish Standing Stones and Dun Carloway Broch. The Isle of Harris, on the other hand, is better known for its more rugged landscape and white sand beaches. Both islands combined make for the perfect trip as far as I’m concerned: a little education, a little adventure.

GETTING THERE

We only spent 3 nights on the island which was just barely enough time to see it all. But it took so long to get there, we lost a lot of time to the journey. Luckily, it’s a beautiful ride no matter how you choose to go. I’ll tell you about our route as we were conscious of both cost and time.

First, we flew up to Aberdeen in order to meet our friends living there (it would have been faster to fly into Inverness, but wasn’t too far out of the way). We spent one night with them before picking up a rental car and heading out to catch the ferry from Ullapool. I recommend booking in advance, here. From there, it felt like a scenic 2+ hour cruise all the way to Stornoway, Lewis’ largest town.

Alternatively, you can fly straight into Stornoway via Loganair, however, flights from London are neither cheap nor direct. Then on Lewis, rental car options are limited and costly. But if you’re more concerned with time, this is definitely the way to go!

STAY

Accommodation is so sparse on Harris and Lewis. We went with glamping pods or wigwams to save money, but also because there was nothing else available. Perhaps if you book far enough in advance, some of the guesthouses may be available.

Sandy Bay Wigwams | For the most part, we enjoyed our wigwam stay–especially the fire-pit and amazing view. The only thing I didn’t like was being nickel and dimed for things like firewood and marshmallows after the fact. Regardless, it was a cool place to stay.

Callanish Camping | These camping pods were a bit more rustic than the wigwams and lacking in running water, but they were still awesome. The lady who runs them was so friendly and helpful when we arrived and their proximity to the Callanish Standing Stones is unbeatable.

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EAT & DRINK

Ok, so we didn’t actually get to eat at most of these places. In Scotland, nothing is open on bank holidays or weekends…and those are basically the only times we travel. Anyway, I thought I would share them in case you get the chance to go. Visit Outer Hebrides website and their Eat Drink Hebrides Trail was a great resource for finding these!

Croft 36 | This cute honesty farm stand is located right near the wigwams we stayed in on Harris. I think we tried to go on a Friday and it was closed, so maybe it would be best to call ahead. According to their website (linked above), they now do meal delivery with pre-booking as well!

The Scallop Shack | Again, really not sure what their hours are, but I was able to find photos on google with their phone number listed. Of course, we didn’t have service at all on the island, so I probably should have made that call on the mainland. I would have loved some fresh Hebridean scallops.

The Stornoway Smokehouse | Slow cured smoked salmon from the last traditional smokehouse in the Hebrides. I don’t think you’re able to view the kiln and smokehouse (although I would have LOVED that), but you can visit their small shop and pick up something tasty to take away.

Charles Macleod | Home of the Stornoway black pudding, aka the best black pudding in the world. I normally won’t even eat black pudding (because I think it’s gross), but I make an exception for this one.

Isle of Harris Distillery | I can’t tell if I love this gin because it’s good or because the packaging is so beautiful. Either way, this distillery is definitely worth a stop on Harris.

Edge O’ the World Alehouse | The Hebridean Brewing Company is the only craft brewery in the Outer Hebrides and has won tons of awards for their beer since their start in 2001. Our favorite was the Berserker, made from a 150 year old recipe (and also everyone else’s favorite). They were so friendly and let us sample as many as we wanted! Wish we could have picked some up to bring back with us, but they were sold out.

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ISLE OF HARRIS

After stocking up on food and supplies for the weekend, we made our way south to the Isle of Harris first because the weather forecast looked better for spending some time on the beach. I try to plan these things according to the weather and sometimes it works out better than others, but regardless, it was SO beautiful.

Seilebost | Just to get you in the right direction, this is where you should start looking for beaches on Harris. But seriously, take your pick of beautiful sandy beaches and you can have one all to yourself. We particularly enjoyed climbing up to the MacLeod Stone for a cool view out to Taransay at sunset.

Luskentyre Beach | Probably our favorite beach on Harris. The clearest water and purest sand, there was so much to explore here. Unfortunately, on the day we chose to visit, it was too cloudy to see any of the mountains in the distance. So I can only imagine how amazing it would be on a sunny day.

St. Clements Church | Medieval church founded by Alasdair MacLeod, the 8th clan chief of the MacLeods, who died in 1547. We nearly had the entire place to ourselves making it such an atmospheric experience to wander around the church and graveyard. But if you happen to make it down to the water, there is also the cutest stone harbor.

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Dun Carloway Broch

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ISLE OF LEWIS

After being on the more mountainous Harris, it can feel a bit anti-climactic driving north to the Isle of Lewis. But even though it appears flat and boring, there is so much to see if you know where to look! Lewis has a mixed Norse and Celtic heritage evident not only in place names but also abundant archaeological sites.

Bostadh Iron Age House | Although I had seen pictures of this place before arriving on the island, I didn’t know how to get there until we came across a guide book inside our wigwam. It’s technically a rebuilt Pictish house on the site where a well-preserved settlement was found (the original houses were found further down the beach, near the water). But there are also the remains of a Viking farm as well as blackhouses from more recent times. It would be so hard to choose a favorite spot on this island, but I loved the feeling of this place! If you want to go inside, make sure you check the opening times.

Dun Carloway Broch |One of the oldest structures on the island and one of the best preserved Brochs in Britain–pretty impressive considering the number of ancient sites on the island.

Gearrannan Blackhouse Village | Can you believe you can actually stay in these? They even have a hostel option if you’re looking to save money. Again, they seem to book up early, so plan ahead! We had fun just walking around the village, but you have to pay even to do that.

Norse Mill & Kiln | We came across this completely by accident, just driving by! It’s a reconstructed site, but still super interesting to see.

Stac a’ Phris Arch | My favorite sea arch to date! I actually added the google maps location of the arch myself, so you could say it’s not well known. Some people walk over from the parking at Dail Beag Beach, but that was a longer walk than we were hoping for. We just parked along a road nearer the arch and walked about a mile out.

Callanish Stones | Probably the most famous site on the island, the Callanish Standing Stones have inspired almost as many theories about their origin as Stonehenge. But unlike Stonehenge, entry is free and you can walk right up to them! Also, don’t judge me, but the stones used in Outlander were based on the Callanish Stones. 🙂

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Doesn’t it look like the best?! I would recommend going in summer to make the most of the beaches, but there isn’t too big a difference in the winter weather anyway. It’s pretty magical no matter when you choose to visit.

A Quick Guide to Lisbon

Lisbon is all about the food, so more than anything, this is just a guide of places to eat. But in between meals, we managed to get out and see some of the sights and we actually spent a bit longer here than our usual weekend adventures. It was nice to get a feel for some of the different neighborhoods of the city, although I’m not sure I could choose a favorite. It was a bit cold during our visit, but I still think spring is the best time to visit. Of course, it only made me want to explore more of Portugal and to come back when it’s warmer!

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STAY

There are some great options for accommodation in Lisbon, from the crazy luxury of Santa Clara 1728 to more affordable abodes. We decided to go super budget with this trip and stayed first in an airbnb, then a hostel.

Independente Hostel | We liked this hostel because of its modern design and central location. My friend and I stayed in one of the female dorms after George flew back to London and the view from our room was awesome. Although we weren’t as in love with the food at their restaurant, Decadente, the cocktails were excellent and the atmosphere was great.

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COFFEE

I always try to research coffee shops for a city trip because they are perfect when I need a break from walking or when I get too tired in the afternoon because I tried to wake up early. I like to have multiple options throughout the city, so I can stop into whichever is closest.

Copenhagen Coffee Lab | Walked past without any intention of going in, but what can I say? We were drawn in by the smell of cinnamon buns. The Alfama location is top notch.

Heim | The waffles with homemade caramel sauce were amazing.

Hello, Kristof | Loved this place. I enjoyed just sitting with my coffee, reading one of the many magazines they have available. It’s one of those places I could spend a long time in, if it weren’t so small and busy. But I understand the popularity!

FÁBRICA COFFEE ROASTERS | Whether you’re looking to sit and have a coffee or buy some beans to bring home with you, this is the place to go. They are committed to serving excellent specialty coffee, straight from the farm.

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EAT

Manteigaria | The best custard tarts in Lisbon! People will tell you the best are the Pastéis de Belém, but everyone in our group agreed that these were so much better. Best when eaten warm.

Pharmacia | One of my favorite restaurants we visited. It is located inside the Pharmacy museum, which threw us off at first, but it was so cool. I love that the water comes in a peroxide bottle and the bill in a urine sample. It is such an original idea.

A Cevicheria | If I could go back to any restaurant in Lisbon right now, it would be this one! If you didn’t already guess, the ceviche is the thing to order and they do it so well. I didn’t even mind waiting for a table as they have an outdoor bar serving their signature pisco sours. But go early if you don’t want to wait!

Bairro do Avillez | An entire neighborhood of restaurants from famous Portuguese chef José Avillez. We walked into the Taberna for tapas and the explosive olives blew our minds. Haha! If there’s a specific restaurant you prefer, I would recommend making a reservation.

Time Out Market | Literally all the best flavors of Lisbon under one roof.  We had fun even just walking around, checking out our options. I mean an octopus hot dog? What a brilliant idea! Go for a quick snack or hang out all day eating your weight in fishcakes and custard tarts.

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SHOP

A Vida Portuguesa | One of the best places to buy gifts and souvenirs for all things Portuguese. They even have a stall at the Time Out Market.

LX Factory | We came here after spending the morning in Belém because both are somewhat west of Lisbon. It’s basically like an arts center, plus great food and shopping. We ate at the Burger Factory, but the Mexican food at Mez Cais was also tempting.

Cerâmicas na Linha | Beautiful Portuguese ceramics. Most things are sold by weight and very affordable. Seriously contemplated buying an entire set of dishes, but settled on a small flower pot as it was slightly easier to fit into our carry-on.

SEE & DO

Museo Nacional do Azulejo | An entire museum dedicated to Portugal’s beautiful painted tiles. The word azulejo comes from the Arabic zellige, meaning “polished stone” and you can still see many Arabic influences in the tile motifs today. We went here on a rainy day and were so glad to escape inside the world of beautiful tile for a little while.

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Torre de Belém | The tower was closed to visitors during our time in Belém because of bad weather, but it was still great to see from the outside. It was commissioned by Manuel I of Portugal in 1515 to serve as a military fortress and its UNESCO heritage status comes from its importance regarding the Portuguese maritime discoveries.

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Jeronimos Monastery | We didn’t pay to go inside the actual monastery because we were mainly interested in the church of Santa Maria which is free to visit. Also free to see: the tomb of Vasco da Gama (just inside the church doors, on your left).

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Padrão dos Descobrimentos | A monument to Portuguese discovery, first erected in 1940 in honor of Henry the Navigator. It’s a great place to sit by the water on a sunny day, just taking in all the history of the area as well as a great view of the 25 de Abril Bridge spanning the Tagus River.

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Tram 28 | Tram 28 is one of Lisbon’s vintage trams and probably the most famous. Many people ride it as a more affordable sightseeing tour and I’ve linked a good guide for doing so above. However, if you’re more interested in taking a photo, I think the Ascensor da Bica is the most picturesque.

Alfama | Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood, home to Visigoths and Moors. I would simply take a walk here, admiring the architecture. Maybe stop for a drink of ginjinha, the Portuguese cherry liquor, from the woman selling it outside her front door.

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And finally, make sure you watch the sun rise or set at one of the Miradouro or observation decks. We went back to the Miradouro Santa Luzia multiple times hoping for a more colorful sunset, but it was still an amazing view regardless!

Hoping to post a closer look at some of our day trips out of Lisbon very soon, so check back here for updates!

Weekend Adventure: Lundy Island

One thing that always helps me get excited for a trip is seeing pictures of the place we’re going. But when I started researching for our trip to Lundy, I had a hard time finding any photos aside from some shots of puffins and seals. And while we were definitely planning to see puffins, I was just as enamored with the landscape. So I wanted to share a few of our photos from Lundy to hopefully give a better picture of life on the island and how it feels to be there.

GETTING THERE

There are a few different ways you can get to Lundy from the Devon Coast. We chose to sail via the MS Oldenburg which is the cheapest option at £67 return. There is a helicopter service offered in the winter or in the event of a cancelled sailing (at a discounted rate). You may use your own transportation, subject to a landing fee and I’ve also heard you can get a charter from Clovelly, which could be a fun option. Overall, Lundy is not a cheap place to get to, but it’s absolutely worth it!

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STAY

Lundy Island is owned by the Landmark Trust, which restores and revives historic buildings by making them into holiday homes. So basically, all the cottages on Lundy are available to rent! And while that does sound amazing, they book up quickly for the summer months and they are not inexpensive.

We chose to camp for 4 nights, though I’m not sure I would do it again. The camping field is on a hill and therefore most (if not all) of the pitches are on a slant. I found it difficult to sleep on an angle, but if that doesn’t bother you, camping can also be organized through the Landmark Trust.

EAT

As we were camping and limited in the number of bags we could bring, we ate at Lundy’s tavern for almost every meal. We did pack some breakfast bars and snacks for lunch, but to be honest, it was nice to get out of the wind for a bit every evening. The Marisco Tavern is open 24 hours a day, every day and it’s a great place to relax after a day of exploring. There is also a small shop, but definitely check their hours as they are very limited.

DO

Firstly, get yourself a map because you will have no wifi or mobile signal on the island. I also highly recommend attending the Warden’s talk your first night on the island. We loved hearing about the conservation of Lundy’s wildlife and found it very useful knowledge to have while we were out exploring.

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PUFFINS | While Lundy is famous for its birdwatching in general, we really only came to see the puffins. In fact, the name Lundy actually means Puffin Island in Norse. To see them, you will need either binoculars or a telephoto lens. And the place to see them is called Jenny’s Cove. Aren’t they so cute?!

FYI: This trip was taken over the May bank holiday last year, late spring being one of the best times to see puffins.

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WALKING | Because Lundy is only three miles long by one mile wide, it wouldn’t take very long to walk the length of the island. But there is so much to see along the coastline, we were very happy we had more than one day to explore. There is a long, interesting history that is shown through many ruins and structures including a castle, lighthouses, and an ancient burial cairn.

FYI: The length of the island is divided into quarters, marked with stone walls to help walkers gauge the distance. They are aptly named: quarter wall, half wall, etc.

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SNORKEL SAFARI | We didn’t actually get to do this because we hadn’t researched it beforehand, but it sounded so fun! On certain dates, this is offered as a warden-led activity for about £10 per person. For more info, check here. Guided tours can also be arranged through other companies like Bristol Channel Charters.

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ROCK POOLS | Even if rock pool rambling isn’t your thing, I would still recommend checking out the area around the Devil’s Kitchen (right near the landing bay). We only discovered the area while waiting for our boat to arrive and loved exploring the clear blue tidal pools. Again, this is sometimes offered as a warden-led activity to help better understand the marine life found in this environment.

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When our boat finally arrived to bring us back to mainland Devon, we were more than ready to leave having become somewhat weary of the wind and lack of shelter provided by camping. But we left with such renewed joy in wildlife exploration, we were already talking about how we would return someday and stay in one of the Landmark cottages.

A weekend in Finland’s Lakeland

Earlier this month, George and I rented a cabin in the Finnish Lakeland with a few of our friends for a long weekend. When I first began planning a trip to Finland I really wanted to visit Lapland, but I quickly found out how expensive that would be and it just wasn’t going to work out. Far cheaper than a flight to Lapland, we flew into Helsinki and drove a few hours east into the Lakes.

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Lakeland is a large region of Finland covering the center and east of the country along the border of Russia. In the summer, it’s full of people swimming and canoeing: taking full advantage of the season’s warmth. In the winter, however, it transforms into a snowy wonderland where people go sledding and ice fishing by day before cozying up in their cabins at night.

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STAY

Airbnb | Most cottages in Finland offer saunas, but not many can say they also have a hot tub. That was definitely what sold us on this place. Well, that and the fact that it is picture perfect. Complete with heated floors and a dishwasher, I can’t say enough how much we loved this place!

If you’ve never used airbnb, get $40 off by clicking here.

We were all so excited that we woke up at sunrise after our first night, which really isn’t that impressive considering the sun rose at 9 am. Regardless, we had so much fun exploring the property and walking down to the lake. We couldn’t wait to start up the wood-fired sauna and hot tub. And although we didn’t actually need to chop our own wood, it was nice that they left us an axe and all, just in case.

The short time we spent here was mainly split between the hot tub, sauna, and swimming in the spring-fed pond.

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For most of us, this was our first time ice swimming so we were all super nervous. I definitely screamed on my way in, not to mention slipping on the ice in my swimsuit before I even made it to the pond. Can you see the pain on my face?

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My friend Flicky, on the other hand, is a pro. She even went back in for a second go later on.

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Next stop: the sauna. I am starting to see why Finnish people are hooked on ice swimming. As long as you have a nice warm sauna to head to afterward, it really is quite invigorating. And ours was just steps away.

It took hours for the hot tub to heat up (and a lot of wood), but it was totally worth it. Can you imagine a more picturesque spot?

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While we waited, we cooked up some moose bought from the local butcher. And by the time we finished eating, the water was the perfect temperature.

Seeing as it was dark and we were all sitting outside in our nice warm hot tub, we kept waiting for the clouds to clear in hope of seeing the northern lights. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, but it still felt pretty magical, nevertheless.

OTHER ACCOMODATION

These are some of the other places I was considering staying. I did quite a bit of research on this, so I feel as though I have to share.

Rock and Lake | This is an association of cottages to rent in the Finnish Lakeland, most of which are right around the corner from where our airbnb was located. In my communication with the company, I found them to be very helpful, even though we didn’t end up staying with them. They helped organize the husky safari I had planned, hoping there would be enough snow for us to go (there wasn’t). And they also offer other tours depending on the season, like ice fishing and canoeing.

Hotel Järvisydän| If you choose to go the hotel route, this is definitely your best bet. With a brand new spa and 3 different types of saunas to choose from, it seems like they’ve really thought of everything. We ate at the hotel restaurant on our last day in the area, so we had the chance to snoop around and were not disappointed. The suites in the hotel look amazingly cozy, but they also have private villas if you’d prefer.

On our last day, we said goodbye to our tiny cabin and headed south on our way to the airport. But we had one last adventure before returning home.

Porokylä Reindeer Experience | During this excursion, we visited a small farm called Porokylä (poro meaning reindeer and kylä meaning village). We fed the reindeer their favorite lichen while learning all about them, like the fact that only female reindeer have antlers in winter or how many words the Saami people have to describe them (it’s 1000, in case you were wondering). If there is enough snow the tour is done by snowshoe, but you can also choose the snowmobile safari for even more fun.

SEE & DO

We really enjoyed spending the majority of our time at the cabin we rented considering we wanted to take full advantage of the hot tub and sauna. But if you happen to be more adventurous than us, these are some of the other ideas I thought about for our trip and some highlights of Finland’s Lakeland.

Husky Safari | Again, this can be organized through Rock and Lake. It’s a single price whether you go with two people or ten, so the more the merrier.

Kuopio Tower | For the best view of Lakeland, take the elevator up this 75 meter high tower and have a drink at the rotating restaurant at the top. The town is also a great place to try some of Lakeland’s famous fishcakes at Hanna Partanen.

Olavinlinna Castle | I never would have expected to see a proper medieval castle like this in Finland, but here it is. Built in 1475 to protect the region from Russian advances, St. Olaf’s castle is the world’s northernmost medieval fortress.

Lake Saimaa | The largest lake in Finland, this is the only place in the world where you can see the endangered Saimaa Ringed Seal. This rare and unique species lives in the freshwater of the lake and loves the ice. It is possible to see them in winter, but you have a much better chance in the summer when the seals warm themselves on the rocky shore.

National Parks | Finland has 40 national parks, many of which are found in Lakeland. With so many options, there is plenty of trekking to be done no matter where you find yourself.

 

For us, these will all have to wait until our next visit to Finland.

A snowy day in Porvoo

Our first stop in Finland was the historic town of Porvoo: the second oldest city in the country. Our flight into Helsinki arrived so late that we spent the night near the airport and decided to head there in the morning (a quick 30 minute drive). And when we woke up to a view of our snowy parking lot, we couldn’t wait to get out and explore something a little more picturesque.

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EAT

Sinne Porvoo | This bistro isn’t too far from the old town center but there is free parking behind the building if you fancy. It’s housed in a more industrial setting with lovely atmosphere and locally sourced ingredients. The set menu for lunch was a pretty good deal and the food was outstanding!

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Cafe Postres | The cosiest café. I wanted to steal the mugs I loved them so much. I also loved trying the Runeberg Cake here, which is a Finnish specialty traditionally flavored with almonds, rum and topped with raspberry jam.

SEE & DO

Porvoo Cathedral | I was really looking forward to seeing the inside of this cathedral but we missed the opening hours by about 20 minutes. Something to consider if you’re planning a trip in winter: most shops and attractions close super early.

Old Town Hall | Now a museum, this 18th Century town hall is one of only two remaining in Finland. The oldest town hall in the country!

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Old Town Walking Tour | We walked around the old town on our own, discovering most of the sights along this tour, but I imagine a guided tour would be interesting as well. If you visit in summer, you can join this guided tour with Visit Porvoo.

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Red Shore Houses | The red wooden houses that line the river were once used to store goods when Porvoo was an important trading center and are an iconic symbol of the old town. Now, they are mainly private homes but can be viewed from the other side of the river by crossing the old bridge.

SHOP

All the shops in the old town are cute and mainly located on Jokikatu and Välikatu streets. I only have one specific recommendation, but it was fun browsing all the shops.

Skafferi | This was my favorite shop we visited. It’s mainly specialty tea and coffee, but they also have some sweets and gourmet ingredients like saffron honey and seabuckthorn jam.

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Porvoo is definitely worth a stop, whether you are looking for a day trip from Helsinki or continuing on to Lakeland, like we were.