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countryside

Blog, UK - Outside London

The Pig in the Wall, Southampton

April 2, 2017
The Pig in the Wall, Southampton

Southampton is not the first place you’d think to go for an English weekend break.  And had the Pig in the Wall not been there, I would not have recommended it.  However, the Pig in the Wall is the perfect ‘gate way’ to the New Forest and so ideal for a Saturday night stay.   Apart from that, the Pig in the Wall is nestled in what remains of Southampton’s 12th century city walls, and so has a lot of charm in itself.

The Pig in the Wall, Southampton

Those of you who have not been to the Pig are in for a treat.  The original of the now five Pig hotels is the Pig at Brockenhurst, in the heart of the New Forest in Hampshire.  I stayed here for the weekend over three years ago, and absolutely loved it.  The problem is, everyone loves it and so it’s always fully booked.  Solution?  Book the Pig in the Wall (often with much better availability AND lower prices).

You’re only a 15 – 20 minute drive from the New Forest from here (having a car is ideal), so you can spend the whole of Saturday walking / biking in the New Forest (here are some ideas) and then you can head back to the Pig in the Wall in the afternoon to freshen up and enjoy their lovely rooms.  They also have a wonderful sitting room/cafe/lobby, where you can sit by the fire in the winter or on their terrace outside in the summer.   They serve delicious (and very strong) coffees / drinks / snacks all day long, and the best continental breakfasts in the morning.  I absolutely loved this room, it really feels like you’re a guest at someone’s (stunning) home.  The staff are beyond friendly.

The Pig in the Wall, SouthamptonThe pig in the wallThe Pig in the Wall, SouthamptonThe Pig in the Wall, Southampton

There are twelve bedrooms here, all individual.  We had the Snug room which was undeniably very snug (the Cosy room is a bit bigger, for £20 more).  But also with a lot of character, under the eaves.  Our room had the Pig’s signature very comfortable beds, and fantastic power shower.  They use space cleverly, so you really have everything you need.   And with prices starting from £120, it’s good value.

The Pig in the Wall, Southampton

One of the other perks of staying at the Pig in the Wall is the complimentary Land Rover ‘shuttle service’, where they will drive you to the Pig at Brockenhurst for dinner (book this far in advance!), and pick you up afterwards.  So you can enjoy a drink or two without worrying about how you’re going to get back.  And I highly recommend this.  The Pig at Brockenhurst was even lovelier than I remembered, with now an expanded organic vegetable garden and a phenomenal restaurant.  And after dinner we could even still enjoy a few night caps by the fire.

The Pig at Brockenhurst, new ForestThe Pig at Brockenhurst, new ForestThe Pig at Brockenhurst, new Forest

Bottom line: the Pig hotels remain some favourite British hotels.  And I’m keen to visit their newest two (the Pig on the Beach, and the Pig at Coombe) soon.

The Pig in the Wall

8 Western Esplanade

Southampton

Hampshire

Blog, UK - Outside London

The Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire

March 12, 2017
The Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire

Everyone loves a quick escape from London, and the Mash Inn could not be a more perfect get away.  A 20 minute train journey from Marylebone station takes you to High Wycombe, and then it’s a 19 minute taxi drive to the tiny hamlet of Bennett End, where you’ll find the Mash Inn.

The Mash Inn is an 18th century inn (formerly known as the Three Horseshoes), which Nick Mash bought and fully renovated (hence the name).  The result is that the inn retains its cosy, simple and traditional feel, but with a fresh look and a stunning, Scandi-esque dining room overlooking the Chiltern Hills.

The Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire

It is a restaurant with rooms (and the restaurant/kitchen is the pièce de la résistance here), but the rooms (5 in total) are very comfortable too.  We managed to get the last available room (with shower, sadly no bath) but at £100 a night it’s a bargain.  The rooms are small, but have everything you need.  Beds so comfortable that an afternoon nap is highly encouraged, a power shower with lovely bath products, a Robertson radio playing classical music as we walked in.  The view from our little window at sunset was rather beautiful too.

The Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire

We were unlucky with the weather, but still went for a short walk in the area and visited the village church (which is charming).  The Chiltern Hills are beautiful and the walks here are excellent, which gives me another reason to come back.  Apart from walking, eating, drinking and sleeping, there isn’t much else to do here – but that was perfect for us.

The undeniable highlight here though is the food.  The restaurant leads to an open kitchen, where you meet the friendly and upbeat chef Jon.  All food is cooked on an open wood fire and means that the Mash Inn always has this wonderful smell of burning wood.

The Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire

We opted for their 9 course tasting menu (£55 per person), which was one plate after the other of deliciousness.  Jon often serves the food himself and gives a little story around it, like the relatively simple but pretty looking salad he put in front of us, which he had foraged while out for a walk.  It was incredible!  There is a decent wine list with red starting at a very reasonable £21 a bottle (Sicilian Nero D’Avola).

The Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire

We then crawled into bed, until we were awoken by the next meal: breakfast in bed.  Porridge, turmeric & ginger juice, freshly made croissants the size of my head, coffee.  Such a treat.

The Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire

If you’re looking for a relaxing, peaceful weekend away from London with very good food, then I would highly recommend the Mash Inn.  I shall definitely be returning.

The Mash Inn

Horseshoe Road,

Bennett End,

Radnage,

Buckinghamshire HP14 4EB

 

Blog, UK - Outside London

The Painswick Hotel, Cotswolds

November 16, 2016
The Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with the Cotswolds.  I go at least twice a year, to escape London and to enjoy the fresh air and long country walks.  I often stay with my friend Hen’s parents, in the Slad Valley, one of the most beautiful parts of the Cotswolds.

A few months ago I read an article in Conde Nast Traveller raving about the newish Painswick Hotel (part of the famous Calcot Collection) which had opened in the beautiful village of Painswick.  As it was only a 15 minute drive from where I was staying one weekend, we decided to visit the Painswick Hotel for afternoon tea.

Located in an 18th century Cotswold stone mansion, it’s a grand and beautiful building.  But despite this the Painswick Hotel feels very homely and cosy.  The entrance is slightly underwhelming – I’m not sure about the neon sign reading ‘the Painswick’ upon entering, this felt a little too Shoreditch and didn’t really fit in with the rest of the place.  The rest of the design however, by Nicky Farquar, is beautiful.  It is a mixture of quirky, more contemporary furniture and lamps and beautiful, OKA-esque interiors.  Nicky strikes the balance just right.

The Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

We had afternoon tea in one of their large(r) but warm sitting rooms, with an old fireplace which now is replaced by a cosy wood burning fire.  The afternoon tea is very reasonably priced if you opt for a pot of tea and a scone – probably about £8 per person (and they were amazing!).  The macaroon is tiny (but also apparently delicious) so don’t expect something the size of a scone.  The banana cake/bread might have actually been my favourite.

The Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

The bar in the next door room is rather lovely, and stands out with its special ceiling and coloured bottles.

The Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

We had a little walk around and admired the outside terrace with beautiful views of the Cotswold hills.  In the summer this must be a dreamy place.  And being located right in Painswick itself is a massive treat, with plenty of other charming pubs and little shops to explore.  The Painswick also has an (apparently) excellent restaurant, and while we didn’t eat here, we certainly loved the interiors here too.  Especially the lunch menu looked quite affordable which is rare in this neck of the woods.

The Painswick Hotel, the CotswoldsThe Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

The hotel was fully booked, so we didn’t get to see any rooms, but at around £140+ a night they are quite reasonable compared to the other Calcot hotels (like Barnsley House and Calcot Manor).

The Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

I’ll have to come back and test the beds and the bathrooms, but overall I liked the place and would recommend it to those looking to escape London for a night or two (or to the Cotswold locals for afternoon tea, lunch or dinner).

For other Cotswold tips, you may find this blog post useful.

The Painswick Hotel

Kemps Ln, Painswick

Stroud GL6 6YB

Photo credit: The Painswick Hotel

Blog, UK - Outside London

Bel & The Dragon, Kingsclere – WEEKEND BREAK

September 30, 2015
Bel and the Dragon, Kingsclere

I love weddings; the dress, the emotion, the happiness, the tears.  But it does add up: from getting to the wedding, to finding an outfit, a gift and a hotel for the night – weddings can really add up.  That’s why I love it when I find a place to stay which is not just a bed to fall drunkenly into, but also a genuinely wonderful country inn, where I’d happily stay for a a whole weekend, wedding or no wedding.

Bel & Dragon, Kingsclere

Reminding me a little of the The Crown Inn, in Amersham – the Bel & the Dragon country inn has such a lovely feel to it. It’s part of a chain of country inns with nine charming rooms, all recently completely renovated, and its reviews have been really good.  We got very lucky with our room (when you book, ask for Hollowshot), it’s huge and light and so comfortable.  The bed is massive, with lovely White Company linen and a sparkling white bathroom with a nice tub and Bramley bath products (like my favourite The Pig hotel).   Some rooms have tubs in the room for some added romance.

Bel & Dragon, Kingsclere

And I adore all their extra touches: complimentary Sipsmith sloe gin in the room if you fancy a sip before bed, their ‘Drawing Room’ limited to just guests of the hotel with complimentary scotch whisky, the Roberts Radio (always a fan), and the cosy and hearty breakfast with a great cappuccino.

Bel & Dragon, KingsclereBel & Dragon, Kingsclere

Best of all is that the room was only £95 for the night, and it’s only an hour drive from London, so totally doable for a night.  Their restaurant is meant to be very good, and I’m quite confident of that as we had lunch at the Bel & The Dragon in Windsor a few months ago and it was delicious.

Let’s just say we felt very smug when our friends who were staying in the Holiday Inn picked us up the next morning, and we worked out we only paid £10 more for the night. #winning

Bel & The Dragon

Swan Street
Kingsclere
Newbury
Hampshire, RG20 5PP

Photo credit: Bel & The Dragon

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