Newcastle Photographer and Content Creator, Mandy Charlton, Always on a quest for adventure, often seen on buses, trains and planes. On a quest to be happier and healthier. Lives in Newcastle with her 3 cats, Iris, Maggie and Arthur. Loves good vibes, musicals and cakes. Full time professional wedding photographer in the north east of england alongside content creator on Tiktok, Instagram and Facebook

Monday, July 17, 2023

Mandy’s Great bus Adventure - The Trial Run, Part 2

Mandy's great bus adventure, public transport holidays using Stagecoach Bus, mandy charlton, photographer

On the 6th of July at 9.45am I boarded the Stagecoach 685 bus service from Newcastle to Carlisle handing over my £2 fare, a bargain for a journey which is just under 60 miles and takes 2 and a half hours.  The Stagecoach local public transport bus had USB chargers and Wi-Fi although my phone signal was just fine on its own.  I settled in with my bottle of water and my book as we passed hills and fields on this rural service via Corbridge, Hexham, Haltwhistle and Brampton. My great bus adventure had begun.

I arrived in Carlisle just after noon where I immediately dived into a coffee shop to find out where my Instagram and Facebook followers had chosen to send me to next.  The choices were Keswick, Annan, Langholm and Cockermouth.  I wished hard for Keswick whilst I imagined a lovely weekend touring the Lake District but no, instead my followers chose to send me to Annan.  I jumped on the 79 to Annan and once again settled in as we crossed the border following a lovely rural route.

Annan, Scotland, Mandy's great bus adventure, public transport holiday, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Annan is a small Scottish town right on the border, it was so quiet it was as if it was closed for the day but no, it has its own museum and a harbour although the harbour is currently not all that nice, do not despair though, it has been chosen for a massive regeneration programme and I hope this might bring tourists back to a town which seemed to me like it had seen better times.

The Old Rectory, Annan, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Newcastle upon Tyne

I stayed at The Old Rectory, paying £55 for a double room including breakfast, and my whole day's travel and accommodation cost only £59, I immediately felt like I was onto something, I love to travel but I’m also forever on a budget so if I can find a hack to let me travel more at a lower cost then I am all over this scheme.

Now unfortunately there was a glitch.  You see, what I didn’t know was that Scotland isn’t participating in the £2 bus scheme so it would cost me £6.80 to get back to England, my followers did not mind and decided to keep me going on public transport in Scotland and I found out that Scotland has lots of day savers which makes travel just as cheap so the next day my travel from Annan - Dumfries - Moffat cost me just £7.30 and I could have travelled as much as I wanted that day for that price.  My B&B in Moffat, Rockhill B&B cost £85 including breakfast and honestly, although it was the most expensive B&B I stayed in, it was also the nicest.

Double Room, Rockhill Bed and Breakfast,Moffat, southwest scotland,  Mandy Charlton, Photographer, a newcastle photographer

Moffat is a charming Scottish town on the border of southwest Scotland and I adored it, there are so many well-sign-posted walks that you can do of varying distances. It’s also famous for its toffee so there are not one but two shops specialising in toffee and fudge, the biggest of which The Moffat Toffee Shop has more traditional sweets than I have ever seen anywhere.  I cannot recommend a trip to Moffat highly enough, it’s a gem of a town and don’t forget to visit the local museum.  Apparently, Merlin might have lived in Moffat for a time but then again he might also have not, I’ll let you make your mind up on that one.

The moffat ram, southwest coast, scotland, mandy charlton, photographer

After Moffat, I was feeling full of bravado and my final destination was chosen as Oban, somewhere I’d only spent 6 hours on a coach trip and wanted to explore more of but at that point, the trip fell apart.  I boarded the X74 to Glasgow and found the bus full of young people travelling to a festival.  The bus was too hot, too full and I’d forgotten to bring a bottle of water.  My anxiety started to flare up and by the time I reached Glasgow, I got off the bus, saw the crowds and decided there was no way I could do 3.5 hours more on a coach to get to Oban, even if it was only £24.

I looked for other options and jumped on the first train to Stirling costing £9.50 and taking just half an hour.  Whilst on the train I booked myself into the uni accommodation for a bargain £45.  most universities will let out space on campus over the summer but not all uni campuses are equal.  Stirling Uni has a loch and a castle and miles of sprawling countryside.  It also sits just below the Wallace monument, making for the prettiest photos.  

The Wallace monument, from Stirling Uni, Scotland, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger

I didn’t get a chance to visit the Wallace monument this time, instead, I opted for Stirling Castle and I am so glad that I did, it’s got the most beautiful gardens for a castle and spending a few hours there really helped to calm me down.  I actually did over 20,000 steps that day and could have done more so just because you’ve had an anxiety attack does not mean you can’t go on to have a brilliant day.  I always carry CBD oil and gummies with me for those exact reasons.  6 months ago I couldn’t have even done the journey but thanks to CBD I’m almost functioning like an average human (in some respects).

On my last day, I opted to get home by the quickest method and as Scotland has highly subsidised train fares I managed to bag myself a first-class ticket for the bargain price of £45.

In August from the 9-16th I will be doing this all again, this time I will be sticking to England and there are some more details I’m looking forward to announcing as soon as the contracts are signed and the details are firmed up and I will write again when I have more details on a very exciting collaboration.

Some things I’ve learnt from my trip

Carry cash

Enjoy the slower pace

Take a phone charger and back up batteries

Travel as lightly as possible as there isn’t as much luggage storage on public transport

Plan your route in advance if you like safe travel, or just decide on the go if you are daring and love adventure.

and with that, there’s just one thing to say… onwards to the next great bus adventure where we’ll find out just how far the £2 bus scheme can take us.

Ways to support my writing

If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee
I also have a lovely Facebook group I'd love you to come and join 
You could also come and follow me on Instagram or  TikTok keep up with my adventures, I really am grateful for all
of your love and support.


Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Mandy's Great Summer Bus Adventure - The Trial Run

 Mandy’s Great Summer Bus Adventure-Trial Run…

Mandy's great bus adventure, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

I’m about to do something slightly bonkers and I’d like you all to join in. Did you know that the £2 single bus fare scheme has been extended to October?
I want to see how far I can get on a bus and I’m doing a trial run tomorrow and I’m going to need your help to make it even more fun. I love travelling so much and after starting to take CBD oil and gummies every single day my anxiety has subsided to be the best it's ever been in years. Believe me, I could not have done this 6 months ago.
Tomorrow morning I’ll set off on a bus from Newcastle to Carlisle, one of the longest single journeys you can do from Newcastle.
Here’s where you come in, when I get there I’ll assess where I can get to on the bus from there, I’ll give you 3 choices and you get to decide, if you want to join in you can follow along on Facebook or, Instagram
I’ll spend the night wherever I end up and on Friday morning we’ll do the same thing from wherever I am and the same again on Saturday. I plan to get 2 buses every day with a break in between for the loo/lunch and a little exploring. I’m coming home on Sunday (probably by train) from wherever I end up. And then next month I plan to do this for an entire week. I’ll be using and Airbnb along the way to book last-minute accommodation and who knows where I’ll end up. The bus companies I'll be using will mostly depend on where I end up but Stagecoach is a national bus company and in England, all of the single fares are £2
It could be deep in the Lake District or over to Scotland, who knows?! I’ve not checked the places you can get from Carlisle to on the bus!! Will it be @arrivabusuk or will it be @stagecoach_bus who knows!
Are you ready for a giant adventure? I definitely am!! If you'd like to really hop on board with me you can buy me a virtual coffee at I'm doing this on an incredibly tiny budget, I had planned to blog along the way but since my MacBook pro screen died it's plugged permanently into a monitor. I hope to get a Macbook Air in the future as soon as I can afford it but currently, I'll just be doing socials from my phone and blogging when I come back. I will be saving up all of my virtual coffee's to help get a new MacBook and it will also help with the hotel costs, bus fares may be cheap but hotels aren't so much.
You’ll be able to follow across Instagram, Facebook and TikTok and I can’t wait to share it all with you. It’s time to be free!!

Want to sponsor my big summer bus adventure?

In August I plan to take a week to see how far I can get using only buses and I'm actively looking for sponsors for that so if you'd like to get involved please drop me an email and let's do this!!

Ways to support my writing

If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee
I also have a lovely Facebook group I'd love you to come and join 
You could also come and follow me on Instagram or  TikTok keep up with my adventures, I really am grateful for all
of your love and support.


Monday, July 03, 2023

5 Tips for Saving Money on West End Musicals, Today Tix App

 5 Tips for Saving Money on West End Musicals

5 tips for saving money on west end musicals, london, today tix

There’s nothing quite like seeing a musical on the West End Stage in London. The lights, the sets, the costumes—it’s magical! But if you’re not careful, the cost of seeing one of these productions can be astronomical, which is why it pays to make your plans in advance and learn how to save money on theatre tickets with the Today Tix app.

1) Buy Discounted Tickets

If you’re looking to save money on theatre tickets, today is your lucky day! The Today Tix app has a terrific selection of tickets at up to 50% off box office prices. Plus, if you buy tickets before noon you can save up to 35%! The Today Tix app allows you to browse current listings by date and performance time (or by show name if you’re in a hurry), which makes it super easy to find seats in advance.  When I was in London just a few weeks ago I managed to see 4 musicals in 5 days for just £88, the price of 1 normal priced ticket.  I saw Anything Goes, Joseph, Be More Chill and Pretty Woman, the Musical.

2) Go for Rush Tickets

If you’re looking to buy tickets to a West End musical, try for rush tickets. Rush seats can be had at a reduced price (usually £25), and they’re distributed on the app at 10 am every morning, the only catch is you can't choose where you sit and the maximum number of tickets you can book is two together.

3) Visit Off-Days

You’ll save a ton of money by buying tickets to off-days. The biggest benefit of going on a Tuesday is that performances are usually sparsely attended, which means you’ll have your pick of seats—and you can score cheaper tickets (and maybe even complimentary ones!). Going midweek also means fewer tourists and lower prices overall. And if Tuesdays aren’t your thing, try Wednesdays or Thursdays; crowds will be smaller then, too.

5) Sign Up For Alerts

One of my favourite features of TodayTix is its alerts system. You can sign up to receive alerts about show discounts, and special offers, or even get notified when tickets to your favourite musical are released. I’ve used alerts to get last-minute deals on shows like Anything Goes, Pretty Woman, the Musical, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat saving anywhere from 20%-50% off ticket prices, in fact, when I saw Anything Goes I paid £25 for a ticket which would have cost me £125 if I'd booked through the official site or the Barbican Theatre.


Sunday, July 02, 2023

3 Days in Edinburgh, Best Place for Cocktails, a Scottish Birthday Break

3 days in edinburgh, best places for cocktails, lady libertines, bramble bar, 63rd and first

I've just come back from a 3-night break in Edinburgh with Abigail and we definitely found the best places for cocktails, in fact, we even managed to try out the number 1 place for cocktails in Edinburgh on Trip Advisor. 

Our reason for the mini-break?  My forty-ninth birthday!  I'd saved some Red Letter Days vouchers and we added an extra night meaning 3 nights staying at the Yotel, Edinburgh a tech-heavy hotel on Queen's Street which is around a 15-minute walk from Edinburgh Waverley if like us you are arriving by train.

3 days in edinburgh, best place for cocktails, mexican food in Edinburgh

When we arrived on Monday afternoon, our first stop after checking in was for food and drinks at Wahaca, I love margaritas and Mexican food and I'd not had a chance to try the brand so thought I'd give it a go.  I will say that the Margaritas were great, and the food was good but the service was completely underwhelming.  Not sure I'd go there again, especially as we heard a manager talking to some customers who had been served feta instead of vegan feta and had taken a bite before realising!!

Our first cocktail bar was Lady Libertine which is just off St Andrew's Square, I had the Asturias which is tequila, lime, peach sherbet and coconut, a really great cocktail if you love sour tastes.  Lady Libertine is a beautiful bar, with lots of wood and an eclectic crowd, I felt like I was sitting in an office or a library but I really liked it.

I would say that cocktails in Edinburgh are expensive now, gone are the days of being able to get 2 cocktails for less than about £17- £20 and it's one reason I'm teaching myself the art of mixology, I love cocktails, I love a good time but I cannot afford repeated nights out when a round of drinks costs £20 or more.

One big thing I did notice on this visit to Edinburgh is how many bars are now table service, it's one good thing to come from the pandemic I'd suggest although another new thing seems to be the compulsory service charge.  I'm not quite so keen on mandatory service charges.  I always tip if the service has been good and often more than 10% so it always seems a little counterintuitive because when you don't have an option I'll often not pay more than what's already added.
3 days in Edinburgh, best cocktail bars, scotland trip, mandy charlton photography

If you fancy laid-back cocktails and good food, we visited 63rd and First on Frederick Street twice this visit, I really liked the ambience and the cushions!!  Again, expect a couple of cocktails to set you back around £20.  I have a love of glassware and after our visit, I am coveting some Nick and Nora glasses.

My favourite place we went for cocktails?  I hate to be a cliche but Bramble Bar and Lounge on the corner of Queen Street really do make amazing concoctions and it's no wonder they're the number 1 cocktail bar in Edinburgh on Trip Advisor.  It is a very small bar and it's first come, first served so do bear that in mind, it also doesn't have a sign so look for the clothing alteration shop on the corner and descend down the stone steps into the basement, I promise that it will be worth it.

3 days in edinburgh, best rodizio grill, fadenza, scotland trip, mandy charlton

For my birthday meal, Abigail took me to Fazenda, a rodizio restaurant on George Street serving the best meats I've ever tasted, they also make the most amazing cocktails and when I said it was my birthday they presented a tiny, perfect red velvet cake with a candle in it at the end of the meal.  Expect to pay around £36 per person daytime and £46 per person in the evenings.  The wine list was impressive and we could have stayed for hours, it was laid-back dining but done in a wonderful high-end way.  I 100% recommend it for a special occasion if you're in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is the most fantastic foodie city with restaurants and eateries on every corner, you can eat and drink any time of the night or day on every day of the week in every season.  This was, for me, the first time when I didn't really do anything historic but goodness, I had the most fun and I cannot wait until the next time we can go back together to find even more of the best cocktails.  Thank you so much Abigail for making your mama's 49th birthday the most fun birthday I have ever had.

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