Stephen Creek Guest Cabin

imageedit_4_5754057765

Sometimes staying in your own little oasis is just what you need, and that is what we did. Located in Yoho National Park, neighbour to Banff, the hamlet of Field is the perfect stop off point for those travelling through the Canadian Rockies.

Located close to Emerald Lake, one not to be missed, Field comprises a handful of beautiful homes, a train station, and a couple of restaurants too!

I mentioned Emerald Lake and this was a big pull on why I chose Field as one of our destinations. As you can see from the photo above, it really IS emerald! Unfortunately for me the main park of the lake was still pretty frozen except for around the edges, but it was still a breathtaking place, we pretty much had it to ourselves! There is a trail that loops around the lake, along with a rather well known hotel.

There are some other beautiful spots in Yoho National Park, sadly we just did not have the time to fit them all in. We were both exhausted and felt the pull of our private little cabin that waited for us in a beautiful valley. Within 15 minutes we were back and I plonked down on the chair and breathed a sigh of relief that I could put my feet up.

I honestly think this cabin you could hideaway in for days on end and never really want to leave. You have everything you need, a bathroom, comfy bed, living area complete with a range of provided books! As well as a fully equipped kitchen. We stayed here during summer ad the days were pretty warm, however I can imagine that during winter this spot is even more romantic. There is a big fire in the living area that I desperate wanted to light! It’s not usual that you would wish for colder weather on your holiday, not until you stay here anyway.

The hamlet of Field itself is very small, however there are a couple of places to eat, and there is also a train station! We had a meal at Truffle Pigs that night, about a 5 minute walk from our cosy cabin, we even walked past an elk on the way! However be warned, this is bear country, and lucky for us the kind owner left bear spray in the drawer! We didn’t need it though.. phew!

We were definitely ready for bed as soon as dinner was over, although my husband was completely fascinated watching the freight trains (they are REALLY long), we head back to the cabin and both looked forward to a good night sleep. Feeling cosy in my pjs I read one of the many books on Canada that had been left behind in the cabin, particularly useful as we actually planned our next three days in Jasper from this book. It is the small things that stick in your mind.

That night we slept well, with nothing but the trickle of the river and train horns in the distance, we both fell into a deep slumber. One thing I did notice during my time in Canada is that the days are long during summer, and short during winter. This means we tended to rise and set ourselves with the sun, so we were definitely seizing the days!

Unfortunately we were here for only one night, and we were on a tight schedule so had to leave early on in the morning. However, I would highly recommend this cabin for long weekends, especially if you are a city person! The tranquility and simple life in this little hamlet will make you feel more than relaxed, the ultimate escape.

Want to stay? Book here.

 

Medicine and Maligne Lake

imageedit_3_5047781586

Both well known, both beautiful both less travelled than the lakes in Banff National Park.

Maligne and Medicine Lake were some of my favourite spots in all of Canada, I don’t know if it was the time of year we visited but Alex and I pretty much had both to ourselves.

Seeing as we stumbled upon Medicine Lake first, this is where I will start…

Until recently, Medicine Lake was one clouded in mystery… the lake seemed to drain, and no one knew where to. The lake is technically not a lake, but a rather where the Maligne River backs up before flowing into the Athabasca River. The river is frozen during winter, but during summer as the ice melts, the body of water becomes like a bathtub, filling up too fast for it to drain, so becomes a lake. Underneath Medicine Lake is an extensive drainage system, one of the biggest in the world and can cause all the water to just disappear.

If you arrive in autumn, you might just find this place completely empty… but don’t be disappointed, this geological phenomenon is extremely fascinating, so take a seat on the shores of where the lake once was, and read up on it.

So why have I grouped Medicine Lake with Maligne Lake? Pretty simple, you will pass this lake on the way to Maligne, for reasons unknown, not everyone stops, but I would highly advise setting an hour aside to have a walk up and down its shores before heading off to its big brother lake.

Maligne Lake, a short distance further up into the mountains, is the longest in the Canadian Rockies at 22.5km long. In fact, the lake is so long you can even take a boat trip on it, this will take you up to Spirit Island and you will see before you a scene you might have seen many times before. Sadly, I can’t show you what I am talking about as we arrived a few days before the summer season kicked off, so the boats weren’t running and I wasn’t about to start walking 14km.

The native first nations originally called this lake ‘Chaba Imne’ (Beaver Lake) and was first explored by Mary Schaffer in 1907. One of the reasons this lake is so famed is due to the beautiful mountainous backdrop and crystal clear blue waters.

Visitors who travel during peak season can enjoy canoeing or kayaking up the lake, if you are a confident canoeist you can take yourself up to Spirit Island, canoes and kayaks can be hired closeby to the entrance of Maligne Lake at Curly Phillips Boathouse.

There are many beautiful trails that will take you around the lake, if you have a full day I would recommend heading off on one of the longer trails. There is lots of wildlife to be seen, such as the grizzly bear, deer, elk, coyote and even wolves, some of the trails will take you up a fairly steep gradient so please check before you embark on one!

The Mary Schaffer loop is one of the easiest and most popular, at 3.2km you can enjoy panoramic shots of the lake and the mountain range that frames it, as well as the opportunity to learn more about Ms Schaffer herself.

Oh and just to finish, it’s not only the two lakes that will take your breath away, to reach them you will take one of the most beautiful drives in Canada, winding your way higher up into the mountain range. Take a picnic, park up, and enjoy the view!

Lake Louise

imageedit_1_4217671196

Ahhh beautiful Lake Louise, quite possibly one of the most well known lakes in the whole of Canada! We have all seen a picture before, whether we have realised it or not, and quite rightly so. Located north of Banff, still within Banff National Park, Lake Louise is a glacial lake located conveniently near to the Trans Canadian Highway.

Depending on what time of year you travel, you will get very different experiences of this lake. If, like us, you travel during spring, you can enjoy a bit of both. On arrival at the lake around 9:30am (get there early to beat the crowds!), I was disappointed to find the lake completely frozen. The reason for my disappointment? The whole time we were in Canada it was unseasonably warm, and my stupid self did not even realise such big lakes could even freeze over like that! Oh how I have clearly lived a sheltered and warm life… Sadly my dreams of canoeing across the lake and enjoying a romantic picnic surrounded by glistening waters and mountains did not come true, however, not all hope was lost.

Yes it was frozen when we first arrived, but you can still appreciate the views, they were just different to what I first expected. In fact, after a couple of hours I was quite glad of it.

We had a look at the many trails around the lake and we picked the trail that headed up to Mirror Lake and Lake Agnes, I had no clue at the time what either of this would entail. Now I know I said it had been unseasonably warm, but the ground less walked was still extremely frozen. This meant an uphill walk on a sheet of ice, there was no one else around and Alex and I looked at each other as if to say ‘are we stupid for doing this?’, we assumed we would either be eaten by a bear or we would slip and fall to our untimely deaths. If you look at your companion, or yourself, then all I can tell you is persevere, we survived!! And we finally found human life as we climbed further.

If you are considering trying this trail, you can find it pretty easily, it starts at the front of the lake near the Fairmont Chateau Hotel. I’ll warn you now, the first part of the walk is fairly steep and you will find yourself amongst a lot of trees with not much else to look at, Alex and I almost turned back. Please carry on, once you get past the straight path you will turn a sharp corner and you will wind your way up further into the forest, you will then stumble upon Mirror Lake.

Now I imagine Mirror Lake is called this because of its jaw dropping reflections, but of course it was completely frozen over when Alex and I turned up. But that’s okay, we sat on a tree trunk and admired the view, catching our breath back. Even just this first stop was worth the climb.

I imagine in summer the next part is much easier, however we then fought our way through thick snow. My advice is tread where you can see footprints, or you will end up butt deep in a snow drift. I can’t tell you how many snow holes I fell down, it reached a point I was getting very aggy, in fact, Alex had to walk ahead so he didn’t have to listen to my whining.

Higher and higher we went, until I felt like we were in the clouds. ‘This was totally worth it’ I said to Alex, not sure he heard me seeing as he was about 10 ft in front of me and was suffering from a severe case of selective hearing that day. You reach a point on this walk where you will find yourself above the trees, and if you are lucky like ourselves, you will have the whole place to yourself, overlooking the stunning Bow Valley.

After snapping away we made the final stretch to Lake Agnes, I fell through a few more snow drifts, found a waterfall, then clamped my eyes on the final target. If you are travelling in summer season, you will be glad to know there is a gorgeous little tea room up here selling hot drinks and scones. If, like us, you are travelling out of season, it will be closed… luckily I had 10 Malteasers in my backpack to stop me passing out from hunger and general unfitness!

My belly really was playing on my mind, I needed lunch and I knew it would take over an hour to get back down to Lake Louise, so sadly we didn’t hang around too long. It took around 2 hours to get from the bottom of Lake Louise up to Lake Agnes, this will be shorter in summer, and going down was a whole new experience.

I’ll tell you what, it is amazing what 5 Malteasers can do to your mood and energy (I gave the other 5 to Alex, I am such a great wife). Off we trotted down the mountain side with a whole new lease of life, in fact, I would recommend everyone who plans on doing this walk to pack a bag of Malteasers (Mars should totally pay me for this!!). I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard in my life, watching my husband slide his way down a mountain through snow and ice, hanging onto trees for dear life, in a pair of shorts! To give him credit it wasn’t just him making a mess of it, I am pretty sure I nearly fell on my bum atleast 20 times, but we laughed our way through it.

For the fools (like me) who didn’t pack a packed lunch, the hotel on the lake, the Fairmont, has a great deli, and this also gives visitors a chance to have a snoop at the hotel itself – it’s pretty grand!

All fuelled up and ready to hit the actual lake walk. For those that don’t want to skid their way up the side of Lake Louise, there is a gentle path that follows the side of the lake. It’s a good old walk but much easier on the calf muscles! By this point it was mid afternoon and as the sun had been shining all morning, the lake was melting…fast!

So is Lake Louise all it’s cracked up to be? Yes it is, as long as you look past the large amounts of fellow visitors! Many people just turn up, snap a photo then leave. However, I would highly recommend setting aside an entire day to appreciate one of Canada’s most beautiful spots and trying out some of the many trails.

 

Buffalo Mountain Lodge

imageedit_2_5441114671

Located in a stunning situation above the town of Banff, for those who are lucky enough, you will wake up each morning to an undisturbed view of Tunnel Mountain.

Formerly known as ‘Sleepy Buffalo’, the lodge has undergone extensive renovations in recent years, offering beautiful, traditional accommodation that makes you feel as though you are sleeping in your very own log cabin. We arrived on a sunny day, with guests and locals enjoying refreshing drinks both on the restaurant terrace and the Buffalo Mountain Cafe. Check in was simple and lucky for us, our allocated room looked straight onto the mountains!

Our room was very much in keeping with the surrounding environment, it offered modern amenities alongside a traditional, mountain design. The room was extremely spacious with a large king bed, cosy fire, roll top bath and a stunning balcony that made the most of the views. All the rooms on the resort are similar in design but differ in size, from smaller intimate bedrooms, up to larger duplexes complete with a kitchenette, making it a perfect stop for single travellers, couples and families alike.

Once we had made ourselves familiar with our room, we enjoyed a delicious charcuterie board out on our balcony with a glass of Cava each. Alex and I were extremely lucky that the weather was warm and sunny, meaning we could soak in the fresh air without even needing a jacket. This was our favourite spot in the resort, disturbed only by the sound of birds and a few cyclists!

We dined at the Sleepy Buffalo Restaurant that evening, we were served by an extremely friendly English girl who had been living in the Rockies for a number of years. It is such a shame I cannot remember her name as she gave us some brilliant recommendations on places to visit in Banff, if it wasn’t for her we would never have discovered Johnston Canyon!

Food, like in most of Banff, was fairly expensive, however, the dishes were worth every penny. The food was tasty, filling, perfectly cooked and beautifully presented. Alex thorough enjoyed the Grilled Bison Striploin & Braised Short Rib, Sweet Potato Mash, Mushroom Ragout, Game Glaze, and I tucked into the Grilled Tenderloin Beef, Confit Baby Potatoes, Shitake Mushroom Glaze, Sweet Onion Puree. If you want to book into dinner here I would highly recommend booking in advance as the restaurant will get full, especially over the peak summer months.

Buffalo Mountain Lodge has also recently opened the Buffalo Mountain Cafe, perfect for an afternoon snack or a light bite for lunch. Alex and I headed down one afternoon after a long morning of exploring and were able to sit back and relax with a drink in hand!

When exploring the Rockies you can get tired very easily, a combination of jetlag and climbing mountains means a comfy bed and a good night sleep was high up on the list of importance on my holiday. We found the resort very quiet at night, we never heard our neighbours and Alex and I were both able to enjoy a good night sleep with no interruptions. The natural setting relaxes you as soon as you enter the property, I didn’t know much about hotels in Banff before visiting, but by the time I left I realised we were lucky to have chosen one of the premier resorts in the park.

Prices per night start at $259 CAD (£150), you can book your own stay here.

 

Banff & Beyond

imageedit_1_2060371831

Awe-inspiring views, crystal clear lakes, mountain roads, log cabins and some of the world’s most beautiful climbs, it can only be one place right? Yes, the Canadian Rockies.

Choosing Canada for a holiday was definitely not a hard decision, I used to be a travel agent and that is where my need to visit the Rockies came from. I created numerous itineraries for clients that wanted to take a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer, one of the world’s most famous rail journeys.

So I haven’t quite reached my goal of riding the Rocky Mountaineer, but Alex and I have just completed an incredible journey, starting in Calgary, ending on Vancouver Island.

Apart from a short stay in Calgary, Banff was our first destination. Just an hour and a half from Calgary International Airport, this, along with Canmore, is one of the easiest towns to visit in the Canadian Rockies. Whilst Canmore is technically not in the national park, it is right on the perimeter so I will include it all the same!

Banff National Park as I stated earlier is relatively easier to access, we drove in on the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1), in order to enter the park (unless you are driving through and not stopping) you must purchase a Parcs ticket. This park ticket also provides access to the surrounding parks such as Yoho and Jasper, it cost us $136 for 6 days, which when you think about all the upkeep of the park, it is pretty reasonable. Day passes are also available for $90.

The park was established in 1885, making it Canada’s first National Park, it encompasses 6,641 square kilometres of beautiful, mountainous terrain. Tourism in Banff has become hugely popular, especially during the summer months, as well as the peak winter period for skiing. We found that May is a great time to visit as the weather was pleasant the whole way through. Whilst we would start the mornings in trousers and a big coat, by lunchtime we would be in our shorts and t-shirts. Avoiding the crowds was a big thing for us, we also saved a lot of money by travelling outside of the peak season, the only downside is that many lakes are still partially or fully frozen, we were unable to see Moraine Lake as the road was still closed from winter.

Our first stop was Canmore, a pretty mountain town filled with both tourists and locals, the streets are lined with cafes, restaurants and shops, and the whole town is surrounded by stunning mountain scenery. From here we headed up towards the Grassi Lakes, an easy and fairly short hike uphill to two stunning crystal clear lakes. In comparison to other lakes around Banff, Grassi Lakes are relatively small, however, they are just as beautiful and this turned out to be one of my favourite places on the trip.

The drive to Banff gets more and more beautiful the further you go, and the actual town itself is a great shopping, eating and social destination. Not many people realise Banff was originally a town in which the park was named after, I would recommend staying here for a few days to get a feel for the place. Most sights within the national park are accessible from Banff itself, so spend a few days here and you will get lots ticked off!

The Johnston Canyon, another of our favourite spots, is just 40 minutes from the heart of Banff and in my opinion, is one of the park’s most underrated spots. There is an easy trail that takes a gentle climb from the carpark, the path is enough to fit 2-3 people wide and is paved a large portion of the way. This trail loops up to the lower falls, and for those who want to go further, the upper falls (I would highly recommend doing this). From the bottom of the trail to the top of the falls is a distance of about 2.7km, if you are still not tired then you can travel a further few km to the ink pots, several cold mineral springs that bubble.

For those who don’t want to or are unable to travel outside of Banff town centre, there is the Bow Falls Trail that you can reach easily on foot in around 20-25 minutes with minimal elevation. The falls aren’t the most spectacular in the park but they are pretty and you get a good view of the famous Banff Springs Hotel too!

Our final day in Banff was spent at Lake Louise, but that deserves a post to itself…

Cambridgeshire in the Sun

imageedit_4_4499742764

It’s always good when you have a friend who understands your strange addiction to chocolate box villages, thatched cottages and afternoon tea. After looking at the weather forecast this week I decided Wednesday was the last day I could enjoy a walk around in the sun before the temperature dropped. So we packed our bags, packed up Baby Evelyn and set off to Tesco to buy some bits and bobs for a picnic.

First stop Houghton Mill, an 18th-century working watermill, one that was almost demolished then saved by the locals. The mill has now been fully restored and has been working for over 1,000 years.

Houghton Mill is run by the National Trust and is the perfect spot for a picnic in the sun, with a large patch of grassy area overlooking the mill, and lots of people like to take a dip in the water in the summer!

After our picnic we took a stroll over the meadow to Hemingford Abbots, a small village in which a settlement dates all the way back to the Roman times.

Hemingford Abbots appeared in the Domesday Book as Emingeforde and came under the Hundred of Toseland in Huntingdonshire, by 1086 there was already a church here and a priest. There were 96 dwellings in 1250, this fell during the Black Death then grew to a population of 306 in 1801, peaking at 628 in 1961.

Back in Domesday times, Hemingford Abbots was joined with the neighbouring settlement, Hemingford Grey as a single estate, before being split apart in the 19th-century. Just a two minute cross along the River Great Ouse and you will find yourself in Hemingford Grey…

Hemingford Grey was given its name in 1276 by the de Grey family, the village manor (one of the oldest inhabited in England) built around 1140 was seized from the family by Henry VII after George Grey 2nd Earl of Kent could not repay his debts. The manor was late leased to the Great-grandfather of Oliver Cromwell!

After buying some water and sweets from the local shop we headed back through Hemingford Abbots to Houghton.

Houghton was recently named as one of the “Best Places to Live in the east” by The Sunday Times and I can see why. The village is a picture-perfect postcard, just how you would imagine rural Britain, with a sprinkling of thatched cottages base around a village green on the edge of a meadow.

I could stay in Houghton forever but alas it was time to go home, of course taking a quick stop at the hamlet of Wennington along the way…

 

Malteaser Millionaires Shortbread

imageedit_3_7756212368

Just a little twist on the well-loved millionaires shortbread recipe, I have added Malteasers! I went to a bake sale last week and my husband was obsessed with theirs so I thought I would try my own recipe!

The recipe is split into three parts (like the final product), each part is pretty straightforward but my main tip is to be careful when you are making the caramel, it gets VERY hot and spits and bubbles like a witches cauldron…

Ingredients

Shortbread:

  • 250g plain flour
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 190g butter

Caramel:

  • 190g butter
  • 85g caster sugar
  • 3tbsp golden syrup
  • 325g condensed milk

Chocolate topping:

  • 150g milk chocolate
  • 50g dark chocolate
  • 186g Malteasers (two packs)

Method

  1. Grease a 20cm square baking tin (deep) and preheat the oven to 190 C/160 C (if fan oven).
  2. Use a mixer to cream together the butter and sugar until smooth, mix in flour with your hands.
  3. Press the mixture into the bottom of your baking tin,
  4. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Take out when golden on top, the base may still feel a little soft but this will harden as it cools.
  5. Leave to cool.
  6. Take a saucepan and add the condensed milk, butter, caster sugar and golden syrup, put on a medium heat until sugar has fully dissolved. Stir frequently.
  7. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat up to full so the mixture starts to boil, keep stirring so the mixture does not burn to the bottom of your pan (if this happens, it will come off but you will be scrubbing a long time!). Please note the mixture gets extremely hot so wear protective gloves incase it spits on you.
  8. Boil for around 5 minutes, once the mixture has darkened and thickened it is ready to take off.
  9. Pour over your shortbread base and leave to cool in the fridge until the caramel has set.
  10. Melt the chocolate together in a bowl and pour over the set caramel.
  11. Add Malteasers and leave to cool.
  12. Chop into square pieces and enjoy!

Rolo Rocky Road

imageedit_1_6516993377

I became obsessed with rocky road about 10 years ago on an American exchange. I think we have always had it over here in the UK but it has definitely become more popular in recent years. After trawling through Pinterest for baking ideas I came across a Rolo cake recipe and a recipe for rocky road, and I decided to combine them!

The whole idea of putting rolos into an already delicious chocolatey treat is one I don’t know why I hadn’t considered sooner. Rolos, after all, were a staple part of a child’s diet in the 90’s were they not?

Ingredients:

  • 350g milk chocolate
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 120g unsalted butter
  • 120g mini marshmallows
  • 125g golden syrup
  • 220g digestives
  • 348g Rolos (3 packs)

Method:

  • Grease an 8/9″ baking tin, or line with baking paper.
  • Melt the butter and golden syrup together on a medium heat in a large pan until the mixture is fully combined. Chop the chocolate and add to the pan, stir until smooth.
  • Leave the mixture to cool for a few minutes.
  • Chop up the digestives and add to a large bowl with the mini marshmallows and two thirds of the Rolos.
  • Pour the chocolate mix over the digestives, Rolos and marshmallows and stir together thoroughly.
  • Pour the mixture into the baking tin and make sure the mixture is evenly spread, add the rest of the Rolos to the top of the mixture as decoration.
  • Put the baking tin in the fridge and leave to set before chopping into even squares and tucking in!

Lemon Raspberry Loaf Cake

imageedit_49_5611769754

Got no eggs? Grandma coming over? This lemon raspberry loaf cake is perfect for those wanting to try something a little different to your average lemon cake. This loaf cake can also be made vegan when using an alternative milk source (I would recommend oat milk).

Lemon Loaf Cake

Ingredients

Cake
  • 50 ml vegetable oil
  • 200 g Caster Sugar
  • 210 g Plain Flour
  • 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 1 teaspoon Baking soda
  • 235 ml Milk/Oat Milk
Icing
  • 150 g Icing Sugar
  • tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • Fresh berries for topping

Lemon Loaf Cake with Fresh Fruit

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (fan over).
  • Add the vegetable oil, sugar, lemon juice and milk in a mixing bowl and cream together.
  • Sift the flour and baking soda into the wet ingredients and carefully fold in until the mixture is smooth.
  • Grease or line a loaf tin and evenly pour in the mixture.
  • Bake for approximately 45 minutes, the cake should be golden in colour, insert a skewer into the middle of the cake and make sure it comes out clean, if not then bake for a further 5-10 minutes.
  • Leave the cake to cool completely before mixing together water, lemon juice and icing sugar until the mixture is smooth.
  • Spoon the icing onto the top of the cake, allowing it to drizzle down the sides.
  • Sprinkle fresh berries onto the cake and serve.

Raspberry Loaf Cake