Where to find the best post-Christmas sales in Britain

Where to find the best post-Christmas sales in Britain

12 festive things to do in London at Christmas

12 festive things to do in London at Christmas

9 views that are out of this world

9 views that are out of this world

Winter ice rinks in Britain's most unexpected places

Winter ice rinks in Britain's most unexpected places

Accommodation Update - November 2018

Whether you’re looking for a boutique luxury hotel in leafy Kent or affordable accommodation in the heart of Glasgow, our round-up of the UK’s newest hotels offers something for every traveller. Discover our top picks below.

Recently refurbished

London

The Marylebone, Marylebone

Situated in the heart of central London a short walk from Bond Street, The Marylebone is a recently renovated boutique hotel boasting new facilities. These include The Cocktail Bar, which combines 4 adjoining spaces themed around the seasons, from the cosy winter lounge complete with a roaring fire to the outdoor terrace that’s perfect for summer socialising. Other additions include The Marylebone Rooms and Number Six – a series of stylish private event rooms designed in the hotel’s signature art deco style by the award-winning Michaelis Boyd studio. There is also a range of newly refurbished luxury rooms and suites to choose from.

Recently opened

Scotland

The Grandtully Hotel, Perthshire

Dedicated to delivering exceptional Scottish food and drink to its guests, the newly renovated The Grandtully Hotel by Ballintaggart offers luxurious culinary experiences in equally luxurious settings. With just eight bedrooms, this boutique property has been lovingly restored and features a careful blend of traditional features and contemporary design. Facilities include a 30-cover restaurant serving fine local produce, a bar, a private dining area and an outdoor terrace. 

Citi Hotel, Aberdeen

City Hotel in Aberdeen prides itself on offering affordable stays in the heart of the city. Based on the former site of The Royal Hotel, the property underwent a £500,000 refurbishment over 12 months and reopened at the start of November.  The self-dubbed ‘poshtel’ boasts a new reception area, newly fitted bathroom suites, refined décor and 42 bedrooms starting from just £35 per night.  

Opening soon

London

The Bedford, Balham

Opening December 2018

Beloved by musicians including Ed Sheeran, London’s famous The Bedford pub is undergoing a multi-million-pound refurbishment. Scheduled to reopen this December, the Grade II-listed building will boast five bars, a ballroom, four private rooms and a 250-capacity live music venue hosting a range of events, from comedy to burlesque. There are also 15 ensuite bedrooms to choose from, each designed around the pub’s distinctive medley of art deco and 1970s style.

The Standard, St Pancras

Opening in spring 2019

The boutique Standard Hotel chain will soon be celebrating the opening of its first international hotel in London. Scheduled to open in early 2019, the hotel will be the newest addition to the chain’s properties in New York, Miami and L.A. Located within the Camden Town Hall Annex, one of the city’s best-known examples of 1970s brutalist architecture, the hotel promises to embody the quirky culture and history of the local area while serving as a luxury base from which to explore King’s Cross and the surrounding area.

 

South-east England

Lion Lodge, Port Lympne, Kent  

Opening in spring 2019

The luxurious Lion Lodge will give guests the chance to stay in close proximity to Port Lympne’s lion pride. Set within the lions’ enclosure, the loft-style lodge features floor-to-ceiling windows in the open plan living space and master bedroom, an open fire, underfloor heating and a monsoon shower and wet room. Designed to sleep four, the master bedroom offers incredible views of the lions at rest and play, with the mezzanine level offering two additional beds accessed by spiral staircase. Guests can also enjoy the Scandinavian outdoor bath, built on a platform overlooking the sea and the 600-acre wildlife reserve.

The Albion Rooms, Margate

Opening date to be confirmed

Owned and developed by The Libertines rock band, The Albion Rooms is located on the seafront of Margate, a classic British seaside town with a strong artistic heritage. The development will comprise both a studio – scheduled to be finished in February 2019 - and bar within the five-storey Victorian building, in addition to 10 guest bedrooms individually designed by the band. The official opening date is still to be confirmed, but future guests can track the development’s progress here.

The Pig at Bridge Place, Canterbury

Opening in spring 2019

The Pig at Bridge Place is the latest hotel to be developed by the popular Pig Hotel chain. Opening its doors in spring 2019, the hotel is located in the former Bridge Place Country Club, a delightful 16th-century manor just outside Canterbury in historic Bridge village. In addition to the main building, guests can choose to stay in one of 12 bedrooms in the Coach House or 2 in the newly renovated gate lodge. Alternatively, there’s the option to choose from 7 ‘hop picker’ huts, for those looking for a more romantic getaway.

 

North-west England

Whitworth Locke, Manchester

Opening in December 2018

Due to open next month, Whitworth Locke is an 160-unit aparthotel offering a choice of one-bedroom suites or 24-sq metre studios overlooking Rochdale Canal. Designed by architects Grzywinski + Pons, this stylish residence and former cotton mill will offer the services and facilities of hotel living with the autonomy of a private apartment.

 

Hotel Indigo, Manchester

Opening in December 2018

Located in the city’s Northern Quarter opposite Victoria Station, Hotel Indigo embodies the style and originality that typifies the former industrial heart of the city - now a mecca for hipsters, musicians and the achingly cool. The hotel offers 187 bedrooms, all of which have been carefully renovated to reflect the cultural history of the area, and combines original Victorian features with modern facilities including an on-site gym, bar and restaurant.

 

London Warehouse, Manchester

Opening in spring 2019

The newly renovated London Warehouse hotel will open in spring 2019. Located in the Victorian railway warehouse formerly occupied by The Place Aparthotel, this luxurious 166-bed four-star aparthotel will offer facilities including a gym created by fitness brand BLOK. Other highlights include an all-day hangout space and a mini cinema, restaurant, bar and lounge managed by Bistrotheque restaurant.

 

Dakota Hotel, Manchester

Opening in spring 2019

Work has now begun on the £25 million pound development of Dakota Deluxe design hotel in Manchester. Scheduled to open in spring 2019, the hotel is located close to Piccadilly Station and promises to deliver the same elegant style, tasteful décor and luxurious facilities as its sister properties in Leeds and Glasgow.

 

Stock Exchange Hotel

Opening in spring 2019

Manchester’s historic Stock Exchange building is being redeveloped into a luxurious five-star boutique hotel courtesy of former Manchester United football stars Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs (GG Hospitality). Due to open in spring 2019, the Edwardian Baroque building – with its impressive central dome – is located in Norfolk Street. In addition to 40 bedrooms and suites, two luxurious presidential suites and two fine dining restaurants, the hotel will offer private dining in the wine cellars.

New Year extravaganzas – where to welcome in 2019

2019 is almost upon us and Britain is preparing to celebrate the new year in style. Which destination will you choose to say farewell 2018, hello 2019?

LONDON

The capital is world-famous for its New Year’s Eve fireworks display over the London Eye, the largest such annual display to take place in the UK. Crowds gather all along the South Bank to hear Big Ben chime midnight as they enjoy the rainbow of colours lighting up the sky as they welcome in another year. This has been a ticketed event since 2014 and you can get yours here. Of course, even if you don’t get tickets to this coveted event, there are plenty of other ways to see the famous fireworks; head out onto the water on board one of City Cruises New Year’s Eve cruises on the River Thames for example, or book a table at one of the capital’s top restaurants that boast views overlooking the Thames, such as Galvin at Windows or the Aqua Shard.

Of course, London has numerous different venues that host their own special New Year’s Eve extravaganzas; how about partying the night way underneath the skeleton of Hope the blue whale, the largest creature to have ever lived, at the Natural History Museum’s New Year’s Eve Party Animals event? On the night you can also try your luck at Musical Bingo, sample edible insects, explore two blockbuster exhibitions, and dance the night away in the Silent Disco.

There’s also Silent Disco fun to be had at the City of London’s Grade II-listed Banking Hall, a stunning Art Deco building. Or be transported back in time to some 1940s-style fun, courtesy of live big bands and a swing dance class at the Blitz Party New Year’s Eve at Shoreditch’s Village Underground, which will be transformed into an air-raid shelter for the occasion.

EDINBURGH

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is one of the world’s biggest New Year’s Eve celebrations. This year, on 31 December, Scottish indie sensations Franz Ferdinand will top the bill at the Concert in the Gardens main stage in the Scottish capital’s iconic West Princes Street Gardens, supported by Metronomy and Free Love. The gig will be followed by a jaw-dropping firework display over Edinburgh Castle and, a ticket for Concert in the Gardens also includes access to the famous Street Party! Every reveller to the Street Party will receive a free dram of host Johnnie Walker’s whisky to see in the new year and guests can throw some shapes at the silent disco. Alternatively, you can toast 2019 with a whirl or a jig at the Ceilidh under the Castle event before enjoying the fireworks display.

Like London, Edinburgh has a multitude of venue choices to see in the New Year; arts and music institution located in the Old Town, Cabaret Voltaire, is hosting its ‘Psychedelic Wizard of Oz’ event, where the year turns back to 1990 and guests are whisked down the Yellow Brick Road on a journey to Oz. If classical music is more your thing, head to the stunning 19th-century building McEwan Hall, which will host Symphonic Ibiza, classic Ibiza anthems played by a 20-strong orchestra.

NEWCASTLE

Considering that little ones also like to enjoy the fun of welcoming in a new year but may not be able to stay up until midnight on 31 December, Newcastle in north-east England is putting on brilliant family friendly fireworks display at the Newcastle Civic Centre. The afternoon will be packed with entertainment such as music and street theatre before the fireworks display at 6pm.

For a more mature evening, check out the New Year’s Eve celebrations at the iconic Sage Gateshead, where orchestral pop band The Divine Comedy will be performing alongside after guests have enjoyed a four-course meal. Or you could head to music venue the O2 Academy for a party led by Monta Musica, one of Newcastle’s most well-known music producers. Beer lovers should head to the Wylam Brewery, which will host The Whole Hogmany III at Exhibition Park Palace of Arts – expect a hog roast, 36 taps of craft keg beers and pop-up bars, a street food village, a gin palace and fireworks at midnight.

MANCHESTER

Marking the end of the north-west England city’s Christmas season will be a spectacular fireworks display outside the iconic Manchester Hall in Albert Square. Poignantly, big screens will display poetry and messages during the event, including This is the Place by Tony Walsh, which was embraced by the city following the attack on the Arena earlier in the year.

Manchester’s venues also put on great parties come 31 December. Want to time travel back to the 1990s? Head to All Star Lanes for a New Year’s Eve with a ‘90s twist – come dressed in your finest neon and dance to the party tunes of the decade at this popular bowling alley. Journey further back in time to the 1920s for a Gatsby-style celebration at The Fitzgerald in the bohemian Northern Quarter, where live entertainment, burlesque dancers, DJs and a jazz band will evoke the Roaring Twenties. And, if you’ve got the stamina, you can party for 24 hours at The Liquor Store’s famous New Year’s Eve party. Start at midday on New Year’s Eve and keep on celebrating until midday on New Year’s Day. Keeping you energised will be live music, pizza, games and prizes plus a Jager Fountain.

CARDIFF

Wales’ capital city will be heralding the new year with a spectacular firework display at the beautiful City Hall. And a great spot to watch those is from Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland (which runs until 6 January), particularly if you’re skating on its ice rink during the special New Year’s Eve 11.30pm-midnight slot. Other attractions to enjoy on the night include a fun fair with some hair-raising rides including The 90ft Tower!

Elsewhere in the city centre, Cardiff’s pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants will be packed with revellers enjoying a whole range of parties. Fond of a craft beer or two? Check out the New Year’s Eve party at BrewDog Cardiff, which will host a ‘BREW Year party’. Tickets include limited edition beers, tapas and a table for your party. Another ‘Brew Year’s Eve’ can be found at the Brewhouse & Kitchen, where a dinner party ticket gets you a three-course meal before the music and dancing starts.  

AND FOR SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT…

Britain is well-known for its quirky traditions, and New Year’s Eve is no exception. Here are a just a few that might tempt you to spend a New Year’s Eve quite unlike any other you’ve experienced…

Fireball Ceremony at Stonehaven – in a pretty harbour town just south of Aberdeen in north Scotland is an astonishing ceremony where a group of people parade through the High Street swinging flaming balls above their heads, accompanied by bagpipers, as the clocks strike midnight on 31 December. The fireballs are then thrown into the harbour waters. Its free for visitors to watch and the event culminates in a fireworks display.

Comrie Flambeaux Procession – Scotland is well known for its love of Hogmanay celebrations and the small village of Comrie in Perthshire, around 90 minutes from both Edinburgh and Glasgow, is no exception when it comes to celebrating. This ancient fire festival – originally believed to cleanse the village at the start of each year – sees people bearing torches through the village before poles are lit and bagpipes played at midnight. Before this all happens there’s a children’s fancy dress parade and fireworks display earlier in the evening.

The Allendale Tar Bar’l – this fire festival takes place in the Northumberland town of Allendale in north-east England, around 45 minutes’ drive from Newcastle. More than 40 local men, bedecked in fancy dress, form a procession through the town carrying whisky barrels containing burning hot tar. The music-led procession ends at a ceremonial bonfire at midnight and the party begins!

48 Hours on….The Wales Way

Recently launched, The Wales Way is a group of three national touring routes crossing the country’s most epic landscapes, showcasing its fascinating history, coastlines and attractions. The routes demonstrate how Wales is a destination for experience-seeking travellers, willing to explore off-the-beaten track locations along The North Wales Way, The Cambrian Way and The Coastal Way, all year round. Here we take a look at how to spend 48 hours across the Cambrian Way, a north to south journey of the country, stretching 185 miles (300km) along what is known as the ‘mountainous spine’ of Wales.

 

DAY ONE

09:00 Begin your journey in the vibrant capital city of Wales, Cardiff, and gain an insight into the country you’re about to traverse with a visit to the National Museum of Wales. Discover Wales’ national art, geology and natural history collections as well as major touring and temporary exhibitions…and it’s all for free! Visit from now until 24 February 2019 and explore the world-renowned Artes Mundi, a biennial international art exhibition and prize.

11:00 Travel on half an hour out of Cardiff to the Royal Mint Experience in Llantrisant. The Royal Mint makes and distributes British coins and official medals for around 60 countries every year and visitors can take a guided tour of the manufacturing areas to discover how coins are created, plus the chance to strike your own coin. The experience concludes with an interactive exhibition.

13:00 Did you know that more than 20 different grape varieties are grown in vineyards across Wales? Stop to discover seven of those varieties, as you arrive at the Brecon Beacons National Park and a tour of the Sugar Loaf Vineyards near Abergavenny. The vineyard produces three whites, a rosé and, if the weather is in its favour, a red. You’ll also be rewarded with lovely views of the Usk Valley and be sure to stop for some lunch in its coffee shop – any non-drivers should, of course, order a glass of wine to go with it!

15:00 Another hour’s drive will take you to the stunning Farmers’ Lavender Fields near Builth Wells, which produce the scented oils that are used in the Farmers’ body care creams and lotions range. The farm is open year-round (although peak time for lavender is midsummer) for visitors to embark on self-guided tours and, out of season, the distillery is open for visitors see how lavender flowers produce essential oil. Stock up on body care products and a range of beautiful gifts in its shop as well as enjoying some tea and cake in the tea shop.

17:00 45 minutes from the lavender fields is the pretty market town of Llanidloes, a beautiful spot at the gateway to the Cambrian Mountains and also, intriguingly, that lays at the heart of Arwystli, an ancient medieval kingdom. It’s a pleasant spot to stop and settle in for the evening.

19:00 Dine out in town, which boasts a range of eateries. In the mood for homemade pies or succulent steaks? Check out Bistro Hafren. Fish and chips take your fancy? Head to the town’s Evans Fish Bar. And, for some after-dinner drinks accompanied by live music, take a walk to the Old Mill Bar, a café-bar set in a former flannel mill.

 

Time to check in

Llanidloes is well-served by charming bed and breakfast accommodation. Among them are the prettily named Unicorn Hotel, which offers six classic rooms, and The Whistling Badger, a historic pub that has been operating for more than 100 years, which offers three rooms. 

DAY TWO

09:00 Just over an hour’s drive from Llanidloes and you’ll hit the start of Snowdonia National Park and the amazing viewpoint Bwlch y Groes. Meaning ‘Pass of the Cross’, this mountain pass stands at 1,788 feet/545 metres above sea level and is well worth travelling through for some epic views.  

10:00 Take advantage of being in the adventure playground that is the Snowdonia National Park and check out some seriously thrilling activities to get the adrenaline pumping! Ever wanted to try surfing…inland? Surf Snowdonia (due to reopen in Spring 2019) is a 300-metre lagoon in the heart of the Conwy Valley countryside where, along with surfing, you can try out a watery assault course and have fun at its Crash & Splash Lagoon. Alternatively, Zip World, near the historic mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, is the place to go to bounce and slide through a huge underground net adventure, climb through a unique underground course in a disused slate mine or zip down Europe’s largest zipwire!

12:30 To wind down after all that adventure, explore somewhere a little statelier; Gwydir Castle, half an hour from Zip World and sitting on the edge of Snowdonia National Park. Once the ancestral home of the local, powerful Wynn family, it has a long tradition of entertaining royalty and is regarded as one of Wales’ finest Tudor houses.

14:00 Travel on 40 minutes and you’ll arrive at the splendid Bodnant Estate, set in picturesque countryside with wonderful views across to Snowdonia. Explore the magnificent Bodnant Hall, its terraced gardens, lawns and wild garden, admire the stone cottages (that you can also stay in) and farm buildings that were restored using traditional techniques and materials, as well as its Garden Centre and Craft Centre.

17:00 Head north on a 20-minute drive from the Bodnant Estate and you’ll arrive in the seaside retreat of Llandudno in north Wales. Its beautiful beaches have made this a popular resort since the Victorian era, while fans of Alice in Wonderland will enjoy taking part in the town’s Alice in Wonderland trails (the real Alice, Alice Liddell, spent time at her family’s holiday home in Llandudno). The town is also home to Wales’ longest pier (built in 1876), which stretches 2,295ft/700 metres out to sea. Just 15 minutes’ drive away is the seaside town of Conwy – home to the spectacular medieval Conwy Castle, built by England’s King Edward I; climb up to its battlements for incredible views across the sea and the town.

19:30 Time to feast on local delicacies such as pot roast of Welsh beef or slow-braised shoulder of Conwy Valley lamb, a sample of dishes that can be found at the town’s Bistro Bach. For dining at a proper Welsh country pub, try The Cottage Loaf, a charming inn of wooden beams and log fires serving a menu of seasonal specials and pub classics created from ingredients that are as locally sourced as possible.

Time to check in

Llandudno offers a good accommodation mix of hotels, townhouses and B&Bs. One of the most elegant and luxurious is Bodysgallen Hall & Spa, just south of the town centre; a romantic hotel set in a Grade I-listed country house with stunning gardens to match, guests will also love its gorgeous views over both the mountains and the sea.

The Quay Hotel & Spa located on the Conwy Estuary, affords amazing views over the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Conwy Castle and has fantastic leisure facilities, while if you’re looking for something a little more central to town, the luxurious rooms at St George’s Hotel overlook Llandudno’s glorious seascape, which are particularly good from its rooms with balconies on The Rooftop.

Getting there: Cardiff, at the start of the Cambrian Way, has an international airport and is 2.5 hours by train from London. Llandudno, at the end of the journey, is a two-hour train journey from Manchester, and three hours from London. 

Ten cool hotels to have on your radar in 2019

Suitcases at the ready – some fabulously cool hotels are set to open in Britain next year, each bringing their own unique vibe as they set to join the ‘hottest properties to stay at’ lists.

The Hard Rock Hotel, London

Get ready to rock – located on the corner of Oxford Street and Park Lane in the conversion of the existing Cumberland Hotel, the legendary Hard Rock Hotel is scheduled to open its new London property in Spring next year. With 900 rooms and suites, together with two bars and a Hard Rock Cafe®, Hard Rock Hotel London will pay tribute in its memorabilia collection to former residents such as Jimi Hendrix, Diana Ross, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and Madonna. The lobby will house its world-famous Rock Shop® featuring Hard Rock merchandise, and guests seeking the ultimate experience will have the opportunity to elevate their status and become Rock Royalty®. These luxurious Rock Royalty rooms and suites will offer extra perks including a personal concierge and access to a lavish lounge.

The DogHouse, Aberdeenshire, north Scotland

Beer lovers rejoice; independent craft brewer BrewDog has announced plans to build the world’s first craft beer hotel – wittily called The DogHouse – and will launch this immersive craft beer hotel and brewery expansion at its headquarters in Aberdeenshire, north Scotland. Set to welcome guests in the first half of 2019, the 26-room hotel will feature beer taps in the rooms, a built-in shower beer fridge, while the rooms will overlook the brewery itself. Guests will also be able to watch brewers at work from rooms overlooking the new facility.

Vineyard hotel at Denbies Wine Estate, Surrey, south-east England

If wine is more your favourite tipple, look no further than England’s largest single estate vineyard, which, come Spring 2019, will have converted its existing farmhouse accommodation into what is being billed as the UK’s first vineyard hotel. Set on the Denbies estate in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and offering panoramic views across the vineyard and North Downs Way, the new hotel will have 17 en-suite bedrooms, an Orangery-style garden restaurant, outdoor dining cabanas and its own ‘Enomatic™ wine dispensing machine’ – meaning guests can taste and purchase Denbies wine by the glass. Plus, there’ll be complimentary wine tasting tutorials. Cheers to that!

art'otel Hoxton, London

What could be cooler than staying in a hotel with its own art gallery? art’otel plans to open its first property in London in the neighbourhood of Hoxton, which will be an 18-storey, 350-bedroom contemporary hotel. As well as an art gallery located in the publicly accessible arts centre, plans are said to include a top-floor restaurant and bar and luxury spa. Another art’otel property to have on your radar is the one the hotel group is said to be opening near the historic Battersea Power Station in the new Nine Elms district, south London.

Grantley Hall, Yorkshire Dales, north England

When Spring rolls round, the doors are set to open on a new five-star luxury country resort hotel and spa, set in a grand 17th-century house on its own island! Situated between the elegant Yorkshire towns of Ripon and Harrogate, Grantley Hall is being restored to its former early 20th-century glory and guests will be able to choose from 47 rooms and suites, four restaurants, three bars, a private members club, a spa pool, state-of-the-art gym and elite performance centre. The elegance continues outside; explore gorgeous landscaped gardens, which including a 1910 Japanese Garden that features on Historic England’s National Heritage List.

Stock Exchange Hotel, Manchester, north-west England

If you’re a football fan, the newest hotel owned by Manchester United legends Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville should be on your hotel hot list. The former footballers-turned-hoteliers are transforming Manchester’s beautiful old Stock Exchange building into a five-star boutique hotel, with 40 bedrooms, two presidential suites, two restaurants and private dining in the wine cellars for up to 100 people. The hotel is due to open in Spring 2019.

The Pig at Bridge Place, Kent, south-east England

Joining the litter of Pig Hotels, The Pig at Bridge Place in Kent is due to open in Spring. Its home is within a 17th-century manor house that may once have been the refined Bridge Place Country Club but was also host to some legendary parties and gigs in its time – Led Zeppelin even played here in the 1970s. Its 28 bedrooms will be enhanced by period features such as large fireplaces, secret stairways and panelled rooms, and there’ll be a further 12 bedrooms in its new Coach House. As with all Pigs, the kitchen garden and restaurant will be at the heart of this new property, and anything that can’t be supplied by the gardens will be sourced from the best producers within a 25-mile (40-km) radius. Also keep an eye out for another Pig opening towards the end of 2019; The Pig at Harlyn Bay, Cornwall, south-west England.

Market Street Hotel, Edinburgh, Scotland

Early 2019 will see Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, welcome a property from the Carlton House Collection, called Market Street Hotel. Situated on the edge of Edinburgh’s gorgeous Old Town, the historic nature of the building means lovely high ceilings and plenty of historic references, although the 98 bedrooms will be contemporary, urban-styled rooms with ante-room bathrooms. Its top floor is intriguingly being described as a ‘Champagne city residence’ and will offer wonderful vistas across the city.

The Crescent, Buxton, Derbyshire, north-west England

Get ready for some serious indulgence as the historic spa town of Buxton, Derbyshire, welcomes an 80-bedroom, five-star spa hotel to the Grade I-listed architectural masterpiece The Crescent. The hotel will be part of the overall transformation of The Crescent – which originally opened in 1789 and is one of the most architecturally significant buildings in Britain – and guests will also have access to the splendid Assembly Rooms, a thermal natural mineral water spa in the Natural Baths plus to the six prestigious retail premises along the front ground façade.

The Grand, Birmingham, central England

The chance to stay in hotels housed in some of Britain’s most iconic architectural sights continues in Birmingham, where one of the city’s best-known, Grade II-listed buildings is to be redeveloped into a luxury, 180-room hotel with a restaurant and bar, a spa and a rooftop infinity pool. While the hotel is scheduled to open in early 2019, several lovely bars and cafés have already set up home in the development - The Alchemist, Gusto and 200 Degrees cafe – that hotel guests will have easy access to.

Britain's favourite festive Christmas experiences

Britain's favourite festive Christmas experiences

Foodie Focus on…Manchester

As one of Britain’s largest, most vibrant cities, Manchester in north-west England boasts an ever-evolving foodie scene, from its wealth of cafés, bars and restaurants to well-established food markets packed with stalls selling the best of local produce. The growth in its vegan and vegetarian cuisine offer shows no sign of slowing down, its drinks scene is booming, and its history of global trading has resulted in a wide range of international cuisine choices across the city.

Regional specialities and where to taste them

Eccles Cake – Buttery, flaky pastry encasing succulent, juicy currants – what’s not to like about these sweet treats! Said to originate in the town of Eccles, a Manchester suburb, you can pick up one of these tasty cakes throughout the city but, for a special treat, head to the source itself and order an Eccles cake with a coffee at the Malaga Drift Coffee Company in Eccles.

Manchester Tart – The Manchester Tart it reportedly a variation on the original Manchester pudding, which was first recorded by famed Victorian cookery writer Mrs Beeton. This creamy combination of raspberry jam, custard and coconut flakes encased in shortcrust pastry can be found in many bakeries across the city and its suburbs, although if you’re shopping in Arndale market stop by deli/bakery stall Hansford’s to try its version.

Lancashire Hot Pot – The history of this deliciously warming, one-pot stew of lamb and onion topped with sliced potatoes dates back to the Industrial Revolution, when long work hours meant women would take a stew or pudding to a baker’s oven and leave it there to cook while they were at work. For an authentic taste of this hearty dish, order one at Annie’s Restaurant and Tea Shop, (owned by Coronation Street actress Jennie McAlpine) which specialises in a menu of traditional local and British dishes.

Vimto – Originally sold as a health tonic when it was created in Manchester by John Noel Nichols in 1908, this fruity soft drink of raspberries, grapes and blackcurrants mixed with a blend of herbs and spices became a cordial in 1913. Now you can find it on supermarket shelves but innovative Manchester-based restaurant Grafene has created a Vimto-inspired cocktail called Vimto Gardens, a blend of Manchester’s Bramble’ Sipsmith Gin, Grafene’s Vimto purée and lemon.

 

5 must-do food and drink experiences

One for all the gin lovers; Three River’s Gin School has been designated number one of the best things to do in Manchester, according to TripAdvisor. This interactive gin experience is based in the City of Manchester Distillery, the city centre’s first distillery and home to Manchester Three Rivers Gin. The experience begins with a gin and tonic while guests learn about the distillery’s short history and the history of gin, before embarking on a distillery tour, sampling four complimentary gin-based drinks along the way and creating your own personalised bottle of gin in its mini copper pot stills to take home.

The word ‘scran’ is a popular term used in the north of England to describe food – one embraced by Scranchester Tours, a gastronomic, multi-stop tour that reveals the untold food and drink stories of the city through a series of tastings during a four-hour tour. You’ll learn how the city’s food and drink offer links to its history, discovering interesting gems such as what the diet of a Victorian mill worker would have been, and the back story to the neighbourhood of Ancoat’s Little Italy and its myriad ice-cream vendors. You’ll also taste some of the best ‘scran’ the city has to offer…come hungry!

Manchester is home to a raft of craft breweries, and one great way to experience several is by booking onto one of Manchester Brewery Tours’ experiences. Check out its Microbrewery Experience, where, for four hours, you’ll explore and learn about four of the city’s taprooms and craft beer venues, as well as the brewing process, and enjoy several tastings. Alternatively, book onto its Manchester Beer Tasting Tour or its Manchester Beer Pairings Masterclass, where local beers are matched with cheese and meats.

Explore the brilliant mix of street food, craft ales and live music that takes place at the GRUB weekly food fair, held at Fairfield Social Club in the regenerated Mayfield area of the city centre every Friday and Saturday, with every Sunday given over to all things vegan –  #PlantPoweredSundays. It’s a great place to meet the locals as there’s a real community feel at this food event. GRUB’s whole ethos is to support new traders and independent businesses from Manchester, so you’ll certainly find an authentic Mancunian foodie experience here.

Based in the well-heeled neighbourhood of Didsbury, Food Sorcery & Barista School offers cookery experiences led by expert chefs and local suppliers. Classes offer everything from world foods to steak masterclasses and cheese-making, as well as ‘fit food’ classes creating delicious meals to stay healthy. Coffee lovers should check out its coffee courses, suitable for upskilling your barista skills or learning how to make the perfect brew at home.

 

Hot restaurants you have to visit

The French – A fantastic example of British fine dining at its best, The French is located in a Grade II-listed dining room at the luxury Midland Hotel. Led by Manchester-born chef-patron Adam Reid, who has worked across many Michelin-starred restaurants, the four-, six- and nine-course menus combine seasonal produce with modern British flavours, such as Cumbrian red deer with pickled quince, girolles and bilberries, and Tunworth cheese and broccoli custard.

Where the Light Gets In – A British restaurant using foraged ingredients across its menus, Where The Light Gets In – based in Stockport half an hour outside Manchester city centre – brings storytelling to its dishes. There is no set menu available; instead, chef Sam Buckley creates a dining experience from the day's catch, harvest and slaughter, all served within the eclectic décor of a Victorian coffee warehouse.

  • The award-winning and trailblazing Allotment restaurant has moved from Stockport to a bigger site in Manchester city centre. Led by chef-owner Matthew Nutter, the Allotment’s innovative and unpretentious menu has won it plaudits such as The Times’ ‘Best Vegetarian Restaurant in the UK’. Choose from its signature menu or from either a seven- or ten-course tasting menu, which includes mouth-watering dishes such as braised celeriac with golden beetroot, rosemary, sun-blushed tomato and bechamel or Thai Squash Pie with gingerbread, tamarind toffee and salt-baked pineapple.

El Gato Negro – discover a taste of Spain in the city centre at this tapas restaurant located in a converted historic town house. The dishes are influenced by the seasons and, while they use traditional Spanish flavours, you’ll find local ingredients are used across its menu. See the creations come to life at the Chef’s Table or gaze at the stars while you dine on the top floor, which sits under a retractable roof.

Bundobust – showcasing Manchester’s strong international cuisine offer, Bundobust serves delicious Indian street food and craft beers, making this one of Manchester’s go-to places for easy, tasty cuisine. This ‘beer & Indian’ joint sits close to the Northern Quarter delivering Gujurat-inspired street food and craft beer from both local and international breweries.

Rudy’s – This little slice of Naples is found in the heart of Manchester. Rudy’s walk-in pizza restaurant makes its dough on site every day, just as they would in Naples. As well as its regular toppings, you could find a delicious innovative creation on the menu available for just that week, such as Ancoats Speciale, which served up pizza with pumpkin cream, scamoza, coppa, rocket and black pepper.  With two locations, one on Peter Street in the city centre and one in Ancoats, the pizzas are both tasty and Instagrammable.

The Refuge by Volta – nestled in the Grade II-listed Principal Hotel, this restaurant and bar serves up beautiful small plate dishes such as salt cod croquettes, Merguez sausage with spiced puy lentils and crispy egg yolk, and beetroot pakora with tamarind ketchup. Run by DJs-turned-restaurateurs Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford, AKA the Unabombers, there’s also the People’s Lunch on the menu, which is a changing selection of hearty specials. The food is inspired by world cuisine yet uses ingredients sourced in the north west of England. And with two DJs at the helm it’s not surprising that, come the weekend, its bar plays awesome sounds.

Mackie Mayor – A major refurbishment saw this Grade II-listed market building on the edge of the Northern Quarter become two floors of eateries housed under one huge glass roof. Up to 500 diners can be seated along the rows of long bench tables and seating, with customers choosing from Taiwanese steamed buns at Bao House to sustainable, British-caught fish cooked whole over chargrill at Fin Fish Bar. There’s also pizza, rotisserie, Italian cuisine, coffee, wines and beer.

 

A 48-hour foodie itinerary

 

Day One

 

07:30 Start with an early breakfast at Ezra & Gil, an urban coffee hangout in the Northern Quarter, housed in a former clothing showroom. Choose from a comprehensive menu that includes smashed pumpkin on toast, house-baked granola and Greek-style green omelette.

 

10:00 Time to work up an appetite again on the Northern Quarter Taster Walk led by Manchester Food Walks, where you’ll discover Manchester's history and culture with food from some of the city's best providers. One of the walks available (which could be taken over lunchtime) is a roving feast of five small plates in Northern Quarter eateries. The guide talks you through the historic district’s markets, curry cafés and cult destinations such as Afflecks Palace.

 

13:00 Still hungry? Grab a table at the Northern Quarter’s Trof to munch on burgers, sandwiches and salads and sample its extensive beer menu. Make plans to return in the evening to enjoy its dedicated bourbon bar or come back on a Sunday for its ‘Roasts & Records’ event, dining on a succulent traditional Sunday roast dinner accompanied by music played on vinyl.

14:00 The Runaway Brewery brews its ‘modern-tasting, recognisably British’ beers by hand in small batches at its microbrewery. Head there for its core range of Pale Ales, IPA, Smoked Porter and American Brown Ales – there’s always seasonal ales to try out – and book onto one of its brewery tours that take place every Saturday.

17:00 Witness a different type of Manchester creativity with cocktails at Apotheca. Opt for brilliantly named (and tasting) drinks such as Bacon and Brown Sauce Bloody Mary, Hazy Memoirs of a Geisha, or Selfie Inflicted, where ingredients such as lychee liqueur or wasabi peas might make an appearance. The décor is just as innovative as the cocktails – think antique apothecary cabinets and comfy leather sofas.

19:00 Taking residence inside an impressive, four-storey, wooden-framed building in the centre of commercial district Spinningfields, The Ivy is bringing the infamous London celebrity hotspot to Manchester when it opens in November. The café-style brasserie features an all-day dining menu, will be open seven days a week, and promises a mix of modern British and international dishes.

 

Day Two

09:00 The district of New Islington is home to Pollen Bakery, a bakery of Scandi-influenced design and counters groaning with freshly baked loaves and cakes. Start the day with one of its famous sourdough loaves (which come in forms such as five-seed, oat porridge and Pollen rye) or one of its Viennoiserie baked goods, ranging from cinnamon buns to Manchester tart cruffins and seasonal treats such as British strawberry pistachio bakewells.

10:00 Here’s your chance to experience urban foraging. Manchester-based cookery school and not-for-profit social enterprise Cracking Good Food, which promotes sustainable, seasonal cooking, offers a rolling programme of wild food forages that take place in the neighbourhoods of Didsbury, Chorlton and Sale. The foraging walks reflect the seasons with special mushroom hunts in the autumn or elderflower picking in the summer.

13:00 Opened in September 2018, Canto is a modern Portuguese restaurant imagined up by the chef patron of city hotspot El Gato Negro, Simon Shaw. Like its award-winning sibling, Canto serves up simple, modern and distinctive dishes, taking inspiration from Portugal’s culinary traditions – perfect for a lunchtime stop.

15:00 Manchester has a fascinating gin history, one which you can discover on the Gin Journey Manchester. The tour includes a distillery visit, a ‘Gin Guardian’ to relate all the stories and history, five samples of gin specially selected for the tour, five gin cocktails and a chauffeur to transport you from venue to venue.

19:30 Dine at the newly opened Peter Street Kitchen, part of a multi-million-pound renovation of the historic Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel. This destination restaurant is all about ‘shared dining’, with a menu consisting of small plates from two different cuisines; contemporary Japanese and Mexican.

 

Food festivals in 2019

Manchester Food and Drink Festival – 2019 dates TBC but usually runs end of September to early October.

Bolton Food and Drink Festival – half an hour from Manchester, this large-scale festival runs in August.

Indy Man Beer Con – Taking place in October in the gorgeous surroundings of the Grade II-listed Victoria Baths, a short journey from the city centre, this is the place to visit for independent breweries showcasing their wares.