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

Family Day in London – Our 36 Hours

I might have mentioned it before, but when we booked our USA road trip last October, we were well and truly still living in Wales. Fast forward eight months and we had moved to Portugal. This meant a hasty booking of flights back to the UK in order to meet up with our Portland flight. It did mean, however, we got to have a family day in London. We left Faro on the Thursday before our USA trip at 8pm and landed 2 hours and 20 minutes later into Heathrow.

family day in london

We could have flown to another airport much cheaper, but it would have meant an airport change on our return trip from the States two weeks later and I really didn’t fancy that with a three-year-old in tow. So, we flew with British Airways and had a relatively easy flight back to the UK. We cleared customs and had our bags within half an hour and were soon getting a taxi across the road to the Park Inn by Radisson next to Terminal 3. This was to be our home for the next two nights. Although we were in late, we were all tucked up in bed by midnight, ready for a fun family day in London.

We were up and dressed by 8.30am on the Friday and as we hadn’t added breakfast to our hotel booking, we got an Uber into Southbank to visit Le Pain Quotidien on Southbank. I had had brunch there with my sisters during my weekend away with them in June and BattleDad was up for trying it out.

We had an amazing breakfast, with BattleKid enjoying scrambled eggs and bacon, while I had a smoked chorizo frittata and BattleDad munching down baked eggs with scrambled egg. Suitably fuelled we walked through the Jubilee Gardens towards the London Eye. There was a brief stop for someone little to chase the birds!

I had booked Fast Track Anytime tickets for the London Eye so once BattleKid had chased all the birds away, we joined the short queue and on we went into one of the pods. While those tickets are expensive, they are worth it to arrive any time you like and skips the long queues which are always at the Eye! I had visited the London Eye during that aforementioned weekend but this was both BattleDad and BattleKid’s first time, so I knew I wanted us to do it on our family day in London. Both enjoyed it, although a certain someone enjoyed the information tablets within the pods more than the views.family day in london - BattleKid standing in front of the London Eye family day in london - BattleKid looking out of our london eye pod

From the London Eye, we walked the very short distance to SeaLife, the next stop on our family day in London. I had seen a few blog posts about it and with BattleKid having enjoyed the Blue Planet Aquarium in Chester and the smaller aquariums in Chester and Bristol Zoo, we knew he should enjoy SeaLife. Again, I bought Fast Track Anytime tickets so we breezed through, only going to the cashier desk to pick up BattleKid’s Ranger Pack.

Well, I have to say I was very impressed by SeaLife. I had wondered what an aquarium on the bank of the River Thames would be like but it was really good. BattleKid loved it, running from tank to tank searching for Nemo and Dory, as you do when you are 3. I especially loved the Easter Islands heads in the large tank.family day in london - the wonderful Easter Island statues in one of the aquariums in SeaLife family day in london - BattleKid searching for Nemo and Dory in SeaLife

After a brief stop on Southbank to watch some street performers, we crossed the Golden Jubilee Bridges to get a tube from Embankment to the Tower of London, the last attraction on our family day in London. Why were we headed there? To do a spot of dragon hunting of course! And this tube trip was BattleKid’s first ever ride on a London Underground. He wasn’t too sure of the noise they made coming into stations but once he was on he was fine. Watching him enjoying the short trip reminded me of our rides on the New York Subway last year.

family day in london - BattleKid covering his ears to reduce the noise of the underground trains approaching
Closing his ears as a train approaches for his first ride on a London Underground tube!

I had prebooked tickets for the Tower of London to save some time and after a short bag search we entered the ‘castle’ to start our dragon hunt. After the excitement of the morning, we were getting peckish so we had a cuppa with cake at the Raven Café before resuming our dragon hunt. We eventually found him within the White Tower.family day in london - The Tower of London family day in london - BattleKid in front of the White Tower in the Tower of London

We left the Tower of London via Tower Bridge and got a tube back to Paddington. Someone fell asleep in BattleDad’s arms along the way, tired from all his adventures during our family day in London. When we arrived at Paddington I stocked up on some last-minute essentials in Boots before buying BattleKid a Paddington Bear in the Station. It had to be done.family day in london

We got a black cab back to our hotel rather than trying to get the Heathrow Express. The driver introduced us to Gett, the new black cab app that works like Uber and he managed to get us some money off our trip, which was really nice of him. We tipped him well. After over an hour’s sleep, BattleKid woke refreshed and we had dinner in the hotel restaurant at 7pm. We had to leave feedback with the waiter for the kitchen staff as BattleKid’s dinner came out so hot it could have rivalled lava. Thankfully we stopped him trying to eat it while it was too hot.

After dinner BattleKid had a bath, which is a treat as we don’t have one in our Portuguese home, only a shower. I was knackered so I fell asleep by 10pm, while the boys were awake for a bit longer. We had an amazing family day in London and it was the perfect way to get us ready for our USA road trip!

Cath x

family day in london family day in london

Small Breeds Farm and Owl Centre in Kington – Our Return Visit

We have visited the Small Breeds Farm and Owl Centre before with BattleKid and we thoroughly enjoy it. Last August Bank Holiday weekend, on our way to Chester, we visited again and thoroughly enjoyed our visit.small breeds farm and owl centre

The Small Breeds Farm and Owl Centre is privately owned and run, and is located in Kington in Herefordshire.  It is open from 10.30 to 5.00 (4.30 in winter months), every day of the year, even on Christmas Day.

As usual during our last visit, we went clockwise, starting in the incubation room where we saw newly Southern-white faced owls. BattleKid wanted to hold them and was quite confused as to why he couldn’t. From there we made our way through the barn area where we saw my favourite of all the animals at the Small Breeds Farm, the Boer Goats. I love them and explained why in my last post.small breeds farm and owl centre

It took a little bit of coaxing to get BattleKid to help me feed them!

We then went into the small animal’s room which houses rabbits, guinea pigs and chipmunks. The various birds were next to be visited before we turned our attention to the farm animals in the outdoor enclosures.

BattleKid had a great time giving feed to the horses and goats. The Boer goats passed us on the way to their enclosure and one made a beeline for the feed bucket on its way past (see our vlog below).small breeds farm and owl centre

After finishing in the main farm area we stopped at the tea room for some lunch, and as it was such a nice day, we sat outside on the picnic benches to enjoy toasted sandwiches and baked potatoes. BattleKid hogged a whole potato and baked beans with cheese to himself!

Nicely full and satisfied, we visited the Owl Garden to see all the various owls which include tawny owls, barn owls, the snowy owls (my personal favourites) and BattleDad’s favourites, the great horned owls. We had another great visit to the Small Breeds Farm and Owl Centre and were so lucky that it was a lovely day weather-wise at the start of that bank holiday weekend.small breeds farm and owl centre

Tickets cost £9.00 per adult and £6 per child*, with animal feed buckets costing £1 each. The Small Breeds Farm and Owl Centre is wheelchair accessible and a mobility scooter available to loan on site.

The tea room serves both hot and cold drinks and food and there is a picnic garden and barn, should you wish to bring your own food and drinks to enjoy.

Something that I discovered during our last visit was their owl experiences which are available. There are two, the Owl Experience and Owls by Moonlight.

The Owl experience is available during breeding season (approximately March to July) costing £78pp (age 14 years and above only), which take place between 8.30 and 10.30am and must be paid for in advance. You get an introduction talk with a Senior Owl Keeper, a guided tour of the owl garden before opening and trip to the incubation room. You also get to prepare breakfast and feed it to the owlets. You get up close and personal with tame owls and have access to the rest of the Farm afterwards. You can share your experience with 1 other full paying person.

The Owl Centre also run an Owls by Moonlight Experience, which takes place on certain evenings between 7 and 9.30pm. In this experience you explore the Owl garden by lamplight with a Senior Owl Keeper. There is an interval during which you are served soup and a roll. You then get the chance to get photos with hand-reared owls and have a chance to take your own photos in the softly illuminated garden at the end. This amazing experience is available for those aged 16 years and over for £32pp.

I’d love to return when BattleKid is older to enjoy these Owl Experiences.

The Small Breeds Farm and Owl Centre is definitely worth a visit if you are visiting the Kington or Herefordshire area. A visit takes about 3-4 hours to fully enjoy. And it is a great family day out, particularly with younger children, who can get up close and personal with animals of various sizes. Even if you are visiting South Wales (where we live) it is also worth the drive up to visit (it takes us just over an hour to drive there).

If you’d like to get a sneak peek at the Small Breeds Farm and Owl Centre, why not watch our little vlog from our most recent visit below.

Thanks for reading.

Cath x

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

**We were not asked to write this post.

small breeds farm and owl centre

Dragon Hunting at Abergavenny Castle

We are regular visitors to Abergavenny as it is only 15 minutes from our house. We often pop down on a Saturday for breakfast in our favourite café before running some errands, like depositing money in BattleKid’s bank account or getting his ever growing feet measured in Clarks. A few times we’ve gone dragon hunting at Abergavenny Castle after we’ve finished and BattleKid loves this little castle.Dragon Hunting At abergavenny castle

Abergavenny Castle is a ruined castle which was established in 1087 by a Norman Lord. Now a Grade 1 listed building, it is quite small and is located beside one of the main town car parks. It had a stone keep, towers and ditch fortifications. It housed both the family and the army of the Lord of the Castle. In the 19th century a lodge was built on top of the motte as a hunting lodge for the Marquess of Abergavenny and today acts as the castle museum.

Abergavenny Castle was also the scene of an infamous massacre over Christmas in 1175. The whole castle was destroyed in 1233 by the Earl of Pembroke and eventually rebuilt in stone. The walls you can see today are the remains of a stone hall built between 1233 and 1295.Dragon Hunting At abergavenny castle

Whenever we go dragon hunting at Abergavenny Castle, we always go clockwise for some reason, starting along the ruined walls. We check the holes and nooks and crannies in the walls for the dragon. We check the outside of the walls and also gated entrances.

We always check around the edge of the motte where the lodge now stands and also in the trees in the gardens. There are many a ruined wall with holes to check as you never know where the dragon might be hiding.

On our most recent adventure dragon hunting at Abergavenny Castle, we started at the main ruins and BattleKid checked all the usual places. Not finding the dragon where he initially thought it might be, he took a moment to reflect and think hard about where he might be hiding. Cue camera time for me!Dragon Hunting At abergavenny castle

We walked along the bottom of the motte and then made our way up it to the ruin wall that runs perpendicular to it. Lo and behold the dragon was hiding in one of the holes in the wall. BattleKid was delighted to find him at long last. He gave him a hug and then promptly tried to put him back where he found him.Dragon Hunting At abergavenny castle

Although this was a short expedition of dragon hunting at Abergavenny Castle, it was no less fun than previous visits for BattleKid. Happy that he had found his dragon he didn’t let go of him until he fell asleep in the car on the way home. Dragon hunting is tiring work you know.Dragon Hunting At abergavenny castle

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

  • Abergavenny Castle ruins and the museum are free to visit and are located near the main car parks of Abergavenny town.
  • There is limited free parking within the grounds itself. The nearest car park is a pay and display carpark.
  • The museum is open from 11am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm, Monday to Saturday, and 2pm to 5pm Sunday between March and October. Between November and February the museum is open Monday to Saturday from 11am to 1pm and 2pm to 4pm.
  • There are various exhibitions, both temporary and permanent, within the museum. Check what’s on by visiting the Abergavenny Museum website.
  • Note that the grounds of Abergavenny are quite uneven so are inaccessible to wheelchairs and buggies for the most part.
  • There are Family Backpacks available in the museum for families to use free of charge during their visit (free to use with a returnable security deposit such as car keys or mobile phone). These include replica artefacts, historic games, information sheets and activity sheets and binoculars to make visits more interesting. We haven’t used these but they sound brilliant for slightly older children than BattleKid’s 3 years of age.

We always enjoy ourselves whenever we go dragon hunting at Abergavenny Castle. I would recommend you visit Abergavenny Castle if you are in the area but it wouldn’t quite make a full day out unless you plan to get one of the backpacks and bring a picnic to enjoy in the grounds (tables available at the back of the castle). It is quite small, but that said is easily enjoyed for an hour or two for a spot of dragon hunting. As we haven’t ventured into the museum I cannot comment on it.

We generally go dragon hunting at Abergavenny Castle after running errands after breakfast. It’s a nice way to round off a visit to Abergavenny. Have you visited it?

Thanks for reading,

Cath x

Dragon Hunting At abergavenny castle

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Last weekend we visit St. Fagan’s, the National Museum of History, with friends. It’s somewhere we have been meaning to visit ever since we moved to Wales but somehow never managed it. Last weekend we changed that and just in time too. I’ll most likely be writing all about our visit, and I haven’t gone through all my photos yet either, but for now here are a few of BattleKid from that day.

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