A weekend in The Cotswolds

When you live and work in London (and have done your whole life), it’s important to plan an escape now and again. Where better, than The Cotswolds? This rural area covers six counties, notably Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, and is an absolute beauty of an escape from the city.

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Two of the best hotels: 

Barnsley House, Barnsely

Do you want the ultimate fairy-tale experience: four-poster beds, roll-top baths, secret gardens and delicious culinary treats, fit for royalty? Then look no further than Barnsley House. A ridiculously stylish grade II listed manor-house, within 11 acres of grounds, which were designed by critically acclaimed gardener Rosemary Verey. After losing yourself in the magnificent gardens, reward yourself with a treatment at the hotel’s gorgeous spa or a meal at The Potager restaurant, which serves fresh and seasonal produce from the hotel’s kitchen garden. The hotel operates a no-young-children policy during breakfast and dinner, but The Village Pub (situated opposite the hotel and part of the Barnsley House family) does welcome children of all ages.

The Making of a Garden

Barnsley House truly is the perfect hideaway – with magnificent, modern rooms, boasting outrageous luxury and comfort. I’m not ashamed to say that took a photo of the pillow labels and bought some when I got home. Judging by the company’s website – I’m not the only one. Now, given the high level of luxury, rooms do not come cheap – starting at £200. If you can afford it, The Rosemary Verey suite is pure heaven and the bed is like something from a Disney film.

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Breakfast is included and can be ordered to your room at no extra charge – something which we took full advantage of. We made the most of our eggs florentine in the beautiful conservatory of the Rosemary Verey suite, in our dressing gowns.

I loved our stay at Barnsley House and I’ve been back several times, just to walk through the grounds and have a drink. It is Cotswold luxury at its best and in and in a perfect location, close to Cirencester and beautiful Bibury.

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The Wheatsheaf Inn, Northleach

Now the Wheatsheaf is the epitome of Cotswold cool. Without a doubt, ‘Room 1’ boasts the best bath tub that I have ever had the luxury to soak in. We honestly could have spent the whole weekend just in the room, wrapped in a dressing gown, sinking into the ridiculous comfort of the bed!

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The restaurant uses seasonal and local produce, cooking rustic food and presenting it beautifully. The menu changes daily throughout the week and the restaurant also offers private dining. It is well-worth booking, even if you are a guest at the hotel – something which is recommended when booking.

The hotel has 14 rooms, which have either a power shower or bath – some have both. Every booking includes a complimentary continental breakfast, however a cooked breakfast comes at an additional cost. This is something that, for the amount charged per night, should be included. Saying that, the staff are extremely accommodating, and as there are no such facilities in your room, will happily bring tea and coffee to you as requested.

Even when we haven’t stayed at The Wheatsheaf, we will always make sure we pop in for a drink, as it is one of the coziest drinking spots in the Cotswolds. During the summer months, the beautiful garden has a buzzing atmosphere. The reviews don’t lie – with accolades from Mr & Mrs Smith, Tatler and Open Table to name a few -alongside a glowing review from Jay Rayner in the Observer, you must book a stay ASAP and experience the delight that is, “Doing Britain Proud.” Rooms from £100+

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We have spent plenty of weekends in The Cotswolds and it’s a special place for us. Although we have been lucky to stay in some remarkable hotels, we have also spent many-a-night at the Travelodge in Burford. It’s literally 2 hours door-to-door and we can always get a good deal. The location is excellent, it’s opposite The Cotswold Gateway (lovely food and friendly bar) and in walking distance of beautiful Burford, which is littered with shops, restaurants and village pubs. It is also a ten minute drive from Cirencester and half-way between Cheltenham and Oxford. Worth a look if you’re looking for a base to explore the area without breaking the bank.

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Photos by @foreacharoad

The Rough Guide to the Cotswolds: Includes Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon

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Climbing Snowdon

Those of you who have read my first post will know that I turned 30 this year – prompting me to review, reflect and plan my travel goals for the next decade. One of my aims, was to explore as much of Great Britain as I could. We booked a few days in Wales over Easter and were blown away by the breathtaking and captivating beauty of Snowdonia. We stayed on Anglesey, an island off the north-west coast of Wales, surrounded by stunning coastlines and beaches. For the past seven years, I have longed to return to New Zealand, a country that without a doubt, leaves a huge impression on everyone that visits. Wales definitely filled that hole and left me shocked, that such beauty could be found only a two-hour drive from Manchester!

Anyway, as part of our stay, we had decided to attempt a hike up Snowdon – the highest mountain in Wales, and the highest point in the British Isles outside the Scottish Highlands. I’m not going to lie, currently I’m not the fittest I have ever been, but I felt prepared enough to give it a go.

It’s important to note here that we did do our research. We weren’t able to find a great number of books, but purchased ‘The Ascent of Snowdon’, by E.G.Rowland on Amazon for £2.99. We did laugh when it arrived, as it was tiny and first published in 1975. However, it proved to be one of the most useful things we read (as well as information online – climb-snowdon.co.uk have some great guides and tips).

The Ascent of Snowdon: The Six Classic Routes Up Snowdon

We decided to park in Llanberis and take the Llanberis Path (the gentle one), 5 miles/8km long, total ascent of 980m/3,198ft. It was very busy, we were overtaken by plenty of children and young families – which did nothing for my self-esteem. Although the first couple of km were steep, it soon became easier.

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After approximately two hours, we reached the Halfway Cafe, which sells everything from coffees to cupasoups, homemade cakes to fridge magnets. There’s no running water up the mountain, so the cafe’s owner has to carry water, food and gas bottles two miles uphill every day. We refueled and warmed up, before taking on the next few km up to the train station at Clogwyn.

The Snowdon Mountain Railway runs from Llanberis to the summit in the Summer months, but currently only travels to Clogwyn, due to the snow. An online adult return stands at £29.00.

By now, we were walking into deep snow and many families with younger children were choosing this point to turn around. We continued towards the summit, where conditions became slightly treacherous and scary. Where the snow was powdery and fresh earlier in the day, the sheer volume of hikers had turned it to ice, and even with good walking boots, the ascent was slippery and hard work. Visibility was also now poor.

The final ascent to the summit was understandably tough, not just due to the volume of hiker traffic, but the snow here was extremely thick and the steps were covered in ice. However, the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment at the top was unreal. Never had I ever thought that I would be able to achieve something like this! Exercise is not usually my strong point. Unfortunately, the summit was engulfed by a thick grey cloud, therefore we couldn’t see anything from the top. Also, my iPhone couldn’t cope with the cold and died. Goodbye Facebook profile photo selfie…

As wonderful as it was to reach the top, the realisation that we had to begin our descent, down the icy, crowded steps, hung over us. However, if the man with a baby on his back – yes, a baby on his back – could do it, then we could. We decided to take the train track path (not necessarily a suggested route), as the snow was fresher, and didn’t seem as treacherous. We ended up following a group of hikers onto the Snowdon Ranger Track, which was also fairly easy and takes you down a beautiful route, providing some pretty spectacular views on a quieter path. Once to main, steep descent was over, we were completely alone, leaving us to enjoy the stunning views of the mountain we had just conquered (minus the cloud, which had now disappeared).

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The Snowdon Ranger Track finished at the Snowdon Ranger Youth Hostel, which was nowhere near our car. This is a massive mistake we made, so take note! We were aware that there is a bus which connects all the paths, allowing you to use two different routes and get a lift back to your car. Unfortunately, although only just 5:00pm, we had missed the last bus and had no mobile phone signal. There was also nobody in the YHA. Hmmm.

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Luckily, a lone YHA worker happened to cycle past and called us a cab. My legs were now dead and the quickest route back to Llanberis would have been back up the Snowdon Ranger Track and 1.5 miles over a hill – not something my legs would have allowed.

All in all, a fantastic experience, although it has taken nearly a week to walk properly again. We were as prepared as we could be, took plenty of water, chocolate and layers, and made it all the way to the top.

So the question now is, do we complete the set and climb Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis. We have trips to The Lake District and Ben Nevis booked for this year? Have you climbed all three and completed the three peaks?

 

 

How Wales Cured My New Zealand Withdrawal

I doubt that you will ever meet someone who has left New Zealand without falling in love with the country’s majestic, captivating landscapes. Even though I last visited the country nearly seven years ago, I never hesitate to exclaim that is the country I dream about returning to on a daily basis.

As part of our ‘turning 30’ lists, we had decided to spend more time exploring Britain. Therefore, we booked a short 3-night break to North Wales. We stayed in Holyhead, Angelsey – which gifted us with a beautiful view of Snowdonia National Park. From there, it was a 40 minute drive to Snowdon. Photos from @foreacharoad.

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Pentraeth – Red Wharf Bay

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Holyhead – South Stack

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Hiking Mount Snowdon

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Holyhead – Trearddur

Of course, nothing will ever live up to our beloved NZ, but the beauty of Snowdonia and North Wales, is a taste of Aotearoa, 90 minutes from Manchester.

We are on the hunt for other destinations around the United Kingdom that help to heal the withdrawal symptoms of other faraway beauties…