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May Newsletter!

Hi everyone,

For the first time in agggeeesss I’m finally writing this newsletter before the month has even ended – normally I post my monthly newsletter way in to the next month just because I’m always so busy! However, now that I’ve quit my job, I’ve magically found the time to put this newsletter together for you. I have had a RIDICULOUS month; I’ve been busy every weekend and now don’t have a free weekend til 9th July but I am absolutely loving life! Here’s how my May turned out…

I’m now officially a full time traveller

 

So that's it, I have finished working at Martin and Co, never thought this day would come! It has been such a big part of my life for the past five years and has brought me so much happiness! I've met so many wonderful people, made the most amazing friends and have memories to last a lifetime. When I was 18 everyone told me to go to uni and enjoy being young instead of getting a full time job but, you know what, working has been the best thing for me and has made me into the person I am today. I'm strong and independent and have worked hard day in day out to make a better future for myself. Now that I'm able to support myself financially I'm finally able to achieve my dream and travel the world, something that wouldn't have been possible had I not been working. I will miss everyone so much and the memories will last a lifetime. I've been a blubbering mess ALL DAY but I know in my heart the time is right for me to leave. Time now to enjoy the bank holiday weekend and celebrate my long awaited freedom… Happy Friday y'alll 🎉💐🎊

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I can’t believe this has finally happened… I have now officially left my admin job after five years to travel the world! I was incredibly sad to say goodbye to my wonderful friends and colleagues, but I knew I was doing the right thing by leaving. I now feel an overwhelming sense of freedom and cannot wait for my future travel adventures! First stop, LA baby!

I dealt with my first ever piece of criticism

 

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This was something totally new for me; in my two years of blogging I have never once received a piece of negative feedback about my writing until a few weeks ago, when my latest post for Yahoo Style UK was published. I had put together my pick of Britain’s Best Cities and received some pretty nasty comments within just a few hours of the post being published. A lot of the commenters were just trolls, or spammers, with nothing better to do, but it still hurt and made me doubt my credibility as a writer. I have however turned a negative into a positive, saw the attention as a backhanded compliment, and will use the criticism constructively when writing my future posts. Have a look for yourself by reading the article, and the comments, and  don’t be afraid to tell me what you really think!

I enjoyed a fantastic spa weekend

 

#throwback to last weekend's home from home 📷🏡 @cotswoldwaterpark

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My beautiful sister Hannah celebrated her 21st birthday a couple of weeks ago and it was certainly one to remember! We spent the day shopping and having cocktails at a rooftop bar in Oxford before enjoying a posh meal out in the evening as a family. We then booked a surprise trip to  the wonderful Cotswold Water Park Four Pillars hotel for a girly spa weekend away and we had the best time!

I finally downloaded Snapchat

 

Finally caved and got #snapchat.. go add me on there! @jessica16_x 🙋🙋

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So I’ve FINALLY caved and downloaded the phenomenon that is Snapchat after years of saying I’d never do it! I kinda couldn’t be bothered for yet another social media account but I realised that Snapchat is a really fun way of showcasing my travels and allowing my followers, friends and family to see what I’m doing and where I’m travelling to, especially as I’m going to be in America for a month. Don’t forget to add my username jessica16_x to keep up to date with all my latest adventures!

I went to Bournemouth for my best friends hen do

 

Last night in #Bournemouth with my girly, the beautiful bride to be! 👰👸💖 @kirstymichelle11 #prinnys #bride #bridesmaid #besties

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Ahh Bournemouth, I hadn’t seen you in so long! A couple of weeks ago my best friend and beautiful bride to be, Kirsty, and eight of us other girls headed down to the coast to celebrate the hen do. The sun was shining and particular highlights of the weekend included outdoor fun at Go Ape and watching The Dreamboys show at Halo Nightclub. In between the partying, jumping off trees and staring at hot guys on stage we found the time to sunbathe on the beach, eat ice cream and go shopping! The big day itself is tomorrow and I’m so honoured to be Kirsty’s bridesmaid! <3

I met the Prime Minister

 

 

So this isn’t blog related AT ALL but, yeah, I met the Prime Minister of Great Britain last week and I just thought I should share that with you! Basically in my old job (sounds so weird saying that) our office was opposite David Cameron’s office and we knew he was in town so we got him to pose with us to support our team Twin Town Challenge, a charity event we had taken part in. I don’t think many people can say they’ve met one of the biggest political leaders I the world, so this HAD to make the cut on my May newsletter! 😉

I’ve been reviewing like crazy

 

 

For some reason May has turned into a month long review-fest right here on the blog! I’ve been reviewing everything from hotels and restaurants to afternoon teas and lunch menus. I have thoroughly enjoyed reviewing some of the most beautiful places in and around the Cotswolds over the past few weeks, including Ellenborough Park and Villandry Bicester Village, and have loved sharing them all with you. If you are a brand or PR company and would like me to provide a review for your product, client or company then please do get in touch as I am looking to take on new, relevant projects all the time!

I celebrated my two year blogiversary!

 

So today marks two whole years since my first ever blog post and the day that Journeys with Jessica began! I look back to the day when my little blog was started and I can't believe how far I've come! My journeys have taken me to so many places, from Reykjavik and Prague to Disneyland, Budapest and Barcelona and I've even been nominated for an award!! It only seems fitting that, now, two years on, I'm about to embark on my biggest adventure yet and travel across America for a whole month! I couldn't be more excited for my future and cannot wait to focus on my blog and try to acheive my dream of becoming a full time travel writer! Thank you to EVERYONE who has followed my blog since 2014 and to all my readers who continue to support me – I wouldn't be where I am today without you! Here's to the next two years and many more in the blogosphere! Love Jess x

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Can you believe that my little blog has been going for TWO WHOLE YEARS already?! Where the heck has that time gone?! For something that started as a small hobby for me I feel it’s really taken off; who’d have thought I’d still be doing this all these months later and even be nominated for an AWARD for it?! The time has absolutely flown by and I have been so proud to watch my blog grow. Thank you to YOU, you beautiful readers, for your continued support and endless love. <3

So there you have it, told you I’ve been busy! I won’t be doing a June newsletter next month as I’m going to be travelling across America for 27 days on my epic Contiki adventure! I am so so excited and will be having way too much fun to be blogging BUT you can come along for the ride too by following my journey on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook AND Snapchat now that I finally have it!

Hope you all have an amazing few weeks and I’ll be back in the UK from mid July with soooo much news for you. Until next time!

Love Jess x

 

New hairrrrrr 💇 #selfie

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A Charming Cotswolds Retreat: Royal Afternoon Tea at Ellenborough Park, Cheltenham Spa

ellenborough park hotel

Image courtesy of www.ellenboroughpark.com

 

Last Monday I was invited to the beautiful Ellenborough Park, a five star Cotswold manor house hotel located on the outskirts of Cheltenham Spa, to review their Royal Afternoon Tea. The promotion is running until 30th June 2016 in honour of Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday celebrations and offers guests a fantastic dining experience amongst stunning settings on the original Cheltenham Racecourse estate. I attended with my sister, Hannah, who absolutely LOVES afternoon tea. I thought she would be the perfect plus one to help me with my review and, I was right, she definitely didn’t take much persuading! 😉 We had a fantastic afternoon in the most beautiful of surroundings and were suitably stuffed by the time we had finished! Here’s how we got on…

Upon arrival we were greeted by the lovely Jonathan, one of the waiters who looked after us for most of the day. We were shown to our table, or in this case, an exclusive lounge on the first floor of the dining room where we were made to feel like true VIP’s for the day. With quirky antique tables and chairs and large windows as well as a balcony overlooking the rest of the dining room, our executive lounge made the perfect place from which to enjoy our Royal Afternoon Tea.

 

Exclusive lounge for our #royalafternoontea @ellenboroughpk yesterday! 🍰☕️#Cotswolds #cheltenham #review #traveltuesday

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Shortly after we were seated, and had finished gazing in awe at our new surroundings, we were shown the menus by Jonathan and were able to select our teas. There was a wide range of teas from traditional English breakfast to raspberry, rooibos and even chocolate flavoured. We both chose the strawberry and mango infused tea which was brought to our table in a cute little teapot with cups and saucers. We then ordered the Royal Afternoon Tea for two which was brought to us promptly.

 

 

Hannah and I couldn’t believe our eyes when the afternoon tea arrived, there was literally SO. MUCH. FOOD! The menu, by executive head chef David Kelman, boasted three tiers of sumptuous goodies including sandwiches, scones, cakes and sweet treats. The bottom tier comprised of a range of sandwiches including honey roast ham with Tewkesbury mustard, smoked salmon, egg mayonnaise with cress and cucumber with tomato and spicy relish. We actually swapped the smoked salmon sandwiches for cheese and pickle ones as we aren’t huge fans of salmon but we both love our cheese! The sandwiches were perfectly cut, neatly filled and incredibly tasty.

 

The middle tier was home to freshly baked Ellenborough Park fruit scones with jam and clotted cream. The scones were fresh out the oven and were still warm so the jam and cream set on the top just nicely and were mouth-wateringly good! Finally, the top tier showcased some of the most fantastic dessert pieces I have ever seen. We were treated to meringue swans filled with fresh strawberries (they were GENIUS!) and Her Majesty’s  favourite chocolate cake with white chocolate flag which was truly scrumptious. There was also a salted caramel Tudor rose chocolate which was incredibly rich as well as Her Majesty’s passionfruit hat, a passionfruit mousse set on a biscuit base with passionfruit glaze and edible sugar flowers which was a delight!

 

Hannah and I devoured almost everything on each tier and were fit to burst by the time we had finished! We thoroughly enjoyed each and every aspect of the afternoon tea and there was no item on the menu which wasn’t expertly made or presented. The 5 star surroundings added to the luxurious atmosphere and it was certainly a dining experience to remember.

 

Can I eat all of these again please?! ☕️🍰 @ellenboroughpk #cotswolds #cheltenham #review #afternoontea

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Ellenborough Park’s Royal Afternoon Tea prides itself on reflecting “the Queen’s love of horses, decades of fashionable hats for royal engagements and guardianship of the nation’s swans.” Executive head chef David Kelman’s “celebratory afternoon tea adds a touch of regal splendour to this quintessentially British delight, served on china fit for a queen.”

With its stunning buildings and sprawling grounds, Ellenborough Park prides itself on “providing guests with the finest hotel accommodation and service in the Cotswolds.” You’ll find 60 large bedrooms and suites as well as two on-site restaurants lead by award winning executive head chef David Kelman. Facilities include an impressive Indian-themed spa and a 15m heated outdoor swimming pool  whilst other leisure activities within the hotel grounds can also be arranged.

 

Beautiful day, beautiful hotel! Thanks so much for having me @ellenboroughpk ☀️🏨 #Cotswolds #visitgreatbritain #cheltenham

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To celebrate all things British and enjoy a quintessentially English dining experience book your table at Ellenborough Park today! Royal Afternoon Tea is priced at £22pp Monday – Thursday or £25pp Friday-Sunday. An optional glass of Champagne Billecart-Salmon can be added for an extra £12pp. To book, please call the hotel directly on 01242 545454 or email info@ellenboroughpark.com. Thank you to all at Ellenborough Park for looking after us and for giving us such a wonderful afternoon – I cannot recommend the hotel highly enough and I will certainly be back!

Love Jess x

NB. I dined with Ellenborough Park as a guest for the purpose of this review but all views are my own.

 

 

Hotel Review: A relaxing stay at the luxurious Cotswold Water Park Four Pillars

Sooo this is my view for the weekend.. another hotel another review! 😍😍

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Last weekend I had the pleasure of staying at the fantastic Cotswold Water Park Four Pillars, a luxurious 4* hotel located in the heart of Gloucestershire. I stayed with my mum and two sisters for a surprise 21st birthday weekend away and we had the most fantastic time! We were greeted with friendly smiles and made to feel like VIP’s by the wonderful staff from the minute we stepped foot on site. The sun was shining all weekend and the weather ensured we definitely made the most of our outdoor balconies! Here’s my full review of this wonderful complex…

The location

 

Perfectly positioned at the edge of the Cotswolds, the hotel is nestled amidst the Cotswold Water Park complex in South Cerney, Gloucestershire. Although close to the hustle and bustle of the nearby water park, with its inland beach, 140 lakes and water sports aplenty, the hotel is busy but surprisingly quiet with its enviable location offering guests a relaxing and luxurious stay in 4* surroundings.

 

#throwback to last weekend's home from home 📷🏡 @cotswoldwaterpark

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Situated off the A419 just 3 miles from the market town of Cirencester, with its abundance of shops, pubs and restaurants, the hotel is in a prime location from which to explore the Cotswolds and its wonderful Gloucestershire countryside.

 

The rooms

 

The hotel is made up of 328 double/twin standard, superior and deluxe rooms, studio, one bed and two bed apartments, all of which are en-suite and are equipped with modern features including flat-screen TV’s, working desk areas and free internet access. Many of the rooms boast beautiful lakeside views and external balconies with seating areas and decking.

 

 

We had the privilege of staying in two deluxe lakeside rooms in the Watersedge block, both of which were beautiful and offered wonderful lakeside views. We were treated to robes, two bottles of Prosecco, a fridge stocked with water, wine and snacks and handwritten notes from the staff wishing us all a wonderful stay for my sisters 21st birthday! Those special touches really added to our stay and we felt so looked after the whole time!

 

 

Missed waking up to this view this morning!! 😍😍 #cotswoldwaterpark @cotswoldwaterpark

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The facilities

 

The hotel boasts a number of features including 24 hour reception, bar and The Brasserie restaurant and a Sky TV Lounge – definitely one for the sports fans – as well as conference and wedding rooms, a gym, swimming pool, sauna and steam room. Spa 6 offers guests the chance to unwind and de-stress in one of their many relaxation rooms whilst treatments such as massages, mud rasul’s and pedicures can be booked to enjoy a little bit of luxury on site.

 

 

Our weekend included full use of all the facilities and one choice of spa treatment each. My mum and sister opted for massages (back/neck/shoulder and an Indian head massage) whilst my other sister and I chose the mud rasul for something a little different. The therapists were so friendly and nothing at all was too much trouble for them. My sister was treated to a glass of Prosecco for her 21st (naturally) and the whole ambience was just perfect. The swimming pool however was rather noisier, with children and armbands taking over the water and the steam room and sauna was pretty crowded. We were staying over a weekend and chose to go to the Spa on the Saturday afternoon which was probably the busiest part of the day but we still had a lovely time.

rasul

We booked for dinner in the brasserie on the Saturday evening and the place was HEAVING! The restaurant manager, Valentin, was fantastic and made sure we were looked after all night. We were promptly taken to our seats and our food arrived shortly after; the menu choice was good with plenty of options to suit all tastes. Between us we chose the fish and chips and the angus steak burgers, all of which were delicious and beautifully cooked. For pudding we opted for ice cream, a blueberry cheesecake and petit fours, again all were very tasty and were brought to our table quickly. Despite the busy restaurant we were made to feel like we were high priority and our dining experience was wonderful – thank you Valentin for looking after us!

 

The breakfast

 

Breakfast the next morning was served in The Brasserie and we were greeted by the lovely Valentin once more before being shown to our table. Again I think we picked the busiest part of the morning as there were queues out the door but guests were seated promptly and the self-service style buffet certainly helped to speed up the queue!

 

 

There was so much choice at breakfast we didn’t know where to start! There was a plentiful continental section with croissants, pastries, breads, fruit and cereals, as well as a hot plate section for those looking to start off their day with a good Full English. We all chose to have a bit of both and started with a bowl of cereal followed by a couple of Danish pastries before demolishing a hearty cooked breakfast made up of sausages, bacon, beans, mushrooms, hash browns and tomatoes. We were so full we didn’t eat until later on that night and we thoroughly enjoyed kick-starting our day with a fantastic big breakfast which really made our stay complete.

The staff

 

All of the staff were so friendly and helpful, with beaming smiles and fantastic attitudes. Diaina, the general manager, was wonderful and really made our stay that extra bit special. She greeted us personally at reception, escorted us to our rooms via the hotel buggy and was on hand to answer any queries or arrange any other requests we might have had. The staff at the Cotswold Water Park hotel are a credit to the Four Pillars network and I hope to revisit soon.

Up bright and early to catch the sunrise over the lake 🌅🌅 #cotswoldwaterpark

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So there we have it, my full review of the stunning Cotswold Water Park Four Pillars Hotel. I cannot recommend the hotel highly enough for anyone looking for a little bit of luxury in unique surroundings in the beautiful Cotswolds! For more information or to book a room please visit their website directly.

 

Looking for #reflections 👀 #cotswoldwaterpark

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Thank you @cotswoldwaterpark for an amazing stay.. hotel review coming soon! 📝🏨#cotswoldwaterpark

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HAPPY NEW YEAR! Top 15 InstaTravel Moments of 2015!

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

I hope you all had fun partying last night.. I know I did! I thought I’d kick-start the day/year/month with a round up of my Top 15 InstaTravel Moments of 2015! This has been my first EVER year of using Instagram and it has fast become my favourite social media platform! So here are my top moments of the past 12 months…

JANUARY

Spending my birthday in London with an epic walking tour across the city with one of my best friends! We walked from Kensington to Tower Bridge and took in all the major landmarks- what a way to start the year!

FEBRUARY/MARCH

Taking in the beautiful sights of Prague by climbing to the top of the Old Astronomy Tower! This was my first city break of the year with my sister and what a trip we had!

APRIL

Myself and my sisters purchased season tickets for our family to the beautiful Blenheim Palace which is just down the road from us! We’ve had so many lovely days out at this place!

MAY

For my nans 80th birthday celebrations we headed for a family weekend away in the nearby Cotswolds. We had a wonderful weekend and the weather was just perfect!

JUNE

I had a fantastic day out to Royal Ascot this month along with my sisters, cousin, mum and aunty. We got all dressed up, bet on lots of horses and even saw the Queen!

I also headed to London at the end of June for a fantastic day out at Hyde Park’s annual British Summertime Festival. Myself and my close friend had great fun watching Kylie in concert who was incredible live!

We have had the besstttt dayyy!! Roll on next year wooo 😁🎉🐴👑 #ascot #races #family #love #girls #dayout #weloveascot #wesawqueenie

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JULY

This month brought our annual family holiday and we headed down to Cornwall to spend a week in our own holiday cottage right in the heart of lively St Ives. The weather was fantastic ALL WEEK and we had the best time with each other making lots of memories and revisiting places from our childhood!

AUGUST

August Bank Holiday weekend brought a fantastic day out filled with music, fun and laughter! I took my sisters to their first ever festival, Fusion Festival near Birmingham, and we had a brilliant day out seeing lots of top artists perform- the highlight was McBusted who were amazing!

SEPTEMBER

This month it was time for my second city break of the year so my sister and I flew to Budapest for a long weekend of sightseeing. We both fell in love with the city; it was beautiful and we had the best time away!

OCTOBER

This month was super busy for me but my highlight was a personal achievement which saw me run a 5k charity fun run for The Pituitary Foundation. I raised over £300 on my Just Giving page and beat my personal best! I had a fantastic day and was so proud of myself. A big THANK YOU to everyone who has donated to this fantastic charity who have supported my since my prolactinoma diagnosis in 2011.

NOVEMBER

I had a jam-packed November but my highlight was getting my first EVER paid job as a freelance travel writer! I was absolutely over the moon and it still hasn’t quite sunk in yet- hopefully I’ll take on more roles which will allow me to become a freelance writer full time!

DECEMBER

The last month of the year was kick-started with a magical trip to the beautiful Disneyland Paris! I went with two of my closest friends for a pre-Christmas treat and we had the most amazing time, it really was beautiful and certainly got us in the festive mood!

Hope you’ve enjoyed my whistle-stop recap of my InstaTravel highlights from 2015! I’d love to hear what your favourite was? I just can’t pick one!

Wishing you every happiness for 2016!

Love Jess x

Charming Cotswolds Escape

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Hi everyone,

I can’t believe it’s June already, the rainy weather we’ve been having over here in South West England certainly doesn’t reflect the time of year at the moment which is super depressing! I have however just returned from a lovely family weekend break at nearby Bourton on the Water, a pretty village nestled in the heart of The Cotswolds. Although its only around 30 minutes drive from home, we were meeting family for a special anniversary get together and wanted to pick somewhere that wasn’t too far for a party of 15 to travel to! Bourton provided the perfect location for us and offered plenty to see and do whilst giving us the relaxing break we had hoped for.

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We booked 7 rooms at the gorgeous Chester House Hotel right (http://www.chesterhousehotel.com/) in the centre of the village and had a brilliant stay, all the staff were so welcoming and the rooms were lovely. The interior of the hotel is very pretty and we loved the old fashioned Victorian decor mixed with impressive new mod cons such as power showers and flat screen TVs. Most of the rooms are located in the main part of the hotel, but there is also an area referred to as The Coach Houses which offer a mixture of larger ground and upper floor rooms and have a more self contained/studio feel. All of these rooms are located outside but are adjoined to the hotel and the ground floor rooms are dog friendly should you be bringing a furry companion! Our stay included bed and breakfast for two nights, and the breakfasts were plentiful and so filling- you could choose from either cooked breakfasts or cereals, fruit and pastries.

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With so many eateries in Bourton there are plenty of places to go for dinner, but as there was such a large group of us, we decided to eat in two of the hotel’s restaurants on both nights. The Croft was a restaurant serving traditional pub food whilst L’Anatra was an Italian restaurant serving authentic Italian cuisine. We had to pre-book our meals as there was such a large group of us, but the quality of food both nights was very good and I’d highly recommend the Italian in particular.

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In terms of tourist attractions, there are plenty of things to see and do in Bourton; we only had one full day there so didn’t fit everything in (although I’ve been many times before!) but it does get extremely busy especially during the summer months. The weather was good on Saturday and the sun was shining, so hundreds of people flocked to the village to enjoy a picnic on the riverside! The Dragonfly Maze, Model Village, Motor Museum and the brilliant Birdland are all popular attractions and provide families and couples alike with plenty of fun. There’s also the pretty St Lawrence’s Church situated towards the end of the village along with a number of B&B’s, hotels, cafe’s, restaurants and shops. Don’t forget to take part in the hourly Duck Race on the river- pick a duck and if yours wins the race you get a prize! Great fun for all the excitable children running up and down the river bank egging on their chosen ducks!

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We had a lovely relaxing family break in Bourton and I’d highly recommend the village to anyone looking for a relaxing break in the charming Cotswolds. People flock from all over the world to see Bourton on the Water; with its meandering river, pretty bridges and lovely countryside it’s easy to see why!

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Have you ever been to visit The Cotswolds or stayed somewhere similar? I’m lucky enough to live in the area so am on hand to answer any questions you might have.. I’d be delighted to help!

Love Jess x