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Travel blog aimed at mature, independent travellers who like to plan their own holidays. The blog is based on our own travels and walking holidays in beautiful places such as Iceland, The Azores and Peru, and contains accounts of our experiences, advice, links to resources and lots of photography.
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Looking for a travel-related gift? Here are some great ideas.

Here are some great gift ideas for people who love to travel The post Looking for a travel-related gift? Here are some great ideas. appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

If you are looking for a gift for someone who loves to travel, and would like some inspiration, check out the suggestions below.  There are ideas suitable for all pockets!

(Please note that the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you.  This is how I fund Self Arranged Journeys, and if you do decide to purchase one of these great gifts your support will be very much appreciated.)

Scratch Map

Here’s a great idea.  These elegant maps have a layer which you scratch off to reveal the countries you have visited.  Great for an instant visual reminder of where you have been – and where you still have to go.

World Scratch Map® - Deluxe Edition

A range of Scratch Maps are available including world maps, European maps, US maps, a few cities and even a globe.  See Stanfords for their full range –  worldwide delivery is available.

For more examples see Amazon, where there are maps including country flags, highest peaks, ocean depths and more.


I have a beautiful globe which was bought for me as a gift, and I love it.  You can see where everything is in the world in relation to everything else, in a way that you just can’t with a flat map.

Stanfords have a huge range of quality globes to choose from in many sizes (some larger sizes are available for UK delivery only).  The range includes desktop globes, floor-standing globes, illuminated globes, inflatable globes, foam globes suitable for children, novelty globes…….

Prices range from £3.99 to over £250.00.

For further choices, a wide range is available from Amazon – see Amazon Globes.

Travel Journal

You can’t really go wrong with one of these – a gift that looks good and is also functional.

The journals shown here are all available from Amazon – just click on the image to visit the appropriate page.  There are many more to choose from – see Travel Journals.

Point It Traveller’s Language Kit

If, like me, you are not great at picking up languages, this is a really useful aid.

The little book has over 1300 pictures of things you are likely to want to ask for.  You just point at the one you want, and thus make sure you are understood.  It is also great for asking how to say things, so you will know next time!

Available from Amazon for £5.99 (UK price).

Packing Cubes

These are great for multi-base journeys – you can partition your luggage items ready for each base, and keep clothes that need washing separate.

The sets shown here are from Amazon.  There are various size combinations and colours available, and prices vary depending on the size.  For more options, see Packing Cubes.


Ultimate Travel Pillow

Ideal for long trips, this easily inflatable, ergonomic travel pillow provides excellent neck support.

After use the pillow deflates easily and rolls up small for easy packing.   Click on the image for further details, or see Amazon for many more examples.


Stanfords have a range of unusual, stylish, antique-style compasses – ideal for the discerning traveller.

Click on the image for further details, or see Stanfords Compasses for more examples.

Personalized Travel Photo Gift

If you have access to suitable digital photos, why not have a personalized gift made by Huggler, using your own travel photos.

25% OFF off photo books, prints and more...
You can select from notebooks, photobooks, diaries, calendars, prints and cards.  You select your gift, and the photos you want to include (the number required depends on the type of gift).  Then just upload the photos to Huggler’s site and design your gift online.   Calendars and diaries can start on any month, and there is a wide range of designs to choose from.

Huggler quickly produce your gift for you and send it by post.

Prices range from around £5.00 plus postage (items can be delivered worldwide).

I recently ordered a calendar from Huggler as a gift for Matt using photos from our holidays.  I really enjoyed designing the calendar, and when it arrived the quality was far better than I expected.  It had an opaque front cover which added rigidity, and was much better than many of the calendars you see in the shops – I was really pleased.

I can wholeheartedly recommend it!


Of course, inspirational travel books are always popular.  Here are some great suggestions – just click on the images for more details.


Not the most original of gifts perhaps, but always welcome.  Especially when you find examples like the ones below.  Click on the images for further details, of for many more see Amazon Calendars.

Perfume Atomizers

If, like me, you don’t want to leave home without your favourite perfumes, but don’t want to carry heavy or delicate bottles, travel perfume atomizers are ideal.

This example includes 3 6ml spray bottles, together with a funnel and pipette for easy refilling.

For many more choices, suitable for both men and women, see Perfume Atomizers.

Portable Device Charger

We rely so much on our phones and tablets these days, for boarding passes, maps, booking apps, entertainment……

It can be a major hassle if they run out of charge.  A portable charger can be kept in a handbag or rucksack as a backup in case you need to use an app urgently, take loads of photos or just spend a lot of time online.

These chargers are all available from Amazon. Click on the images for further details, or go to Portable Power Banks for many more examples.

Travel Cable Tidy

With all the chargers, cables, SD cards and memory sticks we take with us these days, it is easy to get them mixed up in your luggage so you can never find the one you want.  A neat answer is a cable organizer bag.  This one is from Amazon – just click on the image for further information.

Larger organizer bags are also available which are suitable for thicker cables, plugs and adaptors.  Again just click on the image for further details, and for many more examples see Cable Organizer Bags.

Luggage Scales

Perfect for checking that luggage doesn’t exceed the weight allowance.

These examples are from Amazon – just click on the images for more information. There are many more to choose from – see Luggage Scales.  Prices range from very low to impressively high!

Kindle Fire

The Kindle Fire range is just such good value.   With its built-in wi-fi it acts as a HD-screen e-reader and a tablet combined.  So if you finish your novel before you finish your holiday you can easily download any book from the vast Kindle catalogue.

You can also download movies, music and games, and it can be used hands-free with Alexa.  And of course wherever you have a wi-fi connection you have full Internet access, so you can check timetables, check out local restaurants, or do anything that needs a larger screen than your phone.

Kindle Fire tablets comes with a choice of 7″, 8″ or 10″ screen, and storage capacity ranging from 8 GB to 64 GB.  I personally like the 8″, for the best balance between portability and screen size. There is a range of colours to choose from.

I would also highly recommend the custom-made case.  It fits so well, it’s tough and protective, it acts as a stand, and the combined tablet and case are really thin and light-weight – perfect for travel.

I wouldn’t leave home without mine!

If you are still in need of inspiration, watch out for a new selection of Gifts for Lovers of the Outdoors coming very soon!

The post Looking for a travel-related gift? Here are some great ideas. appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

The Yorkshire Arboretum – A Wonderful Place for a Peaceful Stroll

If you enjoy walking amongst beautiful and interesting trees you will love the Yorkshire Arboretum.  Consisting of around 120 acres of beautiful parkland, the arboretum apparently contains more than 6000 trees. The collection consists of trees from temperate countries around… The post The Yorkshire Arboretum – A Wonderful Place for a Peaceful Stroll appeared first on Self Arranged...

Yorkshire Arboretum, North Yorkshire, England

Yorkshire Arboretum looking down towards the lake

If you enjoy walking amongst beautiful and interesting trees you will love the Yorkshire Arboretum.  Consisting of around 120 acres of beautiful parkland, the arboretum apparently contains more than 6000 trees.

Yorkshire Arboretum in early autumn, North Yorkshire, England

Early autumn colours

The collection consists of trees from temperate countries around the world, and is around 40 years old.  There are many unusual specimens, and all are labelled with a tag attached to a branch – great if, like, me you like to know what you are looking at.

There are gentle paths around the site, and plenty of benches to sit and enjoy the glorious surroundings.

Yorkshire Arboretum in autumn, England

Path through the Arboretum on a beautiful autumn day

The Arboretum is a lovely place to visit at any time of the year (it is open from the beginning of February to the end of November).  In spring and summer there are vivid greens and wild flowers.

Horse chestnut tree in the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

Old horse chestnut tree and distant bluebells in spring

Path through trees in the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

Path through the trees in late spring

Wooden bench in the Yorkshire Arboretum, North Yorkshire, England

Wooden bench surrounded by summer foliage

Autumn is, of course, the most colourful season.  If you are lucky enough to visit on a sunny autumn day with a clear blue sky, the Arboretum is a truly beautiful place to be.

Acer rubrum 'October Glory' maple trees in the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

Acer rubrum ‘October Glory’ maple trees at their most colourful

Golden autumn foliage at the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

Golden foliage in autumn light

Red maple leaves in autumn in the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

Vivid red maple leaves

Autumn colours at the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

Stunning autumn foliage

As well as the trees, the Arboretum is also a great place for spotting wildlife.  There are birds singing in the trees, butterflies on the flowers, and water birds and dragonflies near the lake.

Lake in the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

Autumn colours around the lake

Last time we visited we spotted this impressive pale tussock moth caterpillar on a fallen oak leaf.

Pale tussock moth caterpillar

Pale tussock moth caterpillar

A few hours spent here is a great way to unwind and enjoy being surrounded by beautiful nature.
Shadowy trees in the Yorkshire Arboretum, England

Shadowy trees in autumn light


The Yorkshire Arboretum is situated just opposite the entrance to Castle Howard, easily reached from the A64 York to Scarborough road.

There is ample parking, an excellent cafe, gift and plant sales, and regular events.  For full details of opening times, events and prices see the Yorkshire Arboretum website.

The Arboretum is a partner garden of the Royal Horticultural Society, and RHS members are entitled to free access on all days until the end of August.  Follow the link for information about RHS membership.

If you would like to stay in North Yorkshire, you can search available accommodation on this page at booking.com.

For more great places to visit in Yorkshire we recommend the Rough Guide to Yorkshire.



The post The Yorkshire Arboretum – A Wonderful Place for a Peaceful Stroll appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

Visiting Turku – A Lovely Relaxed City in Finland

Turku is a hugely attractive city on the banks of the River Aura in Finland The post Visiting Turku – A Lovely Relaxed City in Finland appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.


Turku Cathedral and River Aura, Finland

Turku Cathedral and River Aura, Finland

Many people may not have heard of Turku, though it is one of the most visited places in Finland.  Situated about two hours from Helsinki by bus or train, Turku is a smaller, more relaxed and highly attractive city on the banks of the River Aura.

Bridge over the River Aura, Turku, Finland

Bridge over the River Aura

It is the riverside setting that makes Turku so attractive.  Paths on both sides, linked by frequent bridges, are lined with cafes, bars and beautiful buildings.  There are leafy sections with boardwalks and flowers, and quirky art installations abound.

Boats moored along the river banks take excursions to the nearby archipelago and act as floating restaurants.  It is just such a nice place to be.

Boats on the River Aura, Turku, Finland

Boats on the riverside

How to Get to Turku

Turku has its own airport, with regular flights from Helsinki and Stockholm.  To search for routes from your local airport try Skyscanner.  Bus route 1 runs very regularly (up to four times each hour) from the airport to the city centre and ferry port.

It is also easy to reach Turku from Helsinki by bus or train.  Both run regularly and take around two hours.  Try GoEuro to check for timetables and prices.

However we think the nicest way by far to reach Turku is by ferry from Stockholm.  Ferries run daily via Mariehamn in the beautiful Åland islands (if you have time to spend a day or two here don’t miss it – see our post Visiting Mariehamn).  The journey from Stockholm to Mariehamn takes just over 5 hours, as does the onward leg from Mariehamn to Turku.

Ferry in the Aland islands, Finland

Ferry travelling through the Aland islands

The entire journey is incredibly scenic as the ferry weaves its way first through the Stockholm Archipelago, then through the Åland islands and finally through the Turku Archipelago. As a foot passenger it is also amazingly good value (see our post Exploring the Baltic Sea by Ferry).  As more than one ferry company operates on these routes, try Direct Ferries to compare timetables and prices.

Island in the Turku Archipelago, Finland

Island in the Turku Archipelago

Where to Stay

When we visited we arrived by ferry, and therefore chose to stay in the very convenient Seaport Hotel.  This hotel is situated in an old customs buildings, and is literally straight off the ferry (I wish all hotels were this easy to find!)

Seaport Hotel, Turku, Finland

Seaport Hotel


The ferry port and Seaport Hotel are about 4km from the centre of Turku, but there is a bus stop literally outside the door of the hotel.  Buses are very regular (several each hour).  It is also possible, and very pleasant, to walk from the hotel to the centre by following the riverside path.  You pass several coffee bars and restaurants on the way.

The Seaport Hotel is quite basic, but it has character and is incredibly convenient for the ferries.  To see other accommodation options in Turku follow the link to booking.com.

Things to Do in Turku

Really, one of the nicest things you can do is just stroll around the cobbled streets in the old centre and the leafy riverside paths.  There are plenty of bars and restaurants with outdoor terraces to enjoy a coffee or lunch.

Cobbled centre of Turku, Finland

Cobbled centre of Turku (Photo obtained from Pixabay.com)

But there are lots more things to do.  Here are some ideas:

NOTE:  Outside the summer season, most museums and galleries are closed on Mondays.

Visit Forum Marinum

This fascinating maritime museum has excellent exhibitions and boat collections.  It also has a collection of impressive museum ships which you can board and look around in the summer months.

The museum is situated very close to the ferry port, and can be reached by Line 1 Bus to the port or by following the southern bank of the River Aura.  It has a good restaurant for lunch, which is also accessible to people not visiting the museum.  For more information see this page at VisitTurku.

Crane and museum ships at Forum Marinum, Turku, Finland

Crane and museum ships at Forum Marinum

Other Museums to Visit

Turku has a wide variety of museums, including, among others, museums of art, handicrafts, biology and pharmacy.

For ideas, information and links see City Museums.

Stroll Around The Castle

Turku Castle, Finland

Turku’s ancient Castle

Turku’s Medieval Castle is one of the oldest buildings still in use in Finland.

You can join a guided tour to learn more about the Castle’s history, or wander around the buildings and various exhibitions about the history of Finland.

For more information see Turku Castle.


Enjoy the Galleries and Street Art

Turku is a great place for art lovers.  There are many galleries, and interesting examples of sculptures and street art wherever you go.

Whale tail sculpture and fountain, Turku, Finland

Whale tail sculpture and fountain

For a list of art museums and galleries, with useful links, see TurkuArt.fi.

Visit the Archipelago

The Archipelago consists of literally thousands of islands and skerries, and is extremely beautiful.

There are many possibilities for visiting the Archipelago, with regular ferries and boat trips leaving from the River Aura in Turku.  Many islands are linked by bridges, and there is a popular Archipelago Trail which can be completed by car or cycle.

The Tourist Information will be able to provide details of ferry times and tours.  For more information about the area see this page at VisitTurku.

Ruissalo island, Turku Archipelago, Finland

Ruissalo island

These are just a few ideas.  There are many more things to see and do, including excellent shops and markets, the central cathedral and green leafy parks.

With its museums and galleries, riverside walks and flourishing cafe culture, Turku is a city that is well worth a visit.  We hope to return one day.


Riverside terrace in Turku, Finland

Riverside terrace

For a guide book to Finland including Turku and the Archipelago (and also Aland) we recommend Lonely Planet Finland.

The post Visiting Turku – A Lovely Relaxed City in Finland appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

Visiting Mariehamn and the Beautiful Åland Islands

Mariehamn and the Aland islands are perfect for lovers of nature and solitude The post Visiting Mariehamn and the Beautiful Åland Islands appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

View over the Farjsundet sea channel near Godby, Aland

View from a wooden tower near Godby, Åland

Åland is comprised of over 6,500 islands in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland.  It is an autonomous region of Finland, but the population of around 29,000 speak Swedish (and almost all speak fluent English).

Baltic Sea channel near Mariehamn, Aland

Sea channel near Mariehamn

Many of the islands, some of which are just bare lumps of rock, are linked by bridges  making them easy and fun to explore on foot or by cycle.  Others can be reached using local bus and ferry services.

There is very little traffic outside the main town, Mariehamn, so walking along the roads is not only feasible but pleasurable.

Road and cycle path near Godby, Aland

Typical road and cycle path near Godby

The islands are characterised by attractive woodland, abundant wildlife and wonderful sea views at every turn.  When we visited in September the weather was perfect and the sea was calm.  Everywhere seemed so peaceful – just the sort of place we love!

Boathouse in a Baltic Sea channel near Mariehamn, Aland

Boathouse in a sea channel near Mariehamn

Getting to Åland

There is a small airport close to Mariehamn which you can reach with flights via Helsinki, Turku or Stockholm (try Skyscanner to search for flights).

However, unless you are a very bad sailor, we highly recommend travelling by ferry from Turku (Finland) or Stockholm (Sweden).  Whichever direction you come from the journey takes just over 5 hours, and is stunningly beautiful all the way.  If you are travelling as a foot passenger and don’t book a cabin it is also amazingly good value (see our post Exploring the Baltic Sea by Ferry).

Ferries near Mariehamn, Aland

Ferries approaching and leaving Åland

Several ferry companies operate on these routes – for an easy way to check timetables, compare prices and purchase tickets online see Direct Ferries.

Where to Stay

We stayed in the modern, but very comfortable, Hotel Pommern near the centre of Mariehamn.  This was about a 15 min walk from the ferry port on wide, level roads.  The hotel had friendly staff, spacious rooms and a very good restaurant.

Other good options would be the Hotel Arkipelag with lovely views over the sea and an excellent restaurant, or Hotel Park Alandia in the centre of town.

To search available accommodation throughout Åland follow this link to booking.com.

Getting Around

As mentioned above, the roads were so quiet when we visited in September that walking and cycling were a pleasure.  Several places hire out cycles in Mariehamn, but be aware that not all of these operate outside the summer season.  The Tourist Information Office will give you details.

There are also regular bus services, some of which connect with ferries to other islands.  For bus and archipelago ferry services, including timetables, see Alandstrafiken.

The services are regular, but if you are travelling out of season and only have a couple of days to spend in Åland, be aware that bus services are far less frequent at weekends.

For Kindle owners (or users of the free Kindle App) the Top 12 Places to Visit in Finland includes Åland.




Main street in Mariehamn, Aland

Cobbled main street in Mariehamn

Mariehamn, which is actually larger than we expected, is a quiet, attractive town with wide, cobbled, tree-lined streets.  The airport and main ferry ports arrive here, and the town has a good selection of shops, hotels and restaurants.

Garden in Mariehamn, Åland

Garden in the centre of Mariehamn

The town is situated on a narrow strip of land, so it has a coastline at either side.  Both sides have pleasant paths for walking and waterside restaurants.  The main ferry port and Maritime Museum, which includes the Museum Ship Pommern, are on the west coast.

Pommern Museum Ship, Mariehamn, Aland

Pommern Museum Ship

View from the west coast of Mariehamn, Aland

View over the west coast

The east coast has a marina, waterside paths and a lovely woodland park with camping facilities and mini-golf.

Sailing boats in the marina at Mariehamn, Aland

Sailing boats in the marina at Mariehamn

Marina, Mariehamn, Aland

Another view of the marina

Cannon in the woods at Mariehamn, Aland

Cannon in the woodland park

Lilla Holmen

A few steps away from the marina in Mariehamn you can go through an attractive gate  and cross a little bridge to Lilla Holmen.

Gate and bridge to Lilla Holmen, Mariehamn, Aland

Gate and bridge to Lilla Holmen

Surprisingly, Lilla Holmen is actually an island, separated from Mariehamn by a narrow sea channel.   It is a great little place to stroll around.  There are reed beds with wildlife, a pleasant beach and swimming area, and a few aviary buildings with birds.

View to Lilla Holmen island, Mariehamn

View across to one of the aviaries on Lilla Holmen

Nature Trails in Åland

There are a number of well laid out nature trails (and longer hiking trails) to explore (search ‘Visit Åland nature trails’).  We visited two (the Godby Arboretum and the Nato Nature Trail), and really enjoyed them.

Godby Arboretum, Aland

Path in the Godby Arboretum

Both trails had good, easy-to-follow paths, useful information boards and picnic tables.

The Nato Nature Trail was in a fascinating area with rock outcrops, beautiful trees and fantastic sea views.

Nato Nature Trail, Aland

Rocky terrain on the Nato Nature Trail

Nato Nature Trail, Aland

Matt on the well laid out trail

Coastal view from the Nato Nature Trail, Aland

One of many lovely views from the trail

View from Nato Nature Trail, Aland

So peaceful…..

When we visited in September the trees were just beginning to change colour, and there were lots of impressive mushrooms in the woods.

Mushrooms in woods in Aland, Finland

Impressive mushrooms

We would love to return and explore more of these trails – what a great way to learn about the nature and history of the Åland Islands!

Longer Next Time

We only had three nights in Åland on this trip, and for us it was definitely not long enough.  There is so much to explore if you like nature.  We will definitely return and spend longer next time.  In fact I could quite happily live here…..

View near Godby, Aland

View near Godby

If you like places that are buzzing and have exciting night life, Åland will not be for you.  But if you like to escape from the noise and high pace of modern life, enjoy being surrounded by nature, but still want to have access to nice hotels and restaurants, Åland could just be perfect.

Please note that this post is based purely on our own experiences, therefore kindly note the Disclaimer.


The post Visiting Mariehamn and the Beautiful Åland Islands appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

Exploring the Baltic Sea by Ferry – The Best Value Journey Ever

Ferry journeys between Stockholm and Turku in Finland are a great way to see the Baltic islands and fantastic value The post Exploring the Baltic Sea by Ferry – The Best Value Journey Ever appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

The Beautiful Baltic Sea

The Baltic Sea is surrounded by wonderful cities – Stockholm, Turku, Helsinki, St Petersburg, Tallinn, Riga, Gdansk.  Frequent ferry services between several of these great cities makes travelling between them really easy.

Stockholm at night, Sweden

Stockholm at night

The Baltic also contains literally thousands of islands in various archipelagos.  On a sunny day a ferry journey between Stockholm in Sweden, the Aland islands and Turku in Finland is a truly magical experience.  More of a scenic cruise than just a ferry journey.

Ferry in the Aland islands, Finland

Ferry travelling through the Aland islands, Finland

Our Itinerary

Matt and I recently completed a tour starting and ending in Stockholm, Sweden.  Our tour consisted of the following stages, with two or three nights in each destination:

  • Stockholm to Mariehamn in Aland (Finland) by ferry
  • Mariehamn to Turku (Finland) by ferry
  • Turku to Helsinki by train
  • Helsinki to Tallinn by ferry
  • Tallinn back to Stockholm by overnight ferry

This itinerary worked really well, and could easily have been extended to include St Petersburg and/or Riga (perhaps next time….).

Turku, Finland

Turku, Finland

Amazing Value Ferry Journeys

The cities in this area are well known for being expensive.  And rightly so.  Even the most minimalistic hotel in Stockholm or Helsinki will set you back.  And although these cities have a huge choice of really fantastic restaurants, bars, museums, attractions and shops, they certainly don’t come cheap.

But, surprisingly, the cost of travelling by ferry can be unbelievably low if you travel as a foot passenger and don’t need a cabin.

Ferry docked at Stockholm, Sweden

Ferry docked at Stockholm, Sweden

For instance the journey from Stockholm to Mariehamn in Aland took over 5 hours on a large, comfortable, modern ferry with a great choice of dining options on board.

The journey was stunningly beautiful all the way, as we glided serenely through the Stockholm Archipelago before approaching beautiful Aland.  Few cruise ships could boast a more scenic journey.  And the cost of this wonderful trip – just under £14.00 each.

Ferries near Mariehamn, Aland

Ferries approaching and leaving Aland

Yes, you did read that correctly.  Less than £14.00 for a 5 hour cruise through amazing scenery.  With as much luggage as you can carry and the freedom to move around the ferry as you please.  We had an excellent and reasonably priced buffet lunch on board with a window seat where we could watch the approach to Aland.  Wonderful.  The whole experience was just so much better than flying!

Cabin in the Turku Archipelago, Finland

Photo taken from a ferry approaching Turku, Finland

Amazingly the next journey from Aland to Turku cost even less and was, if anything, even more scenic.  This journey took 5 hours 30 minutes, and cost just over £13.00 each.

The ferry gently wound its way through the Aland islands and then the numerous islands of the Turku Archipelago.  Islands ranging from isolated lumps of bare rock to substantial tree-covered lands with cabins and summer residences were in view the whole time.   Incredible.  I think this has to be the best value travel I have ever experienced.

Approaching Turku, Finland, by ferry

Approaching Turku in the late afternoon


Three companies run ferries in this part of the Baltic Sea: Eckero Line, Tallink Silja Line and Viking Line.

Prices vary depending on which company you choose and when you travel.  To check all available routes, timetables and prices, and to purchase tickets online, see Direct Ferries.  The site is really easy to use and is a great way to find the best options for your trip.  We used Direct Ferries for all our recent crossings, and were very happy with the service.

On some routes overnight services are available.  The cost of a cabin may well be less than a hotel room for the night – but then you might miss the amazing views.

The Baltic Sea is quite sheltered, and we were lucky with the weather when we travelled (in September).  On most crossings the sea was very calm and the sun shone.  Of course this is not always the case.  One of our crossings was very foggy, and one was quite windy, so you do need to be prepared for rough weather.

To search for accommodation, follow the links to the booking.com pages for Stockholm, Aland, Turku, Helsinki and Tallin.

Recommended guide books for the area include the following:

Lonely Planet Pocket Stockholm

DK Eyewitness Travel Stockholm

Lonely Planet Pocket Helsinki

DK Eyewitness Top 10 Tallinn

DK Eyewitness Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania


Eckero Line ferry leaving Tallinn

Eckero Line ferry leaving Tallinn

Look out for most posts from our Baltic trip coming soon.

Please remember that this post is based purely on our own experiences – therefore kindly note the Disclaimer.



The post Exploring the Baltic Sea by Ferry – The Best Value Journey Ever appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

Exploring the Humber Bridge and Nearby Nature Reserves

The Humber Bridge and the nature reserves around it are unexpectedly fascinating to explore The post Exploring the Humber Bridge and Nearby Nature Reserves appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.


The Humber Bridge is magnificent.  When it first opened in 1981 it was the longest single-span suspension bridge in the world.  It has since been surpassed, but is still the 8th longest, beating California’s Golden Gate Bridge.

Humber Bridge, England

The Humber Bridge from the south bank of the Humber Estuary

The bridge spans the Humber Estuary from near Hull in the north to Lincolnshire in the south.  It may not be as scenic as California’s Golden Gate, but nonetheless the Humber Estuary is a fascinating area with great sigificance to wildlife.

Humber Bridge from the Waters' Edge Country Park, Lincolnshire, England

View from the Waters’ Edge Country Park, Barton-upon-Humber

The ever changing tides expose extensive mudflats ideal for wading birds and of great importance to migrants.

And along the banks of the estuary various clay pits, gravel pits and quarries have been converted into excellent nature reserves.   Habitats include lakes, reedbeds and surrounding woodland as well as the Humber foreshore.

Access to all of these parks and reserves is completely free – you don’t even have to pay to park.

Mudflats on the Humber Estuary, England

Mudflats and Waters’ Edge Country Park seen from the bridge at low tide

Interesting birds recorded in the reserves include bitterns, marsh harriers and kingfishers.  There are great habitats for butterflies and dragonflies, and many other types of wildlife find a home here.

If you are interested in birds and other wildlife there is so much to do in this area.  And yet the area is completely overlooked – I couldn’t find a single guide book!

So if you would like to get off the beaten track, here are a few suggestions.

Walking Across the Humber Bridge

The Humber Bridge is still the longest single span suspension bridge that you can walk across.  There is a shared footpath and cycle path at each side of the bridge, so you can cross on one path and then return on the other for different views.

(Note – because of the exposure it is best to avoid windy days.  Occasionally in very strong winds the bridge is closed to traffic for safety reasons.)

Shared footpath and cycle path on the Humber Bridge, England

Shared footpath and cycle path on the bridge

View from the footpath on the Humber Bridge, England

View looking forward from below one of the towers

If you are coming from the North side you can easily park at the Humber Bridge Country Park (described below).  The return trip is then around 3.5 miles.

From the South side the nearest car parks are on Waterside Road (see map below).  This increases the distance a little, but is more considerate than parking beneath the bridge on Far Ings Road.


Walking across the bridge, you really appreciate the scale of this enormous structure.  Getting close to the massive towers and cables, and the somewhat alarming vibration as lorries go thundering past, is quite an exhilarating experience.

The views over the Humber Estuary and surrounding countryside are far ranging whichever path you choose.

Tower of the Humber Bridge, England

View from the foot of one of the huge towers

Support cable on the Humber Bridge, England

Closeup of the massive support cable at its lowest point

View looking west from the Humber Bridge, England

View over the Humber Bridge Country Park from the West Path

View towards the port at Kingston-upon-Hull from the Humber Bridge, England

View towards the port at Hull from the east path

Depending on how far you wish to walk, you can easily combine crossing the bridge with one or more of the parks and reserves described below.

Humber Bridge Country Park

Humber Bridge Country Park near Kingston upon Hull, East Yorkshire, England

Humber Bridge Country Park in summer

Situated on the north shore of the Humber Estuary, the excellent Humber Bridge Country Park is located in a disused quarry.  The park consists of beautiful woodland and ponds surrounded by white chalk cliffs.

There are marked trails through the park with many benches and picnic tables.  A bird feeding station attracts woodland birds, and it is also a great place to spot butterflies and dragonflies.

Many trees are labelled to aid identification and there are information boards about the local environment.  Sculptures add extra interest.  It’s a great place to spend a couple of hours to enjoy peace and nature.

Humber Bridge Country Park near Kingston upon Hull, East Yorkshire, England

One of the paths in the park

Humber Bridge Country Park near Kingston upon Hull, East Yorkshire, England

Trees growing below the chalk cliffs in summer

Path through the Humber Bridge Country Park, East Yorkshire, England

Another excellent path in the park

Pond in the Humber Bridge Country Park, East Yorkshire, England

One of the ponds in the park


The Humber Bridge Country Park can be accessed from the large Bridge car park, where there are toilets, picnic tables, tourist information and refreshments.  From here follow footpath signs to one of the two entrance points, where steep steps lead down into the park.

To avoid the steep steps, the park can also be accessed by parking at the Hessle Foreshore, where there are toilets.

At both locations parking and entrance are completely free.

Near to the Hessle Foreshore entrance is the Country Park Inn, where you can have lunch or a drink with great views of the Humber.  Rooms are also available here – see section on Staying Longer towards the end of this post.

For more detailed information about the access points,  a map showing the car parks and trails, access information and opening times, you can download a local nature reserve leaflet as a pdf.  Follow this link to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council nature reserves and then scroll down to find the Humber Bridge Country Park leaflet.

Millstones on the banks of the Humber Estuary, England

Millstones and the Humber from the Hessle Foreshore

Humber Bridge from the Hessle Foreshore, Hull, England

View of the bridge from the Hessle Foreshore

Far Ings Nature Reserve

Greylag geese at Far Ings Nature Reserve near the Humber Estuary, Lincolnshire, England

Greylag geese resting at Far Ings Nature Reserve

Located on the south shore of the estuary, Far Ings is a fantastic nature reserve owned by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.  The reserve contains a number of flooded pits, extensive reedbeds, both freshwater and saltwater environments, meadows and woodland.  There are marked trails around the reserve, and a number of excellent hides.

Far Ings Nature Reserve and the Humber Bridge, Lincolnshire, England

Reeds and flooded pit seen from one of the hides

The reserve is used by many resident and migrant birds, and provides a home for elusive bitterns.  We have not been lucky enough to see a bittern here yet, but intend to keep trying!  We have had fantastic views of marsh harriers, as well as herons, grebes, ducks and geese.

It is also a great place to see dragonflies and damselflies in summer, and many flowers on the reserve attract bees and butterflies.

Cinnabar moth caterpillar on its foodplant, the common ragwort

Cinnabar moth caterpillar on its foodplant, the common ragwort

Path through a tunnel of trees at Far Ings Nature Reserve on the Humber Estuary, Lincolnshire, England

Path through a tunnel of trees

Swans at Far Ings Nature Reserve, Humber Estuary, Lincolnshire, England

Swans on one of the ponds

Greylag geese at Far Ings Nature Reserve, Humber Estuary, Lincolnshire

Greylag geese at the edge of one of the ponds

Nestled within the reserve, but completely separate from it, is the excellent Humber Bridge Country Hotel.  You can get refreshments here, or (highly recommended) stay longer.  See section on Staying Longer below.


If you are approaching Far Ings after walking across the bridge, follow Far Ings Lane west (there is no footpath but little traffic – take care).  Continue past the entrance to the Tile Works on the right, and then take the next right which leads you to the Visitor Centre and main car park.

If you are driving there is plenty of parking near to the Visitor Centre.  Here there is also picnic tables, a shop, toilets, information and the start of the trails round the reserve.

The reserve is open at all times, and there is no charge for entrance or parking.  For information about the Visitor Centre opening hours, access information and the trail routes see this Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust site.  For a map of the reserve with the car parks, trails and hides clearly marked, see this page (pdf).

Waters’ Edge Country Park

Mudflats and the Waters' Edge Country Park seen from the Humber Bridge, East Yorkshire, England

View of mudflats and the Waters’ Edge Country Park Visitor Centre from the bridge

Waters’ Edge Country Park is on the south shore of the Humber Estuary.  It consists of a large, modern Visitor Centre (green building in the photo above), which has informative displays, local information and a good cafe.

There are three well laid out trails you can follow which take in the park’s lovely woodland, reeds and ponds.  There is also access to the Humber foreshore for great views of the bridge and estuary.  Information boards are provided, and there are plenty of good benches and picnic tables.


Pond and reeds in Waters' Edge Country Park, Barton, England

Pond and reeds

Path in Waters' Edge Country Park, Barton, England

Path in the park

Seat in the woods, Waters' Edge Country Park

Seat in the woods

Humber Estuary, England

Foreshore path

Pond in Waters' Edge Country Park, Barton, Lincolnshire

Secluded pond


If you have walked across the Humber Bridge, you need to follow Far Ings Road east, and then turn left on Waterside Road.  Look out for a bridge on your right over a tidal creek, which will lead you towards the Visitor Centre (No 2 on the map below).


There are several places to park, as shown on the above map.  Parking and entrance to the park are free.

For more information, opening hours and details of regular special events see visitnorthlincolnshire.com.


Other Places to Visit

Two other places that you can visit are the Old Tile Works (No. 15 on the above map) and The Ropewalk (No. 7 on the map).

The Old Tile Works is still an operating tile factory.  There is an excellent restaurant and coffee shop here, and a number of Artisan Craft Studios to visit.  For more details and opening times see The Old Tile Works.

The Old Tile Works, Barton, Lincolnshire

The Old Tile Works viewed from the Humber Bridge

The Ropewalk is situated in an old rope making factory.  It is now used as an arts centre and contains galleries, a sculpture garden, a coffee shop, and the Ropewalk Museum which has displays about the history of rope making in the old factory.  Live events are also held here.  For more information see The Ropewalk.

There are also footpaths beside the estuary, including the start of the Viking Way and the South Humber Heritage Trail which enable you to explore further.

Why Not Stay Longer

There really is too much here to explore in a day, so why not stay a night or two?

There are several suitable places:

The Country Park Inn is situated on the north bank of the Humber Estuary, very close to the Humber Bridge Country Park and the Humber Bridge.  It has rooms and a restaurant with great views of the Humber.  The location is an ideal starting point for walking across the bridge, and also has very easy access to the city of Kingston upon Hull.

The setting of the Humber Bridge Country Hotel is perfect – actually within the Far Ings reserve.  The hotel has comfortable rooms and a choice of lakeside restaurants.  If you fancy getting up early to try to spot wildlife (perhaps a bittern?) before breakfast, this is the place to be.

For several other options see this page at booking.com.

It always surprises me that this fascinating area is so little known.  Why not come and explore the excellent reserves, abundant wildlife, and of course the magnificent bridge.
Humber Bridge, England

Humber Bridge from the north bank of the estuary

Please remember that this site is based purely on our own experiences – therefore kindly note the Disclaimer.


The post Exploring the Humber Bridge and Nearby Nature Reserves appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.

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