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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.

Day Out: Cheltenham Spa

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Hi everyone,

Last week me and my best friend had an afternoon off work and were at a loss as to what to do so we headed to the nearby town of Cheltenham Spa for a lovely afternoon of shopping and lunching! Cheltenham is around an hour’s drive from Oxford and London and is a pretty Cotswolds town full of high street and designer shops, bars, cafes and restaurants so there really is something on offer for everyone! Upon arrival we headed to cafe for some lunch before hitting the shops. HMV, New Look, River Island and more are at the top of the high street and you can then work your way down towards the likes of Topshop, Boots, Monsoon and Accessorize before ending up at the large flagship Primark store.

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Regents Arcade and are two of the indoor shopping centres which arent to be missed as they are home to a number of independent boutique shops as well as large well known chains such as Debenhams and TK Maxx. Don’t forget to be inside Regents Arcade on the hour to watch the famous bubble clock chime! This brought back many childhood memories for me and my friend as we’ve been going there since we were little!

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Down on The Promenade is where you’ll find the designer and higher end stores such as Jack Wills, FCUK and LK Bennett. The Prom is situated on a long street leading back up to the town centre and is really beautiful especially in the summer sunshine! I’d recommend heading to Cheltenham Spa for an alternative day out to the busier cities of Oxford and London- you’ll thoroughly enjoy being away from the hustle and bustle but there will be plenty of things to keep you and the whole family entertained!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this post – I’ve got a special birthday announcement coming soon as my blog turns one in a couple of weeks time!

Love Jess x

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Blenheim Palace: A brilliant family day out!

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Hi everyone,

I hope you’ve all been enjoying the lovely sunshine we have been having lately! Last Saturday I went on a family day out to the beautiful Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire (the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill!) and had such a fantastic time. We had bought annual passes for my mum for her Mothers Day present so we took the opportunity to use them and spent the whole day at the palace and gardens.

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The arrival to the Palace is truly spectacular, it’s such a beautiful building and looks so impressive from the outside. The interior is equally as stunning and, as this was my first time going in to the Palace since a primary school trip, I couldn’t wait to start exploring properly! We were taken into the Palace bedrooms where Winston Churchill resided and learnt a lot about the history of the rooms. We then joined The Untold Story which outlined the heritage of the Churchill family and took us back in time to the 1700s. The tour was a walk round event but each room had interactive features including touch screen monitors, audio speakers and screen projectors. Lasting for around 30 minutes, the tour was really informative and I’d recommend attending to ensure you make the most out of your visit to the Palace.

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After a short stop for lunch at the on site Cafe we then headed to the Pleasure Gardens to enjoy the afternoon sun. The Pleasure Gardens are a 5-10 minute walk from the Palace or a short train ride away if you prefer to use this method of transport- bear in mind that it will set you back 50p per adult! The Gardens is home to the exotic butterfly house, model village, family maze and children’s play area. You could bring a picnic and easily spend a couple of hours here exploring, and there is a nice restaurant/cafe on site. The maze was brilliant, and yes I did get lost as it was much more difficult than I thought!

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We bought Annual Passes for Blenheim so we can come back as many times as we want and therefore we didn’t experience all that there is on offer. For our next visit we will be taking the dog and going on a long walk around the grounds, so I’ll be sure to write another blog post on this! Blenheim really is a beautiful place and is fun for all the family. As a tip I would definitely recommend getting an Annual Pass as it’s the same price as a 1 day ticket! Don’t forget to head over to the kiosk next door to the Palace Cafe to get your pass. For an extra £5 you can also upgrade to a prestigious card which will get you 15% off all purchases in the cafe and gift shop – definitely worth it!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my Blenheim write up- have you ever been/ever wanted to go? Make sure you do – you won’t regret it! If you have any questions at all please just ask 🙂

Love Jess x

NEW FEATURE Top 5 Things to do in… Oxfordshire!

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Hi everyone,

Welcome to a BRAND NEW monthly feature of mine: Top 5 Things to do in…! I thought I would compile lists of top five things to do in some of my favourite areas across Europe so I can share my experiences with you all and pass on some handy info! This week I have chosen to share my home county with you all; Oxfordshire really is a beautiful place to live in and I definitely take it for granted at the best of times! I think it’s because I’m always planning my next adventure and I’m always itching to travel to different places so I end up feeling bored if I have to stay home all weekend, but there’s so many things to see and do around here that I really should get out and make the most of it! As you may have seen from one of my previous posts, I was recently a ‘tourist for the day’ in my home city of Oxford and had so much fun! So, without further ado, please see my list of top five attractions below:

1)     University Parks, Oxford

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Take a stroll round one of the most famous universities in the world and soak up the history by walking round the colleges and grounds where people such as Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, Margaret Thatcher & Hugh Grant once studied. The Uni Parks are particularly beautiful in the summer, so why not grab some of your friends together for a picnic and catch up over some Pimms & lemonade whilst you relax in one of the prettiest parts of the country! What’s more, the parks are totally free to walk around so you can just rock up whenever you fancy and can spend as little or as much time there as you see fit! The parks are right in the centre of Oxford so you can easily go shopping throughout the day and make the most of it, this is a must on my summer list as soon as I have a free weekend and the sun looks set to last!

2)     Blenheim Palace, Woodstock

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I adore this place simply because of how beautiful it is! Located in the picturesque village of Woodstock, this amazing building was the birth place of the great Winston Churchill and is the only building in the UK to be named as a palace despite not having any connections to the royal family. It is now home to the Dukes of Marlborough and the grounds and parts of the house are open to the public between February and November throughout the year. The grounds are amazing, we used to go and take the dog who was in heaven running round all the grassy areas and making friends with the other canines! We also used to collect conkers during the autumn months when the trees looked incredible and the leaves would all fall off creating a blanket across the whole area; it was even more beautiful in the snow too! Over the years, Blenheim Palace has been host to a number of high profile events, including half marathons & triathlons, battle of the proms, game fairs and celebrity weddings (Marvin & Rochelle Humes and John & Toni Terry both got married here). I haven’t been to Blenheim in a long time but am super excited to plan another day trip here with my family when the weather starts to improve in the Spring!

3)     Cotswold Wildlife Park, Near Burford

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I have been visiting the Cotswold Wildlife Park every year since I was a baby and even now I still adore it and love it just as much as I did when I was a kid.  The attractions keep on getting better and better each year, with new animals and enclosures added all the time to enhance the park. A particular favourite of mine has always been the penguin pool with the daily talks and feeds from the keepers which make the experience so interesting. The best thing about the park is that you can explore totally at your own leisure, following lots of different paths towards all the enclosures so you get to see it all throughout your trip. Make a day of it and stop for lunch – thats what we do everytime! Take a picnic and park up on the various benches and greens that are present throughout, or visit the cafe which serves numerous hot meals at decent prices. My last trip to the park was in September 2014, where I had a lazy Saturday but an incredibly busy Sunday!

4)     The Radcliffe Camera, Oxford & Bodleian Library, Oxford

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These two landmarks are located side by side and so go hand in hand; they are definitely a must see when visiting Oxford! They are truly beautiful and I am in awe every time I pass themwhen visiting Oxford for the day; it definitely doesn’t get old! These iconic buildings situated in the heart of Oxford should definitely NOT to be missed. After building began in the 1700s, the camera was inherited by Dr John Radcliffe (the royal physician) and was home to a stunning library housing around 600,000 books. Today they are used in connection with each other but sadly the Camera is not open to the public so must be marvelled at from the outside only. The Library is in use though and students often make the most of the serenity and go there to revise in peace! The Library has also been used in some major TV and film projects and is probably most famous for being home to The Hogwarts Infirmary in the blockbuster Harry Potter movies.

5)     White horse Hill, Uffington 

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This unique spectacle is certainly something to be marvelled at and can be seen from miles and miles away! The internationally-renowned Bronze-Age Uffington White Horse can be seen leaping across the head of a dramatic & beautiful landscape. As part of the National Trust, the house is situated in miles of rolling countryside and is a perfect place to head off for a long country walk or to park up for the day and enjoy a picninc. As kids we used to come here to fly our kites on a windy day and would spend hours getting lost in the expansive valleys. The horse is part of the unique complex of ancient remains that are found at White Horse Hill and beyond, spreading out across the high chalk downland. Bring the whole family for a day out where you really can escape in this stunning countryside.

So there you have it, my list of Top 5 Things to do in Oxfordshire. Next month’s feature is London and it’s going to be a gooden so make sure you keep an eye out for it!

Love Jess x

 N.B. Photos of Uni Parks, Blenheim Palace, Cotswold Wildlife Park & White Horse Hill are courtesy of Google Images. All other photos are my own.