The Jurassic Coast by its very description sounds like a threatening place; perilously wrought with danger and preying on descending tourists with a predatory growl. In fact, the only growl heard was that of the crashing waves; dramatically sweeping in from the vast expanse of ocean beyond onto the deserted wide sand beach. Flanked by gigantic cliffs, hundreds of millions of years old yet still standing proudly as the guardians of Southern England, the area actually derives its name from the fossils enshrined within the cliff walls. Miles of coastal walks meander their way along, showcasing the natural beauty of Dorset to dog walkers, amblers and tourists alike. But as the bracing wind started to pierce through our well-intentioned hats, we sought respite and a good old English cup of tea.
In comparison to the spectacle unfolding just a mile down the road, Bridport itself is a sedate, sleepy market town. With a thoroughly local feel, the well-preserved quaint buildings carry almost as much history as their neighbouring cliffs. Standing proudly in the center of the high street is the un-missable façade of The Bull Hotel. Boldly blue it acts as a beacon in the town, signalling to hungry, wearied travellers to retreat within its walls. Cowering in from the cold we entered to the glow of a dying fire and the echoes of laughter reverberating from the locals entrenched at the bar.
The Bull first and foremost is a local hangout. Owners Nikki and Richard sought to revive its role as community hub as a testament to its roots as an 1850s coaching inn. Thus the downstairs is dominated with sociable spaces. A snug bar is tucked onto the corner of the main restaurant, serving up delightfully fresh and delicious local specialties such as Dorset Crab and wonderfully tender meats. But the flat fronted three storey exterior is deceptive, for inside lurks a maze of rooms seeping with charm and history. Beyond the main bar and restaurant lies an enclosed courtyard and beyond, a spacious stable bar. Ascend the stairs and navigate the higgledy corridors between the 19 bedrooms, stopping by to gaze at the miraculous and impeccably preserved small ballroom. Complete with musicians’ gallery the room is resplendent in its elegance and also fortifies the functional role of the Inn as community hub playing host to various events and talks. The final string to the Bull’s surprisingly large bow was the intimate Venner Bar lurking at the back of the ballroom, only open some nights of the week it offers a temptingly good range of cocktails served up in a speakeasy-esque vibe.
Before we even began to contemplate how best to spend our evening, we retreated up the creaking stairs to our room. A perk of the job allowed us to cast an eye into most of the hotel’s rooms. Each as unique in size and layout as in their décor causing regulars to justify multiple return stays in an attempt to sample them all. Bold wallpapers and painted walls contrasted with wrought iron bedsteads and various antiques. Light shone into the rooms illuminating the crisp white sheets through original bay windows. Comfort wasn’t the only focus as practical family rooms offered nifty sleeping solutions in the form of additional bunk bed or twin rooms cleverly linked to the master. A quick room bound cup of tea and bathe in our en suite had us ravenously descend to sample The Bull’s food and drink offerings.
A cider fanatic, I bee-lined for The Stable, the cider and pizza bar tagged onto the back of the hotel. With a pared back, modern barn feel that wouldn’t feel out of place in London, long communal tables and a friendly vibe signified the vital role the bar plays to hosting the town’s younger more trendy residents. We resisted the tantalising smells of wood fired pizza and instead opted to sample our way through some of the 57 varieties of local cider on offer. My staunch assertions that I liked my cider dry were challenged by the mouth puckeringly dry Somerset brands on offer.
Thirst quenched but stomach still rumbling we made our way through to the restaurant, an intimate space that has no airs and graces to it but a dimly lit atmosphere ensuring you focus on the food. We gorged on three courses a piece before stumbling up to bed, thankful for the in room black out blinds that had us almost missing breakfast the next morning; which would have been a shame as we needed fuel for our hearty walk followed by a spot of antique hunting in Bridport’s vintage quarter. Checking out of The Bull we bid farewell to a slower pace of life, where the focus was less on gadgets and show but more on inviting you to step back a bit, mingle with the locals, breathe the fresh sea air and remind yourself of the simpler values that communities like this were built on.
See our listing of The Bull here
OK, so we’re not really allowed to have favourites, but we’re human and we hanker after a spot of sunshine and relaxation as much as other mere mortals.
So, ever the organised ones, we compiled our own Escape List of must visit summer destinations and we thought we would share it with you. Let us know where is on your hit list….
Every year we vow to go to the Edinburgh Festival and are yet to make it. This year will be different! No dingy B&Bs for us however, we’re checking ourselves into the decadent, evocative and inimitable The Bonham Hotel; the only thing we’re worried about is dragging ourselves out of the hotel to make some of the shows!
For our full review click here
Forgot Cornish cliches of nautical shells and stripes, we think this summer is the summer of design. And that makes us desperate to hole up at the delightfully modern Kaywana Hall; with all its architectural splendour and heavenly outdoor pool, we’re packing our swimsuits and suncream already.
For our full review click here
There is nowhere better to go and appreciate the lush, green rolling hills of the UK that the Cotswolds. What’s more, this is foodie heaven, so we’re working up an appetite, checking ourselves into the Horse and Groom and preparing to feast. Whilst it may be a pub with rooms by name, the bedrooms trounce most 5 star hotels whilst the food is English hearty gastro pub food at its best. And for some sightseeing, simply roll down the picturesque hill to Moreton-in-the-Marsh.
For our full review click here
There is nothing better than being by the water on a hot summer’s day. But why contend with hoards of pasty white crowds on Britain’s beaches where all you’ll get is a melted icecream, sunburn and sand in all the wrong places. All the smart people are heading lakeside this summer. The divine self catering Brompton Lakes is perfect for a group get together, and its lakeside position and marvellous cabins promise a weekend of civilised waterside antics.
For our full review click here
When the sun eventually decides to show itself, we need to capitalise on the occasion and flock to the great outdoors. However, impromptu planning of fun activities often leads to disastrous day trips spent in long lines at too busy theme parks or the such.
Be prepared in advance with our top five pick of fun outdoor activities going on around the UK this summer:
1) Penzance Golowan Festival
Head down to the Cornish coast for this ten day festival which culminates in Mazey Day on the 29th June with a wealth of market stalls, parades and street entertainment. One for all the family.
2) Vintage Fairs Galore
Check out adVintageous’ schedule of summer vintage fairs around Yorkshire with one scheduled in Bridlington at the end of August and a pop up event in July in Nostell Priory
3) The one and only Henley Royal Regatta
Famous around the world and for good reason, there is nothing more quintessentially British to do with a day out then head to Henley, take your fold up chair and sip some pimms watching the boats go by..
4) Sandcastle building competition
This may sound obscure but it is actually organised by RIBA - the Royal Institute of British Architects, so expect to see some marvellous creations when you head down to Margate in Kent at the end of the month..if you want to enter it’s free but you need to get your entries in now!
5) Bird Watching in London
For those days when you can’t head too far from the city (if you’re based in London) then head South West to the London Wetland Centre in Barnes for a day filled with birdwatching and a chance to wonder around their beautiful gardens
The British Summer typically evokes certain images; Wimbledon, strawberries and cream, Pimms and barbecuing under umbrellas. But a recent new past time is eeking its way into our diaries, that of the outdoor cinema. Yes, it’s a gamble but when it pays off there is nothing better than spending a night under the stars, picnicking on M&S’s finest whilst watching a classic movie. So, to help you escape even when you can’t get out of the city, here’s our top pick of outdoor cinemas around the country this summer….
Without doubt our favourite London outdoor cinema has to be Somerset House. You can’t beat the historic backdrop and with their carefully curated mix of golden oldies with new releases, there is truly something for every taste. But some films are already sold out so get booking pronto!
If there is any chance of an Indian summer, you’ll find us spending late summer evenings curled up under a blanket at Kew Gardens watching Dirty Dancing. We’re thinking this might be one for the girls?
This National Trust property is a world of charm with past guests including Queen Elizabeth, so we’re thinking it’s perfectly fitting if somewhat ironic to watch the classic French revolutionary Les Miserables here one night in July!
The question is whether you’ll choose the epic Gladiator or the more carefree Mamma Mia as you’re movie of choice to watch set amongst the magically backlit walls of Warwick Castle this August?
Now in its third year, the Summer Nights Film Festival is back and putting on some great modern classics at a host of venues around the county on weekends through August. We’re thinking a Friday night dose of Skyfall at Hardwick House followed by Saturday night spent crooning away to Grease?
Cambridge Film Festival
Running in September, there are a whole host of films being put on including Jaws, Jurassic Park and some more modern options. And, some are even free to go to…so grab your picnic, book your tickets and get some culture in the great outdoors…or even down on a boat on the pool at the local lido!
So, there you have it, our round up of the best outdoor screens this summer around the country. Let’s just hope for some sunshine…
Fleeting glimpses of rolling yellow fields and grazing sheep spied through downpours hinted at our arrival in the Cotswolds on a depressingly dreary Spring afternoon. Despite the Arctic conditions and onslaught of torrential showers, the country air, thick with the smell of dwindling log fires and farmyard whiffs, filled our city scarred lungs and put us firmly on Cotswold time.
The sleepy village of Northleach, not so well known on the tourist trail despite its architecturally magnificent church and quaint village green, was to be our home for the night as we veered off into The Wheatsheaf Inn’s carpark. The beer garden was in full Spring bloom, its explosively bright tulips charging upright from the almost frozen soil in a symbolic ‘up yours’ to the unseasonably cold weather.
We had already been spellbound by The Wheatsheaf from the photos; perfectly pairing the feel of a rustic, local country pub with that of a more regal country house it manages to make you feel comfortable and spoilt in the same turn. We hurried up through the winding corridors to our room for the night where our only fear upon entering was that all plans for Cotswold sightseeing would have to be abandoned for indulgent room bound reclusiveness. The quirky design style continued with more traditional patterns contrasted with slightly industrial touches. The bed literally screamed to be rested on with its crisp white linen and fluffy pillows perfectly suiting exaggerated leaps into bed. Owner Georgie’s interior design flair creates a sanctuary that you only wish you could imitate in your own home. The subtle insertion of bright yellow in the form of a delightfully tactile blanket, the dainty mirrored headboard behind the bed and the individually sourced, urban cool bedside lamps created a sense of decadent escapism that positively invited lethargy as a justified state of mind. But the high point was without doubt the bathroom, with its stripped wooden floors and again, wonderfully uniquely sourced décor it was to be the highlight of this city girl’s shedding of her weekday woes. As in the centre stood a magnificent copper freestanding bath. The sort that evokes nostalgia over bathing in days gone by and invites you to linger in its core, steaming up the mirrors, dousing yourself in the heavenly Bramley bath products whilst catching up on a dose of Henry James. When I could finally tear myself out of this bathing nirvana, the oversized cossetting toweling robe escorted my shriveled self back into the bedroom just in time for a much needed nap (after devouring the free in room home made chocolates of course!).
There is something about The Wheatsheaf that simply forces you to relax. So well designed is it for fleeting and perhaps sneaky getaways that the rooms practically beg to have hurried piles of clothes scattered on the bathroom floors. This evocative scene setting trait comes thanks to minimal practical storage space, both in the bedroom with simply three hooks to hang your wares and in the bathroom where our toiletries perched on the edge of the sink. Rather than detracting from your stay, the ensuing mess simply enhances the feeling of being allowed in on something too trendy, too country and too chic for the mundane matter of unpacking. This confident challenge to the established way of doing things continues to pepper your stay with wonderful touches. Hanging on the hooks is a cheeky sign full of items for if you have “forgotten something”. This quirky and exciting way of providing in room toiletries will have you scoffing at hotels who simply place their toiletries in chintzy baskets with no sense of innovation.
When we finally dragged ourselves from our little haven, local ales, a warming fire and welcoming bar stools were awaiting us in the downstairs pub. I cheekily poked my nose around one of the private dining rooms en route and found myself taking mental notes on how my next dining room should be modeled. The downstairs décor harked back to the time when The Wheatsheaf served as a vital refueling stop for weary travellers on the road to London. All this interior design ogling had me working up a thirst, satisfyingly quenched by a half pint of local cider. We feasted on local produce never ceasing in amazement at the tastes on offer. Our favourites were the Cotswold lamb and the incredibly fresh seasonal asparagus. Feeling well and truly stuffed we retreated for a peaceful night’s sleep awaking to the dawn chorus. A brisk run around the village was followed by a lazy breakfast, thoughtfully served up until 10am. Continental offerings such as cereals, toast and fruit, along with bloody marys and a tongue in cheek pharmacy supply jar filled with paracetemol to help you recover from the night before, are all included in the room rate. But we couldn’t resist sampling the supplementary hot options which didn’t fail to delight.
Before lamenting the need to check out, I snuck a look in some of the more expensive rooms. They had all the flare and charm of the cheaper ones but with slightly more space. They also had the added benefit of distance from the kitchen ensuring no background humming from the fan to disturb your peace. But in all honesty, whatever our budget, that giant bathtub in Room Five would have us opting for a Good Room over its dearer siblings any day. Yes, there was no shower but with baths this good who needs one? If, unlike me, you do – then other Good rooms offer showers but no baths so scout them out before putting in your room request.
Fully satiated and incredibly well rested, we set off from The Wheatsheaf convinced that we could emulate its blending of country charm, classic elegance and cosy ambience with ease in our own home. But only if in the meantime we made frequent and much longer visits. For research purposes only of course.
Check out all the details for The Wheatsheaf Inn on our website:
We’re determined to keep expanding our current capsule collection of hotels until we have unearthed every affordable, luxurious place to stay in the UK. We admit, that might take us a while so for now, here’s our latest gaggle of wonderful places to stay. Check them out while they’re hot:
CitizenM; capsule cool in a trendy location
myhotel Chelsea; a refined blend of traditional and modern
myhotel Bloomsbury; slap bang in the heart of theatreland
The Ebrington Arms; a divine inn at the heart of its community
The Crown at Stoke by Nayland; a boutique hotel with fantastic adjacent pub
myhotel Brighton; a hip base to explore the South Coast
The Gurnard’s Head; an idyllic coastal retreat that welcomes dogs
The Felin Fach Griffin; hearty pub food and a refined retreat
Keep checking back for even more new escapes being added weekly!
Sometimes, what you really need isn’t over indulgent meals, copious amounts of alcohol and engulfing beds but a deep, hot, undisturbed bath. Somehow, baths run at home can never match up to the sanctity of a hotel bath. Whether they’re freestanding, copper plated or jacuzzi jetted up, we’ve rounded up our pick of the best baths to enhance your escape…
1) The Victorian Throwback
The Fox and Anchor’s rolling edged copper slipper bath harks back to a bygone era of hand filled bathtimes taken in the kitchen. Luckily, luxury abounds here and on demand hot water, fluffy towels and Farrow & Ball hues promise to make this the ultimate de-stress bath.
2) The Freestanding Invitation
Whoever said baths needed to be discreetly hidden at the edge of the room? The Village Pub understands the importance of a good soak and has appropriately positioned their freestanding wonder pride of place.
3) The Centrepiece
At Drakes of Brighton, they’re not shy. Given the ocean views and evocative bay windows, why would you want to shut a bath away in the bathroom? As long as you’re travelling with someone you feel “comfortable” with we think this in room roll top is a fantastic in room perk.
So, there’s our top three. Got any other favourite hotel baths? Let us know…