Exploring Ironbridge with the YHA


Crossing the Ironbridge

This post is part of a campaign with YHA

As you may already know I am passionate about sharing all the hidden gems and beautiful places the UK has on offer with my boys and we love a good weekend break to somewhere new that we have yet to explore. The thing is, like most families, we have a small budget so getting a good location with a family room and decent facilities that don't cost an arm and a leg can be hard. Saying that the YHA has a fantastic network right across the UK, including some really good glamping pods and bell tents for an extra special stay.

As a family we have used YHA before, in fact I wrote about our night at St Briavels Castle last year (which cost us a total of £50 for the night!) and before having kids I spent time travelling across Europe working in Youth Hostels, a time filled with happy and positive travel experiences. The YHA is the perfect option for families who want good facilities and great locations but at a budget-friendly price, making short trips doable any time of the year, including the summer peak.

So I was really excited to collaborate with YHA this summer and spend a few days in Ironbridge, Shropshire, discovering this heritage-rich town and  "birthplace of the industrial revolution" and home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We stayed at the YHA Ironbridge Coalport which is one of the original factory buildings of the Coalport China Works and wow what a beautiful and unique building

YHA Ironbridge Coalport

Family friendly YHA

Old canal Ironbridge

So as a quick rundown of the facilities we had on hand at YHA Ironbridge Coalport

1. The location - was perfect, right opposite the Coalport China Works and adjacent to a Bike Hire shop as there is plenty of cycle paths right on the doorstep of the YHA, you can also walk to Bliss Hill Victorian Village along the Silkin Way or a short stroll along the old canal to the Tar Tunnels. Ironbridge itself is only a short drive away.

2. Accommodation - there are plenty of options from single rooms to ones that have seven beds. We had a comfortable and spacious family room which consisted of two bunks and sink and while it wasn't en-suit it was literally about 6 footsteps away from the toilet and shower facilities. There is also fast Free Wifi in the common spaces and most bedrooms.

3. Hostel - The YHA has a large communal lounge with plenty of chairs and sofas as well as fast wifi and TV, next to the lounge was a games room which was very popular with my boys and other children and pre-teens staying at the hostel. The playroom had puzzles, toys and games as well as  Snooker table.

4. Food and Drink - YHA Coalport has a Cafe onsite which offers Breakfast, lunch and Supper clubs as well as a licensed bar with plenty of places to sit and relax inside and out, after a long day of exploring. We ate at the Cafe twice during our stay and the menu is simple but well balanced with salads, baked potatoes and stonebaked pizza as well as options for the kids, all at very reasonable prices. With regards to breakfast, if you book online you save 15% and offers up hot and cold options as well as pastries, coffee, cereals and fruit - a great way to start the day. If you would prefer to go self-catering, like many YHA's Coalport has a large and fully equipped self-catering kitchen and dining room.  There are also 3 quaint country pubs all within a few minutes walk of the YHA.

Ironbridge old canal

Baked potato

So why should Ironbridge be on your list of places to visit with kids? Here are 5 reasons why it's the perfect place for a weekend break but before I share that I would like to point out there are 10 award-winning attractions and museums that makeup part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust and I would recommend getting a family passport so you can visit all of them - it is a bit pricey but lasts for a year and gives you access for all 10 attractions. 

1. The Ironbridge - first up on the list, of course, has to be a visit to the worlds first Ironbridge which stands in the centre of the town and is free to cross. First opened in 1781, this beautiful cast iron bridge is part of the UNESCO Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site and really can't be missed. On the one side of the bridge is the Tollhouse Museum (additional charges) as well as a free picnic area in a woodland a short walk, which also joins up with the South Telford Heritage Trail. My boys loved crossing the bridge and taking in the beautiful views across the River Severn

Ironbridge Telford

Ironbridge River Severn

2. Blists Hill Victorian Village - part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (covered by a museum pass). We decided to walk the mile from our YHA to Blists Hill which follows a national cycle path and I would recommend as it was a nice peaceful way to start the day. Blists Hill is one of those places you could spend the best part of a day at and it's so interesting as well as educational. You step back into a fully recreated Victorian Town with sweet shop and working pub to boot. You get to explore authentic shops, cottages, workshops and factories. We loved seeing all the victorian remedies in the pharmacy and watching the Ironmaster create moulds in the foundry as well as seeing the steam engine in action and the stable boys preparing the workhorses.

Blists Hill Victorian Village

Blists Hill Victorian Village

Blists Hill Victorian Village

3. Enginuity - another very popular attraction for children and right next to Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron. Enginutiy is a science-based museum that is very hands-on and encourages kids to try the interactive exhibits and challenges such as building a bridge or making a home strong enough to withstand an earthquake or building a dam in the water play station. There is also has a small soft play area for toddlers and outside next to Enginuity is a free comic book exhibition.

Enginutiy Ironbridge

Sinclair C5

4. Explore by foot & bike - as I said the YHA is right next to a Bike hire store and I wish we had known this in advance as we would of loved to have explored one of the many national cycle routes in Ironbridge. We have now put this on our bucketlist as we hope to revisit the area in the next year and I can honestly say it's the perfect place for a family biking adventure. We did walk part of the Silkin Way from the YHA to Blist Hill Victorian Village and it was a really lovely and a nice way for families to connect with nature, get outdoors and the trails and routes are ofcourse completely free.


Silkin Way Ironbridge

5. RAF Cosford Museum - just under a 20-minute drive from YHA Ironbridge Coalport and hands down one of the best free museums we have been to in a long time. RAF Cosford houses one of the largest collections of aircraft in the UK as is a truly fascinating museum and great for all ages with interactive exhibitions including a virtual reality zone (£5) as well as being able to get close up to different planes and aircraft.

RAF airplane

RAF airplane

Summer holidays can, of course, be very expensive and we all want our children to look back with fond memories which is why the YHA is perfect for families with rooms starting from as low as £35 over the summer and in some of the best locations in the UK. If you're in need of a little bit more inspiration then check out some of their hostels on the coast, countryside, mountains and urban locations. We really enjoyed our time in Ironbridge and are planning a glamping break at one of the YHA later this month and cannot wait, we highly recommend the YHA for all your budget-friendly family adventures.

YHA Ironbridge

This post is part of a campaign with YHA, as part of that our stay was included, although we paid for all our food and activities. Our review is 100% honest. 
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A taste of Cuba at Gabeto, Camden with Red Letter Days




This post is part of an unpaid review with Red Letter Days

One of my favourite places in London is Camden and even though I don't spend as much time there as I did in my youth when the opportunity arises I take it as it's always a nice jaunt walking around the canals, searching for some vintage clothing pieces, taking in some music and eating good food. The one great thing about living in Cardiff is London is only a short 2hr train ride away, making day trips doable and I recently headed to the Capital for a few child-free hours and had the chance to try out one of the many foodie experiences Red Letter Days offer.

Red Letter Days have a huge array of options from upmarket restaurants, champagne experiences to beer tastings and trying out new local delights but when I came across Gabeto in Camden with it's Cuban inspired menu and daily salsa dancing, I knew that was the place I wanted to spend an hour or two savouring the atmosphere over a cocktail or two.

Gabeto Cantina

Gabeto Camden

 The Gabeto Cantina is located in the heart of Camden in the market stables, set inside a victorian stable block with exposed brickwork, open plan kitchen, large canvas paintings and a relaxed al-fresco garden, perfect for summer evenings.

The Red Letter Days experience included a three-course meal with a cocktail for two for £34 which is incredibly reasonable and you couldn't find anywhere else in London for a 3-course meal with a cocktail at £17 a person! I would like to point out that with this deal you can't order off the main menu but a much smaller set menu which didn't quite have the variation I was hoping for but was still well put together with a Veggie option, meat option and fish option for both the starters and main.

Mojito cocktail

Cuban food

For the cocktail, I opted for the classic Mojito and for the starter it was spicey feta, aubergine and spring onion salsa style dish with was absolutely delicious. During the meal, the salsa dancing started and it seems like a very popular and it created a really vibrant atmosphere and certainly adds some fun entertainment for diners.  

The freshly cooked dishes were all well balanced, spicey and with that Cuban flair and the real cherry on top was the Gabeto Mess made up of meringue, strawberries, chantilly and toffee sauce. The great thing about eating in Camden is once your done there are loads of places to move onto to, even if like me your having a more mellow evening, saying that I still enjoyed a cider at Dingwalls which looks onto the canal. 

Would I recommend Gabeto?

Firstly the Red Letter Day food experience is excellent value as you get a lot for £34 - a three-course meal with a cocktail. The dishes were all freshly cooked to order, well balanced and I finished every plate. The atmosphere, interior and location were all great for a casual meal and drink with a vibrant Cuban twist and being right in the heart of Camden market is a real treat.

Saying that the set menu is limited with only 3 choices for each the starter, main and dessert - but still, the three options are well thought out. The service was a little hit and miss although the food came out promptly and overall we had a really good time and would recommend Gabeto if you're in Camden. The experience is great for a casual date night, celebration or just a bit of a foodie treat. 

Eton Mess


My meal at Gabeto was complimentary thanks to Red Letter Days but my review is 100% honest 
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Tips on getting the best winter holiday deal now


kids in snow

I know we are in the height of summer but if your hoping to hit up the slopes this coming winter season now is the time to start thinking ahead and looking at what deals are about now because before you know it things will start to book up and prices will be on the increase. Planning in advance can have some serious positives when it comes to getting a good deal as we all know how expensive an alpine adventure can be and for many it's a once in a lifetime kind of trip.

Whether you are planning to snowboard or ski on a solo adventure, as a couple or as a family now is the time to start looking as travel companies are already starting to advertise deals with many offering great deals such as free lift passes, discounts and low deposits. I've been lucky to go on a ski holiday with my parents when I was younger to Austria and then again on a snowboarding trip during my University days to Tignes in France and it's something I would love to share with my kids but it's simply a trip I've not yet been able to organise usually down to leaving it too late in the season to organise so I am trying to be more on top of things this year.

kids skiiing

If you need to be convinced at all as to why a winter ski holiday is worth it here are a few reasons why you should consider one

1. There is something for everyone - while I am naturally very outgoing and love to try new sports and activities, my mother, on the other hand, is not. So when they took my brother and I on a ski holiday my mother instead explored the local village and town, enjoying the local food and culture and having some much-needed relaxation time while we hit the slopes.

2. Get into Nature and the Great outdoors - a holiday in the mountains is such a fantastic opportunity to spend a whole week connected to nature, in the fresh air, away from screens, doing something that is fun and active. Even toddlers can learn how to ski as part of a ski school so it's great for an active family-friendly holiday.

3. Learn a new skill - learning how to ski or snowboard is such a fantastic skill and one you can bring home with you and carry on as most cities in the UK have either a dry slope or indoor slope near them. In fact I went dry slope snowboarding at Cardiff Ski Centre a few months back and had a blast. This means if you kids really enjoy themselves they can come home and continue to improve on their skills.

4. Great for Fitness and Wellbeing - Skiing and Snowboarding is great for cardiovascular fitness and can get that feel-good endorphin going from a day out on the slopes. Being in the fresh air is also proven to have positive effects on your overall wellbeing and can be a great way to de-stress, especially if you have a hectic and manic lifestyle.

girl snowboarding

A ski or snowboard holiday is also one that you simply won't forget and I look back fondly on my childhood as it being on the highlights when it comes to holidays and adventures we had. There is something truly magical about staying in the mountains, playing in the snow and spending time on the slopes, no matter what your skill level. If your looking for a few more reasons to go then check my other blog post on why a Ski holiday should be on your radar.

So when it comes to booking a family ski holiday here are some great tips to making the whole process a whole lot easier

1. Book in Advance - not only can you save money but this will also reduce stress. Research before you go, know your dates, what to expect and cost means you can plan as much in advance as possible. You can also take advantage of specials such as free lift passes or early-bird discount off your booking. Also going with a reputable company to find a cheap ski deal to the Alps, one that creates really good family packages is very important and means that you will be looked after during the whole holiday.

2. Choose a Family-Friendly Ski Resort and Hotel - it's really important to do as much research beforehand as possible to make sure the resort and hotel you choose is family-friendly and has all the facilities you need such as nursery slopes, child-free restaurants and things like high chairs.

3. Get kitted out frugally - booking a ski holiday in advance means you can hunt for some good winter clothing bargains early. Asking around with friends who have kids of a similar age may have some ski goggles and winter clothing you can borrow. Also, retailers such as Aldi and Lidl do some really good quality winter clothing in the run-up to winter. Another option is going to ebay for good quality second gear or you can simply hire clothing at the resort.

4. Do consider All-Inclusive - now I normally would never say this, in fact, my kids and I have never done an all-inclusive holiday as I being the control-freak I am, like to plan and book everything individually. But when it comes to a ski holiday having some of the finer details sorted beforehand can make for a much more stress-free holiday. Consider having a package with ski passes, lessons, accommodation all included - you can usually opt for self-catering, full or half board which still gives you some freedom.

running in snow

You can also keep costs down by opting for lesser-known ski destinations such as Slovenia and Bulgaria which are great for families, some may not have as many advanced runs but they all offer more than enough for a family ski trip or those returning to the slopes are a few years break.

If a Ski holiday really is out of reach this year then why not consider a weekend to one of the indoor ski slopes in the UK, that have real snow and even activities such as tobogganing and snowmen building, plus you can visit all year round.

snow fun

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A beach clean up with Tootsa & Surfers Against Sewage



Tootsa kids clothes

We love spending as much time at the beach as possible, having grown up surfing in South Africa the beach and ocean hold's a really special place to me and somewhere I love to share with my kids. My children are very aware of how important is it to keep the ocean clean and free from plastic so every time we head to the beach we take a rubbish bag with us and do a mini beach clean which is a surprisingly fun activity with young children. Although if your kids are anything like mine they might get a little competitive about who picks up the most rubbish and litter.

One of our favourite charities and one I became really aware of during my student days in Falmouth, Cornwall is Surfers against Sewage, a marine conservation charity which is helping to tackle plastic pollution and protecting the UK's coastlines for all to enjoy have just paired up with one of my favourite clothing companies that is Tootsa which focuses on unisex sustainable clothes for children and adults. Together that have made beautiful limited edition organic t-shirts and jumpers with the profits being donated to Surfers Against Sewage and they kindly set us these beautiful jumpers to help share the message of keeping our beaches clean.

Beach clean Wales

Tootsa clothing

Why do a #MiniBeachClean?

While Surfers Against Sewage do organise beach clean events they also encourage those to organise their own #MiniBeachClean - whether, with friends or just you and your kids, every action we take no matter how big or small makes a difference and is a small victory against plastic ending up in the ocean. Plus as I've said before it's a great feel-good activity for the school holidays and kids love it.

Just a few tips on a beach clean with kids

1. Always supervise young children
2. Be aware of the tide
3. Never pick up Syringes, needles or broken glass
4. Focus on plastic waste - do not attempt to clean up things like used coal & bbq waste
5. Pack a basic first-aid kit - just in case anyone gets cut it's worth packing plasters and anti-septic
6. Anti-bacterial gel and gloves - if you're planning a big beach clean up then it may be worth packing gloves but at minimum some anti-bacterial gel or spray to keep your hands clean.

beach clean up

Surfers against sewage

This past week we wanted to go somewhere a little bit quieter, away from the maddening crowds as it gets so busy whenever the weather is good in Wales. Luckily some friends pointed us in the direction of a quiet cove near Barry and it made for the perfect base for an evening on the beach after school with a picnic packed. I was hoping because it was much quieter (only a handful on the beach on a beautiful Friday evening) that there wouldn't be that much plastic and litter as there are bins near the path to the beach and I always like to think positively and that people will work those 5 metres to the bin - however we are often proved wrong. During our beach clean up we found an array of plastic and rubbish from bottles to bouncy balls, wrappers, single-use utensils, polystyrene as well as coming across a lot of cigarette ends (a beach is not a big ashtray!), as well as clothing, just left!

In fact just before we set up our beach towel and make a little base for ourselves the couple that had been sitting to our right got up and left leaving a fizzy drink bottle stuck in the sand and multiple packets of crisps and chocolate - now those wrappers would directly go into the ocean at high tide - I just don't get it, we only have one planet and if everyone was a little bit more responsible things would be a whole lot better.

tootsa jumper

surfers against sewage

By the end of the evening, we had pretty much filled a whole bag which for a quiet beach is rather alarming but whatever we can do, even if it's just picking up a can on the way to the bin is a small victory. We also, of course, enjoyed the simple pleasures of spending a few hours on the beach, running around in the sand and in and out of the water as well as rock pooling (we actually stay there until 10pm - yes I know way past their bedtime but warm evenings like these are a bit of a rarity & I believe in making memories over strict routine). A simple visit to the beach really does offer hours of simple screen free time and what I loved about this cove was there wasnt even a shop nearby so we took a simple picnic, plenty of water and had a wonderful evening.

Welsh coastline

Welsh beaches

*I have kindly gifted the Tootsa jumpers. Words and views are 100% my own. 

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5 Family Friendly events in Cardiff this summer



family time

There are plenty of fantastic things going on in the Welsh Capital city this summer, almost to the point that one could easily get overwhelmed with the choice of what to do but I thought I would share 5 events that are particularly great for families and offer something for both children and their parents. So if you're looking for something a bit special that provides an action-packed day out do check out these great events.

Cardiff Pride

1. Pride Cymru's Big Weekend
   August 23-25th

I'm listing this first because I think is so important to teach children about equality and diversity from a young age and first hand and there is nothing more positive than Pride which takes places over an August bank holiday and promises to be 3 days of fun, love and plenty to keep all ages entertain. This year there are going to be 4 stages, street food, community market, funfair rides and a dedicated family area which will include things like face painting and making flags and many more activities.
Under 5's go free, Under 14's are £3 and over 14 tickets start at £7.50

2. Avengers Station, St Davids 2

If you or your kids are fans of the Avengers then the Avengers Station in St Davids 2 really can't be missed. S.T.A.T.I.O.N is an acronym for Science Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network and invites guests to train up to become apart of the Marvel universe in a fun and interactive way. Highlights include testing your worthiness by attempting to lift Thor's hammer & getting up close to Thor's outfits or sitting on Captain America's motorbike, feeling the rage of The Hulk or morph into Ironman as part of one of their digital games. My two boys loved the exhibition and it was a real treat to see their faces light up, you can also spend a decent amount of time and there are currently discounted tickets on Groupon and LivingSocial. *Disclosure I was given tickets to review Avengers station

Captain America

3. Cardiff Bay Beach
    20th July - 1st September

The Capital FM Cardiff Bay Beach has become somewhat of a fixture in the city for the past few years and is always a hit with families. It offers six weeks of family entertainment and this year the Bay Beach will feature a child-friendly sandy beach, shallow water play area, free live entertainment and a variety of rides and games including a giant Ferris wheel. The Cardiff bay beach also offers some great views across the bay and plenty of street food will be on offer. The Beach is free to enter although some of the rides/activities with have additional charges.

Live Entertainment

4. Cardiff Aqua Park
    Open until 9th September

If your kids love swimming, action, slides and trying something new then the Cardiff Aqua Park is certainly one of check out and it's also near the Cardiff Bay Beach meaning you're guaranteed to have a fun day out. The floating inflatable Aqua Park has climbing walls, trampolines, slides, balance bars and more and is perfect for anyone over 8yrs and water confident and able to swim 25 meters.

5. Tournament of the Knights, Cardiff Castle
    17th - 18th August

If your kids love Knights, castles and action then the Tournament of the Knights needs to go on your summer bucket list and witness valiant knights and brave squires battle it out in medieval combat to be titled champion in the Tournament of Knights. There will also be have-a-go archery, medieval games, music from minstrels de Clare and circus skills.

Warwick Castle

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5 ways to declutter & refresh your kitchen



simple kitchen

If you keep up with current trends you may have already heard about the fantastic positive effects of minimalising our clutter and getting rid of anything we don't need or use while at the same time creating more space and a calmer living environment, I've written a post about how it can improve your life. The kitchen is a room that all of the family use and because of this can attract a lot of clutter and mess which adds to the chaos, especially at meals times. I am still in process of getting my kitchen to exactly how I want it but it's not far off and I thought I would a few tips on keeping your kitchen feel more spacious, organised and a place to enjoy good food or have a quiet moment rather than chaos.

 1. Firstly reduce what you have

It's so easy to hold onto things we don't use or accumulate gadgets that never see the light of day, so it's worth having a really good sort out as that alone could free up a lot of storage and surface space. You could also make a little bit of extra money buy popping unused kitchen gadgets on eBay or gumtree.

2. Everything should have a home

Making sure everything has a clear home within the kitchen is key to keeping the space clutter-free and organised and your able to clearly see what space you are working with and if there is anything else you can get rid of or re-arrange to create a better flow. Also getting everyone on board and letting them know where the "right" place is for each item will help keep you all feel more organised.

simple kitchen

3. Utilised storage space

Nearly all kitchens have storage cupboards but it's making those storage cupboards work efficiently, firstly it's a good idea every couple of months taking everything out and having a good sort through, also packing away items you only use on occasion so they don't take up valuable surface space is always a good idea.

4. Refresh your kitchen Units

Kitchens can become outdated and dark drab units can make the room feel smaller while lighter ones create a sense of space, but replacing a whole kitchen unit can be an expensive thing to do however there is an easier and cheaper way to brighten up your kitchen. Firstly a new coat of paint on the walls can do wonders for any room, another option is to replace the kitchen doors which can is a great way to refresh your units without a complete overhaul.

5. Bins and recycling

A lot of clutter comes down to not having the right place to dispose of it and as we are becoming more plastic conscious than ever, making sure we have the right bins and do our recycling is key. You should have a bin for general waste, a separate one for food waste and also ones for recycling paper and glass. Getting kids involved with recycling and disposing of waste is a really good idea and can also serve as an educational exercise. You can even have your bins hidden from view and Kitchen Warehouse have some very stylish pull out soft closing bins which are perfect for any minimalist inspired home.

As we live in an increasingly busy and manic world we are also becoming more aware that clutter can be a direct contributor towards stress so making an effort to have a more streamlined home, get rid of unnecessary things can have a real positive effect on our overall wellbeing.

declutter kitchen

*Collaboration Post 
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A visit to Caldicot Castle




Living in Wales has a lot of positives, one being that there are 600 castles to explore and one we have been meaning to visit for years is Caldicot Castle, a medieval castle in Monmouthshire, which is set in a beautiful country park. The fantastic thing about Caldicot is that it's free and you can spend a good half a day exploring the castle grounds and country park, although it's not open all year round so you do need to check the website before setting off.

There is also plenty of free parking on site and lots of picnic beaches so this is perfect for a fun-filled frugal family day out and one to keep in mind over the summer.

Castle Gatehouse


As you walk through the castle gates you come into a beautiful courtyard with plenty of space for kids to run around overlooked by crumbling ivy-covered towers and an outdoor chess set and stocks which are popular with kids. Not all of the ruins are open all the time but you can go inside the gatehouse, one of the tower platforms and into what would be the dining room and a place where people can get married and host receptions.

Caldicot Castle


There is also a small but perfectly formed rose garden which was in full bloom when we visited at the end of last month and really nice to have a stroll through. I found the whole place fascinating and you is a great place to spend a few hours. There is also a sweet tea house with coffee and cake on site. 
On various weekends throughout the summer, they hold events such as "Have a go Archery" and again these activities are very budget-friendly with the archery being around £1.50 to try out.

Once you are done with the castle the country park offers 55 acres of meadows and woodland to explore and there is a nice playground suitable for toddlers and young children, we spent a good hour just enjoying the lovely surroundings and if your looking for a free and educational place to explore over the summer I recommend a visit to Caldicot Castle and country park.


* I have no affiliation with Caldicot Castle

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