Our Visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium – Fish of all Shapes and Sizes

Our visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium occurred while we were in Chester last August Bank Holiday weekend. I’ve written about it somewhat in the Chester Holiday Diaries but thought it might be more useful to put a post together with more information about it.Our Visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium

The Blue Planet Aquarium is located in Ellesmere Port beside the Cheshire Oaks retail park and remains the largest aquarium in North West England. Opened in 1998 it is a freshwater and marine aquarium that includes themed areas such as Tropical Rivers, Lakes and Ponds and Seas and Oceans. The largest tank holds 4 million litres of water and features a 71 meter underwater tunnel.

As you enter the Upper Area we started our visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium at the Northern Streams featuring freshwater fish found in the rivers and streams of the Northern Hemisphere including the British Isles. We saw fish such as Pike, Carp and Perch and a great mixture of both small and large fish which was a great start for BattleKid. He enjoyed following the fish around the tank and had to be prized away so we could continue our visit!Our Visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium

From there we went on to the Lake Malawi exhibition featuring fish from Africa’s third largest lake. Lake Malawi is home to over 1000 species of fish as we saw just a few of these including CICHLIDS which have no less than 2 sets of teeth and look mean.

After Lake Malawi we passed through the Flooded Forest section which is a tropical exhibition designed around the Amazon River. This exhibition is great as you can hear buzzing insects, frog’s chorus and birdsong and monkey chattering to make you feel like you really are in South America. We saw various types of piranha in this section including the Red-bellied Piranha which are dangerous to man.

We were soon finished on the upper level and headed past some open tanks where we spotted Dory and Nemo hiding among friends, before making our way down to the lower section past the huge main tank.Our Visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium

BattleDad and I visited the Blue Planet Aquarium about 10 years before but it was only seeing BattleKid stand against the tank that I realised and appreciated its size. The main tank is connected to the underwater tunnel where you can see Europe’s largest collection of sharks. There are also rays and other fish and BattleKid thoroughly enjoyed the tunnel.Our Visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium

During our visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium we also saw the Reef and Coral exhibitions and some of the reptiles, amphibians and insects on display. We saw caiman crocodiles and there are also some gorgeous otters in an enclosure outside near the playground.Our Visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium

The Blue Planet Aquarium is a good place to visit with children of all ages and they also hold educational talks. And if you are braver than me you could even swim with sharks in their main tank in one of their “Dive with Sharks” experiences, which can be done by diving beginners too. Just note that these experiences must be booked in advance of your planned visit.

Things to note if planning a visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium

  • Our visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium lasted a few hours but as there is a café you could easily spend the day there wandering the various exhibitions and attending some of the daily talks that take place. There are also at least 3 daily dive shows in the main tank.
  • The Blue Planet Aquarium is open daily from 10am to 5pm on weekdays and 6pm on weekends. Live shows begin at 11 am and continue throughout the day. There is ample parking and it cost £2.50 at the time of our visit.
  • The Blue Planet Aquarium is family-friendly and is buggy and wheelchair accessible too.
  • There is a restaurant and also a gift shop and an outdoors children’s playground.
  • An adult ticket costs* £17.75 and a Junior costs £12.75 (over 90cm tall and up to 12 years of age). If you book online you may get a discount. And if you fancy it, you could always do a bit of shopping at Cheshire Oaks retail outlet afterwards as we did.

The Blue Planet Aquarium was a great place to spend a few hours with BattleKid and he thoroughly enjoyed his time there. We also filmed a little vlog of our visit which you can view below if you fancy it.

For more information about the Blue Planet Aquarium please visit their main website. A map of the Blue Planet Aquarium can be found here.

Thanks for reading.

Cath x

*Prices are correct at the time of writing this post.

**We were not asked to write this post.

Our Visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium

our visit to the blue planet aquarium

Dragon Hunting at Chepstow Castle

Although BattleKid and I had visited once before, we had never been dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle until earlier this year. When my nephew and Dad were visiting when BattleKid was 4 months old, we took a drive to Chepstow Castle. However, I couldn’t explore the castle as BattleKid was so small and I had his buggy. Fast forward three years and we, as a family, finally visited this wonderful castle on the banks of the River Wye.

Our sole intention this time was to not only explore the castle, it being BattleDad’s first visit, but also to do a spot of dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle. We were sure there must be a dragon lurking inside as we’d found dragons in other Welsh Castles like Carreg Cennen.

Chepstow Castle is an amazing castle which sits on the banks of the River Wye in Monthmouthshire, Wales. It is the oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in Britain and is a castle not to be missed. The castle also boasts the oldest castle doors in Europe. Over 800 years old, the wooden doors hung at the main gateway until 1962. They are still on display in a special exhibition.

Construction began in 1067 and continued well into the 18th century. It has four baileys, or courtyards, each added during its long history. Perched on a clifftop along the bank of the River Wye, Chepstow Castle overlooks an important crossing point on the river which was a major artery to Monmouth and Hereford. It is a Cadw site, open to the public, and was even used for filming of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary programme.

When you arrive at Chepstow Castle, there is a car park at the bottom of the hill upon which it is located. I have been very lucky in that both times I have visited I’ve been able to get parking in the car park. I’d imagine on busy days it must fill up quickly. BattleDad, BattleKid and I parked up, used the public toilets beside the car park (as there are none in the castle itself) and up we went to show our Cadw membership cards before entering through the gift shop.

dragon hunting at chepstow castle
Chepstow Castle

We entered through the Outer Gatehouse and started our dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle in the Chamber Block and Kitchens. Checking all the nooks and crannies as we moved though, we just didn’t find any sign of a dragon hiding out. What we did stumble upon was an amazing cellar. The stonework and ceilings were stunning. BattleDad and I could just imagine it being filled with wine, grains and other assorted food for the inhabitants of the castle. But no dragon.

dragon hunting at chepstow castle

Next, we moved onto the Great Hall and although we saw no sign of a dragon, we did enjoy the amazing views from the balconies overlooking the River Wye.

From the Great Hall, we moved from the Lower Bailey into the Middle Bailey. There weren’t many places a dragon could be hiding in the Middle Bailey but our dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle took us into the Great Tower. BattleKid and I actually had a lot of fun running from one end of the Great Tower to the other. One gentleman inside must have thought we were mad. We searched high and low for the dragon but decided he must have been hiding further in the castle.

From the Great Tower we passed through the Gallery, again with lovely views over the River, into the Upper Bailey. There were lots of places in here a dragon could be hiding. We checked around the knight in the bailey, behind some trees, under the bridge that leads to the Barbican and a gorgeous wooden door at the very end of the castle. Our dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle was taking some time.

dragon hunting at chepstow castle

We knew he wasn’t in the lower end of the castle and eventually found him hiding in a hole in the wall in the Barbican near the South Tower. Finally, we had found the Chepstow Castle dragon, albeit a small one.

dragon hunting at chepstow castle

BattleKid was thrilled and even offered the Chepstow Castle dragon some flowers to eat. Hmm. Not exactly what you’d call dragon food. As our successful visit dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle was nearly at an end, we made our way back to the Lower Bailey where we took a few family selfies and checked in a well, just to make sure there weren’t two dragons in the castle. You never know these days!

We finished off our visit to dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle with a spot of roly-poly down the hill outside the castle walls. And yes, I joined in. We were also very lucky to be leaving just as the rain rolled in. All-in-all a successful visit dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle.

Things to note if you go dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle

  • Chepstow Castle is a Cadw site as mentioned and is open every day from 9.30am to 6pm from the 1st July to the 31st August. Between 1st September to the 31st October it is open from 9.30am to 5pm. From 1st November 2017 and 28th February 2018, the castle is open between 10am and 4pm from Monday to Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sundays*.
  • Last admissions are 30 minutes before closing and costs £6.50 per adult, with children, senior citizens and concession tickets costing £4.20. Children under 5 years of age enter free. As Cadw members our admission was included in our annual pass.
  • There are no toilets on site, although there are public toilets located beside the car park.
  • The castle has some benches but there is no coffee shop.  There are also no baby changing facilities at Chepstow Castle.
  • The courtyards and walkways are mainly accessible to buggies and wheelchairs. Upper levels are not accessible.
  • There is a car park at the bottom of the hill of the castle, and it is a pay-and-display car park.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle and can recommend it as a place to visit if you are in the Chepstow or Monmouth area. It is quite a big castle, with plenty of rooms are areas to explore, and dragon hunt if you wish. Chepstow is a lovely little town and has plenty of cafes to grab a cuppa and a cake after your visit. And dare I say it, dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle was more fun than our dragon adventures at Abergavenny or Tretower Castle.

Have you taken your children dragon hunting yet?

Thanks for reading,

Cath x

*Prices and visiting times correct at the time of writing this post.

dragon hunting at chepstow castle dragon hunting at chepstow castle

 

Dragon Hunting at Carreg Cennen Castle

One of the things I wanted to do with BattleKid before we left the UK for Portugal was to visit as many castles in South Wales as we could. We love nothing more than getting out and doing a spot of dragon hunting while we explore old castles and forts. So, while BattleDad was away one weekend, I did a search for castles in South Wales and came upon one which looked great from the picture. And so it was that we went dragon hunting at Carreg Cennen Castle, just me and the boy.

Carreg Cennen Castle

Carreg Cennen Castle, located near Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire, is perched high on top of a hill. Originating somewhere in the 12th century, it has been ruinous since the 15th century when it was vandalised during the War of the Roses. It dominates the skyline of the area around the River Cennan and surrounded by mountainous farming land.

Although quiet and peaceful today, it would have been a hive of activity at the height of its time with stables, workshops and kitchens keeping the castle going on a day-to-day basis. Carreg Cennan Castle is now a part of Cadw.

After visiting a friend in Swansea, BattleKid and I drove the 23 miles from Swansea past Ammanford to start our dragon hunting at Carreg Cennan Castle. I kept looking out for it but it didn’t come into view until we were only a few minutes from it. The closer we got, the more spectacular it looked. I can only imagine what people must have thought back in the 13th and 14th centuries as they approached the castle.

We parked in the car park and walked to the gift shop/restaurant to show our Cadw membership cards. And then it hit me that we had to walk up the hill to get to the castle. I genuinely did not think BattleKid would manage it. There is no way you will get a buggy up that hill. Considering he had not long turned 3 when we visited, I was sure I would hear “Mummy, up” half way up the hill. However, whether it was the promise of seeing the castle or going dragon hunting, he walked the whole way up the hill. I was so proud of him and secretly thankful as I just about managed the climb myself while holding his hand.

As you approach the castle, the views across the countryside are spectacular and you can see why they chose to build a castle on this particular hill. To enter the castle, we climbed a few stone steps before crossing a modern-day steel bridge to the Barbican which led to the Middle Gate Tower, with stunning views.

From there BattleKid and I turned left and went into the area leading to the North-East Tower. We checked in holes in the walls and any other nook and cranny a dragon might use to hide in. But our first check in our hunt didn’t turn up a dragon. We continued our dragon hunting at Carreg Cennen Castle by going into the Hall and Chapel Tower, but no matter where we looked, we couldn’t find the dragon.

We headed across the Inner Bailey to the King’s Tower. However, as it was closed off, we just checked the stairs that we could see but alas, no dragon. I must say, when we visited in January it was bright and sunny, but boy was the wind cold. Despite hats and gloves, we still felt the sharpness to the wind and I can just imagine how hard the inhabitants of the castle must have had it during winter in the 12th to 15th centuries.

But Carreg Cennen Castle is still very beautiful. We carried on across the Inner Bailey to check around the North-West Tower. Despite no sign of a dragon we had lots of fun jumping in puddles left behind by rain.

Then something caught BattleKid’s eye from across the Bailey and off he went running towards the Hall again. He had spotted something red and came back clutching his dragon, having found him hiding in a high hole in a wall. Dragon hunting at Carreg Cennen Castle was a success and he was chuffed with himself.

Hunting and finding the dragon!

After some more puddling jumping, I decided we should start heading back down the castle to the restaurant to get something to warm us up. I was feeling cold and so were BattleKid’s hands. We didn’t do any roly-poly’s here as the ground was slippery and mucky but BattleKid did do some jumping off mounds in the grass.

Once we had descended the hill and passed through the Outer Gate, we went into the restaurant where I ordered a Welsh Cawl for BattleKid and me to share. And my word, was it amazing. Not only was it nice and warm, a very welcome thing, but it was extremely tasty. Certainly, the best Welsh Cawl I’ve ever had. And it wasn’t expensive either at £4.50 for the cawl, some bread and butter, and a chunk of cheese. BattleKid devoured most of it!

dragon hunting at carreg cennen castle
Hurray!

As we were having a nice day out, I took the long way home from Carreg Cennen through the Brecon Beacons National Park. A certain little boy slept most of the way home. I can safely say that our dragon hunting at Carreg Cennen Castle was a resounding success and I’m so glad we visited it before leaving Wales.

Things to note if you go dragon hunting at Carreg Cennen Castle

  • Carreg Cennen Castle is a Cadw site as mentioned and is open every day from 9.30am to 6pm from the 1st April to the 31st October. From 1st November 2017 to the 31st March 2018, the castle is open from 9.30am to 5pm*. The castle is closed on Christmas Day.
  • The whole site and car park are locked daily at 6.30pm.
  • Last admission is 45 minutes before closing, and it costs £5.50 per adult, with children, senior citizens and concession tickets costing £3.50. Children under 5 years of age enter free. As Cadw members our admission was included in our annual pass.
  • There are toilets on site, located in the restaurant or in the car park.
  • There is a restaurant and gift shop on site, and I can highly recommend the Welsh Cawl. There are benches available too.
  • Because the castle is located on a rocky hill, this site is not wheelchair or buggy friendly.
  • There is a car park at the bottom of the castle hill beside the farm and shop, is free and can hold approximately 50 cars.
  • Be aware, due to the location, mobile signal is poor, as I found out.
  • As the castle is privately owned (but managed by Cadw), there are livestock nearby. You are advised not to interact with them on your way to/from the castle itself.

BattleKid and I really enjoyed our time dragon hunting at Carreg Cennen Castle. It made a nice change seeing a castle further away from us rather then visiting Tretower or Abergavenny again. I can recommend it as a place to visit if you are in the Llandeilo area or are looking for a nice day out in South Wales. Be aware that, as it is situated on the top of a hill, you need to climb there to get it, but if 3-year-old BattleKid can manage it, anyone can. The views from the castle are spectacular and the descent down the hill is easy, although be careful if the ground is wet. And do stop off at the restaurant for a well-deserved break afterwards. The Cawl is well worth it.

Have you taken your children dragon hunting yet?

Thanks for reading,

Cath x

*Prices and visiting times correct at the time of writing this post.

dragon hunting at carreg cennen castle dragon hunting at carreg cennen castle

Living Arrows 28/52

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth

Kahlil Gibran

In the last week we have the pleasure of visiting not one but two castles here in Portugal. I had no idea there were so many in Portugal, let alone within two hours of us.

The first we visited was in a town 20 minutes from us called Castro Marim. Castro Marim has two fort-type castles on opposite hills, one which is open to the public and one which isn’t. We had a lovely time wandering around, looking for dragons of course, and imagining what it was like to live there hundreds of years ago.

my sunday photo
Just taking a break from dragon hunting

We also visited a castle in a town called Beja which is 2 hours drive from us. We were meeting up with friends from Wales who were in Lisbon on holiday and who kindly offered to meet halfway. It was so good seeing M and his new fiancee P, who is lovely, and we spent a lovely hour wandering around the castle, hunting for dragons, before having a bite to eat and a coffee. I was blown away by this castle. And guess what? We passed another one in a town called Mertola which we are going to return to!

Beja Castle
Standing in the courtyard of Beja Castle

We also spent last Friday evening at the beach after BattleDad finished work. I still can’t quite believe that this is our life now; popping to the beach after work on Friday while it’s still hot is still something dreams are made of.

living arrows
Jumping the waves on Manta Rota beach

Linking up with Donna of What The Redhead Said. If you’d like to take part or see some other Living Arrows posts, please click the badge below.

Living Arrows

Dragon Hunting at Powis Castle near Welshpool

Powis Castle is one castle that was recommended to us by a work colleague of mine quite a number of years ago. While we longed to go dragon hunting at Powis Castle, it always remained slightly out of reach as it was a bit too far for a day trip from home, being situated in Mid Wales. However, last August bank holiday weekend, we were in Chester and thought it would be perfect to visit on our way back down to Wales. So that’s what we did!dragon hunting at powis castle

We left Chester and took the A5 down towards Shrewsbury before turning off for Welshpool and Powis Castle. Powis Castle is a National Trust site. It was originally built in the 1200’s and the Herbert family took ownership in the late 16th century and it has remained in their family ever since. A medieval castle, fortress and grand country mansion, it doesn’t resemble your usual castles in Wales. It is very much more a stately home and is extremely grand indeed, being the seat of the Earl of Powis.

When we arrived there was plenty of parking in the car park and we walked up the road and footpath to the ticket office where we paid to get in. As the castle didn’t open until 11am, we had 45 minutes to kill and so we found a seat in the courtyard and BattleDad got us some drinks and cakes to enjoy in the glorious sunshine from the courtyard restaurant. We really enjoyed our tea break and admired the grand home from our seats.dragon hunting at powis castle

Our plan was to start our dragon hunting at Powis Castle within the castle itself and if we were out of luck we would check the extensive gardens instead. We started in the drawing room but there was no obvious signs of our hiding dragon.  There was a very nice gentleman giving talks and information about the room and the Herbert family too. We moved upstairs towards the bedrooms, some of which were not open to the public for obvious reasons. In those that were, we saw no sign of the Powis Castle dragon.dragon hunting at powis castle

From the bedrooms we moved downstairs to the kitchen where there were two people giving talks about how the kitchen was run and still is today. Children also had the opportunity to dress up and partake in some activities there but we were on a dragon hunt so didn’t stop. We thought we spotted him in the games room where there was a large billiards table and the cabinets were full of stuffed animals, but, he either wasn’t there, or had managed to evade us as we wandered through the castle. We did, however, leave a message in the visitors book in this room.

dragon hunting at powis castle
The message we left in the visitors book at Powis Castle.

Having had no luck within the castle (of which you cannot take pictures inside as the Earl still resides there), we turned our attention to the gardens. However, dragon hunting is tiring work, particularly on a sunny day like this, so we paused at the courtyard for an ice cream before continuing our hunt. And I must say the ice creams were very good!

We started by taking a right from the entrance to the gardens and headed towards the lake that sits at one end of the gardens. We checked all the holes and cracks in the walls where a dragon might hide but still we couldn’t find him. As we rounded past the lake, and before we headed up a small hill to the side of it, BattleKid spotted him hiding at the foot of a rather magnificently big tree. He was hiding on the ground among the foliage.dragon hunting at powis castle

We had found him! However, a little boy just ahead of us wasn’t too impressed that our dragon hunting at Powis Castle was more successful than his, as I overheard him say to his mum “that boy has a dragon, I want a dragon”. Oops. Satisfied with our result, we took a short stroll up the hill and discovered the Ice Cellar of the castle. I had never seen one before and was quite surprised by it. You can only look through some gates into it and you cannot see the floor but it gives you an idea of what one from centuries ago looks like.

Our visit to Powis Castle was a success and it was a castle we had wanted to visit, so we could now tick it off our list.

Things to note if you go dragon hunting at Powis Castle:

  • It is a National Trust site. Cadw membership cards aren’t accepted.
  • It costs £12.50 for an adult and £6.25 for a child to visit the whole property (without GiftAid) and a family ticket costs £31.25. To visit the castle only prices are £6.35 (adult) and £3.17 (child), for the garden only £9.21 (adult) and £4.60 (child), and for the winter garden £6.20 (adult) and £3.10 (child).*
  • The Castle opens from 11am to 5pm, as does the museum, shop and garden shop. The gardens open from 10am to 6pm, with the garden coffee shop opening from 11am to 4pm. The restaurant opens from 10am to 5pm.
  • Parking is free, and there is ample parking. There are electric car-charging points in the car park and some spaces for disabled badge holders.
  • Dogs are allowed on the lead in the car park and courtyard only. There are strictly no dogs allowed in the deer park.
  • There are baby changing and feeding facilities on site.
  • There are toilets available on site.
  • There is a children’s quiz/trail and also games on the great lawn (although we didn’t see these as we didn’t visit that end of the gardens).
  • NOTE: the castle is not very wheelchair accessible, nor buggy accessible. The ground floor is, but that’s where it stops due to the historical nature of the castle. The garden has a step-free route which is highlighted in the leaflet available at the ticket office. For wheelchair users there is a virtual tour of the upper floor rooms available at the ticket office.
  • Guided tours are available.

We were glad we got the opportunity to go dragon hunting at Powis Castle and even better to combine it with a great weekend away. I am not sure we would have visited Powis Castle had we not been travelling back from Chester. We had glorious sunshine during our visit and the ice cream was most welcome and delicious.

I can highly recommend a visit to Powis Castle if you ever get the chance. We did not get to explore all the grounds as they are quite extensive, especially for little legs but it would make a great day out for the whole family. Maybe bring a picnic to enjoy somewhere in the gardens if you visit.

Thanks for reading the next post in our Dragon Hunting Series. I hope you enjoyed it. If you missed our previous ones you can find them in the Dragon Hunting Series. And if you’d like to have a sneak peek at Powis Castle, we filmed a little vlog of our day out dragon hunting at Powis Castle (below).

Cath x

*Prices correct at the time of writing this post.

dragon hunting at powis castle

dragon hunting at powis castle dragon hunting at powis castle