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!

Moddershall Oaks

I stayed at Moddershall Oaks as part of my recent UK staycation with my boyfriend and partner in crime, Fiann.  Moddershall Oaks is primarily a country spa retreat that also doubles as a boutique hotel. The spa is situated near Stoke, so after a long drive from London it was an absolute treat to settle right in!

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The centrepiece of Moddershall Oaks spa – the pool

I enjoyed a shellac manicure as soon as I arrived, and the manicurist was so lovely I almost wished I could have stayed chatting to her for longer! But dinner called.

The food at Moddershall Oaks did not disappoint. As soon as I leave London I always expect the term vegan to be met with disgust, confusion and often the offer of a fish dish. However, the restaurant had a specific vegan menu with multiple options for each course, rather than the usual pile of vegetables without any bulk. Fiann and I each had different dishes for starter and main, and both were spectacularly delicious – something I definitely wasn’t expecting!

Our room was beautiful – originally we were supposed to stay in one of the smaller ones (which was still very sizeable), but due to some spilled water we were quickly upgraded to the Bridal Suite, something I maintain must have been organised by Fiann! The staff were incredibly friendly and helpful which made the stay all the more relaxing.

 

Breakfast in the morning could have done with a little more options for vegans, but they cooks helpfully agreed to make a vegan version of a cooked breakfast for me (mushroom, spinach, roast tomatoes on toast).

Sadly I never got to try out the hotel’s new wellness centre, Made. Faced with an entire day of hiking, I didn’t fancy fitting in another workout, but Fiann (ever competitive) headed over the moment we arrived at the hotel and said he was impressed, so it must have been really good. The centre itself opened in August and provides classes and activities for everyone, and is the first of its kind in Staffordshire. It’s great to see a wellness centre that places balance and wellness, rather than punishment and restriction at the heart of its ethos!

Instead of going to the gym, Fiann and I instead explored the spa on our second day. Our favourite part was the shared hot tub right outside our room. We got the whole thing to ourselves which was a lovely way to warm up and prepare for a long day of hiking ahead!

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Enjoying the hot tub right outside our room!

Moddershall Oaks was a really friendly, welcoming hotel that I would recommend to anyone wanting to stay in the area. It could do with a few more modern elements but the wellness centre is an amazing step forwards and really unique! I would 100% return in the future to enjoy the spa and try out one of their classes. Do let me know if you visit – I’d love to hear what you think!

Dormy House

Fiann and I stayed at Dormy House as part of our UK staycation. The hotel is part of the Farncombe Estate, a group of hotels within a short drive of one another, each with their own defining rustic charms, but a definite connecting thread between them.

I previously stayed at The Fish Hotel, another of the hotels on the estate. I loved it so much that I decided Dormy House would have to be next on my list. I was not disappointed! Foxhill Manor will have to be next – watch this space!

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The front of Dormy House, in full Christmas attire

Dormy House is another breed of hotel. Modern but rustic, with beautiful decor and everything you could possibly need – it is the perfect place to relax for a long weekend or staycation. We stayed in the Courtyard Suite, a little quasi-apartment with a room, living room and bathroom, complete with all the necessary amenities. Whilst I didn’t see the other rooms, the suite was the perfect size and I would definitely recommend it for a little extra room compared to your bog-standard hotel!

Of course we immediately visited the spa on arrival – having run a 10k race earlier that day, we were dying for something to ease our weary legs, and the spa hit just the spot. First stop was the outdoor hot tub next to the fire. We had the place to ourselves and it was the ultimate relaxing experience. The spa also has a huge variety of different rooms with various purposes, from a beautiful sauna overlooking to pool, to an ice bucket for some swift cooling. We spent a good 40 minutes in the spa before heading to dinner.

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The beautiful pool at Dormy House

Dinner at The Potting Shed was great – there was a specialist vegan menu, and although it had only two options for each course, everything we ate was of top quality. I especially enjoyed the dessert!

We didn’t get to explore much more of the estate in the short time I had, but I would love to be able to return sometime for longer. Fiann and I felt there was so much more to do by the time we left (not least just enjoying the hotel sitting room and fire with a good book)! Other than potentially getting more vegan options on the menu for breakfast and dinner, I would give this hotel a full 10/10 for having everything we could possibly want and more. See below for some more pics by the incredibly talented Caylee Hankins who you can find here or on her Instagram.

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The front sitting room was beautifully decked out for Christmas!

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It’s never wrong to order another coffee when they’re that good

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We never wanted to leave our perfect little sitting room in our suite!

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Enough space to swing a cat (or dance like nobody’s watching)

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!

Chewton Glen

Nothing beats a relaxing weekend in the countryside, especially when you get to celebrate it with someone you love! I had the privilege of taking my boyfriend to Chewton Glen, a luxury 5* hotel and spa in the New Forest, Hampshire. Nothing screams romance as much as a break that involves huge rooms, comfy beds, incredible food and an amazing spa.

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As we were only staying for one night, Fiann and I wanted to arrive as early as possible on day 1. We arrived at 3pm and were immediately made to feel welcome. We were given a little tour of the hotel and then were shown straight to our room. I was amazed at the size of the room – it had enough floor space to dance around it (I can confirm) and swing many cats (I didn’t try this one). The bathroom boasted a huge bath, mirrors everywhere and a double shower with four showerheads. We were staying in the croquet lawn room – a midrange room – and I have never stayed in such a plush room. If you want luxury, this is where it’s at. As it was still light and sunny, Fiann and I headed down to the coast, a short and pretty walk away. If you happen to be a surfer, the surf looks amazing! If you’re not, the rest of the beach is beautiful too.

That evening was Fiann’s birthday dinner, so we booked into one of the hotel’s restaurants, The Kitchen, a relatively relaxed restaurant with a seasonally changing menu, where many of the ingredients are grown on site and others are from local suppliers. As it is situated up the drive, we were transported to and from in a cute little van/golf buggy, which was quite sweet. Pros: the food was delicious, and they rustled something up when we asked for things that weren’t on the menu. Cons: as we hadn’t said in advance that we were vegan, we had to go half-vegan, half-vegetarian for the dinner, as the cuisine is classic English countryside – plenty of meats and cheeses. However, what we had was delicious, and I would recommend it to anyone passing by – the restaurant is open to anyone, not only hotel guests! If you let them know in advance, there are vegan options available.

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Our breakfast in the morning was a delicious buffet followed by foods ordered from the kitchen (because is it even a meal if there aren’t two courses). I can’t really fault the food or atmosphere, everything was perfect! One small irritation was that all the sugar cubes were individually wrapped in plastic, which for a hotel hot on local foods, felt a little wrong. I will be feeding this back to them because other than that the whole experience was perfect.

We checked out of our room at 12pm, but were encouraged (with very little resistance from us) to stay and experience the gym and spa. These are both available on a day pass if you don’t have time for the full weekend – there is a big swimming pool and then another room with hot tubs, jets and other fun spa things. There’s a ‘health food’ café as well as a gym and plenty of other spa-y things in each changing room. Despite being relatively busy (it was a Saturday), the spa was big enough for all, and thankfully very quiet in all the relaxation areas. The gym isn’t huge but has much more than most hotel gyms I’ve been to! Would definitely recommend the wellness day passes even if you can’t stay overnight.

Overall I absolutely loved my stay at Chewton Glen. We were made to feel so welcome by all the staff (and there were a lot of them!), and they pulled out all the stops to make it a special weekend for Fiann’s birthday. 100% would recommend for anyone looking for a unique weekend away – there are rooms available for every type of weekend break, and the hotel really thinks of everything for you. They even provided much needed hunter wellies for our walk to the coast. Take a look at the rooms to see how perfect it is for yourself!

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Nb/ The overnight stay was provided free of charge, however as always all views are my own.

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St Pancras Renaissance Hotel spa

I first went to the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel when I was 18 – I was actually singing at a Christmas luncheon for charity! It was so nice, then, to be able to head back for the first time since then last week. After a very long week of work and events, it was much needed! I went with my boyfriend, of course, and am excited to share the experience with you.

There’s no doubt that as soon as you walk up to the renaissance hotel, you’ll be awestruck by its beauty and scale. The spa is on a lower level as soon as you walk in, but you still get to experience the beauty of the inside of the hotel. Upon arrival we had a very short wait while we filled in some health questionnaires, and were then shown around the spa. It’s all situated along a corridor (a pretty one at that), with the spa at one end and relaxation room at the other.

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We started our afternoon with a 30 minute Moroccan massage, which is an oily back massage. Having been climbing the day before, my back was stiff enough to be extremely sensitive! I feel like the massage might have been better suited to someone who hadn’t worked out the day before – for me it was not so much relaxing as painful, which when coupled to the (otherwise wonderfully) heated bed, made the massage probably a little less relaxing than it should have been. However, the products used smelled amazing, and  the experience probably would be perfect for other people.

The pool was gorgeous – dark, lovely decor with chairs around the outside for relaxing on. It was the perfect temperature with plenty of bubbles for the full experience. However, I think when I went it had been over-treated, so was a little stingy on the eyes, sadly.

All in all, there’s no doubting that the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel is somewhere you should visit, if only for the decor! The spa is very relaxing, but there were some small improvements to be made. It wasn’t as good as some day spas I’ve been to, but for a hotel spa, it is really lovely and does just the job of relaxing you before your next engagement.

Verdict: if you’re staying at the hotel, the spa and gym are definitely worth a visit. Book a treatment and enjoy! I wouldn’t put it on the top of my list of day spas, but then again, that’s not its job. Let me know what you think when you visit!

Click here to read more about the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel and its spa.

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The decor of the hotel is all part of the experience!

Cowshed spa, Primrose Hill

As you may know, I am a huge fan of spa breaks – scheduled time to relax, rest and recuperate before heading back into the real world. However, sadly it’s not always possible to take off so much time for some R&R. We all need something that will do the trick and fit into your life. This is where day spas and treatment rooms come in. They’re aid out for maximum relaxation, but without demanding a full day to experience everything – and without the price tag of a full weekend away, too.

I headed to the Cowshed spa on a Thursday evening after work, excited by the prospect of a relaxing evening of ‘me time’. Cowshed has spas in Soho, Shoreditch and Primrose Hill, meaning that for Londoners, there’s always something nearby. I would recommend their Primrose Hill branch though, as it’s reported to be the most aesthetic (I can confirm that it was super cosy and pretty this Christmas time!). Upstairs in the spa is a café, and next door was the manicure and pedicure room – although I didn’t use them I imagine they’re perfect for spending time with friends or mother-daughter time over a mani/pedi.

I headed downstairs to the treatment rooms after filling in a short form about my health, and waited a short while on the downstairs sofas. My treatment started a little late, but wasn’t cut short, so I didn’t mind too much. The treatment started by telling the therapist what I wanted from the session – for me, my body was really sore from some heavy training, so I asked for a massage to relax my muscles. I chose my favourite scent from a selection (all of them were nice, but it’s nice to be able to choose your preferred one!).

I’ve had a lot of massages from lots of different places and the massage I got wouldn’t go at the top of my list, although it was still a very relaxing 45 minutes. However, the therapist did something I’ve never had before – she went through some of my pressure points and pushed on them. It wasn’t pleasant, but MY GOD the next day my DOMS had all gone. This has never happened to me before, even with a massage, so whilst this massage wasn’t top of my relaxing list, it was absolutely top of my effectiveness list. It was so good! I also bet that if I had asked for a soft, relaxing massage, the massage would have been much more relaxing than it was.

I would recommend Cowshed as a cute afternoon/evening activity for a catch up with a friend over a mani/pedi, or for some ‘me time’ after a hard week of working/training. You can’t deny the effectiveness of a massage for relaxation, and this one did just the trick 🙂

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Their upstairs cafe is my ideal kind of place for writing blog posts!

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The upstairs manicure and pedicure area – prefect for catching up with friends!

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The treatment room where I had my massage

The Malvern hotel and spa

After a very exhausting and mentally draining week, I was unbelievably excited to head to The Malvern for a weekend (two days, one night) of relaxation, good food and some peace and quiet. Nestled at the base of the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire, The Malvern spa looks nothing special from the outside, but when you step inside it’s a totally different matter.

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There’s nothing better than jumping onto a warm and comfy bed after a long day!

Fiann and I arrived at The Malvern at lunch time, and although our room wasn’t ready (they’re not prepared until 3pm), we were given robes and towels and allowed access to their spa and wellness areas. There’s not much that’s more rewarding than heading to the spa after a long drive, and it was so nice to jump straight into relaxation to start the weekend right 🙂

After spending just over 2h between the gym and spa, Fiann and I headed for our afternoon tea, booked in advance. I told the restaurant (a little/very last minute) that we were vegetarian and they managed to pull together a huge and delicious spread of sandwiches, cakes and other desserts (with a decaf soya flat white, of course). The waiters were more than a little surprised when Fiann and I managed to demolish the entire 2 slates of food, without much effort – for 2 VERY hungry people post-gym session, the amount was perfect! For anyone else it would have been a bit much, but they did offer us doggy bags to take away any we didn’t eat (obviously none).

Having finished tea, we were taken up to our room, which was small but perfectly formed. I think the bed is definitely one of the comfiest I have ever slept on, and (possibly helped by the relaxation from the spa), I slept almost 9.5h in the night!

As part of our stay we were offered breakfast and a three-course dinner, both of which were impressive, although they could have done with some more vegetarian and vegan options. As vegetarians we were limited to 2 options for both starter and main, although they were VERY good! The food quality was 5* throughout, but range of healthy options could be bigger.

On the second morning Fiann and I were booked in for our treatments – a 75 minute back, face and scalp treatment, involving ESPA products that you can choose yourself with a little guidance at the beginning. The treatment area is ridiculously relaxing, with a ‘waiting room’ with a fire, fountain and comfy furniture all around. I nearly fell asleep multiple times in my treatment and it was amazing for removing tension built up from work and the gym. Getting rid of tension and tightness in your muscles is very important so you’re less likely to injure yourself through reduced flexibility, especially if you’re working at a desk most of the day and leaning over your screen. Stretching and massages are helpful if you struggle with tightness and pain in your lower back, shoulders and chest.

It would seem silly to not check out the hills themselves whilst in the area, so Fiann and I checked out of the room at 11am on the Sunday and asked directions to the nearest hills. A short drive later and we were walking up some of the steepest but most beautiful British countryside hills I’ve ever been up. It was a clear day (and icy cold) so we could see all the way across three counties (although which ones and where exactly they were I’m still not sure, but it’s the idea that counts!).

For anyone who lives in the west or south-west, the Malvern is one of the top spa destinations around. I would 100% recommend having a visit and would personally recommend staying for the night – whilst you can’t go to your room until 3pm on your first day, you can use the spa facilities from midday, giving you an excuse to relax before you’ve even made it to the room! You also get more for your money, with lots of the deals including a three-course dinner and two-course breakfast. Total review? A roaring 5* – the best weekend I’ve had in a while.

View the website here.

Disclaimer: The Malvern spa and hotel invited me to try their facilities free of charge, but as always, all opinions are my own.

K West Hotel and Spa

This week I was lucky enough to be able to attend the K West Spa and Hotel for an afternoon of relaxation and sister time with Grace. We arrived at 12 and were shown around the spa and gym facilities and shown all the rooms they have on offer. Now I’m a massive fan of spa days, but I’m used to the basic swim, sauna, shower, out. K West is NOT one of those spas! Let me tell you why:

Grace and I were shown the best order to do things in. I wasn’t aware that there WAS an order, because usually you can see everything you want to use in the same room and you sort of just potter about until you’re stressed by being so relaxed and then leave (or at least that’s me). At K West we arrived and were taken down to the spa floor, which is a long corridor of different rooms with different functions.

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Hydrotherapy pool/100% best photo opportunity ever

Our first room was the main spa room, where we sat in the (huge) hot tub/jacuzzi (which I was told was the ‘hydrotherapy pool’), which is heated to body temperature and is gorgeously warm and relaxing (not to mention beautiful, with the starry ceiling). After the spa we had a footbath with salts to ‘cleanse and relax’.

Feeling slightly too relaxed, Grace and I decided to brave the cold and headed to the snow room, which is literally a giant freezer, chilled to -15. However, the benefits are real – moving from hot to cold can increase circulation, decrease respiratory problems and boost your immune system. After all, if the Scandis do it, there must be something to it! After Grace locked me in for a few seconds too long, we escaped and ran to the sauna, for a nice warming lie-down.

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A bright sauna! Most relaxing one I’ve ever been in (no joke)

Most saunas I go to are quite small and dark, making an already hot and slightly uncomfortable experience even hotter and claustrophobic. However, both Grace and I noticed the light glass walls and open feel to the sauna – no uncomfortable feelings of being trapped in a coffin in the desert were felt.

We had been shown to a door down the main corridor at the beginning, and told to arrive there at 2pm for our ‘treatment’. With the enticing name of sun meadow, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but happily arrived at 2pm on the dot. To explain, the sun meadow is a vitamin D therapy room, where you lie on a bed (literally a bed on the floor) and are gently warmed with artificial sunlight (after putting on eye protection of course!). No harmful UV rays are used (which also means no tan) but the light is enough to promote the production of vitamin D in your body and reduce the effects of S.A.D (seasonal affective disorder), which many people in the UK suffer from to a varying degree due to the lack on sunlight over the winter months.

I’ve never seen somewhere that offers such an innovative number of treatments and rooms – although Grace and I stayed for around 3h, we didn’t even visit all the rooms, although we were very impressed with the ones we did see!

With the hustle and bustle of life in London, it’s often hard to take time out to relax, but it is SO important (see my post on how to relax). K west offers a tranquil break from the hectic rush of everyday life. With express treatments such as the nail bar, express facial and back massage, it can also be a short wind down between meetings (or, more likely, after a stressful day sale shopping in the nearby Westfield).

If you’re keen to visit, check out their website