Travel tales

On the Luce in 2016

On the Luce in 2016

I think it’s fair to say that nobody’s going to forget 2016 in a hurry. The last 12 months of political meltdowns, terrorist attacks and celebrity deaths are going to need a big chapter in the history books. But although it’s tempting to say good riddance to the whole year, there were plenty of good things which happened along the way too. Among mine were the blog turning five, visiting my 45th country, ticking a couple of trips off my wishlist, discovering some amazing new places and getting to travel with old and new friends. So grab a mulled wine and strap yourself in for a whirlwind tour of the last year On the Luce…


I’m usually in hibernation mode in January, but this year I tried something different and swapped the damp English winter for snowy Tallinn in Estonia. My first trip to the Baltics averaged a brisk -8 degrees, but it was worth braving the wind chill to explore an old city packed with fairytale towers, ancient city walls and onion-domed churches. And when I started to freeze there was always plenty of hot hõõgwein to warm up with. Then a few days later my mum and I caught the train down to Lausanne on the banks of Lac Léman (aka Lake Geneva) in Switzerland. We spent a sunny winter weekend eating fondue, climbing lots of hills, visiting the Olympic Museum and discovering unexpectedly good wine in the Lavaux vineyards.

The magic of Tallinn in the snow

Magical Tallinn in the snow


February was spent nearer home, with a few trips to London along the way. Normally I’m there for work or to catch up with friends, but I had some free time for once so decided to tick off a few of the things I’ve been meaning to do for ages. So I photographed Chelsea’s pricey pastel-coloured houses, visited ruined St Dunstan’s in the East church and climbed up the Monument. Then I finished off with a return trip to the top of the Shard for some amazing sunset views over London (a lot better than my first attempt).

Sunset from the Shard, London

Sunset from the Shard


In March I travelled from the south-west of England to the north-east, starting with a long weekend in Cornwall. Our base was the lovely Sea Loft apartment in Charlestown on the south Cornwall coast. But we got around a bit – visiting King Arthur’s Castle in Tintagel, eating cream teas in pretty Port Isaac and getting a taste of the tropics at the Eden Project. Next I headed north to York for their annual literature festival. Among author talks and literary walks we also learnt to make chocolate at The Chocolate Story, visited the brilliantly eclectic Castle Museum and discovered a pub with a Roman Bath in its basement.

A weekend in York

Spring in York at Clifford’s Tower


April saw me heading to Wales for the Traverse blogging conference in Cardiff – my annual dose of blogging inspiration and a catch up with blogger friends. Next up was the first of three trips to Edinburgh this year to visit my sister who’d just moved up there. I tried out the Motel One hotel and did a whirlwind of tourist sites from the Palace of Holyroodhouse and underground Mary King’s Close to the Camera Obscura and views from Calton Hill. Then it was on to Hampshire to take part in the #waitroseatsource project for UK supermarket Waitrose. Feeling a bit out of my depth, I joined a group of amazing Instagrammers for a photoshoot around their farm to capture shots for Waitrose to use on their Instagram feed.

Edinburgh on a budget

Edinburgh views from Calton Hill


In May I finally made it to Pinterest favourite and long-term country crush Slovenia. There was a twist though – I had to do it without bags for the Lost Luggage Challenge. Our first stop was the lovely city of Ljubljana, a relaxed place perfect for wandering around, soaking up the scenery and drinking spritzes by the river. Then it was on to Lake Bled (which I will write about eventually!), where my weather luck ran out. Constant grey skies scuppered my photography plans but it was still a beautiful place – I’ll just have to go back in the sunshine one day. Then my final stop was a new part of England – 1066 Country, where we visited Hastings old town, got a history lesson in Battle and were charmed by Rye’s cobbled streets.

Dusk at Lake Bled

Lake Bled at dusk


June was all kinds of crazy with a travel itinerary that had me flitting between Spain and Portugal. First up was a trip to Andalusia for a friend’s wedding, followed by a couple of days in Ronda. With its romantic whitewashed old town, great tapas and amazing views it was a spur-of-the-moment booking that ended up being one of my favourite destinations of the year. Then after three hours’ sleep at Gatwick I was back on another flight to Madeira to join P&O Cruises’ gigantic ship Britannia. My lost luggage skills came in handy as BA lost my mum’s suitcase on the way there, but once they were reunited we set off on a whirlwind trip through the Canary Islands of La Palma, Tenerife and Lanzarote before finishing off in Lisbon.

The romance of Ronda, Andalucia, Spain

Gorge-ous Ronda (sorry couldn’t resist!)


July saw a return to Canada as my sister and I did an epic RV road trip from Calgary to Toronto. It nearly didn’t happen though after our car was written off by a lorry on the way to the airport and I ended up with whiplash. But I did finally make it out there and we managed the next 4500km, five provinces and three time zones without another disaster. Along the way we crossed the prairies, celebrated Canada Day, went moose spotting, canoed through Provincial Parks and spent a lot of nights by the campfire – consider me an RV convert! Then I finished the month with a mysterious weekend with Surprise Trips. It wasn’t until we got to the airport that we found out we were heading to Madrid. It’s not somewhere I’d thought of visiting but we had a great time exploring its sunny parks, plazas and palaces, eating tapas and drinking sangria.

Land of the lakes: Exploring Ontario’s Provincial Parks

Canoeing in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park


In August I was back up to a packed Edinburgh for music and comedy at the Fringe and the spectacular Military Tattoo at the castle. Then we headed further north to the Isles of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides. I had pretty high expectations after seeing stunning photos of the islands but they didn’t disappoint. Stepping out onto the white sands of Luskentyre Beach felt like being transported to the Caribbean (until you dipped your toes in the water at least). There were plenty of historic sights, beautiful views, great food, gin distilleries, dramatic cliffs and photogenic Highland coos along the way too.

Borve Beach in the Outer Hebrides

The Isle of Harris doing a good impression of the Caribbean


September started off with another trip to south-east England, this time to White Cliffs Country where we spent a slightly crazy night in the Sandwich B&B owned by Gogglebox couple Steph and Dom. We also took a tour of Dover Castle’s underground tunnels and a walk along the town’s famous clifftop. Then next it was on to North Wales for a stay at Wern Manor near Porthmadog, where there was a return visit to an old favourite – the Italian-style village of Portmeiron – and a stunning road trip around Snowdonia.

Snowdonia road trip – Wales’ most scenic drive?

Beautiful autumn days in Snowdonia


In October I took my mum for a late birthday weekend in Chester, a pretty city with a little bit of everything – history, culture, shopping, scenery. There were lots of walks around the canals, riverside and along the city walls, and plenty of cheese and cake to make up for it. Then it was back to Edinburgh for the third time this year, bringing some friends along for their first trip to the city. This time we visited the Castle, did a tour at Edinburgh Gin, walked the Water of Leith and checked out the Botanic Lights illuminations.

A weekend in Chester

The Eastgate Clock in Chester


In November I finally visited one of the places I’ve had on my wishlist for the longest – South Africa. But first there was the added bonus of a stopover in the stunning Seychelles. We hired a car and beach-hopped our way around the island from one palm-fringed, white sand, turquoise sea spot to another. Then we hightailed it on to South Africa before we’d totally blown our budget on piña coladas. In Cape Town we explored the waterfront and beach suburbs, but windy weather meant we missed out on Table Mountain. We also took trips out to the Winelands and down the Cape to see the Boulders Beach penguins. Then we travelled by train up to Johannesburg and headed out to the edge of Kruger National Park for my first safari. It was so worth the wait to see wild zebras, giraffes, rhinos and – right at the very last minute – a lion.

Zebra in South Africa

Zebra in South Africa


My final trip of the year took me back to Wales for a festive foodie trip to the town of Abergavenny. I joined a group of bloggers to totally stuff myself on afternoon tea and cheese fondue at the lovely Angel Hotel. Then it was home for Christmas, with candlelight carols in Cheltenham and a trip to the Spectacle of Light at Sudeley Castle in the Cotswolds, where the castle was lit up with 20,000 colourful LED lights.

The Spectacle of Light at Sudeley Castle

The Spectacle of Light at Sudeley Castle

So that was my 2016 travel year – and my third Take 12 Trips challenge completed. Along the way there were nine countries visited (including four new ones), 18 flights, 22 train journeys, one ship and almost a third of the year spent travelling. So 2016 wasn’t all bad in the end! It’s going to be a tough year to top on the travel front, but I already have some exciting plans in the pipeline for next year (here’s a sneak preview). But until then thanks so much for reading and wishing you all a very Happy Christmas.

What was your travel highlight of 2016?

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Travel highlights On the Luce in 2016, including crossing Canada by RV, beach-hopping around the Seychelles, wildlife spotting in South Africa and much more

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  • Reply
    December 22, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    Wow! you certainly did a lot in 2016!! My best trip was to Holland. It was everything I thought it would be and more!! All the best for 2017.

    • Reply
      December 23, 2016 at 11:24 am

      I did! Funny you don’t realise just how much until you start writing it all down like this. Hope you have a lovely Christmas and a great 2017 too.

  • Reply
    Danielle (Escaping Essex)
    December 22, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    Sounds like you had a great year for travel! We visited a lot of the same places this year – I loved Edinburgh! I visited Slovenia last year and my day at Lake bled was awful weather wise too! Rain was torrential and we couldn’t get out of the car for the most part! I need to return!

    Danielle /

    • Reply
      December 23, 2016 at 11:23 am

      Edinburgh is such a great city! My sister has bought a flat there now so I’ll have lots more visits next year too. Such a shame about Lake Bled, it’s definitely one of those places where you need good weather as it’s so much about the views. Fingers crossed for next time for both of us!

  • Reply
    December 22, 2016 at 9:08 pm

    What an exciting 2016 you had! I’ll be going to a couple of destinations you went to (Madrid & Seychelles) in 2017 , so looking forward to it. I also like the concept of Surprise Trips! Here’s to an amazing 2017!

    • Reply
      December 23, 2016 at 11:25 am

      Thank you! Hope you have a great year too and enjoy Madrid and the Seychelles (I have some Seychelles posts coming up in the new year with lots of tips!).

  • Reply
    December 23, 2016 at 10:05 am

    Busy year! I have to say, that Traverse conference feels like it was longer than 8 months ago (and thank you for befriending me at the party!) Will you be doing your Take 12 Trips challenge again this year? Merry Crimbo. 🙂

    • Reply
      December 23, 2016 at 7:38 pm

      It does feel like an age ago! Lovely to meet you then – and maybe see you at the London one next year? Plan is to keep doing Take 12 Trips into 2017 and beyond, it’s become a bit of a habit now and I’d definitely miss it! Have a great Christmas too.

  • Reply
    December 23, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    Another scintillating year, Lucy 🙂 🙂 That shot of Harris is so appealing!
    I guess looking back my highlight would have to be the fortnight spent in Poland. So glad I got to do it one more time before he died.
    Wishing you lots more joy, both in the festive season and in the year ahead.

    • Reply
      December 23, 2016 at 9:07 pm

      Harris was so beautiful – though we did get lucky with the weather! I’m hoping to make my first trip to Poland next year at long last. So sorry to hear about your dad, sending you lots of love for Christmas and 2017.

  • Reply
    December 24, 2016 at 9:59 am

    What a great year to look back on – although you and your Canada trips seem cursed. Glad you’re OK. Am really enjoying reading all the round-ups, have to finish my final take 12 trips post soon too 🙂

    • Reply
      December 28, 2016 at 12:53 pm

      I’m hoping my Canada bad luck might have run out now! Always love a good round up post – look forward to reading yours.

  • Reply
    December 24, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    Gorgeous pictures, looks like you had a great year! I love reading end of the year recaps, it’s great to see how much you’ve traveled, especially for a part-time traveler. 🙂 When I read your blog I’m always inspired to visit places in my back yard and write about my country more often. Sadly, this year I kind of skipped on that. So 2017 goal, maybe?

    PS: I can’t get over how pretty Tallinn looks in your photos!

    • Reply
      December 28, 2016 at 12:26 pm

      Tallinn has to be one of the prettiest places I’ve been in a long time! I’m definitely getting better at writing about my own country, though I still have written hardly anything about places like the Cotswolds which are right on my doorstep, so that might have to be my 2017 goal!

  • Reply
    Suzanne Jones
    December 27, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    What an epic year of travel you’ve had – after reading that I feel like I’ve been on a whirlwind trip myself! Here’s to a happy 2017 filled with just as many adventures.

    • Reply
      December 28, 2016 at 12:24 pm

      It wasn’t until I went to write this that I realised quite how much I had done! Hope you have a great and travel-filled year to come too!

  • Reply
    Jaillan Yehia
    December 27, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    Blimey you did so much in 2016! I had no idea about your accident before your trip to Canada, that sounds awful. I actually ended up in hospital before my own trip to Canada but still managed to travel, and totally fell in love with it, so I’m really glad you made it. I hope I can do half as much in 2017 as you did this year 🙂

    • Reply
      December 28, 2016 at 12:23 pm

      Thanks, yes it wasn’t the best start to the trip! Luckily no major damage done and I did still make it out there. Canada’s such a great place, I’d love to explore some more soon.

  • Reply
    December 29, 2016 at 10:30 am

    You fitted in an incredible amount! I think my favourite was your trip to the Outer Hebrides, I remember the colours on instagram at the time! Is it possible that you can pick a favourite day from all of that?

    • Reply
      December 29, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      The Hebrides were just amazing! We had one day when we road-tripped out to the Isle of Harris and visited these amazing white-sand beaches in perfect sunshine that has to be one of my favourite days – closely tied with our safari trip.

  • Reply
    Shikha (whywasteannualleave)
    January 1, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    Amazing year of travel Lucy! Your South Africa and Seychelles trip sounds just epic and I’d really love to eventually make it to South Africa myself one day! Also loved seeing how magical your winter break in Estonia looked!

  • Reply
    January 4, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    I am very impressed with your 2016 travel..and hope you have more of them and bring in more interesting stories.

    • Reply
      January 4, 2017 at 9:18 pm

      It was a great year! Lots still to come from my trips to South Africa and the Seychelles soon, and hopefully some great travels for 2017.

  • Reply
    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges
    January 5, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    End of year recaps are my favorite! You visited some beautiful places!

    • Reply
      January 5, 2017 at 10:12 pm

      Thanks so much, I love reading them too – so much travel inspiration!

  • Reply
    Georgina Goodman
    January 6, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    I was just talking about Tallinn with my dad this morning! Id love to visit

    • Reply
      January 9, 2017 at 1:03 pm

      It is such a pretty place, hope you get to see it one day!

  • Reply
    January 17, 2017 at 8:18 pm

    Loved your fabulous photos and collage what a fantastic year you have had. Discovered your post via Trips 100 #GetGone. Glad I did am following on twitter

    • Reply
      January 17, 2017 at 10:41 pm

      Thanks Jo – lovely to meet you, will head over to check your round up post too!

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