The Best Cottage Holidays in the UK

Bwthyn-y-Gorwel – Pembrokeshire, North Wales

Where do you want to go this year? Northumberland? Cornwall? Yorkshire? Original Cottages have properties all over the UK that can be rented for small groups or large for a week or even longer – some of the best vacations are the staycations when we get to appreciate the beauty of home.

Original Cottages have a vast assortment of cottages and properties that suit everyone’s individual needs; those who wish to take the family dog along, those who want to be looking out over the sea or those who want to be walking distance from the local pub to cut back on all cooking during their stay.

Where do you want to go next?

Flat 24, Clifton Court, North Devon

Since returning from Italy (15 years ago now!), I have made it my mission to visit as much of my birth country as possible. I’ve been to Wales, Cornwall and Devon and I’ve visited many places in Kent and Sussex. This summer, the girls and I shall be visiting friends in County Durham – a totally new area for me and I am very excited.

There are cottages dotted all over the UK, from Yorkshire to the Lake District and from Northumberland to Dorset. There is a very handy dropdown on the website which allows you to select the area you wish to visit or choose Any Area and see what comes up.

When do you want to go?

Peacehay Barn, Padstow

Not everyone has holidays planned in advance. Sometimes life will send a timely reminder that you need a break, a change of air. You may think it’s too late to book something but you’d be mistaken. Original Cottages have a last Minute tab where you can book a break with departure in the next 48 hours. That’s enough time to get your case packed and route planned out. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Pet-friendly cottages

The Round House, Ilfracombe

Since Baxter has joined our family, we always look for pet-friendly holidays and it’s so lovely to be able to take him with us. Walking him allows us to visit our surroundings in a way we wouldn’t normally and it’s surprising how many dog owners you can get talking to. You soon pick up local tips on where to go and what to see.

There are cottages available that allow 3+ pets to be taken along.

Try something a little different

Elsie’s Shepherd’s Hut

I must admit that I love to try new things. I tend to get a bit bored continuing to go over and over the same thing all the time. So, if it’s a new kind of property, a new area, a new food or drink, you’ll often find me giving it a go.

I love the idea of a holiday in a Shepherd’s Hut, imagine being cut off from the world and able to just indulge in the moment, no distractions just full-on wellbeing.

The Magic House, St Ives, Cornwall

Another type of holiday I’d love to try is living on the beach. The Magic House in St Ives (pictured above) has the front door opening on to the sand! The views from the windows are spectacular and you are walking distance from everything – the town, the restaurants, the pubs, even the local pastie shop!

What kind of a cottage holiday can you see yourself taking? Why not hop over to Original Cottages and see if there’s the perfect home from home for you?

Disclosure: A collaborative post.

The Best of Wales and where to go next

The United Kingdom really is a beautiful place to visit and, because of its geography, each area of the land is different so there is an enormous variety of things to see and do. This post is focusing on Wales as each time I have visited I have been swept away by the beauty, the culture and the kindness of the Welsh people. I’m starting with the places I have been to and loved and then go on to some of the places I would still like to visit.

Tenby

Tenby beach view

Long before the twins arrived, Paul and I drove to Tenby with Megan and spent five days discovering the local area. I fell in love with the beautiful fishing town and the wild Pembrokeshire coast that stretches out on either side. We discovered the palace where King Henry VIII was born and we stopped to take in the spectacular St David’s Cathedral

Snowdonia

Snowdon is in the central part of Wales and is famous for not only being the highest peak in the country but a very popular spot for walkers, hikers and climbers. I climbed Snowdon with Team Honk a couple of weekends before I got married to Paul and it was an amazing achievement. Our course had been carefully planned and there was a large group of us – all climbing to raise funds. To say I was exhilarated when I reached the top is a bit of an understatement. If you get the chance to climb – do it!

Llandudno

Llandudno Wales

Another visit to Wales, took us to the top of the country. This time the twins were with us and we were guests of Visit Wales – the twins were going to be filmed for their You Tube channel and excitement levels were giddily high.

Llandudno is the prettiest town which is on the northern coast of Wales. It has a lovely long beach and a lively town. It’s also a fabulous base from which you can go and explore many other places of interest, like Conwy Castle for example.

Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle Wales

One of the places we visited was Conwy and we spent the best part of the morning at Conwy Castle where the girls were being filmed. It was a very exciting experience and it is a fascinating castle which I would thoroughly recommend visiting. They had such a good time dressing up in medieval costumes and playing with the two ladies seen in the image below.

Conwy Castle Wales

That leaves me with the places I have yet to see but would like to one day …

Portmeirion

Portmeirion is a pretty village in Gwynedd, North Wales. What fascinates me is the fact that it has been designed in the style of an Italian village. It was Sir Clough Williams-Ellis who came up with the idea and he spent from 1925 and 1975 designing and building the pretty town now visited by thousands every year.

Aberystwyth

Aberystwyth is an ancient market town on the Atlantic coast which is a popular holiday resort. I have tried to get here a couple of times but have found it difficult to get to from other places due to the position so, I shall have to make a separate journey to visit. That way I can spend time discovering the area well.

Devil’s Bridge Falls

There are many more other wonderful things to see in Wales but another that catches my eye is Devil’s Bridge Falls in Mid Wales. There is a legend to accompany the site, but it’s a nature trail with 3 bridges built one on top of the other which shows breathtaking views of the 300ft falls.

Where to stay

Melin Pandy – Betws-y-Coed – North Wales Snowdonia

Wales has no lack of places to stay from plush hotels to tiny cottages there is something to suit everyone. One of my favourite ways to stay when I am on holiday is in a cottage. The Best of Wales website has an excellent collection to choose from, with something to suit all budgets and the website is also full of fantastic ideas for days out, things to do and places to visit. It’s a treasure trove of ideas.

Have you been to Wales? I’d love to know where you would recommend going?

Disclosure: A collaborative post, all opinions are my own

Body Worlds – London

Over February half term I had booked tickets to take the girls up to London to visit the Body Worlds exhibition. (I know – it’s taken until now to get this post written and published!) I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but as we had been studying the body in school for Year 6 which included the circulatory system, the digestive system and the skeleton I thought it would be good to see what the body looks like close up. I got much more than I bargained for and would thoroughly recommend a visit.

The exhibition is on Piccadilly Circus on the same site that Ripley’s – Believe It Or Not used to be, so it’s very easy to get to. The entrance is on the ground floor and you are taken to the start of the exhibition, which is at the top of the building, in a lift.


You walk into a dark, black room with spotlights pointed on the bodies, this adds so much more focus to the exhibits. You follow a carefully planned journey around the body, each section focusing on a different element that could be the skin or the skeleton. You dive into the circulatory system; the respiration and the blood, the digestive system and even the sexual reproduction organs. Nothing is missed out.

Each section is mind-blowing and there are over 200 anatomical specimens that individually reveal what is happening under our skin.

Dr Gunther von Hagens, the brains behind the plastination technique used to preserve the bodies, has discovered an intriguing and compelling way to show us a greater understanding of the human body. Being able to see what lies under our skin so close up and to be able to take a look at some organs taken from people after misuse (lungs after smoking for years, the body of an obese person against that of a non-obese person) had a very deep emotional effect on me. Seeing the liver of someone who died of cirrhosis against a healthy liver clearly indicates what is happening on the inside when people become alcoholics.

At the end of the tour, there is a fantastic video which explains how the plastination process takes place. Well worth a watch!

I came out with a huge respect for my body and a determination to be more aware and conscious of how I treat it. I also loved seeing the awe on the girl’s faces as they too looked on with a curiosity and desire to learn that I wish could be found in all of their subjects!

I would recommend this exhibition to all ages. There is a sexual reproduction area that can be avoided should you wish, I chose to take the girls in and everything was set out in a clever, creative but very mature way. There is one specimen of a man and a woman having sex but as the skin is stripped off and the organs cannot be seen, I thought it was very educational.

As you leave the exhibition, and we really would have enjoyed going over it all a second time, you are asked if the show had any effect on you and would you make changes to your lifestyle as a result. I said yes, reduce my alcohol intake, take more exercise and eat healthily.

I am sure the girls have taken away so much from this day out and I am determined to revisit in a few years time to refresh their memories.

Mindfulness in Kent and Sussex

St Thomas a becket church Fairfield kent
Photo Credit: Zoltan Tasi – Unsplash

Mindfulness really is the buzz word right now and so many people are drawn to it as our lives are frenetic. We spend our days working hard and all of our spare moments looking after our loved ones, it only stands to reason that we need a moment to refill our batteries so we can face the world again.

Mindfulness is appreciating the moment and that can be a pause with some breathing exercises during your busy day or some meditation before work begins. It can come in the form of colouring, or being creative, enjoying your food mouthful by mouthful or it can come in a full immersion weekend away.

Imagine taking the family to someplace where they haven’t been before and appreciating every single moment together. Kent and Sussex cottages are all about finding the right property to suit you and your lifestyle, in places that have a unique offering to make your carefully chosen time away all that more special.

Rural Kent and Sussex

allen's farm oast house

One major attraction of these two southern counties is the miles and miles of unbroken landscape that can be found. Dotted occasionally by ancient villages with names that go back to Roman times and even the Vikings invasion, like Tenterden, Benenden and Battle. If you do happen to visit Tenterden, then you might like to pop in to the local winemakers Chapel Down – you can try before you buy and make it a really mindfulness moment!

Battle in Sussex is a stunning place to visit with the impressive castle and heaps of restaurants, bars and shops heaped with wonderful souvenirs and food to eat.

Imagine sleeping in your own Oast house for the weekend? Like Allen’s Farm Oast House above.

City breaks in Kent and Sussex

These two wonderful counties also have many cities to explore and discover; each unique and offering a host of eateries to enjoy fine food and wines. The cobbled streets are lined with all sorts of shops selling all kinds of knick-knacks and each has its own unique history to discover. A couple of my favourites are Rochester, Canterbury and Tunbridge Wells in Kent and of course, Brighton in Sussex.

Canterbury cathedral
Photo credit: Zoltan Tasi – Unsplash

Coastal Kent and Sussex

We are enormous fans of the beach and spend as much of our free time as possible in Thanet. We have explored the coastline far and wide and still now, find new exciting places to discover. From Whitstable through Thanet passing from Westgate, Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate, the coast follows round to Sandwich, Deal and on to the Sussex beauties Rye, Camber Sands and Eastbourne. A stay close to the coast fills your lungs with fresh sea air and puts the colour back in your cheeks, add to that, delicious freshly caught fish and a local brew, there’s your mindfulness topped up for a long while yet.

Beachy Head sunrise - Sussex

Disclosure: Collaborative post.

11 facts about Warner Brothers Studio Tours

The Harry Potter Studio tour

Indulging in a Warner Brothers Studio Tour is a dream for every Potterhead and while you don’t want to ruin all the surprises that it will bring, there are a few things to know that will help you get the most from your visit, such as the following:

You have to book in advance

Tickets and your specific tour time are allocated, so you can’t simply jump in the car and head to the Warner Brothers Studio Tours when the urge grabs you. There is actually no way to purchase tickets when you arrive, so you absolutely need to get online and buy your tickets well in advance, especially if you’re planning to visit during the school holidays.

The Great Hall has no ceiling

In the films, the Great Hall has a seemingly endless ceiling that is enchanted and reflects what the weather looks like at any one time. In reality, this was created with CGI and clever camera work, so you’ll notice that there is no ceiling at all in the Great Hall exhibit.

Diagon Alley

More than 500 concoctions were made for the potions classroom set

The potions classroom is one of the most exciting sets and even more so when you find out how much effort went into building it. More than 500 glass bottles were filled with various herbs, flowers, oils and animal bones (both real and plastic), then meticulously lined up on the stone walls. You can admire them all in close up on the tour.

Plenty of exhibits are interactive

harry-potter-cloaks

A lot of the exhibits encourage you to take part. Far from simply being a don’t-touch museum tour, it entices you to really get involved. Here you can bow to Buckbeak, fly a broom and even fight dementors, depending on when you book your visit.

All of the wand box names are those of the cast and crew

Ollivander’s room is incredible, with hundreds of tatty wand boxes all lined up on the walls, and if you take a closer look at them, you’ll notice that the names on them are all cast and crew members. Can you find your favourite actor and get a picture of their wand box?

honeydukes-harry-potter

You can actually buy Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans

And yes, there IS a bogey-flavoured one! Who didn’t love trying to think up some really awful bean flavours after Dumbledore confessed to eating a vomit one in his youth? Well now, you can buy a box and see if your worst nightmare is in there.

You’ll have to keep an eye out for Golden Snitches

Grab an activity passport at the start of your tour and a whole other world of hidden treasure hunts and Snitch spotting will open up to you. Great for kids that don’t want to miss a thing, the passport really pays off if you play along.

hogwarts-model-harry-potter
Model of Hogwarts

You can go at your own pace

Rather charmingly, the tours are not guided, so you can take everything in at your own pace and in a way that suits you. This is perfect for visitors with accessibility concerns or anyone with children, but be aware that once you’ve left an area, you can’t double-back, so don’t rush.

The oil paintings that line the walls of Hogwarts are pictures of crew members

Just like on the wand boxes, crew members have been immortalised in the form of the hand-painted portraits that line the walls of the Hogwarts sets. Talented artists were commissioned to complete the works of art and used the busy crew members faces for inspiration.

A butterbeer stop is a must

butterbeer-harry-potter

If you dreamed of slipping away from Hogwarts for a glass of butterbeer with Harry and the gang, you can live at least part of that fantasy by visiting the Butterbeer Cafe. Roughly halfway through the tour, you can grab a frothy glass of refreshment or an ice cream. Take a seat and see if it tastes exactly like you imagined it would.

You’ll want everything in the gift shop

Even if you think of yourself as a savvy shopper, you will not be prepared for the levels of longing that will wash over you when you hit the gift shop. At the very end of the tour, a whole world of unnecessary but very covetable souvenirs opens up before your eyes and almost magically, you’ll load your basket with a full Hogwarts uniform, in your house colours, a few boxes of sweets and a fluffy animal familiar. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

I don’t want to give everything away, so you’ll just have to plan your own visit and discover some surprises for yourself.