Some of you who’ve been hanging around here for here a while might remember that, when we left NZ in 2007, we were only going to be away for a year. Once we got to the UK, Nic got a fantastic contract and we decided we needed to stay a while longer!
Somebody once told me that London isn’t England. They were so very right. London is such a melting-pot of cultures that it feels almost like a country in its own right. Get out beyond the M25 and life is a whole lot different. We got away for a lot of long weekends and travelled as far as the Isle of Wight in the south, Cardigan in the west of wales, the Shetland Islands off the north coast of Scotland and Norfolk in the east. We stayed in some really cosy little places and visited some really gorgeous parts of the UK.
» my favourite UK travel book – 52 weekends by the sea
I am dreaming of the day we make it back over that side of the world (hopefully next year!), so I wanted to share a list of 10 places to stay that are currently on my UK adventuring love/wish list…
1. fforest farm, near cardigan. west wales
This is one of my favourite places to stay in the whole world (so far). Nic and I have stayed here a couple of times already and I also attended the DO lectures there in 2013. Whenever we visit the UK next, we will be making sure a trip to West Wales is included in our plans. Fforest chief James and his amazingly creative and talented wife Sian are the brains behind this gorgeous dream-made-real. You couldn’t meet two nicer, kinder, more genuine people. And Fforest is glamping at its most exquisite. Sian really has thought of everything to make your stay cosy, comfortable and gloriously rustic (in a fabulously glam kind of way). There are woven welsh blankets on the beds, a kitchen kit complete with enamel teapot and mugs for your kitchen, a hearty breakfast that includes welsh butter (yum!), boiled eggs, toast and cereals (included in the price), and a tiny little cosy pub, the Bwthyn, that is the perfect place to end a day spent adventuring on the wild west coast. There’s loads to do around the area, and they also have a pizza tipi and a cafe in the town of Cardigan nearby, so you can stop and refuel in the middle of the day. Since we last visited, Fforest have expanded their range of accommodation options and there’s something to suit a family of just about any size! They also hold events and weddings in their gorgeous spaces… magic.
2. the herringbone, mousehole, cornwall
This was called something else when we stayed there. Located right on the wharf overlooking the gorgeous little harbour at Mousehole, this is a beautifully adorned little apartment that is perfect for a weekend getaway. We caught the train from London, then hired a car when we got to the end of the line. The bedroom and lounge area both have amazing views out over the little harbour and, with comfy window seats in both rooms, it was quite tempting to just stay indoors and spend the weekend staring out the windows at the changing sea. But there’s adventures aplenty all around this lovely spot – St. Ives is close by, as is the Merry Maidens stone circle and the amazing Minack theatre. Just get in the car and play “where does this road go?” would be my advice for this lovely area of Cornwall.
3. millook haven, cornwall
We spent one Christmas in this beautiful old cottage right on the seafront. We had plans to do loads of walking and exploring, but the weather was so wild that we spent most of our days indoors with the fire going whilst the sea roared outside and rain battered the windows and roof. Still, if the weather is going to be wild, here’s the place to hunker down and savour it. It was the perfect way to spend a few days. We did get out one day when the rain abated, taking a walk along the rugged coastal paths before retreating back into the warmth of our coastal hideaway.
4. airstream caravan, by vintage vacations, isle of wight
Here on Waiheke Island, there’s a saying that goes something like “we’re far enough behind to be ahead.” That’s what the Isle of Wight felt like. And, staying in a vintage airstream decked out in fabulous retro style just added to that feeling. There’s some great coastal walks on the island, along with gorgeous pubs and little delicatessens that sell enough bits and pieces to make for a simple, but gastronomically pleasing weekend away. I still dream about the oak smoked tomatoes from the tomato stall and the locally made crab pasties.
» We also did a return trip to the island, staying at The Shack. This time, we rented a car and so we could venture further around the island.
5. three chimneys, isle of skye
This was one on our list that we never made it to whilst living in the UK, though friends of ours stayed there one Christmas and loved it, making me want to go there even more. A hearty breakfast before wandering the wilds of skye, then returning back to the hotel for a warm bath and a whisky? Sign me up.
6. the island, newquay
I clearly have a thing about little islands! We haven’t stayed in this one, but c’mon… a private island paradise with its breathtaking views, New England interiors and gently swaying palms surrounding the house? What’s not to love?
7. the summer isles hotel
I can’t even remember how I found this place, but it was a treasure. This little hotel in the scottish highlands is only open during the warmer months of the year. It has a michelin starred restaurant, and great views out over the bay. There’s some great walking and driving through the countryside to be done from here too (if you ever want to leave the hotel). You can even hop on a boat at Badentarbat Bay and go for a leisurely ride around the summer isles, stopping to look at seals and caves along the way, before landing on the only inhabited island called Tanera Mor for lunch. Tanera Mor even has its own stamps, if you feel like sending someone a postcard to gloat about tell them where you are.
8. mackay’s rooms, durness, scotland
This lovely little boutique b&b is at the very top of Scotland. We caught the caledonaian sleeper train from London to Fort William, which is a marvellous adventure in and of itself. A car rental got us the rest of the way to Durness in the North-Western corner of the mainland. It’s a great place to explore during the mornings, wrapped up warmly for the cold, wandering the beaches and coastlines before returning to the warmth of the accommodation in the afternoon for a hot shower and a wee dram of whisky beside the crackling fire. We stayed in the boutique B&B but there’s a bunkhouse there too for budget travellers.
9. shepherd’s hut, mandinam, wales
I stayed in this cosy hut by myself for nine days whilst living in the UK. They kindly collected me from the nearest train station and loaned me a bicycle for getting around on during my stay. Replace this particular location with any that has a shepherd’s hut (canopy & stars is a great place to look for some) and I would be pretty happy. Tiny, simple living with nothing but stunning landscapes and starry nights, places to explore and time to sit and watch the moon rise… holiday heaven.
10. take to the canals in a narrowboat
This is the ultimate in slow travel. With over 2,000 miles of waterways, the UK is the perfect place to have a watery adventure. This gentle way of travel might not be idea for thrill-seeking travellers, but I think it would be a lovely way to get to know some beautiful parts of the countryside.
what kind of places does your adventurous heart dream of going?