A weekend in Birmingham on the Tolkien Trail

With the latest addition to The Hobbit trilogy being recently released on DVD, and the next instalment ready to grace our cinema screens in a few months, now would be a perfect time to delve a little deeper into the life of the author, JRR Tolkien. While he may have been born in South Africa in 1892, he had an affinity with the city of Birmingham since moving there at four years old and, as such, literary fans will love to explore the sights that have been linked to the writer’s Midland adventures.

The Tolkein Trilogy

The Tolkein Trilogy

It’s often believed that Middle Earth was based on the Midlands, so it’s only natural to want to see where Tolkien gained his inspiration. If you’re after a weekend break in the city so that you can see more, book with Travelodge and you won’t have to worry about spending more than your budget can allow on accommodation. The Tolkien Trail is the perfect way of exploring parts of Tolkien’s childhood, with highlights including:

Sareholl Mill in Birmingham Photo: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Sareholl Mill in Birmingham on the Tolkein Trail

  • Sarehole Mill, situated in the village of Sarehole (which is often considered to be the inspiration for Hobbiton and The Shire), is a fantastic museum that pays homage to Tolkien. It’s believed that he, and his brother, used to play for hours near the mill. It’s only open for part of the year though, so make sure you check that it’s open before you visit to avoid disappointment.
Moseley Bog in Birmingham Photo: Peter Lewis on Flickr

Moseley Bog in Birmingham

  • Moseley Bog was once a mill pool and was the site of many an adventure for Tolkien when he was a lad. Nowadays, it’s a Local Nature Reserve and a perfect addition to your Tolkien itinerary if you’re a lover of the great outdoors. You can access it via Yardley Wood Road or the Wake Green Playing Fields.
  • St Anne’s Church on Alcester Street is where Tolkien and his family used to worship. Pop by during service hours and you can enjoy the interior beauty as well as the outside.
  • Perrott’s Folly stands near to the Edgbaston Waterworks, alongside a Victorian tower that, together, are believed to be the inspiration behind the Two Towers of Gondor – which, as any Tolkien fan will know, is the name of the second book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Perrotts Folly in Brirmingham Photo: Tony Hidgett on Flickr

Perrotts Folly in Birmingham on the Tolkein trail

Whether you wish to head off on your own adventure, discovering these places and more, or you prefer to embark upon a Middle Earth tour with the help of a tour guide, the Tolkien trail is a must for any fan of this fantasy writer. These tours operate at various times during the year, so keep an eye on the Midlands Discovery Tours site if you fancy being part of the next one – you can sign up to receive email notification of when tickets for the next tour go on sale, and it’s recommended you do so, because they sell fast!

If you can’t wait for the next tour, there’s no reason why you can’t venture out on your own to see where the inspiration for Tolkien’s amazing literary works evolved. Incorporate it into your visit to Birmingham and learn more about Tolkien’s roots in The Midlands.

This article was brought to you in partnership with Travelodge.

Photo Credits: Sarehole Mill by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Moseley Bog by Peter Lewis, Perrott’s Folly by Tony Hisgett, Tolkein Trilogy from TheHobbit.com

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com - Read the original article here

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An Insider’s Guide to Grand Cayman Island

In this article our guest writer, Catherine Stanley shares her love of Grand Cayman in the Caribbean, with glorious beaches, delicious local cuisine and flower-filled walks where you can spot the island’s wildlife.

If you have never experienced the Caribbean’s Cayman Islands, you should definitely add them to your bucket list. Having traveled to the Cayman Islands several times over the past few years, I have become very familiar with the three islands. Without a doubt, my personal favorite is Grand Cayman, the largest of the Cayman Islands. Whether you are on a family vacation of just spending time with a group of friends, Grand Cayman truly has so much to offer especially when it comes to the variety of activities you can experience.

Miles of Sandy Beaches on Grand Cayman Photo: squirrelmachine.org

Miles of Sandy Beaches on Grand Cayman

Adventure on the beach

When you sit on the soft sand of the renowned Seven Mile Beach in the early hours of the day, it is easy to get lost in the mesmerizing teal-blue water, endless rows of beach chairs and lazy water sports. However, I am not one to just hang around when I am on vacation. Grand Cayman never disappoints as I turn to the adrenaline rush of kitesurfing.

Kite Surfing on Grand Cayman Photo: squirrelmachine.org

Kite Surfing on Grand Cayman

My favorite kitesurfing spot is Barkers Beach, found within the Grand Cayman Nature Reserve, towards the north-western point of the island. With its winding, pot hole-filled dirt road and occasional lizard sighting, it is fair to say that Barkers is off the beaten track.  I love the drive because you can see the bright colored kites, full with air, high above the trees far before you even reach the ocean. Once you arrive at the beach, you will find that it is quite removed from the rest of the island, swarming with locals who spend their free time out on the crystal blue water right off the reef protected beach.

Ivy's Cayman Treats Photo: squirrelmachine.org

Ivy’s Cayman Treats

An abundance of local culture and cuisine

After working up an appetite from kitesurfing, I like to make a pit stop on my way back at Jessie’s Juice Bar (great smoothies!) and the Farmer’s Market in Camana Bay. The Farmer’s Market has a wide array of items ranging from fresh produce and baked goods to homemade soaps. I always have to swing by the Ivy’s Cayman Treats stand where I do not leave without several bottles of Ms. Ivy’s homemade pepper sauces and jerk seasoning rub mix—all of which are to die for!

The Camana Way Photo: squirrelmachine.org

The Camana Way

As someone who is innately curious, I love strolling through the beautiful courtyards sprinkled throughout Camana Bay. I would have to say that Canella Court is my favorite one as I am a sucker for the shady trees and soft trickling sound of the fountains.

Colourful flowers on the Camana Way Photo: squirrelmachine.org

Colourful flowers on the Camana Way

If I plan on staying in the Camana Bay area for the rest of the day, I like to walk along Camana Way, a beautiful pathway connecting Camana Bay’s Town Center to the Seven Mile Beach. The path is full of life and covered with all types of native plants and flowers, giving you a true appreciation for the Island’s nature. Do not be surprised to come across the island’s colorful lizards and birds of all size. Make sure to bring a camera, you are bound to find numerous amazing photo opportunities along the path!

The Camana Way Photo: squirrelmachine.org

The Camana Way

When dinner rolls around, neighborhood restaurant and local favorite, Season to the Bone, is my go-to. Located in Windsor Park (about a 10 minute drive from Camana Bay), Season to the Bone has, what I believe to be the best jerk meat I have ever tasted. Grab a picnic table outside the restaurant and prepare to taste the most amazing and authentic jerk chicken you have ever had. For a generous portion of jerk pork or chicken plus a drink, you will spend about $15 and definitely get your money’s worth! Expect to experience a wonderful blend of culture and warm hospitality at this local food spot.

Ice Cream on the beach on Grand Cayman Photo: squirrelmachine.org

Ice Cream on the beach on Grand Cayman

A perfect sunset

After dinner, I like to head out to the Seven Mile Beach to watch the Caribbean sunset, one of my favorite parts of the day. The warm red, orange and pink tones painted across the sky make for an absolutely breathtaking picture. Without a doubt, Grand Cayman delivers both a refreshing tropical climate and amazing ocean views as the sun disappears behind the rolling ocean waves. It is quite a sight to see and I can assure you that you will not want to miss it!

Caribbean Sunset on Grand Cayman Photo: squirrelmachine.org

Caribbean Sunset on Grand Cayman

Many thanks for this guest post to frequent traveler and blogger Catherine Stanley, who runs The Squirrel Machine blog out of her home (and on the go, as long as there’s a WiFi connection!). A New York City native, Catherine has vacationed in the Cayman Islands since she was young and has developed a deep appreciation for the warm weather paradise. In addition to traveling, Catherine is passionate about writing and enjoys providing her readers with posts on a variety of topics. Head over to The Squirrel Machine for more posts on travel, entertainment, health, business and more!

For more Caribbean stories:

Wood-carvings at Anse Chastenet in St Lucia
Swimming, surfing, snorkeling – best beaches of the Dominican republic
Silky sand and clear water – beautiful beaches of Jamaica

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com - Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

The unforgettable sights of a Scandinavian Cruise

A Scandinavian cruise offers so many unforgettable sightseeing opportunities; magnificent fjords, snow covered landscapes, historic towns and vibrant cities and there are no shortage of exciting routes available, whether you want to view the Northern Lights in Norway or voyage deep into the Arctic Circle.

Scandinavian cruise holidays are on the wish list of so many travellers, since the opportunity to go on a cruise and view up close the breath-taking beauty of one of the world’s most northerly regions makes for an unforgettable holiday experience. Cruise options around the Scandinavian peninsula, which covers Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland, can range from four day breaks to two weeks of exploring this beautiful region.

Geothermal lake in Iceland Photo: David Evers on Flickr

Geothermal lake in Iceland

Explore the land of fire and ice

Iceland has always been a popular cruise option, thanks to its mix of unspoilt wilderness and beautiful but modern capital city of Reykjavik. Iceland is home to 30 active volcano systems and a guided tour to the edge of a volcanic crater is worth the trip alone. Reykjavik itself is the perfect base from which to explore the beauty of the Ellidaardalur Valley or take a day trip to Mount Esja to enjoy unforgettable panoramic views. Bathing at the geothermal beach, viewing the dazzling Northern Lights and witnessing the unforgettable summer midnight sun are just some of the highlights on an Iceland cruise.

Northern Lights in Norway Photo: VisitNorway.com

Northern Lights in Norway

The spectacular Norwegian Fjords

Traversing the majestic Norwegian Fjords is one of the most popular reasons why many people take Scandinavian cruises. Cruising down Sognefjord, the longest (204km) and deepest (1308m) fjord in the world, means you’ll see some spectacularly beautiful spots in what has been described as an almost spiritual setting. You can also take a trip on the Flam Railway, which rises to 865m above sea level and is the steepest railway journey in the world. A visit to the Fretheim Hotel for a spot of lunch and a guided historical tour as well as taking in the views at 650m above sea level at the Stegastein Viewpoint should all be included on your itinerary.

Cruise the Norwegian Fjords Photo: VisitNorway.com

Cruise the Norwegian Fjords

Exploring the Arctic Circle

Journeying into the Arctic Circle makes for a true Scandinavian adventure and this is the region to view some of the world’s most unspoilt areas. Arctic Circle cruises include regions such as northern Norway, Greenland, Svalbard and even some parts of the far east of Russia. As you journey around the top of the world you will encounter majestic glaciers, stunning waterfalls, snow covered wildernesses, fjords and snow-capped mountains. You can visit North Cape to view the midnight sun and the Northern Lights, explore the beauty of the uninhabited Bear Island or take wildlife watching cruises to spot polar bears, whales and walruses.

Cruise to the Arctic Circle Photo: Brian Wotherspoon on Flickr

Cruise to the Arctic Circle

Visit the Scandinavian cities

Most Scandinavian cruises will include stops at major cities and it’s a good idea to plan your cruise around the cities you’d like to visit such as Amsterdam, Stockholm, St Petersburg and Helsinki, to name just a few. Longer cruises will provide you with the option of multiple city excursions where you can enjoy the sightseeing and immerse yourself in the local culture, cuisine and nightlife. Don’t forget that Scandinavian cruises are available all year round and are one of the most popular festive season holiday options.

Stockholm harbour Photo: Wouter de Bruijn on Flickr

Visit Stockholm on your Scandinavian cruise

This article is brought to you by cruisedeals.co.uk  bringing you great value cruise holidays at competitive prices.

Photo credits: Geothermal lake by David Evers, Northern Lights and Norwegian fjords by VisitNorway.com, Cruise to the Arctic Circle by Brian Wotherspoon, Stockholm by Wouter de Bruijn

For more cruise related articles

Britannia rules the waves in 2015 with a host of Food Heroes
Being Princess for a day – the naming of the Royal Princess by the Ducess of Cambridge
How to enjoy your cruise without piling on the pounds (easier said than done)

This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com - Read the original article here

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