Travel, UK

Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary – The Incredible Haven Coast

Last week I arrived in Cork Airport, picked up my rental car, and then… proceeded to stare blankly at the road ahead. I’d flown into Ireland to attend TBEX – a travel blogging conference that was to be held in Killarney this October. But I had two days at my disposal and zero plans. What to do?

Well, luckily for me, I love unplanned road trips. So I turned on the motor, started up Spotify and pointed the car towards the West Cork Coast. What unfolded was a two-day discovery of some of Ireland’s most stunning scenery. Read on to follow this Wild Atlantic Way itinerary for yourself!

Driving the Wild Atlantic Way – Haven Coast Leg

The entire drive should take around 5 hours to complete – so it’s possible to do it in a day. But I’d recommend spreading it out over 2 or even 3 days to make the most of your time in this beautiful corner of Ireland… For suggestions on where to stay en route, see below under the detailed itinerary.

Kinsale Town

The village of Kinsale in County Cork, Republic of Ireland

Driving into the historic town of Kinsale, the first thing that struck me was how colourful it was! Even on this grey day, the brightly painted shops of Kinsale managed to give the town a holiday vibe. It was a busy Sunday afternoon, but I managed to grab a car park right in the centre (free on Sundays!) before proceeding on foot.

The cold wind that whipped around me didn’t seem to bother the people of Kinsale, and the town was buzzing with activity. Tour groups huddled around their guides, hanging off every tale told, and kids squealed with glee as their parents pushed them higher on the playground swings. I had a brief walk around the town, soaking up the buoyant atmosphere and peeking into shop windows with their enticing displays full of antiques and locally made crafts.

Charles Fort

Charles Fort near Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland

Leaving Kinsale, I proceeded up the hill to Charles Fort. I hadn’t come here especially to see the fort – but when I checked my phone for nearby attractions, the star-shaped structure immediately jumped out at me. And as I found out, it’s only a few minutes drive or a scenic 40-minute walk from Kinsale town.

Entrance to Charles Fort costs €5 and a printed guidebook will give you a good introduction to the 17th-century wonder. I arrived just in time to jump into a talk that was both informative and funny (in that typical Irish way) that left me in good stead to further explore the remains.

Even if you’re not a history buff – the views alone make the fort a well worthwhile visit. Although, the maze of crumbling buildings will be made all the more intriguing with the knowledge of what once went on between these walls!

Tip: Admission is free on the first Wednesday of every month.

Old Head of Kinsale

Old Head of Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland

Continuing south, I started to notice signs indicating the Wild Atlantic Way discovery points. These strategically placed signs with a blue & white wave made it incredibly easy to navigate around the coast while not missing the best sights on the way. One of which was Old Head. Old Head is the site of the 1915 tragedy that saw passenger liner Lusitania sink to its grave – along with the almost 1200 people on board at the time.

This stretch of coast was my first taste of the dramatic cliff faces and rugged coastlines that Ireland is so famously known for. Here you can play a round of golf at the famous par 72 course, visit the Lusitania Museum and Old Head Signal Tower, or simply walk the cliff edges as I did and enjoy the views.

Timoleague

Timoleague, County Cork, Ireland

Timoleague is another of those villages that you can’t simply drive through without a second glance. As soon as I saw the 13th-century Abbey that dominates its waterfront, I was looking for somewhere to pull over. Granted, there isn’t a huge amount to do in the pretty waterfront town. But it makes the perfect place to stop for a picnic or to let the little ones stretch their legs.

The drive into, and out of Timoleague will have you spellbound too. So take care not to get too distracted while you’re driving!

Inchydoney

Inchydoney, County Cork, Ireland

Technically an island, Inchydoney is connected to the mainland by two causeways. An excellent spot for watersports, there were plenty of people out in the ocean catching waves on their surfboards and sailboards when I stopped in for a quick stroll on the sand.

The luxury Inchydoney Hotel greets you at the end of the road in, giving the area an upmarket feel that’s further endorsed by how well the public spaces are maintained. Opposite the hotel is a small car park, which is an excellent place to park your car and enjoy the expansive beaches on both sides.

Drombeg Stone Circle

Drombeg stone circle near Rosscarbery, County Cork, Ireland

Who knew Ireland had its own Stonehenge? I found the Drombeg Stone Circle located down a sleepy country road, not far from “the best village in the world” (so named by the people who call Rosscarbery home). Thirteen of its original seventeen stones remain at the megalithic site. And although it’s on a smaller scale to its more famous counterpart, it still makes for an impressive sight against the rolling green landscape.

But the stones aren’t the only attraction in this quiet countryside spot. Two prehistoric stone huts and a fulacht fiadh (cooking site) lay to the west of the stone circle, which gives further intrigue to the area. 

Altar Wedge Tomb

The Altar Wedge Tomb dates back as far as the stone age and has played an important role in the history of this area ever since. Used not for human sacrifice (as folklore would suggest) the megalithic monument was a place of ritual. Much later, in the 18th-century, the tomb has been used as a mass rock by Catholic priests who were forced to perform religious ceremonies in hiding.

The 6ft wide structure opens up across the Toormore Bay in the direction of Mizen Head. While its small structure isn’t the most impressive sight on your first view, the stories and history surrounding this sacred place will be sure to keep you captivated.

Mizen Head

Mizen Head, County Cork, Ireland

I’d be lying if I said Mizen Head wasn’t my favourite part of the Wild Atlantic Way itinerary! It was also the only part of my two-day drive that was in some way premeditated. I ended up booking an amazing Airbnb on the Wild Atlantic Way route the night before. So when I woke up Monday morning I had my sights firmly set on Mizen head. And after a few brief stops on the way (the scenery is so damn distracting!), I found myself parking at what could possibly be the most breathtaking parking lot I’ve ever pulled in to. Quite literally – the wind made walking a feat in itself!

After paying the €7.50 entrance fee, I proceeded to spend the next few hours walking the various trails around Ireland’s most southwesterly point, visiting the keepers’ quarters in the old lights signal station, and spending an inordinate amount of time watching seals playfully diving and swimming in the calmer waters underneath the iconic Mizen Head bridge. Needless to say, the views were out of this world! 

Gougane Barra

Gougane Barra, County Cork, Ireland

The final stop on my Wild Atlantic Way itinerary was Gougane Barra. This serene spot en route to Killarney is famous namely for the charming church that sits on a small island in the Gouganebarra Lake. Finbarr’s Oratory was built near the site of a former monastery, whose remains can still be seen behind the church.

The sun was starting to set when I reached the small settlement, and I wasn’t the only one trying to capture the beauty of the church with its backdrop of lush forest. As I wrangled my tripod into another position, I remarked to a fellow shutterbug how beautiful the scene before us was. He enthusiastically agreed, adding “the most beautiful in Ireland”…

Where to Stay Along the Wild Atlantic Way

I highly recommend allowing at least two days to cover this Wild Atlantic Way itinerary. So you’ll need to camp out along the route. You can do what I did and wing it at an Airbnb along the way to experience true Irish hospitality, or book into one of the many world-class facilities en route. My top picks would be Perryville House in Kinsale, Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa, the Gougane Barra Hotel, or stay in a real-life castle in Castlehaven!


Wild Atlantic way itinerary of the Haven Coast in County Cork, Ireland

Driving the Haven Coast of the Wild Atlantic Way was the best introduction to Ireland’s dramatic natural scenery and mystical past. If you’re planning on spending time in Ireland, then be sure to add the Haven Coast in County Cork to your itinerary!

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The Wild Atlantic Way is a must-do experience when in Ireland. But it can be hard deciding where to start, and what to see if you're short on time! Check out our 2-day self-drive Wild Atlantic Way itinerary of the Haven Coast in County Cork, Ireland.

Heading to Ireland and not sure where to spend your time? Be sure to check out the Wild Atlantic Way for incredible landscapes and breathtaking attractions! I've got you covered with this two-day self-drive Wild Atlantic Way itinerary of the Haven Coast in County Cork!
Travel, Travel Tips

10 Best Destinations for Winter Sun in Europe

Where to find the winter sun in Europe.

With the days getting shorter and the nights cooler, there’s no doubt that summer has come to a close. Memories of carefree days at the beach linger in our minds as we contemplate the increasingly cold months ahead. If you’re anything like me, you’ll already be dreaming up where to find sunnier shores this winter!

When I lived in New Zealand, our (affordable) options for a warm winter break were limited to South Pacific destinations such as Fiji or the Cook Islands. But now we’re living in France, it’s much easier to swap snow-capped mountains for sun umbrellas with the multitude sunny destinations only a short plane ride away. Below I’ve rounded up the best destinations to find winter sun in Europe!

Where to Find Winter Sun in Europe

Sicily, Italy

The charming island of Sicily is a tourist magnet during the summer months. But come winter, the days are accompanied by the gentle hum of fishing boats leaving the port and the scent of lemons hanging heavy on the trees. Temperatures in Sicily are mild in winter, making it the perfect weather to enjoy unobstructed views of the ancient Greek theatre of Taormina or to take a hands-on cooking class. If the days do get cooler, you can warm up by taking a dip in the natural hot springs of Segesta.

Where to find winter sun in Europe. Cefalu beach in Sicily.

Gran Canaria, Spain

The Spanish island of Gran Canaria hangs off the coast of Northwestern Africa. With temperatures reaching up to 24°C in the winter months, Gran Canaria delivers buckets of winter sun! Enjoy a second summer while exploring the National Parks, dolphin watching off the coast or even taking a submarine tour of the underwater world! Those wanting to take it easy can visit one of the island’s vineyards or relax on the island’s black lava and white sand beaches. And as one of the more affordable islands on the list, it’s perfect for budget travellers too!

Reasons to visit Gran Canaria in winter. Dunes at Maspalomas, Gran Canaria.

Sardinia, Italy

While the Mediterranean may only be swimmable by the bravest of souls, that’s no reason to skip the seductive island of Sardinia in winter. Take the opportunity to get acquainted with the island’s grottos, uncover hidden treasures in the hills, sample the unique flavours of Sardinian cuisine, and visit the villages clutching the edge of towering limestone cliffs. The winter months see temps in the teens, and it’s the best time to get involved in the island’s festivities.

Best destinations for winter sun in Europe.

Crete, Greece

I love visiting Greece in winter. So it’s no surprise that my favourite Greek island made this list! Though the temperatures can fluctuate from the low teens to the early twenties, it’s a fabulous time to enjoy the warmth of the local hospitality. Devour the locally made delicacies, happy in the knowledge that what’s being served up “off-season” is what the locals like to eat. Make the most of the quiet to stroll the empty alleyways, and take in uninterrupted views as you walk the island’s many trails.

Where to go for winter sun in europe

Tenerife, Spain

The largest of the Canaries is home to the 3rd highest volcano in the world, the highest peak in Spain, and Europe’s largest water park. There’s no doubt the island of Tenerife is a winter destination on a grand scale. With temps nudging 20°C in January – Tenerife doesn’t really do winter. So it’s a safe bet for some off-season sun. And if you needed one more reason to visit Tenerife in winter, the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife (the worlds most renowned carnival outside of Rio) is it!

Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Where to find sun in winter.

Malta

In just a few short hours you could be whisked away from dodging puddles on a cold grey day, to a land that tops the charts for winter sunshine hours in Europe. Malta enjoys an average of seven sunshine hours each day during January, making it an excellent choice for a winter holiday in Europe. Unlike some popular tourist destinations, life continues as normal in Malta during the winter months, meaning there’s always plenty to see & do at any time of the year!

Where to go on holiday in winter. Valletta, Malta

Mallorca, Spain

Sunny days and crisp nights are the recipe for a winter holiday in Mallorca. The cooler months are the ideal time to visit the island’s capital, Palma, where you can browse the museums, visit the mystical Arab baths, and dine on Michelin-starred cuisine. Traverse the countryside in vintage style on the old Soller train, delight in tasting some of the island’s 300 locally grown wines, or hike into the Serra de Tramuntana – a UNESCO World Heritage site that is brimming with almond blossom from late January.

Where to go on holiday in winter. Sierra de Tramuntana, Mallorca

Cyprus

With winter temps hovering around 23°C you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason not to visit Cyprus in the winter months. If you feel like skipping the white Christmas this year, why not hit up the Xmas markets in Nicosia. At the month-long “Christmas Avenue” you’ll find all of your festive favourites – minus jack frost. Winter is the perfect time to learn about lost civilisations at the Tombs of the Kings. And if the warm weather gets too much, you can always retreat to the Troodos Mountains for a spot of skiing!

Where to go for a holiday in winter.

Lanzarote, Spain

In case you hadn’t guessed already, the Canaries are a winner when it comes to finding sun in the winter months. And Lanzarote is no exception. This volcanic wonderland has a unique landscape recognised by its UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status. And it has only been enhanced by creations from local artist César Manrique. Step away from the resorts to experience the best of what the island has to offer, from exploring lava caves to visiting Europe’s first underwater museum!

Where to find sun in winter. Winter holidays in Europe.

Madeira, Portugal

Every New Years Eve, Funchal, Madeira’s capital city, put on a fireworks display that has won recognition worldwide. It even won a Guinness World Record for the largest fireworks display! But if fireworks aren’t your thing – there’s still plenty of reasons to visit Madeira in winter. Take the cable car up to Monte Palace and visit the tropical gardens. Sample the local poison, a delicious concoction made from sugar cane, lemon, honey and fruit juice. Or simply enjoy the mild temperatures while dipping your feet in the natural salt water pools at Porto Moniz.


In Europe, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to finding sunshine in the winter months. With so many fantastic destinations just waiting to be explored, which will you choose for your warm winter holiday?

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Searching for sun this winter? Find the top 10 European destinations for guaranteed sunshine to beat the blues this winter... Find out where to find the sun this winter.

Searching for sun this winter? Find the top 10 European destinations for guaranteed sunshine to beat the blues this winter... Find out where to find the sun this winter.

 

France, Provence-Alpes-Côte D'azur

The Life Behind Lavender – Visiting the Lavender Museum in Provence

Lavender Museum in Provence

Flowering fields of lavender are an image synonymous with Provence. But the bucolic scenes created by neatly plotted rows of purple are only a by-product of the true industry surrounding lavender. Blue gold – as it was once known – grows in the highest mountainous regions of Provence, France, and has played an important part in the area’s history and heritage. Not least for the Lincelé family of the Château Du Bois.

Discovering the Lavender Museum in Provence

It doesn’t often rain in Provence. But when it does, it pours. It was one such soggy Saturday afternoon that we drove into the depths of the Luberon in search of distraction. Our destination was roughly the charming village of Gordes, but we welcomed deviation from our journey on the way. Driving through the village of Coustellet, a large stone building caught our eye – partly because of the two or three hefty tour buses parked outside! I briefly caught the words “Musée” and “Lavande” which was enough to pique my curiosity and so we swung the car around for another look. Pulling back into the carpark it was clear we had arrived at the Musée de la lavande – the Lavender Museum of Provence.

Village of Gordes in Provence, France

The village of Gordes in Provence, France

Entrance to the Lavender Museum

While I normally try to avoid visiting attractions at the same time as large tour groups, the idea of a escaping the rain and learning more about the iconic lavender fields of the Luberon lured me inside. As expected, the entrance was fairly busy but moved swiftly as a tour group was ushered through the museum doors before us. We didn’t have to wait long to buy tickets and we handed over our euros in exchange for an English audio guide and a 20% discount card for the on-site boutique.

Musee de la Lavande. Lavender Museum in Provence, France

Photo Credit – Le Château du Bois

Before entering the exhibition space, we had a brief introduction to the differences between the lavande grown at high altitudes in the Luberon, and the lavandine which can be grown everywhere else. The distinction is important, as only true lavander can be used for medicinal properties and as a fine fragrance. The more common lavandine came about with the invention of washing machines. And it’s still used to scent household cleaning products to this day, due to its cost-effective ability to cover up otherwise nasty smells.

Our guide as it turned out, hails from the Lincelé family. The very family who have been growing lavender at their family farm, Le Château du Bois, for generations. The same family who established the museum in 1991.

Exploring the Museum

Photographs are not permitted to be taken within in the museum, but the guide below will give you an idea of what you can expect to experience while visiting the Musée de la Lavande. Plus highlights from what we learned.

The film

The first stop on our tour of the lavender museum was a cinema room. A short film played in rotation and while it was in French, our audio guide translated it for us and filled in any blanks. The film takes you on a journey through the family’s lavender farm – from seeding right through to harvesting and the production of fine lavender oil.

The lavender stills

Lavender stills at the musee de la lavande

Photo Credit – Le Château du Bois

Following the film, you continue through into the main exhibition hall of the museum. The space isn’t grandiose, but the information provided through both written signs, and the curated audio guide help to enrich the experience. At first, you’ll pass a number of stills used for producing the lavender essence. These stills have been collected by Georges Lincelé over the years and have been restored to show how lavender oil has been produced throughout history. The stills fall into three categories – the naked flame still, the bain-marie still and the steam still.

The oldest kind of still on display in the museum, the naked flame stills date back to the 17th century. Handcrafted out of copper, no two of these charming stills are the same.

Bain-marie stills use a pressure gauge to regulate pressure and temperature during the distillation process. There are two bain-marie stills on display, each able to hold between 80 – 250kg of flowers. Although bain-marie stills date back to the 1920’s, some are still in use today.

The steam still uses a boiler (fuelled by recycled distilled lavender straw) to distil several vases of flowers in quick procession – making it an efficient exercise. The museum holds two of these stills, one of which is on wheels – a travelling lavender still!

Tip: The tour group in front of us received a more detailed explanation of the various stills on display. If you want a more in-depth understanding, perhaps booking a tour is the way to go.

Things to do in Provence. The lavender museum in Provence.

The children’s area

Overall, the museum experience isn’t overly fascinating for young children. My son (4 years old) watched the film, but was more interested in the tractors and machinery than the story of lavender! The stills held his attention briefly before he started to get restless. Luckily there is a small area for children to do some colouring while adults can roam the museum and keep an eye on them at the same time.

The lavender seeding

One of the fascinating things I learned about the growing of lavender is how it’s seeded before being plotted into neat rows. Near the end of our tour, we watched another short film which explained the labour of love that goes into first seeding and then planting around 7-10 hectares of lavender each year. That’s up to 170,000 lavender plants a season!

The lavender harvesting

Lavender harvesting was traditionally a woman’s job. Mothers would go into the hills with their children and cut the wild lavender with a sickle before gathering it into large fabric bags and aprons. Nowadays, lavender harvesting begins at the end of July and takes around two weeks to complete with the help of Clier tractors which trim the tops of the lavender plants. The lavender cuttings are then collected and distilled using steam in two large containers – each holding 1500kg of flowers! All 80 hectares of lavender is distilled on site at the Château du Bois using the traditional method.

Uses for lavender

Musee de la lavande in Provence, France. Best things to do in Provence.

The museum displays also tell the story of how lavender has been used through the ages. Firstly as a medicine and later in the production of fine parfums.

These days it’s commonly referred to as the “Swiss Knife” of aromatherapy – lavender essential oil has many modern-day uses. From relieving headaches, to warding off head-lice, to adding a beautiful & relaxing scent to your bath – the only limit is your imagination!

The Château du Bois Boutique

The final stop on your tour of the lavender museum is the Château du Bois boutique. There are so many lavender products on display, it’s very hard to choose! Everything from foot creams, to anti-ageing moisturiser, and even tea bags can be purchased at a reasonable price. After trying out a few of the cosmetics, I finally decided on a cosmetic gift-pack, a bottle of fine lavender essential oil, and four ceramic diffusers to help spread the heavenly scent throughout our home. Now, of course, I’m wishing I’d also bought a candle, some foot cream and a face mask – but luckily their products can also be purchased online!

The Chateau de Bois gift shop at the lavender museum.

Practical Information for Visiting the Musée de la Lavande

The museum is open 7 days a week, year-round except January. Opening hours vary with the seasons, so it’s best to check them in advance (here). Entrance to the museum costs €6.80 for adults and is free for under 15’s. Audio guides are available in 10 languages.


Our stop at the Musée de la Lavande was an impromptu decision fuelled as much by our desire to escape the sodden weather than to learn about lavender. But the experience was as enriching as it was entertaining. The Lincelé family are clearly very passionate about their heritage and the future of lavender, and it shows in the way they’ve developed this enchanting space. If you’re visiting the lavender fields of Provence, I’d highly recommend adding this museum to your itinerary.

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If you're heading to the lavender fields of Provence, France, be sure to schedule in a trip to the Musee de la Lavande - the Lavender Museum of Provence! Family owned and run, it tells a story of lavenders importance to the region - and to the Lincelé family of the Château Du Bois.

Travel Tips

The ONE Product Every Traveller Should Carry – And It’s Completely Natural!

The best natural travel product. Using coconut oil when travelling.

Ever wish there was a miracle travel product? One thing that could tackle multiple jobs yet is light and easy to travel with? Well, I know just the thing! You probably know it too. But perhaps, like the majority of us, you didn’t know just how versatile it is…

The product I’m referring to? Coconut oil. Not only does it have a trillion uses, it’s also completely natural, inexpensive and easily accessible all over the world.

As someone who eats a plant-based diet, I’ve been using coconut oil in cooking & baking for years. But it’s only recently I’ve begun using it for more than cookie dough and kale chips. I now have a resident pot in my bathroom and it’s my go-to product for a variety of ailments.

Want to know what you can do with coconut oil? Read on to find out why it’s such a great multi-tasking product for travellers!

Coconut Oil for Hair Care

Coconut oil for hair. Best travel product.

Conditioner

From a deep conditioning treatment, to a daily detangler, coconut oil has your hair care needs sorted when you travel. There’s nothing worse than dry, bristly hair caused by too much sun, sea, and sand on holiday. But coconut oil is ready to tackle the most tangled of tresses. Just rub through, leave in overnight and wake up with beautifully soft hair! Alternatively, you can apply a tiny amount through the ends of your hair daily to keep split ends in check.

Coconut Oil for Body Care

Moisturiser 

Yep, you guessed it. Coconut oil isn’t only good at keeping your hair in holiday worthy condition – it’s excellent as an all over body moisturiser too! Just rub between your palms and apply. You don’t need much, and it’ll leave you with a lovely summery glow.

Sunscreen

Did you know coconut oil also has a natural SPF of around 4-5? While this won’t replace your normal sunscreen, it’s great for those in-between times when you wouldn’t normally be slathering on the high SPF’s. Or, you could go one step further and add in a little zinc and red raspberry seed oil to make your own sun cream.

After-Sun Soother

If you’ve spent too long in the sun, have a cool shower and then pop on some coconut oil to sooth scorched skin. Coconut oil can help reduce healing time and dryness. Its anti-inflammatory properties will reduce any swelling, and antibacterial abilities will decrease the chance of infection.

Deodorant

Use coconut oil on its own as a deodorant, or mix with other household staples baking soda and cornstarch for a more robust version. You can even add in a few drops of your favourite essential oil to jazz up the scent a bit.

Shave cream

Warm the oil in your hands and spread coconut oil over the areas you are about to de-fuzz.

Eye makeup remover

Pop a little coconut oil onto cotton wool and smooth over your lids. Makeup will wipe right off and because it doubles as a moisturiser, you can save yourself a step of applying that eye-cream. Win-win!

Toothpaste 

Run out of toothpaste? Just grab your trusty jar of coconut oil and some baking soda from the kitchen and you’ve got an all-natural, effective toothpaste that’s free of nasties!

Best uses for coconut oil when travelling.

Coconut Oil for First Aid

Burns

The same way that coconut oil helps soothe and heal sunburn, it can speed up the recovery process after other types of burns too. The vitamin E, lauric and capric acid also help minimise scars.

Mosquito Bites

Coconut oil has a two-fold benefit with bug bites. It works great as a repellent when mixed with peppermint, tea tree, or rosemary essential oils. Or if you forget the bug balm, coconut oil can reduce itchiness and prevent infections forming after being bitten.

Coconut Oil for General Health

Constipation 

Constipation is a common complaint among travellers, and can really put a damper on your holidays if not kicked in the butt (sorry, I couldn’t help it) early on! The medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) in coconut oil are just the ticket to get things moving again. Start with one teaspoon with every meal and increase as/if necessary.

Hemorrhoids

With constipation comes their ugly sidekick – hemorrhoids. But never fear, this is where coconut oil’s anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties come to the rescue once more. Just dunk a cotton ball in the oil and apply three times a day until they’ve cleared.

Cold sores

The lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid found in coconut oil aren’t only good for fighting off fungus, they’re also anti-viral. Dab on some coconut oil as soon as the cold sores break out and take it internally too for maximum benefit.

Athlete’s Foot

If you’ve ever stayed in a grimy hostel, or showered barefoot at the pool, chances are you’ve encountered a case of athlete’s foot at some point. Itchy toes will be immediately soothed by slathering on some coconut oil (cover up with a sock afterwards), and the abundance of MCFAs and lauric acid kill foot fungus and help to prevent it from coming back.

Coconut oil for athletes foot. The most versatile, natural product for travellers.

Thrush

Travel is unfortunately a prime time to contract thrush. Poor diet, lots of swimming, climate changes and stress can all cause yeast infections to flourish. To treat oral thrush try swishing a tablespoon of coconut oil around your mouth for 15 mins twice a day (spit it out afterwards!). To treat vaginal thrush, you can apply coconut oil both externally and internally. Soaking a (organic cotton) tampon in coconut oil and inserting for a few hours, or make suppositories by freezing ‘bullets’ of coconut oil and popping one in just before bed.

Toothache

While oil pulling can’t reverse the effects of tooth decay, it can certainly help treat toothache and buy you time to see a dentist. Follow the same steps as above – swishing 1 tablespoon oil in your mouth for 15 mins twice a day – first thing in the morning and at night.

Nappy Rash

Travelling with a baby? No need to pack a separate nappy cream – coconut oil is brill for that too…

Which type of Coconut Oil to buy?

Best uses for coconut oil. The best travel product.

Opt for virgin (unrefined), cold pressed (raw), organic coconut oil wherever possible to maximise the benefit of coconut’s amazing natural properties. If you can buy it in a glass jar, instead of a plastic tub, even better. Firstly you don’t want nasty chemicals leaching into your premium product, but it’s also unnecessarily wasteful. Finally, look for the Fair Trade certified option. This not only confirms that the picker was indeed a human (chained monkeys are often used as cheap labour), but that they were treated, and paid fairly for their work.

Tips for Travelling with Coconut Oil

It’s important to remember that your coconut oil is still classified as a liquid when travelling by air, so take no more than 100ml when putting it in your carry-on case. You can transfer a portion into a travel-sized bpa-free container to make travelling easier.

Alternatively you can pack it in your checked-in luggage. Remember to seal the jar with tape to avoid any ‘messes’ that may occur en route. And put plenty of clothing around it to act as padding.

Buying it a once you arrive is always an option too – I’ve never had any trouble trying to find coconut oil on my travels. But your choices may be more limited when it comes to the quality of the oil.


Coconut oil is such a versatile product, that every traveller should carry! Not only can you use it in your diet and on your skin, but it cures a range of traveller-related ailments as well! Make sure you pack some next time you’re lading your luggage!

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If there's one product every traveller should carry with them, it's coconut oil. Not only is it incredibly versatile - curing everything from athletes foot to toothache - it's also affordable, easy to find and completely natural! #coconutoil #naturalhealth #travelessentials

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Spain, Travel

7 Reasons why you Should Still Visit Barcelona (And how to Travel Responsibly)

Why you should still visit Barcelona - despite the bad press.

With headlines warning of tensions towards tourists in Barcelona, you’ll be forgiven for thinking the Catalan city isn’t as welcoming as it once was. While it’s true that the locals are concerned about bad tourist behaviours, overcrowding, and being pushed out of the central city due to increasing prices, overall the city is still an amazing place to visit. Here’s why I believe you should still travel to Barcelona. And how to travel responsibly, so you’re not adding to the city’s woes.

Why you Should Still Travel to Barcelona (Despite the bad Press)

I was holidaying in Barcelona last week. And I won’t deny it, I was worried about being a tourist in a city that is apparently anti-tourists. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I needn’t have been concerned. I’m sure tensions do exist, but they’re not overt. And they won’t ruin your experience of visiting Spain’s most celebrated city! Here are my top 7 reasons you should still visit Barcelona.

Unique things to do in Barcelona Spain

#1 The large majority of locals are still friendly towards tourists

My biggest fear while travelling to Barcelona when the headlines warned me not to, was being met with hostility in the city. But despite being aware of the issues, we experienced courtesy at best and indifference at worst. So no different to travelling anywhere else in the world! Surprisingly it was on the metro – a place where tensions can run high – that we experienced true Catalan civility. The locals were all too happy to offer their seat to my 4yo son on every train we entered. Rushed commuters issued an apology for the accidental bump. And even the bored looking train station teller patiently explained that there was a cheaper alternative to the tickets we were about to purchase.

#2 You can still have authentic experiences in Barcelona

While some of the top tourist attractions in Barcelona have lost their appeal due to overcrowding and over-instagramming, it’s still possible to find the authentic side of the city. Head away from the city centre to find tapas that are tastier and easier on the wallet, boutiques filled with local art and clothing, and bars selling excellent Spanish wines instead of sangria.

Hidden gems in Barcelona

#3 There aren’t signs telling tourists to go away at every turn

You know that feeling when you’re about to buy something and you become super aware of it – seeing that same model seemingly everywhere? Visiting Barcelona, I was all too aware of the tensions in the city, and I’d read that angry locals had taken to the streets with their spray cans. Their message? That tourists are no longer wanted. But even being alert for these statements, I didn’t see a single slur at any time on our travels. That’s not to say they don’t exist – but they aren’t at every corner as you would be made to believe.

#4 Barcelona has a unique appeal

Wedged between impressive mountain ranges and the endless expanse of the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona has a unique appeal that holds its visitors captive. Where else can you fill your day watching the sunrise at the beach, walking the labyrinth of laneways of the Gothic Quarter in the morning, sampling molecular gastronomy for lunch, taking in Gaudí’s feats of architecture in the afternoon and heading to a bar to listen to Rumba Catalana in the evening?

#5 It’s not all about Barcelona City

Beyond Barcelona City is a whole other world waiting to be explored. There are many amazing places that can be accessed relatively cheaply and very easily from Barcelona. Just think the Costa Maresme, Girona, Montserrat (mountain), the Costa Brava and Tarragona – to name a few!

Montserrat - day trip from Barcelona.

#6 There’s always something on in Barcelona

Barcelona has such a great creative vibe. It’s no surprise then, that it attracts artists and performers from all over the world – adding to the cosmopolitan vibe of the city. With events happening throughout the year, it’s a great place to get amongst the locals to enjoy live music, sports clashes or cultural events. There’s always something happening in Barcelona – and there’s something for everyone.

#7 Barcelona still needs tourism

Tourism plays a huge role in the economic health of Barcelona. It provides employment, raises the GDP, and aids entrepreneurial endeavours. I highly doubt tourism numbers will decline due to a few negative articles, but it reinforces why you should travel responsibly and support local businesses who pay their staff fairly.


How to Travel Responsibly to Barcelona

An estimated 32m visitors converged on Barcelona in 2016, making it the 12th most visited city in the world. So it’s not really a surprise that some of the city’s 1.6m local residents are starting to feel frustrated at the changes mass tourism is bringing to the city. How can we, as travellers, be part of the solution so that the locals don’t have to feel that their only solution is to push back on tourists altogether? Here are some tips for travelling responsibly to Barcelona:

is it safe to travel to Barcelona?

Behave the same way as you would at home

This isn’t to say you can’t let your hair down. Just have respect for the locals while you’re doing it. Barcelona doesn’t exist solely for your entertainment. It’s home to the very people that make the city what it is, so show respect for your surroundings, the culture and the people who live there. Basically, don’t be these guys.

Support local

This goes for everything – where you eat, what you buy, and where you stay. Eat at authentic establishments. Chose small, locally made gifts as souvenirs. Stay at family-owned B&B’s. You’ll not only be supporting the ‘little guy’, you’ll undoubtedly come away with a better appreciation of Catalan culture.

Where to eat authentic food in Barcelona

One of our favourite places to eat in Barcelona.

Visit in the off-season

Like most places in Europe – summer is the busiest time to visit Barcelona. Travel in the off-season (winter) months, or in the shoulder-season (Spring & Autumn) to help spread the tourist load. By doing so, you’ll also benefit from cheaper prices for accommodation and activities during your visit.

Choose your accommodation wisely

Vacation apartments like those found on Airbnb are taking the heat for rising rental prices in the city. But it’s not Airbnb that are to blame, it’s the investors that are buying up apartments in the city and turning them into short-term holiday rentals. Airbnb can still be a great option for accommodation in Barcelona. But choose apartments that are normally lived in. Or, even better, rent a room in a shared house for a more social experience. Alternatively you could try couch surfing, home exchange, or even house-sitting!

Sustainable accommodation in Barcelona.

Our home exchange accommodation in Barcelona.

Make your own way in the city

Skip the queues and the crowds by staying away from the more popular attractions and finding your own way to enjoy the city. There’s plenty to experience in Barcelona – including some true hidden gems! Uncover your own itinerary and you’ll have a unique take on the city – and a better story to tell.


Barcelona continues to be an incredible holiday destination, with something to offer everyone. Book that trip – just make sure to travel responsibly. So that everyone wins…

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Barcelona, Spain has been in the headlines lately for all the wrong reasons. With rising tensions between Barcelona locals and tourists, should you still visit? Here's 7 reasons why you should, plus how to visit Barcelona responsibly.

Family Travel, Italy, Travel

Sandcastles to Stalagmites – A Family Holiday Guide to Sardinia

Family holiday guide to Sardinia. What to do with kids in Sardinia

It was a last minute decision to visit Sardinia. We were faced with an ominous gap in our schedule and were at a crossroads. Return to the home we’d abandoned when we moved to Provence earlier in the year, or travel somewhere new. Perhaps it’s no surprise that travel won this round. And Sardinia promised to have everything we were looking for. A relaxed vibe, affordable accommodation, fantastic weather, and great beaches to boot. It was decided that Sardinia was the perfect spot for a family getaway.

Sardinia with Kids

While Sardinians take care to distance themselves from their Mediterranean neighbours, they share one thing in common with the Italians – their love of Bambini. Children are affectionately regarded on the island, bestowed with warm smiles, hair ruffling and pinched cheeks wherever they go.

It’s no wonder then, that kid-friendly activities abound. And restaurants and hotels are all too happy to cater for younger visitors. Add in a healthy dose of sunshine and an easy-going island attitude and you’ve got the recipe just right for a holiday with kids.

What to do in Sardinia with kids

How to get to Sardinia

While you can fly to Sardinia fairly easily from many major airports in Europe, taking the ferry from France or Italy has many benefits. Firstly, it’s full of novelty factor for kids! Our 4-year-old was just as excited about “sleeping on a boat” as he was about the holiday itself. Between our cosy cabin and the multitude of play areas, there’s plenty to keep little ones occupied on the way over. Although you can take ‘fast’ ferries during the day, I’d recommend choosing the slower, overnight option to maximise your vacation time on the island.

How to get to Sardinia. Overnight ferry to Sardinia.

Ferries are also a more cost-effective option than flying. We paid €272 return for two adults and a child, plus a large station wagon. This also included two nights’ accommodation in a cabin (one night each way). When you add in the benefit of having your own car to explore once you get there, and the extra convenience of being able to pack as much as you like – well, it seemed like a no-brainer to us… You can even take your dogs onboard if you please!

Ferry to Sardinia. How to get to Sardinia.

What to do in Sardinia

Whether you want to relax on the beach all week, or head to the mountains for an inland adventure – the choice is yours in Sardinia. While little ones are more than content making sandcastles and splashing in the shallow shores, older kids are also catered for with everything from water parks to treetop adventure courses and even flyboarding!

Things to do with kids in Sardinia

We normally like to mix a little bit of downtime with plenty of adventure, but this holiday was more about relaxing. We loved the change of pace that came with just allowing the day to unfold before us – without a packed agenda. And when we did venture further than our own little slice of paradise, we discovered an island with such diverse beauty. From the wild and rugged terrain in the mountains, to the colourful coastal villages.

What to do in Sardinia with kids. Things to do in Sardinia.

We explored the North-East coastline of Sardinia, from Puntaldia down to Cala Gonone. In the north, we were hoping to spot the pink flamingos that are known to congregate in the San Teodoro lagoon. But apart from seeing what may have been a few idle flamingos in the distance, we had no luck. In the south we visited the popular beach town of Cala Gonone with its beachfront eateries and boats jetting off for excursions at sea.

Grotta di Ispinigoli

Further inland, but not far from Cala Gonone is the Grotta di Ispinigoli. If I had to recommend just one thing to see while in Sardinia, these impressive caves would be it. Tours run every hour from 9am – 5pm, but break for lunch with no tours at 1 or 2pm. They take you inside the inside the innocuous looking mountain through a gated entrance where you’ll descend stairs 60m into the first well. The interior of the cave is incredibly intricate, with stalagmites rising up towards the ceiling like organs in a grand cathedral. In fact, Grotta di Ispinigoli is home to the world’s second largest stalagmite. At around 37m high, it joins a 1m long stalactite dripping from the ceiling – making the total length of the gnarly formation 38m!

Grotta di Ispinigoli in Sardinia. Things to do with kids in Sardinia.

Our son was the only child on the tour, and he really enjoyed exploring this underground world. He was fascinated by the rock formations that surrounded us as we descended deeper into the cave.

Unfortunately photos are banned inside the grotto. It was discovered that the light from camera flashes was negatively affecting the living organisms within the cave.

Where to stay

When travelling as a family, we normally prefer to live locally for a more authentic experience. A quick search of our usual booking site – Airbnb – revealed a multitude of accommodation options, from cheap and cheerful lodgings, to luxury seaside mansions. It didn’t take us long to find our ideal beachfront bach. Located on one of Sardinia’s best beaches (Cala Liberotto), it sported two large bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fully stocked kitchen, modest dining room and a cosy lounge. And came in at a very reasonable €80/night!

Where to stay in Sardinia. Family accommodation in Sardinia

If you want to take the easy route and stay at a kid-friendly resort, you will be well catered for. Head to the ever popular Forte Village for a luxury family getaway, or to Cruccuris Resort for family fun that’s a little easier on the wallet.

Cala Liberotto, Sardina. Where to stay in Sardinia

At the other end of the accommodation spectrum you’ll find camping grounds with plenty of on-site activities to entertain children. Camping Sa Prama is ideally located near Cala Liberotto, and has something to offer for every budget.



Booking.com

Where to eat and drink

The rustic food typically served in Sardinia is a hit with children. Which kids don’t love wood-fired pizzas and homemade pasta? Even the local flatbread (pane carasau) that accompanies each drink or meal will keep the little ones munching happily. Head away from the touristic areas to find authentic food that’s easier on the wallet. Just look for where the locals eat! We ate out about half the time we were in Sardinia. Meals were generous and usually cost us around €30-40 for a family of three.

But eating out for every meal can soon add up. So to save money I’d recommend booking accommodation with a kitchen. I love browsing foreign food stores and the market isles in Sardinia were no exception! We stocked up on locally made gnocchi, pane carasau, loads of fruit & veggies and a few guilty treats (vegan cornettos are amazing!) at a small supermarket in Orosei and ate very well for the week we were there. To mix things up, try alternating meals. If you eat out for lunch, cook dinner at home – or vice versa.

When to visit

We visited Sardinia in late May and the weather couldn’t have been better! Hot days (but not too hot!) followed by warm evenings and nights that were cool enough to sleep. We also found the island to be very quiet – sometimes we’d be sharing the beach with just one other family!

Visiting Sardinia during the shoulder season months of May, June and September means less crowds to compete with. Meaning accommodation prices are much more reasonable. You’ll also find transport costs to/from Sardinia to be cheaper during these months.

When to visit Sardinia.

The low season (October – April) will be even quieter and cheaper still. And there’s still plenty to do if the weather doesn’t play ball. Many festivals take place during the year including Autunno in Barbagia which takes place from September- December, Festa di Sant’Efisio in May, and Carnival in February.

Final thoughts on visiting Sardinia with Kids

Sardinia absolutely won us over with its rugged beauty, genuine hospitality and agreeable climate. The accessibility and affordability of this Mediterranean island also made it an excellent choice for a holiday with kids. We came in search of a relaxed getaway, but soon discovered there is much more to Sardinia than we imagined. And more than one family can cover in a week! We’ll most certainly be visiting Sardinia again to sample what the rest of the island has to offer…

Looking for a family travel destination that doesn't break the budget? Discover why Sardinia ticks all the right boxes for a family holiday. Read about how to get there, what to do and where to stay in Sardinia.*This post contains affiliate links. For every booking made using one of these links I can earn a little commission. It costs you no extra & helps support the running of this blog. Thanks for your support!