Side Street Style

Side Street Style

Side Street Style

Family travel and lifestyle blog

21/02/2019

A night at St Briavels Castle YHA, Wye Valley

St Briavels YHA


I think staying in a castle has been a dream for many but usually comes with a high price tag so when I heard about St Briavels, a castle in the Wye Valley that is now run by YHA (Youth Hostel Association) I had to know more. We tried to stay at St Briavels during the summer last year but it was fully booked early on so waited until a quieter time of the year for a quick little getaway as luckily the Wye Valley is only around an hour from Cardiff. 

St Briavels Castle is over 800 years old and a Grade 1 listed ancient monument set in the beautiful Wye Valley with plenty to see and do on it's doorstep and is run as a Youth Hostel all year round. There are plenty of accommodation options from Private rooms which is what we opted for to larger dorm rooms for groups. It is also very family orientated with the Castle chapel being used as a family lounge with a dressing up box, toys, books and board games. Despite being in an ancient building there is also Wifi available in the social spaces although not the bedrooms.  


Night in a castle


Archery


When we arrived on the Sunday it happened to be a Heritage Open Day held and meant they had a few extra things on offer such as Archery which my eldest really enjoyed and added that extra special touch to the stay. After an easy check in we explored the castle and grounds including the Prison room complete with 16th & 17th century graffiti (you can stay in this room too) as well as the Banqueting hall with it's period features and tapestries on the wall. Their is also a lovely outdoor courtyard space and walled garden where kids can safely run around and in summer you could enjoy a nice drink from the cafe on site. 

As we got such a good deal on our room as we booked off peak we decided to also opt for the evening supper club which is a two course meal for £9.95. The supper club takes place in the Old Stables which is a lovely space and has the medieval vibe with exposed beams and a stain glass inspired mural. Before heading down for supper the kids of course made a stop at the dress up box and dressed head to toe in knight paraphernalia.  The Supper club consisted of a five bean chilli which was delicious and followed up with brownie and cream.  


Dressing up as a knight

St Briavels


After supper we headed to the lounge for a board game and then headed to bed, the room was configured with a standard bunk bed and then a double bed with single bunk above, there was also plenty of storage and wash basins plus it had beautiful windows looking across the gardens.  

In the morning we got up pretty bright and early and headed down for breakfast with the only minor issue being that we had paid for a hot breakfast and no one had made a note of it so it took around 45mins to make although there was plenty of cereal, pastries and toast to keep us going. 

As the weather was a big improvement from the day before and lovely and sunny we decided to take a little stroll around St Briavels which has gorgeous chocolate box cottages and cute pubs before decided to head to Tintern Abbey which is one of our favourite Cadw spots. 


Two knights



For those who have never visited Tintern Abbey it's the best-preserved medieval abbey in Wales dating from the 13th century and it really is quite a breath taking drive as you come through the Wye Valley and first set eyes on it standing next to the River Wye and really is worth a visit and if you have time you can also make a stop at Chepstow Castle. 

There is also a really nice pub called The Anchor Inn right next to the Abbey which offers up traditional pub meals as well as lighter bites and has a great beer garden with a modern play area for kids an offers up great views of the Abbey and River and we usually always end up having a coffee (or a pint) here.


Wye Valley

Wye Valley


If your thinking about a stay at St Briavels I would recommend booking in advance as it's one of the most popular YHA locations due to it's unique accommodation. I cannot remember what we paid but it was around the £65 for a family room which is excellent value. I do want to add that this is not a sponsored post or in anyway affiliated with YHA and is an honest review of a stay I booked and paid for in full. 


19/02/2019

More than Veg with Little Freddie





As some of you may know I am working with the modern thinking small organic baby and toddler food company that is Little Freddie, a collaboration I am really proud to be apart of as I feel they are unique to other products on the market. The major reason is taking on board the need to have fully recyclable food pouches and I have talked before about Little Freddies Big Green Plan in which you are provided a recycling bag with any purchase from their website with free postage to send the pouches back to be fully recycled. They also use only the best ingredients and I can feel at ease with my toddler asks for a snack when we are out and about and I can provide him a healthy and well balanced smoothie or meal pouch on the go with no compromise on health as it's all organic and free from additives and preservatives.




This post is all about the two new exciting flavours called "More Than Veg" which is not only packed with veggies but also incorporates the powers of seeds and pulses and both happen to be vegan but still offer an excellent source of protein and fibre. Both pouches have been a hit with my toddler and personally I just love the flavour combinations as they are the type of flavours I would enjoy as an adult which is another thing I really like about Little Freddie, they don't "dumb" down the food for children's palettes but rather introduce them to as many exciting flavours and ingredients as possible and broadening their tastes.

The More than Veg pouches are the nourishing Butternut Squash, Red Lentils and Coconut with a dash of tomatoes and the second pouch is the wholesome Carrot, Chickpeas and Pumpkin seed butter and I know I would never think of adding Pumpkin seed butter to my toddlers meals so it's been fantastic to see him gobble these down and it's made me want to experiment more with our own meals.

I am constantly impressed with what Little Freddie keeps coming up with and their snacks and pouches are forward thinking and a real life saver for modern parents on the go that deeply care about their children's nutritional needs and I am really looking forward to whats next



*I am currently working as an Ambassador with Little Freddie and this is a sponsored post 

13/02/2019

Tips on beating the winter blues


winter blues

*Written in Collaboration with BetterHelp, sharing my story of SAD 

I know that in general I feel more positive, energetic and focused during the warmer months while the opposite can be said for the start of the year as I come off Christmas and New Years exhausted from the stress of it all. My energy levels take a dive and my normal active and out-going self starts to battle with lethargy and the shorter days seem to get to me, the clouds seem to hang lower and feel heavier. Having grown up in the southern hemisphere this is all still fairly new to me and catches me unawares year after year and I find I have to plan lots of activities during the colder months to break the monotony of it all before spring really sets in.

Having gone through more than a few cycles of this, pretty much every year since moving to the UK, I know that the reduced amount of sunlight during these months affect me despite even when I make sure to get out as much as possible. The thing is the "Winter Blues" isn't a myth and actually affects a lot of people and it's important to be aware of it and make sure it doesn't develop into SAD or otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.


loneliness


For those who don't know what SAD is here are the main symptoms

1. Feeling lethargic and more sleepy during the day
2. Being less active than normal
3. Finding it difficult to concentrate
4. General Low mood and feelings of low self-esteem
5. Feeling irritable, stressed or anxious
6. Being less sociable

These are just a few of the symptoms and for some they only arise during the winter months and often people start to see them improve in the spring. SAD however can vary from person to person and while some just find it a bit irritating like I do, for others it can be quite severe and impact their day to day life.

The good news is that there are a few simple ways to break this cycle without any use of medication (although of course if you are really struggling it is always best to consult your GP). Here are a few natural ways to kick those winter blues back to where they came from

1. Active Lifestyle - if you are susceptible to mood changes over the winter months it's really important try and lead a healthy and active life as getting out in the natural sunlight as well as exercising regularly both have real positive effects and help stress levels and raise natural serotonin. Even if you just set yourself the task of taking a half hour walk every day for 30 days you will start to see the difference.

2. SAD Light Therapy - there are a variety of SAD lamps available particularly for those who suffer with seasonal affective disorder and is a form of light therapy which mimics natural outdoor light helping to realise those feel good hormones and aim to raise your mood and help with sleep. While these lights are not cheap and start at around £40 you can use them year after year and is a good investment. You can see some impartial tips on buying a SAD light here.

3. Talk it out - it's really important to talk about mental health because being open and talking about things that are bothering you or your struggling to deal with is the first step to taking back control and is a positive approach. You will be surprised how many people will be able to help even if it's just watching the kids for a few hours, a coffee and chat or a shoulder to moan (or cry) on. You can talk to your GP about counselling although waiting lists can be long, another option it talking to a qualified therapist any time of the day with Betterhelp which could be a good option for those who work and have a family and find it hard to schedule time to talk to someone that works for their lifestyle.


seasonal affective disorder


Another (slightly more pricey) option to banish those winter blues is to head off to a warmer climate for a week or two on a break away as this is something to look forward too, even if just a temporary measure. Check out my post on the best places for winter sunshine here.

Also if you are concerned about SAD then it's worth checking out the NHS website for more information and there is also a fantastic Cardiff based Charity called Heads above the Waves which is about supporting those affected by depression and promoting positive and creative ways of dealing with the bad days.


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