A Dragon Hunting Adventure at the Tower of London

BattleDad and I had visited the Tower of London a few times in our pre-BattleKid days. It gained our interest after we watched the Tudors television series, and we always enjoyed our visits to the Tower. When I realised we had 36 hours to kill in London, I started looking into fun things to do with kids in London. And a dragon hunting adventure at the Tower of London was a must with our little dragon hunter, BattleKid.DRAGON HUNTING ADVENTURE AT THE TOWER OF LONDON

As you will already know, we started dragon hunting with BattleKid in an effort to make visiting castles interesting for him. Living in Wales until our move to Portugal, we were surrounded by castles, but they’re not always interesting places for toddlers and young children. So, to make our visits more appealing to BattleKid, the dragon hunting adventures were born. We’ve hunted dragons at Chepstow Castle, Carreg Cennen and Powis Castle, to name but a few. But we’d never ventured further than Wales. Our family day in London was a chance to hunt dragons further afield and our destination was going to be the Tower of London.

The Tower of London is a historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it dates to around 1078. It is a complex of several buildings set within 2 rings of defensive walls and a moat. The Tower of London has been used for a variety of things including as an armoury, treasury and menagerie. It was once the home of the Royal Mint and was used as a public records office. It was even used as a prison between 1100 until 1952, when it housed the Kray Twins. It is still the home of the Crown Jewels of England and is one of London’s most popular attractions.DRAGON HUNTING ADVENTURE AT THE TOWER OF LONDON

And it was the scene for one of our dragon hunting adventures. We made our way to the Tower after visiting Sea Life at Southbank and had precooked tickets, so we could make our way through security and through the main entrance gate of the Tower of London. The Tower of London can be both an educational place to visit as well as something being part of a fun kids day out in London.

The first part of the castle we visited was St. Thomas’ Tower, the building which sits over Traitor’s Gate, and which forms part of the Medieval Palace. We searched the rooms in here but there was no sign of a dragon. From the Tower, we checked nooks and crannies around Traitor’s Gate but still no dragon.

Checking the water under Traitor’s Gate for signs of dragons


We moved on past Henry III’s Watergate and into the area where the ravens are housed. I can remember thinking how big the ravens were the previous times we visited, and I was reminded again. But alas, no dragons were lurking around these huge birds.

At this stage we were all a bit pooped, having been on both the London Eye and visiting Sea Life, so we decided to stop at the Raven’s Café for a cuppa and some cake. We also visited the Raven’s Shop for a souvenir before carrying on our dragon hunt. I got us a keyring (to turn into a Christmas tree decoration) and BattleKid picked out a set of knights and horses.

Our port of call was the White Tower. This is by far one of my favourite parts of the Tower of London. Although there is a lot of steps and parts to it, it is filled with history. You can even view the armour worn by previous kings, including Henry VIII.DRAGON HUNTING ADVENTURE AT THE TOWER OF LONDON

We checked each room on each floor that is accessible to the public and we finally found our dragon on the top floor. He was hiding in an alcove on the same floor as the magnificent treasure dragon which lies within the White Tower. (We hid BattleKid’s dragon just beside a wall in an alcove, and thankfully the security guard in the room was very accommodating of a little boy on his dragon hunt. I’ll admit it looked slightly suspicious as one of us distracted the boy while the other placed said dragon to be found. But she was very understanding when we explained what we were doing. We certainly didn’t want to get locked away in the Tower!)

This wasn’t the dragon we were hunting!
BattleKid keeping an eye on the Tower Dragon after finding his own hidden in the same room

Happy that we’d found the dragon, we made our way downstairs and as a certain little person was starting to get tired, we decided to start making our way to the exit. We didn’t get a chance to visit the Crown Jewels, although BattleDad and I have seen them on our previous visits and to say they are stunning would be an understatement. Nor did we take one of the Yeoman Warder’s tours, another thing BattleDad and I have done on our previous visits. We exited the Tower of London onto the banks of the Thames beside Tower Bridge, satisfied we’d achieved what we’d come to do.DRAGON HUNTING ADVENTURE AT THE TOWER OF LONDON

Things to note if you’re planning a dragon hunting adventure at the Tower of London

  • Tickets for the Tower of London cost £21.50 per adult (16+), while children cost £9.70 (5-15 years of age). Under 5’s are free and members have free entrance to the Tower.
  • Opening times for the Tower of London are as follows: Tues-Sat 9am to 4.30pm, Sun-Mon 10am to 4.30pm. Last admission is 4pm.
  • There are toilets in various locations within the Tower of London as well as baby changing facilities and wheelchair accessible toilets.
  • There is free WiFi at the Tower of London, although we didn’t use it.
  • Four eateries are located within the Tower of London. We had drinks and cake at the Raven Café. There is also the Wharf Kiosk, New Armouries Café and the Perkin Reveller.
  • Five gift shops are located at the Tower of London.
  • The Tower of London is not completely buggy or wheelchair friendly due to the cobbled ground in certain parts of the site. There are also stairs in many of the buildings. There is a buggy park for buggies located next to the Salt Tower, the Middle Drawbridge and at the entrance to the White Tower. There are virtual tours of areas not accessible by wheelchair.


There is plenty to see and do at the Tower of London and it is just one of many fun things to do in London with kids. I wondered whether the Tower of London would be suitable for young kids, but by having a dragon hunting adventure there, we had no tantrums or tears from BattleKid, and we all enjoyed ourselves.

Some of the other things I’d like to try in the future with BattleKid are the Yeoman Warder tours. As mentioned we’ve been on two of these pre-BattleKid, and they were brilliant. One Beefeater (their other name) was full of funny stories and facts about the Tower, while the other Beefeater whose tour we joined gave us interesting facts about the Tower that we hadn’t learned in the previous tour. Each Yeoman has his own style and stories and they really do make visiting the Tower of London really interesting.

I’d like to also see the Crown Jewels again and to visit the Chapel Royal. But the one part of this London attraction that would be amazing to witness would be the Ceremony of the Keys. This is a 700-year-old ceremony conducted every night to lock the Tower of London. While it is no longer a residence of the Royal Family it does house the Crown Jewels. However, I recently learned that tickets to this event are booked up a year in advance!

Either way, there is no doubting that this is top of the list of things to do in London with kids. It can even be made interesting for younger kids and toddler with a little imagination as we’ve demonstrated. And if you have only one day in London with kids, you can easily squeeze in a visit to the Tower as we did.

I hadn’t been too sure if the Tower of London was a London attraction for young kids, but BattleKid enjoyed his visit, albeit a dragon hunting adventure, and we adults enjoyed it again. I can wholeheartedly recommend it as part of a family day out in London.

Have you visited the Tower of London yet?

Cath x

If you’d like to read of our dragon hunting adventures, just check out our Dragon Hunting Series section.

*We were not asked to write this post. All prices are correct at the time of writing this post (February 2018)


The London Eye with Kids: How to have a Successful Visit

A few years ago, BattleDad and I tried, and failed, to visit the London Eye. We arrived late to the Eye and saw the length of queues and decided to try again another day. Fast forward a few years and I was going to be in London with my sisters for a concert. We had two days to fill, so we settled on a few London attractions including the London Eye. I enjoyed my first ride in it but wondered whether you could enjoy a trip on the London Eye with kids.LONDON EYE WITH KIDS

A short few months later, the Battle Family were in London for 36 hours before flying to America, and we decided to visit the London Eye as a family. I wasn’t too sure what BattleKid would make of it, but as it is only a 30-minute revolution, it should have been short enough for even him. I prebooked our tickets online to save any hassles and printed out our Flexi Fast Track before we left for London.

The Flexi Fast Track tickets meant we could visit at any time during the day on our chosen date and we would join the fast track queue. So, after a yummy breakfast in a café around the corner from the London Eye, we made our way around and joined the fast track queue with our printouts in hand.LONDON EYE WITH KIDS

The London Eye, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a giant Ferris wheel on Southbank of the River Thames. It opened in 2000 as part of the millennium celebrations and stands 443ft (135m) tall, with a wheel diameter of 394ft (120m). It is the most popular paid attraction on the UK with over 3.75 million visitors a year. And that number is growing.

The Eye has 32 sealed, air-conditioned passenger capsules which can hold up to 25 people, although the two times I’ve been, there hasn’t been 25 people in the pod. It rotates at a speed of 26cm (10 inches) per second and one complete revolution takes 30 minutes.LONDON EYE WITH KIDS

Despite visiting the London Eye with BattleKid at the end of the summer holidays, the fast track queue moved quite quickly. The same could not be said for the standard tickets queue. We entered our capsule, or pod, and we were off.

BattleKid was fascinated by the fact we were being chased by another pod and that we were getting higher. But the thing that grabbed his attention the most was the information tablets in the capsule. He loved switching between the day and night mode, much to my annoyance as I tried to spot various landmarks.LONDON EYE WITH KIDS


Although the revolution is only 30 minutes, I felt it was ample time for a toddler. And as we stepped off the capsule, BattleKid made noises about wanting to stay on. I don’t think he grasped the idea of one turn. All-in-all he enjoyed it as he was still talking about the big wheel for weeks to come.

Tips to ensure you have a successful trip to the London Eye with Kids

  • Plan when you want to go visit the London Eye and book your tickets in advance. This will not only save you time, but you can often save money too.
  • If you can afford to, book fast track tickets, especially if you plan to visit during school holidays. Both times I visited, the standard ticket queue was at least an hour long, possibly more. And no one wants to queue for that long with kids in the holidays.
  • Ensure you arrive well before your allotted time if you book Fast Track tickets. Flexi Fast Track tickets allow you to arrive at any time on your chosen date.
  • Ensure everyone in your party has visited the toilets before you queue as there are no toilets on or at the London Eye. The toilets are located in the Coco Cola London Eye ticket office, as well as a disabled toilet and baby changing facilities.
  • If you are bringing a buggy or stroller, it must be completed collapsible and kept folded throughout the duration of your visit. I’d suggest using a baby carrier or sling if visiting the London Eye with a baby.
  • No food and drink, apart from drinking water, is permitted inside the capsules.
  • There is one bench inside each capsule, and seating is on a first-come-first-served basis.
  • While the London Eye is wheelchair accessible, only two wheelchairs are permitted in each pod, and only eight are allowed on the Eye at any one time. It is highly advisable to prebook tickets in advance if your party includes a wheelchair user.
Big Ben and Westminster from the London Eye

Other information to note before visiting the London Eye with Kids

  • The London Eye is open every day of the year except Christmas Day from 11am until 6pm.
  • Standard entry London Eye ticket prices are as follows: Adults £26, Child £21 (3-15 years of age), Under 3’s are free.
  • Fast Track London Eye tickets cost £36 per adult and £31 per child, allowing entry to the London Eye at a specific time slot.
  • Flexi Fast Track tickets for the London Eye cost £40 per adult and £30 per child and are only available for purchase online. These allow you entry at any time on a specific date.
  • Capsules are available for private hire for 3-25 guests and there is also a champagne experience available if you fancy something special.
  • You can also purchase combination tickets which allow entry to the London Eye and certain other atttractions in London including Sea Life, Madame Tussauds and Shrek’s Adventure, ideal if you’re making a day of it in London with the kids.
Can you spot the iconic London Bus?

We visited the London Eye before heading into Sea Life and I was surprised that BattleKid enjoyed it as much as he did. He liked watching the boats going past on the river, and of course, the information tablets, and he didn’t complain once. Except when we were getting off, and he didn’t want to. So, yes, a visit to the London Eye is even suitable for toddlers. And, by taking into account some of the tips I’ve mentioned, you can have a successful visit to the London Eye with kids.

Cath x

*We were not asked to write this review. Prices are correct at the time of writing this post (February 2018).


9 Awesome Things to Do in London with the Girls

So, you’re thinking of planning a girls weekend away and not sure where to go. Why not head for London? With so much to see and do, London has something for everyone. But how do you even begin to nail down what do with the girls during your ladies weekend away? Stop stressing. I’m going to share with you 9 awesome things to do in London with the girls which will easily fill 48 hours and having you leaving London with smiles on your faces.THINGS TO DO IN LONDON WITH THE GIRLS

Last year my sisters and I were headed to London for a concert. We were going to see Take That in the O2, so we decided to make it a full-on girly weekend in London. The concert wasn’t until the Sunday night and we had all day Saturday and most of Sunday to do what we wanted. I started looking into girls weekend ideas and came up with a few things we could do. Once my sisters said yes, we had a plan and added to it as the weekend approached.

I was flying in from Portugal on Friday afternoon and they were arriving from Dublin on the Saturday morning. Here are the 9 things we did during our 48 hours in London.

9 Awesome Things to Do in London with the Girls


Stay in a Greenwich AirBnB

First and foremost, you need to find somewhere to stay in London. I opted to book a two-bedroom AirBnB in Greenwich as it was close to the O2 where the concert was being held. It meant we wouldn’t be trying to squeeze onto a tube with thousands of other TT fans, nor worse still, trying to get a taxi back into town. By staying near the venue, we could back to our accommodation afterwards hassle-free.

What was even better was it was just a 20-minute tube ride to Waterloo where we could connect to other Tubes to get around Central London. It didn’t cost as much as a hotel, we could share the apartment and even cook there if we fancied it. It was conveniently located and cost-effective.

The roof-top garden of our Greenwich AirBnB apartment

Shopping on Oxford Street

No trip to London with the girls would be complete without a visit to Oxford Street. Once my sisters had arrived at our AirBnB and dropped off their luggage, we headed for Oxford Street and grabbed a Costa before hitting the shops. I have to say we were relatively good and didn’t spend a fortune, spending most of our time in the Disney shop for our kids!

That said I had visited Oxford Street the previous day and perused a few shops including Next and Pandora, buying myself my first ever Pandora bracelet. An addiction was started that day, I can tell you. There are hundreds of shops in and around Oxford Street, and I’m sure you can fit a little bit of shopping time into your girly weekend.

Enjoy the View from the Shard

While researching idea for our sisters’ weekend in London I read a few other blog posts in which visits to the Shard were mentioned. It hadn’t been on my radar before, but I thought it might be a good what to get a birds-eye view of London and would be a nice touristy thing to do in London. We didn’t just want to shop or drink coffee, so booked tickets for the three of us.

The View from the Shard is located in Western Europe’s tallest building and gives amazing views across the whole of London. We were lucky that the day we visited was sunny with good visibility and you really could see for miles. It reminded me somewhat of being on the Empire State Building looking over New York. One thing to note, book your tickets in advance as you’ll save £10 over the one-the-day ticket prices!* For full information on visiting the View from the Shard, visit their website.

One of the View’s from the Shard


Enjoy dinner and cocktails at the ICE Bar

I had read a blog review of the ICE bar in London and knew we just had to include it in our girly weekend itinerary. I booked it and kept it a secret from one of my sisters as a surprise. After returning to our AirBnB and telling her she might want to bring a cardigan or jacket (despite it being a lovely summer’s day), she started to get suspicious about where we might be eating.

We made our way to the ICE bar which is located in a side street just off Regent Street and we were seated in the downstairs restaurant for our meal. I had opted to have our meal first and then drinks in the ICE bar itself afterwards. We had a lovely three course meal, and each of us thoroughly enjoyed our chosen dishes, before we were ushered back upstairs to get our cloaks and gloves, ready for our drinks in the ICE Bar.

And what an experience that is. The -5°C cold air hits you as soon as the doors open. You’re given an ice glass to drink from and there is a range of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and cocktails to choose from. One drink is included in your booking, but you are free to purchase more. Be aware that you only get 40 minutes in the ICE bar, but it is more than enough as the cold does start to get to you after a while. We enjoyed two drinks and a short dance before we’d had enough of the cold and ended our first night in London. To make a booking for the ICE bar, please visit their website.

Ice, Ice Bar Baby
Freezing while taking a selfie at the Ice Bar in London


Brunch at Le Pain Quotidien on Southbank

We stumbled upon Le Pain Quotidien by accident and it was an extremely pleasant surprise at that. This organic-range café is located at Southbank and serves dishes made from organic ingredients, along with an amazing array of breads. We hadn’t eaten breakfast before leaving our AirBnB, so we were famished once we arrived at Southbank. We were lucky enough to get a table outside, which was nice if not a little chilly due to being in the shadows.

Coffee, tea and brunch were ordered, and we were soon sipping our drinks and enjoying people watching from our table. Once our food arrived, myself and one sister tucked into delicious baked eggs with chorizo, while the other had a lovely chorizo and potato frittata. While this is not the cheapest breakfast or brunch you could have in London, it is certainly the tastiest. Each of us could have had our meal twice over. It was so good I returned with hubby and son in tow just a few months later. Make sure you include Le Pain Quotidien on your London weekend trip itinerary!THINGS TO DO IN LONDON WITH THE GIRLS

Take a Ride on the London Eye

As we were being tourists in London, we decided to take a ride on the London Eye. Despite many weekends in London before, this London attraction had always eluded us. So, I booked Fast Track Flexi tickets online, allowing us to arrive whenever we wanted on our chosen day. So, after our delicious brunch, we walked around the corner and joined the Fast Track queue which was practically empty.

The London Eye is a huge ferris wheel on the south bank of the River Thames and one rotation only takes 30 minutes. The views when you reach the top are incredible and give you a different view of London compared to the View from the Shard. It’s not the cheapest of attractions but it’s worth it for the views you get. Each pod comes equipped with interactive tablets which point out the various landmarks of London which you can see from the Eye and I enjoyed it so much I made a return trip with my hubby and son a few months later. Details on visiting the London Eye can be found on the website.THINGS TO DO IN LONDON WITH THE GIRLS

Sightsee London by land with Duck Tours

Now this tour used to be by both land and water but unfortunately, the slipway Duck Tours used to enter and exit the River Thames, has been bought to build a sewer. However, that said they may be operating their land tour route, but check their website for more up-to-date details.

This tour was a great alternative to the more traditional open-top sightseeing tour bus. We climbed aboard our distinctive yellow vehicle and had a land tour around London before entering the water beside the MI6 building, home to James Bond’s office. It was a great way to see London, albeit a little wet as the waters in the Thames were quite choppy. We had a lot of sun on our tour and it was a thoroughly enjoyable way to see some of the more famous landmarks of London.

The famous yellow Duck Tours vehicle
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament from the River Thames

Grab an early dinner in Wagamamas

After an enjoyable day sightseeing in London we headed back to Greenwich to get ready for our concert. However, knowing restaurants around the O2 were going to be very busy immediately before and after the concert, we decided to get an early dinner and headed for Wagamamas in Greenwich.

I had never visited a Wagamamas before but was impressed by the quality and taste of the food. The only thing I didn’t like was the fact that everyone’s dishes arrived at our table at different times. Two of us got our starters quite quickly but one of my sister’s starters arrived quite a while later and only minutes before her main arrived. Then, my other sister had to wait a while for her main, and three separate waiting staff brought the same dish to our table after she had gotten hers. It all seemed a bit chaotic but despite this, the food was amazing and very tasty and each of us came away pleasantly satisfied with our meals. So, if you don’t mind not getting all your party’s dishes at once, I’d recommend a meal in Wagamamas.

Catch your favourite artist in concert at the O2

Now as I’ve mentioned, two of my sisters and I were having a girls weekend in London to attend the Take That concert. We’d booked our tickets almost a year before and were really looking forward to attending a concert outside of Ireland. Where we stayed in London was dictated by location to the O2, but I found lots of AirBnB’s near Greenwich. And it was an ideal location for getting into Central London too.

Whether you are a pop fan, rock fan or R’n’B fan, you should always consider catching your favourite artist in the O2 (or other London event), so that you can have the best girls weekend away, combining music with shopping, eating and touristy things, like we did!

Seeing our boys in Concert at the O2 – Take That

So, if you and your girl gang are investigating places to go for a weekend away, start investigating weekends in London! There is so much to see and do in London, and I hope you’ll consider putting one of the things I’ve suggested on your own London itinerary. As for my sisters and I, all four of us this time round, we are currently in the planning stages of our next sisters’ getaway weekend. This year we’ve settled on Edinburgh. Now to plan what we can get up to during our girly weekend away.THINGS TO DO IN LONDON WITH THE GIRLS

Have you and your girlies had a girls weekend away recently, and if so, where did you go?

Cath x

*Information correct at the time of writing this post.


A Dragon Hunting Adventure at Castro Marim

One of the very first castles we visited here in Portugal was at Castro Marim. Castro Marim lies in the East Algarve near a town called Vila Real de Santo Antonio and the castle sits on a hill overlooking the Guadiana River which forms the border between Portugal and Spain. It is only about 20 minutes’ drive from where we now live, and we visited early one Sunday morning in July, before the heat of the day set in with one things in mind – a dragon hunting adventure at Castro Marim.dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - blog graphic

As you know by now, our dragon hunting adventures started while we were living in Wales and when we left Wales for our new life in Portugal, I thought those days might be over. Imagine my surprise when I discovered there are quite a lot of castles in Portugal and that some are within easy access to us.

Portugal was never a country I associated with castles, but I was totally and utterly wrong with that thinking. We haven’t visited many, but our plans will be to work our way through them before and after the heat of the summer. It’s just too hot during July and August to be walking around castles hunting for dragons.

Our dragon hunting adventures in Portugal began in Castro Marim and as mentioned, we visited early one Sunday morning. We parked in the town, not realising there is a municipal car park hidden behind some building at the foot of the castle. We worked our way around the back of little houses until we found the walkway leading to the entrance of the castle.dragon hunting adventure at castro marim

dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - the walkway up to the castle

You enter the castle through a gateway and pay your entrance fee of just €1.50 at the ticket office that faces you as you enter. We paid up and then set off to find out if there was a dragon hiding in the grounds of Castro Marim castle.

The castle at Castro Marim is a medieval castle sitting on top a hill overlooking both the town of Castro Marim and the Guardiana River. It was once part of the defensive line controlled by the Knights Templar and was a stronghold during the Portuguese Reconquista. It dates back to the 13th century and fell into disrepair in the 17th century when it was replaced by the fort of São Sebastião, on the opposite hill above the town. Both are a formidable looking sight as you approach the town.

dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - looking out to the fort

We started our dragon hunt in what we believe were the stables of the castle grounds. What we noticed about this castle is it is very old, yet it is easily to imagine what life would have been like in the castle and grounds during medieval times.dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - The stables area of castro marim castle

The footpaths are dirt paths and quite uneven and we followed one from the stables towards one of the main buildings on the castle grounds, all the while searching in holes, around trees and behind walls for a dragon. So far we were having no luck!dragon hunting adventure at castro marim

The main building that remains standing in the grounds would have housed the Lord and Lady of the castle, so to speak. In here we found a small museum with information posters about Castro Marim Castle and artefacts of the castle. We then climbed the stairs to the battlements to enjoy the view across the River towards Ayamonte in Spain and down towards Vila Real. We did have to be careful as there were no guard rails around the battlements and the stairs were very steep and narrow. They must have had small feel in Medieval times!

my sunday photo
Just taking a break from dragon hunting

After we left this area, we continued our dragon hunt and we were starting to wonder whether there were ANY dragons in Portugal when we spotted a small one in a hole in a wall outside the main building of the castle. BattleKid was thrilled to find him.dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - finding the dragon hiding in a hole

We decided to explore a bit more of the castle and Mummy ended up in the stocks! I did get a kiss from my boy before being released. We continued past more ruined buildings, past what was the market and cooking area of the castle, back towards the entrance and the church within the castle grounds.dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - battlemum in the stocks, getting a kiss from battlekid dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - The market and cooking area of castro marim castle dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - ruined buildings

This building is very cool and was a welcome break from the sun which was starting to heat up. However, it is a strange building. While being a church and being lovely inside, it houses an exhibition of torture equipment and displays from the times of the Spanish Inquisition. I found this most odd, and we didn’t linger, especially as we had BattleKid with us.dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - The church inside Castro Marim Castle

A final visit to the gift shop within the ticket office to buy some Castro Marim rock salt and our first ever dragon hunting adventure in Portugal was at an end.

Things to note if you going on a dragon hunting adventure at Castro Marim Castle.

  • It costs just €1.50 per person to enter the castle. Both times we’ve visited we haven’t been charged for BattleKid, but I cannot find information about at what age children are charged from.
  • There are toilets in the main building towards the back of the castle, but these are the only ones at the castle.
  • The castle is not wheelchair accessible and those with a child’s buggy would find it difficult as well due to the rocky terrain within the castle.
  • The castle is open 7 days a week from 9am to 5pm.
  • A municipal car park can be found below the castle which is hidden from the main road through town and this gets very busy on a Saturday when there is a market held in this area of town.
  • There is a gift shop in the ticket office selling various souvenirs.
  • There is very little shade in this castle, so bear this in mind if you are planning a visit during the hot summer months.
  • The Fort of São Sebastião on the opposite hill is not open to the public, although you can walk around the outside of the fort walls.

If you happen to be visiting the area of Castro Marim, you could time your visit to coincide with the Medieval Festival held in the castle every year at the end of August. We missed it last year due to being on our two-week USA road trip, but we plan to visit it one year when we are not away. You can hire costumes, and if you arrive in medieval dress you may be given free entry to the festival.dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - Facebook graphic

Castro Marim castle is nice to visit but it won’t take you more than an hour or two to see everything. I think it’s a castle to visit along with a lunch break in the town, or if you are visiting Vila Real de Santo Antonio. We returned to Castro Marim with my parents for a second dragon hunt in November and it was a very pleasant day.

Have you been dragon hunting yet?

Cath x

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Trialmotor: The BEST way to introduce your kids to motorbikes

Last October we drove to the northern half of Portugal to visit a place called Trialmotor run by Filipe Paiva. It was a chance to see if BattleKid could handle a mini motorbike and, to see if he would listen to instructions. The idea being that if he did, on both accounts, Father Christmas might bring him his first motorbike. Today I want to share with you why I believe Trialmotor is the best way to introduce your kids to motorbikes, especially if you are living in Portugal.trialmotor - the best way to introduce your kids to motorbikes - blog graphic

Now, if you haven’t guessed by now, we are a biking family. Motorbikes that is. BattleDad got his motorbike licence over ten years ago and bought his first proper motorbike while we were living in Wales, a Yamaha FZ6. Since then he’s had many different bikes, and I’ve enjoyed riding pillion. When BattleKid was less than 18 months old, he was introduced to MotoGP one Sunday and his love for motorbikes was born. We never pushed it onto him, it happened quite naturally. We would watch MotoGP most Sunday afternoons when it was on, and he would be in the living room with us.

He soon got into motorbikes, and at aged 2, he got a balance bike, which he renamed his ‘motorbike’. Aged 3 saw Father Christmas bring a peddle bike and within six months, BattleKid was cycling independently on his ‘motorbike’. BattleDad wanted to progress him to a kid’s motorbike and he started doing a lot of research. He realised that trials bikes might be the way forward and he eventually happened upon Trialmotor, run by Filipe.

Trialmotor, based out of Lousã, in northern Portugal is the passion and commitment of Filipe. After doing a Master’s Degree in Pre-Historic Archaeology and Rock Art, during which time he would ride his trials bikes into the mountains to do some of his research, Filipe started an online business (www.trialmotor.com) for trials bikes and equipment, and it became successful, very quickly.

As well as having a successful online business, Filipe also became a very success trials rider, competing in competitions throughout Europe and becoming the Portuguese Trials National team rider and captain. He opened his training school and academy at his home in Lousã, where riders of all ages and experience can be introduced to trials bikes and receive coaching from him. And it was for this reason we headed north.

We left the Algarve on the Friday at lunchtime and drove four and a half hours with BattleKid to stay at Filipe’s family business, the Quintal de Além do Ribeiro, a rural hotel from the XVIII century.  After meeting Filipe and checking in, we enjoyed a short visit to the nearby castle (we didn’t manage any dragon hunting), and a fabulous dinner in a local restaurant as recommended to us by Filipe. BattleKid’s introductory lesson was booked for Saturday morning, so we got an early night once we got back.

Filipe and his wife Shabrina run a B&B at their home, and it’s an amazing home. As well as the B&B (and their own quarters), they also have the trials school and academy there. They have a pool for guests to use on hot summer days, a lovely bar area to socialise in, and they really do welcome their guests with open arms. You’re even welcome to pick your own fruit from their trees.

Trialmotor photo collage of Quintal de Além do Ribeiro
Our room at the Quintal de Além do Ribeiro

On the Saturday morning, after a continental breakfast in the breakfast room, we packed up our room, which was extremely comfortable and spacious I might add, and met Filipe in the courtyard. Filipe started by giving us a tour of his training grounds and office. Then, it was time for BattleKid’s lesson.

Now, I’ll be completely honest and say I had reservations about a motorbike. We live in a gated ex-pat community where there are a lot of retired residents, and I wasn’t too sure they would welcome a noisy bike into the community. However, I was pleasantly surprised when Filipe started the OSET 12.5 trials bike, and how quiet it was as he wheeled it over to the beginners’ grassy area. It was really quiet.

BattleKid trying on a helmet for size.
BattleKid trying on a helmet for size.
BattleKid following Filipe over to the Beginner's Area
Following Filipe to the Beginner’s area

BattleDad and I decided to stand back and let Filipe give the instructions to BattleKid as it was better to have one adult talking to him rather than three. With his helmet on his head, BattleKid was ready for his first lesson. Filipe explained how the bike worked, how to turn the key and how to use the throttle, something BattleKid had no experience of before.

Battlekid getting his instructions from Filipe
Battlekid getting his instructions from Filipe

And in no time, he was off. He started off slowly but with each passing minute we could see his confidence growing. He was listening to Filipe’s instructions and doing as he was told. From doing big circles around the cones to figures of eights, he looked like a natural. Although we had only booked an hour’s lesson, Filipe carried on with BattleKid, encouraging him to try standing up, a technique needed when riding a trials bike. Our lesson was an hour and a half long, and BattleKid didn’t want to get off.BattleKid setting off on the motorbike

BattleKid was keen to get over to the track area that had jumps and ramps, but he needs to get standing on the bike first before he tackles that. However, we are planning a return visit to Trialmotor and Filipe, so perhaps with some practise on the bike Father Christmas brought him, he’ll be able to try the track out next time! Needless-to-say, we had a very happy boy in the car on the drive back down to the Algarve.BattleKid proud as punch beside an Oset 12.5 motorbike

Watching some trials videos after his lesson
BattleKid watching some trials videos after his lesson

Trialmotor, what a way to introduce your kids to motorbikes. Be they experienced riders, or complete novices, Filipe has an area tailor-made for each level of riding. Beginners start off on a flat, grassy area, getting to grips with the bike and controls, and learning to handle the bike at a basic level.

Once riders have completed basic lessons here, or are medium-level riders, then there is a track as mentioned with ramps, small jumps and obstacles to try your skills on. And for the more advanced riders, Filipe can take you out into the mountains nearby where you can test your riding skills in the natural environment idea for trials bikes.

For those of you who might have reservations about letting your kids loose on a trials bike, let me reassure you, this is the best way to introduce your kids to motorbikes. Trials bikes are designed for slow speed riding and manoeuvring. These bikes, although quite capable of speed, are not meant for normal riding as you and I might know it.

Trials is a great family-orientated sport, with people of all ages from 4 years to 74 years enjoying riding across the world. I’ve watched a few videos on YouTube which explain trials in greater detail than I can, and the big point I came away with is that it is a safe sport to be enjoyed by everyone in the family.

I had no idea what trials riding was before BattleDad started his research into the best way to introduce BattleKid to motorbikes, but I am very thankful to him for all his efforts. As mentioned I was worried about a noisy bike around our place, but the bikes Filipe has, in order to introduce your kids to motorbikes, are OSET electric bikes, so there is very little noise from them. You can hear how ‘loud’ they get in our video below.

Filipe’s academy and school offers lessons for riders of all levels. Children can start from the age of 2 on the electric bikes, and Filipe has a range of bikes to suit all ages. Beginners, as we’ve shown and discussed, start on a flat, grassy area and remain there until they learn control of the bike. Medium level riders can then start to tackle the ramps and obstacles area, while advanced and expert riders are taken into the Hardcore area to experience real terrain.

Some of the bikes available at Trialmotor for lessons
Some of the bikes available at Trialmotor for lessons

Filipe is extremely patient and a good teacher. His English is excellent and as well as being a native Portuguese speaker, he also speaks Spanish and French. Trialmotor is the best way to introduce your kids to motorbikes because all lessons are tailored to their riding levels and skills, and both beginner and medium skilled riders’ lessons are held within the grounds in enclosed, safe areas.

Filipe also works to the speed of learning of each individual, and doesn’t pressurise his pupils to progress any further than they are comfortable with. We couldn’t have asked for a better person to teach our son the basics, and get him started on the right path with motorbikes, than the Portuguese National Team Captain and 2002 National Trials Champion, now 2nd best Portuguese on the Elite Portuguese Championship.

You can also combine lessons with a weekend getaway and stay at Filipe’s place, Quintal de Além do Ribeiro. The Quintal de Além do Ribeiro is a beautiful rustic house, located in Lousã, approximately 22km east of Coimbra. There are nine rooms of varied capacity, two of which are wheelchair accessible, all with en-suite facilities. Accommodation is offered on a Bed and Breakfast basis, with a continental breakfast on offer. Guests may pre-order evening meals, but these must be in advance of arrival. There are many restaurants located in Lousã itself, which Filipe can recommend. We ate at the restaurant Casa Velha on his recommendation and the food was excellent.

Trialmotor photo collage of Quintal de Além do Ribeiro
The Beautiful Quintal de Além do Ribeiro

The Quintal also has a pool for guests to use as mentioned already, and is dog-friendly, depending on the size and breed of dog. If you aren’t doing a lesson or tour with Filipe, there are lots of things to do around Lousã like fishing, cycling and other outdoor activities. Within the Quintal you are welcome to partake in activities such as fruit picking, grape harvesting and even wine making (depending on the time of year).

Filipe and his family are extremely friendly and welcoming. Should you be looking for somewhere in northern Portugal for a getaway, I cannot recommend the Quintal enough, even if you aren’t going to partake in any lessons or tours on the bikes.

So, you can see why I truly think a lesson at Trialmotor for your budding little riders is the best route to starting them off with motorbikes. The trials bikes are slow starting off, and they learn the control and skills necessary to ride safely. The environment in which they learn is very safe, and they have the best person to teach them the skills necessary to get them started in Filipe. We are already looking forward to a return visit to Trialmotor!

Cath x

*We were not asked to write this post, nor to review the Quintal de Além do Ribeiro. We paid for our stay and for BattleKid’s lesson ourselves.

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