What to Do for Free in Amsterdam — Free Tours by Foot


This post will include a variety of free things to do in Amsterdam, including a Top 10 list. We also cover free things to do at night as well as free, family-friendly activities. Top 10 Family-Friendly Nighttime Activities Seasonal (Month and Season) TOP 10 FREE THINGS TO DO In the following section, we…

via What to Do for Free in Amsterdam — Free Tours by Foot

Saturday Musings: Belfast Walks and Foodie Havens


Belfast spring is picking up nicely. There have been some lucky weather days of late, almost California climes. That means sunbathing in the parks and the hunt for food. Not to mention the lovely walks getting there. Get your suncream on. Take that vitamin D.

Morning Start

Coffee and tea, breakfast goodies sound the thing. Belfastians are chomping on the bit and out in it today. Did you take some Vitamin D this am? What are some of the best places for a great breakfast in this town? Harlem has the atmosphere for me. No matter what town I travel to, a breckie place like this just makes me want to slide into the booth and salivate. Gluten free offerings, too.

However, if you are on the move and want to just get out in the fine weather, the Market Stalls and pop-ups in St. Georges’ look to be the treat for eating and hanging about. Great shops to look in when done as well.

Afternoon of Dreams

Now, how about those walks? Great entertainment and healthy for families as well. Just walking the neighborhoods is great fun, but combine that with a park walk and you get it all in. Self Guided Belfast tours are listed here, and you can use some City walks apps as well, check your Android or Apple Apps for travel apps featuring Belfast. Do not forget the Belfast Art Walks, many of the tours and paths intersect so you can fill your day, but don’t forget to nap on a green somewhere, bring a blanket or rug. And just like in any city you visit this spring, shop the farmer’s markets for your picnic fare.

Are you out and about in Belfast today? Let us know your finds. Fill your Instagram account today.


Harlem Bistro on Bedford Street


Best Breakfasts in Belfast


Self Guided Tour


Free Useful Apps Ireland


Mural Tours


Best Parks in Belfast


Eat Belfast Guide


Farmer’s Markets Belfast


Other Posts

Street Art Glasgow Interview

Art Walks: Spring in the UK and Ireland

Photo © 2012 William Murphy


Castle Doune, Scotland Interview with Stephan Duncan


Doune Castle, Historic Environment Scotland 

Scotland is filled with great historical sites. Many of these have been seen in countless films and television series. In the summer of 2016 I visited one of these famous sites just outside Stirling, Scotland, Doune Castle. The site was featured in one of my favorite Monty Python films, The Holy Grail, and recently has represented the fictional Castle Leoch in the Outlander series on Starz.

The castle is mostly intact and has a great view of the surrounding area, as is the purpose of such a stronghold. At least it wasn’t built in a swamp. The grounds are very nice and the facilities are very informative. Great narration at points of interest by both Terry Jones and Sam Heughan are featured. It’s a short bus trip from Stirling if you are doing public transit.

Stephan Duncan at Commercial and Tourism at Historic Environment Scotland  agreed to an interview on the site.

Interview With Stephen Duncan, Director of Commercial and Tourism at Historic Environment Scotland.

How long has this historic site been in operation and how did it get its start?

Dating back to the 1300s, Doune Castle near Stirling has a long history as a fortification. It was taken into our care in 1984 and has been managed as a popular visitor attraction since.

Due to some recent film work and television series, some of the historic sites have seen a huge increase in visits. How has this been beneficial and challenging to the heritage site?

Doune Castle has starred in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Game of Thrones, however, it’s most famed for its role as the fictional Castle Leoch in the hit historical time-travelling TV series Outlander. The centuries old stronghold is still feeling the ‘Outlander effect’; last year alone 90,279 people explored the 1300s castle and filming location for themselves. An increase of 32% compared with the same period in 2015.

Blackness Castle has also benefited from its cameo in the series as the stand in for Fort William. Visitor numbers at the 15th century, Firth of Forth fortress are also up by 39% to 30,053. The coastal attraction is often referred to as ‘the ship that never sailed’ due to its boat like shape.

As well as providing a real insight into the country’s shared past and history, Scotland’s cultural heritage assets have a key role and hold significant potential in helping to support and drive economic development. This potential is illustrated in the contemporary relevance that Scotland’s historic places, such as Doune Castle, have today and how they continue to engage new and larger audiences.

With revenue increase, will you be able to expand upon some projects for the site?

Revenue generated across our estate by commercially-led activity is reinvested in Scotland’s wider historic environment. At Doune Castle we’re strengthening the overall visitor experience, with continued investment that will bring added benefits to our individual visitor and group markets, whilst our plans to expand our retail space and offering will also see the creation of new local job opportunities.

The castle is also amongst a number of heritage sites within our care throughout Scotland that is set to benefit from a £6.6 million Scottish Government investment to support conservation work and repairs.

What is the biggest challenge that you have in running a site like this?

By their nature historic buildings can often present challenges and require specialist expertise to ensure their safeguarding for the benefit of future generations. As one of our top ten ticketed visitor attractions in our portfolio of properties, Doune Castle has seen a significant surge in visitor numbers over a relatively short period of time. This growing popularity brings with it new challenges that we factor in to our day-to-day running of the site such as our visitor management infrastructure and how we can work to enhance the overall experience of our visitors that they’d expect from a top attraction.

Do you have interpreters and reenactments at your site and what is involved in running some of these programs?

Whilst the site is not staffed with period costume performers and historic re-enactors, we continually assess and evaluate our visitor experience at all of our staffed sites. At Doune Castle our refreshed and improved audio guides which feature commentary from the famous faces behind Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Outlander, offer visitors an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of those associated with castle’s story throughout the centuries.

Does your site have exhibits or host special exhibits on occasion?

Interpretation at the site allows visitors to gain a real understanding of the story of Doune Castle and its past. It is amongst 25 historic sites spread across the length and breadth of the country to be included in the recently launched joint campaign with National Museums Scotland, Royal Collection Trust and The National Trust for Scotland, with match-funding from VisitScotland. Primed to capitalise on a surge in interest around Bonnie Prince Charlie, catalysed by Outlander, On the Trail of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, a digital-led campaign which focusses on highlighting sites that share links with this iconic character from Scotland’s past.

If you get hired by a film company, how do you manage the site and what gets changed around? Because it is heritage, things must be maintained and safe, how do the film companies work around it?

We manage over 300 historic sites across the country, which together represent 5,000 years of history. Centuries old castles, abbeys, palaces and other historic sites provide unique filming locations throughout Scotland. Filming companies are required to adhere to our requirements surrounding the protection of the monument first. If this is achievable we work closely with filming and production companies to ensure we can meet their requirements whilst taking into account the considerations of working within a historic building and a scheduled monument, and at times a busy visitor attraction depending on the type of filming.

Park Life


Hidden Parks in Dublin

It’s starting to feel like spring may just sneak up on us finally here in the PNW, and I have started planning trips it the parks of Portland for my annual spring bulb hunt. Since many a confused bulb has already come up and bloomed by the end of January, there may not be much to see in this theme. However I was reminded that when traveling, one of the best and for the most part free activities you can do in any city, is enjoy it’s public parks. And you don’t just wait for spring. I find any park has it’s seasonal stages that still just make it beautiful no matter what time of year, a place to seek refuge from urban sprawl or just be.

The UK and Ireland have some amazing public parks. They are grand affairs that can go on for miles. But there are also many hidden places, small neighborhood parks that offer a great place to sit, read, think and just be. And if you are very clever and have a portable hammock, you may find a place to hide. Don’t get caught.

I have tried to always live in a port town. Over the years most places I have been were either a bay port (San Francisco) or a river port (Portland OR). I have tried living inland and quickly found it to be torture. Just too much open space without a large body of water is not the right place for me. Port towns have a great deal of vibrant community and exposure to all things brought into port. However, culture and happenings can create a very vibrant buzz that sometimes can be a bit much, and you need a refuge and one that preferably includes green. When visiting another port town like Glasgow last season, I hit the ground running after 20 hours of flying and airports, desperate for walks and parks. I also needed to get my bearing in this great city. So, I got got the map app( and the Mophie battery pack) and started walking the Clyde in the very early morning hours filled with fog and seagulls. The fog left fairly quickly, the seagulls not.


Glasgow has quite a few large, robust park sites. Most cities with rivers have riverside parks and walkways. Off the Clyde the first major large park I hit was Glasgow Green, a very large expanse with the People’s Palace featured. I spent a good amount of time hanging around the fountain, and then decided I just wasn’t done with the Clyde. Then I just started wandering the Clyde. I think with park exploration, you can make an effort to go to the main famous parks in any town, when I lived in San Francisco, I knew every inch of Golden Gate Park, or so I thought. But the best parks are sometimes the ones less trodden so to speak, or the less glamorous ones that only the locals know about. Plus I like rivers, who doesn’t.

Don’t forget to download the Glasgow Walking app in iTunes

My other favorite parks in Glasgow were:

Kelvingrove and the River Kelvin area

Victoria Park

Botanic Gardens and Kibble Palace

Bellahouston Park

River Clyde Side Parks

By the end of the first day I had covered half the city in just walking Clyde side and West and North West ends connecting parks. I then went in search for a tea house as I was dead tired and the jet lag finally caught up.

west end parks Glasgow

Glasgow West Side

Tea for Travelers

After my many walks in Glasgow, I kept finding tea time to be a great break before an evening jaunt. My favorite tea places were off the path, the best being The Hidden Lane Tea Room. I must say that the clotted cream and scone was amazing, especially when you are an American and well, sadly people in America just don’t get how to make real scones and clotted cream. Ours are like a cross breed of biscotti and scone. This place has a great fun eclectic feel and the staff are great and upbeat.

You can find them at:

The Hidden Lane (Argyle Court)

1103 Argyle Street


G3 8ND


Edinburgh, not to be left behind, has parks and bayside areas for leisure. Edinburgh can be quite foreboding to a newcomer and getting used to the flow of the city can be tackled fairly well by connecting up the parks. When I visit, I usually use the castle as a guide, how can you not, and follow the wynds and narrows. You get lost pretty easily, but can always find your way out. That’s part of the charm. However if you take a parks walk day, and connect up the parks, you will get to know where you are fairly quickly. The park at Holyrood large and usually filled with people during the summer months, can feel overcrowded at peak times, so finding smaller areas to stretch out a bit can be much more intimate.

West and East Princes Street gardens are a much better way to walk down Princes street I found. Many people go to the capitol to shop and that’s all well and good, but I would much rather take in a bit of green while getting to a destination. The easy stroll here allows you to still see the city’s great architecture but have the scent of some earth and loam while strolling. Inverleith Park is a bit north of the main city with wild wetlands feel going on with it’s marsh and good trails. A great place to take a piece and eat under a tree. You are still near the city, but you have plenty of leisure space with playing fields and pitches. The Botanical Gardens are near and if you can connect up with the Water of Leith, a green corridor area you can get a few miles in for a walk.

For more, check out the best parks and green spaces in Edinburgh

Best Parks and Attractions in Edinburgh


Dublin is new to me, so I have been researching the parks there in serious anticipation. Getting off a flight from Amsterdam I will be chomping at the bit to walk some of these parks. I like parks that you can just happen upon or are a part of a community. Blessington Street Basin looks like one of those idyllic spots that make you just want to live in the neighborhood. Now I am a sucker for roses, and any town that has rosegarden is a place that must be visited. The rose gardens at St. Anne’s Park are a sight to see and smell.

Park Gems

Best Glasgow Parks

Hidden Parks in Dublin

Belfast Gems

Cardiff by the Sea, Wales

London HIdden Spaces

Galway Gems by Locals