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Seven Picture Perfect Places to Visit in The Lake District

 

Wandering around Derwentwater Lake in the Lake District. The Marco Polo guidebook in front of the lake.

Ah the lovely Lakes, one of my favourite parts of England, and one of the most beautiful parts too. I started visiting The Lake District when I was a little girl, probably aged 6, when my parents would take me and my sisters away on our first family holidays. I didn’t go abroad until I was 8 years old, so spent a large chunk of my childhood exploring all over the UK, but The Lakes were always very special to me. From Keswick and Kendal to Grasmere and Glenridding, there’s something for everyone and plenty of things to see and do in The Lake District for families, couples and groups alike. My most recent visit was just a few weeks ago, where I spent some time exploring Cumbria with my fantastic Marco Polo guidebook, which was an absolute god send, with pull out maps, hotel and restaurant recommendations as well as plenty of suggested road trip itineraries and suggested walking routes. To help you plan your visit, I’ve put together a list of some of the most picture perfect places to visit in The Lake District…

 

Ullswater

 

 

Listed as England’s second largest lake, Ullswater is one of the most visited parts of The Lake District. Set amongst some of the finest fells, trees and hills in Cumbria, Ullswater is also the setting for one of William Wordsworth’s most famous poems, ‘Daffodils’. You’ll find plenty of things to do on the lake, from sailing and kayaking to swimming and fishing, and you can even hop on board one of the well known Ullswater Steamers, where a one hour boat ride will take you to all corners of the 8 mile lake. If hiking is your thing you’ll be spoilt for choice with tonnes of popular walking routes nearby, or why not climb Helvellyn mountain for something a little more challenging?

 

Coniston

 

 

Turn to page 50 in your Marco Polo Lake District guidebook to discover everything there is to see and do in pretty Coniston. The village is located in between Coniston Water and Coniston Old Man (a mountain), in the Southern part of the Lakes, and is popular with tourists at any time of year. The Ruskin Museum is a well-known attraction, where you can explore the life of local writer John Ruskin who was born in the Lakes.  If you’re visiting during summer, why not board one of the Steam Yacht gondola’s to enjoy a smooth ride across the water? The 19th century Furness Railway originally launched the route as an addition to their railway line, allowing passengers to travel by boat instead of train to experience all that Coniston Water had to offer.

 

Keswick

 

 

Without doubt Keswick is one of the Lake District’s most visited towns, attracting coach loads of tourists from all over the world desperate to explore one of England’s prettiest areas. The summer months are notoriously busy, so it’s probably best to avoid visiting at this time of year if you can, but as the resort is so popular you’ll find it’s got plenty of things going on throughout spring, autumn and winter too. It’s a haven for shoppers, with high street stores and independent little boutiques selling everything you can think of, and there are tonnes of eateries to choose from, with café’s, pubs and restaurants all waiting to welcome you into their doors. Keswick is a great place to base yourself for your Lake District adventure as you can explore many of the other surrounding towns and villages from here too. For an idyllic walking route, turn to page 97 of your Marco Polo guidebook and read itinerary number 4, ‘A Walk Through Keswick & Surrounding Area’. This 1.5hr walking route will take you on a round trip of the town, passing Derwentwater, Friars Crag and Castle Head along the way, giving you the perfect start to your time in Keswick.

 

Grasmere

 

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Lush green mountains, sunny blue skies and glorious countryside views, this is what I love most about the beautiful #LakeDistrict ⛰ I didn't go abroad until I was 8 years old and spent many half term holidays up here with my sisters, so Lakeland is a huge part of my childhood and I have fond memories running up and down hills, chasing sheep in fields and having fun with my family ❤️ One year we even ended up getting lost on a mountain when my mum thought we were following yellow arrows on stones and sticking to a proper pathway but it turned out to just be yellow MOSS that she was following and we had been going round in circles for 8 hours!! 😂 A phone call to Mountain Rescue got 3 kids, 2 adults and 1 dog back on the straight and narrow but it took us forever to get off that bloody mountain and I never wanted to see another one for weeks after that 🙈 Luckily I started to love them again as I got older, and now they hold a special place in my heart and help me to appreciate all the natural beauty we have right here in England 🇬🇧 Do you have a silly travel story? I'd love to hear them on this chilled Sunday evening! ✨

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I’ve been to Grasmere many times and really enjoyed it, but my most recent visit made me fall in love with this tiny village even more. We stayed in a gorgeous hotel called The Lancrigg, which was secluded enough to feel like you’re staying in a remote hideaway, but also just a short walk into the village with all its amenities, including restaurants, shops and cafe’s. Grasmere boasts many walking routes, with a mixture of smaller fell walks, winding hills and impressive mountains to climb, most notably Helm Crag being the one which attracts keen hikers. The famous poet William Wordsworth spent his entire life in the Lake District, and you can visit his grave right here in Grasmere, where he is buried alongside his sister, wife and children in the graveyard of St Oswald’s Church. Did you know Grasmere is also famous for its gingerbread? Me neither, until I read about it in my Marco Polo guidebook! Check out the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop located just next to the St Oswald’s Church, and take some of this delicious cake home with you.

 

Wastwater

 

 

At a depth of almost 260ft, Wastwater is the deepest lake in England, and it sure is proud of its best known asset. Tourists and locals alike spend many a summers day walking around the lake and enjoying the spectacular scenery, with only its resident sheep for company.  Flanked by the mountains of Yewbarrow, Lingmell and Great Gable, Wastwater has an epic backdrop and commands stunning views from every angle. The tiny village of Wasdale, with it’s well known pub The Wasdale Head, makes the perfect base for those keen to explore the local area. Mountain enthusiasts, or those taking part in the popular Three Peaks Challenge, will want to tick off Scafell Pike whilst they’re in the area. At over 3200ft tall, climbing England’s highest mountain is not for the faint hearted, but you’ll be rewarded with incredible panoramic mountain views once you reach the top and it’ll certainly be a day to remember.

 

 

Lake Windermere

 

 

Although Wastwater is classed as the deepest lake in England, beautiful Windermere is holds the record for the largest lake in England, making it one of the most popular parts of Lakeland. This place is absolutely perfect for families as there are plenty of child-friendly activities and attractions for all ages. I’ve spent so many summer holidays taking a boat across the lake, checking out the fantastic aquarium and visiting the World of Beatrix Potter, a fantastic museum located in nearby Bowness dedicated to the woman who created Peter Rabbit, with scenes and figurines from the iconic children’s books. If you’re looking for something more physical, Lake Windermere itself is a haven for water sports, with a whole host of activities on offer and the opportunity to hire rowing or electric boats, yachts and even go sailing. Summer is super busy on Windermere, and accommodation gets booked up fast, so I’d recommend visiting outside of peak season to get the most out of your visit, and to avoid the crowds!

 

Derwentwater

 

 

I actually stayed in Derwentwater on my most recent visit to the Lakes, just a few weeks ago, so I’d recommend staying at The Derwentwater Hotel in Portinscale and basing yourself there for a couple of nights whilst exploring everything the area has to offer. The hotel is set in sprawling 18 acre grounds with fabulous views over to the hills and the famous Derwentwater Lake in the background. We only spent 1 night in Derwentwater but that was definitely enough time to check out the local area. We took a walk around the lake, stopped off for brunch at one of the cute nearby cafe’s and wandered down to the pretty Derwentwater Marina where you could rent boats, kayaks and even stand up paddle boards! If you have more time to spare and fancy venturing a little further afield, why not visit Keswick? It’s 2 miles away and would probably only take 25 mins to walk there, or you could hop on one of the local buses to get you there in a flash!

 

There are so many other towns and lakes that I could have included in this list, but these are some of my favourite, and are well worth seeing during your visit to The Lake District. Using your Marco Polo guidebook you can easily plan a week-long road trip, or pack lots in to a weekend break, ensuring you see as much as you can during your time in Cumbria. If you’ve got a trip lined up soon let me know where you’re planning to visit and I can give you some top tips! But for now I’m off to reminisce about my recent trip and plan my next visit to the lovely Lake District too…

 

Wandering around Derwentwater Lake in the Lake District. Jess holding the Marco Polo guidebook in front of the lake.

 

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Hotel Review: Mollie’s Motel & Diner, Oxfordshire

 

Last week I had the pleasure of staying at Mollie’s Motel, a brand new motel and diner complex in Buckland, Oxfordshire. Located just off the a420, with direct links to nearby Oxford and Swindon, Mollie’s Motel is perfectly positioned to enjoy a short stopover in pretty Oxfordshire. I was invited, along with my friend Steph who came as my plus one, to stay over at the motel and check out the diner last Thursday. Steph and I had a great time during our visit and loved everything about it. Here’s my full review on Mollie’s, and why I think you’ll love it too!

 

The Motel Rooms

 

 

Created by the brand behind Soho Farmhouse, Mollie’s Motel has an exclusive, luxury feel to it but without the expensive price tag. The motel boasts 79 cosy, comfortable rooms varying in size and space and you can choose from double, accessible, bunk or interconnecting rooms. With an enormous double bed, ample storage space, a rainforest shower and Cowshed toiletry products, our room had everything we would need and more for our short stay.

 

 

The TV doubled up as a room service style menu from which we could easily see what items were stocked in the general store/reception and there was info about the room as well as the rest of the motel and the diner too. Our room was located on the second floor overlooking the neon Mollie’s Motel sign below and we could see the courtyard garden slightly to the left. We got a great nights sleep and had the most amazing shower the next morning! With rooms starting from as little as £50 per night, a stay at Mollie’s is an absolute steal!

 

The Diner

 

 

With its retro decor, neon lights and classic menu, the diner is a flashback to 1950s America and will instantly transport you back to that era. There’s music playing in the background, the smell of burgers and fries in the air, and enormous milkshakes brought right to your table. Mollie’s diner is the real star of the show, and the main reason this place is so popular. Guests aren’t able to book so mealtimes get extremely busy with queues for walk ins, but there’s also a drive-thru service for those who don’t have time to queue for table service. For dinner I opted for the buttermilk chicken sandwich with sweet potato fries whilst Steph chose the dirty double bacon burger with sweet potato fries too.

 

 

If you choose the Dirty Deals package you get fries and a drink added to selected dishes at a small extra charge, and a selection of soft drinks are refillable which makes it great value for money. The next morning for breakfast I chose the veggie breakfast, swapping the avocado for an extra hash brown just because I fancied it, whilst Steph went for the maple syrup and bacon waffles which looked AMAZING!


The Location

 

 

As I’ve mentioned, Mollie’s is situated just off the a420, the road that links Swindon to Oxford and plenty of other towns and villages in between. There’s a BP petrol station just next to the car park and the motel and diner are right opposite each other, with plenty of free parking. If you want to explore nearby Oxford you can reach the city in just over half an hour by car, or the pretty Cotswolds towns of Bampton, Witney and Faringdon are around a 10-15 minute drive away. The staff on reception at the general store will be more than happy to help with any sightseeing recommendations, and it’s a great place to relax if you prefer not to be holed up in your room, with lounge areas, charging stations, free wifi and complimentary tea and coffee too!


The Staff

 

Photo courtesy of Mollie’s Instagram Page

 

 

I always say that the staff are such an important part of a hotel or restaurant and for Mollie’s this couldn’t be more true. Natalie on reception checked us in and was on hand to answer any queries that we had. She recommended a fab cocktail for us to try on the bar menu and was so lovely and friendly, just the kind of person you would want to see at check in! Brandon & Dave both worked in the diner and looked after us so well during dinner. Nothing was too much trouble, even when we asked for a couple of cocktails that weren’t even on the menu! They recommended food and drinks to us and seemed to know the menu inside out. At breakfast the next morning we were looked after by Dave again and a couple of different waitresses who were absolutely lovely and couldn’t have done more for us. The staff at Mollie’s really went above and beyond to make our stay that extra bit special and they were absolutely brilliant – I couldn’t fault their service one bit!

 

The App

 

 

Despite its 1950s theme and old fashioned retro touches, Mollie’s is right on trend with their brand new app which is available on both Apple and Android. Guests are encouraged to download and book rooms through the app in order to make check in as smooth as possible. Upon arrival, guests who have booked through the app will automatically be connected to the wifi which then tells them which room number they’re in and enables their phones to be used as their room key. The keyless system brings a futuristic feel and I think it’s a real standout feature of Mollie’s, but with the general store/reception being manned 24/7, there’s always a friendly face to speak to as well should you have any problems with the app, or if you just want to speak to an actual human upon check in!

As you can see, my plus one and I had SUCH a lovely time visiting Mollie’s last week! I can see why Mollie’s has been so successful since its launch, with its modern motel rooms and its great value diner food, there’s something to appeal to all ages. I’m a local girl who lives just a 20 minute drive away, so it’s very close to home for me and I know I’ll definitely be back at Mollie’s with some of my friends again soon!

NB. I was a guest of Mollie’s for the purpose of this review, but all thoughts and words are of course my own.

 

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A Suffolk Travel Guide: Things to See and Do in Suffolk, England

 

A traditional English district brimming with history, culture and plenty of things to see and do, Suffolk is perhaps East Anglia’s best loved county, and it’s not hard to see why. With the lively towns of Ipswich, Felixstowe and Newmarket dotted in-between the quieter areas of Bury St Edmunds, Sudbury and Long Melford, there is something for everyone in Suffolk. I’ve been coming to the county myself many times over the years as my grandparents moved there from Essex to enjoy their retirement and a slower pace of life. It really is a beautiful part of England and here’s what I recommend you see and do during your time there…

 

Visit Ipswich

 

 

One of England’s oldest towns, and known as the ‘capital’ of Suffolk, Ipswich is a great place to kickstart your time in East Anglia. With its waterfront location right on the River Orwell, it’s luscious green parks, lively shopping streets and vibrant night life, there’s something for everyone and things that will appeal to all ages. Why not check out one of the towns many museums to find out all about its rich maritime heritage? Or catch a show in one of the grand theatres? Whatever you’re looking for from your time in Suffolk, you’re bound to find it right here in Ipswich.

 

Explore Framlingham Castle

 

 

Located in, yep you guessed it, the market town of Framlingham, this stunning Norman castle was built in 1148 but was destroyed by King Henry II less than 30 years later after the revolt of 1173-74. Towards the end of the 13th century though, Framlingham was no longer a castle as it had become a luxurious Manor House instead, with enormous grounds and parklands that were used for hunting. Nowadays the castle has been restored to its former glory and remains largely intact. Owned by the English Heritage and named as a Grade 1 listed monument, Framlingham is open to the public and hosts various events and historical shows all year round.

 

Have a day out at Newmarket Racecourse

 

 

Founded back in 1636, when King James I was on the throne, Newmarket is a racecourse steeped in royal history. Over 30 years later, in 1671, the new King Charles II became the first and only reigning monarch to ride a winning horse right here at Newmarket. Nowadays, the thoroughbred horse riding venue is one of the most popular in England, with two separate racecourses named the Rowley Mile and the July Course. As well as horse racing, Newmarket hosts several big events throughout the year and are well known for their spectacular ‘Newmarket Nights’, a series of concerts during the summer, with 2019’s line up including the likes of Madness, The Kaiser Chiefs and Chic & Nile Rogers.

 

Relax and unwind at a top spa hotel

 

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GOLDEN TICKET SPA DAY OFFER! To celebrate the reopening of our fabulous hydrotherapy pool we have put together an exclusive one-time offer with limited availability. The first 20 people to book this Golden Spa Day offer will receive a complimentary upgrade worth £77 per person! What's included: *Welcome drink in our spa lounge *ESPA Natural Facelift Facial (80 minutes) *Delicious cream tea *Full use of heat & hydrotherapy facilities The first 20 to book will be upgraded to: *Welcome Drink in our spa lounge *ESPA Natural Facelift Facial (80 minutes) *Complimentary Hot Stone Back Massage (30 minutes) *Champagne Afternoon Tea *Full use of heat & hydrotherapy facilities Price per person: £137.00 To book your day of total relaxation call us on 01638 676130 – be quick though places are limited!!

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No visit to the great British countryside should be complete without a stay at a top hotel, and one with a spa is an added luxury that you won’t want to say no to. The Bedford Lodge Hotel and Spa should be top of your list, and with its 4 Red Star Hotel rating and it’s 5 Bubble Spa rating, it’s not hard to see why. Located in the middle of Newmarket, right opposite the racecourse, the Bedford Lodge is perfect for those looking for somewhere to stay after the races, or just for a night away in a peaceful setting. The hotel boasts the 2AA rosette winning Squires Restaurant for exquisite fine dining, as well as the trendy Roxana Bar offering Champagne and afternoon tea. If it’s the Spa you’re most looking forward to though, you certainly won’t be disappointed. With exciting features such as a rooftop hot tub, private mud rasul, hydrotherapy pool, experiential showers and even an ice fountain, you’ll never want to get out of your swimsuit!

 

Wander around Sudbury and Long Melford

 

 

Located just a few miles from each other, these traditional English towns are a must see when in Suffolk. Long Melford is home to Kentwell Hall, a red brick Tudor mansion set in glorious gardens and farmlands offering a variety of events throughout the year, including open air cinemas and historic educational weekends. Long Melford is also reputed to have one of the largest High Streets in Britain, filled with shops, cafes and pubs. Sudbury on the other hand is a market town, with its twice weekly markets taking place in front of St Peter’s Church right in the town centre. Sudbury is also home to 18th century artist Thomas Gainsborough, with his house and birthplace, Gainsborough’s House, open to the public as a museum and art gallery, one of the towns most visited attractions.

I could list many more things to see and do in Suffolk, but these are the main highlights I suggest you should see during your time in this pretty county. Have you ever been before? I’d love to know if there’s anything you think I’ve missed off this list!

NB. This post was sponsored by The Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa but, as always, all words are of course my own.

 

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A Travel Guide to Cheddar Gorge, Somerset: Top Things to See and Do in Cheddar Gorge

 

 

 

Despite having visited Somerset a few times before, it took me until the ripe old age of 25 to visit Cheddar Gorge for the first time, and my first thought upon arrival into this pretty village was… WHY ON EARTH HAVEN’T I BEEN HERE BEFORE??!! I visited Cheddar for a festive getaway with my family last week to see out 2018 and welcome 2019 in style. We stayed at Cheddar Woods Resort and Spa, located about a 5 minute drive (or a 20 minute walk) from Cheddar Gorge. Our resort was in the perfect location from which to explore some of Somerset’s best loved highlights including Wells, Axbridge, Weston Supermare and the Mendip Hills. We had a lovely 4 days relaxing in our lodge on the resort and seeing some of the nearby area, so I thought I’d put together a travel guide for you all as I’d love to start sharing some more UK content on my blog! Here’s what we got up to, and what I would recommend you see during your time in pretty Cheddar too…

 

Visit the Gorge and Caves

 

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*NEW BLOG POST* ((Link in bio)) A travel guide to Cheddar Gorge, Somerset 🧀🇬🇧 🌟 If walking, caving, rock climbing, hot tubbing, cheese tasting and pub lunching sounds like your kind of thing, you will feel right at home down in Cheddar Gorge. 😍 I spent the last few days of 2018 indulging in some fresh air and taking part in some outdoor activities whilst spending quality time with my family before seeing in the new year from our little cabin in the woods. 🏡 This post tells you all you need to know about pretty little Cheddar, and what you can expect from your trip there too. Have you ever been before? I'd love to know what you thought of it! 🌏 #VisitSomerset #LoveSomerset #Somerset #IgersSomerset #Cheddar #IgersCheddar #CheddarGorge #VisitEngland #VisitBritain #LoveGreatBritain #England #UK #BBCBritain #UKPics #GBPics #England_Insta #WeLoveEngland #Travel #TravelBloggersofIG #Wordpress #NewPost #Travelgram #InstaTravel #InstaGo #GirlsLoveTravel #DarlingEscapes #TravelPhotography #DarwinEscapes #CheddarWoods #WeekendAway

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The main attraction, and the main reason for most people’s visit, is the wonderful Cheddar Gorge and Caves. With over 500,000 visitors per year, this exhibition is listed as a world famous Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is Britain’s biggest gorge. Dramatic cliffs reaching a depth of over 450ft and eerie caves filled with pre-historic stalactites make for a fascinating discovery, and the interactive audio guides make it easy to navigate yourself around the caves. We loved Gough’s Cave and the Aladdin’s Caves as both were truly stunning and filled with ancient stalactites and stalagmites! Your ticket price includes access to the caves as well as entrance to the Museum of Pre-history (located opposite the caves), Jacob’s Ladder, the interactive Dreamhunters exhibition, and the cinematic Beyond the View experience. We did all four of the individual experiences and really enjoyed them – it took us around 4 hours to do everything, but you could spend as little or as long as you wanted on them! We particularly liked the Dreamhunters exhibition which allowed you to walk through Cox’s cave and follow the story of early man as he battled through the ice age some 1.2 million years ago.

Open all year round (apart from Christmas Day and Boxing Day), tickets for Cheddar Gorge and Caves can be purchased on the gate or online in advance – save 15% off your ticket price if you book online! The full prices are £19.95 for adults, £14.95 for kids and under 5s go free.

 

Climb Jacob’s Ladder

 

 

Included as part of your Cheddar Gorge and Caves ticket, climbing Jacobs Ladder is an absolute MUST when you’re in Cheddar. It’s a steep 274 steps to the top, but if you can make it that far, the views of the surrounding Mendip hills and the famous gorge below are well worth the climb. I would recommend stretching yourself that little bit further (just 48 more steps!) and climbing up the Lookout Tower too if you can manage it. Sadly it was closed for refurbishment when we went, but I’ve heard the panoramic views from the top are INCREDIBLE! The clifftop walk at the top of the ladder takes you on a 3mile loop around the top of the caves and is not for the faint hearted, but the views and fresh air alone are totally worth it; on a clear day you can see across the gorge and surrounding countryside for miles!

 

Walk around the Mendip Hills

 

 

Walking/hiking is one of my favourite things to do, especially when I’m away, so I’m pleased to report that Cheddar Gorge has a number of walks and trails that you can follow to keep your legs exercised during your trip. We did loads of hikes around our resort as there were nature trails and woodland walks to follow, and we also did a big loop around Cheddar Gorge itself too. The clifftop walk that can be completed after climbing Jacob’s Ladder will give you some stunning views of the gorge and surrounding countryside below, but I really enjoyed wandering around the Mendip Hills as well. The natural stone walls which make up the gorge are fascinating to look at, and to walk around, but beware for the free roaming goats that can be found dotted around the caves!

 

Buy some famous cheddar cheese

 

 

Taking its name from the village, Cheddar cheese originates from Cheddar itself and is famous the world over, with records of cheese making in the village dating back to the 12th century. The caves in Cheddar Gorge have historically been used to mature the cheese, and this is still something which is in use today. The caves provide the ideal humidity and steady temperature for maturing the cheese and a section of the Gorge exhibition at Gough’s Cave will tell you all about this method. Cheddar cheese traditionally needs to be made within 30 miles of Wells Cathedral in order for it to be classed as official Cheddar from Somerset. Today you can buy Cheddar cheese in just about any supermarket in the world, but you’ll only find the best of its kind down in Cheddar village. There are lots of little shops and cafés in the village selling the cheese, and I’d recommend heading to The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, the only cheesemakers left in Cheddar, where you can go along and watch the various stages of the cheese being made and enjoy some free tasters too!

 

Where to stay

 

 

We had booked to stay at Cheddar Woods Resort and Spa, which is a Hoseasons site located just a 5 minute drive from Cheddar village. As a family of 5 we sometimes struggle to find accommodation big enough for us all, and now that we are all adults we like having our own rooms. As separate hotel rooms can be notoriously expensive, we opted for a shared lodge and found this to be the perfect solution. We stayed in a 3 bedroom Axbridge Premier Lodge with a hot tub (it was amazing – well worth the extra money!), private decking with outdoor seating and a parking space. Although Hoseasons are often known for being overrun with kids, we didn’t actually find this to be a big problem during our stay (despite staying over the New Year’s period) and found there were plenty of couples and groups of adults staying too. The site itself was equipped with a restaurant and bar serving food and drinks almost all day. There was a games room with a bowling alley and snooker corner as well as a well-stocked shop selling all the essentials. There was also a spa and gym on site with a large heated swimming pool, sauna and steam room. We booked massages each and enjoyed these on the morning of New Year’s Eve before spending a couple of hours in the gym and pool area and making the most of our last day of 2018! There were plenty of activities for the kids that could be booked and the daily schedule looked so fun – I wanted to be 10 years old again! The grounds were stunning too, with most of the lodges offering views of the surrounding Mendip Hills, and there were woodland walks dotted around the site, as well as a tennis court/football pitch and a trampoline/aero ball section too. I’d definitely recommend this place for anyone looking for a base from which to explore the best that Cheddar and the rest of Somerset has to offer.

 

Where to eat and drink

 

 

Cheddar is home to an abundance of cute little pubs, cafes and shops all waiting to make you feel welcome. The village itself is pretty small and you can walk from one end to the other in around 15 minutes. As we visited the Cheddar Gorge and Caves first we parked there and started in that area, making our way through the streets and along the river, before ending up at the waterfall which was at the other end of the village. We passed several café’s, the most famous being The Lionrock Tearooms which can be found directly opposite part of the Gorge which is known as the Lionrock due to its striking resemblance to a rock that looks like a lion! The cute Mousehole Café caught our eye as it looked like something out of Disneyland, and we were also told that the Waterfall Café is a hit with tourists too due to its riverside location. We were looking for somewhere that did a traditional Sunday Roast after working up an appetite climbing Jacob’s Ladder, so chose the White Hart Inn which was located in a small area known as The Bays, right at the bottom of the village. There were plenty of places to choose from though and you’re certainly not going to be spoilt for choice for somewhere to eat here in Cheddar!

 

We had such a lovely few days down in Cheddar and it felt amazing to say goodbye to 2018 and hello to 2019 whilst on holiday and away from home. If we’d have had more time we definitely would have visited the nearby towns of Wells and Axbridge as both looked picturesque and well worth a stop, but we chose to make the most of our time on the resort rather than driving around or venturing further than we needed to. I’d really recommend Cheddar Woods Resort and Spa for all ages, particularly if you’re travelling in a group, as there was so much going on that you barely needed to leave the resort! I feel like I did everything I needed to in Cheddar Gorge though and I’m not sure I’d go back, but I would definitely stop off to visit Wells next time I am passing through. Have you been to Cheddar Gorge or other areas of Somerset before? I’d love to know what you thought of it too!

Love Jess x

 

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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.