Category: Life of Reilly

Bournemouth in the summer – the staycation is here to stay!

In March 2020, the world was was hit by a pandemic that devastated society as we know it. It made our normally care free lives stand still. Everything, including holidays and how we spend our free time, changed. 

A vaccine programme was beginning to roll out by the middle of 2021 and we started to see a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.

Watch our guide to Bournemouth where we got to see the new side to the town

For the first time in a year, we let ourselves begin to think of normality: friends, celebrations, and dare I say it?! Holidays! But, what would they look like with ever changing travel restrictions and ongoing fears of the virus?

The British Isles rallied together and grew strong, publicising the beauty we hold within our tiny little island, and low and behold, the ‘staycation’ was reborn!

Yes, the ‘day trip’ held strong too, as they have in the past, but people wanted actual week-long holidays away from the stress this year had brought them. 

The modern holiday-goer is now more demanding

This generation of holiday-goers, however, would not accept the rusting 1970s caravans of our parents’ generation.

When we go on holiday, we want to use our hard-earned money to feel as if we’re in an oasis from the stresses of the world.

They were replaced by Glamping, Yurts, and the like, as new socially distanced activities popped up in tourist destinations.

Bournemouth has built unique Beach Lodges which allow guests to sleep next to the sand. They are NOT beach huts, you have a kitchen, bathroom, TV and even access to electric BBQ’s!

It’s a luxury ticket item and you will join the high-end staycation tourists in the quieter area of Boscombe Beach.

The kids will never forget the time they got to “sleep at the beach.”

What do you get inside a Bournemouth Beach Lodge? Watch Sam’s tour!

Fast forward a year later to today, May 2022, and the staycation seems as if it’s here to stay!

It seems we’ve been re-awakened to the beauty we have in our own backyard and are wondering why did we ever spend extortionate amounts of money to fly abroad, when driving an hour is so much easier, better for our crumbling environment and makes just as many amazing memories.

We were invited by Visit Bournemouth to come and experience this new British holiday, which seemed to be miles from cheesy, evening entertainment and outdated floral sofas of the holiday parks many of us were dragged to as kids. 

Bournemouth has changed…for the better

When I first moved here I was introduced to Bournemouth as my husband, who went to university there.

Back then, the town was famous for clubbing and night life, with streams of Stag and Hen Do;s stumbling down the streets. And although, it is still very much a great party town, today Bournemouth seems to have also matured into a town full of culture, art and top dining when we were too busy having babies to notice. 

On our return, we found that street art has taken over, not as the graffiti that shamefully tagged the backs of building with “Kevin is a ____ (insert choice of expletive here)” but as one of a kind works of art that symbolise a spirit of a city unique to any other.

A small community of restauranteurs seem to be making their homes in Bournemouth as well, leaving the typical fish and chips to the hungover stag and hen dos – and, phenomenal meals out for those of us foodies who appreciate classy food.

No lie, the avocado on sourdough at Urban Reef, may actually be one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Ever.

Even their ice-cream game has stepped up a notch. You can still get your Mr Whippy, if you wish, but why would you when almost every stand has 20+ flavours of New Forest ice cream that are served in delightfully larger than necessary scoops?

We decided to share some panini’s and go right for the double scoops each. Holiday calories don’t count right?!

Seaside entertainment has changed

Even the attractions have stepped up their game. Sure, penny slots are always fun, but you know what’s even more fun than that?! A zip wire the glides over the actual ocean! Even our very lightweight 8 year old Sammy was able to hitch on a weight vest and jump off the top of the pier and glide down.

And, that’s not including all the other games. Ocean sports seem to have taken way with kayaks and paddle boards taking over the seas, in the most picturesque way.

Beryl Bikes and scooters are an easy to use bike share scheme available to use throughout the city, meaning a dreamy cruise down the beach is only a contactless phone touch away for you.

Jude tucking into some “posh” fish and chips!

The culture was a hidden gem we were able to spend some time appreciating this trip too. In our party days we must have stumbled past the Russell Cotes Museum numerous times – and used its gates to prop up a friend or two on a long walk home. But, just beyond that gate is the most beautiful secret garden and old fashioned house with unique and exquisite art work and fancy dress for the kids. 

Somehow Bournemouth has managed to keep all our favourite, cheesy, seaside family holiday activities like mini-golf, funfair rides and sand castles. But now you get to throw in more than we never knew we were missing like amazing dinners, biking and ziplining.

Walking/hiking in Wales – a weekend itinerary

We don’t walk enough!

Sure, we walk to after school activities, from our car into work, to the park occasionally and, on a few bleary eyed Monday mornings you may have even spotted us running to the school gates, but in general we live in a stunning part of the country with beautiful fields, woods and hills just minutes from our doorstep.

We seem too caught up in our day to day hustle and bustle to take a minute and appreciate the beauty all around us.

With this in mind we took a short weekend trip to one of our favourite pockets of the world: the Brecon Beacons in Wales.

Three days of beauty, nature and quality family time with no screens. Yes, you read that right. No screens – I even surprise myself writing that!

Have a watch of our video (below) and check out our full itinerary on this page. We’ve included links to maps – and other stuff – for you to click on.

Day One: Henrhyd Waterfalls

1mile – 20mins there, 20mins back

Our trip started out with a quick 2.5 hour drive to our hotel in Ebbw Vale in South Wales.

The kids slept most of the drive and we didn’t even need to resort to ear splitting car songs to pass the time.

The highlight of this road trip is the beautiful Severn Bridge separating Wales from England – it’s a visual marker that you’re going from one world to another.

We stayed at a modest Premier Inn, which you always know is clean, reliable and well priced, but the best part about this particular Premier Inn is that directly next to it is a Brewers Fayre pub – more on why this is important later.

We made a quick stop at the Festival Park retail outlet, a three minute drive from our hotel, for a quick lunch and some new walking boots (did I mention we don’t do much walking?!)

Plus, I wasn’t going to argue with David when he told me I needed a new pair of boots. “Yes dear, if you say so,” I replied with a wry smile.

So, once we looked the part we headed off to our first stop, Henrhyd Waterfalls, which was about 40 mins away.

How to get a 6-year-old adventurer up for his first hike? Inform him the Batcave (yep, the actual one from The Dark Knight Rises) is just beyond those trees…and watch him go!

Henrhyd Falls Brecon Beacons Wales Dark Knight Rises

We decided to save the mountain for the next day, just in case we realised we were out of our depth early on.

The waterfall trek was a great starter hike and a magnificent adventure in its’ own right. A gorgeous, winding and moderately steep path guides you over wooden bridges and bubbling brooks to a stunning waterfall within 20 minutes.

Be warned: it was definitely not buggy friendly but with a firm grip on both of the children’s hands we all walked there without any meltdowns or accidents.

Your first view of Henrhyd Falls feels as though you’ve hit the jackpot but being able to cross behind the actual waterfall was an extra special memory that we’ll never forget.

The deafening noise of the waterfall made it feel as though we were in a blockbuster ourselves!!

The only thing I would have done differently here is bring a picnic as it was much more scenic to eat here rather than at an outlet shopping centre!

Tired and happy from a great first day we went for an early dinner at the pub next to our hotel.

Now, this pub may seem like any ordinary chain pub with decent food and affordable prices but with one big difference to anyone who’s ever dined with children: THERE IS A SOFT PLAY INSIDE THE PUB!!!

This meant that we were able to eat in peace and actually have a conversation without the need to hire a babysitter.

The quiet meal, after a long walk, was probably one of the best parts of the trip – I’m not even joking!!

Day 2: Pen-y-Fan

4 miles – Two hours there, One hour back

After munching down an all-you-can-eat breakfast, we now had the energy to tackle the biggest mountain in the south of the UK.

Pen-y-Fan rises 2,907 feet (886m) into the sky but it’s very much a “beginners” climb during the spring/summer.

I froze a large bladder of water (camelbak) that attaches to a big straw which pokes out of your rucksack. This meant we were able to sip cold water during the hike. We may have shared some germs but it beat carrying a bunch of water bottles.

It took around 50mins to drive to the base of Pen-y-Fan but it didn’t feel like that as there’s some stunning scenery to enjoy.

We easily found parking and filmed our “before” shots (watch the video for THE best intro to one of our vlogs ever).

Pen y Fan Life of Reilly

The excitement of starting up the mountain made the early part of the climb easy but after encouraging breaks, snacks and lunch, Samantha was “done” after one hour – and one mile!

She got onto David’s back and Dylan was on foot, with mummy’s burden being to keep the inspiration and hydration flowing freely for all.

Half way up the mountain David’s back was still holding strong but Dylan started to flag.

Going into it we told ourselves we had no problem making it halfway and turning around – it was meant to be fun after all – but while taking a break we saw a lovely group of people trudge past us literally carrying a man in a wheelchair.

It was one of his goals to make it to the top, and his friends and family were determined to make that happen for him.

We all looked at each other and even Dylan thought if he can do it so can we!!! Shout out to that guy – what an inspiration?!

Part of the way up Dylan hit another wall when we saw an obelisk dedicated to a little boy named Tommy Jones just one year older then Dylan, who got lost on the mountain and lost his life there. Pen Y Fan is beautiful and manageable but not to be underrated. We also found that the SAS use trails along the mountain on its hottest days weighed down with all their gear as a training exercise. This inspired Dylan once again and after 10 minutes of convincing and almost quitting he declared “come on then. Let’s just do it!” And off he went ahead of us!!!

Pen y Fan Life of Reilly Wales

It was a sweet sweet victory when we made it to the top and got our picture at the peak. We made it! An out of shape family with two little kids made it to the top of a mountain as a team. What an accomplishment!

As excited as we were to make it to the top we had totally underestimated the journey back down. What must go up must come down. And our four year old little trooper was not impressed with this inevitability. With lots of breaks and promises of a hot dog and ice cream at the bottom we made it!

Our pack mule Daddy made it in good spirits surprisingly until he realised that when Sammy said she “needed a wee” it meant she’d already done one… all down his back. His positively seemed to fly away in the wind after this point as well. We made it back to the bottom and got our promises hot dogs and ice creams and had a lovely wade in the ice cold streams. You may even find our carrier still sat there if you choose to go yourselves! *face palm emoji* Please can we all take a moment of silence here. RIP trusty carrier. You served us well.

Exhausted and hungry we headed back to the hotel for showers and a lovely long meal and run around in the soft play until we crashed in our bed. With kids being kids they somehow still had energy to play for hours happily in the soft play while David and I had a proper date night and a 3 course meal with drinks at a great price. As the hotel and activities we chose were so cheap we didn’t mind treating ourselves to whatever we wanted on the menu, after all, we earned it.

Day 3: Super-tubing

After our big adventures and a drive awaiting us we knew we needed something a bit lower key to fill our day. We found a place that did tubing, like a big slide on an inner tube down a hill, minutes from our hotel at the same Festival Park Retail Outlet. We were able to all have a go for a reasonable price but often there are Groupons available so be sure to check this out first. Although our legs were tired from the days before we had a great time taking turns speeding and spinning down the mountain before our drive home.

Tubing at Ebbw Vale Wales Life of Reilly

We managed to get away with a memorable weekend trip for the 4 of us with meals, hotels and activities for under £300. Not even including the priceless memories and relaxing quality time spent together far away from the normal stressors of everyday life. What started off as a daunting feet I wasn’t sure we would complete because a proud achievement we accomplished as a family. This little trip is one of my favourite hidden gems of England and Wales and if you have a few days to replicate it yourselves we’d love to see your pictures and hear your stories. You may even see us there as I’m inspired to try it again, this time with three kids in tow!

Listen to our BBC radio interview – oh, and it’s our birthday!!

Getting more than 1,000 subscribers, winning an award, and being asked to appear live on the radio are three things we didn’t think would EVER happen to our little channel – let alone that they would all take place in 2018!!!

Three years ago today (1 Jan 2016) I wrote our first blog post and launched ‘Life of Reilly.’

Before New Year’s Day 2016, I was planning on just uploading some videos to my personal YouTube channel but after reading two chapters of Steve Jobs’ biography I was inspired to start-up  a “proper website” – and brand – to see what might happen.

So, I nabbed Twitter and Facebook handles, bought the domain name, asked my brother-in-law Simon to teach me how to use WordPress and I made my New Year’s resolution official!!

After the excitement of publishing and promoting the blog post I suddenly felt sick – and it had nothing to do with the beers from NYE.

What had I just done?!!!! Now I actually had to follow my spontaneous, very public resolution through and make this blog happen, otherwise I’m that person who starts a blog but doesn’t see it through.

I also had a few other fears: would people care/like what I was going to write/produce; and, what if it doesn’t take off to a respectable level and I embarrass myself? I usually only compete when I know I’m going to succeed, whether it’s a game of pool or a job.

“Why can’t you make a successful blog without people needing to know about it?!!” I thought to myself.

Three Years On

Well, I’m now sat in exactly the same position as three years ago: on the bed, listening to the kids let off steam outside – while I try to write a blog post.

This time, I’m posting a link to a radio interview that we did live on BBC Radio Berkshire where we talked about winning a national award and the trips we have planned for 2019!! None of this would have happened if I didn’t hit publish three years ago, decide to take a risk and put myself out there.

Is this now such a successful vlog that we can quit our day jobs? No way, not even close.

Do we have people approach us to make videos for them? Yes!! This is new over the past six months and is amazing!

Are we prolific vloggers/bloggers? Nope, but that’s something we’re working on this year! We know we need to social media more, too!!

Do I wish we didn’t start the blog? Some days, but those initial fears of embarrassing ourselves etc have gone away. As it turns out, we’re always going to embarrass ourselves in our videos but that’s what makes the filming together as a family so much fun.

Right now we’re making content that we’re proud of and that people seem to like! We’re also still very new to this business and understand that it takes more than five years to really establish yourself online.

What are you trying to say?

What I’m trying to say, in a rambling way, is: if you’ve got an idea or ambition that you keep putting off – DO IT!!

My football club has the latin motto: Audere Est Facere: To Dare is to Do – if you don’t try, you’ll never succeed!

It might not take you to the fame and glory that you’ve daydreamed about but at least you’re on the right flightpath towards it!

And, hey, if you don’t reach your final destination, the layovers will provide experiences for you to grow as a person, learn some new skills, meet new people and hopefully live your life without a major regret.

We are not the finished article yet, but why not hit publish, go on an adventure and see what happens, too?!

Who knows, you might find yourself on the radio within three years?!! Have a listen below!!

Oh, and as we’re trying to promote ourselves better in 2019, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and why not give this post a share, if you think it will inspire someone?!



Travel Media Awards 2018 Vlogger of the Year Winners!!

We are now an award-winning travel blog!!

Life of Reilly won Vlogger of the Year at the UK’s Travel Media Awards on Wednesday!! We were up against some talented and brilliant YouTubers so we didn’t think we had a chance of winning but the judges really liked our style and storytelling.

There was not ONE moment that we ever thought that we would ever win an award when we started this blog so this news is beyond our wildest dreams!

Receiving the Vlogger of the Year award

We have just tried to make videos that we would want to watch while researching a trip.

Our YouTube channel has grown over the past two years: we were sat at 12 subscribers for ages, then that moved to 100 for a few months but now we’re on our way to 3,000 and chugging along nicely!

What’s been going on?

Huge apologies, if you’re more of a reader than a video watcher!! We’ve neglected our website a bit and have hardly posted  – we even forgot to post that we had a new baby!!! This is mainly down to focusing on the videos and not having enough time to write a post after spending weeks editing a video.

In our defence, David has been doing a Masters degree, creating a new Masters degree and making a documentary over the past two years, while also keeping the day jobs going!!! Alicia has started her own business and we had baby Jude in April, so things have been super-busy!

As the videos are doing best, we’ll continue to focus on those but we’ll hopefully be able to up our web and social media game again, with a tiny bit more free time again!

Anyway, we just wanted to share our news with you!!

We’re super-excited about winning this award and it’s made all of the hard worth worth it.

We’ve filmed quite a few videos that we haven’t managed to edit yet, so hopefully we’ll get to show you more of these before we head to the USA for another big trip next year!


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