Year on year Vancouver is voted as one of the most liveable cities in the world, with one of the best qualities of life. Surrounded by a stunning mountain landscape on one side, and the beautiful Pacific Ocean on the other, residents and visitors have a wealth of leisure activities right on their doorstep.
With regular non-stop flights to London with Air Canada, travelling to the city has never been easier. Yes it might look like it’s half way around the world, but the flight time is a fairly easy 9 and a half hours.
The city itself is an interesting melting pot of cultures, this is where east meets west, and it works to the city’s advantage. Tourists are extremely welcome here and can enjoy everything you would hope for from a coastal city, with a little more thrown in.
Where to stay
Alex and I stayed at the Douglas Hotel, a luxurious 5* property situated within the Parq Vancouver Complex. We found this property to be the perfect choice, the rooms were beautiful, we were within walking distance to Gas Town (which was my favourite area!), staff were fabulous and we had so many amenities within the resort complex. The hotel is just the right size, offering a boutique feel with the services of a 5* complex available to you directly (complete with eight restaurants and a casino!).
We enjoyed breakfast at Honey Salt which was in my opinion, one of the most beautiful dining venues in the city. I felt as though I had walked into a dolls house, it smelt how I imagined tea parties to smell too! You don’t have to be a guest to enjoy a meal here, the restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and weekend brunch.
I enjoyed strawberry french toast for my breakfast, it was delicious! Other options included waffles, pancakes, avocado toast, Eggs Benedict, English breakfast, omelettes and much more.
Where to eat
Steamworks: We ended up here as my husband was on a mission to try all the local beers whilst we were in Canada… yes they do good beer! I happily agreed as the menu was great, food looked delicious, and there was a bustling atmosphere, meaning it must be good!
Situated in Gastown, the Steamworks is easy to find, set between the street and the water’s edge, they offer a brilliant range of craft beers, including tasting sets of 4 or 10 beers. We weren’t hugely hungry so we opted for a sharing portion of nachos… which was HUGE! The food, the atmosphere and the drinks were great, however the service could do with a little more enthusiasm, it wasn’t bad enough to put me off completely but it wasn’t impressive either.
CRAFT Beer Market: Are you seeing a theme with where we ate? Yep it was mainly dictated by Alex’s love of beer, but the food was always good so I had no complaints. Located on the other side of town in the Olympic Village, the CRAFT Beer Market can be accessed via one of the cute little Aqua Busses that go up and down False Creek (right past Parq Vancouver conveniently for us!).
This casual restaurant situated inside the historic Salt Building offers 140 taps, making it home to Canada’s largest selection of craft beer. Luckily, if you are like me and don’t like beer, there is a fabulous selection of cocktails, wine and soft drinks.
Inside is loud and busy but this wasn’t a problem for us, the service was brilliant, I wish I could remember our server by name because she really helped make our experience fantastic. Food portions were generous, fresh and mouth wateringly delicious, with a great range of appetizers, soups, salads, burgers, sandwiches, pasta, desserts and even more!
Marble Slab Creamery: I absolutely love Coldstone Creamery and as soon as I booked a trip to Canada I googled where the nearest one would be. Sadly for me it turns out that like England, Canada is deprived of Coldstone Ice Cream. However! Don’t give up hope just yet, I discovered the Marble Slab Creamery in Vancouver and forced Alex to walk around one and a half miles to get there.
Okay it is not the most exciting or glamorous establishment in the world but it is right by the beach and serves delicious ice cream, what more could a girl want? Similar to Coldstone, you choose what flavour ice cream you want, what toppings you want in it, they will mush it all together for you and voila!
Something I loved about Vancouver was the distinct change between each neighbourhood, making it a thoroughly enjoyable city to walk around.
Gas Town: I had looked up Gas Town before even getting on the flight to Canada, I had seen a couple of photos on Instagram so I wanted to head straight there, luckily it was just a short walk from our hotel in the sun. For me this was the most unique of all the areas we visited in Vancouver and it reminded me a little of New York.
Gastown is the historic heart of the city, and where Vancouver was born. The cobbled streets have been rapidly transformed over the last decade, making the neighbourhood chic addition to the city’s map. This part of town is brimming with independent boutiques, eateries, bars and plenty of coffee shops, you will most likely spot a hipster or two.
Most famous in town is the steam clock from where the Steamworks Brewing Company I mentioned above gets its name. The Gastown steam clock was built in 1977 at the corner of Cambie and Water streets by a chap called Raymond Saunders, time your visit right and you will hear its whistle and can watch the steam pop out its top on the hour every hour.
Granville Island: Granville Island is one of the most popular spots in Vancouver for tourists, and for good reason. If you like a place with an industrial feel then this one is for you, and if you like a good market with lots of fresh produce and places to eat, then this is also for you! We popped over on the Aquabus (our favourite way to get around!) and spent the morning browsing through the independent shops and market stalls that are situated here.
The market has been described as one of the best in North America, we were greeted by rows and rows of sweet treats, baked goods, fresh fruit, preserves, crafts, soap, everything! There is also a great food court here, and I am not talking about Mcdonalds and Burger King, I am talking about independent stalls selling home cooked, fresh meals. Alex and I opted for Chinese (it was amazing), but there was so much on offer from typical Canadian dishes to French cuisine to hot dogs, it was also sunny so you could take a perch outside, chow down your food and watch the world go by.
Things to do
Whale watching: Whale watching on the west coast of Canada is not to be missed. We booked the Half Day Ocean Magic tour with Prince of Whales Whale Watching Tours and it was amazing. Okay so we spent the first hour a little chilly chugging along on the boat with the wind (and sea) in our hair wondering when on earth we were going to spot the whales, but when you see that first one, you know the whole thing has been worth it. The guides are extremely knowledgable and friendly with other companies, so everyone shares their sightings. We headed out towards Galiano Island and there we saw a mama killer whale and her three sons. The experience was incredible, the engine was switched off so we could enjoy these magnificent creatures in complete peace.
They bobbed along side us, coming up for air every so often and showing us their tails, at that point I understood why the word ‘magic’ was included in the tour name. Once we left this small pod of orcas we head back out into the Straight of Georgia and found two humpback whales who also put on a bit of a show for us. I was so thankful we chose this tour, it was completely different to our usual sort of activities when we visit cities that’s for sure!
You can book your own tour here.
Stanley Park: If you have a spare afternoon I would highly recommend talking a stroll through and around Stanley Park, the cities first and largest urban park. If you don’t fancy a stroll, why not hop on a bike? Bike rental is available nearby to the entrance of the park and visitors can enjoy cycling round the purpose built seawall, soaking in the views of the bay, mountains, city, and the park itself.
Vancouver Aquarium: If you like sea otters then this is where you need to be! Vancouver Aquarium rescues and rehabilitates sea otters from the local area, often nursing them back to health before setting them free again in the wild. Also a resident at the aquarium is Helen the dolphin who unfortunately had to have one of her fins amputated due to an accident with a fishing boat. She is not well enough to return to her natural habitat but you can spot her eating snacks as you walk through the aquarium. Recently added to the aquarium are two walrus’, Lakina and Balzak, who are just two years old and already weigh over 300kg!
Of course there are so many more exhibits here I could tell you about but we would be here all day, so why not pay a visit and see them for yourself?
Kitsilano Beach: Locally known as ‘Kits Beach’, Kitsilano Beach is one of the best places to head to on a sunny day. This is Vancouver’s answer to Venice Beach in California and you will find locals playing volleyball, sunbathing, pushing their prams, jogging and of course, gossiping. This is the place to head to if you fancy a relaxing afternoon with a good atmosphere, and is the perfect reward after a lap of Stanley Park!
Flyover Canada: This short but sweet simulator ride will take you on a journey from Canada’s east coast all the way over to the west. It sounds pretty simple, and it is, but it is well worth the ride if you are interested in visiting Canada again. We really felt as though we were soaring over mountains and jumping through snow, and it just got us wanting to explore even more of Canada!
Vancouver Lookout: Located at the Harbor Centre, the Vancouver Lookout will give you one of the best 360 degree views in the city. If you are short on time and/or cash, then this is the next best alternative to a helicopter or seaplane tour. The only downside is that a fair few sky scrapers have been built since the lookout building was built, so you are left feeling as though you could do with being just a few floors higher!
Best time to visit is just before sunset where you can watch the whole city transform between day and night.
For us, 3 days was perhaps just one day too short. We would have loved to get out into the mountains but unfortunately did not have the time. There are so many more amazing trips you can take from the city, including a beautiful drive along the ocean road (you can even do this in a supercar!), I just haven’t listed the tours I didn’t do! Alex and I will definitely be back some day as I would love to see the city from a seaplane!
Just want to say a big thank you to the British Columbia and Vancouver tourist boards who helped organise our stay here. Please visit their websites where you can find out way more about the city than I could ever write here! Also, if you are interested in staying at the Douglas Hotel, you can book here!
When you think of wine where do you think of? France? Italy? South Africa? I doubt Canada springs to mind, but hopefully that will change once you have read a little further.
We knew when we were planning our Canada trip that it would be beautiful but hard work and very full on so we wanted to schedule some time in for relaxation, I knew from the first photo I found of the Okanagan Valley that this would be the perfect spot to sit down and put our feet up.
The region boasts a sunny and dry climate, whilst we were there the sun shone and temperatures hovered between the mid to late 20’s. We chose to stay at the Cove Lakeside Resort, this family-friendly resort stretches down to the Okanagan Lake, offering gorgeous views across the water and the hills beyond.
The resort is a full service, all-suite property meaning extremely spacious rooms and stunning lakeside views. We also had a large balcony which we enjoyed both evenings.
We arrived around lunchtime on the Saturday and checked in, to maximise our time here we decided to visit a couple of local wineries to the resort in the afternoon. Whilst the Cove is situated on the lakeside, surrounded by stunning scenery, you are in a very convenient location to West Kelowna meaning you can head out to shops and restaurants easily.
We visited Mission Hill and Quail’s Gate wineries, two very popular and picturesque spots around a 10/15 minutes drive away from where we were staying. It was a long weekend in Canada so you would have thought it would have all been extremely busy but it was pretty perfect! We were driving so we were here to admire the scenery, not the wine!
We were tired so didn’t want to venture far for dinner, we ended up at The Bonfire Restaurant which is part of the resort. This suited us perfectly as it was casual, delicious and offered lake views. I enjoyed a steak sandwich and chips, they won me over with the garlic mayo, I would 100% recommend dining here if you ever have the pleasure of staying.
Our guide was super friendly, as were the other people on the tour. This was a small group tour which suited us, meaning there were just 6 of us in total, offering flexibility over timings and where we visited. We managed to visit over 6 wineries, they really are dotted all over the countryside here.
I would highly recommend taking a wine tour if you end up in this corner of the world, it means you can enjoy as much wine as you fancy without having to kill the budget on taxis to take you to and from each place.
This day was one of my favourites on the whole trip, the sun was shining, each winery was beautiful, we met so many friendly people and we also ate great food (and drank great wine of course). The region is not on the direct route between the national parks and Vancouver so can often get overlooked by tourists, we came across many Canadians but not many British which we were surprised about. If you are considering a trip to British Columbia then this is definitely a destination not to be missed.
If you would like to book your own holiday at the Cove Lakeside Resort, please click here.
I had never heard of Wells Gray Park until I was searching for a route between Jasper National Park and the Okanagan Valley, then I spotted a big green patch on the map and thought I would look into it a little more.
It turns out that this provincial park is just a 3 and a half hour drive from the town of Jasper itself. For those of you who live in the UK, 3 and a half hours if a fair distance, however I can assure you it does not feel this long, the drive is extremely beautiful and you will actually be sad once it has ended! For those of you who live in Canada, well that is just a walk in the park!
We set off from Jasper around breakfast time and hit the road, arriving at the base of the park just before lunchtime. We found a picnic spot at Spahats Creek Falls and soaked up the valley views whilst eating strawberry jam sandwiches before setting off on the short walk to the falls themselves.
Our main reason for visiting the park other than it being a convenient stopping point was the wealth of waterfalls that are so easily accessible. There were some we couldn’t do due to time constraints so we stuck to those that were a short distance from the main road.
Spahats Creek Falls is just 10km from the Yellowhead Highway and passes through Raft Mountain and Trophy Mountain before thundering down over 75m into the Clearwater River. The creek was originally known as Bear Creek but changed its name to Spahats which is the First Nations term for bear.
The falls were formed by deposits of volcanic rock, first produced by eruptions over 300,000 years ago, creating layers upon layers of rock deposits that can be seen all over Wells Gray Park. The Clearwater River has cut through the rock formations, particularly during Pleistocene periods in which the ice sheets carved through the rocks, creating canyons and making way for the meltwater to tumble over the rock as a stunning waterfall.
Next on the list was Helmcken Falls, this was the main event for me, I had seen photos of this waterfall on Instagram and I had to stop myself from getting my hopes up, I assumed it could never be as beautiful in real life.
I was wrong. The Helmcken Falls are also very convenient to reach, just a short walk from the car parking area you hear the falls before you see them. As you walk closer and the landscape opens up you are met by the most breathtaking sight. This is by far the most jaw-dropping slice of mother nature I have had the pleasure of viewing.
The only downside is that the walkway and viewing platform slightly takes away from the natural aspect of the area but it also provides a wonderful place to relax, one in which I did not want to get up from. Watching the thousands of gallons of water cascade over the rock was extremely peaceful and mesmerising, we ended up staying here a lot longer than planned, we really didn’t want to leave.
After leaving the Helmcken Falls we drove towards Dawson Falls, a very different experience to the first two. The falls are wide rather than tall and this is another one easy to reach, just a 10-minute walk from the roadside and carpark. The drop in which the water tumbles over dates back approximately 200,000 years, it is another mesmerising experience, I just could not get my head around the volume of water that was flowing past at such a fast rate. Unfortunately me being me, I left my camera in the car, however, this at least meant I could just live in the moment.
Tired but accomplished we made our way to the Clearwater Springs Ranch, a luxury wilderness lodge on the Wells Gray Park boundary. We were immediately greeted by a very friendly Flemish couple, Kurt and Tania, who own and run this cosy lodge.
Upon arrival we were shown around the property and encouraged to make ourselves at home, which we did straight away! We unpacked and showered before heading downstairs to the open plan living room.
The living room quickly became our favourite spot, this was due to the huge windows that looked out over the decking, garden and meadows beyond. Along the windowsill was a fantastic pair of binoculars, there was also a telescope available to us. Tania came into the room to let us know there was a bear in the meadow so we picked up the binoculars to have a look for ourselves, and there he was! We could have spent hours watching the black bear roll around in the field, playing with the bumblebees, it was fascinating, but time was ticking on and we had a dinner to tuck into.
Guests have the option to dine at the ranch and enjoy a homecooked dinner, or they can head out into nearby Clearwater instead. We thankfully chose to dine in so grabbed a chair around the table and introduced ourselves to the other guests. Lucky for us the weather was spectacular, meaning we could eat al fresco amongst the hummingbirds that kept us company. The food was fantastic, the wine flowed, and we all shared tips and stories about our time in Canada, it was a lovely evening.
After a good night sleep in a very comfy bed (with the world’s softest sheets!), we treated by a delicious breakfast before we headed off towards Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley!
If you are interested in staying at the Clearwater Springs Ranch you can book here.
Brittany (Bretagne) is a region of northwestern France, a short trip over the English Channel from Devon, Cornwall and Dorset, this strikingly beautiful corner of the world sees many British tourists. Go back to your childhood and I can guarantee either you or one of your friends would spend summers here, I am talking to the British readers here of course.
I spent a huge portion of my childhood here, from the age of 7 months we returned to Brittany every year, sometimes three times, for a break! When I was one my parents bought a house here, in the small village of La Foret Foueasnant, a house that became an important part of our family and the memories we made. We loved that house, and even though when my sisters and I became teenagers we didn’t quite appreciate these trips as much as we should, we wouldn’t have changed these holidays for the world.
Unfortunately, I really struggle to find much history on the places themselves, with the exception of a few. These towns and villages date back hundreds of years, but as someone told me on Instagram, you need to talk to a local to find out the real background to these places. Brittany was united with France in 1532.
Brittany has its own distinct Breton culture compared to the rest of France, many of these traditions can also be found in Cornwall, England, and also Wales. The name Brittany (Breizh in Breton) was given to the area by the Romans who named the area Brittania. The area whilst settled in since the Neanderthals arrived, became home to many people from Great Britain who fled both the Roman Empire and later on the Saxon Invasion, hence the similarities between the cultures and language (Celtic).
Below I have chosen 5 of my favourite towns and villages to visit and I hope this inspires you to make your own journey to Bretagne!
I have picked Quimper as my number 1 as I have probably visited this place about 30 times. Not only is this town dotted with delicious creperies but it is rich in history, history I can actually tell you about! Quimper is the capital of the Finistere region, the most traditional part of Brittany with distinct Breton Celtic traditions.
The city was originally settled in during the Roman times and today retains a rustic atmosphere with bridges crisscrossing the rivers and a huge cathedral dating back to the eleventh century. Vieux Quimper (the old town) contains a wealth of shops, ice creameries, restaurants and even a market. The half-timbered buildings have created a bright and colourful environment to take a stroll and enjoy goods bought from the local chocolaterie.
I have been to Locronan a couple of times but this was long before I owned a camera. I knew I had to go back this time, and it is only the other side of Quimper from where I was staying. This ancient village reminds me somewhat of the Cotswolds, just that the stone is grey rather than honey coloured. The centre of town is characterised by pretty houses, shops and cafes, and luckily for me during July the hydrangeas were in full bloom. The village is built upon a selection of hills and if you walk up the right street (turn right when you get to the church front), you will get an amazing view of the town, the countryside beyond, and even the sea.
Unsurprisingly Locronan is part of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (The most beautiful villages of France) association, and in my opinion, is the number one most beautiful town in the whole region!
I used to visit this place when I was younger purely for the butterfly farm and aquarium but now it’s my obsession with oldie worldie buildings that keeps me returning.
Vannes was first settled in over 2,000 years ago and has had strong trading links with Great Britain for many hundreds of years, in 150 BC there was a big increase in trade with the Thames Estuary region east of London. In 56 BC the Romans invaded the town and slaughtered the local Veneti people (seafaring Celtic people), renaming the city Darioritum. Once the Romans were long gone the city became a principality under the Breton name Gwened and in the 5th century the Diocese of Vannes was established.
The city is similar to Quimper in style, surrounded by city walls the centre is a maze of coloured half-timbered buildings, with ample shops and places to eat. If you like indeed
You might have noticed all the places I have picked have been on the western coast of Brittany, well here’s a change! Dinan, just south of the walled city of St Malo, is around 30 minutes south of the English Channel border.
Dinan is a walled town and one of the best preserved in the whole of Brittany, filled with half-timbered buildings (are you seeing a theme in my choices!?), cobbled streets, art galleries and craft shops. Just down the hill from the walled town is the pretty port, lined with stone houses and a picturesque 15th century stone bridge, visitors can take a relaxing river cruise and take in all the sights along the water’s edge.
The old town is my favourite part of the city, I only spent a few hours here but I could definitely go back for a full city break, I wonder if there is an airport nearby!? No worries if not, you can catch a ferry from Poole in Dorset to nearby St Malo and then either drive to Dinan or catch the train, either is easy and no bother.
If you want to head straight to the prettiest part of town then meander your way down to the Rue du Petit Fort. This is a pretty steep hill so if you have any walking difficulties then please be careful as it is also very cobbly! Not only are the buildings stunning at each turn but it is full to the brim with beautiful craft shops and galleries.
It was thanks to one of my Instagram followers that I found this place, I never even knew it existed but is one of the most charming villages I have ever been to! When I arrived into the town I felt as though I had stepped straight onto the set of Beauty and the Beast. Rochefort-en-Terre is a designated “Petite Cité de Caractére”.
The town is flower heaven, many of the houses are covered by hydrangeas and geraniums making it even more stunning. The town is 35km east from Vannes so if you schedule your day right, you could squeeze both stops into one day. The town itself showcases a range of different architectural styles including half-timbered houses, gothic monuments, Renaissance hotels, and 19th-century buildings, the common denominator is that the majority of it is made from local stone.
Unfortunately, it clouded over just as I arrived in the town so I feel as though my photos don’t showcase the beauty as much as they should… my photography skills are definitely more suited to a blue sky!
So that’s a wrap! These are just 5 of many beautiful places… so watch this space as I took a lot of photos and I think each stop deserves its own post!
Suffolk is home to some of the most beautiful countryside in England, so next time you visit, why not stay in it?
The Scrumpy Shepherd is quirky yet beautiful, with a little bit of luxury thrown in. Enjoy all the benefits of the outdoors but with plumbing and electricity, and a comfy bed of course. I absolutely love one-off accommodations, little gems that you will miss unless you look for them. When planning a trip away it is so easy to hit google with ‘hotels in…’, but stop! You are missing all the secret good places by doing that!
Luckily for me, the Scrumpy Shepherd is on Instagram, and Sarah, the lovely lady who created this little haven alongside her husband, contacted me and offered me a stay.
The Scrumpy Shepherd is a shepherd hut located in the middle of the Suffolk countryside, under a cute shady spot in a meadow, a short stroll from the owner’s home. The great thing about shepherd huts are that they are designed to maximise space, these cosy little hideaways can fit a lot in! The Scrumpy Shepherd is no exception and is home to a cosy bed, fully equipped kitchen, and a bathroom with a shower and toilet. You don’t feel squished either, there is even table space for eating.
If you have had a long day and you are ready to relax or you just want to appreciate the gift of Mother Nature, then take a seat in the beautiful outdoor area, complete with wooden tables, a fire pit, and blankets for when the sun goes down. For me it was the perfect spot to enjoy a big cup of tea, Emma Bridgewater mugs, tea bags and milk were all waiting for me luckily!
The sun was shining down on me my whole stay, June was the perfect time to visit as the sun didn’t set until 9:30pm and so I ate my al fresco. The kitchen area boasts a microwave, hob, sink, toaster and kettle so you will have no problem rustling up a meal. For those who would prefer to go out for dinner, there are two traditional English pubs you can walk to if you fancy a stroll through the countryside.
Yummy treats are also provided, such as Tyrell crisps, marshmallows for toasting over the fire pit, Scrumpy Shepherd Gin, and homemade cake!
The location is very rural, the perks of this are you get a great night sleep as you are not disturbed by anything, the only thing that could wake you up are the birds chirping! There are many great places nearby you can visit such as the pretty town of Framlingham, home to Ed Sheeran, Helmingham Hall Gardens, the coastal town of Aldeburgh, and of course many fairytale villages!
The Scrumpy Shepherd makes a perfect getaway, whether you are travelling alone and want a cosy spot to read a book, whether you are looking for a romantic escape, or you just want to feel the tranquillity of the countryside.
“You can learn a lot of things from the flowersFor especially in the month of JuneThere’s a wealth of happiness and romanceAll in the golden afternoon” – Alice in Wonderland
I can really relate to that Alice in Wonderland song and it gets stuck in my head every time I leave the house at the moment. There are many beautiful locations around the world but I truly believe nothing can top an English garden or the English countryside in general.
As I write this, the windows are open, the birds are chirping, the sun is shining and I can just see a sea of green dotted by pink roses. I could leave the house at 6am and not come back till 9pm and for all those hours the sun would be shining. For June sees our longest day of the year, and in England the days can stretch as long as 12 hours, making it the ultimate month to explore.
Last week I headed to Kent, also known as ‘The Garden of England’, and for good reason. I visited a number of country houses and gardens, and even stayed in the beautiful North Kent Downs, but three days was not long enough. The county of Kent is dotted with 21 National Trust properties, this is enough to keep you occupied for weeks, let alone days, and there are still more beautiful houses and gardens that do not fall under the National Trust ownership.
Below I write about just some of the beautiful places I visited…
Ightham Mote is a moated medieval manor house close to Sevenoaks, dating back to the 14th century. Over the 700 years of its existence, the house has been owned by many fascinating people, including Medieval knights, courtiers to Henry VIII and high society Victorians.
Whilst the house itself is stunning and can be explored by guests, the real high point for me were the stunning gardens it was encompassed by.
Once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, Hever Castle boasts over 700 years of fascinating history. The house today has been largely modified by William Waldorf Astor who used his fortune to extend Hever Castle in the early 20th century.
The award-winning gardens spread across 125 acres and boasts a Pompeiian Wall alongside an authentic Italian Garden and over 4000 rose bushes in the English Rose Garden.
Set amongst 35 acres of beautiful countryside, Chiddingstone Castle is a historic house and museum dating back to the Tudor times. The building has gone through multiple changes since it was first completed in the early 1500’s and even became a school at one point.
Cream tea is served in the tea room and courtyard alongside delicious cakes, tea, coffee and light lunches.
Sissinghurst Castle, in my opinion, has some of the most beautiful gardens in the whole of England. These world-renowned gardens were inspired by the poems and writings of Vita Sackville-West who began transforming the castle along with her husband in the 1930s.
The castle itself was a prison in the 1700s and later became home to the women’s land army, it has even been a family home over the years.
The month of June is best if you want to admire Sissinghurst’s magnificent roses, originally planted by Vita herself who loved the romance of this beautiful flower. The rose garden now stands where the kitchen once was, and years after Vita passed away it became apparent only 100 species of her original roses remained. Since 2014 with the help of the National Trust, Vita’s original rose collection is nearing its former glory and the garden is just as colourful and fragrant as when it began.
Scotney Castle is a country house, romantic garden and 14th-century moated castle that was purposefully ruined to become a garden feature when the new house was built.
The original castle was first occupied in 1137 and in 1778 it became home to the Hussey Family who left it to the National Trust in the 1970s.
So whilst I haven’t been to every single village in Hertfordshire, I reckon I have ticked off a good chunk! Now everyone knows I love a wonky house and a thatched cottage, but where can you even find them in Hertfordshire? Life seems to be all about the Cotswolds but let me tell you, there are lots of beautiful places away from here.
I am not native to Hertfordshire but I have lived here for the past 3 and a half years and it looks to be where my life has settled now. I won’t lie, the transition from rural Northamptonshire to a new town just north of London was not the easiest. My therapy has been heading out of my odd little town and into the tranquillity of the countryside, on the search for the perfect place to live for myself and my husband.
Along the way I have found a number of little gems, and not necessarily ones you will see on other lists. For whilst there are a couple of well known and very gorgeous little villages around here, I prefer the hidden ones, the ones in which people live rather than visit.
A tiny village just a few miles from the bustling town of Hitchin, I am not talking about the large town up north, but the picture-perfect sprinkling of rose covered homes nestled within the central Hertfordshire countryside. I found Preston by accident, you see I like to take the back roads, and one time I drove back home from Ampthill in Bedfordshire, I stumbled across this village.
With a small village green, a pub, a telephone box, post box and primary school, Preston might be small but it actually has nearly all the amenities you would need. It even has a rather posh private school, Princess Helena College, educating girls aged 11-18. The only sound you will hear are the birds, the odd car, children playing and the odd rumble of an aircraft, this place isn’t too far from London Luton Airport, but I wouldn’t say the planes are intrusive at all.
My dream village, this is ideally where I would like to end up living. The only problem is, it is SO idyllic that the price tag suggests I won’t be moving there any time soon. This village feels far more Suffolk than Hertfordshire, but I guess that makes sense seeing as it is in the far east of the county, not far from Bishop Stortford. Oh yes, I also know that Hertfordshire does not border Suffolk, but it is closer than the rest of the county okay?!
Off the main road, Much Hadham is a peaceful little haven with a pub, cafe/tea room, primary school and post office, this is the kind of place you would dream of raising your children in. I do feel as though village life in England has a bubble effect, almost like you are not apart of the real world, and you can definitely feel that here. Take a visit for yourself if you want to feel a million miles away from anywhere else…
Situated right on the Cambridgeshire border Ashwell is a large village with a small, historic centre. The first time I visited was early spring, and the village was plastered with posters advertising the annual Easter duck race, as soon as I saw them I knew I would fall in love with this place.
Ashwell is a beautifully preserved village appears in the Doomsday Book as a market town. Those who visit can expect to see exactly how this part of England would have looked in the 16th and 17th centuries, with the 14th-century church dominating the skyline. If you like pub grub, you have a number of establishments to choose from, and if you prefer a more delicate meal, tea and cake is available from Rhubarb and Mustard!
A small village split by a ford and home to a bright pink pub, Braughing is the epitome of village life. Braughing has been a home to people since the Iron Age and many of the listed buildings boast medieval origins. Traditions include a wheelbarrow race every July, as well as the celebration of Old Man’s Day, dating back to the 1500, ‘s recognising the life of local farmer Matthew Wall who fell out of his own coffin at his funeral…alive! His grave is now surrounded by brambles so the sheep can’t get at it…
There are many other lovely villages I could include, but I will end with Ayot Green, by far the smallest village of them all. Ayot Green sits above the A1 close to Welwyn, and whilst there are just a few houses here, it is a place I love to visit and feel at peace. By far the quietest of all the mentioned villages, Ayot Green sits around a large green area lined with trees, it is also home to a couple of great pubs, including the Red Lion which in my opinion offers the best roast dinner in Hertfordshire!
Have you been to any of these places? Or are there any others you would add to the list? Let me know!
Sometimes staying in your own little oasis is just what you need, and that is what we did. Located in Yoho National Park, neighbour to Banff, the hamlet of Field is the perfect stop off point for those travelling through the Canadian Rockies.
Located close to Emerald Lake, one not to be missed, Field comprises a handful of beautiful homes, a train station, and a couple of restaurants too!
I mentioned Emerald Lake and this was a big pull on why I chose Field as one of our destinations. As you can see from the photo above, it really IS emerald! Unfortunately for me the main park of the lake was still pretty frozen except for around the edges, but it was still a breathtaking place, we pretty much had it to ourselves! There is a trail that loops around the lake, along with a rather well known hotel.
There are some other beautiful spots in Yoho National Park, sadly we just did not have the time to fit them all in. We were both exhausted and felt the pull of our private little cabin that waited for us in a beautiful valley. Within 15 minutes we were back and I plonked down on the chair and breathed a sigh of relief that I could put my feet up.
I honestly think this cabin you could hideaway in for days on end and never really want to leave. You have everything you need, a bathroom, comfy bed, living area complete with a range of provided books! As well as a fully equipped kitchen. We stayed here during summer ad the days were pretty warm, however I can imagine that during winter this spot is even more romantic. There is a big fire in the living area that I desperate wanted to light! It’s not usual that you would wish for colder weather on your holiday, not until you stay here anyway.
The hamlet of Field itself is very small, however there are a couple of places to eat, and there is also a train station! We had a meal at Truffle Pigs that night, about a 5 minute walk from our cosy cabin, we even walked past an elk on the way! However be warned, this is bear country, and lucky for us the kind owner left bear spray in the drawer! We didn’t need it though.. phew!
We were definitely ready for bed as soon as dinner was over, although my husband was completely fascinated watching the freight trains (they are REALLY long), we head back to the cabin and both looked forward to a good night sleep. Feeling cosy in my pjs I read one of the many books on Canada that had been left behind in the cabin, particularly useful as we actually planned our next three days in Jasper from this book. It is the small things that stick in your mind.
That night we slept well, with nothing but the trickle of the river and train horns in the distance, we both fell into a deep slumber. One thing I did notice during my time in Canada is that the days are long during summer, and short during winter. This means we tended to rise and set ourselves with the sun, so we were definitely seizing the days!
Unfortunately we were here for only one night, and we were on a tight schedule so had to leave early on in the morning. However, I would highly recommend this cabin for long weekends, especially if you are a city person! The tranquility and simple life in this little hamlet will make you feel more than relaxed, the ultimate escape.
Want to stay? Book here.