The story of a royal romance

Love is very much in the air in Britain, with Valentine’s Day almost upon us and the upcoming nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

A few chapters ahead in their own love story, next week also marks the royal visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Sweden and Norway. We mark their blossoming relationship with four places in Great Britain to feel the love.

 

St Andrews, Scotland

The University of St Andrews in the quaint coastal town of St Andrews in Fife is where the couple’s story began. William arrived in 2001 to study art history (he eventually switched to geography), where he met Kate who was on the same course. Follow in their footsteps, wandering around the university quads, and admiring the striking architecture.

Nearby, climb the 156 steps to the top of St Rule’s Tower at St Andrew’s Cathedral for panoramic views across Fife. It’s free to visit, and the cathedral ruins hint at the grandeur of what was once Scotland’s largest church, and a meeting point for medieval pilgrims. You can also make your own two-hour ‘pilgrimage’ to Edinburgh by train.

 

Anglesey, Wales

Before their engagement, the couple lived on the island of Anglesey, just off the northwest coast of Wales.

Marking the official start of their life together, Anglesey was a particularly special place to call home and the ideal base for William’s job as a Royal Air Force Search and Rescue pilot.

Get swept away by its wild beauty along the 130-mile Anglesey Coastal Path which circles the island, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. You can also explore on horseback and enjoy views of the Menai Straits and Snowdonia’s mountains.

Anglesey is also known for its ancient sites – there are around 120 megaliths and burial chambers scattered across the island. Add to this, historic lighthouses, medieval castles and pretty harbours and it makes for a picture-perfect break.

 

Norfolk, England

The Queen gifted the secluded Georgian estate of Anmer Hall to the future monarchs, also giving them plenty of privacy to raise their children. It’s also just two miles from the Queen’s own beloved Norfolk residence of Sandringham, where William spent much of his childhood.

The couple have been spotted in local towns including Holt, where the Duchess has been seen browsing independent shops to furnish their countryside retreat.

Check in at the Kings Head Hotel in King’s Lynn for a romantic weekend retreat. It’s rumoured the royal couple dined here. You can also visit Sandringham’s spectacular house and gardens, including the museum’s extraordinary collection of royal vehicles and rare memorabilia. The grounds are free to explore.

 

London, England

In 2017, the couple and their two children (with a third on its way) moved into a 20-room apartment inside Kensington Palace to step up their royal duties, dividing their time between here and Norfolk.

Also the home of newly-engaged Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, visitors can tour public areas of the palace, including the lavish King and Queen’s state apartments.

To re-create your own special proposal, consider dinner and drinks at the west London institution that is Bluebird Chelsea or the unusual dine-in-the-dark Dans Le Noir ? in Clerkenwell, east London, where the pair are reported to have enjoyed pre-wedding dates.

Finish up with Kate and William’s Royal Wedding Tour of London to trace their whirlwind romance. Spots include their favourite Mayfair nightclubs, designer shopping haunts, the jewellers selling that engagement ring, and the hospital where their children were born.

 

Editor’s Note

Sandringham House, Gardens and Museum, and Sandringham Church, are open daily from Saturday 31 March until Sunday 21 October 2018, EXCEPT 23rd to 27th July inclusive. Visitors should check the variable opening times for the museum, house and gardens before travel.

Planning a regal wedding

Preparations are now in full swing for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, with the big day taking place at Windsor Castle in May 2018.

With Royal Warrant Holders spanning in industries across the country, you too can have your own royal-inspired nuptials. Here we round-up the key ingredients you need to plan a regal wedding.    

 

Bottles of Bubbles

It wouldn’t be much of a wedding without the pop of a cork and an overflow of Champagne. And to emulate the royal couple’s nuptials, you need look no further than your local Waitrose. The first supermarket chain to be awarded a Royal Warrant by the Queen, the branch in Windsor is a regular supplier to the Royal Household, and with shops all around England, extravagance need not be a journey too far.

For an authentic English wine tasting experience, head to Chiltern Valley Wines in Oxfordshire and try before you buy. Holding a Royal Warrant since 2007, the vineyard is located in an area of outstanding natural beauty that’s the perfect spot for wine tours and tastings, £15 per person.   

 

The Icing on the (wedding) cake

Located just six miles from Her Majesty’s Sandringham Estate, the Norfolk market town of Kings Lynn is home to the crown jewels of the area’s cake shops and bakeries. Smiths the Bakers – run by the same family since before World War II – serves treats for the sweetest of teeth. For a personal touch, put in an order for a classic Victoria sponge and head to Richard Hughes Cookery School at The Lavender House for a class on cake decoration to really impress your wedding guests.

Serve up delicious canapés on beautiful Wedgwood China from England’s capital of porcelain, Stoke-on-Trent.

 

Royal blooms

Pay attention to ground level décor with exquisite and lavish floral decorations to adorn your wedding tables. Those with a flair for florals can book a flower-arranging class with Chelsea Flower Show medalist, Hampton Court Flower Show Designer and Royal Warrant Holder Rosemary Hughes. If you don’t fancy all of that hard work, head instead for the beautiful displays of Royal Warrant holding florist Edward Goodyear whose shop is located at 6 Cardinal Place in London’s Victoria.

 

Suited and Booted

Prepare to put on a show and dress like a prince or princess from head to toe. It’s your wedding, after all. Ladies should start with lingerie from London’s Rigby and Peller and hosiery from Leicester’s Wolsely, with outerwear from the likes of Burberry or Stuart Parvin. For wedding dresses fit for a duchess, head to Browns Bride in London’s upmarket Marylebone – home to big name designers like Valentino and Vera Wang to make your big day feel unique. If you’re looking for ethereal touches of glamour, blushing brides-to-be should head to Alice Temperley Bridal, which offers dresses that are both dreamy and decadent. Pair with your favourite pair of Anello & Davide shoes.

 

For boys, tailoring is key. Get bespoke suits measured up at Market Harborough’s Frank Hall Tailoring, and match them with a crisp shirt from Grosvenor shirts.

 

Or consider a tailored tour of Savile Row, where picky princes can choose between myriad Royal Warrant Holders including Gieves & Hawkes, Benson & Clegg and Henry Poole. Take in the whole lot on a fashion insiders’ tour with Urban Gentry. A three-hour private tour for you and up to four of your entourage costs £165 and is completely customised according to your taste (or shopping list).

 

Before your wedding guests arrive, splash on some panache with one of Penhaligon’s fragrances. The perfumer offers a perfume profiling service - sit down with a cappuccino and choose your favourite tones and scents before the expert staff match you to a perfect perfume. Free of charge and there’s no need to book - Penhaligon’s offers this as a walk in service.

5 unique places to propose in Britain

Since the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, some couples may be thinking of making their own romantic proposal.

Here’s a round-up of five unique places in the UK perfect for popping the question – from a fairy-tale treehouse to hidden forests that inspired the greatest legendary lovers.

 

1. A fairy-tale treehouse overlooking the shores of Loch Goil 

For a magical moment you want a truly memorable location, and you certainly won't forget The Lodge's enchanting treehouse overlooking a Scottish lake as the backdrop of your proposal. Enjoy a private candlelit dinner for two before the main event and then retreat to The Lodge itself – an intimate five-star venue popular with weddings and fashion shoots, located about an hour and 30 minutes' drive from Glasgow. The treehouse even has a marriage licence, so you can come back and get married in the place where you proposed!

 

2. A bespoke proposal looking over London

Twice the height of any other vantage point in the city, The Shard offers breath-taking views of London and is fast becoming known as one of the capital's most romantic destinations, especially when you add a spectacular sunset and a glass of champagne into the mix. The View from the Shard has a dedicated concierge service to help make your proposal unforgettable, with everything from exclusive use of the viewing gallery after hours and personalised music, to candles, petals and champagne - or, if you're thinking of something really different, they also work closely with dedicated romantic event planners, The Proposers.

 

3. On the beach at sunset

If you're ready to ask for your beloved's hand in marriage, the British coast makes an ideal backdrop. The sand at Bamburgh Beach turns a pinky hue at sunset, so pack a champagne picnic, pick a sand dune for privacy and ask the question that's been burning a hole in your pocket all day. Or you could opt for Rhossili Bay in south Wales, which is regularly voted as one of the world's top beaches and best picnic spots. And it's little wonder – the water is refreshing and clean and there's a cute property you can stay in, The Old Rectory, located right on the beach with uninterrupted views of the sea; it is one of the National Trust's most popular holiday cottages.

 

4. At the foot of a waterfall in the Lake District

With its mountain peaks and glistenng lakes, there is nowhere else quite like the Lake District. Unsurprisingly, it is one of the most popular places to propose in the UK, but you can still find an isolated part of this idyllic landscape for your own romantic moment. Derwent Water is a stunning body of shimmering tranquillity, perfect for a private little boat trip proposal, or how about going down on one knee at the foot of a waterfall? Sitting in the 40-acre grounds of Lodore Falls Hotel, overlooking Derwent Water, are the Lodore Falls. The hotel takes real enjoyment in helping guests make their proposals as special as possible, followed by an overnight stay in the romantic Lake View bedroom.

 

5. Live out your own great literary love  

Follow in the footsteps of great lovers in history and literature and head into Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire if you're a budding Robin Hood or Maid Marian; the pair are said to have been married in Edwinstowe Church, and there's a statue marking the site of the event. Fans of Robin Hood Prince of Thieves should make a pilgrimage to Hadrian's Wall (the section of wall in Northumberland), where they'll see the solitary tree immortalised in the film, which also makes a nice proposal spot. 

Luxury spa experiences

In the run up to the royal wedding, Meghan Markle is sure to be pampering herself. Luckily, Britain is home to some luxury spa experiences perfect for any bride or groom ahead of the big day.

 

Brimstone Spa - Lake District, Cumbria, north-west England
For exclusivity and countryside calm with a modern ‘wow' factor, discerning spa fans will love Brimstone Spa in the Lake District, Cumbria. This plush retreat sits between the Brimstone and Langdale hotels, and is only open to hotel guests. Guests can work their way through seven thermal experiences - including a Himalayan salt steam grotto and a lava sauna - and slip into the indoor-to-outdoor infinity pool. The spa is around one hour 30 minutes from Carlisle by road.

Top treatment: The spa's exclusive Pure Alchemy treatments use organic local ingredients. The Bubble is a private spa for two with twin treatment beds.

 

Stobo Castle, Peebles, Scotland
Deep in the countryside, yet only an hour's drive from Edinburgh, is the destination spa at Stobo Castle. Watch the sunset over the Scottish hills while relaxing in the pool. The setting might be a 200-year-old castle, but the sleek spa is an oasis of contemporary luxury offering a range of treatments and therapies using products by Gatineau, Darphin and Phytomer.

Top treatment: Reverse time with an intensive Gatineau Collagen Plumping Expert Facial, followed by the spa's bespoke Dream Water Massage treatment, where you are blasted with 2,000 litres of water but yet never get wet. Magic!

 

Galgorm Resort & Spa, Country Antrim, Northern Ireland
Set in an idyllic woodland location alongside the River Maine is the award-winning Galgorm Spa. This watery wonderland of indoor-outdoor thermal pools, log-fired hot tubs and a post-sauna ice room is just 30 minutes from Belfast. Many of the treatments use products made from locally-farmed seaweed.

Top treatment: Go for the spa's signature Taste of Galgorm experience – a head-to-toe ritual combining five treatments: a warm organic oil back massage, a hydrating hand and arm mask, VOYA organic facial treatments with Laminaria eye compresses, a head massage and, to finish, a restorative point foot massage. Bliss!

 

Pennyhill Park Hotel, Surrey, England
The impressive Spa at Pennyhill Park has eight indoor and outdoor pools - one even has underwater music, and the bubbling, warm outside pool is lovely in winter. Other facilities include an ice cave, sauna, steam rooms and heated ceramic relaxation beds in a tepidarium (that's spa speak for a heated room). There is a huge menu of treatments, including hi-tech facials from Elemental Herbology. Guests can hire the brand new Acacia or Silver Birch suites for total privacy.

Top treatment: The spa's bespoke Elemental Harmoniser facial uses a combination of plant-derived AHAs and active botanical ingredients to reenergise skin and give a radiant glow.

 

St Brides Spa, Pembrokeshire, west Wales
Guests can gaze out at the wide, sandy beaches of Saundersfoot from the St Brides Spa infinity pool at Pembrokeshire's only spa hotel. The spa focuses on solus por aqua - meaning "healing by water" - with therapies centred on the healing powers of the sea. Treatments range from deep exfoliating body scrubs using nourishing seaweed oils to anti-oxidant marine algae facials and rehydrating sea-salt cleansing rituals.

Top treatment: For the ultimate seaside splurge, go for the 55-minute Ocean Renewal package. This indulgent hot sea mud therapy enriched with warm seawater naturally stimulates blood flow and lymphatic circulation.

 

The Bulgari Spa, Knightsbridge, London
For a very special spa experience in central London, descend beneath the Bulgari Hotel into Bulgari Spa, just two minutes' walk from Harrods and Harvey Nichols. A peaceful haven of understated elegance and Asian influences, it's got a marble steam room, thermal facilities and a gold-leaf vitality pool with a waterfall. The real highlight has got to be the 25-metre pool, with warm lighting and seven curtained poolside cabanas, which even have their own call button if guests want to order food or drinks. Or, those who prefer absolute privacy can hire the Onyx Spa Suite.

Top treatment: Try the spa's signature 24-carat gold naturalift anti-aging treatment, which combines the power of acupuncture with the beautifying properties of 24 carat gold, for a glowing complexion. Pure gold has been used for centuries as the secret to youthful looking skin and historians believe that Cleopatra slept in a gold mask to maintain her beauty.

 

ESPA Life at the Corinthia Hotel, London
Winner of ‘England's best hotel spa' in the 2016 World Spa Awards, ESPA Life at the Corinthia is a spacious sanctuary spread over four floors, located between Trafalgar Square and the River Thames. Clad in sleek black marble with a mosaic steam room, the spa's decadence matches the chandelier-studded opulence of the hotel. There are 17 treatment rooms, an amphitheatre sauna, a pool and cosy sleep pods. The spa's wellness programme is devised by naturopaths, osteopaths, acupuncturists and herbalists.

Top treatment: Renowned as the spa's ‘hero' therapy, the 120-minute ESPA Iconic Back Face and Scalp Treatment includes back exfoliation, a hot stone back massage, a facial and a scalp massage.

 

The Scarlet, Cornwall, south-west England
Overlooking a Cornish surf beach, The Scarlet hotel and spa is a stylish, eco-friendly, adult-only getaway. With log-fired hot tubs overlooking the sea and an alfresco swimming pool, the clifftop spa is the hotel's focal point. It's a quiet, contemplative, almost spiritual place that focuses on holistic wellbeing instead of individual symptoms. Every Scarlet Journey treatment begins with a consultation with a Tri-Dosha practitioner, including an ayurvedic diagnosis to determine body type, known in Sanskrit as a ‘dosha'. Free yoga sessions are offered daily and guests can get active with outdoor pursuits like surf lessons and wild swimming classes.

Top treatment: All treatments are centred on individually tailored ayurvedic ‘journeys'. The body is prepared with a bathing ritual - either a hammam scrub or a rhassoul experience - followed by guided meditation and a therapeutic massage or yoga session. They finish with recovery time in the deep relaxation room, where canvas sleep pods hang from the ceiling.

Top 12 Romantic locations

Love is in the air, following Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement. If their upcoming nuptials have inspired you to take your own romantic mini-break, why not visit one of these 12 beautiful locations with that special someone in your life. 

 

1. Isle of Anglesey, Wales

What place could be more appropriate for a young couple to spend the first years of their married life than the Isle of Anglesey? After all, here they have not just one special day for lovers, but two - the small island of Llanddwyn on the west coast of Anglesey (only an island at high tide), was once the home of Saint Dwynwen, the patron saint of Welsh lovers, who lived in a monastery there and Welsh lovebirds remember her on 25th January, an extra Valentine’s Day!

 

2. St Andrews, Scotland

St Andrews, the romantic Scottish town in the Kingdom of Fife, is now undoubtedly synonymous with the courtship of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, after they met at the town’s historic university.

 

3. The Isles of Scilly

The Isles of Scilly located just 28 miles off the Cornish coast in the Atlantic Ocean, so must be accessed by air or sea, providing a real sense of escape. The Scillies comprise five inhabited and numerous uninhabited islands. Any honeymooning couple can enjoy romantic walks around the stunning scenic islands. To truly enjoy the romance, newlyweds can also discover the islands by boat – enjoying a sail around the uninhabited isles or to see the abundant marine wildlife including puffins, basking sharks, gannets and even occasionally whales. For those who prefer to spend time on land, there are ancient monuments to discover, horse riding along the beach, and castles and forts to explore.

4. Isle of Eriska, Scotland

Isle of Eriska - Scotland has long been a favourite romantic location for the Royal Family, with many holidays spent at Balmoral, the Queen’s Scottish home, originally purchased by Queen Victoria. Eriska is located in the heart of West Argyll, 12 miles north of Oban. During the 10th Century, the west coast of Scotland was subject to a surge of Norse invasions, including by Erik the Red, hence the name of the island. The sheer remoteness of the island, along with its breathtaking scenery, means that this is a fabulous honeymoon spot. As well as glorious nature walks and wildlife spotting (the island is home to otters, badgers, deer and sea birds), there is golfing, clay pigeon shooting and windsurfing on and around the island. It is also well-situated for exploring the Highlands, including Oban and Fort William. The Isle of Eriska hotel is a 19th Century country house, which has been converted into a warm hotel, complete with spa.

 

5. The Peak District

The Peak District is the area that inspired Jane Austen to write Pride and Prejudice (it is thought that Pemberley is based on Chatsworth House and Bakewell is represented as Lambton in the novel), and the region has a fantastically dramatic romantic landscape. The Peak District was named as Britain’s first national park in 1951, and includes welcoming country pubs, original coaching inns and lots of local festivals throughout spring and summer. Nearby Bolsover Castle is also particularly romantic, situated on a hilltop overlooking the Vale of Scarsdale, and with the beautiful Venus Garden. The Garden includes secluded love seats, statues and a fountain – perfect for a peaceful stroll.

 

6. Norfolk Broads

Just a couple of hours away from their central London wedding, the county of Norfolk offers both the beautiful countryside of the Norfolk Broads, as well as stunning and lesser-known beaches, the county is the ideal spot for a remote honeymoon hideaway. Couples can even enjoy seal-spotting and sailing off the coast. Holkham beach on the north coast was the location for the romantic final scene in Shakespeare in Love.

 

7. St Pancras International Station, London

Start a romantic getaway by meeting under Paul Day's 30 foot tall statue, The Lovers, at St Pancras International station where you can then enjoy a glass of champagne at the Longest Champagne Bar in Europe.

 

8. Shere, Surrey

Shere in Surrey is a little quintessentially English village, just 30 miles from London. Sitting in the heart of the rolling Surrey Hills, with a pretty pub, 12th century village church and duck pond it’s easy to see why romantic films such as ‘The Holiday’ and ‘Bridget Jones Diary’ have used this location for their films.

 

9. Bath

With beautiful Georgian architecture and stunning scenery Bath is a great place for a romantic break. Enjoy a couple’s day at the Thermae Bath Spa then fly over the rooftops of the Royal Crescent before drifting out to the surrounding countryside in a hot air balloon.

 

 

10. Hever Castle, Kent

The Gardens at Hever Castle were last year voted the ‘most romantic garden in the South East’. One of the most important historic castle on the English landscape Hever Castle was once the family home of one of England’s most famous Queens – Anne Boleyn, the intriguing second wife of Henry VIII and mother of Elizabeth I.

 

11. Sark, Channel Islands

Why not settle down for a romantic night under the stars on Sark, the world’s first ‘Dark Sky Island’. As the smallest of the four main Channel Islands, Sark has quaint villages bordered by a breath-taking, craggy coastline and is a haven for rare wildlife. The ‘dark sky island’ status has been awarded by the International Dark Sky Association and is in recognition of the exceptional blackness of the night sky that makes for spectacular stargazing on the island.

 

12. Lower Slaughter, Cotswolds

Stroll hand in hand down Copse Hill Road in Lower Slaughter, which has been given a Google Street View award as the most romantic street in Britain. This quaint Cotswolds village sits beside the little Eye stream and is known for its unspoilt limestone cottages in the traditional Cotswolds style.

The most romantic honeymoon destinations in Britain

If like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle you’re in the process of planning your honeymoon, why not take inspiration from some of Britain’s most romantic locations for your first holiday as a married couple.

 

Chewton Glen, New Forest
Rise above it all in Chewton Glen's Treehouses, which seamlessly blend Chewton Glen's luxury style with a forest-canopy setting. Check into a Treehouse Hideaway Suite, soak in your private outdoor hot tub on the terrace deck or cuddle up in front of the wood burner, then stroll along the glass-covered walkway hand-in-hand to your bedroom pod - all with unforgettable forest canopy views. Chewton Glen is on the edge of the New Forest, 90 miles south west of London.

 

Bryn Eglur, Wales
At Bryn Eglur, in west Wales you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd retreated back to the 18th century. Built in 1755, this typical Welsh smallholder's cottage has been lovingly restored to that era, with lime-washed walls, an antique Welsh box bed, inglenook fireplace and cherry-red Rayburn stove. Apart from a bathroom with a roll-top bath, the place is refreshingly lacking in modern gadgetry, meaning you'll have all the time in the world to simply focus on each other. You'll find Bryn Eglur a two-hour drive west of Cardiff.

 

Brassington, Peak District
Film lovers should head to Town Street Barn, a self-catering apartment tucked away in the eaves of Brassington, a village on the edge of the Peak District, three hours north of London. Inside, you'll find a roll-top bath positioned under a sky light in the bedroom - perfect for stargazing - and your own mini cinema; the ‘Brassington Picture House' even has a retro cabinet stocked with traditional cinema snacks.

 

Middleton Hall, Northumberland
You'll have otters for neighbours at the romantic Boathouse at Middleton Hall in Northumberland, north-east England. Standing on stilts on the edge of the lake, the open-plan design and floor-to-ceiling windows take full advantage of the views across the water. Get even closer to the otters and birds that also call this lake home with a jaunt in the flat-bottomed rowing boat that's included in the stay.

 

County Down, Northern Ireland
Equally romantic is Helen's Tower, a granite tower perched high on a wooded hill top in Co Down, Northern Ireland. Named after Helen Selina Blackwood (the mother of the 5th Baron of Dufferin and Ava), a number of poems written in her honour by the likes of Tennyson, Robert Browning and Rudyard Kipling are inscribed in the tower's wood-panelled octagonal poetry room. Make your sweetheart swoon as you read them out. Game of Thrones' fans may be more impressed by the tower's history as a filming location for the award-winning TV series.

 

Isle of Mull, Scotland
For the ultimate honeymoon-in-a-castle retreat, book The Tower Rooms in Glengorm Castle, on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. This unique serviced apartment has access to the roof looking over the castle's fairytale turrets and the Compass Room, a secluded room with knee-quivering views in all four directions. When you've had your fill of the view, join the six-hour guided Volcano wildlife walk and spot red deer, peregrine falcons and golden eagles before collapsing into your king-sized bed.

 

Mawgan Porth, Cornwall
The only thing more romantic than soaking in a hot tub together is soaking in a wooden hot tub on a cliff top with far-reaching Atlantic views, with Champagne! The Scarlet Hotel on the rugged north coast of Cornwall in south-west England is a luxury adults-only eco hotel that refuses to compromise when it comes to guilt-free pampering. Even better, the spa really knows its stuff when it comes to indulging newlyweds. Try the four-hour Rediscover (for couples) with Ayurvedic Massages and follow your hot tub with a hammam, synchronised full body massages and an enormous scented bath.

 

Scottish Highlands
If your idea of romance involves the open road, head for the hills - the Scottish Highlands to be precise. McKinlay Kidd's Highlands and Islands Honeymoon tour sees you and your new spouse zoom between some indescribably romantic places and experiences, from a round-island yacht cruise and the enchanting Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye, to an indescribably romantic hotel tucked away at the end of a glen and along one of the world's greatest drives through Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park - all in a cute Mini Cooper.

 

The Cotswolds
Alternatively, in the picture-perfect Cotswolds, west England, you can cruise along hedge-lined country lanes, over sheep-speckled hills and through honey-stone villages in classic cars that will make you drool; think Jaguar E-type convertibles, MGB Roadsters and Rolls Royce Silver Shadows. But for serious wow appeal, hire an open-top Morgan sports car direct from the Morgan factory in nearby Malvern. Don't miss Copse Hill Road in Lower Slaughter, apparently Britain's most romantic street.

 

Bath, Wiltshire
In Bath, south-west England, you can take to the skies in a hot-air balloon for an aerial view of the city's Roman remains and curvaceous Georgian crescents. Book Bath Balloon's Exclusive Champagne Flights for Two (plus the pilot, of course) and follow up your flight with a dip in the rooftop pool at Bath Thermae Spa. Jane Austen fans should take a stroll along Gravel Walk too; it's where Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth finally agree to marry in Persuasion.

 

Machynlleth, Wales

Newlyweds who love their food can book the Michelin Dining Package at Ynyshir Hall, an award-winning luxury country house hotel in mid Wales, just over two hours north of Cardiff. Sit at the Chef's Table and watch Head Chef Gareth Ward and his team create a surprise tasting menu just for the two of you; it's the ultimate private-dining experience, in one of Wales' best restaurants. For added kudos, request the Vermeer room, where Richard Gere stayed while filming First Knight; the separate sitting room and walk-in closet help amp up the romance factor too.

 

Six quirky British wedding venues

It’s been revealed that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be tying the knot at Windsor Castle in May 2018. You most likely won't be able to get married at the Castle but Britain has a huge choice of unique wedding venues to make the big day feel extra special.

If you're looking for something a little bit different, here are six of the most unusual venues across the country - from a fairy-tale treehouse to a whisky vault!

 

1. In a loch-side treehouse...

The Lodge on Loch Goil, Argyll, Scotland

For a magical mini wedding and picture-perfect privacy in the Scottish Highlands, this five-star retreat's Tree House is a beautifully romantic choice. Perched over the waters of Loch Goil with a mountainous backdrop, the Tree House can accommodate 24 guests for an intimate ceremony, or the main Lodge caters for 80. After the vows have been exchanged, the wedding party can move to the main Lodge - a Victorian private country house built in 1864 - to feast on local produce. There's room for 14 guests to stay overnight, while the newly-married couple retreat to the cute Summerhouse on the loch's shore. The Lodge is just over an hour's drive from Glasgow.

 

2. On a steam train...

Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, south-west England

Catch the love train at Perrygrove! It's full steam ahead for happy couples getting married on this railway's specially decorated steam train - The Wedding Belle - while the whole wedding party travels through scenic countryside on the edge of the beautiful Forest of Dean. Afterwards, the twosome and their guests can sip champagne on the platform and enjoy a sit down reception. There are two very different reception locations on site which can cater from 10-200 people; the Carriage Shed for up to 40 people, or Rookwood - a great option for a summertime marquee reception for up to 200 guests.

 

3. Suspended in the sky...

British Airways i360, Brighton, south-east England

Take your wedding on a voyage into the sky! Say ‘I do' 450 feet above the seaside town of Brighton in a futuristic glass viewing pod as you and your loved ones ascend the world's first vertical cable car and tallest moving observation tower. Up to 198 guests can join the celebrations and enjoy champagne and canapes, or even a full banquet, with amazing panoramic views.

 

4. In a whisky vault...

Edinburgh, Scotland

Perfect for whisky lovers, The Scotch Whisky Experience's private vault offers an exclusive, VIP dining experience for up to 10 guests, surrounded by a vast selection of whiskies. There are also larger locations on site too if you're planning on having a ceilidh afterwards!

 

5. Go to market...

Borough Market, London

An ideal venue for foodie couples is London's oldest market, which is licensed for weddings. Borough Market's historic Market Hall is a striking glass structure with high ceilings and has capacity for 250 people, with ceremonies held outside of market opening times. Or, you can get married at one of Borough's best restaurants - Roast - situated in the portico of the former flower market. Also a licensed a wedding venue, the restaurant takes care of the whole event and there is capacity for 108 seated guests. They even throw in a complimentary first anniversary dinner for the new couple.

 

6. Flying through the air...

Highland Fling Bungee, Perthshire, Scotland

Real adrenaline junkies can even get married on a bungee jump platform in scenic Scotland before jumping together on the same cord to celebrate while their wedding guests watch!

48 hours in… Belfast

Get inspired by our series of 48 Hours In..., this time in Belfast! Having been named the best region to visit in 2018 in Lonely Planet's Best in Travel, we shine the spotlight on the fascinating capital of Northern Ireland.

 

Why Belfast?

Belfast is a city of many quarters, each with its own character and story to share. The oldest quarter, and the city's cultural heart, is the Cathedral Quarter, characterised by cobble streets and traditional pubs. Home to some of Belfast's iconic political wall murals, the Gaeltacht Quarter is an area where Irish language and culture flourishes. Encompassing historic Queen's University, Ulster Museum and the Lisburn Road, the Queens Quarter has informal cafés, bars and independent shops. The RMS Titanic is so synonymous with this city that a whole neighbourhood is named in its honour. Delve into Belfast's rich industrial and maritime heritage in the Titanic Quarter, and witness the story of the origins, construction, launch and legacy of this world-famous ship.

A day of celebration throughout Ireland and beyond, St Patrick's Day falls on 17 March every year. Belfast commemorates with the colourful St Patrick's Day Carnival, an array of floats, musicians and dancers that parade their way around the city from Belfast City Hall. There's also a free concert with a variety of talent, ranging from traditional Irish dance groups to well-known pop acts, plus smaller events at pubs and venues around the city.

2016 is Northern Ireland's Year of Food & Drink, celebrating the epic landscapes, traditions and people that make the regions food heritage so unique. With a different foodie theme each month, this is an ideal time to enjoy a taste of Belfast.

 

DAY ONE

Time to check in

A three-star hotel with 171 simple, modern rooms, plus a bar and restaurant, Premier Inn Belfast (Cathedral Quarter) is affordable, well located, and one of the top-ranked hotels on TripAdvisor.

More indulgent, Malmaison Belfast is a four-star hotel with 62 rooms and suites in a converted Victorian warehouse. Original features such as carved stone gargoyles and wrought iron pillars complement the velvety, contemporary décor.

Blending Victorian grandeur with Art Deco elegance, the Merchant Hotel is an award-winning five-star property. Exclusive amenities include airport transfers in the hotel's chauffeur driven Rolls Royce Phantom, and a rooftop gym and spa with stunning views.

 

10:00 Have a Titanic adventure

Arguably the world's most famous ocean-going vessel, RMS Titanic was built in Belfast's historic shipyards. One hundred years on from the ship's ill-fated maiden voyage, April 2012 saw the opening of Titanic Belfast, the world's largest Titanic-themed visitor attraction. This monumental structure by Texan architect Eric Kuhne rises from the docks like a glass and aluminium iceberg. Inside are nine galleries telling the story of the Titanic, from her conception in Belfast in the early 1900s, through her construction and launch, to her ill-fated maiden voyage. This state-of-the-art visitor experience includes a special effects-laden shipyard ride, underwater exploration theatre, and recreations of the ships cabins.

 

12:00 Meet ‘Samson & Goliath' and other dockyard heavyweights

Two huge yellow gantry cranes dominate Belfast's skyline. Part of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, birthplace of many great ships including RMS Titanic, these two cranes were constructed in 1969 and 1974 to service a new graving dock. Affectionately known by locals as Samson & Goliath, they've become city icons.

Other shipbuilding and Titanic-related attractions in Belfast's Titanic Quarter include Titanic's Dock&Pump House. The largest dry dock ever constructed, it's here that workers put the final touches on the most luxurious liner ever built.

 

12:30 A tasty Titanic lunch

The Titanic Quarter visitor attractions offer various lunch options, including Titanic Belfast's Bistro 401 restaurant and The Galley tearoom, and Titanic's Dock&Pump House Café. A small, stylish choice, Cast&Crew is nestled beneath the ‘Samson&Goliath' cranes, and serves delicious locally sourced food.

 

Go onboard the last surviving White Star Line ship

Her siblings either sunk or were scrapped, but visitors to Belfast can still go onboard SS Nomadic, the only surviving White Star Line vessel afloat today. Launched in Belfast in 1911, it was built as a tender to big ships including RMS Olympic and RMS Titanic, giving first-class passengers (including Marie Curie and Charlie Chaplin) their first taste of White Star Line luxury. Later used as a minesweeper and troop rescue ship during both world wars, it's now back home in Belfast's historic Hamilton Dock and restored to her original glory.

 

15:00 Take a free peek at treasures from across the globe

You'll see dinosaurs, an Egyptian Mummy and modern masterpieces at Ulster Museum, Northern Ireland's treasure house of the past and present. This extensive collection of art, history and natural sciences is free to all visitors.

 

18:00 Have an aperitif in a Victorian ‘gin palace'

Open since 1885, Crown Liquor Saloon is a stunning example of a Victorian ‘gin palace'. It features private snugs with a bell system for summoning staff, designed to ensure customer privacy during the stern Victorian era. Now owned by the National Trust, it's wonderfully atmospheric with elaborate tile mosaics, period gas lighting, and etched and stained glass windows.

 

19:30 Enjoy modern Northern Irish cuisine

For modern fine dining, James Street South serves fresh and locally sourced Northern Irish produce in a contemporary space. Signature dishes include Strangford Lough Bouillabaisse and organic Irish lamb. Open since 2003, chef Niall McKenna now has a cookery school and two further restaurants (Bar + Grill and Hadskis) in Belfast.

Another fine dining option is the spectacular Great Room Restaurant within the Merchant Hotel. 

Or there's restaurateur Michael Deane's EIPIC, a recent recipient of a coveted Michelin star for chef Danni Barry - only the second female chef ever in Ireland to gain a star.

 

22:00 Sample Belfast's lively pub scene

Although there are excellent pubs and bars throughout the city, Belfast's Cathedral Quarter has many characterful choices. Options include McHugh's Bar and Restaurant, which dates back to 1711. Its Main Bar is full of historical objects and memorabilia, while the Basement Bar is a live music venue hosting gigs by established artists like George Ezra as well as up-and-coming alternative bands.

The John Hewitt is a pub uniquely owned and run by the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre, funding its work via the sale of hearty home-cooked food, speciality gins, craft ales and cider including locally produced MacIvors Irish Artisan Cider and Maddens Mellow Armagh Cider.

 

DAY TWO

10:00 Wake up to an Ulster fry

Start the day with an Ulster Fry: potato and soda bread, fried eggs, sausage, bacon, black and white pudding and a tomato. The secret is to cook everything in one pan to secure all the flavour. George's Of The Market has overlooked historic St George's Market for more than 15 years, and serves an award-winning version using sausages made of pork and Irish dulse seaweed, a local delicacy.

 

10:45 Shop for the best local arts, crafts and foods

Dating from 1890, grand St George's Market was voted Britain's Best Large Indoor Market in 2014. There's been a Friday market on this site since 1604, a tradition upheld with the Friday Variety Market, where stalls sell fresh fish, fruit and vegetables, antiques, books and clothes. Saturday's City Food and Craft Market sees local and international speciality foods plus handmade pottery, glass, metalwork and local photography. The Sunday Market focuses on local arts and crafts such as scented candles, handmade jewellery and homemade confectionary. There's often live music from local bands.

 

11:30 Take a Black Taxi Tour of Belfast's political murals

Northern Ireland has witnessed many political and religious divisions over the years. An estimated 2,000 murals, considered the most famous political murals in Europe, document these troubles. Significant murals from the 1980s tend to endorse either Republican or Loyalist views, depicting sectarian events such as the Ballymurphy Massacre and the hunger strike of Bobby Sands. The current trend is for murals representing peace and tolerance. These striking examples of political street art provide an overview of Northern Ireland's recent history. Take a 90-minute Black Taxi Tour to see what the walls of Belfast have to say. 

 

13:00 Sample Northern Irish cuisine, language and culture

An arts and cultural centre housed in a former church in the Gaeltacht Quarter, Cultúrlann McAdam O Fiaich celebrates and fosters Irish culture with poetry readings, traditional and contemporary Irish music, exhibitions and céili's. Its homely café-restaurant Bia is a meeting place for Belfast's Irish Language community, and a place to enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner in an authentic Gaelic atmosphere. 

 

14:00 Go to prison

First opening its gates to prisoners in 1846, Crumlin Road Gaol housed murderers, suffragettes, and loyalist and republican prisoners for 150 years. It has witnessed births, deaths and marriages and has been home to executions, escapes, riots and hunger strikes. Closing its doors for what many thought would be the final time in 1996, the gaol reopened in 2012 as a major visitor attraction. The 70-minute tour pays a visit to the condemned man's cell, the execution cell, and the underground tunnel connecting the gaol to Crumlin Road Courthouse.

 

15:30 Escape to the past

Set in more than 170 acres of rolling landscape overlooking Belfast Lough, visitors to the Ulster Folk&Transport Museum will discover how people lived and travelled over the centuries. Wander though history, encountering costumed visitor guides and passing cottages, farms, schools and shops. There are also horse-drawn carriages, electric trams, motorbikes fire engines and vintage cars.

 

18:00 Recharge

Head back to your hotel, with just enough time to shower and change before a second night out.

 

19:30 Dinner to suit all tastes, appetites and budgets

Carnivores will devour the signature Beef Shin Burger at The Barking Dog, but there are excellent fish and vegetarian options too. With exposed brick walls and scrubbed wooden tables, this informal eatery is ideal for a full meal or a quick bite, while the upstairs cocktail lounge serves drinks and nibbles.

One of Belfast's favourite restaurants, Mourne Seafood Bar specialises in fresh local seafood at an affordable price in rustic surroundings. This winning formula means it's very popular, so reservations are essential for dinner (if you miss out, you can try lunch, which is first come, first served).

With its quirky, mismatched furnishings and relaxed vibe, Muriel's Café Bar is especially popular for Sunday brunch and dinner - bear in mind that last food orders are 7:45pm, although they serve platters of cold cuts and other nibbles until midnight. 

 

Getting here

Belfast is situated on the east coast of Northern Ireland. It's served by flights into Belfast International Airport and George Best Belfast City Airport. Scheduled flights operate from most major British airports, as well as from many major European cities. There are also ferry connections with England and Scotland.

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