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How to Spend a Weekend in the Cotswolds: A Cotswolds Road Trip Itinerary

Having lived in Oxfordshire my entire life, and having blogged for over six years, I have no idea how it has taken me this long to write up my suggestions for a Cotswolds road trip itinerary. I think that, because I have grown up here, I have taken it totally for granted, and I have always prioritised writing about my overseas trips in comparison to favouring UK content. However, with UK staycations becoming increasingly popular post-lockdown, I figured now was the perfect time to help you plan a spectacular Cotswolds road trip itinerary. All these places are hand-picked and I have visited them all over the past 27 years. Here’s how to spend a weekend in the Cotswolds, including everything to see and do in the various towns and villages, as well as plenty of recommendations of where to eat and drink too!

 

 

Day 1 (Friday)

I have based this Cotswolds road trip itinerary on having 3 nights from Friday-Sunday so that you can really make the most of your time in the Cotswolds and see as much as possible. If you don’t have the time, it can of course be cut down to 1 or 2 nights depending on which places you want to see, so you can remove the areas you might have visited already or aren’t too bothered about, but this itinerary is a great place to start if you’re totally new to this neck of the woods. It is also worth pointing out that this itinerary only really works if you have a car. If you don’t have one and are arriving by train or plane into London (1hr by train from Oxford or 2hrs by car) I would really recommend that you hire one as public transport isn’t one of our strong points down here!

 

Burford, Oxfordshire

 

 

Assuming you’re travelling to the Cotswolds on the Friday, either morning or afternoon, I would 100% recommend starting in Burford and basing yourself here for the duration of your stay. Perched on a medieval hill and also known as the ‘gateway to the Cotswolds’, Burford is conveniently located just off the A40, allowing easy access to the likes of Oxford, Cirencester, Cheltenham and more. I went to school and sixth form in Burford for seven years so I am totally biased, but I just love it so much and it is definitely not to be missed off your Cotswolds road trip itinerary! Highlights include Huffkins tea rooms (they do the best cakes), the stunning St John the Baptist church at the bottom of the hill, and the upmarket Burford Garden Centre, frequented by many a local celeb. Cotswold Wildlife Park, just a few minutes outside of Burford, is also well worth a visit if you have time and are looking for a family day out.

 

Bourton on the Water, Gloucestershire

 

 

After having lunch and wandering around Burford, head over to nearby Bourton on the Water (15 min drive) for a lovely stroll around one of the best loved villages in the Cotswolds. Often referred to as the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’, Bourton is brimming with boutique shops, classic tea rooms and cosy pubs. Bourton is home to many different bridges that stretch across the river Windrush and the water is at the heart of this village. Travelling with kids? You won’t want to miss Birdland, an enormous wildlife park with penguins, pelicans and parrots, home to over 500 bird species. In the height of summer Bourton is very busy with tourists, so get away from the crowds and take a countryside hike out to Upper and Lower Slaughter instead – these picturesque villages are a must on any Cotswolds road trip itinerary.

 

 

Stow on the Wold, Gloucestershire

 

 

On your way back from Bourton, make a stop at the historic market town of Stow on the Wold. Brimming with cafe’s, shops and restaurants, this place is classic Cotswolds in a nutshell and is worth a visit, although there isn’t a huge amount to do. St Edward’s Church, with its heavy oak doors, is said to inspire JRR Tolkien’s Doors of Durin in the Lord of the Rings, and makes a perfect photo opportunity. I’d also recommend a stroll down the high street so you can dip in and out of the many antique shops, as well as an evening meal at either The Old Butchers or The Queen’s Head, serving delicious dinners until late.

 

Day 2 (Saturday)

After a busy first day of your weekend in the Cotswolds, today is no different as you explore a whole host of famous chocolate box villages. Continue exploring more of pretty Gloucestershire as you tick more Cotswolds landmarks off your bucket-list. This itinerary still works well if you’re staying in Burford, as I have previously mentioned, but stays at either Cheltenham or Gloucester would work fine too. Don’t forget that you’ll still need a car to get around as transport links between these places are pretty non-existent!

Broadway, Worcestershire

 

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Beautiful day out at Broadway Tower… how have I lived in the Cotswolds my entire life but never been here before?! 😍 Exploring new places close to home is how I've been spending my lockdown and I'm going to continue it over the coming weeks and months too! I just love discovering more of our beautiful country 🇬🇧 . . . #broadway #broadwayuk #broadwaytower #broadwaycotswolds #worcestershire #igersbroadway #cotswolds #thecotswolds #igerscotswolds #discovercotswolds #cotswoldslife #cotswoldway #cotswoldsuk #cotswoldvillages #visitcotswolds #visitengland #visitbritain #lovegreatbritain #weloveengland #england #england_insta #englandmylove #englandtravel #britishsnaps #englandtourism #bbcbritain #capturingbritain #scenicbritain #beautifulbritain

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Somewhere I have only visited recently is beautiful Broadway and it’s famous tower. Broadway is a stunning market town lined with honey coloured cottages, antique shops and cutesy cafe’s and is one of the most visited spots in the Cotswolds. It can get super touristy and really quite busy on weekends, so I would recommend going first thing in the morning or later on in the afternoon to avoid the crowds. No visit to Broadway is complete without a stop off at Broadway Tower, a few minutes drive (or approx an hour’s walk) away. Completed in 1798, this Saxon designed tower is a museum/viewpoint housing historic exhibitions and boasting stunning views. Climb to the top and you’ll be rewarded with sweeping panoramic views reaching as far as 16 counties, as well as an aerial view of the resident red deer in the park below. There are many circular walks you can take at Broadway Tower, along with a shop, cafe and interesting nuclear bunker onsite too.

 

Cotswold Lavender Farm, Gloucestershire

 

 

Located just a 4 minute drive from Broadway Tower, close to the teeny tiny village of Snowshill, Cotswold Lavender is one of the most instagrammable places in Gloucestershire. A must visit for any Cotswold road trip itinerary during, a stop off at Cotswold Lavender makes a great addition to a day out in Broadway. For just £4 you can access the beautiful lavender farm and walk along the many rows of gorgeous lilac flowers that stretch as far as the eye can see, but please bear in mind that the farm is only open from mid June – early August. There’s also a vibrant yellow field right next to the lavender too, which is perfect for even more photos. Dogs are welcome if they are kept on leads, and there’s also a small shop and distillery on site if you want to purchase some pretty lavender infused goods! If you have time, drive 3 mins down the road to nearby Snowshill and enjoy a drink or a pub lunch at the Snowshill Arms.

 

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

 

 

Famed for its annual race days, Cheltenham is a great place to while away a few hours on your weekend in the Cotswolds. On your way back from Cotswold Lavender/Broadway, stop off in Cheltenham for an afternoon of shopping or fine dining. Regent Arcade and the Promenade are great for high street and designer shops, whilst the Brewery Quarter and Montpellier are the best places to find all your favourite restaurants – The Ivy is a particular favourite of mine! Enjoy an ice cream at Imperial Gardens if the weather is good, and look out for the Neptune Fountain just around the corner. If you have time, head to nearby Bishops Cleeve to walk up Cleeve Hill which boasts impressive panoramic views over the valley below.

 

Bibury, Gloucestershire

 

 

Make beautiful Bibury your last stop of the day before you head back to your accommodation for the evening. Perched on the river Coln, Bibury is a very small village but is hugely popular with tourists. Lined with iconic Cotswold stone cottages, Arlington Row attracts coachloads of visitors at the height of summer, so avoid going in the middle of the day and head out late afternoon/early evening instead. Walk around the village over the bridge and past the trout farm, where you can spot plenty of rainbow trout splashing in the stream below. Round off your day with an evening meal at either The Swan or The Catherine Wheel, both perfectly located in the centre of Bibury and both offering delicious lunches and dinners.

 

Day 3 (Sunday) 

 

It’s the third and final day of your Cotswolds road trip itinerary, and I’ve only added two morning stops so that you can spend the majority of the day exploring beautiful Oxford! Head out on an early morning walk to Minster Lovell before stopping for brunch in Woodstock where you’ll then wander around Blenheim Palace. From there head into Oxford to marvel at its university buildings and dreaming spires. You could easily spend 2 whole days in Oxford, but I’ve listed the highlights below for you and these can easily be done in a day if you’ve got your walking shoes on!

 

Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire

 

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I hope you've had a lovely Easter weekend staying at home 🏡 Every time I walk past this gorgeous cottage I want to live there! Haven't been to this little village in #Oxfordshire since we went into lockdown 3 weeks ago, and I can't wait for the day when we are able to drive 10 mins to the next village/town to enjoy a long walk or a pub lunch rather than being confined to our back gardens for the foreseeable future ✨ This easter has been a little different – last year I had just got back from being in Australia – but when all of this is over, I'll look back and be so grateful that I have my family, my health, a lovely home & 2 pretty gardens to enjoy in the sunshine ☀️ Whatever happens over the next few weeks, we must continue to #stayhome ❤️ The world will be waiting for you to visit when we are able to, and the #Cotswolds certainly isn't going anywhere 🌎 . . . #happyeaster #uklockdown #minsterlovell #littleminster #lovethecotswolds #cotswoldstyle #thecotswolds #loveoxfordshire #weloveengland #visitbritain #instatravel #lovegreatbritain #capturingbritain #photosofbritain #loveengland #photosofengland #visitengland #thisisengland #igersengland #igersuk #igersoxfordshire #cotswoldslife #oxford #experienceoxfordshire #oxfordshire #countryside #oxfordshirelife #travelblogger

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The first stop on the last day of your weekend in the Cotswolds is Old Minster Lovell, a tiny Oxfordshire village located near the market town of Witney (also worth a visit if you have time). Park at the Wash Meadow and walk across the fields to Minster Lovell Hall & Dovecote, the ruins of a 15th century Oxfordshire manor house. Complete with crumbling hall, tower and nearby dovecote, the ruins date back to the 1430s when they were built by William Lovell, one of the richest men in England at that time. Occupying a peaceful setting beside the River Windrush, you can take a walk in the nearby woods before circling back to the car park via St Kenelm’s Church and passing the gorgeous cottages that line the main road.

 

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

 

 

Before you head into Oxford, I’d really recommend spending an hour or so at beautiful Blenheim Palace, one of the most famous palaces in the country, and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. Book in advance if you want to check out the state rooms inside the palace itself, otherwise you can turn up on the day to explore the grounds and gardens. With history spanning 300 years, there’s plenty to see and do during your visit to Blenheim. Check out the ‘finest view in England’ (according to Churchill) as you stroll around the grounds past the enormous lake, or let the kids run riot in the maze and pleasure gardens.

 

Oxford, Oxfordshire 

 

 

In my humble opinion, no visit to the Cotswolds is complete without a day trip to the dreaming spires of Oxford! Famed for its historic university, its enviable location on the river Thames and its secret Harry Potter filming locations, Oxford makes a fantastic place to end your weekend in the Cotswolds. As well as visiting the iconic college buildings, be sure to tick the Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library, Sheldonian Theatre and Bridge of Sighs off your Oxford bucket list. All that walking will have you working up a thirst, so I’d highly recommend stopping at rooftop bar The Varsity Club to enjoy a drink with a view of the spires in the distance. The Pitt Rivers and Ashmolean museums (both free entry) are worth a visit if you have time, and don’t forget to head to the newly opened Westgate Centre to get your shopping fix (there are lots of rooftop bars/restaurants there too). You can read more about things to do in Oxford in my other blog post, but you can definitely see most of the sights in a day! Finish up with a hearty meal at The Chequers, just off the high street, and indulge in yummy pub grub at the heart of the city centre.

 

So there we have it, a bumper guide on how to spend a weekend in the Cotswolds. I really hope this helps you to start planning your Cotswolds road trip itinerary and gives you plenty of travel inspo. I’m well aware that this itinerary is completely jam packed and I have probably included way too many stops for a short three night break in the Cotswolds, but I really want to share all my favourite places with you as there are SO MANY TO CHOOSE FROM!! This itinerary therefore is of course totally adaptable, so feel free to remove or add any places that you do or don’t want to see depending on how much time you have. A weekend in the Cotswolds is a lovely idea for a UK staycation, and there’s so much to see that you’ll struggle to fit it all in, but that just gives you all the more reason to come back again another time!

Have you been to the Cotswolds before? I’d love to know which parts you’ve visited!

 

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My UK Travel Wishlist: 10 Places for a UK Staycation

As we enter the 13th week of lockdown here in the UK, I’ve slowly started thinking about the idea of travelling again. Don’t worry, I’m not going to be jumping on a plane anytime soon, but I am hoping to travel to a few places in the UK whenever we are able to. At the time of writing, we are currently not allowed to stay overnight anywhere in Britain, and we’re encouraged not to take any day trips or make any ‘non-essential journeys’. When lockdown is over and we are able to roam around the country again, I can’t wait to spend time exploring places I’ve never been to in our British isles. I’m grateful to have visited a huge portion of the UK over the past 27 years, but there are still so many places I’ve yet to discover. With that in mind, I thought I’d put together my ultimate UK travel wishlist so I can plan some day trips and staycations closer to home, post-lockdown of course. Here are 10 places in the UK that I’m just itching to visit whenever we are able to…

 

Stonehenge, England

 

 

This one feels pretty fitting as it was the Stonehenge Summer Solstice this weekend, celebrating the longest day of the year. I have driven past Stonehenge many times before on the way down to Cornwall and Devon but never actually stopped off and visited for the day. I would love to visit whilst en route to Southampton or Bournemouth and use it as a handy place to stop off and break up the journey. At over 4000 years old, Stonehenge is the world’s most famous pre-historic monument, and one of the most impressive landmarks in England. I can’t believe I still haven’t been yet!

 

Brecon Beacons, Wales

 

 

Apart from heading to Cardiff last year to see the Spice Girls on tour (yep, they were amazing) and climbing Mount Snowdon the year before, I haven’t actually spent a lot of time in Wales in recent years. Growing up as kids we would visit the likes of Tenby, Cardigan Bay, Newquay, Caernarfon and Pembrokeshire on our annual summer holidays, but I have never explored the Brecon Beacons before. Climbing Pen Y Fan is definitely on my UK travel wishlist, and I’d love to spend a few days getting well and truly lost in the mountains during an epic Welsh staycation.

 

Dublin, Ireland

 

 

Ok so don’t judge me but I have NEVER been to Ireland before!! I know, I know, it’s crazy that I haven’t visited yet. I think the problem I have is that I travel so much and often overlook places closer to home in favour of destinations that are further away or more exciting. Dublin, however, is somewhere I definitely want to visit as soon as possible. I’d love to explore the cobbled streets and the ancient castle, as well as have a good old night out in Temple Bar – it’s got to be done, right? As soon as we are able to fly again, I am 100% heading over to the Irish capital. Although I won’t be indulging in any Guinness, sorry to disappoint 😉

 

Edinburgh, Scotland

 

Despite only being to Scotland once before (last year, aged 26!) I still haven’t ticked Edinburgh off my UK travel wishlist. I I have NO IDEA why or how I have not yet visited this stunning city, but I am really hoping to go towards the end of this year if we are able to travel around the UK – fingers crossed! Everything about Edinburgh oozes charm, history and culture. From it’s striking castle to its cobbled streets, Edinburgh has something to offer all year round. As much as it’d be great to visit in summer, I’ve always thought December would be a great time to go as I am a sucker for a Christmas market and I know theirs are supposed to be amazing!

 

Windsor, England

 

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What's your favourite castle in Britain? 🏰 Edinburgh Castle? Conwy? Warwick? Leeds? Bodiam? For me, it's hard to beat the beauty of this incredible place – the near 1,000 year old Windsor Castle. Love this view of the “Long Walk” – swipe for a close up! Both shots by @_beans_on_toast_ Let's tuck into a large slab of delicious history: In 1066, when William the Conqueror claimed victory at the Battle of Hastings, the Forest of Windsor was already established – serving as a vital resource for the people who lived in the area. But it was William the Conqueror who was the first monarch to be inspired by the grasslands of Windsor Great Park as a place to build a residence In fact, the outer walls of Windsor Castle as they stand today are the same walls which were constructed by William the Conqueror in 1070AD – and some of the original oaks planted during his reign can still be seen standing tall within the Park now. Just amazing Ahh to be a King. Still, I'm the king of my garden shed and there is a slab of half nibbled fruit cake waiting for me there 🤓 This is @timholt wishing you a wonderful Thursday! Super photos by @_beans_on_toast_ 🇬🇧 To be featured, follow and tag us! ‘Ta! 🇬🇧

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Technically I’ve been to Windsor before as I went to Legoland on a school trip when I was 8 (what a day that was), but I was supposed to visit Windsor again properly back in April. Me and two of my besties were so excited for a fun filled girls day out and a little bit of sightseeing, but obviously Corona meant lockdown which meant our day out was cancelled. I am however still planning a little day trip to see the Queen’s Castle (and my best pal) as soon as we are able to travel safely again. Aside from seeing Queen Liz’s digs, I’d love to visit St George’s Chapel (where Harry & Meghan got married) and am sure we would enjoy a little river walk along the Thames too.

Newcastle, England

 

 

Up next on my UK travel wishlist is Newcastle. I have fancied a ‘night out on the Toon’ since I was 18 but I’ve never got round to visiting because a) it is very far away from me and b) it’s bloody cold up there! I think I’d like to do a stopover in Newcastle on the way up to Scotland and would enjoy a wander around the shopping district and a walk along the river Tyne. I definitely want to visit Durham and the famous Angel of the North statue too so would probably try to cram as much in as I could during my short stopover. Also, what are the chances of me meeting Ant and Dec?!…

 

Loch Ness, Scotland

 

 

I travelled to Loch Lomond and Glencoe last year whilst en route to Ben Nevis, but sadly I didn’t have time to visit the famous Loch Ness. A boat trip around the loch is something I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember, especially as I would be on the lookout for Nessie the whole time! There are so many beautiful parts of Scotland I am yet to visit, and I would love to dedicate a week or two to the North Coast 500 road trip which would allow me to tick off plenty of famous sights along the way. If anyone has any tips for doing this, or knows of any companies who offer group tours, please let me know as I really want to do this road trip but definitely don’t want to drive it solo!

 

Gower Peninsula, Wales

 

 

Not far from Swansea, the Gower Peninsula was the first place in the UK to be awarded the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty status back in 1956. Stretching across 19 miles of fantastic coastline, the Gower Peninsula offers 25 fantastic beaches to enjoy. If I were to book a Welsh staycation I would spend my days taking cliff walks, going on countryside hikes and sunbathing on the beach (if the weather was good). I definitely think the Gower would make a great base for exploring some of the best areas in Wales and would really love to tick it off my UK travel wishlist sometime soon!

 

Belfast, Ireland

 

 

As if I needed another reason to visit Ireland… Belfast is just perfect for a weekend city break staycation. The birthplace of the Titanic, and Northern Ireland’s capital, Belfast is steeped in maritime history. Top of my Belfast bucketlist is the castle, city hall and botanic gardens, all of which are right up my street! If I had time I would love to do a week long road trip in Ireland so that I could visit Dublin and Belfast in one go, but I am also desperate to do the Giants Causeway too as the scenery looks totally breathtaking! Does anyone know of any good companies who do Ireland road trips? Again, I’d love to do this on a group tour instead of travelling on my own!

 

Cambridge, England

 

 

Another place I was supposed to visit at the end of March right before lockdown hit was beautiful Cambridge! My cousin Katie goes to uni there so me and my sisters were going to hop on the train to meet up with her for the day and enjoy a lovely lunch and a bit of sightseeing. Being from Oxford I think most people assume I will have visited Cambridge at some point in my life, but nope, I am still yet to tick it off my UK travel wishlist! I’d love to wander around the college buildings, see the Bridge of Sighs and go punting down the river – it sounds sooo similar to Oxford doesn’t it?!

 

These are all popular places to visit in Britain, some more well known than others, and I can’t believe I haven’t visited any of them yet! In terms of immediate travel plans, I’m hoping to go to Scotland to attempt to climb Ben Nevis again for The Pituitary Foundation in 2021, so I’m definitely looking at having a few extra days up there to explore some of the surrounding highlands. And as I’ve never been to Ireland before, I’d love to do a week long road trip and visit Dublin, Belfast and the Giants Causeway one after the other. How many of these places have you ticked off your British bucket list? And where are you planning your next UK staycation? Send over allllll your travel plans please!

Love Jess x

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How to Spend 24 Hours in Manchester

 

Last weekend I stayed overnight in Manchester for a fab travel blogger conference, Blog at the Beach, hosted by Ice Lolly Holiday and Visit Barbados. I had an amazing time catching up with all my fave blogger friends and meeting loads of new ones, and was excited to explore Manchester properly for the first time in YEARS. In the past I’ve usually just headed straight to the Trafford Centre from Liverpool as I spend a lot of time with my family up there, but this time I was determined to see all that Manchester had to offer, so when Hotels.com asked me to create a guide on how to do a budget break to the city, I was more than up for the challenge! They offer some fantastic accommodation options including luxury hotels, budget B&B’s and the serviced apartments Manchester are a great choice too. Here’s what I got up to during my 24 hours in Manchester, and what I recommend you do there during your northern getaway…

 

Check out Exchange Square & the Northern Quarter

 

exchange square manchester

The Exchange Square

 

Located slap bang in the middle of the city, Exchange Square is home to the shopping district and is right behind the popular Arndale Centre. You’ll find street performers and live music in the square, with the Corn Exchange building as the impressive backdrop. There’s also the Printworks, which has now been converted to a food court with the likes of Five Guys & the Hard Rock Cafe dominating the skyline. The Northern Quarter is another quirky area of the city which is home to an abundance of bars, cafes, shops and restaurants as well as some fantastic street art too. Situated between the Ancoats and Piccadilly, the Northern Quarter is the retro part of Manchester and has plenty of character, with record shops, vintage stores and places where bands gather to play live music.

 

Shop til you drop on the high street  

 

the arndale centre

The Arndale Centre

 

Manchester has got some fantastic shopping, and the high street is one of the best places to go for this. You’ll find every kind of high street, designer and department store you can think of, and the enormous Primark is also home to the newly opened Central Perk Friends Cafe which is hugely popular with locals and tourists alike. Located five miles west of Manchester city centre, The Trafford Centre is of course another obvious choice for shopping, and boasts a fantastic range of shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. There’s also plenty of leisure options for those that don’t fancy shopping or eating, with an Odeon cinema, laser quest, mini golf course, escape room and even a Sealife aquarium offering a fantastic day out for all the family.

 

Visit one of the many museums

 

The National Football Museum

The National Football Museum

 

Manchester has some great museums, many of which are free to enter and are suitable for people of all ages. From football and music to art and fashion, you’ll be spoilt for choice. The National Football Museum, just a stones throw from Victoria station, is one of the city’s most popular attractions, detailing the successful history of the beautiful game. The Science and Industry Museum and the Manchester Art Gallery are well worth a visit, as is the Imperial War Museum located right on the waterfront at The Quays. For those of you who are soap lovers, Coronation Street The Tour at MediaCityUK in Salford is a great day out for all the family. You can explore the historic cobbles, wander through Weatherfield and even see where the pints are pulled in the Rovers Return.

 

Have a night out in Deansgate

 

 

One of the liveliest parts of Manchester, the Deansgate area is a great night out and is brimming with bars, clubs and restaurants. We had cocktails in the All Star Lanes bar, which is complete with a full bowling alley at the back, and then headed to Rudy’s for pizza. We passed the Peaky Blinders bar, a popular new hangout right in the centre of Deansgate, and also passed tonnes of other clubs and bars too. This area of the city is the place to be for a great northern night out, with the mile long road home to trendy eateries such as The Living Room, MOJO and The Botanist.

 

Getting around

a Manchester tram

The trams in Manchester

 

Manchester is quite a big city, so you may need to use public transport or taxis to get around, but the central area is best discovered on foot. You can walk from the high street up to Exchange Square in around 10 minutes, and head to the Victoria or Piccadilly train stations which are either a 5 or 15 minute walk away too. For a proper Mancunian experience, hop on a tram to get around like a local and explore everything much more quickly.

 

Where to stay

 

quad room at the macdonald manchester hotel

Macdonald Manchester Hotel & Spa

 

We stayed at the 4* Manchester Macdonald Hotel & Spa which was located a little out of the city centre, but was just a 3 minute walk from Picadilly train station. The hotel was in a perfect location for our Ice Lolly event as the office building was right around the corner, but we did have to get Uber’s/ taxis in and out of the city centre as the 25 min walk was a little too much for some of us who were wearing heels in the evening! The hotel had plenty of facilities including a tecnho-gym, swimming pool and spa with infra-red sauna, sensation shower, eucalyptus steam room and even an ice igloo. Please note that the spa was only accessible by paying a £10 supplement per person. I was in a room of 4 and we had 2 double beds between us which were super comfy and the bathroom was amazing. I’d definitely stay here again on my next visit as it was the perfect place from which to base ourselves during our 24 hours in Manchester.

 

Where to eat 

 

yard and coop manchester

Yard & Coop Manchester

 

Manchester has a great foodie scene, and we spent most of our time having lunch or eating dinner around the Deansgate area where we were going out on the Saturday night. There are some brilliant restaurants to choose from, with popular chains including Bella Italia, Nandos and Wagamama, but we opted to eat at Rudy’s which has been voted as one of the UK’s best pizza restaurants. For lunch the next day we headed to the Northern Quarter and ate at Yard & Coop, a speciality chicken restaurant serving every kind of chicken dish you could think of! Other great foodie areas include Peter Street and the Ancoats.

I had a great 24 hours in Manchester exploring all that the city had to offer, but I know there’s lots more that I didn’t see during my short time there. If I had longer I definitely would have spent more time seeing some of the museums and exploring the older buildings, as well as venturing out to the Trafford Centre too, but I definitely got a good feel for the city during my 24 hours in Manchester. Have you been to Manchester before? I’d love to know your top tips!

NB. My spending money during my time in Manchester was gifted by Hotels.com but all views, words and photos are of course my own.

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Glamping in the Cotswolds: Croft Farm Waterpark

 

 

Last week I was invited to go glamping in the Cotswolds at Croft Farm Waterpark, a resort in Gloucestershire that boasts a variety of lakeside accommodation and a whole host of water based activities for all the family to enjoy. Located in the small village of Bredons Hardwick, just 5 miles from the pretty town of Tewkesbury, Croft Farm Waterpark is perfectly positioned to explore the surrounding Cotswolds countryside. Here’s what I got up to during my stay, and why I absolutely LOVED my first ever glamping experience…

 

The Accommodation

 

Lakeside glamping pod

lakeside pods at Croft Farm Waterpark

Croft Farm Waterpark is home to a variety of accommodation types to suit every guest. You’ll find pitches for caravans and tents, good sized cabins, chalets and lodges with hot-tubs as well as two bespoke lakeside pods which are used for the glamping experience. My friend and I stayed in a lakeside pod during our visit and we were so impressed with it! I wasn’t really sure what to expect as I have never been glamping before, but our pod was the perfect size for us and was actually pretty spacious with plenty of room for your luggage and clothes etc, a dressing table with a seat and a mirror, a kettle, mini fridge and numerous plug sockets.

 

Interior of lakeside pod with bed, sofa bed and dressing table

 

view from the lakeside glamping pod

The pod had space for a good sized double bed with bed-side tables as well as a sofa that doubled up as another single bed, although I think three people in one pod may be a little cramped! There were two chairs on the outdoor decking enabling you to sit and enjoy the fresh air and lakeside views right outside your pod, and there was room for 1-2 cars either behind or right beside the pod. Obviously the toilets/showers are communal, but this didn’t bother us at all and is to be expected when you’re staying on a camp site! We had a great night’s sleep and loved waking up to the pretty lakeside views the next morning.

 

The Facilities

Onsite gym

Kayaks and watersports equipment on the lake

 

Boasting an onsite gym, beauty salon, clubhouse, lake with water-sports and a spacious function room for events, Croft Farm Waterpark has plenty to offer to guests who are wanting to go glamping in the Cotswolds . The gym, aptly named Gym & Tonic, costs £5 to use and is equipped with treadmills, bikes, cross trainers, weights and more. In the same building as the gym you’ll find Beauty Tonic, a popular salon offering numerous treatments including massages, spray tans, manicures and pedicures. Unfortunately the clubhouse was closed during our stay (it’s closed Mon-Thurs except from school holidays throughout July & August) but when it’s open guests will be able to buy breakfasts, lunches and dinners at great prices and enjoy live music during weekends. 

 

Sun shining on the lake at Croft Farm Waterpark
green grass in front of the lake at croft farm waterpark

 

I think the real stand out feature of Croft Farm though has to be the fantastic lake which is the focal point of the entire site. The lake is large enough to comfortably accommodate plenty of people, but not too large so that it feels overwhelming. There were lots of school groups taking part in activities during our stay, but we got up early one morning and to hire a pedalo and enjoyed the entire lake to ourselves for half an hour at 9:30, before the kids started their sessions. Activities on offer included stand up paddle boarding, windsurfing, kayaking, canoeing, sailing and power boating. There are so many things to do on the lake and it’s certainly got the wow factor; I can see why glamping in the Cotswolds at Croft Farm is such a hit with families, and when the sun is shining the lake looks truly mesmerising!

 

The Location

Welcome sign for Croft Farm Waterpark
Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire

 

Situated in Bredons Hardwick, Croft Farm is sign-posted just off the B4080 and is super easy to find, making it a great place to go  glamping in the Cotswolds. The closest big town is Tewkesbury, where you’ll find plenty of high street stores, independent shops, cafe’s, pubs and restaurants as well as Tewkesbury Abbey which is absolutely stunning and well worth a visit! Others areas of interest nearby are the Malvern Hills, listed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a 30 minute drive away, as well as the thriving town of Cheltenham Spa (20 min drive) which boasts great nightlife, a fantastic high street and of course the famous racecourse. Ellenborough Park, a 16th century manor house offering fine dining and spa retreats on the outskirts of Cheltenham, is well worth a visit too. There’s a local pub just opposite the entrance to Croft Farm, which is perfect for walking to and enjoying a drink or a bite to eat, or you can head to the clubhouse for a meal if it’s open. We actually went in to Tewkesbury for the evening and found a great spot for dinner, but you could also order takeaways to the campsite too, and there’s information on local takeaways in reception.

 

The Staff

croft farm welcome sign
a swan on the lake at croft farm waterpark

Perhaps the most important part of any campsite is the people who run it and who are onsite 24/7 to ensure that everything runs smoothly with their guests. The owners of Croft Farm, Alex and Martin, are the absolute life and soul of the campsite and couldn’t have done enough for us during our stay. I had contacted them a few times prior to our arrival with a few questions regarding onsite activities and bed linen etc for the pod, and Alex was super helpful with her responses, ensuring I fully understood what to expect upon arrival. Alex and Martin also helped with access to the onsite gym as well as recommending what we should do for dinner as the club house was sadly closed during out stay. We hired a pedalo on the lake during our stay and another staff member, Jake, was on hand to ensure we were well looked after whilst we were on the water. The staff at Croft Farm are an absolute credit to the site and go above and beyond to ensure all their guests have the most fantastic time during their stay!

As you can see, I had a wonderful stay at Croft Farm Waterpark, especially as the sun was shining and we had glorious weather that was perfect for doing outdoorsy activities. The lake was so well equipped for water-sports with something to suit all ages and abilities, and the surrounding countryside made the resort such a relaxing place to stay. I would highly recommend Croft Farm Waterpark to couples, groups of friends or families looking to go glamping in the Cotswolds for a fantastic getaway in the heart of the Gloucestershire countryside and would like to say THANKYOU to the team for a wonderful stay!

NB. I was hosted by Croft Farm Waterpark in exchange for an honest review on my blog, but all thoughts and words are of course my own. Thank you also to Campsites.co.uk for helping to arrange the visit!

 

jess on the lake

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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! ✨

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

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.