cottages4you’s Summer Entertainment Guide

Whether you’re on a proper holiday, or perhaps planning a few days away before the kids go back to school, there is so much to enjoy right across the country this summer. But summer activities don’t have to mean long queues in the scorching sun (or pouring rain!) there are a host of fun activities for the family that are off the beaten track, or not as well known as some. Take a look at out guide below for inspiration.

Life’s a beach!

The only crowds on the Farne Islands

The only crowds on the Farne Islands

The busiest beaches are thriving with noise but perhaps lacking a bit in space to enjoy yourself. However, there are many terrific and quieter places to enjoy sand and sea. How about Northumberland? Starting with the sweep of Bamburgh and its stunning castle, through Seahouses where you can take a boat trip out to the Farne Islands, right down to the busier end of Whitley Bay and Tynemouth, there are beaches to be enjoyed and space to do your own thing.

At the other side of the country, you’ll discover Britain’s first area of outstanding natural beauty on the Gower Peninsula. Starting just outside Swansea, you can immerse yourself in so many activities, from kite flying to pony trekking, kayaking to wind surfing. Add a wealth of caves and castles, stunning beaches and clambery walks, and you’ll return each night to your handy self-catering accommodation in a state of pleasant exhaustion!

Fun with a theme

The top theme parks, such as Alton Towers, Legoland, Chessington World of Adventures and Blackpool Pleasure Beach, are so well known. There are many others to enjoy as well. At Malton in North Yorkshire you’ll enter the amazing world of Flamingo Land. Established as both a zoo and theme park more than forty years ago, it offers a wealth of fun experiences such as Being a Zookeeper or Animal Trainer, intimate encounters with everything from sea lions to giraffes (not forgetting meerkats) as well as adventure rides from Cable Car to Cliff Hanger.

Another great choice would be Drayton Manor in Staffordshire (near Tamworth). There you’ll find almost three hundred acres of fun packed activities with extremely damp and thoroughly scary rides, including a highly unusual stand-up roller coaster. There’s a brand new 4D cinema (it’s 3D with added water and wind!) and the chance for the littler ones to enjoy Thomas Land – named after a tank engine you may just have heard of.

A celebration of festivals

Fun at the festival in Edinburgh

Fun at the festival in Edinburgh

If there’s one thing we do know how to do here in the UK it’s how to enjoy a good festival. The music circuit is well-established by now, with annual events such as the Cambridge Folk or Reading and Leeds Festivals. Of course, each August Edinburgh offers thousands of cultural treats and many more not-so-highbrow events.

Away from music, there are also so many other festivals to enjoy across the rest of the summer. Food-wise for example, on August Bank Holiday the largest fish festival in the UK is held at Newlyn in Cornwall. Apart from great fresh tastes, you can enjoy the unique sight of teams in the Lugger Rowing Championships – a serious row while competing for the legendary Gold Pilchard Award. At the end of that week Jamie Oliver and Alex James get together again to present The Big Feastival held on Alex’s own farm deep in The Cotswolds. Add music, demonstrations and a vintage funfair and you have a feast of fun!

The call of nature

Kids and nature seem to have an affinity. Whether they are splashing around in rock pools, getting cuddly with tame specimens in petting zoos, or looking out for unusual wildlife in woodlands, their interest is always infectious. Our country offers some great opportunities to commune with nature. Imagine watching the soaring glory of sea eagles on the Isle of Mull, swooping red kites in Grizedale Forest in Cumbria, or looking for a close encounter with rare red squirrels in parts of Northern England.

In Scotland, you can look for a friendly bottlenose dolphin encounter during a boat trip on the Moray Firth, before spending a fun day at nearby Aviemore or in the stunning Cairngorms National Park.

Trusted entertainment

If we’re proud of our history, we can also make sure we have some fun with it too. The National Trust run a terrific series of events throughout the summer at many of their properties. Think how the kids would enjoy watching bats emerge at dusk on the Penrose estate, a Nature Night Walk at Godolphin House, or the chance to build a family den at Trengwainton – all in Cornwall.

At Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire – home of Sir Isaac Newton – you could be part of a glorious bug hunt in his orchard (he probably won’t turn up in person though). Fab Friday (8th August) is Archery Day at Rockingham Forest at Lyveden in Northamptonshire.

There’s so much more!

Cromer. seaside town in Norfolk, England

Lovely Cromer

Of course all of these terrific ideas do no more than scratch the surface of the huge number of events and locations spread across the United Kingdom in the next few weeks. We offer so many family-friendly self-catering choices from Cornwall in the south west to Wick in the far north of Scotland; Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons in Wales to Cromer in Norfolk. This means that, no matter how you want to spend your precious family time, you can site yourself close and convenient for wherever you wish to be. If history is your thing it might be Warwick or Leeds Castle, or stately homes from Chatsworth to Cragside (first home of hydro-electric power in the UK).

You might fancy lunch in a genuine treehouse during a visit to Alnwick Castle (part of a certain wizard’s adventures were filmed there). How about a glorious day watching the penguins strut their stuff at Edinburgh Zoo? Or perhaps a family cycle on the Olympic road race route over Box Hill would be an unforgettable piece of family bonding with views (and inclines!) that may leave you breathless.

Whatever excites your family, wherever you’d like to be throughout the rest of our British summer, don’t forget to register for our Big Kid Bingo competition. Not only can you enjoy a host of fun family activities but if you complete your card you’ll be entered into a prize draw to win £1,000 cottages4you voucher. Start playing now on our Facebook page.

The UK’s Best Ice Cream Parlours

Three ice cream cones

Maybe you’d prefer Cotton Candy and Bubblegum flavours…

We’d eat ice cream every day of the year if we could, but July gives us the best excuse to – it’s National Ice Cream Month! The tradition was started in 1984 in the United States by the President at the time, Ronald Reagan. With temperatures soaring across the UK, what better time to take advantage of some of the incredible ice cream on offer? The UK is home to some of the world’s best ice cream, and here are five places to sample the best…

The Pudding House, Lancashire.

Wallings Farm is located in Cockerham, just outside Lancaster. The ice cream parlour is extremely popular with the locals, so be prepared to queue – especially if it’s a nice day. It’s positioned in beautiful countryside, with alpacas grazing in the adjoining fields. The perfect location for enjoying your ice cream! The parlour is situated at the front of the Pudding House café, and stocks a huge range of around 40 flavours. Traditional flavours are available, but what really sets Pudding House apart as one of the best is their incredible range of unique, innovative ice creams. The Lemon Meringue Pie flavour is a popular choice, with real meringue pieces nestled between delicious lemon ice cream and ripples of lemon curd. Alternatively, if you’re feeling festive, why not try their Christmas pudding flavour? With delicious ice cream, generous serving sizes and an idyllic setting, you won’t be left disappointed after a visit to Lancashire’s most loved ice cream parlour and farm.

Billy Bob’s Parlour, North Yorkshire.

Finding an ice cream parlour in the Yorkshire Dales can be a difficult task, as there are so many to choose from. Billy Bob’s parlour, situated just outside the beautiful town of Skipton, is a popular choice with locals and tourists alike. The parlour boasts a fantastic 30 flavours, with something on offer for everybody. Traditional flavours, such as Vanilla and Strawberry, compete against some more extravagant choices, like the Cotton Candy and Bubblegum flavours. As well as the tasty ice cream, Billy Bob also serves a full range of delicious fast food, from burgers and hot dogs, to pancakes and waffles. An excellent choice if you’re travelling with children, the parlour also boasts an outdoor play area as well as an indoor play barn. No matter what the weather, Billy Bob’s ice cream parlour is a fun day out for the entire family. Plus, when you’re finished, you can continue your adventures in the Yorkshire Dales.

Aplin’s Farm, Devon.

Otter Valley Dairy in Devon have won numerous awards, and it’s not hard to see why. The small, family-run business has been around for four generations, refining their range of ice cream to create new, mouthwatering flavours. There are 21 flavours to choose from, including Rhubarb and Ginger, Cream Tea, and Devon Rice Pudding with Raspberry Jam, as well as four varieties of sorbet for those looking for something a little different. The ice creams are made in house, using milk from their own herd of cows, and the recipe is based upon Italian Gelato. Off the beaten track, Otter Valley Dairy can be difficult to find but a visit is worth the trip. Tucked into the breath-taking valley, the summerhouse offers fantastic views of the Devon countryside. If the weather permits, you can enjoy your ice cream outdoors in the designated picnic area, beside the very same cows that helped to create the wonderful ice cream.

Broughty Ferry, Scotland

Visocchi’s Café, in Broughty Ferry, has recently been awarded the title of the best ice cream in Scotland. Located just outside Dundee, the café specialises in two Italian delights: pizza and ice cream. All handmade at the premises, their ice creams attract huge crowds during the summer. Exceptionally creamy, and with inventive flavours, you get luxury ice cream at affordable prices. Broughty Ferry itself is located on the Firth of Tay. It’s a historic river town, with plenty to see and do, including Sandy Beach and its Esplanade, Barnhill Rock Gardens, and Broughty Ferry Castle.

Blaze Farm, Peak District.

Blaze Farm boasts the best ice cream in the Peak District. The ice cream is well known, having won several awards, and is all made on site using milk from its own herd of dairy cows. With an impressive range of flavours, you can choose from traditional varieties or the more inventive, such as the Turkish Delight with White Chocolate Chip. In addition to the amazing ice cream on offer, Blaze Farm has nature trails that can be enjoyed by the whole family. With plenty of wildlife and incredible countryside views, it’s not to be missed! If you visit in the springtime, you may even get to watch the lambing take place on the farm. There’s lots of interactive fun for the children, too, with cows milked daily in the parlour. There’s no admission fee for the farm, so it’s the perfect family day out for those on a tight budget.

Le Tour Yorkshire

Photos from an incredible weekend! If you’ve caught the Yorkshire bug and can’t wait to visit ‘God’s Own County’ then take a look at our website for featured properties in Yorkshire with availability starting from this weekend, cycling friendly cottages and more.

Best spots for enjoying the Tour de Yorkshire

unnamedWith the start of the Tour de France now just days away, the excitement, anticipation and support of the people of Yorkshire is palpable.

From stringing up bunting to writing humorous notes in the local dialect along the route, locals have well and truly got into the spirit of the event and are set to make it one of the most memorable tours ever.

Taking in some of the most beautiful towns, villages and cities in the country, as well as the stunning Yorkshire Dales, both competitors and spectators will be treated to some spectacular views long the way.

So if you’re heading to God’s own county to watch Le Tour, here are the best spots from which to enjoy the sights and sounds of one of the greatest sporting events in the world.

Addingham

As the tour passes through this pretty Yorkshire village during both stage one and stage two, it’s the perfect place to head to if you want to make a weekend out of the event.

Located just outside Ilkley, the Addingham bypass will be closed and used as a public car park over the weekend, so best get there early to avoid travel delays.

Buttertubs Pass

Stretching for 4.4km and reaching gradients of up to 20%, Buttertubs Pass is one of the most revered climbs in northern England. With fantastic views over the local countryside, this steep spot is guaranteed to see some classic Tour de France action with riders powering to the top of the slope.

If watching all that hard work and exercise makes you tired, head to the nearby village of Reeth where you’ll find some nice pubs and cafés to relax in. As this is likely to be a popular spot, the atmosphere should be pulsating, though you’ll want to get your place early to avoid getting stuck in the crowd.

Harrogate

Like Addingham, Harrogate is lucky enough to see the Peloton come through twice. Firstly, as the riders are sprinting to the finish on day one, and then again the following morning as the Peloton makes its way from York to Sheffield.

The beautiful town of Harrogate will make a great backdrop for the event, and once you’ve watched all those elite athletes pedal by, there are plenty of shops, restaurants, cafés and attractions to keep you entertained.

Haworth

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Located in the heart of Bronte country, this picturesque village, with its steep cobbled high street and charming shops, is well worth a visit at any time of year. However, with the addition of excitement generated by the Tour de France Haworth is a must see on your tour de Yorkshire.

Settle into one of the cafés on the famous main street to watch the riders power their way up the hill, before enjoying some delicious local food and drink once the excitement is over.

Hebdon Bridge, Calder Holmes Park

In addition to roadside spots, this year also sees the addition of spectator hubs, designed to allow visitors to enjoy the great atmosphere and competition of the day.

Free to access, the spectator hub in quirky Hebdon Bridge is located in Calder Holmes Park and boasts big screens, spectator entertainment and locally produced food and drink.

Holme Moss, Holmfirth

One of the most iconic climbs in Britain, Holme Moss is guaranteed to be one of the most popular spots from which to watch the Peloton on race day. The 4.7km, relentlessly steep climb will be tough even for these elite athletes, causing the riders to slow down and allowing for great views of the race.

Though it may be crowded on the day, it’s easy to find your own vantage point by climbing up the steep sides of the hill, and your efforts should be well rewarded by the electric atmosphere and fantastic competition.

Jenkin Road, Sheffield

If you’re more interested in the stamina, tactics and determination of the riders than the spectacular views afforded by the Yorkshire countryside, then this brutal climb, 5km before the finish line on day two, could be the perfect spot to head for.

Reaching gradients of up to 33%, Jenkin Road is one of the steepest climbs the tour must overcome. Though it’s just 800m long, the stretch is so late in the day the riders will be looking to make last ditch attacks in order to win the stage.

Guaranteed to be a weekend like no other, the Tour de Yorkshire is set to be an event that the county will remember for years. If you want to be part of the action, now is the time to book your accommodation, grab that camera and get involved. Check out the Tour de France website for the exact times and locations of each part of the race to ensure that you don’t miss a thing.

‘Women in Waves’ takes to the sea in Sussex

We had a great time at Surf Life Saving Great Britain’s  ‘Women in Waves’ event last Saturday (14 June). Approximately 50 people turned out to take to the water off Brighton Beach and learn some valuable lessons in surf safety – in fact the only person who appeared to be missing was the sun!

Undeterred, the participants joined in, had fun and learned some valuable lessons about being safe in the sea in the process. Thanks to Surf Life Saving Great Britain and everyone who came down!

Surf Life Saving Great Britain is a charity of over 6,000 volunteers who aim to make beaches safer and more enjoyable. You can find more info on their website and also register for the following events:  Saturday 28th June 2014 at Blyth Dave Stephenson Centre, South Beach Blyth from 10 – 4pm and Saturday 12th July 2014 at Perranporth Beach from 10-3.30pm.

Hope to see you there!

11 Unmissable European Music Festivals for Summer 2014

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If live music is on your wish-list of activities this year, there are some exceptional festivals to choose from. A dazzling array of global superstars awaits you, but you’ll first need to decide which of the many events taking place throughout Europe are for you. So, come with us as we take you on a European tour of music festivals that will help you to decide where to spend your precious leisure time this summer.

Isle of Wight Festival

With a line-up of previous performers that includes Bob Dylan, The Who, Hendrix, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and more,  the Isle of Wight’s musical heritage takes some beating. Taking place over the weekend of 12th-15th June, 2014’s roster includes a number of contemporary musical heavyweights such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kings of Leon and more alongside a mix of equally enticing acts on the second stage.

Why not stay at… 

Palmers Brook House

Palmers Brook House

Why stay in a tent when you and up to 9 of your friends can enjoy the comfort of Palmers Brook House. This period Victorian house is set in a semi-rural location close to Newport, Ryde and East Cowes and offers a garden, farmhouse-style kitchen with gas/electric range, shower room, Wi-Fi and more!  Palmers House still has weekend availability for the festival. View more info and make a booking now.   

Sonar, Spain

This year is a very special one for Barcelona’s Sonar festival, as it’s the year the event celebrates its 21st Birthday. You will find an intriguing blend of music and arts at this sun-kissed festival, as well as the likes of Four Tet, Caribou and chart-topping band Rudimental. Take plenty of sun cream though, as the festivities take place between the 12th and 14th of June when the Spanish sun is at its hottest.

Main Square, France

If you’re looking for a laid-back festival where you can meet people, enjoy stunning architecture and find room to breathe, Main Square in the French city of Arras is ideal. There are only two stages at this event, but they will host around 40 acts this summer, including Disclosure, Depeche Mode and the Chemical Brothers. There is a personal and very friendly vibe to be found at this event, which makes it ideal if you’re not into mosh pits and drunken debauchery. As this event takes place in the city, you can swap your mud-soaked tent for a quaint cottage with lots of typically Gallic charm. The Main Square festival takes place between the 3rd and 6th of July this year.

Benicassim, Spain

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The beautiful port town of Benicassim is a sleepy Spanish settlement for most of the year, but it comes to life every July when music lovers arrive for four straight days of quality live music.

The event is probably best known for its alternative rock and electronic acts, but it has been known to host the odd rave or two in the past. The Benicassim festival takes place between the 17th and 20th of July this year, and the likes of Kasabian, Lily Allen and Paul Weller will be gracing the various stages.

Green Man Festival, Wales

Set against the majestic backdrop of the Brecon Beacons, the Green Man Festival is perhaps one of the most picturesque British music festivals. Folk music is the star of the show, but you will also get the chance to enjoy comedians, poetry recitals and book readings. The event takes place between the 14th and 17th of August this year, and amongst the line-up of bands already confirmed for the Green Man Festival are Beirut and The Violators.

Latitude, England

The gorgeous East Anglian countryside becomes an outdoor arena for four days in July when the Latitude festival sets up camp. This music festival has a very relaxed ambience, and it delivers far more than fantastic live acts. DJs perform in the depths of local woods, opera singers perform against the backdrop of a stunning natural lake, films play in an on-site cinema and actors recite Shakespeare and Wilde on various stages scattered around the Suffolk countryside. Latitude takes place between the 17th and 20th of July this year, and Blur’s Damon Albarn has been confirmed as the headline act.

Sonisphere, Italy

If you’re into heavy metal, the Sonisphere festival in Rome will definitely interest you. This hugely popular event takes place on 1st June, and more than 40,000 leather-clad hard rock fans are expected this year. Located at the home of the Italian Grand Prix in Imola, the festival will reach a deafening crescendo with a performance from legendary heavy metal band Metallica.

Festival Beauregard, France

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Set against the stunning natural landscapes of Normandy, the Festival Beauregard near Caen has to be one of the most impressive celebrations of live music in the world. This is a garden party for pop and rock fans on a huge scale, and it is taking place between the 3rd and 6th of July this year.

Don’t expect a quiet affair, however, as 55,000 fans showed up last year. A beautiful castle, rolling hills, landscaped gardens and some of the biggest artists on the planet make the Festival Beauregard one of the most prestigious live events in France. Among the confirmed artists for 2014 are Blondie, Portishead and Madness.

Hellfest, France

Located in the charming town of Champ Louet in France, Hellfest is a heavy metal fan’s paradise. Four stages host some of the biggest metal bands in the world, and 70,000 fans bang their heads in unison. This is a particularly rowdy event, however, so don’t be surprised if you see empty bottles and fruit being thrown at the stage, it’s all part of the fun. Headlining this year’s event between the 20th and 22nd of June are Iron Maiden, Aerosmith and Black Sabbath.

Midi, France

Midi is very popular with up and coming bands, and many of Europe’s finest found fame and fortune after appearing at this event in the stunning French Riviera. The location of this festival is probably its greatest asset, as it looks down over the French town of Hyeres and stunning stretches of coastline. With Chateau Vallombrossa as an eye-catching backdrop, there can’t be many European music festivals as picturesque as this one. Midi will take place on the 25th and 26th of July this year, and Europe’s freshest pop talent will be gracing the stage.

Global Gathering, England

Located in the beautiful Warwickshire countryside, Global Gathering is one of the fastest growing music festivals in Europe. A combination of enormous stages, booming sound systems and the biggest names in music has given this festival a reputation to rival the likes of Reading and Glastonbury. Hard house, dance and drum ‘n’ bass take centre stage, but unlike many other festivals in the UK, Global Gathering features an element of luxury in the form of private ‘Suitehuts’ – complete with TV, DVD player, fridge and a bed. The event takes place on the 26th and 27th of July this year, and head-liners include Plan B, Steve Aoki and Disclosure.

Wherever you decide to go this year, you don’t need to resign yourself to sleeping in a cold, muddy and damp tent. Rent a cottage or local holiday home instead, and enjoy live music with clean clothes and a clear head.

Celebrate National Walking Month

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Rhossili Bay: “Breathtakingly wonderful” seems like an understatement!

If you want to really feel alive and refresh those senses this summer, it’s time to get outside and start walking. This month is National Walking Month, and here in the UK we are extremely lucky; the terrain makes it the perfect place to walk. Whether you want a gentle, family stroll, or you are an experienced walker looking for your next challenge, our list of favourite scenic walks has something for everyone.

Easy or family walks

Rhossili Bay
Distance: 5 miles circular route
Starting point: Rhossili National Trust visitor centre
Suitable for walkers with little experience and families
Map

Rhossili Bay is such a stunning area it has earned itself the number 1 place to visit in Swansea on the independent review website, Trip advisor. Visitors to the area have left reviews on the website describing the area as “Paradise” and “Breathtakingly wonderful”.

But don’t worry. Despite the fact that 750,000 people visit Rhossilli every year, this beautiful walk never seems too busy and it’s the perfect walk for all the family. It covers moorland and one of the most glorious sandy beaches in the UK. It even has its very own shipwreck visible at low tide, the ill fated Helvetia that has been there since 1887.

From the highest point of this walk, you can see an uninterrupted 360 degree of the entire tip of the Gower Peninsula including Worms Head and Burry Holmes. On a clear day, you can even see as far as Devon.

Getting there: Catch the bus to this beautiful bay from Swansea, or you can drive and park in the National Trust visitor centre.

Wye Downs (using part of the popular North Downs Way)
Distance: 4.5 miles
Starting point: Church in Wye
Map 

Get to know the beautiful Wye Downs by following paths and tracks through open fields and luscious woodland. On this walk you will get the chance to see the fantastic Wye Crown, a massive crest that students cut into the chalk hillside in 1902 to honour the coronation of King Edward VII.

You will also pass through the Wye National Nature Reserve with its beautiful landscape of chalk, woodland and scrub. Moths, insects and orchids that are essential to conservation efforts have made their home here. From the nature reserve you will get the chance to take in enthralling views of the Devil’s Kneading Trough, a 260 feet deep steep dry valley.

On the way back, make sure you take time to look around the historic village of Wye and stop off at one of the pubs for a rewarding, refreshing drink

Ben A’an
Distance: 2.5 miles
Height: 1,491 feet
Start: 200 yards west of Tigh Mhor near Loch Achray
Map

The extraordinary views over the Trossachs and Loch Katrine from the summit of Ben A’an are what makes this walk unbeatable. Although relatively short, this walk involves steep climbs through woodland and steep steps on loose rock, so it’s more suited to those with a good level of fitness. Don’t worry though, it also covers easier terrain you can meander through and enjoy the stunning views while catching your breath.

Along the path there are large rock areas often used by picnickers. You will also find steep, rocky trails that offshoot from the main path, ignore these and stick to the main path. Typically, it takes about an hour to reach the summit, though if you’re really fit you can do it in much less.

The path ends at 1,491 feet at two rocky peaks, both of which give enthralling views across two vast landscapes of Scotland, west over Loch Katrine towards the ‘Arrochar Alps’ and and south east over Loch Achray towards the Campsies. If you’re lucky, you may even see the Sir Walter Scott steamer as she travels across Loch Katrine. One thing to remember is that this walk does get busy at times, but its popularity is just testimony to how beautiful it is.

Getting there: There is a car park A821 near Tigh Mor opposite the track.

For the more experienced walker

Dunskey Castle at Portpatrick

Dunskey Castle at Portpatrick

Southern Upland Way
Distance: 214 mile (340 km) coast to coast
Starting point: Portpatrick
Map 

Often overlooked for other Scottish walks such as the West Highland Way, The Southern Upland Way is a stunning, if rather tough, walk. It begins in Portpatrick, a small fishing village on the Scottish west coast and finishes in Cockburnspath on the east coast.

At 214 miles, this walk isn’t the longest in the UK, but is known as one of the toughest. Overwhelming mountains, thick forests and beautiful moors make up this enchanting walk. There is accommodation en route, however this walk is rather isolated and you won’t stumble across many day trippers or holiday makers on your way. The walk visits stunning spots such as Castle Kennedy, St John’s Town of Dalry, St Mary’s Loch, Galashiels, Lauder and Longformacus en route.

It’s worth remembering that on the Southern Upland Way the path can be challenging with a loose, steep, rocky and muddy surface. Hill walking boots are a must!