Author Archives: Karen Bryan

About Karen Bryan

Hello, I'm Karen Bryan, I created Europe a la Carte in 2002 to highlight the best places to visit in Europe with travel tips, photos and no fluff reviews. I’m also an artist; my artworks are often inspired by my travels

The Garden at House of Dun

I visited the gardens at the House of Dun, near Montrose in Angus, in the early evening in mid September. It was after closing time for the house, but I was happy to enjoy the evening sunshine in the garden, which is open until dusk.

As I am a member of the National Trust of Scotland, I was exempt  the £3 parking charge. There’s no charge for entry to the garden.

I spent most of my time at the House of Dun in the walled garden.

I sat on a  bench where it was sheltered from the wind,

There were still plenty of flowers in bloom.

There was a crown shaped hedge in the centre of the Walled Garden.

I then spent a few minutes at the front of House of Dun, admiring the circular hedge and the countryside views.

I could make out the Montrose Basin in the distance. There is a path down to the basin, but I didn’t have the time or energy for that.

I really enjoyed my evening visit to the garden at House of Dun. My only quibble was that the toilets were closed. In my opinion, they should be open until dusk too.

Visiting Gatehouse of Fleet

I popped into the town of Gatehouse of Fleet in Dumfries and Galloway when I was driving from Barholm Accommodation in Creetown to Kirkcubright, I’d read that there was a pop up artist’s shop in the town which I wanted to see.

There is free parking with public toilets in the town centre. As it was a lovely morning, I decided to go for a short walk along the Water of Fleet. I spotted a picnic bench, next to a wooden sculpture, with a river view, so decided to return there with my flask.

Then I crossed the road and walked down to the Mill on the Fleet, as the pop up artist’s shop was on the top floor there. As I approached the mill, I saw an enormous wooden sculpture.

There were a couple of enormous mill wheels outside the building.

There’s a small wheel at the side of building.

On the ground floor there’s the Mill Cafe, which has some outdoor seating.

On the first floor, there were exhibits charting the history of Gatehouse of Fleet, There was scale model of the town.

Information boards related some facts about the town.

For kids there were some historic costumes for dressing up.

There was also an old school desk.

You could try your hand at carding, spinning and weaving.

I liked the collages made by local children.

I enjoyed the views down over the river.

One part of the top floor is a book shop.

I was very impressed the artist’s shop. The quality of the work was high and the prices reasonable.

I really enjoyed my stop in Gatehouse of Fleet and spend more time there than I planned. 21 recommend it as a pit stop if you are driving on the A75 between Dumfries and Stranraer.

Kirkcubright Galleries

Kirkcubright Galleries opened in June 2018. I was keen to visit, as Kirkcubright has a reputation as an artists’ town.

I liked the wrought iron work on the gate in front of the the main entrance door.

My first impression positive. The staircase was beautiful and there was a feeling of light and space.

The first floor cafe had views over to the church opposite.

As I have a National Art Pass, I didn’t have to pay the £4 adult admission fee to see the Stars of Scotland temporary exhibition. My favourite piece was by the Scottish colourist J D Fergusson. Unfortunately, photography was not permitted in the exhibition.

The permanent collection is housed on the ground floor.

I really liked the decorated chairs by William Miles Johnstone, a bird and animal artist.

There were some gorgeous ceramics.

Peploe’s depiction of Kirkcubright is more colourful that reality.

Jessie M King, who lived in Kirkcubright, was best known for her book and magazine illustrations, but she also designed fabrics (for Liberty), jewellery and painted pottery.

Below are greetings card designed by King.

Below are two of her illustrations for Wynken, Blyken & Nod by poet Eugene Field.

There were sculptures of animals and their young by Phyllis M Bone.

Below are some photos of other exhibitions at Kirkcubright Galleries.

Kirkcubright Galleries is open on Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm. On a Sunday it’s noon to 5pm. It’s free to enter, except for some temporary exhibitions. There’s plenty of free parking in Kirkcubright.

Holidaying With Another Couple

Going on holiday with your couple friends isn’t everyone’s idea of a perfect break. You might be worried about potential clashes when staying in such close proximity or that you and your partner won’t get any time alone.

However, holidaying with another couple can be great if you’re open and honest about any worries because let’s face it, they’ll probably feel the same way as you do! Here’s a few things to bear in mind when you’re planning a holiday with another couple.

It Could Be Much Cheaper

One of the main benefits of holidaying with coupled up friends is how much money you could save. With the price split between you all, you could rent an full-blown apartment or a Spanish villa with a pool, like from Villa Plus for example. Somewhere like this might be out of your price range when it’s just the two of you, but it could become an affordable option when split between two or three couples. A luxury villa in Spain for less? Sign me up!

Plan Some Separate Couple Time

Remember that just because you’re on holiday with other couples, it doesn’t mean you have to do everything together! Make sure everyone’s on the same page in this respect; plan group events together, such as day trips and meals, but also schedule some separate couple activities so you’re not spending 24/7 as a group.

After all, your holiday budgets won’t be the same and you’ll probably have different things that you want to see and do. However, don’t write these off too quickly as having individual interests can be a good thing! You might get to see a whole new side of your holiday destination that you wouldn’t normally.

Be Respectful

Last but not least, be respectful of your holiday pals. The good thing is that you’ll all be on your best behaviour already, so you’re less likely to engage in silly couple squabbles that could arise if it was just the two of you.

Even so, remember to give each other space. Holidays can be intense experiences that can shake even the strongest of friends! This is particularly important when partners are involved as there’s likely to be at least one person who doesn’t know the others as well, so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re not living in each other’s pockets.

If you want a luxury holiday villa for cheaper, it could be a good idea to book with your couple friends. As long as you all agree about the important aspects (such as budgets, the itinerary and giving mutual respect) going away with another couple could be a match made in holiday heaven!

Carsluith Castle

You can visit the ruins of a 16th century tower house at Carsluith Castle, in Dumfries and Galloway, in south west Scotland.

The castle is located just off the A75. It’s open all year and it’s free to enter. You could combine a visit to Carsluith Castle with a pit stop at the adjacent cafe. If the weather is dry, you could sit outside.

There are stone steps to ascend the castle.

The higher you get, the better the views of the surrounding countryside and Wigton Bay.

I had the place to myself when I visited around 10am on a Saturday morning.

Malleny Garden in Edinburgh

Malleny Garden is located in Balerno, an Edinburgh suburb which lies 8 miles south west of the city centre.

I’d visited the garden a few times in the past, the most recent occasion being around 12 years ago. I’d been to the nearby Jupiter Artland sculpture park in the morning. I thought that Malleny Garden would be a good place to eat my picnic lunch. It was a good choice. I was hungry when I arrived at the garden. I was immediately attracted to the bench behind some yellow flowers.

It was lovely inside the green house.

There were even some seats for a wet or colder day.

There were some pretty flowers bordered by red bushes.

The yew trees are around 400 years old.

Malleny Garden has a heritage collection of roses. Very few were in bloom when I visited in late July.

Malleny Garden is open every day from 10am to 5pm (or dusk if earlier). There’s a toilet in the garden.

 

 

 

 

Spring Fling Art Open Studios in Dumfries and Galloway

Spring Fling is an annual art and craft open studios event in Dumfries and Galloway, in south west Scotland. I attended the event in late May 2018.

The studios are dispersed over a wide geographic location. The event organisers suggest six colour coded routes to follow. However, I decided to draw up my own itineraries, based on visiting the studios which were of the most interest to me.

This was a complex task, especially as I am not familiar with that area. I also had to factor in different opening hours and the travel time between venues.

Below are photos from a few of the Spring Fling studios which I visited.

Peter Wareing

Andrew Adair

Annie Cooney

Christime Hester Smith

Jo Gallant

Penny Lilley

Phil Mcmenemy

Wendy Kershaw

Ir you’re interested in arts and crafts, I recommend a visit to Spring Fling. It’s a great opportunity to meet the artists, see them at work and purchase their pieces.

How Brexit Will Affect Travel to Europe

As Brexit approaches at the end of March, many UK citizens are wondering how it’s going to affect their travel plans. Depending on whether there is a deal struck between the EU and the UK, travel will impacted in a variety of ways. While it will change holidays in the EU, there is nothing major to worry about. Being prepared for the changes is key. Here is what you should be thinking about if you are planning on going abroad after Brexit.


Flight Prices

Since air travel has been relatively unrestricted between the United Kingdom and EU countries, it is unclear how the flights and flight prices will fully change. Budget airlines rely on this open sky policy, and a deal between the EU and the UK will likely determine how much higher prices will go. Up until now, it doesn’t appear that they will stay the same. The government has a contingency plan for areas that would cause major disruptions. These would affect civilians and businesses, including financial services, air transport, and customs. This preparedness will not reciprocate for EU members, however.

Visas

While the EU has confirmed the British travelers will need to pay for a €7 travel permit, which will be valid for three years. This is a part of the European Travel Information and Authorization Scheme (ETIAS). Every traveler to the EU will need to pay the fee and register 72 hours in advance of travel.

Passports

Passports will also change in accordance to EU countries. The government is recommending that travelers have at least six months on their passports from the day they go abroad. If you renewed your passport before it expired, extra days could have been added. It is best to check how many days you have left on your passport ahead of time. To do so, use the passport-checking tool online.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance will be impacted greatly by Brexit. European health insurance cards (EHIC). EHICs cover pre-existing conditions and emergencies when traveling. “In the absence of an agreement on future relations that covers this topic, a House of Lords report said, “the rights currently enjoyed by 27 million UK citizens, thanks to the EHIC, will cease after Brexit.”

According to an expert at MoneyPug, a site specializing in cheap travel insurance, some reciprocal emergency measures with EU countries may be negotiated, but right now it seems like individual deals will be struck with each state. While it remains uncertain, the UK government has proposed a law to begin implementing this measure. Without EHIC, purchasing insurance for particular trips will be the way to ensure that you don’t have to pay large sums in an accident, emergency, or illness. Those with pre-existing conditions will need to get specialized insurance.

Mobile Roaming

Under the current rules, mobile data is the same in the rest of the EU as the United Kingdom, but this will change. In the event of no deal with the EU, free roaming will not be guaranteed, but some mobile phone providers, including Tesco Mobile, Vodafone, and O2 have said they won’t charge for roaming in Europe. The UK government has also said that it will legislate to put £45 limits on charges while abroad.

Tour Operators

The Association of British Travel Agents has said that British travelers should be confident to book after March. In a statement they noted that tour operators provide the most comprehensive consumer protection. In fact, travel tours are protected under Package Travel Regulations, which will give you the right of a full refund. The Association of Independent Tour Operators agrees. They suggest booking holidays that have full financial protection. While tours are the safest way to book a holiday, you will still be able to travel to Europe without booking a tour or losing too much money. It is important to know ahead of time how the regulations will change between Britain and the country you are traveling to.

Currency

The relationship between the pound and the euro has already changed, and it will continue to do so. It has become more expensive for British travelers in Europe, and the exchange rate will likely fall more. After Theresa May’s vote to delay the parliamentary vote on December 17th the pound dropped to its lowest in two years, exchanging with the euro at 1.11 pounds.

While many things about traveling to Europe will change, being informed will help you avoid headaches and extraneous charges. Planning is always key to a successful holiday. Don’t allow Brexit to change your plans or discourage inspiration for the perfect vacation. It won’t be as difficult as it seems. Get ahead of it, and start today!

Barnhill Rock Garden in Broughty Ferry, Dundee

If the weather is dry one of my favourite places to visit in Dundee, is Barnhill Rock Garden, in the seaside suburb of Broughty Ferry.

It’s usually quite sheltered in the garden, with the trees and shrubs offering some respite if there is an easterly wind. I’ve visited at all times of year.

There are plenty of benches and picnic tables in the garden. Plus, there is free on street parking and the all important public toilets.

I really like sitting by the pond, but there is only one bench with a good view of the pond.

It never seems to be too busy at Barnhill Rock Garden. If it’s a good day weather wise, most people seem to head for the beach. If the weather isn’t great, the cafes in Broughty Ferry are more appealing to many.

When I visited Barnhill Rock Garden last Summer, there was one of the giant penguin sculptures which formed Maggie’s Penguin Parade.

Logan Botanic Garden in Dumfries and Galloway

I’d read about Logan Botanic Garden, but was it’s located in rather a remote spot in the south west of Dumfries and Galloway (15 miles south of Stranraer), I hadn’t visited. When I saw that one of the outdoor dance performances of Les Impromptues: A Breath of Fresh Air was taking place there, I knew I had to visit.

Logan Botanic Garden is part of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. The location, close to the warning effect of the Gulf Stream, means that it is Scotland’s most exotic garden.

When I arrived at the garden on a sunny Sunday afternoon, the car park was already full, so I had to park the car on a grass verge at the side of the driveway.

I was entranced by the Les Impromptues: A Breath of Fresh Air especially the dance around the fish pond.

There’s a cafe with outdoor seating around a smaller pond with a spherical slate feature.

There was a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds stands aimed at kids.

I spent around an hour in garden after the dance performance.

The fish pond was my favourite part of the garden, despite it being too hot for my to sit in the sun on a bench at the side of the pond.

There was a section planted with palm trees.

The Conservatory is huge.

You can have a picnic in the shade of Tasmanian trees.

There’s a boggy area where Gunnera grows.

The Woodland Pond was so pretty.

You can learn more about the garden in the Discovery Centre.

I have to say that Logan Botanic Garden is one of the most beautiful gardens which have visited. Despite the car park being full the garden, it didn’t seem too busy.

The admission fee is £6.50 for adults, £5.50 for concessions, kids go free. The arden is open daily from 1 March to 15 November, from 10am – 5pm (4pm in November and Sundays in February. If I lived closer, I think that I’d buy an annual pass, which costs £29 per year if you pay by direct debit. The pass also gives you free entry to the glasshouses in Edinburgh plus Dawyck, and Benmore Gardens.