Posts filed under uk getaway

Pack Your Bags | Dunnottar Castle

If you travel up towards Aberdeen, along Scotland’s eastern coast, you’ll have the chance to view one of the most postcard-perfect castles in Great Britain: Dunnottar Castle. While the castle now lies in ruins, it’s easy to see that it’s dramatic location along the rocky coast was once the home to a really special place.

The medieval castle, which was once captured by William Wallace, now lies in ruins. The history of this site runs deep- all the way back to the 3rd century- but today, the only things happening there are casual exploring of old stones and photos being taken along the way.


Throughout the centuries, Dunnottar Castle has hosted many famous historical heroes- William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, and the future King Charles II… but it may be most famous for the 8-month stay of a small band of men that held out from Cromwell and saved the Scottish Crown Jewels.

Not only will you get the chance to peek in the partially standing castle rooms to give a glimpse at medieval castle life, but you’ll also be able to get some dramatic views of the coast below. 

The castle opens (in the summer season) at 9am and stays open until 18:00. (Last entry is a 17:30, so make sure you’ve given yourself enough time.) 

I’d give yourself at least 1.5 hours to visit Dunnottar, because the walk down and back up does take a bit longer than you may expect. As you can see, the walk to and from the castle isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires climbing 136 stairs each way… and while you may think that sounds miserable, I can tell you that if I could do it 8 months pregnant alongside a group of German senior citizens, you’ll be fine, too.

While this may be close to Aberdeen, it also makes for an easy day trip from St. Andrews, too. There aren’t many places to eat nearby, by there is a tiny food truck selling decent quality food items (fish & chips, Angus burgers, homemade fishcakes, etc). I’d recommend either packing a picnic, eating there… or heading on to the tiny town of Stonehaven for a picnic on the beach.

Looking for more places to see and stay in Scotland?


Find my previous posts here, or look in my Scotland travel guide.

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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Pack Your Bags | York's Teddy Bear Tea Room

Hello from a train to Edinburgh. The rain drops on the windows compete in number to the fingerprints of my children. Ha! Only 46 minutes left, but who's counting?

I wanted to share this adorable stop in York that has become a favourite on mine in the past few years: Stonegate Teddy Bears. While the store downstairs will lure in children with its shop windows stuffed with, you guessed it, teddy bears- the tiny tea room upstairs is what will get mom & dad to gladly stick around.

The Teddy Bear Tea Room

Perched above the adorable Stonegate Teddy Bear shop in the city centre of York is the Teddy Bear Tea Room.

Wind your way up the stairs to the second floor (well, third, if you're an American) and head to the room on the left. If the table by the window is open, snag it and enjoy the gorgeous views of the nearby York Minster.

The menu has been newly expanded to a range of items that spans across your daily meals- from breakfast, lunch and tea. While there are endless option listed, make sure to ask about the daily rotation of cakes- as they are homemade and absolutely worth getting.

While portions may be bigger than you might expect, don't worry- I can proudly say that a single person can polish off a slice on their own.

The room was decorated for Christmas and Michael Bublé's Christmas album was playing on the speakers. With the cold winter night coming out above the street and the Christmas mood set, I realised that it was officially that time of year. What a way to start the festive season!

My mom heard we were going and offered to buy each of the kids a teddy bear. (Classic Grandma move.) Viola immediately found the most sparkly one with a pink scarf and named her "Cinderella Bear Two," as "Cinderella Bear" is at home on her bed. Harrison grabbed a panda, among 40 other items, but since this was the cheapest and cutest- we decided that was the one for him. He hasn't touched it since.

We love the Teddy Bear Tea Room and it's one of those simple stops that makes traveling to the same place a fun adventure for us... and our kids, too! ;)

Find more of our favourite places in York here, as well as my travel guide to England here.

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

A Quick Getaway to... 2011

I started my blog in 2010 when I was working in Dallas, and my friends pulled me into this weird/new/online world of blogging- but it wasn't until we moved to Oxford that my blog shifted into the style and feel of what it is today.

When we lived there, I would write (with fresher eyes than I have today) about all the cute and quirky things that we were experiencing together. We lived on a shoestring budget, so everything from booking the cheapest tickets RyanAir could offer (even if we didn't know where that destination was without googling it!) to shopping in "old" produce sections of the market stalls for dinner was a daily adventure.

And while I think that was what gave me something to talk about it- the real fun of our first years here was because of Oxford. While life would seem very normal at times, we would also find ourselves in some of the most gorgeous places with such extra people. The dinners on long wooden benches with the paintings of prime ministers and authors hanging over head, the end of term balls held in quadrangles with Alice in Wonderland-esque fantasy all around us (hookah tents! hot air balloons! servers spray-painted from head to toe in golden glitter passing around trays of drinks & food!)

When our time there ended, our amazing group of friends dispersed to the far corners of the world to do really amazing and great things. We are so proud of them, but oof! We miss those moments when we all were carelessly running around Oxford as kings.

Tyler's class just had his 5 year reunion (you may have seen in on Instagram), and I had been so busy that I hadn't put much thought into what the weekend was going to be like before we went. But when we got there and walked into the quadrangle of Christ Church, time seemed to flip back seamlessly into life back when we lived there. We saw so many of those faces- I can't tell you how much of a homecoming it felt like for all of us!

There really is a special magic to old friendships- friendships that love and get you, regardless of how big or small life may have made you. You just can't make old friends. (And you sure can't beat a place like the old dining halls of Oxford to catch up with them!)

Find more of our Oxford days here and my city guide to Oxford here.

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Get Out of Town | England's Jurassic Coast


Last weekend, we trekked out to Dorset for our friends' wedding. It was a classic British wedding from start to finish: adorable little country church, women crowned with enormous fascinators and hats, and a tented reception sat amongst a well-groomed garden... with a wedding singer blaring Robbie Williams, "Angels."


The only thing missing from my expectations was Hugh Grant bumbling his way through the Best Man's speech. Otherwise, it was the complete experience.



While I was hopeful for all of the English wedding cliches, I didn't have much in my mind about what Dorset would be like. We were headed to the Jurassic Coast, and- if I'm honest- I was not expecting much. I mean, I've been to Britain's beaches. While they may be nice, they really don't compare to so many other places.

But the day after the wedding, we woke up at our tiny B&B, Crawford House. We spent a lazy morning over homecooked breakfasts then packed up our bags and hit the beach to have a picnic with the newlyweds.



We parked the cars and took a ten minute walk down towards the beach, Durdle Door. When we walked up to the overlook of the coastline, my jaw dropped. I started yelling at Tyler to "COME HERE. YOU'RE GOING TO FREAK OUT. COME HERE." Was this really in England? Or had we been mysteriously transported to somewhere to Spain? France? Italy?


And the other element that upped the experience was that it full sunshine and over 90 degrees. I was loving every moment of it. (Minus the 20 minute hike back up to the parking lot. Woof!)



Can you believer this gorgeous place? As much as I think I've uncovered England, moments like this remind me that I have so much more to discover. What a refreshing look at a country that I've become so comfortable with over the years.

Any other hidden gems that you know of in England? Please share them below!



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy


Edinburgh | Clarinda's Tea Room

When I'm traveling with my students,

I'm a bit of a sucker for routine.

You see, I'm often doing a similar circuit

that is really fast-paced,

so I enjoy a bit of normalcy in the midst of the whirlwind.

I tend to stick to my pre-approved list of good things

and spend the rest of my time staring blankly at the ceiling of my hotel room

trying to recover and plan for the day ahead.

But sometimes, even in the midst of exhaustion & routine,

you find that places can still charm & surprise you...

like I was in Edinburgh this week.


I was heading up the Royal Mile from Holyrood Palace

right as Tyler was arriving at our hotel from the train station.

{Editor's note: Yes, he arrived a day later than I did

because home boy now has three ladies to support

and is feeling some pressure to work some wee longer hours.}

As I huffed my way up the hill in the cold,

I saw a cute little tea room named Clarinda's

that seemed to be glowing from the window


I texted Tyler if he wanted to walk down to meet me there instead

and he said he'd be there in ten minutes.

When I walked in the creaky door,

I was patting myself on the proverbial back

for choosing to stop in this gem.

Tiny bouquets of flowers sat on

lace tablecloths draped over the tables...

Blue & white china hung spattered along the wall...

A table full of baked goods

lay before me

glowing with the splendour of a pirates chest

overflowing with golden coins & jewels...

And the menu had so many of my favorite things

at ridiculously cheap prices.

I was in heaven!

Please add this cozy stop to your visit to Edinburgh...

and pretty-please try the carrot cake.

Find Clarinda's on the Royal Mile


69 Canongate, Edinburgh Scotland


Just walk down and you'll find it

near the bottom of the Royal Mile on your left-

sitting somewhere between the Canongate Kirk

(where economist Adam Smith is buried)

and the new parliament building near Holyrood Palace.


For more of my favorite things in Scotland, 

click here

for additional posts.

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Little Lussie


A few days ago, I was wandering through Scotland like a local.

Today, I'm sitting on a porch swing in the southern heat of Florida. I'd take a picture to show you... but my camera lens fogs over every time I try to take a picture.

While these beautiful little Floridian streets of perfectly manicured lawns lining pastel colored homes filled with perfectly tanned people living inside have a quite stunning effect...

I'm not sure how they compare to the little village of Luss that I stumbled upon over the weekend while working our way up through Scotland.

(Though Scotland doesn't have my mom's biscuits & gravy... and that is hard to beat.)

I love the quaint "kirk" in the town.

("Kirk"= church in Scotland)

I also really love Cadbury 99's. (Ridiculous soft serve on a cone with a Cadbury flake shoved in it. Yum.) Seeing them just makes it feel like summer has actually arrived here in Britain...

even if "summer" often means wearing a sweater, jeans & a giant scarf while the grey skies above you spit out rain.

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy