Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Driving the Golden Circle in Iceland with Kids

If you're planning on visiting Iceland then the Golden Circle will most definitely be on your itinerary. Taking in some of South West Iceland's most stunning natural sights, it's easily accessible as a day trip from Reykjavik.

Whilst I was doing our holiday research I found lots of tour operators running Golden Circle tours but I wondered if these would be suitable for children. Although I liked the idea of having a tour guide, we decided that self driving would suit us more. Elliot and Erin are 6 and 2 and I thought it would be much easier and much less stressful doing things at our own pace!

We hired a car through Blue Car Rental and we used Google Maps on our phones to get around. The Golden Circle is very popular amongst tourists though so you could probably get by with just using signs/maps! We found the internet coverage excellent in Iceland and we were able to use it pretty much everywhere we went.

Thingvillir National Park


Our first stop was Thingvillir (ÞingvellirNational Park which is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland. It's the only UNESCO World Heritage site in Iceland and has a past steeped in history. The park is located in a rift valley, created by the movement of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. This makes for some jaw dropping scenery!

There is no entrance fee for the park but if you arrive by car you will have to pay a parking fee of 500 ISK, but this is valid for the entire day and at all parking areas.


There is a large visitor's centre with the usual cafe/shop/exhibits but we skipped this and headed straight for the lookout point. With it being a beautiful sunny morning, we could see for miles and it literally looked like a postcard!



We followed the main path that ran parallel with the cliff and were rewarded with more stunning views. The terrain was perfectly fine for the children however some of the lookout points just had a bar and were not child-friendly at all - Erin stayed on her reins the entire time (much to her disgust!) so we could keep a good grip on her.




There are several carparks dotted around the park so we decided that Paul should go back and get the car and drive onto the next carpark whilst myself and the children followed the path and enjoyed the views. This sounded like a good plan but we didn't realise that the further we got from the visitor's centre, the deeper the snow got on the paths!


We passed lots of people coming down a steep path (and most of them sliding down on their bums!) and my heart sank as it was the only way up to the carpark that Paul was parked in! (Little did I know that he was up top taking photos as you can see from the pic below...)

Can you spot us?!

With a bit of help from some passers-by, a few tears and rather alot of snow we managed to get to the top in one piece..well, maybe not my dignity. That was shattered after I face planted the snow on the clamber up! 

Gullfoss Waterfall


Gullfoss was our next stop on the Golden Circle and it was around an hours drive from Thingvillir. This was a good opportunity for the kids to have a bit of a rest after trudging through the snow - Erin was asleep literally minutes into our journey! 

A top tip if you're travelling along this route is to seek out the cheaper food options. Eating out in Iceland is notoriously expensive but a much cheaper option is to go for hotdogs which you can pretty much find everywhere in Iceland. We stopped at a service station (here) and discovered a really good grocery shop and the all important hotdogs!  We were able to have a quick lunch at a fraction of the price of any of the cafes and restaurants at the Golden Circle hot spots. 

Gullfoss is another of the most popular tourist spots in Iceland and this was evident by the amount of cars and buses in the carpark! There is a large gift shop and restaurant on site, and plenty of viewpoints to see the waterfall. 


If you were thinking about taking a buggy, you would only be able to view from the top as there were a number of steps going down to the lower viewpoints. There are rope fences which weren't really enough to contain a lively toddler so definitely keep little kids on reins if possible! 


The waterfall is impressive, and the roar of the water as we climbed down the steps was deafening! On sunny days you can spot rainbows above the waterfall like we did - although don't let the sunshine in our photos fool you. It was COLD! 




Geysir and Strokkur 


Next on our Golden Circle itinerary was Geysir, home to the famous erupting geysers - chance is if you've ever googled Iceland, you'll have seen a picture of the the water erupting out of the ground! 


Geysir is the original geyser but this one doesn't erupt as much these days. Strokkur however, goes off every 5-10 minutes so you will never have to wait long to see an eruption. The water is blasted to around 30 metres high! I found it so fascinating - it was brilliant to see it afar like in the photo above but once we got up close we could actually see the water bubbling in the ground. It would bubble into a dome and then kind of get sucked in and then at that point you knew the eruption would be any second! 


The kids thought it was brilliant and we spent ages wandering around looking at all the smaller geysers and waiting for the big one to erupt. It did take us by surprise at first though - we thought we'd found a really good vantage point to watch it erupt. Little did we know that the reason no one was stood there was that it was in the splash zone! Poor Erin looked like she'd been in the shower but they thought it was hilarious!


The pathways are mostly paved and definitely suitable for buggies although we left ours in the car and just had the reins. With steaming vents, hot springs and boiling mud pits you definitely need to keep an eye on little ones - there are roped fences but it would be easy for a child to slip under these.


On site opposite the main geothermal area there is a large gift shop, cafe, restaurant and hotel. We stopped for a hot chocolate and ice-cream and it was nice to escape the cold for a bit!


It's free to see the geysers and there is a large carpark but it does get VERY busy. Most bus tours seem to come and go pretty quickly but we actually spent a few hours here and it did get much quieter towards late afternoon. I'd probably say this was our highlight of the Golden Circle!

Kerið Volcanic Crater Lake


Kerið is a 3,000 year old volcanic crater lake located along the Golden Circle route. It doesn't really look much from the road but as you climb nearer the rim, you can look down and see the spectacular colours. The water is usually bright blue although it was iced over when we visited. However we could clearly see the red volcanic rocks of the crater wall beneath the ice and snow. The crater is 270m long, 170m wide and 55m deep and is very impressive! 


There are two options for a walk - you can take the steps down to the bottom of the crater or you can walk up and around the crater rim. We chose to walk around the crater rim - it was quite uneven in places and a little muddy/icy but Erin was on her reins and we managed it with no issues. There are no fences and you are up quite high so I didn't let go of her hand! The views are worth it though and it felt like we were walking on top of the world!


Elliot and Paul took the steps down the bottom of the lake whilst Erin and I headed back to the car to warm up. It looked pretty slippery so I'm glad we left them to it!


Northern Lights


We decided as we were out in the car we may as well try and get a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights. We had a bit of time before it got dark so we took a slow drive back to Reykjavik, taking in the impressive scenery. Iceland is so beautiful and it was even more special to see if at dusk when the sun was setting. 


The kids fell asleep in the back of the car so we parked up at a quiet spot with little light pollution. As the sky fell darker and darker, we excitedly kept our eyes peeled for any activity.

We did spot some unusual light - it seemed to get brighter and wispy but it came and went within around 20 minutes. It wasn't until I looked more closely at the photo once I got home that I spotted the green tinge!


Our Golden Circle day was mega long and we didn't get back to our apartment until gone 10pm but having our own transport made it so much easier with the kids. It meant we could take our time and not be on someone else's schedule.

We all had a brilliant time and the kids really enjoyed the day - they certainly slept well that night!


Friday, 6 December 2019

WIN 1 of 50 BAILEY'S CHOCOLATE TWISTS



What says Christmas more than Baileys and Chocolate?! If you'd like the chance to win a box of these yummy Bailey's Chocolate Twists, head over to Wow Free Stuff and follow the simple instructions.



There are 50 boxes up for grabs and the giveaway finishes on the 21st December 2019. All terms and conditions can be found on the Wow Free Stuff's website.

*Disclaimer : This post is in collaboration with Wow Free Stuff. 

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Bunch O Balloons Party Range - Review

Elliot has recently celebrated his 7th birthday and this year he decided he wanted a party for his friends. I love organising parties but I do have to make sure I'm super organised not to forget any of the smaller details!

We recently got the chance to review a party bundle from Zuru Bunch O Balloons and this was a fantastic help with my party preparation.


Inside the party box we received the following:
  • Zuru Bunch O Balloons Self Sealing Party Balloons and pump
  • Refill Balloon Pack (blue/yellow/red)
  • ROBO Alive Dino
  • 12 x Smashers Dino

Bunch O Balloons Self Sealing Party Balloons and Pump


I don't think you can have a children's party without balloons so I was excited to see how I could inflate 40 balloons in 40 seconds. I hate blowing up balloons but I hate tying knots in them even more so the fact the Bunch O Balloons were self sealing was a revelation!

The pump couldn't be more simple to use - there are three different slots and you rotate to top to match the amount of balloons you are inflating. Simply attach the balloons, switch it on and that's it - 40 seconds later you will have perfectly sized balloons on ribbon. The self-sealing part is fantastic and such a time saver! 



The pump can also be used with helium which would be really useful if you wanted floating balloons for a special occasion. The balloons are lovely and bright and a decent size. They also didn't seem to pop as easily as some of the cheaper balloons I've purchased in the past. 

I cannot stress how useful this gadget is for parties! The fact the balloons are inflated, knotted and on ribbon in 40 seconds is just incredible. All the parts are also recyclable which is brilliant.



Bunch O Balloons can be found at Smyths Toys and the starter pack normally retails at £14.99 but is currently on offer at £7.49 which is an absolute steal. The refill packs are on offer at £1.99! 

Smashers Dino 


It can be abit of a hassle sorting out party bags and I have to admit, the last few years I've just given a book and sweets. But my kids love a party bag and these Smashers Dino's would be the perfect thing to pop inside!


The dino egg can be smashed on the ground and inside you will find a dino character. Elliot is a massive fan of collectable toys like these and he was excited to see there were 100 different characters to collect!

The smashed egg can even be rebuilt to smash again so it's a fab little toy to keep the children entertained. I think any child would be happy to receive one of these in a party bag.

ROBO Alive Dino


The Bunch O Balloons party box has even thought about a present for the birthday child and our box contained a ROBO Alive Dino. For a dinosaur obsessed soon to be 7 year old, this was a BIG DEAL!


The dino stomps along like a real T-Rex and even bites! We have a couple of the Robo Alive toys already and they are really popular with Elliot and Erin. The T-Rex is well made and seems durable enough to survive the clutches of an enthusiastic child!



For more info on Bunch O Balloons, check out their website or you can find the BOB party range at your local Smyths toy store.

Thank you Zuru for sending us the party box and helping with our party prep - we genuinely loved the Bunch O Balloons pump and will definitely be resuing it for Erin's birthday party!

*Disclaimer - We were sent this item in exchange for an honest review. All views are my own





Thursday, 14 November 2019

Halloween at Mapperton House Dorset

Back in the Summer we visited Mapperton House and it was definitely one of the most picturesque places we have ever been to. I was keen to return later in the year to see the Autumn colours so in the recent half term we made the 1 hour journey over to West Dorset to take part in the Halloween Fun Day. The drive down to Mapperton was really foggy which definitely added to the spooky feel of the day!


We bought along some friends and the children were excited to explore, dressed in their scariest Halloween costumes! We picked up our trail sheets from the shop and we couldn't wait to start. The trail was nice and easy for the children and it was very straightforward for them to follow the arrows.




  The trail led us around the gardens which were decorated fantastically for Halloween. Giant spiders, pumpkin heads, witty gravestones, shrunken turnip heads with teeth, floating skeletons, concluding with a visit to the witches house for a spidery treat.




The only one brave enough to knock on the witches door was surprisingly Erin. We weren't actually expecting the door to open so it made us jump when the door swung open and the witch greeted us!



 Once we had completed the trail we headed back up to the Coach House cafe for some warming hot chocolates and spooky cupcakes. As we were visiting on the Halloween fun day, there was the bonus of free face painting in the cafe. Unfortunately, there was only one face painter so we ended up waiting over 90 minutes until it was our turn which was a bit frustrating.


Erin passed the time by jumping in puddles!


Whilst the addition of a free face painter was good (and she did do a fab job!) the queue just didn't move quick enough unfortunately. Instead it would have been great to see some Halloween themed crafts in the cafe, or even in a marquee like they had set up in the Summer.

Never the less, we had a really fun time at Mapperton and luckily managed to finish the trail before the rain arrived in the afternoon. I loved how the grounds were decorated and the mist really added to the Halloween atmosphere!

Mapperton is now closed for the Winter months but I'd highly recommend a visit in March when they reopen. The gardens are well worth a visit and the hot chocolates in the cafe are some of the nicest I've had!

*Disclaimer - We received a free entry in exchange for an honest review


Friday, 11 October 2019

Learn With Peppa - Trends UK - Review & Giveaway

*Disclosure - We received these items for the purpose of the review however all thoughts and opinions are my own 

Like most toddlers, Erin is crazy about Peppa Pig! Her love started from a young age and not a day goes by when she doesn't request to watch it or listen to the album (on repeat!!). At almost 7, Elliot would never admit it but I think he still quite likes it too!

You can imagine Erin's excitement then when we received a big box in the post which contained not one but two items from the Peppa Pig Electronic Early Range from Trends UK. This is a range we are already familiar with as we have the Peppa's Flip and Learn Phone and the Peppa's Laugh and Learn Laptop. Both toys are favourites of Erin's so I had a feeling she would love what we had been sent!



Peppa's Laugh and Learn Alphaphonics. 


This fab educational gadget has 7 different games to help children with their phonics. Each letter features something easily recognisable for little ones, such as M for Monkey, P for Peppa etc.


The games are really easy to change, using a small lever and the Alphaphonics has two sturdy handles on each side which make it perfect for carrying around and using on the go.

Erin spent alot of time playing with this and it really is fantastic for helping with phonics. She has already started recognising some of the letters ("E is for Erin Mummy!") and I think it will be a really handy tool when she starts to learn more about phonics at pre-school.


The only thing I didn't like about the Alphaphonics was that there was no off button - a few times Peppa has randomly said "Hello, I'm Peppa!" and it has made us jump! 

Peppa's Smart Tablet



One thing that causes squabbles in our household is who gets to play on the iPad. Peppa's Smart Tablet meant that the arguments subsided whilst Erin played on her "new iPad"!

Featuring the same bright and eye-catching colours and design as other Peppa merchandise, the tablet features lots of touchscreen buttons and an all important on/off button.

There are 6 games to choose from including Erin's favourite, the music roud where you have to match the sound to the instrument!

All the games encourage learning about colours, numbers, shapes, letters and characters. There's even a quiz - tap on Peppa and she will ask a question.

The tablet is aimed at 2+ and it's perfect for pre-schoolers. There's enough to keep them busy and the tablet is light enough to pop in your bag.

Overall, we were really pleased with these toys. Erin is a huge Peppa fan so I knew she'd like them anyway but I like that they are educational as well as fun. I also like the fact they both have volume buttons!

Giveaway


If you would like the chance to win a Count With Peppa from the same range, read on..



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 25 August 2019

A Family Day Out at Mapperton House, Dorset

It's always nice to visit new places and this week we spent a lovely sunny day at Mapperton House, Dorset. Home to the Earl and Countess of Sandwich, Mapperton is a beautiful manor house with 15 acres of stunning gardens.


I wondered how suitable it would be for a young family but actually, my kids had a really fun time and the gardens are perfect for a game of hide and seek! Mapperton also put on children's events throughout the holidays such as the Creepy Crawly Show which we were lucky enough to see.

House tours can also be booked and I believe these are very popular however we decided to keep our rabble outside - old houses and expensive things mixed with excitable children makes me a little nervous ;)

On arrival, and after a quick hello to Percy the tortoise, we picked up our tickets from the shop. We immediately spotted the creepy crawly tent so we headed there first. Wow, so many creatures to look at! It was great to meet the World Life team and they are very passionate about their work and the exotic animals that they have.


Elliot was very very keen to get stuck in and wanted to hold as many animals as possible including a millipede and a bearded dragon named Elliot!



Elliot really enjoyed their Creepy Crawly show and he had lots of questions for the team afterwards! It was really interesting and the perfect event for an animal mad little boy. World Life are actually going to be at Mapperton until the 29th August and I'd highly recommend catching one of their shows if you can.


It was soon time for lunch so we headed over to the Coach House - we had a picnic packed but we couldn't resist the cheese scones and delicious cakes! All the menu items use locally sourced ingredients and they offer a delicious selection of light meals, sandwiches and drinks.


The Mapperton Estate is tucked away in a steep north-south combe, surrounded by the lush green Dorset countryside. The gardens feature lots of interesting features such as fountains, grottoes, fish ponds, a croquet lawn, an orangery, topiary and lead down to the arboretum.


I confess that I am pretty clueless when it comes to flowers and plants but even a novice like myself could appreciate the beauty of the gardens!





We walked down towards the arboretum and found ourselves on the woodland walk. This is a pleasant stroll around the outskirts of the grounds and although steep in places, wasn't a problem for our toddler.

If you're planning on visiting Mapperton with children it's worth noting that the gardens are not buggy friendly as some areas are very steep in places due to the natural topography. Leave the buggy in the car and let your kids explore...although you will have to keep an eye on them around the ponds. Elliot said he fancied a swim as it was so hot so I had to keep a beady eye on him especially!


We really enjoyed our day at Mapperton and it was lovely to find a new place to explore. It's great that they are encouraging families to visit with the addition of events such as the creepy crawly show and I will definitely be recommending to our friends. I've just spotted on the website that they have a Halloween event on over the half term so I'll definitely be popping that on the calender - I bet the Autumn colours are stunning!

For more detailed information about the gardens and their history, take a look at the website . The gardens are open until 31st October 2019 from 10am to 5pm, Sunday to Thursday - tickets can be booked online

*Disclaimer - We received a free entry in exchange for an honest review
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