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  • Written by Donna Foulis

    If you want to take a break from the city, and get back to basics in the countryside, there are loads of self-catering options across Scotland. Camping, glamping, crofts or lodges;
    here are some of our favourites …

    Orkney

    If you’re visiting the Orkney Islands, the accommodation provided by Orkney Crofts  (orkneycrofts.com) allows you to enjoy the traditional feel of the Isles. Orkney’s mainland is filled will historical points of interest like the Neolithic settlement Skara Brae and the stone circle of the Ring of Brodgar.

    There are four different crofts to choose from, each of differing size, with their own unique expression of the farmhouse style. All the properties are dog friendly, winning the gold award for Green Tourism and offering 5 star accommodations. Prices range from £325- £895 per week and each home features its own incredible view.

    Loch Ness

    This beautiful part of the Highlands attracts lots of visitors both for the peaceful surroundings and the chance to chase the myth of the Loch Ness Monster. Inverness, Scotland’s most northern city, is full of history and culture, many of its attractions spanning back to the 18th and 19th century.

    Staying at Cougie Lodge1 allows you to make the most of the scenery and fresh air. Nearby you’ve got activities like pony trekking, fishing and a countryside pub. The cabin offers two bedrooms and welcomes dogs for an additional charge. The prices vary depending on the time of year between £300 - £700 for 7 nights.

    A larger family may be more comfortable staying in a cottage like Drumbuie View 2. Just a short stroll from Urquhart Castle, the semi-detached cottage is nestled in the village of Drumnadrochit and comes complete with a wood burning fire, spacious lounge and fully equipped kitchen. It has everything you need for your home away from home as you explore the nearby sights.

    You can book both these holiday locations through holidaycottages.co.uk

    The West Coast

    If you’re seeking a quiet family holiday where you can get away from everything, Tigh Beg Croft3 is your answer. It is located 6 miles from Oban and right on the coastline looking out at the sea. It’s secluded, with nature as your neighbour where you can cosy up in front of the fire or enjoy your own space in this six-bedroomed holiday home. Weekly prices start from £745 which is well worth it for such spectacular views. After a day of beach walks, hiking or golfing, you can kick back and enjoy the benefits of a fully equipped kitchen, flat screen TV and a barbeque (that’s if the weather plays ball).

    Callander

    Callander, the ‘gateway to the Highlands’, is a picturesque town and popular tourist location and the meeting point between the Highlands and the Lowlands, and makes for some unforgettable views. It’s close to Loch Lomond and Trossach’s National Park, making it a great base for visiting these famous landmarks and is only an hour’s drive away from Edinburgh.

    Scottish Cottages offer a range of ten self-catering cottages of a variety of sizes. Many of them have cots and highchairs available and are pet friendly and are situated in rural locations, making them ideal for enjoying your own space and time with your family. Prices vary depending on the individual home and the time of year. Book via scottish-cottages.co.uk

    Forfar

    Greenhillock Glamping is an eco-tourism business set in five acres of wildflower meadow near Forfar, offering camping and glamping in a tranquil setting close to the attractions of Dundee and Angus. It’s more than a simple campsite; they showcase the importance of wildlife and habitat conservation whilst providing a top quality, unique holiday experience.

    Guests can choose to stay in luxury furnished bell tents in the North Paddock with stunning views of the Angus Glens; or those who favour a more traditional experience can bring their own camping gear and pitch in the South Paddock amongst the wildflowers. Campfires are encouraged!

    They also offer activities for kids, such as den building, pond dipping, ‘mini-beast hunts’ and bush craft classes. The Field Kitchen housed in converted stable, seats up to 22 and is a great spot to hang out when the weather doesn’t play ball. Monthly family BBQ events give guests the chance to sample locally produced food and drink, showcasing the best produce the region has to offer.

    Fife

    There are plenty of quaint locations along the Fife coast, St Andrews being the most well-known thanks to its world-class University which spawned the Royal love story between Prince William and Kate Middleton. Top spots to visit besides this historic town are St Monans and Elie, all three coastal towns boasting award-winning holiday parks from Abbeyford Leisure (abbeyford.com) who received Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence. Roughly an hour’s drive from Edinburgh, you might pop over for a day-trip and end up staying!

    St Andrews

    You’ll find the St Andrews holiday park by Kinkell Braes, an endlessly popular holiday destination, especially for golf enthusiasts. There are water sports, beach walks and access to the Fife Coastal Path and the main town is a short walk away- so plenty for the whole family to do. The holiday lodges themselves start from £277 for 4 nights, each equipped with its own hot tub for that extra edge of luxury.

    St Monans

    The idyllic little town of St Monans is the perfect place for a quiet break, the holiday park looking out over the Fife Coastal Path and drinking in the sea views. The historical fishing village boasts lots of walking opportunities, the local kirk being a significant point of interest, having been featured on the big screen in The Railway Man. The fully equipped holiday homes begin at £174 for four nights by the sea.

    Book your Fife holiday with abbeyford.com for all three locations, with options for camping and touring caravans - book your spot online for 10% off and get your first night free if you’re there for 5 consecutive nights.

    Elie

    Elie Holiday Park is situated right on Shell Bay and has a whole host of family friendly activities available. The Robinson Crusoe Adventure Park is a particular favourite, allowing children to relive castaway adventures, based on the classic novel by Daniel Defoe. Children can climb the rigging, scale the poop deck and crawl along the cage to the Island of Despair.

    On-site there’s a top-notch bar, restaurant and the popular Mirador Café serving some of the best barista coffee on the Fife Coastal Path, plus takeaway favourites.

    The area has a range of different holiday homes; the Castaway forest homes having glorious meadow views, and only being a short walk from the beach. A four night stay starts at a mere £195 and the homes sleep 6-8 people. Plus they offer free cot and highchair hire. When booking online abbeyford.com you can even select your preferred location of holiday home, touring caravan or tent pitch for free.

    In the evening there’s free entertainment; and during the school holidays there’s free football coaching. And as well as being family friendly, Abbeyford is renowned for being dog-friendly too, so the whole family can be together. Dogs are just £30 per holiday, and free dog beds, dog bowls and dog chews are provided. 

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    Before I had my son, I’d not heard of the term ‘pregnancy and maternity discrimination’. Then I watched a BBC report on the epidemic of women losing their jobs once they decide to try for a family. This chimed with what a close friend was going through. As I worked my way around Edinburgh’s Bookbug sessions and baby classes, I began to drop the topic into conversation. Within six months more than twenty women had confided in me that they too were being pushed out of their place of work. 

    They are not alone. A report from EHRC in 2016 found that 54,000 women each year lose their job because they are pregnant or because they have children. Mothers are often made redundant or their role changes (in terms of responsibility or pay grade) while they are on maternity leave, but increasingly the discrimination is more difficult to prove.

    Women who have enjoyed positive relationships with their employer are suddenly removed from projects, undermined in front of their colleagues, told they are not allowed to go to midwife appointments. They are worn down, made to feel useless at a time when they are at their most vulnerable, and told to put up or shut up.

    This is the best kept secret of motherhood. We are told repeatedly that we’ll lose our sleep, our spare time, our minds (don’t get me started on the detrimental impact of the term ‘baby brain’ on women in the workplace) but were you told - in explicit terms - that you could lose your job? Didn’t think so. Women often end up being paid thousands of pounds less in their next job after an experience of maternity discrimination. And we wonder why the gender pay gap still exists.

    In 2016 I tweeted asking for women who have experienced this type of bullying to email me and within ten minutes I had the accounts of six women sitting in my inbox, four from here in Edinburgh. I worked with the women to develop a case study interview where I invite women to talk through their experience, starting at six months before they became a mother.

    Eighteen months and over 100 interviews later I can report that pregnancy and maternity discrimination is rife in Edinburgh. If it’s not happening to you, it’s definitely happening to someone you know. The majority are women who are pregnant or who have recently given birth, but I have also spoken with women going through IVF and adoption. Women who have miscarried or have been through a stillbirth have been treated appallingly, too.

    Not only is this illegal, a grave injustice to the capable women in question and often irreparably damaging to both career and confidence, but we have to question what this is doing to the workplace overall. It’s little wonder that despite women making up 51% of the population, we are a long way off reaching gender equality in most sectors.

    There is a huge variety in the backgrounds and incomes of the women I speak with, but one thing is clear to me. In every single situation, there are key points in her pregnancy where a) a woman is at her most vulnerable to discrimination and b) most likely to walk away from her job without making a complaint. I’ve mapped these and I am committed to fighting for changes to be made - where necessary to the law - so that women have the protections that they deserve.

    There are instances where I have interviewed several women from the same organisation. As disturbing as it is to know that in some Edinburgh institutions workplace bullying towards mothers is systemic, it also means that I can visit the employer in question to try to work with them on making changes whilst protecting the identities of the women I have spoken with. The benefits of this service are yet to be appreciated by the bosses that I meet, but there is a definite change in the air.

    Of course, the shift that is coming is driven by the bullied, not the bullies. Women have secrets that they are no longer willing to keep. The #MeToo movement has gained momentum, and it seems that 2018 is the year for #timesup. Time’s up, indeed.

    Through my project, Mother’s Work, I am going to continue to represent women who have experienced pregnancy or maternity discrimination. I am planning a series of events in Edinburgh, pushing this issue with Scottish media and working with politicians to create change. Please get in touch via my website or Facebook to register for information. Every interview and conversation I have is in the strictest of confidence. 

    By Emma Walker @MothersWorkUK

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    Guilt No More 29 December 2017 | Comments (0)

    Blogging-sensation, Anna Whitehouse is a journalist, editor and super-mum in search of pukka things for parents. She previously worked as the Vice Editor at Time Out Amsterdam before writing about shoes and handbags for fashion labels SuperTrash and Tommy Hilfiger. She founded Mother Pukka, a portal for news, events, reviews and honest comment for people who happen to be parents; bridging the gap between parenting and reality.

    Mother Pukka is also working with The Food Doctor . Their latest campaign is all about encouraging women (in particular mums) to abolish the guilt, not just when it comes to healthy eating, but in life in general. As part of this, they’ve conducted a nationwide survey to look into the issue of women and mums and guilt.

    The survey revealed some really interesting stats such as:

    • Only 1 in 5 (21%) working mums agree that they feel worthy of their career success and feel comfortable asking for a pay rise
    • 54% of UK mums believe they need to put less pressure on themselves
    • 3 in 10 (30%) of mums across the UK suffer from guilty thoughts at least once a day
    • 50% identify diet as the most common guilt trigger, closely followed by fitness (46%)

    With over half of mums (54%) agreeing they’d like to put less pressure on themselves, Mother Pukka, offers us helpful hacks to help relieve just a little bit of that pressure and guilt:

    Look up at the sky and take a deep breath

    It’s a simple one, but it works. I am often glued to my phone for work and when the pressure comes from all angles –my daughter, Mae insisting she must have the blue spoon, NOT the red spoon and, of course, the dreaded inbox of doom – taking a second to look up simply clears the guilt and reminds me I’m doing okay. We should all allow ourselves to take the time to relax without feeling guilty about it. Even just removing yourself from a situation and putting things into perspective for just a few minutes can really help.

    Call one person you love, every day

    It’s easy to feel disconnected in this digital world and simply making time, even if it’s just 3 minutes, to speak to someone you love can make a real difference. It could be your mum and dad, one of your mates, or Aunty Janet - not only will you drop the guilt about not being in touch as often as you’d like, but there’s nothing like a quick chat / rant / gossip with someone close to put a smile on your face.

    Listen to your body and be good to yourself

    While I struggle to fit in the elusive ‘me time’, I try to reclaim small moments in my day that are just for me, and I always end up feeling all the better for it. No matter how busy life gets, I try to take time to prepare wholesome foods and snacks like chopped up fruit pimped with cinnamon and peanut butter but, obviously, also enjoy the odd naughty sweet treat. If it ends up that my ‘me time’ is just me, a tub of peanut butter and a spoon… you can bet I will not feel guilty about it!

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    The secret to surviving (and actually enjoying) the festive season…

    If I see one more advert or piece of editorial about how to have the perfect Christmas, I won’t be held responsible for my actions.

    It’s not that I want to go all ‘Bah, Humbug!’ on you, but it’s taken me the best part of twenty years to realise that we’re being sold a lie with all this ‘perfect Christmas’ nonsense.

    Why? Because, put quite simply, the notion of the perfect Christmas is as much a misnomer as the perfect wedding, the perfect birth or the perfect child. There simply is no such thing. 

    What there *is* … is the wedding where the father of the groom trips over the front doorstep after collecting the cake and drops it on the floor the night before the big day – which still seemed perfect, despite those wonky hastily-stuck-back-on-with-icing-sugar flowers. 

    What there also *is* … is a dramatically fast and scary birth with no time for much-needed pain relief, never mind filling the birthing pool for the peaceful water birth you’d been elaborately planning for nine months. 

    Oh, and there are also the kids you got in the lottery of life, who are no more perfect than their far-from-perfect mother, but who you wouldn’t swap for all the tea in China.

    See? No such thing as perfect, no matter what Pinterest or Instagram try to tell us.

    And then there’s Christmas. With its financial implications, overloaded expectations and exceeded budgets. It’s no wonder Christmas is one of the most stressful periods of the year for many, and a time noted for being especially busy if you’re a divorce lawyer.

    Chuck in the pressures of family life – how to decide which set of in-laws to spend the big day with, whether the kids should be allowed to open all of their presents at 5am, and the whole question of how to make Christmas magical and memorable for your little people, even though you might be dealing with grief, relationship breakdown or money worries. It’s no wonder lots of us feel more Woe-Woe-Woe than Ho-Ho-Ho about Christmas.

    So, this year, I’m taking it upon myself to remind all and sundry that there is simply no such thing as the perfect Christmas, and that the secret to actually enjoying the festive season is to wholeheartedly embrace this fact.

    What that means in practice is accepting that families come in all sorts of strange shapes and sizes, and that not resembling the Waltons is no grounds for having a miserable day. Christmas, like life, isn’t about trying to live up to unrealistic ideals, to which none of us will ever attain. 

    It’s about sharing Christmas with random relatives who’ve never once offered to host Christmas at their house; tolerating ancient aunts with funny habits; turning a blind eye to Grandpa falling asleep in the middle of the starter; and enduring parents bickering over the right way to brown a turkey. And, at the end of the day, it’s about realising that the kids, for whom every Christmas is perfect, don’t notice or indeed care about any of that stuff.

    After all, the first Christmas, so the story goes, was far from perfect. No room at the inn, no crib for the baby, and surely a choice word or two exchanged between the main players about what on earth was going on.

    I’m not alone in believing that the secret to the perfect Christmas is to wholeheartedly embrace the imperfect, either. I undertook comprehensive research on this topic (ok, I asked my mates on Facebook) and one friend admits she aspires to be more like a particular mum of four she knows. 

    Does said mum pull off the perfect Christmas? She does, in her own way. She lets each child choose their favourite foods from Iceland and puts on an all-day buffet where everyone gets to eat their favourite things and mum gets a well-earned rest. Well done, that woman.

    “Not getting dressed up, eating what you really fancy – usually bacon sarnies, Christmas pudding and a box of Thornton’s chocolates – all washed down with a mug of tea, is my idea of heaven at Christmas,” admits another friend.

    One pal recalls a pearl of wisdom she once heard on surviving the madness of the average family festive season. “Every family has a drunken uncle or an unhinged aunty round the table at Christmas,” she says. “If you can’t think who that person is, then it’s probably you.”

    I honestly believe that the secret to your happiest Christmas yet lies in embracing these difficult truths. So do yourself a favour this year. Lower your expectations. Buy frozen Yorkshire puddings. Laugh at the lunacy of the motley crew gathered round your dinner table. And, above all, try seeing Christmas through the eyes of a child whose sense of wonder blots out the imperfections. (Unless you forget to buy batteries, and then nothing can help you.)

    Children don’t see the financial pressures, the emotional strain or indeed the point in eating sprouts. They see fun, gifts, festive togetherness, and at least several days ahead of getting away with chocolate for breakfast. What’s not to love?

    Don’t be afraid to rip up the rule book and do Christmas according to your own rules this year. Several friends of mine swear by going away for some quiet family togetherness at Christmas. But if you can’t get out of navigating tricky family dynamics or suffering traditions you don’t entirely fancy honouring, try embracing the imperfect anyway.

    Invest time and emotional energy in the little things that can make Christmas Day truly special. One year I took a walk to the beach with my middle child, who often ends up sandwiched between the needs of his older brother and younger sister. He’d literally never seen the streets so empty, so I indulged him with an impromptu dance all the way home right down the middle of the road. 

    I *might* have had one Baileys more than was strictly necessary at that point but it’s a memory he seems to cherish, and not a year has passed since where he hasn’t begged for a rerun of our Christmas street dance routine.

    It’s the little things that matter to kids. What they remember is small acts of kindness. Moments of tenderness and togetherness that cut through the rushing that we do so much of throughout the rest of the year.

    Christmas, ultimately, isn’t about any of the things we get so het up about. It’s about slowing down to meet yourself. Taking time to let your loved ones know just how much they mean to you. Choosing thoughtful, inexpensive gifts that mean more than money could ever buy. 

    Watching Elf together for the hundredth time and still finding it funny. Eating cheese as if it’s an actual meal choice. Hanging the hand-made tree decorations that make you feel a tiny bit more teary every year, and making space for small rituals that bind you closer together as a family and remind you that who you are together and how your day unfolds is the closest thing to perfect that you will ever know. 

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