Returning to the UK for the first time since COVID - 26 September - 28 October, 2023

After our ill-fated (COVID) trip to the UK in March 2020, we weren't really in the mood for international travel - and it wasn't even possible for us from Australia for a long time anyway. After more than three years, though, it was time to return and we built a month-long trip around a date on Francis Rossi's "Tunes & Chat" tour in Aberystwyth! A couple of other Quo-related events came up as we planned out our travels too. Our itinerary saw us spending most of our time in Wales and Scotland with only brief stints in England this time.

To make it easier to navigate this trip report, you can follow these links to roughly view one week at a time:

Our trip kicked off on Tuesday 26th September, with Ky's sister, Shannon, giving us a ride into Geelong to catch the 10.15am Gull bus service up to Melbourne airport. It was an easy trip and saw us close to the front of the check-in queue for our Qatar Airways flight. With the formalities complete, we had plenty of time to enjoy a coffee at St Ali and relax before boarding our flight up to Doha. The flight left on time at about 3.30pm and got into Doha on time shortly before 11pm local time. The only issue with the flight was the lack of food - our long-standing request for vegan meals hadn't made it through properly so there was nothing on offer for this 13-hour flight! Thankfully, Doha is one of the few airports in the world with an organic vegan cafe, so we headed straight to Evergreen Organics on arrival and enjoyed nice (albeit frighteningly expensive!) dishes and drinks. We also stocked up on takeaway food, just in case the next flight suffered the same problem (and it did).

The three-hour stopover passed quickly and our flight to Gatwick left on time at 1.30am Doha-time. It was another uneventful flight (save for the lack of food) and we landed slightly earlier than scheduled at about 6.30am on Wednesday. There were no queues for immigration and baggage was pretty quick, so we were at the nearby Premier Inn Gatwick (North Terminal) hotel by 7.45. We were far too early to check-in, so we freshened up and left our luggage, ready to go enjoy the day. We made the short trip across to the South terminal on the shuttle train and then caught a train down to Brighton. It was a lovely mild and sunny morning so we walked to T @ The Dials for breakfast and enjoyed lovely food and great coffee. We then checked out the nearby Kindly vegan supermarket and cafe, enjoying another coffee in the sunshine. Heading into the city centre, the 3 shop sorted us out with a UK SIM card before we headed down to the beach and stretched our legs with a long walk along the gorgeous promenade. From there, we made our way back into the centre and wandered around The Lanes before grabbing takeaway lunch from Happy Maki, which we enjoyed down on the beach in the sunshine (with the temperature reaching a very pleasant 20C!). Returning to Kindly, we stocked up on supplies for the days ahead and treated ourselves to another coffee and cake from their small cafe. We were flagging by now, so a 4pm train got us back to Gatwick where we could finally check in at the Premier Inn and crash out for a very early night.

We got a long deep sleep in before surfacing on Thursday morning. We had a lunch booking in London, so hopped on a train at 10.30am to London Victoria. It was a mild morning so we decided to walk to Soho, via Buckingham Palace, St James Park and Green Park. We always enjoy exploring Soho and a quality coffee at Grind kept us going. We arrived at Tendril Kitchen a little earlier than our booking but we were seated without issue. The small restaurant was a lovely place to be and the 5-course "Discovery lunch" menu was fantastic value, with some genuinely unique dishes and beautiful presentation. Our two hours at Tendril passed easily and it's a great addition to the top end vegie restaurant scene in London. From Tendril, we walked through Hyde Park and all the way to Battersea Power Station. It was great to see the place after its extensive renovations and redevelopment and we enjoyed exploring both inside and outside this iconic building. We grabbed some food to take away from Clean Kitchen before walking back across the Thames to Victoria station, where a 6.20pm train saw us back at the hotel at Gatwick not long after 7pm. Another early night was in order after a big day out in London!

It was another warm and sunny day on Friday as we left Gatwick to head North. We caught a 9.45am train to London Victoria then made our way to Euston by tube to catch our pre-booked 12.40pm train up to Birmingham. We left plenty of time as it was an "overtime ban" day before a full train strike in Saturday so the warnings of disruption made us cautious. To ease the long wait at Euston, we sat outside in the glorious sunshine, enjoyed our food from Clean Kitchen and sampled a local coffee. Our train ran on time and saw us hopping off at Birmingham's New Street station at 2pm. We then walked across the city to our home for the night, Premier Inn Birmingham Bridge Street. Although we were early, we could check-in and freshen up before going for a wander. We had a nice coffee at Medicine in the Mailbox centre (and stocked up on some of their excellent sourdough) and grabbed a few more supplies from Tesco. A pleasant walk along the canals and then a visit to the famous Library of Birmingham passed the time before we headed back to the hotel to relax and prepare for dinner. Many months before, we'd made a booking at Land and we were excited to finally go to this well-regarded vegan restaurant in the city's beautiful Great Western Arcade. We walked to Land in good time for our dinner booking and were surprised to find the early sitting was completely full (as would be the later sitting). The 8-course degustation menu was incredible, certainly some of the best vegan fine dining we've experienced anywhere in the world. The ambience was great, the service not stuffy and the dishes varied & interesting. We felt lucky to have experienced Land, it really was a top notch dinner! The walk back to the hotel was certainly needed after so much food.

It was an earlier and cloudy start on Saturday, with Lee heading to the nearby Sixt car rental office to pick up our hire car for the next couple of weeks. A Vauxhall Crossland in hand, it was easy to return to the hotel to load up our bags and head off. Our first stop, after a very easy drive out of the city and along the M6, was Cheslyn Hay to catch up with relatives, Lorraine & Brian and their daughter Em & her kids. It was lovely to spend some time with them after so long and, as fellow vegans, the bond feels even stronger than it used to. From there, it was a short (but not fast!) drive to Heath Hayes to pick up Lee's Dad to go out for lunch. Several years without contact came to an end as we drove down to Ego at Tumbledown Farm for lunch. It was good to see him, catch up and also enjoy a decent vegan meal before dropping him back home at about 3pm. Our overnight stop would be Llandudno, so we couldn't really stay around too much longer before starting our drive into Wales. The weather got worse as we drove with some very heavy rain in patches, though it thankfully fined up shortly before Llandudno. We called into the Tesco at Llandudno Junction for supplies before completing our trip and checking in to the Premier Inn Llandudno Town Centre at about 6.45pm. We made do with a picnic dinner in the hotel room and Lee enjoyed watching the British Open snooker on TV!

It was a drizzly start on Sunday, the first day of October, but it soon cleared. We walked into town and were immediately distracted by a large goat wandering the streets (apparently a very common sight since COVID, when they took over the town centre during lockdown!). Our best efforts to catch up with it didn't come to much, but it was entertaining watching the expressions of people as the goat criss-crossed the centre of town! The Prom was very busy with a triathlon event being held so we walked along the pier instead. Heading back to the hotel, we had another picnic lunch and, as the weather had cleared to a nice sunny afternoon, we decided to drive down to Deganwy for a longer walk. After checking out the beach there, we walked all the way around to Conwy. This was a lovely walk, offering fine views of the castle and marina along the way. The beer garden of the all-vegan Blue Bell pub was a pleasant place to be on a sunny Sunday afternoon and their nachos went down surprisingly well with a nice cold pint of cider! We then walked back to Deganwy and drove back to Llandudno. The triathlon crowds had cleared so we enjoyed a good walk along the impressive promenade before heading back to the hotel for a simple meal in our room. Lee rounded out the day by watching the British Open snooker final.

We made an early start on Monday to give ourselves plenty of time for the drive to Llanberis to catch the 10am Snowdon Mountain Railway service to the summit of Snowdon. It was clear as we left Llandudno but a little drizzle greeted us in Llanberis. The journey up to the summit was spectacular and the views were incredible across this rugged landscape. The weather was fairly kind until close to the summit which on our arrival was completely clouded out - and absolutely freezing! We waited inside the comfortable visitor centre and some breaks in the clouds afforded us fine views of the surroundings from this vantage point. The journey back down didn't offer such good views as the rain was heavier, but it was still a very enjoyable trip on this ever-popular train. Driving into Llanberis itself, we headed straight to our lunch spot, FRAN. This small cafe served up excellent coffee (so some beans were purchased to fuel Lee's Aeropress for the rest of the trip!) but there were limited food options by the time we arrived. After a very light lunch, we drove the short distance to the National Slate Museum. This was a great spot to pass an hour or so, with the slate splitting demonstration being particularly enjoyable. We then hit the road in the pouring rain to reach our home for the next couple of nights, the Premier Inn Porthmadog. After checking in there, we wandered down the main street to stock up on supplies at the (unique?) all-vegan health food shop, Vegonia Wholefoods as well as a quick stop at Tesco. A dinner from our haul of supplies in our room rounded out the day.

It was a much more promising start on Tuesday and the day soon fined up with some warm sunshine. We walked into town to buy some sourdough bread at Big Rock cafe before driving out to our destination for the day (and the reason we stayed in Porthmadog), Portmeirion, arriving about 10am. Lee had visited in his childhood but Ky had never been, so it was a great chance to experience this bizarre place together. We wandered around the beautiful buildings and gardens as well as doing a longer coastal walk, made all the better by the lovely weather. By midday, we were hungry and drove the short distance to Penrhyndeudraeth to have lunch at the Eating Gorilla vegan cafe. It turned out to be the last few days for this cafe, so we were lucky to catch them and we enjoyed hearty meals in a friendly atmosphere. It was clear from interactions with locals that this little vegan retreat will be sorely missed! We grabbed some takeaway food for later before returning to Portmeirion for about 2pm. It was easy to relax and enjoy the place some more, while also taking in the woodland walk and popular shop. It was 5pm before we knew it and so we headed back to the hotel. Our timing rewarded us with the return of the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways train right opposite the hotel and it was great to see the immaculately-maintained engines and carriages. Our Eating Gorilla takeaway served as dinner back in the hotel room.

Leaving Porthmadog on Wednesday morning, it was grey with some drizzle, but it was a familiar and easy drive asa far as Corris where we stopped to enjoy a coffee at Idris Stores. It was nice for Lee to revisit Corris after so many years holidaying at the nearby caravan park and the small village had changed little since his last visit twenty-odd years ago. The little shop is obviously very popular with the local community and had a lovely vibe. From Corris, we ventured as far as Machynlleth which was very busy on market day. After exploring the main street, we managed to snag a sought-after table at Ty Medi, a vegetarian cafe that won the "Best vegetarian cafe in Wales" award this year! Whether it was the award, market day crowds or something else, the place was heaving and it was a mad rush to order when the kitchen opened at 12.30! We enjoyed our food at Ty Medi even if the place was uncomfortably busy. Moving on, we stopped off at the Dyfi Wildlife Centre, recommended to us by local friends. Although the most popular attraction (the ospreys) had already migrated for the year, we enjoyed a long walk on the boardwalk in this untouched environment. Completing our travels for the day, we drove on to Aberystwyth, arriving there at about 3pm. It was fine, dry and about 19C when we arrived, so very pleasant for a walk into the town centre before we could access our accommodation for the next eight nights, Pumlumon Penthouse at 4pm. We opted for an apartment over a B&B or hotel for our week-long stay and this two-storey, two-bedroom apartment on the seafront seemed like it would fit the bill. On accessing the property, we were amazed at how nice it was - tastefully furnished with plenty of room and every mod con. The kitchen was well fitted out and having the room for a dining table and sitting area as well as seating in the big bay window overlooking the sea was awesome. We've stayed in many places in Aber over the years, but this apartment is certainly the most luxurious and best located of all, a great spot to relax for a week! After settling in, we explored the town and prom some more, before buying a cider from Bottle & Barrel to enjoy with dinner back in the comfort of our own waterfront apartment!

It was a drizzly start to Thursday but we walked into town with the aim of stocking up on vegan supplies at Iwtopia Deli. We grabbed plenty of vegan goodies there and some homemade pastries for lunch. (Talking to the owner, Sue, it became clear that all was not well and sadly the shop never opened again during our time in Aber.) We also popped to Argos to buy a new suitcase, after our larger suitcase fell victim to baggage handlers on the trip over! With our jobs done, we headed back to the apartment and enjoyed our food from Iwtopia Deli for lunch. We then cooked up a nice big pot of lentil dahl to last us a few meals. The day had cleared up nicely by mid-afternoon so we headed out for a walk around to South beach and back through town before meeting Chris off the bus from Camarthen at 4.30pm. A cold drink at the Bottle & Barrel was in order, before we shared dinner together in our apartment.

It was another drizzly start on Friday but it soon cleared to a mild and sunny 19C day. We kicked off with a walk along the Prom around to South beach with Chris, earning us a coffee at the Coliseum Coffee House in Ceredigion museum. We then headed back to the apartment and had lunch together there. Shortly after lunch, Graham and Renata arrived and unloaded their overnight gear into our second bedroom. Walking into town together, it was inevitable that a few games of pool would eventuate and we had a great time at the pier on their awesome American pool table as well as learning how to play the bizarre game of bumper pool. After the pool session, we headed to Athro Lounge for dinner and their wide range of vegan options meant everyone was well fed there. The boys rounded out the evening with a drink at the new Tŷ Seidr cider bar, in the spot previously home to Kanes (during our Uni years).

While it was a cloudy start on Saturday, the day soon cleared with pleasant sunshine and an amazing top of 20C! We had breakfast with Graham & Renata in our apartment before meeting up with Chris to tackle to walk to Pen Dinas. It was a lovely walk through the marina around to Tan-y-Bwlch beach and then up to Pen Dinas. It felt really warm on the climb up (maybe thanks to Graham keeping up a good pace!) but the views from the top were a just reward for our efforts. It was a much easier walk back down and we made it back to the pier in time to meet Andy & Caroline at midday. We headed straight to lunch, trying Medina (in the old Talbot Hotel for those with longer memories of Aber!) for the first time. The meals were good value with decent vegan options, so it was a good spot for the seven of us to catch up over lunch. From there, we walked back along the prom to the apartment for Graham & Renata to grab their stuff from our apartment and then head home. It was a brief visit but it was lovely to see them and a good effort to come down considering they only returned from a very long holiday in Europe just days before! Wandering back through town, the sunshine inspired us to try an ice cream from Aberdyfi ice creamery, before a cold drink overlooking the water at Baravin. A short session of bumper pool on the pier introduced Andy & Caroline to the game for the first time and we then headed back to the Athro Lounge for dinner before Andy & Caroline left. Lee and Chris rounded out a great day with friends with a drink at the Tŷ Seidr cider bar.

It was a perfect start on Sunday as we looked out over Cardigan Bay under glorious sunshine. We hopped in the Crossland with Chris and drove via Clarach to Ynyslas nature reserve, parking on the beach! It was fun walking through the dunes and along the beautiful sandy beach. We rewarded our effort with a drink at the visitor centre before driving back to Aber and having lunch with Chris in our apartment. Stuart arrived at about 2pm and it was great to see him again. After he checked in to his B&B, we all went for a nice walk along the prom - under blazing sunshine and hitting 22C, unbelievable! Cold drinks on the end of the pier went down well and gave us a good opportunity to properly catch up, while enjoying those stunning views across the prom and to Constitution Hill. From the pier, we walked around the castle, before going for an early (and unfortunately very underwhelming) dinner at The White Horse pub. It was then back to the prom to watch a splendid sunset, before the boys rounded out the day with drinks in the bar of the Marine Hotel.

Monday was a warm and sunny day so we all walked out to Tan-y-Bwlch beach and part of the way up to Pen Dinas. It was a perfect morning for a walk before returning to town for lunch at Medina. After lunch, Chris endulged his passion with (yet) another trip on the Vale of Rheidol while Stu "worked from home" in his seafront digs! We made the most of the lovely weather with the climb up to the lookout through the Penglais nature park. We then followed the path from the lookout around towards Constitution Hill, making our way back down to into town via Heol-y-Bryn. It was great to follow this path for the first time, still exploring new parts of Aber after all these years! Back in town, we grabbed a coffee from Coffee#1 and enjoyed it in the sunshine on the prom. When Chris returned from his train ride, we regrouped and stuffed ourselves with an excellent Indian meal at Light of Asia before a short pool session on the pier rounded out the day.

It was another sunny and mild start to the day on Tuesday. With Chris and Stu both busy with work, we walked around to South beach before meeting them for elevenses at Coliseum Coffee House in the Ceredigion museum. Chris returned to work, while we enjoyed a walk along the prom with Stu before all coming back together for lunch at Little Devils cafe. This popular cafe had lots of vegan options and fed us very well! The afternoon clouded over a little and Stu took the chance to catch up on some work. We walked up Constitution Hill with Chris and followed Cliff Avenue all the way back and around into town - yet another new walk! We headed for coffee at Coffee#1 then walked up to Heol-y-Bryn to follow another new track past the historic Book Council of Wales building and down behind the prom! Regrouping once more, we had a good meal at Baravin and a pool session on the pier consumed the evening.

Our great run of weather in Aber finally broke on Wednesday, with an overcast start rapidly turning into torrential rain. We all went for coffee at the Coliseum Coffee House in the Ceredigion museum and also enjoyed some time exploring the museum itself. We were glad that the vegetarian Dragonfly Bistro had reopened and we had a good lunch there, topped off with a lot of cake! Heading back to the apartment to freshen up, we then drove up to the Penglais campus of Aberystwyth University where Quo's Francis Rossi would be doing a show at the Arts Centre in the evening. Lee being Lee, we were there very early to stalk and we managed to listen to some of the soundcheck (albeit from behind closed doors). Coffee at the Arts Centre cafe passed the time, before Lee & Stu decided to start the queue for the meet & greet! Meeting Francis at 6pm was amazing, he recognized Lee immediately and Stu couldn't wipe the smile off his face after meeting Francis for the first time! Our pre-booked dinner at the Arts Centre cafe was excellent and it was great to see a vegan option on offer by default (a curry followed by chocolate torte). It was soon time to enter the Great Hall - where we all graduated back in the 1990s - to enjoy the "Tunes and Chat" show with Francis accompanied by Andy Brook on guitar. It was, needless to say, a thoroughly enjoyable evening and a more detailed review can be found on Lee's Quo website. Finishing up at about 10.30pm, there was a lot of traffic to exit the campus as we made our way back to the apartment after a great day.

It was a clear and sunny start on Thursday as we reluctantly packed up the apartment in readiness for leaving Aber. We met up with Chris and Stu on the prom for one last walk - it was fresh but still beautiful. With a long drive ahead, we loaded up the Crossland and bid a fond farewell to Chris and Stu at 10am. It was great to have them join us for so long in Aber and their lifelong friendships are so important to us. The drive across Wales and ultimately to the M6 to head North was uneventful. We made just one stop (at Lymm services) on our way to Ambleside in the Lake District. We stopped off at the Ambleside pier at 2.30pm and it was nice to have a short walk afer the long drive, as well as enjoying a coffee at the YHA overlooking Lake Windermere. It wasn't far from there (albeit partially along some very narrow lanes!) to our overnight accommodation, the vegetarian B&B, Yewfield. This lovely old property was in a stunning location with great views and our room was spacious & nicely furnished. We freshened up before heading back down the narrow lanes into Ambleside itself to make our long-standing dinner booking at Zeffirellis (owned by the same people as Yewfield). We enjoyed a wander around town first and then headed to the (vegetarian) restaurant. We were surprised by how large and elegant the dining room was at Zeffirellis. Our Italian food was excellent and we successfully navigated the narrow lanes in the dark to be back at Yewfield shortly after 7pm after a long day on the road.

We opened the curtains on Friday 13th to find a drizzly day. Breakfast at Yewfield was an incredibly impressive affair, with a wealth of both hot & cold choices, mainly vegan. We both enjoyed a sizeable feed to set us up for the day. As we checked out of Yewfield, we were chatting to another guest and they mentioned a nice walk from the B&B so, with a few clear breaks in the weather, we decided to risk the walk before the fairly long drive ahead of us. We were very glad we decided to walk to Tarn Hows, the views were simply stunning! The path was through fields of friendly sheep and the peace & fresh air were a great start to the day. Returning to the B&B, we drove up to Glasgow (with just one motorway services stop to refill the hire car), through some wet spells but arriving into the city at 2.30pm on a fine (albeit noticeable more chilly) afternoon. The Sixt rental return car park was easy to find and there were no dramas with our return there. It was then a decent walk across the city to our home for the next four nights, the Premier Inn Glasgow (George Square). After checking in and freshening up, we headed out in search of a late lunch, our big breakfast having kept us going all day. We decided to try the all vegan Mono and had hearty meals there to last us the rest of the day. It was then Quo time! We walked across the city to Slay, the grungy underground nightclub venue for the Scottish Quo convention, McVention. Of course, there were some Quo fans eagerly waiting for doors to open and it was great to see some familiar faces and have a chat. Once the doors opened, we were treated to three Quo tribute bands, finishing up just after 11pm. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, catching up with Quo mates and enjoying some live Quo music. For more details and photos from McVention, check out Lee's Quo website!

It was a clear and sunny (but very chilly!) Saturday morning as we stepped out to explore Glasgow. We first walked to the impressive cathedral and then stumbled across the vast Necropolis, an enormous cemetery overlooking the city. It was a strange place to explore and, heading back into town, we stopped in at TheDorkyVegan vegan French bakery for a croissant and coffee. From there, we walked through the riverside park, Glasgow Green, to the People's Palace. This excellent free museum was very educational and we learned a lot about Glasgow and its history from our short visit. Heading back into town, it was time for food and we enjoyed a good quality vegan meal at Stereo (the sister cafe to Mono, where we had lunch the day before). A quick pitstop back at the hotel and then it was back to Slay for McVention day 2, which kicked off earlier (at 4pm) to slot in an entertaining Q&A session with John Coghlan and Jackie Lynton, before another three bands entertained us - another big night of Quo-ing with great friends! We walked the short distance back to the hotel at about 11.30pm and it was literally freezing!

It was another clear and sunny start on Sunday, so we headed out into the (very) fresh air and made the 45-minute walk across the city to Kelvingrove. The museum and gallery were very busy and we enjoyed exploring the exhibits there for an hour or so. Walking back into town, we were ready for lunch and The Glasvegan served up a substantial feed, albeit very slowly! We then headed to Solid Rock to soak up the vibe with Quo fans before popping back to the hotel to freshen up. We headed to Slay for the opening of the third and final day of McVention at about 5pm and it was yet another onslaught of three live bands, topped off with event headliners "Status Quotes" from the Netherlands. Their two-hour set was epic and was a mammoth, mass air guitar session from start to finish for Lee and other diehards, what a night and what a way to finish off a huge Quo weekend!

It was a slow start on Monday after a big weekend. We stepped out mid-morning to find a cloudy day and had a wander around the city centre, before a coffee stop at Social Bite inside the Bank of Scotland at St Enoch Square. We also popped into the Gallery of Modern Art and, while the building was worth a look, the artwork was a little way out for our tastes! From the gallery, it was a short walk to the Hard Rock Cafe where we joined the Quo crew in the shape of Paul & Yvonne, Gary & Michele, Ron & Julie and John & Issy. It was a very enjoyable long lunch with them as we all wound down after the big weekend. We all walked back to the hotel together, with the others going their separate ways as they began their journeys home. After a rest in our room, we headed out for dinner back at Stereo before calling it a night (with Lee feeling off, maybe too much air guitaring over the weekend?).

It was a lovely clear and sunny morning on Tuesday but we were both feeling unwell. Lee popped down to Queen Street station to collect pre-booked train tickets and we relaxed in our room until about 11.30 when we checked out and walked back to the station to make our 12.07pm train to Pitlochry. It was a pleasant trip of about two hours and our walk to the hotel took us down the pretty main street of the town. We were in Pitlochry to stay at the UK's first vegan hotel, Saorsa 1875, and this was our splurge hotel on this trip! Our room wasn't quite ready when we arrived and the kitchen was closed (after we'd waited to get here to enjoy lunch!), so we had a coffee in the bar/lounge area before accessing our room shortly afterwards. After freshening up, we walked back into town and down to the dam. It was a lovely afternoon so we continued on alongside the River Tummel and then back into town across the iron suspension bridge. Heading back to the hotel, it wasn't long before dinner so we gathered in the bar in readiness for the 7pm start. With all guests being on the same three-course menu, assembling us all at the same time made sense in terms of serving the courses together. We expected great things from the food here based on the reviews we'd read and the dinner courses were good, inventive dishes with veggies as the hero ingredients. Neither of us felt great so we probably didn't enjoy the food as much as we might have, but it was still an excellent meal and we both needed an early night.

We kicked off Wednesday with our vegan breakfast in the hotel before venturing out. It was quite windy and cloudy, but with the promise of some brighter spells so we undertook the long walk out to Faskally Woods before returning to town for a drink in the modern visitor centre at the dam. The busy cafe gave us great views out over the dam and river, before we continued on with our walk over the dam and returned the long way around to the town centre. Back at the hotel, we both felt tired and needed to rest, with some nice hot chai lattes in the bar in front of the log fire going down a treat. Dinner came around quickly and we had another top notch feed with a completely different three-course meal.

Thursday was the day our luck ran out in terms of the weather! It was wet and windy as we arose and the news about storm Babet had worsened overnight, so we were in the "red alert" zone. We were meant to be heading down to Edinburgh by train, but all train services were cancelled as were coaches from Pitlochry. After breakfast, we chatted to the hotel owner and she was happy for us to stay an extra night (with very low occupancy and cancellations thanks to the storm) at half-price, so at least we didn't have to pack up and move during the bad weather. Unfortunately, she also let us know that the kitchen wouldn't be opening for lunch or dinner. Returning to our room, we were pretty despondent but decided to make use of the extra time to at least get on top of our laundry with a visit to TLC. Their commercial gear quickly washed and dried our clothes while we headed to the only supermarket in town to try to find some food for the day (with most of the town's shops and cafes having closed). The small Co-op wasn't great for vegan options but we grabbed what we could and got soaked on our return walk to the hotel. Given the conditions, we killed time by relaxing in our room and having a few chai lattes down in the lounge in front of the log fire. A very quiet day!

Friday was grey and drizzly as we headed down for breakfast. We were checking out the updates on travel options and the news wasn't great - another day without trains and the coach we'd booked wasn't going to be running either. It was another chat to the hotel owner to extend our stay by another night! The good news was that the kitchen would open for both lunch and dinner, so at least we had those to look forward to. We walked into town to stretch our legs and got pretty wet again. Returning to the hotel, we enjoyed a relaxing lunch and some dry spells encouraged us to wander back into town. We walked down to the dam yet again and managed to get back to the hotel without getting soaked, so that was progress. Chais in front of the log fire were very enjoyable and dinner was excellent, with the five-course (weekend) menu giving us more dishes to enjoy. We spent the evening organising transport for the next day, in the hope of getting to Kinross for the Rhino's Revenge gig we'd booked. It was all starting to feel a little too much like the situation we found ourselves in during our ill-fated March 2020 trip to the UK, with difficulties in getting good information and services continually being cancelled on us.

Rising quite early on Saturday, we spotted the good news that train services had resumed, so we had breakfast in the hotel before finally checking out! It was a little drizzly as we walked into town to the train station but we were relieved to find that services were (allegedly) running. The first train heading in our direction was heavily delayed but eventually turned up - and then terminated at Perth, so we didn't get very far! It was a long wait for another train to take us as far as Stirling, where we then changed to a service to Edinburgh. We got to Edinburgh about five minutes after the coach service we'd booked to Kinross left, so we booked another coach for 4pm and decided we might as well go for lunch in Edinburgh. We walked to Pulse, a small restaurant at St John's Church and had a decent feed. A taxi back to the bus station spared us the fun of dragging our luggage around even more and the 4pm Megabus service left on time, dropping us at the Kinross park and ride just after 5pm. It was a short walk to finally reach The Green Hotel, venue for the Rhino's Revenge gig and also our overnight accommodation. It was good to see our Quo friends already there and we received a hero's welcome - over 7 hours on the road to travel about 40 miles as the crow flies! We checked in and found our room, the hotel obviously being very tired and run down despite the high price for accommodation. Our room was large but sparsely furnished, good enough for an overnighter and handy being at the venue. We met up with our friends in the bar for a very hard-earned cold drink and it was an enjoyable couple of hours catching up, discussing convention organisation, etc. Doors opened for Rhino's gig at 8pm, the venue literally being out the back of the hotel. The gig itself started right on 9pm and ran through to about 10.20pm. It was an excellent set and more details can be found on Lee's Quo website. Rhino was joined by Quo's drummer, Leon Cave, for this gig and it was nice to chat with both of them in the bar after the gig. It had been a very long day so we left some of our friends to it and got a sensibly early night!

Sunday kicked off with breakfast in the hotel and they did a good job of catering to us with a vegan-friendly cooked breakfast. We were joined by friends Gary, Ron and Julie so it was nice to catch up with them again before we left. We made the return walk to the Kinross park and ride to make our Ember coach service back to Edinburgh. The bus was on time and it was our first experience on an all-electric bus, maybe a sign of things to come? We were in Edinburgh by about 12.30pm so headed to our overnight stop, the Premier Inn Edinburgh City Centre (Waverley). With luggage stored until later check-in, we headed off on foot on this lovely clear and sunny afternoon. We decided to try Curran Geal and we had excellent sandwiches and wraps, washed down with great coffee. We also got some more food to take away as our dinner option. From there, we walked through the lovely Old Town and along the busy Royal Mile, before tackling the popular climb up to Arthur's Seat. This was no easy hike but the final scramble up to the top rewarded us with amazing views over the city and beyond, made all the better by the beautiful weather. We were quite tired by the time we walked all the way back to the hotel so our takeaway food from Curran Geal made for an easy dinner.

Monday was set to be a big travel day, making our way from Edinburgh all the way down to Brighton. We got organised quite early to leave ourselves time to walk to the nearby Waverley station for the 10am LNER service to London. The train left right on-time and whisked us to London's Kings Cross with no hassles by about 2.30pm. We then walked across to St Pancras station to grab a Thameslink service for the remaining journey down to Brighton, arriving there shortly after 4pm. We were very grateful for an uneventful trip! We walked through the town to our home for the next three nights, The Grand Brighton right on the waterfront. Check-in was friendly and the lobby of this historic hotel was certainly very impressive. Our room had a nice feel to it and we were surprised to find that breakfast was also included in our rate. After freshening up, we walked to Kindly for coffee & cake and also to stock up on some supplies for our last few days. From there, we walked right across town for dinner at What The Pitta before strolling back to The Grand along the promenade.

We headed down to breakfast on Tuesday to find the Grand's large restaurant very busy! We were very well looked after by the wait and kitchen staff, so we could enjoy decent breakfasts from the enormous buffet spread. We really needed a big walk after our sizeable brekkies so we enjoyed the sunshine with a long walk along the seafront, before heading into The Lanes. Coffee and cake at Dharma went down well before further exploration of the area. With our supplies from Kindly, we cobbled together a picnic lunch down on the seafront. With such a nice day on offer, Lee decided to go up the i360 and the views were amazing from this unusual attraction right on the seafront. It was then back to The Lanes for a while and another coffee & cake stop, this time at the stalwart vegie cafe, Wai Kika Moo Kau. Heading back to the hotel at about 4pm, we took the chance to rest and freshen up before the walk to dinner at Botanique in Hove. We were excited to try this new vegan fine dining establishment and we were not disappointed. The dishes were interesting and genuinely different, with the focus on the veggies rather than mock meats and so on. The ambience was good too and this was a worthy way to top off our vegan fine dining experiences on this trip.

Another big breakfast at The Grand got us off to a good start on Wednesday morning and we wandered to The Lanes again, with a morning coffee stop at Idyea. The cloudy start quickly cleared to yet another clear, sunny and mild late October day. Heading back to the hotel, we used up our remaining supplies from Kindly with a picnic lunch down on the seafront again. Lee had spotted white cliffs in the distance from his trip on the i360, so we decided to try to walk to a good vantage point. It was a long but interesting walk to the marina, where the harbour wall provided an awesome view across the Seven Sisters white cliffs. We walked back along the clifftops for a while before returning to the boardwalk taking us back towards Brighton. We didn't get back to the hotel until about 5pm after a very long but thoroughly enjoyable walk in beautiful warm sunshine! For dinner, we opted for the famous vegan Italian restaurant, Purezza, and managed to sneak a table without a booking. We enjoyed their signature pizzas before walking back to The Grand along the seafront on a lovely mild evening.

We started our final day in Brighton, Thursday, with another excellent breakfast at The Grand. We checked out and left our luggage at the hote, then went for a long walk along the promenade all the way to Hove. It was a lovely morning, sunny and mild, with lots of people out enjoying the fine weather. Our coffee and cake stop for the morning was T@Hove and we then made the long walk back from Hove and across Brighton towards our lunch spot, Green Kitchen. Although their website suggested they would be open, they weren't so we decided to head back towards the centre to choose from one of the many vegan options in Brighton. We didn't get far, though, before Ky spotted Tiger Eats Carrot which we'd also considered for lunch - it was meant to be! We had lovely meals in this small cafe and had a nice chat with other diners and the owner too. Well fed, we walked to The Lanes and also popped into Eden to buy some perfume for Ky's mum as a thank you for looking after Lola while we were away. The weathed turned quickly with heavy showers drenching us on the way back to The Grand! Thankfully, the rain cleared quickly and we could head back to The Lanes to pick up some takeaway food from Happy Maki. We headed back to The Grand for 4.30pm, collected our luggage and caught a taxi up to the train station. The short trip to Gatwick was easy and we checked into the same Premier Inn at the North terminal as we'd used on arrival a month before at just after 6pm. We enjoyed our food from Happy Maki and did our best to squeeze everything into our small suitcases in readiness for early departure the next day.

It was a very early start on Friday as we packed and checked out of the Premier Inn at 6.30am. It was just a short walk to the North terminal and we were amazed to find no queues to check-in to our Qatar flight, so we were all done before 7am! The airport was busy and we killed time with some book shopping and a decent coffee at Pure. Boarding for our 9am flight to Doha started at about 8.15 and we took off almost an hour late, arriving into Doha about 45 minutes late. Unlike our outbound flights, our requests for vegan meals was successful! We had plenty of time to head back to Evergreen Organics for a bite to eat and a drink - and it happened to be right next to our departure gate for our final flight down to Melbourne. The flight left on time, again had our vegan meals and landed into Melbourne slightly ahead of schedule on Saturday evening. We comfortably made the 6.30pm Gull bus service back to Geelong and Shannon again helped us out with a ride back home. It was good to get home after the long trip, especially to find the kitchen, lounge and hallway freshly painted!

We had a great time travelling around the UK, seeing some new places, endulging in awesome vegan fine dining and catching up with so many friends along the way. The surprisingly good weather (save for storm Babet!) was very welcome and our long stint in Aberystwyth was a highlight. Meeting up with Lee's Dad after a long break was nice, as was catching up with relatives. Seeing old Uni and Quo mates again was very special for Lee, of course. We got home exhausted but with many fond memories of yet another trip to the UK!

Reviews of our accommodation throughout this trip can be found below: