Friday, 14 June 2019

Avengers Filming Location in Scotland - Exploring St Abbs and New Asgard

Before I take you on a magical journey to Hollywood with this little guide to an amazing Avengers filming location in Scotland (a quick 90 minute drive from Newcastle)  I should probably warn you that if you're yet to watch Avengers Endgame you'd best stop reading right now. Whilst I'm not one for spoiling the end of movies I'm too excited about our discovery to not share this with my fellow Marvel fans - I can't possibly keep it to myself! Anyone fancy a trip to New Asgard?

Avengers Filming Location in Scotland - Exploring St Abbs and New Asgard
Simon and I are both big Marvel fans, we drive about with the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack blaring out of the car stereo, he's well aware of my Ross Gellar style laminated list that allows me to cheat on him with Chris Hemsworth and we spend far too much of our time ranking our favourite super heroes! So when I discovered that the filming location for New Asgard was only an hour and a half away from our home in the North East I couldn't resist arranging a surprise trip for my husband.

I'm sure Avengers Engame fans will all agree with me that some of the very best scenes of the movie involve a drunken layabout Thor eating pizza and playing video games in his harbour side home in New Asgard, the coastal settlement for the Asgardians following the havoc caused by Thanos and that infuriating jewelled glove!

Avengers Filming in Scotland - Exploring St Abbs and New Asgard


New Asgard looked beautiful on screen and when Rocket and Hulk went to visit Thor in his new home Simon and I were debating where it had been filmed on our way home from the movie - both agreeing that it was perhaps somewhere on the beautiful coastline of Norway.  We never would have guessed it was a beautiful fishing village in Scotland, a short drive from Northumberland.

As soon as I discovered the New Asgard location, completely by accident, I decided not to tell Simon and instead arranged a little stop on our way back from a recent trip to Edinburgh. Telling him I had planned a surprise in a mystery location I put him behind the wheel and guided him there keeping my fingers crossed that St Abbs lived up to my expectations. I had nervous butterflies in my tummy on the approach just hoping it was everything I wanted it to be.

Avengers - Exploring St Abbs and New Asgard


Approaching St Abbs Harbour I noticed a sign on the side of the road - "St Abbs twinned with New Asgard" I knew Simon had spotted it too when he turned to me, gave me the biggest grin and swore! I knew immediately that I'd earned myself a good few wife points.

Following the road down the steep hill down to the harbour we found a small carpark with just a couple of parking spots left. As St Abbs is a tiny harbour village with just a few residents there isn't a huge amount of parking places and it certainly wasn't designed for hoards of visitors, however locals have fully embraced their Hollywood fame, which became immediately apparent when we spotted a fair amount of "Welcome to New Asgard" signs dotted around the harbour.  I'm sure as word continues to get out and with the arrival of the Summer this little Scottish village is going to have a serious amount of visitors calling.

Avengers Endgame - Exploring St Abbs and New Asgard
We parked up for an hour which cost us £1.00 and set off for a little potter around the harbour, Simon eagerly skipping about amongst the fishing nets excitedly telling me which bits of dialogue were filmed in which spots. As a huge movie fan he was in his element stepping straight into one of his favourite movies.

Locations are easy to spot with the beautiful white house instantly recognisable as the Cormorant and Tun pub - I'm afraid it isn't really a pub and you definitely won't find Thor propping up the bar but seeing it sitting above the harbour was still pretty amazing.

Avengers Endgame - St Abbs and New Asgard
The real treat of your visit though is getting your photograph taken with the sign - oh so cheesy but yes it really does have to be done! Just behind the carpark you'll find some wooden steps going up to the top of the hill to the St Abbs Visitors Centre and that's where you'll find the second "Twinned with New Asgard" sign - perfectly placed with the views over the harbour below - the perfect photo opportunity.

I love that Scottish Borders Council made the official signs to put up - celebrating that very special time that Hollywood descended on a small village on the coast of Scotland! It's definitely something that everyone in the village and local area is very proud of.

Avengers Endgame - St Abbs Harbour and New Asgard


Don't you worry though, if the thought of a day trip revolving around super heroes isn't your idea of fun, St Abbs is well worth a visit if you enjoy the most spectacular scenery. Not only is the harbour beautiful but the views of the cliffs from the village is truly breathtaking - you can see the whole shape of the coastline perfectly and it's a wonderful place to spend some time.   Although we didn't stop you'll find the super cute Ebbcarrs Cafe on the harbour serving lunches, homemade cakes and coffees with outside seating if you happen to see some sunshine on your visit.

Avengers Endgame - St Abbs Harbour and New Asgard Scotland


We absolutely loved our trip to St Abbs, I'll be using it to my advantage for a while reminding Simon what an awesome wife I am, and it also acted as a very welcome reminder that the Scottish borders are a beautiful area to explore and a very much unvisited place right on our doorstep.

I can't wait to return and explore some more!

Avengers Endgame Filming in Scotland - St Abbs Harbour and New Asgard


Find "the New Asgard" sign at St Abbs:

Coldingham Road
St Abbs
Eyemouth
Scotland
TD14 5PL

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Tuesday, 11 June 2019

An Alternative Weekend in Edinburgh - Walking the Water of Leith to Stockbridge and Dean Village

This post features a discounted overnight stay at The Malmaison

We realised a few months ago that we hadn't been to Edinburgh since 2014, it's been so long that digging out my old blog post made me cringe with embarrassment - it was written back in the days when sticking a grainy filter on photographs was the done thing (what was I thinking?!)  That trip was a very fast whistle stop tour of the city centre so when we decided to revisit the beautiful Scottish city we knew that this time we wanted to book a hotel stay and visit for a bit longer.

An Alternative Weekend in Edinburgh - Walking the Water of Leith to Stockbridge and Dean Village


Staying at the Malmaison Edinburgh 

Wanting a slightly alternative weekend in Edinburgh we decided to base ourselves at The Malmaison which, although a couple of miles outside of the city centre, offers the perfect base if you want a really wonderful experience and fancy exploring a part of Edinburgh that you haven't seen before.

The Malmaison is 2 miles outside of the city, offering easy connections to the centre - there are frequent buses that stop close to the hotel, if you love walking there is a beautiful route into the city (more on that later!) or getting an Uber will cost around £7.00. We chose it for the convenience of being able to drive to Edinburgh and take advantage of the free parking at the back of the hotel and for the perfect stay away from the busy pavements of the city centre.

Alternative Weekend in Edinburgh - Malmaison Hotel


Despite having visited the Malmaison in Newcastle for many lunch dates, afternoon teas and evenings in the Chez Mal bar, this was actually our very first time staying overnight in the hotel so we couldn't wait to finally enjoy a proper Mal experience.

We checked in and made our way up to our room for the night, a comfortable double with plenty of space and a fully loaded mini bar which I gave Simon strict instructions not to touch!  Looking through the photographs on the website it's interesting to see that all of the rooms in the hotel are decorated in a similar style, so even if you book yourself into the standard room you'll be getting the same high quality of furnishing.

Alternative Weekend in Edinburgh - Malmaison
Taking advantage of the residents dining deal which offered us 20% off we decided to book ourselves into the Chez Brasserie for an evening meal, the perfect way to relax on arrival and save ourselves the hassle of attempting to find somewhere else to go.  Having enjoyed many meals at the Malmaison in Newcastle we knew the food would be decent.

Diving straight into the main course I opted for the Chez Mal Smoked Haddock Fish Cake served with spinach, poached Cotswold egg and hollandaise sauce (£14.50) it was really lovely but definitely left me wanting more so I also helped Simon polish off his fries that had arrived as part of his Chez Mal Burger (£17.00)

Alternative Weekend in Edinburgh - Malmaison Restaurant


For me the real star of the show was the dessert and with a delicious looking seasonal menu on offer there were plenty of treats to choose from.  I was feeling very Summery when I opted for the Mango and Passionfruit Cheesecake (£6.50) - a really generous slab with plenty of zingy fruit I tried to eat it slowly to make it last but it vanished before I knew it.  If you're going to order anything at The Malmaison this Summer please let it be that!

Alternative Weekend in Edinburgh - Malmaison Leith


Our room rate included breakfast which was brilliant as we do love getting greedy with a proper hotel breakfast.  What is it about dining in a hotel that makes you gorge on a three (sometimes even four!) course breakfast?

After putting in our Coffee and Toast order we devoured cereals, fruit juices and pastries from the "help yourself" table before tucking into some cooked food. I loved that the Mal offered a few different things on their menu, never a fan of a fry up in the morning I was so chuffed to see that they had Egg and Soldiers on the menu - absolute classic!  It had been so many years since I'd had a boiled egg I was completely transported back to childhood cutting the top off and dunking - delicious!

Alternative Weekend in Edinburgh - Malmaison Leith


Exploring The Port of Leith

The Port of Leith has had a huge amount of regeneration over the last few years and is a wonderful spot to spend the weekend. With The Malmaison directly on the waterfront it was a great place to start our wander and we only had to take a few steps before we were greeted with the most beautiful views across the water.

Alternative Weekend in Edinburgh - Port of Leith


We were lucky that our arrival coincided with some sunshine so we could enjoy a very pleasant stroll along the water admiring the architecture. I was getting serious Scandinavian vibes seeing the colourful buildings reflected in the Water of Leith - for a moment I forgot we were in Edinburgh. I passed so many people out strolling with their cameras, it seems I wasn't the only person enjoying taking a few snaps of the beautiful streets.

Alternative Weekend in Edinburgh - Leith


Bars and restaurants (including the Michelin Starred The Kitchin) line the water's edge of Leith and you're spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing where to fill your tummy.  Being big fans of sugary treats we decided to pop to Mimi's Bakehouse, somewhere I've been wanting to try for a while and with the Malmaison just a few steps away we had to take advantage.

Their cake counter was bursting with treats but having always wanted to try one of their famous cupcakes I opted for the Chocolate Raspberry Brownie - I actually polished off this cake at 9:30 am, perhaps a little early but I think cake for breakfast is a perfectly acceptable way to begin your weekend.

Alternative Weekend in Edinburgh - Mimis Bakehouse

Walking the Water of Leith

We decided to take advantage of our location by the Water of Leith and explore the footpath leading from the Port of Leith towards the centre of Edinburgh. The whole path is 12 miles long and runs from Balerno to Leith but it is easily accessible along the whole route so it's easy to just enjoy whichever sections of the walk you fancy.

Being a bit overly organised I'd dedicated a lot time before our trip researching the Water of Leith pathway and the access points but I really didn't need to, it was so easy to follow with plenty of sign posts directing us down the path and telling us how many miles it was to the next location.
Alternative Weekend in Edinburgh - Water of Leith



Crossing the bridge from Mimi's Bakehouse at the Port of Leith we turned left and followed the water towards Stockbridge. We loved that it was impossible to get lost, even if we hadn't seen a sign for a while we knew that as long as we could see the water we would end up getting to where we needed to be. We're all about effortless walking routes.

Word of warning if you're planning to do this route yourself, it is very muddy! With a dry forecast I had considered sticking on my sandals but I am so glad that I didn't - parts of the path were thick with mud and I would have had incredibly dirty feet. Although the path is all well made and well trod parts of it wind through woodland with boggy areas and bumpy terrain - sensible shoes are a must.

Alternative Weekend in Edinburgh - Water of Leith Walk
We passed so many people along the way - families out on walks, dog walkers and plenty of joggers. Parts of the walk were quite urban passing housing estates and graffiti covered bridges but other parts were so beautiful winding through woodlands and parks - we spotted plenty of wildlife along the way including a heron chilling by the side of the water.

The walk along the water to Stockbridge was around 3 miles and took just over an hour at a leisurely pace. Looking at the route on the map it had seemed like it would be a bit of a walk but it really was effortless, the miles passed easily and it was an absolute joy to make our way there by foot, I'm so glad that we decided to walk.

Alternative Weekend in Edinburgh - Water of Leith Path


Stockbridge

I had heard that Stockbridge is a beautiful part of Edinburgh to explore, pretty cobbled streets, a wonderful food scene and the style of buildings you associate with Edinburgh but without the footfall.  It's easily found from the Water of Leith footpath and coming up from the quiet of the waterside to the suburbs of Edinburgh was a treat for the senses. So many delicious smells!

Although I had promised Simon that I wouldn't go crazy with the Instagram photographs during our trip to Edinburgh I couldn't resist a visit to Circus Lane in Stockbridge which has to be the most beautiful and therefore the most photographed Edinburgh street. Seeing it with my own eyes having admired it for so long on photographs it did not disappoint.  A beautiful cobbled street filled with vibrant flowers, lovely little cottages and that picture perfect view of the church at the end.

Alternative Weekend in Edinburgh - Stockbridge


We danced our way between friends taking snaps, bemused tourists who didn't really understand what the fuss was and people having full on Instagram photo shoots (I'm talking photographers, light reflectors and outfit changes) to find that sweet spot and take a few photographs for our own album.

Even Simon had to admit it was a pretty place and whilst I jumped for joy on the cobbles saying over and over again how gorgeous it was he was off with the camera snapping away at the flower baskets and trying to get the perfect shot. If you're into photography or just love admiring a beautiful street I have to say this is a great place to stop.

Alternative Weekend in Edinburgh - Circus Lane
Returning to the main streets of Stockbridge we spent a bit of time mooching about, looking through windows at amazing looking doughnuts, cute bookstores and a cheesemongers. It's definitely the kind of place that I could spend an entire afternoon looking around, however with hungry tummies to feed we were all about finding somewhere great for some lunch.

Alternative Weekend in Edinburgh - Circus Lane Stockbridge
There are so many choices of places to head for food in Stockbridge, we were definitely spoilt for choice and it was hard to decide where to go. We eyed up so many dishes of food through windows before deciding on The Pantry, one of Stockbridge's hottest brunch spots. We were very lucky to nab the last table just before noon and settled ourselves down with the menu.

One thing I will say about The Pantry is it's perhaps not the best place to head on a weekend if you want to enjoy a nice peaceful leisurely lunch. The tables were all packed in tightly together, it was so busy that we felt like we were all sitting on top of each other and the service wasn't great. The food however was really good which made up for it.

Alternative Weekend in Edinburgh - The Pantry Stockbridge


Simon had a croissant filled with cheese and ham and I opted for the U.S.A (Ubiquitous Smashed Avocado) (£8.20) - Avocado, Roasted Peppers and a Poached Egg on Sourdough Toast.

Stockbridge is a short 10 minute walk from Edinburgh city centre but we decided to carry on our adventure along the Water of Leith to Dean Village.

Alternative Weekend in Edinburgh - Visiting Stockbridge


Dean Village

The walk to Dean Village is just over half a mile from Stockbridge along the Water of Leith path and is well worth the extra few steps.  It is so beautiful!

Originally the home of milling the village was filled with water mills until they fell into disrepair as  industries started to decline.  Dean Village was left untouched for years until it became recognised as a tranquil oasis close to the city centre and restoration works began, turning  the old mills and workers cottages into houses - now Dean Village is one of the most highly sought after residential parts of Edinburgh.

Alternative Weekend in Edinburgh - Dean Village
The real beauty of Dean Village is how far removed it feels from city life yet it is only a short 10 minute walk to the bright lights of Edinburgh. The beautiful buildings really do look like something out of a fairytale.

Alternative Weekend in Edinburgh - Dean Village Water of Leith
I'm sure Dean Village used to be a real hidden gem in Edinburgh and although is definitely worth a look it is perhaps not as quiet as it used to be. There were a fair few camera happy tourists trudging through when we visited. I don't think it'd be possible to hang your laundry in privacy if you had a house there that's for sure.

Dean Village is very small and easy to explore and from there it's a short stroll into the centre of Edinburgh where our great adventure came to an end (via some of Edinburgh's famous bars of course, but that's a story for another time!)

Alternative Weekend in Edinburgh - Water of Leith Dean Village


I hope you've enjoyed our little alternative tour of Edinburgh and feel inspired to plan your own trip soon.

Everything contained in this blog post was paid for by us, however the Malmaison at Edinburgh did treat us to a discounted rate for an overnight stay. 
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Wednesday, 5 June 2019

How to Spend the Day at National Trust Fountains Abbey

A few weeks ago we set off in the car for a great adventure to the National Trust site at Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire. We left our home in Newcastle excited and ready for a full day of exploring - fast forward 5 hours and we were stuck in a never ending traffic jam on the A1 only a junction away from where we needed to be but with no way of getting there any quicker. By the time we eventually arrived it wasn't long until closing and getting that little glimpse at how amazing the place was we knew we had to return as soon as we could. Fountains Abbey isn't somewhere you can truly explore in an afternoon - you need an entire day there!

How to Spend the Day at National Trust Fountains Abbey


So we returned exactly a week later, leaving our home in Newcastle first thing to ensure we got to Fountains Abbey as soon as they opened at 10:00 am.  For first time visitors like us I highly recommend getting there as early as you can, the site is huge and to truly get the most out of it you need to dedicate a lot of time to explore.

We loved our visit so much I thought I would put together this little guide on how to get the most out of your day at National Trust Fountains Abbey.

Day at National Trust Fountains Abbey
National Trust Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden

Before we visited I honestly thought that Fountains Abbey was just a ruined Abbey that we'd be able to potter around for a few hours so we were blown away by all there was to see and do there. The site is split into three - Fountains Abbey, Studley Royal Water Gardens and Studley Royal Deer Park, each part of the site is completely different to the other and it really does feel like you're getting three National Trust sites for the price of one.

It's not the cheapest National Trust site for non-members to visit but I honestly feel that its worth every penny. The place is huge, it's easy to spend an entire day there and the facilities are some of the best I have ever found at National Trust.

There's a huge restaurant at the main Fountains Abbey entrance as well as a tea room in Studley Royal Water Garden and a little coffee shop near to the Abbey.

National Trust Fountains Abbey


Fountains Abbey

We began our great adventures at the Abbey, a short walk from the carpark and somewhere that you truly have to go and see for yourself because I will never be able to put into words just how beautiful it is. My husband isn't easily impressed, whilst I spend our days out adventuring going on and on about how amazing and pretty places are, Simon's usually counting down the minutes until cuppa tea time and wondering when he can convince me to head back to the car, for him to be stunned into a very loud "WOW" really is a rare thing.

National Trust Fountains Abbey Ripon
I don't often hear Simon describe anything as beautiful but as soon as he saw Fountains Abbey for the first time he was just as enthralled as I was, we agreed we'd never seen anything quite as magnificent. Impressive from a distance it's even more beautiful as you climb between the ruins to appreciate the stunning architecture from different angles.

Exploring National Trust Fountains Abbey Ripon


There's something so special about ruined buildings, I think they make you really notice the smaller details in the walls, appreciate the shadows that they cast on the floor and they always have a slightly eerie feeling that makes you want to creep around in silence!

We had been blessed with the most incredible hot and sunny day and the Abbey just looked stunning against the bright blue sky.  I could have happily spent our entire trip there, but we had more to explore!

National Trust Fountains Abbey Ruins
Surprise View

When you see a sign pointing you towards a "surprise view" you follow it - am I right? A short walk from the Abbey lead us to the start of the Water Garden and a slight detour off the beaten path into the cool shade of the woodland.

As a lover of great views I just couldn't wait to see what was at the top of the hill we had been guided up and practically raced up! The slightly red face at the top was completely worth it for what we found!  Anne Boelyn's Seat at the top of Surprise View has to be one of the most beautiful scenic views in England. It really made me wish that I could paint, just imagine setting up an easel with that view as your inspiration.

National Trust Fountains Abbey and Studley


Just when we thought it couldn't get any more beautiful a short stroll along the path brought us to the  Octagon Tower, a beautiful building that really did look like something out of a fairytale. I pretty much wanted to move in as soon as I saw it, I think I'd happily spend the rest of my days skipping about the tower with squirrels and birds for my friends (I've watched far too many Disney films I know!)

National Trust Fountains Abbey - Octagon Tower


As if that wasn't enough we then discovered the Temple of Fame - somewhere that just screamed "dream proposal" spot to me, something that I of course had to point out to my husband who, for probably the hundredth time, pointed out to me that we're already married.

National Trust Fountains Abbey - Temple


So, not going to happen for me, but if anyone is looking for a dream spot to pop the question this has to be it. The Temple looks so beautiful against the gorgeous landscape and those views are just dreamy.

National Trust Fountains Abbey - Temples
Studley Royal Water Garden

Leaving Surprise View we found ourselves in Studley Royal Water Garden. Completely different to Fountains Abbey, it's landscaped to perfection with stunning stone statues perfectly placed around the most beautiful water features.

National Trust Fountains Abbey - Surprise View


It's probably the best part of the site to sit down and enjoy your lunch, on a hot day it's lovely to plonk yourself down on a grassy patch to enjoy the scenery. We perched ourselves at the top of a  small grassy bank overlooking  the Moon Pond and I was so happy I almost forgot I was an adult and joined the kids next to us in a fun roll down the hill.

With sandwiches demolished we had a little potter round the Gardens, discussing the statues and trying to get the perfect photograph of the infinity pool. I have to say Studley Royal Water Garden is a photographers dream and every few steps we stumbled across someone else with a huge camera - bit of a kick in the teeth for us as we'd managed to break our camera prior to arrival. All our photos from the trip were taken on my iphone!

National Trust Studley Royal Water Garden


Seven Bridges Valley 

You'll discover The Seven Bridges Valley as you leave Studley Water Garden and walk round the huge stretch of water between the Garden and the Deer Park. Seven Bridges Valley offers a circular walking route that offers lovely views of Ripon Cathedral although foolishly we decided to do a straight "spot the seven bridges and return the way we came" route.

Being complete kids we enjoyed counting the bridges as we made our way over them, marvelling at the different stone structures of each bridge we came across and just about resisting the urge to take off our shoes and socks and go for a paddle. The gloriously hot day made walking over seven bridges hot and thirsty work!

National Trust Seven Bridges Valley


Studley Royal Deer Park 

We didn't really expect to see any deer when we ended our day at Studley Royal Deer Park but after seeing a large gaggle of people excitedly gathering on the top of the hill we decided to ask if they had seen any and were over the moon when they pointed us in the general direction of a herd of deer.

It didn't take us long to find them, gathered together under the shade of the trees, we crept as close as we dared and then enjoyed a lovely 20 minutes just silently watching them. With barely anyone else around and peaceful scenery for miles it was a truly perfect way to spend the afternoon and we were both so happy we got such a great end to our day.

National Trust Fountains Abbey


We absolutely loved our first visit to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, being only a 90 minute drive from our home in Newcastle I can't believe it took us so long to visit and it's quickly jumped its way up to the very top of our favourite National Trust list. We can't wait to go back and explore some more when the different seasons come round, I can only imagine how beautiful it must be in the Autumn time.

Find Fountains Abbey at:

Fountains
Ripon
HG4 3DY

nationaltrust.org.uk/fountains-abbey-and-studley-royal-water-garden
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