Staycation – The Peaks and Cotswolds

This post is in collaboration with Mitsubishi who were kind enough to lend us their Outlander PHEV, a car I first fell in love with a couple of months ago. All the pretty pics are by the amazing Caylee Hankins. You can find her website here and find her on Instagram.

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As we headed into Autumn this year, Fiann and I decided it was getting less and less feasible to go and find sunshine somewhere that was less than 5h away, and so resigned ourselves a little to spending the rest of winter stuck firmly within the confines of Bristol, Dorset and London. However, following a trip to the Cotswolds with Mitsubishi (to trial their new Outlander PHEV), I was suddenly inspired. Just two days away had left me feeling totally revitalised, and heading to the Cotswolds allowed me to visit a new part of the world and fulfil another one of my passions: hiking. 

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Exploring with Fiann is one of my favourite past times

So, I spent a few weeks researching place I wanted to go (within the confines of a long weekend) and came up with the idea of a road trip up to the Peak District. I’d never been but had heard tales of its stark beauty and glorious walks (whatever the weather). So, with some help from Visit England for planning where to go, we picked up our new (super fancy) Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and set off for the Peaks! 

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I was so excited to be able to get back into the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV! HELLO heated seats

The first hotel we headed to (around a 4h drive from London with traffic), was Moddershall Oaks, a boutique spa retreat with a brand spanking new wellness centre called Made. We were promptly upgraded to the Bridal Suite due to a water spillage in our other room (although secretly I think it was all planned by Fiann) and I was super impressed with the incredibly friendly service and staff! I enjoyed a quick shellac manicure before we headed to dinner. I was blown away by the quality of the food at the restaurant – as someone who follows a plant based diet the option is usually singular and involves just removing something from a vegetarian dish and replacing it with nothing. Click here for a full review (and more pics!) of the lovely Moddershall Oaks.

The next morning started with a quick spa session before heading into the Lakes – an easy hour-and-a-bit drive north. We did about half of our driving in electric mode, meaning the petrol lasted so much longer! We especially chose to drive in EV (electric vehicle) mode in the towns – no need for extra fumes out there. 

 

 

Our first hike of the trip began from Hathersage, a cute village about 10 miles south-west of Sheffield, and took us about 10km up and along Stanage Edge and back down to the village. I cannot recommend ‘The Edge’ more – it was beautiful, bleak, windy and spectacular all at once. Not for you if you don’t like wind or hills, but very feasible for anyone as there’s a car park right at the base! 

At dusk we headed via Chatsworth House to our next stop, The Peacock at Rowsley, where we settled in and promptly headed for a nice warming dinner. People clearly come from miles around for dinner here, as it was totally packed! The food was more expensive than I’ve expected (£50 for two courses), but the dishes that I had were truly delicious. Again, there was a decent vegan menu and no expenses spared with the dishes – Fiann and I both got the cep israeli couscous with truffle oil and were both very pleased with it. The £50 also got us an amuse bouche and delicious homemade bread too. Thoroughly well fed, we collapsed in bed for a long night’s sleep before another day of walking on Saturday!

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All prepped and ready to go from The Peacock at Rowsley! Outfit from Underarmour.

Saturday’s walk took us to Castleton, another cute town slightly further north in the Peaks. Here we headed out on a hike up Mam Tor, along the ridge to Rosehill Pike and round. The route was a muddy, rainy and cloudy 15km or so, but well worth every second! See below for the beautiful views XD

Following our walk we drove the 20 or so minutes to Bakewell, a beautiful little town. Slightly starving from our walk, we went to ‘Because I Like It’, recommended by Visit Peak District as the best gluten free/vegan cafe in the Peaks. The vegan toasties we had did not disappoint – perfect for a wet and windy day! It wasn’t cheap (over £20 for two toasties and 2 vegan bakewell tarts), but I would definitely recommend if you’re in the area. The vegan (and gluten free) bakewell tasted just like the original too – perfect fodder to fuel our journey back down south. We headed back to the car to embark on the 112 mile journey to near reading, in preparation for Sunday’s 10km race. The car was ridiculously easy and comfy to drive back down south, and en route we stopped for our first tank fill up. As there had been nowhere to charge our car, the fuel economy was slightly worse than expected by this point, but the next few places had charging ports, so we made up for the lost fuel economy with purely electric driving later in the trip. 

Our race on Sunday was an absolute treat – despite the grey weather and intermittent rain, spirits in the Beverley family were high, and everyone enjoyed the race! It was hilly and seriously muddy (both of which I’ve avoided since cross-country races at university), so Fiann and I were very pleasantly surprised to come in at 17th and 18th out of over 200 runners – I even came 3rd female! See below for the pained faces of an exhausted Fiann and Flora at kilometre 9 of our race.

Exhausted and elated, after chowing down an excellent pub lunch, Fiann and I headed to our last stop together, Dormy House. 

Dormy House is another breed of hotel. Modern but rustic, with beautiful decor and everything you could possibly need – it was just what we wanted after a strenuous day! After plugging our car in at the charging ports in the Dormy House car park, Fiann and I dumped our bags in our room and headed straight for the spa. We spent a good hour in between the outdoor hot tub and the amazing pool and by the time we got round to dinner we were wonderfully relaxed. Dinner at The Potting Shed was great – again, there was a specialist vegan menu, and although it had fewer options than some of the other places, everything we ate was of top quality. I especially enjoyed the dessert! 

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By the time we arrived at Dormy House, dinner was very much needed

Monday morning was spent shooting at Dormy House before travelling down to Bristol to drop off Fiann. En route we stopped off at Gloucester Services – a favourite that if you ever go past you must visit! It is very ‘Daylesford Farm’ style, with freshly baked goods and coffee AND, we discovered, charging ports outside! So, we stopped off for vegan cupcake and coffee before heading on our way to our final stop of the day, a spot I discovered by spending too much time looking for inspiration on Instagram, Coaley Peak. If you’re in the area this is a stunning view point out over much of the Forest of Dean, Severn Vale and the village of Coaley. There’s some old farmland that’s now a wild flower meadow, and the whole area is spectacularly beautiful.

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Making use of the super fast charging facilities at Gloucester Services

Check out these photos from our stunning courtyard suite at Dormy House – taken by Caylee Hankins of ‘@alittlepickmeup’ Instagram. To see more photos and an in-depth review of Dormy House, click here

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Nothing like a cosy living room to brighten up a cold winter’s day. Leggings from Girlfriend Collective – shop here!

Tuesday, our 5th and final day of the road trip took Cayee and me to a personal favourite location, Cheddar Gorge, just south of Bristol and an easy 20 minute drive from Cadbury House, where we had stayed the night previously. The hotel was spectacular – such a cool mix of castle and hotel (see below) with such friendly staff. Refreshed from a great night’s sleep and a good breakfast, we started early and were able to catch these beautiful shots. Unfortunately it meant that we were unable to make the most of the spa at Cadbury House, which several people told me was amazing – I will be returning to make full use of it another time though, as the hotel was lovely!

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The beautiful outside of Cadbury House – half castle, half hotel!

We were lucky with the weather in Cheddar – the morning was bright, clear and freezing, and the light so beautiful that we captured everything we wanted by lunch time! So at that point we went into the town for a delicious vegan buddha bowl at one of the many tea rooms before starting the journey back to London.

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You HAVE to visit Cheddar Gorge if you get the chance!

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Outfit from Sweaty Betty – shop the top and the bottom.

Our journey was amazing, and took me to places I’ve never been before, as well as revisiting old favourites. It was a pleasure to drive the whole way in the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, and despite having driven it before, this was my first real chance to know what it would be like to own the car! I thought I’d write a list of my favourite bits of the car, as well as some considerations to take into account:

Pros

  • The car is insanely smooth to drive. Without a doubt the nicest car I’ve ever driven, with plenty of space inside, loads of controls and everything you could possibly need (and a whole load of stuff you didn’t realise you wanted but now won’t be able to live without!)
  • When driving around the city, it feel great to do it all on electric vehicle mode. If you know where your charging point is, there’s no reason you’d have to top up the petrol unless doing much longer journeys. Since electric is much cheaper than petrol, there’s a huge potential saving cost there! Nt to mention you’re doing wonders for the environment (and congestion charge is not a thing). 
  • Some service stations have fast charging ports, which are great, if you are happy to wait while it charges. Thankfully it’s pretty speedy – we got to 80% charge in about 25 minutes. Perfect timing for a wee, coffee break and a stretch. 
  • You can plug the Outlander PHEV to mains supply, so as long as you can park near a building with a plug, you can charge up your car anywhere. 

Cons

  • If you don’t use the EV mode, the car becomes much less efficient. The miles per gallon drops right down.
  • Unfortunately there just aren’t enough places with charging ports around the UK. Dormy House was great and had charging. Cadbury House did too, but they weren’t compatible with the Mitsubishi – it appeared that they were for Teslas only, which was a real shame! Other places had a mains supply but parking near it was sometimes tough. However, I can imagine this wouldn’t be an issue if you were mostly driving to and from home, or another place you knew had charging ports!
  • The mains lead (to charge your car on mains power) is quite short, meaning that an extension lead might be need to be used if you’re unable to park right next to your mains supply. 
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Fiann, me and our trusty steed

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Looking forward to our next adventure!

Montenegro fun

Our plan to travel to Montenegro this October originated with a desire for late summer sunshine and some serendipity when looking at potential travel sports in the nearby Croatia. One of the reviews for a hotel we were looking at insisted that anyone staying in Dubrovnik did a day trip to Montenegro, just to see the beautiful scenery and experience the slightly different culture. After realising flights direct to Tivat were significantly cheaper than those to Dubrovnik 60km up the coast we were sold – we were going to Montenegro!

People are usually drawn to the main cities on the coast of Montenegro (which is where we stayed for our brief trip), but as the entire country is only roughly half the size of Wales, a trip to the beautiful northern Durmitor national park isn’t more than half a day’s drive, even on the mountain roads. 

We were lucky enough to be provided accommodation by the beautiful Hotel Splendid on the outskirts of Budva, 30 minutes along the coast from Tivat, where we landed. The location was perfect – we were within walking distance of the Old Town of Budva, a stunning town encircled by stone walls right on a rocky peninsula – the stuff of actual dreams! Rather than being the tourist trap we expected, the old town was pleasant to walk around, despite some large tourist groups. I would definitely recommend visiting out of peak season, as we did! It’s known for being a little too busy in mid-summer. The other side of out hotel further to the south was a coast path all the way to the famous Sveti Stefan semi-island, which is considered the most exclusive area of the Montenegrin coast, in part due to the hotel of the same name situated there. Both the Old Town and Sveti Stefan were decent walks right along the beach – we were pleasantly surprised to find gorgeous coast paths in each direction straight from our hotel, saving us walking on the main roads.

The pics below are of the gorgeous view of Sveti Stefan and the hike up to the viewing area. Running optional! There is also a road up there.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when arriving at Hotel Splendid, as the photos didn’t give too much away. After I arrived I was actually blown away by the beauty of the place – although the hotel is technically a ‘conference and spa resort’, it provides so much more than board rooms and work stations. The hotel itself is a 5* beach resort placed pretty much directly on the sand – the view from our 5th floor bedroom window was of the stunning hotel pools and the beach and mountains that Montenegro is so famous for. This was an absolute highlight of the hotel – I will never get tired of looking at photos of that view!

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Not surprisingly, I wanted to ‘gram every photo taken from this balcony

Hotel Splendid also has the best spa in the region, allowing it to stay open to guests year-round. In the colder winter months, the VERY extensive multi-pooled spa with various saunas is a haven for visitors globally. Sadly we didn’t get to use the spa facilities during our short stay but without a doubt would return again in off season to test out everything on offer! I was lucky enough to be offered one of their spa treatments, however, and I opted for a back and neck massage (because of severe DOMS from boxing) which was good. Being used to mainly sports massages, I asked the masseuse to work her magic potentially a little TOO hard, and at one point it did feel like she was trying to harvest my shoulder blades, but have no doubt that softer massages are also available! 🙂 I would loved to have come back for more treatments (the menu and products used are both very extensive) so that’s definitely something to plan for the future!

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Poolside seemed like the perfect location for some quick HIIT (after much sunbathing)

The food at the hotel was provided in a buffet style in the main hotel restaurant and was good. Particular favourites included the homemade breads (always a winner) and cereal selection. However one thing I would say is that being vegan is nigh-on impossible – I ended up eating pretty much the same food for breakfast and dinner every night (which was really good but did get monotonous). Nothing has allergy advice on either so it is difficult if you are following a specialised diet, although I presume if you asked in advance they would be able to provide all the information to you, as they were very helpful in general. For meat-eaters, however, there was a diverse range of dishes, including many local foods. On our last evening we visited the beach-front restaurant, Promenada, an oriental style restaurant serving up a diverse range of foods. I was REALLY impressed with the food here! I would recommend a visit to each of the hotel’s 3 restaurants and 4 bars if you do visit – there is such a variety of food available there’s bound to be something for everyone. 🙂

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This is how happy I felt in the marina next to Regent Porto!

On our last day we visited nearby Tivat and Kotor, both situated on the nearly Bay of Kotor. I am SO happy we decided to visit Tivat – it has one of the most gorgeous marinas I’ve ever witnessed. Think: the opulence of Oman and Cannes but with the unspoiled beauty of a national park. See pics. 🙂 Regent Porto Montenegro, a relatively new luxury hotel, was generous enough to offer us a visit, and it was a fantastic first experience of Tivat. Situated right on the front of the marina, Fiann and I enjoyed a wholesome lunch in the sunshine with some of the best (and friendliest) service I’ve ever received. After a tour of the hotel (including an introduction to the myriad of wellness activities offered there), Fiann and I settled by the pool for some post-lunch reading. Nb/ the below pictures are of the only pool open so late in the year HOWEVER they also have a huge infinity pool open until the end of the season from May/June time (weather dependent). Sadly we were unable to visit it, but were told it has been voted one of the top infinity pools in the world. High praise indeed. I can’t comment on the facilities or rooms as we haven’t stayed there (yet), but plan on heading back early next year, and would love to write a review then!

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After managing to drag ourselves away from the pool, Fiann and I drove to the nearby town of Kotor. We were told to visit by pretty much everyone, but whether it’s because we were in a rush or because it was such a stark contrast to the tranquillity of the Regent Porto, we were slightly underwhelmed with Kotor. As with many large towns, you don’t seem to get the magic and cosiness of smaller towns. However, as it was recommended by so many people (and as we hadn’t hit our step count yet), Fiann and I paid our €8 each and headed up the approx 1350 steps and 1200m to the Castle of San Giovanni. I can’t recommend this more if you like good views, exercise and ruins! We climbed pretty quickly (chasing sunset) and were not disappointed. Unless you’re very steady on your feet, maybe don’t head up at dusk – the route back down (which, granted, Fiann and I ran) was hellish in the dark, but also very fun as it was lit up by huge flood lights. 10/10 would recommend! If you’re looking for the views without the hike, drive up the nearby serpentine road – it goes up and up and up into the mountains and it is possible to stop in various lay-bys for spectacular views over the bay of Kotor. It’s also quite sickening if you don’t like heights or narrow roads!

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The ruins of the castle in Kotor – image by Jet Setting Fools

TL;DR The long and short of it is that you MUST visit Montenegro. Top tips would be to stay in Tivat or Becici, the small town just outside of Budva where our lovely hotel was situated. Plan to visit outside of peak season – the best months are apparently May and September, but the good weather continues well into October (it was 26 degrees and beautifully sunny everyday the week we were there).

  • Visit Kotor and climb the ruins.
  • Say hello to every cat you see.
  • Eat lots of food. Being vegan is hard.
  • Visit Durmitor National Park, drive the serpentine road and visit Lovcen for stunning mountains and views.
  • Visit Sveti Stefan to see how the other half live. Since you won’t actually be allowed in (without paying), climb up to the viewing spot past Praskvica Monastery views.
  • Follow @gomontenegro and @wtdmontenegro for more inspiration of what to do and where to go!

Fun fact: The Splendid conference hotel name was actually used for the 2006 James Bond film “Casino Royale” (Hotel Splendide), although the vast majority of the film was actually shot in the Czech Republic. They even have a casino on the top floor that people visit from far and wide called ‘Casino Royal’. I like this fact.

Nb/ Hotel Splendid very generously offered us our three nights stay free of charge. However as always, all thoughts and views are my own. We will be back soon without a doubt!