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  • AngieC
  • August 19, 2017 05:32:43 AM
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Travel blog aimed at mature, independent travellers who like to plan their own holidays. The blog is based on our own travels and walking holidays in beautiful places such as Iceland, The Azores and Peru, and contains accounts of our experiences, advice, links to resources and lots of photography.

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    The Stockholm Archipelago – Easy Islands to Visit

    Easy islands to visit in the beautiful and relaxed Stockholm Archipelago The post The Stockholm Archipelago – Easy Islands to Visit appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

    (This post contains some affiliate links, which help us to fund the site.  For more information please see the Disclosure).

    Stockholm is a great city to visit.  But sometimes it is nice to get out of a busy city for a few hours and experience some peace, quiet and beautiful scenery.  And this is so easy to do in Stockholm, because just offshore is a magical archipelago of literally thousands of islands.

    Early morning light in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

    Early morning light in the Stockholm Archipelago

    The islands vary enormously.  Some have well developed resorts, some have just a few summer cabins, and some are no more than isolated lumps of rock covered in pine trees.  You could spend months exploring, but most tourists only have a few days available at most.

    Island in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

    Tranquil Archipelago landscape

    Island in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

    Tiny island with a lot of cabins

    Coastal properties in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

    Beautiful coastal properties

    Two islands that are very close to Stockholm, and particularly easy to reach, are Fjäderholmarna and Vaxholm (see more about these later).  But if you have a few hours or more to spare, we suggest visiting islands further out.  This way you get to see not only the island you are visiting, but also the multitude of other islands, islets and rocks you will pass on the way.

    Add to this the lovely properties on the islands, boats from tiny craft to huge ferries, and the numerous swans and cormorants that live amongst the islands, and the journey could well be the best part of your trip.  It allows you to appreciate the full scale and beauty of the Archipelago.

    Boat house in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

    Boat house passed on one of our trips

    Ferry in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

    Large ferry heading towards Aland and Turku in Finland




    On a recent short stay we visited two very different islands, both of which we highly recommend for a visit.  We also saw hundreds more on boat trips and ferry journeys through the Archipelago (see Exploring the Baltic Sea by Ferry)  Here are our observations and suggestions based on the islands we visited and saw on our journeys.

    Grinda

    We absolutely loved Grinda.  This quiet little island is a world apart from busy Stockholm, and a perfect place to relax for a couple of hours in beautiful countryside.

    Landing stage on Grinda Island in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

    Landing stage on Grinda Island

    The boat drops you off at a tiny landing stage, and when the boat departs you feel as though you have been abandoned in the middle of nowhere.  There is an information board about the island, which is a nature reserve, and a single track leading inland.

    Road on Grinda Island in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

    ‘Road’ on Grinda island

    There is no need to worry, though.  You soon come to the excellent hotel Grinda  Wärdshus, which has a lovely terrace where you can enjoy a very good lunch.  The view from the terrace over the guest harbour to the Baltic is beautiful.

    There is another restaurant at the pier, as well as a shop and cafe.

    Grinda Wardshus, Grinda island in the Stockholm Archipelago

    Grinda Wardshus on Grinda Island

    View from the Grinda Wardshus, Grinda Island in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

    View from the hotel terrace

    There are easy trails through lovely woodland and meadows to enjoy, with information about the fauna and flora on the island.  There is also a farm with various animals, and the rocky coast has secluded bays and places to bathe.

    Bay on Grinda Island in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

    Secluded bay

    Rocky coast on Grinda Island in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

    Grinda’s rocky coast

    If you fancy staying a night or two, and enjoying even more solitude when the day-trippers have left, Grinda Wärdhuss has simple double and twin rooms as well as great food – see this page at booking.com.

    There are regular daily trips to Grinda in the summer.  Our boat departed from Strandvägen in Stockholm (see Cinderella Boats for timetables and further details).  The journey time was 1 hour and 50 minutes, and we had over three hours on the island.

    Sandhamn

    Harbour at Sandhamn in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

    Harbour at Sandhamn

    Sandhamn is actually the name of the attractive small town on Sandon Island.  About 90 people live here permanently, and the island is a popular sailing centre.  It therefore has a choice of restaurants and shops, making it an ideal destination for a day trip (or perhaps longer).

    As well as exploring the town and having a relaxing lunch, you can stroll along the rocky coastline.  There are lovely views over the Baltic Sea to neighbouring islands.

    Sandhamn in the Stockholm Archipelago

    View from the edge of Sandhamn

    Jetty at Sandhamn in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

    A peaceful spot

    Behind the town there is some attractive woodland with scattered cabins and gardens, where we had a pleasant walk.

    Woods on Sandhamn Island in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

    Shady woods at Sandhamn

    The highly scenic boat trip to Sandhamn takes around 2.25 hours.  There are daily trips in the summer from Strandvägen in Stockholm (see Cinderella Boats for timetables and further details).  Our trip allowed us over 3 hours on the island, so there was plenty of time for lunch and a bit of exploring.

    Tour boat at Sandhamn harbour in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

    Our tour boat

    Other Islands to Visit

    Vaxholm

    Vaxholm is only 50 minutes from Stockholm, and is easily be reached by boat or bus (it is linked by bridges).  We didn’t actually visit Vaxholm, but sailed past it several times during our stay.

    Vaxholm in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

    Hotel and waterfront at Vaxholm

    The proximity and ease of access mean that it is less secluded than Grinda and Sandhamn, and has less of an ‘island’ feel.  But the harbour and waterside properties look very attractive.

    We think it would be great to stay a few nights in the Waxholms Hotell shown in the photo above, and use this as a base to visit other islands.  You could then enjoy Vaxholm in the evenings when the crowds have left.

    Vaxholm also has a fortress on a separate little island, visited by a tiny ferry.

    Vaxholm Fortress in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

    Vaxholm Fortress and the little yellow ferry

    Fjäderholmarna

    Fjäderholmarna is a true island that is very close to Stockholm.  It is often considered the first island of the Archipelago, and the boat trip takes about 30 minutes.  Because of its proximity to the city it tends to get busy, and of course you don’t get to see much more of the Archipelago on your journey.  But if time is limited the island has a lovely coastline, good restaurants, and would be well worth a visit.

    There are regular boats run by Stromma.com – just follow this link to see the timetable.

    Small island in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

    Typical small island in the Archipelago

    Other islands that can easily be visited on day trips include Finnhamn, Möja, Svartsö and Gällnö, as well as many more.  Follow this link to Stromma.com to see timetables for independent trips and also their range of organised excursions.

    Waxholmsbolaget run many ferry services to and within the Archipelago – follow the link to see their timetables, which can be downloaded as PDFs.

    For many more organised tours in and from Stockholm (including some in the Archipelago) try Viator.  With Viator you can choose from a wide variety of tours and excursions and book online in advance.  If you change your plans most excursions can be cancelled with a full refund up to 24 hours before the start of the tour.

    Sailing boat in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

    A nice way to explore

    Accommodation in Stockholm

    For a wide choice of accommodation in Stockholm, and options in the Archipelago, see this page at booking.com.

    A Few Final Tips

    Not all ferries and excursions run all year (the Archipelago may freeze in winter).  Check carefully with the companies who run the services before making any firm plans.

    Study the timetables carefully – they can be a little confusing (some journeys involve links with bus services and more than one boat).

    Some islands that have regular boat services cannot really be visited in a day trip – the journey takes so long that you would have to return immediately (if it is even possible to return the same day).  Of course you can always arrange to stay a night or two….

    The boats we went on were very comfortable with indoor and outdoor seating areas.  Refreshments and toilets were available.  Again check with the companies running the trips to see exactly what is included.

    Make sure you take a camera and, if possible, binoculars.  There is a lot to see!

    If you have a Kindle (or free Kindle App), a useful guide is Stockholm & the Swedish Archipelago.

    A great way to explore Stockholm city is with a hop-on hop-off City Sightseeing Bus Tour – follow the link for more details, timetables and online tickets.


    (Please remember that this site is based purely on our own holiday experiences – therefore kindly note the Disclaimer.)

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    The post The Stockholm Archipelago – Easy Islands to Visit appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.


    Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens

    Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal in North Yorkshire are beautiful to visit at any time of year The post Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.


    Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire, England

    Fountains Abbey

    Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens near Ripon in North Yorkshire make a great day out at any time of year.  The properties are cared for by the National Trust and have UNESCO World Heritage status.

    The Abbey

    The ruins of Fountains Abbey are hugely impressive and atmospheric.  They are the largest monastic ruins in the country, situated in the beautiful, sheltered valley of the River Skell, with limestone outcrops and beautiful trees.

    The photos here are from a couple of winter visits, one of which was on a particularly snowy day.

    Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire, in winter

    Fountains Abbey in winter

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    Bridge over the River Skell at Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire, England

    Bridge over the River Skell

    You can easily spend an hour or two exploring the ruins, and wondering what life would have been like for the Cistercian monks who lived here.

    The cloisters and undercroft are particularly atmospheric, especially when bathed in golden afternoon light.

    The Undercroft at Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire, England

    The Undercroft

    Undercroft at Fountain Abbey, North Yorkshire

    Cloisters at Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire, England

    Cloisters

     

    The Valley

    The river valley surrounding the abbey is very beautiful, with limestone outcrops and lots of beautiful old trees.

    River Skell at Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire, England

    River Skell

    Trees on a limestone outcrop at Foundains Abbey, North Yorkshire, England

    Trees growing on a limestone outcrop near the abbey

    'Surprise View' of Fountains Abbey in Studley Royal, North Yorkshire, England
    ‘Surprise View’

    Studley Royal Water Gardens

    Studley Royal Water Gardens and Park, in which the abbey is situated, are great for stretching the legs.  Well constructed paths allow you to wander around the beautiful Georgian water gardens.  There are lovely views of the abbey and surrounding hills and woods.

    Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens, North Yorkshire, England

    View of the abbey from a path in Studley Royal Water Gardens

    Studley Royal Water Gardens, Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire, England

    Studley Royal Water Gardens

    Bridge in Studley Royal Water Gardens, North Yorkshire, England

    Bridge in the Water Gardens

    The excellent paths around the gardens and parkland make this a great place to visit at any time of year.

    Temple of Piety, Studley Royal, North Yorkshire, England

    Temple of Piety and statues in the Water Gardens on a wintry day

    Swans at Studley Royal Water Gardens, North Yorkshire, England

    Swans love the Water Gardens too

    Woodland

    Being lovers of nature and trees, we particularly like to explore the paths through the ancient woodland.  There are some magnificent old trees.

    Ancient Yew Tree at Studley Royal, North Yorkshire, England

    Ancient yew tree

    Woodland at Studley Royal, North Yorkshire, England

    Woodland

     

    Some of the trees look decidedly precarious, as the slope they are growing on has been gradually eroded.

    Precarious yew trees on an eroded bank, Studley Royal, North Yorkshire, England

    Precarious trees on an eroded bank

    Yew tree roots growing over bare rock, Studley Royal, North Yorkshire, England

    Yew tree roots growing over bare rock

    Yew tree growing from a rocky bank, Studley Royal, North Yorkshire, England

    Yew tree growing from a rocky bank

    Follies

    There are also some interesting follies to discover within the gardens and woods.

     

    Octagon Tower, Studley Royal, North Yorkshire, England

    Octagon Tower

    Folly in Studley Royal, North Yorkshire, England

     

    If you are in the North of England it is definitely worth spending a day exploring Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal.  And if you have only visited during the summer, remember that the abbey and gardens are equally beautiful on a frosty or snowy winter’s day.



    PRACTICALITIES

    The visitor centre at Fountains Abbey has a large restaurant and excellent gift shop.

    For an interesting display showing the history of the abbey and the Cistercian monks who lived and worked there, it is worth visiting the Porter’s Lodge situated near the ruins.  This also contains a lovely model showing how the abbey would have looked before it became ruined.

    In addition to the main restaurant, there is also a charming tea room situated by a lake in the Studley Royal Water Gardens, and another smaller tea room which is open in the summer.

    Lakeside tearoom in winter, Studley Royal, North Yorkshire, England

    Lakeside tearoom – there are also tables inside!

    If you like to visit National Trust properties regularly, membership makes a lot of sense.

    As a member you get free access to over 500 National Trust properties (including National Trust for Scotland), and free parking in many NT car parks.  Just a few visits will recover the membership fee and you will then be saving money.  You can visit as often as you like, and you will be contributing towards the care and maintenance of these very special places.

    For information on how to get to Fountains Abbey, opening times, access and prices for non-members see this page.

    If you would like to stay in North Yorkshire, you can search for accommodation using this page at booking.com.

    For more ideas for places to visit we recommend the Rough Guide to Yorkshire.

    Please remember that this site is based purely on our own experiences – therefore kindly note the Disclaimer.

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    The post Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.


    Snapshots from a Winter Trip to Utrecht

    A short winter break exploring the lovely canals and parks in Utrecht, The Netherlands The post Snapshots from a Winter Trip to Utrecht appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

    (This post contains some affiliate links – for more information please see the Disclosure)

    Matt and I spent Christmas in Utrecht in The Netherlands.  Utrecht is so easy to reach.  Regular direct trains from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport only take just over 20 minutes – see the Practicalities section at the end of this post for more information.  And the City Centre is compact and really easy to explore on foot.

    Canal and bridge in Utrecht, The Netherlands

    Canal and bridge in the centre of Utrecht

    Because it was Christmas when we visited, many shops, restaurants and museums were of course closed.  But we were incredibly lucky with the weather, and Utrecht has interesting canals and lovely parks to explore.  Sometimes it is great just to stroll around a city you haven’t visited before, with no set agenda or itinerary.

    Canals 

    Utrecht is known for the split-level canals in the city centre.  In the summer the lower levels are apparently filled with restaurants and bars, but in the winter they provided a convenient escape from the traffic (predominantly cycles) in the narrow streets above.

    Split level canal in the centre of Utrecht, The Netherlands

    Typical split level canal in the city centre

    Canal and Dom Tower in Utrecht, The Netherlands

    City centre canal with the Dom Tower visible behind the tree

    The incredibly calm weather and blue skies made for some amazing reflections in the canal waters.

    Reflections in a canal in Utrecht, The Netherlands

    Perfectly clear reflection seen from Wittevrouwensingel

    Taking a boat trip of the canals must be a lovely way to see the city, but most of these were not operating during the Christmas period.  We only saw this one almost empty boat during our trip – perhaps another time…..

    Tour boat approaching a bridge in Utrecht, The Netherlands

    Tour boat approaching a bridge

    Parks

    Utrecht has several lovely parks, and these were lovely to stroll around on a bright winter’s day.  The parks we visited were wonderfully quiet – probably because it was Christmas.  Just the way we like it!

    Voorveldse Polder City Park

    Our hotel was located in Voorveldse Polder City Park (see the end of this post for more details about our hotel).   We had a great view over the lake from the hotel window, and there are plenty of paths for strolling, jogging, cycling or even horseriding.

    Voorveldse Polder City Park, Utrecht, The Netherlands

    Early morning view of Voorveldse Polder City Park from our hotel balcony

    Path in Voorveldse Polder City Park, Utrecht, The Netherlands

    Path in Voorveldse Polder City Park

    Winter colours in Voorveldse Polder City Park, Utrecht, The Netherlands

    Lovely winter colours

    Park Bloeyendael

    There are marked trails through Voorveldse Polder City Park to the adjacent Park Bloeyendael.  This is again a lovely park to stroll around, with lots of wooden bridges over waterways and an interesting area of allotments.  We saw many birds in the park, including grebes, ducks, geese, coots, treecreepers, wild parakeets and an incredibly tame heron.

    Grey heron (Ardea cinerea) in Park Bloeyendael, Utrecht, The Netherlands

    Grey heron in Park Bloeyendael

    Park Bloeyendael, Utrecht, The Netherlands

    Path and lake in Park Bloeyendael

    Trail marker posts in Park Bloeyendael, Utrecht, The Netherlands

    Trail marker posts

    Wooden bridge in Park Bloeyendael, Utrecht, The Netherlands

    Wooden bridge in Park Bloeyendael

    Wooden bridge in Park Bloeyendael, Utrecht, The Netherlands

    And another…..

    Wilhelminapark

    Another lovely small park to stroll through is Wilhelminapark, closer to the centre of Utrecht.  The colours here on a bright winter’s day were absolutely splendid.  Again we saw wild parakeets in the park (alerted to their presence by their shrill calls), as well as geese, ducks, coots and many others.

    Wilhelminapark in winter, Utrecht, The Netherlands

    Fantastic colours in Wilhelminapark

    In the park there is also the fantastic Wilhelminapark Restaurant.  We had a wonderful seven course dinner here on Christmas Day night, and can highly recommend it.  Both the food and service were absolutely excellent, and if you visit is summer you will also have lovely views over the lake.

    Wilhelminapark Restaurant, Utrecht, The Netherlands

    Wilhelminapark Restaurant

    Where We Stayed

    We stayed in the Hotel Mitland, which is beautifully located beside a lake in Voorveldse Polder City Park, (see Parks, above).  This is quite a distance from the centre of Utrecht, but once you get your bearings it is an easy and pleasant stroll of a couple of km or so (the easiest route is along Biltstraat).

    Hotel Mitland, Utrecht, The Netherlands

    Entrance to Hotel Mitland

    Because we arrived late in the evening, we got a taxi to the hotel from Utrecht Central Station.  But there are also regular buses along Biltstraat, and Bus 28 stops at Fort de Biltstraat which is close to the hotel.  On our return journey we found it easy to walk back to the station, even with our cases.

    There are hotels which are more convenient for the station and city centre (see booking.com for a huge range of accommodation in Utrecht).  But we really enjoyed the location of Hotel Mitland.  We had a lovely view over the lake from our balcony, with lots of trees and water birds to watch.  The hotel’s restaurant and bistro were convenient and good, and in summer they have tables outside directly beside the lake, which must be lovely.  We would happily stay there again.

    Hotel Mitland, Utrecht, The Netherlands, on Christmas Day

    View from our balcony on Christmas Day morning

    Utrecht is a lovely city for a short break and is so easy to reach from Schiphol Airport.  We thoroughly enjoyed our Christmas visit!

    Practicalities

    Utrecht is incredibly easy to reach.  Just get any flight to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, and then get a direct train straight from the airport to Utrecht.  Trains are regular (at least two per hour), and the journey only takes just over 20 minutes.

    To look for convenient flights to Schiphol try using Skyscanner.


     

    To check train timetables, prices, and (if you wish) purchase your tickets online, try RailEurope.

    For a useful map of the city we recommend the Travel Like a Local map.

    Canal in Utrecht, The Netherlands

    Peaceful canal

    Please note that this post is based purely on our own experiences, therefore kindly note the Disclaimer.

    The post Snapshots from a Winter Trip to Utrecht appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.


    Outdoor Spaces in Tallinn

    The lovely city of Tallinn is surrounded by green parks, gardens and coastal paths. The post Outdoor Spaces in Tallinn appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

    Tallinn’s Old Town

    Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, is a wonderful city to visit.  The Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is immensely attractive.  It feels like being in a fairytale with its cobbled streets, old city walls, and turrets and towers at every turn.

    (This post may contain affiliate links – for more information please see the Disclosure.)

    Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn, Estonia

    Beautiful domes of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn

    Bell tower in Tallinn Old Town, Estonia

    Typical architecture in the Old Town

    View over the rooftops of Tallinn, Estonia

    View over the city rooftops

    There are plenty of varied shops and good museums to keep you busy.  And there are restaurants everywhere you turn, from medieval-themed eateries to slick and modern establishments.  It’s all very touristy, but still absolutely magical.  If you get a chance to visit, don’t miss it!

    Architecture in Tallin, Estonia

    View from one of the Old Town walls

    Cobbled street in the Old Town of Tallinn, Estonia

    Typical cobbled street in the Old Town

    Medieval wall at the City Museum, Tallinn, Estonia

    Medieval walls at the City Museum

    Cannon at the City Museum, Tallinn, Estonia

    Cannon at the City Museum

    The Old Town is small and easy to stroll around and explore.  For a useful guidebook we recommend the DK Eyewitness Top 10 Tallinn.

    But there is much more to Tallinn.  Outside the Old Town is an attractive bustling city with all the usual facilities.   And if, like, us you enjoy being outdoors, there are some fantastic parks and walks to enjoy.   Here are our suggestions, based on a recent short visit.

    Kadriorg Park

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    Kadriorg Park, situated east of the Old Town, is a wonderful place to spend a few hours.  The park covers around 70 hectares, and contains the beautiful baroque Kadriorg Palace shown above, surrounded by formal gardens.  The palace houses the Kadriorg Art Museum, and there are a number of other museums and monuments to discover within the park.

    There are excellent criss-crossing paths for strolling around and exploring this lovely place.  The park contains some fantastic old trees, ponds, sculptures and an evolving Japanese garden with water features.  There are also several cafes to choose from, or plenty of seats for a picnic.

    We found it an easy walk from the Old Town (less than half an hour to the entrance to the park).  If you prefer to use public transport there is a tram station near the entrance, and several bus stops around the park area.  For timetables and information about tickets see the useful Public Transport page at Visit Tallinn.

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    For more information about the park see the website.

    Walk to Pirita and Viimsi

    If you want to do a longer walk you can follow easy paths east and then north to Pirita.  If you wish you can then continue towards Viimsi.  To see the route on a map just search ‘Walk Tallinn to Viimsi’ on Google).

    The great thing about this walk is that a regular bus route runs parallel to your paths.  So you can go as far as you feel comfortable with, and then go slightly inland to the major road to find the nearest bus stop.  The buses are very regular (see Public Transport – Route 1A).

    A great place to start is at the impressive Russalka Monument, built as a memorial to those who lost their lives due to the sinking of a Russian warship.  The Monument is just north of Kadriorg Park, and can easily be reached on foot (search on Google maps to see its location).

    Russalka Memorial, Tallinn, Estonia

    Russalka Monument

    The path is at first an excellent promenade beside the sea wall.  You can watch the big ferries coming and going, and there are some interesting sculptures to see.

    Sculpture on the seafront promenade at Tallinn, Estonia

    Sculputre on the promenade and view of the ferry port

    Ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki

    Ferry heading for Helsinki on a slightly stormy day

    On reaching Pirita there is a marina and convenient places to stop for lunch.  You can also head inland here to see the ruins of the Pirita convent.

    Ruins of the Pirita Convent, Tallinn, Estonia

    Ruins of the Pirita Convent

    If you decide to walk further towards Viimsi you can choose from paths beside the sea or through some lovely shady pine forest.

    Dense pine forest in Tallinn, Estonia

    Dense pine forest at Pirita

    Pirita beach, Tallinn, Estonia

    Pirita beach

    Just walk as far as you wish, and then find a convenient bus stop to take you back to the city (for timetables see Public Transport – Route 1A).  We really enjoyed the contrasts between the busy city centre, the seaside promenade and the shady pine forests.

    Tallinn Botanic Garden

    Another great way to spend a few hours is to explore the lovey Botanic Garden.  This is situated a few miles north east of the city, and can easily be reached by bus (Route 34A – get off at Kloostrimetsa Tee – for timetables see Public Transport).

    The gardens are extensive and a great place to stroll.  A large part of the site consists of an arboretum, and there is a network of paths through the lovely collection of trees.

    Botanic Garden, Tallinn, Estonia

    View over the Botanic Garden in Tallinn

    Fungi growing on a tree trunk in the Botanic Garden, Tallinn, Estonia

    Impressive fungi on a tree trunk in the Arboretum

    Trees in the Botanic Garden, Tallinn, Estonia

    Trees in the Arboretum

    There is a large and interesting glasshouse to visit,  which contains a small cafe.  Then there is a large rose garden with many varieties, some of which have been bred in Estonia,  Other areas include a Garden of the Senses, areas showcasing grassland plants and mountain plants, various ponds and a really interesting display on fungi.

    Glasshouse in the Botanic Garden, Tallinn, Estonia

    The glasshouse

    Rose garden and glasshouse at Tallinn Botanic Garden, Tallinn, Estonia

    View over the rose garden to the glasshouse

    Rhapsody in Blue roses in the Botanic Garden, Tallinn

    Beautiful ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ roses in the rose garden

    Botanic Garden, Tallinn, Estonia

    Flower beds

    Mycology display in the Botanic Garden, Tallinn

    Fungus display

    For more information about the gardens including opening times and entrance fees see http://botaanikaaed.ee/.  It’s definitely worth a visit.

    Adjacent to the Botanic Garden is the Tallinn TV tower, which can easily be combined with a visit to the garden.

    Tallinn TV Tower seen from the Botanic Gardens

    Tallinn TV Tower seen from the Botanic Gardens

    The tower has a viewing platform and a good restaurant with fantastic views over the gardens, forest, Baltic Sea and Tallinn city.  There is also an interactive display about the tower’s history.  For more information see Tallinna Teletorn.

    Other Parks and Gardens

    These are just a few suggestions based on our own (way too short) visit to this lovely city.  There are many other parks and gardens within easy reach of the Old Town.  Here are some suggestions, together with links for more information.

    Practicalities

    Flights

    There are flights to Tallinn from many airports.  To search for the best option near you try Skyscanner.


    There are regular buses and trams from the airport to the city centre.

    Ferries

    We incorporated our visit to Tallinn into a tour of the Baltic by ferry (see Exploring the Baltic Sea by Ferry.  The ferries are really good value, so if you can get a flight to Stockholm or Helsinki this is a great alternative way to arrive.  And by booking an overnight ferry from Stockholm you can reduce the cost of staying in a Stockholm hotel for a night.   To check timetables and compare prices, try Aferry.



     

    Accommodation

    For accommodation, there is a very large choice available.  We stayed in the Taanilinna Hotel,  a characterful and quiet old hotel just off a street in the Old Town.  The hotel has individually designed rooms and a good breakfast.  It doesn’t have a restaurant, but it is right in the Old Town and there are loads of restaurants all around.  We would happily stay there again.

    To search the vast choice of accommodation options in Tallinn see this page at booking.com.

    Excursions

    If your time is limited, a great way of seeing the city and its surroundings is by a City Sightseeing bus tour.  The hop-on hop-off service has three routes and over 20 stops in Tallinn, and you can choose between them as you wish.  Three-day tickets are also available.  Follow the link for more information.


    For a wide range of guided tours in Tallinn, and excursions further afield, see Viator.



    We really enjoyed our stay in Tallinn, and would love to visit again one day to explore more of the city’s lovely green spaces.  And hopefully next time we will see more of Estonia.
    City Wall and St Nicholas Church, Tallinn, Estonia

    City Wall and St Nicholas Church

    The post Outdoor Spaces in Tallinn appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.


    A Short Break in South Cumbria – For Lovers of the Gentle Outdoors

    A short break to visit gardens and nature reserves in South Cumbria The post A Short Break in South Cumbria – For Lovers of the Gentle Outdoors appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

    (This post may contain affiliate links – for more information please see the Disclosure.)

    Matt and I recently spent a lovely three-night break in the countryside near Cartmel in southern Cumbria.

    There was a time when visiting Cumbria was, for us, all about hill walking in the Lakeland fells and conquering every summit.  But now we are older, heavier, and (perhaps) a little wiser, we like to enjoy the great outdoors in a more gentle manner.

    Lake in the grounds of Sizergh Castle, Cumbria

    Lake in the grounds of Sizergh Castle, Cumbria

    We are discovering all the great places we missed when getting up high was the only objective!  If you love nature and wildlife, the best places are often in lower lying and sometimes remote locations.  You don’t have to push yourself to the limit to enjoy being in fantastic surroundings, and to discover great countryside, gardens and wildlife.

    Cumbrian countryside, England

    Cumbrian countryside

    If, like us, you love being outdoors in great countryside and love nature reserves and gardens, here are some ideas in a less frequented area of Cumbria.

    Sizergh Castle 

    Sizergh Castle, Cumbria, England

    Sizergh Castle

    We passed close to the National Trust property Sizergh Castle on our journey to Cartmel, so this seemed like an excellent place to visit on our first day.

    Because our short break was in November, the house itself was closed (as were many other stately homes and gardens in the area).   But the gardens and parkland were open, as well as the excellent cafe with a great outdoor terrace.

    The gardens, which include a national collection of ferns, were absolutely splendid in their autumn colours.  Don’t be put off visiting because the house is closed – it is still a great place for a stroll.  Here are some pictures.

    Autumn in the gardens at Sizergh Castle, Cumbria, England

    Wonderful autumn leaves in the gardens

    Gardens in Sizergh Castle, Cumbria, England

    Path through the gardens including some of the fern collection

    Golden autumn maple leaves

    Beautiful autumn maple leaves

    Reflections in the lake at Sizergh Castle, Cumbria, England

    Reflections in the lake

    In addition to the gardens, there are several laid out trails in the surrounding parkland.  Unfortunately there had been recent rain when we visited, and the trails were boggy.  We didn’t want to arrive at our hotel covered in mud, so we saved the trails for another day.

    Sheep in a field

    Sheep in the parkland

    If you regularly visit National Trust properties, membership makes a lot of sense.  Follow the link above for full details.

    For more information about Sizergh Castle’s location, opening times, admission costs for non-members and facilities follow this link to Sizergh.



    Walney Island

    Lighthouse at South Walney Island, Cumbria, England

    Lighthouse on Walney Island

    It is a bit of a trek to get to Walney Island, which is right at the southernmost tip of Cumbria, connected to Barrow in Furness by a bridge.  If you like remote places, it is so worth the trip.  When you get to Ulverston choose the scenic coastal route to Barrow in Furness – the views are stunningly beautiful.

    We went to visit Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s South Walney Nature Reserve, which is an absolute gem.  To visit the reserve you follow a long, narrow track to the southern point of the island.  This takes you through a wonderful landscape of salt marsh and tidal creeks.  There are lots of gulls, ducks, herons and other wading birds, depending on the tide.  Speaking of the tide it is worth checking a tide table before you set off, because the track can occasionally be inundated in very high tides or bad weather.

    The reserve itself has a car park, a small visitor centre, and good toilets.  There are excellent tracks around the reserve, and a lot of very good hides.  You can walk for several miles if you wish, or just have gentle stroll.  Depending on where you are on the reserve there are fantastic views to the offshore wind farm, the Cumbrian hills, Piel Castle and across Morecambe Bay.

    The coastal habitats attract many birds, and the reserve is particularly known for its grey seal colony.  The seals are regularly seen around high tide.  We didn’t see any seals hauled out on the shore, but got great views of them playing in the sea as the tide went out.  We absolutely loved the reserve, and hope to return.

    South Walney Nature Reserve, Cumbria, England

    Wide open views at South Walney Nature Reserve

    South Walney Nature Reserve, Cumbria, England

    One of the hides and more distant Piel Castle on Piel Island

    Piel Castle on Piel Island, Cumbria, England

    View of Piel Castle on Piel Island

    South Walney Nature Reserve, Cumbria, England

    Great track along the coast

    South Walney Nature Reserve, Cumbria, England

    Great habitat for bird watching



    Leighton Moss via the Kent Viaduct

    Lake and reed beds at Leighton Moss, Lancashire, England

    Lake and reed beds at Leighton Moss, Lancashire, England

    We visited the RSPB reserve at Leighton Moss quite recently (see our post on Arnside).  But it is such a great reserve that we couldn’t stay so close and not visit again.

    A fantastic way to get to Leighton Moss from the southern Lake District, is to take the train over the Kent Viaduct.  You park at the station in Grange over Sands, and get a train to Silverdale.  From Silverdale Station, it is only 250m to the entrance to the reserve.

    Trains run regularly (approximately once an hour – timetables), and tickets only cost just over three pounds.  Make sure you ask for a return ticket because they are hardly any more expensive than singles.  The journey takes around 10 minutes (much less than driving), and is very scenic.

    Kent Estuary viaduct at Arnside, Cumbria, England

    Kent Estuary viaduct

    Leighton Moss is actually just outside the Cumbrian boundary, in Lancashire.  It is a wonderful reserve, with extensive reed beds, wetlands, and loads of wildlife.  There are also great visitor facilities including a cafe, shop, binocular sales, information, play areas for children and regular events.

    There is always something to see here.  The garden and woodland birds are incredibly tame, and there are regular sightings of otters, bearded tits and marsh harriers.  We had fantastic repeated views of the marsh harriers, and had a great day roaming around the excellent paths and hides.  After a short shower the afternoon light gave the reeds a lovely golden glow, and we saw the rainbow in the photo below.

    Sunlight after rain at Leighton Moss Nature Reserve, Lancashire, England

    Sunlight on the reeds and a rainbow after a shower at Leighton Moss

    Reeds and lake at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve, Lancashire, England

    View over one of the lakes

    Robin (Erithacus rubecula) in a tree

    One of the reserve’s exceptionally tame robins

    For more information about the reserve see Leighton Moss.  For RSPB membership see RSPB.

    Other Places to Visit in South Cumbria

    Follow the links for more places to visit (note some places have limited opening hours in winter months).

    Where to Stay

    We stayed in the charming Aynsome Manor hotel, which is situated just outside the lovely (but busy) village of Cartmel.  The hotel has an attractive restaurant room with a great view over the surrounding hills.  Breakfasts were excellent, and there was a daily changing menu with good choice for evening meals.  Our room was very comfortable, and the staff were great.  The hotel appeals more to older guests, but note that they do not have a lift.

    Other good places to stay would be Grange over Sands or Ulverston To search a vast range of accommodation options in Cumbria see booking.com.

    For a general guide book of places to visit in Cumbria we recommend the AA Guide

    For a detailed map of the area we recommend the OS Landranger



     

    The post A Short Break in South Cumbria – For Lovers of the Gentle Outdoors appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.


    Yorkshire Nature Reserves

    A review of some excellent nature reserves to visit in Yorkshire The post Yorkshire Nature Reserves appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

    Matt and I have recently been exploring nature reserves in the region around our Yorkshire home.  I can’t believe we have lived here for over 30 years, and explored so much, but never realised how many excellent reserves there are within easy reach of York.

    (This post contains some affiliate links which help us to fund the site – for more information please see the Disclosure.)

    Birch trees in the woods at Barlow Common nature reserve, Yorkshire, England

    Birch trees in the woods at Barlow Common

    Here are photos and information about our favourites.  My skills as a wildlife photographer are limited, but I hope the photos will give you an idea of how excellent these reserves are.  All are definitely worth a visit, whether you are a keen birdwatcher, a plant lover, or just enjoy a good walk surrounded by wonderful nature.  Now we have discovered them, we will be returning again and again.

    Greylag geese in flight at Staveley Nature Reserve, Yorkshire, England

    Gregylag geese flying over Staveley Nature Reserve

    If you are interested in membership of the RSPB or the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, just follow the links.  Hopefully I will add more reserves to this page in the near future, so do keep checking back.  And if you know of others worthy of inclusion, please do let us know!

     

    RSPB Reserves

    Blacktoft Sands

    Blacktoft Sands nature reserve, East Yorkshire, England

    Tidal wetlands, reed beds and waterfowl at Blacktoft Sands

    Blacktoft Sands is just within the Yorkshire county boundary.  It is situated on the south bank of the River Ouse, just before the Ouse joins the Humber, close to Goole and Scunthorpe.

    Blacktoft Sands nature reserve and a ship on the River Ouse, East Yorkshire, England

    Tidal habitat at Blacktoft Sands, and a ship passing on the higher River Ouse

    Blacktoft Sands is one of the largest tidal reed beds in the UK, and is a fantastic reserve.  There are six excellent hides, with great views over the tidal pools and reeds.   Good paths link the hides, and the distances between them are quite small.

    Reeds at Blacktoft Sands Nature Reserve, East Yorkshire, England

    Reeds at Blacktoft Sands Nature Reserve in late afternoon sun

    The bird life varies with the tides and seasons, but there is always something to see here.  And you get great close up views from the hides.

    On a recent visit we saw numerous black-tailed godwits, redshanks, wigeon, teal, herons, lapwings and many more.  There is a resident population of tree sparrows, which is easy to observe at a well-placed feeder.  We also got a great view of a marsh harrier, and were able to watch this lovely snipe feeding right in front of one of the hides.

    Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) in grass at Blacktoft Sands, East Yorkshire, England

    Snipe feeding in the grass in front of one of the hides

    Facilities at Blacktoft Sands

    • Car park and small visitor centre
    • Toilets including accessible toilets
    • Good paths and excellent hides (some with wheelchair access)
    • Assistant dogs only

    For more information, and charges for non-RSPB members, see Blacktoft Sands.

    Konik ponies grazing at Blacktoft Sand nature reserve, East Yorkshire, England

    Konik ponies – resident grazers at Blacktoft Sands

    Sunset at Blacktoft Sands Nature Reserve, East Yorkshire, with a flock of fieldfares

    Sunset at Blacktoft Sands Nature Reserve, with a flock of fieldfares in the sky

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    Fairburn Ings

    Fairburn Ings RSPB reserve, Yorkshire, England

    Lakes at Fairburn Ings with Fairburn village in the background

    Fairburn Ings is one of our favourite reserves.  The reserve contains a number of lakes and ponds on different levels, in what used to be a coal face.   The lakes are connected by good paths through beautiful woodland.  From higher ground there are great views over the reserve and the surrounding countryside.

    Path through the woods at Fairburn Ings, Yorkshire, England

    Path through the woods

    The paths are suitable for all seasons and abilities.  There are excellent hides and screens to watch the wildlife, and plenty of benches when you want a picnic.   The reserve is large enough to walk for several miles if you wish.

    River Aire seen from Fairburn Ings nature reserve, Yorkshire, England

    View of the River Aire from one of the paths on the reserve

    There is always wildlife to be seen here, particularly wildfowl and waders at the lakes.  On recent visits we saw great white egret, little egret, grey heron, curlew, wigeon, teal, shoveler, great crested grebe, little grebe, merganser, marsh harrier, buzzard, kestrel, and many others.  We also saw dragonflies, butterflies, and on one of our visits impressive numbers of ladybirds!

    Other species regularly recorded on the reserve include kingfishers, bitterns, sparrow hawks, red kites and otters – we will definitely keep returning!

    Birds on a lake at the RSPB Fairburn Ings reserve, Yorkshire, England

    Mute swans, coots and cormorants on one of the lakes

    Facilities at Fairburn Ings

    • Two car parks (one at the main entrance and one at the end of the reserve at Lin Dike).   There is a charge at the main entrance car park (free for RSPB members)
    • Visitor centre, shop and binocular hire
    • Refreshments with indoor seating and outdoor picnic areas
    • Toilets including accessible toilets, and many paths accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs
    • Excellent hides
    • Activities for children and special events
    • Dogs allowed

    For more information see Fairburn Ings.

    Fairburn Ings nature reserve, Yorkshire, England

    A colourful autumn day

    Bird hide in Fairburn Ings Nature Reserve, Yorkshire, England, surrounded by autumn foliage

    One of the hides at Fairburn Ings, nestled amongst splendid autumn colours

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    St Aidan’s Nature Park

    Reeds and wetlands at St Aidan's Nature Park, Yorkshire, England

    Reeds and wetlands at St Aidan’s Nature Park

    St Aidan’s Nature Park, like nearby Fairburn Ings, occupies a disused coal mining site close to the River Aire near Leeds.  As at Fairburn, there are numerous lakes and ponds connected by an extensive network of good paths.

    Mute swan and cygnets at St Aidan's Nature Park, Yorkshire, England

    Mute swan and cygnets

    However, despite the proximity to Fairburn, the two reserves are very different in character.  St Aidan’s is much more open and exposed, with big wide views over the wetlands and reed beds.

    Wetlands and reed beds at St Aidan's Nature Park, Yorkshire, England

    Wetlands and reed beds

    The wetlands are a hive of activity with various water birds, and there is always something to see.  You can walk for several miles here using the paths on the reserve and also the adjacent path beside the River Aire.

    Wetlands at St Aidan's Nature Park, Yorkshire, England

    Open views across the wetlands at St Aidan’s

    However be aware that there are no hides or shelters on the reserve, so it is very exposed.  If you plan to visit on a wet or windy day, go prepared!  The reserve is quite new, and hides are being planned for the future.

    There are some benches around the site that are suitable for picnic stops.

    Greylag geese flying over St Aidan's Nature Park, Yorkshire, England

    Greylag geese flying over the reserve

    Facilities at St Aidan’s

    • Car park (charge, but free for RSPB members)
    • Small visitor centre
    • Light refreshments
    • Toilets
    • Excellent paths

    For more information see St Aidan’s Nature Park.

    Sunset at St Aidan's nature reserve, Yorkshire, England

    Sunset at St Aidan’s

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    Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Reserves

    Barlow Common

    Barlow Common nature reserve is situated just south of Selby, off the A1041.  It is literally in the shadow of Drax Power Station, but it is a haven of peace and tranquility.

    Lake at Barlow Common, with the towers of Drax Power Station in the background, Yorkshire, England

    Lake at Barlow Common, with the towers of Drax Power Station in the background

    The reserve is glorious in autumn, as you can see from the photos.  On a recent visit we were treated to stunning colours, and a great display by an obliging buzzard.

    Autumn foliage at Barlow Common Nature Reserve, Yorkshire, England

    Beautiful autumn foliage

    Golden autumn foliage at Barlow Common, Yorkshire, England

    More fantastic autumn colours

    The reserve consists of lakes, meadows and beautiful mature woodland.  It has good paths to enable an easy circular walk with plenty of benches and a picnic area.

    Lake at Barlow Common Nature Reserve, Yorkshire, England

    One of the lakes at Barlow Common

    There are teasels everywhere.  We will definitely visit again in the spring and summer – this must be a fantastic place for bees and butterflies as well as birds.

    Teasels in autumn

    Teasels

    It is also a fantastic place to see fungi.  There are lots of tree branches and trunks which have been left to decay, and as well as being perfect for insects to breed these are covered in an impressive array of lichens and fungi.  If you visit, be sure to look out for them as you walk around the reserve.

     

    If you visit, be sure not to miss a second circular route through oak and birch woodland.  It is a short and very easy circuit through beautiful trees, and definitely worthwhile – see the map in the reserve to find the entrance.

    Birch tree trunks at Barlow Common Nature Reserve, Yorkshire, England

    Birch trees in the woods

    Facilities at Barlow Common

    • Small visitor centre (closed when we visited)
    • Toilets
    • Picnic area and benches
    • Good paths with carved marker posts

    For more information see Barlow Common.

    Buzzard (Buteo buteo)

    Buzzard soaring overhead at Barlow Common

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    North Cave Wetlands

    North Cave Wetlands, East Yorkshire, England

    View over a lake to one of the hides at North Cave Wetlands

    North Cave Wetlands is a fantastic reserve, which will become even better in the near future.  The reserve has been created from a former quarry.  A further 100 hectares, which is currently still in use as a quarry, is going to be added to the reserve within the next few years.  It will then be a huge area of deep and shallow lakes, meadow and paths.

    Map of North Cave Wetlands reserve, showing planned future developments, East Yorkshire, England

    Map of the reserve, showing planned developments

    When we visited in late summer we saw lots of dragonflies and butterflies, as well as many birds on the lakes.

    Common darter dragonfly (Sympetrum striolatum)

    Common darter dragonfly

    Amongst the birds were many little egrets on the islands, as can be seen in the photo below.

    Little egrets at North Cave Wetlands, East Yorkshire, England

    Little egrets on one of the islands

    In autumn the reserve is particularly beautiful, with fantastic colours in early morning or afternoon light.

    Pathway between hedges at North Cave Wetlands, East Yorkshire, England

    Pathway in North Cave Wetlands reserve

    Autumn at North Cave Wetlands nature reserve, East Yorkshire, England

    Colourful trees around the lake

    Facilities at North Cave Wetlands

    • Car park and mobile refreshments
    • Toilets
    • Information boards
    • Good paths
    • Excellent hides
    • Dogs not allowed on the reserve

    For more information see North Cave Wetlands.

    Lake at North Cave Wetlands, East Yorkshire, England

    Lake at North Cave Wetlands

    Bulrushes at North Cave Wetlands Nature Reserve, East Yorkshire, England

    Bulrushes

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    Spurn Point

    Approaching the lighthouse on Spurn Point, East Yorkshire, England

    Approaching the lighthouse on Spurn Point

    Spurn Point is a unique reserve, consisting of a vulnerable spit of land jutting out from the Holderness coast to the mouth of the Humber Estuary.  There used to be a road to the end of the point, but part of this was washed away in a tidal surge in December 2013.  Access is now on foot or cycle, and is not safe during very high tides, when part of the route may become inundated.

    Dunes and shore at Spurn Point, East Yorkshire, England

    View from the dunes at low tide

    It is a bit of a trek to get there, so if you plan to visit make sure you check the ‘Do not cross’ times on the Spurn Point website before you set off.

    From the car park you can walk as far as you wish along the point, and there are various side trails to explore.  It is around 4 miles to the lighthouse (which you can visit at certain times), and a little further to the tip of the point.  No matter how far you walk, it is always exhilerating being here, with wide open views on both  sides.

    Offshore wind farm seen from Spurn Point, East Yorkshire, England

    Offshore wind farm seen from the path

    There are good chances of seeing wildlife on the shore and in the dunes.  Spurn is well known for its migrating birds, and is also a great place to see various insects and mammals.  On a recent visit we saw a roe deer in the dunes, a seal just offshore, and this interesting convolvulus hawk moth caterpillar which was crossing the main path.

    Convolvulus hawk moth caterpillar

    Convolvulus hawk moth caterpillar

    Facilities at Spurn Point

    • Pay and display car park (free for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Members)
    • Excellent visitor centre with educational displays
    • Regular organised activities including Spurn Safaris in an all terrain vehicle
    • Toilets, including accessible toilets
    • Good cafe
    • Mainly good paths, but there is soft sand to cross at the wash-over zone, and note information about ‘Do not cross’ times on the YWT website below.
    • Hides, nature trails and history trails
    • Dogs not allowed on the reserve

    For more information see Spurn Point.

    Sandy shore at Spurn Point nature reserve, East Yorkshire, England

    Sandy shore at Spurn Point

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    Staveley Nature Reserve

    Herons at Staveley Nature Reserve, North Yorkshire, England

    Herons at Staveley Nature Reserve

     

    Staveley, situated close to Boroughbridge, is another lovely reserve to visit.  It is quite a large site, with wetlands, grassland and good paths and hides.

    Bird hide at Staveley Nature Reserve, North Yorkshire, England

    One of the hides at Staveley Nature Reserve

    Otters, barn owls and red kites are often seen here.  There are several orchid species flowering in summer, and lots of butterflies and dragonflies.  Even if you are not lucky enough to see the star species, there is always something to see on the various ponds and lakes.

    Birds on a lake at Staveley Nature Reserve, North Yorkshire, England

    Birds enjoying one of the peaceful lakes

    Cormorants at Staveley Nature Reserve, North Yorkshire, England

    Cormorants on the lake in winter

    On recent visits we enjoyed great views of herons, and large flocks of lapwings catching the light as they flocked above the lakes.

    Lapwings at Staveley Nature Reserve, North Yorkshire, England

    Lapwings flocking above the lake

    We also got fantastic views (but not photos!) of a beautiful barn owl, and have had several sightings of a marsh harrier.  It is definitely one of our favourite reserves, and we will continue to visit regularly.

    Staveley Nature Reserve, North Yorkshire, England

    View over a lake with Staveley church in the background

    Mute swan (Cygnus olor) at Staveley Nature Reserve, North Yorkshire, England

    Mute swan surrounded by golden reeds

    Facilities at Staveley

    • Car park just outside Staveley village (see YWT website below)
    • Unfortunately no toilets
    • Extensive network of paths
    • Good hides
    • Dogs allowed on leads

    For more information see Staveley Nature Reserve

    Staveley Nature Reserve

    Staveley Nature Reserve

    Lake at Staveley Nature Reserve, North Yorkshire, England

    View over one of the lakes

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    Wheldrake Ings

    Flooded meadows at Wheldrake Ings nature reserve, North Yorkshire, England

    Flooded meadows at Wheldrake Ings in afternoon light

    Wheldrake Ings is located just outside Wheldrake village close to the A19 between York and Selby.  This wonderful reserve changes throughout the year.  In spring and summer there are vast meadows full of wild flowers which attract insects and birds.  In late summer the meadows are cut for hay and then grazed.

    Sheep grazing at Wheldrake Ings nature reserve, North Yorkshire, England

    Sheep grazing in late autumn

     

    But the real change occurs in late autumn when the meadows begin to flood from the nearby River Derwent.  The reserve is part of the Lower Derwent Valley, and in winter the whole area is used by literally thousands of ducks, geese and waders.  These in turn attract predators like peregrines and marsh harriers.

    A raised path through the reserve and good hides make it possible to view the birds, though be aware that the path can sometimes get muddy in wet weather.  In times of very high flooding the path will be inaccessible.

    Seasonal flooding at Wheldrake Ings nature reserve, North Yorkshire, England

    Start of the floods

    Flooded meadow and bird hide at Wheldrake Ings, North Yorkshire, England

    View over flood water with the new Swantail Hide in the background

    Bird hide in Wheldrake Ings Nature Reserve, North Yorkshire, England

    One of the excellent hides on the reserve

     

    Wheldrake Ings also has one of the highest densities of barn owls in Europe.  It is a great place to visit at dusk when the chances of spotting one are high.  We have also heard tawny owls calling here – a wonderful sound to hear just after dark!

    Another rather eerie sound on the reserve (especially if it is dark) is the creaking of an old wind pump.  We got a bit of shock one visit when a breeze caused it to suddenly start turning – fortunately we soon realised where the sound was coming from!

    Old wind pump at Wheldrake Ings Nature Reserve, North Yorkshire, England

    Old wind pump

     

    Facilities at Wheldrake Ings

    • Small car park at the entrance to the reserve, and another at the adjacent Natural England Lower Derwent Valley site (linked by a waterside footpath)
    • Unfortunately no toilets
    • Raised path and duckboards (usually fine, but can get muddy after rain and be inaccessible in major floods)
    • Three very good hides
    • Dogs not permitted

    For more information see Wheldrake Ings.

    Mute swan cygnet (Cygnus olor

    Mute swan cygnet

    Winter light at Wheldrake Ings nature reserve, North Yorkshire, England

    Winter light

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    I will be adding more reserves to this list in the future, so please do keep checking back!

    For reserves and country parks on both sides of the Humber Bridge, please see our post Humber Bridge.

    To join the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust or the RSPB, follow the links.

    If you would like to stay in Yorkshire, you can search for accommodation using this link to booking.com.

    For more ideas for places to visit in Yorkshire we recommend the Rough Guide to Yorkshire.

    And just a quick final request – we are always saddened at how much litter we see, even on nature reserves.  PLEASE, PLEASE – take your litter home!



    Please remember that this site is based purely on our own experiences – therefore kindly note the Disclaimer.

    Golden reed seed heads at Staveley Nature Reserve, North Yorkshire, England

    Reeds in golden light at Staveley Nature Reserve

    The post Yorkshire Nature Reserves appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.


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