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Christmas at Blenhiem Palace: The Most Festive Place in the Cotswolds

 

 

 

Last weekend I had the pleasure of being invited to the VIP press launch of Christmas at Blenheim, an exclusive event being held at beautiful Blenheim Palace in the heart of Oxfordshire. Located in Woodstock, just 10 miles from the city of Oxford, Blenheim Palace is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the country, and is open all year round. As the Palace is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, tourists gather in their thousands every year to explore the house and it’s stunning grounds. As a local Oxfordshire girl I’ve been going to Blenheim since I was around 5 or 6 years old, and have been an annual pass holder many times. Blenheim is the perfect place for a family day out, a dog walk or just for a lazy stroll around the lake on a Sunday morning. The market town of Woodstock is worth a visit too, and I always pop in to some of the little shops, pubs and café’s when I’m stopping by – The Black Prince is a firm favourite of mine! The festive Christmas at Blenheim event was first launched back in 2016 and I can’t believe I haven’t visited until now! I’ve been wanting an excuse to attend so, when I was invited to the VIP press launch, I just couldn’t resist bringing my mum along for the ride and getting us both into the Christmas spirit. Here’s what we got up to, and what you can expect from your visit to Blenheim this Christmas…

 

 

The Great Court

 

 

Upon arrival we were taken into the Orangery for a welcome drink and a speech by the CEO of Blenheim before mingling and enjoying some festive nibbles. The Orangery is part of the estate I have never been to before, but it is decorated beautifully and is host to regular events at Blenheim, as well as being used as a restaurant serving evening meals, lunches and afternoon tea. Between the Orangery and the gift shop, with the small café inside, lies the Great Court. This is the starting point for the festivities of Christmas at Blenheim and is home to food stalls serving Bratwurst sausages and gourmet burgers as well as yummy churros and delicious donuts too. Opposite the food stalls you’ll find a helter-skelter, a carousel and a couple of other fairground favourites; tokens for which can be purchased at an additional cost. The Great Court looked super pretty all decorated in sparking lights, and got us feeling festive the moment we walked through the entrance archway.

 

The New Christmas Markets

 

 

A new attraction for 2018, the New Christmas Markets are located right in the middle of the main courtyard, just in front of the palace itself. Lined with lights and Christmas decorations, the markets sell every kind of gift you can think of, from cheese, chocolate and wine to portraits, bath products and pets toys. My mum and I spent some time wandering around the markets before we did the Cinderella exhibition and it was really lovely to see so many stalls set up all selling lots of fab gifts. We then sat down in the outdoor seating area (which was actually pretty small given that there were so many stands!) and indulged in a traditional German Bratwurst. The smells of the meat cooking, mixed with the smells of the sweet treats on sale, made our mouths water and I can see how people really get into the Christmas spirit whilst visiting this section!

 

The Fairytale Cinderella Experience

 

 

Another new attraction for this year, the Fairytale Cinderella Experience was something I was really looking forward to seeing as I am a TOTAL Disney Princess 😉 Upon entrance into the main palace you are greeted by Christmas tree after Christmas tree, glittering with lights, bows, flowers, stars, anything you can think of that is slightly sparkly is waiting for you in the entrance hall! We said hello to one of the staff members before heading off on the Experience. I’ve been to the palace many times so know what all the rooms are like, but the sheer amount of twinkling lights and decorations made it so much more magical and they have really done a fantastic job of making the palace look extra special. Each room is decorated with props and clothing from a certain character from Cinderella, so you have Prince Charming, the Wicked Stepmother, the Ugly Sisters and then lovely Cinderella herself right at the end, with a gorgeous display of her dresses illuminated against a back drop, and the stunning glass slipper encased in a glass box! There are of course some of Cinderella’s friends dotted throughout the trail and I think you are supposed to count the mice in each room along the way, but I was totally distracted by the sheer beauty of every room that I totally forgot to count! I was really impressed by the Cinderella Experience and I do think it is worth the money to pay extra and see this exhibition whilst you’re at Blenheim for the evening… it was truly magical!

 

The Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail

 

 

This was what we had been waiting for, the main reason I wanted to attend and the focal point of the entire event, the Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail was the last stop on our itinerary for the evening and it certainly didn’t disappoint! I had seen so many photos online which looked amazing but, if I’m honest, totally didn’t do the place any justice, and it doesn’t really look as good until you see it in person. But let me tell you, it is well worth being surprised and seeing everything up close and personal as every single section is just incredible! You’ll be taken on a winter wonderland and lead through a variety of different areas including a tunnel of lights, a majestic waterfall, a sea of flowers hanging from the trees and a singing statue in the middle of the lake. The lights, the animation, the music, everything is seriously spectacular and I could have done that trail over and over again. It takes around an hour to complete the trail, maybe a little longer if you have small kids who want to run around and take everything in, and there are some muddy paths and steep hills in places, so be careful if you’re bringing the buggy. The trail was the best part of our entire evening and I would recommend that everyone does this part of Christmas at Blenheim as it’ll leave even the Scrooges amongst us feeling full of festive cheer!

 

 

As I’m sure you can tell from the insane amount of twinkly lights and Christmas trees, I had such a fantastic time at Blenheim for this event and it really got me feeling festive!  Everything from the Great Court to the Christmas Markets looked absolutely stunning, and the attention to detail on some of the décor was second to none. The brand new Cinderella Experience was better than I thought it was going to be, and I can see this being a real hit with kids and adults alike – especially if they’re visiting the Palace for the first time. The real crowning glory though was of course the Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail which totally blew me away. Every single section was expertly decorated, with the music, lights, silhouettes and props looking incredible from every angle. I honestly had the most magical time at Blenheim and I really can’t wait to go back again next year! Have you been to Blenheim Palace before? And have you been at Christmas time? Let me know what you thought of it, and I would love to see all your festive photos!

Don’t forget to head to the Blenheim Palace website to purchase your tickets for this event, but be patient as it is hugely popular. I spoke to the CEO of the Estate when I was at the press launch and he told me that a whopping 82,000 tickets had already been sold before the launch night had even started, so get yours here if you want to book your preferred dates! Tickets cost £36pp for combined entrance to the Cinderella Experience and the Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail, whilst tickets to just the Lights Trail cost £26pp.

Love Jess x

NB. Big thanks to the fab teams at Flamingo PR and Blenheim Palace for hosting me on this wonderful event! My tickets to Christmas at Blenheim were provided to me complimentary for the purpose of this review, but all thoughts, words and photos are of course my own.

 

 

 

 

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Travel Guide to Dorset – How to Spend a Weekend in the West Country

Ahh beautiful Dorset; I really love this place. I love Great Britain and all that comes with it, especially as we have some real gems in our country that often get overlooked in favour of travelling abroad. I know we aren’t famed for our good weather, but when the wind is still and the sun is shining, there’s plenty of reasons to have something to smile about when in the UK. Last month I took a spontaneous visit down to Dorset for a weekend of sun, sea and sand and had the most wonderful time exploring places I hadn’t been to since I was a kid. The weather was warm, the sky was blue and I had tonnes of fun. I spent one day and one night in Bournemouth wandering along the sea front, sunbathing on the beach and playing games in the arcade before driving over to the pretty village of Lulworth to see its famous cove and Jurassic landmark, Durdle Door. Here’s a taster of what I got up to on my weekend down in the West Country, as well as my top ten things to see and do in Dorset too…

 

 

Hit the beaches

Bournemouth has one of the best beaches in the country, and when the weather is warm and the sun is shining, you’ll be hard pushed to find a better location for a summer seaside break! Bournemouth’s long stretch of sandy beach coupled with its shallow waters and historic pier make it the perfect place for a seaside staycation. Why not have fish and chips on the pier, or take a dip in the sea if you’re feeling brave enough? The Atlantic isn’t the warmest sea on the planet, but with the UK heatwave we had this year I heard the waters were positively tropical and were the perfect temperature for swimming in! If you’re really wanting to push yourself you could always zip line from the pier to the beach whilst gazing in awe at the blue waters beneath your feet. This is something I didn’t attempt during my visit, but the queues were huge and it looked a fantastic thing to do for both kids and adults alike.

 

Wander through Bournemouth’s pretty gardens

I discovered these a few years ago and now go every time I’m in Bournemouth just to escape the hustle and bustle of the beach and pier. The gardens are located right in the town centre, just a 5min walk from the beach and shops,  and are filled with tall trees, exotic plants, colourful flowers and quirky things too. Made up of over 2000 acres of land, the gardens are split into three areas: the Lower Gardens, Upper Gardens and the Central Gardens, and are open to the public all year round. Why not wander down the curved pavements and past the pretty borders towards a viewing point over the bay, where you can take in the fantastic sea views in front of you. Alternatively, head over to the recently renovated Boscombe Gardens where you can play Mini Golf on one of the lawns, take the kids trampolining, or watch as they run around the brand new water play area. The gardens are home to a series of events throughout the year, and each season brings something new so there will be plenty to see and do whatever time of year you decide to visit!

 

Make the most of the amusement arcades

Who doesn’t love an amusements arcade when you’re on holiday?! I’ve been visiting seaside towns since I was a baby and, for me, nothing beats the thrill of winning a few pennies on the 2p machines or hitting the £5 jackpot on the one arm bandit! Bournemouth’s amusements arcade have been present since 19xx and they’ve really upped their game over the past few years with new attractions including dance machines, air hockey tables and basketball hoops too. I never tend to spend too long in arcades for fear of missing out on the good weather outside, but if it’s a rainy day then this is the perfect way to while away a few hours.

 

 

Have a girls night out on the town

Bournemouth is a great night out and is the perfect place if you’re looking for a fun evening with the girls (or guys). I’ve been out in Bournemouth a few times now and it never fails to disappoint, particularly because there’s a huge range of bars to suit all music tastes and ages, and there are plenty of restaurants to grab some food in before you start drinking. As Bournemouth is a uni town, there are inevitably lots of young people out (I’m 25 and I felt OLD when I went out last month!) but it’s great to meet lots of new people from different parts of the country, and the cheap student deals on drinks helps the bank balance too. Each time I’ve been out in Bournemouth I’ve started with one of the causal bars like Slug and Lettuce, All Bar One or Be At One, had some food at either and then ended up in mega nightclub Halo for lots of dancing. Halo is a nightclub built into a church which is super cool and offers a great night out.

 

Spend half a day in Lulworth

If you’re done with the bustling streets and bright lights of Bournemouth, why not take a day trip to the nearby Lulworth Cove? Just an hour’s drive from Bournemouth and close to Poole and Weymouth too,  Lulworth Cove is one of Britain’s best kept secrets. A charming town with shops, restaurants and places to stay, Lulworth is famed for it’s horseshoe shaped Cove which lies on a pebbled beach at the bottom of the main street. You can easily spend a day wandering around the cute souvenir shops, eating fish & chips on the beach and marvelling at the pretty cove. There are walks and hikes to take around the area too, and the perfect way to end the day is to cosy up in one of Lulworth’s pubs and enjoy some home cooked British food.

 

 

Hike from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door

Durdle Door is one of the most famous landmarks in Britain and, in my opinion, certainly one of the most impressive too! I hadn’t been to Durdle Door since I was a spritely 10 year old, as I mentioned above, but visiting again as an adult gave me a totally different perspective and made me appreciate it so much more. On my last visit I played on the beach with my sisters and went fishing in the rock pools, barely paying attention to the huge stone arch that lay in the sea in front of me, but this time round I simply just stared at it from every angle, taking it all in, and realising just how amazing nature really is. We sat on the beach admiring the view before heading up the steep hill and making our way back along the walking trail to Lulworth Cove. I always forget how majestic Durdle Door is and it reminded me of just how much I loved my time in Dorset as a child. The backdrop makes for the most AMAZING photos too so your Instagram grid will certainly thank you after you’ve had a photo shoot at this UNESCO World Heritage Site!

 

Make a seaside stop off at Poole or Weymouth

I’ve never actually been to Poole, but I’ve heard there’s plenty of things to see and do, including visiting the popular Sandbanks Beach and the Splashdown Waterpark. You can also head over to Brownsea Island to look out for wildlife, go hiking and take part in some water-sports too. Poole is also home to one of the biggest natural harbours in the UK, receiving its status as a designated world heritage site back in 1999. Weymouth is like a smaller Bournemouth, with a long sandy beach, plenty of shops, restaurants and bars and lots of amusements arcades too. The nightlife is a little more vibrant in Weymouth than it is in Poole, and there are lots of events taking place all year round. I’d also recommend taking a daytrip to Chesil Beach to eye up even more of Dorset’s fantastic Jurassic Coast.

 

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Last time I visited this place I was just a little girl who was too busy looking in rockpools for fish and too intent on trying to find the prettiest shells to even stop and take in the beautiful views of the #JurassicCoast 😍I loved visiting as a kid and have fond memories of attempting to copy my dad skimming stones whilst playing on the beach with my sisters and our little westie as my mum tried desperately to keep an eye on us all! 😂 Despite loving our family holiday as a kid, my visit back to #DurdleDoor at the weekend made me see this UNESCO world heritage sight in a totally different light. I appreciated it 100x more the second time round, as an adult, and couldn't stop staring at its incredible natural beauty 🌊 Have you ever been somewhere as a child and an adult and had a totally different experience? #WanderlustWednesday #VisitDorset #IgersDorset #LoveDorset #ExploreDorset #DiscoverDorset #DorsetCoast #Dorset 🌍

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Where to Eat/Drink

As I mentioned above, Bournemouth is a great night out and has some fantastic food and drink places to enjoy during your visit. There are plenty of well-known chain and high street restaurants to choose from, as well as plenty of independent eateries too. I’ve tended to eat at the branded places like Prezzo or Ask just because I know what I’m getting and I like their food, but I need to be a little more adventurous next time. Harry Ramsden’s on the pier is the BEST place for fish and chips and I always have lunch there every time I’m in Bournemouth! For drinks I would choose Slug and Lettuce/All Bar One for pre-drinks and then end up in either Halo or Cameo if you’re looking for a nightclub to party at. Lulworth is much smaller but still has café’s and pubs to choose from for lunch or dinner. Try the café next to the visitor information centre for top notch scones with clotted cream and jam, or try The Castle (as mentioned above) for their home cooked pub meals. I haven’t eaten out at all in Weymouth or Poole but I have heard the Dorset Burget Company in Weymouth is amazing – it is owned by my old bosses son and has won plenty of foodie awards so I defo need to try it out and pop in to say hello next time I’m down in the West Country.

 

Where to Stay

During my time in Bournemouth I tend to opt for cheap hotels like Premier Inn’s or Travelodge’s in order to get the best value for money, and they often have great central locations too. On my most recent stay I booked the Bournemouth Travelodge Central Hotel, located just off the sea front and a few doors down from the posh Marriott Hotel. Our double room was basic but spacious and clean with a nice hot shower in the bathroom and we could *just* make out a sea view from our bedroom window! The price was an absolute STEAL at just £70 for the night and the location couldn’t have been better. There is parking on site (£6 for 24hrs) but we couldn’t find any spaces so left the car on one of the residential streets just opposite the exit and it was fine here all weekend – oh and it was totally free too! You could pay for breakfast, lunch or dinner at the hotel if you wanted it but we opted to do neither and ate out the entire time as there are so many foodie places in Bournemouth. As for Lulworth, I haven’t stayed there for a long time, but the last time I did I was probably 9 or 10 years old and shared a family room with my parents and sisters at the 16th century Castle Inn, located right in the heart of the village. With a thatched roof, gorgeous garden and bright bedrooms, my memories from The Castle Inn are certainly happy ones and the location is unbeatable. A 5 min walk will take you into the centre of Lulworth, with its shops and restaurants on your doorstep, and the Cove itself is right at the bottom of the mini high street.

As you can see, there are sooo many things to do in Dorset that you’ll barely scratch the surface if you spend just a weekend there. I have visited Dorset many times over the years and still haven’t seen all of it, but it is such a pretty part of the world and I could visit again and again without getting bored. I’m a massive fan of promoting UK travel and think Dorset makes the perfect place for a Great British staycation at any time of year, but even more so in the summer months when the weather is warm and the sea is (almost) bearable to swim in! Have you been to Dorset before? Let me know if you love it as much as I do!

Love Jess x

 

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*NEW BLOG POST* ((Link in bio)) I feel like every single person right now is leaving their jobs to become full time content creators/bloggers/freelancers. It's been just over 2 years since I made that same decision to quit my job & work full time as a freelance travel blogger. I had an amazing year working for myself with plenty of ups including flexible working hours, no annual leave restrictions, press trips and new clients/collaboration projects but there were inevitably lots of downs & it just didn't make me happy. I was incredibly lonely, I missed working in an office alongside colleagues, and I struggled with the inconsistent workload and lack of constant wages coming in. After a year I ended up at a new 9-5 job (this time in the travel industry to satisfy my wanderlust) which I needed in order to bring some routine back into my life. In this new blog post I'll be showing the good, the bad and the ugly sides of freelance life and that there's much more to it than just press trips and Instagram posts! If you've ever considered going freelance, or if you are currently working for yourself and wondering how our experiences might compare, then this post is for you! ✨#wordpress #newpost #bloglife #freelancer #bloggers

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A Day in Oxford with Marco Polo Guides

Last weekend I spent a sunny Saturday wandering around my home city of Oxford, playing tourist and exploring it through different eyes as I joined a group of fellow travel bloggers and travel industry professionals for a fantastic event. Well known travel guide book company Marco Polo Guides, named after the famous Venetian merchant and explorer, were our hosts for the day and we were in Oxford to celebrate the launch of a brand new guide book for the city. This event was rather historic for Marco Polo, with it being their first ever blogger event, and with this book being the first ever UK guidebook (outside of London) to be published. The weather was super kind to us and we had a wonderful time checking out the landmarks, finding little hidden gems and talking all things travel with some wonderful bloggers and professionals. Here are my highlights from this wonderful day…

 

 

Brunch at Handle Bar Café

 

 

We kickstarted our day with late brunch at quirky café The Handle Bar, right in the heart of the city centre but tucked down the quiet St Michael’s Street, away from the hustle and bustle. This place was super cool and doubled up as a bicycle repair garage a well as a café. Specialising in dietary requirements, there were plenty of healthy, vegan and vegetarian options to choose from. Most of the fellow attendees went for a healthy poached eggs and avo combo, whereas I went for a big full English and made sure I enjoyed every mouthful! Although super busy, the vibe was really laid back, the staff were so friendly and lovely and it was a great place to meet everyone for the first time.

 

Bar & pub stops at The Varsity Club and The Turf Tavern

 

 

After brunch we walked up the high street towards the famous Covered Market, which is home to tonnes of little shops, cafes and boutique stores. We wandered around the market and then had some free time to explore. As a local girl, I have walked round the Covered Market approx. 5000 times and although it is lovely, there isn’t loads to see. However, when I suggested heading to rooftop bar The Varsity Club for views of the dreaming spires, a large proportion of the group wanted to follow suit and I gladly lead the way up the steep staircase to this hidden gem located on Oxford’s High Street. Sunshine? Check. Aperol spritz? Check. Rooftop views? Check. What more could you want on a sunny Saturday afternoon?! After we re-grouped and went on a bit more walking, we then decided to head to famous pub The Turf Tavern, just off Holywell Street, and parked ourselves in their rather small but very cutesy beer garden. A regular haunt of the likes of CS Lewis, Thomas Hardy and, more recently a whole host of political figures including Margaret Thatcher and Bill Clinton, this historic Grade II listed building is super popular with locals and tourists alike and is a must-visit when in Oxford.

 

Walking tour of the city

 

 

As it’s so small, Oxford is best explored on foot and you can definitely see it all in a day. Obviously I’ve lived here all my life so I know pretty much everything there is to know about Oxford, but I know walking is always the best method of discovery – trust me when I say that parking/driving is a nightmare! Our walking tour took us from the Covered Market, down the High Street and towards the Head of the River where we stopped to watch the boats going punting up and down the Thames. We then made our way past both the Queens and Oriel colleges before stopping to take lots of photos down pastel coloured Holywell Street which is an Instagrammers DREAM! After that we headed towards the Bodleian Library, Sheldonian Theatre and the Bridge of Sighs before making our way towards the most famous landmark in the city, the beautiful RadCam.

 

Free time at the Radcliffe Camera

 

 

Probably my most favourite building in oxford, and definitely the most popular, the Radcliffe Camera is a sight to behold at any time of year, but even more so when the skies are blue and the sun is shining! Belonging to Oxford University, and built in the 1730s in a Neo-Classical style, the Camera is used to house the Radcliffe Science Library and is situated just behind the High Street, between Brasenose and All Souls Colleges. The square it sits in is always busy with tourists, but it’s location opposite the pretty St Mary’s Church is enviable and I would definitely recommend climbing the steps of the church tower for breath-taking panoramic views of the Camera and the rest of the city’s spires below.

 

Champagne afternoon tea at The Vaults & Garden

 

 

We ended our day the way we started it – with lots of food and drink! Perfectly positioned directly opposite the Radcliffe Camera, the Vaults and Garden Café is within the crypt of St Mary’s Church and its outdoor garden offers unspoilt views of the Camera itself. We sat inside as there were so many of us, and the interior was beautiful, with original stone walls from the church and a lovely décor too. We were treated to the most amazing afternoon tea, with sandwiches, cakes and scones as well as hot and soft drinks and some bubbles too. Sitting down for afternoon tea in such a beautiful setting was the perfect way to end a fantastic day filled with travel, blog talk and lots of fun! The staff couldn’t do enough for us, they were all so friendly and super welcoming so I will definitely be coming back to the Vaults and Garden for more sweet treats and I already can’t wait to tell my friends all about it!

 

As you can see, our day consisted of lots of walking and lots of food and drink stops which was a great way of seeing the city and spending quality time with my new blogger friends. The team at Marco Polo were fantastic, super friendly and really welcoming. It was so nice to attend a local event as I am always travelling to and from London to attend blogging courses/conferences and work-shops etc, so it was so nice to stay so close to home! I was born in Oxford and have grown up there so obviously know the city like the back of my hand, but it was amazing to experience it in a different light and share some of my insider tips with the rest of the gang too. Have you ever been to Oxford before? What do you like most about it? I know I’m biased but I think it’s one of the prettiest cities in the UK, and there really is no place like home!

Love Jess x

N.B. A huge thankyou must go to Hayley, Senja, Diane and Petra from Marco Polo for putting on such a fantastic event, and to the Handle Bar and The Vaults for a wonderful brunch and afternoon tea to start and end the day! I was invited to this event as a guest of Marco Polo Guides, but as always all thoughts, comments, and words are of course my own.

 

 

 

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Press Visit: 24 Hours in Bath Spa

 

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited on my first ever press trip to the beautiful city of Bath Spa and I had the most AMAZING overnight stay! Working in conjunction with Visit Bath and the stunning Francis Hotel, I was able to obtain a press pass which granted me access to some of the city’s top attractions. Located in the pretty county of Somerset, the city of Bath is one of the most visited in England, attracting over 3.8 million visitors each year.

Bath became a Spa in 60 AD with the Latin name Aquæ Sulis when the Romans built the baths in the valley of the River Avon, and remains the only place in the UK where you can bathe in thermal waters from the natural hot springs underneath the city. The whole city was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, and is still the only place in the UK to have this title. The centre of Bath is pretty small, and everything can be seen in a day or two so, without further ado, here is my ultimate guide to this gorgeous city!

 

How to get there

Bath is perfectly positioned just off the M4 and M5 motorways, just 19 miles from Bristol Airport and a 90 minute train ride away from London Paddington station, meaning it can be accessed by bus, car, coach, train or plane. However, as it’s a fairly small city, the roads are often congested with heavy traffic and parking can be a little tricky as it is often so busy. The whole of Bath can be explored on foot, and walking is the best way to truly discover the city, so ditch the car and arrive by train instead! Bath Spa station is just a 5 minute walk from the city centre and offers fantastic frequent services that run smoothly, allowing you to visit from many different UK rail stations.

1024px-bath_spa_railway_station_from_beechen_cliff

Photo credit: By Rwendland – Own work. Source: Commons Wikimedia

 

 

Where to stay

There’s a vast array of different hotels and B&B’s in Bath, many of which are luxury spa hotels given the city’s thermal water heritage, but there are properties to suit every need and budget. For a luxurious stay in a beautiful setting at the heart of the city, I’d highly recommend the Francis Hotel, located on Queens Square. With it’s original Georgian architecture still in tact, the hotel was converted from a row of terraced houses and now boasts 98 individually designed modern bedrooms with a distinct historic feel.

 

There’s also a delightful tearoom where afternoon tea is served daily, snug lounge and bar areas, an underground dining/breakfast room and famous chef Raymond Blanc’s signature restaurant, Brasserie Blanc. Onsite parking and free WIFI is available at the hotel, and the friendly staff are on hand to help whatever your query might be. For a 4* stay at the heart of Bath you really can’t go wrong with the Francis Hotel – my full review will be posted on the blog soon!

 

What to see

There are a number of impressive landmarks in Bath which are not to be missed on your visit to the city – here are my Top 5:

 bathabbey Bath Abbey – one of the oldest Church buildings in the UK, with striking Perpendicular Gothic architecture and history dating back to the 7th century. The Abbey runs frequent tours allowing visitors t0 climb the 212 steps up to the top of the tower for spectacular panoramic views across the city.

 

 

The Roman Baths – follow in the footsteps of the Romans and explore the site where they bathed in thermal plunge pools over 2000 years ago. With a fantastic museumromanbaths and original architecture dating back to 70AD, the Baths are a natural wonder and perhaps the city’s most popular tourist attraction.

royalcrescent

 

 

 

The Royal Crescent & The Circus – a row of 30 terraced houses laid out in the shape of a sweeping crescent overlooking the gardens of the Royal Victoria Park. Both the Crescent and the Circus are some of the country’s best examples of fine Georgian architecture.

pulteneybridgePulteney Bridge – one of only 4 historic bridges left in the world with shops built into it on either side. Completed back in 1774, the bridge was designed to connect the city with the Georgian town of Bathwick. Cross the River Avon in style & gaze down to the striking crescent weir below.

 

Thermae Bath Spa – award-winning natural spa allowing visitors to bathe in the UK’s only naturally warm mineral waters, just as the Romans did over 2000 years ago! Immerse yourself in the spa’s different chambers; a lazy river with Jacuzzi, a range of aromatic steam rooms and a thermal rooftop pool with spectacular views of the city skyline.

thermae-spa

Photo credit: Rob Slade Photography

Where to eat & drink

Bath is known for its high end eateries and its iconic Pump Room is a stunning restaurant at the heart of the city, located just next to Bath Abbey & The Roman Baths. There are also a number of popular chain restaurants, such as Pizza Express, Nandos, Prezzo, Wagamama & Browns which offer visitors an eclectic choice when it comes to dining. As Bath is also a uni city, there are plenty of bars, pubs and even a couple of clubs for those looking for some adventurous nightlife.

 

For a quintessentially English treat, Sally Lunn’s Tea Rooms are not to be missed! With history dating back to the 1400s, Sally Lunn’s is one of the oldest eateries in England. Guests flock from all corners of the globe to get a taste of the world famous sweet and savoury buns, served with different flavoured toppings and fillings to suit every palette. The buns are so large that they’re served in half and traditionally eaten with a knife and fork. Today the restaurant serves up a menu based on the buns that were first created by Sally Lunn herself back in 1680 when she arrived in England as a French refugee. There is a museum and small gift shop underneath the restaurant which houses the original kitchens that Sally used to bake her world famous buns. The museum is free for diners to enter and you can even buy your own buns to take home!

 

What not to miss

Discover a hidden gem at the heart of the city and indulge in a private spa session at The Cross Bath. Located next to the Thermae Spa and part of the same building, although it is not attached, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the steaming thermal waters and enjoy an intimate spa session with private changing facilities. The Cross Bath can be visited individually, or hired out by a maximum of 12 people at a time, making it a quiet alternative to the busy facilities offered at the Thermae Spa. The spa’s catering team can also provide nibbles and champagne for a luxurious treat and an occasion to remember. The Cross Bath is recognised as an official sacred site and is a hidden gem not to be missed when visiting the city!

The Cross Bath- a hidden gem at the heart of #bath! 🇬🇧 #visitbath #visitengland #visitbritain #lovegreatbritain #UK #GB #igersbath

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When to visit

Bath is beautiful at any time of year, but I particularly love it during the autumn/winter months, when the countdown to Christmas is well and truly on! In the lead up to the big day, there are a number of popular events in the city, such as The Great Bath Feast, The Bath Film Festival, Bath Rotary Club Fireworks Display, and The Bath Christmas Markets, making autumn/winter one of the busiest times of the year.

Ladies and gents, The Roman Baths! 🇬🇧 #bath #visitbath #UK #GB #visitbritain #lovegreatbritain

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Visiting in spring or summer is just as lovely too though, with the better weather Bath comes alive and the blue skies and green grass really shows off the city in all its glory. Bath Literature Festival, Vitality Bath Half Marathon and the Bath Comedy and Bath Digital Festivals are all fun, family friendly events on the spring/summer calendar making it a great time to visit.

How beautiful is the #royalcrescent looking in the sunshine today?! #bath #visitbath #GB #UK @visitbath #visitbritain #lovegreatbritain

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Why visit Bath?

In summary, Bath is one of those really gorgeous cities that should definitely not be missed when planning a trip to the UK! It’s super easy to visit by either rail, road or air and is in a prime location in the west of the country, perfect if breaking up your journey to London and surrounding areas. Offering a whole host of things to see and do, the history and charm of Bath will leave you wanting to return time and time again.

Oh Bath Abbey how I've missed you! 😍🇬🇧 #bath #wanderlustwednesday #UK #GB @visitbath

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So there we have it, my full guide to visiting the city of Bath – you can now plan your trip and go enjoy a fabulous stay there whenever you choose to visit! Have you ever been to Bath before, or are you planning on going anytime soon? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Love Jess x

NB. For this press visit I was lucky enough to be a guest with Visit Bath and with the Francis Hotel, but all opinions are of course my own.

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What makes Britain Great?

Hi everyone,

With all the recent Royal Baby Fever that has swept the nation it’s an exciting time to be British so I thought I’d put together an inspiring post of what makes Britain Great! Here’s my personal pick of my top ten favourite places to visit in our lovely country…

1) London

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Steeped in hundreds of years worth of history and offering endless numbers of tourist attractions, the capital city has it all. In my opinion, London is without doubt one of the biggest reasons why tourists flock to Britain year after year. The most iconic landmarks include Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, The London Eye, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey & Buckingham Palace to name but a few. I’ve been going to London many many times since I was young and I never tire of it- I could wander round those streets forever! It’s my dream to live in the city one day and I’m very much determined to make that dream a reality in the not too distant future. London has so much to offer you need a good few days to do it all but there are lots of well organised bus tours and trips that can be done within a day if you are pushed for time. Have a read of my most recent day trip to London here:

2) Stonehenge

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One of the most iconic monuments in English history is the legend of Stonehenge in Wiltshire; a circular group of Stones that were said to have been a place of healing in medieval times. Alleged to have been built in 2000BC, the Stones offer a wealth of history and have been a tourist attraction for hundreds of years. People flock from all over the world to see Stonehenge, and it’s easy to see why with so much history. Also named a UNESCO heritage site, Stonehenge offers an interesting day out for all the family although the entry prices aren’t cheap! As a tip, you can see the Stones from the main road if you don’t want to pay to view them up front!

3) Cornwall

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I’ve been visiting the beautiful county of Cornwall pretty much every year since I was born- it was the first ever holiday I was taken on as a baby and we’ve returned as a family countless times since then. Our most recent visit was in 2007 but we are heading back this July for a week and I’m so excited! The little fishing village of St Ives is my all time favourite part of Cornwall, bringing back so many of my childhood memories with every visit. Situated around the harbour, there is such a buzz about the place and there are lots of things to see and do. Enjoy the famous cream teas in a local Cornish pub, visit the well known Tate Gallery, fish off the end of the harbour, while away the hours with the kids in one of the many sea front arcades or simply relax on the beach. The rest of Cornwall has so much to offer, including the nearby Flambards Themepark at Helston, the mystical Zennor where you can learn about the local mermaid myths, the beautiful beaches of Kynance & Sennen Coves and experience the famous Eden Project at Bodelva. For a truly amazing and magical day out head to Lands End- the place where it really does feel as if you’re standing at the edge of the world.

4) Liverpool

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I’ve grown up visiting Liverpool since I was born and my family are from there but, although I am obviously a bit biased, there are tonnes of reasons why this city is on my list! Named European Capital of Culture in 2008, it’s easy to see why it achieved that impressive title with all the things there are to see and do. The historic Albert Docks are one of my favourite parts of the city and my grandad always has endless stories from his Royal Navy days to tell me & my sisters whenever we visit! Shopping and nightlife in Liverpool are fantastic, with so much choice you’re never stuck for somewhere to go! Head to the new Liverpool One shopping centre for a mix of high street and designer stores, or check out Concert Square for an evening of night time clubbing and entertainment. The historic Cavern Club, where it all began for 60s icons The Beatles, is also a must see attraction. Read my most recent Liverpool write up here:

5) Oxford

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Ok so I know that this one’s going to be biased AGAIN as this is my home city but no visit to the UK is complete without a trip to Oxford! Famous for its first class global university status, Oxford has it all. Go punting on the River Thames, wander round the many impressive Churches or museums, take a picnic in the uni parks or hit the shops on the pretty high street; there really is something for everyone. For me, I love nothing more than exploring the landmarks that are tucked away behind the hidden side streets- don’t miss The Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library and The Bridge of Sighs. Oxford isn’t the largest city so you don’t need too long to see the sights, but you can make the most of your day by hopping on one of the tourist buses and doing everything all at once. A visit to the nearby Blenheim Palace in the picturesque Cotswold village of Woodstock is also an absolute must. It’s the birth place of Sir Winston Churchill so it’s an obvious tourist destination and I’ve blogged about Blenheim ALOT lately as I’ve recently become a season ticket holder, but it really is a fantastic day out for all the family and should definitely be included in a visit to Oxford. Read my latest Blenheim & Oxford write ups here:

6) Bath

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Named a UNESCO world heritage site and famed for its Roman roots, the city of Bath is stunning and well worth a day trip when visiting our historical country. Relax in the thermae spa’s, the only place in the UK where you can bathe in the same natural hot springs as the Celts and Romans did over 2000 years ago. Visit the Roman Bath museum to learn of the origins of the hot springs and the roles they played in Roman times, and listen to an interactive audio commentary as you explore. Other famous attractions are The Royal Crescent and Pultney Bridge which are beautiful pieces of architecture. Dining in Bath is very good, with a lovely selection of bars and restaurants the city caters for all types of appetite. Don’t forget to enjoy afternoon tea with cake and scones at one of the many traditional cafe’s in the heart of the city. Shopping wise, Bath offers a mix of well known high street and designer stores and everything is located close by. Don’t miss the stunning Abbey which is truly spectacular, especially when lit up at night. I visited the Christmas markets a few years ago and there were hundreds of little wooden stalls located in the Abbey grounds, along with carol singing in the Church itself which was just magical. If you have time, climb up to the top of the Abbey for magnificent views across the city.

7) York

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Similar to Bath, the city of York is a rich in romance and culture with history dating back to Roman times. Famed for its winding streets, cobbled roads and one of the largest pedestrian only areas in Europe, York is the perfect place for a quintessentially English break. Take a ghost tour after dark to explore the mythical haunted areas of the city or visit the York Dungeons for a jaw droppingly spooky experience which is fun for the whole family. The Jorvik Viking Centre and the iconic York Minster are also must see attractions. When visiting York I love nothing more than sitting in a cosy little pub enjoying traditional British (and Northern!) pie and chips on a cold winters day. A visit to Betty’s Tea Rooms in the heart of the city is also a must and their world famous cakes aren’t to be missed. York in December is particularly special with all the Christmas markets and the Minster looks even more beautiful especially when lit up at night. There are many bars, restaurants and a few clubs in the city which make for a brilliant night out- just watch your heels on all those cobbles!

8) Bournemouth

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The seaside town of Bournemouth is always popular with tourists and residents alike, especially during the summer months when we catch a rare glimpse of the sun! Typically, our weather over here is incredibly dull and rainy but when the sun shines it’s certainly brightens the place up and hundreds of people flock to our beaches to try and tan their pasty legs! Bournemouth is lined with arcades, bars, cafes and restaurants all along the sea front and the pier is one of the main attractions. Home to a brilliant Sea Life Aquarium, National Exhibition Centre and the best fish and chips in England (Harry Ramsden’s is a must visit!!) Bournemouth is a brilliant day out for all.

9) Stratford upon Avon

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Set on the River Avon in Warwickshire, Stratford is the birthplace of the great William Shakespeare and is a typical example of a historical little English town with lots of attractions on offer. The buildings in Stratford are beautiful, and with so many to marvel at you could easily while away the hours wandering round the streets just admiring the architecture. The centre of the town is situated around the river with canal boats often cruising up and down making their way through each lock. On my most recent visit a couple of years ago I hired a boat and rowed down the river with a friend- on a lovely day it’s a great way to enjoy some fresh air! The Royal Shakespeare Company put on some great shows at their flagship theatre and there are many references to the man himself throughout the town. Visit his birth place and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage to get your fix of tourist attractions. Stratford also has many high street shops, lively bars and pretty pubs if you’re looking to relax and take some time out.

10) The Lake District

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Home to many beautiful national parks, The Lake District is one of the most outstanding areas of natural beauty in the whole country. I’ve been visiting most years since I was little and have never had so much fresh air in one week! I’ve spent hours climbing up mountains and hills, going on endless dog walks, and cruising along the lakes in large boats whilst breathing in the wonderful sea air. The Lake District is a perfect getaway if you’re looking to explore the wilderness and be away from the hustle and bustle of normal city life. The winter is a great time to visit although it does get bitterly cold! Admire the stunning snow topped mountains, cosy up in pubs with roaring log fires, and visit a number of pretty national parks. The Lake District is simply English countryside and landscape at it’s very best.

So there you have it, my list of top ten places to visit in the UK. I’ve also been to many other cities including Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff that haven’t made the top ten but are still worthy of a visit if you are in the country! I’ve primarily been to places that are based in England which is why there is no mention of Scotland and Ireland, but there are also lots of other cities which I am still yet to tick off my list and am planning on visiting in the near future. Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh and Newcastle are in the pipleline for me so hopefully I can squeeze in a few trips sooner rather than later! Are there any places I’ve missed off that you would like to have seen on the list? Comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Love Jess x

N.B All photos are my own, other than the Stonehenge images 1,2 & 3 and York images 3&4 which are from Google Images.