48 Hours in…Chester and Cheshire

With an enchanting mix of historic market towns, quaint village squares and picturesque landscapes, not to mention an impressive collection of stately homes and formal gardens, there are few places more quintessentially English than Cheshire. At the heart of the county is the compact Roman city of Chester; bewitching in its beauty and quietly making a name for itself as one of the UK’s most enriching short break destinations.

 

GET YOUR BEARINGS

One of several counties in the north of England, Cheshire is within easy distance of a number of key cities, locations and tourism hubs, including Liverpool, Manchester, The Peak District, Staffordshire and North Wales. Due to Manchester Airport’s southern location within Greater Manchester, it is possible to travel into northern parts of Cheshire within minutes of leaving the airport, whilst a journey from the airport to Chester takes around 45 minutes by car.

 

TIME TO CHECK IN

If you’re setting up base camp in Chester, there are few hotels as impressive as The Chester Grosvenor. Overlooking the famous Eastgate Clock, The Grosvenor has been welcoming guests for over 150 years and was recently bestowed the title of ‘World’s Best Classic Hotel’ at the Boutique Hotel Awards. Similarly impressive but with a much more idiosyncratic style is the achingly-cool Oddfellows Chester, an Instagrammers dream hotel, and if you’re arriving on a late flight (or have an early departure) from Manchester Airport its sister property, Oddfellows On The Park, is equally charming. Of course, with so much beautiful countryside, Cheshire itself isn’t short of country-piles-turned-hotels and standout options include Peckforton Castle, The Mere, Mottram Hall and brand new opening in Knutsford, The Courthouse.

 

 

DAY ONE

 

10:00 – FIND YOUR FEET

Founded by the Romans in AD79, Chester has a long and fascinating history. Take a brisk morning stroll to discover the most complete City Walls in Britain; Eastgate Clock, said to be the most photographed clock in England after Big Ben; the River Dee; the largest Roman Amphitheatre; the oldest racecourse in Britain; and the city’s stunning Cathedral. There are plenty of great walking tours available, but for a tour with a difference, book a Chester Running Tour and whizz around the sites on 5k or 10k routes. Just make sure that you backtrack to Chester Cross for midday to see the Town Crier’s daily proclamation.

 

12:30 – HAVE A STICKY LUNCH

Take a five-minute taxi ride or 30 minute walk to Hoole where you’ll find a quaint high street and a small restaurant with big ambitions. Sticky Walnut is the acclaimed neighbourhood restaurant from local restauranteur Gary Usher offering delicious British cuisine and a great value three-course lunch. It’s one of several restaurants across the north west that serial crowdfunder Usher has opened, drawing diners into small towns and suburbs such as Heswall in Merseyside where people flock to Burnt Truffle, Didsbury in Greater Manchester where he opened Hispi in 2016, and Prescott in Merseyside where Pinion is coming soon. There’s also Wreckfish in Liverpool and Kala, due to open in Manchester in 2019.

 

14:00 – A HIT OF HERITAGE

Take your pick for an afternoon of unique heritage attractions and experiences. Chester Castle reopened to the public last year and features the 12th-century Agricola Tower, the first stone gateway to Chester Castle, which had been founded by William the Conqueror in 1070 in the south west part of the city. Open during the summer months, you can soak up views across the city from the tower and then head over to the Grosvenor Museum or St. Michaels Church on Bridge Street, where plans are well underway for a brand new heritage attraction – watch this space! Heading out of town, The Lion Salt Works Museum is a restored historic open-pan salt making site where you can find out about the curious impact of salt on mid-Cheshire’s people, economy and landscape. Or for something completely different, try theAmazing Women by Rail trail which invites visitors to explore the fascinating and often hidden histories of women who lived and worked in areas along the Mid Cheshire and Calder Valley railway lines; from writers, artists and sportswomen to campaigners, suffragettes and politicians.

 

18:00 – ENJOY INDEPENDENT EATS

Chester’s bar and restaurant scene is booming at the moment, with independents at the heart of the scene. Book an early dinner at The Chef’s Table and let the small but passionate team look after you or Porta, a low-key, high-demand Spanish joint run by brothers Ben & Joe Wright. Alternatively, make the a pilgrimage to Stockport to sample culinary storytelling via a blind-tasting menu put together by one of the UK’s most exciting young chefs, Sam Buckley at Where the Light Gets In. You’ll need to book well in advance for the latter, however, given the perfect 10 score from Guardian reviewer Marina O’Loughlin last year.

 

19:30 – STORYTIME

Opened in May 2017, and then formally opened in June 2018 by The Queen and The Duchess of Sussex, Storyhouse is a sprawling multi-arts centre incorporating a library, theatre and cinema. It’s one of the country’s most successful cultural buildings, welcoming one million customers in its first year and is the perfect place to while away your first night in Chester. During the summer months look out for moonlight cinema screenings and open air theatre events in Grosvenor Park run by the Storyhouse team.

 

 

 

DAY TWO

 

10:30 – HAVE A MONKEY OF A TIME

Your second day needs to be all about exploring the tourism attractions of wider Cheshire and no visit to county is complete without a visit to Chester Zoo. The UK’s most popular zoo with over 21,000 animals and 500 species, it’s been the subject of several high profile TV series’ including the BBC drama Our Zoo, which chronicled the inspiring story of founder George Mottershead and his family in the 1930s. Major recent developments at the zoo include ‘Islands’, which showcases the tropical environments of six South East Asian microclimates with immersive and interactive experiences throughout, plus a newly-expanded nature reserve, located on the zoo’s doorstep which is free to enter. A must-see event during winter isThe Lanterns, a light festival which turns the zoo into a magical festival wonderland featuring colourful, over-sized animal illuminations.

OR

10:30 – GET YOUR GEEK ON

For over 50 years, the giant Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank has been a familiar feature of the Cheshire landscape and an internationally-renowned landmark in the world of astronomy. It’s now firmly establishing itself as a tourism destination too after the UK government nominated it for UNESCO World Heritage status earlier this year. There’s the telescope itself but also several pavilions exploring in great detail our understanding of space, stars and planets so far. Taking afternoon tea at the onsite café with the telescope and rolling hills of Cheshire as a backdrop is surely one of the most unique and unusual experiences you can have in the country. And if you want to see Jodrell Bank at its best, visit during the annual Blue Dot which offers a boutique festival combining music, art and science.

OR

10:30 – EXPLORE A COUNTRY ESTATE

Tatton Park is perhaps the best known of Cheshire’s country estates and is indeed one of the most loved historical sites in the UK. It houses a neo-classical mansion, acres of landscape gardens, a huge deer park and a Tudor Old Hall. The park is alsor home to a rare breed farm, which has recently been reworked as the ‘Field to Fork’ story, explaining in honest terms where food comes from by bringing to life Cheshire’s farming history with costumed actors. Not one for vegetarians or vegans perhaps, but an essential education piece for children, it’s also possible to get hands-on with workshops and agricultural skills classes such as cheese-making and bee-keeping.

 

16:00 – BRAIN FREEZE!

Whichever activity you choose, a crucial stop on your way back to Chester has to be The Ice Cream Farm at Tattenhall. Primarily an adventure park for kids, it also features what is considered to be ‘World’s Largest Purpose Built Ice Cream Parlour’ housing all manner of award-winning ice cream flavours. It’s probably no surprise that The Ice Cream Farm made it into the top 20 visitor attractions in Britain in 2017. However, if ice cream’s not your thing, back in Chester make a beeline for The Cheese Shop which stocks over 200 varieties including the iconic Cheshire cheese. We also recommend stocking up on Pant Glas Bach Preserves’ award-winning marmalade and other local treats at Hawarden Estate Farm Shop.

 

19:00 – SECRET STOP OFF

It’s a relatively little-known fact that much of the hit show Peaky Blinders was actually shot on location in Cheshire, including in particular, Arley Hall which stands in as anti-hero Thomas Shelby’s country home. Mark this connection with a visit to hidden speakeasy Prohibition where you can enjoy cocktails and jazz music, then head off to Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor for an exquisite dinner that Mr Shelby would certainly approve. Remarkably, the restaurant has held a Michelin start since 1990 and also has four AA Rosettes and an AA Notable Wine List Award.

Accommodation Update - September 2018

Photo credits to Cove Cottage, Cary Arms & Spa

From elegant rooms in the heart of London, to cosy and charming cottages located on the Devon coast, discover new places to stay across the UK. Here we take a look at which accommodation sites are planning to open their doors within the upcoming months, and beyond.

 

RECENTLY OPENED

 

LONDON

 

The Chilworth, Paddington

Opened July 2018

Conveniently located just few minutes away from Paddington station with all its city, regional and international connections, The Chilworth is set in a beautifully refurbished Georgian townhouse and provides an oasis of calm on one of the capital’s characteristic tree lined streets, a short stroll from Hyde Park. With an elegant yet informal atmosphere, the décor blends classical period features with sharp, contemporary design. In the restaurant, the carefully considered menus include elements of health and wellbeing, reflecting a philosophy of nurturing the soul as well as the body. There is also a stylish bar for relaxing with pre or post-dinner drinks, including a range of signature cocktails.

 

The Townhouse Residences at Athenaeum, Mayfair

Opened July 2018

Located on a light-dappled residential side-street, a turn from the Athenaeum’s main entrance and royal Green Park, this elegant mansion was once owned by MP and arts patron Henry Hope. This brand new 14-bedroom accommodation provides a private London base for guests, but with all the benefits and services of a five star hotel. Designed by Martin Hulbert, the creative visionary behind Britain’s most beautiful bolt-holes, the Athenaeum Townhouse Residences demonstrates English eccentricity and charm, and is ideal for exploring the capital’s key landmarks.

 

The Boathouse, Paddington

Opened August 2018

The Boathouse London is a new boutique hotel and event space on an industrial-style barge moored in Floating Pocket Park, Paddington. Launched in partnership with interior design brand MADE.COM and decked out in contemporary Scandi-style décor, it’s available as a one-bedroom hotel or as a unique venue for events such as product launches, yoga brunches and supper clubs. Hotel guests will be greeted by a complimentary Daylesford hamper, given use of two bikes and a rowing boat, and offered bespoke on-board experiences, such as yoga sessions.

 

ENGLAND

 

The Apple Rooms at Houghton Lodge & Gardens, Stockbridge, Hampshire

Opened June 2018

The Apple Rooms is a new luxury self-catering accommodation within the grounds/gardens of historic Houghton Lodge & Gardens. The house is a beautiful 18th century ‘Cottage orné’ on the River Test. The six restored rooms, all named after apple varieties grown in the walled garden, were previously the cowsheds and now beautifully decorated with antique and contemporary furniture and fittings, luxury king or super king size beds, contemporary bathrooms, mini kitchens and outside lawn areas for outdoor eating or barbecues.

 

Loft Apartments at Easton Walled Gardens, Grantham, Lincolnshire

Opened June 2018

Overlooking the beautiful Victorian Stable Courtyard, these three loft apartments are brand new for 2018 at Easton Walled Gardens, Lincolnshire’s very own ‘lost gardens’. The Hay Loft, converted and sensibly designed with a mix of original features and contemporary style, is the largest of the three lofts, with a super-king sized bed and a luxurious bathroom with both a bath and a walk-in shower. The large room is complete with a vaulted ceiling and original trusses on show. There are also two Coach House lofts, each available separately or they can be combined as a whole, giving flexibility to guests travelling with extended family, or with friends.

 

Easton Walled Gardens is part of Hidden England, a consortium of heritage sites all within an hour’s drive of one another with picturesque towns, villages and rolling countryside in between.

 

Chesters Stables, Humshaugh, Northumberland

Opened mid July 2018

Brand new for 2018, Chesters Stables offer eight self-catering Stable Suites in a beautiful Grade II listed building, situated within the grounds of Walwick Hall Country Estate in a village of Humshaugh in Northumberland. Set in 100 acres of beautiful countryside, along Hadrian’s Wall, this Northumbrian gem is a ‘world away from the norm’. Ranging in size, each of the fully refurbished Stable Suites offers a fully-fitted kitchen with dining area, underfloor heating, living areas with toe-warming wood burning stoves, sumptuous sofas, king-sized bedrooms and plenty of room to relax in a luxurious home away from home.

 

The Beverley Arms, Beverley, East Yorkshire

Re-opened July 2018

A fabulous boutique hotel re-opened at the end of July following a two year restoration project. The Beverley Arms was once Beverley’s flagship coaching inn, welcoming guests since the 17th Century. The new-look hotel now boasts 38 bedrooms, a 68-seat restaurant bathed in natural light, plus two private dining/meeting rooms, a modern bar and an outdoor courtyard. Wildlife is also being accommodated at the hotel, with ecological features including bat boxes, swift boxes and a sparrow terrace.

 

New Cottages at Cary Arms & Spa, Devon

Opened July 2018

Sitting majestically in the beautiful Babbacombe Bay on the South Devon coast, the award-winning and dog-friendly Cary Arms & Spa combines all the charm, personality and values of an English “Inn on the Beach” with the beautiful interiors, first class facilities and private gardens and terraces - including the newly opened Bay Cottage and Cove Cottage.

 

Cove Cottage sleeps up to six adults in a luxury master king room with balcony, a second king bed and a twin. All have sea views and contemporary ensuite bathrooms. There is a spacious and stylish drawing room with a large welcoming open fire, a stunning fully fitted kitchen with dining area, leading onto a large private terrace and garden.

 

Bay Cottage is similar in style and character and features one master king and one twin - both ensuite and both with exceptional views - sleeping four adults. There is a beautiful fully fitted kitchen with dining area opening onto the terrace and garden, complemented by an adjoining sitting area as well as a separate drawing room.

 

WALES

 

Caer Rhun Hall, Conwy

Opened August 2018

Nestled in the heart of the Conwy Valley, only a five-minute drive from Surf Snowdonia Adventure Park and a 15-minute drive from the medieval Conwy Castle, the hotel is surrounded by magnificent countryside, with uninterrupted views of the mountains of North Wales and bordering Snowdonia National Park. Every public room has unique features with craftsmanship of an earlier era - including the Tudor panelled hall, elegant Garden Room, Drawing Room and Library. The Library is soon to be renamed the Apothecary and will act as the resident guests’ ‘honesty’ bar. Caer Rhun Hall is ideally located for those looking for walking and cycling adventures.

 

OPENING SOON

 

ENGLAND

 

St Michael’s, Falmouth, Cornwall – look out for the press release

Re-opening autumn 2018

This stylish hotel in Falmouth set in subtropical gardens with sea views and a short walk from the town centre is nearing the completion of a £10 million expansion and re-furbishment, which includes a new luxury spa, health club and beach house with an additional 32 bedrooms. Located in a perfect spot to enjoy beach life on Cornwall’s South East coast and explore Falmouth, where you can find art galleries, shops and great restaurants.

 

SCOTLAND
 

The Fife Arms, Braemar

Opening late November, 2018

The Fife Arms in Braemar is being restored and returned to its former splendour as a first class hotel. Situated in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, this historic hotel, will be reimaged as a globally acclaimed cultural destination, offering luxury accommodation across 46 bedrooms. The refurbished hotel will include a restaurant with a wood fired grill, two bars, a fire room, library and cinema.

 

NORTHERN IRELAND
 

The Waring Hotel, Belfast

Opening winter 2018

Signature Living, the UK hotel brand launched in 2008, aims to transform the former 1960s War Memorial building into “the ultimate party destination in Belfast” with 64 vibrant bedrooms, including ‘signature suites’ and ‘party rooms’, as well as swimming pools, private bars and other luxurious amenities.

 

LONG LEAD

 

LONDON

 

The Hoxton, Shepherd’s Bush

2020

Hoxton, the design-led accessible brand, has been expanding its international network of hotels with a new opening in Shepherd’s Bush. The new property will join sister hotels already open in London (Shoreditch and Holborn). Subject to planning permission, the 214-bedroom hotel will be developed on the west side of Shepherd’s Bush Green on a site occupied by a 1950’s office building. It will include a restaurant, bar and an events space offering a cultural events programme.

 

Raffles Hotels & Resort, Westminster

2020

One of London’s most significant historic buildings, the Old War Office - once the office of Winston Churchill and sections of the British secret service - is being transformed into a 125-room luxury hotel by Raffles Hotels & Resorts. It will be the company’s first property in Britain, and rooms will include 50 suites and 88 private residences.

 

ENGLAND

 

Eden Project, Cornwall

Eden Project has improved the design of their new hotel, located near St Austell in Cornwall. Eye-catching in its look, the Eden Project hotel has been designed to blend into the countryside and have high standards of accessibility, energy-efficiency and sustainability. The 109-bedroom hotel will include new features including a meadow and orchard that will be planted around the hotel.

Neighbourhoods to discover – South-West London

You may have seen all the fabulous sights and experiences central London has to offer, so why not push a little further south west to find a whole spectrum of neighbourhoods in the capital, each with their own unique vibe? It’s among those that you might find that jewel of a café, a much-talked-about pub, a boutique where you’ll find something unique, and acres of green space to relax in.

 

Wimbledon

Why should I go? Sure, you already know this neighbourhood to be the home of tennis – and visiting during the Championships is always a pleasure, for its lively atmosphere, the chance to spot tennis stars walking around, and to catch a match on the Big Screen on the Piazza, even if you don’t have a ticket to the Championships themselves. Plus, you can visit the fascinating Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum to soak up knowledge of the game any time of the year. Yet this south-west London neighbourhood is more than just tennis.

What can I do there? If you’re looking for a spot of stylish retail therapy, head up to Wimbledon Village and hit boutiques such as Whistles, LK Bennett, Joseph and Reiss. Rejuvenate with a meal at one of the great restaurants, which offer a wide range of cuisines all on one high street. Splash out at The Ivy Café for high-end British fare and classic French cooking with a modern twist at The White Onion, plus the Village is peppered with cute cafés for coffee and indulgent patisserie. The Village is also the place to come if you fancy a morning of horse-riding – it’s on the edge of Wimbledon Common, which is also a beautiful place to come for walks, and where you can explore the stunning Buddhapadipa Temple. There are lovely pubs on the Common too, such as the Fox and Grapes, Crooked Billet and Hand in Hand to enjoy a pint at after.

Head down into Wimbledon town centre if you want a livelier vibe; there are plenty of restaurants and pubs to choose from; delicious sourdough pizza at Franco Manca, tasty steaks at Roxie, brilliant burgers at The Loft (also a cool roof terrace bar), while you can enjoy live music with your meal at The Old Frizzle – which also does a great Sunday lunch. And catch West End musicals, top shows and comedians or book onto a backstage tour at the New Wimbledon Theatre, one of the biggest theatres outside central London.

How do I get there? Wimbledon is the last stop on the Wimbledon branch of the District Line, 20 minutes from Earl’s Court. There are also frequent train services into London Waterloo, which takes 20 minutes.

Where can I stay? In Wimbledon Village, choose from the Dog & Fox, a lovely pub that doubles up as a cute boutique hotel. For accommodation with both sumptuous interiors and exteriors, head up to Hotel du Vin Cannizaro House on the Common. There’s also an affordable hotel down in the town centre – the Antoinette.

 

Putney

Why should I go there? For its lively town centre, with a range of independent coffee shops, restaurants and shops, plus gorgeous green spaces such Putney Heath. And for the riverside lifestyle thanks to its Thames-side location, popular with sports fans all year round but particularly when the world-famous Oxford versus Cambridge University Boat Race starts off here every April.

What can I do there? Head to the riverside for watersports activities – there are several rowing clubs located in the area, as well as stand-up paddleboarding – a great way to explore the Thames. The river is, of course, a lovely setting for the many pubs that line the banks of the Thames here such as The Boathouse right on the waterfront, the Duke’s Head, which is by the starting point for the Boat Race, and the Star and Garter, which has its very own Gin Club and walk-in cheese room where you can create your own personalised cheese board! Putney is also home to live music venues – The Half Moon has been launching new bands to audiences for decades – and neighbourhood theatres such as the Putney Arts Theatre.

You won’t go hungry in Putney – the high street and riverside are packed with a range of international restaurants that reflect the cosmopolitan vibe of the area. Bistro Vadouvan marries classic French flavours with Middle Eastern and Asian spices, Isola del Sole brings Sardinian cuisine to restaurant-goers while Yum Sa offers Thai cuisine along with an art gallery and wellness – it has its own meditation room.

How do I get there? Putney has two tube stations on the District Line – Putney Bridge and East Putney, both around 15 minutes from Earl’s Court. London Waterloo is 20 minutes by train from Putney station, or you can take the River Bus from Putney Pier to other points along the Thames.

Where can I stay? Just five minutes from East Putney tube station is the Lodge Hotel – a luxury boutique property with hip design throughout. There are plenty of other comfortable, value options too such as Premier Inn.

 

Barnes

Why should I go there? On the surface Barnes is a well-heeled, attractive neighbourhood by the River Thames, a tranquil village with a duck pond that makes you think you’re out in the English countryside rather than 20 minutes from central London. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find it’s also an area with a rock star heritage and its own film festival.

What can I do there? First, enjoy its tempting restaurants and fine pubs both in the centre and along the river. Head to river-side Rick Stein Barnes for creative seafood dishes from the award-winning chef; Italian specialities at Riva; bohemian décor and brasserie classics at Annie’s; live music performances at The Bull’s Head and riverside sunsets at The White Hart. Then discover Barnes’ cultural offer. In September the Barnes Film Festival showcases emerging young talent, as well as film events, workshops, screenings and discussions with leading figures in the film industry; its patrons include award-winning actor and director Stanley Tucci and writer/producer of Dr Who and Sherlock fame Steven Moffat. Visit the OSO Arts Centre for thought-provoking plays and the Barnes Fringe Festival. Catching a film at the Olympic Studios means you’re on the site of one of London’s most famous music studios, The Olympic Sound Studios, where artists from Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix to Oasis and The Arctic Monkeys recorded tracks. Barnes is also where the T-Rex singer Marc Bolan died in a car crash – the exact spot of the accident, on Queen's Ride, is marked by Bolan's Rock Shrine, where fans can still come to pay their respects.

Music icons aside, Barnes is also home to a special area of conservation – the London Wetlands Centre – a perfect spot for a bracing walk and wildlife spotting.

How do I get there? Barnes is 20 minutes by train to London Waterloo, or a ten-minute bus journey to Hammersmith Underground station on the Piccadilly line.

Where can I stay? You’re close to Hammersmith and its affordable range of hotels, but if you’re looking for something a little cosier, try one of the area’s bed and breakfasts.

Kew

Why should I go there? For one of London’s unmissable, award-winning, world-famous attractions; the dazzling Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. More than 300 acres are dedicated to growing the world’s largest and most varied collection of living plants and, in May 2018, the spectacular Temperate House opened, the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse (first opened in 1863 and now gloriously restored), which houses some of the world’s rarest and most threatened plants – also look out for aerial performers flying through the building and giant puppets telling stories of plants. Come the winter months, the Gardens become an enchanted, illuminated wonderland. Wander among the treetops on the Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop Walkway for a fantastic view of the trees and gardens and don’t forget to visit the incredible sight that is the 18th-century, eight-sided pagoda; it’s just undergone a two-year restoration programme by Historic Royal Palaces.

What can I do there? It’s in Kew that you can explore the smallest of the royal palaces. Kew Palace was an intimate royal family retreat for King George III and his family, a four-storey, 17th-century red brick house. Explore the impressive royal kitchens that have been preserved as they would have been more than 200 years ago.

Kew also boasts some excellent pubs and restaurants. Right next to Kew Gardens is The Botanist Kew, a popular neighbourhood pub that’s great for a refreshing drink after exploring the gardens, or to enjoy one of its huge Sunday roasts. For fine-dining options, look no further than The Glasshouse, which is owned by the team behind top London restaurants Chez Bruce and La Trompette. While it’s a true award-winner, it still maintains a cosy neighbourhood restaurant feel.

How do I get there? Kew is on the Richmond branch of the District Line, around 15 minutes travel from Earl’s Court. Or take the train from London Waterloo to Kew Bridge station; the journey takes half an hour.

Where can I stay? Also a lovely place to stop for a drink, the Coach and Horses is a pub offering 31 boutique-style rooms.

 

Richmond

Why should I go there? Don’t miss Richmond Park. One of the Royal Parks, sometimes it’s hard to believe that this huge open space – 2,500 hectares to be precise – with deer herds and grasslands, is so close to one of the busiest cities in the world. The park is perfect for picnics, off-road cycling, walks, horse-riding, running and spotting the herds of deer that roam freely. There’s also rare species of wildlife, flora and fauna here; in fact, Richmond Park is a European Special Area of Conservation.

What can I do there? The park is a major draw, but so is the affluent town of Richmond itself. The shopping is good, a mix of both high-street and boutique stores. You can spend the evening watching transferred West End productions, comedy, ballet and much more at the beautiful Victorian Richmond Theatre or enjoy a meal in one of its many first-class restaurants. Modern British cuisine is served at the Ivy Café Richmond in elegant surroundings, while The Petersham Restaurant at the Petersham Hotel boasts amazing panoramic, floor-to-ceiling views of the Thames and the nearby Petersham Meadows. Richmond’s location on the River Thames means there’s also a whole host of great riverside pubs; explore the nooks and crannies of the White Cross pub, whose beer garden opens up onto the waterfront. If you’re travelling in a cooler month, the Beer Cellar & Restaurant is a great option; drink and dine in the cosy areas of this basement venue underneath two Georgian buildings.

Richmond is also home to the grand 17th-century Ham House, which is recognised on the world stage for its mesmerising collection of art and furniture…and it’s also said to be one of the most haunted houses in Britain. Sports fans will be equally at home in Richmond. It’s home to the World of Rugby Museum, housing more than 38,000 objects from the sport in permanent galleries, as well as hosting a programme of special exhibitions.

How do I get there? Richmond is just under 20 minutes from Earl’s Court on the Richmond branch of the District Line. Alternatively, a train takes between 15 and 30 minutes from Richmond station to London Waterloo.

Where can I stay? Richmond has some classically elegant hotels. The Bingham is a Georgian townhouse transformed into a boutique hotel overlooking the Thames; the refined Richmond Hill Hotel is just metres away from Richmond Park; and the boutique bedrooms at The Orange Tree close to Richmond station are beautifully designed.

 

48 hours in… Bath

A whimsical mix of cobblestone streets, historical sites and romantic architectural styles, Bath is a British city famed for its history and natural hot springs. It’s also the only destination in the UK where the entire city is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site

 

Time to check in:

The Gainsborough Bath Spa is a stunning five-star luxury hotel with a unique twist. Built in a Regency architectural style, it centres around its own naturally-heated pools with direct access from several rooms — meaning you can run your bath with the mineral-rich thermal waters.

 

Day one:

 

09:00 Hit the spa

Any weekend in Bath must start with a visit to the Thermae Bath Spa. Arrive early to beat the crowds and make your way to the open-air rooftop pool, where you can bathe in mineral-rich waters heated to 33.5-degrees Celsius, all the while enjoying panoramic views of Bath. 

 

11.30 Try the healing waters

Once you've dried off, it's a short walk to the Roman Baths, one of the city’s best-known historic attractions. You can no longer bathe in these waters, as they haven't been treated, but you can tour the site and learn about its fascinating history. Visit the Pump Rooms afterwards for a bite to eat, and to sample treated mineral-rich spa water, which is thought to have healing properties. 

 

14:00 Get crafty

After lunch, try some glass-blowing at Bath Aqua Glass where you can watch a demonstration from the experts before trying to blow your very own glass bauble.

 

16:00 Fashion through the ages

Style your way through the Fashion Museum and its collection of historic clothing, including replica Georgian and Victorian outfits that visitors can try on. On the first Saturday of each month, the museum also runs a sketching class (free with museum entrance — sketchbooks and pencils included).

 

20:00 IN FOR A LAUGH

Book a space on the Bizarre Bath Comedy Walk. This popular hour-and-a-half walking tour departs each evening at 8pm and offers a lighthearted, alternative look at the heritage city. Prepare for stunts, jokes, and lots of laughs. 

 

Day two:

 

10.00 City tour

After breakfast, jump on a 'hop-on, hop-off' City Sightseeing bus for a relaxing tour of the city's must-see attractions, including Bath Abbey, the Abbey Cemetery, and the architectural splendour of Bath’s Royal Crescent

 

12.30 Bath baked delights

You'll have worked up an appetite, so stop for lunch at Sally Lunn's famed ‘eating house’, one of the oldest buildings in the city and home to the famous Bath Bun. It’s named after a French girl called Sally (real name, Solange) who worked in the bakery kitchen in the 1660s and created a soft, fluffy brioche-style bread that locals fell in love with. Today, the 'Sally Lunn Bun' — still made from the original recipe — can be enjoyed with a selection of sweet or savoury toppings.

 

14.30 Tea and talks

Pop into the Jane Austen Centre and learn all about Bath's most famous former resident. Enjoy the talks, displays and activities centred on the author’s celebrated works, then stop for a cup of tea at the Regency Tea Room, where staff serve you in period costume. 

 

17:00 Bridging the gap

Wander along Pulteney Bridge, considered one of the most beautiful bridges in the world and one of just a handful with shops built into the design — there are worse places to browse for gifts than among these specialist shops and boutiques. 

 

Head home, happy, refreshed and relaxed. 

 

How to get here:

Bath is in the county of Somerset, south west England. The city is approximately a two-and-a-half hour drive west of London, or one-and-a-half hours by train from London Paddington. The nearest airport is Bristol, which has direct links to 25 European countries; shuttle buses run from the airport to the centre of Bath.

Adrenaline adventures in South West Britain

For an adventure filled autumn, all roads point southwest. The region holds countless opportunities for air, sea, shore and cliff activities to challenge even the most active tourist...

 

Swinging from a height 

Where better to experience an adrenaline hit than at Adrenalin Quarry? This adventure centre near Liskeard in Cornwall is guaranteed to raise the heartbeat - while turning the great outdoors upside down. Visitors can test their mettle on The Zip (billed as ‘the UK’s maddest zip wire’) and go from G-force to freefall on the Giant Swing. They can also throw an axe at a tree stump to relieve stress.

 

Coasteering sessions here offer wild swimming, climbing, tombstoning and The Blob — a huge bouncy cushion in the water. Speaking of inflatable cushions, new for 2018, is a huge aqua park with runways, trampolines, monkey bars and balance bars plus all the hoops and loops fun seekers can squeeze through.

 

As the day draws to a close, the barbecues fire up — a burger tastes so much better when gravity has been defied to earn it.
 

Rushing and whirling

For dedicated coasteering fans, Xtreme Coasteering (or, as they define it, “everything you weren’t supposed to do when you were a kid”) offers swimming and scrambling in some of the ‘best waves the Atlantic throws’. People can enjoy adventures in Cornwall, North Devon and Exmoor under huge cliffs and skies, with the possibility of encountering smuggler’s coves, rapids and whirlpools.

 

Surfing and bodyboarding

If that’s not enough of a dunking, the surf capital of Cornwall welcomes buzz seekers with open arms — and a surfboard. At Newquay’s glorious beaches, novices are transformed into dudes with a few lessons and a bit of practice. Fistral is one of Newquay’s most famous beaches, with thrilling western swells, and there are plenty of nearby campsites for quick access to the dunes — when visitors are tired of gazing at the surf, they can turn their attention to the stars.

 

Fossil hunting and rock pool rambling

This part of the world delivers what it says on the tin. The UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast covers over 95 miles of shoreline between Devon and Dorset, and with over 180 million years of history, it’s a bona fide hub for fossil hunting. New remains are regularly dislodged from the cliffs and you can seek them out with the help of wardens from the Charmouth Heritage Centre. Rock pool rambles are also on offer from the centre, and there’s a chance to see the ichthyosaur fossil (of an extinct marine reptile), discovered by local collector Chris Moore and featured in the documentary Attenborough and the Sea Dragon.

 

Rock hopping and shore exploring

Those in search of a further adrenaline rush can absorb millions of years of geology into their own bones by coasteering, rock-hopping and scrambling with Dorset adventure company Lulworth Outdoors. The sessions, which pass spectacular landscapes like Lulworth Cove and Stair Hole, also provide the chance to learn about the history and wildlife of the area. 

 

Hiking, sliding and swanning around

Chesil Beach is one of the most famous shingle beaches in the UK, and this 18-mile stretch and the Fleet Tidal Lagoon are part of the Jurassic Coast UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hike up the sliding pebble ridge near the Chesil Beach Centre for fabulous views (and 180 billion chances to pick out the perfect pebble) or go crabbing along the ever-shifting shore. Approximately a ten-mile drive from the centre, the network of trails at Abbotsbury Swannery offer the chance to see territorial displays of nesting swans in May.

 

Southwest zest and pies

After all that adventure, it’s obligatory to squeeze in one of the region’s most traditional snacks, the classic Cornish Pasty, before heading home, buzzing with renewed energy and southwest zest.

Look out for a Warren’s Bakery — originating in 1860, they’re approved by the Cornish Pasty Association and are reportedly the oldest pasty makers in the world.

48 hours in… Bristol

It’s already well-known for its Banksy street art connection and vibrant arts, culture and music scene — but there’s even more to Bristol than meets the eye.

Not only is Bristol a buzzing university city, but it’s also home of some of Britain’s quirkiest tourist attractions. It’s little wonder that in 2017 it topped a Sunday Times poll for ‘Best Place To Live’ in the UK.

Walks along the harbour or through The Downs, a public park overlooking Avon Gorge, are the perfect way to relax in between the excitement of a hedonistic 48-hour trip to this lively city, home to an eclectic art scene and the ever-present basslines of its famous music venues.

 

TIME TO CHECK IN:

Stay among the hipsters and check into the Hotel du Vin at The Sugar House, a collection of restored historic sugar warehouses. Right in the city centre, it’s the perfect base from which to enjoy the best of classic Bristolian cool.

 

DAY ONE:

 

10:00 EXPLORE EUROPE’S MOST BIKE-FRIENDLY DESTINATION

Join a tour or even hire a tandem to explore the city. If you prefer to do it yourself, you can download a cycling map from Better By Bike.

 

13:00 EAT IN A SECRET GARDEN

Fill your rumbling tum with rustic fare at local favourite The Ethicurean where you can indulge in an ethically conscious feast of seasonal produce in its whimsical walled garden setting. It is half an hour by taxi from Bristol city centre (and only six minutes from the airport); note that it’s closed on Mondays.

The mouthwatering dishes include modern British creations such as beef neck with purple sprouting broccoli to classic desserts like sticky toffee pudding. Diners can choose from an a-la-carte lunch menu or enjoy the ‘Full Feast Dinner’ served Tuesday to Saturday evenings (£28-£46 per person).

 

15:00 HEAD TO THE HARBOURSIDE

Wander down to Bristol’s historic harbour and learn why the SS Great Britain, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was called ‘the greatest experiment since the Creation.’ The steamship, one of the longest and most powerful of its time, was designed to transport passengers across the Atlantic from Bristol to New York.

Get to know the vessel’s history at the Dockyard Museum. Step aboard the lovingly restored ship, adorned with flags as if ready for departure, and imagine what transatlantic travel would have felt like in Victorian Britain. The ship is contained inside a glass ‘sea’ to repel humidity and ensure minimal corrosion. In fact, the air inside the ‘dry dock’ that surrounds the ship is as dry as the desert!

 

19:00 DINING ON THE WATER

Grab a table at the Glass Boat Brasserie. This floating restaurant, constructed from a barge, makes for an unusual dining experience and serves up classic French cuisine.

 

21:00 SECRET SPEAKEASY

Get the party started and seek out one of Bristol’s ‘secret’ prohibition bars. Opposite the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, in the city centre, you’ll find Hyde & Co, Bristol’s original speakeasy. Grab yourself a pew at the bar and sip on Sucker Punch, a tropical mix of the bar’s own Hyde Scotch, with coconut, salted pineapple, lime and creole bitters.

 

DAY TWO:

 

10:00 UNESCO CITY OF FILM

See why Bristol was named UNESCO City of Film and check out some of the city’s famous locations. From university rom-com Starter for Ten, to period drama The Duchess starring Keira Knightley, Bristol is a seriously starry city. 
 

13:00 DINE IN A SHIPPING CONTAINER

Enjoy lunch at Cargo, at Wapping Wharf, a collection of restaurants set in old shipping containers. Other spots include the delicious taco bar Cargo Cantina or opt for the ultimate comfort food at Lovett Pies.

 

15:00 EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP

No Bristolian adventure would be complete without a pilgrimage to places where the notoriously anonymous street artist, and Bristolian, Banksy made his name in the early 1990s.

See some of his iconic works, such as ‘Paint-Pot Angel’ at the entrance to the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. You’ll come across many others on a self-guided Banksy walking tour or can download the Banksy Bristol Trail app for more.

Although he’s never sold a piece, his work attracts fans from around the globe, which was the subject of Banksy’s own Oscar-nominated film Exit Through the Gift Shop, about a street art-obsessed French immigrant living in LA.

 

17:00 BOUTIQUE BUYS

Grab some last-minute buys and head back to shoppers’ haven Clifton, a picture-perfect Victorian suburb of Bristol. The area is packed with independent shops, and you’ll have the perfect opportunity to get that Instagram shot of Clifton Suspension Bridge too.

 

HOW TO GET THERE:

By air: Bristol Airport is approximately 30 minutes by express bus to Bristol Temple Meads station.

By rail: Bristol Temple Meads is under two hours from London Paddington.

By road: Bristol is 2.5 hours from London via the M4.

9 gorgeous hotels for autumn walks

9 gorgeous hotels for autumn walks

Five of the best… places for a digital detox in Hampshire and Dorset

For a relatively small island, Britain has a surprising number of places where you can switch off and zone out. From spa towns and health resorts to evermore remote pockets where, try as you might, it’s just not possible to get online; there’s no shortage of hideaway locales.

Hot on this trend and accessible within as little as a two hour drive from London, the region along the south coast of England which incorporates Hampshire and Dorset are particularly rich in places to disappear thanks to some gorgeous National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Beauty and a desire for a slower pace of life by those who call it home.

 

Best for… a cabin in the woods

Surrounded by stunning Dorset countryside, Loose Reins in Shillingstone is a picture-perfect spot where you can either choose to shut down and forget the world outside or embrace it wholeheartedly. With three uniquely designed cabins overlooking Blackmore Vale, no one would dispute the value of simply kicking back with a pile of good books; however, if you want to use your digital detox as a means to reconnect with nature, you can trail ride, taking in the views and trekking forest pathways at a relaxed pace on horseback.

 

Best for…treetop views

When you arrive at Chewton Glen to experience their digital detox package you’ll be offered the opportunity to relinquish all modern technology for the duration of your stay so that you can enjoy the New Forest in full and true tranquillity. Whether you take up that offer or not, the chances are you’ll come away revitalised as the package includes various treatments, Nordic walking, yoga and meditation sessions and various gifts to take away include a daily journaling diary and adult mindfulness colouring book. Not forgetting two nights full-board in a treehouse studio, 35 feet above ground, with forest views and an outdoor hot tub to bask in nature’s glory.

 

Best for… sea and serenity

From foraging to fishing, kayaking to coasteering, bushcraft to beach school, wild food to wild camping, Fore / Adventure offer all manner of activities from their unique location on Middle beach in Studland, Dorset. New for 2018, Fore Adventure is offering two day kayaking, wild camping and food adventures along the stunning Jurassic Coast and will also hold a three day retreat in October featuring natural dyes, foraged foods workshops, wild medicines, sea foraging, fishing & feasting, bushcraft, outdoor adventures, wild cocktails & bitters, yoga and meditation. The big question is whether you will want to go back to the real world at all?

 

Best for… food and foraging

A 90 minute train from London to Brockenhurst and a five minute taxi will see you arrive at The PIG Brockenhurst, part of the much-loved collection of small lifestyle restaurants with rooms. Relax and indulge in fresh, clean food sourced from the kitchen garden then take a leisurely bike ride to the beautiful village of nearby Beaulieu. Then, to truly experience the natural beauty of the New Forest and everything it has to offer, arrange a foraging tour with The PIG’s foraging expert Garry Eveleigh – a.k.a. The Wild Cook. Over the years, Garry has featured in many TV and radio programmes, as well as foraged for world-renowned chefs including Rick Stein, Mark Hix and Angela Hartnett.

 

Best for…craft and design

With green woodworking courses varying from two hours to five days set in a quiet, private woodland; you could very easily while away the days at Crafty Camping in full contentment. However, there’s a great deal more on offer at this hand-crafted, adult-only luxury glamping site in West Dorset, close to Devon and Somerset, and an ideal base for exploring all three rural counties. With yurts, bell tents, tipis and shepherd huts to escape to – all with their own private deck for privacy and seclusion – the star of the show is the Woodsman’s Treehouse, winner of a RIBA award for Small Project of the Year, which has also appears in several TV shows including George Clarke's Amazing Spaces and Grand Designs.

48 hours in … Cardiff

Europe’s youngest capital city, Cardiff is also one of the easiest to enjoy. The old docks are now a striking waterfront and the compact city centre is packed with museums and concert halls, energetic nightlife, great food, some of the best shopping in western Britain and a vibrant cultural scene. It’s also home to world-class sports stadium, and with Cardiff City FC joining the Premier League this season - for only the second time in the Club’s 199 year history - there’s never been a better time to visit.

TIME TO CHECK IN

With the rapid expansion of tourism in recent years, Cardiff offers plenty of choice for places to crash, but few are as impressive as The Exchange. Housed in one of Cardiff’s most significant historical buildings, this 200-room luxury hotel was once the headquarters of the global coaling industry and where the first £1 million business deal was made in 1904. Another luxury option is the glass-fronted St. David’s Hotel, recently taken over by the achingly-cool Principal hotel group and located on Cardiff Bay. However, if boutique is more your style, The Pontcanna Inn offer just ten wholly Instagrammable rooms, whilst Hotel Indigo has recently expanded into the city with the addition of an impressive roof terrace that offers spectacular views of Cardiff Castle and the surrounds.

DAY ONE

10:30 – FEED YOUR CURIOSITY

Arguably the best way to plunge straight into the vibrant life of Cardiff – and get talking to its people – is to take a culinary tour of the capital’s thriving food scene with a local guide from Loving Welsh Food. Cardiff Tasting Tours will take you all over the city centre, calling in at specialist food producers, retailers and the famous indoor market. Six delicious food and drink tastings include continental meats, cheeses, cockles, laverbread and Welsh beers and ciders, plus along the way you’ll pass beautiful parks, majestic buildings and landmarks including Cardiff Castle and the Principality Stadium.

14:00 – VISIT THE DRAGON’S LAIR

Whilst Cardiff City FC may be joining the Premier League, if you want to really understand the soul of the Welsh people, back track to the Principality Stadium and partake in a tour of perhaps one of the world’s most enjoyable sporting arenas, home to the fierce Welsh Rugby Team – and host stadium for the UEFA Champions League Final 2017. Experience the build-up before the match in the Dragon’s Lair, Wales’ team dressing room and hear the spine-tingling roar of 74,500 fans as you walk down the players’ tunnel towards the hallowed turf.

OR

14:00 – EMBRACE AN ADRENALINE RUSH

Wales has no shortage of rapids on its rivers, but the Olympic-standard ones at Cardiff International White Water roar and tumble through this man-made white water course right in the heart Cardiff Bay. Two-hour coached sessions of exhilarating whitewater rafting are suitable for complete beginners and seasoned experts, and if rafting’s not your bag, you can opt for canoeing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, “hotdogging” in inflatable kayaks or bodyboarding. If you still want more once you’ve finished on the waves, you can strap on a harness and cross the high ropes timber structure towering above the white water course – before tackling the Burma Bridge, Monkey Swing, Barrel Crawl and Zip Wire.

16:00 – EXPLORE THE CITY OF ARCADES

It’s 160 years since the first of seven Cardiff arcades – The Royal Arcade – opened, and there has been a recent push to celebrate the collective glory of the city’s “crown jewels”. With over 100 local eateries and independent retailers, the arcades allow for a shopping experience peppered with character, eclecticism, stories and history; all brought together under a roof of classic Victorian and Edwardian architecture. Don’t miss Gin and Juice, the only cocktail-come-salad bar in the city; tattoo and barber shop Sleep When your Dead; and the world’s oldest record store, Spiller Records.

19:30 – GET STUFFED ON COWBRIDGE ROAD

Home to a mind-boggling array of independent eateries, the long stretch from Victoria Park to the River Taff is the perfect place to take evening stroll and decide on where to eat. From pizza at The Dough Thrower to nouvelle Indian cuisine at Purple Poppadom, build-your-own burgers at Time and Beef or delicious Lebanese takeaway at Falafel Wales; this is authentic foodie heaven. If you prefer your dinner with a local flavour, make a beeline for new Pontcanna bistro Milkwood, where you can chow down on dishes like Sewin (Welsh sea trout) with leeks and brown shrimp.

22:00 – ENJOY BEER AND BLUES

Cardiff is one of the best places in the UK to sample the taste bud-teasing pleasures of craft beer. At Porter’s, which contains Wales’ first pub theatre (and has no sign over the door) they serve a honey beer called Hiver and a seaweed ale that goes by the name of Kelpie. It’s also one of many venues offering jazz night’s – albeit more dancing than placid – across the city which also includes industrial-styled Tiny Rebel, Americana speakeasy Bootlegger and the aptly named Café Jazz. Visit in October for Sŵn festival which transforms the city into a musical adventure playground.

LATE – SNACKS AND STORIES ON CHIPPY LANE

When the night is done you might be tempted to grab some late night grub, and where better to visit than Chippy Lane, technically Caroline Street, which is considered to be first place that the eponymous fish and chips were sold in Cardiff in the 19th century.

 

DAY TWO

10:30 – BRUNCH BEAUTIFULLY AT ANNA LOKA

Not the name of the owner, Anna Loka roughly translates to ‘Earth Food’ in Sanskrit, and at this restaurant you’ll find exactly that: a plant-based menu where you can load up on a full vegan breakfast with peanut butter and coffee pancakes on the side. If you’re hankering for a more traditional brunch menu try The Early Bird for must-have French toast or proper café Garlands where you can enjoy a “Good Morning Mumbles” breakfast which includes Welsh Rarebit, laverbread and cockles. For something completely different try the Indian breakfast at Milgi.

12:00 – BREW UP ON A CRAFT BEER TOUR

Explore the art, science and culture of brewing a Cardiff Craft Beer Tour by Brewerism Brewery Tours. Over the course of three to four hours you’ll have the chance to see the full brewing process at Crafty Devil Brewery before hitting 3-4 stops – from trendy taprooms to marvellous micropubs – all within about a 15 minute walk around the hip Canton area of the city.

OR

12:00 - DISCOVER PROPER WELSH HISTORY

Few places define Welsh identity as profoundly as St Fagans, which opened in 1948 in the grounds of a 16th-century manor house as the very first national open-air museum in the UK. Since then more than 40 original Welsh buildings from different historic periods have been rebuilt piece by piece in the 100-acre park including houses, a farm, a school and a splendid workmen’s institute. Get out of town to visit this glorious architectural treasure house which is deservedly the most popular heritage attraction in Wales.

15:00 – INDULGE YOUR SWEET SIDE

Extraordinary cakes and pastries are worth making the journey north to the Maindy area of the city where Cocorico Patisserie can be found. This is Instagram heaven featuring creative creations including the Banana in Pyjama (banana mousse, pineapple cremeux, mango jelly and coconut dacquoise), Praline Spinner (vanilla dipomate, Gianduju crumbs, salted caramel with Dulcey and Gianduju whipped ganache), and a spectacular array of colourful macarons!

16:00 – PHOTOGRAPH SOME FURRY FRIENDS

Besides the grand splendour of Cardiff Castle, one odd quirk to take note of whilst enjoying a stroll around its exterior is The Animal Wall. Designed by architect William Burges for the 3rd Marquess of Bute, the much-loved wall features models of animals including moneys and lions, a seal, pelican and many more, poking out ready to be snapped.

18:00 – DINE WITH DIFFERENCE

Based at Her Majesty’s Prison Cardiff, The Clink is a fine-dining venue run by prison inmates serving organic Welsh produce has been voted one of the best restaurants in the UK. Taste the very best of Wales while giving a helping hand to those who deserve a second chance in life.

19:30 – CATCH A SHOW

Finish your weekend by taking in a show at the incredible Wales Millennium Centre on Cardiff Bay. This architectural marvel is also a globally significant cultural landmark – a performing arts centre with a mission to “inspire our nation and impress the world”. Home of the Welsh National Opera and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, it also stages musicals, stand-up comedy and art exhibitions.

Year of the Sea

Year of the Sea