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8 of The Best Restaurants for Outdoor Dining in Oxfordshire

 

Restrictions are slowly starting to ease, pubs are slowly starting to reopen and we can finally start eating outdoors in restaurants again – so it seems the next phase of our UK roadmap is going well! I’ve already written about my favourite walks and hikes in my local area of the Cotswolds so thought I’d put together a bumper dining guide for you to enjoy too now that things are opening up again. I have loved having meals out with friends down the pub again, but one thing I have really struggled with is knowing which places have the best gardens or are best set up for outdoor dining in Oxfordshire before indoor dining resumes on 17th May 2021. That’s why I thought I’d put together my bumper guide of local places to book dinner or drinks here in Oxfordshire, and they have all been tried and tested over the years by yours truly! Hungry? You will be by the time you get to the end of this list…

 

George & Dragon, Long Hanborough

 

 

Up first on my list of 8 of the best restaurants for outdoor dining in Oxfordshire is the George & Dragon in the pretty village of Long Hanborough. Close to the A40, and within easy reach of both Witney and Oxford, the George & Dragon is in a great location. It’s perfect for a pub lunch stop after a busy day of walking the grounds of nearby Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, or Pinsley Woods in Church Hanborough. They have made a huge effort to be Covid safe with their outdoor dining areas as they have multiple tables with umbrellas as well as a separate dining terrace adorned with fairy lights that look great after dark. There’s lots of free parking, the outdoor terrace is first come first served and you can just turn up but if you want a table I’d recommend booking in advance. The best time to go is on a Friday night when cocktails are £5 and they have a great atmosphere!

 

The Evenlode, Eynsham

 

 

Enjoying another great location just off the A40, the Evenlode at Eynsham is a traditional pub with seven en-suite bedrooms too. They have a huge garden out the front with large umbrellas offering shelter from the elements and there’s a small terrace right outside the entrance which is a little more covered. The friendly staff are on hand to give out blankets when it’s cold outside and the pergola has pretty fairy lights too. I booked in advance during my last visit, at lunch time on a Saturday afternoon, and it was fairly busy despite the weather not being great so I would make sure you book in advance when possible although they were accepting walk ins too. Free onsite parking is available on a first come first serve basis.

 

The Hollybush, Witney

 

 

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A personal favourite of mine and somewhere I have visited many times over the years, the Hollybush is located on Corn Street right in the centre of Witney. Their garden out the back has recently been redesigned to offer a fantastic outdoor dining in Oxfordshire experience with large tables, seating areas and big covers too. There are cosy blankets, patio heaters and four gorgeous private dining houses which are new for 2021. The smallest dining house is available for 2-4 guests with a £90.00 deposit and a £90.00 minimum spend, whilst the other three dining houses can seat 4-10 guests comfortably, with a £90.00 deposit and a £180.00 minimum spend. Their new chef has whipped up a delicious new menu and The Hollybush was recently featured on a list of the top 50 pubs in Oxfordshire by expert local guide The Cotswold Gentleman.

 

The Mermaid, Burford

 

 

Up next on my list of 8 of the best restaurants for outdoor dining in Oxfordshire is The Mermaid, located on the bustling high street in Burford. There are tables with umbrellas out the front if you want to sit and people watch but the enclosed garden at the back of the pub is a gorgeous little suntrap when the weather’s good, plus there are strings of fairy lights to gaze at when it’s dark. Prices are very reasonable for Burford and there are lots of dishes to choose from on their eclectic menu. There is no parking so you’ll either need to try and nab a space on Sheep Street or head down to the public car park at the bottom of the hill by the river Windrush.

 

Horse and Radish, Minster Lovell

 

 

Another firm favourite of mine is Minster Lovell’s Horse and Radish, slap bang in the middle of Burford and Witney just along from the A40. This place has stunning views of the rolling hills and fields in the distance and it’s certainly one of the prettiest gardens for outdoor dining in Oxfordshire in my opinion! Although there is a limited menu at the moment the food is delicious and they do incredible pizza’s from their brand new wood fired oven. There’s plenty of free parking and if you fancy a nice walk you can leave the car and walk to and from Little Minster to see the Minster Lovell Hall and Ruins, an English Heritage site dating back to the 14th century.

 

Victors, Oxford

 

 

We’re heading over to the dreaming spires of Oxford now on my list of 8 of the best restaurants for outdoor dining in Oxfordshire. I usually head to Victors, on the rooftop of the Westgate shopping centre, when I have a girls night out. Their interiors are so beautiful with lilac wisteria and pink blossom hanging from the ceiling and their cocktails are incredible (the candyfloss one is my favourite!) The menu is made up of small plates and pizzas which taste great too. In order to be Covid safe, Victors have launched their pop up ‘Riviera on the Roof’ event which features covered seating adorned with their signature wisteria for up to six people. A real treat of a venue, this restaurant is perfect for a special occasion and offers tonnes of great selfie opportunities. Westgate has a multi-storey car park below and is only £3 to park after 5pm, but if you fancy a drink the nearest bus stop is less than a 3 minute walk away.

 

 

Blue Boar, Witney

 

 

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Another place I have been visiting for the past 10 years or so is the Blue Boar in Witney. Located in market square, right at the heart of the town, the Blue Boar serves up delicious Italian style pizzas, pastas, risottos and more. Their woodfired pizzas and calzones are a must and they do a great range of drinks from the extensive bar menu. The garden to the rear is quite narrow but long enough to hold a number of tables and is fully covered with umbrellas, heaters and a marquee too. Park nearby on Church Green or the Waitrose car park as there is no car parking at the pub itself. I have celebrated many birthday’s and enjoyed plenty of meals with friends at the Blue Boar and it remains one of my favourite restaurants for outdoor dining in Oxfordshire.

 

 

The Perch, Botley

 

 

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Last but by no means least on my list of 8 of the best restaurants for outdoor dining in Oxfordshire is The Perch in Botley. Just a 20 minute walk (or a 5 minute drive) from central Oxford, The Perch is a pretty little gastro-pub offering a delicious menu in a pretty riverside setting. There are lots of tables, covered and uncovered, dotted around the large gardens. At night the fairy lights glisten and there’s an outdoor bar area too. You’ll also find a hedge covered walkway through a wrought iron arch at the back of the garden which leads you to the banks of the river Isis. Leave the car at the pub and follow the river along Port Meadow for a scenic walk to Oxford city centre and back.

 

These are just 8 of the best restaurants for outdoor dining in Oxfordshire but there are plenty more I could have added to this list. Being a local Oxfordshire resident I have spent many afternoons/evenings enjoying lunches/dinners al fresco and the restaurants on this list have some of the best gardens in the county. If you’re planning a little visit to the Cotswolds don’t forget to check out my ultimate Cotswolds weekend itinerary for all my top tips and tricks! After 17th May, when we can resume indoor dining, I will still be going to these restaurants because their interiors are just as beautiful as their outdoor counterparts! But for now you can take my word for it and get booking some of my picks for the best restaurants in Oxfordshire for outdoor dining. How many will you tick off this summer? The heat is on…

 

 

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7 of the Best UK Road Trips: A Driving Itinerary of Great Britain

Although we may be a small country here in Great Britain, what we lack in size we more than make up for in charm, history and beauty. Across our four nations we showcase miles of rugged coastline, rolling green fields as far as the eye can see and fabulous beaches with reams of golden sand. Although not quite as famous as America’s Route 66 or Australia’s Great Ocean Road, the UK is still home to some of the best road trips in the world. From the incredible scenery of Scotland’s North Coast 500 to the gorgeous coastal views of England’s Atlantic Highway, there are road trips for all ages to enjoy. Whether you have three days or three weeks, or you’re driving a car, campervan or motorcycle, you can pack in tonnes of beauty spots and must-see landmarks during your driving itinerary of Great Britain. In need of some UK travel inspo? You’ve come to the right place! Here’s my pick of 7 of the best UK road trips from all corners of the country so you can start planning now that lockdown is easing…

North Coast 500, Scotland

 

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Known as Scotland’s answer to Route 66, the North Coast 500 is an epic driving adventure that’ll take you across 516 miles of stunning Scottish highlands. Starting and ending at Inverness Castle, the route was officially launched at 2015 and runs through counties including Inverness-shire, Caithness, Sutherland and Ross and Cromarty. Along the way you’ll discover the likes of Ullapool, Wick and John O’Groats giving you plenty of sights to tick off your Scottish bucket-list. The route typically takes 5-7 days to complete and this is a good amount of time to set aside so you can break up the long driving with lots of scenic stopovers in between. Make sure you do your research before you set off for your trip; the roads are winding, the bends are sharp and there are plenty of wildlife that could jump out at you along the way! You’ll also need to plan ahead and book your accommodation in advance as local hotels and b&b’s have seen a huge surge in popularity since the route was launched. Driving the NC500 is something that is definitely on my UK wishlist and I would love to plan this incredible road trip for myself one day!

 

 

Cotswold Way, England

 

As I’m a local girl I couldn’t write my list of 7 of the best UK road trips without including this beautiful part of the country! The Cotswolds are home to some of the prettiest towns and villages in the UK and are visited by thousands of tourists each year. The Cotswold Way is officially a walking/hiking route and stretches for 102 miles, but you can drive between some of the key locations to pack as much sightseeing in to your road trip as you are able to. If you’re following the official Cotswold Way walking route you’ll need to start in the market town of Chipping Campden and end up in the Roman city of Bath. You’ll pass the likes of Broadway, Cheltenham and Painswick along the way and can take in some stunning Cotswolds sights during your journey. The towns and villages are easy to get around by car or motorcycle although you may struggle with a campervan or motorhome as many of the roads are very narrow and windy! Planning a longer stay in the Cotswolds? Check out my full Cotswolds weekend itinerary here!

 

 

Causeway Coastal Route, Northern Ireland

 

 

Up next on my list of 7 of the best UK road trips is the Causeway Coastal Route, a designated 130 mile road trip along the windswept and rugged Atlantic coastline of Northern Ireland. The route starts in Derry and ends in Belfast, passing famous landmarks such as the Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge, Portrush golf course, endless Game of Thrones filming locations, and of course the incredible Giants Causeway. In order to fit in as much of Ireland’s spectacular scenery as you can, 3-5 days is the recommended length of time for this road trip. As it is a relatively short distance it can be done much quicker than that, or even in a day if you really have to, but if you allow more time you can certainly relax and enjoy the Irish way of life for longer rather than racing from stop to stop. You could easily do this route by motorcycle, car or campervan and I’d recommend a night or two in a hotel along the way to make your trip last a little longer!

 

 

Black Mountain Pass, Wales

 

 

Another excellent route to add to your driving itinerary of Great Britain, the Black Mountain Pass in Wales celebrated its 200th anniversary back in 2019 and its popularity was heightened after an appearence on hit BBC show Top Gear in 2011. When Jeremy Clarkson got behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz AMG and drove the 20 mile stretch of the A4069 in Carmarthenshire, fans of the famous Welsh road dubbed it the ‘Top Gear Road’ and tourism to the area has spiked ever since. Boasting spectacular scenery over the Brecon Beacons National Park, this short route offers far reaching views of enormous mountains, rolling hills and endless fields. Climbing up to 1600ft above sea level in parts, this route is best going from north to south and is better suited to experienced drivers but cyclists can also tackle it too – if you’re up for a tough workout!

 

 

Atlantic Highway, England

 

Up next on my list of 7 of the best UK road trips we’re heading all the way down to Cornwall, one of my favourite parts of Britain and the first place I ever went to on holiday as a 6 month old baby! This 275km long route takes up to seven days to complete and starts in Somerset on the edge of the Exmoor National Park, where it stretches across Devon and Cornwall by running along the A39. Showcasing stunning countryside on one side and epic coastal views on the other, the Atlantic Highway Route follows the line of (yep, you guessed it) the Atlantic Ocean from mid-Cornwall to North Devon. Passing through towns such as Wadebridge, Bude, Tintagel and Camelford, as well as the pretty Quantock Hills, Clovelly Village and Port Isaac there are some excellent places to stay to help break up your drive along the Atlantic Highway Route. Your final day will take you to surfers paradise Newquay, where you’ll want to rest and refuel for a couple of nights before heading back home again.

 

 

Argyll Coastal Route, Scotland

 

Back to Scotland now for another route on your driving itinerary of Great Britain, but this time it’s a coastal route instead of the mountainous Scottish Highlands. Much shorter than the North Coast 500, this route is a tame 129 miles in length, starting in Tarbet and ending up at Fort William. Set off from the iconic Loch Lomond, exploring the west coast, where highlights and must sees include the Loch Fyne restaurant and oyster bar for an incredible foodie experience and a visit to the 19th century Inveraray Jail. You’ll also want to visit McCaig’s Tower for excellent views of the Inner Hebrides, and see the Castle Stalker view on Loch Linnhe. If you have time (an extra day), try and climb Ben Nevis whilst you’re at Fort William. It’s a difficult climb with treacherous parts and unpredictable weather, but if you get to the top you’ll be rewarded with incredible views and  it’s certainly an experience to tick off your British bucket list!

 

Jurassic Coast Path, England

 

Last but not least on my list of 7 of the best UK road trips is Dorset’s stunning Jurassic Coast Path. Typically a walking route which covers 95 miles of land on foot (as part of the South West Coast Path) you can also drive between many of the places along the way which is why I’ve included it as part of a driving itinerary of Great Britain. Starting at Old Harry Rocks in Dorset and ending up at Exmouth in Devon, you’ll pass places such as Weymouth, Portland Bill, Chesil Beach and Lyme Regis, as well as miles of coastal views along the way. Part of a World Heritage Site, some of the sights along the Jurassic Coast Path are amongst the best in Britain. I have visited Dorset on numerous occasions and always love walking or driving between sections of this beautiful route, so it’s definitely one to add to your list of places to visit in the UK.

 

I hope this list of 7 of the best UK road trips has given you some travel inspo and you can now get planning some epic adventures this summer! No matter whether you’re driving a car, caravan or motorcycle, you can still enjoy a fabulous UK road trip and tick plenty off your Great British bucket-list. Don’t forget to prepare well in advance for your UK road trip though; make sure you’ve got adequate travel insurance/vehicle insurance and your mode of transport is thoroughly serviced/ in excellent working order before you set off. I imagine that most of these UK road trips will be done by campervan or car, but travelling by motorcycle is an exhilarating way of getting around so why not compare the best motorcycle insurance quotes on the market before you start planning your epic driving itinerary of Great Britain. Have you got any UK road trips planned this summer? I’d love to know where you’re heading to!

 

NB. This post was sponsored by The Bike Insurer but all thoughts and words are of course my own.

 

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A Little Life Update: My 2021 UK Travel Plans

 

The days are getting longer, the sun is setting later and spring is well and truly on its way. After last month’s announcement from the UK Government and our roadmap out of lockdown, I’ve finally started to feel like there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not going to lie, I have found the last few weeks extremely difficult, and have struggled for most of this third lockdown. However, with the vaccine rollout going incredibly well and new timescales to work towards, I can actually see a way out of this darkness and am finally starting to feel a bit more positive! I took a little break from blogging, and from social media, for most of January and February and it’s helped me to reset and start making new plans for the year ahead. I am now looking forward to spring and summer and already have a few loose 2021 UK travel plans lined up for the rest of this year. Here’s what I’ll (hopefully) be getting up to over the next few months, and what I think travel will look like this year…

With overnight stays in self contained accommodation permitted from 12th April here in the UK, I think we’ll see huge numbers of bookings for cottages, caravans and Airbnbs over the next few weeks and staycations will be booming this year. Although you can only stay with people in your household, I still reckon people will make bookings just to get away and to enjoy a change of scenery after months of being stuck at home during lockdown. Since I moved out last summer I now live with my sister, but I don’t think we’ll book to go away together just the two of us in April as places will be so busy and prices will be ridiculous! I do hope that tourism for these overnight stays brings a much needed boost to the travel industry though and it’ll be interesting to see how many people book to go away after 12th April.

 

 

17th May is the date that I am working towards as we will hopefully be able to meet up with friends and family indoors and I can’t wait to go for dinner with my mum and dad or out for drinks with my pals! In terms of travel plans, we have two bank holidays in May so I may take advantage of those and book an overnight stay somewhere by the sea with friends if I can, although I haven’t confirmed anything yet. I’ve got my eye on Southampton as I’ve never been there before and it’s only an hour and a half away so it’ll make the perfect place for a short one nighter! Looking ahead to June I’ve got my cousin Amy’s hen do pencilled in for the end of the month, with an overnight spa break in Cheshire planned – we have had to postpone it twice already because her wedding has been delayed so fingers crossed it’s third time lucky and we can actually go this time.

In July I’ve booked a week by the sea for my dad’s 60th birthday celebrations and this is the trip I am most looking forward to this year! I’m going with my mum, dad and sisters and we’ll be spending the first few nights in a secret location – I can’t tell you exactly where it is because he reads my blog and it’s a surprise! – but the second half of the week will be spent in Tintagel in Cornwall which I am super excited about because I’ve never been there before. I’m hoping to enjoy long walks along the South West Coast path, plenty of beach trips and will try to squeeze in a visit to King Arthur’s Castle too. At some point this summer I also hope to be reunited with my friend and fellow blogger Rachel, I have been planning to visit her in Scarborough for the past two years now and have day trips to Whitby and York on the cards too – if I ever get up there!

 

 

I’ll (hopefully) be heading back to Liverpool at the end of July for my cousins wedding and then in August I’m due to climb Pen y Fan as my latest charity challenge with The Pituitary Foundation. I hiked the Four Falls Trek with them last year and climbed Mount Snowdon a couple of years before that, so I’m looking forward to heading back to Wales again for another weekend break, and another exciting challenge! I’m also due to visit my best friend in Brighton at some point in August and have booked a couple of days annual leave at the end of the month so I can take full advantage of the last summer bank holiday of the year. I have no idea what I’ll be doing or where I’ll be going yet but I thought it would be good to take some time off so I can getaway if I fancy it closer to the time.

I haven’t really thought further ahead than August to be honest as I’m not sure how things will be here in the UK in a few months time. I’m very hopeful that the roadmap is still realistic in terms of dates and fingers crossed that we can aim for some normality to return by the summer! Some of the places that are high up on my UK wish-list for this year are Dorset, Devon, Whitby and Cambridge so I’m hopeful that I can make some loose plans to visit them later on in 2021.

 

 

One thing I do know for sure though is that I WILL be going abroad next year as I have just booked a summer holiday for 2022 – another Mediterranean cruise with my family. Last time we went from on the Marella Celebration’s Sail the Three Seas itinerary from Dubrovnik – Dubrovnik taking in the likes of Kotor, Messina, Kefalonia and Valletta, but next year we are visiting Rijeka, Split, Koper and Venice on the Marella Explorer 2’s Adriatic Affair cruise. I am sooo excited to have a proper holiday to look forward to and cannot wait to make more memories with my amazing family!

So those are my 2021 UK travel plans. Have you booked any trips for this year yet, or are you waiting until closer to the time? I’d love to hear what your travel plans are for 2021!

Love Jess x

 

 

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My 2020 Year in Review

It’s that time of year again, and what a year it’s been… It barely seems 5 minutes since the start of 2020, and yet at the same time it feels like its been the longest year ever. I’m sure we can all agree that this year has been truly awful. Coronavirus has taken over the world, countless countries have experienced large lockdowns, and hundreds of thousands of people have sadly died from this horrific virus. What started off as a new year and a new decade filled with hope and excitement in January quickly turned in to a nightmare by the time March rolled around. The world changed before our very eyes and there was nothing we could do about it but stay at home and watch events unfold around us. Here in the UK, the entire country went into lockdown on 23rd March and has never really recovered since then. We had a couple of months during summer where restrictions were lifted, but now we are stuck in a never ending tier system of differing rules and regulations where nobody knows what they are doing.

 

 

It’s been a tough old year, hasn’t it? A couple of months ago I was hopeful that, by the end of the year, most of this would be over and we could enter 2021 with optimism and hope, but now I’m not sure I feel that way. Despite the good news of a vaccine being rolled out quickly, I still think we are going to be stuck in lockdown for most of January and February, but I hope that things will start to lift by the spring. I have tried so hard to remain positive but lately I am really struggling, and I am not ashamed to admit that. I miss seeing my friends and going out for dinner, I miss my old job and the buzz of working in the travel industry, and most of all I miss my family who I’ve barely been able to see this year.

Despite all of this doom and gloom though, there have been some positives that have come out of 2020. I bought my first house, I became a qualified TEFL teacher and I still managed to visit London, Liverpool, Bournemouth, Norfolk and the Brecon Beacons this year. I learnt to appreciate the smaller things in life and I found a new love for my local area here in Oxfordshire, enjoying my daily walks and exploring the Cotswolds as much as I could. Although when I look back at my 2019 Year in Review it makes me want to cry (!!) I am still excited to be sharing my 2020 round up with you. Let’s start right at the beginning, before Covid-19 spread across the world, before Zoom quizzes were a regular occurrence, and before the words unprecedented, furloughed and social distancing were floating around…

 

January & February

 

Back in January I celebrated my 27th birthday by taking a trip to London with my sisters. We had the loveliest day wandering around the city and heading to the Tutankhamun Exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery which was amazing! We stopped for lunch in Chelsea and then headed to a secret Harry Potter bar for cocktails in the Dungeon which was amazing. It was my sister Sophie’s 21st birthday at the end of the month so the Harry Potter treat was a double celebration, but we also enjoyed a spa weekend in Cheltenham and a trip to Liverpool to see our family at the end of January. Little did we know that would be the last time we had the majority of our family in one room together before the world would change forever!

 

March & April

 

 

As we all know, March was the month where the world totally changed and the country went into its first full lockdown. I was told to work from home from mid March anyway, but on 1st April I was put on furlough for three months. At first it was lovely to have some time off work and be paid 80% of my salary, but the novelty soon faded and before long I was feeling stupidly bored! I kept myself busy by enjoying my 1 hour of daily exercise, found a new love for reading books (I’ve read 35 this year!), and started a TEFL course to teach English as a foreign language, something I had thought about doing for ages but never found the time until I was furloughed. I think being in lockdown really taught me to appreciate what I have, not what I don’t have, and it made me stop and think about life for the first time in a long time. I was so used to going on trips left, right and centre, and going through life at a million miles an hour, but being forced to stop and stay at home made me appreciate the smaller things in life.

 

May & June 

 

 

May was probably the most exciting month of 2020 as my sister Hannah and I bought our first house!! We completed and got our keys on 1st May, after our offer had been accepted back in November, so our purchase took a whopping six months to go through but we were in the middle of a pandemic so can’t complain too much! We spent the majority of May & June doing up our new house whilst we still lived at home, painting every room, ripping out and laying new carpets, re-landscaping the garden and fitting new front and back doors. Being on furlough was the perfect time to do up my house without having to take any annual leave so the timing actually turned out brilliantly and it gave me so much to focus on at a time where I was feeling lost without my job. May also saw us celebrate Hannah’s birthday (lockdown style) as well as VE Day where we enjoyed an afternoon tea with our neighbour over the fence and listened to Vera Lynn on repeat. I also spent time going for long walks around the Cotswolds, where I live, and enjoying the amazing mini heatwave the UK experienced in the early part of this summer.

 

July & August

 

 

July brought my dad’s birthday and our first meal out as a family at a local pub once they finally re-opened as lockdown ended. At the end of the month Hannah and I finally moved out of our family home and into our brand new house which we love! I also spent the majority of July volunteering in my local community, collecting prescriptions and shopping for vulnerable/elderly people in my town, as well as doing over 1000 hours on-call for the NHS volunteer responders which I signed up for at the start of the pandemic. Volunteering gave me a real purpose at a time when I needed it, and I still volunteer today helping out as much as I can. Unfortunately July was also the month that I was made redundant from my job in the travel industry after three months on furlough. I was absolutely gutted to have lost a job I loved so much, but I was so lucky that I found a new job just a week after being made redundant, at the estate agents where I worked for five years between the age of 18 and 23! In July & August two of my cousins, Amy & Emma, also came down to stay at our new house and it was so lovely to finally see our family after a rubbish few months. My lovely friend Rachel also came down to visit and I took her on a mini tour around a few of my fave places here in the Cotswolds which was super fun!

September & October

 

The only time I managed to squeeze in a couple of day trips and overnight stays was in these two months, and I certainly made the most of being away from home for the first time since January! In September I visited the Brecon Beacons with my parents as we took part in the Four Falls Trek for the Pituitary Foundation, and the weekend after I went down to Norfolk for a mini break with my family and was reunited with my lovely nan which was amazing. My other nan and grandad also came down to stay with us in September for my mum’s birthday, and my aunty and uncle stayed in a hotel in nearby Burford, so it was nice to spend some more time with our wonderful family. In October I took a day trip to Bournemouth with two of my closest friends and their little girls. It was super quiet as it was after the school half term and we had the best day wandering along the beach, having fish & chips at Harry Ramsden’s and running in and out of the sea.

 

November & December 

 

November saw us enter another national lockdown here in England, with all pubs, restaurants, shops and leisure closed again for four weeks. I spent November doing nothing but reading books and enjoying my daily walks again, as well as finishing my TEFL course and gaining my teaching qualification. I went to a couple of our local garden centres and we put our Christmas decorations up early to try and cheer us up a bit. My sisters and I were due to go to Edinburgh in November but our trip got cancelled so we are hoping to visit next year instead. In December we had a wonderful Christmas together just the five of us, and even enjoyed some beautiful snow here in Oxfordshire which made our tier 4 restrictions a bit easier to cope with!

 

My 2020 New Year’s Resolutions 

 

As you can probably imagine, half of my 2020 new year’s resolutions were no where near close to being completed this year with everything that has happened because of the pandemic! But let’s take a look at the resolutions I set myself at the start of January to see what I acheieved and what I missed out on this year.

I want to buy a house – SUCCESS – I am so happy I managed to achieve this and finally get on the property ladder! My sister and I absolutely love our little 2bed semi in Oxfordshire and it’s been the highlight of our 2020.

I want to focus on my new job – FAIL – Sadly being made redundant from my dream travel job has meant I have failed at this one!

I want to travel to 5 countries – FAIL – I made it to Wales, so that counts as one country, right?! After visiting 7 countries in 2019 and 9 countries in 2018 I didn’t think 5 countries would be that hard this year, but that was before a global pandemic occurred!

 

 

I want to start working out 3 times a week – SUCCESS – Hooray, something I have actually manage to stick at this year. Lockdown really helped me to focus on my fitness, with my one hour daily walks and three 30min workouts a week helping me to gain some routine and structure to my day whilst I was on furlough, and I continued it for the rest of the year too.

I want to start dating again – FAIL – lol, we are in a pandemic, it’s hard enough to meet people at the best of times without the shops/bars/gyms being shut too. Maybe next year I’ll get better at this one but I’m not holding my breath 😉

 

I hope that 2021 brings hope and optimism for us all and that we are able to enter this new year feeling excited for the future once Covid disappears (if it ever does!). I’ve decided not to write any new year’s resolutions for 2021 because I don’t want to put any pressure on myself and I think I did well this year to hit 2 out of 5 of my goals all things considered. It feels very weird not setting myself any goals/resolutions or even having any travel plans set in stone as I usually do at this time of year. I simply wish that, by this time next year, all of my family and friends will still be here with us, and that they will be healthy and happy. I hope that we don’t have another year where this horrible virus rules every aspect of our lives, and I hope that we all get through it as best as we can.

So I’ll sign off now and wish you a happy new year. Here’s to a happier and healthier 2021 for us all!

Love Jess x

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100 Days of UK Lockdown: How Coronavirus Has Changed My Life

Day 100 of UK lockdown. Can you believe we have been officially locked down for 100 days now? I can. It feels like day 1000 though, not day 100. Everyone has either made TikTok videos, baked banana breads or played virtual Zoom quizzes. Remember that Houseparty app right at the start? Nope, me niether! In some ways it’s gone quickly, but when I think back to the 23rd of March, the day Boris Johnson announced the country was to go into immediate lockdown, it feels like a lifetime ago. So much has changed since then. In the world, in the country, in my life. Coronavirus has turned our planet upside down, and I didn’t realise how much of an impact it would have upon me personally too. Although it’s been a tough three months, there have been some happy times too. I wanted to show the good, the bad and the ugly on this blog post so I can look back in a year’s time and remind myself of how I coped during lockdown. Here’s what I’ve been up to over the past 100 days of UK lockdown, and how Coronavirus has totally changed my life…

 

The Positives:

I’ve bought a house

 

 

 

Ok let’s start with some good news because something very exciting happened to me during these 100 days of UK lockdown… I only went and bought a HOUSE!! After saving up a deposit for the past 5 years, I have finally decided to put down some roots here in beautiful Oxfordshire and have bought a 2 bed house with my sister Hannah. After our offer got accepted at the end of November, little over 6 months later, on 1st May 2020, we completed our purchase and collected our keys from the estate agents (socially distanced, of course!) Over the past 8 weeks we have completely transformed what was once a run down, neglected property in to a pretty little semi detached house that is now our cosy home! Huge thanks to our mum, dad and our sister Sophie for all their help with painting/cleaning/gardening over the past 2 months – we absolutely could not have done it without you!

 

I’ve gained a qualification (almost!)

 

 

I’ve had to put almost because the qualification isn’t quite mine yet, but in April I enrolled on a course with to become an online English teacher and I am so so close to finishing it! I’m currently on unit 9 of 10 and have completed 2 assignments out of 3, so I just have 1 unit and 1 assignment to go before the course is finished and I am qualified to teach English online as a foreign language. I have thought about being an online English teacher for a while now but have never really had the time to dedicate to an intensive course before, so spending 100 days of UK lockdown putting my energy into something new has been really fulfilling and I am hopeful that I can start teaching online as soon as I am qualified! The course I am taking is the Level 5 168 hour one with the TEFL Academy, which is the UK’s leading level 5 course and is the most recognised in terms of quality. I was inspired by my friend and fellow blogger Gabbi to take up the course this year after seeing her become an online English teacher with mobile company Palfish, and her fab blog post exactly explains how she did it – it’s well worth a read if you are thinking of becoming an online English teacher too.

 

I’ve become a volunteer

 

 

As soon as the government announced they needed 250,000 volunteers for their nationwide NHS Volunteer Responder programme, I signed up right away. I knew I wanted to try and help people during this pandemic, and really wanted to do something useful and worthwhile during my time on furlough. After a whopping 750,000 people signed up (!!) I was chosen to be a Check in & Chat volunteer through the NHS /Royal Voluntary Service and I was even featured in this news story by the Daily Mail. I have spent the past 12 weeks taking calls from people who are isolating and just want a friendly chat with someone to brighten up their day, which I have enjoyed so much! As well as being an NHS volunteer, I am now a volunteer within my local community and have been collecting and delivering shopping and prescriptions to local people in my town who are shielding/vulnerable. Finally, I have also been doing some remote work and fundraising for The Pituitary Foundation, the charity I am an ambassador for, and it has been an honour to help them through these tough times. Being a volunteer for these 3 organisations has been extremely rewarding during the past 100 days of UK lockdown and I hope I can continue to help them even after Coronavirus is over.

 

I’ve spent quality time with my family

 

 

Despite moving house and leaving my family home, I have been able to spend sooo much time with my mum, dad and sisters during these 100 days of UK lockdown and it has been an absolute blessing. We are a very close family anyway, but this has just brought us even closer together. We’ve watched film after film, enjoyed many a countryside dog walk here in our beautiful county of Oxfordshire and have done more after dinner quizzes than we care to remember! A particular highlight of ours was celebrating VE Day sharing afternoon tea and prosecco in our garden with our lovely neighbour across the wall! The sun was shining, We’ll Meet Again was playing on the radio and it was such a beautiful day. It has been really fun to spend more time at home during lockdown and it definitely gave us more quality time to enjoy together before Hannah and I moved into our new home last weekend.

 

 

The Negatives:

I’ve lost my confidence

 

 

Although there have been a lot of positives from the past 100 days of UK lockdown, there have undoubtedly been some low points too. I’m not sure why, but I just feel like I have totally lost my confidence with certain aspects of my life, including the way I look, how my low moods make me feel and how I have not exactly been successful with finding a new relationship lately. This pandemic caught us completely unawares, and I was at a point in my life where I was really happy with how my work and personal life were going, but now it feels as though all of that has been taken away and it has definitely knocked me for six. Here’s hoping things improve once Coronavirus is over. One thing that has helped massively though is walking, I have been enjoying so many walks in the countryside and it’s definitely helped to improve my state of mind (and my fitness!)

 

I’m possibly being made redundant 

 

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New week, new month, new JOB! 😬 Eeeek been keeping this under wraps for a little while, but today's the day I start my brand new job at a luxury travel company in Witney. 🌎 I'm so excited to have swapped a 2hr daily commute for a drive that takes me just 8 minutes to get to my new office 🙈 Instead of finishing at 5:30 and not getting home til nearly 7 I'll actually be home before 5:30 which means I can actually have a social life in the evenings and can fit it around working part time on my blog too ❤️ So excited for my new chapter to begin, after 4 months of travelling and spending way too much money I can't wait to get into a proper routine again and start settling down (kind of 😉) Operation 'Jess is saving up for a house' has been resumed! 🏡 #MondayMotivation #NewJob #NewChapter #WishMeLuck

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on Jul 1, 2019 at 1:10am PDT

 

Another reason for me feeling so weird lately is because tomorrow I will find out whether or not I have been made redundant from my job. On the day that would have been my 1 year work anniversary, I will be told whether or not I will be staying or going, and I am just completely gutted! I absolutely adore my job at a local luxury travel company in Oxfordshire and the thought of losing it is filling me with dread. I have no idea what the outcome will be tomorrow, but whatever happens I just have to remember that everything happens for a reason. As one door closes, another one opens, so I will be keeping that mindset tomorrow and crossing fingers that things will turn out okay.

 

I’ve missed my old life

 

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Another Monday, another week of lockdown! I think we are on day 89 of lockdown now but it definitely feels more like day 889 😳 As the weeks go on, I start to get abit restless and miss life being 'normal'. I miss going on day trips and weekends away and holidays. I am however feeling really anxious about the idea of travelling again, and I'm pretty sure I won't be setting foot on a plane until at least next summer! ✈️ But in order to get my wanderlust fix I'm planning on taking a few UK staycations right here, whenever we are able to travel safely around the country again 🚘 There are so many places in Britain I haven't been to yet, so I've put together my ultimate UK travel wishlist which you can read right now on the blog! (Link in bio) 💻 Where's your favourite place in the UK? I can't wait to explore more of our home shores. In the meantime, here's a throwback of me loving life and running around the beautiful Lake District last summer 🇬🇧 . . . #lakedistrict #thelakes #lakedistrictlife #lakedistrictnationalpark #lakedistrictuk #lakedistrictwalks #lakedistrictcumbria #igerslakedistrict #cumbria #cumbrialife #visitcumbria #igerscumbria #cumbrianfells #england #weloveengland #visitengland #englandtravel #england_insta #englandtourism #englishlakes #englishtravel #lovegreatbritain #visitbritain #instabritain #bbcbritain #greatbritain #capturingbritain #beautifulbritain #uktravel #ukshots

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on Jun 22, 2020 at 2:02pm PDT

 

When I feel a bit down I start to reminisce and think about my past, and sometimes it’s nice to sit back and reflect but other times it really does get me down. I think about things I did in the past which I really took for granted, like going out for a meal with my friends or popping to the pub for a few drinks on a Friday night. I also miss travelling a LOT. Last year I spent 13 weeks abroad visiting Australia, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Latvia. Not leaving the country since December has kind of got to me this week, and I really miss going on holiday! I have decided, however, that I definitely don’t want to venture abroad until 2021, but I am looking forward to planning plenty of UK staycations to satisfy my wanderlust until I can travel properly again. There are sooo many places that I haven’t explored in this country yet, so I’m going to try and tick as many places off my British bucketlist as I can during the rest of 2020 (if I am able to!)

 

I’m worried about my future

 

 

I think my biggest worry at the moment is the thought of losing my job. Without my job, and my regular income, I cannot pay my mortgage, my bills or my car finance which is something that is making me super stressed. It is such bad timing having just bought a house, but I do have some savings which should tide me over for a couple of months. If the inevitable happens and I do get made redundant I know I’ll have to get another job asap, whether it’s working in a supermarket, taking temp jobs or working in retail until something more permanent comes along, although there are not many jobs in my area at all at the moment. I just feel a bit in limbo and don’t really know what to do so I will probably make a decision about what type of work I want to apply for next week. Times are strange at the moment, aren’t they! Fingers crossed it’ll all work out in the end.

 

It’s been a whirlwind, hasn’t it? The past 100 days of UK lockdown has been a huge challenge for me, and it has affected me much more than I thought it would. Some days I wake up totally fine and feel grateful to have my health and my family. Other days I feel so low I don’t even want to get out of bed. I try to remind myself that it’s okay to feel that way. We’re still in the midst of a global pandemic. We’ve never experienced anything like this before. However, with no end in sight, and no vaccine, I have to admit I am finding it increasingly difficult to stay positive. I know these feelings will pass, but right now I am struggling. I am not ashamed to admit that. If you’re feeling the same as me, please remember that it’s okay not to be okay.

Here’s to a more positive few weeks in the hope that Coronavirus will leave us all alone very soon! Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are safe and well and that you’ve enjoyed reading this blog post!

Love Jess x

 

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Looking back on 6 YEARS OF TRAVEL BLOGGING!! I can't believe Journeys with Jessica turns 6 today! 🎈 Seeing as we can't travel anywhere anytime soon I've been looking back at some of my adventures and reminiscing about my favourite trips from the past 6 years ✈️ I'm lucky enough to have explored 30 countries, spent 5 weeks road tripping across America, 6 weeks roaming around Australia and countless weeks inter-railing all over Europe during the past 6 years and I wouldn't change a single thing ❤️ When I started my blog I just wanted somewhere to write down my thoughts and to share my trips with friends and family. Little did I know that it would soon be read by almost 7,000 people a month and I'd clock up nearly 10,000 followers on social media, and that I would meet so many amazing people along the way because of it! ✨ Starting my blog was the best thing I ever did and, although I'm missing travel and am excited to explore new places again one day, right now I just want to focus on planning some U.K. adventures that I can enjoy once all of this is over! My favourite place in our beautiful country is Cornwall, and I'm just itching to get back there to enjoy the sea when it is safe to be able to do so! 🌎 But for now I'll stay at home and reminisce about my past trips, like I've done in my recent blog post, which you can read right now! (Link in bio) 💻 Thankyou SO much for everyone who's ever read my blog, it means the absolute world to me. Here's to the next six years! 🌎

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on May 27, 2020 at 1:06am PDT